Canon Announced the EOS M5 Mirrorless Camera With EVF

Canon EOS M5 with EF-M 15-45mm IS STM
Canon EOS M5 with EF-M 15-45mm IS STM

Canon has announced the EOS M5, a new addition to the EOS M line-up with a much requested EVF. Like other contemporary mirrorless with EVFs, the one on the EOS M5 has a resolution of 2.36 million dots. There is no mention of the refresh rate, though.

The EOS M5 features a 24.2MP CMOS sensor, with image processing duties performed by a DIGIC 7 image processor. ISO range can be set between 100 and 25,600. With Canon’s Dual Pixel CMOS AF, the M5 is the fastest focussing EOS M camera made to date. A Touch and Drag AF feature allows you to adjust the focus point by dragging the AF frame around the rear LCD, even when looking through the EVF. There is also focus peaking to assist in manual focussing.

The design of the camera has also been changed from the previous EOS M cameras. It now looks like one of the smaller Canon DSLRs instead of a large compact camera. On the back of the camera is a 3.2″, 162K-dot LCD screen which flips up 85º and down 180º, great for the selfie-loving crowd. Continuous shooting speed is up to 7fps (9 fps with AF lock). There is also an in-body, 5-axis digital image stabilisation for smoother video recording, even without IS glass. With compatible lenses, both in-body and lens stabilisation can be employed simultaneously.

eos-m5-ef-m15-45is-stm_03

eos-m5-ef-m15-45is-stm_07

On the connectivity side of things, the M5 features a low-energy Bluetooth Smart feature which maintains a persistent connection with your smart device. There is also NFC and WiFi as well.

Along with the EOS M10, Canon has also announced the EF-M 18-150mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM lens which features 4 stops of image stabilisation. Used on the EOS M10, it gives an equivalent of 29-240mm.

Like the Nikon 1 series, the previous EOS M series of cameras have been rather lacklustre, with Canon not wanting to cannibilise the sales of their DSLRs. On paper, this seems like a big improvement. This being Canon’s 5th version of the EOS M, it remains to be seen whether this will finally be as good as the mirrorless cameras from the likes of Panasonic, Olympus, Fuji and Sony.

The EOS M5 will be available from November 2016 at US$980 for the body alone, or US$1099 with a 15-45mm lens. It’s also available with the newly announced 18-150mm lens for US$1479 from December.

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Fujifilm X-T2 Launched in Singapore. Plus Hands-On Impressions.

DSCF5876

After weeks of anticipation, the Fujifilm X-T2 was finally launched in Singapore on 10 Aug 2016, a day after Singapore’s National Day. It was held in the Luxe Art Museum, a small museum near The Cathay at the end of Orchard Road. To cater to the large turnout, Fujifilm Singapore has organised two sessions of the launch event—one in the afternoon and the other in the evening. I attended the latter session.

The event started with Mr. Favian Loo, Divisional Marketing Manager of Fujifilm Asia Pacific giving us a rundown of the new features of the Fujifilm X-T2. Among them are an upgraded 24MP sensor (the same one used on the X-Pro 2), significant improvements in AF performance and 4K performance. There is also a specially designed vertical battery grip which further improves the performance of the X-T2, as well as to give a much longer battery life by allowing the user to use three batteries simultaneously. The two batteries in the grip will be consumed before the one in the camera body. As with modern-day electronic devices, the X-T2 batteries can also be charged using USB.

Mr. Favian Loo
Mr. Favian Loo talking about the improvements made in the Fujifilm X-T2.

Next to present is Ms. Mindy Tan, the first female Fujifilm X Photographer. Mindy presented a photo slide show about the hutong in Beijing, China and her experiences in using the X-T2 while shooting her photo project. Unfortunately, the projector and the purplish light used in the event doesn’t do justice to her work. Thankfully, they are also presented as prints in the event grounds.

Ms Mindy Tan
Ms Mindy Tan

Next up is Mr. Benny Ang, followed by Mr. William Chua, both wedding photographers. They shared with the audience their experiences of using the X-T2 for their shoots and how the small size of the X-T2 helped them get their shots more easily. In particular, William told us about how the smaller X-T2 (compared to a DSLR) enabled him to shoot more easily in Morocco, where the people are camera-averse.

Mr. Benny Ang
Mr. Benny Ang
Mr. William Chua
Mr. William Chua

Hands-On

After the presentation, we finally got to lay our hands on the Fujifilm X-T2. There are also two live studio shooting sessions hosted by photographers Benny Ang and Ivan Joshua Loh. I headed straight to the demo stations, where there are a few demo units.

Fujifilm X-T2 with XF 35mm f/2.0 WR lens.
Fujifilm X-T2 with XF 35mm f/2.0 WR lens.

In the hands, the X-T2 body feels similar to the X-T1. The hand grip is now slightly deeper, making for a nicer feel. The lock on the ISO dial—one of those things I hate on my X-T1—is now improved. It’s now a toggle switch—press once to lock, press again to unlock. This is much better as I can leave it unlocked for ease of changing settings. The same lock is also implemented on the shutter speed dial, though I think that doesn’t really require locking in the first place. But still a good usability improvement.

Also, as you can see from the photo above, the X-T2’s shutter button now has a threaded hole for those of you who wants to use a traditional mechanical plunger-type shutter release or a soft-release button. The exposure compensation dial of the X-T2 now lets you do up to ±5 stops of compensation. This is done by setting the dial to the “C” setting, and dialling in the desired exposure compensation using the front command dial.

Fujifilm X-T2 exploded view.
Exploded view of the Fujifilm X-T2.

On the back of the camera, the next major change is the flip LCD screen. Besides flipping up/down for high/low angle shots, the LCD also flips horizontally. Unfortunately, it only flips to the right. It would be nice if it could flip to the left as well. Though improved, I couldn’t tell much of a difference between the X-T2’s EVF compared with my X-T1.

Fujifilm X-T2 Rear LCD
Fujifilm X-T2 Rear LCD

Like the recently-launched X-Pro 2, the X-T2 also features a joystick controller at the back. This works much better in selecting AF points than the rather mushy D-pad of the X-T1. On the X-T2, the D-pad buttons were also improved. They click more positively now compared to the X-T1. Definitely an improvement. With 91 AF points, the joystick is a welcome addition to easy selection of the desired AF point or group.

Another new change is the SD card door. On the X-T1, the SD card door slides towards you to unlock, much like some Nikon DSLRs. On the X-T2, there is now a lock lever on it which you must press in order to unlock the door. This implementation, though possibly more secure, is more fiddly when you need to change SD cards quickly. It’s probably not something you can do quickly when wearing gloves.

I also tried to test out the improved AF speeds as well. However, the first unit of the X-T2 I laid my hands on had a XF 16mm f/1.4, which isn’t very fast. Also, the rather dim (and lit with purplish lighting) show ground isn’t the best place to test AF performance. I tested with an unit mounted with a XF 35mm f/2.0 and AF speeds were similar to my X-T1 which I had with me. At the live studio setup, however, the X-T2 AF speeds were pretty good, focussing almost instantly on the models. I believe the firmware is still not the final version and is still being improved. The production version should be much better.

A visitor checks out the Fujifilm X-T2 at one of the live shooting setups.
A visitor checks out the Fujifilm X-T2 at one of the live shooting setups.

Another highlight of the X-T2 is 4K video recording. Again, the lighting conditions on the show floor weren’t good for this. The rather short security cable which the demo units were tethered to didn’t help either. On the X-T2, Fujifilm has removed the dedicated movie record button from the body. Movie recording is now its own drive mode which you set on a dial below the ISO dial. Once in movie mode, the shutter button will start the video recording. The X-T2 is able to record to the SD card slots or to an external recorder via the HDMI output.

Image quality is excellent. Here is a shot taken at one of the studio shooting areas, using a X-T2 and XF 50-140mm f/2.8. It’s slightly cropped but no other image adjustments were made.

Fujifilm X-T2 sample.
Fujifilm X-T2 sample shot.
100% Crop
100% Crop

High ISO performance looks pretty decent too. Here’s a shot at ISO 12,800. This is the highest native ISO of the X-T2 before going into one of the boost modes.

Fujifilm X-T2 output at ISO 12,800.
Fujifilm X-T2 output at ISO 12,800. No noise reduction applied.
100% Crop of the above image.
100% Crop of the above image. No noise reduction applied.

Hopefully, we can get hold of a review unit of the X-T2 from Fujifilm as it’s really hard to test out the camera at the event. But as of now, I quite like the improvements which Fujifilm has put in. The camera is available for pre-order from Fujifilm’s authorised dealers at S$2,599 for the body alone, or $2,999 with the XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 kit lens.

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Hasselblad Launches the X1D 50MP Mirrorless Medium Format Camera

Hasselblad X1D
Hasselblad X1D

After a couple of teasers and a leak yesterday, Hasselblad finally launched the X1D—the world’s first mirrorless medium format camera. Weighing at 725g (body only), it’s less than half the weight of a conventional digital medium format camera, Hasselblad says the 50MP camera is a game changer.

“The X1D marks a pivotal point in Hasselblad’s rich 75-year history. This camera makes medium format photography available to a new generation of Hasselblad users, while pushing the existing limits of photography to new heights.”

— Hasselblad CEO, Perry Oosting

Hasselblad X1D with 45mm f/3.5
Hasselblad X1D with 45mm f/3.5

The X1D is weather and dust sealed and sports a 50MP CMOS medium format sensor with 14 stops of dynamic range. ISO range can be set between 100 to 25,600. A completely new line of lenses has been developed to support the camera, offering a wide range of shutter speeds and full flash synchronisation up to 1/2000. A 45mm f/3.5 and 90mm f/4.5 will be available at launch, and the existing H system lenses can also be used via an adaptor. The camera also has a Nikon-compatible hotshoe.

At the back, there’s a 3″ 920K-dot touchscreen LCD, a 2.36M-dot EVF, dual SD slots, GPS and WiFi connectivity. It even shoots video at up to 1080/30p. A USB 3.0 Type C connector and mini HDMI ports are also available.

Hasselblad X1D's Rear LCD
Hasselblad X1D’s Rear LCD

Hasselblad’s wants to make this a “everyman” medium format camera, pricing it at US$8,995 for the body alone. This is probably not too bad if you consider the fact that the 50MP version of the H6D costs US$25,995, or the Leica S at US$16,900. It’s also available with the 45mm f/3.5 as a kit for US$11,290, with both the 45mm and 90mm at US$13,985. The lenses are available at US$2,295 and US$2,695 for the 45mm and 90mm respectively.

 

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Panasonic Announces the Lumix GX80/GX85 Micro Four Thirds Camera

Panasonic DMC-LX85
Panasonic DMC-LX85

Panasonic has announced the Lumix DMC-GX85, also known as the GX80 outside of North America. (What’s with naming things differently in different regions anyway?) This is cost-down version of the GX8, featuring a 16MP Live MOS sensor and no AA filter. It also has a redesigned shutter mechanism and 5-axis Dual IS consisting of both In-Body and Optical Image Stabilisation. Panasonic claims that the removal of the anti-aliasing filter supposedly improves fine detail resolution by 10%. The magnetically-driven shutter mechanism reduces the shutter sound as well as the vibration caused by shutter shock.

The GX85/GX80 features a Live View Finder (LVF) with 2764K-dots and 100% colour re-production, covering field of view of 100%. The rear LCD is a large 3.0″ one with approximately 1040K-dots with touch capability. It tilts up by up to 80º and down by 45º.

As with the trend these days, the GX85/GX80 features 4K at 30p or 20p video recording in addition to good old full HD at up to 60fps. There are also 3 different burst modes which allow you to: capture up to 30 still images at 8MP, record 30 frames before and after you capture a shot, and finally, a 4K cropping mode which lets you extract HD video from a 4K recording, adding zoom and pan effects within the camera.

A novel feature on the GX85/80 is Focus Bracketing. This is a Lytro-like “Post Focus” feature which lets you select the focus area after the image is taken. Other features include an ISO range of 100-25,600, WiFi and RAW recording.

The GX85/80 will be available with a 24-64mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens for US$800 in late May.

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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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Leica Launches the SL—Pricey 24MP Full Frame Mirrorless Camera

Leica SL with Vario Elmarit 24-90mm f/2.8-4
Leica SL with Vario Elmarit 24-90mm f/2.8-4

German luxury camera maker Leica has announced the Leica SL, an entirely new mirrorless camera in the likes of the Sony A7 series. In fact, it does look like the Sony A7 series of mirrorless cameras. Although the Leica M series are also technically “mirrorless” cameras, Leica and its aficionados would object to that moniker, preferring to call it a “digital rangefinder” camera.

The Leica SL has a 24MP full-frame CMOS sensor with a max ISO of 50,000. Like most modern cameras nowadays, there is no optical low-pass filter, ensuring the sharpest possible images at the expense of more chances of moiré.

Leica says that the SL has the “fastest autofocus in the market”, featuring a 2GB buffer that lets you shoot up to 11 full resolution photos in a second. It is able to save the images to the dual SD slot in both 8-bit JPEG and 14-bit RAW DNG formats simultaneously.

The most impressive feature of the SL is probably the EVF. It features a magnification of 0.8x and has 4MP, the highest we’ve seen in a mirrorless camera so far. This exceeds that of the Sony A7RII and the Fuji X-T1, both of which already have excellent EVFs.

Having said that, I really wonder if Leica really meant 4MP or 4 million dots. There’s a big difference between the two, since a LCD/EVF pixel is made up of 3 dots (subpixels.) If it’s really 4 million dots, the effective resolution is only 1.33MP, which is lower than both the Fuji and Sony.

Leica says that the EVF, dubbed the Leica EyeRes, has such a high refresh rate that the image will always be smooth and consistent. Pressing the shutter half-way lets you preview what the final shot will be like.

Leica SL EyeRes EVF
Leica SL EyeRes EVF

The LCD is a more common 1.04MP variety with a viewing angle of 170º. It is also touch sensitive and also scratch resistant. The Leica SL is built to be rugged and weather sealed, with a body made of solid aluminium. Other features include Wifi, GPS and 4K video.

Three lenses are announced together with the SL in what’s known as the “L” mount—a Leica Vario Elmarit SL 24-90mm f/2.8-4, Leica APO Vario Elmarit SL 90-280mm f/2.8-4 and Leica Summilux 50mm f/1.4. The 24-90 will be available together with the camera, while the other two will be available from early 2016 and late 2016 respectively. Existing Leica T lenses will be compatible with the SL, while S, M and R lenses will be usable via additional adaptors.

Leica - 3 lenses
Leica – 3 lenses

Interestingly, there’s also a Leica SF40 flash, which looks exactly like a Nissin i40. Of course, the red dot edition will also cost you a premium over the Nissin.

Leica SL with SF40 Flash Unit
Leica SL with SF40 Flash Unit

One thing I’ve noticed is that the Vario Elmarit 24-90mm f/2.8-4, which has a filter size of 82mm. When used with the SL, it makes the whole combination look humongous. And isn’t the idea of using a mirrorless camera to have a small and lightweight setup? With this kind of size, I think Leica users are more likely to use a small and light prime instead.

The Leica SL (Typ 601) will be available from November 16, 2016 with a cool price of US$7,450. The 24-90mm f/2.8-4 will be available at the same time for U$4,950.

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Canon Announces a Trio of Cameras—The PowerShot G9 X, PowerShot G5 X and EOS M10

Canon PowerShot G5 X
Canon PowerShot G5 X

Canon today has announced three new cameras—The PowerShot G9 X, PowerShot G5 X and the EOS M10. The PowerShot G9 X and G5 X are high-end, enthusiast compacts which features 1″ CMOS sensors with a resolution of 20 megapixels. Both uses Canon’s DIGIC 6 image processors, and supports RAW shooting, 1080/60p video recording, pop-up flash, a ND filter and WiFi/NFC.

The G5 X has a 24-100mm equivalent lens with an aperture range of f/1.8-2.8—the same as the G7 X—but adds a 2.36M dot EVF. It also has a fully-articulated 3″ 1.04M touch-screen LCD.

Canon PowerShot G9 X
Canon PowerShot G9 X

Confusingly, the G9 X isn’t higher end than the G5 X or G7 X, but instead sits below the G7 X in the G-series line-up. It features a slim body reminiscent of the PowerShot S series of compact cameras, and has a 24-84mm f/2.0-4.9 zoom lens. Like the S-series, the lens is encircled by a programmable control ring, and only has a fixed 3″ LCD.

Canon EOS M10
Canon EOS M10

The EOS M10 is Canon’s forth attempt at the mirrorless segment, and it continues to disappoint. Again, as with some of Canon’s confusing product model numbers, the EOS M10 is not a replacement of the M3, but instead sits alongside it. Canon markets it to the social media generation, saying that it shoots ”sharp images that are sure to draw ‘Likes’.”

To go along with the camera, there’s a new, retractable EF-M 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM kit lens. Like the collapsible kit lenses from the likes of Panasonic, it’s able to shorten and lock into a compact form factor to improve portability.

In line with the social media angle, the camera’s LCD is able to tilt up 180º to face the front so that you can take that awesome selfie you’ve always wanted. The EOS M10 has a 18MP APS-C CMOS sensor with an iSO range of 100-12,800 (expandable to 25,600). Like the G9 X and G5 X, image processing duties are handled by the DIGIC 6.

Unlike the EOS M3, the M10 uses a lower-end Hybrid CMOS AF II rather than the latest AF III in the M3. From what I’ve read from early hands-on reviews, the AF is understandably not stellar.

Seriously, Canon. Stop thinking that making great mirrorless cameras will cannibalise your DSLR line-up. Make us a proper mirrorless camera that is awesome. The previous few EOS M’s have been pretty lacklustre.

All three cameras will be available from November. The PowerShot G5 X and G9 X will go for US$799 and US$529 respectively, while the EOS M10 will cost US$600 with the EF-M 15-45mm kit lens, which is also available for US$300 separately.

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Samsung NX500 Review

Samsung NX500
Samsung NX500

In a market dominated by the big two camera makers—Nikon and Canon—for DSLRs and cameras, and the smaller players like Fuji, Olympus and Sony for the mirrorless sector, Samsung is probably not a name that comes to mind when one is shopping for a digital camera. But they do have a small line-up of mirrorless and compact cameras that offer you an alternative to the more dominant and well-known brands.

The NX500 is Samsung’s latest addition to their camera line-up, targetted at the “advanced amateur” photographer who wants something more advanced than a compact camera and interchangeable lenses without the bulk of a typical DSLR setup. It features a 28.2MP APS-C-sized Back-side Illuminated (BSI) CMOS sensor—the highest resolution available in APS-C sensors so far.

Weighing in at just 0.63lbs (286g) for the body alone, it’s lightweight but still has a sold feel in the hands. The back of the body is dominated by a 3″ Super AMOLED touch screen for composing and reviewing your shots. Unfortunately, it didn’t come with an Electronic View Finder (EVF). The screen has a resolution of 1063K dots and is articulated, so you can flip the screen up and down to aid your composition. For selfie lovers, the screen can even be tilted upwards to face the front so that you can take 28MP selfies or wefies with ease!

aSamsung NX500 Tilting Screen (Selfie Mode)
aSamsung NX500 Tilting Screen (Selfie Mode)

The controls are pretty well laid out, with the typical PSAM mode dial, command dial and shutter release on the top plate alongside a “Mobile” and AEL buttons. The rest of the controls are at the side of the LCD behind the camera, consisting of a D-pad, few other buttons and another command dial. The front and rear command dials work pretty much the same way as a Nikon DSLR, which means I can get used to it pretty quickly since I have been a Nikon user for a long time. There is a video record button on the side of the body, a rather awkward place to put it. Sure, it prevents you from accidentally pressing it, but when you really need to engage it, it’s not easy to get at.

Samsung NX500 Tilting Screen
Samsung NX500 Tilting Screen. Here you can see the awkwardly-placed video recording button.

Settings like ISO, exposure compensation, AF and drive modes can be easily changed via the D-pad buttons; others have to be accessed via the Fn button or the “i” button on the lens itself. The rest can be accessed via the reasonably intuitive menu.

To keep things nice and compact, the NX500 does not have a built-in flash. However, Samsung bundles a cute little pop-up flash which you can attach to the hotshoe, much like Fujifilm’s EF-X8 which came with the X-T1 camera.

The review unit came with the Samsung 16-50mm f/3.5-4.5 Power Zoom kit lens, which covers a nice, common focal length range suitable for most people. You can zoom the lens using the zoom buttons on it, or by twisting the fly-by-wire zoom ring. The latter becomes a focus ring if you set the lens to manual focus.

Performance

The camera starts up pretty quickly within a second, so it’ll always be ready for your shoots. It might be a bit faster if used with a prime lens, since it wouldn’t have to extend like the power zoom would.

The 3″ AMOLED screen is bright and colourful, much like Samsung’s Galaxy phones in normal lighting conditions. However, once used in bright sunny Singapore streets, it becomes hardly visible. This issue is not unique to Samsung of course, and this is where an EVF or OVF would come in useful. The refresh rate of the screen is very fast, with very little lag, which is a good thing.

The Auto White Balance of the NX500 tends towards the “cooler” side of the colour temperature scale, giving this photo a slightly blue tinge.

With the bundled kit lens, the AF performance is decent in day light. Compared to the Fujifilm X-T1, the AF speed is slightly slower. When light level falls, the camera begins to hunt and sometimes fail to acquire focus. Under the same lighting conditions, my X-T1 didn’t have any issues focussing. Strangely, I also had some random issues with the AF locking but the resulting shot is out of focus. I am not sure what could have caused this as I was photographing something static.

At the widest setting of 16mm (equivalent to 24mm on a full-frame camera), the lens exhibits some barrel distortion. Nothing too major here, and this is quite typical of most low-cost lenses. You can see it in the photo below, where the grid lines on the building is slightly curved.

Slight barrel distortion can be seen at the 16mm end of the bundled 16-50mm kit lens.
Slight barrel distortion can be seen at the 16mm end of the bundled 16-50mm kit lens.

The Samsung NX500 is able to shoot at up to 9fps, but that’s not a feature I use often. Sports and action photographers would probably find it more useful. I didn’t really test this in detail, but with RAW+JPEG, the buffer filled up rather quickly and the camera has to pause to clear the buffer. It should perform much better in the JPEG-only mode.

SAM_0352

Image Quality

Pictures taken by the NX500 and the kit lens have good colour rendition, with a nice contrast and most importantly, sharp. As with most recently-produced cameras, the NX500’s sensor does not have an anti-aliasing filter on it, and this probably contributed to the sharpness. Dynamic range of the camera appears to be decent, being able to capture everything from shadows to highlights easily.

Highlights are kept within control, while shadow details are still good.
Highlights are kept within control, while shadow details are still good.

SAM_0362

One thing I noticed from my test shots is that the NX500’s Auto White Balance (AWB) tends to render colours on the cool side. My daylight shots end up slightly bluish. From the files, I noticed that the camera used a white balance value of about 4800K, which is lower than the typical 5000–5500K used in daylight white balance. Perhaps, Samsung love things on the blue side, something I noticed on the Galaxy-series phones’ bluish screens as well. To get around this, it’s best to set the white balance manually before shooting, even if you are shooting in RAW.

In terms of high-ISO performance, images are generally usable till about 3,200. Above that, things start to get really coarse. I wouldn’t use anything above ISO 6,400 unless I am desperate. ISO 25,600 really looks like crap. Like most cameras, it’s probably there only to try to win the numbers game.

Samsung NX500 ISO Comparison
Samsung NX500 ISO Comparison

Other Features

Most cameras nowadays feature some sort of wireless connectivity, usually via WiFi, and the Samsung NX500 is no exception. With NFC connectivity, all you need is to tap a NFC-enabled smart phone to the camera’s bottom, and it’ll be automatically paired. You do need to download the Samsung Smart Camera app before you can do anything useful.

For non-NFC phones, there’s always the good old way of manually connecting to the camera’s WiFi hotspot, then launching the app to control the camera or download images. You can also change camera settings via the app.

One notable feature which really impressed me is that the NX500 is able to connect to your home wireless network and download firmware updates directly. I have not seen any other cameras do this, and it’s certainly something that other camera makers can implement.

Samsung NX500 Firmware Upgrade Screen
Samsung NX500 Firmware Upgrade Screen

For time-lapse lovers, the NX500 features a Interval Shooting mode which can also compile the shots into a single time-lapse movie. Unlike other cameras with a similar time-lapse mode, it also keeps the individual images captured, in additional to the final movie. There are advantages and disadvantages to this of course. With the original images, you can have the option of processing and combining them yourself in the software of your choice if you didn’t like what the camera did. Of course, this is at the expense of storage space on your card. At 8-12MB per large JPEG and 35-46MB per RAW file, a card fills up quickly. A 16GB card can only take about 270 shots if you choose to shoot in JPEG+RAW like many photographers do.

But my main gripe of the time-lapse is the movie produced. Compared to the time-lapse taken by a Nikon D810 or even an iPhone using iOS 8’s time-lapse feature, the NX500’s time-lapse is noticeably jerky. Samsung also chose to use the relatively new H.265 video codec instead of the more common H.264, so in order to work with the video or even to upload to YouTube, you’d need to convert it to H.264 first. I am not sure if this is the cause of the jerkiness that I’ve experienced.

Conclusion

Overall, the Samsung NX500 is a nice little camera to use, if you are able to live with the little “faults” here and there. If Samsung can improve the AF and AWB a little, it’d be a much better camera. The features are certainly innovative (there’s also this auto-beautifying function in the selfie mode which I did not try), and the image quality is great. What’s not so great is the price. At a SRP of S$1,159, Samsung faces quite a bit of competition from the other, more well-known camera makers.

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Ricoh GR Gets Updated to the GR II, Includes WiFi and NFC

Ricoh GR II
Ricoh GR II

Ricoh has announced the GR II, the update to our favourite compact camera in our mirrorless shootout, the Ricoh GR. Everything down to the 16.2MP APS-C sensor and 18.3mm f/2.8 (28mm equivalent) lens remains the same as the original GR, but what the new GR II adds is wireless connectivity in the form of WiFi and NFC.

With the new wireless connectivity, the camera can be paired with the new GR Remote web-based app that lets you control the camera settings, view and transfer photos just by using a web browser. It is also compatible with the Ricoh Image Sync App for transferring and viewing images on your smart phone.

The camera will be available from July 2015 at US$800.

YS: I am slightly disappointed that it is not using the newer and better 24 megapixel sensor. I guess they wanted to keep R&D cost down and not have to start developing a new piece. Still, it remains a great camera.

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Nikon 1 J4 Review

Nikon 1 J4 with 10-30mm PD Zoom

Introduction

Nikon’s 1 series of mirrorless compacts in general have not got a lot of respect outside of those who have actually used the cameras, but even the most ardent of fans have to admit that these cameras have their own issues, ranging from quirky UI, sensors optimised for speed over dynamic range, to just some bad marketing mistakes in general (like the insane prices that the J1 and V1 debuted with).

 Does the J4 finally get it alright? We take a look. Continue reading Nikon 1 J4 Review

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