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.

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.

IFA 2012: Samsung Galaxy camera

Having warmed up the crowd with their announcement of the Galaxy Note II, the next product to be ‘unpacked’ by Samsung was the Galaxy Camera – a product that the firm hopes will redefine the digital camera category.

On first impressions it’s unlikely to redefine anything in terms of design as it looks very much like any other camera. The basic camera ‘stats’ include a 21x optical super long zoom with image stabilization and a 16 megapixel BSI CMOS sensor. However, things became a little more interesting when they announced that it will run on the Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) operating system and will come with 3G, 4G and WiFi connectivity. Furthermore, the back of the Galaxy camera is almost entirely taken up with a 4.8” Super Clear HD LCD touch display.

In terms of software features, the camera comes with a number of easy point-and-shoot modes. These include things like ‘Action Freeze Mode’ for those fast moving situations, ‘Light Trace’ for making cool draw-with-your-torch effect photos and ‘Blue Sky’ mode for, well… taking nice sky photos of course!

In terms of the camera’s video capability, the one feature that stood out for us was the slow motion video mode. This enables you to catch slow motion video at 120 frames per second at a resolution of 720×480 – ideal for filming water balloons being burst if nothing else.

Another ‘cool’ feature (presuming it can hear you over the noise of your friends/family) is the camera’s voice activated functionality. This, as you’ve probably guessed, allows you to say things like “zoom in” and “take photo” which would be ideal for when you want to be in the photo rather than behind the lens.

After the presentation we had the opportunity to get ‘hands on’ with the Galaxy camera. Our initial reaction is that it’s pretty big and heavy – at least in comparison to your average point-and-shoot camera. The screen on the back is beautiful and the shooting modes seemed to work well. However we did struggle a little in terms of navigating between the camera’s ‘desktop’, the camera mode and the video mode. It will no doubt appeal to those want all the bells and whistles, but we’re not sure how well it will sit with your average digital camera consumer.

Check out our other coverage from Samsung @ IFA 2012:

Panasonic expands FX range: DMC-FZ150 and DMC-FX90

Panasonic-Lumix

Panasonic have added two new cameras to its award-winning range of ‘super-zoom’ digital cameras, the DMC-FZ150 and the DMC-FX90, as well as a firmware upgrade for the DMC-LX5. I have to admit that, unlike their uncanny ability to make their subjects look remarkably more attractive and even younger, zooms don’t seem to be a digital camera’s strongest asset. No wonder therefore has Panasonic’s FZ, which boast powerful zooms that can tackle proximity issues, won awards.

Evolving its ‘super zoom’ stature is the range’s newest addition – the DMC-FZ150. With its commanding 24x optical LEICA DC VARIO-ELMARIT, 25mm ultra wide angle lens, with Panasonic’s Black Box Nano Surface Coating Technology to minimise the light reflection that causes ghosts and flares, the FZ150 looks like it is meant for a more serious of photographer.

Check out TechnoBuffalo’s review:

In addition to its powerful lens, the FZ150 can record high-resolution full HD 1920 x 1080 50p videos for the photographers amongst us looking to record and shoot in high definition.

For those looking to update visual aspects of their social media locates directly from their camera, they now can, with Panasonic’s new DMC-FX90. As well as offering all the usual features the FX range has become renowned for, although minus the mega zoom of the FZ150, Panasonic have lifted cameras into being the latest gadget with Wi-Fi connectivity, meaning users can share their photographic marvels with their contacts almost instantly. Being ultra-compact and  definitely stylish, we reckon the FX50 is going to be a hit with all those Facebook junkies out there.

Another development in the FX range is the upgrade of the DMC-LX5, which, with updated firmware, has improved functions and performance. Such improvements include the addition of the High ISO NR (Noise Reduction) mode specifically aimed at reducing noises of images shot at high ISO 1600/3200 sensitivity, as well as boasting a redesigned algorithm, making it possible to speed up the AF time by reducing it by approximately 23% at the wide-end.

Olympus gives E-P2 a facelift

Earlier in the year the Olympus unveiled its new E-P2 compact digital camera. With a jet black styling it was supposed to continue the brand’s march into the competitive micro four thirds sector.

Now, it has another look – something its manufacturer call ‘stylish silver’. It certainly looks very nice, but is there anything beneath the gloss?
The aim behind this camera is to improve upon the previous E-P1 model and one change is apparent from the outset. The large electric view-screen is a marked improvement on the optical viewfinder and makes it much easier to take and review all pictures.

There are also some attractive editing capabilities. These sometimes feel a little gimmicky as if trying to persuade the rest of us that we can get professional quality pics despite having little skill and even less talent. Nevertheless you can get easy access to some quite stunning effects. You can add colour, make images bolder and even try a bit of air brushing to show all your friends in their most flattering light.

All in all, then, there is an impressive amount of kit and a worthy new entrant into the ongoing battle in the micro four thirds sector. This has come on leaps and bounds in the last year.

Sitting between the compact class and the more sophisticated DSLR models. These allow you to benefit from interchangeable lenses and a larger MOS sensor, all in a body no bigger than the larger compact cameras.

These have quickly started to earn their stripes and each new introduction raises the bar. By producing what is an undeniably effective and easy to use model, Olympus hope they’ve produced a camera that can mix it with the best of them. Time and the whims of the buying public, will as ever have the final say.

Olympus camera is tough cookie (with a colourful shell)

Anyone who’s seen the adverts for those tough kids’ cameras, where the little boy tosses the camera across the garden, runs it under the tap and still manages to take a very passable snap of his pet dog and thought; “hmm, wish they did one of those for grown-ups”, need wish no more.

Olympus has put together a nifty package in the shape of the Mju TOUGH-3000, which boasts the ability to be dropped from 1.5m, to be waterproof to 3m and freezeproof to -10C.

Now I know we’ve had some pretty extreme weather this winter, but by my reckoning that should have your average outing covered, as well as holidays whether you’re a keen skier or a beach bunny.

It also has the added advantage of being a camera the whole family can use – if you’ve a younger child who loves to take photos, you’ll have no fear of them taking a few snaps with this camera.

And at £199.99, it’s not a bad price for a 12mp camera with a 3.6x optical zoom. The last incarnation, the Mju TOUGH 6010, hit the shelves at a tad under 300 quid – getting on for the price of a cheap DSLR – so affordability has improved over the past year. When you consider that those kids’ cameras only offer 1.3mp pictures and retail at around 55 quid, it definitely sounds like a good deal. And as it doubles as an underwater camera – allowing for shots in the swimming pool or out snorkelling – you’re getting an all-round camera for virtually any location.

As well as being sturdy enough to be flung in a bag for a day out, or passed around at a party, the latest addition to the Olympus stable has the added benefit of HD video recording, which you can replay on the telly after that party thanks to the HDMI connection, or quickly search through your images by event, people or location, using Olympus’ new software. And if, like me, you’re forever running out of space on your memory card or forgetting to charge the battery, a useful 1GB of internal memory and USB charging will be a huge benefit..

Another useful feature for outdoors lovers (and anyone who wants to be prepared to catch all those snowballing and sledging pictures if the great whiteout of 2009 is repeated) is the Tap Control function, which lets the user operate the camera by tapping the body – fabulous if you’re wearing gloves or shooting underwater. When turned on, this facility lets you change flash and macro modes, confirm settings and toggle between record and playback modes. You can also flip through existing images.

Remember the Mju-TOUGH is still a point-and-click camera, but with settings for underwater, Dual Image Stabilisation and Af Tracking to avoid images blurring, advanced face detection for parties and – my particular favourite – Beauty mode, which makes skin appear brighter, smoother and more youthful, for most people’s family and holiday shots it should be more than adequate.

It might be a tough cookie, but it still manages to look good, and buyers can choose from striking colours including Oxide Red, Turquoise Blue, Hot Pink and Emerald Green when it launches in March.