Michael Reichmann on the Canon SX50HS

Michael Reichmann on the Canon SX50HS

In this user report of the Canon Sx50HS, Michael gives us an enlightening glance at the uses of an ultrazoom, despite the small sensor. Put simply, it opens up the ability to take photos that otherwise would have been impossible, or at least improbable. The best lens is the one you have with you and do you fancy fitting any other 1,000mm type one in your day bag?

Reading this what got me looking into them, though as more of a Nikon man, I went for their P510, for the sharper results, at the expense of the Canon’s rich features (see my own review earlier for more on that). It’s not the first time he has put me onto a new camera. I previously bought another bridge camera, the Canon G9 based on his recommendations and it was my steady back-up camera and at times short trip camera for some years. Along with it’s adapters, it covered a wide range and in fact was often my ‘long’ lens alongside something wider. My P510 is the ‘replacement’, though due to it’s larger sensor and much more conservative zoom range (35-210mm), the G9 probably has better IQ at the end of the day. But if you don’t get the shot, what good is IQ anyway? I also tend to prefer Nikon’s colours, though that is more of a personal preference, if a very deep and essential one.

I sense Bridge cameras like these are making great strides forwards, for me (like him) to the point where they are already usable and likable, at least alongside other compact system cameras and DSLRs. Please do read his review, as he says it all, with a wealth of experience, better than I ever could.

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Life with the Olympus E-PL2

Finally, I got myself some mirrorless action and I have to say, I’m loving it! In many ways this is the camera I’ve been waiting for years and I just came around to realising it did indeed arrive, already. As a DSLR user, I love the image quality and ever-increasing features, but hate the bulk, and in some ways mirrorless cameras this Pen are a salvation from it. Looking at images on the computer screen, I’m seeing a lot of quality there already, some incredible colours and outstanding sharpness, even from the entry-level zooms I got with it. Sooner or later, I’ll be getting After a while I got the Pana-Leica 25mm f/1.4 and expect to be was beyond my wildest dreams even more blown away by results from this, the best prime lens I’ve yet to use.

In terms of high-ISO, dynamic range or resolution, the results from the 12mp sensor are not really up to the standards of my Nikon D5100, but perhaps up there with earlier cameras, I’m not quite sure. I generally cap it at ISO 800, which is not even as good as the D5100’s 3200, but still the advantages are astounding. With full-time live view, I can see the results of exposure, picture styles or the special Olympus Art filters right up before I press the shutter button. Let me tell you, that in itself is a revelation. I remember the film days when you’d stop down the lens with a button to have a DOF preview, which was actually a pretty big deal them and you’d generally want a camera that could do this. This is the same thing, just 1000x more effective. You can be way more creative than ever before in this way, AS you take the picture, not at a PC afterwards, or to a lesser extent, checking the results afterwards. That whole, ‘take the picture now and get it ready afterwards’ takes away a lot of the thrill and pleasure of experimenting with photography, creating images that have never, ever been taken exactly that way before. This camera and the system it is a part of helps restore the excitement, at least for me.

The camera is small and light, the lenses too, being almost weightless, even the (slightly long by comparison), 80-300mm equivalent zoom (80-150mm). Putting IS in the camera was a remarkably prescient choice, allowing for such small, light lenses, and for absolutely every lens used to be stabilised, which is especially wonderful for immaculate primes. I just love it and find it very effective and the beauty is newer iterations will be even better, on the same exact lenses. I found I could  discretely take photos of people and things and dogs, for that matter, without any intimidation and with fast, accurate and face detecting autofocus (yes, even on the dogs). Seeing as I am getting this as a kind of replacement or grade to a high-end compact, this is a revelation and of course newer models will have even better AF and perhaps even phase-detect, as Nikon incorporates.

Did I say it already, but I love the colours! So vivid and natural and pleasing, perhaps the nicest I’ve yet seen from a digital camera, except perhaps my trusty old F30 largish-sensor compact by Fujifilm, that captured some very pleasing colours as well. I like my vivid Nikon colours, too, but they don’t quite ‘sing to me’ in the same way and certainly the skin tines don’t seem quite as good. I generally use them in Raw and fiddle around (less and less though these days, as the quality is outstanding there, too) but at least at lower ISOs, I’d happily use this camera in Jpeg. Fast, quick,responsive and a picture that’s ready to see straight from the camera.

The Art filters seem to me more usable and pleasing than I have on my Panasonic LX5 and are certainly more interesting than anything I’ve seen in another camera. Even ‘Pop Art’ looks good to me, though I’ve been playing around with the dramatic tone and grainy black and white options more, the later giving a super-contrasty look that suited a lot of images and the former, yes, you guessed it, an element of drama. I’ll put a few examples up here to see what I mean. Of course, all this is nothing you couldn’t do in a way at least on a computer afterwards, but where’s the fun in that, at least with a compact-sized camera suited for quick sharing. I like living now and shooting now and this helps me to do that. Of course, if you are anal like me, you can do the ‘Raw + Jpeg’ trick and have a regular photo too, at a cost in file-size and probably I’ll end up doing that sometimes at least.

I also love the built-in flash, which you can actually angle upwards and bounce. How intelligent is that?! A flash that’s always on the camera and can be bounced all the time. Sure, it’s not as powerful as an extra one, but it will be enough in many cases. Along with the built-in stabilisation, this really feels like a camera from the future and makes others that appear to have a built-in pressure to buy more accessories rather than the feature itself seem antiquated. I know, though, that lens based stabilisation and larger flashes are a lot more capable, especially for power users, but since there is nothing to stop them from being added if need be, it is a simple act of genius to include them in the camera body.

So, I am finding mirrorless even more enjoyable to use than I thought, much more so than any compact. Though I am now a member of the M4/3 club, it has opened my eyes up more to the advantages of such systems generally. The Nikon 1 system has a smaller sensor, but much faster and more flexible AF (very important, this, as MF will be hard on these small cameras) and even smaller lenses, the disadvantages of course being less ability to control the DOF, which for me is essential and the small lens selection right now, especially when it comes to primes. NEX offers much better image quality, but again, a small lens selection and whilst in both these cases you can use more with an adapter, that is hardly ideal and they are going to be massive and ungainly on the camera. Here the Nikon has an advantage, as it will easily AF the larger lenses, up to a point, but with the 2.7x crop, it’s really more for telephoto than regular usage. Anyway, just throwing that in, as other systems are also excellent, carefully designed and worthy of consideration. Who knows, I may get one from theirs too in the future, but for now I’m very happy with this and in fact looking forward to both more lenses and a better, E-M5 style body in the future, especially if I find myself using this more than I anticipated.

One thing is for sure, just a few minutes with a mirrorless camera will convince you that with their quick, easy operation and excellent image quality, this is the way of the future and DSLRs will find themselves in increasing competition from them, after a while finding it hard to survive. I wont be selling my gear and moving camp, though, as I’m very confident that Nikon (and Canon) will make APS-C and eventually full-frame mirrorless models over the next few years and my lenses will be just as relevant on them for decades to come.

The Panasonic Lumix LX5 Review

Notesee below for comments on the changes from the September 2011 2.0 firmware release.

The Panasonic Lumix LX5 is a very capable camera, especially for it’s size, offering unusual speed and low-light capability  as compacts go. Having such a bright lens, even reasonably so at the long end (f/2-3.3) and decent high ISO up to 400, in a pinch maybe 640, raw files and an excellent 18mm wide adapter makes for a sophisticated little machine. You can get some excellent photo quality from the sharp lens and even if the length is restricted, at 90 vs 60, it’s a bit better here than the LX3 and the wide angle is more than usual on such cameras, starting at 24mm. Having features like the step zoom, auto memory of zoom and great bracketing help a lot with creative uses of it. On paper, it’s the perfect little camera.

In use it doesn’t quite live up to the expectations, for me at least. I personally find the small, plasticy controls a bit fiddly to use, often needing to delve into the menus for other commands. I also don’t find it as intuitive to use as my DSLRs, or a simple point and shoot, even after a year or so on having it, which suggests there is still a gap in the market for anyone who can make a better alternative for photographers. The ability to customize the function button helps a bit here, as does the dedicated ISO control and others. Coming from a DSLR, using the same control wheel for aperture and exposure compensation is annoying; a second control dial would be helpful. Also, the LCD screen is subpar, as is the low resolution EVF available, though some users find this very handy anyway, which means you won’t really know what you’ve shot until you have a computer in front of you. Another issue is the depth of field- even on low settings, due to the small sensor, just about everything is in focus unless you go really, really close to things, which makes it less interesting for portraits than I’d like.

It is great to have such a sensitive machine, virtually being pocketable. Yet the ergonomics make me think a small M4/3 camera would be preferable. Until they make an attractive one with built in evf, this helps me sit on the fence reasonably comfortably. get used to the quirks and you have a fine little photo-taking machine.

As a side-note, I use this along with the TZ7 when I want to travel light and not miss a shot. This comes out whenever the light dims, or for wide-angle, as the quality is so much better and then when I want to I can zoom into 300mm with the TZ7.

I think overall this is a nice little machine, but I wonder how long it can keep it’s head above water with mirror-less developing and increasing competition from similar cameras from Olympus for one. It’s unique features of having 24mm on the wide end and switchable aspect ratios don’t really make up for the lack of a second control dial and the fiddly nature of the one it has. Panasonic seems to have a habit of packing in features and forgetting how real photographers might want to access them comfortably. This makes this a less than perfect camera, but at it’s price point and size, certainly one of the best ones out there right now.

One more thing- Panasonic is issuing a firmware update in September which should improve the AF speed (which in some modes is already very good), make the LCD image more contrasty and also improve the interface. I for one am pleased they take the camera seriously enough to do this, which should help keep up with the Joneses for another year or so.

Pros

* Very sharp, bright lens, especially at wide angles (ranging 2.0-3.3)
24mm start
* Fast operation and AF thanks to Venus Engine Full HD (which perhaps will even improve in firmware 2.0)
* Fully-featured enthusiast model, including hotshoe, bracketing, various controls.
* Excellent wide angle adapter giving a rare (in the world of compacts) 18mm equivalent
* Rubber grip makes handholding easy
* Power OIS works well
* Very good 720p video even in low light
* Step zoom makes it easy to fix an angle of view and stick with it, like using a prime lens
* Small and light, yet fully featured controls (though see below for caveat), make for a great backup for anyone who wants a small, bright, wide portable lens.
* Decently fast writing of Raw files

Cons

* Poor high ISO above 400, which itself is pushing things
* Short lens compared to the competition (90mm vs 112mm and beyond)
* No small external flash available makes the hot-shoe somewhat redundant
* No EVF and the available one very low resolution
* Poor LCD display (though perhaps the firmware update will help here)
* Fiddly controls
* Only one control dial (and a small one at that)
* No 1080p video
* Mono audio and no provision for external mics
* Dated, unattractive interface operated by button rather than scroll wheel makes finding the settings you want a chore more than a pleasure
* Not looking so good with competing cameras offering brighter lenses and more photographic controls.
* Sometimes gives unnatural colours, especially for skies, which seems to be a Panasonic issue generally
* Jpeg engine gives worse results than competition, this is essentially a Raw camera for many.

Note- A new firmware.

Rather than prematurely update the camera, which like the LX3 before it presumably has a 2 year life cycle, Panasonic released a remarkable firmware update that addresses some of the issues the camera had. One change is the monitor becoming more vivid and more contrasty, as well as providing settings to colour-correct it. I personally do fid it more vivid now, which shows that the dullness I experienced before was not just a hardware issue. Presumably, the former was more ‘natural’, yet a corrected and more appealing preview is welcome.

Another change is to the AF, which does seem to be faster, giving the camera a more ‘zippy’ feeling. I never found it all that slow before, but having it sped up shows me that it was actually a bit sluggish- and still is compared to my DSLRs and presumably the mirrorless generation.

The third notable addition is the ‘miniature affect’ setting, that allows for one part of the image to be in focus and the rest heavily blurred, as if it was a small toy. It takes quite a while to process this, around 3-5 seconds, so it is not for fast shooting, but it is a very classy and configurable option.What this does, for me at least, is make up for the huge depth of field the photos often have, allowing for more artistic effects, while still in the camera. They don’t show up in the Raw file, so either change to Jpeg, or do Jpeg+Raw to get it. You can change the size of the in focus area and it’s location anywhere on the frame, which is very handy and effective, though of course nothing like as good as you could achieve with intense post-processing, for playful snaps, I’ma  fan of it. Also, if you shoot movies with this on, it’ll make for a slow-motion video by a factor of 10, which could well be interesting. Also, videos are now actively stablised, which may well make a difference to them, I’ll have to see.

All in all a very interesting update, which makes the camera a fresher item or me, but doesn’t and perhaps couldn’t help a lot of the cons of the machine. The short lens, the sometimes unappealing colours, the poor high or even middling ISO are all here to stay. Yet, there is still nothing around to beat it to my mind, at least until the smaller mirrorless solutions arrive. I can see myself replacing this with a M 4/3 camera with one of Panasonic’s coming ‘x’ pancake zooms. The price will be a lot more, but so will the quality and of course if I want, I can change the lenses altogether. In the meantime, for it’s small size and price, I can still recommend the LX5.

The iPad 2- The Tech Talk Review (Technologies)

The iPad 2- what to say that hasn’t already been said, perhaps better, by someone else already? Well, here we have the perfect tech talk device. New and revolutionary in it’s approach, like it’s predecessor, it is a machine not so much based around it’s hardware, amazing though it may be, but around what you can do with it. Right now, with other tablets thin on the ground and lacking many of their own apps, it currently faces little serious opposition, though of course will probably change.

My ‘review’ of the first iPad was as a non-buyer, disappointed that opportunities to make the most of it’s form factor had been lost with the sparse hardware given. Much as I wanted to jump on the train heading towards tablet/slate/pad bliss, I just couldn’t justify the expense for a machine lacking in so many areas. The iPad’s defenders at the time argued that they were esoteric features that only tech-heads would want, but I’m not so sure. It seems that Apple agrees with me and fixed many of the issues in this update and from what I’ve heard, as with the response to newer versions of the iPhone, sales are rocketing as never before. So what are the improvements over iPad 1?

What’s Good

* Front and rear cameras capable of HD video (though with unfortunately poor resolution), so now Facetime and soon Skype can be used with this. Whilst iPhone 4 has Skype, like many other functions (see more below), it’ll be far more satisfying on the iPad’s larger screen

* Slimmer, lighter and with a thinner bezel around the screen, which makes it easier to use with one hand and a lot more slick and stylish. Being that few mm thinner should be enough to entice many hardcore Apple fans to update in and of itself (!)

* Faster, dual core processor of a newer generation (A5 vs the former, single core A4)

* A claimed 6x increase in graphical abilities

* Double the ram (512mb vs 256mb), and of a newer type running at twice the speed

* Through an adapter, allows HDMI screen mirroring or, with video and photos, 1080P output, which is perfect for seeing video on an HDTV, or making presentations or slideshows. It’s also great for audio if you want that digital clarity.

* A similar IPS LED 9.7 inch screen, some say with better colours, which makes photos and videos look amazingly good even off-angle, far better than on most most laptops or netbooks.

What’s Not so Good

* No true USB, just an ability to transfer from some cameras

* Small memory of only up to 64gb and expensive at that.

* No SD slot of any flavour, making it basically unexpandable (though the cloud could fix this.

* The same screen resolution as before (1024×768), no-where near the pixel density of the iPhone 4’s retina display (132 ppi vs. retina’s gorgeous, print-like 326dpi). I was hoping this would be updated, but maybe next time?

* The poor cameras. They might not get used much, but by having lower resolution than the screen itself (some say they are probably the same as those in the latest iPod), they may well never get used again, save for video. Which is a shame, having a decent digital camera with a 9.7 inch screen would be quite an experience.

For me personally, this time around, the pros outweighed the cons and I got one.  Having a webcam ensured it could be enough to take only my iPad on a trip and still video-call home if I wanted. The HDMI output also makes it a better portable computer or HTPC if needed and I find it great for sharing many things in a way the former VGA just couldn’t suffice. Also, by being faster it is far more capable and smooth to use. With the first edition, I couldn’t stand the idea of paying so much for something that was actually less powerful than my iPhone 4, which had double the ram. Also, the weight of the first one was off-putting, giving it a chunky rather than hi-tech feel, which was more than fixed in this update, which raised the bar again on what is possible for a tablet/slate/pad or whatever they actually are (I’ll just say tablet from now on, as it’s a term everyone recognises).

So, basically, I see it as a decent leap up from the first iPad, in my view enough of one to make it a worthwhile purchase for anyone on the fence before. Of course, there are already rumours of a newer model coming out as soon as September, with possibly double the screen resolution and presumably a newer graphics/ quad-core cpu to feed it with. It wouldn’t totally surprise me, especially if we start seeing Android tablets coming out over the summer with similar abilities and Apple finds a need to compete with them. Tablets being so ascendant, I’d hope that soon we’ll see 6-monthly updates, much as we see with laptops which might not be irresistible upgrades, but would more quickly push the technology into areas where the laptop still reigns supreme, such as graphical design. Once that starts, we really will be in the ‘post PC era’. Yet, it is perhaps more likely that Apple will stay with it’s yearly cycle (although they broke this with the iPhone 4, which is still to be updated), as even higher-tech tablets will take a while to challenge the iPad on the software front.

This post has focussed mostly on the technical advances and advantages of the iPad 2 over it’s predecessor. Although it’s not perfect, I feel it gives a good balance of features which make it a worthy purchase. Like anything in the world of tech, there is bound to be a better one around the corner, the main question for a lot of potential buyers being how far away that corner is and if in itself the one now is good enough. You could well end up waiting for ever and not being able to enjoy the experience of using one. On that note, my next post will be more about why I think it is a special device simply in the way that you use it and that even if you think it’s a waste of time, could actually show you a new way to do familiar things that makes them far more enjoyable.

Straight, No Chaser.

A Traditional Photography Blog - dehk © 2016

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