Review: Think Tank Photo TurnStyle 5, 10 and 20

Think Tank Photo Turnstyle 5, 10, and 20 Bags

Think Tank Photo bags have been with us for some time now, and over this period they have made some quality, if a little aesthetically underwhelming, camera bags and carriers. While so far many of them have been fairly conventional, with shoulder bags, front-opening backpacks, and modular systems making up most of their line up, their latest lineup is something that is actually quite interesting: The Turnstyle sling-cum-beltpack bags.

Continue reading Review: Think Tank Photo TurnStyle 5, 10 and 20

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Fujifilm Announces X-E2 ILC and XQ1 Compact Camera, X100 Receives Update

Fujifilm X-E2 with 18-55mm f/2.8-4 lens

Is it something about Halloween, or is it just the camera season this time for this year? Anyway, Fujifilm have launched a couple of cameras, and the first is the update to the X-E1, which gives it the X100S’s 16 megapixel X-Trans sensor with the phase-detect autofocus sensors, as well as tweaking it in small but numerous ways from feedback. A company actively listening to photographers. How nice is that? Not that others do not, but Fujifilm seems to be more quick on the uptake. Continue reading Fujifilm Announces X-E2 ILC and XQ1 Compact Camera, X100 Receives Update

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Nikon Announces the D5300 DSLR With WiFi, GPS and No Anti-aliasing Filter

Nikon D5300
Nikon D5300

Looks like it’s a week of camera announcements! Barely a year after releasing the D5200, Nikon followed up with some enhancements in the form of the D5300. Like the Nikon D610 announced earlier, this is a small update which adds WiFi, GPS-tagging and the removal of the anti-aliasing (AA) filter, the last of which is quite the norm these days for new cameras. Other improvements include a larger optical viewfinder, larger 3.2″ LCD screen, 1080/60p video and a new Expeed 4 image processor allowing for up to 5fps burst shooting. The resolution remains at 24 megapixels.

The camera will be available in black, red or grey for US$1399.99 as a kit with the new 18-140mm f/3.5-5.6G this month.

YS: Umm, why? Was the D5200 a camera in desperate need of replacing? I guess the D400 is probably dead by now.

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Nikon Revives the Classic 58mm f/1.4 For the New Age

Nikkor AF-S 58mm f/1.4G
Nikkor AF-S 58mm f/1.4G

Nikon has announced a new AF-S 58mm f/1.4G, a fast prime that essentially reviving the old classic 58mm f/1.4 which was first released in 1961, though not quite the legendary Noct-Nikkor 58mm f/1.2 released in 1977. Nonetheless, the lens is optimized for full-frame DSLR with highly corrected coma, which means that all the point light sources will render correctly across the frame. It’s also designed to give a pleasing and attractive out-of-focus areas of image (the much sought-after bokeh).

Of course, it can also be used on DX-format cameras like the D7100, whereby it’ll give an equivalent field-of-view of a 85mm f/1.4 portrait lens. The lens is not cheap though – it’s priced at US$1699.95 and will be on sale at the end of this month at your favourite camera stores.

YS: Yeeesh. I suspect that manufacturers are getting desperate and are looking to push out products with increased margins. This is not even the f/1.2 version like its predecessor of yore. This is going to be the first of many, I think.

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Panasonic Releases the Small and Cute Lumix DMC-GM1 Micro Four Thirds Camera and 12-32mm Lens

Panasonic DMC-GM1 with 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 lens
Panasonic DMC-GM1 with 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 lens

More camera announcements! Panasonic has released what’s possibly the smallest Micro Four Thirds cameras ever – the Lumix DMC-GM1. The tiny camera which can literally fit into the palm of your hand, packs the same 16 megapixel sensor used on the GX7, shutter speeds as high as 1/16,000s (yes, that’s one sixteen-thousandth of a second), WiFi and 1080/60i video. It ships with an equally small and compact 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 lens giving an 35mm equivalent of a 24-64mm lens. The lens can be collapsed down to the size of a pancake lens when it’s not in use.

The camera will go for US$749.99 with the 12-32mm lens, and if you think it’s too small for you, Panasonic will also sell you a metal grip for US$99. The cute little lens is also available separately for US$349.99.

Wow, at the size of 99 x 55 x 30mm (3.88 x 2.16 x 1.20″), it’s just a hair larger than the RX100 II, which measures 102 x 58 x 38mm (4.00 x 2.29 x 1.51″)! It’s really amazing that Panasonic managed to make a interchangeable lens camera this small. Of course, the lens also adds to the thickness but it’s still amazing how Panasonic managed to pull this off. Looks like the mirrorless camera market is getting exciting.

YS: I really like this, despite the lack of a viewfinder or articulating screen. Maybe because I do want something that is really compact without sacrificing image quality. A little disappointing that there is no kit option with a pancake lens, or Panasonic redoing the 14/2.5 like they did with the 20/1.7.

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Sony Announces Next Stage of Mirrorless Race: A7 and A7R Cameras

Sony A7

So it is finally here: The “full-frame” (a rubbish moniker really, what about medium format sensors? Can something be fuller than full?) a.k.a 35mm-sized sensor equipped A7 and A7R cameras. The former is a 24 megapixel camera with phase detect autofocus sensors, while the latter is a 36 megapixel camera without an antialiasing filter but needing to make do with plain ol’ contrast detect autofocus. Like any modern mirrorless camera, they are full-time live view cameras, and have pretty decent viewing options: A VGA LCD with the “triluminous” thing (whatever that means) and the XGA EVF that first appeared on the NEX 7.

Other nice features include WiFi with NFC, a 1/8000 top shutter speed, which I have recently discovered as being very useful in bright daylight, a continuous drive with a top speed of 5 FPS for the A7, and 4 for the A7R. Both of the latter numbers are likely achieved without AF tracking enabled. Both cameras also can record 1080p video at 60p, a nice touch, and there is an option for XLR connectors via an adapter. The NP-FW50 battery, at 1500mAh, might prove to be a bit small to power a camera like this. CIPA rating is just 340 photos. There is also a vertical grip, but wow, it really makes the camera look very odd, kind of like the early Kodak DSLRs and their oversized electronics and battery pack.

While everyone seems to be going bonkers over the concept of having a 35mm-sized sensor in a camera, no one seems to be care that the price is not going to be cheap. US$1700 for the A7, and US$2300 for the A7R. That is almost DSLR pricing for cheaper to make cameras that have less capability. Sony better ramp up the lens selection quick to offset one of the disadvantages of this expensive system.

CK: The price is actually not THAT bad – at least for the A7 it is somewhat similar to the Nikon D600 pricing when it was announced. But like YS said, ultimately it’s a lesser camera than a full DSLR, and I am not talking about the image quality. However great that the high-res EVFs as seen on the NEX6/7, it is still no match for a real optical finder in terms of response time and low-light performance. The advantage of course, is the relative size compared to a full-frame DSLR, so for those looking for a small(ish) full-frame camera, this could be it. Do note that mounting a full-frame lens on this is probably going to negate the size advantage though, and it reminded me of the early days of the NEX cameras having a big lens and a small body.

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Large Sensor, Long Zoom – The new Sony RX10

pSNYNA-DSCRX10~B_main_v786

Imagine taking Sony’s excellent compact camera the RX100, retain its 1 inch, 20 megapixel sensor, sticking a long 24-200 F2.8 Carl Zeiss lens in front, and bulk up the camera with a quasi-DSLR shape, and you get the new Sony RX10 – announced today to much fanfare.

The new Cyber-shot RX10 camera adds a high-zoom model to its premium line of Cyber-shot RX series cameras. The original RX100, and the subsequent RX100 II, if you aren’t already aware, is an excellent compact camera with a largish 1″ size sensor producing excellent 20 megapixel images rivalling those of low end DSLRs. The new RX100 upped the ante by providing a zoom that goes from a wide angle of 24mm (35mm equivalent) to a focal length of 200mm, useful for birding, zoos, stage work, concerts etc. Continue reading Large Sensor, Long Zoom – The new Sony RX10

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Sony Announces FIVE(!) Full-frame E-mount “FE” Lenses to Go With the A7 and A7R

Sony FE lenses
Sony FE lenses

Hot on the heels of the highly-anticipated full-frame mirrorless cameras, the A7 and A7R, Sony has also released FIVE(!) new full-frame E mount lenses. Dubbed “FE”, these lenses were designed to match the newly released A7/A7R cameras. Among them, three are premium (read expensive) lenses with the Zeiss branding, namely the FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA Carl Zeiss Sonnar *T, FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* and the FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS Carl Zeiss Vario Tessar T*. The last two are an inexpensive FE 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS mid-zoom kit lens and a FE 70-200mm f/4 G OSS telephoto zoom.

Along with the five new lenses, Sony has also updated one of their popular lenses into the 70-200mm f/2.8G SSM II. The lens features a faster AF speed and a new and improved ‘Nano AR’ coating said to be resistant to moisture and dust.

And now, what everybody is wanting to know: the price. The EF 24-70mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS will be a kit lens to the A7 and won’t be sold separately, though we are sure it’ll somehow make its way into the channels. The 35mm f/2.8 ZA Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* will cost US$799 and be available in December 2013. The 55mm f/1.8 ZA Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* will cost US$999 and be available from January 2014. Finally, the 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS will cost US$1199 and be available from February 2014. No pricing information is available for the 70-200mm f/4 OSS at the time of writing.

Though not as astronomical as their Leica counterparts, these Zeiss lenses still look pretty expensive. I am not sure if they are good enough to justify their cost. But like their Leica counterparts, I am sure there will be enough people clamouring over then anyway.

YS: Best part is, they’re all made in Japan anyway. Also, look at the size and weight for most of the lenses. Almost all of them are equivalent to their SLR counterparts. So much for a lighter system, eh? Personally the biggest omissions are wide-angle primes: This is the area where mirrorless lenses will be smaller and lighter due to not needing a retrofocus design. Without them the new system is just another case of small camera with big lenses – a Sony favourite, it seems.

(Image credit: Sony press images)

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Nikon Announces D610, Hopefully Fixes Oil and Dust Issues

Nikon D610 with AF-S Nikkor 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR

Nikon has announced the D610, about a year after the D600’s own launch. Those who know Nikon will know that they rarely launch successors so quickly, and given the few changes touted, it looks like it is likely to resolve the oil and dust issues resulting from the shutter mechanism on the first camera. Indeed, the new camera’s two features are related to the shutter assembly: The camera now does 6 FPS instead of 5.5 FPS in continuous shooting mode, and has a quiet(er) continuous shooting mode at 3 FPS. The third new addition is improved auto white balance, which really is just a software tweak.

It is a little disappointing that Nikon have chosen not to publish the cause of the issues with the D600 and instead “solve” the issue with a new camera instead.

The D610 will be available later this month, in October, at US$2000 for the camera only. Hey, it’s the same price the D600 is at even.

CK: Think it’s going to cost Nikon a lot more money to acknowledge and fix shutters in affected D600s, so they came up with this game plan. Not much of an upgrade IMO, but if you are planning on getting a D600, then it obviously makes sense to wait for the D610 to be available. A more useful “fix” would be to allow aperture control in Live View and Movie modes though, this is something lacking in all the non-pro Nikon DSLRs like the D600/610/7000/7100 and below, and is something even the most basic of Canon DSLRs provide.

David: No doubt this is similar to the case of the SB900 flash overheating problems, which was “resolved” by the release of the almost similar SB910 flash with barely a change except to solve the issue of the flash shutting down too fast due to overheating.

This is a cop-out on a bigger scale no doubt – instead of acknowledging the problem and doing a recall of affected cameras, Nikon seemed to have chosen to betray the trust of its customers with the release of a new model with a fixe shutter assembly – indeed many people who had dust issues and oil spill problems on their sensor had their D600’s entire shutter assembly swapped out for new ones. Somewhere along the line in the factories in Thailand, someone messed up causing new D600 to have dust and oil spill problems on their sensors. Indeed I’ve read snide remarks today to the effect of “can Nikon change my D600 nameplate to D610 if I send in my D600 in” and more amusingly “I will wait 6 months to see if there are dust and oil problems with the D610 before I buy” – trust has been breached and there are people who have swapped systems entirely based on their D600 experience – not quite the intended effect Nikon wanted. Coming on the heels of the well known AF problems with the D800 (read: left side focus point issue), this ensures a sour taste on the lips of Nikon users.

Lastly, this release will surely cause D600 used prices to tank big time, since buyers will be wary if the second hand units they are buying have had the shutter assembly replaced. Then again, this just might be a good time to pick up a used D600 on the cheap! Having said all that however, I’ve used rented D600s regularly and never encountered an issue – probably because I’ve always used them with fast lenses in low light….

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