Nikon COOLPIX A: The Pocket-Sized DSLR

Nikon-CoolPix-A

It’s a brave new world in the digital camera market these days. With profit margins decimated at the lower end of the compact range, fuelled by the growing popularity of smartphone cameras, manufacturers are trying to carve new niches higher up the pyramid, and Nikon’s new COOLPIX A – launched 21st March – encapsulates this perfectly.

At first glance, its key stats – large sensor and prime, fixed, 18.5mm (28mm equivalent) lens in a compact design – is nothing new. This is a market already populated by the likes of Fujifilm, Sony and Sigma, but Nikon has one major trick up its sleeve – or in this case, its jacket pocket. It claims the 16.2MP COOLPIX A is the world’s smallest camera to feature a DX-sized sensor, the same APS-C sensor as found in its mid-range DX7000 DSLR camera. By removing the optical low-pass filter and incorporating high ISO settings (100-6,400,extendable to 25,600), it’s renowned for producing very detailed images, even in low light, making it perfect for those frustrated by their smartphone’s inability to take anything but blurred, low-detail shots while out on the town.

The COOLPIX A is also powered by the EXPEED 2 image processing engine, and is capable of taking 14-bits compressed RAW images – all high-end DSLR functions. The DSLR features don’t end there, with Nikon adopting the same menu system on the COOLPIX A’s 3-inch LCD screen as found in its DSLR cameras too. It’ll also be compatible with other Nikon DSLR accessories.

It all sounds great so far, but there’s a hefty premium to pay for owning such a compact camera, and the eye-watering £999.99 price tag is only part of the story. Despite costing significantly more than its immediate rival, the Fujifilm X100, the COOLPIX A has no built-in optical viewfinder, an omission that CNET considers a competitive weakness along with its “abysmal” 230-shot battery life. Adding the optional DF-CP1 viewfinder will increase the cost by a hefty $450, although PC Magazine points out there are no shortage of legacy 28mm finders available that will work just as well.

Tech Radar’s Amy Davies has more positive vibes about the camera, noting it feels solid and looks elegant despite its small footprint. She’s also impressed with the customisable buttons, manual focussing ring and camera’s overall responsiveness, and found the LCD screen bright and reasonably glare-free, although she was disappointed by its lack of touchscreen.

We can see who Nikon is aiming the COOLPIX A at: the professional or enthusiast who wants to be able to take DSLR-quality shots in situations where they’d normally be fishing out a smartphone or cheap compact. But while that embryonic market may exist, we can’t see many people happy to hand over a grand for the privilege of owning a camera that makes so many compromises to fit into your jacket pocket. The lack of an optical viewfinder, interchangeable lens, battery life that makes you go ‘meh’ and image quality that doesn’t blow cheaper competition out of the water will all make the COOLPIX A a difficult sell.

Mind you, having blown all that dosh on it, we suspect you might start clawing some of that outlay back by limiting the amount you drink on a night out – after all, you won’t want to be leaving this camera at the bar, in the cab, on the kerb, etc!

The cameras of CES

Snapshot of the latest launches from digital camera makers

Despite the sad demise of Jessops, there are still plenty of us who are looking for more than just a camera phone to capture our memories and grab some spectacular shots. And there’s plenty on offer, as the camera makers have just launched their latest products at the massive CES show in Las Vegas.

Nikon-1

Camera giants Nikon have thrown four new snappers into the mix, along with a couple of zoom lenses for up-close shots There are two new introductions to the Nikon 1 range, both boasting the fastest time lag and continuous shooting, according to Nikon. The Nikon 1 J3 has the world’s smallest body for a camera of its type, says Nikon, and a stylish aluminium exterior, with prices starting at £579.99. The Nikon 1 S1 is the first of the new S-series of fast, stylish, straightforward camera bodies promising great results with even less effort. (£479.99) Both out Feb 7.

The Nikon COOLPIX S2700 comes in a range of bright colours, is designed to fit in the hand and has a 6x zoom lens for getting close to the action. It has a 16MP CCD image sensor, and grabs 720p HD video too. Great for taking pictures of people, with Smart Portrait mode, Smile Timer and Blink Proof modes.
Out now exclusively at Argos.

The Nikon COOLPIX S6500, meanwhile, is a 16mp CMOS sensor compact camera with built-in Wi-Fi, so that you can upload photos and video to a smart device ready to share on social media – you can even use your smart device as a remote control for the snapper – useful if you want to take self portraits. The two lenses are from the 1 NIKKOR range: the 1 NIKKOR VR 6.7–13mm f/3.5–5.6 ultra wide-angle zoom lens (£459.99 March 7) and the 1 NIKKOR VR 10–100mm f/4.0–5.6 powerful 10x zoom lens (£479.99 Feb 7). Both lenses feature Nikon’s Vibration Reduction system that corrects image blur so that images and video remain steady. Both feature a retractable lens mechanism for greater portability

You can’t mention Nikon without Canon, and the other camera giant has also expanded on its range of compact cameras. All feature Canon’s DIGIC 4 processor technology and high-res 16-megapixel sensors for detailed and colour-rich images. The new PowerShot models have a 5x optical zoom, while the new IXUS 140’s powerful 8x optical zoom gets even closer to the subject. The ZoomPlus technology digitally extends each zoom’s reach to up to double that of the optical zoom. The IXUS 140 and PowerShot A3500 IS also feature Canon’s optical Image Stabilizer technology, which detects the style of camera shake and chooses the most suitable camera settings from six different modes to avoid it. Digital IS mode on the PowerShot A2600 and PowerShot A1400 automatically detects any camera or subject motion, and alters the camera’s ISO, shutter speed, or even shoots multiple images, to ensure sharp, clear photos.

Wi-Fi is the big news for the IXUS 140 and the PowerShot A3500 IS. You can use the free Canon CameraWindow application to connect and transfer pictures or movies to both iOS and Android smartphones or tablets or upload directly to social networks. Plus Wi-Fi connectivity combined with Canon Image gateway lets you share or back up images directly from the camera to the cloud.Locations can also be tagged on the IXUS 140 and PowerShot A3500 IS using the GPS via mobile function. The IXUS 140 Grey is £159 from late Feb; the PowerShot A3500 IS costs £129 from early March; the PowerShot A2600 is £109 and available from late Feb, and the PowerShot A1400 is £99 from Late Feb.

Samsung is also making much of sharing files this year with the launch of its Smart Camera 2.0 technology, aimed at smartphone users. New functionalities let you shoot and share photography. Samsung’s ‘One Click, Simplify’ concept means connected devices can seamlessly connect so images can be shared in one motion. The Samsung Smart Camera App lets smartphone users connect with the pre-installed Smart Camera capabilities via a Wi-Fi connection to manipulate, share and back-up shots from Samsung snappers.

Samsung’s new flagship camera in the WB long-zoom series is the WB250F, with 18x optical zoom, a 14.2 Megapixel BSI CMOS (WB250F) or CCD (WB200F) sensor and 24mm lens. Navigation comes via a hybrid touch interface with touch LCD screen and five-way navigational keys. Full manual mode offers total control over settings. Group shots are made easy with Best Face, which automatically selects the best facial expressions from a burst shot, while SMART Mode and Motion Photo features, let you achieve pro-standard quality and creativity under any conditions, says Samsung. With Wi-Fi capabilities, users can share snaps quickly and easily. The WB250F also has a pop-up flash and comes in white, cobalt black, gun metal and red.

Sharing may be the message from Canon and Samsung, but Olympus is building on its reputation for producing cameras that can stand up to anything with three new releases in its TOUGH range.

OLYMPUS STYLUS TOUGH TG-2 – £349.99
Available in red and black from early February, this is a compact camera offering full HD-movies and stills in the harshest conditions; from low light 15 metres underwater to fast action winter sports and close-ups of the natural world. It is also crushproof to a force of 100kg, shockproof for drops of up to 2.1 metres and freezeproof* to -10°C. Should be all right for a night out in Newcastle, then.

OLYMPUS STYLUS TOUGH TG-830 – £249.99
Available in red, black, blue or silver from mid-March, the new Olympus TOUGH TG-830 has the same tough specs of the TG-2 and lets you record fast-moving subjects in Full HD 1080/30p format or in 1080/60i. Use Multi Recording to grab Full HD movies and 16MP stills at the same time – or record in 120fps (HD) or 240fps high-speed movie mode for dramatic slow-motion playback of action scenes. Also features e.compass and GPS.

OLYMPUS STYLUS TOUGH TG-630 – £169.99
Available in red, black, blue or white from early February, the new Olympus TOUGH TG-630 is waterproof to a depth of 5 metres, shockproof to a height of 1.5 metres and freezeproof to -10°C. Like the others it has iHS sensor and image processing technologies for capturing the shots you want irrespective of shooting conditions, Full HD and high frame rate movie recording along with a choice of 11 creative filters. FlashAir wireless compatibility lets you transfer images to your cloud or social networks.

Panasonic is also getting tough, and says its new compact, the LUMIX DMC-FT5, is its toughest photo and video compact device to date, whether you’re grabbing shots whether underwater, on a mountain or in the desert. A new red colour reproduction has been introduced especially to grab the real colours seen underwater. Waterproof to a depth of 13 metres, shockproof from a height of 2 metres, freeze proof to a temperature of -10 degrees Celsius and pressure resistant to 100kg, the LUMIX FT5 has a great set of tough credentials. It grabs full HD, 1920×1080 movie recording and audio capture with Dolby Digital Creator. It also features a 16.1 megapixel high sensitivity sensor, new Venus engine, time lapse recording and 10 frames per second burst shooting. You can connect to WiFi using NFC, for remote picture capture. The LUMIX FT5 boasts one-touch easy connection to Wi-Fi with NFC, tag location using the built-in GPS functionality, you get 1GB cloud storage, connectivity to your TV and easy transfer to wireless printers. The FT5 will be in available in the stores and online from April, and its ‘little brother’, the FT25, will appear in March.

GripTight Gorillapod stand for almost all smartphones

The smartphone photography boom continues unabated. It’s already been ages since the iPhone became one of the most popular cameras on mobile photography site Flickr. Now mobile sharing sites such as Instagram are all the rage and seemingly every big photo site is attempting to get in on the retro camera crazy, with Flickr and Twitter both trying to get in on the retro filters craze. One upshot of all this is that there’s a growing market for wonderful camera accessories to take your smartphone photography to the next level. Rotolight do wonderful things with smartphone lighting and lenses, Glidetrack make smartphone-specific camera dollies and now Joby, makers of the Gorillapod have produced a (relatively) device-agonistic smartphone tripod the GripTight Gorillapod stand for smartphones.

Joby-Gorillapod-GripTight

If you don’t know about Gorillapods then you’re missing out on a delightful range of tripods that open up a world of creative photo opportunities. Gorillapods have flexible joints that can bend and rotate 360° so you can pop them on many different surfaces and even manipulate the tripod into a claw that can be tightly wrapped around all sorts of pillars and posts.

Joby already make a mobile clip that lets you strap in previous iterations of the iPhone. The GripTight Mount, however is a much more flexible proposition and works with most leading smartphones – even with cases. I’ve working with a lot of iPhone stand solutions before (including my much-loved Glif) but having the flexibility to leave on cases or other modification such as lenses I may have made to my phone is a boon. The GripTight’s
internal steel springs allow you to mount to expand it to the size of your device and the rubber grip pads feel very secure – I never once feared for my iPhone’s safety – even when dangled upside-down from a ceiling.

The GripTight Mount is super compact and foldable and quickly attaches to the GorillaPod – and indeed other tripods – via ¼-20″ screw. The actual attachment is small enough to pop on the end of your keys (there’s a tiny hole to attach it to a loop) and I’ve been jingling one in my pocket for a couple of days without really noticing the additional weight. It’s a great tool to add to your collection.

The Joby GripTight GorillaPod Stand (including the GripTight Mount) is available now with a recommended retail price of £25.00. For more details check Joby.

HD PoE Outdoor Cloud Camera: Providing reassurance to the security paranoid!

When high levels of unemployment raises its ugly head an increase in crime usually follows. This depressing scenario can certainly be related to Britain at present, as according to the British Crime Survey report, in 2011 domestic burglaries were up 14%. As police warn homeowners to step up security due to the increasing number of house robberies across the country, demand for surveillance and security gadgets are naturally also on the rise.

DCS-2310L

For those who are tittering on the paranoid side concerning the safety of your home, you may be interested in the HD PoE Outdoor Cloud Camera (DCS-2310L), D-Link’s first home IP surveillance camera for outside use.

Coming equipped with mydlink Cloud Services, users are able to access live video feeds and manage their surveillance camera from smartphone, computer, Android or tablet running iOS that is connected to the internet.

Where the peripherals specialists, D-Link’s latest network-connected camera stands out over similar surveillance cameras that are designed to be used with power-over-Ethernet (PoE) connections, or just other surveillance cameras for that matter, is the fact that the camera includes an integrated camera and speaker allowing for half-duplex communication between the viewer and the viewed. In possessing two-way communication, the DCS-2310L is undoubtedly a great asset as an entry system.

This highly sophisticated surveillance camera records images in High Definition and up to 720dpi video clarity, as well as exploiting infra-red technology, which enables clear images to be produced even when there is no or little light available. Automatic PIR motion-sensing technology means that the HD PoE Outdoor Cloud Camera catches every movement and alerts the homeowner to such movements, regardless of the time of day – could perhaps be a little annoying being alerted to a cat stalking the outside of your house in the middle of the night but hey, it’s better to be safe than sorry!

If you are worried that the camera may suffice from working in the case of internet connection failure, the DCS-2310L posses local storage and/or back-up in case of network failure.

The DCS-2310L can be installed in any location and is able, D-Link assure us, to withstand all outdoor environments – reassuring given the Arctic conditions Britain is experiencing at present!

This ultra-sophisticated surveillance camera is available to purchase now and costs £246 and could be a reassuring but albeit expensive Christmas present for those bordering on the security conscious/paranoid.

Olympus PEN Mini and PEN Lite: Image and Movie Quality without Compromising Style

Camera technology, it seems, is going from strength to strength with virtually every week a new camera is announced claiming some kind of marvellous photographic innovation. Since the Japanese camera manufacturers, Olympus introduced its first camera in 1936, the leading corporation of optics has certainly had its fair share optics and reprography limelight.

PM2

Olympus’s latest creations have been given the names the PEN Mini (E-PM2) and the PEN Lite (E-PL5), and are apparently not just innovative, but feature award-winning technologies. Featuring the Live MOS sensor and TruePic VI image processor, which comes from – now here’s the prize-winning part –  its award-winning Micro Four Thirds O-MD camera, Olympus’s two latest models produce high-resolution 16.1 Megapixel images and full HD movies. For anyone that isn’t quite fluent in the colloquialisms of camera technology, Olympus’s new camera’s pioneering internal guts means that super clear photos and movies can be achieved even in low light. Not only this but the Japanese corporation also assure us that when shooting HD movies, subjects can be magnified up to four times without any loss of resolution and will be blur free.

Both PENs allow users to ‘creatify’ – is that a word? – their images and movies with 12 on board Art Filters, although there’s nothing really new there as such creative features do seem to be an inherent characteristic of modern high-end digital cameras. A more novel touch of both PEN cameras is the fact that you can preview the image with an Art Filter, in real time on the LCD to ensure that you get the desired effect.

Another fairly novel feature of both cameras that is worth mentioning is the new FlashAir card that comes with the package, enabling users to share photos and videos directly on to social networking sites or to selected smartphones.

PL5

So what are the differences between the two PENS you may ask?

Well any additional features are a privilege of the more expensive PEN Lite (E-PL5), the most notable being a touch-screen that flips up by 170 degrees, with reversed image for self-portraits. Unlike its slightly inferior non-identical twin, the PEN Lite also benefits from an interchangeable grip to enable greater personalisation.

With so many high quality cameras that are bursting with innovative features that can make even the most amateur of photographer appear professional, modern cameras are dedicated to combining image quality with style. Whilst many camera manufacturers fail to achieve an uncompromised conciliation between producing quality images and videos out of a product that can be deemed stylish, we have to admit that Olympus PEN Mini and PEN Lite, with their super compact frames and striking colours of red, white, black and silver, seem to have met the balance.

Both cameras will be available from late October. The PEN Mini will set you back £499 and the PEN Lite £599. If you are into sharing your photographic inventions with all but sundry on the social media sites, and isn’t everyone theses days, are into ‘creatifying’ images with inventive features and filters and want a stylish-looking super compact camera, then Olympus’s new PENs could possibly be the cameras for you.

Cameramator: The Photographer’s New Best Friend

If tethered photography is getting you down, Cameramator could be the answer you’ve been looking for. Currently in the developmental stages, this new technology takes tethered photography to the next level, and turns it wireless.

Cameramator

When in use, Cameramator will allow you to control your DSLR and preview images directly from an iPad or iPhone without any wiring. It provides photographers with a range of new possibilities, making it possible to preview and share photos outside of the camera’s viewfinder. Tethered photography usually requires photographers to connect their camera to a device, such as a laptop or tablet, using USB or firewire. Cameramator ditches the cables, reduces the fuss, and lets you get on with the job.

When launched, Cameramator founders expect users to be able to utilise the following features at a minimum:

  • Photo sharing
  • Self-timer
  • Camera control
  • Instant image review
  • Intervalometer
  • HDR Bracketing

The Cameramator package will consist of a Cameramator unit and an app for iPhone and iPad. The unit attaches to a DSLR camera and lets you control the camera through the iOS app. The only requirement is that both the Cameramator unit and the device are on the same wireless network.

Using the app, you can edit images as soon as you’ve captured them, speed up a photoshoot, and obtain hard-to-shoot images with more ease. In a nutshell, Cameramator helps save photographers time, money and effort.

The project’s founder, Usman Rashid, was inspired to create the Cameramator during a trip to Florida in 2011. While there, he tried to connect his DSLR to his iPad and transfer his images in real-time, but discovered there was no way to do this. In February 2012, he exhibited at the WPPI LaunchPad event, and became convinced that a device like the Cameramator was a much-needed addition to the photographer’s toolkit. In collaboration with another developer, Rashid now has a prototype that works with all major cameras and is ready for production.

For more information on Cameramator’s technology, check out their website, or view details of their Kickstarter campaign. The campaign has a $80,000 goal to reach by 5th September 2012.

Panasonic Lumix range helps you get closer to the action – and share it with friends

If you’re hoping to get closer to the action this summer – whether it’s at one of the sporting summer’s events, or taking photos of the kids or wildlife in safari parks or in the countryside, then Panasonic’s latest Super-Zoom digital camera might do the trick.

Panasonic-Range

The LUMIX DMC-FZ62 has a 24x optical zoom lens and also offers full HD video capture. The 16-megapixel camera also has a 25mm ultra wide angle lens and 3.0-inch Intelligent LCD. There are plenty of manual operation options too, making it a good choice for enthusiastic photographers, while also offering enough help to less experienced snappers.

Taking those impromptu images should be easier, thanks to the fact that the camera fires up in 0.9 seconds and can shoot 10fps in full resolution with the mechanical shutter and 5fps in continuous autofocus.

AF tracking ensures it locks on to your subject and maintains focus even if it’s moving fast – plus the optical image stabiliser ensures there’s less handshake, especially in low light and night time shooting,

If you like to have fun with your shots, the good news is that the Creative Control mode has been upgraded to offer eight new filter options including : Dynamic Monochrome, Cross Process, Low Key, Toy Effect and Star Filter along with Retro, High Key, Sepia, and Miniature Effect5.

The LUMIX DMC-FZ62 will sell for around £349.99.

If you like to share fun photos and videos with friends, take a look at the Panasonic LUMIX SZ5. The LUMIX SZ5 has a number of connectivity options – from Wi-Fi, to DLNA to smartphone compatibility – making it easier to post images and videos online. It is also possible to use your smartphone as a remote control. The LUMIX SZ5 has a 14-megapixel sensor, plus a 10x optical zoom, the LUMIX SZ5 allows you to boost the quality of your daily photography.

This compact camera is on sale for a tad under £180.

Finally, Panasonic is launching a budget price superzoom camera in the shape of the LUMIX DMC-LZ20, which has a 16MP CCD, 25mm ultra wide angle lens with 21x optical zoom and optical image stabiliser. Video is restricted to 720p at 30fps but the camera costs a very reasonable £150 or thereabouts.

Sony NEX-F3: Your flexible friend

Sony’s new compact snapper, the NEX-F3 has a lot of live up to. Its predecessor is the NEX-C3, which received some rave reviews from those in the know.

So can the NEX-F3 offer anything more? Well, first and most obvious is its flexible screen, which tilts through 180 degrees – ideal if you like taking self-portraits. There is also an interesting mode called Smile Shutter, which takes a shot as your subject smiles – again quite handy for self-portraits.

Sony-Nex3

At first glance the camera looks very similar to the NEX-C3, and indeed it has the same pixel count at 16.2 million – but it has a newly designed sensor, which works with the Bionz processor, enabling the ISO to reach a very decent 16,000 and to allow for continuous shots at 5.5fps if you use the camera’s Priority mode.

Despite these fancy credentials, this camera is definitely aimed at the novice photographer, as Sony seems determined to enable them to take great shots, however little experience they have.

Auto Portrait Framing, for instance, locates the subject and crops the scene to offer a nicely composed portrait, and Superior Auto mode intelligently recognises a number of scenes and subjects, adjusting settings for you, without you having to put in any brainwork whatsoever.

An improved handgrip makes the snapper easy to handle, and battery power has been increased to offer 470 shots from a single charge – that’s around 18% better than the NEX-C3 – and it’s easily charged via USB.

Finally, although you should be able to get close-up thanks to the Clear Image Zoom, which doubles the effective magnification of the lens, there is a telephoto lens available for the NEX-F3 as well. The SEL18200LE E18-200mm F3.5-6.3 OSS LE offers a powerful 11x zoom range and features Optical SteadyShot to alleviate handshake.

The new NEX-F3 compact system camera from Sony is available now for around £530.