A year or so ago I had a play with the Samsung NX10 and was unimpressed. Sure it had a sensor that most full-on DSLRs would be proud of, but it just didn’t wow me. DPReview called it “a good start”.
Now, Samsung have released the NX100. On paper it seems incredibly similar to the NX10. The same APS-C sensor, the same lens mount, similar size. But the difference feels like f2 compared to f22. The NX100 loses a built-in flash compared to the NX10, but overall it’s faster, easier to use, nicer to look at, and just lovely.
I really only had a few days to play with it, but it takes nice shots and the range of tweaks and functions would suit most pro-am photographers. The i-Function lens is a neat addition: press the iFn button on the lens, and the focus ring becomes a control that you can use to dial in changes to shutter, aperture, exposure, and other camera settings. Heaps easier than fiddly buttons on the back of the camera.
You can get i-Function lenses as a 20mm f2.8 prime, or a 20-50mm utility lens. The NX100 also fits all of the existing NX mount lenses if you have any.
RRP is a spendy $1,099, but if you want something more compact than a DSLR with many of the same qualities, it could be a good fit.
Pocket video cameras are the device du jour for the YouTube generation. Wired Magazine saw fit to write an entire article based on the little beasts. Forging against the trend of ultra hi-def 300x zoom handycams with capacious memory, these pocket cameras take the approach that a nasty little CMOS sensor will do just fine, most certainly if you want to upload video of your kids to YouTube, rather than watch it on a 50 inch HD television.
While they look very similar on the surface, philosophically, the Flip Mino HD and the JVC Picsio GC-FM1 pocket cameras are different beasts. They both take “HD video” (720p for the Flip and a bastardised 1080p for the JVC). They both fit in your pocket. They both come with software for your PC that can upload video direct to YouTube.
So let’s skip the basics and get down to the differences:
The Flip camera – the progenitor of the pocket video camera revolution – eschews all dongles and baubles, and focuses on the purpose of taking basic video. The FM1 on the other hand appears to be a descendant of JVC’s existing camcorder lineup, and therefore retains some of the functionality demanded by markedroids: stills, removable memory, HDMI out. You’d perhaps think that the extra features of the FM1 make it a better camera. I’m not so sure.
To start with, you’ll need to purchase a large SDHC card on top of the FM1 price before you can do anything at all. That’s going to add at least $50 to the price. And we can discount the still photo option as nothing more than a gimmick. There’s no way the stills from the FM1 are going to displace anything but the cheapest, nastiest point-and-shoot digital camera. Call me picky, but the addition of the stills mode and multiple video resolutions just makes the FM1 more difficult to use than the Flip. I want to take video, not fiddle with settings.
And then there is the software.
Flip have taken the time to construct a gorgeous, simple little application in Flipshare. It is a pleasure to use, and just works. You can edit up short videos, add backing music (I’ve used one of their tracks in my comparison video below), and upload the results direct to YouTube. I was pleasantly surprised that the application quite happily undertook several processes at the same time, namely rendering a video whilst uploading a different video to YouTube.
JVC have opted to use a scouring pad on my eyeballs, instead of including software with their device. Ok so that’s not entirely true, but the MediaBrowser LE package might as well be a torture device. It is horrible to look at, difficult to use, and not a patch on Flipshare.
Additionally, when you connect the FM1 to your PC, it presents not one, but three drives. As an engineer, I can understand they’ve separated internal memory, SD memory, and the software installer; but as a user, I don’t really give a crap. Compare these two explorer trees, and tell me where to find my videos:
Flip Mino HD
JVC Picsio FM1
Yes OK, but REALLY, what does it all mean?
Regardless of my opinion on how the devices look and behave, the proof is in the pudding. Apparently. So here’s your pudding, re-compressed down to 720p (watch it in HD). Parental advisory: may cause piña colada:
The JVC has more pixels to work with, but on the indoor shots it’s fairly obvious to me that it is over saturated and having trouble with noise. For the record, that cloth on the ornament table at 00:15 is not dark red. The colour shown by the Flip is much more accurate.
Both cameras suffer horribly from “rolling shutter”, visible at 01:00, but there’s nothing you’re going to do to improve that on these pocket cameras. I could be biased, but it does look like the Flip deals with it a little better.
What it all means:
We’re still waiting on official New Zealand pricing, but I’m guessing the Flip Mino HD is going to be cheaper, or most certainly not a vatload more than the JVC. As Chris mentioned in the comments, Noel Leeming has jumped the gun and is advertising the Flip at $349. So, unless you want something that takes kinda noisy, over-saturated video, my choice would be the Flip Mino HD.
Just give it to me raw!
For those of you interested in the raw file output of the devices, here are the links to download the first segment of the video (outdoor, movement).
I don’t know where to go with this. Every other review I read tells me that the LX3 is superior in most aspects to the Canon G10. It’s smaller and lighter (265g vs the chunky 390g G10), shoots wider (24mm vs 28), and has a faster lens (f2.0 vs f2.8).
The LX3 does low-light a bit better than the G10, because of both the f2.0 lens and the lower pixel count. They’re relatively on-par at base ISO, but if you do have to push the ISO up higher to capture the right shot, you’re better off with the LX3.
The LX3 is also absolutely gorgeous to look at – it puts me in mind of the old rangefinder cameras, and even has an optional leather case that really looks the part. It’s spoiled a bit by the protruding lens when you turn it on, but nothing horrific. The flash tucks away tidily when not in use, and also won’t turn on automatically when you have it closed. This is a Good Thing when you want to grab nice low-light images without the flash.
Despite all this, I just enjoyed the G10 more. There’s nothing that the G10 does that the LX3 can’t do: ISO, manual controls, exposure compensation. The difference is that the G10’s controls – the individual dials on top and the scrollwheel – make it so much easier to access those settings. It makes me want to take different photos, whereas with the LX3 I was tempted to leave it in auto mode. Who knows, maybe the LX3 takes better shots on auto, but it just feels like I have more invested in producing photos from the G10.
Short and sweet, but that’s about it. If you’re a stickler for photo quality over resolution, go study the charts at DPReview.com and make up your mind. If you want to have fun and a bit of knob twiddling, go the G10.
Digital cameras are perhaps the worst example of consumerist segmentation for the sake of it. On this page alone I count 25 current model digital compact cameras. Considering other brands and previous models, you have something like 300 cameras to choose from if you want to purchase a digital compact camera today. I imagine the selection of a camera from the middle of this range is purely random. Perhaps based on the colour, a special of the day, or the pushyness of a salesman.
If instead you select the “top” camera in the range, you can at least be sure that there are no compromises to make the camera fit into a “segment”. What you’ll find are switches and menus for every aspect of picture control, sometimes lifted directly from the DSLR range of the same brand. You’ll also get some interesting additions like extended ISO range or even a built-in neutral density filter.
In this two-part series, I’m going to look at two of the least disputed kings of compact: the Canon G10 and the Panasonic LX3. Both aim to compromise as little as possible while still keeping a reasonable size and internal lens. First up is the G10. Continue reading Canon G10 [High-End Compact Cameras Part 1]
The Nikon D90 is a camera, apparently. I found it very easy to use, and I’m not even a regular Nikon guy. I love the way almost every feature has a dedicated button, and I could even get used to the idea of aperture and shutter being on dedicated dials.
I like the way the active AF points are highlighted. A large square is shown around the active points. This is in comparison to the Canon approach where the active points are lit up in red. The Nikon approach is much more visible. I did find the AF motor quite noisy though, which might be a problem if you’re recording video. Correction: you can’t autofocus when recording video, so AF noise won’t be a problem!
The size and weight are great for a prosumer camera. Not heavy enough to give you pain in the arm, but chunky enough to feel sturdy and stable. The grip is perfect for my manly hands.
The D90 has a neat party trick: it can record 720p high-definition video. Video will become more common in SLR cameras, but at the moment there are only a couple of cameras that can do it. Combining video with SLR optics can give you quite special videos. Sadly things can go a bit wobbly with the D90 if you pan the camera too quickly. So ironically the D90 video is best suited to static scenes.
More generally, modern DSLRs are raising the bar so high, so quickly, that we can sneak out shots that would normally take years of practice and training. The D90 is cut from the same silicone. With the range of settings, the limitless storage (memory chips are as cheap as – well – chips), and 4.5 full frames per second, you can just set the camera to exposure bracket and whale away on the trigger like a guerilla with an AK47. Grab yourself a copy of Adobe Lightroom for some post-processing fun, and I’ll guarantee you’ll find at least one amazing shot on that memory card.
I have of course completely ruined my ability to review DSLR cameras by starting with a full-frame beast. Even with the D90 being well under half the price of the Canon 5D Mark II, I can’t help but feel a twinge of sadness when I see noise on my photos at ISO 1600. I’m being horrendously unreasonable of course. The cameras aren’t in the same class, the noise from the D90 is barely noticeable, and the adjustable built-in flash means you’re hardly ever going to need that high ISO setting. If you have the money and you really need to take those lovely, clean, candlelit shots with a Nikon, you’ll want to look at Nikon’s incredible D700.
Of course, as I’ve said previously, if you want to get your camera-nerd-on to the break-o-dawn, you need to visit DPReview.com. You’ll find their D90 review, weighing in at no less than thirty-freaking-seven pages, right about here. See you in a couple of days.
Overall, if you’re in the market for a mid-range SLR camera, and unless you have a pile of lenses from a different manufacturer, it would be difficult not to choose the D90. The quality of the D90 coupled with the nifty video mode is enough to put it at the head of the class.
This is what they call a “lightning review” in the business. I’m not going to get into the nitty gritty specifics on the cameras, because quite frankly I’m not an expert. I’m using these things as they’d be used in the wild: pick it up, turn it on, and film some stuff.
All three cameras have a variant on the fully automatic option. The Canon has a nice button labeled ‘Easy’ that lights up blue when you press it. Sony also has an ‘Easy’ button, that amusingly pops up a message on screen saying ‘Easy Handycam Operation OFF’ when you disable it. The Panasonic has their ‘Intelligent Auto’ mode button labeled ‘iA’. In the test below I made sure those buttons were on in all cases.
All three camcorders are within a couple of hundred (New Zealand) dollars of each other, with the Canon at $1,999, the Sony at $2,099 and the Panasonic probably a touch over that. The Sony races away on the storage front, with a big 120GB hard drive, and has a nifty built-in GPS receiver, but unforunately falls down on the quality stakes.
I set the recording quality to be as close as possible to each other, which in all cases was around the 16Mbps AVCHD mode. What struck me with these cameras was that they are all actually very technical to use, even for me. It’s possibly because I’m not much of a video guy (he’s got a face for radio) but if you want to do anything more than shoot video and watch it back on the TV, there is a serious learning curve around formats, bitrates, and editing software.
Still, the basics seem to work ok. Turn on the camera (the Sony does this automatically when you open the screen, which is nice), aim, and hit the record button. Here are the results (including me tripping on a stray Thomas the Tank Engine on the floor). Make sure you click the ‘HD’ option on the video to get the best result.
Beyond the basics, here’s where I feel the pros and cons lie with each camera:
Lovely image quality and great sound
‘Auto’ mode seems most competent
Lots of options for stills (Shutter and Aperture priotrity), but then I wasn’t testing still shots at all.
Best low-light response of the bunch, but still noisy.
External mic input.
No touch-screen, joystick can be fiddly
Small and cramped text on-screen, confusing menus
Lovely image quality, surround sound
Most comfortable to hold out of the three, and the body has less ‘fiddly bits’ on it.
Menus are really clear and easy to use
Only 16GB of built in memory
No expansion shoe or external mic input
Huge 120GB storage
Really excellent image stabilisation
Built-in GPS, and the geo-location software is actually really easy to use.
Lowest image quality of the three, but still HD!
Menu buttons are tiny and sometimes hard to press.
I tend to use my still camera to shoot the odd video, rather than carry a dedicated video camera. But, if I was forced to pick one of these three cameras to use as an everyday video camera, I’d probably end up going with the Panasonic. The image quality difference is not that discernable from the Canon, and it is heaps easier to just pick up and use. However, if I was more of a video guy, I might take some more time to read the Canon user manual, learn all the tricky settings, and end up with better video. The Sony has some great features, but it just can’t seem to cut the mustard in terms of quality compared to the other two. Sony’s upcoming new EXMOR sensor (not in the model I reviewed) is meant to be the proverbial shizzle, so that could be worth looking at when it comes out.
Interesting camera. The high-speed movie modes are really fun to play with, and the 20x zoom is a useful addition that helps with framing difficult shots. It?s really hard to do this camera justice when I have the other two cameras (below) to use at the same time.
The FH20 has an 8mm sensor like most compact cameras, which means that no matter how good the optics and other aspects of the camera are, the resulting images are never going to compete with an SLR.
I think it?s a good point-and-shoot with excellent video capabilities. The slow-mo would be great for sports or action fans. The camera runs on 4AA batteries which is good: you can use rechargeable batteries most of the time but can also grab some alkalines in a pinch.
Others have stated correctly that spending the same money on either a still camera or a video camera would get you a better version of each, but then you?d be spending twice the amount to get maybe 1.2 times better imagery.
This is just a gorgeous little camera. The larger sensor and interchangeable lenses take it well out of the compact camera camp and on par with other entry-level SLRs.
The menus can be a little confusing at times, and it is a curious to see which controls Panasonic has promoted to dedicated buttons (Film Type for example), but all the basic camera controls fall to hand pretty well. Once you get the hang of it, it becomes very quick to change ISO, metering, and the traditional shutter/aperture/exposure settings.
The results from my basic testing are very nice. The larger sensor helps to reduce the level of noise at higher ISO settings, and provides some great detail. Click for big versions:
If you compare the Epic Beer photo to the one from the 5D below, you can see how the bigger aperture on the 5D provides a much more dramatic depth-of-field effect. The background in the G1 shot is blurred, but nowhere near as much as the 5D one.
Wow. Just: Wow. I could go into detail about this camera, but I?ll let it speak for itself with photos taken by myself (with about 2 months SLR experience), and my brother (with about 2 years SLR experience). Click the photos for huge-sized versions.
My original hypothesis was that even $6500 worth of camera and lens was not going to help an amateur photographer do anything better. I could not have been more incorrect. The shots from the 5D blow the other cameras out of the water by a considerable margin.
As usual, I?m more than happy to take questions on the cameras. Just leave a comment and I?ll answer.