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Showing posts with label review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label review. Show all posts


Review: Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II

Review: Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II

review: Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II
Amateur Photography - Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II Reviews, Among a season of good cameras last year from Sony, Samsung and Fujifilm was Olympus’ OM-D E-M5 Mark II. This is one micro four-thirds mirrorless camera can shoot images at a resolution of up to 40 megapixels.

And unlike the updated models from rivals, Olympus took its original E-M5 and redesigned it completely. On the top plate now, you get a new lock for whatever mode you are shooting in.

It is a switchable lock so those prefer to change settings quickly won’t feel hindered while those who want to be a bit more careful can lock the dial during transit.

The new Mark II camera also has more custom functions and shortcut buttons that make it feel like a professional camera, rather than just one for the enthusiast.

The improvements are not only skin deep. The E-M5 Mark II has 81 auto-focusing points, up from the previous 35. It also boasts a new five-axis sensor-shift image stabilisation system, as well a new Hi Res Mode.

When I tried it out, the camera generally performed well in most circumstances, at least those that I think a typical shooter would be used in. The focusing snaps to attention and the colour reproduction is very punchy.

Speaking of Hi Res Mode, Olympus has an out-of-the-box answer to the super high pixel counts from digital SLR rivals such as the Nikon D810’s 36 megapixels and the upcoming Canon 5DS’ whopping 50 megapixels.

It has managed to use its 16-megapixel sensor and to produce eight slightly different shots of a scene and combine them into a single image. The good news is that the Hi Res Mode works. Bad news is, the subject and camera have to be absolutely still.

The RAW processing for the high resolution images takes a toll on both the camera and computer. For the camera, you can expect battery power to be used up faster, which was the case when I tested the Hi Res mode recently.

For every shot, it requires about half a minute for the picture to be taken and saved into the memory card. That’s not counting the time to set up the tripod to ensure the camera doesn’t move too.

To convert the RAW file, I have to download a plug-in for Photoshop and import it into the program. This may be a bit too troublesome for many users.

For those who have big hands or appreciate having a more secure grip, having the external grip will cause the camera to be taller by an inch but it will greatly enhance stability while taking photos. If you are using the Hi Res mode, do consider getting the battery pack as well.

And the new Olympus offering may also be a bit too expensive of an upgrade for existing E-M5 users. Sure, the Hi Res mode is a unique feature for such a small-sensor camera, but it has some serious practical issues.

You won’t need all the megapixel count unless you are printing big. And you can only use it if the camera and subject both keep still.

Nikon Coolpix S9900 Review

Nikon Coolpix S9900 Review

Amateur Photography - The Nikon Coolpix S9900 is the new top-of-the-range digital compact camera from the Style series. It features a back-illuminated 16 megapixel CMOS sensor, 30x optical zoom lens, Full 1080/60i HD video with new time-lapse recording, built-in WiFi, GPS and NFC connectivity, P/S/A/M exposure modes, a command dial and a 3-inch 921K dot vari-angle screen. The Nikon Coolpix S9900.

Ease of Use

Even more packed with technology than its predecessor, the new Coolpix S9900 looks like it would be more at home in Nikon's Performance range. However, the P series of Nikon cameras are for keen enthusiasts and as such, don't really offer much in the way of easy modes for the point and shooters. The S9900 still offers the Easy Auto mode, albeit buried somewhat n the menu system.

The S9900 bears an uncanny resemblance to the higher specification models in terms of shape and design. Weighing nearly 300g, it's a heavy block of metal and plastic which holds a 30x optical zoom inside the bulge at the front. The lenses contain ED (Extra-low Dispersion) elements to reduce chromatic aberrations and the focal length works out at an eye bulging 25-750mm in 35mm terms.

We hear you asking “What about camera shake?” Well, the S9900 has been fitted with a 5-axis Hybrid VR system. This type of Vibration Reduction of combining electronic and optical image stabilisers isn't new but using 5 ways of stabilising the image is on a camera at this designation.

Once the light has gone through the lens, it burns onto a back-illuminated 16 megapixel CMOS sensor. In the past, some Nikon compacts have suffered with low light and high noise problems, so hopefully, this sensor that is lower in resolution than previous models will react better. The back-illuminated technology will also help by allowing more light onto each photosite, but our noise test will give the definite answer.

No expense has been spared on the screen incorporating a 921,000 dot RGBW TFT LCD screen which can even be used in direct sunlight. One big upgrade over the previous S9700 model is that the screen is now a vari-angle model, which is perfect for shooting movies, over the heads of a crowd and of course for those all-important selfies.

As we mentioned earlier, the S9900 sits on the Style side of the fence, but it's also very close to the Performance series. Because of this intimacy with both ranges, the S9900 has a mixture of lazy modes and performance enhancing features. On the top plate, you'll find the power switch and shutter release with a small finger-operated switch that operates that massive zoom range.

Situated to the left of the shutter release on the shoulder of the Nikon Coolpix S9900 is a Shooting Mode dial. It has the usual easy to use modes, such as Auto, Scenes, Smart portrait and Short Movie, but also holds the manual PASM modes. New to the S9900 is a dedicated command dial, which in conjunction with the rear navigation wheel makes it easier than ever to use the manual shooting modes.

On the opposite side to the Command dial is a pop-up flash that sits very high when opened via the dedicated switch. That's great for avoiding red-eye. However, it uses so many different joints to collapse down into the unit – which you have to do manually – it's like trying to get a cat into a bath; it's possible, but you'll have to wrestle a bit. The top of the camera also holds the WiFi and GPS unit above the lens.

The GPS button on the left flank of the S9900 displays a map of the World and allows you to not only log your photo's locations, but also track where you're going. Fantastic for travellers and that's exactly who the S9900 is aimed at, especially as it now utilises GPS/GLONASS/QZSS satellite tracking to provide highly accurate longitude and latitude data.

The S9900 also offers built-in wi-fi and NFC connectivity, with the former accessed via a button on the rear of the camera, and the latter simply by tapping the S9900 against another NFC-enabled device. The wi-fi options are a little basic - you can only connect or upload to a smart device - but they do at least make it easier to share your photos.

The main menu system changes depending on the shooting mode that you're currently in. It has the usual layout of three sections with the primary menus tabbed down the left side. The centre section shows what each tab can offer, while the right side shows the current setting for that option. Pressing right drills into the menu and allows you to make any changes. The colour scheme is light grey on the centre section with dark grey surround and a yellow highlighter. Those colours may not sound appealing, but they work nicely and the menu is very easy to see and use. The five tabs on the left are for the mode you're currently in, Video modes, WiFi, GPS and the Set-up menu.

Start up time from the off position to being switched on, focused and a photo taken is 1.8sec which is a good performance. There are two continuous shooting modes; High and Low. The first is a burst mode that rapidly fires off five high resolution pictures in just over half a second. It works out at roughly 8fps (frames per second). Slightly higher than the 6.9fps on the Nikon website, so that's pretty good. You do have to allow for human error, though, so keep an open mind. It takes a total of 10 seconds to download the pictures as well.

In Low mode, the camera takes pictures at a much slower rate. We got 16 pictures in eight seconds before the camera stopped to download. That's roughly 2fps and it took the camera up to 43 seconds to download and be ready to shoot again. This was going through the Nikon EXPEED C2 processor and writing onto a Class 4 Micro SD card in an adapter. The speed of the card will affect the write speed, so you may see a slight increase with a faster variation in.

In playback, the pictures will be displayed full size with some basic information that will disappear after a few seconds. Should you take a photo that you wish you'd added a digital effect to, you can press OK at this stage and add it on after. The added bonus is that the S9900 saves that as a separate file on the memory card, preserving the original. The layout of the Playback menu is the same as when you're shooting. However, there's a slight variation in the inclusion of the Mode tab.

The Playback modes are usually in a separate menu which is accessed via the Playback button. On the Nikon Coolpix S9900, doing that takes you back to the shooting screen. The Video menu has been replaced with the full Playback menu which allows you to amend the pictures with some basic editing via the Quick retouch, D-Lighting, Red-eye correction or Glamour retouch options. There's also provision to amend the print order, create a slide-show to thrill your family and friends of your travelling adventures.

In the box you'll find a rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL12, Charging AC Adapter EH-71P4, USB Cable UC-E21, and a Camera Strap. Battery life is around 300 shots, pretty good for this class of camera, although we don't like the fact that you can now only charge the battery in-camera.


Canon EOS M3 review

Canon overhauls its compact system camera with a much faster AF system - the EOS M3 is super quick

Amateur Photography - Canon hasn’t exactly made waves in the compact system camera market, not having released anything in Europe since the original EOS M in 2012. The M2 was limited to Japan too, meaning there was nothing outside of the company’s DSLR range in terms of interchangeable lenses. That changed earlier this month when Canon revealed the EOS M3, a major upgrade over the original model.

The EOS M's major undoing was its woeful AF performance, but Canon says the M3 is up to six times faster. It was certainly rapid during our hands-on time with the camera at the Photography Show in Birmingham this weekend, locking and re-locking focus with the speed we would expect from a high-end CSC. With that concern out of the way, we can move onto more headline-worthy specs: inside the camera a 24-megapixel APS-C sensor is capable of ISO 100-12,800 shooting, extendable to ISO 25,600, while the Hybrid CMOS III autofocus system provides 49 AF points across a 384-zone metering system.

That's essentially on par with some of Canon's entry-level digital SLRs, and the refined design means controls and usability give the larger cameras a run for their money too. A chunky grip on one side gives you something to hold onto firmly while still putting the important controls within easy reach. A command dial, dual control dials, and a touchscreen mean all the important settings are easily accessed. It feels like a premium product too, with none of the cheap plastics we remember from the original EOS M.

There's no electronic viewfinder, which may disappoint some. The way you hold the camera made us raise it to our eye on more than one occasion, so an optional external EVF may be a must-have addition for enthusiast photographers. You can also use the standard hot shoe mount to add a more powerful flash if the built-in one isn't strong enough. It can be tilted, however, to bounce light when shooting indoors.

The 3in display tilts both upwards and downwards, for up to 180-degree shooting - essentially the ideal selfie situation. It's an unavoidable fact of life that manufacturers have to add these modes in order to appeal to the smartphone crowd, but they can at least prove useful for creative shooting if the idea of selfies sends you batty.

Despite the compact dimensions, Canon has still found room for integrated Wi-Fi and NFC for quick smartphone pairing. The companion app lets you transfer photos from camera to phone, upload directly to social networks, or control the shutter remotely.

n addition to compatibility with the 11-22mm f/4-5.6, 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6, 55-200mm f.4.5-6.3 and 22mm f/2 prime EF-M lenses, Canon expects a significant number of users to invest in an EF adapter and use their existing EF lenses. That would certainly give it an advantage over the likes of Sony, Fuji and Samsung in terms of lens variety, particularly if you’re already invested in the Canon ecosystem.

Video isn't exactly the focus for the M3, but support is still fairly reasonable, with touch AF support for quick, quiet refocusing and Full HD video recording at up to 30fps.

The EOS M3 is a revelation compared to the original EOS M. Canon has clearly focused on what the EOS M struggled with and the result is a much more user-friendly camera. It feels very similar to some of Canon's premium compacts, but the addition of interchangeable lenses could be a turning point for customers. We'll have to wait to see final image quality samples and deliver a final verdict, but we're excited to put it up against the Micro Four Thirds and CSC competition.

Canon customers that are eager for a competent CSC won’t have long to wait; the EOS M3 will be arriving in the UK from April with a bundled 18-55mm kit lens, with prices expected to start around £650. We’ll be taking a closer look in order to bring you a full review nearer the official launch.

Panasonic Lumix GF7 review

Panasonic's tiny GF7 interchangeable lens compact squeezes in a surprising number of features

Amateur Photography - The Lumix GF camera range was once the starting point for interchangeable lens compacts, but now that Panasonic has the tiny Lumix GM1 there were few reasons to step up to the almost two-year-old Lumix GF6. That changed in January when the company introduced the GF7, a successor with a smaller body and selfie-friendly flip-up touchscreen display.

The GF7 is available to buy now, but seeing as we hadn't actually put one through its paces yet, we made sure to take a look when visiting the Panasonic stand at this year's Photography Show in Birmingham, in order to get some first impressions.

Looking at the GF7 side-by-side with the GF6 shows just how far the range has come in a single generation. The GF7 borrows more styling from the GM1 and enthusiast-level Lumix GX7 than it does from GF models gone by, with retro-inspired looks, silver metal trim and a choice of colours. It's also a lot smaller; you'll still struggle to squeeze it into a pocket, even with the 12-32mm kit lens locked in its travel position, but it doesn't weigh very much and won't weigh down your camera bag.

The mixture of metals and plastics are a clear indicator that Panasonic has built this camera to meet a specific price, but it doesn't feel cheap. You still get a built-in flash, and the lack of buttons on the back of the body aren't really an issue on account of the wonderful 3in touchscreen display. It is clear, responsive and, of course, able to flip up 180-degrees for those all important selfies. You can't flip it down or to the side, however, which may limit your creativity when it comes to more extreme angles. Naturally there's no EVF, given the size of the camera.

Panasonic hasn't skimped in terms of connectivity, with both Wi-Fi and NFC for quickly pairing a smartphone. We've used Panasonic's Image Ap frequently in the past and it works just as well here, letting you download photos wirelessly to your phone or control the camera remotely. There's no GPS built into the camera, but you can geotag your photos using your phone instead.

A pop-out flash is a welcome addition for low light shooting, but there's no hot shoe for adding a more powerful flash at a later date.

Underneath all the connectivity and features, the GF7 is still a very competent CSC. A 16-megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor, Venus image processor, 200-25600 ISO range and 23-AF points are essentially a match for the rest of Panasonic's Four Thirds cameras, so image quality should be on par with the likes of the GF6 and GM1 (depending on which lens you opt for).

Unsurprisingly there's a fully automatic mode on the mode dial, as Panasonic is aiming the GF7 at photographers making the leap from a fixed lens compact. There are several fun modes and effects too, but more advanced users will appreciate ASM modes and full control over ISO, shutter, aperture and other settings.

The Lumix GF7 is available to buy now for around £429, putting it in direct competition with the Samsung NX Mini, Olympus Pen E-PL7 and Sony's A5100. We'll have to wait until we give it the full review treatment to see how well it stacks up to its rivals, but based on a short play with it at the Photography Show it certainly has potential, particularly if you're after a very compact CSC that's designed with amateurs as well as enthusiasts in mind.

Nikon D7200 review

The D7200 upgrades Nikon's APS-C workhorse with NFC, Wi-Fi and improved low-light shooting

Amateur Photography - The D7100 has been Nikon's enthusiast-level camera of choice for the past few years, but it was beginning to show its age in terms of connectivity, even in a field where manufacturers prefer to focus on pixel counts and burst speeds than Wi-Fi. A successor, the D7200, was announced earlier this month and the Photography Show in Birmingham was our first chance to get our hands on one.

The D7200 isn't a major upgrade over the D7100, but rather a refinement; it adds Wi-Fi and NFC for quick pairing to a smartphone, 60p video recording and a 15% battery life improvement. Otherwise, the specifications should sound familiar to D7100 owners, with a 24.2-megapixel APS-C sensor with no optical low-pass filter, 51-point AF system and EXPEED 4 image processor, all wrapped up in a weather-sealed magnesium alloy body.

That sensor is capable of ISO 100-25,600 shooting at up to 6fps (7fps in 1.3x crop mode). Expanded ISO modes are limited to black and white photography only. Burst speeds remain unchanged from the D7100, but Nikon has expanded the camera's buffer over the outgoing model for longer continuous bursts, meaning 27 RAW exposures or 100 JPEGs. This should make it an ideal camera for shooting fast-moving subjects - especially when paired with a 1/8000s maximum shutter speed. The AF points are now sensitive down to -3EV, which should help low light shooting. The D7100 was limited to -2EV. Unfortunately we weren't able to give this a proper test on the Photography Show floor, so we'll have to wait for a full review to pass final judgment.

In terms of design, little has changed here from the D7100. There are still plenty of buttons and dials on the front, top, and rear of the body, with an LCD display on the top for quickly checking shooting settings. Most of the buttons are within easy reach of your right hand, although the playback button is still squeezed in on the left, making it difficult to reach. As we've come to expect from Nikon's dSLR range, the mode dial locks automatically to prevent accidental changes, but it's still tricky to adjust one-handed.

The 3.2in, 1.2m dot LCD display on the back of the camera is completely fixed, which is a little disappointing but arguably not a surprise; Canon's rival 7D Mk II has a fixed display as well. It looked sharp and was bright enough to see clearly indoors, although we'll have to take one outside to see how it copes with direct sunlight.

Build quality was easily on par with the D7100, and although we found it comfortable to hold others have complained that the grip is a little small given the size and weight of the camera. At 765g without a lens, it's certainly not lightweight but feels reassuringly hefty with a high-quality piece of glass attached.

Video performance has been improved over the D7100 with 1080p 60fps recording, although only when the camera is set to 1.3x crop mode. Two new picture modes, Flat and Clarity, can be used with live view, and ISO sensitivity can be set to automatic when shooting in manual mode. A Zebra stripe highlight display helps confirm exposure and the built-in stereo microphone is a welcome addition as well, although naturally the hot shoe mount means you can add an external mic if you need clearer audio.

The D7200 has a lot to live up to, as the outgoing model is arguably the most desirable Nikon dSLR before you make the leap to full-frame, but we walked away from our early hands-on impressed. Wi-Fi and NFC will be welcome additions for nature photographers and the improved low-light shooting is a major bonus too.

It will be going on sale later this month, with UK prices expected to start around £940 for a body-only camera or £1,120 with the optional 18-105mm VR kit lens. We're hoping to have a full review in the next few weeks, so be sure to check back if you're looking for a new digital SLR.