Category Archives: Photo

Sigma dp2 Quattro Review: Captures Images Brimming With Colour

Sigma dp2 Quattro Review: Captures Images Brimming With Colour

Sigma is a Japanese family-owned business that makes lenses for DSLRs and micro four-thirds cameras, proprietary sensor technology that is starkly different from what the industry uses, and of course, cameras. It operates in a niche segment that caters to imaging experts who want to go beyond established ideas of photography and capture images that look incredibly lifelike. Whether Sigma’s strategy works or not is a debate for another day, but it is definitely making some headway in this niche space.

Sigma’s latest compact camera in India is the dp2 Quattro, which has a design that is whacky and unusual when compared to the dp2 Merrill. It also improves upon its predecessor in the specifications department by using an upgraded version of Sigma’s proprietary Foveon X3 sensor.

There are three cameras in the dp Quattro series, each with a different fixed-focal-length lens. The dp2 Quattro (Standard) is meant for basic photography and has a 45mm lens, whereas the dp1 Quattro (Wide) with its 28mm lens is more suited for wide angle shots. If you want to capture subjects slightly far away, the mid-tele version of the dp3 Quattro makes more sense because it boasts of a 75mm lens.

We took the dp2 Quattro out for a spin and put it through our battery of regular tests, and had some fun with it at the same time as well.

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Design
Breaking all conventional camera design tropes, the Sigma dp2 Quattro’s structure and shape stands out. The width of 161.4mm makes this oddball camera almost as wide as a Sony Playstation Vita portable gaming console. Also, for a compact digital camera, the dp2 Quattro is definitely not pocketable. A protective case, not provided in the box, is essential if you intend to carry it around. However, you don’t have to worry about the build quality because it is almost entirely made of metal and feels adequately sturdy.

A big lens peeks out from the front of the dp2 Quattro. On the right side of the dp2 Quattro, the hand grip curves inwards which is quite unlike regular DSLRs and bridge cameras. The slightly angled front allows users to grip the camera easily. Sigma provides a small rubber pad to place your fingers on where it is angled. The rear doesn’t have any such pad. Instead, the area between the monitor and the hand grip which also houses a few controls, has a rubberised coating which acts a decent substitute.

Owing to the nature of the design, the camera is suited only for two-handed operation and it takes a little getting used to at first. It is almost impossible to use the camera with one hand because it is lens-heavy. A tough rubber flap on the left edge of the dp2 Quattro conceals the Micro-USB port and microSD card slot. There are lanyard loops on both sides, and Sigma also bundles a lanyard/strap in the box.

A hotshoe for attaching accessories such as an external flash or an electronic viewfinder (EVF) is present on the top, in line with the lens. On the right of the top edge you can find the power button, a button to switch between the available modes, and a shutter release surrounded by ring that can be used to zoom in to captured photographs. Another dial sits on top of the extended hand grip and can be used to change options the settings menus.

Most of the focussing options are mapped to two buttons behind the hand grip; one lets you switch between manual and automatic focus, while the other one helps you set the focus point when focussing manually. Placed vertically between the handgrip and the LCD monitor, there are four buttons (from top to bottom) for: switching the display on/off, quick settings, locking AE/deleting images, and the main menu. The View/Playback button is squeezed in between the edge of the LCD monitor and the menu button. The battery compartment and the tripod socket are at the bottom of the camera.

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Specifications and software
The most important component inside the dp2 Quattro is its Foveon X3 sensor. It is radically different from sensors used in other cameras. It is important to know the differences so as to figure out how a compact camera can capture images that can rival those taken by a full-frame DSLR.

DSLR and compact cameras made by popular brands such as Nikon, Canon, Sony, Olympus and the like use CMOS or CCD image sensors. Typically, a CMOS sensor (more widely used) has a single layer of silicon to capture light. Using something known as a Bayer filter, the layer of silicon is divided into red, blue and green light receptors. After light is captured, the camera’s image processor converts it into an RGB image. The Bayer filter mosaic pattern is such that 50 percent is dedicated for green, with 25 percent each for the other two colours.

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In contrast, the Foveon X3 sensor has three layers of silicon for blue, green and red colour receptors. They are stacked up against each other with the blue layer on top, red on the bottom and green sandwiched in between. There is a reason for this as arrangement as well – each of these light bands has a certain wavelength which in turn determines how far the light can penetrate the silicon layer – blue light doesn’t penetrate very far. In the latest iteration of the Foveon X3 sensor, Sigma has added an extra layer on top of these silicon layers that captures luminance or greyscale information as well. This eliminates the need for a low-pass filter, which is used by cameras with CMOS sensors to reduce artifacting such as moire patterns.

So, Sigma’s 39-megapixel Foveon X3 sensor coupled with the new True III image processing engine can capture richer colours without losing details. We’ll test that in our performance review of the camera.

sigma_dp2_quattro_camerasample_2_final_ndtv.jpgThe 45mm lens can only get as close as 28cm to a subject, which is not good for close-up macro shots. It has four shooting modes: Program, Shutter speed priority, Aperture priority and Manual. The camera has a ton of colour modes but the Cinema and Monochrome options are the most exciting of the lot. It shoots photos in 3:2 X3F RAW format and you can process them using the Sigma Photo Pro 6 image processing software. Unfortunately, the software can really test your patience. On the flipside, .JPEG images captured by the camera are of fairly good quality. The lack of basic features like a video mode or image stabilisation might be a deterrent for a a few potential buyers. sigma_dp2_quattro_rear_ndtv.jpg

Performance
Looking past the technical prowess of the sensor and judging the captured test images just on face value, we were blown away by the results in daylight. In conditions where we didn’t have to go beyond ISO 200, the captured images had impressive level of details, and colours were incomparable. Take a close look at the image of the vegetable cart below and you will see how well the camera handled the different gradients of red. Colour fidelity around the edges of the image is also really well maintained.

sigma_dp2_quattro_camerasample_1_final_ndtv.jpgThe lens manages to keep barrel distortion to a minimum as well. Also, you’ll be hard pressed to find chromatic aberration of any sort. We are really disappointed by the fact that the camera cannot go very close to a subject and capture good macros. Every time we tried, we ended up with more depth of field than we would have liked. If you want to have some fun with the camera, try the Cinema and Monochrome modes, in which the camera captured a level of depth that we’ve never scene before.
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(Click to view sample cinema mode image in full size)
In our stringent ISO test, the camera performed well up to ISO 400 but from ISO 800 onwards, noise started creeping in. Beyond ISO 800, even the fidelity of the colours started degrading. This is where we realise things are not all hunky dory; the dp2 Quattro performed poorly in low-light conditions. Also, the lack of proper image stabilisation means that you will end up with a lot of blurry shots if the camera isn’t stable.

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The shot-to-shot performance is unsatisfactory as the camera takes a lot of time to focus and set up shots. On the other hand, quite surprisingly, it is quick to capture images once the focus is locked. Sigma claims that its 1200mAh battery will last for 200 shots on a single charge. According to our testing, this claim is pretty accurate but that is still not enough if you are on an outdoor trip. Thankfully, Sigma bundles an extra battery in the box.

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(Click to view sample close-up image in full size)

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(Click to view sample monochromatic image in full size)
Verdict
The Sigma dp2 Quattro costs a whopping Rs. 79,990 in India. The fact that it is a lot of money for a compact camera feels quite like an understatement actually. This compact camera cannot do video, doesn’t have image stabilisation, and images taken in low light are not too great either. In addition considering all the cameras in the dp Quattro range have fixed focal-length lenses (and no way of changing them), if you want to shoot wide or telephoto images you’d have to purchase three different cameras!

Despite all that, the dp2 Quattro is makes for a great tech demo and will definitely grab the attention of the niche audience that Sigma is targeting – photographers and industry experts who intend to capture richer, more accurate colours. It makes for a great camera to do street photography as well. A good alternative to the dp2 Quattro is the Sony RX100 III, which doesn’t boast of an insanely powerful image sensor like the Foveon X3 but more than makes up for with its features and its consistent picture quality.

Price: Rs.79,990
Pros

  • Foveon X3 sensor is phenomenal
  • Great colour reproduction in daylight shots
  • Good build quality

Cons

  • No video
  • No image stabilisation of any sort
  • Slow shot-to-shot performance
  • Not great for low-light photography

Ratings (Out of 5)

  • Build/Design: 4
  • Image Quality: 3.5
  • Video: NA
  • Battery Life: 3
  • Value For money: 3
  • Overall: 3.5

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Original Article

Canon PowerShot SX60 HS Review: Big Zoom, Average Performance

Canon PowerShot SX60 HS Review: Big Zoom, Average Performance

For those who don’t want to deal with the learning curve generally associated with DSLR cameras, a high-end compact makes the most sense. While these cameras cannot actually capture DSLR-quality images, they pack in a ton of features for a price that is more pocket-friendly.
Some of these cameras have SLR-like designs and amazing zooming capabilities. We have with us the Canon PowerShot SX60 HS, which is the world’s first compact camera with a 65x optical zoom lens. Canon also adds the latest Digic 6 processor into the mix. Let’s find out if the SX60 HS can wow us with its image quality.

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Design and screen
Thanks to the really long optical zoom lens, the Canon PowerShot SX60 HS feels heavier and chunkier than most other super-zoom cameras in the market today, including its predecessor the SX50 HS. It has dimensions of 127.6×92.6×14.3mm and weighs exactly 650g, which makes it heavier than a few SLRs with basic 18-35mm lenses. This weight shouldn’t be much of a problem because the bridge design actually makes it easier to hold and you will be using it with two hands for shooting images anyway.

The SX60 HS looks just like the much smaller Canon PowerShot SX520 HS. Its big body also includes a variangle LCD that flips out sideways, and an electronic viewfinder (EVF). The camera is mostly made of tough plastic and only the outer cover of the lens area is covered in aluminium. There are buttons on the lens barrel to seek and lock focus, which assist users in framing a shot. On the top of the camera there is a built-in flash that pops up automatically in low light conditions. Behind it lies the speaker. The power button, shortcut button, selection dial and mode dial are in a cluster near the hand grip. The shutter button, which is surrounded by a zoom lever, has decent travel. On the other hand, the mode dial feels too stiff.

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The left side of the camera has the microphone and a jack for an external microphone. A tough rubber flap protects the USB, A/V out and HDMI ports. The compartment for the battery and the memory card is on the bottom along with the tripod socket. Beside the LCD screen on the rear one can find the settings button surrounded by a navigation pad. Each button is mapped to a particular function – Wi-Fi (up), display (down), flash (right), and macro (left). Below this, there are buttons for the menu and for setting up a connection with a mobile device, while above it one can find the exposure compensation button that also doubles up as the delete button.

The playback button is placed above the LCD next to the EVF. There is a tough rubber finger rest on the rear too, and beside it lie two buttons for video recording and autofocus frame selection. We weren’t particularly happy with the travel of all these buttons because they are flush with the body and feel soft to touch.

Both the LCD and the EVF have approximately 921k effective pixels on screen. The 3-inch LCD is bright, crisp and accurately saturated. Even the sunlight legibility is pretty good. While we appreciate Canon’s idea of going with an EVF, which was also present in its predecessor SX50HS, the over-saturated image quality is a big letdown and in low-light situations the EVF is slow to respond to changes in the focus area.

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Specifications and features
The SX60 HS has a 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor that can shoot 16.1-megapixel photographs. This sensor is used even in smaller compact cameras and we had really hoped that this camera would have a bigger sensor instead. Canon has implemented the new DIGIC 6 processor which might help a user capture detailed images even at maximum zoom. Speaking of maximum zoom, the SX60 HS’s lens has a focal length range of 21mm to 1365mm (65x optical zoom). This shows that apart from improving the telephoto end of the lens, Canon has made it possible to shoot wider photos as well.

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The lens has a maximum aperture of f/3.4 at the widest and f/6.5 at the telephoto end, which is not great for a camera that costs as much as the SX60 HS does. For some reason, Canon has shaved the top end of the ISO sensitivity range down to ISO 3200 on the SX60 HS, compared to ISO 6400 on its predecessor. Just like the PowerShot SX520 HS we reviewed a while ago, the SX60 HS has a setting that allows it to lock on to faraway subjects using the Framing Assist (Lock) function, and thereby hold focus.

The camera can shoot 1080p video at 60fps in .mp4 format. Canon also provides the capability to connect to smart devices using Near-Field Communications protocol over Wi-Fi. Canon claims that the battery housed inside the SX60 HS will last long enough for approximately 340 images to be captured in regular mode and 450 in economy mode.

The shooting modes include two custom modes that allow users to store their own presets. The other modes are Manual, Aperture priority, Shutter priority, Portrait, Hybrid auto, Auto, Creative shot, and Sports. Apart from this the SX60 HS has a ton of scene modes, a few creative filters, and movie modes.

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As usual, the interface is easy to navigate and use. There is absolutely no learning curve which makes shooting with the SX60 HS a delight. Even so, we would have liked the physical buttons to have had better travel.

Performance
From startup to setting up a shot is actually a really smooth and fast experience on the SX60 HS. In daylight, we found that the lens can focus on the intended subject accurately and rapidly without any hiccups. The shot-to-shot speed is also pretty good, in daylight.

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(Click for full size)
However things got troublesome in low-light conditions, when the lens started finding it difficult to focus on subjects. Matters got even worse when we started zooming in. It is advisable that you use a tripod to shoot at the maximum zoom level, because we really couldn’t get a single non-blurry shot when we held the camera in our hands.

Before we get into the actual image quality we’d urge our readers to view the images in full size (or right click and save them to view them at least 50 percent magnification) because they might look deceptively good as thumbnails.

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(Click for full size)
In daylight testing, shots had warm, natural colours that were pleasing to the eye but we noticed that the details weren’t as sharp as those in photos captured with other Canon PowerShot cameras we’ve used in the past. Take a look at the image of the dog below and you’ll notice that the camera tends to slightly soften images. We also noticed a bit of barrel distortion around the edges of our test images, though it wasn’t too distracting enough to be a big problem. Thankfully, Canon manages to keep purple fringing at bay. The camera can go as close as 0cm to a subject and we found that it didn’t lose details.

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(Click for full size)
In our stringent ISO test, the camera captured good details up to ISO 400 but anything beyond that was almost unusable. That actually says a lot about what we can expect in low light.

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We were pretty disappointed with the low-light performance. As we mentioned earlier, we had trouble focussing on a subject. The images we captured had a lot of noise, which doesn’t reflect well on a camera that costs so much. It is surprising that even the new, powerful Digic 6 image processor can’t do much to salvage the situation.

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(Click to view low-light sample in full size)
The zoom motor is not too loud, and zooms are smooth. This makes video capturing quite fun. The fact that the quality of the captured 1080p video is really good also helps. The SX60 HS’s battery actually lasted for a lot more than the 340 shots that Canon rated it at. We managed to capture 377 images before it died on us, which is great.

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(Click for full size)
Verdict
The Canon PowerShot SX60 HS costs around Rs. 32,000 in the market at the moment. This is a lot of money for a super-zoom camera. Looking at the features it offers, the asking price is actually warranted. However, we are not entirely satisfied with its performance, and we think that the much older SX50 HS is still a better buy.
Pros

  • 65x optical zoom lens
  • Packed to the hilt with features
  • Smooth zooming
  • Good battery life

Cons

  • Average overall image quality
  • Below average low-light performance

Ratings (Out of 5)

  • Build/Design: 3.5
  • Image Quality: 3
  • Video: 4
  • Battery Life: 4.5
  • Value For money: 3
  • Overall: 3.5

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Original Article

Canon PowerShot SX520 HS Review: A Worthy Purchase

Canon PowerShot SX520 HS Review: A Worthy Purchase

Say what you want about smartphones eating into the sales of compact cameras, but manufacturers are still launching dozens of models each year. The sheer difference in quality of the sensors inside digital cameras is enough to justify the purchase, especially if you intend to print pictures for memories’ sake.

Bridge cameras are more advanced versions of compact cameras, quite literally trying to ‘bridge’ the gap between compact cameras and chunky DSLRs. These provide a nice balance between size and functionality, at affordable prices.

We have with us one such bridge camera – the newly launched Canon PowerShot SX520 HS, which for some odd reason is not even listed on Canon’s India website at the time of writing this review. It is the successor to the PowerShot SX510 HS. Canon has bumped the optical zoom up to 42x on this model compared to the 30x on the PowerShot SX510 HS. Also, the PowerShot SX520 HS now has the Digic 4+ image processor in place of the Digic 4. Let’s find out if this update is worth it.

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Design
The Canon PowerShot SX520 HS looks like any bridge camera, only bigger than most of them. It is 120mm wide and 81.7mm tall, which is a good 10mm wider and 5.7mm taller than the Nikon Coolpix L830. However, this means there is adequate space between the lens and the extended handgrip area, which helps in gripping it better. Add to that, the moulded rubber covering the handgrip makes it easier to hold. Note that the camera is still much smaller than a DSLR. Our only gripe with the hard plastic body of the camera is that it looks just a little cheap.

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On the top of the camera lies the flash, which flips open automatically in certain modes but can also be opened manually. There are two microphones for sound recording behind the flash unit. On either side are mounts for the strap. Canon provides a lens cap which is attached to the body by a lanyard, so it can’t be lost easily. This is great to have but having the lens cap dangling to one side all the time is rather irritating. We leave it to users to decide if they want to use it or not.

The lens barrel houses two framing assist buttons – one for seeking, which was also present in the PowerShot SX510 HS, and a new one for locking on a particular subject. The shutter button is surrounded by a zoom ring. The button has great travel and feels reassuring to click. Also on the top, one can find the power button, a selection dial, and a dial for switching between the various modes of the camera. The placement of these physical controls is convenient and it won’t take users too long to master them.

The bottom of the camera has a tripod socket and a compartment that houses the battery and memory card. Canon provides an 8GB memory card free with the device and advises buyers to ask for a carry case. The left edge has a speaker for playing back videos. A rubber flap covers the HDMI and A/V out ports on the right edge.

On the back of the camera is the screen, with a bevy of buttons to its right. Each button on the navigation pad doubles up as a toggle for the flash (right), focus modes (left), ISO settings (up) and display mode (bottom). The circular navigation pad doesn’t have good travel and we had to be more deliberate when using it . Bang in the center is a button for functions/settings. Above the pad is the playback button, while two buttons for drive mode and menu are below it. The video record and delete buttons can be found on a curve on the upper right corner of the camera.

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Specifications and features
The 16-megapixel PowerShot SX520 HS has a 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor. It has a focal range of 24mm (wide) and 1008mm (telephoto). This means that the camera has an optical zoom of 42x. In comparison, the PowerShot 510 HS had a 12-megapixel 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor with 30x optical zoom. Canon also adds something called ZoomPlus which can extend it to up to 84x (digital zoom), claiming that there is very little loss of detail. We shall test this in our performance section. This new model uses the upgraded Digic 4+ image processor.

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At its widest angle, the lens has a maximum aperture of f/3.4 and at the telephoto end it can attain f/6.0. This camera has a very impressive macro focussing range of 0 inches in certain modes. Weirdly, Canon has removed the ISO 80 setting and now the lowest end of the ISO spectrum is ISO 100, going up to ISO 3200. It has Evaluative, Center-weighted average and Spot metering methods. There are also a ton of shooting modes including M (Manual), Av (Aperture priority), Tv (Shutter priority), P (Program), Live View Control, Hybrid Auto, Auto, Creative Shot, SCN (scene), Creative Filters and Movie.

There are quite a few filters as well but unfortunately there is no mode that can shoot panoramic images. Users will have to stitch them together using desktop software. The camera can also capture Full-HD (1080p) videos at 30fps. One feature that is sorely missing with the PowerShot SX520 HS is Wi-Fi, especially since it was present on its predecessor. Also, the camera doesn’t have the option to store images in RAW format.

Canon has implemented a 3-inch TFT LCD which has a 461k dot resolution. This screen has great viewing angles, good legibility in sunlight, and accurate colour reproduction. However, it is not very sharp and we would have really liked it if Canon had gone with a higher resolution. The screen doesn’t tilt like the one on Nikon’s Coolpix L830, which also would have been a nice feature to have.

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Canon’s software is easy to understand with most of the functions being quite accessible. For example, the deeper functions such as toggling Digital Zoom on and off, reviewing an image after shooting, and other general things like setting the date and time, can be accessed at any time using the Menu button. Text on screen is adequately large and easy to read as well.

Performance
The 42x optical zoom lens is not the best in class but is more than enough for most users. It is easy to even spot craters the moon which such level of zoom. We found that keeping the camera stable at maximum zoom is slightly difficult when holding it without a tripod, and to negate this problem Canon provides the Framing Assist (Lock) function which can be used to lock on to faraway subjects, and thereby hold focus. This feature did manage to reduce some shake but was not completely effective. We still ended up with a lot of blurred shots.

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In our ISO tests we noticed that small details such as the nick on the printed text starts becoming indistinct at ISO 800, and noise starts creeping in too. Still, images don’t look as bad as they did in our experience with the Nikon Coolpix L830. Take a look at the samples below.

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We captured lots of shots in all conditions and noticed that colours in daylight were punchier than what our eyes saw in real life. This makes images pop and is quite unlike the performance of most Canon cameras. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as some people actually find this more attractive. Additionally, it negates the need to artificially enhance colours in dull images.

In our testing we noticed that the images exhibited some noise when seen at original size (100 percent zoom). Around edges of some leaves we noticed chromatic aberration as well. The lens can go as close as 0 inches to a subject, and this creates some really dramatic results in Macro mode. Details and colours are accurate, and we really liked the results.

There is a unique Live Mode in which the camera allows users to adjust the brightness, colour saturation and tonal quality of images directly on the camera itself. It looks pretty artificial and we can confirm that the results are not accurate. It is best that users stay away from this mode.

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In our low-light testing we noticed that the lens and sensor were able to handle such situations, but like we noticed in our earlier tests, shooting above ISO 400 means that users will have to deal with noise. The flash is really powerful but images taken with it don’t look that realistic. In our video testing, we captured a 1080p video of moving traffic and noticed that there was absolutely no screen tearing at all. The colours and details were really good too. The zoom mechanism was pretty smooth as well.

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(24mm wide angle sample. Click for full size)
We noticed that by default the camera had a preview time of 4 seconds. We advise users to turn it off for better, faster shot-to-shot performance, which we felt was just about average. Canon claims that the battery in this camera can last 220 shots in normal mode and 290 shots in a special Eco mode, but we noticed that it easily lasted us much more than that in our time with it, which was great.

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Verdict
Canon’s new PowerShot SX520 HS makes it easy to shoot photographs and is indeed a great travel companion for novice photographers thanks to the hand-holding it offers in the form of features such as Framing Assist. Save for the absence of shooting in RAW, the camera also provides a ton of options for experienced photo studio to play around with. However, do bear in mind that the colours are punchy in captured images, and you might need to invest in a tripod to make the most of low-light situations and to be able to use the 42x zoom lens to its full capacity.

The camera has a retail price of Rs. 17,995 but is already available on an e-commerce website for less. Even at the original price, the camera has a ton of features which justifies its cost. Its direct competition in the same price range is the Nikon Coolpix L830. Pick up the Nikon if you want better low-light performance and an outer shell in jazzy colours, but otherwise the Canon PowerShot SX520 HS is the better bet.


Pros

  • 42x optical zoom lens
  • Truckload of features
  • Good macro performance

Cons

  • Slight noise even in daylight shots
  • Not the best design

Ratings (Out of 5)

  • Build/Design: 3
  • Image Quality: 4
  • Video: 4
  • Battery Life: 4
  • Value For money: 4
  • Overall: 4

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Original Article

Nikon Coolpix P340 Review: Slim, Fast and Powerful

Nikon Coolpix P340 Review: Slim, Fast and Powerful

The ‘P’ in Nikon’s Coolpix P-series of cameras stands for ‘performance’ and true to their name they are really powerful. Last year’s Coolpix P330 had a compact body and a fast f/1.8 lens and this year, the company has introduced a slightly faster f/1.7 lens and a new control ring with the upgraded Coolpix P340. The P340 has the same slim chassis and 1/1.8-inch CMOS sensor as its predecessor. Also, it seems as though Nikon has got the price right. Let’s see if the Coolpix stands up to our initial positive impression.

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Look and Feel
Nikon hasn’t strayed too much from the tried-and-tested design of its predecessor. The only physical addition to the body is in the form of a control ring around the lens. Otherwise, it still features the same sleek matte black body with dimensions of 103.0×58.3×32.0mm (minus the bits that stick out). It is also available in white but that version doesn’t look as good as the black one. The Coolpix P340 is easy to hold in one hand which makes for hassle-free operation. Moreover, its weight 194g makes it slightly lighter than the P330. We had no problem slipping it into our jeans pocket.

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The Coolpix P340 has quite a minimalistic look for an advanced point-and-shoot, which we quite like. On the front, besides the lens, are a function button for quick access to oft-used modes, a self-timer lamp, and a slight ridge for better grip. The mode dial, command dial, power switch and shutter release buttons are on the top (which is the most crowded area of the camera) along with the recessed flash module on the extreme left. The left edge has the flash pop-up control and a hole for the lanyard. On the right edge is the matching lanyard hole and a rubber flap that covers the Mini-HDMI and the Micro-USB ports. The back of the camera is mostly dominated by its screen and, to its right are the buttons to record video, review photos, go to the menu, and delete. There is also a multi-selector ring around the ‘OK’ button. The tripod socket and a compartment housing the battery and SD card are accessed from the bottom.

Specifications and Software
Unlike other cameras in this price range, this advanced point-and-shoot has a 1/1.7-inch CMOS sensor and can shoot images at 12.2 megapixels. The high aperture speed of f/1.8 at wide angle is definitely a plus. The F-number extends up to f/5.6. However, the lens doesn’t go very wide – it can go from 24mm to 120mm on the telephoto end. Users who want better zoom capabilities are advised to look elsewhere (read: super-zoom cameras).

The Coolpix P340 has a ton of shooting modes including Auto, Scene (Scene auto selector, Portrait, Landscape, Sports, Night portrait, Party/indoor, Beach, Snow, Sunset, Dusk/dawn, Night landscape, Close-up, Food, Museum , Fireworks show, Black and white copy, Backlighting, Easy panorama, Pet portrait), Special Effects, Program, Shutter priority, Aperture priority and Manual. Nikon also gives users the flexibility of creating their own modes in ‘User settings’. The camera can take pictures in the ISO range of 80-6400 and moreover, the Coolpix P340 can go up to Hi 1 (equivalent to ISO 12800) when used in Program, Shutter priority, Aperture priority or Manual modes. In a special High ISO Monochrome mode available as a special effects feature, the camera can go up to Hi 2 (equivalent to ISO 25600).

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There is no fancy tiltable LCD, but the 3-inch wide-angle panel on the rear has a resolution of 921,000 dots. The viewing angles are really good and there is absolutely no problem in using it under direct sunlight. It is, however, slightly over-saturated.

We mentioned the presence of a control ring around the lens earlier. While it is easy to navigate the system, Nikon has made a mistake by pushing some of the most important functions, such as the ISO settings, deep inside the menu. You could configure the Function button to bring up a particular option, but users might not be comfortable. Otherwise, the GUI is really fast and there is absolutely no stutter while navigating through the settings.

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Performance
We were pleasantly surprised by the performance of the Nikon Coolpix P340. After testing it under various conditions we found that this camera is a competent and fast shooter. In our ISO test, the Coolpix P340 started to lose details only at ISO 1600, which is good. Take a look at the small dot on the top left of each image to notice the deteriorating levels.

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We took the camera out for a walk and noticed that in daylight, the lens has a knack of letting just the right amount of light in. If focussed properly, one can easily capture some stunning silhouettes. The captured details are really good and colours are close to natural. However, they will look a bit muted for those who are unfortunately too used to overprocessing. We loved the macro mode as well. It can get really close to subjects and capture amazing details.

The icing on the cake is the fast lens. The Coolpix P340 can focus on a subject really quickly, letting you capture emotions and expressions. The only real problem will be the time wasted on configuring the right settings before taking a shot.

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The Coolpix P340 is a decent performer in low light as well. The captured images had only very little noise and the camera captured a lot of detail too. Vibration reduction is not sufficient for slow-shutter shots. Also, the light weight of the camera doesn’t actually help when you place it on a flat surface since hitting the shutter button causes the whole body to shake. We suggest using a tripod since it is the best way to capture decent shots in low light. The flash is fairly powerful but it makes photos look slightly artificial.

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Not everything is hunky dory for the Nikon Coolpix P340 as the quality of 1080p video was not up to the mark. We noticed intermittent screen tears creeping in. There is a bit of barrel distortion which makes videos slightly warped. Additionally, the battery life is below average as we managed to shoot only around 199 shots on a full charge, which is close to Nikon’s claim of 220 shots. Your mileage will vary depending on the settings used, but you might still want to invest in an extra battery. There is a silver lining in the form of Micro-USB connectivity for charging and data transfer.

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Verdict
The official price of the Nikon Coolpix P340 is Rs. 18,950 but various e-commerce outlets have it listed at discounted prices at the time of writing this review. Even at its official price, the P340 is a great bet for anyone who is looking for an advanced point-and-shoot with great performance. If you already own a Nikon Coolpix P330 you might want to stick with it a little longer. Also, if you want to use a camera for recording videos often, you might want to consider its closest competitor, the Sony DSC-WX350, which retails for around Rs. 17,000 but has a much slower f/3.5 lens.

Price: Rs. 18,950
Pros

  • Fast f/1.7-inch lens
  • Good low-light performance
  • Eye-catching minimalist design

Cons

  • Video performance is not up to the mark
  • Battery life is below average

Ratings (Out of 5)

  • Build/Design: 4
  • Image Quality: 4
  • Video: 3
  • Battery Life: 3
  • Value For money: 4
  • Overall: 4

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Original Article

Canon 7DmarkII revelada na Photokina

Canon 7DmarkII

It’s been five years since Canon first introduced its universally lauded 7D camera, which continues to be among the best choices for professionally minded photographers and VideoVigilancia alike. Time waits for no DSLR, however, and now the first image of a purported 7D Mark II has emerged out of Japan alongside a set of specs. At the heart of the camera is an upgraded 20-megapixel CMOS sensor, which is combined with a new 65-point autofocus system and dual DIGIC 6 image processors. It’ll be the quality of that new sensor, rather than any of the numbers surrounding it, that will decide whether this Mark II model lives up to and extends the legacy of the original. Looking at the weather-sealed exterior of the new camera gives little hint of the changes within. It seems to have been left pretty much unchanged.

This new launch appears to be timed to coincide with the big Photokina show coming up in Germany next week. Taking place every two years, Photokina is an event that camera makers anticipate months in advance, and it stands to reason that Canon would use it to update one of its best-loved cameras. This year’s gathering will likely be much richer on high-quality mirrorless cameras than in the past, and Canon’s more pressing concern may well be to figure out a proper response to the excellent new compact shooters from the likes of Fujifilm and Sony.

Canon 7DmarkII