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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Sony Announces Alpha a5100

Sony Alpha a5100 with 16-50 lens

Sony’s first off the blocks for the Photokina news, with the NEX, err, I mean, Alpha a5100. It is basically an updated a5000 with the a6000’s guts. So that lovely 24 megapixel sensor with the 179 phase detection autofocus points is now available in a cheaper camera that also does selfies.

There are also a bunch of other upgrades, such as a proper VGA resolution LCD at 3″ in size, a slightly higher continuous drive at 6 FPS, and like the recent Sony cameras, supports 1080p video at 60 FPS encoded with the 50mb/s XAVC-S codec. This is achieved with a full sensor readout too.

Those are pretty serious specs at a lower price, starting at US$550 for the body or US$700 for the 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 power zoom kit lens. There are a few things missing, like superb lenses for the E-mount, no EVF, and lack of microphone and headphone jacks, but it is still a pretty serious set of specifications.

The a5100 is expected to arrive sometime in September.

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Hands On With the New Fujifilm X-T1

Fujifilm X-T1 with XF 56mm f/1.2
Fujifilm X-T1 with XF 56mm f/1.2

For a long time, I didn’t think I’d be tempted with a new camera. Most of the cameras released were cool and all, but it lacked the “X Factor” to tempt me. Full frame, more megapixels, faster AF, Wifi, etc weren’t enough to get me to buy one. I am quite happy shooting my Nikon D7000.

That is, until I attended the Fujifilm hands-on session organised by a few Fujifilm dealers in Singapore to let potential buyers check out the newly released XT-1 camera. Like the Sony A7/A7R, the Fujifilm XT-1 is a highly anticipated camera and many were keen to check it out. Following the trend of retro-inspired designs started by the legendary X100, the XT-1 continue to have the knobs and dials that many will like (and surely some will hate it as well). Continue reading Hands On With the New Fujifilm X-T1

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Sony Introduces the a6000 – Interchangeable Lens Camera

Sony a6000
Sony a6000

Sony has released a replacement to the NEX 6, in the form of the a6000. It features 24 megapixel APS-C sized sensor, Sony’s latest Bionz image processor and an AF system which is touted to be the world’s fastest (not sure if they’re faster than the Fuji X-T1, which is also claiming the “world’s fastest AF” title.)

YS: You need to read the fine print. There are always a certain set of conditions for being the “fastest”.

CK: The hybrid AF system features a focal-plane phase-detect AF sensor 179 focal points, combined with a high-precision contrast-detection AF. This lets the camera accurately track and respond to subject movement  through nearly the entire frame at up to 11fps.

The a6000 will be available from April 2014 in black or silver as a kit with a 16-50mm motorized zoom lens for about US$800. The body alone will cost around US$650.

YS: While Sony still has issues with lenses for the NEX line, the NEX 6 was a nice camera. The new and now slightly confusing naming scheme aside, the one disappointment here is the downgrading of the EVF. Guess EVFs just do not make the headlines like 11 FPS shooting and 24 megapixel sensors.

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Fuji Announces XF 23mm f1.4 R lens

XF 23mm f1.4 lens
Fujifilm’s new XF 23mm f1.4 R lens

Finally, the lens long anticipated and awaited for the Fuji X mount system, the XF 23mm f1.4 R lens is finally here – the hallowed focal length of 35mm, a common and highly popular moderate wide angle focal length is now available with this lens on any X-Mount camera (currently the X-Pro1, X-E1 and X-M1).

When Fujifilm launched the X-system with the X-Pro1, I was disappointed they did not include any lenses with an equivalent focal length of 35mm in its initial launch, opting instead to go with a 28mm, 50mm and 90mm equivalent set of lenses (the 18, 35 and 60mm XF lenses), though admittedly the 28, 50 and 90 combination is also a very widely popular set of focal lengths.  I can only assume Fuji wants to sell the X100 still, so to protect sales, the 35mm focal length was left to the X100, and later, the X100S.

All is now forgiven with this lens. Reading the press release, here are a number of stand out features:

– Lens distortion has been reduced to the absolute minimum using only optical rather than digital correction, thereby delivering the highest possible picture quality. This means the lens itself has an optical design that is purer and follows traditional optical design principles of getting it right in the lens – instead of some sloppy modern lens designs (I’m looking at you, Olympus and Panasonic lenses) which depend on software-based in-camera lens correction or worse, in-house raw converter lens correction. Score one for this new Fuji!

(YS: Hey hey, it’s a legitimate design for the digital age if you ask me, provided there is enough resolution to deal with the corrections in the first place.)

– The rounded seven-blade diaphragm ensures smooth bokeh even when shooting portraits or product shots at a medium aperture to maintain reasonable depth-of-field. This means bokeh is probably going to be good!

– All lens elements are treated with Fujifilm’s multilayer HT-EBC (High Transmittance Electron Beam Coating) which delivers enhanced durability and ensures an even spread of light across the sensor. Similar to Nikon’s branding of their nano-crystal coat and Canon’s sub-wavelength structure coating, Fujifilm has caught on and brand its new coating with some fancy marketing name designed to induce a level of awe.

– The FUJINON XF23mmF1.4 R features a camera-to-subject distance indicator and a depth-of-field scale on the barrel. Both are useful when manually pre-focusing to capture a fast moving subject, or minimize the shutter lag to capture a fleeting moment. Score another one for this new Fuji XF lens – a real depth of field scale and an actual subject to distance scale allows quick zone / hyper focusing without looking through the viewfinder or at the LCD, and is a great asset to working on the streets.  One quick glance down at the camera and one twist of the lens barrel is enough to achieve the desired zone of focus without even bringing the camera to the eye.

This lens is announced at a time when I’m contemplating an X-Pro1 to complement my Leica M9 as a medium telephoto solution using M mount lenses. If Fujifilm keeps getting things right such as this lens, I’m going to have to build a secondary system based on the X-mount!

X-Pro1 with XF 23mm f1.4R lens
X-Pro1 with XF 23mm f1.4R lens

 

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

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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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A Quick Hands-on of the Nikon 1 V2

Black and white models of the Nikon 1 V2 on a shelf at Yodobashi Camera, Tokyo.

I chanced upon the newly released Nikon 1 V2 at Tokyo’s Yodabashi Camera store while I was on holiday and decided to give it a quick hands-on test. One of the biggest differences between these great stores is that customers are able to play with a lot of gear without having some pesky salesman stare at you, which is a great plus.

Unfortunately, the battery/SD card door was taped shut and thus I was unable to insert my own SD card to get some sample shots.

Continue reading A Quick Hands-on of the Nikon 1 V2

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