Archive | August, 2013

Has Sony used the space inside the A3000 grip?

29 Aug
Image

Image via Imaging-Resource.com. Used under fair use provisions for commentary as camera not available yet.

I’d really like to know what they did with the space inside the grip. It’s obviously not used as a battery compartment. Could it be that it’s hollow or just solid plastic? Smells of a wasted opportunity…

E mount, A3000, A99, Olympus and once again Pentax

27 Aug

The release of the A3000 marks Sony’s attempt to market the E-mount to those who would rather own an SLR-styled camera. The model, which has been compared to the Panasonic G series, also has in-body stabilisation, giving rise to clamour over a possible impending demise of the A-mount.

It would be easy to wonder about the product naming of a recently announced Sony model, the full-frame A99, with 99 being both a big, imposing and definitive number as well as a rather final one, certainly suggesting that the product is to be seen as unique within the line-up and unlikely to have a successor, as Sony uses increasing numbering from one model to the next.

Two facts are reasonably well established:

  1. Many current Sony E-mount lenses do not support full frame.
  2. E-mount is, in principle, full-frame capable.

The extent to which a full frame E-mount based camera could still have in body stabilisation is less well known, however. It should be taken as given, however, that the number of stops of stabilisation is limited by the size of the potential image circle. The widest mounts will allow the best image stabilisation. This may or may not explain the fact that Olympus Four Thirds lenses were rather large compared to APS-C and considering its otherwise larger crop factor.

Speaking of Olympus, if Sony were to abandon the A-mount, it would be similar to Oly’s (apparent) abandonment of the FT system, which continues to sour relations with erstwhile Olympus enthusiasts.

In terms of lens availability, Sony’s problem is familiar to Olympus, but even more similar to Pentax’, who have been rumoured to be working on DA-X lenses that are to be full frame compatible, with only a limited range of current DA lenses having this benefit, and questions again arising over whether there is room for in body stabilisation to be accommodated by such existing DA lenses, not to mention the lens mount as a whole.

Perhaps a smarter idea would be to re-design the mount in a way that allows better IBIS on a range of larger full frame lenses, while also building in a solution for legacy lenses to be used on that same mount with the usual benefits of at least the “crippled” KAF2 mount. Olympus seems to be about to show a solution for a similar problem, and mount agnosticism is of course trending right now with Sigma announcing a mount change service only very recently.

DigiPod: A lot of open questions

20 Aug

There is a new “digital film” project being promoted, named DigiPod, with a crowdsourcing effort hosted by Indiegogo. Several criticisms are being levied at this effort, both in terms of presentation and content. In terms of the overall concept, people are saying that anything less than an APS-C sensor (planned is an 8.8 by 6.6mm sensor) won’t be worth considering, as it will cover too small a section of the viewfinder with actual image-taking; it will also amplify imperfections of the lens much more than a full frame sensor would, when both images are scaled, say, to full screen size. The problem with that is that the price for an FF sensor implementation might be closer to 1000 USD, meaning he’d have to raise closer to a million Pounds to make this fly.

Secondly, why use a CMOS sensor when the intention is to take still images – is there a plan to allow tethered shooting? Otherwise, many might consider CCD the superior technology. Maybe it’s another price-point problem…

Thirdly, I’m not the first to state that the question of how the shutter works has not been answered. The creator claims that this is proprietary knowledge, apparently not yet covered by patents, and that you have to sign an NDA to glean into it. Sounds like a bit of an excessive smoke-screen to me.

Further points concern the fact that the creator claims to have “developed and sold a number of businesses”, but gives no further detail, and that he apparently does not understand twitter particularly well, or perhaps the internet – his twitter channel just spams the same message every few minutes. He also seems to have hosted images on tinypic as part of the campaign that are no longer available…

Are you scared of RAW?

11 Aug

I’ve been trying to figure out for a while why there are cameras that don’t offer raw output as an option. I can only think that some people who don’t know what it is, enable it, then aren’t able to view their pictures on their PC, and complain or change brand. So I’m furthermore guessing that camera manufacturers find themselves in a position of having to decide, for each model, whether the benefits outweigh the risks in enabling raw access. Sony, Pentax and Nikon decided to lock themselves out of the prosumer market by deciding not to include raw in the HX300, X-5 and P520, respectively, whereas Fujifilm played a mixed strategy and included it in the SL1000 and HX50EXR while leaving it out on the S8500. As a result, it seems the raw-lacking cameras aren’t getting reviewed in online publications.

Moreover, on amazon, a group of five “raw” cameras (HS50EXR, SX50HS, FZ200, FZ150, HS50EXR) was rated better than a group of 6 “non-raw” cameras (S8500, P520, P510, HX300, X-5, FZ62), and consistently so over the three largest local amazons (.de, .com, .co.uk). Interestingly, the UK was strongest in this discrimination (raw 4.33 stars, non-raw 4.08 stars, mean of amazon’s rounded means).

The per-brand comparison was less conclusive, however, with amzn.de preferring the S8500 over the SL1000 and the FZ62 over the FZ200/150, while the UK strongly rejected the S8500 on reasons not to do with raw.

However, if the obsolete P510 and FZ150 had not been included, the overall group picture would be much clearer in favour of raw, with the HX300 being universally panned (in spite of some interesting features, I might add) and the the X-5 finding favour only in the UK (but strongly so at 5 stars). Viewed thus, the FZ62 is the only positively rated camera among the non-raw group (where a positive rating is an amazon average greater than 4 stars).

Feel free to comment!

Nikon 1 system: how to avoid reaping the benefits of your crop factor

11 Aug

One simple step: Don’t make any lenses that go beyond 300mm equivalent focal length.

Buffer memory (and write speeds) to become major differentiator among pro cameras

8 Aug

With the recent enhancements made to the Magic Lantern firmware plug-in for Canon EOS cameras, it’s becoming clear that buffer memory is rather limited on current camera models for those users wishing to use the sensor to its speed limit. To recap, Magic Lantern now allows capture of raw video, i.e. a series of lower-res DNG format stills at the speed of the camera’s frame rate, for an expanding range of EOS cameras. Most user tests have come from the 7D, where it’s been reported that 40 to 41 frames can be recorded before the frame rate drops off (or recording stops in recognition or anticipation of that fact). That’s quite a good buffer size for still capture, but rather dismal for genuinely high definition (HD) video use. The reason I say genuinely HD is because the otherwise widely used H.264 codec, while offering very compact file sizes, continues to produce noticeable artefacts, which is largely responsible not so much perhaps for the inclusion of raw video in the firmware, but for the enthusiasm about it.

It’s likely that this feature will not go away as a fad, but remain here to stay, not least because without doubt, many photographers-come-videographers have been wondering when they’ll be able to fiddle with blown highlights in video the same way they can in stills. The next stop, then, is including the feature in factory firmwares. In the interim, much will be written about the different HD video abilities of Canon cameras, the only currently “open” platform other than Samsung (who made that decision recently, presumably to take advantage of the trend for open-sourced, user-provided enhancements to firmware; NB I’m talking about the firmware in Samsung’s higher-level NX cameras, not Android!). Then it’s over to the rest of the crowd to ensure that their cameras either come with huge buffer, or, even better, manage to clear it at great speed.

Another mirrorless gains value through firmware updates, won’t be re-reviewed

8 Aug

After the Pentax K-01’s successful stock clearance following a price adjustment and firmware updates dramatically improving autofocus capabilities, Canon has pulled off the same trick with its EOS M:

Canon EOS M

Canon EOS M. Promotional photo by Canon.

Like the Pentax K-01 before it, it is unlikely that the camera will be officially re-reviewed by camera review sites, so we won’t know how much faster it has become – same as the Pentax K-01, about which I’ve written before. Those considering the EOS M may wish to acquaint themselves with an unacknowledged issue affecting some shipments.

By the way, the K-01 was relaunched in Japan in a very fetching blue variant (reported as powder blue or sky blue). Still a very cute camera with class-leading image quality:

Pentax K-01 in powder blue

Pentax K-01 in powder blue. Promotional photo by Pentax.