Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Sony DSC-H9 and DSC-H7

Sony announced their updates to the highly popular superzoom cameras H5 and H2. Sony focus this year is on HDTV display of photos, the new Bionz image processor (also used on the Alpha DSLR) and face recognition. The lens is a 15x optical zoom 31-465mm (35mm equivalent). The 31mm wide end is good improvement over the standard 35mm, though not as good as the Olympus SP-550UZ. Sensor is 8.1 megapixels, with support for up to ISO 3200. There is face recognition, and focus prediction of fast moving objects. Viewing pictures on HDTV is possible with an optional component cable.

The most impressive feature on the H9 (not on the H7) is the 3" flip out LCD. Image composition can NOT be easier on that giant TV screen. It also has a NightShot technology that allows for shooting in complete darkness. Definitely wait for the review on that feature to see how useful it is. The H7 is cheaper with a 2.5" LCD that's half the resolution and no NightShot technology.

The superzoom market has gotten very competitive this year. While last year's models were almost identical across manufacturers, every manufacturer makes some unique features this year. Also check out the Panasonic FZ8 with RAW.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Fuji FinePix S700

We just can't get enough superzooms this PMA. Fuji announced their new budget superzoom. Spec are not too impressive, but for users on a budget it's plenty of camera for the buck.

The S700 is 7.1 megapixels, but is not the usual Fuji SuperCCD. That is a pity because the SuperCCD is famous for its low light performance. The lens is a 10x opertical zoom, 38-380mm f/3.5-3.7. The wide end of 38mm is slightly longer than most digital cameras, and f3.5 fails to impress. There is also no optical image stabilization, a much needed feature for superzooms like this (though it does have ISO boosting "stabilization"). A somewhat disappointing camera, but Fuji should still be commended for introducing a decent camera for this price range (list $249.95).

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Canon Powershot TX1

This may be signs of times to come. It's Canon's newest hybrid HD Video camera that can also take 7.1 megapixel photos.
The HD Video features of this little camera is impressive. It can do 720p widescreen movies at 30 frames per second, with component video output to playback movies on a HDTV.
The photo features are nice also. The lens is a 10x optical zoom, with optical image stabilization. The DIGIC III engine, proven in may Canon cameras, features face detection technology to accurately focus on subjects. Personally I really like the way the screen flips out, though it's somewhat low resolution at 115,000 pixels.

Nikon Coolpix P5000

Nikon announced the Coolpix P5000. It is very interesting as it is Nikon's first prosumer camera to compete directly with Canon's G7.

The P5000 has a 3.5x optical zoom 36mm-126mm f/2.7-5.3 lens. The f5.3 at the wide end is not too impressive, but the lens contains the same Vibration Reduction (VR) technology as inside the Nikon DSLR lens. Like the Canon G7, the Coolpix P5000 has a 10 megapixel, 1/1.8" sensor. Image quality should be very good. Additionally, the P5000 has a hotshoe for external flash and adaptor lens to extend its capabilities.

The most interesting feature is the Best Shot Selector, which automatically selects the sharpest image from a sequence of 10 shots. This would make it easy to capture sharp photos in challenging low light conditions. Unfortunately, like the Canon G7, the P5000 does not support RAW.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Olympus Stylus 770 SW

Olympus announced the Stylus 770 SW (μ Mju 770 SW) last month. It's a super compact camera with impressive toughness. The camera features a 7.1 megapixel sensor, 2.5" LCD (nice to see when underwater) and a 3x optical zoom. Normally these tough cameras are ugly, but the 770 SW looks quite stylish, coming in Silver, Bronze and Royal Blue.

The 770SW is waterproof to as deep as 33 feet (10 meters) and withstand as cold as -14F degrees (-10C). It can survive falls up to 5 feet (a very common occurrence for some people...) and heavy loads up to 220 pound pressure. What I like about it is it includes a manometer that measures air and water pressure to calculate the altitude and depth of the photos. If the 770SW comes with a GPS to record the precise location of photo capture, it really would be the perfect outdoor camera.

With a list price of $379.99, it's an awesome camera for people living the active lifestyle. Check out the hands-on preview on Digital Camera Info.

Update! Impress Watch Japan just posted sample pictures from the μ770SW.

Also, Gizmodo has a picture of the 770SW inside a block of ice at PMA 07.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Article about Gear Acquisition Syndrome

The Chum Buck has an excellent article titled The Quest describing the different stages of camera gear obsession. It's great reading for anyone suffering from G.A.S. attacks. Most of us will never get out of the vicious cycle; only a select few will ever reach Nirvana. It's a nice, thought provoking article. Definitely check it out.

GE enters digital camera market - analysis of the G1

"GE is changing the picture." GE announced that they will formally launch a new line of cameras at the PMA (Photo Marketing Association) show in March. The cameras are actually made by a new company called General Imaging, led by a former president of Olympus Imaging.

It seems GE will launch at least 2 digital cameras, an entry-level 7 megapixel camera with a 2.5" LCD, and a higher-end 12 megapixel camera with a 3" LCD, all with image stabilization, high ISO sensitivity and panoramic stitching.

The sample camera that came with the press release is a 7 megapixel sub compact similar to the Sony T50. It's simple but quite handsome. Click on above to see a full view. From the picture, it has a 3x optical zoom controlled by an unusual scroll wheel. The shutter bottom is a little far from the left edge, possibility designed for people with larger hands. There is a mysterious round thing in the middle that seems to be some kind of indicator light, and next to it is the microphone for movie mode. On the back we can see the dial for different available modes: auto, playback, night shooting, landscape, sports, SCN (other scene modes), shaking hand (CONFIRMED: image stabilization, which would imply a ISO boosting stabilization rather than optical stabilization) and video. The four-way round button shows the usual stuff, flash, exposure compensation (very convenient), macro and self time. I cannot guess what that smiley face button is for, possibly some kind of slide show mode? (UPDATE: it is face detection mode)

GE, household name for home appliances and medical equipment, is not a brand one would associate with digital cameras. I think GE is planning to ride its name targeting consumers new to digital cameras, and use its retail channels in department stores to increase exposure. GE will not be a threat to Canon or Nikon, but will pose big problems for Kodak and other small makers. Should be an interesting show.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Olympus SP-550 UZ Ultra Zoom Preview Roundup

As the name suggests, this is not your normal super zoom. It's called the Ultra Zoom because it has a whopping 18x optical zoom lens with a focal length of 28-504mm (35mm equivalent) f/2.8-4.5. The wide 28mm is not common with these superzooms, and it is a very useful focal length. Resolution is 7.2 megapixels, with support for RAW mode. The Olympus SP-550 UZ can capture 15 frames per seconds. It's so fast, the Pre-Capture technology even captures 5 frames in the camera buffer, BEFORE the shutter is released. Unique among manufacturers, the SP-550 has what's called Dual Image Stabilization that shifts the sensor and boosts the ISO when necessary. Normally it's either or and this is an interesting combination that could help in desperate situations. Maximum ISO is 5000! The stats really does not stop to impress. How does it stack up? Here are 5 sites with first hands-on previews for your pleasure:

Friday, February 9, 2007

Minox DCC Leica M3 (5MP) Review

Impress Watch (Japanese) has put up a review of the new Minox DCC Leica M3 mini digital camera. Announced in September 2006, it's an major update from the previous 4.0 megapixel version, with 5 megapixels, a new 1.5" LCD display and support of SD card up to 4GB. The lens is a 42mm (35mm equivalent), 4-element glass lens with aperture fixed at f3.0. There are three focus ranges: 0.5m, 1m and infinity. ISO is fixed at 100.

Impress Watch reports that image quality is not much better than toy camera from several years ago (ouch!). "Color noise is high, dynamic range is low, lens resolution low, color is boring and white balance is off." But they reported on an very interesting "feature." This Minox camera has no shutter, and the sensor records the image in a scanner-like manner; if the camera is moved during capture, a wobble effect is created, similar to looking underwater. The effect is very interesting, especially if used on people. Definitely go to Impress Watch to look at the samples on the bottom of the page.

This tiny but very detailed camera will certainly turn many heads. If you want to stand out amoung your Leica M8 wielding friends, this is the camera to get.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Green Dalek Supersampler

The Lomographic Society has come up with a new color for the Dalek Supersampler - Green. This is a lot easier to swallow than the glossy hot pink original version. The surface is a rubber, which should be easier to hold as well.

The Supersampler is a camera that allows the photographer to capture four sequential panoramic shots on a single photo. There is a Speed Button to choose between 4 shots in 2 seconds or 4 shots in 0.2 seconds. It's a complete antithesis to the current high-tech digital cameras: no viewfinder, no instant preview, uses film, cheaply made. In fact, some users report the shutter string breaking after just one roll. Despite all this, the effect is very special that's hard to duplicate with digital.

It's not so much about the technical properties of the final photo, but rather the state of mind going into taking a shot with the Supersampler, or the absence of it. The Lomo rule, "Don't think, just shoot," applies to this camera and you'll be surprised at how good (or bad) the pictures come out. Be careful when you look at their web page though; a lot of the high saturation effects are created by cross-processing (developing the negative in a different kind of chemical from intended), so you'll need to find a lab who knows how to do this if you want that effect.

It's not a camera for everyone. If you have a camera nut in your circle though, it could be a very fine Valentine's Day gift :)

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Panasonic DMC-FZ8 Review

Dpreview has put up a review of the Lumix FZ8 today. That was quick! Normally only Canons get this kind of quick reviews over there. It has gotten a Highly Recommended. Needless to say, it created a firestorm in the forums.

From the review, it's nice to see the image resolution has increased a little bit. The bigger LCD and viewfinder are now one of the best in the superzoom class. Unfortunately, noise reduction is very strong with the Venus Engine III. The RAW mode allows a user to bypass the noise reduction, which is an awesome feature. Using RAW will increase shot to shot time to around 3 seconds, which I think is tolerable.

One thing of concern is highlight clipping, which Dpreview found worse than the FZ7. Whoever wants smaller dynamic range, raise your hand! It seems a 1/2.5" size sensor can really only do so much, when the megapixel count is pushed to such extremes. I agree with Dpreview; if you can accept the image quality limitations of these compact superzooms, there's really no better value than the FZ8.

It deserves a Highly Recommended.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Kodak launches inkjet printers

Kodak today completes it's transformation from a film imaging company to a digital imaging company by offering the last step in the imaging process, printing at home. As we know, Kodak already offers online and instore photo printing, so this move is not a big surprise. What is interesting though, is the fact that Kodak will charge around $50 more for each printer but much less for ink than the other leading printer manufacturers. The statistics given by Kodak suggests per photo cost to be reduced by almost fifty percent.

This is a great move because personally I am really sick of paying crazy prices for ink. I have given up printing at home altogether because printing at a store/online is so much cheaper, and better quality. In fact, going to a kiosk to edit and select pictures for printing has become a family event for many Americans. The Kodak printers will not change that, but they will offer great convenience to people who want quick copies at home or they don't need the quality from a store. In terms of quality, the Kodak printers should do a decent job given their 5-ink pigment-based color cartridges.

Kodak will offer three models: KODAK EASYSHARE 5100, 5300 and 5500. They are basically the same All-in-One printer with 5300 adding a 3" LCD and card reader and 5500 adding fax functionality, 2.4" LCD and document handling attachments. If you're bored, check out Kodak's new website for some humor about ink cost.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Casio Exilim Zoom EX-Z1050

Casio only makes slim cameras, but their new lineup does not lack interesting contenders. The Z1050 will come in pink, blue, black and silver.

Aimed at stylish consumers, this little camera spots a massive 1/1.75" 10.1 megapixel sensor. The lens is a 3x optical zoom 38-114mm. It has a 2.6" LCD screen, which is almost as big as it can get into the camera. Internal memory has been increased from 8MB to 15.4MB. There is anti shake DSP to reduce handshake. It is not optical stabilization, though, so don't expect miracles. It also has subject motion detection that boosts ISO to ensure sharp pictures, similar to the Panasonics.

What's different, is auto tracking auto focus that helps lock on to fast moving subjects. This feature is especially useful with the maximum 7 shots/second high-speed continuous shooting (lmited to 2.0 megapixels and normal image quality), the EX-Z1050 should be a useful camera for sporting events. Yes, 2 megapixels is quite small, but even a DSLR don't have this kind of performance. There is also the interesting eBay Best Shot mode, which makes photo optimized for ebay display.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Panasonic TZ3

Panasonic introduced the new Panasonic DMC-TZ3 camera. Targeted at the active traveler, the TZ3 has sophisticated features in a compact package. Panasonic called this the "lady" camera, as opposed to the "girl" FX30.
Although targeted at more mature customers, the TZ3 is no less trendy than the FX30. It has a very useful 28mm to 280mm lens (10x zoom), at F3.3-4.9. F3.3 is a little slow for low light, hopefully the larger sensor is able to make up for it. The TZ3 is a 7.3 megapixel camera, but the sensor is actually 8.5 megapixel with a size of 1/2.35" (compared to normally 1/2.5"). This allows the TZ3 to capture true 16:9 aspect ratio images, as opposed to some camera where 16:9 means trimming the top and bottom pixels.

The TZ3 has the new features common to the FX30, like the SDHC support, Venus Engine III and the intelligent ISO mode. For travelers, a travel date mode and a memo mode is added. The travel date mode allows a user to set the departure date of the trip, and the camera will record and display the images in chronological order of the trip. The memo mode uses the internal memory (12.7MB) to store essential information, for example a photo of a subway map, that can be displayed quickly later. I can imagine this mode being very useful, because the TZ3 has a 3" LCD. A three inch LCD is very easy on the eyes, which makes showing off photos to friends a very enjoyable experience.

Make me wonder when we'll be able to watch TV on a camera :)