Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Panasonic 18x Zoom LUMIX DMC-FZ18 Camera

The race toward ever-higher megapixel may be over, but looks like the race to make the biggest zoom has just started. Sony started it all by introducing the DSC-H9 with a 15x zoom lens, when everybody was still making 12x zooms. This week, Panasonic answered: a 8.1 megapixel camera with a 18x zoom lens in the form of FZ18.
The new Leica DC Vario-Elmarit allows zoom range of 28-504mm. It allows slightly wide angle coverage as well as massive zoom in capability. If this was a 35mm camera, the lens would look like a telescope. Macro performance has been greatly improved to allow minimum shooting distance of just 1cm at the wide end and 1m at the tele end. The only worry is distortion. If distortion is kept low, this would be a tremendous camera.

The new feature common in all the new Panasonic cameras is the Intelligent Auto Mode feature. Tired of getting poor pictures out of the Auto mode? This new mode automatically detects motion, faces, shake, and even the type of scene and sets the best settings. Scene detection includes normal, portrait, scenery, macro, night scenery and night portrait. It sounds quite amazing and could be a godsend for times when you need to hand the camera over to a friend or when you're just too lazy.

I find it curious why Panasonic brought out this camera so soon. Could this mean the end of the FZ50 series? In any case, the Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FZ18 looks to be a very good camera. It will be available in September 2007 for an MSRP of $399.95.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Canonet QL17 G-III

The Canonet QL17 G-III is one of the most popular fixed-lens compact rangefinder cameras of the 70's. It features shutter-priority and fully manual exposure modes, with shutter speeds from 1/500 to 30 seconds and bulb. The lens is a 40mm Canon lens, while not as sharp as some of the competition at the time, is perfectly usable and creates nice images.

The finish of the QL17 is top-notch with beautiful trim. It feels quite heavy in the hand for its size, giving a sense of good quality. The namesake quick load system is a joy to use; pull out film to the indicated position and close the door. No more putting film headers in slits. In the back, there are indicator windows to give assurance that film is being advanced when the level is wound. One odd thing is the shutter button. It is a little wobbly with some play...just does not give the same solid feel as the rest of the camera.

The focus ring has a finger tab. It is a necessity given how thin the focus ring is. I can imagine it being very useful when I have gloves on, but I find it awkward because I have to take my hand slightly off the lens barrel to push the tab. I also find the aperture and shutter speed rings a bit stiff. They are thin and does not provide enough traction.

The Cds meter is activated during shutter-priority mode. When the aperture ring is turned to the 'A' position, the meter needle indicates the chosen aperture as the shutter speed ring is moved. It almost feels like aperture-priority when looking through the viewfinder. If the chosen aperture is out of range, the shutter release will lock and cannot be depressed. The photographer can then switch to manual mode to override the settings. I think this works better than the sometimes hard-to-see arrows on the Yashica Electro 35 cameras.

Inside the meter window right above the lens, there is a ring with holes of various sizes that correspond to each shutter speed. Sometimes I wonder if the meter will work accurately if the hole is off center when I change the shutter speed. In the Yashica Elector 35 cameras, the holes are tied to the ASA selected which I think is a better implementation. Nonetheless, all the pictures came out great in my test roll, so I guess it works well enough :)

My biggest complain with the QL17 is the viewfinder. It's nice and bright, but it makes the rangefinder spot quite hard to see in low light. My Yashica GX has a viewfinder with a dark green cast. At first I thought it's kinda dark; now I understand it helps to create better contrast with the golden spot so it is easier to focus.

I personally feel the QL17 is a camera for the more deliberate shooters. It works great if there is time to adjust the shutter speed till the desired aperture is reached. Manual mode is also a nice thing to have for street photography.


(Canonet QL17 GIII x Fujicolor Pro 400H)


Friday, June 15, 2007

Pentax K10D Grand Prix Limited Edition Package

To celebrate the K10D's winning of the 2007 Camera Grand Prix, Pentax announced a limited edition package (5000 sets). It features a K10D with gold-colored Pentax and K10D logo, mode dial, and the line “CAMERA GRAND PRIX 2007“ below the rear LCD. It also comes with a battery grip with a brown lever, and a matching camera strap.

The K10D is certainly a great camera. Now Pentax just have to make avaliable some good cheap autofocus primes on the market. It's a strange situation to have ONLY the Limited lenses in stock and everything else sold out...

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Konica Wai Wai Super Wide camera

The Konica Wai Wai camera is one of those strange cameras that only the Japanese can imagine. Selling for less than $10 USD, this disposable camera has a 17mm ultra wide angle lens. There is a mirror attached around the lens for taking self-portraits. Taking self portraits with a whole bunch of people is great fun, and very easy. The camera has a fixed aperture of f/8 and fixed shutter speed at 1/100. Just press the shutter button and hope the film has enough latitude! A flash is included for indoor pictures (an absolute necessity).

Lens performance is of course not even close to competition for an SLR lens. Center is acceptable and the corners are quite fuzzy. The minimum in-focus distance is 40cm, which is somewhat limited for such a wide lens, for example if you want to close up pictures of your dog and keep it not too small in the picture. For people pictures though, it's perfect and produces very interesting effects.

There's just one tiny little problem: this thing is disposable. Luckily, Konica has designed it well enough that people discovered a way to reload the film! I tried it myself, and didn't find it too difficult. The only tricky part was that I had to hide in a dark room under the blanket to unwind the film completely to put it into the case. It made me a bit nervous but the result was worth it.


(Konica Wai Wai x Konica 800 expired 2 years)

(Konica Wai Wai x Fujicolor Natura 1600)

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Dirkon pinhole camera

For my birthday, my brother printed the plans of the Dirkon pinhole camera for me. I spent quite a few nights slowly constructing it while watching TV at the same time. It just happened that April 29, 2007 was Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day, so I took it out for a spin.

Former Soviet Union rangefinders are Russian clones of German design, and the quality can be quite good; my Dirkon is an American (your truly) clone of Czechoslovakia design, and quality is awful... I got light leaks everywhere and the film advance mechanism is totally suspect. The spacing between each frame is quite large, and sometimes I forgot to turn the knob enough and got some overlapping frames. At the end of the roll, I didn't know and forced the film advance knob to turn, and broke it... The lens hood also popped off at the end of the roll...
Sounds like an awful experience? Well, not at all. There is something about going back to the most basic kind of camera that gave me a warm and fuzzy feeling. The results remind me of the first photograph of a person at Wikipedia. My photos were blurry and mostly overexposed, but there's no denying the unique character of them. I doubt can I replicate the effect in Photoshop. The most satisfying thing is that I constructed this camera by my own hands. Putting a pinhole body cap on an SLR body is easy; making the entire body is something on another level. I can only imagine how Mr. Yasuhara felt when he created the T981.


(Dirkon pinhole x Kroger 200)

Friday, May 18, 2007

ayumi hamasaki x HelloKitty x LUMIX collaboration camera!

Ayu has done it again! Already the LUMIX representative, now she got her own version of DMC-FX30 camera. Could this start a new trend in camera styles? When are we gonna see a Bape x Leica camo M8?

For about US$450, one gets a FX30 with special face plate, special box and case. The FX30 is the exact same spec but with a special shutdown logo . It is very stylish and I have to say fits the Asian taste extremely well. While Ayu's popularity has waned somewhat in the recent years, she's still a strong fashion icon and it shows in her new line of ayumi hamasaki x HelloKitty items.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Canon PowerShot S5 IS manages to bore the masses

This year has been exciting in the world of superzooms, and finally we saw the announcement of the Canon S5. It is...disappointing. Whereas the competition decide to up the ante with features like RAW support, 15x zoom and wider wide angles, Canon has decided to simply put in a higher resolution 8 megapixel sensor and call it a day.

Aside from the face detection autofocus feature that became standard this year, I really cannot find anything different between the S3 and the S5. Ok, it does look sexier. If you can find the S3 (or even the S2, which is almost identical to the S3...) for a deal, there's simply no reason to pay the premium to get the S5.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Replacing the light seals on old cameras

Light seals are foam material installed along the door and hinges. These prevent stray light from entering the camera so the film would not be improperly exposed. If you look at my photos from the Yashica GSN with Fuji Superia 400, you might have noticed a light streak in the left half of the photos. That's light leak.

The Yashica GSN is a 30 year old camera. The original foam has returned to its primal state - sticky goo. This is very common with old cameras, as seen also in my Canonet QL17 GIII here. The goo is sticky, does not block light anymore and could get everywhere inside the camera. Luckily, it's not too difficult to replace them.

From recommendations on rangefinderforum, I got the light seal kit from Jon Goodman. His eBay id is interslice. He offers a smaller kit and a bigger one. I got the smaller one. The kit came quickly. It contains a few pieces of foam in different thickness, instructions and a wooden tool to help clean the old seals. Jon also sent me a link to his instructions for specific cameras. Some people would recommend getting cheaper foam from a local craft store, but I'm lazy and wanted assurance that I'm using good material that would not damage my camera and also last a long time. Depending of the type of camera, even the small kit can easily fix 4 to 5 cameras.

I used 70% Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol from Longs. It does a nice job of melting the old light seals. Then I used tissue paper to remove the goo. It takes patience but it's quite fun. There is no need to do a perfect job here, really. After that, I started installing the new seals. I found the 2mm long strips in the kit especially useful; they fit perfectly into the door rails of both my Yashica GSN and Canonet QL17 GIII.

After the easy part, I had to cut the foam from the rest of the material in the kit. Using a sharp knife makes the job much easier. I also find cutting from the paper backing side instead of the foam side reduces curling and the foam sticking to itself. Again, be patient and it WILL be done. Here's a picture of the completed film door.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Yashica Electro 35 GX

The Yashica GX is the last of the fast-lens Electro 35 series. It has a Color Yashinon DX 40mm 1:1.7 lens, a hot shoe and PC connection, a 8-second self timer and shutter lock. The camera is aperture-priority ONLY: set the aperture, and the camera decides the shutter speed (stepless from 1/500 to several seconds). Over and under exposure arrows light up to warn the user if shutter speed needs to be higher than 1/500 or lower than 1/30. There is NO manual mode, which is a limitation. The shutter is an electronic Copal leaf shutter, which means flash sync at any speed (great for fill flash). Film speeds of ISO 25 to 800 are supported.

The GX is routinely referred to as the zenith of all the previous Electro 35 rangefinder cameras. It is basically the same camera as the Yashica GL (great camera), but quite a bit smaller (even better). The silicon meter new to the GL and GX is more reliable than Cds cells, and MUCH more responsive. The 40mm lens is slightly wider and easier to use than the usual 45mm lenses; though not as wide as the 35mm Yashica CC, it does not have the shutter and diaphragm compromises. The GX represents the best compromise between big, fast lens and compact design.

The GX features a Flash Pulse Selector auto flash system, if it's used with the ES-20 Auto strobe. It is close to the TTL flash systems today (more like ATL). The flash has an extra contact on the shoe to communicate with the light meter on the GX. As the flash fires, it uses the meter to learn when to stop output. If the flash exhausted its power and the image is still underexposed, the GX will automatically close the shutter at 1/30 to prevent blurred photos. With ISO set to 100, lining up the ISO lever and the flash symbol on the barrel corresponds to an aperture of f4, where the flash effective range is 5m. Unfortunately, this feature is not present with other strobes. When using a third-party auto flash, there seems to be no way to fix shutter speed at 1/30 easily, a feature I like very much on the GSN. If anyone have tips on how to do that, please let me know.

I love this camera. It is small and light enough that I can carry it all day. I did that with the GSN too but my shoulder would be sore afterwards. The GX takes sharp pictures and shines in low light situations. Recently at a friend's wedding, I shot a roll of Natura 1600 film at 800 and the photos came out better than my Panasonic Fz7.

There are a few issues though. The GX only goes up to ISO 800, which is a bummer. The ISO setting lever is very inconvinent compared to the dial design, makeing exposure compensation difficult. The camera is quite a bit lighter than the GSN, and overall does not fell as solid.

You can search for GSNs on eBay with keywords Yashica GX, or a broader search Electro 35 will get you the entire family.


(Yashica GX x Fujicolor Reala)

(Yashica GX x Fujicolor Pro 400H)
(Yashica GX x Fujicolor Pro 160S)


Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Ricoh Caplio GX100 brings 24mm back to compact digital cameras

If you like the Ricoh GR Digital, the GX100 is going to blow your mind. Featuring a 24-72mm (35mm equivalent) F2.5-4.4 lens, it covers the most useful zoom range of any compact digital camera to date. The lens contains 11 elements in 7 groups! The GX 100 uses a 7 blade diaphragm that will certainly bring nice bokeh.
This camera must be designed to steal the thunder from right underneth the Sigma DP1. It's sensor is "only" 1/1.75", but it's already larger than most compacts. The sensor is 10 megapixels, with support for JPG or RAW. Max shutter speed is 1/2000(same as the GR Digital), which is quite nice for a compact.

On top of all that, the GX100 will feature the first ever detachable LCD viewfinder! This camera is like the DP1 on steroids... If you look right under the hot shoe, you can see a little port for the viewfinder connection. This is truely exciting times we're living in. The camera is estimated to be around $750, quite reasonable for what you're getting, and a really strong alternative to the DP1 if it were to go above $1000.

UPDATE: The detachable viewfinder sits on the hotshoe and can be rotated up 90 degrees! The camera also contains CCD-shift image stabilization. At the announcement event, the GX100 is called the Mini Cooper of cameras. I think they're right :)

UPDATE2: Ricoh corrected its news release that claimed the detachable LCD viewfinder is the first in digital history. Actually, the 1998 Fuji DS-330 1.3 megapixel digital camera is the first ever digital camera with this feature. For more details of that camera, visit Steve's Digicams for the DS-330.

Panasonic Lumix FX07 Urushi (lacquer)

I first saw these on Mono magazine, and was quite amused. For some, luxury means a red dot on a black or chrome body; for others, luxury means embracing their own culture and tradition with color to match.
Urushi is lacquer art form common to many south east asian cultures. Japan has a rich tradition in this art. Last year, Panasonic released the FX07 with 5 different lacquer finishes. These cameras are done by the same company that did the ultra rare Leica R7 Urushi. Web images can't do these cameras justice; the 3-dimensional finish is incredible. Each color is limited to 100 units. Of course, luxury comes at a price. At 59800yen, these cameras cost more than double the regular FX07.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

R-D1s Lens Kit - last call for the Epson Rangefinder?

The Leica M8 has grabbed all the headlines these days. First with its initial rush, infrared problems, fixes, firmware updates, filters finally available, initial rush over with stock on several major websites, etc, etc, today we got to hear from the "other" digital rangefinder maker, Epson, and it might not be good news.

Epson announced the R-D1s Len Kit (R-D1sL), to be available in Japan in April. The kit will come with a Cosina Color Skopar 28mm F3.5 lens in black with round hood, a M-Bayonet Adapter, a special neckstrap and a soft leather half case (silver or red fonts).

The Color Skopar 28mm lens on the R-D1s becomes a 42mm given the sensor size. It is very close to the normal human perspective (43mm). It's F3.5, not the best low light performer but it's small and light, making the combination very useful for street photography. The included Leica mount adapter expands the lens options for the R-D1s, which otherwise is a $55-dollar part.

As we know the production of R-D1 has ended. This is possibily the last clearing of stock before Epson completes sells out of its inventory. With the revival of film rangefinders, one would think the digital rangefinder market should be sizable. At almost $5000 for the M8 (body only, in comparison the Canon 5D is about half the price), one would think there must be money to be made here, no?

Friday, March 16, 2007

Canon SD800 IS Digital ELPH review roundup

The Canon SD800 IS Digital ELPH (aka Canon IXUS 850 IS or IXY Digital 900 IS) is a massively popular ultracompact camera. It's just the right size and is made by Canon. It also has a very useful 28-105mm lens for versatile every use.
It's rare Dpreview gives a Canon camera anything but Highly Recommended. The SD800 received a Recommended only because the image quality is actually a step back from the previous SD700. DCRP recommended it citing the very useful lens zoom range. I personally feel it's just another Canon, not much innovation but you can't really go wrong with it.

Pentax K10D review roundup

The Pentax K10D is currently the flagship of the Pentax SLR line. With a long list of great features (in-camera shake reduction, dust and weather seals, automatic sensor cleaning, compatble with all K-mount lens, etc) it is a strong competition amoung the similarly prices SLRs from other manufacturers. The question is, how does it stack up?
The consensus seems to be that the in-camera processing engine does not do the K10D justice. You will be able to squeeze much more quality from RAW than shooting in jpg mode. This is a bummer somewhat. Otherwise, it has gotten good reviews from Dpreview and DCRP. My only concern is the short supply of lenses. The fabled FA 50mm f/1.4 and FA 43mm f/1.9 Limited lenses are almost as hard to find as the Nitendo Wii. This has driven the price of SMC-A 50mm (f/1.7 and f/1.4) lenses up on eBay. Pentax has promised to make more digital-only DA lens soon. Let's hope they deliver and we get a new competitor in the DSLR field dominated by Nikon and Canon.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-G1 comes with big screen TV

Just kidding, but close. The DSC-G1 has a mega big 3.5" LCD screen with 921K pixels, allowing you to see your photos clearer than ever. I can just imagine how impressive it is to display slide show with music to my friends and family members.

The DSC-G1 has the unusual 2GB of internal memory, which can save a memory stick purchase (those things are expensive). The G1 also has the ability to send photos wirelessly to other Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA)-enabled devices, such as another camera or a PC, a nice touch to save the hassle of wires and memory stick readers. I have to say this is one of the best extra-featured camera we've seen yet.

The camera itself is just like any other Cyber-shots out there, 3x optical zoom 6 megapixel with many scene modes. It will ship in April for $600. A little steep but would certainly be a great gift for anyone.

Sigma DP1 - the future is here

It's always the small players who rock the boat. Sigma did it today with the announcement of the Sigma DP1, featuring a APS size sensor, the same ones used on entry-level DSLRs, that is 12 times bigger than a 1/2.5" sensor. This is a 14 megapixel Foveon X3 sensor with the TRUE image engine that was co-developed with Fujitsu. Image quality is going to be good! And it output RAW files too. Shame on you Canon G7.
The DP1 features a 28mm (35mm equiv) f4 lens with 6 elements in 5 groups. Most people will not even consider anything less than a 3x zoom these days, but a fixed lens often means better quality because it's optimized with less moving parts. On a SLR, even cheap primes (fixed focal length lens) perform better than much more expensive zooms. I expect this lens to perform well; afterall, Sigma is really a lens maker and making cameras is just a part-time job :)
The DP1 looks like a rangefinder. There are even optional accessories to make it look even more like one. There is a optical viewfinder that can be put in the hotshoe, and a rectangular hood! I suspect this camera will create waves in the rangefinder community who might find the Leica M8 and Epson R-D1 too expensive.

There has long been talks about why we don't have something like this yet, and finally Sigma brought it to us. Thank you very much. Visit their special site for more details of the Sigma DP1.

Kodak EasyShare Z712 IS features ISO 3200

The high sensitivity arms race is going very hot these days. Seems like every digital camera supports ISO 1600 or 3200, even with their tiny sensors. Kodak announced their EasyShare Z712 IS 12x optical zoom camera with ISO 3200.
The specs are very similar to the Panasonic FZ8. The lens is 36–432 mm (35 mm equiv.) f/2.8–4.8, which is the same range, though the wide end f4.8 is a bit weaker. The LCD is 2.5" with 230K pixels, and the viewfinder is also 115K pixels. Kodak claims to have Best-in-class click-to-capture speed of 0.26s. We'll have to wait for the reviews to see if it's really as good as the claim. In ISO 3200 mode, pictures are limited to 1.2 megapixels, quite small but might be useful for example in a dark aquarium where it's dark and fishes are swimming fast.

At a MSRP of $299 and the Kodak name, this camera will surely get a lot of attention. Similarly lower-priced superzooms include the Fuji FinePix S700.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Samsung NV7 OPS Reviews Roundup

Samsung has a lineup of stylish cameras that really sparks the imagination. The NV7 OPS grabs lots of attention with it's interesting design. Samsung should be praised for its innovation of different products, even if sometimes they are not of the best quality. Same thing with the NV7 OPS. The camera comes with interesting specs, notablely the 7x optical zoom 38mm-270mm Schneider-KREUZNACH lens. Unfortunately, the concensus is that image quality is mediocre. In addition, while the menu system is unique, it's not a great improvement over current systems. Let's hope Samsung can do better next time.
Reviews from different sources:

Nikon D40x is official!

Nikon today confirmed the rumors about the D40x. It's here! The D40 gathered a lot of attention last year, and today the D40x is announced to compete with the 10 megapixel Canon Digital Rebel XTi. At $730 body only, and $800 with a 18-55mm lens. This is $150 higher than the D40, so this is not really a replacement. The D40x has a lower ISO sensitivity option of 100, quite useful when using fast lens. The continuous shooting mode is also slightly faster (3.0 fps vs 2.5fps). Nothing particular new, but the D40x is a great alternative in the 10 megapixel group including the Canon XTi and Pentax K10D.

A detailed hand-on preview is already online at

Friday, March 2, 2007

Sony DSC-W200

Sony's new lineup of compact cameras includes the DSC-W200, DSC-W90 and DSC-W80. The W200 has the most impress specs for a compact, with W90 and W80 almost the same with 8.1 and 7.2 megapixels.

The W200 has a whopping 12megapixel 1/1.7" sensor. This is the most compact 12 megapixel camera to date. It's now 2 times the resolution of the Nikon D40, its entry-level DSLR (we'll see a 10 megapixel D40x soon though). The W200 spots a 3x optical zoom lens (35-105mm f2.8-5.5). What's interesting is that the lens for W90 and W80 are 35-105mm f2.8-5.2, very slightly faster probably because of the smaller sensors (1/2.5"). I hope this doesn't imply vignetting in the W200 (because the sensor is too big for the lens). It comes with all the standard features of this year: face recognition, ISO 3200, HDTV compatible (with optional cable). The LCD is 2.5" with 115K pixels, somewhat disappointing. I hope this translates into a cheaper street price to compete with great compacts from Panasonic and Canon.