Sunday, 31 May 2015

Product news

There has been some interesting camera news recently, and here is my take on the situation:

Panasonic


Panasonic have finally launched their update of the greatly under appreciated G6, the Lumix G7:


This camera is a good bargain. It has many of the features of the Lumix GH4 (my review), but at a much lower price, and in a compact body. Since the last iteration, it has gotten a retro friendly angled body, but thankfully retains the ergonomics.

With the G7, Panasonic is aiming at the entry level DSLR users, the crowd who usually goes out buying a camera/lens kit from Canon or Nikon. With this camera, the sales person can say that here you get the same features in a smaller package, and with 4K video, the latest television buzzword, on top! But probably still at a steeper price. And those who look at the specifications, may be worried that 16MP is really enough, now that the most basic Nikon DSLR has got a whopping 24MP.



Another good thing about the Lumix G7 is the kit lens, the Lumix G 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 II. It is remarkably compact, and performs very well. Seen here with the previous incarnation, at the maximum extension:




From the rear, we see that the newer 14-42mm II has a far larger exit pupil, usually a sign of a good optical design. Both lenses have nylon bayonet mounts, which I think is a good choice for small lenses like this.

There are still some enthusiasts who try to source the original Lumix G 14-45mm f/3.5-5.6, thinking it is the ultimate kit zoom lens for Micro Four Thirds. With the 14-42mm II, though, I would say that is no longer needed.

Fujifilm


Still riding on the retro wave, Fujifilm have released the X-T10, the reasonably priced alternative to the flagship X-T1. The Fujifilm X-T10 retains the good image quality from the bigger brother, but loses some of the ergonomics, and the weather sealing.


The Fujifilm X-Trans APS-C sensor still only has 16MP resolution. However, for the market segment, I don't think this is a problem. The Fujifilm cameras are targeted towards enthusiasts who think that it is better to keep the resolution down and the sensitivity and dynamic range up, which may very well be true in many cases.

Sigma


Mostly known as a manufacturer of third party lenses, Sigma also has a line of compact cameras with their Foveon sensor technology. The weirdest yet is the DP0, with a fixed 14mm f/4 (21mm equivalent) lens:


This camera is tailored towards landscape photographers who want the very best of colour accuracy and dynamic range, as well as a good resolution, in a compact package. The downside is that the sensor does not have a very good high ISO performance. You have to use an ISO lower than 400, essentially needing to bring a tripod along too. Also, the focus speed and image processing speed is not very impressive by today's standards. But then again, this is not an action camera at all.

There already exist versions of the same camera with different lenses: With a 19mm f/2.8 lens (equivalent to 28mm), and with a 30mm f/2.8 lens (equivalent to 45mm).

The cameras feature "only" 20MP, however, each of the photosite has three individual sensors, one for each RGB colour. This gives a higher real resolution than traditional Bayer sensor based cameras, as you get the real colour readout for each pixel. So the perceived, true resolution will be much higher than other cameras with 20MP.

Pentax


Among DSLR cameras, Pentax is probably the brand that packs the most features at the given price point. They tend to use sensors from Sony, giving you a comparable image quality as peer DSLR models from Nikon.

Pentax has been acquired by Ricoh, and we have not seen a lot of new models lately. They are working on a full frame DSLR, though, to take advantage of many of the existing lenses which support the full frame image circle, e.g., the gorgeous Pentax 31mm f/1.8 limited.

Rumours say that Pentax will be using the 36MP sensor which Sony employs in the a7R, and Nikon in the D810. Knowing Pentax, they will probably make the camera reasonably priced compared with these peers, and add weather protection and a photographer oriented user interface.

Rumours also say that they will be adding a feature to increase the resolution through sensor shift, by taking multiple images. This only works for stationary subjects, of course. Olympus included a similar feature in their OM-D E-M5 II, see my test here. For Pentax fans with a cache of older lenses, this is very exciting news.

The new Pentax K-3II already employs sensor shift image resolution enhancer, using a 24MP sensor.

Canon


Canon is gearing up for mirrorless. Not so much by releasing actual mirrorless cameras that work well, which they have not been doing so much. But rather by releasing lenses capable of fast CDAF focus. The most recent example is the Canon 50mm f/1.8 STM. "STM" is the important key word here, which means "Stepper Motor", and is what is supposed to give the improved focus speed during live view.

Live view on a DSLR camera is when you hold the camera out in front of you, and use the LCD screen as a viewfinder. Many DSLR users do this now, probably because they are used to this way of using smart phones and compact cameras. Hence, DSLR manufacturers have to make the user experience better during live view, which comes down to increasing the focus speed, largely.

Also, when Canon in the future has a working mirrorless camera line, the STM lenses will work well on an adapter.

The 50mm lens above is a simple and boring lens, compared with the main lens announcement, the Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L:


It is currently the widest rectilinear zoom available for DSLR cameras so far. It also comes at an absurdly high price of US$3000, but will be worth it for photographers who like the dramatic effect of extreme wide angle lenses.

Nikon


Nikon is also gearing up for the mirrorless competition, but by launching yet another camera, the Nikon 1 J5:


The first Nikon 1 gear had a nice modern design, but with the J5, they have finally succumbed to the retro design fad. This camera is largely like the predecessor J4, except that it adds 4K video, only at a framerate of 15FPS, though, which is not too useful.

It also brings a new 21MP sensor, which is the big news here. Not so much because of the resolution bump, from 18MP to 21MP, but because it adds better high ISO image quality, and higher dynamic range, much needed for the Nikon 1 system. Fans are now waiting for a Nikon 1 V4, to bring this sensor into a camera with a bigger buffer and better ergonomics, like the Nikon 1 V3.

1 comment:

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