Sony Delivers Cheap Mirrorless Camera with the A3000 and Incremental Upgrade with the NEX-5T

Sony A3000 with 18-55mm lens

Sony has announced two new NEX cameras. Yes, despite the name, the A3000 is not using the Minolta Alpha mount, but the NEX E-mount. The most notable part however, is its price: It comes in at US$400 with the 18-55 kit lens. Coupled with the SLR-like styling that apparently is preferred in the USA, Sony really wants to make a big push there.

While the price is really good, and in a way fulfills the potentially lower price point that mirrorless cameras can bring, Sony did cut a lot of corners. There are very few buttons on this thing, relying on the rather awkward soft-key approach other NEX cameras use, lacks a proper command dial, and has a terrible LCD and EVF, which also lacks a sensor to enable automatic switching between the two. The LCD has a QVGA resolution, which is something you last saw in a 2007 DSLR. Remember those? They were so coarse it was impossible to check sharpness on them. The EVF is a similar low resolution and tiny affair.

The A3000 does have some good internals though. like the 20 megapixel APS-sized sensor, which can do 1080p videos at 25 or 30 FPS, depending on your region. Will it break the Canon and Nikon DSLR stranglehold in the USA? We will see when it arrives in early September for the stated US$400.

Continue reading Sony Delivers Cheap Mirrorless Camera with the A3000 and Incremental Upgrade with the NEX-5T

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Sony Tries to Make Good Lenses: Sony Zeiss E 16-70mm f/4 and E 18-105mm f/4 G Lens, Also Paints E 50mm f/1.8 in Black

One of the main problems with the NEX system is, simply put, horrible horrible lenses. Check any decently done Imatest bench of the E mount lenses. Or heck, just test them yourself, pitting them against your favourite lenses. They remind me of the infamous Nikon 43-86mm lens. It’s 2013, yet some of the quality of the lenses reminds me of 1973.

Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar T* E 16-70mm f/4 ZA OSS

Sony clearly are listening, so they have have come up with a pair of lenses to address that. The first is the Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar T* E 16-70mm f/4 ZA OSS. Mouthful of a name, but the Zeiss name, even if it is Sony-made, should ensure some quality. The only good NEX lens is another Zeiss, the 24mm f/1.8, so this should bode well. Of course, the downside is that the Zeiss name means it is going to be more expensive: Expect it to arrive in September for US$1000. More if you’re in Europe. Eep.

Sony E PZ 18-105mm f/4 G OSS

The next lens is the E PZ 18-105mm f/4 G OSS lens. As this is a G lens, there is also an implied sense of quality. As the name implies, this will be a power zoom lens, making it suitable for video work. Arrives in December for US$600.

Sony E 50mm f/1.8 OSS

Finally Sony is releasing the E 50mm f/1.8 OSS in black. This trend of “silver-first” lenses is a bit annoying, I have to say. Arrives in September for US$300.

Of course, it still doesn’t solve the other problem of honking huge lenses on tiny bodies.

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Actual Exciting Canon-related News: EOS 70D Goes On Sale

Canon EOS 70D with boxThe Canon EOS 70D is now on sale in Singapore, and I managed to have a quick go at it. Nothing really concrete, but there is one thing I can say:

Live view autofocus is really fast! It is on par with my GH3, but as it is phase detect based, it does not have the jitter that comes with contrast detect systems as the camera racks the focus for confirmation. Only disadvantage against my GH3, as far as I can tell, is that it does not focus in the dark as well as the GH3. Otherwise it was fast and sure of itself. Now imagine a EOS M with this system. Canon really should have made that camera with this sensor.

As for how the images look, ISO 3200 from raw files seems fine, but without a proper comparison against other cameras, it is hard to tell if it is really better than its predecessors or its competition. We will see if we can get a unit to review, or at least test. No promises though!

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Canon Does Its Yearly Updates, Brings Out Tweaked Powershot G16 and S120

Canon Powershot G16

Ho hum. Here we go again. A G16 that adds Wifi and slightly faster AF to the G15, and a S120 that adds a so very slightly faster lens (f/1.8-5.7 instead of f/2-5.9) to the S110. Both cameras get updated processors and card controllers that allow for 12 FPS for the first six frames then to 9 FPS for the next 500-600 shots. The catch is that a UHS-1 card needs to be used, but since 32GB Sandisk Extremes are so cheap, that should not be an issue. Sensor remains the same for both, and the G15 retains the 5x 28-140mm equivalent f/1.8-2.8 lens. Actually pretty much everything remains the same. Will lacklustre upgrades to a dying market of compact cameras really keep sales alive? I have my doubts. In the meantime, the hype machine for smartphones like the Nokia Lumia 1020, the Samsung Galaxy series, as well as Apple’s iPhone keeps on going. Continue reading Canon Does Its Yearly Updates, Brings Out Tweaked Powershot G16 and S120

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Canon Announces EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM Lens

Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM

Canon’s latest updates of their kit lenses into STM variants have actually been quite good, and they certainly help contribute to the fact that kit lenses don’t suck anymore. With the update of the EF-S 55-250mm to a STM version, hopefully it lives up to its cousins, the 18-55mm and 18-135mm STM lenses. Both lenses received significant upgrades in image quality, along with the quiet AF for video work the stepping motor brings. Arrives in late September in the USA for US$350.

(Image credit: Canon press image)

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Compact Camera, Serious Sensor: Fujifilm X100S, Nikon Coolpix A, and Ricoh GR Roundup, Part II

The Fujifilm X100S, Nikon Coolpix A and Ricoh GR being reviewed. The Nikon 1 V1 photobombed the group shot by showing up at the back.

Welcome back for part two of our look at three compact cameras with large imaging sensors. Here we will look at the cameras’ performance and image quality, followed by our conclusions. If you have not, read part one first!

Performance and Image Quality

YS: Ah, the part where everyone skips to and ignores the previous parts. Sadly, too many people don’t pay attention to how a camera works and then moan afterwards how hard or awkward or different it is to use. So just a reminder, go through the previous bits and pay attention to the parts you might have an issue with. You might save yourself some time and hard-earned money. Continue reading Compact Camera, Serious Sensor: Fujifilm X100S, Nikon Coolpix A, and Ricoh GR Roundup, Part II

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Think Thank Photo Releases TurnStyle Sling cum Beltpack Bags

Think Tank Photo TurnStyle FamilyFirst, I want to say that I normally like to rag on Think Tank Photo for producing some hideous designs for their bags. While I know many photographers might not care how the bag looks, I draw a line at “lunchboxes” and other 80s-inspired designs. The new TurnStyle line of bags, while not being absolute beauties, reminds me of Crumpler’s Mild Enthusiast line of similar convertibles. I myself have a small version of the Crumpler, and they are really nice to use. Fast access to the camera as a sling, and a more stable platform to access the camera and lenses from. The only downside is that the back gets really hot after a while, since it is just using a plain nylon material like the rest of the bag. The TurnStyles seem to be using the moisture-wicking mesh material that other bags have, so that is a definite improvement.

The bags are available in three sizes, coming in as the TurnStyle 5, TurnStyle 10, and the TurnStyle20. The latter two can hold tablets as well, making them quite a bit of an all-rounder. Again, the colour options seem to be a bit lazy, but I also suspect its to keep costs down while providing for options. Coming your way soon at a price of US$75 to US$100.

(Image credit: Think Tank Photo website)

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The Switch

Nikon D300 and New CameraPhotography, as I have always said, is an endeavour that blends the technical with the artistic. There are very few other arts that have as much science in it as the art. Not surprisingly, it is one that attracts a wide range of people, from those who spend more time gazing on MTF charts and shooting brick walls than actually doing photography, to those who pursue the next big thing, even if it is nothing more than the Emperor’s New Clothes. Cold clinical rationalism to pretentious subjective irrationality. Photography has it all. Continue reading The Switch

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Yawn: Nikon Releases AF-S Nikkor 18-140mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR and SB-300 Speedlight


The nice thing about writing on this blog is that we get to focus on things that interest us, play with gear, and have fun in general. Then there are days like this. We get an almost-kit lens without a camera to go with it, and a small flash that is essentially the SB-N7 from the Nikon 1 line but with a proper standard Nikon TTL hotshoe. The lens is interesting in what it does not say: the lack of a body to go with it. If this is the supposed D400’s kit lens, it also says what Nikon thinks about DX users.

And the flash? No CLS wireless. Two AAA batteries is probably a slight negative as well. I suppose Nikon did not want a small, wireless capable flash that is slightly cheaper to compete with the SB-R200. It is slightly more powerful as well, with a Guide Number of 18m at ISO 100. Look out (or not) for the lens and flash to arrive in late August in the USA for US$600 and US$150 respectively.

US$600 for a kit-type lens? Ouch.

(Image credit: Nikon press images)

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