Thursday, August 28, 2014

Firefly Digital Sensor Cleaner Review

When it comes to sensor cleaning, you do the cheap and easy thing first. An air blower is inexpensive, easy to use and is the method that you are least likely to damage your sensor with. That said, it isn't foolproof. Air blowers don't remove oil spots and have difficulty removing stubborn particles that stick to the glass surface because of electrostatic charge. Eventually, particles and debris accumulate to the point where a physical contact approach, like wet cleaning, is required. This is where the  Firefly Digital Sensor Cleaner comes in; its unique selling proposition is that it has the easy of an air blower, but with better cleaning power. It works, but there are some caveats. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Launch Review: Fujifilm X30 First Impressions

Fujifilm has announced the followup to the well-received X10/X20 series of compact cameras. The pertinent specs are:

  • 12MP 2/3"-type X-Trans CMOS II sensor
  • EXR Processor II
  • 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" sensor?)...

Monday, August 25, 2014

Nikon AF-S 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR with D610 Review

Let's face it, some people just don't want to change lenses. Even those who do might want a break from it from time to time. Hence, the existence of super-zooms. Jack of all trades, master of none. The Nikon AF-S 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR  falls into that category. Given that Nikon's post-D600 full frame focus, it seems natural that they filled in this particular checkbox in the product lineup, but is it relevant in today' world?

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Sony E-Mount 55-210mm f/4.5-6.3 OSS (SEL-55210) Review

"Small" is relative. By the standards of the film era, modern digital cameras... DSLR's and compacts alike... are all smaller than their 35mm film precursors. That in itself is a good thing, but for many people, cameras cannot be small enough given how much bigger they are relative to cell phones. When you shrink a DSLR into what is the modern mirrorless class of cameras, "small" not only becomes relative, it actually reveals itself as a situation quality. Mirrorless cameras are only small when they have small lenses attached to them. If you need longer or brighter focal lengths, the practical working size of the cameras isn't that much less than your average entry-mid-level DSLR.

Inevitably, compromises have to be made. The Sony SEL-55210 is one such compromise. On the one hand, it gives a very useful extension as a 55-210mm zoom in APS-C format. On the other hand, it's a slow variable-aperture lens that only ranges between f/4.5 to f/6.3. By DSLR stands, that would make it a mediocre lens, but in the context of Sony's mirrorless system, it's a sensible buy. It's all about context

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Nikon D810 High ISO and Fixed Pattern Noise (Updated)

Though the Nikon D800 was arguably already the best camera on the market from an image-quality standpoint, the natural progression of things means that the D810 has been tweaked somewhat. The most significant improvements come for videographers with the lower base ISO.... but that won't stop traditionalists from asking: "How is the high ISO image quality?"

It's fine, thank you very much.

Aug 2014 (Update 1): Nikon has now issued a service advisory for bright pixels accumulating during long exposures. See the follow-up below for details. 

Aug2014 Update (2):  An example of a post-service advisory unit.