Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Canon Powershot SX60 HS review

For most people, photography is an activity to be enjoyed, not a craft to be honed. That is to say, taking pictures is a part of their lives, but their lives aren't devoted to photography. This is where the idea of an all-in-one super-zoom comes into play; something that can do many things but which doesn't make too many demands on its owner. The Canon SX series fits this mold, and the SX60 HS is an evolutionary upgrade to this line. At a time when the market is pushing ever upwards in terms of price (... here's looking at you Sony RX10 and Panasonic FZ1000...) the SX60 HS remains within the same price point of its predecessors. The headline specs are:

  • 16,1mp sensor
  • Digic 6 processor
  • 65x lens (21mm-1365mm effective)
  • 922,000 dot EVF
  • WiFi and NFC enabled

This is very much a case of "evolution" rather than "revolution". Yes, the megapixel count is higher and the zoom is longer than on the SX50, but those don't matter as much as they would suggest on a camera of this type, and it's mostly a case of a myriad of little changes adding up to an improved user experience.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Canon EOS 7D Mark II Review

(Note: The following is based on time with a pre-production 7D Mark II unit. Image samples and additional will become available in the following weeks... if not days... once production samples become are released to the public.)

Canon's 7D Mark II is late to the party. Very late, as in Chinese Democracy late. It's the camera that many people have wanted, but so much time has passed, one wonders if they've moved on to wanting something else by now. The original EOS 7D was announced in September of 2009, making its customers the second-most long suffering group in modern photography. The group that has waited the longest is the audience for the D300s successor; that camera was introduced a month ahead of the 7D. In the ensuing years, both cameras were much beloved by their respective camps. The Canon has arguably aged more gracefully, though that's not saying much since most of the EF-S lineup hasn't evolved as fast as the rest of the industry. The headline specs for the7D Mark II are:

  • Magnesium alloy body
  • 20.2 MP CMOS sensor with Dual-Pixel CMOS AF
  • New 65-point AF, all points cross-type
  • Continuous shooting: 10fps
  • Dual DIGIC6 processors
  • ISO 100-16,000, boosted to 52,000
  • Shutter rated to 200,000 cycles.
  • New RGB+IR new 150,000-pixel metering sensor
  • 1080p video at 60fps
  • Built in GPS tagging

  • In other words, this is the consumer-level EOS 70D, but in semi-pro working clothes. That's the impression that you get from reading the specs, but in actual use, its more like a scaled-down 1Dx. Yes, 1Dx, not 5DmIII.

    Monday, October 20, 2014

    Nikon D810 vs D750 vs Df: High ISO Noise and Image Quality

    Nikon D750

    The D750 is Nikon's middle of the road  FX camera... it doesn't lack in key features in the way that the D610 does and it doesn't cost an exorbitant amount in the way that the D810 does. But does that make it a "just right" camera or an "average compromise"? Here's a short test of the camera at the cusp of acceptable image quality (tight detail shot at ISO 6400 and above) and how it fairs against the D810 (more resolution) and Df (cleaner image noise). Is there a "Nikon look"? Partly yes and partly no. Output across the different Nikons share certain similarities... good exposure control, crisp detail and wide dynamic range... but there are differences built into the default output of each model.

    Tuesday, October 14, 2014

    Fujifilm X30 Review

    Fujifilm's X30 is the followup to what has been on of the move beloved quirky camera lines of recent years. The first iteration was plagued by the notorious highlight orbbing issue, and in all honesty, the X20 was not bug-free when it first hit store shelves. Nonetheless, the virtues of an enthusiast-oriented compact camera with decent manual controls, a bright lens and a large(r) sensor speak for themselves. The pertinent specs of the X30 are:

    • 12MP 2/3"-type X-Trans CMOS II sensor
    • 28-112mm equiv. F2.0-2.8 lens 
    • New lens-mounted double control rings
    • Hybrid (contrast + phase detection) autofocus system
    • ISO 100-3200, expandable to 12800 (JPEG only)
    • 2.36M dot OLED electronic viewfinder with 0.65x (equiv.) magnification
    • 3.0" 920k dot 3:2 articulated rear LCD display
    • 12 fps continuous shooting
    • New 'Classic Chrome' film simulation mode
    • Built-in Wi-Fi, including remote control from a smartphone or tablet
    • 1080/60p, 36Mbps video, with built-in stereo microphone and external  input
    • Manual focus  during video
    • Improved battery life (470 shots CIPA) 
    • Initial price just under $600 USD

    The fair thing to say is that the X30 has many usability improvements over the X20... but of course, the bulk of the attention will be focused on what it does have (EVF) and what is missing (1/1" sized sensor)...

    Updated October 2014

    Sunday, October 12, 2014

    Can Improper Cleaning Damage the Nano Crystal Coating of a Nikon Lens?


    Nikon's Nano Crystal Coat technology is used in various professional-level lenses to reduce ghosting and flaring. It's a delicate 3-dimensional coating that incorporates not only nano-particles, but the air-spaces between them to create a delicate surface with an extremely low refractive index. Normal glass reflects between 8-18% of the light that it encounters, but the "N" coating has a transmission efficiency of over 99.9%.  Naturally, such an ephemeral construct would be easily damaged by careless cleaning... let alone any cleaning. So is it safe to wipe a cleaning cloth across that AF-S NIKKOR 24-70 F2.8G ED?

    Short answer: Yes

    The longer answer is also very short. There is a simple reason why you can't inadvertently damage the Nano Crystal coat on your dearly expensive lens...