Canon has taken the idea of a medium range 6x optical zoom, added an image stabiliser and given it a flourish with huge 12.1 million pixel sensor and articulated 2.5-inch screen with enough manual control to please any keen photographer
The A650’s build quality is faultless. Control switches and buttons are all positive in action with icons that are easy to decipher. The back of the camera is dominated by the swivelling 2.5-inch screen that folds out for viewing and away to protect the screen when not required.
If you shoot architecture or landscapes where vertical and horizontal lines need to be straight then the grid lines are a handy assistant. You can also get the camera to show you a 3:2 ratio ghosting so you know when you’ll crop heads off in a 6×4-inch print.
The A650IS runs on AA batteries. It comes with two Alkalines but you’ll want to invest in rechargeables if you plan to use this camera a lot. Power consumption isn’t huge thanks to the use of SD cards, and you can use the new SDHC models for more capacity.
Focus on this
Face detect works brilliantly, picking up your subjects effortlessly and tracking them across the screen. Focus isn’t restricted to fancy tricks: you have the choice of putting the focus point wherever you choose with flexi-zone or using the AiAF to let the camera choose where your subject is ” a task it ¨¨performs with alarming accuracy. If you like to get in close then you’ll fall in love with the macro, which will bring you to within 10mm.
The built-in flash will only keep up with the zoom range if you bump up the ISO. The range can be adjusted manually up to 1600 or you can get the camera to do it automatically in the ˜Hi’ setting. To cover the whole telephoto distance of the zoom will require you to delve into scene mode and choose the ISO3200 setting. This setting will happily give you flash coverage but at a price: the noise is horrendous.
It’s a camera that your mum could use out of the box or you could give it to a seasoned photographer who’d play with the manual controls. Canon has neglected to give the flash enough grunt to successfully keep up with the fantastic 6x optical zoom and people will want to use this great range.Relying on ISO range to give good images isn’t the answer. The swivelling screen is worth its weight , though, as you no longer have to lie on the ground to get macro shots or blindly hold your camera above the head of some big goon in front of you at the rugby.
- Effective Pixels: 12.1 million
- Lens: 6x optical zoom, 7.4mm — 44.4mm (35-210mm 35mm equivalent)
- Viewfinder: Real image zoom
- LCD Monitor: 2.5-inch LCD variable angle, 173,000 pixels
- Shutter: 15 to 1/2000 sec
- ISO: Auto, Hi-ISO Auto, 80 to 3200 (in scene mode)
- Exposure Metering: Evaluative, centre-weighted average, spot
- Focus Modes: TTL autofocus, AF lock, manual, face detect, AiAF 9-point, centre and flexi
- Media: SD, SDHC MMC, MMC Plus, HC MMC plus.
- File Format: JPEG, AVI, Motion JPEG WAV
- Flash: Auto, on, off, 2nd curtain
- Interface: USB 2.0
- Batteries: 2x AA (alkaline batteries supplied)
- Dimensions: 112.1 x 67.8 x 56.2mm
- Weight: 300g
- Swivelling screen
- 6x optical zoom with stabiliser
- Handy grid lines and 3:2 ¨ration guide
Flash doesn’t go the distance
ISO3200 gives noisy results
Image Quality 16
Value for money 15
This review is from D-Photo issue #023.
Nikon has gone supernova with the new D300, producing a camera that incorporates all the things we enjoy from competitors’ cameras but making this model better than anything else on the market today
Nikon’s latest dSLR uses a CMOS sensor ” like Canon ” instead of the CCDs used in the past. This alone is a turning point for Nikon. But the company has gone further than the competition with the D300 including a 3-inch screen with VGA quality (920,000 pixels) that is light years ahead of anyone else.
The 51-point focus system is superior thanks to the EXPEED processing motor and advanced 3D Matrix Metering II system with scene recognition. This results in an advanced focusing system that will recognise a moving subject by colour and notice faces in a scene.
Nikon users who have relied on the matrix metering of the past will happily switch to the 3D function as it works so well. There is still the option to select for yourself if you want to choose the focus point.
Live and let Live
Nikon has taken the Live View function that step further, giving you the choice of ˜Handheld’ or ˜Tripod’ options. In ˜Handheld’ it suffers the same frustrations as every other camera with Live View in that it has to lower the mirror to focus, but use the ˜Tripod’ setting and suddenly Live View almost seems a viable option.
Here you can move the focus point to wherever you want it on the screen, and when you get the camera to focus it uses contrast like a compact to focus. However, to get the camera to focus you must press the AF-ON button. It’s not as frustrating as having the mirror lower but it is still slower than using the viewfinder and pressing the shutter release.
Know your place
Nikon introduced GPS support on the D2x and this has filtered down to the D300. Plug in your Garmin GPS and each time you take a picture the longitude and latitude information is added to the EXIF data the camera gathers.
It also has a built-in intervalometer so you can set the camera to take a picture every two minutes or two hours. Combine this with the WT-4 wireless transmitter and you can join a network and send images to any computer on that network or control the camera remotely. You’ll need an MB-D10 battery pack too, but this gives you the joy of a second battery (EN-EL3e).
The built-in flash is useful and with a little ISO fiddling you can happily extend its range (the D300 can go as high as ISO3200 and extend to 6400) but an SB-600 or ultimately a SB800 will offer better images at lower ISO. Balancing daylight and flash is automatic with Nikon’s 3D Matrix Metering II system.
The Nikon D300 is a tool any keen Nikon user will happily embrace but it also has wide appeal. Anyone passionate about photography will love the 3-inch VGA screen complete with protective cover and impressive battery life. The Live View function with handheld or tripod options as well as the ability to focus by contrast is amazing, although slower than just picking up the camera and shooting. It does come at a price but the D300 is a workhorse that will happily provide years of service.
- Effective Pixels: 12.3 million
- Lens: AF-S Nikkor 17-55mm f2.8G ED
- Viewfinder: SLR-type with fixed eye-level pentaprism, built-in diopter adjustment (-2.0 to +1.0 m-
- LCD Monitor: 3-inch, 920,000 pixels (VGA), 170-degree viewing angle, 100 per cent frame coverage
- Shutter: 1/8,000 to 30 sec in steps of 1/3, 1/2 or 1 EV, bulb
- Exposure Metering: Matrix, center-weighted, spot
- Media: CompactFlash (Type I/II, compliant with UDMA); Microdrives
- File Format: NEF 12-bit or 14-bit, RAW, JPEG, TIFF
- Flash: TTL, built-in speedlight
- Batteries: Rechargeable Li-ion
- Dimensions: 147 x 114 x 74mm
- Impressive 3-inch LCD screen (920,000 pixels, VGA quality)
- Added features include GPS compatibility and wireless control
Image Quality 16
Value for money 15
This review is from D-Photo issue #023.
When it comes to dSLR innovation, Olympus has led the field, introducing sensor cleaning and live view functions well ahead of the opposition. Now the company has released the E-3, a professional camera that is so easy to use it’s a crime
Sometimes when you receive a camera you ¨wish all the accessories had come with it too. ¨But when the Olympus E-3 arrived at my place it was like being an eight-year-old stepping into Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. HE Perry, the New Zealand importer, sent it with the HLD-4 power battery holder and vertical grip plus the cool wireless flash FL-50R. They might look ¨like toys, but these two devices should be mandatory equipment.
This 10 million pixel 4/3 model is a handful in the true sense of a pro camera. It’s weighty and big and has buttons and dials, but it is the turning screen and image stabiliser that will woo you. ¨The motor drive will rattle off images at a slick 5fps up to 16 RAW files or the capacity of the ¨card in normal JPEG setting using a SanDisk Extreme III card.
If you aren’t happy with just one card slot then you have another reason to use the E-3: it has an xD card slot too.
Live View is easily accessible. No turning dials or searching menus, just a press of the screen button below the multi-angle LCD and you’re there. Olympus would like you to believe that its Live View is faster than the others but it is still a slow option compared with using the 100 per cent viewfinder.
Lens quality is stunning and the 12-60mm lens (24-120mm in 35mm terms) I was supplied with was beautiful to use. Olympus uses a Supersonic wave drive that helps the lens focus quickly but I experienced hunting in low light, even when using the big FL-50R flash with infrared focus illuminator that helps the camera focus in low light.
The E-3 is a fantastic camera to use; for once a manufacturer has made a camera where the LCD screen can be swivelled back out of the way so you can use the camera in its purest form, looking through the viewfinder.
Thankfully this articulated screen can be positioned anywhere, so no more lying on the ground or poking your head round a corner when under fire in hotspots like Kosovo or Kenya.
Olympus has surpassed itself with technology that modern photographers crave. An innovative dust reduction system, image stabiliser that moves the sensor so all lenses are in effect stabilised, and wireless flash that transforms flash images even when you use the built-in flash in conjunction with a gun like the FL-50R.
The size is big and lumpy and you will want to buy the battery booster so you have a comfortable vertical grip. But big is beautiful, and the E-3 is a big camera in anyone’s eyes.
- Effective Pixels: 11.8 million
- Lens: Zuiko Digital 14-54mm
- Viewfinder: Eye-level pentaprism-type optical viewfinder approx 100%
- LCD Monitor: Multi-angle HyperCrystal, 2.5-inch, 230,000 pixels)
- Shutter: 1/8000-60 sec (in 1/3, 1/2, ¨1 EV steps)
- ISO: ISO100 to 3200 in 1/3 and ¨1 EV ISO steps
- Exposure Metering: 49 zones multi-pattern sensing system, ESP, highlight, shadow, spot
- Focus Modes: 11 points/fully biaxial, automatic and manual selection
- Media: Dual slot for CompactFlash card (I and II), Microdrive and xD picture card
- Flash: TTL auto (pre-flash mode), auto, manual, FP TTL Auto, FP manual
- Batteries: BLM-1 Lithium-Ion
- Dimensions: 142.5 x 116.5 x 74.5mm
- Limitless shooting at 5fps in JPEG
- Screen is only 2.5 inches
Image Quality 18
Value for money 17
This review is from D-Photo issue #023
Sony may have lost the war of personal music players, ¨but the company is more than happy to jump into the battle for ¨digital SLR supremacy with both barrels pumping. Sony’s ¨latest offering is the entry-level 10 megapixel Alpha 200
First impressions of this model are extremely positive. The body is small but has a large grip that makes it comfortable to hold, and the controls are clearly marked and visually accessible. The large 2.7-inch LCD has 230,000 pixels and the added size makes viewing images a delight.
In true Sony style the information on the screen not only gives you exposure information and how many pictures you have left, it also gives you a battery indicator that shows the percentage of power left, not just a series of bars. The big Lithium-ion battery produces bags of power and will happily fill a card or two before it needs recharging.
Image stabilisation can be turned on and off with a switch below the navigation control on the back of the camera. A standard function on Sony dSLRs, the Super Steady Shot stabiliser adjusts the CCD to compensate for movement you make. This means any lens you fit to the body ” no matter if you have the latest Sony lenses or one of the many Minolta AF lenses from the past ” the image is stabilised.
Sony has included an anti-dust system on this model to deter pesky particles from clinging to your sensor. You’ll feel a vibration when you turn the camera off and it performs its little cleaning chore.
Hits and misses
Sony adopted Minolta’s flash mount ” a mistake ” that requires you to buy a genuine Sony flash. It’s not a big issue as you’ll get the best results from this combination, but it is a minor handicap as you have very little choice.
If you’re a die-hard Sony user and you have Memory Stick Duo cards that you want to use then there is an adapter that will allow you to slip them into the CF card slot.
The processing motor is Sony’s Bionz unit, which offers increased speed of processing and rich colour and detail. A function that is also available is the D-Range Optimizer that gives increased dynamic range with Standard or Advanced options. The camera will shoot either JPEG or RAW files and comes with rudimentary software for processing the later.
The Sony A200 is a 10 megapixel entry-level dSLR camera that is offered at a price mark not that far above $1000. It takes great pictures and responds quickly for a starter camera. Thankfully, Sony has included a sensor cleaning system and the impressive Super Steady Shot image stabiliser. Those who still own Minolta lenses will appreciate the opportunity to be able to jump on the dSLR bandwagon.
- Effective Pixels: 10.1 million
- Viewfinder: Eye-level fixed pentamirror
- LCD Monitor: 2.7-inch TFT, 230,000 pixels
- Shutter: 30 to 1/4000 sec, bulb
- ISO: Auto, ISO100 to ISO3200
- Exposure Metering: Multi-segment (40 segment honeycomb pattern), centre-weighted, spot
- Focus Modes: Single-shot AF, direct manual focus, continuous AF, automatic AF, manual focus
- Media: Compact Flash Type I/II
- Flash: Built-in pop-up flash (auto release)
- Interface: USB 2.0 ¨(mass storage or PTP)
- Batteries: NP-FM500H Lithium-ion rechargeable
- Dimensions: 131 x 98.5 x 71mm
- Image stabiliser that works with any lens.
- Battery indicator with bars ¨and percentage
- Light construction that doesn’t ¨feel reliable
Image Quality 17
Value for money 18
This review is from D-Photo issue #023.
This week, Samsung has come up with a whole swag of world-firsts, including a WiFi enabled compact and a camera with not one, but two LCD screens.
Following a slew of innovative camera releases over the last month, including compacts with built-in projectors and 3D capabilities, Samsung has thrown its hat in the ring with the ST550 and ST500, which feature an additional 1.5-inch LCD screen next to the lens on front of the camera. The extra screen allows users to precisely frame self-portraits (which can be taken without pressing the shutter via a ‘smile activation’ function), and also includes a ‘child mode’ which plays a happy animation to hold kids’ attention – and hopefully keep them still while taking their photo.
The more traditional 3.5-inch LCD screen on the back is also a world-first in its own right, with the highest resolution available in a screen its size. Touch-screen functionality is also included, a style increasingly popular in high-end compacts. For all the bells and whistles, the two models also feature solid specs, boasting a 12.2 megapixel sensor, a 27mm Schnieder Kreuznach lens, and HD video capability to capture moving images in 1280x720p at 30 frames a second.
The second groundbreaking release is the ST1000, the first compact camera with built in Bluetooth 2.0 and wireless internet connectivity. Photos taken on the12.1 megapixel shooter can be beamed directly to other mobile devices without any cords or cables, and can be edited in-camera and uploaded to social networking sites like Facebook and Flickr without needing a computer. The ST1000 also features handy GPS capabilities, allowing the camera to track where any image happens to be made. Like the ST500 and ST550, it also uses the 3.5-inch flatscreen and HD video capabilities.
More on local availability when news comes to hand.
Sony has bolstered its range of Cyber-Shot cameras, introducing the DSC-TX1 and the DSC-WXI. Both cameras utilise newly-developed sensor technology, with 10.2 megapixel EXMOR R CMOS sensors designed to deliver clearer images without noise in low-light situations.
The new EXMOR R system uses a back-illumination method, removing diodes and circuitry from above the sensor. This allows the camera to deliver twice the light sensitivity of conventional models. Sony claims photographers are able achieve clear and noise-free results without a tripod of a flash using as little illumination as candlelight.
Along with an anti-motion blur function, both of the new models boast a ‘sweep panorama’ mode, which allows photographers to merely swing the camera across a landscape to create a panorama shot. Both shoot 720 HD video, and the 16.5mm thick TX1 also features a Carl Zeiss Lens.
Local pricing and availability are yet to be confirmed.
Despite dire financial conditions worldwide, Canon Australia and New Zealand has continued to grow its business at an astounding rate, increasing first-half profits 47.5 per cent.
Canon hasn’t had it so easy on the global scale, with the company recently reporting a 29 per cent drop in sales and an 86 per cent fall in profit. Locally, however, photographers can’t seem to get enough, with the EOS dSLR camera range witnessing a 74.7 per cent increase in sales. Likewise, the Ixus and the Powershot range grew 32.4 per cent.
“These results show that Canon is leading the way in innovation, producing a product that is well embraced by the Australian market. This continued strength has seen our company maintain its number one position in market share for both our digital LR range as well as our digital still compact camera range,” said Canon Australian and New Zealand managing director, Kenji Kobayashi. “”These results indicate that digital imaging is clearly an important part of the Australian lifestyle and we are proud to be helping drive the market’s growth. People are taking and sharing more images than ever before, and we will continue to provide creative solutions to meet their ever-expanding imaging needs.”