Category Archives: Sample Images

Canon N100 Review and Samples

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Announced earlier this year at CES, and following the innovative design of its predecessor the PowerShot N, the Canon N100 is nice enough camera with a few quirks that might need working around…or just plain understanding.

Shooting with the Canon N100

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Controls and Handling

The Canon N100 looks and feels mostly like a real camera.  Not that square monstrosity that predated it (the Powershot N).  Gone is the weird shutter-release-on-the-lens design.  Gone is the…well, not much else.  But just be thankful they got rid of that lens design, sheesh.

You still get built in WiFi, but now you also have a rear-facing camera.  Taking these features into account, along with creative filters (and even a film-simulation mode), one can tell this camera is meant to be fun, even if that comes at the price of performance.

Despite this relative emphasis on ease-of-use over performance, we can’t write the Canon N100 off completely:  a 1/1.7” sensor puts it just a smidgen above some of the competition out there, and with some nice IS and a decent f/1.8 aperture when the lens is at its widest (a 24mm equivalent).

In other areas, the performance seems a little handicapped, with a relatively low ISO range (80-6400), no outward controls for rapidly changing shooting modes, and that weird screen that only flips up 90 degrees (Why Canon?  WHY?).

Lens

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The lens on this camera is does not offer a lot of zooming power.  Aimed predominantly at people who want to take portraits of their friends and family, this camera doesn’t really need the zoom range that other manufacturers are putting into their products.  However, if you’re looking for some zoom, the Canon N100 has 5x optical and a little digital left over (though I didn’t use it, ’cause who wants to see that eyesore?).  If you’re looking to shoot distant birds, or photograph people from half a block away, there are other cameras out there that might suit you better.

ISO

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100 ISO

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200 ISO

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400 ISO

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800 ISO

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1600 ISO

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3200 ISO

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6400 ISO

ISO performance on the N100 isn’t terrible, with decent results up to ISO 800.  For dimmer situations necessitating higher sensitivity, I would still try to stay at 3200 or under, as ISO 6400 does show a fair amount of grain.

WiFi

Like most Canon point and shoots with built in WiFi, the N100 is easy to sync to a smartphone using the Canon Camera Window app, which allows transfer to smartphones and tablets, as well as remote shooting and geotagging.  The remote shooting functions were fairly bare-bones with the N100, and silent mode is co-opted by some weird beeping that goes on with the camera when the shutter is triggered.  So, the WiFi isn’t ideally suited for any sort of candid captures, but works great if you just want a basic remote or wish to share photos with smart devices.

Dual View

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The Canon N100 has a rear-facing camera, so you, the photographer, can still have pictures of yourself when you’re presumably photographing your friends.  I don’t have any friends, but I do love Zeikos camera gear, so I shot that with me making ducklips in the corner of the frame.  CLASSIC.

Filters

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Like almost every point and shoot or compact camera out there these days, the Canon N100 also comes with a plethora of artsy filters.  Now, normally these filters suck on small sensors.  Something just seems off, whether it’s the way the image processor handles them, or some curse that befell all smaller sensors by some sort of full-frame warlock.  At any rate, the 1/1.7” sensor and the Digic 6 Processor seem to work in tandem to deliver moderate results, even when using the Toy Camera filter.  (These images were also shot using the camera’s macro focusing mode, which is quite nice, but not as good as some of the competition.)

Image Quality

canon n100 canon n100 canon n100 canon n100 canon n100Image quality on the N100 is surprising to say the least.  Even though I was working with JPEGs, there was still a little room for tweaking, and I even managed to save one slightly under-exposed photograph.  In general, the automated performance seems intelligent enough to do it’s job, while the hardware (and software) give you images with a teeny bit of leeway.  Colors are very nice, and you won’t find a real need for the Vivid Effect unless that’s really your thing.

Conclusion

The Canon N100 is a decent little camera with enough features, gizmos, and doohickeys to keep younger photographers on top of their passion.  Canon has pushed this camera as a “story camera” and there’s a lot going for it in that niche.  The social inclination of the N100, from the rear-facing camera to the built-in WiFi, speaks to the denizens of Twitter and Facebook.  However, a lack of prosumer features, and the half-implementation of some decent ideas (again, a 90 degree articulating LCD…) means this puppy isn’t going to see the audience that the SX700 will, even though both cameras sit at around the same price.

If you’re in the mood to try something new and fun, or you want to be connected while you shoot with your compact, this camera might just be the One.

Olympus SH-1 Review and Samples

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The first impression you might have pulling the Olympus SH-1 out of the box is how much this camera looks like a Pen Camera.  For better or for worse, it isn’t.  Instead, the SH-1 is decidedly a point and shoot camera with a large zoom range and excellent video.  But what else does the Olympus SH-1 boast?  And is the camera’s price tag a fair indicator of image quality?

Shooting with the Olympus SH-1

So it isn’t a digital Pen, but is it still worth buying?  For some, the Olympus SH-1 will make a big difference in terms of what can be captured, and when it can be captured.  The biggest feature on this small camera is, without a doubt, the 5-axis image stabilization, which is being implemented in compact FULL HD video for the first time (so Olympus says, at least).

At any rate, that IS is really helping out video and Image Quality and long ranges, so it’s safe to say that those looking for a compact megazoom – or a pocketable camera that also delivers excellent video – will find this little runt appealing.

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Controls

Like most compacts, especially Olympus compacts, the controls and their layout are minimalist but functional.  Missing are any dials for shutter and aperture, and between the mode dial on top and the concise menu layout, it’s plain to see that the Olympus SH-1 is an easy-to-use camera streamlined for a more automatic shooting experience.

Built in WiFi is easy enough to sync to your smartphone or tablet, and the relative ease with which one can change shooting modes (set the mode dial, then press the “ok” button to select different options), gives this camera a certain appeal not readily found in other brands.

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Zoom

What can I say, the reach on this sucker is fantastic.  From a 25mm equivalent at it’s widest, to a whopping 600mm equivalent at it’s furthest in, the lens is great.  That 5-axis image stabilization only bolsters the performance.

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“Manual”

Manual Mode on the Olympus SH-1 is a bit of a pain.  Like most compacts, here you’re working with a D-Pad to adjust your settings – from Shutter Speed and Aperture, to ISO.  If you’re working in a location with constantly-changing lighting, it may not be the easiest way to use this camera, but if you can set it and run with it, you won’t be disappointed.

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Art Modes

As usual, Olympus throws in some nifty art filters for certain effects.  While most might seem gimmicky, I personally like the Grainy Black And White effect, which tends to offer extreme contrast for a love-it-or-hate-it feel.

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Panorama

Panorama mode allows wider images with decent stitching.  It works best with still subjects, and if you wanted a panoramic shot of architecture or landscapes, this feature would prove itself useful.  If you’re looking to capture busy scenes with lots of movement, you may want to look elsewhere, as the stitching software still seems to mar some difficult, moving subjects.

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Image Quality

Image quality is the big bust on the SH-1, and while it might not be perfect, it certainly isn’t abysmal.  As with most small-sensor cameras, the big point one should keep in mind when considering this camera is that you’ll want to get the image right while in-camera.  TRYING TO SAVE A SHOT IN POST IS VERY DIFFICULT.

That being said, I’m still surprised at how this little puppy held up.  I especially enjoyed setting up the WiFi and using my old iPhone as a remote LCD while I held the camera nonchalantly, taking some pretty nice candid shots of people walking by.

Conclusion

It’s no RX-100ii, but the Olympus SH-1 may be the compact to look at.  Generally, it strikes you on paper as being a go to workhorse for stable handheld video, and long-distance lens performance.  With the added WiFi and some minimalist design, however, it could lend itself to almost anyone who wants a basic camera with some decent output.  In general, I would say it performs about as well as – if not better than – Fuji’s X20.  You might lose a viewfinder and a lot of manual controls, but a more portable design will have many right in the Olympus Brand pocket.

Canon PowerShot SX700 HS Review and Samples

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New to the scene in March, the Canon PowerShot SX700 HS may seem a little pricey at $349, but the overall performance of this compact superzoom is worth every penny.

CanonPowerShot SX700 HS:  Superzoom Superstar

These days, it isn’t hard to find cameras that give you a lot of zoom.  However, hunt around for a point and shoot camera offering a range of 25-750mm, and you may not have very many options.  One of those options, though, will be the Canon PowerShot SX700 HS, which not only delivers the range in focal length, but does so with stunning results.

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Of course, there are other features at play here, and not all of them are aimed at the novice.  For seasoned pros, one of the coolest pros to this little camera is a mode dial not unlike those found on DSLRs, with Manual and Auto exposure modes, as well as Aperture- and Shutter-Priority modes.  There’s also a nice video recording mode (with FULL HD), and built-in WiFi (with a dedicated button for syncing to tablets and smartphones).

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For newbies (and even for seasoned enthusiasts like myself), there is is a fairly entertaining “creative shot” feature that makes variations of a single shot, experimenting with filters and crops in the process.

ISO performance is tolerable, and the macro features on this camera are also worthy of note.  To be fair, there are lower-priced options on the market for better macro shots, but the SX700′s big draw is that nifty zoom lens.

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ISO 3200

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ISO 1600

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ISO 800

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ISO 400

So who is the SX700 HS for?  It’s not a beginners camera (too many manual options), and it’s not a professional’s camera (not enough pro features).  Instead, the SX700 is a mid-range compact camera designed at those who don’t need the most serious of camera bodies, but would still like something to learn and grow with (without purchasing any lenses).

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Because of the camera’s overall versatility, this can be accomplished pretty well, and some folks may want to consider this camera as a lightweight option for day trips or casual photography.

Conclusion:  if you need a camera with a great lens and some a full range of manual overrides, seriously consider this camera.  If you’re looking for something casual to grow with and learn through, again this is a prime camera.  Only those looking for the most rudimentary or most professional cameras should dismiss the Canon PowerShot SX700 HS.

Fuji 10-24 F/4 Review and Samples

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Recently out in stores (since early March), the Fuji 10-24 f/4 R OIS is a lens of great construction with pretty awesome performance.  Is it worth the $999 price tag, though?  Here are some sample images and some personal input on a lens I became addicted to the moment I used it.

Fuji 10-24 f/4:  Classy Camera Companion

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This review’s setup:  the Fuji 10-24 f/4 on the X-T1.

When it comes to wide-angle lenses, I’ve almost always used primes.  I’ve handled some nice Tokina wide angle zooms, and I’ve personally owned the Sigma 10-20, and I’ve sometimes been impressed by the performance I’ve experienced or the samples I’ve seen.  Well, Fuji’s new lens has its hooks in me.  It’s truly a great lens.  It may not be worth the money, though, depending on who you are and what you shoot.

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I found the easiest way to use this lens to be setting the camera to aperture priority mode.  On the X-T1, this simply meant setting shutter speed and ISO to auto, and trying desperately not to fudge the aperture ring too much.

The Aperture Ring

This is the only negative thing I really have to say about the lens:  the aperture ring sucks.  Okay, maybe not sucks.  But it’s just too easy to move inadvertently.  Some basic prep time spent memorizing the position of the three rings – aperture, zoom, and focus, probably would have helped, but I’ve got too short of an attention span for that so I hit the streets and cursed at the camera in my head every time I scrambled to get a shot.  In summation, it’s not so much a deal-breaking flaw as it is something you can learn to work around, or work with.  Just be prepared to drop one or two mental f-bombs.

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The Glass

Astounding glass can be found in this lens.  Maybe it’s the quality of the glass itself, or the coating they’ve put on the glass, or a spell cast by wizard from another dimension, but the performance here is fantastic.  There is some drop in sharpness at the extreme corners of the lens, but when you shoot at f/8 and up, you can kiss that hiccup goodbye.  And given that this lens is primarily aimed at landscape and architecture photographers, I don’t image many people would be shooting at f/4 to begin with.

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Image Quality/Color

Probably having just as much to do with the fact that I’m using the X-T1 as it does the lens, the colors and image quality are still impeccable with this camera.  Given the choice of pairing the Fuji 10-24 with the X-T1, or sticking with the kit lens, I would pick the 10-24.  Mostly because I love shooting wide, and photographing on the street, but also because I personally feel the images that I am getting with the 10-24 maybe be just a little better.

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Weight/Construction

Again, the Fuji 10-24 has some great construction, with a mostly metal exterior and interior (although there is still a little plastic on the front and rear inside barreling).  The heft of the lens is nice, with what I would say is just the right amount of weight.  It may put off some prospective buyers, especially those looking for a lightweight mirrorless setup.  Luckily, most of those people tend to go for Olympus and Panasonic, so this lens shouldn’t be disappointing to them.

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Who It’s For

Generally, I’d recommend this lens to people who love the wide-angle look.  Duh, right?  But that price tag ($999) can be a bit steep for some, and it really is a specialty lens.  Couple this with the fact that you still get a keystone effect in shots of architecture, and it may not be everything Fuji has claimed it to be.  Definitely a high quality beast, but more suiting to people who can live with distortion than those who can’t or just outright abhor it.  Also, as I mentioned above, it isn’t very light, so weight may throw some people off.  I would say this is ideal for street photography and landscapes, but I would definitely suggest you try before you buy.

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Conclusion

I’m addicted to this lens.  I love the 15mm focal length, I love the weight (it doesn’t feel like it’s another plastic lens with an over-inflated price tag), and I love the image quality.  I still detest the aperture ring, but maybe I’m just becoming a crotchety old man.  Who knows.

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Just for fun, here’s a Toynbee tile I found while testing the lens.

Canon ELPH 150 IS Review and Samples

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It’s not for everyone, and straight out of the box it will disappoint anyone who has already handled anything better.

However, you can still get some great images out of the ELPH 150 IS.

Shooting with the Canon Powershot ELPH 150 IS

Menus and “Ergonomics”

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The menus are okay.  You probably won’t need to read the manual if you use cameras fairly often.  Personally, I think Canon has the most intuitive menus for beginners, and this camera is no exception.

I put ergonomics in quotation marks because there are no contours to this camera, really.  It’s a little box that has an on/off button on top, and a shutter release with a scroll for the zoom.  There are some buttons on the back and the thing isn’t as tall or wide as most smartphones, but maybe a little thicker.

Takeaway:  anyone can use this camera.

Lens Performance

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The lens on the ELPH 150 IS is pretty decent, with relative sharpness at it’s widest focal length (24mm equivalent).  Aperture is automatic, with f/3 at the wide end, and f/6.9 when the zoom is fully extended.  Due to the mostly-automatic nature of the camera, the default ISO of 800 at its 240mm equivalent focal length leads to a fairly grainy picture, but working with decent lighting will allow you to override the ISO in Program Auto mode.  Then you can set your ISO to a clean 100 and get fairly smooth shots.

Takeaway:  the lens is great at the wide end, even in auto.  Zooming way out to the maximum distance will leave you with grainy shots unless you adjust ISO in the menus.

ISO Performance

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@ISO 200

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@ISO 400

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@ISO 800

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@ISO 1600

A little grain is a given when using any camera.  Most of us accept that.  But thanks to a diminutive sensor, and the automatic tendencies of this camera to set ISO to some of the grainier extremes, it’s going to behoove most users to stick with 100 ISO if they don’t want a grainy look.  Personally, I found the image quality at 400 and 800 to be workable, but I would still keep away from 1600 unless I really didn’t care about grain/noise.

Takeaway:  change the camera mode to Program and adjust ISO to 100.  And leave it there.

Exposure Whacking

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I can’t use “exposure control” because that is misleading.  You’re in for a struggle when you want to change shutter speed on this camera.  That’s okay – you can easily adjust exposure compensation, but finding the in-menu controls for shutter speed is tough.  Very tough.

Takeaway:  memorize how to get back to your exposure compensation for quick adjustment when taking photos.

Flash

Well, it’s a fairly simple point and shoot flash.  It does seem to have some nice range on it, but it’s positioned to the left side of the lens.

Takeaway:  good most of the time but forget using it for extreme closeups.

Macro

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Probably the best thing about little point and shoot cameras these days are those stunning macro shots.  In fact, it’s one of the niches that point and shoot and ultra compact cameras still excel at.  The ELPH 150 IS has a close-focusing distance of 1 centimeter (or .39 inches).  Decent, to say the least.

Takeaway:  if you like taking macro shots, shell out $150 for this camera and have some fun.

Creative filters

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Monochrome

I guess this is Canon’s attempt to cash in on the same things Fuji and Olympus are doing so well.  The problem with these effects in a point and shoot body is that they wind up looking far, far, far…far far far worse than the same effects from Fuji or Olympus.  Sorry Canon…but you just can’t do it in a body this small.  There is a grid display that users can enable to see a rule-of-thirds guide, but nothing that will save the this camera from the pitfalls of its creative filters.

Takeaway:  avoid cancer of the retina and don’t use these filters.  The rule-of-thirds grid overlay (hidden in the menus) may actually be of more use to creative photographers.

Video

It’s a compact camera with images stabilization (hence the “IS” in ELPH 150 IS), but it’s a tiny 1/2.3” sensor.  And it is only HD - not FULL HD.  So yeah.  Video is kind of there.  It’s wonderful, I guess, if you want video in your camera.  Otherwise, yeah.

Takeaway:  um, yeah.

All in All

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Final opinion?  Not a bad little camera.  Clearly an automatic package for someone who just wants to “take good pictures” but might not have heard about camera phones yet.

You do get better image quality if you take the ISO down to 100 and utilize the flash a little, and macro is amazing on this camera.  But since most of the people who are buying this camera probably aren’t going to know how to overcome its quirks, I don’t expect it to hear much about it or see it flying off of the store shelves.

In all honesty, it reminds me of the people who used to buy family cameras and let everyone in the family use it to take pictures.  It would probably be nice for a picnic or a family reunion, but even the 10x optical zoom seems to have a hard time grabbing distant subjects with the kind of clarity most can find in marginally more expensive compacts.

It’ll be interesting to see where this camera goes, and if Canon might start making niche macro point and shoot cameras for those of us who would like something small and portable for unexpected situations.

Fujifilm XT1 Review

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Since its announcement and fairly rapid release, the Fujifilm XT1 has been turning heads – and with good reason.  Sporting a solid retro design and cutting-edge technology, this camera has vaulted to the forefront of the mirrorless pantheon.  But how does it perform?

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Shooting with the Fujifilm XT1

First, let me say that I was very hyped to get my mits on a Fujifilm XT1.  Mirrorless has been growing on me as of late, no doubt helped along by the Olympus E-M10 – a stunningly capable camera in a small, lightweight package.  So it stands to reason the that this newcomer from Fuji would have me on tenterhooks, but reason abandoned me when I actually took one out for a test drive.

Truth be told, the Fujifilm is impressive on paper.  The pixelpeepers and gearheads out there know this.  You probably know this.  The full specs are intimidating.  The viewfinder is A-MAZ-ING.  It feels like any camera should.  You get a drive mode dial like on my Nikon D2Xs, complete with a freakin’ double-exposure setting.  There’s two (2!) kinds of focus peaking.  And let’s not forget that mouth-watering APS-C sensor.

But then you might use the Fujifilm XT1, and feel something vanish.

Let me elaborate.

The Lens

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For my review, I used an XT1 with the 18-55 kit lens at f/2.8-4.  I had my misgivings about shooting with the standard kit.  Much more enticing to me was the 27mm f/2.8.  But as most people just getting into Fuji might purchase the whole kit, I decided to review the body and the 18-55 together.

That being said, you’ll be impressed that a camera manufacturer supplies you with a lens that’s reasonably bright when compared to the competition.  Heck, you even get a lens hood.  But when you start to use the kit lens a couple things happen.

First, there’s the finicky fake-feeling “aperture ring” on the barrel of the lens.  It moves when the wind blows.  So you’ll find yourself changing aperture without meaning to, and missing several shots.  I tried putting adjusting aperture with one of the on-body control dials, but despite my menu telling me that’s what the dial was set up for, nothing ever happened.  So, yeah, that sucked.

Having an f/2.8-4 zoom lens is great an all, but with that crappy plastic aperture ring on there, it just sort of ruins the whole experience.  Some people are used to manual aperture rings.  You set the ring, and when you move your lens, the freaking ring should not change.  On this lens, it does.  And it screws you up.  And you just want to use manual lenses again.

Shutter Speed

I talked about control dials.  Now let’s talk about the shutter speed dial.  You set your shutter speed at full stops – 1/250, 1/500, 1/4000 – and then you can use a control dial below on the body to fine-tune that shutter speed to say, 1/300, 1/600, and so on and so forth.  I guess this stems from Nikon’s design faults with the DF, where users could change the top shutter speed dial to 1/250 and then move the control dial on the camera body to a shutter speed of 1/500 (without the top dial registering the change).  That being said, it makes shutter speed clunkier and more annoying to adjust.

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ISO

ISO is great if you’re shooting JPEGs only.  You get a range of 100-51200.  Then if you shoot in RAW, you get a diminished range of 200-6400.  Aside from that, you’ve got your ISO speeds on a dial that locks every time you have to move it.  So it doesn’t change accidentally, but you no longer get to rapidly change your ISO speed, either.

Drive Modes

Here the Fujifilm XT1 has made some nice headway.  You get all the drive modes you would expect, plus a bracketed setting, a double exposure setting, a panorama setting (which stitches quite well), and an “advanced” setting.

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The Viewfinder and LCD

Both of these are phenomenal.  You can get lost in that viewfinder.  It’s big, it’s bright, and it doesn’t let in any extra light.  It makes optical viewfinders look shallow and dark.  The LCD is crisp and bright.  It tilts.  It does everything a good LCD should do these days.

Image Quality

Image quality on the Fujifilm XT1 is what you would expect – sharp and crisp with excellent resolution and astounding color reproduction.  The added film simulator is a joy to play around with – more so than the Olympus art features, which seem aimed at amateurs, not film buffs.

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Film simulation modes include a black and white mode simulating certain filters, like red (used in the two photographs above), blue, green, or yellow.  

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Velvia/vivid film simulation.

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Astia/soft film simulation.  

Menus

Menus are very intuitive, especially for those coming from a Nikon background.

Overall Impressions

The Fujifilm XT1 has some wonderful features going for it – the best EVF on the market, a rather large sensor, and stunning image quality, as well as a love-it-or-hate-it retro design.  For those willing to learn with the camera, and harness the potential of new interfaces for shutter speed and aperture, disappointments will be few and far between.  For the rest of you old codgers out there, you might actually want to go the Olympus or Sony route, when it comes to mirrorless.

Note:  One thing I did not touch upon in this review was low-light performance.  A review specifically aimed at night-shooting with the XT1 will be coming soon.  

UPDATE:  To see how the Fujifilm X-T1 performs with the 10-24 f/4 R OIS, check out this review.

Shooting with the m. Zuiko Olympus 25mm F/1.8

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Today I got my hands on an m. Zuiko Olympus 25mm f/1.8 for a hands on review, ahead of the high-rollers over at DPReview.  I know my puny blog can’t really compare, but it ain’t conceited if it’s true, folks.

So without further ado…

Olympus 25mm f/1.8 Review and Samples!

When the Olympus 25mm f/1.8 was announced, it was met with some decent reception among Olympus fans, who have largely done without a 50mm equivalent so close to the “nifty fifties” we’ve all had some run-in with, whether it was back in the heydays of analog photography, or more recently in the digital field.

However, before the arrival of this lens, Olympus shooters have had to make do with the 25mm f/2.8 pancake.  Truly, pancake lenses are nice (and in regard to my own personal taste, preferred), but f/2.8 is a little dim for my spoiled self.  So, enter the Olympus 25mm f/1.8:  a 50mm equivalent we can not only live with, but excel with.

Of course, having always shot with a 50mm on a sensor with a 1.5x crop, my 50mm lenses were always used to shoot portraits.

But now, with a lens and sensor combo that gives me the actual field of view of a 50 on a full frame, I set out to do some slightly-distanced street photography.

The Setup:

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Before I got started, I had to decide on a camera body to shoot with.  The other half of my street photography equation?  The rugged if not a little minimalist E-PL1, now dated by its successors, but still offering quite the shooting experience at a very affordable price indeed.

As such, there are two facets to this review:  what the Olympus 25mm f/1.8 is capable of in terms of bokeh, sharpness, accuracy, and ease of use…and why cheaper models like the E-PL1 are a great way to get into the Olympus camera system without going bankrupt on newer models like the E-M line, or the newer Olympus Pens.

Sample Images:

All of these images are straight from the camera, shot in Large/Fine JPEG, with no retouching whatsoever.  Please excuse any over- or under-exposure, which I tried to keep to a minimum.

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Lens Performance

Five stars here:  excellent at 1.8, sharp where it needs to be in the center of the frame with only marginal falloff at the extreme edges.  Bringing your aperture down to f/5.6 or f/8 only makes things better, and given the focal length of 50mm, this lens is almost perfect for street photography – especially if you are a beginner or want to work with subjects at a distance.  Couple this with one of the OM-D cameras and you’ve got a DSLR-quality setup, offering crisp, quality captures with a low aperture to boot.

Camera Performance

Well, it ain’t no E-M1, but the Pen E-PL1 gives you some decent performance despite its inherent drawbacks.  First and foremost, there are no thumbwheels or control dials on this camera, except the mode dial on top.  That being said, the buttons aren’t bad, though adjusting while “in the moment” to capture a fleeting shot is a challenge and a half for any photographer.  The older Pens still give you some amazing image quality, and if you’re the kind of photographer to find a spot and wait for “the moment” to appear or unfold, you won’t regret buying one of these over the more expensive models.  The good think about the older models like the E-PL1 or even the E-PM1 is that you can set all the variables to whatever you prefer, and get back to looking for shots (instead of moving dials around constantly).  Like the other pens surrounding it, you’re getting a 14 megapixel sensor, but an older generation of the TruePic image processor.  The LCD screen on the back is fixed, recessed, and ugly – and only about half the resolution of the LCD screens on the latest Pens.  Obviously, you might want to shell out extra money for a more updated model.  The E-PM1 or the E-PL3 would be an optimal choice then, for those who want a lightweight but capable street photography platform with some of the newer features, including more recent image processors and higher ISO ranges.

So, overall thoughts on this adventure?  A blast to shoot with the lens, and moderately awesome to use the Pen E-PL1 as well, despite its age.  Given the fact that these cameras are still capable of attaining such amazing results, I would recommend the setup for anyone on a budget.  It might not be the best looking piece of machinery out there, but with a slick lens like the 25mm f/1.8, you might still win some compliments…and the results you’ll get from these two beauties are going to speak for themselves.

Olympus E-M10 Review and Samples

olympus e-m10 sample image

Today (tonight?), I took the Olympus E-M10 out for a spin around Midtown.  Actually, I took around Times Square for a little bit, before getting depressed at how garish and commercial that place is.  But I digress.  Here’s my working review of the Olympus E-M10, with specific regards to how well this camera works on the street and in low light.  So if your an urban shooter, or a night shooter, this review is for you.

Olympus E-M10:  a Proper Camera in its Own Right

A lot of reviews and commentary on this camera are going on about where it sits in the Olympus lineup.  Depending on who you are (and in some cases, whether or not you already purchased an E-M5), this camera is either the camera that has replaced the E-M5, or a lacking upstart.

olympus e-m10 sample image

The Olympus E-M10 has a similar overall design to that of the 5, the big points of interest being a loss of weather sealing and accessory port, but the added features of a pop-up flash and built in WiFi.  I didn’t test either of these features this time around, because we all know how they work, and the big question for this camera, more than any other, is who should buy it.

Should you buy it?  What is it good for?  How does it perform in real world scenarios?  Is it on-par with other similarly-priced cameras out there?

Here are your answers.

olympus e-m10 sample image olympus e-m10 sample image olympus e-m10 sample image olympus e-m10 sample image olympus e-m10 sample image olympus e-m10 sample image olympus e-m10 sample image olympus e-m10 sample image OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

So what reasons would compel someone to buy this camera, or, why should anyone anywhere buy it?  Do not be mistaken – despite the fact that it’s a decent little camera, it certainly isn’t for everyone.  While the E-M5 began the OM-D series, and the E-M1 offered numerous advantages, the E-M10 is that entry-level model for those who want to go Micro Four-Thirds, but haven’t yet.  It’s a camera aimed at people who want something along the lines of a DSLR, but in a slightly more stylish and a little bit more expensive body.

Image quality is alright, with moderate but permissible grain around 3200, but getting worse from there – to the point of marring your images.  Considering that most people who will buy this price-conscious camera are going to be uploading to Facebook and Flickr, and probably not doing large prints, this camera could work for a certain demographic.  Is image quality on par with an entry level DSLR from Canon or Nikon?  No, but it doesn’t have to be, either.

For street shooting, like all other Olympus cameras, it’s a decent little shooter, with the strongest selling point being its portability.  Travel photographers will also appreciate this characteristic, and for those who want something marginally more robust than a Stylus or compact or even a Pen camera, the Olympus E-M10 would be the route to go.

Sigma Super Wide II: the Sharp ‘Lil Shooter

sigma super wide ii

When my Sigma 30mm f/1.4 DC HSM bit the dust, I was lucky enough to come across a cache of old manual focus Sigma lenses from the late 90s and early 00s, specifically, the Sigma Super Wide II 24mm f/2.8 lens.  Here’s a review.

Hands on with the Sigma Super Wide II

Let me start by saying that this is a review for the Nikon Mount version, which will definitely work with any Nikon F Mount.  It will work with Nikon film cameras, my Nikon D2Xs, or even Little Timmy’s plastic fantastic D3200 (though it probably won’t meter for jack).  It’s also available with a Canon FD Mount, and is compatible with EOS cameras through the use of an FD to EOS adapter.  The lens itself costs $170 new in box, and the adapter runs about $30.

The lens is of metal and plastic construction and feels pretty solid.  Matte black with white lettering, it looks smart and works smoothly.  On the barreling of the lens, just about the focus ring, is the word Macro.  This can be a little deceiving, because it won’t give you a macro image in-camera, though if you were to crop or enlarge the image before making a print, it would give you a macro shot.

On the plus size, the lens is very close focusing for a wide-angle, and its possible to focus on something two or three inches from the lens.

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Shot handheld at 1/13th of a second, with f/2.8 and 800 ISO.  To see the image at its original size, just click on it.  

I was specifically looking for a wide angle to replace my old Sigma for street photography and environmental portraits, and this lens holds up superbly.  Here are some samples, all shot at night and in black and white (’cause that’s how I roll).

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Shot handheld at 1/15th of a second, with f/2.8 and 800 ISO. sigma super wide ii

Shot handheld at 1/5th of a second, with f/2.8 and 800 ISO.

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Shot handheld at 1/6th of a second, with f/2.8 and 800 ISO.

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Shot handheld at 1/25th of a second, with f/2.8 and 800 ISO.

This lens performs well even in the dimmest of lighting situations, and if you have a camera that will shoot above 800 ISO without too much grain, you’re going to absolutely love this lens.  Though you can’t tell from these shots, this lens will also shoot color photographs!

It may not be for everyone, but if you’re into manual focus and fast, wide primes (but don’t want to shell out tons of money), the Sigma Super Wide II is the pony to bet on.

Sigma also made a 28mm f/2.8 manual focus lens (the Mini Wide II) that works just as well for as a wide angle alternative, and even better than the Super for macro shots.

If you’re looking to pick up one of these lenses, my local camera store has a couple in stock.  You won’t find it on their website, but if you call the store, they can hook you up with the Sigma Super Wide II for Nikon or Canon, and the Mini Wide (28mm f/2.8) for Canon only.  They also have an FD-EOS adapter for Canon users.  The 24mm f/2.8 is $180, and the 28mm f/2.8 is $100.  A Canon FD to EOS adapter will cost $30 at the same shop.  The adapter is made by Bower; I worked with it for a short while so I could mention it in the review.  It’s pretty decent for the cost involved, with a glass element inside for infinity focusing.

You can probably find a cheaper, secondhand specimen on ebay or Amazon, and as a cheap alternative to expensive wide angle primes, it has a considerable following.  You can see a Flickr group dedicated to this lens here.

E-M5 Test: Digital for the Film Photog

e-m5 review sample image

This year, a lot of folks are buying the E-M1, but I’ve encountered even more people asking about the E-M5.  And even though it’s already over a year old, the camera is still a worthwhile investment for many photographers.  But why?  To be sure, I too was somewhat skeptical when I first picked up the E-M5.  Soon, though, I realized that what so many reviewers had pointed out as shortcomings or deficiencies are in fact selling points for this robust and versatile camera system.

Testing the E-M5

Ergonomics/User interface

The E-M5 is incredibly light.  With no grip, there’s room to spare for those with big hands.  The slim body is more reminiscent of film cameras than any other retro-looking digital bodies, and this really improves the portability.  Even without a pronounced grip, a rubber thumb pad on the back of the camera offers enough control to avoid dropping it.  The EVF is excellent as well, offering 100% coverage and a slight magnification of 1.15x.

e-m5 review sample imageThe user interface works for beginners and pros alike.  A touch screen LCD and intuitive menu lend themselves to novices, while two control dials and three customizable function buttons reel in the pros.  Shooting with the E-M5 was more fun that any of the Pens or even the E-M1.  While having to delve into the menus to change white balance and ISO, there’s no confusing switches that change the function of the dials, like the haphazard “2×2” setup on the E-M1.

e-m5 review sample imageThe only drawback I could find in the design of this camera was the position of the tripod mount, which was just a little off-center, and could prove bothersome to panoramic shooters.  Otherwise, I was generally impressed with the layout and construction of the camera.

e-m5 review sample imageImage Quality

Another high point for this camera is the image quality, no doubt stemming from the pairing of its 16 megapixel sensor  with the TruePic IV processor.  The max resolution one gets from this combo is 4608×3456.  Image quality is further secured with 12 white balance presets, 5-axis  image stabilization, and an ISO range of 200-25600.  I have yet to print anything shot by the E-M5, but even at larger magnification the image quality holds up.  Finally, the ISO range is excellent, only showing true noise around ISO 1600.  I found I could live with it, as I could with most of the images shot at higher ISO settings (the only exception here being 25600, which reminds me of grainy film).

Should you still desire it, you can use one of the art filters to give your photos a certain look, like this black and white shot of pigeons.

e-m5 review sample imageFocus

Here we have perhaps the most pronounced shortcoming for pros and serious amateurs – the lack of focus peaking, which is available in both the E-P5 and the E-M1.  Although I found manual focus easy enough, I can see where some users would have difficulties.  With 37 points of focus, though, relying on the camera’s contrast-detect auto focus isn’t necessarily a bad idea.

e-m5 review sample image

e-m5 review sample imageOptics

The E-M5 kit includes the 12-50mm f/3.5-5.6.  And while I generally poke fun at most kit lenses, I strongly urge the use of the 12-50.  Besides having the focal length equivalency of a 24-100mm lens on a full frame or 35mm camera  (a range that covers wide angle to medium-length telephoto ), the lens is weather resistant, and offers the photographer a third customizable function button.  The lens mode ring is another key factor in why I suggest it – featuring both manual and electric-assisted zoom, the whole setup is richly rewarded by a third, close-focusing macro mode at 43mm.

e-m5 review sample image

e-m5 review sample imageVideo

Video recording is easy and straightforward  – exactly what you’ve come to expect in most top-shelf cameras.  While resolution probably suffers from the Micro Four Thirds Sensor, there’s no difficulty in shooting video with the OM-D E-M5, since it has a dedicated button allowing near-instant video capture, regardless of current camera settings or scene modes.

Verdict

In conclusion, the E-M5 is a well-rounded camera offering a cost-effective alternative to the pricier E-M1.  Additionally, analog photographers desiring to make the move to digital may find the shape and size of the E-M5 to be more comfortable than other models.  Finally, I recommend getting your hands on one of these so you can try it out yourself, considering its merits with your own needs in mind. 

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