Milled thrills – the Leica T 16.5 megapixel camera

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Milled from a single block of aluminium, and designed in collaboration with Audi, the all-new Leica T is a fairly remarkable piece of kit. This is a radical departure for the German photography brand, introducing an entirely new operating system alongside Leica’s first touchscreen and their inaugural integrated Wi-Fi module.

Weighing less than 400g, the Leica T is equipped with a 16.5 megapixel CMOS image sensor that delivers a maximum image resolution of 4944×3278 pixels. Its minimalist design ensures everything is operated via four haptic controls and the 3.7-inch TFT touchscreen. The cool aluminium body has a pleasingly tactile surface, while the Wi-Fi capabilities enable wireless distribution of pictures and videos without the use of cables. An app for iOS devices is already available, enabling smartphones or tablets to serve as viewfinders and adjust the camera’s shutter speed or aperture values.

The Leica T’s shatterproof design and equally robust engineering has already won it praise from seasoned observers. Amateur Photographer complimented the “beautifully designed menu system” and its “excellent customisation”, as well as pointing out that the T’s “clean and minimal” design benefits from features like a pop-up flash and a strap that clips straight into the body shell. However, TechRadar concluded that form had been placed ahead of function, arguing that the T has been positioned “more towards the luxury end of the market, as opposed to the practical end”. As a result, “the design element is the key selling point, rather than actually using the camera.”

Rear of Leica T
Rear of Leica T

T3 described the new Leica as “a bold move in a market that’s flooded with compact system cameras”. They also acknowledged the strong accessory lineup, while pointing out that the £1,350 price tag will place it beyond the reach of many amateur photographers. Digital Photography Review concurred, saying only “well-heeled photographers are likely to get their hands on one…it is not in any way intended as a mass-market product.” However, their fulsome praise of the T’s “extraordinarily tactile and rather beautiful” design concluded with the observation that this is “the kind of camera that Apple might make, if it were so inclined.”

If the standard Leica T doesn’t provide enough functionality, it’s also possible to add accessories including an integrated high-res viewfinder with GPS. Semi-professional photographers can purchase the new Leica SF26 flash unit for greater brightness, and backwards compatibility is assured thanks to an adaptor that allows Leica’s popular M-Lenses to be attached to the T’s body.

Price: £1,350. Available from May 26th through authorised Leica dealers.

Initial reactions to the forthcoming Nikon D4S

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Apparently CES 2014 wasn’t the premier showcase for groundbreaking digital imaging products it has been in other years. Instead a huge array of 4K + televisions took centre stage. That wasn’t to say cameras were entirely void of the world’s biggest annual consumer technology event. Typically Nikon’s unmissable bold black letters against a yellow background swung conspicuously in the air, enticing photographers and enthusiasts to check out Nikon’s latest wares.

Right on the eve of this year’s CES, Nikon announced it was preparing for the release of it next-generation flagship model, the Nikon D4S DSLR. The camera is designed for the world’s top photographers. According to Nikon’s press release the new flagship model offers advances over the Nikon D4, such as better image quality, advanced autofocusing performance and a new image-processing engine.

But how has the D4S been perceived by the scrutinising eye of the tech press?

In its round up of cameras and digital imaging at CES 2014, Engadget gave the D4S a mention. Avoiding talking about its capabilities and guts, Engadget fleetingly touched upon the fact Nikon was the only manufacturer to “albeit quietly” launch a flagship. Although it did refer to Nikon’s new model as the “latest and greatest DSLR”.

“The D4S isn’t shipping to photographers any time soon, but it will début on the sidelines at the 2014 Winter Olympics next month, as select pros cover the Games with the latest and greatest DSLR.”

Photography Life also picked up on “thin” description of the its professional flagship D-SLR. According to Photography Life, Nikon had announced the D4S is “currently in development”, and this could mean the final specs are subject to change. Admitting any report of the D4S is “speculation”, Photography Life’s write up talked of how the D4S’s advanced autofocus could mean a brand new AF system model with more cross-type focus sensors for improved AF performance. The improved processing engine might lead to an additional frame(s) per second to go with the purported improved image quality, states Photography Life.

Pocket-Lint also noted that since nobody has had a hands-on, details are scarce about the Nikon D4S. Pocket-Lint admitted that its summary of the D4S stemmed from the pictures taken by Engadget in Hong Kong.

“We can deduce that Nikon is sticking with its usual control layout,” writes Pocket-Lint. “On the inside Nikon promises to pack in a new image engine with faster autofocus. The sensor hasn’t been mentioned but we’d hope for an uprated one since the D4 is now two years old.”

Pocket-Lint even speculated about the price, expecting the D4S to cost around the same as its predecessor at £5,289 for the body only.

Tech Radar also revealed its disappointment of Nikon’s “thin” D4S specifications. But admits that professional photographers are likely to be excited by the prospect of the new camera.

So Nikon’s somewhat teasing snapshot of its new flagship professional D-SLR has taunted the tech press somewhat. As for a more in-depth analysis, we’ll have to wait until Nikon let us get our hands on the D4 sibling. One thing is more concrete, with the Winter Olympics, World Cup and Commonwealth Games all taking place in 2014, Nikon has picked the right year to launch its new pro model.

Video: Sony’s AX100 4K Camcorder & AS100VR Action Cam

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Among the products announced at Sony’s gaff-free (no movie directors here!) CES press event, a couple of new cameras caught our eye. First up was Sony’s latest 4K Camcorder, the AX100, which is now a far more ‘consumer friendly’ looking device compared to the company’s previous efforts. Producing a lighter and smaller camera is obviously key for Sony as they look to encourage us all to start producing and consuming more 4K content. The FDR-AX100, to give it its full name, is approximately one quarter the size and one third of the weight of the current FDR-AX1 model.

The AX100 comes with a 14.2 effective megapixel back-illuminated 1.0-type Exmor R CMOS sensor and, in addition to recording 4K footage, the camera is also capable of down-converting 4K images to very high quality 2K (Full HD) video. In terms of size, the AX100 is 196.5mm long, 83.5mm high and 81mm wide, weighing in at approx 790g. The camera is available for around £1,800 and more details can be found on the company’s UK web site. Also be sure to check out our video of the AX100 below:

The other new (or should that be significantly improved) camera that we checked out was the company’s latest action camera, the HDR-AS100VR Action Cam. This new model comes with a new image processing engine, new lens and a new image sensor for significantly improved image quality. The AS100VR is being marketed as “splash-proof” which means there’s no need for separate housing.

One interesting new feature is the ability to control up to five cameras with the Live-View Remote and record simultaneously with them all for a multi-view picture. Another, perhaps more quirky, feature of this camera (as well as its predecessor) is the ability to mount it to your dog’s back. Check out our quick hands on, and demonstration of the dog harness, in the video below:

Samsung unveils faster, more powerful, Galaxy Camera 2

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With CES just around the corner, Samsung has announced the Galaxy Camera 2, a follow-up to its popular Galaxy Camera, which was the world’s first Android-powered digital camera to fuse smartphone functionality with a point-and-click camera.

As you’d expect with any yearly refresh, Samsung has improved up the spec list in several areas – so instead of 4GB onboard storage (upgradable to 64GB via SD) you now get 8GB of storage. RAM has doubled, too, meaning Android 4.3 Jelly Bean zips along at a fair old pace alongside the new 1.6GHz quad-core processor.

One area where Samsung hasn’t improved upon, though, is the 4.8-inch display, which is the same as the last model.  Oddly the Galaxy’s camera sensor is the same 16-megapixel BSI CMOS sensor that you’d find on the old 2012 model too – which on the face of is a bit disappointing.

Elsewhere Samsung has kept the cameras’ impressive 22x zoom, whilst the snapper’s chassis has shed a few millimeters and grams along the ways too. Battery life has also been upped, despite its lighter build, and now comes with a 2000mAh battery, which is a good jump from the original’s 1650mAh unit.

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Sharing is made even easier with the new model as there’s Wi-Fi and NFC. The new Tag & Go feature makes it easy to connect the Galaxy Camera 2 to NFC-enabled smartphone for easy sharing.

Where you’ll find the main bulk of improvements, though, is the shooting modes, where The Verge “found a ton of new smart scene modes” – 28 apparently – which should help users set up shots much more easily. The camera is also able to shoot 1920×1080 HD video and is capable of capturing slow-motion video at a sloth-like 120 frames per second.

Pocket-lint concluded that while some of the improvements to the new Galaxy Camera 2 are noteworthy, you’d probably be better served picking up the original, which apparently is “still available for £200 from Jessops” – whereas the new model will probably set you back double that.

We’ll have to wait until the camera is shown off at CES next week for details on the release date, or the price.

GoPro Hero 3+: First impressions and sample footage

gopro-hero3-plus

Californian action camera company GoPro has been synonymous with capturing the thrills and spills of extreme sports over the years – and this week the company released an improved version of its popular GoPro Hero 3+.

What made GoPro cameras so successful is how easy it is to attach the dinky little cameras to car windows, crash helmets, handlebars, surf boards, hats, belts – just about anything you can think of via a range of clever accessories. Before the days of GoPro, if you wanted to record yourself and your best evil kenevil impression you would probably have to have a cameraman to hand, and the last time we checked that’s not cheap.

With GoPro cameras, the Californian company ushered in new era of inexpensive self-documentation whereby thrill-seekers could wear the company’s cameras to record themselves doing just about anything, anywhere. And, unsurprisingly, they did. Several years later you’ll be hard pressed to find an extreme sports clip or epic fail on Youtube that wasn’t captured with a GoPro camera.

The company’s new Hero3+ features a bevy of improvements over last year’s version: it’s 20% smaller and lighter; battery life has been improved by 30%, lasting just over 2 hours on continuous record; Wi-Fi transfers are four times quicker using the GoPro App, and the camera is now waterproof to an impressive depth of 40 meters.

Gizmodo’s early hands-on with the camera noted that it produces significantly “sharper images” thanks to the improved lens, and colours were “better” balanced thanks for improvements with GoPro’s imaging software.

The GoPro Hero+ performs at its best when capturing footage at 1080p at a smooth 60fps. You can go up to 4K (3840 x 2160) but then the fps plummet to a choppy 15 fps – which is makes its 4K less than impressive. But the Hero 3+ can record high-speed/super-slow-motion 720p video at 120fps and 640 x 480 resolution video at 240fps.

Elsewhere there’s the inclusion of a new SuperView video mode that will no doubt please the diehards as it that allows for an even wider viewing angle, allowing users to capture more of their exploits and surroundings at the same time.

Check out some sample footage in this video:

As well as being tougher, lighter, and lasting longer on a single charge – the Hero 3+ has quite a few accessories to really help users get that perfect extreme shot. The Flex Clamp is a quick way to clamp a GoPro camera to a variety of objects. It comes with an optional opposable neck to achieve a wide range of camera positions. And the clamps jaws securely grip irregular shapes and slim objects thanks to its innovative design.

The Junior Chesty is a smaller version of our adult-sized Chest Harness. Perfect for kids ages 3+, the Junior Chest Harness is great for capturing footage of a child’s world from their perspective – from skiing and skateboarding to slides and swings.

There’s also a Head Strap & QuickClip; the QuickClip is a new accessory that now comes bundled with GoPro’s Head Strap. The QuickClip enables ultra-compact, low profile mounting to baseball hats, belts and other objects ranging in thickness from 3mm to 10mm.

The new GoPro Hero3+ come in three variations: the Hero3+ Black Edition is the flagship model, packing a 12-megapixel sensor, 4K video capture capabilities, the new low-light mode, and a remote. The identically priced Hero3+ Black Edition Surf is the same camera with surf mounts included. And the Hero3+ Silver Edition drops the price down but it has a lower-resolution 10-megapixel sensor, a slower burst mode that tops out at 10fps, and it lacks the 4K video mode and bundled remote.

 

Review Round-Up: Ricoh’s THETA spherical camera

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It may look like a Wii controller, but this sleek and stylish handheld device is actually a significant consumer first. Unveiled late last month by Ricoh at Berlin’s IFA electronics fair, it is the first mass-produced fully spherical camera, simultaneously taking images through two 180-degree lenses and delivering remarkable results.

The system works through a bespoke twin-lens optical system that manages to capture everything around, above and below this slimline 95g device. Each six-megapixel JPEG is stored in the Theta’s 4GB internal memory, while you should be able to take 200 shots from one charge. That might be important, because there is no preview option before taking a picture, so it could require several attempts to capture that killer image. However, its photos do look fairly spectacular, presenting the world in a totally new way and adding real originality to even the most mundane images or ubiquitous locations.

Photos can be taken while controlling the Theta remotely, before they are sent to a smartphone using Wi-Fi and a free app. However, at launch, the only compatible handsets are the iPhone 4S and 5, running iOS 6.0 or above. Android compatibility is due before Christmas, meaning this might be a gadget best saved for a Dear Santa list.

Check out this video of the Theta we filmed during IFA 2013:

Reviews of the Theta have been positive but largely underwhelming, with CNET rather capturing the general mood. The reviewer pointed out that everyone who saw it was impressed by the device and its “mesmerising” views, but when price was mentioned, “the excitement quickly faded”. T3 concurred, summarising the Theta as “a nicely designed little gadget that’s easy to use and gives great results”, and also noting that its low-light performance is disappointing and the lack of a conventional camera makes this very much “a niche product”.

BGR described the Theta as “a next-level selfie machine”, while agreeing with the over-riding sentiment that its 360-degree imagery is too specialised and limited to achieve mass-market success. Taking a slightly different tack, Expert Reviews pointed out that its £329 purchase price could perhaps be better invested on a wide-angle DSLR lens, which would offer greater everyday practicality and long-term usability.

Ricoh designed the Theta and are also manufacturing it, with a dedicated website for image uploading (www.theta360.com) that incorporates functionalities like picture rotation, size editing and social network sharing. The proprietary nature of all this may deter loyal followers of certain other technology brands, but the Theta is well worth a look for fans of characterful and unique photography – particularly those with fairly deep pockets.

Price: £329. Available for pre-order from Ricoh’s UK website later this month.

Control your DSLR remotely with Weye Feye

weye-feye-dslr-controller

As any keen photographer knows there are times when being behind the camera is a disadvantage. Whether you’re photographing wildlife and don’t want to scare off the cute critters, or you’re snapping extreme or motor sports where getting too close to the action risks personal injury, sometimes you need to trigger the shutter from a distance.

The traditional answer to this problem has been the cable release or its modern wireless equivalent. It’s a solution that works fine up to a point but it means you can’t actually see what the camera is capturing.

XSories is a company with a long track record in the extreme sports market and it’s come up with a clever solution for remote photography. The Weye Feye is not as you might think a wireless network for residents of Kensington but is in fact a little orange box that attaches to your DSLR via the USB socket and creates its own wireless-N network. Combine this with an app on your smartphone or tablet and you can control your camera remotely but more important actually see what you’re shooting.

The Weye Feye has a signal range of up to 80 metres so you won’t have to worry about getting too close to the action – you’ll be worrying about your camera getting nicked instead but that’s by the by. Obviously the distance introduces a latency in triggering the shutter but this is only 0.2 seconds, that’s a long time if you’re trying to capture a Formula 1 car as it speeds past but shouldn’t be too much of an issue with other subjects.

There’s more to this device than just remotely triggering the shutter though. There’s a LiveView feature which allows you to control your camera setup via the app too. You can control settings like ISO and shutter speed, switch between auto and manual focus and even change between photo and video shooting modes. It also has a Gallery mode which lets you share images from the smartphone or tablet to a PC or directly to social networks and cloud storage. It works with YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Dropbox and more. There’s an integrated Gallery Web Server as well which allows up to 20 users to access the gallery without needing to install the app.

The Weye Feye is compatible with most Canon and Nikon DSLRs and the controlling app is available for iOS and Android devices. It will be available in October priced at £199, more information (including a list of compatible cameras) is available at http://www.weye-feye.com/ and you can see a short video of it in action on YouTube here:

Canon’s LEGRIA Mini – Crying Out to Be Played With

legria-mini

Remember when camcorders first hit the mainstream consumer market in the 80s? They were huge, in both senses of the word. These bulky and heavy shoulder-born items suddenly unleashed a whole new load of fun as VHS’s became an almost household commodity with families being able to replay their own experiences and memories on the silver screen. The new found zest for homemade videos in the 80s led to the creation of shows such as the long-running America’s Funniest Home Videos and, in 1990, our own version, You’ve Been Framed.

Imagine and awe and bewilderment if someone had dug the new LEGRIA Mini from their pocket and said that in about 30 years from now this is what home camcorders will look like?

Yes you’ve guessed it Canon’s LEGRIA Mini is small. Although it’s not just the camcorder’s minute size that would cause the home video-infatuated consumerists of the 80s’ eyes to bulge in wonderment, but also its innovative design. Breaking away from the conventional design of the camcorder, the LEGRIA Mini’s built-in stand creates hands-free and flexible recording, enabling users to get in front of the camera themselves and participate in their videos – Perfect for those directors wanting to have a cameo role in their own video!

It has to be said that one of the most common home video mishaps is amateur video makers’ almost collective tendency to unwittingly crop off half of the action when filming. The LEGRIA Mini’s ultra-wide angle f/2.8 lens, which can capture stills at a 170 degree angle and video in full HD at 160, will hopefully eradicate the inelegance and embarrassment of showing a video when half of the action is out of shot. ‘Conventional’ recording is also achievable by tapping the screen to reduce the field of view to a 71 degree angle.

Different shooting options are available to the discerning LEGRIA cameraman by either flipping the LCD touchscreen out to the subject side or to the rear side. With a rotation switch system embedded into the camera, you need not worry that you’ll be displaying images upside down as the camera automatically puts the image the right way up.

Canon has always been at the forefront of image quality and combining a Canon-engineered high-sensitivity back-illuminated ½.3 inch CMOS sensor with an advanced DIGIC DV 4 processing platform for reduced noise, the LEGRIA Mini certainly promises to maintain Canon’s reputation for quality.

With the extraordinary rise of social media, sharing videos is a popular pastime, to say the least. With built-in Wi-Fi LEGRIA Mini users can share their creations until their heart’s content. Though not just on the social channels might we add, as the camera’s Remote Browser feature enables vids and images to be shared on other devices, such as tablets and monitors.

To conclude, the LEGRIA Mini certainly looks like a miniscule device just crying out to be picked up and played with and being made by Canon, we don’t doubt that its functionalities will be as impressive as its exterior. We’ll have to wait until mid-September though to be able to get our hands on one. Perhaps by then we’ll have some indication of the price.