TOUGH times ahead with the Olympus Stylus cameras

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As smartphones incorporate increasingly sophisticated lenses and photo editing software, traditional camera manufacturers need to differentiate their pocket devices from those pesky cellular competitors. One area where a handheld camera can stand apart from a smartphone is in terms of its strength and durability, and the new flagship product in Olympus’s STYLUS TOUGH range represents a classic example of this.

With its 25-100mm wide-angle lens offering a 1:2.0 maximum aperture at wide zoom settings, the uppercase-only TOUGH TG-4 has the potential to become the deep-sea diver’s best friend. Its red or black casing incorporates a manometer pressure gauge, a customisable mode dial that can be adjusted while wearing gloves, and waterproofing down to 15 metres. It can also withstand up to 100kg weights, -10°C temperatures and seven-foot drops, which is good news for anyone who likes taking elevated selfies in sub-zero conditions. Video recording can be carried out in full 1080HD, while the 16-megapixel BSI CMOS sensor delivers impressive performance in low lighting, and the 3-inch LCD display is a fair size.

The rugged camera market is already saturated with products from other leading camera manufacturers, but the TG-4 has so far received a fairly positive reaction from critics and reviewers. Imaging Resource acknowledged the introduction of RAW capture and an improved GPS module, as well as praising its ability to focus on objects just one centimetre beyond its lens. In terms of accessories, they noted that the TG-4 is:

“compatible with a growing system of accessories such as cases, float straps, an underwater housing, plus fisheye and telephoto conversion lenses, as well as the LG-1 LED light guide introduced with the TG-3.”

Mention of last year’s TG-3 leads onto a criticism made by PC Mag – specifically, that the TG-4 offers little over and above the specifications of its predecessor. However, PC Mag did admit “that’s not a bad thing”, having previously described the TG-3 as “one of the best rugged cameras money can buy”. They had also praised the TG-3’s 16-megapixel image sensor and macro capabilities, which have been subtly improved upon in the TG-4. An entirely new feature was picked up on by the American PetaPixel website, who reckoned the introduction of AF Target selection would “open the door to a new world of quality and composition.”

According to CNET’s review, other changes worth noting include: “Live Composite setting that allows for the effect of a long exposure without overexposing the image, an Underwater HDR mode to help with difficult exposures, and improved GPS.” Those underwater credentials were put to the test by The Phoblographer:

“Considering that we did this product shoot under a running sink and that the camera continues to work, we have to say that the build quality is pretty solid.”

They concluded with the sentiments expressed by a number of reviews:

“The image quality seems fairly decent, but we think that some of the biggest features that folks will love are the RAW file offering and just how rugged the camera is.”

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The Olympus TG-4 will be available in May for £349.99. Visit the Olympus website for more information.

 

Olympus PEN E-PL6 comes with World’s slimmest zoom lens

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Rather than sit on their laurels and rely on appealing to the more serious photographer, digital cameras have reacted to the threat of smartphones by upping their game to include a range of modern technology standards and incorporating tricks of the trade that offer users the sort of flexible experience they’ve come to expect.

Many have also focused on providing a slim and light form factor without compromise on quality, an area in which Olympus’ new PEN E-PL6 excels. It features the world’s slimmest pancake zoom lens and is compatible with a range of four specialist lenses to deliver extra power and precision if you need it, alongside support for an optional electronic viewfinder accessory and flash strobe.

A series of options for creative types include 12 art filters and 6 art effects, which allow you to customise photos and movie clips with your own unique touches. A supplied FlashAir WiFi card means it’s quick and easy to transfer videos and photos to a smartphone via the Olympus app to upload to social media sites. It’s even catered for the “selfie” generation, with a large, tilt and swivel high-res LCD touchscreen for taking shots at original angles

Olympus PEN E-PL6
Olympus PEN E-PL6

Of course it’s no slouch when it comes to pure photography either, with a 16.1 MP sensor and TruePic VI image processor and a sensitivity range up to ISO 25600. When combined with any Micro Four Thirds lens it’s designed to be ultra quick out of the blocks – start-up and autofocus are almost instantaneous, ensuring you’ll always be in a position to capture that perfect shot. It also takes full HD (1080p) video which is optimised to minimise noise and offer a far wider dynamic range than typical compacts or smartphones can achieve, and added extras such as a level gauge when there’s no horizon, interval shooting for up to 99 shots at various intervals over a 24-hour period and a time-lag mode offer additional control in traditionally awkward environments.

The all-metal finish E-PL6 is available in black and white versions for £429.99 from mid-July.

For more detail visite Olympus

Olympus LS-12 and LS-14: Linear PCM recorders in your pocket

I do a lot of work with recorded audio, making notes and field recordings for radio and podcasts both hither and thither. If you do the same get a Zoom H4N. It’s one of the best things I own. However I’m always on the lookout for new and fun ways to record on the go. The Blue Mikey and Tascam iM2 are both amazing field mics that you can plug into an iPhone giving you a studio in your pocket. And Olympus, the world’s market leader for portable digital voice recorders and professional dictation devices, have released the LS-12 and LS-14 Linear PCM digital handheld audio recorders.

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Both recorders are follow ups to the popular LS-5 and LS-11 PCM recorders and make it easier than ever to effortlessly capture and playback pristine, better-than-CD quality sound up to 130dB SPL with new on-board directional stereo microphones and amplifier. If you’re a musician you’ll appreciate the overdub recording, Metronome and Chromatic Tuner capabilities.

The new recorders feature a “Mode Select Dial” located on the face of the recorder rather than having to go through menu settings. If you’ve ever wander through the 1980s style interface of the Zoom H4N you’ll appreciate how good a feature this is. The Mode Select Dial can be set to Tuner, Manual, Quick and Smart. Smart Mode will automatically adjust to the optimum recording level with a single touch of the record button. By entering the loudest sound, Smart mode automatically adjusts to capture the best and professional-quality audio. Quick Mode, as you can probably guess from the name, lets you record straight away, without adjusting levels.

The LS-12 features two new internal 90-degree directional stereo condenser microphones with a frequency response of 60Hz to 20 kHz, allowing the user to capture lower-bass frequencies. The LS-14 compliments those directional stereo condenser microphones with a third omni-directional center “TRESMIC,” increasing the frequency response range to 20Hz – 20 kHz. If you’re smuggling a microphone into a Death From Above 1979 gig the LS-14 is ideal for coping with extreme sound without clipping.

The LS-14 recorder boast up to 48 hours of continuous recording while the LS-12 is more humble about its 50 hours.

They are available directly from Amazon priced at £139.99 for the LS-12 and £189.99 for the LS-14.

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.

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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.

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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.

Olympus TOUGH TG-1: Tough but not rough

The trouble with a lot of our precious gadgets is that they’re just that – rather fragile, expensive and a worry when we take them out into the great outdoors.

But a camera is supposed to be taken out and about, so what do you do if you want to take great snaps, but are likely to be out in all weathers, at risk of dropping your snapper, or even likely to get it wet?

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The answer is to choose a model that is made to be treated roughly – a model such as the new TG-1 compact camera from Olympus.

This camera is as tough as Bruce Willis in Die Hard – it can survive being dunked in water up to 12 metres, dropped from a height of 2 metres, survive temperatures a low as -10C and being crushed by up to 100kg of force.

And if you want to try your hand at underwater photography, this is the camera to choose – a soon-to-be-available additional housing will enable users to take the camera to depths of up to 45m, while a powerful flash attachment will boost illumination at these kinds of depths.

The camera has a 12mp, high-sensitivity COS sensor and if you’re serious about your photography, there are waterproof lenses for you to use to get more creative. What underwater camera would be complete without a fisheye lens, for instance? This will let you grab wider, dynamic images, while a tele converter lens can increase the optical zoom ratio by 6.8x.

Other features of the Olympus TOUGH TG-1 include GPS and compass, manometer for checking depth underwater, and an LED illuminator for lighting up underwater scenes.

It also has Magic Filters for adding creative effects to both still images and HD movies, and a number of scene modes – including an all-important i-Underwater Snapshot.

The Olympus TOUGH TG-1 is available from mid-June and will cost £359.99; the Fisheye Lens is £129.99, the Tele Converter Lens, £129.99, and the Converter Adapter £19.99.

New Olympus VN-713PC, VN-712PC and VN-711PC recorders

Voice recorders are an important tool for any serious journalist, student or stalker. That’s why there is some excitement (and some creepy heavy breathing) around Olympus’ revamped entry-level voice recorder range. The new VN-713PC, VN-712PC and VN-711PC recorders boast better features, higher quality recording and a built-in stand.

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Available from mid-February, the recorders come with either 2GB or 4GB (VN-713PC) internal storage. That’s enough space for 34 or 67 days of audio – or enough to never need to delete a file. If you do run out of space, the VN-712PC and VN-713PC come with a microSD card slot to add even more capacity.

The battery life is also excessive, offering 72 hours of LP recording. We find that pretty incredible – hit “record” and it’ll still be going in three days. No wonder stalkers are getting excited.

The sound-quality has also been tweaked, starting with the inclusion of an integrated low noise microphone that delivers a higher S/N (signal-to-noise) ratio than the old editions. While all models can save files in WMA (ugh), the two top-ends (VN-712PC and VN-713PC) can also save in the much more useful MP3 format.

A “Scene Select” function comes as standard, allowing you to match your recorder’s settings to your environment for the best possible recording. Other software benefits include a low-cut filter to further enhance recording quality.

The VN-713PC also features voice-activated recording, as well as noise cancellation to help cut out unwanted background sounds.

On the play-back side, there’s a voice filter for the VN-712PC and VN-713PC that improves the sound quality of human voice. You can also control playback speed to suit your listening preferences.

These two models also feature the new Calendar Search function, which lets users locate files from the recording date using a dedicated file search button. On all devices, up to 99 index marks can be set to flag important places in individual recordings.

Oh, and did we mention they all have built-in stands?

Olympus SP-810UZ: Creative camera control

For anyone who may have dabbled in real estate you will know how difficult it is trying to capture shots of rooms within houses that do not do the property the justice it deserves by simply getting the whole of the room in the frame. Thankfully, instantly knocking a few grand off the asking price of a house before anyone has even viewed the dam thing may be an estate agent’s affliction of the past, thanks to the new Olympus SP-810UZ, and its ‘phenomenal’ 36x wide-angle zoom.

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Being dubbed as the ‘most powerful zoom camera Olympus has ever designed’, the SP-810UZ is currently the smallest compact camera on the market to boast a zoom factor over 30x, which, when combined with Dual Image Stabilisation and enhanced ISO sensitivity guarantees pinpoint accuracy with even the shakiest of photographers.

Other benefits of the SP-810UZ asides its mega-zooming capabilities, is its Advanced Face Detection and Beauty Mode, which, as the name suggests, miraculously makes its subjects more pleasing to the eye. In featuring 10 creative Art Filters, photographers can creatively play around with their favourite pastime. For example, the Miniature filter enhances the colours and contrast by narrowing the field of depth, making photos look like a miniature model. The Reflection Filter is equally as creative, as it stimulates a horizontal reflection on the subject, making it look like subjects are standing next to a perfectly flat lake – a great addition for all aspiring Steven Spielberg’s!

Instead of Wi-Fi compatibility, the SP-810UZ has Eye-Fi compatibility, which, together with an optional 3D shooting mode, will capture the shots of a scene from two different angles to create images seeping in realism and depth.

A further inventive function of this truly creative camera is its In-Camera Panorama feature, which helps photographers create a super-wide angle, wrap-around photo, by panning across the scene. The three frames taken are then automatically combined by the camera.

Not a bad photographic toy we reckon for just £229.99.

The TX-10 Cybershot and two other ‘summer holiday proof’ cameras

Packing for your summer holiday simply wouldn’t be complete without a camera. Taking photos and videos to remember your holiday is priceless and therefore your choice of camera shouldn’t be taken with a pinch of salt. If you are on the lookout for a new camera ahead of your couldn’t-come-fast-enough holiday take a look at three of the best cameras available geared up for sun, sea, sand and surf.

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The TX-10 Cybershot

Being waterproof, drop-proof, dust-proof and freeze-proof, you can safely assume the TX-10 Cybershot will be robust enough to handle all the technology-damaging components a beach holiday comprises of, although let’s hope the latter resilient feature won’t need to be tested on a summer vacation. This stylish camera takes 16-megapixel photographs, shoots HD videos and is available in five different colours, meaning it will impress your mates and not fall apart when you pull it out of your handbag at a foam party in Ibiza!

It doesn’t come cheap though, as the TX-10 Cybershot costs approximately £330, quite an expensive to fork out just ahead of a holiday!

Panasonic DMC-FT10

For a less expensive £159.95 you could own a Panasonic DMS-FT10, which, weighing just 157g and measuring a minute 21.6mm, this stealthily sturdy little snapper won’t take up much of your precious weight allowance on the aeroplane. Not only does the SMC-FT10 boast Panasonic Intelligent Auto Mode, as well as Intelligent ISO control and face detection, but, like the TX-10 Cybershot, its shockproof, dustproof, waterproof and can handle Icelandic temperatures – Great if your holidaying to the southern hemisphere this summer.

Olympus TG-810

With a ‘tank-like chassis’ this little ultra-tough camera is capable of withstanding a load of up to 100kg. Whilst this rock hard snapper may be a great addition to an extreme sportsman’s backpack, it’s perhaps not the ‘coolest’ looking camera to pull out at a club in Ayai Napa. Nonetheless its crushproof credentials makes the TG-810 a safe option to weather the potential injuring elements a summer holiday can pose on our gadgets.

You can pick up the TG-810 and pop it in your hand luggage for £219.