Fujifilm Finepix F50fd review

As the replacement for the Fujifilm F30/F31fd, a camera that has reached an almost legendary status since its launch back in 2006, the Fujifilm F50fd has some big shoes to fill. If anything deserves to be called a 'classic' camera in the shortlived world of digital compact cameras it would have to be the Fujifilm F30/F31fd. It wasn't very pretty, it wasn't very feature packed and it wasn't even very cheap. But the F30/F31fd produced some of the best results we've ever seen in a compact camera, and was leaps and bounds ahead of all its competitors when it came to low light / high ISO performance, proving that just because a camera has a small sensor it doesn't have to be completely useless at anything over ISO 400.

The F30/F31fd's outstanding performance in low light was the result of some clever technology (Super CCD sensor and Real Photo Processor) on the one hand and Fujifilm's admirable refusal to succumb to the pressure to compete in the 'megapixel race'. In an almost unique attempt to optimize image quality (rather than marketing potential) they limited the F30/F31fd's resolution to 6 megapixels, on a sensor that is slightly bigger than the competition's.

Although the F30 and F31fd sold in pretty decent numbers, proving that it is possible to sell a camera on image quality rather than numbers, Fujifilm has finally caved under the pressure and joined the mainstream with the F50fd, doubling the F30/F31fd's pixel count to squeeze a whopping 12 megapixel on the tiny 1/1.6in sensor.

The F50fd also ups the 'whiz bang' factor condsiderably, adding a range of new features including a mechanical CCD-shift image stabilization system, improved face detection and a 2.7" LCD monitor. But can it match its predecessor's peerless image quality or has Fujifilm thrown the baby out with the bathwater by not only joining the megapixel race, but going right to the top with a full 12 megapixels? Let's find out, starting, as ever, with the headline specification.

  • Face Detection 2.0 Technology built-in to the camera’s processor
  • Dual Image Stabilization (High sensitivity + CCD shift)
  • 2.7-inch TFT screen with 230.000 pixels
  • ISO 1600 sensitivity at full resolution
  • 12 million pixels Super CCD HR VII sensor
  • 3.0x optical zoom
  • IR Communication (IR simple™/IR SS™)
  • VGA movie capture of 25 frames per second with sound
  • Micro thumbnail view (up to 100 thumbnails visible)
  • 5fps continuous mode (3MP, 12 frames max)
  • Aperture and shutter priority modes

Olympus SP-560UZ review

Olympus was one of the first manufacturers to realize that building digicams around small sensors allows much longer zooms to be offered without the bulk of the camera becoming unmanageable. With its "Ultra zoom" range, starting back in 2000 with the 1.3MP C-2100UZ, Olympus almost single-handedly created a niche for digicams offering 10X optical zooms in relatively compact formats. Over the years, that niche has developed into a popular and fiercely fought market segment.

Realizing that the utility of a 10X zoom was great enough to make many users overlook the compromises that such a large zoom range entails, Olympus decided to investigate whether customers would put up with still more compromises if the zoom range was even greater. The result was the SP-550UZ with its astonishing 18X zoom range. And, just a few months later, the Olympus was joined on the market by similar offerings from Panasonic and Fuji, suggesting it wasn't alone in its thinking. So here we have Olympus' second-generation 18X zoom camera, the SP-560UZ. The question is, having lost its unique selling point, can the Olympus still make a convincing pitch for your money, and have the SP-550's shortcomings been overcome? Let's find out...

Headline features

  • 18X optical zoom, giving a 27mm-486mm equiv. range
  • Dual IS, combining sensor shift technology with high ISO settings
  • 8.0 million pixel sensor
  • ISO 6400 at 3.1MP
  • ISO 3200 at full resolution
  • RAW mode
  • Face detection
  • Face detection-combined In-camera red-eye reduction
  • Rapid continuous shooting (up to 15fps at 2MP)
  • 25 scene modes
  • Smile mode (waits for subject to smile)
  • Expression Edit
  • Shadow Adjust
  • Control of off-board flashguns, with latest firmware

PENTAX Optio V10 review

The Pentax Optio V10 is a 8.0 megapixel digicam featuring 3x optical zoom and 3.0" LCD squeezed into an aluminum alloy shell just 19mm thick - Pentax having achieved this feat of miniaturization through a redesigned circuit board and extra-slim battery. Face Detection AF & AE, Digital Shake Reduction and a wealth of automatic scene modes round off the specification. The Pentax Optio V10 will be available from October 2007 with a recommended price of US $249.95, more after the jump.

Main Features:

  1. An ultra-slim body with a sophisticated texture
    By using an exclusive slim battery and making the circuit board smaller, it is possible to realize an ultra-slim body of just 19mm even though featuring large LCD monitor. High quality aluminum alloy is also used for the outer cover, giving the camera a sophisticated texture.
  2. Large, 3.0 inch easy viewable LCD monitor
    The Optio V10 comes with a high resolution, a 3.0-inch LCD monitor with approximately 230,000 pixels that enables images and the text to be displayed largely and clearly. The LCD monitor has a wide viewing angle of 170 degrees from all directions, making it easy to confirm images, even when looking at the screen diagonally.
  3. Digital SR(Shake Reduction)
    Digital SR (Shake Reduction) mode automatically adjusts sensitivity, to as high as the ultrahigh sensitivity of ISO 3200 according to the brightness of the subjects, and effectively reduces camera shakes and subject blurring when photographing still images. With fast shutter speeds, photography with reduced blurring is available.
  4. ”Face Recognition AF&AE” function that is convenient when photographing portrait
    The Face Recognition AF&AE*1 function automatically detects and focuses on faces, regardless of where the people appear in the photo frame. So, it allows you to take beautiful photograph of people easily by letting the camera determine the focus and exposure.
    *1:Available when the photography mode is “Portrait” and “Natural Skin Tone”, and the camera is directed at people from the front
  5. Auto Picture mode automatically determines the best photography mode for shooting conditions
    The Auto Picture mode lets the camera automatically determines the shooting conditions for Landscape, Portrait, Night Scene, and Normal modes and choose the optimum settings for each subject. This function eliminates the necessity of making a number of individual settings.
  6. 3X optical zoom and 4X digital zoom for a maximum of 12X magnification
    The Optio V10 features a 3X optical zoom lens with a focal range covering angles of view equivalent to those of a 36-108mm lens in 35mm format, which is ideal for a broad spectrum of subjects from landscapes, through memorial photographs, to portraits. Such zooming power can also be combined with 4X digital zoom to achieve a total of approximately 12X zoom capability.
  7. High Resolution Images
    The Optio V10’s 8.0 effective megapixels and high performance PENTAX lens, which precisely captures images down to the finest details, realizes to delivers high resolution photos that look sharp even at large magnifications.
  8. Others
    1. Mode palette provides quick access to 16 shooting modes and 13 playback modes
    2. Record movies with Movie SR (Shake Reduction) function can deliver high quality image rivaling camcorders
    3. Auto-Macro mode allows for close-up photography as near as 10cm while in the normal focusing mode
    4. Auto-tracking AF continuously focusing on a moving subject
    5. Date imprint function for easier image categorizing
    6. Calendar Display function allows image retrieval based on the capture mode
    7. Approximately 52.1MB of built in memory
    8. FotoNation’s red-eye correction function for flash shots
    9. Includes the ACDSee for PENTAX 3.0 image viewer/image management software that support Windows Vista™
    10. Support PictBridge, DPOF functions, Exif Print, and PRINT Image Matching III

Nikon Coolpix S510 review

Proven lens shift VR image stabilisation

Field proven technology originally developed for interchangeable lenses used in Nikon SLR camera systems, optical lens shift VR image stabilisation counteracts the effects of camera shake in lower light or when shooting to help achieve sharper results. Active full time, VR also stabilises images displayed on the 2.5-inch high-resolution LCD monitor for easier framing and more reassured shooting.

ISO 2000 capability for extended shooting range
The COOLPIX S510 makes it easier to take great-looking pictures in lower lighting conditions or to capture fast moving subjects with outstanding clarity by offering manual sensitivity settings as high as ISO 2000. And the new image processing engine preserves high image quality even when shooting with high ISO settings, thanks to enhanced noise reduction and an improved signal-to-noise ratio. Also available is AUTO ISO control, which automatically selects the optimal sensitivity for the shot across a range between ISO 64 and ISO 1000, and High-Sensitivity mode which minimises blur by automatically selecting optimal light sensitivity from a range between ISO 64 and 1600.

Large 2.5-inch LCD monitor for quality viewing and menu operation
The COOLPIX S510 has a high quality 2.5-inch LCD monitor featuring 230,000 dots of high resolution, a wide viewing angle of 160 degrees, anti-reflection coating for better display in bright situations, and a new acrylic panel that prevents scratches and fingerprints.

Nikon COOLPIX S510 Other Features

  • Three Unique Nikon Image Innovations
    • Face-priority AF with improved speed and efficiency
    • In-Camera Red-Eye Fix
    • D-Lighting
  • Light weight with highly compact dimensions
  • Macro shooting from as close as 15 cm (5.9 in.)
  • 4x digital zoom extends compositional freedom
  • Improved menu interface, available in a choice of 23 languages
  • Time zone function for easy setting of multiple locations
  • Approx. 52 MB of internal memory
  • SDHC card compatibility
  • USB connectivity
  • PictBridge compatibility

Olympus E-3 review

The new flagship of the Four Thirds Standard-based Olympus E-System. The E-3 gives photographers a high-performance tool that is primed for any assignment and satisfies the most stringent demands for D-SLR photography. It represents the ultimate choice for the professional photographer and provides the highest levels of speed and image quality as well as Live View capabilities and the ultimate in reliability.

The E-3 features the world’s fastest* auto-focusing speeds thanks to an advanced AF system and new ZUIKO DIGITAL SWD (Supersonic Wave Drive) lenses. Matched with shutter speeds of up to 1/8000th sec. and 5fps sequential shooting (with a 19 image RAW buffer in burst mode), the E-3 gives photographers a crucial edge to help capture that decisive shot.

Ensuring the best image quality in the widest range of situations, this new professional model also incorporates a powerful built-in image stabilisation system which is capable of compensating against the effects of camera shake to the equivalent of up to 5 EV steps. This is complemented by a 10 Megapixel High Speed Live MOS sensor and Olympus’ TruePic III image processing engine. Together with the ZUIKO DIGITAL lenses – which are custom-made for the needs of D-SLR photography – photographers can rely on optimal results each time.

Meanwhile, the camera’s Live View capabilities provide the freedom to shoot with more versatility: Whether wanting to keep eye-contact with the subject or shooting above the head or close to the ground, compositions can be framed with ease on the 2.5”/6.4cm multi-angle HyperCrystal LCD, which also faithfully displays the effect of camera adjustments in real time.

In addition to Live View, photographers can also choose to use the camera’s large viewfinder which provides 100% coverage. Like all Olympus E-System cameras, the E-3 incorporates the most effective dust reduction system available – the Supersonic Wave Filter. Reliability of the camera system is further heightened under all types of shooting conditions thanks to dust and splashproof protection of both body and most E-System lenses. Moreover, a shutter life of 150,000 operations guarantees that the E-3 will tolerate the treatment of even the most active photographer with ease.

Reliability – exceptional durability

The E-3 also takes viewfinder performance up a notch. Full professional level coverage of 100% plus 1.15x magnification enhances framing ease even when using the eyepiece.

  • Since the development of the world’s first dust protection system in 2003, Olympus has continuously improved on it so that it still remains the most effective solution available today. The critically acclaimed Supersonic Wave Filter ingeniously protects the High Speed Live MOS sensor from dust and other foreign particles that could otherwise compromise image quality and serves as a symbol of Olympus’ long-standing commitment to imaging excellence.

Its magnesium alloy construction combined with dust and splashproof protection lets the E-3 go wherever the action is: No matter at a rainy football game or on the dusty plains of the Serengeti. The power grip and a wide selection of lenses are equally protected against the elements, thereby considerably reducing the risk of downtime as the E-3 is always ready for the next assignment no matter the conditions. And with a shutter life of 150,000 operations, professionals will really come to appreciate this model’s extreme reliability.

Ideal selection

Naturally, low light doesn’t put an end to shooting opportunities. In addition to the built-in flash (GN13), the E-3 allows wireless control of flash units, such as the new Olympus FL-36R and FL-50R, in up to three groups – enhancing lighting options dramatically.

In addition, the E-3 boasts flawless automatic white balance. This is due to a hybrid detection system which employs a dedicated white balance sensor in conjunction with the image sensor. The combination of colour data from two different sources results in stunningly faithful colour reproduction.

A complete D-SLR system

Adhering to the Four Thirds Standard, the E-3 is optimised for the special demands of digital photography and provides photographers with a superior level of flexibility and freedom. Cross-manufacturer compatibility ensures a future-proof investment that users can rely on. 32 lenses and three lens converters are available to date, including many from the award-winning ZUIKO DIGITAL range, which is designed for the specific demands of digital SLR photography. Furthermore, Four Thirds enables a smaller, lighter lens construction which means photographers benefit from more mobility and control, thus increasing the likelihood of magnificent imaging results.

In addition to the many lenses which include the recently-introduced ZUIKO DIGITAL SWD models for attaining the world’s fastest* autofocus speeds, a wide and exciting range of E-System accessories await professionals looking to customise their photographic experience with the E-3. For flash control without the need for cables, Olympus offers the FL-50R and FL-36R wireless flash units. And for assignments that go into overtime, the Power Grip HLD-4 provides long-lasting battery power and conveniently includes a shutter release button on its side to make the quick capture of shots in portrait format just as simple as landscapes. Two new eye-cups (DE-P3 and DE-N3) are also available to broaden the camera’s dioptre correction adjustment capabilities. Shifting the dioptre either up or down by 3m-1, an expansive total range spanning -6m-1 to +4m-1 is possible. Moreover, the optional FS-3 Focusing Screen provides a grid matte screen in the viewfinder on which the image area is divided into 4 x 6 sections to assist in framing (purchase & installation via Olympus Service Dept. only).

Sony Alpha DSLR-A700 review

Nearly two years after Konica Minolta transferred its camera division over to Sony, and over a year after Sony's first DSLR (the A100), today is the day that the curtain is finally lifted on the long-awaited 'high end' Alpha digital SLR (in principle the replacement for the Konica Minolta 7D). The new model sports an impressive specification including magnesium alloy construction, 12MP CMOS sensor (with on-chip A/D conversion), 5fps shooting and a wealth of features and customization options, though interestingly (given the recent spate of announcements) no live view option. There's also a couple of new lenses and a new vertical shooting grip.

The new model features advanced imaging technologies and ultra-responsive operation, as well as a lightweight, dust- and moisture-resistant, magnesium alloy construction common to enthusiast-class D-SLR cameras.

Like Sony’s mainstream DSLR-A100 model, the new A700 unit incorporates Super SteadyShot® Inside image stabilization in the camera body and is compatible with most Minolta Maxxum® mount lenses in addition to Sony lenses.

“Discerning photo enthusiasts will be impressed with the rugged construction and outstanding performance of the A700, said Phil Lubell, director of marketing for digital cameras at Sony Electronics. “We also expect that this new camera will re-define the post-capture experience with HDMI™ output for high-quality playback of images on high-definition televisions.”

Picture Quality

The camera’s new 12.2-megapixel Exmor™ CMOS sensor conducts analog-to-digital (A/D) signal conversion and dual noise reduction right on the sensor itself. Noise reduction is applied to analog signals before A/D conversion and the resulting digital signals are then subject to a second round of noise reduction.

According to Lubell, “These digital signals are virtually immune to external noise and interference.”

Clean, noise-free digital signals are then sent to the newly developed BIONZ™ processing engine. Lubell said this engine has been optimized to process data-rich picture information at high speeds, and to reduce picture noise in the RAW data stage before final image compression and encoding. The results are high-resolution, detailed images with rich tonal reproduction.

Extraordinary Responsiveness

The A700 camera is engineered to be fast and ultra-responsive so as to become “a virtual extension of your own senses,” Lubell said, “capturing fleeting moments as you see them.”

A newly developed, auto-focus system features 11 wide-area sensors, including a center dual cross sensor comprised of two horizontal and two vertical line sensors for exceptional AF precision. An F2.8 line sensor leverages the brightness of fast aperture lenses for even greater precision. Lubell said that extraordinary focusing speed has been realized through improved algorithms and a high-torque focusing drive motor.

The large, bright, viewfinder uses a precision-ground optical glass pentaprism and a high refractive index eyepiece lens to provide 0.9x viewfinder magnification and 95 percent frame coverage. Manual focusing is aided by an interchangeable spherical acute matte focusing screen.

The camera has a high-performance vertical traverse shutter with a maximum shutter speed of 1/8,000th of a second to freeze fast-moving action. A high-power coreless motor charges the shutter and mirror mechanism, allowing continuous shooting at up to five frames per second. In JPEG fine or standard mode, continuous shooting is limited only by the capacity of the media card (sold separately), while up to 18 frames can be captured in RAW.

Expanded Creativity

The new camera features fourteen creative styles, including night view, autumn leaves or vivid, which can be selected to enhance images. These effects can then be fine-tuned by customizing contrast, sharpness, zone matching and other parameters.

Sony’s Dynamic Range Optimizer (DRO) function has been updated on this model so users can choose the desired level of detail recovered in areas of shadow. The advanced mode offers the option of five levels of user selectable correction. Additionally, DRO bracketing creates three images from a single capture with three different levels of DRO.

There is an extensive array of customization options to personalize the camera to match shooting styles. The unit’s quick navigation interface can be accessed instantly with the four-way multi-selector, and selected parameters can be adjusted directly by control dials.

Up to 28 camera settings can be stored in one of three user memories for instant recall. The unit’s custom function button can be assigned to 15 frequently-accessed functions.

With the supplied remote capture application, the camera can be controlled from a compatible PC via USB without even touching the camera, and files can be stored on the computer instead of the media card.

High-Quality Pictures on an HDTV

The A700 model features an HDMI output for connection to HDTV sets, putting a high-resolution spin on the conventional photo slideshow.

When connected to a Sony BRAVIA® LCD HD television, photos are optimized for viewing with the new “PhotoTV HD” mode. This mode brings the look of actual printed photography to the television, reproducing high-quality digital photos by fine-tuning such image parameters as sharpness, gradation and color specifically for photographs.

The exceptional viewing experience of this camera also extends to viewing photos on its 3-inch LCD screen. The screen’s size and ultra-sharp resolution (921K) makes it possible to check focus and image quality with much greater accuracy.