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Archive for the ‘Digital Cameras’ Topic

2020.05.26

Earlier today Sony launched a completely unique digital camera designed for vlogging. Parallel to the concept of selfie relative to photography, a vlog is its equivalent for videography. Camera manufacturers produced a number of selfie-optimized digital cameras and now Sony is first to create one for vloggers.

Sony ZV-1

Although sporting a vaguely similar appearance to their Premium Compact Digital Cameras, the new Sony ZV-1 is built around a 20 megapixels 1″ EXMOR RS CMOS sensor with an on-sensor 315-Point Phase-Detect AF system.  This sensor features a stacked design that provides it ultra-high-speed capabilities, which are detailed below. The sensor is paired with an ultra-bright 24-70mm F/1.8-2.8 lens that packs optical image-stabilization and sliding graduated neutral density filter that cuts-off up to 3-stops of light.

Photographers can enjoy 24 FPS continuous shooting of unspecified duration, while videographers will rejoice at up to 1000 FPS at Full HD resolution, plus standard 4K Ultra-HD video at 30 FPS. The new design favors heat-dissipation, allowing the ZV-1 to record video without limit until the SDXC memory-card is full. Oddly though, the ZV-1 does not record in industry-standard MPEG-4 format but instead uses XAVC S for Ultra-HD and AVCHD for Full HD capture.

One of the headline and completely unique feature of the Sony ZV-1 is a 3-capsule microphone that records directionally in front of the camera to hear someone filming with the camera pointed towards them. A physical noise-filter, often called a cat due to its resemblance to that animal, is includes with this camera and attaches to the Multi-Interface Hot-Shoe exclusive to Sony. This hot-shoe has additional electronic contacts allow it to support digital audio. The ZV-1 is also compatible with traditional microphones via a standard mini-jack.

Sony ZV-1

Sony thought through the entire design of this digital camera, making many small changes for vloggers. This starts with a rotating 3″ Touchscreen LCD that is equally pleasing to the selfie-crowd. For this usage, there is no need for a viewfinder and so the ZV-1 does not have one. It also does not have a builtin flash since videos must be lit using continuous lighting, saving space and power for other components. The final ergonomic change is a large Video-Record button with Zoom-Rocker that can be thumb-operated while the index finger lands on the recording button. What is missing a control-dial that can be operated from the front since there is only one mounted vertically on the back of the camera.

Processing inside the Sony ZV-1 was highly optimized for vloggers but those work equally well for selfies. Headlining the feature-set is a new continuous autofocus system that closely tracks eyes and faces appearing centrally within the frame. A new metering system works in conjunction to render faces brighter. The white-balance system was equally tuned to improve rendering of skin tones regardless of complexion.

Narrowly missing to include all Premium Compact features due to its lack of viewfinder and having a single control-dial, this compact digital camera is quite capable. It offers full-manual controls, including Manual Focus and choice of 5 metering-patterns! A hybrid shutter inside spans shutter-speeds of 1/32000s to 30s, plus Bulb exposures of unspecified limit. ISO can be set anywhere from 100 to 12800, plus expands down with ISO 64 and 80 sensitivities. Several bracketing modes plus an Interval-Timer round off the ZV-1 capture feature-set. This camera also includes builtin WiFi and Bluetooth 4.1 connectivity.

The new Sony ZV-1 is scheduled to be available in June. Orders from the USA until June 28 will get a rare introductory discount of $50 from the suggested retail price of $800 USD. The suggested price of Canada is $1000 CAD. Both B&H Photo and Adorama are already accepting pre-orders with the discounted launch price.

Neocamera Blog Neocamera.com © Cybernium

2020.03.27

Nikon Z50 Review

Nikon originally launched the Z-platform for mirrorless cameras with a pair of Full-Frame models but followed shortly after with their first APS-C offering based on the same wide-diameter Z-mount. This is the third sensor-size Nikon implemented in mirrorless format and first to share a mount, giving the new Nikon Z50 a jump-start by naively supporting existing Z-mount lenses, although APS-C sensors allow more compact lenses while providing image-quality between between Four-Thirds and Full-Frame.

The Nikon Z50 is built around a 20 megapixels BSI-CMOS sensor with a builtin 209-Point Phase-Detect AF system. The camera features a hybrid shutter mechanism capable of 11 FPS continuous shooting and spanning a 1/4000-30s shutter-speed range, plus longer Bulb and Timed exposures. Using a fast processor, this mirrorless can record 4K Ultra-HD video at 30 FPS and 1080p Full-HD at 120 FPS.

To deliver a compact mirrorless with a large lens mount, Nikon omitted both image-stabilization and automated sensor-cleaning in the Z50. While not totally necessary, these missing features are a key differentiation between this camera and other mirrorless. Where this is most problematic is with lenses since native Z-mount lenses are so far designed for cameras with builtin image-stabilization, given that the Z7 and Z6 both feature state-of-the-art 5-axis sensor-shift mechanisms. At the same time, the Z50 manages to offer quite a few controls, including dual control-dials and customizable function buttons in a compact body. There is a modern 2.4 MP 0.39″ EVF with 0.68X magnification, 100% coverage and an Eye-Start Sensor for framing.

Neocamera just published an extensive in-depth review of the Nikon Z50. Read on to learn how this new mirrorless performs and compares. A side-by-side image-quality comparison between the Z50 and a Micro Four-Thirds mirrorless is uniquely included to show the compromise between state-of-the-art mirrorless cameras with these respective sensor-sizes.

Neocamera Blog Neocamera.com © Cybernium

2020.03.12

Today DxOMark published surprising rating of the the Sony Alpha A9 II that managed to beat its predecessor while using the very same sensor! The original A9 brought high-speed capabilities to mirrorless cameras that surpass what is possible for action-oriented DSLRs. Last fall, Sony released an update A9 II that is designed to improve workflow while being built on the same imaging pipeline as far as everyone knows.

According to the press release from DxOMark today, the Sony Alpha A9 II gets a score of 93 while its predecessor was ranked at 92. The rating for the second-generation model breaks down into a bit-depth of 25, a dynamic-range of 14 EV and sport score of 3434. The two A9 places 21st and 22nd, respectively, among full-frame digital cameras. Interestingly, all better-performing cameras feature Sony sensors while the highest-ranking Canon is quite a bit below with a score of 89.

While the difference in bit-depth is 0.1 and less than 100 for sports, the most interesting news is that the Sony A9 II manages to capture 0.7-stops more dynamic-range! Although the sensor is the same, it is likely that improvement in manufacturing technology lowered read-noise. Curiously though, gain magnifies noise more than before since the High-ISO score of the A9 II is lower than its predecessor.

The bottom line though is that these results are sufficiently close that there is no need upgrade from one to the next but the Sony Alpha A9 II remains an excellent performer.

Neocamera Blog Neocamera.com © Cybernium

2020.03.06

Premium brand of Digital Cameras and Optics Leica just announced a new Medium Format DSLR. This camera is designed for high-end professional photographers that prefer working using a Optical Viewfinder and demand top-notch image-quality that comes with a large Medium-Format sensor. This is obviously a very small market and even surprising that there is sufficient demand to build an entire new camera.

Leica S3

The Leica S3 is built around a 64 megapixels 45x30mm CMOS sensor. This gives a 3:2 aspect-ratio like the vast majority of DSLR with the same surface area as Medium Format sensors. The S3 sensor covers an ISO 100-50,000 sensitivity-range. Its sensor is the second highest -resolution one on the market and produces a huge amount of data which limits its maximum burst speed to 3 FPS.  This Medium Format DSLR is the first to capture Cinema 4K video, which it can at 24 FPS with 10-bit output.

Leica has a modern lens-mount dedicated to this DSLR platform, the S-mount that supports an imaging-circle with 0.8X crop-factor. There are currently 10 lenses available for S-mount covering a 24-180mm focal-range.  These modern AF lenses  are autofocused by a dedicated Phase-Detect AF sensor in the S3. This sensor is blocked by the mirror when using Live-View used for Video Capture, so the Leica S3 falls back to Contrast-Detect AF while filming.

As a DSLR, framing with the Leica S3 is optical via a 0.87X magnification OVF. This shows an equivalent magnification of  1.07X on Full-Frame, making this the largest OVF available. One unusual and surprising specification is that this huge OVF only shows 98% coverage. Every other professional digital camera on the market shows complete 100% coverage. The body of the S3 offers dual control-dials and is weatherproof.

The Leica S3 is scheduled to ship this month for $19,000 USD. B&H Photo are ready to take preorders. As always, this reputable store will not charge your credit card until the product ship while making sure that you will be among the first to receive it.

Neocamera Blog Neocamera.com © Cybernium

2020.03.05

DxOMark just published their ranking of the Sony Alpha A6600. This compact 24 megapixels Mirrorless Digital Camera is currently the APS-C flagship in the Sony lineup. Its 24 MP High-Speed CMOS sensor is mounted on a capable 5-axis image-stabilization system effective to 5-stops over hand-holding. The sensor itself features a 425-Point Phase-Detect AF system built-in. Combined with high-speed readout, this lets the Sony Alpha A6600 offer realtime eye-tracking AF. As one expected from a flagship camera, this one features dual control-dials and a builtin EVF with Eye-Start Sensor in a weatherproof body.

Sony Alpha A6600

Analysis of image-quality from the A6600 sensor gives it a DxOMark ranking of 82. This is a very good performance firmly within the range of the best APS-C cameras on the market. While this score falls shy of best-in-class, it the A6600 delivers really well on most fronts. Currently, the highest DxOMark ranking of an APS-C digital camera is the Nikon D7200, a 5-year-old 24 MP DSLR. Clearly, technological improvements have improving image-quality much slower than before. It’s a completely different story for different aspects such as speed but those are not relevant to the DxOMark ranking.

The Nikon D7200 reviewed here get a DxOMark of 87, while the best Sony APS-C mirrorless get a score for the Alpha A6500 and A6300 which are tied at 85. Those two cameras share the same 24 MP APS-C CMOS sensor with the A6500 adding stabilization, which only the A6600 also offers, among Sony APS-C mirrorless.  Most modern DSLRs perform closely with the entry-level D3400 pulling a score of 86. Only 3 points lower, the A6600 gets the same rank as the 8-year-old Pentax K-5 IIs reviewed here, still among the best performing DSLR of all times. Many cameras from 2012-2014 perform around this level, showing that there are physical limits for this sensor-size.

DxOMark scoring is made of 3 constituents that combine with as a weighted average. Each component though is more relevant to a certain type of photography, which is why it is often more important to look deeply into the breakdown. The first component is bit-depth which measure color-precision (NOTE: this is different from color-accuracy). The bit-depth component of the A6600 is a respectable 23.8 bits-per-pixel. Although this particular score pulls this camera down overall, its impact is extremely difficult to notice.

The second component is Dynamic-Range which measures the amount of contrast in a scene that can be captured by a single exposure of the camera. Here, the Sony Alpha A6600 manages 13.4 EV which is actually a major setback for this sensor-size. The most dynamic-range an APS-C camera can capture is 14.6 EV, again achieved  by the D7200. This exceptional DSLR is an entire half-stop better than its nearest competitor, the Pentax K-5 IIs which scores 14.1 EV. Theoretically, dynamic-range is limited mostly be sensor-size yet all APS-C cameras that capture over 14-stops are 4 to 8 years old! This suggests that additional circuitry to make these sensors faster and add Phase-Detect is causing an increase in noise-floor.

Where the new Sony Alpha A6600 delivers a best-in-class performance is in the third Sports component. This is a measure of High-ISO performance which the A6600 clocks at 1497, surpassing the D7500 DSLR and Sony A6xxx series by a small margin.  The implication is that high sensitivities show less noise than any other APS-C camera.

Overall, this is very good rating for the Sony A6600 which remains one of the optimally-balanced mirrorless cameras on the market by its combination of quality, feature and size. This confirms the dominance of APS-C over smaller sensors when it comes to image-quality, while also showing that true image-quality improvement is only available on Full-Frame and Medium Format cameras which are all larger and heavier, plus those need correspondingly larger and heavier lenses.

Neocamera Blog Neocamera.com © Cybernium

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