I’ve updated my list of recommended cameras as well as what’s in my bag. In summary my travel and general purpose camera is now a Fujifilm X-E2.
Category Archives: Cameras
Fuji announces the X-E2
Earlier this year I tested and fell in love with the Fujifilm X-E1. Today Fuji announced the latest camera in the series, the X-E2. With a 16 megapixel APS-C X-Trans CMOS II sensor and serious upgrades to it’s autofocus speed and video capabilities the X-E2 looks like a winner.
The Fujifilm Canada release is here.
B&H Photo has announced they expect to receive stock in November and are accepting pre-orders. If you’re looking for one, please consider using the links below – I receive a small commission if you purchase that way.
Fujifilm X-E2 Digital Camera (Body) – Black
Fujifilm X-E2 Digital Camera (Body) – Silver
Fujifilm X-E2 Kit w/18-55mm Lens – Black
Nikon releases a waterproof Nikon 1 system
This morning Nikon Canada announced the release of the world’s first waterproof (up to 14.9m) and shockproof (up to 2m) interchangeable lens camera, the Nikon 1 AW1. The camera will feature a 14.2 megapixel CX-format CMOS sensor and a built-in GPS. They are also releasing two waterproof lenses. Products are scheduled to be available in October 2013.
The Nikon 1 AW1 kit with a 11-27.5mm lens will have a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $849.95.
The Nikon 1 AW1 two-lens kit with the 11-27.5mm and 10mm lenses will have an MSRP of $1,049.95.
The 1 NIKKOR AW 10mm f/2.8 lens will have an MSRP of $329.95.
Nikon is in the process of developing the SB-N10 Underwater Speedlight to compliment the system.
Firmware 2.00 for Fuji X-E1
One of the things I love about Fujifilm is that they continue to add features to their cameras years after they are released. Yesterday they released firmware version 2.00 for the X-E1 and corresponding firmware updates for their lenses. (Yes, you read correctly – Fuji releases updates for the CPUs in their lenses as well as their camera bodies.)
In addition to improving autofocus speed and accuracy, firmware version 2.00 for the X-E1 adds an incredibly cool feature: “Focus Peak Highlight”. In manual focusing mode, as the subject comes into focus, it is outlined in high contrast – the edges appear white, as shown in this brief video from Fuji:
This great feature makes it much easier to manually focus using either the rear screen or the electronic viewfinder. In addition, pressing the “Command dial” activates image magnification, and turning the dial allows selection of 3x and 10x magnification. Keep in mind that while in manual focus mode you can press the “AE-L / AF-L” button and the camera will autofocus using the currently selected point of aim (by default the center of the viewfinder, but it can be moved around as you desire). Focus Peak Highlight provides an instant visual confirmation that your desired subject is in focus.
While testing the new X-E1 firmware I also noticed a feature I missed in my initial review. In addition to displaying the current distance for which the lens is focused across the bottom of the viewfinder (a vertical red bar across the green distance scale), the X-E1 also displays depth of field information by expanding or contracting a white highlighted area on either side of the red bar. This area takes into account focal length and aperture, clearly indicating the range of distances that will appear in sharp focus.
This combination of features makes manual focus on the X-E1 easier to use and more accurate. My usual technique is to leave autofocus turned on, half-press the shutter to focus, and then recompose my shot. It’s a habit I developed shooting with SLRs because it’s much faster than moving the point of aim around manually. However, with the new X-E1 firmware a better technique for portraits may be to place the camera in manual focus, aim at your primary subject, press the AE-L/AF-L button to focus, and take advantage of Focus Peak Highlight to make sure you get the shot you want.
Panasonic DMC-GX1 and Fuji X-E1
With summer vacations rapidly approaching, many of us are considering the annual question: What camera gear will I take this year?
I love the image quality from my SLR, but the size and weight of my gear means it is often inside the hotel or back of my truck instead of on my shoulder. This year I’m taking a look at some alternatives for travel.
The Micro Four Thirds format has become popular over the last few years as a compromise camera. The larger sensor means much better quality than smaller point-and-shoot cameras, while remaining smaller and lighter than SLRs. The Panasonic DMC-GX1 is an excellent example.
The GX1 specs include a 16 megapixel micro four thirds sensor, HD video (1920 x 1080) to AVCHD or MP4, a variety of jpeg sizes and compression, RAW shooting, and a long list of features that appeal to photographers of all levels. In automatic modes it behaves just as friendly as a point-and-shoot. Advanced photographers will appreciate full manual controls, but keep in mind that zoom and manual focus are through buttons, not lens rings.
In addition to the better image quality, the main advantage of the format is the interchangeable lenses. Panasonic offers several, and the GX1 is compatible with micro four thirds lenses from other vendors. I tested the camera with Panasonic’s 14-42mm lens (28-84mm equivalent in 35mm format) and found it to be a pleasant lens for general everyday photography. Panasonic also offers a 20mm f/1.7 pancake lens (40mm equivalent in 35mm format) for those looking for a fast, compact prime lens.
The GX1’s larger sensor gives it another major advantage over point-and-shoot cameras: Superior low light performance. For example, this image was shoot indoors at ISO 6400 on automatic. While the colours could use a bit of tweaking, the ability to shoot indoors without a flash is huge.
For those looking for a step up from a point-and-shoot to better image quality and interchangeable lenses, the DMC-GX1 is a strong candidate. Image quality approaches what I have come to expect from my SLR. I did find the autofocus a bit slower than what I’m used to, but overall I was quite pleased with the DMX-GX1 and recommend it for travel and casual photography.
I’m going to say this up front and get it out of the way: I am completely blown away by the image quality and handling of the Fuji X-E1. If you love photography, you will love this camera.
The X-E1 uses Fuji’s 16 megapixel X-Trans CMOS sensor – the same as in their top-end X-Pro1 model. This sensor is the same size used in popular consumer and enthusiast SLRs, but with a twist: Fuji’s X-Trans sensor uses a highly random pixel array, eliminating the need for an optical low-pass filter. In theory, this should give the X-E1 an edge over other products with a similar size sensor. In practice, the results are stunning.
This jpeg is straight out of the camera. X-E1 with a 35mm lens. ISO 400, f/4, 1/500s.
The X-E1 offers automatic and fully manual controls, jpeg and raw images, and shoots HD Video (1280 x 720 pixels at 24 frames/sec) with a limitation of 29 minutes in length. It also includes some great features including ten film simulation modes. Miss the saturated look of Fuji Velvia, the skin tones of Fuji Astia, or the crisp blue skies of Fuji Provia? Just dial them up!
The X-E1 is loaded with features and the specs are great. But what really sets this camera apart from the competition is image quality and handling. I couldn’t be happier with jpegs from the X-E1. Yes, shooting raw will give you a slight advantage in difficult lighting conditions, and if you’re going to post-process in Lightroom by all means shoot raw. I’ve intentionally overexposed images and pulled out highlights that most cameras wouldn’t record.
As someone who loves photography, handling the X-E1 is a delight. It has a solid feel with controls where you’d expect them on a rangefinder. Aperture is on the lens and shutter speed is on the top dial beside the exposure compensation dial. A programmable function button can be configured as you like – I prefer it set to bring up the ISO setting.
Consciously absent is a mode dial for automatic, aperture priority, etc. It simply isn’t required! Both the aperture and shutter speed have automatic settings. Set them both to automatic and you have the equivalent of “program mode”. Or set them both manually. Or leave one on automatic. Simple, elegant, and intuitive.
Fuji was kind enough to lend me three lenses to test along with the X-E1. The XF 18-55mm f2.8-4 with optical image stabilization most often bundled with the camera puts other kit lenses to shame. It’s a great all-around lens and the equivalent of 27-83mm in 35mm format is a nice range for most applications. Fuji’s XF 35mm f1.4 (52mm equivalent) is tack sharp and a great option for those who enjoy using a normal prime lens. Finally, for landscape enthusiasts, Fuji’s XF 14mm f2.8 (21mm equivalent) is spectacular.
I’m also expecting to test their new 55-200mm in the near future, and Fuji’s newly announced 27mm pancake lens (anticipated in July) looks like a great option for lightweight travel photography.
The Fuji X-E1 is not for everyone. It’s a bit larger than the micro four thirds cameras and those who just want to take pictures in automatic mode (as opposed to use the features the X-E1 provides) might want to look at a lower end model. Autofocus is not quite as fast as professional SLR lenses, but in practice I found it fine for photographing children and pets.
The XE-1 is a game changer. It’s smaller and lighter than most SLRs, yet produces superior images. It won’t fit in your pocket, but with a small lens it is practical to carry almost anywhere. For travel and general photography the Fuji X-E1 is simply hard to beat.
Canon PowerShot G15
I carried a Canon PowerShot G11 for years when I my SLR was too big, and while not pocket-size, the G series provide a great compromise between size and image quality.
The specs of the new Canon PowerShot G15 include a 12.1 MP sensor, 5x Wide-Angle Optical Image Stabilized Zoom, and the multiple exposure modes that keeps many of us coming back to the G-series.
Canon PowerShot G1 X Announced
As a G11 owner, I was quite interested to read The G1 X announcement. In summary, the G1 X features a 14.3-megapixel, 1.5-inch (18.7 x 14mm) sensor. That’s bigger than a Micro Four Thirds sensor and nearly as large as the APS-C sensors inside most DSLRs. It’s also 6.3 times larger than the sensor inside the PowerShot G12.
It also features an ISO range up to 12,800, aperture range from f/2.8 to f/16, and a 4x optical zoom from 28-112mm. It’s powered by Canon’s new DIGIC 5 processor, which Canon says is its fastest yet. The G1 X has RAW support, a super sharp, 922,000-dot 3-inch LCD, and 1080p video recording at 24 frames per second.
I recently had the opportunity to test drive the Nikon D7000, and in a word: Wow!
The D7000 is Nikon’s latest consumer DSLR. It includes a 16.2 megapixel CMOS Nikon DX format sensor (1.5x crop) and is capable of shooting up to 6 frames per second. It shoots video at 1920 x 1080 24fps, and has twin SD (SDHC/SDXC) card slots. The latter is a great feature – you can configure the camera to separate JPEG and RAW files or JPEG and movie files onto separate cards, or use the second to just keep shooting. I personally would prefer the larger and more sturdy CF cards, but SD has become the standard for consumer cameras, and the ability to simultaneously shoot JPEGs and RAW files to separate SD cards has definite advantages should one card fail.
Shown with Nikon 18-105 included in kit bundles. Full specifications are here.
Compared to my D200, I found the D7000 small and light. The live view (though the LCD) feature made some types of photography easier. The autofocus was fast, accurate, and responsive. But the dramatic difference was in low light capability. With a fast lens, I found myself shooting without flash indoor and outdoors at night.
In the end, image quality is what counts, and images from the D7000 were superb. The D7000 takes image quality to a new level. Ken Rockwell calls the D7000 “Nikon’s best DSLR ever.” Taking into account its $1200 price tag, I agree.
Added Oct 2011: The Nikon D7000 appears on our new recommended cameras page.
Added Nov 2011: I purchased a Nikon D7000 and Nikon’s new 35mm f/1.8 DX lens. They make a great lightweight combination.
Panasonic announces the DMC-DF3
For those wondering what’s next in the Micro Four Thirds (MFT) format, wonder no longer. Earlier today Panasonic announced the LUMIX DMC-GF3. According to Panasonic the GF3 is their smallest and lightest digital interchangeable lens camera with a built-in flash, has a body size comparable to a smartphone, and weighs 222g (body only).
“Panasonic’s LUMIX GF3 is extremely small and its newly-designed rounded body is quite attractive, which we expect to be popular among users wanting to step-up from a point-and-shoot,” said Doug Borbath, senior product manager, Imaging, Panasonic Canada Inc. “While the size and weight has been greatly reduced, Panasonic does not compromise what is at the core of every LUMIX camera, which is exceptional photo and video quality with an easy-to-use
The specs certainly look impressive, I’m looking forward to testing one out!
Kodak PlaySport Vids
I’ve been raving about the Kodak PlaySport to friends and figured I should post a few sample videos. Kodak was kind enough to lend me a PlaySport to review last summer, and my lovely wife gave me one for Christmas, so the fun will continue!
These are somewhat extreme samples — it’s difficult to shoot steady video while being pounded by ocean waves. But it’s the fact that I could shoot this video at all that has me in love with the PlaySport. Yes, there’s no optical zoom. Yes, water and wind affect sound quality. (I don’t know how you’d avoid that in a pocket-size vidcam.) But with this camera I can shoot HD video in locations and under conditions that would destroy most video cameras in seconds. As a parent (and camera geek), that’s really cool.
720p video is on my YouTube channel.