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Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Making the move away from smartphone snaps
By RICK MARTIN
For aspiring photographers looking to step up their game from a point-and-shoot camera or smartphone, there have been a number of exciting new options released in recent weeks. Whether you want to take the leap to your first DSLR, opt for a more evolved point-and-shoot, or go with something in between — this summer delivers something for everyone.
Panasonic Lumix G5
Panasonic announced its new Lumix G5 this month, the latest single-lens mirrorless camera in its popular G series of micro four-thirds cameras. Following up on the G3 from last year, Panasonic has skipped the G4 designation — perhaps due to the superstition surrounding the number 4 in Japan and some other Asian countries (because the words for both "four" and "death" sound the same). But just looking at the G5's body tells you that the company is making a break from the dainty G3, opting for a large hand-grip this time yet still retaining a lightweight body.
The optical viewfinder is also back (the G3 departed from earlier G-series models by ditching it). A 3-inch rotating LCD touchscreen on the back acts as an electronic viewfinder with full-area touch autofocus and a full field of view. It has the handy ability to flip outwards and tilt for those times when you want to shoot from low to the ground or from high overhead.
But perhaps the most notable feature of the new G5 is that it uses an electronic shutter rather than a mechanical one, resulting in very, very quiet shooting. The G5 has a 16-megapixel Live MOS sensor and an image processor that delivers six frames per second of continuous shooting. The redesigned Venus image-processing engine brings improved image quality for both still photos and video.
For beginners, there's a useful set of automatic presets that includes a collection of 23 professionally taken photos users can match to the situation they are shooting and automatically apply the optimal parameters for shooting the scene.
The G5 will be available in three colors — black, white, and silver — with a number of kit options, so you'll have a choice with regards to your lenses. In addition to its Creative Control features (which now has 14 filters to choose from), there's a new HDR (high dynamic range) feature that creates a composite of shots taken at different exposures, resulting in some great images.
The camera was just recently announced, and pricing and availability are still not specified. But I expect it to hit North American and European markets first, and hopefully Japan will follow soon after.
Canon Kiss x6i
For beginner photographers who want to jump to a DSLR, Canon's recently released Kiss x6i (aka the EOS 650D or Rebel T4i in Europe and North America respectively) brings an impressive feature set for a price that won't break the bank.
An upgrade of Canon's Kiss x5 (aka 600D or T3i), the Kiss x6i marks the first DSLR that comes with a touchscreen that lets you swipe through your pictures and pinch to zoom on certain areas. And like its predecessor, the Kiss X5 (and the G5 mentioned above), the screen can be flipped outwards and tilted for when you need some flexibility in your viewfinder.
The new Kiss x6i features an 18-megapixel APS-C Hybrid CMOS sensor and a DIGIC 5 image processor that allows continuous shooting of up to five frames per second. The auto-focus system is vastly improved with all nine focus points being cross-type, which (in simple terms) give you a better chance of obtaining proper focus than a regular auto-focus point. The previous Kiss x5 model had just one cross-type focus point.
The Kiss x6i can be purchased now from retailers here in Japan for about ¥71,000 for the body alone, and lens kit options are available if you'd like to dish out a little bit more. Canon has also just announced its first micro four-thirds camera in the EOS M, which is shaped much like Panasonic's G5 above, but with similar specs to the Kiss x6i.
If the above options from Panasonic and Canon are still a bit intimidating, then Samsung's recently-announced MV900F point-and-shoot camera may be worth checking out — although to call it merely a point-and-shoot may be underselling it in terms of functions. The latest in Samsung's MultiView series, this camera also features a flip-out (or rather, flip-up) LCD touchscreen, so for users accustomed to smartphone photography a camera like this might be a logical step up in your progression.
For the more narcissistic shooters among us, the MV900F offers some fascinating ways to take pictures of yourself. For example its Gesture Shot function lets you use hand motions to control your camera while you are standing in front of it — a simple circular hand-motion will zoom in (the camera has 5x optical zoom), and you can also set a timer with a wave in a vertical direction.
The camera has Wi-Fi connectivity, allowing users to share pictures on social-networking services, such as Facebook, or cloud-based storage, such as Picasa, and upload videos to YouTube.
The camera features a 16.3-megapixel BSI CMOS sensor and a F2.5 lens, which Samsung claims will perform very well in low-light situations. The MV900F even has a Beauty Palette feature that lets you choose from a range of make-up options to improve portrait shots — all from inside your camera.
The MV900F hits stores stateside in August for about $350. Hopefully we can look forward to a Japan release date soon after that.