TOUGH times ahead with the Olympus Stylus cameras

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As smartphones incorporate increasingly sophisticated lenses and photo editing software, traditional camera manufacturers need to differentiate their pocket devices from those pesky cellular competitors. One area where a handheld camera can stand apart from a smartphone is in terms of its strength and durability, and the new flagship product in Olympus’s STYLUS TOUGH range represents a classic example of this.

With its 25-100mm wide-angle lens offering a 1:2.0 maximum aperture at wide zoom settings, the uppercase-only TOUGH TG-4 has the potential to become the deep-sea diver’s best friend. Its red or black casing incorporates a manometer pressure gauge, a customisable mode dial that can be adjusted while wearing gloves, and waterproofing down to 15 metres. It can also withstand up to 100kg weights, -10°C temperatures and seven-foot drops, which is good news for anyone who likes taking elevated selfies in sub-zero conditions. Video recording can be carried out in full 1080HD, while the 16-megapixel BSI CMOS sensor delivers impressive performance in low lighting, and the 3-inch LCD display is a fair size.

The rugged camera market is already saturated with products from other leading camera manufacturers, but the TG-4 has so far received a fairly positive reaction from critics and reviewers. Imaging Resource acknowledged the introduction of RAW capture and an improved GPS module, as well as praising its ability to focus on objects just one centimetre beyond its lens. In terms of accessories, they noted that the TG-4 is:

“compatible with a growing system of accessories such as cases, float straps, an underwater housing, plus fisheye and telephoto conversion lenses, as well as the LG-1 LED light guide introduced with the TG-3.”

Mention of last year’s TG-3 leads onto a criticism made by PC Mag – specifically, that the TG-4 offers little over and above the specifications of its predecessor. However, PC Mag did admit “that’s not a bad thing”, having previously described the TG-3 as “one of the best rugged cameras money can buy”. They had also praised the TG-3’s 16-megapixel image sensor and macro capabilities, which have been subtly improved upon in the TG-4. An entirely new feature was picked up on by the American PetaPixel website, who reckoned the introduction of AF Target selection would “open the door to a new world of quality and composition.”

According to CNET’s review, other changes worth noting include: “Live Composite setting that allows for the effect of a long exposure without overexposing the image, an Underwater HDR mode to help with difficult exposures, and improved GPS.” Those underwater credentials were put to the test by The Phoblographer:

“Considering that we did this product shoot under a running sink and that the camera continues to work, we have to say that the build quality is pretty solid.”

They concluded with the sentiments expressed by a number of reviews:

“The image quality seems fairly decent, but we think that some of the biggest features that folks will love are the RAW file offering and just how rugged the camera is.”

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The Olympus TG-4 will be available in May for £349.99. Visit the Olympus website for more information.

 

A thumbs up for the Nikon Coolpix S9900 and P7000

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Increasing the Coolpix range further, two new high zoom cameras have been announced by Nikon – The slim line S7000 and the vari-angle S9900. Latest Gadgets looks at the initial reaction to Coolpix additions.

Coolpix S9900

According to Digital Photography Review’s assessment the 16-megapixel S9900 is the “ideal long zoom camera for the light-packing jetsetter.”

Resoundingly impressed it seems by the new Nikon camera, the DP Review is quick to point out that blurred images are effectively minimised by the camera’s Hybrid VR Technology for videos and the 30x optical zoom lens shift VR for stills.

You can’t get much better than a camera that delivers images of “superb quality” and “precise detail”, qualities attributed to the S9900 by the DP Review.

A retro design

In its hands-on review of the S9900, Pocket Lint is compelled to excitedly flaunt the camera’s retro design. In fact the word ‘retro’ is repeated four times by Pocket Lint by the time we reach the sixth paragraph of the review.

Asides its stylish retro look, Pocket Lint is impressed by the Coolpix S9900 3-inch vari-angle display on the rear, which has a resolution of 921k-dots but is a TFT LCD display rather than an OLED.

By all intents and purposes, it looks like the S9900 will compete against the likes of the Panasonic Lumix TZ70 and the Canon’s PowerShot SX710, both of which, according to Pocket Lint, are “excellent cameras in their own right.”

Retailing at £279.99, it seems the new Coolpix S9900 has got the thumbs up by the tech reviewers, but what about its considerably cheaper sibling, the CoolPix P7000?

Coolpix P7000

CNET award the P7000 a less favourable 3.5 stars, deeming the camera’s plus points to be its ‘nice’ – hardly the most engulfing of adjectives – set of shooting-focused features. Other pros, according to CNET, is the P7000’s optical viewfinder and built-in density filter, “very good” photo quality for its class, and comfortable and “relatively” streamlined shooting design.

And on the negative side, the Coolpix P7000 brags “relatively slow raw shooting.”

Overall though CNET tends to be in favour of the new Coolpix citing it as a “fine camera that lots of enthusiasts will appreciate for its smart shooting design, interesting feature set, and worthy photo quality.”

Also to Nikon’s credit, state CNET, is the fact that the Coolpix P7000 is a complete rework of its predecessor the P6000, rather than a mere update.

Trusted Reviews give the P7000 an impressive 9 out of 10.

The review site is eager to cite the camera’s key features that include a 1/1.7-inch 10-megapixel CCD sensor, a 7.1x f/2.8- 5.6 Nikkor zoom lens, a 7.5cm LCD monitor and being 114.2 x 77 x 44.8mm in size and 360g in weight.

Excellent autofocus

The pros of the P7000 are, according to Trusted Reviews, its excellent autofocus, superb lens, and good build quality. On the downside is the camera’s disappointing video recording mode and the fact it’s slightly sluggish.

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The slim line P7000 retails at £169.99.

Coming in a hugely diverse range of styles, colours, quality, features and capabilities, which are easy to transport and don’t cost the earth, it’s easy to understand why Nikon’s Coolpix range has proven so popular.

And it seems, by most accounts, Nikon’s two latest Coolpix additions won’t let consumers down.

Going full circle with the Ricoh Theta M15 

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It might look like a colourful ladies’ razor, the kind of thing you’d use as a stocking filler to bulk out your missus’ presents on Christmas Day. You’d be grossly mistaken. This simple-looking device is capable of capturing a spherical panoramic image in an instant at the mere click of a button.

What’s more, you can capture 360-degree stills and videos without having to pan, spin or stitch, like you normally have to when tackling panoramic shots on conventional cameras.

Ricoh Imaging UK will release the Ricoh Theta on November 14, 2014, the perfect date to whip consumers into pre-release frenzy but give them enough time to purchase the sophisticated spherical device for an ultra-cool Christmas present.

Contributing to the pre-release consumer excitement is of course the tech press, who, by all accounts, would love to get their hands on a colourful Theta M15.

Tech Radar reveals the Theta’s instant spherical panoramic imaging secret as being the super wide-angle lenses which lie on either side of the camera’s slim body. By facing opposite directions, each lens captures a 180-degree image. The Theta then stitches the two images together and, hey presto, a 360-degree image of the world is created.

Built-in Wi-Fi

How many times have you opted to take a picture on your smartphone opposed to your camera? You know the quality might not be quite as good but at least you can upload the image directly onto social media whilst ‘the moment’ is still alive and kicking.

With built-in Wi-Fi you have similar freedom with the Theta M15. You can transfer the still or video to your Android or iOS smartphone and display the images on the Ricoh Theta app.

You can even upload your panoramic creations to the Ricoh theta360.com website and zoom and pan at your leisure in the web browser.

Ricoh have obviously cottoned onto the fact that the majority of 21st century camera users are into taking images and then sharing them with the world on social media, instantly. As a Ricoh spokeswoman said:

“We’re targeting users who are into sharing via social media. We developed this camera and its video feature in response to user demand.”

For Tech Radar, what makes the M15 stand out is the fact it is possible to shoot panoramic videos, for up to three minutes.

For Ubergizmo, what makes this camera superior to other action-capturing cameras, is its petite size, small and slim enough that it can easily slip into your pocket.

PC Advisor are quick to point out, if you’re into action sports, then this is the camera for you. In its review of the Theta M15, PC Advisor informs how Ricoh wants to get external developers interested in spherical photography, stating an API and SDK will be released for the device.

Other notable feats of the M15? It has 4GB of internal memory, a lithium-ion battery which you can charge via a USB connector, a shutter speed of 1/8000 of a second and an ISO range of 100 t0 1600 for stills and 100 to 400 for video.

You can even choose which colour you want – Pink, blue, white or yellow?

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For £270, it’s pretty safe to assume, there’ll be a fair share of zealously-captured Theta M15 spherical videos and images getting uploaded onto Facebook on Christmas Day.

Sony’s Action Cam Mini – a portable video camera game changer?

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Time was when small cameras were the stuff of spy movies, “Pay attention, Bond, this is fully functional high-definition video camera small enough to slip into your shirt pocket and which can be controlled from a screen on your wrist.” Technology of course has a way of catching up with fiction and Sony’s latest Action Cam Mini the HDR-AZ1, announced at the IFA electronics show, means you no longer need to pop down to see Q to get your hands on a tiny movie camera.

The first thing to note is that it’s small, weighing only 63g, and around 2/3 the size of existing Action Cam products at 76mm long, 36mm high and 24.2mm wide. That doesn’t mean it’s lacking in capabilities though. Into this small space is packed an 18.6 megapixel image sensor that can handle resolutions up to 1080p at 60fps. If you’re prepared to sacrifice definition for faster action it can do 720p at 120fps. The camera has a Zeiss f2.8 lens and Sony’s SteadyShot image stabilisation technology. There’s no LCD screen on the camera itself, just a tiny display for camera functions, but Sony has solved that problem in a clever way.

For that added James Bond touch it comes with something called Live View Remote. This is a wrist-mounted controller with a colour LCD screen that can be used to stop and start recordings, change settings and log GPS data. It’s a bit chunky, like a double-width wristwatch, and connects wirelessly to the camera.

It’s possible to control up to five cameras from a single remote so you could set up multiple angles to cover a particular event or follow several different competitors. It gives you the ability to stream your footage live via sites like UStream and you can use Wi-Fi and NFC to connect directly to a smartphone. You have the option to control the camera from your phone too if you don’t want to use the remote.

Battery life for the Mini is shorter than on larger models as you might expect. It’s splash proof to survive day-to-day life but there’s also the option of buying it with a case which makes it dust and sand proof as well as waterproof down to five metres. There’s a standard tripod adaptor so the camera can be attached to mounting brackets for bikes and the like and Sony also offers a choice of wearable and bike mounting kits on its website.

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If you have an active outdoor lifestyle and you want to be able to record your exploits, the Action Cam Mini could be just the camera for you. The HDR-AZ1 is expected to go on sale in October and is available to pre-order on the Sony site until the 6th of October at a price of £279 including the Live View Remote.

Sony’s a5100 camera: the height of lightweight photography?

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Japanese tech company Sony’s next shot into the smart-camera fray is on the horizon with the upcoming release of their a5100 camera. It promises to be an extremely lightweight, pocket-sized solution to photography needs, boasting a huge 24.3 megapixels and the ability to shoot full 1080p video. Sony promises “Crisp, blur-free action shots and soulful portraits. Smooth, cinematic Full HD movies. Better-looking selfies.” While this may be quoted, is this really going to be the go-to lightweight camera we’ve all been waiting for?

The company sure seems keen to advertise one of this camera’s key aspects – its strengths in video shooting. The camera will feature “Fast Hybrid AF with huge 179 focal plane phase-detection AF points for reliable tracking autofocus plus touch focussing and touch shutter release”. This means the camera is able to constantly focus and refocus an image during filming – resulting in a crazed pet, a photo finish or the winning penalty shot all recorded in crisp 1080p with no blurring in the image during filming. Touch shutter release will allow you to use the rotatable camera screen to take photos without the need for the shutter – touch a location on the screen and the camera will make it the focus of the image.

According to TechRadar, The screen is also bright and clear, and responds quickly to touch.”  The screen can be flipped up 180 degrees, making selfies easy to capture.

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The camera is palm-sized and lightweight – weighing in at just 283 grams you could easily forget it’s in your pocket. It also has similar dimensions to a smartphone, making it easy to carry and serving, according to Sony, as “the serious choice for anyone who’s moving up from their smartphone’s camera or point-and-shoot compact snapper.” So if you’re looking for an upgrade on your smartphone’s camera but don’t want to restrict bag or pocket space, this could be a great choice.

The selfie lovers among us will have plenty to like here too. The company is quick to advertise the camera’s selfie-taking abilities, stating:

“Flip the large LCD screen through 180° and hold the ergonomically-styled camera body comfortably at arm’s length. Frame yourself with the conveniently positioned zoom lever: then release the shutter for great selfies.”

With the selfie trend showing no signs of slowing down, it’s clear that Sony want to make this aspect of modern photography easier for its consumers – all the more reason to want one of these cameras. Cnet were also keen on the camera’s selfie abilities, stating: “interface optimizations make Sony’s cameras stand out for selfies”

The a5100 also has Wi-Fi built in. This is a feature that has been under some debate – more serious camera makers have often opted to avoid building Wi-Fi into their cameras, while others, like Sony, see the potential here. The a5100’s wireless compatibility will allow seamless sharing of photos and video with others and storage devices – syncing your work onto a computer is easier than ever.

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The camera will become available in mid-September 2014 and has an RRP of £420 for just the body, £550 with a 16-50mm lens kit, or £760 for both the 16-50mm lens and the 55-210mm lens kits.

For more information visit Sony.

Canon fire two new shots with PowerShot SX520 HS and SX400 IS

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Canon have made further moves into the future with its popular camera range. Starting with the SX520 HS which is the replacement for the SX510 HS, the camera is packed with 16 megapixels, which is to be expected in modern cameras, but what is unusual is the 1 / 2.3inch CCD sensor. This is a strange choice when you consider that most other cameras in the sector use a CMOS sensor. However, avid photographers will know that CCD or CMOS are just a matter of light and exposure, and every photographic task needs the right tools for the job. If you want to learn more about CCD vs CMOS I recommend you check out the B&H article on the subject.

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PowerShot SX520 back

Let’s get up close and personal with the the SX520 HS and its features. The camera packs punch considering it is fairly compact, with a 42x optical zoom and 24mm wide-angle lens. Compared to larger cameras it is perhaps a downgrade, however. At 42x zoom capacity it is not what you would expect on a smaller camera but you still get a 1008mm maximum focal length, which is pretty good as pointed by TechRadar. Another little bonus for those that favour zoom functionality on their camera is the ZoomPlus technology that boost the range up to a massive 84x by recreating an optical zoom.

Canon’s new SX400 IS also matches up strongly. Again in this camera you get 16 megapixels and a 1/2.3inch CCD sensor, but the real difference between the cameras is in the zooming capabilities. For a small size camera the 30x optical zoom is a really pleasant surprise. The zoom is boosted by the ZoomPlus technology which increases the maximum zoom to an enormous up to 60x – a huge amount of zoom for a small camera. Video recording is only 720p rather than the full 1080p HD that can be found on the SX520 HS. Both cameras come with a Digic 4+ processor that promises to be 60% quicker with high ISOs and 30% quicker focusing and processing than the standard Digic 4.

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PowerShot SX400 IS in black – a compact, easy to store and carry camera

Canon has announced that you will have to wait until January to get your hands on an SX400 IS for the reasonable starting price of £259. However, the SX520 HS is due to start retailing in August with a starting price of £299, very reasonable pricing considering the huge amounts of functionality available here.

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PowerShot SX400 IS in red

 

With both cameras Canon is delivering great competitive pricing – however, extras such as touchscreen, Wi-Fi, GPS are left out on both. The cameras offer little further than strong functionality that you’d expect, but offer plenty of bang for your hard-earned buck.

For more information visit Canon.

PENTAX Q-S1 mixes things up with over 40 colour combinations

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Why go black or grey? With PENTAX there’s no need to follow the old colourless rules of handheld camera design – with over 40 different colour combinations, your camera can be as colourful as its photos.

There are 5 different body colours – Black, Gunmetal, Pure White, Champagne Gold, and Bright Silver. Then you can combine with varied grip colours in Charcoal Black, Cream, Carmine Red, Canary Yellow, Khaki Green, Royal Blue, Burgundy and Pale Pink. When you remember you can also choose a different colour for your lens, you realise there are 40 different colour combinations – the most vivid looking cameras ever made are yours for the taking.

So what’s the deal with the cameras most important function? As a camera PENTAX Q-S1 has been equipped with 12.4 megapixels, A1/1.1-inch back-illuminated CMOS sensor, a sensitivity range of ISO 100-12800 and ultrasonic vibrating ‘DRII’ sensor cleaner. The latter function is great if you do not want to see dust from your lens in your pictures – which is about true for everyone. When you consider all this functionality and remember that it is a very compact, easy to carry camera the Q-S1 quickly becomes a very attractive option – and that’s not just in terms of its colourful appearances.

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Pentax Q-S1 body and a standard lens in Champagne Gold with a Khaki Green grip

The screen at the back is 3.0 inch LCD wide-angle back at the front you get a built-in retractable P-TTL flash. All the following optional lenses are available on the PENTAX Q-S1:

PENTAX 01 Standard PRIME 8.5mm F1.9 AL [IF]
PENTAX 02 Standard ZOOM 5-15mm F2.8-4.5
PENTAX 03 Fish-Eye 3.2mm F5.6
PENTAX 04 Toy Lens Wide 6.3mm F7.1
PENTAX 05 Toy Lens Telephoto 18mm F8
PENTAX 06 Telephoto Zoom 15-45mm F2.8
PENTAX 07 Mount Shield Lens
PENTAX 08 Wide Zoom 3.8-5.9mm F3.7-4
Adapter Q for K-mount Lenses

One drawback of the camera, as pointed out by Cnet, is the camera’s lack of wireless functionality: “The camera still doesn’t have built-in Wi-Fi, though it still supports Eye-Fi”. Eye-Fi requires the purchase of a small SD-card like attachment for the camera and allows it to communicate wirelessly with computers and storage devices, so the camera can share files without the need for it to be plugged in via USB. While this can be useful for some, it is a shame that wi-fi functionality has not been included, as Eye-Fi requires paying for the attachment, and many similar top-of-the-line cameras have Wi-Fi built in.

On the plus side the camera also includes autofocus while recording videos which allows the camera to produce much higher-quality video with less blur. The camera also includes the ability to mount a K lenses adapter, so the budding photographer can chop and change lenses quickly on-the-fly.

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Pentax Q-S1 body’s from left to right in Gunmetal, Champagne Gold, Pure White and Black

You can pre-order the camera at RICOCH Imagine UK for £299.99 (body only) and up to £549.99 for the camera with a 5-15mm lens and a 15-45mm lens included. Shipping will start from the 28th of August 2014.

For more details visit RICOCH Imagine UK ltd.

Olympus PEN E-PL6 comes with World’s slimmest zoom lens

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Rather than sit on their laurels and rely on appealing to the more serious photographer, digital cameras have reacted to the threat of smartphones by upping their game to include a range of modern technology standards and incorporating tricks of the trade that offer users the sort of flexible experience they’ve come to expect.

Many have also focused on providing a slim and light form factor without compromise on quality, an area in which Olympus’ new PEN E-PL6 excels. It features the world’s slimmest pancake zoom lens and is compatible with a range of four specialist lenses to deliver extra power and precision if you need it, alongside support for an optional electronic viewfinder accessory and flash strobe.

A series of options for creative types include 12 art filters and 6 art effects, which allow you to customise photos and movie clips with your own unique touches. A supplied FlashAir WiFi card means it’s quick and easy to transfer videos and photos to a smartphone via the Olympus app to upload to social media sites. It’s even catered for the “selfie” generation, with a large, tilt and swivel high-res LCD touchscreen for taking shots at original angles

Olympus PEN E-PL6
Olympus PEN E-PL6

Of course it’s no slouch when it comes to pure photography either, with a 16.1 MP sensor and TruePic VI image processor and a sensitivity range up to ISO 25600. When combined with any Micro Four Thirds lens it’s designed to be ultra quick out of the blocks – start-up and autofocus are almost instantaneous, ensuring you’ll always be in a position to capture that perfect shot. It also takes full HD (1080p) video which is optimised to minimise noise and offer a far wider dynamic range than typical compacts or smartphones can achieve, and added extras such as a level gauge when there’s no horizon, interval shooting for up to 99 shots at various intervals over a 24-hour period and a time-lag mode offer additional control in traditionally awkward environments.

The all-metal finish E-PL6 is available in black and white versions for £429.99 from mid-July.

For more detail visite Olympus