Monday, September 21, 2015

Sony RX100M3 vs. Sony A6000

Left: Sony A6000       Right: Sony RX100M3

The Sony RX100M3 and A6000 are two of the best received cameras for first time shoppers and young families looking for something to take quality photos with...

If you think that these are supposed to be cutting-edge enthusiast-oriented cameras, you would be right. Neither are inexpensive, but since the very beginning they have been universally well regarded. The funny thing about well-reviewed serious-level products is that the good word filters down to the general consumer level as well. Even if they are loaded with specs that appeal to hardcore enthusiasts, both product lines have successfully crossed over from high-end enthusiast to mass-market consumer. This is is no small feat; there are many good cameras, but few at the higher end compel casual shooters.

Taking a step back, the camera industry has gone through a sea-change these past few years. It used to be that if you wanted quality you bought a DSLR, and if you wanted portability you bought a compact. Mirrorless and high end compacts have changed that and made for more choice in between. Whereas before casual shoppers spend somewhere between $500 to $700 USD for an entry-level DSLR, they are now more likely to spend the same amount on a mirrorless camera or a RX100M3. It's a rational choice; for almost the same quality as a DSLR from 3-4 years previous, you get a smaller and more compact system.

The Dilemma:

Which to choose? The RX100M3 is physically smaller and has better lens specs, albeit with a smaller sensor and no fancy motion-tracking phase-det4ection autofocus. The A6000 is one of the smallest of the APS-C mirrorless cameras on the market, but would be considered large to a user accustomed to point-and-shoots. It's only serious weakness is the SEL1650 kit lens that it is paired with, which is one of the most electronic-0correction reliant lenses on the camera market. In fact, the A6000 menu blanks out the option to turn-off in-camera lens corrections when this lens is mounted.

Both are good, both are small. One is smaller, one is more capable. If you wanted one camera, which to chose and which trade-off is better?

Thursday, September 17, 2015

iPhone 6s and 6s Plus Camera Launch Review

Apple iPhone 6s

With every new iPhone release, Apple has placed a greater emphasis on photography, though in truth, for each new feature that is announced there are a number of small iterative improvements that may or may not impact day to to day use. This year's significant changes are:

  • 12mp still photos
  • Improved phase detection autofocus
  • Deep trench sensor construction for better signal/noise
  • "Live Photo" capture
  • 4K video recording (3840x2160)

Obviously the fundamental changes are the bump in resolution and the addition of 4K. However, the key idea is "day to day" use: do these changes meaningfully benefit the consumer or has Apple joined the traditional camera industry's predictable iterative parade?

Friday, September 4, 2015

Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED VR Review

When it comes to APS-C, the different camera companies seem to have different thoughts as to what the majority of the customers want... at least if  you go by the composition of their product lineups:

  • Canon seems to have woken up to the possibilities of inexpensive but comparatively good performing consumer-grade STM lenses like the EF-S 24mm f/2.8 or the EF-S 10-18mm . In fact, their lens lineup looks better matched to the consumer-level market segment than their camera bodies are.
  • Sony seems to only want to produce mid-grade consumer-zooms for their E-Mount cameras. There might be one or two good zooms or primes in the lineup, but overall the selection is competent but uninspiring.
  • Fujifilm is solidly replicating the enthusiast-level experience of the high-end DSLR market with their XF line of lenses. Virtually nobody thinks of the XC lenses when they think of Fujifilm

And there is Nikon, who seemingly proliferated every possible variation of the 18-xxx kit lens possible. The AF-S DX 16-85mm was a setup in build and image quality for anybody who wanted something better than the kit lens but who didn't want to stray from the convenience of having a wide zoom ratio. In other words, it was a lens that edged up to the enthusiast level but which primarily appealed to the consumer segment of the market. That's a tough proposition, but truth be told, Nikon sold quite a few of these and the 18-200 convenience zooms, as apparently consumer behavior is not as hardcore as internet forum chatter would have you believe.

The AF-S 16-80 is a the continuation of that idea, but with more actual hard-core credentials in the virtue of being essentially a stop brighter in terms of maximum aperture throughout the zoom range. For something that isn't a constant aperture f/2.8 zoom (or even better, ala Sigma 18-35mm DC HSM) the Nikon 16-80mm's price of $1066 USD once again tests the limits of how much money convenience shooters are willing to pay for quality.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Canon G3 X Review

Canon G3 X

One of Canon's most popular compact cameras is the SX series (SX710 HS, SX700 HX, etc.). In a compact rectangular box form, you get lots of zoom... more than the competition even. The SX 710 HS and cameras like it  are generally casual shooter cameras, made for photographers who like the idea of a "big spec" camera but who aren't in love with the larger size requirements of a traditional DSLR-like bridge camera. Very often, the buyer of a big zoom EVF-less compact really only wants a compact camera, but is lured by the promise of the big spec number... E.g. "30x zoom, 50X zoom, etc.

To that end, the Canon G3 X is the high-end version of this concept, much like how the G7 X is the high-end embodiment of the S120. Canon, being the largest player in the camera market can afford to do multiple segments as such, whereas the rest of the industry is consolidating onto a few key products. From a casual consumer perspective, a smaller EVF-less large sensor camera seems like a good idea, but from an enthusiast shooter's point of view, the point-and-shoot style layout would be viewed politely as a brave choice. Given the sales success of the G7 X, can the G3 X do the same?

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Nikon D7200 vs Sony A7 Mark II

Left: Nikon D7200 with Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 OS   Right: Sony A7mII with FE 24-70mm f/4

Following the previous post that looked at the Nikon D750 versus the Sony A7 Mark II, two initial conditions can be roughly established:

  • The Nikon D7200 is roughly one stop less in image quality (noise, dynamic range) relative to the D750 by virtue of its smaller sensor. Both cameras show JPEG rendering improvements over their predecessors due to the current generation of Nikon EXPEED processors.
  • The Sony A7 Mark II, even though it is using a similar (but not identical) sensor is not as good as the Nikon D750 with out of camera JPEG's, and is limited by its compressed 11-bit RAW format

One wonders: how does the crop-frame D7200 compare to the full-frame Sony A7 Mark II? That might seem like a absurd question; of course full frame is better than APS-C. What's really the crux of the issue is whether or not Nikon's execution of APS-C can keep pace with Sony's implementation of full frame. The results might surprise you....