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

Panasonic Announces G7, the Affordable 4K Micro Four Thirds Camera

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If you liked Panasonic’s GH4 but did not fancy spending all that money for it, Panasonic has the G7 for you. Initially I thought that after poor sales for the G5 and G6 would have killed this line, and Panasonic would consolidate their offerings like Olympus did with the PEN line, but that is not the case.

The G7 is actually pretty tasty: There is that 16 megapixel sensor that is likely to be from the GH4/GX7, fast AF with the GH4’s Depth From Defocus feature, a high-res XGA OLED EVF, a WVGA LCD (720×480), 8 FPS continuous shooting mode, and of course, 4K video. In addition, there is now a 4K Photo mode on the drive mode dial, after it was introduced post-launch in the GH4 via a firmware update. 8 megapixel photos at 30 FPS really is not too shabby.

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In some ways, I do prefer the G7’s controles, like the customsiable Fn button behind the shutter button (how I wish all three buttons behind the GH3 and GH4’s shutter button were customisable), and the horizontal command dial around the shutter button.

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Not so nice, of course, is the directional pad that has to do double duty. I much prefer having that dedicated to moving the autofocus point.

The G7 will ship in June for US$800 with the 14-42 kit lens. A bit more expensive than the G6 before it, but unlike the G6, the G7 is using parts that are the latest for Micro Four Thirds. Hopefully this time it will do better than the G6 did.

 

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Fujifilm Introduces X-T10: A Mini X-T1

14Fujifilm has announced the X-T10, which is a smaller version of the X-T1. The X-T1 was quite well-loved by many photographers, and CK and David here at Three Guys With Cameras added it to their camera bags. The X-T10 takes most of what is great about the X-T1, including the 16 megapixel X-Trans sensor and EVF module, and puts it into the a smaller, lighter package. It also incorporates features found in the new firmware of the X-T1, so hopefully we get faster autofocus right from the start this time.

08Being a smaller camera targeted at a broader market, a few changes have been made; the two-level ISO and drive mode dial has made way for a dedicated dial devoted to the latter. Also missing is the dedicated metering mode switch. ISO and metering mode will presumably be handled by the Q menu or by assigning the custom Fn button.

A new addition is the Auto switch. Previously on most Fujifilm cameras, only the standard PASM exposure modes were present, meaning beginners who liked the camera but with little or no knowledge of photography terms would be left a little lost. The new switch is to help them, I assume. The old-timers might cringe, but having more newcomers buying into a system is not a bad idea – even if Fujifilm treats the camera business as a sideline, it would be nice to see their decision to make such nice cameras be rewarded financially.

06The X-T10 will arrive in June for US$800, with a 16-50 XC kit for US$900.

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Olympus Unveils Limited Edition EM-5 Mk2 In Titanium and Two New Lenses

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mk2 Special Edition

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mk2 Special Edition

Olympus has announced that they will release a limited run of a special, limited edition of the popular OM-D E-M5 Mk2. As a throwback to the classic OM-3Ti Film SLR from the 90s, the limited edition E-M5 MK2 is finished in titanium, and only 7,000 units will be made available worldwide. The limited edition EM-5 Mk2 also comes with a specially-crafted leather strap, a leather card case and owner’s card numbered from 1 to 7,000.

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mk2 Limited Edition +  Leather Strap, Leather Card Case and Authenticity Card

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mk2 Limited Edition + Leather Strap, Leather Card Case and Authenticity Card

There’s price to pay for this finish—US$1,200 vs. US$1,050 for the standard edition, but hey, it’s a limited edition after all, and it’s not as exorbitant a premium to pay for compared to that German jewellery camera maker. It’ll be available in June 2015.

If Titanium-finished cameras or limited editions are not your thing but you love wide angle lenses. Olympus has announced two new lenses—the OlympusM.ZUIKO Digital ED 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO and M.ZUIKO Digital ED 8mm f/1.8 Fisheye PRO. Both lenses are lightweight and weatherproof.

The 8mm f/1.8 is a fisheye lens covering a 180º field of view and is compatible with Olympus’s underwater camera housing.

Olympus M.ZUIKO Digital ED 8mm f/1.8 Fisheye PRO

Olympus M.ZUIKO Digital ED 8mm f/1.8 Fisheye PRO

The 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO is a constant-aperture wide angle zoom covering the 35mm equivalent of 14-28mm. With 11 weather-sealing points, it can be used in the rain, snow or beach without any issues. The lens weighs 19oz (538g), which Olympus claims is 45% lighter than the competition.

Olympus M.ZUIKO Digital ED 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO

Olympus M.ZUIKO Digital ED 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO

The lenses will be available in June 2015 for US$1,000 and US$1,300 respectively.

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Fujifilm Announces Firmware 4.0 for the X-T1/X-T1 GS With Major AF Improvements

As part of their “Kaijin” philosophy, Fujifilm has announced version 4.0 of the X-T1/X-T1 GS Firmware which offers significant improvements to the X-T1’s AF system. I am sure Fujifilm is as excited about this as I am, as they’ve made the above video to take you through the improvements. This is the first time I’ve seen any camera maker do a video to introduce a firmware update!

According to the press release, the AF improvements are:-

1. A new auto focus system with Zone and Wide/Tracking modes for effortless capture of moving subjects – The auto focus system complements the fast and accurate single-point auto focus system with new Zone and Wide/Tracking modes, which use 77 autofocus points across a wider area to substantially improve the camera’s ability to track and capture moving subjects.

The Zone mode allows users to choose a 3×3, 3×5 or 5×5 zone from the 77-point auto focus area. When combined with the AF-C continuous focusing mode, the camera continues tracking a subject in the selected zone. The 3×3 and 3×5 zones at the center, in particular, offer extra-fast focusing with the use of the built-in phase detection pixels.

In the Wide/Tracking mode, the camera displays the area in focus, identified automatically out of the 77-point auto focus area (Wide in the AF-S mode) and tracks the focus area’s subject across the entire 77-point AF area (Tracking in the AF-C mode). This makes it possible to maintain focus on a subject that moves vertically, horizontally, and back and forth.

2. Improved auto focus accuracy – Single-point auto focus now divides the focus area into smaller sections to more accurately determine the distance to the subject for even greater focusing accuracy. The built-in phase detection pixels have increased sensitivity from 2.5EV to 0.5EV. This improvement delivers phase detection auto focus performance that enables fast focusing in low-light conditions and on low-contrast subjects.

3. Eye detection auto focus – The new firmware update provides Fujifilm’s Eye Detection auto focus, which automatically detects and focuses on human eyes. The function allows you to easily focus on the eyes even in difficult conditions, e.g. when shooting a portrait wide open to obtain a beautiful bokeh background.

4. Auto Macro mode – The firmware update introduces an Auto Macro function that automatically switches the camera into the Macro mode while maintaining the conventional auto focus speed. You no longer have to press the Macro button to initiate a close-up shot. This update eliminates the Macro function assigned to the Macro Button, allowing you to assign a different function to the button.

5. Auto focus improvement in Movie mode – The optimized algorithm delivers a more natural and smoothauto focus action during movie recording.

There are also other., albeit less exciting, improvements to the camera:-

Improved Shutter Speed Dial operation – When the Shutter Speed Dial is set to T, you can use the command dial to set the full range of exposure times. This means you can change the shutter speeds across a broader range without having to change camera position. This is particularly useful when shooting in the portrait orientation with the Vertical Battery Grip VG-XT1 attached.

Exposure Compensation control in Manual mode – The Exposure Compensation dial can be used to make exposure adjustments while shooting in the Manual exposure mode with the ISO Auto setting.

Finer lines on the framing grid enhances visibility – The lines on the framing grid have been made finer making it easier to view the subject.

Fujifilm cameras were traditionally never known to have super-fast AF speeds unlike something like the Olympus OM-D series and the Nikon 1 series. The X-T1/X-T1 GS is no exception. The various firmware releases have more or less improved the AF speeds to something more usable. Nothing has been as significant as this release, however. I can’t wait to see how much more improvements it can bring to my X-T1.

Among the smaller improvements, the “Improved Shutter Speed Dial Operation” will most likely appeal to photographers who prefer the more modern method of using command dials to control exposure, as opposed to the more traditional shutter speed dial + aperture ring combo.

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Canon Announces EF 50mm f/1.8 STM: Goodbye Plastic Fantastic

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Canon has announced an all new 50mm f/1.8 lens, the EF 50mm f/1.8 STM lens. The previous generation, the 50mm f/1.8 II, was a favourite for many to get into as a cheap, large aperture lens. Its claim to fame was in its price, as it was usually anywhere from a quarter to a third cheaper than comparable Nikon or Minolta or Pentax.  Not surprising, given its all-plastic construction, and a very very noisy internal focus motor.

The new lens is going to change all that: The STM version has the silent and swift stepper motor, which means it will be good for video use as well, in particular with the Dual Pixel AF cameras, and the lens mount is now metal. There aperture diaphragm now uses seven blades, so the old pentagram bokeh at moderately stopped down apertures should be gone too.

At US$130, it is a bit pricier than the last generation, but I think the improvements will be well worth it, if you ask me. I could never stand the high-pitched motor of the 50/1.8 II, and the amount of slop and play in the plastic construction didn’t help my perception of it.

The new lens will ship sometime this month.

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Adobe Lightroom CC / Lightroom 6 Released

Adobe has released a new version of Lightroom today in the form of Lightroom CC and Lightroom 6. As the name suggests, Lightroom CC is for the subscribers of the Adobe Creative Cloud, while Lightroom 6 is the standalone version.

According to Adobe, the update is said to bring performance improvements of “up to 10x” by utilising your CPU.

Other new features include:-

1. HDR merge / panoramic stitching

You can now merge several shots into a single HDR image, or stitch them into a panorama without having to open Photoshop or any other software. Expectedly, this is based on the HDR Merge / Photo Merge functions already present in Photoshop, but this sure made things more convenient.

Lightroom CC / Lightroom 6 HDR Merge

Lightroom CC / Lightroom 6 HDR Merge

Lightroom CC / Lightroom 6 Panoramic Merge

Lightroom CC / Lightroom 6 Panoramic Merge

2. Facial Recognition

Lightroom CC/Lightroom 6 can now automatically find and tag photos of your friends and family in your library, so now you can find all the photos of your significant other in just one click.

3. Filter Brush

You can now use the filter brush to modify the gradients created by the Graduated Neutral Density Filter and Radial Filter by erasing parts that you don’t want to be affected, or apply the effect to other areas not covered by the filters.

I reckon this will be useful in situations when your Graduated ND filter in Lightroom obscures a subject, inadvertently affecting the exposure in that area.

First Impressions

Since I have the Adobe Creative Cloud Photography Plan, I downloaded and installed Lightroom CC from there, installed it and played around a bit with my existing photos. Luckily for me, the installation and catalog upgrade went quickly and smoothly. I’ve read there are several people whose Lightroom CC crashes upon startup.

Unfortunately since I am still on OS X Mountain Lion (10.8.5), I am unable to take advantage of GPU acceleration, which requires Mavericks (10.9) and above.

Lightroom CC / Lightroom 6 GPU Mode

Lightroom CC / Lightroom 6 GPU Mode

However, Lightroom CC still felt faster to me. Not sure if it’s placebo, but flipping between the Library and Develop modules, toggling between 100% and “Fit to Window” views, moving between photos felt quite snappy.

HDR Merge / Panoramic Stitching is useful and convenient and good enough for most people, but experts will probably still want to keep using software like Oloneo PhotoEngine or AutoPano Giga, which offers far more control.

I have not played with a lot with it, nor imported any new photos but so far the update looks good.

YS: The very first thing I did was to check if there were any performance improvements with the main annoyance I have in Lightroom: 1:1 Preview generation. Unfortunately after timing both a batch of 10 images and the usual on-next photo view in browsing mode, there is no discernible difference. The hate portion of my love-hate relationship with Lightroom stems from there, as it is really hard to use it to parse through images when there is so much minute waiting in-between each image.

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Nikon Announces the Nikon 1 J5

Nikon 1 J5 Front

After weeks of speculation Nikon has announced the Nikon 1 J5. The new camera has a number of upgrades, the biggest of which is the 20 megapixel back-side illuminated sensor. Could it be a Sony? I’ve always thought that Nikon using the Aptina sensors was due to the sensor readout speed, needed for both the crazy fast phase detect autofocus of the 1 cameras, as well as the impressive continuous shooting rates on them. Has Nikon managed to marry both speed and quality this time?

Other improvements include a flip LCD that goes both up for selfies and down for overhead shots, an additional command dial in the traditional Nikon thumb position (which I very much welcome) and a mode dial that has dedicated manual exposure modes. Oh, there is now a custom function button next to the lens mount too. At the very least ISO should be pegged to it.

The camera retains the speed of the J4 before it, with the 170 PDAF points and 20 FPS continuous shooting speed with continuous AF, and 60 FPS with AF lock on the first frame, which is still impressive in 2015.

Now, the other upgrade is a bit embarrassing: Nikon has given the J5 4K video capability, but at 15 FPS. Um, I am not sure who is actually going to use it at 15 FPS. Coincidentally 4K at 15 FPS has the same data rate as 1080p at 60 FPS, so it does sound like the engineers were pressured into delivering a 4K solution with whatever they had on hand for a marketing headline.

As much as I like the Nikon 1 cameras for what they are, such moves really do not help the line. Already I see the less than kind comments about it, and the last thing the Nikon 1 cameras need are more jokes to be made about them. It seems a shame too, as the cameras are slowly improving, and I really did quite like the Nikon 1 J4 despite the somewhat noisy sensor. Nikon really should have tried to address the criticisms head on, which they appear to have with the upgrades on hand, as the J5 has the better user interface, possibly better sensor, and better pricing, with the 10-30 PD kit coming in at a reasonable US$499 (US$100 less than the J4).

The Nikon 1 J5 will arrive in late April in black, silver-black, and white, with the above-mentioned 10-30 PD kit at US$500, the 10-30 and 30-110 dual lens kit at US$750, and the 10-100 kit at US$1050. I wonder if the trend in Singapore will continue, with the Singapore prices at 1:1 rates compared to the US prices. S$500 for the J5 will certainly be interesting, especially if the image quality will be up to snuff. More pictures of the J5 after the break. Continue reading

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Nikon D810 Review

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Introduction

The Nikon D810 is a mid-life refresh of the D800 cameras, which were lauded for pretty much the best 35mm DSLR you could get your hands on. The D810 consolidates the D800 and D800E models into a single variant, and adds a lot of small little improvements across the board. We’re going to take a look at the D810 and see how it performs!

Continue reading

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Camera Rental Centre Singapore Hosts Inaugral Sports Photography Contest

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Hey Singaporeans, as well as all who are based here! Camera Rental Centre Singapore has reached out to us to let us know that they are currently hosting their first Sports Photography contest. If you are a keen sports photographer and think you got the chops, here are the details:

Camera Rental Centre – Singapore will be holding their inaugural sports photography contest this month!

Submit your 3 best sports photography pictures to contest@camerarental.biz, and stand a chance to win attractive prizes from CRC and their partnering sponsors!

The top 15 works will be exhibited at Space@Camera Rental Centre, Sports Hub and selected Sport Centres!

For registration information and contest details, visit http://goo.gl/OtFNRB
Submission closes 27 March 2015!

All the best everyone!

Full poster after the break.  Continue reading

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Nikon Announces D7200 with Upgraded Buffer Size

D7200 Front

Nikon today unveiled the D7200, which basically takes the D7100 and upgrades it in a number of minor areas, along with one not-so-minor area. The camera still packs a 24 megapixel DX sensor without an optical low-pass filter, but it seems to be a new one; perhaps a Sony sensor? The biggest upgrade is the buffer, which means the camera can now do 6 FPS continuous shooting at up to 18 raw files or and 100 JPEGs. While I personally never held down my shutter release like some people do, the 6 raw file buffer in the D7100 was really on the shallow side, so the upgrade is definitely welcome.

Another change is the new AF sensor module from the D750, which means the camera can now focus down to -3EV light levels. Personally I would like the D7200 to have used the D750 body as well, but I guess Nikon wanted to keep the product segmentation at a bigger level between DX and FX.

Other changes include Wifi with NFC (NFC tag is on the grip), 1080p video at 60 FPS alongside a new dedicated movie menu tab, slightly improved battery life at 1100 shots compared to 920 previously. The rest of the camera is pretty much a D7100 otherwise.

The D7200 will be available in body-only and the 18-140mm kit in the USA, and additionally with the 18-105mm lens in Singapore. So far USA pricing has the body at US$1,200, and the 18-140mm kit at US$1,700, with the camera arriving in April.

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