Thursday, December 11, 2014

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100 and Leica D-Lux Type 109 Review

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 truly a surprise is the interpretation that they came up with. By letting go of the notion that they had to use the entire area 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 truly 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, really? 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 also a 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 be past to a new comer like the LX100?

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Sony a7 II (ILCE-7M2) Hands On First Impressions

Sony's A7 will be updated on December 5th 2014 with an upgraded second version, available in Japan only. The new camera will ship globally in early 2015. The second version of the camera improves on the first generation with:

  • 5-Axis sensor-shift image stabilization
  • Improved autofocus speed and tracking
  • XAVC S video codec, 50Mbps
  • S-Log2 picture setting  à la Sony A7s
  • Redesigned front grip
  • Front command dial relocated,  à la Nikon

It's also important to also note what hasn't changed:

  • 117-point phase-detection and 25 contrast detection AF points: This is the same as the A7. By comparison, the Sony 6000 uses 179 phase detection points.
  • Same NP-FW50 battery. For reference, the A7 is rated at 340 shots under the CIPA testing standard
  • Rear control cluster is still the same. More about this later 

Quite frankly, the inclusion of in-camera image stabilization is enough to get many people excited., given how well the system on the Olympus OM-D E-M1 works. Sony will probably be coy, but its very likely that the a7 II's image stabilization system is descended from Olympus technology, given that Sony acquired part ownership of Olympus after the accounting scandal of 2011.

(First posted November 21st, 2014. Updated November 28 with hands on impressions with a pre-production unit at the 2014 Broadway Camera Black Friday Photo Expo.)

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

Just want to take time and thank all of my U.S. friends, and wish them a happy Thanksgiving. I'll always have fond memories of my time in LA and all of the friends I made over the years.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Sony A6000 Autofocus Guide

The Sony A6000 is an upper-level enthusiast's camera wrapped in a mid-level consumer body. There is a lot of extended capability to tap in to, but the potential is somewhat hampered by a user interface that doesn't always separate the casual aspects of the camera from the more advanced enthusiast-oriented functions. This is quite apparent in the way that the camera's autofocus system operates; it's extremely capable but the menu system does not give you an indication as to which methods are best with which situations. In cooking terms, the A6000 user design has many ingredients but is lacking in recipes on how to put them together. It also does not help that the owner's manual is a bit on the short side for a camera with such a deep menu system. Even with minimal user experience the camera is very capable, but a little bit of understanding will go a long way towards getting the most out of its sophisticated autofocus system.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM Review

The Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM  is the professional-level upgrade to the EF 100mm f/2.8 USM macro. The build quality is better and it includes image stabilization. (... and being a red ring lens, it actually includes a lens hood, wonder of wonders....) Ostensibly, Canon does not put much thought into the aesthetics of their middle-tier lenses, but the 100mmL looks the part for being a professional-quality lens.