Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Sony DSC-RX10 Review

Super-zooms occupy an awkward in the market. Cameras like the Fujifilm HS50EXR and the Panasonic DMC-FZ200 gives loads of flexibility, but compete in an uncomfortable position with the entry-level DSLR cameras which often cost the same or less. Sony has found a way around that problem with the DSC-RX10... by pricing it much higher... $1,299 USD high, that is. Problem solved.

That strategy, is of course, classic Sony. The RX100 II is already an expensive camera, but because of it's unique value proposition of having loads of horsepower in a tiny body, some people are willing to forgive it that. Taking the same sensor and tacking on a Carl Zeiss 24-200mm f/2.8equivalent lens...does that make it worth almost double the money?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Canon EOS 70D vs Nikon D5300 vs D7100 vs Pentax K-3: Banding and Pattern Noise (Updated)

Banding (pattern noise in deep shadows) is a mildly contentious issue for Nikon D7100 users. For the most part, it's only visible... and faintly so... in deep shadows, but it does becomes apparent if files are aggressively manipulated in post processing. Exposed properly, the D7100 produces clean image files that clearly have more detail than the D7000, but those files aren't as malleable as those from the older camera. The Pentax K-3 is an interesting alternative to the D7100 in that it closely matches the Nikon in terms of sensor specs, but is apparently a Sony design rather than a Toshiba design. This has given reason for some people to take a second look at the K-3, especially those looking for more post-processing wiggle room. The following is a quick visual comparison of the read/dark current noise of the Canon 70D, Nikon D7100 and Pentax K-3.

Dec 3, 2013 Update: Now includes the Nikon D5300.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

AF-S NIKKOR 58mm f/1.4G Review

Some people can never have enough. Not enough resolution. Needs more high ISO power. Dynamic range is inadequate.  Bokeh is not creamy enough. The Nikon AF-S 58mm f/1.4G is not for those kinds of people. Many people overbuy... you find D800 oweners that would have been better off with a D610, or a full frame user that would have miles to go with a D7100. On the face of it, the 58mm f/1.4 seems like an amped up version of the 50mm f/1.4G, but that's not the case. These are two different lenses with two different purposes. Nikon advertises that this lens has almost no sagittal coma or light falloff. It's a lens that can be used wide-open with no reservations. Though it is very good at many things, it is excellent at one particular thing, and for that reason, this is truly a "noct" lens.

Pentax K-3: High ISO

The Pentax K-3 is an interesting, albeit, off-the-beaten path alternative for any long-suffering photographers waiting fore the fabled Nikon D400 or Canon EOS 7D Mark II. However, this latest APS-C DSLR from Pentax (now owned by Ricoh) has many headline features that appeal to aficionados of semi-professional crop sensor cameras:

  • 24.4 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor
  • Sensor-shift image stabilization, including rotational compensation
  • Anti-aliasing can be turned on/off 
  • 27-point AF, 25 of which are cross-type
  • 8.3 fps continuous shooting

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Nikon Df Hands On First Impressions (Pre-Production)

This week I had a chance to see pre-production samples of the Nikon Df. In the weeks since its announcement, the Df has been something of a contentious topic in the Nikon community, with some praising it for its return-to-basics aesthetic while others have derided it for being an expensive nostalgia trip.  The truth is that its a little bit of both, but even more so, the Df is its own camera, There is a lot about this camera that feels familiar, yet distinct from the rest of the Nikon lineup, and what is hard to convey in words is this tactile sensation of familar, yet different that the camera gives the user once placed in his/her hands.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Sony DSC-RX100 M2 Review

The great thing about iteration is that it has a tendency to repeat itself. The original RX100 might have ended up as a well-regarded one-time offering, but with the 2013 refresh, Sony seems poised to carry the big camera in a small body concept forward into the future. This is the best fixed-lens compact camera on the market, and as is expected, Sony has priced it that way. The RX100 MII not only costs more than all other compacts, it costs more than its APS-C NEX-3 and NEX-5 siblings. Does it live up to it's price tag?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Olympus PEN E-P5 versus Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7

Sometimes, having the best camera does not equate to having the best image quality. That is certainly true of the Micro Four Thirds cameras which trade sensor area for overall camera portability. However, giving up on outright image quality does not mean that a camera has to be any less usable, and to that end Olympus and Panasonic have created two of the most feature-laden mi-tier cameras on the market in the PEN E-P5 and the DMC-GX7. This review covers the E-P5 with the M.Zuiko Digital 17mm F1.8 prime lens and VF-4 electronic viewfinder along with the GX7  equipped with the G Vario 14-42mm/F3.5-5.6 lens

Thursday, November 14, 2013

How to Buy Your First DSLR

Most photography blogs assume a certain level of proficiency from their readers, but few (if any) cater to the camera neophyte. For most camera enthusiasts (nerds), a trip to the camera store is like going to the candy store; its all smiles and grins. However, for the uninitiated, buying a DSLR can be an intimidating experience if it's the first one and there's no prior experience with cameras of this sort. However, there are still some good reasons to buy a DSLR like a Nikon D3200 or a Canon SL1; speed of operation and lens selction being the biggest ones. As 2013 winds down, there will sure to be Black Friday and Christmas deals, making it one of the busiest times of the year for people to step up to a DSLR. To that end, here are a few tips and tricks to get through the buying process:

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Full Frame Bokeh (Part 1): Nikon D610 with AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G

One of the headline features of a full frame camera is the extra amount of bokeh that you can achieve at a given aperture. That is to say, the depth of field will narrow by the equivalent of one stop compared to a DX system. There's more to good foreground/background isolation and composition than outright shallow depth of field, but let's be honest.... a creamy obliterated background is a satisfying thing. To that end, here is what the bokeh looks like as you go through the aperture range on a Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.4G mounted on a D610:

Monday, November 11, 2013

In Rememberance

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Nikon AF-S DX 18–140mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR Review

It's been a long standing rule of thumb, but one that still stands true: a quality zoom lens should ideally have no more than a 3:1 ratio of its longest and widest focal lengths. The AF-S DX 18–140mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR obviously exceeds this, but this type of lens is about balancing convenience against value and performance. The new 18-140mm lens replaces the long serving Nikkor f/3.5-5.6G ED VR AF-S DX lens that was the kit lens on the D90, D7000 and early D7100 units. In fact, it's pretty much a modern version of the 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 G IF-ED DX kit lens that came packaged with the D80. That was an unusually sharp lens for the it's price range, but it suffered from high degrees of distortion, vignetting and lateral chromatic aberration. In many ways, the 18-105VR was a tamed version of the 18-135; by backing off on the focal length, a slightly better compromise could be made optically. Does the new 18-140mm give back the range of the first extended zoom kit lens while improving on the image quality of the second.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Sony A7r Hands On (Pre-Production)

Yesterday I had the chance to play with a pre-production Sony A7r. Just some quick first thoughts about this camera. Though it's far from pretty and looks a bit angular, it sits comfortably in your hand as though it were a slightly bigger Sony NEX camera. Mounted with the kit 28-70mm lens for the A7, the overall package is roughly the size of a Leica X Vario, but nowhere near as chunky. It looks positively Lilliputian next to the A99 SLT.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Nikon Df Launch Review: Cheap(er) Full Frame, Take Two

When the D3s launched, many people were asking for the same sensor in a smaller body. That never happened; what we got was the D800. When the D4 launched, the same people were again asking for that 16mp FX sensor in a smaller body. That hasn't happened.... until now. This probably wasn't what they had in mind.

If the D600 program had gone to plan, it would be difficult to imagine that Nikon would have come up with the Df at all. Unfortunately, a year of troubled publicity set Nikon back in advancing the lower end of its full frame lineup, and in many ways the Df is a second stab at advancing this market segment. There's a feeling that this isn't business as usual, but rather, that Nikon is pushing especially hard to try to make "affordable" full frame work:

  • An extended teaser campaign, which is historically unusual for them. The D600 launch built up through word of mouth and expectation, but the Df is a bit unusual in the effort put into the slick "Pure Photography" teaser campaign
  • Consider also that Nikon does not normally do "retro." If anything, they've consistently had a "conservative but looking forward" mentality when it comes to their design language. This isn't unusual for many Japanese companies; "retro" design isn't something that is used as often as in North American or European design.  Consider how the Porsche 911 changes glacially over the years, or how the Ford Mustang recalls a bygone era. Neither Toyota nor Honda have shown much interest in maintaining retro-styling cues in their mainstream products.

What's more unusual about the Df is that it doesn't slot cleanly in Nikon's lineup. The design makes it's operation and handling different from any other device that Nikon puts out. It might have a capable sensor, but its control layout doesn't make it ideal as a backup camera to either the D4 or the D800. So how does the Df fit into Nikon's lineup?