Nikon D810 Review
Nikon Df Review
Three Guys’ Review: Nikon D5300

Leica Runs Out of Ideas, Releases the LCD-less M-D (Typ 262) Camera

Leica M-D Back
Leica M-D (Typ 262) Back

What can you do when your company runs out of ideas? In the case of Leica Camera AG, they pulled all their marketing stops and came up with the M-D (Typ 262). The camera omits the rear LCD screen commonly found in just about every digital camera nowadays. Shocking!

It is touted to “embody the entire range of technical advantages perfected over decades in the Leica rangefinder system,” while intentionally leaving out “all but the most essential technical features.” Even Leica’s famous  “Red dot” has been eschewed from the camera’s facade to lend itself an “unobtrusive appearance”, in line with Leica’s spirit of “Das Wesentliche” (The Essentials). Obviously, the camera doesn’t have Live View or video capabilities, either.

Leica M-D (Typ 262)
Leica M-D (Typ 262)

Specs wise, there’s nothing much to shout about. It has a 24MP full-frame CMOS sensor and a Leica Maestro image processor. All images are saved as DNG RAW files. The shutter and cocking system has been made quieter than the other Leicas, making for a truly inconspicuous shooting experience. It can shoot up to a measly two three frames a second. But Leica users are not known for rapid fire shots anyway, so this is no biggie.

This stripped down camera will be for sale at a cool US$5,995.

Leica fanboys are going to gush over this and wax lyrical about all that minimalism that it provides. But you know what? Why not take just about any camera, or even the Leica that you might have, or buy a used Leica M9 or something, and gaffer tape over that LCD? That will only cost you like $5.

As for Leica, we have some ideas for your next camera. If you do choose to adopt them, please remember to credit us!

  1. Limit the number of shots per memory card to 24 or 36. This will evoke a sense of nostalgia for the film shooters, bringing them back to the good old days of 24 or 36 exposure Kodak Tri-X film.
  2. While you are at that, why not lock the ISO to whatever’s set on the first shot? For example, if the owner set his ISO to 400, inserted a card and took a shot, all other shots will be locked at ISO 400. This also harks back to the good old film days of getting stuck with one ISO per roll.
  3. Have a feature which wipes out all the shots if < 36 (or 24) shots were taken on the memory card if the owner opens the memory card door. Perfectly emulates the case where you open the back of your camera before the roll is finished and ruin everything! Alternatively, the firmware can apply a random light leak/flare effect to the photos taken.
  4. Finally, since we are going back to basics with the “Das Wesentliche” movement, why not re-instate the film advance lever in a future digital M? You can even have two versions—single stroke and double stroke—perfectly emulating iconic Leica M3 film camera of yesterday. I am sure many Leica aficionados will be willing to pay for this!
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Nikon Launches the Flagship D5 and D500 DSLRs in Singapore

Nikon D5 and D500 with AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8G
Nikon D5 and D500 with AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8G

Nikon Singapore has launched the flagship D5 and D500 DSLRs today (13 Apr 2016) at the Aura Skylounge at the National Gallery of Singapore. We were there at the launch event and managed to get a hands-on session with both the cameras.

Sunny Ng, Senior Sales and Marketing Manager of Nikon Singapore
Sunny Ng, Senior Sales and Marketing Manager of Nikon Singapore

The launch started with an introduction by Sunny Ng, Senior Sales and Marketing Manager of Nikon Singapore followed by a rundown of the D500’s features by Albert Yap from the Asia Technical Office. Some some strange reason, there wasn’t any talk about the flagship D5. The talk focussed on the Nikon D500.

Albert Yap, Asia Technical Office, Nikon Singapore
Albert Yap, Asia Technical Office, Nikon Singapore

Wildlife photographer C.S. Ling then talked about her experience shooting the D500 in Borneo and how it managed to capture her wildlife shots in vivid detail and very low noise, despite her having to use very high ISOs some times.

Wildlife Photographer, C.S. Ling
Wildlife Photographer, C.S. Ling

We then had a short Q&A with Nikon Ambassadors Bryan Fong and Elliot Lee, who briefly shared about their shooting experiences and how they felt about the two new cameras.

Nikon Ambassadors Bryan Fong and Elliot Lee
Nikon Ambassadors Bryan Fong and Eliot Lee

To allow us to test the D5 and D500, Nikon has kindly gave us 16GB CompactFlash and SD cards (Sandisk Extreme no less!) so that we can bring the images back. One of the much touted features of both the cameras are their excellent high ISO performance, and Nikon has specially constructed a dark box for this purpose. It simulates a lighting condition of -4EV, in which the naked eye can barely see anything. However, the D500’s centre AF point is sensitive enough to still be able to AF in such conditions. Previous cameras like the D750 can only AF down to -3EV, so the D500 is a stop better in this regard. I wasn’t able to achieve an AF lock using Live View though.

The Nikon Dark Box
The Nikon Dark Box
Taken inside the dark box
A scene taken inside the dark box using the Nikon D500 at ISO 51200.

Here’s a YouTube video by local photographer Alex Ortega showing the camera achieving an AF lock under this lighting condition. Pretty cool, I’d say.

For testing the high-speed burst modes and fast AF speeds, Nikon got two bartenders to give bartending performances. Both cameras were able to capture this well. I don’t really shoot a lot of bursts myself, though.

Bartending Demo
Bartending Demo, shot on a D500. 1/200 @ f/4, ISO 1600.

There was also a section set up on the balcony to let us play with the AF-S 800mm /f5.6E, AF-S 400mm f/2.8E and the AF-S 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 lenses. It was bloody hot outside, so I didn’t stay out there for long. I took a couple of shots on the D5 and it was expectedly good. This is a given, as just about any modern camera would have produced a good shot in good lighting nowadays.

Outdoor testing areaa
Outdoor testing areaa
Nikon D5, 1/200 @ f/11, ISO 100.
Nikon D5, 1/200 @ f/11, ISO 100.

Anyway, back indoors, I attempted to test both the camera’s high ISO performance. Since low ISOs are no longer a challenge for most modern cameras, I started from ISO 1600 and worked my way up to the maximum. “Unfortunately” it wasn’t dark enough to reach the ISO 3-million of the D5.

Expectedly, ISOs within the non-expanded range (i.e. below H.01) were all very good, particularly on the D5 which didn’t show much noise until about ISO 51,200.

Nikon D5 at ISO 25,600
Nikon D5 at ISO 25,600
Nikon D5 at ISO 51,200
Nikon D5 at ISO 51,200

The D500 that I was testing appear to have its Noise Reduction turned off or set to a very low level. So, the high ISO performance does not appear to be that great in the shots below. I’d still say it’s pretty decent, though.

Alex has also posted a set of high ISO images on ClubSnap and his appears to be much cleaner. I believe his test unit has the Noise Reduction turned on. We shot basically the same thing, and did not check if it’s turned on or not. Judging from his files, I’d say that the D500’s high ISO performance with Noise Reduction is pretty amazing.

Nikon D500 at ISO 25,600
Nikon D500 at ISO 25,600
Nikon D500 at ISO 51,200
Nikon D500 at ISO 51,200

One modern feature that Nikon has added to both cameras are touch-sensitive LCD displays. The D500 has a tilting LCD touch screen, while the D5 has a fixed one. Like smart phones, both allow you to swipe through images, as well as pinch to zoom in. Of course, you can also tap to focus during Live View. Unfortunately, you can’t navigate the menus via touch.

Another nice touch added to the cameras a little joystick controller for AF-point selection. This is available on both the D5 and D500 and makes it much easier to select the desired AF point. This is also seen on the newly-released Fujifilm X-Pro 2.

I am liking the D500 pretty much, but I am now too used to the size and weight of the Fujifilm X-T1. If Nikon made a mirrorless camera with the D500 specs, I’d be much more interested. Still, both the D5 and D500 are very nice cameras indeed. The AF speed is fast, high ISO performance is excellent and image quality is excellent too. There’s nothing much to dislike (except perhaps the price, especially for the D5.)

Here are a few more test shots.

Nikon D5, 1/320 at f/2.8, ISO 1600
Nikon D5, 1/320 at f/2.8, ISO 1600
Nikon D500, 1/200 at f/4, ISO 1600.
Nikon D500, 1/200 at f/4, ISO 1600.
Nikon D5, 1/320 at f/11, ISO 100.
Nikon D5, 1/320 at f/11, ISO 100.

YS: There are a lot of nice improvements, like the new joystick for AF selection, the position of the ISO button (though that will require some muscle memory re-learning for long-term Nikon users), the AF speed, and the AF demonstration in the dark was quite impressive.

Also, I’m particularly looking forward to how Snapbridge works. Finally, a way to connect with your smartphone that doesn’t require the two-handed juggle that always happens? During the presentation Nikon implied that the camera will retain a low-powered Bluetooth connection even when the camera is off.

It’s a pity Nikon took such a long time to release this. I’d have jumped on it immediately as a replacement for my then-D300.

CK: At the time of writing, pricing and availability dates are not known.

UPDATE (26 Apr 2016): Nikon Singapore has announced that the D500 will be available from authorised Nikon retailers at S$2,999 for the body alone, or S$3,999 bundled with the AF-S 16-80mm f/2.8-4E E VR kit lens.

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Panasonic Announces the Lumix GX80/GX85 Micro Four Thirds Camera

Panasonic DMC-LX85
Panasonic DMC-LX85

Panasonic has announced the Lumix DMC-GX85, also known as the GX80 outside of North America. (What’s with naming things differently in different regions anyway?) This is cost-down version of the GX8, featuring a 16MP Live MOS sensor and no AA filter. It also has a redesigned shutter mechanism and 5-axis Dual IS consisting of both In-Body and Optical Image Stabilisation. Panasonic claims that the removal of the anti-aliasing filter supposedly improves fine detail resolution by 10%. The magnetically-driven shutter mechanism reduces the shutter sound as well as the vibration caused by shutter shock.

The GX85/GX80 features a Live View Finder (LVF) with 2764K-dots and 100% colour re-production, covering field of view of 100%. The rear LCD is a large 3.0″ one with approximately 1040K-dots with touch capability. It tilts up by up to 80º and down by 45º.

As with the trend these days, the GX85/GX80 features 4K at 30p or 20p video recording in addition to good old full HD at up to 60fps. There are also 3 different burst modes which allow you to: capture up to 30 still images at 8MP, record 30 frames before and after you capture a shot, and finally, a 4K cropping mode which lets you extract HD video from a 4K recording, adding zoom and pan effects within the camera.

A novel feature on the GX85/80 is Focus Bracketing. This is a Lytro-like “Post Focus” feature which lets you select the focus area after the image is taken. Other features include an ISO range of 100-25,600, WiFi and RAW recording.

The GX85/80 will be available with a 24-64mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens for US$800 in late May.

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Nikon Announces New DL Line of 1″ Premium Compacts With a Trio of Cameras

Nikon DL 18-50 f/1.8-2.8
Nikon DL 18-50 f/1.8-2.8

Nikon announced a new line of 1″ premium compact cameras dubbed the DL (which stands for “Digital Lens”) targeted towards serious photographers. It uses the CX-format 1″ BSI CMOS sensor with a resolution of 20.8MP and a maximum ISO Of 12,800. Powered by a EXPEED 6A Image Processor, the DL series of cameras are capable of 60fps continuous shooting with fixed AF, and 20fps with continuous AF.

Nikon DL 24-85 f/1.8-2.8
Nikon DL 24-85 f/1.8-2.8

The three cameras covers a wide range of focal lengths—DL 18-50mm f/1.8-2.8, DL 24-85mm f/1.8-2.8 and DL 24-500mm f/2.8-5.6. The first two models looks more or less alike, and somewhat reminiscent of the Coolpix A released in 2013. The DL 24-500 on the other hand, looks more like the P900 and the recently announced B700.

Nikon DL 24-500 f/2.8-5.6
Nikon DL 24-500 f/2.8-5.6

The DL 18-50 and DL 24-85 both features a 3″ tilting LCD with a resolution of 1.037 million dots, while the DL 24-500, like the B700, has a fully-articulated screen. All three cameras are capable of 4K video recording at 30fps, 1200 fps slow motion, HDMI output to an external recorder, still photos from video, RAW file recording, and a standard hot shoe. Wireless connectivity is provided by Bluetooth/NFC as well as WiFi. The DL 24-500 features a high-resolution OLED EVF with 2.359 million dots, while the other two has optional EVFs which can be purchased separately.

All three cameras will be available from early summer at US$850, US$650 and US$1000 respectively.

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Nikon Announces a Trio of Long-Zoom Compact Cameras

Nikon Coolpix A900
Nikon Coolpix A900

Nikon announced a trio of long-zoom compact cameras, two of which supports 4K video recording. They will have a new naming scheme, with the “A” series replacing the “L” series, and B” series replacing the “P” series.

First, we have the compact A900, with a 20MP BSI CMOS sensor, 35x (24-840 equivalent) f/3.4-6.9 zoom lens and a 3″ tilting LCD. It is also capable of 4K video recording at 30fps.

Nikon Coolpix B500
Nikon Coolpix B500

Next up, the 16MP Coolpix B500 which is powered by 4 AA batteries (Wow, this is very rare today!) and has a 40x optical zoom (22.5-900mm equivalent) f/3.0-6.5 lens. There’s also a 3″ tilting LCD but video recording is limited to just 1080p at 30fps.

Nikon Coolpix B700
Nikon Coolpix B700

Last but not least, there’s the B700 with a 60x zoom covering the equivalent of 24-1440mm at f/3.3-6.5. Like the other two, it also has a 20MP BSI CMOS sensor. In addition to the 3″ LCD is fully articulated, the B700 also has a 921k-dot EVF. Video recording is up to 4K at 30fps.

The three cameras will be available later this spring at US$399, US$299 and US$499 respectively.

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Canon Announces the EOS 80D, an Update to the 70D With 24MP

Canon EOS 80D
Canon EOS 80D

Canon has announced the EOS 80D, an update to the popular EOS 70D. The resolution has been bumped up to 24.2MP, still on a APS-C sensor. The AF module 45 cross-type AF points and an updated Dual Pixel AF for Live View still and video recording. Canon claims that the new AF module is capable of focussing down to -3EV at the centre point. Video recording capabilities have also been updated to allow for up to 1080/60p recording.

The EOS 80D has a native ISO range of 100-16,000, expandable to 25,600. The viewfinder offers approximately 100% coverage while the 3″ fully-articulated rear LCD has a resolution of 1.04M dots. Built-in Wi-Fi with NFC as well as GPS are also available on the EOS 80D.

The Canon EOS 80D will be available in March for $1,199 for the body alone, or $1,799 when bundled with an updated EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM kit lens.

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Pentax Announces the K-1 Full Frame DSLR

Pentax K-1
Pentax K-1

Ricoh has finally joined the full-frame bandwagon by announcing the Pentax K-1, their first full-frame DSLR today. It has a 36.4MP CMOS sensor sans AA filter for maximum sharpness. Moiré is controlled by means of a AA Filter Simulator feature. It also has 5-axis sensor-shift image stabilization and a 33-point AF system having 25 cross-type sensors. The viewfinder covers “nearly 100%” with a magnification of 0.7x, while the 3.2″, 1.04M-dot rear LCD not only tilts but rotates as well, allowing you to position the screen to your desired angle easily. This is a first to be seen on a DSLR. Here’s a video from CNET showing how it works.

Being a professional camera, the K-1 body is rugged and weather-sealed, dustproof and cold-proof thanks to 87 sealing points. It also has 2 SD card slots. A cool feature, also not seen on other DSLRs, is the Operation Assist Lights. These small white LEDs help you do things like change lenses or swap memory cards in dark environments without having to use an external light source like a torch or headlamp.

The K-1’s ISO can be set between 100–204,800, while the maximum shutter speed is 1/8000. It can shoot continuously at 4.4fps. The video specifications are somewhat disappointing though, with the K-1 supporting only up to 1920×1080/60i.

Along with the K1, Ricoh also launched 12 full-frame lenses, including a 15-30mm f/2.8 wide angle zoom and a 28-105 f/3.5-5.6 standard zoom.

The Pentax K-1 will be available from April 2016 for $1,800.

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Sony Introduces a Trio of New Lenses Under the Premium “G-Master” Series

Sony G-Master Lenses and Teleconverters
Sony G-Master Lenses and Teleconverters

Along with the a6300, Sony has unveiled a new range of flagship lenses which they dubbed the G-Master series. The first three lenses under this series are: The 24-70mm f/2.8, 85mm f/1.4 and 70-200mm f/2.8. These sit above their previous high-end G series lenses, and therefore also command a premium price. Along with the lenses are two new teleconverters (1.4x and 2.0x) to go with the 70-200mm f/2.8.

Sony 24-70 f/2.8 GM
Sony 24-70 f/2.8 GM
Sony 85mm f/1.4GM
Sony 85mm f/1.4GM
Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 GM
Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 GM
Sony 2x Teleconveter
Sony 2x Teleconveter
Sony 1.4x Teleconveter
Sony 1.4x Teleconveter
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Sony Announces the a6300, Said to Have the World’s Fastest AF

Sony a6300
Sony a6300 with 16-70mm f/4

There sure are many camera releases over the last month! The latest is Sony’s new a6300 announced today. It boasts the world’s fastest AF and the world’s highest number of AF points. Every camera manufacturer seems to be claiming this, and Sony’s fine print qualifies that it has the fastest AF among APS-C cameras as of Feb 2016, and the highest number of AF points applies to interchangeable lens cameras as of Feb 2016 based on their research.

The super fast AF is achieved by Sony’s 4D FOCUS system that can lock focus on a subject in as little as 0.05s (hmm, sounds like other cameras too). It also has an incredible 425 phase detection AF points that are densely populated over the entire image area. It can shoot up to 11fps with continuous AF and exposure tracking.

The a6300's 425 AF points (screen grabbed from Sony's video)

The new a6300 supports full live-view continuous shooting on the Tru-Finder EVF or LCD screen at up to 8fps. This produces a real-time shooting experience that combines all the benefits of an EVF with the immediacy of a TTL optical view finder.

The XGA OLED-based EVF has 2.4M dots and a 120fps frame rate for smooth, lag-free viewing, whilst the tilt 3″ LCD screen below it has a resolution of 921,600 dots. Unfortunately, it’s not a touch screen. The magnesium-alloy body is sealed from the elements and has 9 customisable buttons.

Sony a6300 tilting LCD
Sony a6300 tilting LCD

The camera has a 24.2MP APS-C sized CMOS sensor, that together with the BIONZ X image processing engine produces outstanding image quality within the ISO range of 100–51,200 (expanded.) The sensor uses copper wiring within its structure, which Sony said will “improve light collection efficiency and significantly accelerate the readout speed.”

The video capabilities are pretty impressive. The a6300 can capture 4K with full pixel readout and no pixel binning in Super 35mm. This is done by using a 20MP (6K) region of the sensor to offer a 2.4x oversampled 4K video, giving a sharp, low noise footage, even in low light. A S-Log3 gamma setting as well as S-Gamut are available to achieve a higher dynamic range and wider colour space, allowing for greater creativity for video post-production.

The Sony a6300 will be available from March for US$1,000 (body only) or US$1,150 with a 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens.

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Canon’s Answer to the Nikon D5—The Canon EOS 1DX Mark II

EOS-1D X Mark II with EF 35mm USM FRT
EOS-1D X Mark II with EF 35mm f/1.4 L II USM

Canon has announced the answer to Nikon’s recently released flagship, the Nikon D5, with their own flagship, the EOS 1DX Mark II. This is a 20.2MP DSLR with an ISO range of 100 to 51,200, expandable to 409,600. The new AF system consists of 61 AF points, 41 of which are cross-type sensors, and has an overall 24% larger frame coverage than the previous model. The centre AF point is sensitive to -3EV and is compatible with lenses with a maximum aperture of up to f/8, ideal for users of teleconverters.

The EOS 1D X Mark II can shoot at 14fps with AF and up to 16fps with the the mirror locked up in conjunction with a locked focus and exposure. The buffer is good for a whopping 170 RAW images in a single burst, and an unlimited number of JPEG images if you are using a CFast card. There is also a slot for standard CompactFlash cards. PC connectivity is via the camera’s USB 3.0 or Ethernet ports, while WiFi requires the use of a US$600 WFT-E8 wireless  file transmitter.

Being a professional camera body, the 1D X Mark II is built from magnesium alloy and fully weather-sealed. The shutter is rated at 400,000 cycles, which will last you 8 consecutive days of shooting continuously at 14fps. At the back of the body is a 3.2″ Clear View III LCD with 1.62M dots. It’s touch-enabled for AF point selection in Live View, There is also a built-in GPS which sits in a hump on the top of the viewfinder.

On the video side of things, the 1D X Mark II can shoot 4K video at 60fps, just like the Nikon D5. Canon says there are “virtually no restrictions” when it comes to video recording, and exFAT support allows videos larger than 4GB to be recorded without having to merge files.

The most interesting feature of the 1D X Mark II is the built-in image optimisation. The new Digital Lens Optimiser technology stores information about the optical flaws of lenses and then fixes them digitally without impacting the camera’s performance. This is probably similar to what some mirrorless cameras are doing to fix various lens aberrations in-camera.

The Canon EOS 1D X Mark II will be available in April for US$5,999 for the body alone, or US$6,299 when bundled with a 64GB CFast card and a card reader.

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