Professionals look out – Sony’s NEX-3 and NEX-5 puts expert photography in reach of amateurs

Whilst DSLR cameras with interchangeable lenses may produce high-quality images and look the business, owners of these top-notch devices nearly always seem to admit to also possessing another, albeit smaller camera, which they can conveniently place into a bag or pocket and leave their DSLR safe at home for those more ‘special’ photo opportunities.

The reason for this is twofold: One these types of cameras are pretty pricey so people don’t want to run the risk of having it stolen down their local pub, and two SLR cameras are usually big and bulky and therefore not practical to be a permanent feature in a handbag. That was until Sony produced the NEX-3 and NEX-5, which by being the ‘world’s smallest and lightest interchangeable lens digital camera’, has generated a revolutionary approach to DSLR cameras.

New to the Alpha family, the NEX-3 and NEX-5 are sleek, slim, subtle, the former being just 25.4mm at its slimmest point and the latter being 24.2mm, and easy to use, but do not compromise the high picture quality associated with ‘conventional’ DSLR digital cameras, meaning professional photography is now available to the less professional of photographers.

The real beauty of Alpha’s latest additions is the fact that they are compatible with a wide range of interchangeable lenses, which significantly enhances photographic capabilities and smashes the limitations standard lens digital cameras frustratingly adhere to. Perhaps the greatest of these frustrations is the inability to capture an image with a wide field of view, an irritation which can be resolved by boosting field of view by using the VCL-ECU1 Ultra Wide Converter or the VCL-ECF1 Fisheye Converter. But Sony have taken panoramic vision a step further as the NEX-3 and NEX-5 are Alpha’s first cameras which feature Sweep Panorama with 3D capability. By sweeping the camera horizontally or vertically, whilst the shutter button is pressed down, the camera will burst into a series of high-speed frames, creating 23 megapixel panoramas with a 226 degree angle of view.

Although still images are not the only aspect of modern shooting to reach ground-breaking new depths with Sony’s latest cameras, as the NEX-3 and the NEX-5 are the first Alpha cameras to offer HD video recording. This full HD (1920 – 1080) video recording can be connected to a HD television and together provide for the upmost of quality in home recording.

Instead of DSLR cameras gathering dust in the cupboard until a wedding or christening takes place, enthusiasts will be able take advantage of the indisputable rewards DSLA cameras provide on a more daily level from June when the NEX-3 and NEX-5 will be available in the UK.

Low and slow: low-light and slow-mo shooting from Canon’s IXUS 300 HS

Canon has made an interesting move for its latest release – the Canon IXUS 300 HS – reducing its maximum resolution from previous models from 14mp to 10mp.

So what’s the reason? Well, the HS in the high-end compact camera’s name stands for ‘high sensitivity’, and the camera maker claims that its 10mp CMOS sensor, combined with fast DIGIC 4 processing, will perform better in ‘challenging’ situations – that is, low-light conditions or high-speed shooting. Canon did a similar thing with its PowerShot G10 to much the same ends.

Generally, higher resolution images are grainier in low-light conditions, so this seems like a sensible move, and as you really only need such high resolutions if you’re enlarging images, for the average user this is unlikely to be a problem.

And offering a full-resolution shooting mode of ISP 3200, rising to ISO 6400 if you’re happy to accept a 2.5mp resolution, it looks like being a good choice if you often take shots on nights out.

So what else does the Canon IXUS 300 HS offer for its admittedly high £379 price tag? The high-end compact has a 3.8x optical zoom, and is capable of capturing 720p HD footage or 240fps super-slow-motion video – great for action shots, whether it’s the kids jumping into the pool on holiday or friends throwing shapes at a party.

The lens’ wide maximum aperture (f2.0) and manually controlled iris will offer greater control over depth of field, a useful facility for taking portraits and macro shots. The IXUS 300 HS also boasts Canon’s acclaimed Image Stabilizer, allowing the user to take longer exposures with minimal blurring.

There are some fun effects to be had too – such as fish eye lens and Miniature Effect, which makes subjects appear like miniature-scale models (sometimes called tilt-shift photography. For examples that have been digitally manipulated check out this site ).

The Canon IXUS 300 HS will be available in silver and black, while Jessops will be exclusively stocking a white model and John Lewis a red version.

Who’d Leica snap-nav?

Pro photographers and affluent amateurs on a quest to find the ultimate compact will be keen to roadtest the latest challenge from Leica, the V-LUX 20. While packing an impressive spread of traditional features that reads more like a who’s who of top-end trimmings – 12.1 effective megapixel sensor, Leica DC Vario-Elmar 4.1-49.2mm f/3.3-4.9 ASPH zoom lens with 35mm equivalent focal range of 25-300mm etc – the German photographic powerhouse has looked sky-high this time around for inspiration on how to differentiate.

Leica-V-Lux

Leica’s new weapon? A built-in GPS chip that captures and stores location information on the EXIF metadata to catalogue the place and local time a scene is shot. GPS is becoming a popular addition to this particular breed of compacts and has already been seen on the Sony Cybershot DSC-HX5V and Nikon Coolpix P6000. On the surface, the technology naturally presents an appeal to people who like to keep their archives in stringent order rather than those choosing to condemn their shots to a futile eternity on a heaving memory. In fact, with the web now the shop floor for many photographers’ collections, the ability to pinpoint the origins of your shots on Google Maps, Flickr or social networking sites offers more mileage for your snappy memories. If you really wanted to milk this feature, you could use the GPS coordinates to navigate back to your favourite scenes and retrace the steps of a memorable trip – now you’ve got a second shot at seeking out that once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity. V-LUX 20 also stores details of 500,000 points of interest across 73 countries – ideal when you’re stumped for location inspiration.
Beyond its geographic memory, this Leica has the traditional charm its loyal fans and first-timers will love. It comes in the familiar and unassuming matte black casing that masks the heavyweight features packed inside. The other key seller is its “super-zoom”, which puts landscapes, detailed close-ups and long-distance telephoto subjects in easy reach. Not content raising the bar with its high-resolution stills, Leica’s also upped the precision on its movie mode – now shooting in 720p HD quality.

You get all the intelligent automatic features you’d come to expect from a camera firmly stamped at the £500 price point – face recognition, automatic scene modes and smart exposure – while the expanse of manual controls are kept to their simplest in a bid to attract big-budget amateurs looking to spoil themselves with a supremely indulgent point-and-shoot.

Available from May 2010

First look at the Fuji HS10 DSLR

Fuji-HS10

Over the past few years, the gap between DSLR and point-and-shoot digital cameras has gotten smaller and smaller. So much so that I suspect I’m not the only person who faces the dilemma of which camera to take with me on a day out. If I’m purposely heading off to take photos, I’ll cart round my DSLR and its lenses, but if we’re heading off for a family day out, I really want something that is less hassle.

Enter the Fuji HS10 to close the gap. The latest addition to the Fuji stable has an amazing 24-720mm zoom lens – yes, you did read that right! (It was just pipped at the post by the Olympus 800UZ, released in March, which offers the same zoom facililty for a similar price).

I can hear the initiated among you muttering about image stabilisation at this point, and although we haven’t yet had a chance to have a hands-on go of this camera, with triple image stabilisation (sensor shift IS, high ISO and Digital IS), reports back so far have been reasonable.

Apart from its incredible zoom facility, the Fuji HS10 has a few other tricks up its metaphorical sleeve including an electronic viewfinder with eye-sensor, which automatically switches on when the camera is brought up to the eye, so the camera is always ready to go a the crucial moment.

It also offers a new panorama mode for ‘one-shot’ sweeping panoramas, high-speed 10fps continuous shooting at full resolution, and RAW caption mode.

Check out MixCat’s review:

Another issue I have with my compact is its abilities in low light, but the Fuji HS10 has a Back Side Illumination CMOS sensor, for high sensitivity and low noise results; it combines high and low ISO exposures to reduce blur caused by camera shake without significantly increasing image noise.

Fuji has packed the HS10 with clever features including Best Frame Capture Mode, which records up to 7 images, Fast Face Detection and Auto Red-Eye Removal.

Vastly intriguing is the Motion Remover mode, which takes multiple pictures and combines them, deleting anything that’s different about each snap, such as people moving through the frame. I’m dying to try this one out!

Add in the ability to take HD video at 1080p HD resolution, and it certainly seems to tick all the right boxes. Of course, the zoom lens means the HS10 looks and feels like a DSLR – don’t think it’s going to slip into a trouser pocket – and at a smidge under £400, it’s pricier than the compacts, but around £100 cheaper than an entry-level DSLR. For many keen photographers this could be the all-rounder they have been looking for.

The Fuji HS10 is available from £399.

Flip Mino HD review and sample footage

FlipMino-HD

I’m clearly not the target market for this device. I love twiddling with video cameras and their settings. I never go on a shoot without taking a bunch of pink and blue tinted cards for creative white balancing. One of my favorite software packages is Apple’s Color (sic), where users can tweak footage sessions and create wonderful bleach bypass effects or stark, emotive black and white footage. So when I pulled the Flip MinoHD out of its little black box, my immediate reaction was “is this it?”

To call the device simple would be an understatement. It is pretty much a big red button. To operate you just point the camera at something and press the big red button. It’s really that simple (ok there are a few other buttons to playback that footage). You can master the device in about 3-5 minutes without ever looking at the manual. Although I was itching for more controls at first, a quick play with the device in the part reminded me how much fun a simple device could be.

Sample footage:

The onboard hardware and software automatically define the best shot for the occasion – you literally just point and shoot. This actually works great for casual footage – the sort of thing that people pull mobile phones out to record. The Flip Mino HD has a very small form factor and feels just like a mobile phone – a much lesser conspicuous HD recording tool than a full sized cameras and just as good for uncomplicated shots – I would happily take it out to a concert, a skatepark or even out freerunning. And as it is the size and shape of an old candy bar phone, I could easily see myself carrying it with me at all times.

The microphone was a little sensitive and some of the audio was lost due to a windy day. However the footage take was very smooth. The onboard software was clear and simple and it was child’s play to add simple titles, music, trim sections from footage and upload to YouTube. Nothing more complex is provided, but you can access the file and attack it with a more serious editing package if that is what you are after. The USB connector flicks out, which is fun but a bit annoying to connect to a PC – the flip is clearly geared for laptops, but people assure me a USB extender exists somewhere. If you are after simple, reliable 720p footage you would be wise to take a long hard look at Flip’s offering. The Flip MinoHD is available at leading retailers from 8th April at MSRP £179.99.

Samsung announces NX10 camera

Barely had New Year hangovers cleared than Samsung announced what it describes as “the next generation of cameras”. The NX10 will, they say, deliver all the quality of DSLR packed within a small but perfectly formed frame.

This is Samsung’s response to the Micro Four Thirds System developed by Panasonic and Olympus. Since its release in 2008 it has set the standard for micro interchangeable lens cameras. The NX10 promises to change all that.

Like MFT, NX10 removes the mirror box to create a smaller, sleeker frame that still allows users to switch lenses.

However, NX10 has one thing its counterpart lacks: a large 14.6 MP APS-C size CMOS sensor. That’s bigger than you’ll find with MFT and has the potential to deliver DSLR standard pictures. In other words: convenience and quality in one stunning package.

Round the back you’ll find another winning feature: a three inch AMOLED screen. This has, says Samsung, a 10,000 times faster response rate than conventional LCDs and uses less power. Better still you can view shots in bright sunlight and from any angle. The days of shielding your eyes from the sun are behind you.

It even knows when you’re looking through the viewfinder. The screen powers down to save energy, and a few polar bears into the bargain.

Elsewhere it has an impressive arsenal of goodies: a rapid auto focus, HD video and a Smart Range feature that let’s you express light and dark areas within the same frame.

All of which makes for a formidable piece of equipment. Samsung hopes to draw in people who are tired of lugging around bulky DSLRs as well as those who want more performance from their MFT cameras. If they success then this will be a true game changer – something that can transform Samsung into the major player in the camera market.

Car accident? Dash Cam Dually is already at the scene

The days of witnesses dashing to the scene of motoring accidents may be numbered, as the Dash Cam Dually – a twin-camera dash-mounted device which records car crashes – has arrived on the scene. Quoted as “the final answer to all car cameras”, this innovative product is fitted with a flock of features and software and is perhaps the most reliable eye-witness available on standby, taking the rapidly evolving micro snooping technology market to new heights.

car-cam-duallyEquipped with two 1.3 megapixel cameras, a digital compass, GPS tracking to monitor speed, direction and exact location, a shock sensor with five level settings that will sense an unexpected change in g-force, this sleek and unobtrusive device is mounted onto a car’s dashboard and from there can trace what is happening inside and outside of the vehicle. The information is recorded onto a 2GB SD card.  This ingenious device includes software which shows users camera angles and Google Map locations during playback.

Accidents occurring in the twilight hours don’t thwart the Dually’s vision as the camera is armed with 4 infrared LEDs to light up a vehicle’s interior for capturing nighttime footage, without disturbing the driver or passengers.

Of course the camera’s ability to record multiple impact points and thereby become an indispensable spectator of potential accidents is far from the unit’s only talent. Parents with prying eyes can cunningly become familiar of the driving habits of their teenagers. Equally as devious, employers may also use the camera to their advantage by reducing liability when company cars are involved in collisions.

The Dash Cam Dually can only be described as a remarkable advancement in vehicle surveillance technology, which is a world apart from many of the mainstream and cyclical gadgets currently congesting the marketplace. Although the downside of this twin camera is as it is retailing at a hefty $349-385 (about £237), many motorists may choose to bypass the sophisticated spy mechanism in favor for relying on the old-fashioned means of eye witnesses – Although this more primitive method won’t be able to tell if your kids are speeding about in your car or not!

Available from http://www.spygadgets.com/car-camera-dash-cam.html