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.

Control your DSLR remotely with Weye Feye

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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:

Nikon COOLPIX A: The Pocket-Sized DSLR

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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!

Canon’s cutting edge (wallet draining) camera range

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Hold on to your wallets and purses Canon fans! The camera giant has just unveiled a whole range of new cameras to get your shutter fingers twitching.

First off is the new, compact DSLR the Canon EOS 6D, the smallest and lightest full-frame DSLR to come out of the Canon stable. It has a 20.2-megapixel full-frame sensor, a maximum ISO of 25,600, for optimum low-light performance, built-in GPS and Wi-Fi connectivity. It also offers the option to grab Full HD video.

New to the PowerShot G-series lineup is the Powershot G15, which boasts the brightest lens yet. The new f/1.8-2.8 lens gives photographers an extra-wide aperture throughout its 5x optical zoom range.

And then there is the PowerShot SX50 HS, which is the first compact camera in the world to have a 50x optical zoom.

Both of these cameras offer full manual controls as well as RAW image capture.

And finally there’s the PowerShot S110, which now comes with Wi-Fi connectivity, along with an 3in touchscreen, which lets you use Touch autofocus to make focusing easy.

And to help you once you’ve taken all those shots, Canon has also revealed the beta of its Project 1709, which is a new image management platform. Cloud-based, it is compatible with all browsers, and lets you access, organise and enjoy images from multiple sources in one simple place.

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.

Booq Python Pack: Essential protection for your photographic essentials

As a self-shooting video journalist I often find my self lugging an array of cameras, microphones, cables and lenses across the Greater London area. As I don’t have a car (I’m a committed city dweller), and am often on the London Underground or a bicycle, this can be quite physically demanding and potentially hazardous to my precious cargo.

Booq-Python

Fortunately I got to try out a Booq Python Pack, a high-end camera and laptop bag that allows you to comfortably travel from pillar to post whilst keeping your delicate L lenses safe and secure.

The Python Pack has space for a 15″ laptop, tablet, 1-2 DSLRs and various lenses. That can get pretty heavy, pretty quickly so there are all manner of support straps and air mesh back padding, which makes it relatively comfortable even if your walking with a full complement of equipment. It can’t work magic however, so I’d caution against over loading your bag unless you’ve been hitting the P90x hard and need an additional workout.

There’s a commendable level of attention to detail all over the Python Pack and every other place you look you discover another pocket or pouch. Even the bottom of the bag features an ultra-tough rubberized surface

I’m writing this in middle of July in London so obviously there’s been heavy rain almost every single day. Fortunately the Python Pack boasts ballistic nylon exterior fabric with water-repellent coating. And in case that’s not enough, one of the side pockets contains a bright red waterproof poncho to cover your entire bag.

The padded SLR camera and accessory compartment is accessible from the side and the padded dividers can easily be modified to fit whatever camera/lens setup you decide to take on the road with you. You can also hook up a tripod to the back of the bag for extra stability on the move. There’s an extra compartment on top, which is handy if you have a second DSLR, random camera gear or super large headphones.

The Booq Python Pack is out now for about £250. For more information head to www.booqbags.com

Nikon D3100: Everything an SLR should be if you’ve never had one.

I used to hold good photographers in the same high esteem as airline pilots. They, like pilots, had a kind of mystique about them, an aura that made them different to most of us. The sheer ability to create a visual masterpiece in a second, capturing a moment in time for ever, seemed to me to be the work of pure genius.

NikonD3100

Don’t get me wrong, I have a creative brain, and there have been many times when I’ve sensed an opportunity to grab the moment and create digital history, it’s just I’ve never had the right type of equipment to do it justice. I’ve gazed enviously at many a photographer, crouching down and aiming the SLR two handed like a pistol at yet another potential masterpiece and wishing it was me. But of course it would never be me; the sheer plethora of dials, buttons and lenses, aperture time, sensor sensitivity, and all round complexity would have me twiddling for hours instead of snapping my money shot.

It seems that those lovely people at Nikon, clearly hearing of my plight, took pity on me and created the perfect solution, the D3100.

Not only does it look the part with a two handed grip body, a choice of high quality lenses and Nikon’s legendary image making prowess, it also has a whole set of options for first time DSLR users who up to now, have just been content using a compact camera. It is in short, the perfect bridge into the SLR world.

There’s a range of automatic settings for example. Live View with Scene Auto Selector selects the mode that matches your shooting situation; Scene Recognition analyzes the scene and optimizing the camera settings immediately before the shutter is released; and the brilliant Guide Mode will take you step-by-step through the process of just how to capture that perfect picture.  Wonderful, but it gets even better.

The D3100 carries a 14.2 megapixel DX format CMOS image sensor, whilst Nikon’s EXPEED 2 processing engine effectively boosts the ISO (100-3200) capability significantly. So there’s a much lower risk of blurred images when you take pictures of your kids running around the room or poor image quality when you’re outside with the family having an evening get together. And talking of family, it’s also got full HD quality video built in too.

You can view your scenes either through Nikon’s viewfinder which now incorporates an 11 point autofocus system, or via the built in 3 inch LCD colour screen.

Now, show me a sunflower and I’ll show you an award winning image. Bring it on.

Nikon 3100  from £430  www.nikon.com

Lumix G3: Panasonic does away with the weighty issue of DSLR cameras

While lots of us who are keen photographers love our DSLR cameras, we often end up resorting to taking out a compact model instead because we can’t face lugging our camera around. Sure. It’s fine when you’re out on a photo-taking trip, but if you’re just heading out for a day with the kids or with friends, carting round a weighty piece of kit can be a bit of a pain.

So, the news that Panasonic has come up with the world’s lightest changeable lens system ever, must be good news, surely?

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The Micro Four Thirds Lumix G3 offers a massive 16-megapixel sensor and a Venus Engine V1 FHD which, says Panasonic, will offer the same image quality as your hefty DSLR, while it weighs in at just 340g (that’s 25% smaller and 10% lighter than the LUMIX G2).

Like DSLRs, the G3 has an electronic view finder, or you can use the free-angle LCD screen so you can capture shots even if you’re holding the camera over your head at a concert, for instance.
Panasonic also claims to have come up with the fastest pinpoint auto focus speed of 0.1 second, so you shouldn’t miss a shot.

You can set autofocus with one touch, while Face Recognition will remember settings for your friends and the Inteligent Scene Selector automatically switches to the correct mode.

Plus the G3 has full HD move capacity, recording in Full HD AVCHD 1920 x 1080, 50i. Panasonic has packed all these goodies into a compact, lightweight aluminium chassis.

We’ve not seen the Lumix G3 hands-on, but those who have have been full of praise for it, with its only downsides being that it could offer better battery life and have more straightforward menus

The Lumix G3 with 14-42mm kit lens should retail at around £629.99, although we have found it on the net for nearly 100 quid less than this.

For more details head to www.panasonic.co.uk/lumixG3