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Archive for October, 2011

Panasonic launches Lumix G X Vario PZ 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 OIS pancake

October 10th, 2011 No comments

Panasonic has announced the Lumix G X Vario PZ 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 OIS collapsible power-zoom lens. The pancake zoom represents a series of firsts for Panasonic and the Micro Four Thirds system – it incorporates a lever-operated powered zoom and similarly controlled manual focus system. It is also the first lens to gain the company’s ‘Lumix X’ branding that it will use to denotes high-end performance. The power zoom design with quiet focus and zoom motors joins the stepless aperture design to help optimize the lens for HD video shooting. The company will be pairing the lens with its diminutive DMC-GF3 camera body, or selling it separately for around $399. We’ve been using one of the first pre-production examples of the lens and have prepared a preview that demonstrates its behavior.

Click here to read our hands-on Pansonic LUMIX G X Vario PZ 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 OIS preview

UPDATE – We’ve asked Panasonic for clarification on compatibility and have been informed “The lenses are compatible and will work with all Micro Four Thirds cameras”. We have now included the updated press-release that was issued.

SECAUCUS, NJ (August 26, 2011) –Panasonic today announces a newly designed and innovative LUMIX G “X” lens that retracts to help minimize its size, without compromising its focal length or image quality. Panasonic’s new premium LUMIX G X VARIO PZ 14-42mm/F3.5-5.6 ASPH./ POWER O.I.S. (H-PS14042) lens, will be available with the company’s smallest and lightest compact system camera as a lens kit option in the DMC-GF3X model. With electric-powered zoom operation, the retractable Power Zoom H-PS14042 lens is extremely compact, approximately 26.8mm in length, and weighs approximately 3.35oz, offering ultra-high portability.

Panasonic’s new premium LUMIX ”X” Series of lenses, including the LUMIX G X VARIO PZ 14-42mm/F3.5-5.6 ASPH./ POWER O.I.S., offers a versatile zoom range of 14-42mm (35mm camera equivalent: 28-84mm) suitable for a wide range of scenes, such as dynamic landscape to portrait. Also announced today is another LUMIX X lens, the LUMIX G X VARIO PZ 45-175mm/F4.0-5.6 ASPH./POWER O.I.S.  Crystallizing Panasonic’s optical technologies, the LUMIX X lenses feature superb image rendering for lifelike textures, crisp edge-to-edge contrast, a unique Nano Surface Coating to help minimize ghosts and flaring in natural settings with remarkable transparency.

“Panasonic continues to innovate in digital photography by offering advanced features in small and compact bodies, thus addressing the consumer’s need for camera equipment to be lightweight and easy to carry,” said Darin Pepple, Senior Product Manager, Imaging, Panasonic Consumer Electronics Company. “With the new LUMIX X Series of premium lenses, we do not sacrifice size for quality and Panasonic still offers top-of-the-line image quality for our G Series, but in a smaller design that makes it extremely mobile.”

With the LUMIX GF3X, the camera and lens combination can achieve Light Speed AF of approximately 0.1 second – making it an extremely quick and high-performing digital camera. The LUMIX GF3X with the new 14-42 PZ lens also features POWER O.I.S. (Optical Image Stabilizer), to make it easier to shoot clear photos even in low-lit situations. The convenient zoom lever on the lens barrel gives users a stable way to zoom.  Manual focusing is also available with a manual focus lever for even more precise control.

The LUMIX GF3, like all the LUMIX G Series of Compact System Cameras, captures high-quality photo images with real-to-life details through excellent resolution, image rendering and color reproduction. With its stunningly small compact profile, the LUMIX GF3 boasts high-speed, precise Contrast AF system and quick response times. The LUMIX GF3 is also capable of 1920 x 1080 Full High Definition video in the AVCHD format.

The LUMIX GF3X will be available in a black body and black lens or a silver body and silver lens kits options in October 2011 for a suggested retail price (SRP) of $749.99. The new LUMIX G X VARIO PZ 14-42mm/F3.5-5.6 ASPH./ POWER O.I.S. (H-PS14042) lens will also be available separately for an SRP of $399.99 and will be compatible the Panasonic LUMIX G Series.  For more information about Panasonic LUMIX digital cameras, please visit www.panasonic.com/lumix.

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Panasonic launches Lumix G X Vario PZ 45-175mm F4.0-5.6 ASPH OIS

October 10th, 2011 No comments

Panasonic has revealed the Lumix G X Vario PZ 45-175mm F4.0-5.6 ASPH Power OIS power zoom. The telephoto zoom carries the company’s ‘Lumix X’ branding that it will be using to denote premium quality lenses. Along with the PZ 14-42mm, it features a quiet variable-speed power zoom for smooth zooming during movie recording but, unlike the collapsible standard zoom, the 45-175mm also features ‘by-wire’ dials for direct control of zoom and focus. The lens features a compact, lightweight design and uses an internal zoom mechanism, meaning it stays the same length at all times.

UPDATE – We’ve asked Panasonic for clarification on compatibility, and have been informed “The lenses are compatible and will work with all Micro Four Thirds cameras.”

SECAUCUS, NJ (August 26, 2011) –Today, Panasonic announced the LUMIX G X VARIO PZ 45-175mm/F4.0-5.6 ASPH./POWER O.I.S. (H-PS45175), the company’s first cutting-edge digital interchangeable lens with electric-powered zoom operation.  This marks the launch of the company’s premium lens brand “X” which is compatible with the Panasonic LUMIX G Series and complies with the Micro Four Thirds™ system standard.  This lens introduction accompanies another LUMIX X lens announced today, the LUMIX G X VARIO PZ 14-42mm/F3.5-5.6 ASPH./ POWER O.I.S.

The new LUMIX G X VARIO PZ 45-175mm/F4.0-5.6 ASPH./POWER O.I.S. lens features superb image rendering for lifelike textures and crisp, edge-to-edge contrast.  A unique Nano Surface Coating technology minimizes reflections at entire visual light range (380nm-780nm) for a dramatic reduction of ghosts and light flare, resulting in outstandingly clear picture quality.

Using a Multi-Actuator Floating Inner Focus System to control three lens groups separately the LUMIX G X VARIO PZ 45-175mm/F4.0-5.6 ASPH./POWER O.I.S. achieves a reduction in both size and weight without compromising picture quality.  Boasting outstanding compactness, the lens is approximately 90mm in length and 7.4oz in weight, resulting in ultra-high mobility.

Offering a versatile zoom range of 45-175mm the LUMIX G X VARIO PZ 45-175mm/F4.0-5.6 ASPH./POWER O.I.S. allows distant subjects to be captured sharply at the tele-end.  Also notable, the lens is extremely suitable for portrait and landscape shots, as its high contrast and resolution helps images shot at the wide end maintain exceptional quality, and the zoom lever allows for quick and stable zooming, even while shooting a moving object.

The new lens system features two Extra-low Dispersion (ED) lenses which suppress chromatic aberration and contribute to high descriptive performance across the entire zoom range 45-175mm.  The POWER O.I.S. (Optical Image Stabilizer) integrated into the LUMIX G X VARIO PZ 45-175mm/F4.0-5.6 ASPH./POWER O.I.S. makes it easy to shoot sharp images even in low-lit situations.  With improved sensitivity of the gyro sensor, the new POWER O.I.S. also suppresses large, slow movements two times more effectively** while small, fast movements are compensated for by the conventional MEGA O.I.S.

LUMIX G X VARIO PZ 45-175mm/F4.0-5.6 ASPH./POWER O.I.S. contains seven aperture blades to help produce an attractive smoothness in out-of-focus areas even while shooting at large aperture.  Adopting an inner focus system driven by a stepping motor, the lens’ superior optical design supports Light Speed AF of approximately .15 seconds and fast aperture control results in a shortened shutter time lag of approximately 20% when compared to the LUMIX G VARIO 45-200mm/F4.0-5.6/MEGA O.I.S.

The Panasonic LUMIX G X VARIO PZ 45-175mm/F4.0-5.6 ASPH./POWER O.I.S. (H-PS45175) will be available in black and silver starting September 2011 with a suggested retail price of $449.99.  For more information about Panasonic LUMIX digital cameras and lenses, please visit www.panasonic.com/lumix.

Specifications

Price • $tbc (US)
• £tbc (UK)
Manufacturer’s product code H-PS45175
Maximum format size Four Thirds
Focal length 45-175mm
35mm equivalent focal length 90-350mm
Diagonal Angle of view 27º – 7.1º
Maximum aperture F4.0-5.6
Minimum aperture F22
Lens Construction • 14 elements / 10 groups
• 2 aspherical elements
• 2 ED glass elements
Number of diaphragm blades 7, rounded
Minimum focus • 0.9m (3.0ft)
Maximum magnification 0.2x
AF motor type • Micromotor
Focus method Internal focus
Zoom method Internal zoom
Image stabilization • Yes (Power OIS)
Filter thread • 46mm
• Does not rotate on focus
Supplied accessories • Front and rear caps
• Lens hood
• Storage bag
Weight 210g (7.4oz)
Dimensions (retracted) 62mm diameter x 90mm length
(2.4 x 3.5 in)
Lens Mount Micro Four Thirds

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Sony NEX-7 high-end APS-C mirrorless camera first look

October 2nd, 2011 No comments

Sony has announced the much leaked NEX-7 enthusiast-targeted mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. It manages to squeeze vast amounts of the A77′s capabilities into a body barely bigger than the existing NEX models. It packs a 24MP APS-C CMOS sensor and 2.4M dot OLED electronic viewfinder into its magnesium alloy body and yet still finds room for a pop-up flash and Alpha hot shoe. Working samples of the NEX-7 have not been made available to the press anywhere in the world, so we have not been able to prepare a hands-on preview. However, we have seen and handled an early pre-production unit and have interrogated Sony about its operation. We have used this to prepare an overview of the camera, which we will expand to a preview when cameras with functioning firmware are available.

MSRP (Body only) $1199
(With exclusive black 18-55mm lens) $1399

When Sony introduced its brand-new range of mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras in May 2010, the company was very clear about who it thought would buy the NEX-5 and its near-identical-twin NEX-3. Small cameras with APS-C sensors, we were told, would appeal to compact camera users who wanted to upgrade but would be intimidated by the bulk and perceived complexity of an SLR. The cameras were a sales success (especially in Japan), and their influence on this sector of the market has become increasingly clear, with Olympus’s PEN E-PL3 paying extensive homage to their key design features, and Panasonic stripping-down its GF line from the enthusiast-friendly DMC-GF1 to the distinctly beginner-orientated DMC-GF3.

In practice, though, it wasn’t just beginners buying these cameras. Many enthusiast photographers have been equally attracted to the promise of excellent image quality in a small, highly portable camera, fuelled by the ability to adapt almost any lens to fit. To its credit Sony has taken note and steadily increased the NEXs’ appeal, with successive firmware updates to improve usability and add features.

Now, with the NEX-7, Sony is specifically targeting those advanced users with a camera whose key spec reads like it’s come straight off an enthusiast’s wishlist. First up is the new 24MP APS-C CMOS sensor, shared with the co-announced SLT-A77, that enables true 1080p60 video recording. Then there’s the EVF that’s been squeezed into the compact body (and also shared with the A77) – the 2.4M dot OLED unit is the highest resolution yet seen in a stills camera, and has an eye sensor for automatic switching with the rear LCD. Rounding off the additions are a built-in flash and Alpha-type hotshoe, all in a body that’s about the same size as the Olympus PEN E-P3.

The NEX-7 also expands on the existing interface, adding two dials on the top plate that can be used to control a wide variety of functions, plus a conveniently-placed button beside the shutter that’s used to cycle through their functions. The familiar rear dial and three ‘soft’ keys on the back of the camera are retained, as is the handy tilting rear LCD.

The NEX-7 uses a new shutter arrangement, with an (optional) electronic first curtain. In other words, the camera no longer has to close the shutter then open it again to start the exposure, and according to Sony this decreases shutter lag from 100ms to just 20ms. This isn’t completely new technology – Canon’s live view capable DSLRs have been using it since the EOS 40D of 2007 – but it’s very welcome to see it implemented in this type of camera.

Further indication, if any were needed, of the NEX-7′s serious intentions is provided by the co-announced Carl Zeiss-branded E 24mm F1.8 lens (also known as the SEL24F18Z). This offers a field of view equivalent to a 35mm lens on full frame, and places the NEX-7 squarely up against the likes of the Fujifilm FinePix X100 (with its fixed 23mm F2 lens), as well as the E-P3. The NEX-7 will also be sold with a black version of the standard E 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 OSS kit zoom.

Sony NEX-7 specification highlights

  • All-new 24MP APS-C CMOS sensor (shared with the SLT-A7 and A657)
  • ISO 100-16000
  • Built-in 2.4M dot OLED EVF with eye sensor
  • Electronic first-curtain shutter (cuts response time from 100ms to 20ms)
  • ‘AVCHD Progressive’ 1080p60 HD movie recording with built-in stereo mic
  • Tilting rear screen
  • Three-dial user interface
  • Built in flash and Alpha hotshoe
  • Infra-red remote control receiver
  • Microphone input socket

New E-mount lenses

Alongside the NEX-7 (and the updated NEX-5N), Sony has also announced three new lenses. As well as the Carl Zeiss E 24mm F1.8 mentioned above, there’s an image-stabilized E 55-210mm F4.5-6.3 OSS telephoto zoom (SEL55210), and another fast prime in the shape of the E 50mm F1.8 (SEL50F18). While the latter is, in our opinion, a slightly curious focal length for a brand-new APS-C format design (we’d prefer to see a fast portrait lens in the 60-70mm range), there’s no denying the fact that inexpensive 50mm primes have proven very popular with DSLR users.

Further lens options – LA-EA2 Alpha mount autofocus adapter

To further expand the range of lenses that NEX owners can use with full functionality, Sony has also announced the LA-EA2 adapter that promises fast autofocus with all existing Alpha mount lenses. This uses the company’s SLT technology, with a fixed ‘translucent’ mirror and built-in phase detection AF sensor, plus an AF motor for ‘screw-drive’ lenses. Somewhat reminiscent of Leica’s old ‘Visoflex’ system for its M-mount film rangefinders, the rather bulky housing also has its own tripod socket for use with larger lenses. The LA-EA2 includes the same 15-point AF sensor as the SLT A65 and original A55.

While this certainly expands on the range of lenses accessible to NEX owners, we’re not entirely convinced of its real-world practicality (especially as, at $399, it’s not cheap). We have a sneaking suspicion that it only exists to show that the NEX can be used with more than the handful of native E-mount lenses, rather than being a big seller. It seems likely that most people who own a range of Alpha lenses will already have SLRs to use them on, increasingly supplemented by ‘real’ SLTs. And perhaps the biggest attraction of mirrorless camera over SLRs is compactness, which rather goes away when using AF lenses with such a large adapter. But for those who bought a NEX and then discovered that they really wanted an SLT after all, it could well come in handy, and we can see potential for videography.

The pre-production NEX-7 units shown to journalists (including ourselves), featured NEX-5N firmware, making it impossible to make sense of how well the NEX-7′s ‘Tri-Navi’ three dial control system works. Given that the existing NEX interface isn’t ideal for the kind of committed enthusiast photographers that the NEX-7 is aimed at, it’s clear that the most important aspect of the NEX-7 is how well it’s been implemented.

We have, however, discussed this interface extensively with Sony and can provide the following exclusive detail about how Tri-Navi will work:

Default ‘Exposure’ control settings:

The default exposure options are predefined and cannot be adjusted. No matter how many additional functions you choose to assign to the control system, these are always available.

Exposure mode: Dial 1 Dial 2 Dial 3
Program Mode Program shift Exposure compensation ISO
Aperture Priority Aperture value Exposure compensation ISO
Shutter Priority Shutter value Exposure compensation ISO
Manual exposure Shutter value Aperture value ISO

Beyond this, you can choose up to four sets of controls that can be applied to the dials (from a choice of 6). When using the camera, pressing the button on the front shoulder cycles between the sets you’ve selected, in the order you’ve specified.

 

Presets: Dial 1 Dial 2 Dial 3
Focus Focus Area Mode Move AF point left/right Move AF point up/down
White Balance Select WB preset Fine-tune WB in Amber/Blue axis Fine-tune WB in Green/Magenta axis
D-Range Extent of DRO or HDR Exposure Compensation Off/DRO/HDR
Creative Styles Select Creative Style Preset Adjust image parameter (Sharpness/
Saturation/
Contrast)
Select image parameter
(Sharpness/
Saturation/
Contrast)
Picture Effects Select Picture Effect Adjust effect parameter (where applicable) N/A
Custom Option1 Option2 Option3

The exciting option for us is the ‘Custom’ setting. As you might expect, this allows you to specify which function you want on each dial. There’s only one Custom slot, so you can only create one personalized ‘set.’

There are nine settings that can be applied to the dials and, once assigned to a dial, is removed from the list of available options for the other dials. There is also the option to assign no function to any given dial.

Available options: • Exposure compensation
• AF Mode
• ISO
• Metering Mode
• White Balance
• DRO/HDR
• Creative Style
• Picture Effect
• Quality
• Not Set

For settings that usually have multiple options (such as the different extents that can be applied to HDR and DRO), all these options are available as a long list to spin through, when assigned to a dial. This differs from their behavior when they appear as one of the presets.

Although we are not in a position to assess how well this system will work when out with the camera, taking photographs, it does sound promising. Our immediate thought was that we could assign Quality to the left dial, DRO/HDR to the right dial then Exposure Comp. to the center dial, so that it’s easy to drop into JPEG-only shooting, shoot an HDR shot, then quickly flick back to Raw shooting (something we’ve found rather time-consuming on other Sonys).

 

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Kenko-Tokina launches NDX variable neutral density filter

October 2nd, 2011 No comments

Kenko-Tokina has announced a variable neutral density (ND) filter that can be adjusted fro ND2.5 to ND1000. The Kenko NDX filter can darken the scene by anywhere from 1.3 to 10 EV. The filter allows the use of wide apertures while keeping the correct exposure within the shutter speed range of your camera, or of very long shutter times to emphasise motion. The company suggests its use for shooting video with shallow depth-of-field, for instance. Its variable nature allows the amount of filtration to be reduced for focusing, then increased to the desired amount, without having to remove the filter. The filters can vignette when used with lenses wider than 28mm equivalent and are available in 77mm and 82mm filter thread sizes.

Click here to find out more (Google Translated from Japanese)

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