Reviews

Hyperdrive Colourspace – Review – 29

Hyperdrive Colourspace 02

Harley Ogier says the HyperDrive Colorspace is a fast and robust unit that can be easily upgraded

Sanho is responsible for the HyperDrive range of photo backup devices, an award-winning line of hand-held units that allow you to back up your digital photographs quickly and easily on the road.

The Colorspace Ultra Direct Memory Access (UDMA) is the latest addition to its line-up.

Strictly utilitarian

The casing is made up of a black plastic front and a black metal back, with open slots for memory cards and a power cable. You won’t find plastic or rubber flaps for dust protection, nor will you find anything ergonomic. However, it’s a solid machine that’ll transfer files from your card at blistering speeds.

The model I reviewed came with a 120-gigabyte hard drive, which could easily hold tens of thousands of 12 megapixel JPEGs or several thousand RAW files; other versions are available up to 500 gigabytes. The drive is easily user-replaceable and a case-only version is available for people who want to install the drive themselves.

Quick save

The Colorspace UDMA provides extremely quick back-up of memory cards, at up to 40 megabits per second (depending on the speed your card allows). This means you can back up a two-gigabyte memory card in a minute.

Incremental back-up is supported so you can copy just those images that have been added or changed since your last back-up. This is a great time saver if you’re keeping your photographs on both your memory card and the back-up device.

Transfer from the UDMA to a computer is also reasonably fast when using a high-speed USB port on your PC. The unit appears as a removable hard drive on your computer, so there’s no software to install ” just plug and play.

Sanho claims the battery will last for 250GB worth of back-ups between charges. However, that assumes you won’t view your photos on the screen, because ” as you’d expect ” doing so will put extra pressure on the life of the battery.

Usability issues

The Colorspace UDMA features an extremely bare user interface that looks like something out of MS-DOS days.

Browsing images is awkward using the inbuilt screen, especially when you have a few hundred in one folder (as most cameras tend to store their photos).

You can’t hold buttons down to scroll, so you end up pressing a button a few hundred times to get through ¨a list.

However, there is a particularly nifty calendar view in which you can see a thumbnail for each day you’ve taken photographs, but it’s impossible to browse more than one month at a time.

But you can view picture histograms layered over the photo shown on the computer’s screen, which is really nifty.

Conclusion

The Colorspace UDMA is brilliant as a portable back-up device, but rather limited as a media viewer. It offers a lot of storage, can be upgraded and has a fast and powerful back-up system. However, its awkward user interface may limit its appeal for those who want more than a fast, solid, back-up unit.

Sanho Hyperdrive Colourspace UDMA Specs

  • Manufacturer: Sanho Corporation
  • Model: HyperDrive Colorspace UDMA
  • Display: 3.2-inch LCD, 320 x 240 pixels
  • Hard disk drive: 2.5-inch SATA, 120GB, user replaceable
  • Memory card support: CompactFlash (Type I/II), MicroDrive, SD, SDHC, MMC, Memory Stick, MS MagicGate, MS Select, MS PRO, MS PRO MagicGate, xD, xD Type H/M
  • Image Formats: JPEG, RAW (Canon CR2/CRW, Nikon NEF, Olympus ORF, Panasonic RAW, Pentax PEF)
  • Battery: Lithium-ion
  • Size: 133 x 75 x 26mm
  • Weight: 298g (including battery)

Contact

www.hyperdrive.com

PROS

  • Great storage capacity
  • Powerful back-up features

CONS

Dated user interface

Design                      14
Performance             15
Features                   17
Image Quality           14
Value for money       15

TOTAL     75/100

This article if from D-Photo issue 29.

Epson P-3000 – Review – 29

Epson P-3000 02

Taking your camera on the road is all well and good until your memory card fills up. Starting with Epson’s P-3000, Harley Ogier tests two portable storage devices that can free up your memory card and let you carry on shooting.

The P-3000 is the entry-level model in Epson’s range of multimedia storage viewers, targeted at the “professional photographer and advanced amateur”. Half backup device, half media player, it does a pretty good job of both but doesn’t push the boundaries of either.

Strangely familiar

Users of digital cameras will find the P-3000 extremely familiar: it’s shaped so like a compact camera, I can’t hold it without my index finger reaching for an imaginary shutter button. The controls are set to the right of the screen, just as you find on most digital cameras, with nice anatomical grips on each side.

The menus are like those of most cameras combined with those of a media player. You’ll find options such as My Photos and My Videos, all of which are pretty clear. The fonts are smooth, the icons simple yet sharp and the whole thing has a slick feel that really flattens the learning curve.

Backup

Being an entry-level model the P-3000 only features a 40GB hard drive that could store perhaps 10,000 12 megapixel JPEG photos or a few thousand RAW files. It’s not going to last you a month-long world tour if you shoot 500 RAW images a day, but it’s still a decent capacity for selective photographers or short trips.

The backup process is simple: just pop in your card and select ˜Memory Card Backup’. It’s not the fastest process, taking 10 minutes to back up my two-gigabyte card. Memory card support is also limited to the industry standards ” if your camera uses a proprietary format such as xD or Sony’s Memory Stick, you’ll need an optional adapter.

Restoring your backups to a memory card or USB drive is simple, though connecting the P-3000 to a computer requires Epson’s proprietary software. Once the software is installed all’s well, but one wonders why it doesn’t just appear on the desktop as a normal USB device.

Playback

Avoid copying unfocussed or noisy images across to the P-3000 because its brilliantly perfect 4-inch LCD is going to show you just how bad they are. With four dots per pixel (instead of the usual three), colours are stunning.Your average LCD computer monitor just can’t compare ” Epson’s top-end P-7000 viewer can actually be used as a second computer screen to check your image colours.

The P-3000 supports RAW files from a wide range of camera manufacturers and JPEGs up to 30 megapixels. A good range of video formats are also supported, along with MP3 and WMA audio files. You can’t play music in the background while working with images or anything so fancy, but the P-3000 could happily replace a basic MP3 player.

Conclusion

The P-3000 lacks any advanced backup features and suffers from limited storage. However, the display quality is superb and the model a good choice for reviewing images and making short-term backups. For megapixel-hungry professionals or longer term storage, look at the P-7000, which features a 160GB hard drive for four times the capacity.

Specs

  • Manufacturer: Epson
  • Model: P-3000
  • Display: 4-inch LCD, 640 x 480 pixels, 16.7 million colours
  • Memory: 40GB
  • Memory Card Support: CompactFlash (Type I/II), Microdrive, SD, MMC, MMCplus
  • Image Formats: JPEG (up to 30MP), RAW (Epson, Nikon, Canon, Konica Minolta, Pentax, Sony, Olympus, FujiFilm, Adobe DNG)
  • Video Formats: MPEG-1/2/4, DivX, Motion JPEG, WMV
  • Audio Formats: MP3, MPEG4-AAC, WMA
  • Battery: Lithium-ion
  • Size: 150 x 88.7 x 33.1mm
  • Weight: 426g

Contact

www.epson.co.nz

PROS

  • Stunning screen quality
  • Extensive file format support

CONS

  • Check that your memory card is supported

Design                      18
Performance             16
Features                   17
Image Quality           20
Value for money       14

TOTAL     85/100

This article if from D-Photo issue 29.

Canon EOS 450D – Review – 24

Canon 450D 001

Fraser Kitt was the first person in the country to get his hands on Canon’s new EOS 450D. He’s still beaming.

Canon has made some major improvements with its latest entry-level digital SLR, the EOS 450D, including shrinking the card slot for SD cards and ballooning the LCD screen to a gigantic three inches. The frame rate has taken a bump up to 3.5fps and the buffer can now withstand a massive 56 images in one hit. But is this the camera for you?

Big love

Boosting the screen size to three inches is a good thing as the information generated is so easy to read, even for aging eyes. Each box of information on the screen is clear and a quick look around the camera back will give you the corresponding button to push to make changes.

When using shutter or aperture priority the camera even prompts you to turn the wheel to make exposure adjustments. It means making adjustments using the screen is fast and allows you to tweak without raising the camera to your eye. When you do move the camera to your eye a sensor just under the eyepiece automatically shuts off the screen.

Live view

I’m still not a big fan of Live View but this new feature in dSLRs is starting to develop in the 450D. Once you have enabled Live View and scoured the custom functions for the two different settings, you will be able to read the camera like a compact.
Ideally you’ll use manual focus when shooting in Live View, but should you wish to take advantage of the camera’s auto-focus system, using the custom settings will help. Quick Mode ” a contradiction in terms ” lets you choose where you want the focus point to be, then, with the press of the asterisk button, will set the camera about focusing. The screen will black out when you press the button as the mirror goes down to allow focusing. It takes valuable time and is annoyingly slow.
The other option Live Mode works faster, allowing the camera to focus with the mirror up, but it is still slower than holding the camera to your eye. The beauty of the Live View settings is that you can tether the camera to your computer with the USB cable and take pictures remotely.

Get the point

The nine-point focus system works beautifully and will automatically select where your subject is when using the AI Focus. Or, with a push of the button and turn of the control wheel, you can select any of the points to use.

Conclusion

Canon has improved this model out of this world with a big 12.2 million pixel CMOS sensor, huge three-inch screen and the brilliant DiG!C III image processor for images with the correct colour balance and just the right punch to make them look realistic.

The screen could be better ” it only has 230,000 pixels so double or triple this amount would make it unbelievable.

Realistically, this is a budget camera that is aimed at those who don’t want to carry a bulky camera. The ability to shoot a series of images at 3.5fps is a bonus, as are the image-stabilised lenses. And I’m sure there is someone out there who will love the Live View.

Specs

  • Manufacturer: Canon
  • Model: EOS 450D
  • Price: $1699
  • Effective Pixels: 12.2 million
  • Lens: 18-55mm EF-S IS & ¨ 55-250mm EF-S IS
  • Viewfinder: Eye level pentamirror
  • Monitor: 3-inch TFT colour LCD ¨ (230,000 pixels)
  • Shutter: 30 — 1/4000 sec
  • Aperture: f3.5 — f5.6
  • ISO: Auto, 100, 200, 400, ¨ 800, 1600
  • Shooting Modes: Green Auto, ¨ Program, Aperture & Shutter ¨ Priority, Manual, Auto Depth, ¨ Portrait, Landscape, Macro, ¨ Sport, Night Scene, Flash Off
  • Exposure Metering: Evaluative, ¨ Partial, Spot, Average
  • Focus Modes: One shot AF, AI ¨ servo AF, AI focus AF, manual
  • Media: SD, SDHC
  • File Format: JPEG, RAW
  • Flash: Built in
  • Interface: USB2, AV
  • Batteries: Lithium-ion ¨ rechargeable
  • Dimensions: 128.8 x 97.5 x ¨ 61.9mm
  • Weight: 475g (body only)

Contact

www.canon.co.nz

Pros

  • Fast SD card with SDHC support
  • Big 3-inch screen
  • Sensor cleaning

Cons

  • Not enough pixels in the screen

Design                      18
Performance             18
Features                   18
Image Quality           19
Value for money       17

TOTAL     90/100

This review is from D-Photo issue #024

Sony DSC-W120 – Review – 24

Sony DSCW120B 001

Sony’s new W120 comes in black, blue, silver or pink and is packed with 7.2 million pixels and a 4x optical zoom ” but it is its facial recognition and smile shutter that will make shooting your mates a barrel of fun.

Smile, You’re on Candid Camera

Facial recognition has taken photography to new heights; it makes shooting people so easy. Sony has given you three options so that you can precisely target your audience. The auto option is the simplest, putting little boxes around each head in the scene and altering the exposure so it is perfect for skin tones. Because a lot of us shoot children the W120 has a child priority setting that targets the little heads in your picture, or you can select adult priority to capture the adults in the picture ahead of the tiny tots.
If you want to ensure your subjects are smiling when the shutter fires, just switch the dial to smile shutter ” which automatically snaps a shot when your subject smiles. You don’t even have to press the shutter because the camera analyses the faces in the scene and fires the shutter the instant someone grins. The camera also recognises a face in profile ” a major advancement in facial recognition ” tracking your subjects even when they turn away from the camera.

Zoom, zoom, zoom

Sony’s affiliation with Carl Zeiss means this camera has a lens that is enviably sharp. The Vario Tessar zoom covers a decent 32mm wide angle through 4x to 128mm telephoto. At the wide-angle end of the zoom you’ll get more in the picture with the wider-than-normal 32mm lens, or shoot beautiful portraits at the 128mm telephoto end. Don’t forget the macro mode that will let you shoot as close as 50mm for impressive close-up images.

Flash Gordon

Even in its entry-level camera Sony offers unrivalled flash coverage. The camera isn’t confused when shooting though doorways or when your subject would normally be out of range. If you delve into the scene modes you’ll be amazed at how well this little camera balances available light and flash in the Twilight Portrait mode. As the name suggests, it will work best when there is still some available light in the sky.

Slow to Show

I’m finally getting with the ˜now’ generation, and when it comes to how quickly images are portrayed on the screen this camera is slow. You push the review button and have to wait for the image to be processed before the first picture comes up, then each subsequent image pops onto screen fuzzily before sharpening up. It will hardly depress you to have to wait a few seconds but it is slow to show.

Conclusion

Sony’s compact and cute Cybershot W120 takes sharp images and gives brilliant flash coverage, offering more flash range than any other camera in its price bracket. The facial recognition works almost faultlessly, but I did notice it slows down in lower light conditions and it sometimes fails to lock on to heads if they are small in the scene. You’ll find the 4x optical zoom very useful since it starts at 32mm and reaches to 128mm telephoto, making it ideal for travel or just shooting family and friends.

Specs

  • Manufacturer: Sony
  • Model: Cybershot DSC-W120
  • Price: $399
  • Effective Pixels: 7.2 million
  • Lens: Carl Zeiss Vario Tessar ¨ 5.35-21.4mm (32-128mm 35mm ¨ equivalent)
  • Viewfinder: Optical
  • Monitor: 2.5-inch TFT LCD ¨ (115,200 pixels)
  • Shutter: One to 1/1600 sec
  • Aperture: f2.8 — f5.8
  • ISO: Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, ¨ 1600, 3200
  • Shooting Modes: Easy, Auto, ¨ Program, Scene — Twilight, ¨ Beach, Snow, Fireworks, Twilight ¨ Portrait, Landscape, Soft Snap, ¨ Smile Shutter, High Sensitivity
  • Exposure Metering: Multi ¨ Pattern, Centre Weighted, Spot
  • Focus Modes: Multi-point TTL ¨ auto-focus
  • Media: Memory Stick Duo/Pro ¨ Duo, 15MB onboard
  • File format: JPEG, MPEG-1
  • Flash: Auto, On, Off, Slow Sync
  • Interface: USB2
  • Batteries: Lithium-ion ¨ rechargeable
  • Dimensions: 88.2 x 57.2 x 22.9mm
  • Weight: 156g

Contact

www.sony.co.nz

Pros

  • Facial recognition
  • 4x optical zoom
  • Fantastic flash coverage

Cons

  • Slow to review images
  • Fine movies can only be recorded ¨ to a card

Design                  18
Performance         17
Features               18
Image Quality       18
Value for money   17

TOTAL     88/100

This review is from D-Photo issue #024.

Canon Powershot A580 – Review – 24

Canon Powershot A580 001

Canon has as usual constructed an entry-level camera that performs as if it is at the top of the class. The new eight million-pixel Powershot A580 has a 4x optical zoom and a bunch of useful scene modes, as well as facial recognition.

Retro Styling

The body shape is all smoothed corners, with a bulging battery housing that acts as a comfortable grip. The flowing lines give it an almost retro look, with rounded edges on the flash like the eyes of a ’50s robot. It is comfortable to hold with one hand when viewing the 2.5-inch screen, or when clutching it with both hands and viewing through the optical viewfinder.

Economical

Unlike your car’s economy, the last thing you will have to worry about with the A580 is how hungry it is on batteries. Like all the A series cameras it operates using AA batteries. Alkaline batteries are supplied, but it is wise to invest in rechargeable NiMh batteries for the most images, and it is so much greener too. Part of this camera’s success is the use of SD or SDHC cards, as they use less power to read and write images.

Facial Recognition

Facial detection is a wonderful feature on any camera, but Canon has enhanced this function so it works almost faultlessly. It is only baffled when your subject’s face is obscured or turned past profile. It will also let you select and track one person. You can still select the focus area to be in the middle, or Canon’s slick AiAF (artificial intelligent auto-focus) instinctively knows where your subject is in the scene. This last option doesn’t always get it right, but it does an impressive job 90 per cent of the time.

Modus Operandi

The Canon A580 is a clever little camera with a handy dial on the top for selecting modes. For once Canon has followed Panasonic by including not only the user-friendly green auto setting but also a little red heart (easy) setting that assumes you want to know nothing about taking a picture other than pointing the camera at your subject and pressing the button. For a little more experimentation you have a series of scene modes as well as a movie setting.

Viewfinder versus Screen

There’s an alarming trend to do away with the viewfinder, but thankfully Canon has retained this little hole. It isn’t perfect, and for most of us it will come a poor second to the big 2.5-inch screen, but if your eyes are failing like mine it is handy to have one to fall back on in bright conditions.

Conclusion

The Powershot A580 is almost perfect as an entry-level camera. It has a decent 4x optical zoom, produces sharp images in almost any lighting conditions and has a viewfinder for the visually impaired.
I’m even impressed by the length of time a set of AA rechargeable batteries lasts in it. The SDHC card support makes it a winner, as does the fast start-up time, but it does struggle to give sufficient flash coverage when zoomed out, and the higher ISO range produces grainy (noisy) results. Canon has a strong design and a proven track record that pushes this camera up the rankings.

Specs

  • Manufacturer: Canon
  • Model: Powershot A580
  • Price: $349
  • Effective Pixels: Eight million
  • Lens: 5.8-23.2mm (35mm film equivalent 35-140mm)
  • Viewfinder: Real Image optical viewfinder
  • Monitor: 2.5-inch TFT LCD (115,000 pixels)
  • Shutter: 15 to 1/2000 sec
  • Aperture: f2.6 — f5.5
  • ISO: Auto, Hi ISO Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600
  • Shooting Modes: Auto, Easy, Manual, Portrait, Landscape, Night Snapshot, Kids and Pets, Indoor, Night Scene, Sunset, Foliage, Snow, Beach, Fireworks and Aquarium, Movie — Standard or Compact.
  • Exposure Metering: Evaluative, Centre Weighted Average, Spot
  • Focus Modes: Face detect, AiAF (nine points), Centre.
  • Media: SD, SDHC
  • File Format: JPEG, WAV, AVI Motion JPEG
  • Flash: Auto, On/Off.
  • Interface: USB2, audio/video output
  • Batteries: 2x AA
  • Dimensions: 94.3 x 64.7 x 40.8mm
  • Weight: 175g

Contact

www.canon.co.nz

Pros

  • Facial recognition
  • Optical viewfinder
  • Simple scene settings and loads ¨ of them

Cons

  • No image stabiliser
  • AA batteries
  • Small card supplied

Design                    17
Performance           18
Features                 17
Image Quality         18
Value for money     18

TOTAL     88/100

This review is from D-Photo issue #024.

Panasonic DMC LZ8 – Review – 24

Panasonic LZ8 006

The latest Panasonic Lumix DMC LZ8 may only be an entry-level compact, but it comes with a big 8.1 million-pixel sensor as well as a 5x optical zoom that covers from 32mm wide-angle to 160mm telephoto. Mix this up with an intelligent auto setting that knows what you are shooting, as well as face detection, and you have a wonderful start to your image making.

Fizzy from the start

It’s not often I open a box and get overwhelmed with the contents, but this little Lumix is wonderful to hold and use. As a first camera this wee minx will do all the work in the intelligent auto setting, and when your confidence and curiosity grow it has aperture and shutter priority as well as full manual control so you can take over.

Intelligence beyond its years

Scene modes are cool. They let you look at what you are shooting and choose the right scene from a list that will suit the situation. There are 19 separate modes to choose from, but for someone who doesn’t know a portrait from a close-up then the intelligent auto will be a godsend, as it selects from Portrait, Landscape, Macro, Night Portrait and Night Scenery, and does it perfectly. It almost makes the need for other scene modes redundant, but this compact will breed inquisitiveness and you’ll want to delve into the array of scenes that include Sport and the long exposure Starry Sky. The Kids and Pets modes let you set the name and date of birth of your babies and pets, then informs you of their age and name each time you take a picture.

Simplified Menus

The LZ8 has a wonderful menu system with a shortcut button that gives you quick access to file size, ISO, white balance, AF mode, burst shooting, image stabilisation and LCD brightness. The default settings are good, but at some stage of using this camera you will want to make adjustments. There is also a zoom shortcut that instantly zooms out to maximum optical zoom with one touch of the button, then maximum digital zoom with a second press, while a third touch will bring the lens back full circle to the wide-angle setting. The zoom control on the shutter release allows you to zoom to where you want in smaller steps.

Inbuilt versus Cards

Having eight million pixels at your disposal will quickly gobble the 20MB of on-board memory, so it makes sense to get a memory card to go with this camera. Even here you have a choice, either SD or SDHC, and with the capability to make decent movies the SDHC card will be the better choice.

Conclusion

The Panasonic Lumix DMC LZ8 sports a beautiful Leica 5x optical zoom complete with Mega Optical Image Stabiliser, and an 8.1-million-pixel sensor. The intelligent features include intelligent ISO, which automatically detects motion and selects a higher ISO to lessen the chance of camera shake. This entry-level camera can be used as simply as you’d like in the intelligent auto setting, or you can take over completely with full manual exposure. What more could you ask for in a camera?

Specs

  • Manufacturer: Panasonic
  • Model: Lumix DMC LZ8
  • Price: $299
  • Effective pixels: 8.1 million
  • Lens: 5x optical 5.2-26mm ¨ (35mm equiv, 32-160mm)
  • Viewfinder: None
  • Monitor: 2.5-inch TFT LCD ¨ (230,000 pixels)
  • Shutter: 60 to 1/2000 sec
  • Aperture: f3.3 — f5.9
  • ISO: Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, ¨ 1600, High Sensitivity Mode: Auto ¨ (1600 – 6400)
  • Shooting Modes: Program AE, ¨ Aperture Priority AE, Shutter ¨ Priority AE, Manual, Portrait, ¨ Scenery, Sports, Panning, Night ¨ Portrait, Self-Portrait, Food, ¨ Party, Candle Light, Fireworks, ¨ Starry Sky, Beach, Aerial Photo, ¨ Snow, High Sensitivity, Baby 1&2, ¨ Sunset, Pet, High-Speed Burst
  • Exposure Metering: Intelligent ¨ Auto, Centre Weighted, Spot
  • Focus modes: Face, one-point, ¨ one-point high speed, three-point ¨ high speed, nine-point, Spot
  • Media: 20MB onboard memory, SD, SDHC, MultiMediaCard
  • File format: JPEG, ¨ Motion JPEG AVI
  • Flash: In-built
  • Interface: USB, A/V output
  • Batteries: 2x AA
  • Dimensions: 97.5 x 62 x 33.3mm
  • Weight: 191g

contact

www.panasonic.co.nz

Pros

  • Leica 5x optical zoom starting ¨at 32mm
  • Big 64mm screen with ¨ brightness control
  • Clever scene modes as well as ¨ manual control

Cons

  • AA batteries
  • Minimal internal memory

Design                        18
Performance                18
Features                      19
Image Quality              18
Value for money          19

TOTAL     92/100

This review is from D-Photo issue #024.

Olympus FE 340 – Review – 24

Olympus FE 340 003

When Olympus announced it would up the standard zoom on its entry-level models from 3x to 5x I got excited¦ then it built the FE-340 with the bigger zoom, as well as face detect and a huge 2.7-inch screen. Now I’m delirious.

Bigger everything

Olympus’s jump in zoom range gives you the bonus of a whopping 180mm telephoto as well as the moderate wide angle of 36mm. The big telephoto sucks in subjects from further away and makes shooting sport or taking candid shots of the kids much easier. The screen has also been inflated in size, that 2.7-incher bulging with a credible 230,000 pixels for a very impressive image. The refresh rate is phenomenal, making flipping through reviewed images like watching a slide show.

Increased ISO

I am generally unimpressed with huge hikes in ISO sensitivity, but with the FE-340 the 3200 setting actually makes images that are almost useable. Usually the noise associated with high ISO is disastrous, but Olympus has finally figured out a logarithm that offers smoother rendering of the image without too much unsightly mosaicing. It still should only be used as a last resort, since images taken with this setting will only print without noticeable imperfections to 6×4.

Bigger, better movies

Olympus has struggled with video on most of its models, largely due to the inadequacies of the xD card, which can’t handle large doses of data at frantic rates. The company is trying to remedy this with yet another card with faster transfer rates, but we’ll have to wait and see how successful it is. This camera has a 640×480 30fps VGA movie setting that delivers smooth motion pictures, but for the limited time of 10 seconds. Slip the setting back to the 320×240 QVGA setting and you’ll fill a card with YouTube-quality video.

Picture this

The beauty of this little camera is the ease of use, a simple control dial and a great range of scene modes. These little pictorial scenes also come with an explanation of what they will do. If all else fails you can even use the guide that gives a series of picture ideas and hints, then directs you to the right setting. It will also shoot as close as 50mm in the Super Macro mode or 100mm in the standard macro setting, so every shooting situation from distant images to close-ups is covered.

Conclusion

The FE-340 has a superb screen and a very useful 5x optical zoom range. Marry this with the eight-million-pixel sensor and you have a starter camera to be proud of. The disappointment would have to be the xD card and its inability to record a decent amount of high-resolution video. The useful scene modes and easy-to-use control dial make operating this model a breeze. For most of us the quality of the images this little Olympus produces will be excuse enough to buy it.

Specs

  • Manufacturer: Olympus
  • Model: FE-340
  • Price: $349
  • Effective Pixels: Eight Million
  • Lens: 5x optical 6.3-31.5mm (36-180mm in 35mm terms)
  • Viewfinder: None
  • Monitor: 2.7-inch Hypercrystal LCD (230,000 pixels)
  • Shutter: Four to 1/2000 sec
  • Aperture: f3.5 — f5.9
  • ISO: Auto, 64, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200
  • Shooting Modes: Auto, Program, Anti Shake, Portrait, Landscape, Smile Shot, Action, Documents, Cuisine, Behind Glass, Fireworks, Sunset, Self Portrait, Candle, Indoor, Sport, Night Scene, Night Portrait, Guide, Movie.
  • Exposure Metering: Auto
  • Focus Modes: Face detect, ¨iESP, Spot
  • Media: 15MB onboard memory, xD card
  • File Format: JPEG, Motion JPEG video
  • Flash: Auto, Redeye, Fill-in, Off
  • Interface: USB, A/V out
  • Batteries: Lithium-ion rechargeable
  • Dimensions: 96.9 x 57.5 x 22.6mm
  • Weight: 116g

Contact

www.olympus.co.nz

Pros

  • Big 2.7-inch LCD screen
  • 5x optical zoom
  • Better but not brilliant 3200 ISO setting

Cons

  • Limitations of xD card
  • Average face detect setting
  • Digital stabiliser only

Design                    18
Performance            16
Features                  17
Image Quality          18
Value for money      18

TOTAL     87/100

This review is from D-Photo issue #024.

Canon Pixma Pro 9500 – Review – 23

Canon A3 Printer 001

Over at the input side of photography, engineers push ever onward to offer higher megapixel counts; while on the output side, printer boffins seem to be equally eager to increase the number of ink cartridges.

Three ink cartridges used to be enough. Then we went to four. Soon we had six, then eight colours became common on consumer-level printers. Now Canon’s PIXMA Pro 9500 offers no fewer than 10 14ml pigment-ink cartridges. The idea is to help produce better prints, just as the megapixel arms race helps enhance the quality of image capture.

The 9500’s manifest comprises cyan, magenta, yellow, photo cyan, photo magenta, red, green, matte black, photo black and grey, the last three suggesting that this might also be a competent monochrome printer. It’s capable of a maximum resolution of 4800x2400dpi using a three-picolitre droplet size.

Canon engineered the $1365 Pro 9500 robustly and its build quality is high. It sits lower than some competitors, but requires a reasonably large bench area when set up for work ” about 70cm wide and 80cm deep. This is because the paper goes in at the back and comes out the front and larger sizes need pull-out supports. In addition to sheets of up to A3+ and 2mm thick, it prints on suitable CDs and DVDs in a special tray.
Setup was straight, clean and simple, although I found myself cursing Canon for not including a USB cable in the box. Also missing is a comprehensive printed manual; it’s all on screen.

The Pro 9500 will print directly from a digital camera via PictBridge and a USB cable that plugs into the printer’s front panel.

When evaluating a printer, I like to start with A4 glossy paper and move on from there. The first prints on Canon paper using Canon ink and the appropriate Canon profiles ” with colour management by Photoshop CS3 ” oozed ¨˜wow’ factor.

It was the richness of the colours rather than just being contrasty that made these prints stand out. This was evident in a Hong Kong street scene, a small part of which showed a sheet of plastic wrap in a rubbish bin. The gradation from light grey to white in the plastic was outstanding.

Moving to monochrome, the Pro 9500 gave the stellar performance hinted at by the contents of its ink cradle. It was particularly good on glossy paper; I needed to make small tweaks to get a little more punch from matte and flat specialty media.

Canon generously supplied a range of its Fine Art papers to try. These were Premium Matte, Photo Rag and Museum Etching. I wasn’t able to warm to the Rag ” others probably will. However, I have nothing but praise for Premium Matte and Museum Etching. The latter is a thick, luxurious paper that’s a pleasure to handle and print on. It will enhance almost any type of image.

The Pro 9500 is a particularly quiet printer, though not the fastest on the block. It’s feature-rich, easy to use as produces gorgeous prints in colour or black and white.

Another thing is you can always reduce your ink usage with special software like PretonSaver, click here to find out more.

Specs

  • Canon
  • Price: $1365
  • Size: (Stored) 660 x 353 x 193mm
  • Weight: 15.4kg
  • Printing technology: Full-photolithography Inkjet Nozzle Engineering (FINE) 7680 nozzle print head
  • Ink: Canon pigment matte black, photo black, cyan, magenta, yellow, photo cyan, photo magenta, red, green, grey
  • Paper: Single sheet to 2mm thick, CD
  • Resolution: 4800 x 2400 dpi
  • Print size: 9 x 13 to 329 x 483mm (A3+)
  • Print speed: approx 2 minutes 7 seconds A4 to four minutes A3
  • Mac and PC compatible

Contact

www.canon.co.nz

Pros

  • Top build quality
  • Excellent monochrome printing
  • Quiet

Cons

  • Slightly flat monochrome on ¨Fine Art papers
  • No USB cable supplied

Design                     17

Performance            18

Features                  18

Image Quality          18

Value for money      18

Total 89/100

This review is from D-Photo issue #023.

HP – Hewlett Packard B9180 – Review – 23

HP Printer 001

Here’s a printer that showed huge potential, went astray, then proceeded to redeem itself.

Out of the box, the $1499 Hewlett-Packard B9180 seemed promising. A good-looking unit, its footprint is smaller than some rivals. The eight Vivera inks load easily in a compartment on the left side and the cartridges hold a reasonable 27ml, so you won’t be changing them quite as often when doing lots of big prints.

The inks are photo black, matte black, light grey, cyan, magenta, yellow, light magenta and light cyan.

The box includes an easily followed installation and start-up guide and a helpful 70-page printed manual. Installing the inks and four replaceable printing heads was easy. But then it started going bad.

The setup software wouldn’t recognise my copy of Photoshop CS3, so a potentially useful Photosmart Pro print plug-in couldn’t be installed. However, an updated version of the software was downloaded and all was fine.

After going through its closed-loop self calibration procedure and asked to print, the B9180 repeatedly warned that no paper was loaded, causing it to stall, even though its mechanism was picking up the sheets.

After triple checking everything and turning the unit and computer on and off several times, I turned the printer off and let it sit for half an hour. This must have reset something because it finally acknowledged the presence of paper.

Then the next gremlin struck. The printer kept reporting that the light cyan ink cartridge was faulty. This was temporarily remedied by removing and shaking it vigorously, then re-installing. It might then work for another print, maybe not, but it was chewing through paper and becoming annoying. Eventually, light cyan decided to settle down and it was time to see what the printer could do.

As if apologising for the glitches, the HP turned out print after print of outstanding quality; rich, pleasing colours with eye-stopping blacks and impeccable detail.

But there’s more. HP has a reputation for making printers that do good black and white prints, a stumbling block for some consumer-level products. True to reputation, the B9180 gave me some of the best monochromes I’ve made on a printer. Who’d mess around in a wet darkroom when you can get excellent results in the office?

No matter what type of paper fed to the printer, the results were impressive. If monochrome tickles your digital fancy, the B9180 is worth having just for that purpose alone.

I really liked the HP Photosmart Studio program that makes organising and printing photos about as easy as it can be. But most of the prints were made from Photoshop using the profile for the particular Hewlett-Packard paper, and letting Photoshop do the colour management.

Despite the early glitches, I’d be really happy to have a B9180.

Don’t forget, you can always improve your printer’s ink management skills by using ink-saving software like PretonSaver over here.

Specs

  • Manufacturer: Hewlett-Packard
  • Price: $1499
  • Size: (Stored) 673 x 429 x 241mm
  • Weight: 17.1kg
  • Printing technology: Electrostatic Drop Detection (NEDD) printhead management system, 8448 print nozzles
  • Ink: Vivera pigment-based cyan, magenta, yellow, light cyan, light magenta, light grey, photo black, matte black
  • Paper: Single sheets, 80 to 800g/m, 1.5mm thick
  • Resolution: Up to 4800 x 1200dpi
  • Print size: 9 x 13 to 329 x 483mm (A3+)
  • Printing speed: Approx 90 seconds, A3.
  • Mac and PC compatible

contact

www.hp.co.nz

Pros

  • Excellent colours and captivating black and white
  • Reasonably large ink canisters
  • USB printer cable supplied

Cons

  • Not able to print from CDs
  • Can’t print direct from camera

Design                    15
Performance           17
Features                 15
Image Quality         18
Value for money     16

Total     81/100

This review is from D-Photo issue #023.

Epson Stylus photo R1900 – Review – 23

Epson Printer 001

Epson’s Stylus Photo R1900 brings to the party a set of new pigment-based UltraChrome Hi-Gloss2 inks that includes an orange cartridge to help deal better with skin tones. There’s also a gloss optimiser cartridge that sprays a clear overcoat on top of glossy paper to enhance the appearance that users of that medium favour.

This newest member of the Stylus Photo range is no shrinking violet. With input and output trays extended, the $1299 printer measures 60 x 41 x 78cm, so it needs a good workspace, especially as Epson suggests you put it at least 100mm from the wall when using longer papers.

Within that generous footprint lies a versatile machine. It can print on a wide range of paper types and sizes, either sheet-fed or on a roll; it can print directly onto suitable CDs and DVDs; it’ll print web pages; print from a scanner or directly from a digital camera that has PictBridge or USB Direct-Print.

Setting up was so simple I kept thinking I’d missed a step. But no, 20 minutes after pulling the big boy from its box, I was ready to push the button. It wasn’t supposed to be quite that quick. I had scoured the box for an instruction manual but there wasn’t anything beyond a fold-out setup guide.

Epson puts all its user information on a CD, and very clear it is to. But I miss a printed manual, which can be quicker and easier to use ” and I was going to read it in bed that night to become a total expert before committing the first sheet of that big A3 paper. Printing the 59-page guide is always an option.

Whole books (and a good part of the Epson guide) have been written on colour management; it can be a huge and involved subject, but I wanted none of it. I get frustrated by the minutiae of colour profiles and related matters; I want a printer that gives the best possible result with the least fuss ” in other words, instant gratification.

So I was delighted when the first print rolled out of the printer about 80 seconds after pushing the button. I had printed a TIFF from Photoshop exactly as it sat on the computer, except for assigning Epson’s glossy paper profile, letting Photoshop do the colour management.

The colours and contrast in the print were spot on, but overall the print was a little light. I tweaked the levels, tried again and got a print worth framing. It pays to take your time to save wasting paper and ink.

Some colours sometimes seem hard for inkjets to render well (blues and purples for example), but the R1900 with its new inks and a wide colour gamut took them in its stride.

Epson provided three types of its paper to try: Premium Semigloss, Premium Glossy, and Acid-Free Cotton Rag Velvet Fine Art in A3+. Each has its place but working with the thick (260g/m2) and luxurious Velvet was a tactile as well as visual treat. The prints were lovely, even though the R1900 is said to be optimised for glossy paper.

The simplest way to print is straight from a suitable camera via a USB port on the front. Epson makes the process simple and intuitive and I mostly couldn’t fault the quality of the prints that it sucked from the JPEGs in my dSLR.

And if you ever feel like you want to improve this printer’s ink usage, try a program like PretonSaver – click here to find out more.

Specs

  • Manufacturer: Epson
  • Price: $1299
  • Size: (Stored) 616 x 322 x 214mm
  • Weight: 12.2kg
  • Printing technology: Micro Piezo eight-colour pigment inkjet, 180 nozzles x 8
  • Ink: Epson UltraChrome Hi-Gloss two-pigment, photo black, matte black, yellow, magenta, cyan, red, orange, gloss optimiser
  • Paper: Single sheet or roll to 0.11mm thick
  • Resolution: 5760 x 1440 optimised dpi
  • Print size: 9 x 13 to 329 x 483mm (A3+)
  • Print speed: 44sec to 1min 32sec depending on size
  • Mac and PC compatible

contact

www.epson.co.nz

Pros

  • Versatile
  • USB printer cable supplied

Cons

  • Big footprint
  • Black and white prints a little soft

Design                   16
Performance           17
Features                 18
Image Quality         18
Value for money     17

Total 86/100

This review is from D-Photo issue #023.