Thursday, September 18, 2014

Launch Review: Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100 First Impresions

There are very few surprises left in the age of the internet. It's not a surprise that Panasonic launched the m4/3 based DMC-LX100 at Photokina 2014; what is a real surprise is how they did it. By letting go of the notion that they had to use all of the potential of a m4/3 sensor, Panasonic freed themselves to produce a camera that stayed within the mission of previous LX-series cameras: extremely enthusiast oriented but small and elegant. This is something that the LX100 (like the RX100 cameras) does well in a way that the Canon G1 X Mark II doesn't; the Canon went for a large sensor and fast lens without really considering how it would affect the overall design philosophy of the camera. The end result is something that is large and a bit unwieldy compared to the more nimble offerings that it has to compete with.

How nimble is the LX100? It looks big because it recalls the chunky 4/3 DSMC-LC1 of yore, but it is just a tad bit wider than the LX7, almost the same height and 1cm thicker. This puts it in roughly the same size territory as the Fujifilm X30, but the LX100 does this with a faster lens and a larger sensor. Correspondingly, the price tag is larger as well. The headline specs are:

  • 4/3 16mp sensor, multi-aspect crop to 12mp 
  • Lens is equiv. focal length 24-75mm, f/1.7-2.8
  • ISO range: 200-25600 (extended to ISO 100)
  • 4K video at 30fps, 60fps for 1080p
  • 3" LCD screen
  • Built-in Wi-Fi and NFC
  • Hot shoe mount. Clip-on flash

  • The virtues of this camera speak for itself, but it is part of a worrying trend. Nearly ever new enthusiast-level offering in the "small and light" category... interchangeable lens or not... costs at least $600 USD or more. At least in North America, there simply aren't enough buyers willing to pay this much money for a "secondary" camera. All of the manufacturers have been racing ahead of each other to climb of the "premium price hill" but there is only so much room at the top. Will it be the first to get there who lasts (Sony RX100) or will the crown go to a new comer like the LX100?

    Monday, September 15, 2014

    Launch Review: Canon 7D Mark II First Impressions

    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

  • In other words, this is the consumer-level EOS 70D, but in semi-pro working clothes.

    Friday, September 12, 2014

    Launch Review: Nikon D750 First Impressions

    The long wait is over. The D400 is finally here  nowhere to be seen and we now have even starker evidence that Nikon is serious about moving as much of the enthusiast crowd up to full frame as is economically possible. In many ways, the D750 is like the D3s; its a capable camera that few were expecting.The headline specs are:

    • 24 mp sensor with AA filter
    • 51 AF point, MULTI-CAM3500 II
    • AF functional down to -3EV light levels
    • Group AF mode (like D4s and D810)
    • 6.5 fps, does not change with additional battery pack
    • Aperture control during live view and video recording
    • 91k pixel RGB exposure sensor (same as D810)
    • Articulating 3.2" 1.23k-dot screen
    • Built in WiFi 
    • Same video capability as the D810
    • Simultaneous SD card/external video recording

    Nikon threw the proverbial kitchen sink into the D710. Except for the full metal body and "pro-level" control layout of the D810, the list of features not on this camera is fairly short. Though it's "another 24mp camera", it has broader market appeal than the D810 and ticks off more of the check boxes that enthusiasts watch for than the D610. In other words, not as much of an "action camera" as people had hoped for, but it is ostensibly being set up to be a big part of Nikon's FX lineup. 

    Wednesday, September 10, 2014

    Launch Review: Apple iPhone 6 Camera First Impressions

    With every new iPhone release, Apple has placed a greater emphasis on photography. The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus seem to be a waning of that trend; though there are improvements the 2014 editions are more iterative than innovative. In many ways, this is a mirror of the dedicated camera market as a whole; the improvements are there but the actual benefit to the consumer diminishes with each gain. The headline specs are:

    • 8mp
    • Larger 1.5 µm photodiodes (iPhone 5s was 1.2µm)
    • f/2.2 aperture
    • Optical image stabilization on the 6 Plus 
    • True Tone flash carried over from iPhone 5s 
    • 240 fps slow-motion at 720p

    There are some interesting things going on, but the sum total isn't overwhelming this time around. Certainly not like the 5s introduction, which is almost as much a camera launch as it was a smartphone launch.

    Saturday, September 6, 2014

    Sigma AF 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC HSM OS Review

    Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 OS on Canon 70D

    The Tamron SP AF 17-50mm f/2.8 XR Di II LD IF is one of most venerable lenses in the crop sensor DSLR world. For a fraction of the cost of the Nikon and Canon alternatives, a photographer can have a f/2.8 normal lens with almost all of the sharpness of the first-tier lenses... albeit sacrificing a bit in terms of vingetting and lateral chromatic aberration, but not enough to matter in most situations. The Sigma AF 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC HSM OS in many ways is the spiritual successor to that particular Tamron... even more so than Tamron's own VC version of that lens. Tamron's update traded away some image quality at wider apertures in exchange for image stabilization. When you put the the newer Sigma vs the older Tamron, the choice between the two can be tough. So, is the Sigma 17-50mm OS the proverbial walk-around, go-anywhere normal zoom that so many photographers are looking for?

    September 2014 Update: Additional information about compatibility with the Nikon D7100 and comparison samples with the Tamron17-50mm non-VC have been added.