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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Fujifilm X-Pro 2, X70 and X-E2S Launched in Singapore

Entrance to the Fujifilm X-Pro 2 / X70/ X-E2S launch event
Entrance to the Fujifilm X-Pro 2 / X70/ X-E2S launch event

Fujifilm Singapore launched the X-Pro 2, X70 and X-E2S at a launch event at Suntec City last Friday (29 Jan 2015.) A giant sticker of a Fujifilm X-Pro 2 frames the entrance to the hall where the event was held—visitors walk through the lens mount to get in. Cute! A mini exhibition of photos made by the new X-cameras—the X-Pro 2, X70 and X-E2S greets the visitor as he walks into the hall.

Mini Exhibition
Mini Exhibition
X70 Gallery
X70 Gallery

The event started off with Mr. Favian Loo, Marketing Manager of Fujifilm Singapore with a short speech of Fujifilm’s development over the past 5 years. The cameras were then launched and presented by a woman dressed as Cat Woman and another in traditional Japanese gear, both who paraded the camera to dozens of flashes popping and cameras clicking.

Models presenting the camera to the audience
Models presenting the camera to the audience
Cat Woman
Cat Woman with Fujifilm X-Pro 2

Up next on stage is Mr. Makoto Oishi, Camera Product Planner of Fujifilm Japan, who presented on the advanced technologies found on the X-Pro 2 and X70. It’s rather interesting to know that the shutter/ISO speed dial of the X-Pro 2 consisted of 38 individual parts!

Mr. Makoto Oishi
Mr. Makoto Oishi

Popular local street photographer, Mr. Chia Aik Beng, more popularly known as ABC, shared his experience with the X70 in Tokyo. The small and light X70 allowed him to discreetly take street photos, as well as freely roam the city without the burden of a DSLR system. In fact, he walked up and down the famous Shibuya crossing for 3 hours!

Street Photographer, Chia Aik Beng, on stage
Street Photographer, Chia Aik Beng, on stage

Another X-Photographer, Mr. Ivan Joshua Loh. Ivan shared with the audience how he was skeptical of mirrorless systems in the beginning, but soon switched after he tried the X-Pro 1 for his commercial work. He has since used the X-T1, X-Pro 1 and now the X-Pro 2 for his work as they are, according to him, as good as a full-frame DSLR.

Commercial Photographer Ivan Joshua Loh
Commercial Photographer Ivan Joshua Loh

Fujifilm’s Ambassador, Ms Belinda Lim made an appearance at the event, sharing her experience with the X-cameras during her recent trip. She also added that the video quality from the X-Pro 2 is good enough to function as a backup vide camera in case the one used by her video crew fails.

Ivan and Belinda
Ivan and Belinda

Next, we were ushered to the next room where we can have a hands-on experience with the newly launched cameras (and a couple of the older ones as well.)  I spent a short time with the X-Pro 2, and in my excitement, I did not take photos of it. Then again, you probably already knew how it looked like anyway. Here’s a shot of the interior, though.

Interior of the X-Pro 2
Interior of the X-Pro 2

The first couple of things I did was to test out how much faster the improved AF is, and it is indeed a big improvement over the original X-Pro 1. In my unscientific tests of randomly pointing it at stuff and trying to acquire focus, it is at least as fast as my X-T1 with firmware 4.0. However, chatting with other users seem to reveal that the different units on the show floor seem to perform slightly differently in terms of AF speed. We were told they are still pre-production units, which might explain the anomaly.

Shutter and ISO dial
Shutter and ISO dial

The EVF is also much improved over the 4-year old X-Pro 1. With a much higher refresh rate and resolution, it’s now a joy to use. It reminded me of the time I first tried the X-T1 and got totally impressed. Not being a rangefinder person, I don’t have much comments on the OVF, but the ability to automatically change the framelines according to the lens used might appeal to some.

One nice touch of the X-Pro 2 is the little joystick at the back of the body for AF point selection. This works far better than the (originally) mushy D-Pad found on the X-T1.

Visitors checking out the cameras
Visitors checking out the cameras

Moving on to the X70, it’s roughly the same size as the Ricoh GR, but with a nicer aesthetic design (to me anyway.) The tilt LCD screen is perfect for creative angles and shooting the selfie/wefies that are all the rage these days. The downsizing has meant that Fujifilm did not include an EVF on the camera, but there is an optional optical viewfinder which can be mounted to the hotshoe that you can buy. AF speeds unfortunately isn’t great, though not as slow as the original X100. I’d say it’s roughly similar to the X100S. Maybe the lighting conditions at the event weren’t ideal.

Fujifilm X70
Fujifilm X70
Fujifilm X70 tilt screen
Fujifilm X70 tilt screen

Build quality wise, both felt solid in the hands.

I didn’t try the X-E2S as it’s not much of a change over the X-E2. In fact, the X-E2S and X-T1 were pretty much neglected at the test stations, with everybody clamouring over the X-Pro 2 and X70.

The X-Pro 2 is now available from your favourite dealers at S$2,799, the X70 at S$1,199.

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Olympus Announces the PEN-F, A 1960s Style 20MP Digital Rangefinder With Built-In EVF

Olympus PEN-F with M-ZUIKO 14-42mm
Olympus PEN-F with M-ZUIKO 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6

Olympus today announced the PEN-F, a digital rangefinder with a 20MP sensor and built-in EVF. It is based on the classic Olympus Pen-F camera from the 1960s and is the first digital PEN camera to offer a built-in EVF with 2.36 million dots. There is also a 1.04 million-dot 3″ fully articulating LCD touch screen at the back of the camera, allowing you to shoot from creative angles or for that all-important selfie.

Like the original PEN-F that it’s modelled after, the 20th century remake features several knobs and dials for controlling exposure and other settings that are sure to appeal to the retro-camera aficionados. It also has the same five-axis image stabilisation found on the recently released E-M5 II for a claimed benefit of 5 stops.

 

Olympus claims that the PEN-F has the shortest shutter lag time of just 0.044s (Looks like every other camera maker seems to claim they’re fastest.) The mechanical shutter is capable of an impressive 1/8000s shutter speed for capturing fast motion as well as to allow shooting at wide-open apertures in bright daylight. A silent mode is also available for situations that require absolute silence.

The camera is available now at US$1,199 for the body alone from your favourite camera stores. A hotshoe flash is included.

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Fujifilm Announces X70—Smaller, Wider and Cheaper X100

Fujifilm X70
Fujifilm X70

Fujifilm’s X100 has been very popular with photographers wanting a relatively small and light fix-lens camera, and has gone through several iterations and improvements culminating in the latest X100T. Today, Fujifilm has released a smaller and wider version of the X100—the X70.

The X70 has a fixed 18.5mm (28mm equivalent), f/2.8 lens and the tried-and-tested (but old) X-Trans II CMOS sensor with a resolution of 16MP. Unlike the X100 series, there is no longer a hybrid viewfinder. In fact, there isn’t a viewfinder. Instead, there is a tilt and swivel screen like the one found on the X-T1 and X-T10, but with touch input.

The AF system features 49 AF points in single-point mode, and 77 points in wide/tracking mode. A fully electronic shutter lets you shoot silently up to 1/32,000s. Maximum ISO is 51,200.

It will be available in silver, black and a mixed black/silver combination for US$700 in February.

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Fujifilm Announces X-E2S

Fujifilm X-E2S with XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 Kit Lens
Fujifilm X-E2S with XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 Kit Lens

Fujifilm announced the Fujifilm X-E2S today, a “S” upgrade to the X-E2 released in Oct 2013. Just like the “S”-series iPhones, the X-E2S adds some improvements to the X-E2, most notable of which is an improved hybrid AF system similar to the X-T10. It adds 77-point zone and wide/tracking modes along with the 49 points that’s already in the X-E2. AF speed is also slightly improved from the 0.08s on the older X-E2 to 0.06s on the X-E2S.

The X-E2S also adds an electronic shutter, allowing for shutter speeds of up to 1/32,000s. This lets you shoot in complete silence, though the rolling shutter effects might crop up under certain shooting conditions.

Unfortunately the sensor is still the older X-Trans II CMOS sensor with 16MP instead of the 24MP X-Trans III one found on the X-Pro 2.

The X-E2S will be available for US$699 (body alone) or US$999 with the excellent 18-55mm f/2.8-4 kit lens.

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Fujifilm Announces the Highly Anticipated X-Pro 2

 

Fujifilm X-Pro 2 with XF 35mm f/1.4
Fujifilm X-Pro 2 with XF 35mm f/1.4

Fujifilm today announced the X-Pro 2, the highly anticipated and rumoured successor to the X-Pro 1 released in 2012. It was the first Fujifilm X camera to feature interchangeable lenses and is very popular with photographers looking for a high-quality, rangefinder-style mirrorless camera with interchangeable lenses.

The 16MP X-Trans II CMOS sensor used in the X-Pro 2, and many Fujifilm cameras after that, is getting a bit long in the tooth by now. The X-Pro 2 finally brought a change to this with the new X-Trans III with 24.3 megapixels, bringing it more in line with the other 24MP APS-C sensors used in other cameras.

The X-Pro 2 also features the X-Processor Pro Image Processor (what a mouthful) which Fuji says is 4x the speed of conventional image processors. Start up time of the X-Pro 2 is just 0.4s, and the continuous shooting speed is up to 8fps. Shutter lag is a low 0.05s and AF speed a mere 0.06s. This is a huge improvement over the original X-Pro 1!

The AF sensor has 273 AF points, out of which 77 are phase detect. These sensors cover 40% of the frame and the X-Pro 2 currently has the best AF performance among all the X-Series cameras.

Fujifilm X-Pro 2 Top Plate
Fujifilm X-Pro 2 Top Plate

Like the X-T1, the X-Pro 2’s body is weather-sealed, making it dust, splash and temperature proof down to 14ºF / -10ºC. The top of the camera features a combined shutter-speed/ISO dial reminiscent of the Nikon FM series—you pull up the outer ring of the shutter dial to adjust your ISO. Unfortunately, while this looks retro and cool somewhat, in practical use, it makes adjusting ISO on the fly difficult. I already found the X-T1’s locked ISO dial to be mildly annoying.

X-Pro 2 Electronic Rangefinder
X-Pro 2 Electronic Rangefinder

The hybrid viewfinder has been improved with a multi-magnification that switches its magnification depending on the lens that you are using. There’s also an electronic rangefinder which shows the EVF on top of the optical view. The EVF features 2.36M dots with frame rate of 85fps for smooth and detailed viewing.

Like a true professional camera, the X-Pro 2 has dual SD slots—the first X-camera to have this. Other improvements include a new ACROS film simulation mode, max ISO of 12,800 and 1080p/60fps video recording. The top shutter speed is also increased to 1/8000 and the flash sync speed, 1/250s.

The X-Pro 2 will be available for US$1700 (body only) from next month.

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Nikon (Finally) Announces the D500 Pro-level Crop Sensor DSLR

Nikon D500 with AF-S 16-80mm
Nikon D500 with AF-S 16-80mm f/3.5-5.6ED VR

Nikon today announced the new and highly anticipated D500, a pro-level DSLR with a crop sensor (DX) which shares quite a bit of features of the D5. It has a 20.9MP APS-C sensor as well as the new EXPEED 5 image processor found on the D5. This is the long-awaited successor to the very popular D300S.

ISO sensitivity, while not as high as the D5, is still an impressive 100 to 51,200. This can be expanded to 50—1,640,000. In terms of continuous shooting speed, the D500 can shoot at up to 10fps using the same 153-point AF system as the D5. On the D500, these AF points cover almost the whole of the frame. A large buffer allows for 79 14-bit raw files in burst mode.

Nikon D500 (Rear), showing the 3.2" tilt/swivel LCD touch screen.
Nikon D500 (Rear), showing the 3.2″ tilt/swivel LCD touch screen.

Being a pro-level camera, it has a rugged weather sealed body like the D810, and features a magnesium-alloy top/rear and a carbon-fibre reinforced front. At the back of the camera is a 3.2″ tilt/swivel touch-screen LCD with 2.4 million dots, similar to the one found on the D750, The viewfinder has a 100% coverage with a magnification of 1.0x, giving a bright and big view. Storage duties are performed by a XQD slot and a regular SD slot.

On the video side of things, the D500 can shoot 4K/30p and 1080p at various frame rates. Like the D810, it features Picture Controls and an uncompressed HDMI output. New to the D500 are in-camera 4K time-lapse, Auto-ISO smoothing and the ability to send 4K video to the card and HDMI outputs simultaneously.

The D500 also features SnapBridge, a new technology developed by Nikon which lets you establish an always-on Bluetooth connection between the D500 and a smart device. This allows you to do automatic image transfers between devices and is addition to the more common WiFi and NFC options which are also available on the camera.

The D500 will be available in March 2016 with a SRP of US$2,000. There’s also an option to purchase it with the AF-S 16-80mm f/3.5-5.6ED VR lens for US$3,070.

CK: Wow, this sure took Nikon a long time! When I was looking to upgrade my D200 many years ago, I didn’t have that much options. The D300/300S was getting a bit long in the tooth, making the D7000 more attractive as an upgrade. Of course, the D7000 isn’t a pro-level camera, and didn’t handle as nicely as the D200, but it’s decent enough. Many photographers have also yearned for a D300-type successor but none was coming. Nikon has basically ignored the pro DX shooters for a long time. We probably got to thank Canon for coming up with the EOS 7D Mark II which kicked Nikon in the you-know-where.

Too late however, at least for me. Many photographers, myself included, have moved on to APS-C mirrorless cameras. That said, this still looks like a very impressive camera to be had.

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Nikon Announces the D5, the New Flagship DSLR With ISO Up to 3,280,000

Nikon D5 (front)
Nikon D5 (front)

Nikon announced the D5, a new flagship DSLR today, featuring a new AF system, 4K video recording, and an expanded ISO range of up to 3,280,000. Yes, you read that right. You can shoot at an ISO of 3.28 million. Though that’s an expanded ISO rating, the native ISO is still an impressive 102,400. In comparison, the previous flagship, the D4S, only had a native ISO of just 409,600.

Nikon D5 (Back)
Nikon D5 (Back)

The D5 features a 20MP full-frame CMOS sensor which can shoot stills at up to 12fps (14 with the mirror locked up) and video at 4K 30fps. The image processor is a new Expeed 5. The new AF system makes use of 153 AF points, of which 99 are the cross-type.

A 3.2″ LCD with 2.36 million dots serves as the display, while the viewfinder covers 100% with a magnification of 0.72x. Connectivity-wise, the camera has a 1000 Base-T 400Mbps Ethernet connection for fast image transfers. Nikon said this is up to 1.5x faster than the D4S.

The D5 will be available with two storage options—a dual CF model as well as a dual XQD one. The latter gives the photographer read/write speeds of up to 35% faster than CF cards.

The D5 will be available from March at a SRP of US$6,500.

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