Sony Releases the CyberShot DSC-RX1R and RX100 II

Sony CyberShot RX1R
Sony CyberShot RX1R

Sony today released the CyberShot DSC-RX1R, an update to the rather pricey but nonetheless popular CyberShot RX-1 released last year. It’s exactly the same as last year’s RX-1 but without the anti-aliasing (AA) filter, which is supposed to give you a sharper image at the expense of possibly more moiré. It’s just as pricey, costing US$2,800 and will be available from next month. The RX1 will still be sold, so it’ll be kind of like the Nikon D800, which is also available without the AA filter in the form of the D800E.

Sony CyberShot RX100 II
Sony CyberShot RX100 II

For the more budget-conscious, Sony has also released the CyberShot DSC-RX100 II, which replaces the very popular RX1,  also released last year. It features a new 1″ backside-illuminated (BSI) sensor, which Sony claims is 40% more sensitive in low light than the RX1’s sensor. Like the RX1R and many other newly released cameras, Sony has also done away with the AA filter in the RX100 II for delivering sharper, more detailed images.

The RX100 II also comes equipped with WiFi and NFC capabilities, allowing one-touch wireless content transfer between compatible devices. Another useful feature is the addition of a 3″which can tilt upwards up to 84º and up to 45º downwards, giving greater versatility and flexibility in composing shots.

YS: I’m going to be absolutely biased here, because I don’t like Sony as a company, so it’s really hard for me to say anything nice about them (consequently, don’t expect them or their representatives to be sending cameras for us to review – sorry Sony fans), and really, the prices for these cameras are too much. There might be a case for the RX100, but the RX1 in either form is just madness.

David: I don’t like Sony as a camera company either, but I got to admit that the RX100 was a real game changer in terms of compact pocketable cameras with (relatively) large sensors. The RX100 II will no doubt continue this legacy with better quality images at high ISO. Looking forward to trying out this one!

The RX1 was likewise a game changer with the smallest compact camera body holding a full frame sensor, with a gorgeous 35mm f2 Zeiss lens, complete with aperture ring – this is the camera Leica should have built. I wouldn’t mind owning one myself if I have the moolah, being a fan of fixed lenses, 35mm primes and full frame sensors. I have tried the camera and it’s almost perfect, except for the price, which is a little on the steep side, but even then, if you buy a similarly decked out Nikon D600 with a Nikon 35mm f1.4G (the 35 f2 doesn’t cut it in terms of equivalent image quality), you will end up paying more, and you can’t stuff that into your jacket pocket. The RX1R is like buying a pocketable Nikon D800E and a Nikon 35 f1.4G while paying less. I can’t see it failing in a market chock full of “me too” mirrorless designs. This one’s a winner!

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Fujifilm Announces X-M1 Mirrorless Camera, Fujinon XC 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS Lens and XF 27mm f/2.8 Lens

Fujifilm X-M1 in Brown, Black and Silver with 27mm f/2.8 and 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6mm lenses.

Fujfilm probably thought that they needed to compete with the small camera crowd like the Panasonic GF cameras or the Sony NEX cameras, so they have gone ahead and released the X-M1. At first glance, it seems to be more of an extreme version of the X-E1; where the X-E1 reduced the size by getting rid of the bulky optical hybrid viewfinder mechanism, the X-M1 in turn excises the EVF completely and makes the photographer rely solely on the 3″ VGA screen. It’s not all bad news, as the screen now tilts, and there’s also Wi-Fi for wireless sharing. There is also focus peaking (which is also coming to the X-Pro1 and X-E1 via a firmware update, in some good news for existing users). The camera retains the same 16 megapixel X-trans array sensor found in the X-Pro1 and X-E1.

Continue reading Fujifilm Announces X-M1 Mirrorless Camera, Fujinon XC 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS Lens and XF 27mm f/2.8 Lens

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Samsung Does It Wrong with the Galaxy NX Camera

Galaxy NX with 18-55mm lens

So the rumours were right, and Samsung’s Android-powered mirrorless system camera is real, as with its the lack of physical controls. The images of the camera already make it look like an ergonomic nightmare, and as someone who has tried the original Galaxy Camera, the UI for the camera app is a total disaster for anyone who shoots at a level more manually than full automatic. What you get in the way of manual controls is a command dial, a video record button, the power button, and the flash release button. Oh, and of course, the shutter release. Five buttons and just one dial to control a system camera? I’ll pass. I suspect many photographers will too. As for the casual segment, the camera is a bit ugly too, and thanks to the large touchscreen, not small either, so I don’t think there will be many takers there as well. I mean, take a look:

Continue reading Samsung Does It Wrong with the Galaxy NX Camera

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A Funny Thing About Singapore Weather…

Years ago, when I first started looking at digital photography, there were a few websites dedicated to reviewing cameras. One of them was the now-defunct Digital Camera Resource Page, run by Jeff Keller (who’s now with DPReview). DC Resource was based in San Francisco, and one thing that held back reviews would be poor weather conditions. Specifically, it would be fog. I used to think at least that would be something I did not have to worry about, here in sunny Singapore. The heat would kill before fog would form.

Well, fate has a nice way of laughing at you.

Singapore skyline shrouded in haze

Contrast with the image from our Panasonic GH3 review:

Singapore Skyline

Right now we are just hoping the haze clears in time for us to get to work on the next review. Yes, there’s another review coming up, and we think it will be something that will interest many of you!

CK: Technically, I think that’d be smog. But haze/fog makes it sound more “romantic”. But whatever it is, it sure is getting bad unless we are after faux-romantic/atmospheric shots.

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It Begins (Again): Nikon 1 J2 Discounts On Amazon

91Qzt50mADL._SX425_

Well, here we go again. If you follow this link (not an affiliate link), you can find that the Nikon 1 J2 with the 10-30mm lens going off as low as US$287.99 with the memory card and bag (discounts all applied at checkout). Once again, Nikon should just start selling these cameras at a lower price to begin with. These massive clearouts are only teaching the rest of us that the Nikon 1s are best bought older at a massive discount. Who’s going to buy them new at the rather high price?

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Overpriced, Overhyped, Under-specified, Underwhelming: The Leica X Vario

Leica-X-Vario-Type-107

Seriously, this is about all the news I’m giving it. It’s a price of a Nikon D800, which means you can buy that and save up for lenses, or buy a D600 with a lens that’s actually bright and useful at the long end. Or buy the current best APS-C DSLR in the Nikon D7100 and pretty much a small system to go. Or buy a complete Micro Four Thirds kit. Seriously folks. Don’t buy it.

CK: What do you expect from a German company more focused on producing luxury items than making proper cameras? None of their cameras are worth their asking price for the kind of performance you get from them. Don’t even start talking about the “Leica glow”. After you spent all that money, anything can glow.

YS: The resident Leica-phile is currently away, but we managed to ask him what he thought of it. His answer? “It’s crap. And it’s not the first compact camera with APS-C sensor and zoom lens either!” He’d be right about that: The Ricoh GXR with the 24-85mm module has been around for some time, and while stretching compact a little, there’s the Sony DSC-R1 from way back.

So that’s it, three out of three, including a Leica fan. Don’t buy it.

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Adobe Releases Photoshop Lightroom 5, Camera Raw 8.1 and DNG Converter 8.1

Adobe Lightroom Cover image

After two months of public beta, Adobe finally released version 5 of the popular Photoshop Lightroom image editing and workflow software. Other than a plug-in which lets you publish to Behance, there are no new features over what’s already offered in the public beta previously released.

Lightroom 5 offers a slew of useful features for photographers, including a more advanced healing/cloning tool, automatic image levelling/perspective correction as well as the ability to edit offline files. I’ve briefly played with the public beta and is quite impressed with what the perspective correction and levelling can do. Though not perfect, Lightroom 5 gets it right most of the time, needing only a few minor tweaks. This is very useful for getting your architectural shots level and rid of the “converging verticals” effect which plagues most photographs of buildings.

Also, part of the new cloning/healing brush is a “visualise spots” feature, which supposedly makes sensor dust more obvious so you can remove them. However, I can’t find a good dust-infested shot to play with this feature.

Lightroom 5 will cost US$149 for the full retail version and is available from retailers or Adobe.com. An upgrade version is available at US$79.

In other news, Adobe has also released Camera Raw 8.1 and DNG Converter 8.1. ACR 8.1 brings support for 7 new cameras, including the Olympus PEN E-P5 and E-PL5, the new Ricoh GR and Panasonic Lumix DMC-G6. It also comes with 16 more lens profiles, including that of Sigma and Zeiss’s latest offerings.

YS: Those who moaned about Creative Cloud, this might just work out for you. Manage most edits in Lightroom, then export your last version of Photoshop if you need more complex post-processing. I have yet to try out the new features, so I cannot really comment.

The time between versions feels really short though. I only just got comfortable in LR4! I hope LR5 is much faster – part of my reluctance is in Lightroom’s speed: Fast for processing, but slow for sorting and picking.

(Image Credit: Adobe Lightroom Facebook Page)

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Slow and Steady: Canon Announces EF-M 11-22mm f/4-5.6 IS STM Lens

Canon EF-M 11-22mm f/4-5.6 IS STM

Oh hey, look what Canon came up with: An affordable and somewhat small-ish wide-angle zoom with a 35mm equivalent field-of-view to 18-35mm. I am surprised because normally the second lens (third in this case) is an inexpensive telephoto zoom, given that the average consumers prefer longer focal lengths for easier composing due to the isolation they give. Ultra-wides are fantastic, but not without practice. Notable is that it also has IS. Now watch people trying to do two second exposures without a tripod.

Keeping up with the times, the 11-22 will also have a 55mm filter size. The mirrorless cameras seem to be keen on bringing back filter sizes we rarely touched (Among the big companies 55mm was mostly used by Minolta). I know about stepping rings, but they are still not my favourite things, especially since you want to use a lens hood with a lens like this.

Expected availability is in June or July depending on where you live, and with a list price of €400, it is actually going to be quite moderately priced (sorry to Europeans for the added price you pay).

CK: Meh. Never really been a fan of the EOS M, particularly with its slow AF and all (though a new firmware has been announced which will supposedly improve the AF performance.) Nice to see a ultra-wide angle lens being available so soon, but that’s about it.

(Image Credit: Canon Press Image)

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Panasonic GH3: A Stills Review

Panasonic GH3 with 12-35mm f/2.8 lens

Introduction

The Panasonic GH3 was introduced in October 2012 with some fanfare, as the replacement to the highly regarded GH2. Now, I say “some”, and that is because the Olympus OM-D E-M5, which had been on sale some six months earlier, was already in the minds of many a photographer, the premier Micro Four Thirds camera. The GH3 with its slightly higher price and much larger size made some wonder why not get a proper DSLR then?

Because dammit, have you seen the sizes of the Micro Four Thirds lenses? Camera size is less of a concern for those of us looking at a full system, since the lenses always take up the bulk of the weight. Plus, Panasonic did market it as a professional camera capable of doing both stills and video, but everyone seems to be dismissing it as a video-only camera, forgetting (or not even noticing) that traditionally Panasonic always reserves the best sensor package for the GH series. If you don’t believe me on that, go and compare the contemporary comparisons of the G1 and the GH1.

So we stills photographers gave it a go, and what conclusion did we come to? Read on and find out! Continue reading Panasonic GH3: A Stills Review

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