Sony RX-100 First review and accessories

Just got this and had an hour to use. Man it is a nice product but the opposite of Apple. Literally nothing is in the box. Here is what you need

  1. Extra battery. The thing charges from the camera itself and with 300 or so shots, it needs an extra battery as the thing isn’t usable while charging. It is nice that it is just micro USB though so funky chargers needed. If you are willing to go with third party batteries, you can get two for $20 plus a charger vs. $40 for a single Sony battery. Bower batteries actualy have 1800 mAh compared with the 1240 of Sony. The charger by the way is just a USB charger, so not really super valuable. The Bower battery is $8.80 each. As an aside I try to buy what I can from Newegg.com, those guys are my heroes (fighting patent trolls!).
  2. Aegis costs $28 but is an actual piece of glass vs. plastic, so seems like a smarter idea.
  3. Clear Viewer. It is $58 and probably not really needed, but I find the position of the camera is just so washed out in the bright sunlight.
  4. Really Right Stuff BPnS-S plate. This is a small Arca-Swiss compatible plate for those times when you need a tripod (for taking videos for instance).

I’ve been trying this thing for a while and wow, it has pretty amazing quality. The dpreview.com benchmarks show that it has about 2600 lph with a maximum of 3600. This is about 70% of the maximum, so it delivers effectively 10 megapixels in a good high light scenario. That is pretty good quality given that a micro-4/3 is giving about 12 megapixels in the average case. I can see why people like it. Also, the jpeg processing isn’t bad although it does do RAW as well.

I did some looks at the raw output with DxO and there is definitely lots of lense distortion at 28mm effective which the jpegs are processing out. All and all a nice point and shoot and it does fit (barely) into my pocket.

Large sensor compacts

Now that my personal list of cameras is settling down to the Sony Nex 7 (updating soon) and Fuji X-E1, I’m wondering about a true compact camera with a very wide angle Lense. A perfect camera for low light and high performance but potentially simpler and smaller.

Here are some choices. All of these can use the eyefi to wirelessly transmit images. Ming Thien has done a great job of doing some of these reviews and has a goodoverview:

  • Sony RX-1. At $3k not exactly cheap but it is a full frame 24 mp sensor with a 35mm f/2 Lense. Heck you could nearly take landscapes in the dark with it!
  • Nikon Coolpix A is a aps-c compact with a 18.5mm f/2.8 Lense (28mm equivalent) which is . $1100. When mated with the $60 WU-1a, it transmits a photo to any android device over wifi. Ming Thien has done a nice review covering the issues. The high price at $1,100, the slow autofocus and the relatively slow lense
  • Ricoh Gr-1. This is a potentially quite interesting camera
  • Sony RX-1. I don’t know if should even mention this as it has an astronomical nearly $3k price for a fixed lense full frame sensor.

Canon 5d2 settings

I keep forgetting settings but for my canon 5d2, I shoot in raw to get the extra two stops of dynamic range. This means that

  • automatic light optimization I leave off since it doesn’t affect raw
  • highlight tone priority shoots at a lower iso by on stop and then brightens digitally. So an iso 200 shot is actually taken at iso 100 and then shadows are brightened. I don’t use this as the camera is relatively noisy already so pushing dark means more noise at least in theory. For newer cameras like the fuji xe-1 this can work really well as it is so low noise which is why they implement this for up to two stops. So an iso400 shot is really iso 100 and then I camera brightened.
  • picture styles only apply tomjoeg but set as faithful so the histogram a which are based in jpeg in camera are accurate v

Upcoming cameras

My canon 5d2 died today. Sad. Too much rain during a shoot. Reminds me that I have to figure out weather protection for cameras. Still it has served loyally. Hopefully a simple repair.

But means the urgency to get a backup camera has never been bigger. So onto figuring what I can buy given product cycles:

NEX-9 and NEX-7n. The NEX-7 is prrtty incredible. Buy rumor is the NEX-7n gets announce in the next month or so. Faster 24 megapixel and an amazing 3MP viewfinder in store. The NEX-9 is supposed to be a $3k mirrorless full frame. How cool is that. Like the RX-1 but with changeable lenses!

Camera buying guide (updated)

Well it is getting close to buying a camera with the goal of getting to 90% of the image quality of a 5d2 while being ultralight and shooting In continuous AF for HD video. Here are the choices in order…along with the limitations. We need to study the else availability of lenses. All of these move to electronic viewfinders by the way but having tried the Samsung and the Fuji, that doesn’t look like too much of a problem anymore except when doing high speed sports shooting where the evf isn’t able to keep up. Technically the best camera out right now for stills is the fuji XE-1 but we will have to see how the Sony nex-7n does given it shares lenses with uber cool dedicated video cameras and the e mount can handle older canon lenses.

Just added some more review information.

  1. NEX-7n. The nex-6 is amazing but the next nex-7n is coming with a 24mp sensor and the older nex-6 gets good quality and low noise even at Iso 800-1600 and the Lense choices are getting better. Still need some fast f/2.8 or faster zooms but the cameras are amazing. Wirecutter has a good list of lenses. The only super zoom is a 70-200 F/3.5-6.3 or you can use an adapter to put a full frame Lense on it. The 35mm f/1.8 or the Zeiss 24mm (if you can afford it!) seems like the right just use it all the time in image quality. And in terms of compatibility if you are not shooting sports, then you can use the Metabones Canon NEX adapter is a good way to use all the Canon glass and very useful if you get a dedicated NEX video camera and although it can’t autofocus very fast, it does increase speed by a full stop so you would want to use the native lenses for sport and this for landscape or stills. The main drawback is that while the nex-6 with its 16mp sensor has noise equivalent to my old 5d2, the nex-7 is noisier with 24mp crammed into an aps-c sized sensor
  2. Fuji XE-1. This is a little brother of then X1-Pro. the main issues had been nonstandard X-Trans sensor (but RAW convertors are catching up and it internal JPEG processing is very good) and slow AF which their new focusing algorithm seems to have helped so it makes it a good contender. But the image resolution (no anti aliasing filter) is incredible with their proprietary sensor 16MP sensor and low noise. Its noise at marked iso 6400 (actually about iso 4000) equals a 5d2 at iso 400! And resolution wise, its unique sensor is more equivalent to the 24mp nex-7. The only remaining drawback is that Fuji is a very small niche player and it not really competitive in taking movies. Lensewise, there are only five dedicated lenses. The kit 18-55mm f/2.8-4 ois is excellent and the 35mm f/1.4 is the night time lense and they just shipped a 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8 ois with a 10-24mm f4 wide zoom coming at some point so that gives you a minimum set although these aren’t particularly fast but with improve sensitivity of the body that might be less of an issue. It also has amazing dynamic range with its dr400 process that shoots at lower iso by 2 stops then brightens digitally to retains the highlights. There are some issues with how Fuji is managing their raw in camera processing. Some are saying they might be image processing at the raw level. See results for the similar Fuji x100s
  3. Samsung NX300. Maturing rapidly and it is large sensor and requires all new lenses and is going to 3D video and for the first time has phase detection for full time autofocus. No reviews yet of this as it was just announced. And of course one side benefit is that Samsung is a very healthy large company.
  4. Olympus O-MD MD5. This is the most mature Lense set but it is a small sensor so has the most noise in low light. And of course there is the financial troubles there.

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Canon EOS M review and analysis of Camera platforms.

Canon EOS M review: was Canon’s first mirrorless ILC worth the four-year wait? — Engadget. Well, the EOS M is a long time in coming and a long way late. I’m somewhat sad that the latest Canon release (6D, 5D3) have been relatively lackluster compared with all the exciting things happening. Here’s a review summary that shows autofocus is the biggest issue for the camera and we will have to see more reviews to make a final decision.

  • It ships October 22 for $800 for this 18 MP compact ILC with 31 autofocus points including a 22mm STM F/1.2 pancake lense ย and you want it in professional black given its feel not the plastic colors ๐Ÿ™‚
  • On the plus side is that it works full frame against any EF lenses and the image quality looks very good as does low light performance. Those are pretty important things. Also they have continuous autofocus while taking videos which is pretty cool (the biggest missing features for amateurs like ourselves when shooting video on the 5D2).
  • The big negative are the controls as it is a touchscreen without dials which a pro really likes as you don’t have to look away. As an aside, DPreview disagrees on the interface and says the touchscreen is actually pretty good.
  • And they have really slow autofocus, maybe technical but perhaps a marketing decision (not super surprising given the crippling we’ve seen in the 6D and the 5D3). Seems like they are optimizing for their own product line rather than the rest of the marketing. Sad. Fuji fixed this in firmware, the big question is, will Canon do that.

Right now the way to look at cameras is to think of platforms. That is there is the Canon EF lense, the Nikon lense, the Sony E-mount and the Micro-4/3 lenses. So this EOS M, a compact camera using EF lenses fits in this. You want to essentially bet on the lenses first as they are the long lived thing and then have the appropriate body designed for the purpose. So there is the professional level video camcorder, the professional level dSLR and then a compact camera for travel to carry everywhere.

The way to think about it stack-ranked in my humble opinion order if I were buying today as a prosumer camera guy who wants one system to cover pro-still camera, pro video and pro compact camera:

  1. Sony E-mount. Well, with Photokina over, this sure looks like the platform to beat in the long term. At the very high end, you have their SLT like of dSLRs, then for pro video, they have their NEX video line and at the compact side, the NEX-6 series. Plus Hasselbad has thrown in with them and as the biggest holder in beleaguered Olympus, you’ve got to believe there will long term be a flip there. It will take some time to mature, but if you already own Canon or Nikon, I’d be thinking about life extension of current stuff until this becomes clearer. If you have to buy now, then the new SLT-A99 looks good but wait for reviews and the NEX-6 looks terrific if you can get around the user interface. These are all full frame 35mm equivalent lenses which is terrific and 24 megapixels.
  2. Micro-4/3. Thanks to Rennie, he pointed out that right at this moment, they have the most lenses and it works great despite being a small sensor. Olympus OM-MD5 looks like a great choice for still and the Panasonice GH-3 for video. The system to get if you have to have the most selection right now.
  3. Nikon. They are doing a great job. The D800/D600 are great cameras. The D600 full frame looks to be just awesome. Their pro video and also compact offerings are definitely weaker as the 1-series isn’t really a prosumer compact.
  4. Canon. Sad, but they are falling behind with the C100 so expensive for pro video and the 5D Mark III being super expensive with little features compared with exiting 5D2 and the 6D being so primitive. The main thing here is life extension of the lenses which would fall mainly to the EOS-M for compact and the Blackmagic for pro video.
  5. Fuji. These are the wonderful dark horses. Reminds me of Saab and Volvo in the last century. Charming but they do special wonderful things. In particularly, their Foveon sensor is pretty amazing with extremely low noise and a focus on professionals. These are really just for the compact camera area, but kind of a wonderful niche offering. A good choice if you love cameras and don’t need to minimize the lenses you have. Their biggest negative in the bodes, slow autofocus looks like they may have fixed this in firmware. The X1-Pro is absolute huge by the way for a compact camera, so you want to see it in real life, the Olympus E-M5 is much smaller.

In summary, I’d say if you can wait and have Canon EF lenses, wait to see if the professional reviews from dpreview.com are the same as this quick Engadget one. If it is acceptable, then it is a good midlife kicker for Canon EF lenses. Otherwise, wait for the review of Sony’s new line, but this could be the year where it is time to migrate gradually to Sony. First get an NEX-6, get a video camera and collect some lenses and then when your old Canon dSLR gives out, sell the lenses on eBay and get a SLT.

Interchangeable Lense Cameras

Now that I’ve got my Nikon envy out of the way or at least feeling not so dumb, time to figure out what to get for a really compact camera and also for video. This was just updated for the new Canon M series and here is the stack ranked list of cameras. Also reminds me that if this is the right then I can feel ok investing in more canon lenses and things like their gps receiver GPE-2 GPS.

I’ll post links later but after studio dpreview quite a bit. There are two conclusions and a realization that the ultimate compact nearly but not quite here. Most of these are not really shirt pocket, but they are way smaller than a big dSLR, but bigger than a compact shirt-pocket camera so in order of what I’d love to own we have:

  1. Canon M is a newly announced camera that is APS-C sized and looks a bit more conventional than the NEX-7 with an 18MP sensor and seems to be a simpler version of the new Rebel 650D which is actually pretty cool. Ken Rockwell really likes the initial spec particularly given the sensor and the wide range of lenses since it (unlike all the cameras below) need new ones. Pretty big plus for all us Canon fanboys. The only thing I see missing is a EVF so you have to focus from the back of the camera ๐Ÿ™‚
  2. Fuji X-Pro1. Yes its autofocus is slow, its very expensive and not great at video and it’s raw processing isn’t great but with a tweaked 16mp CMOS sensor, it achieves amazing low noise high quality photos that rival a 21-24mp dslr. It has an aps-c sized sensor so that shouldn’t be a surprise, but what a camera. It also has some great low light lenses to go along with it which is wonderful. Most interesting thing is the out of the box jpegs are terrific so no need for raw and it shoots up to ISO 1600 at very good quality. For me, it is good for everything but sport photography. But then for that purpose is use my dslr with a 70-200 f/2.8 anyway. Dpreview gave it just under a gold award mainly because of its slow auto-focus even in bright sunlight. I’m not sure how big a deal that is for me given that I would use this mainly for portraits and landscapes. Ken Rockwell likes it but says color rendition is off and the lense selection is very small.Interestingly, he disagrees wtih dpreview and thinks that autofocus is fast and doesn’t like the color rendition for landscapes.
  3. Olympus E-M5. It is a micro-4/3 camera, but has resolution that is closer to the APS-C cameras. The user controls are good and most importantly the lenses are terrific with nice pancake lenses.
  4. Sony NEX-7. This has a very strange firmware set and very fee lenses, but with the right tweaks it is great. The underlying noise in the 24mp sensor is high above iso400. But when u talk about actually printing which is in fact down-rez that doesn’t much difference. It is a camera u should definitely shoot in raw and the in camera jpeg is too aggressive. On the other plus side is the video is excellent and allows detailed control. It even shoots 1080p60! Seems like the big issue here are the quirky controls (which can be fixed).

Net, net I’m in the end leaning to towards paying the bucks for the Fuji and it expensive accessories because of the sensor. We actually had a Fuji way back when which has a similarly amazing sensor and back five years ago shot very good IS0 400 when comparable compacts could barely manage noiseless iso200. We’ve come a long way!

Canon 5D II

OMG, hat tip to “John”:http://www.theludwigs.com, there is hope for humanity, on April 22nd, “dpreview.com”:http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1032&message=27125455&changemode=1 and some “additional specs”:http://www.crunchgear.com/2008/03/12/canon-5d-mark-ii-rumors-are-swirling-swirling/ reports that there will be a new Canon 5D, the specs are amazing. Drool, drool for those of us with Canons who are feeling bad with the incredible D300 that they have over in Nikon world:

* 15MP full frame CMOS sensor which means more resolution and bigger pixels
* 14bit A/D conversion
* ISO 12,800 so hopefully incredible low light performance which is 2 stops more in low light.
* 3″ 922K pixel resolution (way more than the 250K on my Canon 350D)
* MSRP $3500 and available June 2

Digital SLR Recommendations

I’m biased. While, the small handheld cameras are nice, for really great image quality, you do need a nice dSLR because of lense quality. Right now, the leaders are Nikon, Canon and Sony is coming on strong. All have shipped new cameras at the entry level now with the Canon EOS 450D. “Cameralabs”:http://www.cameralabs.com/reviews/Canon_EOS_450D_Digital_Rebel_XSi/verdict.shtml has a good quick comparison. Here are recommendations right now:

h3. If you don’t have any lenses yet

If you don’t have any lenses yet, then this is the big decision, because the main investment in a digital SLR is not the body, but the lenses that you buy. Right now, my lense investment is literally 20x the body investment, so that’s the big decision. There are 2.5 major families right now to consider. Canon makes its own imagers and has the most worldwide share, but Nikon has lots and lots of lenses and uses the higher volume sony imagers. Finally, Sony acquire Minolta (the old #3 in cameras) and is really adding lots of technology.

Right now 99% of all folks can get a 12 megapixel camera with a superzoom (12x) and that is just about all the camera that they will ever need. Each of the vendors now has such a model, so here are the top recommendations:

* Nikon D40x and Nikon 18-200 lense. This is a great combination. The lense is image stabilized and quality is very, very good. When you grow up a little, you can get the incredible professional quality 70-200 F2.8 lense or really anything that is F2.8 in that family. Finally, when you really grow up, the D300 is just an amazing camera. It is also 12 megapixels, but it is amazingly fast. You can take pictures at ISO 3200. What that means is that the relatively slow 18-200 with the D300 at F/3.5-5.6 can take pictures in the same light as a D40x does with a very expensive F/2.8 lense (each doubling of ISO, means you in effect get double the light, so a F2.8 lense at say ISO 1600 is equivalent to an F/1.2 lense at ISO 400)
* “Canon XSi”:http://a.img-dpreview.com/news/0801/canon/eos450dfront.jpg and Sigma 18-200 lense. This camera doesn’t come out until April this year, but is the response (finally!) to Sony and Nikon just kicking them. No review yet on this one, but it has a 12 megapixel (up from 10 megapixel) and hopefully will have a faster imager.
* Sony. This is the dark horse, but the great features here are great image quality (same imagers as the Nikon) and built in optical image stabilization which means you don’t have to buy lenses that are stabilized.

h3. If you are a Nikon lense person already

I’d say right now the right choice is probably the D300 because it is such a fast camera. Although expensive at $1500 plus, this body is really quite remarkable. it has a 1.5x lense factor but most importantly it takes great pictures at ISO 1600 or even ISO 3200. Drool, drool.

You can use your existing lenses, but if you don’t have one, getting the superzoom listed

h3. If you are a Canon lense person already

Then you are in a little bit of tough spot right now. The Canon 5D is a full frame camera that is great but pretty old now. Feels like this is going to get upgraded soon, so I’d wait for that. Abset that, the Xsi is a pretty good value, although doesn’t have the speed potential that the D300 does.

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Another Sigma Review

I’m so torn as to whether or not getting the Sigma 18-200 OS makes sense. Photozine.de reports it is soft at 35mm, but pretty good at 18, 50 and 200mm. The Pophoto.com review shows that it has better image quality at 200mm than the much acclaimed Nikon 18-200mm. Rick at “Fredmiranda.com”:http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic2/547490 reports the same thing, it is amazing at the ends of its range, but in the 35mm range, it is soft. This is apparently a design issue with the lense.

Still at $500 street it is pretty amazing.