Panasonic LUMIX GX7 – Not Big, Very Clever

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In these days when pretty much any mobile phone is capable of taking half decent snapshots, carrying a separate camera with you when you go out suggests serious photographic intent. If you hanker after the days when a camera was a camera, photos were on film and you had to wait a week to get your holiday snaps back from Boots, then the latest from Panasonic might be up your street.

The LUMIX GX7 has a pleasingly retro look with a smooth satin black or silver finish that invokes ‘proper’ cameras of the past. Behind the looks though is a thoroughly modern 16 megapixel unit packed with technology to help you capture the perfect shot. Among the highlights are a low noise sensor for improved results in poor light conditions, high speed auto focus and a maximum 1/8000 shutter speed for capturing fast moving subjects, and the ability to set focus and exposure with just a single touch on the screen. Although it’s a mirrorless design rather than a DSLR you can exchange lenses, making this a more practical alternative to bulky professional cameras.

There’s a tiltable viewfinder as well as a 3-inch touch-control rear monitor screen, which also tilts to 90 degrees, so you have plenty of options when it comes to composing your shots. The GX7 has a silent shooting mode which cuts out camera and shutter noise so that you can grab photos without disturbing the subject, ideal for working with children and pets or for getting the perfect street shot.

For the serious photographer there are plenty of creative of options and a physical mode dial as well as the touchscreen for control. The camera has built-in filters that mimic traditional darkroom techniques such as emphasising a certain colour in a black and white image. If you prefer your pictures to move the LUMIX can record video at 1080p resolution and with MP4 stereo sound.

When it comes to transferring your pictures you’ll find that the GX7 has Near Field Communication so you can send images to a smartphone or tablet with a single touch. It’s also possible to use your smartphone as a remote control for extra shooting flexibility.

The GX7 is a very serious piece of kit and as a step up from a compact without going to a full-blown DSLR it will appeal to people who are serious about their photography. No pricing was available at the announcement but don’t expect the GX7 to be cheap, however, if you pre-order you will get a free leather case and extra battery worth £69.99.

Olloclip’s Telephoto iPhone Lens: Get Closer to the Action

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The cameras embedded in our mobile phones may have troubled the lower end of the digital camera market, but they’re still some way short of the quality found in high-end compacts and DSLRs. Add-ons such as the new Telephoto Lens from Olloclip can help add a touch of professionalism and style to your mobile snaps — the £99.99 gadget halves the distance between you and your subject thanks to its 2x optical lens and comes with other focus and colour reproduction enhancements too.

In addition to the telephoto zoom lens, this Olloclip package also includes a  circular polarising lens (CPL) — in layman’s terms, that means your snaps come out with more realistic colours and fewer distracting reflections. The CPL blocks out light at certain angles based on user settings and helps raise your photos further above the default iPhone standard. You can use the CPL on top of the telephoto zoom lens, on its own, or on the original 3-in-1 Olloclip (reviewed in our Best iPhone Photo and Video Accessories).

Another trick you can do with the Olloclip Telephoto Lens is to take advantage of the extra optical zoom to adjust the subject focus — use the depth of field to bring the object of your attention into sharp focus and leave the background blurred (or indeed vice versa). Without changing anything on the iPhone itself, you suddenly have a number of additional professional tools at your fingertips. “Whether you’re on location or on vacation, the Olloclip Telephoto Lens adds better quality close ups and more flexibility to the convenience and mobility of the iPhone and iPod touch,” commented Patrick O’Neill, Olloclip’s CEO and founder.

The Olloclip Telephoto Lens works with the iPhone 5 and 4S as well as the fourth and fifth generation iPod touches. Put together from a multi-element coated, precision-ground lens and high-grade aluminium body, the gadget can be picked up now from the Olloclip website and from the Apple UK Store in the near future. If this particular add-on lens doesn’t quite take your fancy, there are plenty of alternatives, including the Optrix iPhone XD5 we’ve previously covered.

CHOBiCAM Cheese Camera is Gouda’Nuff

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The new camera by Japan Trust Technology puts a whole new meaning to “Say Cheese!”. The company has just revealed the launch of the first ever cheese-shaped camera. The miniature camera promises to make anyone smile, without ever having to tell them to say cheese. The camera is called a CHOBiCAM and while it looks like a kid’s toy camera, it actually takes high-resolution 1280×1024 pixel pictures that can be loaded onto your computer, just like any other digital camera.

If you’re wondering just how small the CHOBiCAM is, picture yourself putting a piece of cheddar in the palm of your hand. The company related it to about the size of a traditional eraser and the camera only weighs 16 grams, with the exact cheesy dimensions being W45xH30xD24mm. 16 grams is about the weight of 3 or 4 crayons, which tells you exactly how light it is.

Chobi-Cheese-Cam

Aside from taking pictures of your friends, or of cheese, you can also take short video with the camera. The tiny camera records sound just as well as most basic digital cameras do while shooting video, and it stores audio as MP3 files. The maximum amount for video and audio is approximately 75 minutes, which is perfectly serviceable. The CHOBiCAM also takes vintage-looking pictures without the use of filters.

When you purchase the CHOBiCAM, you can use any micro SDHC memory card to store your pictures, video and audio files. It also comes with a chargeable battery and USB cable – the battery only takes about an hour to give you full charge. Because you’re using a micro SD card, you will need an AC adapter for transferring media files.

Take a metaphorical bite out of this new cheese-shaped camera and capture natural and honest smiles from your friends. Just seeing the triangular, cheesy digital camera makes it impossible for people not to smile. The challenge will certainly be keeping the camera safe since it’s so small and adorable, everyone will be tempted to use for themselves. As an added bonus, Japan Trust Technology includes a small camera strap, to help you hold on to it.

Lytro: Light Rays and Living Pictures

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Photography – especially the mid-range point and click market has been in trouble for some time now. People, for the most part, love to take pictures but a quick glance on Facebook or Instagram shows that they don’t always care about the quality. And when the camera bundle with your phone is “good enough” then why shell out for a “real camera”. What can camera manufacturers do in a world where people are willing to take pictures on iPads?

Enter Lytro – a radical new way to take an experience photography. Lytro brings light field technology to consumers and changes perceptions about what cameras can be. For a start Lytro doesn’t look like a camera (although I’m guess to someone under 14 a camera must just look like a phone). To my eye Lytro looks like a rectangular torch – or a mini telescope and the sleek design features just two buttons – power and shutter – which is a far cry from the knobs and dials of cameras of old. This is not to call Lytro simple – the touch screen controls are intuitive and enable all sorts of control over the images you are taking.




Of course Lytro’s headline feature is a light field sensor that collects the colour, intensity and the direction of every light ray flowing into the camera, capturing fundamentally different data from the scene. What this means is that you can refocus one a photo is taken and shift the perspective in a scene. Lytro excels at taking these sorts of image, although it’s not the best camera for taking a wide range shots.



Bringing smartphone innovations to regular cameras, Lytro also comes with Living Filters, giving one click access to 9 interactive filters. And there is also an app that enables anyone with an iOS device to experience “living pictures”.



Availability and Price
The Lytro camera is available in July through UK distributor Softline, in retail stores Dixons Travel, Harrods and online at John Lewis priced at:
• Graphite, Electric Blue, Moxie Pink: 8GB Lytro Camera- £399.00
• Red Hot: 16 GB Lytro Camera- £469.00

Samsung NX300-3D Camera: Film in 3D

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Samsung has announced what it says is the first one-lens 3D system on a camera that can produce 3D video and still images.

The NX300 is the new flagship model for the NX series of compact cameras and alongside its launch Samsung has announced its NX 45mm F1.8 2D/3D lens. When operating in 3D mode it uses a pair of LCD filters, which each project slightly different images onto the sensor of the camera. When used with the Samsung NX300 it produces 5 megapixel 3D stills as well as 1080/30p HD video in 3D.

The NX300 compact camera features a new 20.3 megapixel AOPS-CMOS sensor for high levels of detail, as well as a wide ISO range (100-25600), which should allow images to be grabbed even in very low light conditions. With a 1/6000 sec shutter speed and 9fps continuous shooting mode, you shouldn’t miss anything!

There are 14 different settings for Smart Mode, including Light Trace, Action Freeze and Creative Shot, as well as i-Depth, which makes it easy to adjust the depth of your image without moving off your intended subject,

The Samsung NX300 has a retro look and comes in either white or black with a contrasting silver band. Images can be shared instantly via smartphone and tablet thanks to Wi-Fi connectivity.

The Samsung NX300 was launched at CES and there is no price or release date as yet for the UK. The 45m 2D/3D lens will be sold separately.

More at http://youtube.com/SamsungTomorrow

Joby Ultra Fit Camera Strap: Makes light work of a heavyweight

Let’s face it, these days modern DSLR cameras may be heavyweights for capturing those memorable moments but they’re also pretty heavy in the weight department too. Lugging one around your neck all day is something to be avoided at all costs so canny photographers use custom made straps designed specifically to ease the burden of carrying a heavy camera whilst still letting you get a quick shot away when you need it.

UltraFit

German strap specialist  Sun Sniper first  pioneered the innovative sling shot design which has made wearing a DSLR a piece of cake.

Hot on the King’s heels however is Joby, the makers of the ingenious Goriila Pod, a flexible and lightweight tripod stand that can be used just about anywhere. They know a thing or two about cameras, so it’s no surprise they’ve jumped onto the strap bandwagon. The Joby UltraFit Sling Strap is another take on the sling shot style where a long steel and nylon strap anchored into the tripod housing at the base of the camera is swung around your shoulder leaving the camera hanging down by your hip, but well within reach to be grabbed and snapped.

The Ultra Fit takes this idea further through individual customisation.  The strap can be adjusted using a patented SpeedCinch system where your camera fits snugly higher up and closer to your body than the Sling Shot, but allows you to fluidly extend the strap when you need to fire off some shots. Another perhaps more obvious improvement is given the physical differences between men and women it makes sense to have them gender specific.

Not content with just stealing a march on Sling Shot, Joby, has added to the range with the 3 Way Camera Strap for compact cameras, letting you hang your camera around your wrist, neck or shoulder using a reinforced retractable cord.

Pricing: UltraFit Sling Strap – SRP £41.00, 3 Way Camera Strap – SRP £33.00

www.joby.com

GoPro Hero 3 Black Edition: White knuckles never looked so good

I drove a Harley around Europe recently and had a particularly eventful journey crossing the Great St Bernard Pass, one of the best classic mountain road experiences you’ll ever get in Europe. It was, it has to be said, the perfect opportunity to put my helmet mounted  Hero Go Pro through its paces, and thankfully for me I didn’t need to go back and repeat the feat, the Hero lived up to its name in a heroic sort of way delivering some pretty sharp on the move video footage.

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The new Hero 3 version however is a different story altogether. It’s 30% smaller and 25% lighter than its predecessor (very welcome when its bolted on top of your head) and waterproof up to 60m. But the real genius of the Hero is in the visuals:  this generation can capture ultra-wide angle HD video  in various degrees of clarity depending on how meaty your SD card happens to be. 60 fps at 1080p 48 fps at 1440p, 120 fps at 720p, 30 fps at 2.7Kp  and 15 fps 4Kp. Whilst 15 frames per second is not what you would class as cinema quality, it is described as the world’s first 4K capable action cam, so there.

For me though, the real benefit is in the much improved stills department. The GoPro 3  can capture 12MP photos at an impressive rate of 30 photos per second, more than enough to recreate that adrenaline high you got from that snowboard leap, or passing by those snoozers on the black downhill run.

There’s  built-in Wi-Fi  so you can stream footage to your mobile media, GoPro App compatibility, and the Wi-Fi Remote which is normally a £79.99 accessory is included in the package.

With budget considerations a factor, there are also more modest silver and white editions available, The GoPro Hero 3 will make those action packed days even more heroic.

The HERO3: Black Edition £379.99, HERO3: Silver Edition £279.99 and the HERO3: White Edition £179.99.

www.GoPro.com

Liquid Image Ego action camera: For “Dude! Did you see that?” moments

I’ve dabbled in various “extreme” sports over the years, with varying degrees of failure, be in parkour, tricking, BMX or trials biking. One thing that has been consistent has been excited faces breathlessly uttering “Did you see that?” after a particularly stunning jump, trick or movement. There’s something in extreme sports that appeals to the extrovert and it’s great to be able to capture your latest feat and show it to friends, family or anyone who’s attention you can grab.

Ego-Cameras

Catering to this desire, Liquid Image have launched the new Ego camera, a small (4.1 x 3 x 6.4cm) mountable HD video camera. Wearable tech is “the next big thing” and Liquid Image already make a pretty cool assortment of google-mounted cameras for POV recording underwater (or on the slopes).

The Ego comes with a range of accessories and can be strapped to chests, heads, helmets, bikes, boards and … well you get the idea. The Ego includes a multi-directional mounting system with a quick release lever, tripod mount.There’s even underwater housing, waterproof down to 100m.

As for the actual camera it records in Full HD 1080p video at 30 fps; HD 720p video at 60 fps (good for fast action or post-production slow motion); 12-megapixel still photo; and a continuous Photo mode. The lens itself is a 136 degrees wide angle, but you can set it to slightly narrower angle if that’s your bag.

However the Ego isn’t just a camera, or even just an action camera. It’s a smart action camera. Holding one of the little buttons on top for a few seconds creates a wireless network that you can connect your smartphone to. Via the magic of apps you can preview footage on your smartphone or tablet – useful for composing shots as there’s no built-in display on the unit itself. Even better you can remotely control the unit from your smartphone, which is great if you’ve mounted it somewhere visually fascinating but hard to reach.

The Ego is available in five colours, Black, Red, Blue, White and Yellow and has an RRP of £159.99. It will be available in the UK from August 2012.