Archive for the ‘Review’ Category

Fujifilm FinePix X100 Digital Camera Review

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

Fujifilm FinePix X100 Digital Camera Review

fuji x100 front

This modern classic is a retro-styled gem. The Fuji Finepix X100 has the appearance of a ‘real’ camera. With its brown leather ER case open at the front it looks just like a high quality film camera from about half a century ago. The top and bottom plates are constructed of magnesium alloy, while the knobs on the top are beautifully knurled metal wheels that rotate comfortably, and click cleanly into their stops – and, joy of joys, the exposure can be set without even turning the camera on. It even has a little threaded hole in the centre of the shutter release to take one of those nice braided flexible shutter release cables with the metal plunger. Still got a couple of those lying around somewhere.

fuji x100 back

Hybrid Viewfinder
There is a little lever on the front of the Fuji Finepix X100 that looks very like the old clockwork self-timer switch found on film SLRs, but it isn’t. It’s actually an easily accessible switch that innovatively turns the optical viewfinder into an electronic one (EVF).

X100 viewfinder_1

But even with the optical viewfinder you still get shooting data like shutter speed, aperture, ISO and histogram overlaid on the image along with a bright outline showing what is going to appear on the final image – the brightness of this overlay varies depending on ambient light levels so it doesn’t disappear in bright sunshine. And the best thing of all about an optical viewfinder – the brighter the sunshine, the better it gets, the exact opposite of the typical compact camera LCD screen. But this optical viewfinder shows the area outside of the image too so you can see who’s about to walk into your picture and when.

The EVF is ok, it’s just that after looking through the optical viewfinder you won’t want to use it – unless you have to (see Not So Good below).

Lens

X100 f2.8, 1/250 sec, ISO200

X100 f2.8, 1/250 sec, ISO200


The lens you get with the Fuji Finepix X100 is 23mm (35mm in 35mm-speak) – a moderate wide-angle. Maximum aperture is f2 so plenty of scope here for available light photography. This lens has a built in Neutral Density (ND) filter that allows for a 3-stop exposure increase. The ND filter can be switched into the light path as desired. This is great for bright conditions when you really want to use a wide aperture to throw the background well out of focus, but there’s just too much light around. It focuses down to 10cm so it’s useful for close-up work too.

Some may see the lack of a zoom lens, or even interchangeable lenses as a real problem – especially since zooms are now ‘normal’ on compact cameras. But what Fuji have done with this fixed focal length lens is to squeeze the very best image quality from the sensor and at the same time force you to take better pictures. You will take excellent images with the Fuji Finepix X100 if you get up close and intimate. This is especially so if you use this camera for what it is best suited for, and that’s candid street photography. Getting close really lifts images away from the snapshot and towards great photography. That’s not to say you won’t enjoy taking landscapes and family portraits, but the street is where the Fuji Finepix X100 will feel most at home and where many of its design features come into their own.

Sensor
Unusually for a compact camera the Fuji Finepix X100 has an APS-C sized sensor. This is the same size sensor used by the majority of digital SLRs and along with its 12.3 megapixels means that picture quality is first class. The sensor is connected to Fuji’s brand new EXR image processor which features improved resolution, high sensitivity, low noise and increased dynamic range. Fuji states that this is the highest quality processor in any Finepix camera to date. If Cartier-Bresson were alive today, he may well have enjoyed using this camera.

Innovation
One of the really nifty aspects of the design of the f2 lens for the Fuji Finepix X100 is that the rear lens element sits just 5.6mm away from the sensor. Fuji’s incorporation of the large rear lens element into the body of the camera means that the lens itself protrudes only slightly from the body creating that beautifully slim profile. In order to achieve this slimness of lens Fuji had to redesign their sensor microlens to allow a greater angle of incidence. Clever stuff that just means the Fuji Finepix X100 looks really cool and still takes great pictures.

Usability

X100 f4, 1/15 sec, ISO200

X100 f4, 1/15 sec, ISO200

In use what I love about the Fuji Finepix X100 is the ability to set the aperture between f2 and f16 with a ring on the lens, and set the shutter speed with one of the knurled rings on the top plate.

Incidentally this aperture ring was added quite late in the design process only because Fuji listened to a group of Professional Photographers who finally managed to convince Fuji’s designers of its value. Be great if more camera manufacturers did this too. But it isn’t a mechanical ring like on older film cameras. Each aperture setting is just a switch that tells the camera what aperture to set when the shutter is pressed.

Exposure compensation can be dialled in with a knob to the right of the shutter speed dial. There’s also a great little electronic spirit level to keep those horizons straight. I’m always losing important bits off the edges of the frame because my horizons are never horizontal and I have to keep straightening them in Lightroom so this is a really useful feature. Best accessory I ever bought was a little hot-shoe spirit level I used to keep permanently attached to my Mamiya RZ67.

The lens incorporates an almost silent leaf shutter (unlike the focal plane shutters of SLRs, digital or otherwise) and with no noisy mirror to flip out of the way this camera is almost silent in operation – as long as you remember to switch off the confirmatory beeps. So silent in fact it’s a little difficult to know when you’ve taken the picture. But great if you don’t want people to know that you’re actually taking pictures.

X100 f2.8, 1/340 sec, ISO200

X100 f2.8, 1/340 sec, ISO200


The Digital Stuff

A useful range of bracketing features are available with the Fuji Finepix X100.

Exposure at up to 1 stop in 1/3 stop intervals.
I love this one – Film Simulation Bracketing so you can pretend you really are back in the old days with some good old Fuji films: Provia, Velvia, and Astia
Dynamic Range Bracketing at 100%, 200%, & 400%
And finally ISO Sensitivity Bracketing same range as Exposure.

Not so good
A lens hood is available as an optional extra. I think, for the price, this should definitely be included in the box.
Tripod bush positioned in such a way that the camera needs to be removed from the tripod in order to change batteries or memory card.
Plastic battery compartment door.
No image stabilisation, but that, and the viewfinder, may well help you to discover the art of holding a camera steady.
Want to autofocus closer than 80cm, then you need to switch to macro mode, which means you have to use the EVF and then switch back. Of course you could just switch to manual focusing…
SLR users will find auto-focusing slow. If speed is important then manual pre-focusing is the order of the day.
Because the manual focus is electronic rather than mechanical it is not as rapid to use as on a dSLR.
Write speeds are a little slow, but this is only a problem if you want to take a burst of images.

Plus points
Shutter lag almost non-existent.
Handling is a breeze, with ease of changing exposure settings while the camera is held up to your eye.
Motion panoramas – like Sony’s Cybershot.
Image quality is excellent and better than some dSLRs
Noise barely noticeable right through the ISO range from 100 – 12,800

In the box
· Fujifilm Finepix X100
· Li-ion battery NP-95
· Battery charger BC-65N
· Shoulder strap
· USB cable
· Lens cap
· Metal strap clip
· Protective cover
· Clip attaching tool
· CD-ROM (Viewer software, Raw File converter*)
· Owner’s manual
· Viewer software: Windows7/Vista/XP, Mac OS X 10.9 – 10.6, Raw file converter: Windows7/Vista/XP


Conclusion

This camera is new, innovative and a complete change in direction from more of the same – not just tweaking megapixel counts, and re-arranging button layouts to make you think that the upgrade is something much more than it is. This is a lovely camera – not perfect by any means, but something that you will feel proud to own and be seen with. Surprisingly this camera does actually live up to all the pre-launch hype. There is going to be a huge demand for this camera so place your order now.

If you hold it in your hand, you’ll want one.

Its Rivals

Read my review

Read my review


Popularity: 80% [?]

Sony alpha NEX-5 Review

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

Sony Alpha NEX-5 Review

The Sony alpha NEX-5 is “The world’s smallest lightest interchangeable lens camera”.

NEX 5

Reading the spec the Sony alpha NEX-5 sounds like the most amazing camera ever invented, I just can’t get over the fact that they made the body smaller than the lens diameter. Still that’s just my SLR preference speaking. What the Sony alpha NEX-5 is is a mirrorless, interchangeable lens, system camera. The system is very small, but clearly Sony have tapped into the market niche opened up by Panasonic and Olympus with their Micro Four-Thirds system, and it will grow. This camera, with its 16mm (24mm equiv) pancake lens is light and will slip into a pocket or a bag quite comfortably. And what this gives you is SLR quality JPEG or RAW images straight from the camera.

Still, the Sony alpha NEX-5 has a hefty price tag, so what do you get for your money?

The advertised selling points:
· DSLR-quality images with 14.2 megapixels Exmor APS HD CMOS sensor (The HD added to the HPS on the sensor just means that you can crop, in camera, to a 16:9 ratio)
· AVCHD Full HD 1920x1080i video (that’s technical for it’s a video camera too – it also does MP4 at 720p if you prefer)
· High-speed shooting up to 7fps
· Sweep Panorama (you click the shutter and ‘sweep’ your camera across the scene, and the NEX stitches it all together into one image)
· 7.5cm/3″ tilt-angle TruBlack LCD, with 920,000 dots
· Simple operation with on-screen Help Guide (hints and tips to help you take better pictures built in to the camera – it’s a book, it’s a video-cam, it’s a panoramic cam…)
· E-mount interchangeable lens system
· Sony claims the battery is good for 330 shots (though this will vary depending on view screen usage)
· ISO200 – 12800
· Max image size 4592×3056 (3:2)
· Max panorama size 12,416×1,856
· Stylish magnesium body
· 1.5x crop sensor (for ex-35mm users, multiply lens focal length by 1.5 to get the 35mm equivalent lens power)
· Jpeg & RAW
· Takes memory Stick and SD

NEX 16mm F2.8 pancake lens

The Magnesium alloy body, which despite its tinyness, allows a good two-handed grip, has a real quality feel. A range of 3 ‘E’ lenses is available at the time of writing: a 16mm F2.8 pancake; a standard 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 stabilized zoom; and a stabilized 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 superzoom. Now although Sony is marketing the NEX range under its alpha brand, these cameras do not take alpha mount lenses (I don’t pretend to understand this), the NEX range has its own E-mount range. However with the purchase of the LA-EA1 Camera Mount Adapter it allows you to make use of your collection of alpha DSLR lenses. This adapter is also compatible with A-mount optics by Konica-Minolta.

NEX E18-200mm F3.5-6.3 telephoto zoom lens

One of the features that made me smile is “Background Defocus Control – Just turn the jog dial to adjust depth of focus and see beautiful blur effects previewed on screen. Create professional-looking images with a crisp foreground subject against a smoothly blurred background, just like a DSLR camera” This is a highly hyped aperture control, but of course to people who just want to click and have a great picture, ‘aperture’ is starting to sound scarily technical. All cameras have this (they don’t all let you control it) – it’s the hole the light goes through. But as soon as you mention something like f5.6 you’ve probably lost a lot of customers, so this is a clever move on Sony’s part to sell you something you can’t not have in a camera as a new feature – brilliant! Hat’s off to you Sony.

The sweep panoramic feature needs a little practise but works acceptably well. And is so much easier than using stitching software to join up a series of separate images.

The flash is not built into the camera, but comes in the box and has a guide number of 7, which is not very powerful but will be adequate for the indoor social situations where it is most likely to be used.

Still, you probably want to know if it’s worth buying, and I think it is. For a compact camera the picture quality is very good, the menus are simple, clear, and helpful as well as giving you handy hints and tips, not only on the camera’s use, but also on photography. And if you just want to point and click, that works very well, and if you want to get a bit more involved with the creative side, you can do that too. And if like me, you like a proper viewfinder – you can have one, it’s an optional accessory. But if the price is just a little high, you might want to consider the NEX 3 almost identical, slightly different body shape, not made of magnesium and around £80 cheaper.

Michael Hadfield


Popularity: 75% [?]

Canon Powershot G12 Digital Camera

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

Canon G12
Great upgrade from Canon the Powershot G12, Canon’s replacement for the G11.
* Excellent low light shooting with a 10.0 Megapixel high-sensitivity (up to ISO 3200) CCD
* Canon 5x optical zoom with optical Image Stabilizer and Hybrid IS (this compensates for shift-based movement common when hand-holding for macro/close-up shots)
* Electronic Spirit Level to keep those horizons horizontal, and a proper optical viewfinder
* Full Manual control with Front Dial, ISO adjustment, RAW & DPP software
* HD Movies (720p) with stereo sound and HDMI
* Auto High Dynamic range (but you need a tripod for this)
* flip out view screen (These are great when you want to shoot from exciting low level viewpoints. Saves having to lie on the floor to see which way the camera is pointing).

Canon G12 back

Lovely camera. Perfect if you want a high quality compact, or just as a handy spare for those days you don’t want to lug your heavy SLR kit all over the place. And it doesn’t matter how much you know about photography because for the beginner there are loads of preset picture modes, while the experienced photographer can enjoy total control with Manual, Aperture Priority, and Shutter Priority exposure modes.

This camera also allows you to shoot with a whole stack of aspect ratios, 3:2, 4:3, 1:1, 16:9 and 4:5 to save cropping in your photo editor later. I like the idea 1:1 – same as a Hasselblad.

You might also want to consider a Canon Speedlight so that you are fully equipped with a high quality portable light source wherever you are. You’ll find a Speedlight packs a much bigger punch than the built in flash, and, with a Canon Off-Camera Shoe Cord OC-E3, or a Canon Flash Speedlite Wireless Remote Transmitter ST-E2 you’ll have a lot more versatility and be able to be a little more creative with your flash lighting. I personally never use a camera’s built in flash gun, apart from not usually having enough power for what I want, they are too close to the lens (so the modelling from the light is not attractive) and they also eat into the camera’s battery power, so not using the built in flash means I can take more pictures before I need a recharge. The G12 has a hot shoe that will take an accessory flashgun, a remote cable, or a wireless transmitter.

Canon Powershot G12
Highly Recommended

Popularity: 100% [?]

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38

Sunday, November 8th, 2009


2009 sees the release of an upgrade for Panasonic’s excellent DMC-FZ28. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38(DMC-FZ35outside Europe) is a 12 Megapixel camera with a massive 18x optical zoom and an impressive specification. Among other things it offers HD movie mode; quick start-up (just over a second); face recognition plus; ultra high speed autofocus; and full manual operation. Optical image stabilisation is an improved version of the already excellent FZ28′s. While the ultra high speed autofocus, doubling the speed of the DMC-FZ28, now works in the dark as well.

Although the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38 is a lightweight camera it feels nicely solid and comfortable in the hand, and like all good cameras, it has a viewfinder, albeit an electronic one. On top of the body is a pop-up flash, but, alas, no accessory shoe. The stereo microphones, clearly needing to go somewhere, have been located on top of the flash housing.

The lens is a Leica DC Vario-Elmarit producing images with a fine level of detail, good colour depth and dynamic range. The focal length, in 35mm terms, ranges from a respectably wide 27mm (f2.8), to a substantial telephoto 486mm (f4.4). Noise in the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38 is well controlled for a camera of this type with almost noise-free images at ISO400, though even at the maximum ISO of 1600 the results are good enough for small prints, though fine detail suffers. AT ISO 80 images are sharp and clean with good edge definition.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38 has an improved image stabilisation system POWER O.I.S. (Optical Image Stabiliser) and offers twice the stabilisation of the DMC-FZ28 . This means that longer zoom settings can be used hand held. Also indoor photography, where flash would destroy the ambience, (church interiors for instance) becomes more accessible. Makes me wonder how long it will be before tripods become obsolete.

The mode wheel on the top plate, alongside the flash housing, has 14 shooting options (mode wheels are definitely going to have to get bigger) to cover every photographic possibility, so whatever your skill level, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38 has a setting to suit. For the absolute beginner there is even Intelligent Auto Mode – just set the Mode dial to IA. This is the ‘Photography for Dummies’ option that lets you concentrate on the picture you want to create and let the camera worry about all those complicated aperture, shutter speed, and ISO settings. I am totally in favour of anything that makes it easy for novices to take great pictures. While on the subject of Intelligence (Panasonic seems to like that word): Intelligent Auto Exposure sorts out high contrast problems; and with the Intelligent ISO of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38 ‘The camera automatically sets the optimum ISO sensitivity and shutter speed to suit the movement of the subject and brightness of the scene to minimise the jitter of the subject.’ That’s straight from the manual. Great stuff. It won’t be long before the camera takes itself for a day out and comes back with the pictures you would like to have taken.

The innovation and enterprise of camera software designers never ceases to impress me. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38 has face recognition with a difference. The camera will remember up to six different faces and whenever any of these particular faces are present in the viewfinder the camera’s focus system locks on to them in preference to any other faces!!! And the best bit is the camera notices when you have photographed the same person several times and prompts you to register them. Registered faces, when recognised, have the focus and exposure optimised for them, over and above whatever else is in the frame.

The innovation and enterprise of camera software designers never ceases to impress me. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38 has face recognition with a difference. The camera will remember up to six different faces and whenever any of these particular faces are present in the viewfinder the camera’s focus system locks on to them in preference to any other faces!!! And the best bit is the camera notices when you have photographed the same person several times and prompts you to register them. Registered faces, when recognised, have the focus and exposure optimised for them, over and above whatever else is in the frame.

Movie mode, something of which I’m not a fan in still cameras, is a one button feature. One button starts the movie, press it again and it stops recording. Doesn’t matter what the other settings are. So in that sense it is truly useful and can capture easily those spontaneous moments. With the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38 Movies can be recorded in HD (1280 x 720) and at smaller sizes too. HD is great if you want to watch it on your tv at home. The jpeg options are better for emailing and web use.

The monitor is 2.7″, clear and bright and the camera has a useful rechargeable Li-on battery and SD card housed under the same door in the bottom of the camera. Finally there is a tripod screw socket too for when your long exposures outfox the image stabilisation system.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38 is a camera you won’t be ashamed to be seen holding, and if you don’t want the hassle and expense of interchangeable lenses and a very heavy equipment bag to carry them all then the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38 should definitely be on your short list. Probably not worth upgrading if you already own the DMC-FZ28 but otherwise highly recommended. You really need to be considering DSLRs if you want to significantly improve on this camera. If you want a good quality camera for holidays, family moments, and the occasional Youtube video then this is worthy of serious consideration. For more serious photographers wanting to produce larger sized prints then I recommend that you look at entry level DSLRs.

  • Build quality 9/10
  • Features 9/10
  • Image Quality 9/10
  • Handling 7/10
  • Value for Money 8/10
  • Overall 8/10

Its Rivals.

Author: Michael Hadfield
Website: www.hadfieldsphotography.co.uk
email: Author


Popularity: 69% [?]