Tag Archives: cameras

Microsoft HoloLens: First Impressions

Microsoft HoloLens: First Impressions

Microsoft didn't use skydivers or stunt cyclists to introduce what it hopes will be the next big leap in computing technology. Instead, with its new HoloLens headset, the company is offering real-world examples to show how you might use three-dimensional digital images – or holograms – in daily life.

And that might be what it takes to get people to buy a computer they wear on their face.

I got a brief peek at what wearing the HoloLens could be like in different scenarios: performing a simple home repair, pretending to be a scientist studying the surface of Mars and exploring a colorful, animated game that added new dimensions to an unremarkable room.

Microsoft unveiled HoloLens at its headquarters this week, on the same day the company touted its upcoming Windows 10 software release. What I saw of the device seems unfinished, but it shows potential.

A crowded field
Some of the world's biggest tech companies are working on wearable devices that aim to create realistic, three-dimensional representations of alien worlds or imaginary creatures.

Google's computerized eyewear, Glass, isn't technically a virtual-reality device, but it shows the challenges of winning consumer acceptance. Google introduced Glass in 2012 with a Vegas-style stunt that included mountain bikes and skydivers landing on the roof of a convention center. Last week, it suspended consumer sales after many people balked at the notion of wearing a digital camera and Internet-connected device on their head.

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Meanwhile, Google has invested in a secretive start-up, Magic Leap, that's working on virtual reality. Samsung and Oculus VR – which Facebook bought for $2 billion last year – are developing gaming headsets that essentially block the wearer's view and replace it with an imaginary world. Smaller companies have developed headsets for industrial or business uses.

Microsoft's HoloLens was built by engineers who created the Kinect motion-sensing system for Xbox games. It projects a realistic image on a screen in front of your eyes, but the screen is transparent, so you can still see what's in front of you. The holograms respond to gestures and spoken commands, detected by cameras and other sensors in the device.

Walking on Mars
The most striking demonstration involved a project in which Microsoft partnered with scientists from Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. They've created a vividly realistic, three-dimensional landscape by knitting together photographs and data collected by Nasa's Curiosity rover.

When I moved my head, the landscape shifted as if I was actually walking on the planet. I peered under a rock outcropping. I was joined by a digital avatar, playing the part of a JPL scientist. We spoke and used hand gestures to place digital markers on different rocks, in an exercise simulating how scientists might use the system to direct the rover's exploration.

A more whimsical demonstration involved the Microsoft-owned "Minecraft" game. In a small living room, the HoloLens projected three-dimensional structures and animated creatures on an actual coffee table. I summoned imaginary tools and blasted a simulated hole in the room's actual wall – and was surprised to see cartoon bats fly out.

hololens_minecraft_microsoft_official.jpg

But another exercise brought home how useful the gadget might be. I was guided through the process of installing an electric light switch. I saw a woman who showed me a series of sketches and talked me through each step. She was working in real time in another room, drawing sketches on a tablet computer and using Skype to talk with me. I could see the sketches, super-imposed over an actual wall outlet and protruding wires, while her face appeared to one side.

What's the potential?
Microsoft engineer Alex Kipman said the company has built programming tools so outside developers can use Windows 10 to create more holographic apps. Kipman called HoloLens "the next step" in moving "beyond today's digital borders." Meanwhile, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said virtual reality will be the next major wave in computing and communications.

Microsoft executives talked about other uses – from helping a surgeon learn a new operating technique to designing objects for 3D printers. I could also see applications in the kitchen, classrooms and retail shops.

But it's not yet clear when HoloLens will be out, or how much it will cost. While executives showed off a sleek prototype, they used a heavier, clunkier version for up-close demonstrations. It had cumbersome straps, wires and extra gear stowed in a pouch around the wearer's neck.

Still, if Microsoft can produce a working product at a reasonable price, it might help move computing to another level.

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Original article from NDTV Gadgets

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.

canon_sx60_hs_evf_ndtv.jpg

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.

canon_sx60_hs_left_ndtv.jpg

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.

canon_sx60_hs_right_ndtv.jpg

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.

canon_sx60_hs_lcd_ndtv.jpg

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.

canon_sx60_hs_camera_sample_2_ndtv.JPG

(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

Onida i4G1 Review

Onida i4G1 Review

Onida is a well-known name in the Indian electronics market, and one that is highly associated with televisions. One of India’s earliest home-grown manufacturers of TV sets, the company started its operations in the early 1980s in Mumbai and has now grown to become a respected name in home appliances alongside its traditional strength base in televisions and home entertainment.

As with any company looking to grow, Onida has made its way into the competitive but highly lucrative smartphone industry. The company’s current flagship device is the low-cost Onida i4G1. Priced at Rs. 8,999, the Onida i4G1 hopes to offer budget users a quality Indian option with good specifications. Whether or not it lives up to expectations is the question that we hope to answer with our review.

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Look and feel
When it comes to looks, the Onida i4G1 doesn’t break any new ground and is far outmatched by lower priced competitors. At the front, the phone looks plain and ordinary, with no real styling or form to speak of. The Android keys are off-screen and capacitive, while the front camera sits to the left of the earpiece. We did however like the fact that the capacitive keys are backlit. The device comes with a factory-fitted screen protector film, which had been poorly applied on our review unit. As a result, there was a large air bubble, as well as specks of dust trapped under it.

The sides of the phone are plastic, and look cheap and flimsy. Additionally, the sides curve inwards, which makes the device rather uncomfortable to hold. The power key is on the right near the top, while the volume keys are on the left. The 3.5mm socket and Micro-USB port are at the top. This is a rather inconvenient position for the latter, and makes it a bit hard to use the phone when it’s charging.

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The back is part of the same removable panel as the sides, and as such has the same cheap and flimsy feel. It gives the impression that the phone is much cheaper than it really is, and bends quite easily in your hands. The exterior buttons are attached rather delicately to the panel, and inspire no confidence at all. Under the panel are the SIM slots and microSD slot, as well as the removable 2300mAh battery. Our review unit was black, but the i4G1 is also available in white.

The device has a 5-inch 720×1280 pixel display with a density of 294ppi. It’s decent in terms of brightness, colours and sharpness, and offers acceptable performance for watching videos and when navigating around the interface.

The Onida i4G1 also includes a 1A/5V USB charger, a standard cable, and a basic pair of earphones that sit outside the ear and offer no sonic isolation, comfort or fidelity whatsoever. Also included is a plastic protective case, which has a slightly better texture and feel than the back and sides of the phone, and makes it a bit easier to grip. The phone is slow to charge though, and 1.5A/5V chargers should really be the bare minimum offered with devices today.

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Specifications and software
With typically budget specifications, the Onida i4G1 matches some of the options in its price segment and falls short of others. The phone is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 SoC, and has 8GB of internal storage and 1GB of RAM. The device supports expandable storage, and has been tested and guaranteed to work with microSD cards of up to 32GB. It also supports 4G connectivity on Indian bands on both SIMs.

The device features a 2300mAh user-replaceable battery, which when combined with the efficient Snapdragon 410 SoC, is expected to offer good battery life. Although Snapdragon 615 SoCs aren’t unheard of at this price point, the Onida i4G1 should still be fairly competent when it comes to performance and usability.

The device runs on Android 5.0 Lollipop, with a user interface that strangely enough resembles stock Android KitKat in many ways. Fortunately, there’s very little bloatware pre-installed, and the apps that are present are useful and likely to stay where they are. The Settings app offers plenty of information and options, including customisable capacitive keys, detailed battery consumption data, and system profiles. It’s a fairly simple and standard interface that is efficient and easy to use.

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Camera
The Onida i4G1 features an 8-megapixel primary camera with a single-tone LED flash, and a 5-megapixel front camera. Both cameras are capable of recording full-HD video, and while the rear camera has a variable focus lens, the front camera has a fixed focus. The camera app allows you to select the photo resolution and video quality, and there are plenty of capture modes such as panorama, continuous shot, and HDR.

The app also lets you quickly toggle between stills and video, HDR mode, and filters. Other camera modes such as night, beach, backlight and auto are also easily accessible from the main screen of the app. Useful settings such as the flash and countdown timer are accessible through the settings menu, and recording video is a two-step process. On the whole, it’s a decent camera app that gives you enough control over the camera and its settings.

onida_i4g1_camerashot1_ndtv.jpg(Tap to see full-sized image)

The camera, while not fantastic, is certainly acceptable in quality. Pictures are decent in terms of colour and contrast, while sharpness is just a bit lacking when you zoom in close. The camera is weakest when there are both near and distant elements in the same picture, and tends to focus only on the close objects. Things in the distance tend to lose sharpness in this case, but pictures are not quite as bad when shooting distant objects on their own.

Video is also acceptable, while selfies are just about good enough to be useful. We were impressed with the ability of the camera to capture colour and lighting accurately. Low light photography, while visibly weak, is still satisfactory, and pictures are certainly usable. All in all, the Onida i4G1’s camera does a decent job for the price.

onida_i4G1_camerashot3_ndtv.jpgonida_i4g1_camerashot2_ndtv.jpg(Tap to see full-sized images)

Performance
When it comes to performance, the Onida i4G1 falls terribly short and was a massive disappointment for us. The device failed to play our heavily encoded videos, and showed signs of struggle even with regular video content. Additionally, we weren’t able to play Dead Trigger 2 for longer than 5-10 minutes without it crashing. We haven’t experienced these issues with any other Snapdragon 410-powered devices, so the experience was rather alarme.

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The problems continued when we ran our usual suite of benchmark tests. The device failed in all three of our typical browser-based benchmarks, causing the browser to crash before a score could be generated. Additionally, AnTuTu would simply not run, due to compatibility issues that prevented us from installing the 3D benchmarking companion app. Of the tests that did run, GFXBench and 3DMark Ice Storm returned scores of 9.3fps and 5243 respectively, while Quadrant returned a score of 13709 overall. All of these are fairly low for a Snapdragon 410-powered device with a 720p screen.

Basic functionality was acceptable, however, with the device working fine on 4G networks. Voice quality in calls was also decent, but sound quality from both the speaker andheadphones was poor and also not loud enough. The only silver lining was the expectedly decent battery life, with this phone running for 11 hours, 16 minutes in our video loop test. In ordinary use, the phone easily lasted us through a full day.

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Verdict
The Onida i4G1 has a few things going for it, but is a complete let-down when it comes to some important aspects. While the camera, display and battery life are decent, the phone’s looks, design, and performance are all poor. This is an unattractive phone that is poorly designed and inconvenient to hold and use. Most importantly, its unreliable performance makes it hard to imagine using it for even the most basic telemoveis¬†tasks.

All things considered the Onida i4G1 is overpriced, and there are better phones available for much less. Options such as the Yu Yuphoria (Review | Pictures) and Lenovo A6000 Plus (Review | Pictures) offer far better value at lower prices, and are recommended over the Onida i4G1. This is an average phone that we can only suggest you consider if your smartphone needs are absolutely basic.


Onida i4G1 in pictures

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Onida i4G1

Onida i4G1

R 8999 3.0

  • Review
  • Key Specs
  • News
  • Design
  • Display
  • Software
  • Performance
  • Battery life
  • Camera
  • Value for money
  • Good
  • Decent screen
  • Good battery life
  • Bad
  • Poor design and build
  • Unreliable performance
  • Overpriced

Read detailed Onida i4G1 review

Display

5.00-inch

Processor

1.2GHz

Front Camera

5-megapixel

Resolution

720×1280 pixels

RAM

1GB

OS

Android 5.0

Storage

8GB

Rear Camera

8-megapixel

Battery capacity

2300mAh See full Onida i4G1 specifications

  • Onida i4G1 Review

More Onida mobilesOriginal NDTV Gadgets

Review: Acer ICONIA A500: The Honeycomb Debutant

Review: Acer ICONIA A500: The Honeycomb Debutant

Introduction
Until the arrival of Honeycomb, most tablets were playing catch-up with Apple’s all conquering iPad and it’s smartphone OSs. Now, in its second generation, the iPad 2 is likely to face some serious competition from the likes of Motorola, Acer, Samsung, HTC, Dell and other manufacturers who are embracing Google’s tablet specific Honeycomb OS.
One such might be the Acer ICONIA A500, the first Honeycomb tablet to hit India. Can it take a bite out of the big Apple?


Hardware
The 10-inch A500 seems extremely thick at 13.3 mm versus the sub-10mm frame of the iPad 2. It is interesting to note that the original iPad was 13.4 mm thick. So the competition is still trying to emulate the original iPad even the next version has set new benchmarks for sheer form factor.
Quite naturally, when compared to the iPad 2, the device is bulky and feels heavy. It is quite a challenge to use while reading books. You will also find yourself setting the device down very often, because of the weight factor.


Having said that, for a first generation device, it has good build quality and looks good with the brushed metal finish.
In terms of connectivity, the device has the power switch, headphones jack and mini HDMI out port on the left panel. The right houses the charging port along with a micro USB port and a full sized USB 2.0 port. Please note that the device will only charge through the charging port and not the micro USB port. The top of the device has the micro SD card slot that is covered along with the volume rocker and the screen orientation lock whereas the bottom of the device has Acer’s proprietary dock connector. All the buttons feel logically placed and are convenient to use.
The rear of the device houses a 5MP autofocus camera with a single LED flash and the front has a 2MP camera for video chatting.


The screen is a 10.1-inch LED backlit display with a resolution of 1280×800.
Under the hood, the device is powered by NVIDIA’s 1GHz dual-core Tegra 2 processor with 1GB RAM. The review unit we received was Wi-Fi only but a 3G version is expected to launch as well.
The A500 has 16GB of onboard storage and another 32GB can be added via a micro SD card.
Overall the hardware of the device seems to be at par with other Honeycomb offerings available in the global market such as the Motorola Xoom.


Android Honeycomb
Previous tablets such as the first generation Samsung Galaxy Tab ran Android’s smartphone OS. Honeycomb has been built from the ground up keeping the tablet in mind, which means it will not only take advantage of the larger display but the processing power of the tablet as well.
If you already own an Android device and are used to the functioning of the OS, you will find yourself on familiar ground. Even so, as the OS is customized for a larger display than your smartphone, there is a learning curve especially with some particular widgets.
True to the Android tradition, there are five customizable homescreens. However, gone are the standard four physical buttons you would find on an Android smartphone – the home, menu, back and search. Instead, you have the back, home and menu buttons displayed all the time in the bottom left corner of the screen on the notification bar. No matter what app you have open.
Another visual element that remains constant on screen resides on the bottom right corner. This is the time, battery and Wi-Fi indicator. This corner also doubles up as the notifications area. It doesn’t matter if you are playing a game or running an app. If you receive a chat message, an email, a software update or any form of notification, it will appear here. The notification system on Honeycomb is way better than the one visible on the iPad.


Customizing your homescreen is a lot of fun. But, if you are used to the simplicity of the iPad you may find it a bit frustrating. The homescreen customization option is divided into widgets, app short cuts, wallpapers and more. The only unique aspect here is the widgets, which looks really cool. You could have your Gmail, website bookmarks, calendar events, market updates etc. on one screen. Seeing the customization options of the widgets really gives you the vast scope of the device and convenience of having all your data flash on one screen.


The overall performance of the OS is great but there are times when it feels buggy. There was a point where the home button just wouldn’t respond until we restarted the device. Though these problems are not major, they can be fixed by a simpler update.
Recently at the I/O event, Google showed off an update to Honeycomb (version 3.1). One of the advantages of this update is the improvement in the widgets on the device. The 3.1 update allows the widgets to have custom sizes.
Although this update is limited to the Motorola Xoom we can expect it to hit other Honeycomb devices soon.


Cameras
The rear of the device houses a 5MP autofocus camera with a single LED flash and the front has a 2MP camera. The camera app has been optimized to take advantage of the 10.1-inch display. The controls such as zoom, flash, white balance, colour effects, scene mode and settings rest on the right of the display. The layout design of the camera controls is unique and looks really cool. It gives you a lot more control on the images you click when compared to the iPad 2 but you do feel the absence of a physical camera button.
The quality of the camera is pretty standard and can be compared to the camera that resides on your smartphone. But, the quality of pictures from this is much better than the iPad 2 cameras.
The front facing camera works well especially with Google video chat. You can rotate to the rear camera if you wish to show something specific to the person you are chatting with. It works a lot like Apple’s Face Time with the only difference being that Google video chat can happen between any two computing machines that support Google video chat unlike Face Time, which is restricted to Apple products.


Gaming and multimedia
Games on the Acer ICONIA A500 look absolutely stunning. The device came preloaded with NFS Shift, Lets Golf HD and Hero of Sparta HD. Need For Speed HD looked really good and Hero of Sparta was the highlight. Angry Birds Rio, too, was stunning on the 10-inch display. Although there aren’t many tablet specific games available for Honeycomb devices, the existing smartphone games scale relatively well on the 10.1-inch screen.
A game we recommend you download is Fruit Ninja for Honeycomb. It is a paid app and is different from its smartphone cousin only in that it incorporates multi-touch, which is really cool.
The inbuilt multimedia features are good. The photos, videos and music app have an interface that takes advantage of the 10.1-inch display. The audio from the device was pretty nice for a tablet. The stereo speakers help a lot and sound much better than the iPad 2.
The video app was a little disappointing as it refused to detect any other format except for MP4. MP4 720p videos ran very smoothly on the device.


On the bright side, and this is an India specific observation, the USB port will be Internet dongle compatible in the near future. Acer has confirmed to us that you will be able to connect your Reliance or Tata Photon dongle to the tablet to access the Internet. This feature will not be available out of the box and users will have to wait for an update before taking advantage of this feature. With this, you will be able to use your current dongles to connect to the Internet, without the need of a 3G version of the device.
The earlier mentioned 3.1 Honeycomb update will also let you connect game controllers via the USB port enabling more comfortable gaming for hard core veterans. No word on when we will see the update hit the A500.
The browser on the tablet has a Chrome experience to it. Tab browsing on a tablet device is great. Add the flash support and you have a browser that can give Apple’s Safari a run for its money.
Apps


There are quite a few Honeycomb specific apps on the device but the ones that need special mention are the YouTube and Gmail apps.
YouTube has a tile-based view, which has a very Matrix like feel to it. The 3D interface is extremely intuitive and spans the whole screen. The browse tab too has been optimized for use on a tablet device. The videos themselves play out smoothly and the navigation options are great and easy to use, unlike some frustrating Windows based tablets.
The Gmail app too has been optimized for tablet display. It looks more like Microsoft Outlook with mail labels on the left column, and the mail list and details on the right panel. Extremely intuitive and easy to use. But, here’s where the weight disadvantage kicks in again – you’re not going to be able to use it for email very long because of how heavy the device is.
Another noteworthy point; There aren’t many Honeycomb specific apps available on the app store. But the mobile versions of apps scale quite well on the tablet device. There are a few bumps such as some images may look pixelated, stretched or out of proportion. Some text alignment too may seem off but the overall scalability of applications is commendable.


Case
Acer gets two thumbs up for bundling a case with the A500. It is nowhere near the awesomeness of the Smart Cover but it is handy for protecting the device. The case also doubles up as a stand that rests the device horizontally. And the best part is that it is free.


Verdict
As the first Honeycomb tablet to hit India the Acer A500 is good. The device is a few thousand rupees cheaper than the 16GB Wi-Fi only iPad 2. If you are looking for an experience other than the iPad you may want to take a look at the A500. But if you’re in the market for a sleeker Android based tablet, you may want to hold-off until the Samsung Galaxy tabs hit India.
Bottomline: Does the A500 qualify as an iPad 2 killer? No.
However, it holds some interesting promises such as Internet USB dongle support that is great for the Indian market.
The device and the OS aren’t perfect. But for as an India debut for Honeycomb, it is a really good start.


Benchmark Performance:
Quadrant (Higher score is better)- 2000.
System benchmark (Higher score is better)-
Overall: 3549
Memory: 729
CPU Integer: 1140
CPU Float: 1029
2D Graphics: 130
3D graphics: 175
Database IO: 75
SD card write: (11.1MB/s) 111
SD Card Read: (16.0MB/s) 160
The LG optimus 2X and the Motorola Xoom scored better than this but marginally.
Benchmark pi (Higher score is better): 518
Linpack (Higher score is better): MFLOPS: 41.959, Time: 2.0 sec, Norm Res: 5.68
Smart bench 2011 (Higher score is better):
Productivity index: 3230
Games Index: 2530
Motorola Xoom: 4196 and 2542
LG Optimus 2X: 3777 and 2946


Pros:
Good build quality
Mini HDMI out
Internet USB dongle support
Tablet specific OS
Good display and sound
Cons:
Heavy
OS is a bit buggy
Few Honeycomb specific apps in the marketplace
Some video playback issues
No micro USB charging

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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.

sigma_dp2_quattro_battery_ndtv.jpg

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.

sigma_dp2_quattro_iso_1_ndtv.JPGsigma_dp2_quattro_iso_2_ndtv.JPG

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