A quick reminder to those of you who were planning on purchasing new photographic equipment from B&H. Instant rebates from Nikon, Fujifilm and Sony will end tomorrow (06/29/2013). A quick recap on the rebates programs. If you buy a Nikon DSLR body, you have the option of purchasing as many lenses or speedlight units (SB-700 and SB-910) with up to $300 off per each product. While this means that you have to purchase at least one camera to qualify for additional lens rebates, some lens rebates are significant and were not part of any rebates in the past (like the new Nikon 70-200mm f/4G VR lens that I reviewed earlier this year). So this will be a great program for those that want to buy a new DSLR or want a backup camera.
Sony’s high-end RX100 and full-frame RX1 have attracted a lot of attention ever since they were released about a year ago. Keeping up with the momentum, Sony just introduced two new cameras. The RX100 II replaces its predecessor and adds latest technological bells and whistles. RX1R, on the other hand, will be sold alongside the “older” RX1 in Sony’s compact camera lineup.
The biggest difference RX100 II has over its predecessor is a new sensor. It’s still 1″ size CMOS unit(like those used in Nikon series) with 20.2 megapixels, but is now back-illuminated. Sony claims a 40% improvement in light sensitivity over the old, regular CMOS sensor in the RX100. As with many compact cameras these days, Sony’s new Cyber-Shot also has built-in Wi-Fi connectivity. Unlike many compacts, however, Sony went one further with NFC connectivity to make transferring images to your smartphone even easier. More importantly the 3″ screen can now be tilted up or down, which should aid shooting from difficult angles. Other than that, improved video and some additional functionality added to the hot-shoe (now accepts EVF and external microphone), it’s basically the same camera as RX100.
When my article on field curvature was published a while ago, where I talked about how one could do a quick analysis of lens MTF data and determine if it exhibits any field curvature, some of our readers expressed interest in understanding how to read MTF charts. Since we talk quite a bit about lens performance and MTF data here at Photography Life, I decided to write a detailed article on the subject and do my best to thoroughly explain everything related to MTF curves, charts and all the verbiage that comes with them.
Previous Sony SLT-A58 and NEX-3N announcement may not have been all that exciting for the majority of current Sony users, but new and updated lenses usually make a more interesting topic. After all, cameras come and go. As of late, they seem to come and go rather too often – almost as if manufacturers decided to race each other and see who can push more “new” cameras into the market in the shortest amount of time. But good lenses, they tend to stay a while longer. Fine as your camera may be, it doesn’t exactly change the way you photograph all that much, be it a new D7100 or an older D7000, while a new lens – often and quite understandably – can make a much more worthwhile addition to your camera bag. Sony has made sure at least two of the three new lenses are of that kind. Let’s start with the smaller one.
1) Carl Zeiss Planar T* 50mm f/1.4 Lens
If there was ever a serious reason why I considered Sony DSLRs (namely, the Alpha A850 model), it’s Carl Zeiss lenses. Don’t get me wrong – Nikkor and Canon L lenses can be just as good and, perhaps, even superior. There’s more of them. More choice. Broader second-hand market. But somehow I always admired the legendary German manufacturer. There isn’t any real reason I can base my preference on – it’s neither sharpness nor price. But the few Carl Zeiss lenses Sony did have on offer were, in my opinion and experience, spectacular – the 85mm f/1.4 and 135mm f/1.8 most of all. Now, a new prime joins their ranks, and it’s a standard 50mm f/1.4 class lens. For around $1500.
Following Nikon’s announcement of the D7100 DSLR, Sony introduced a new SLT camera, called A58, along with their newest entry-level mirrorless offering, NEX-3N. As before, Sony is pushing a lot of innovative, consumer-friendly features into both cameras to attract customers. Not having all that much pedigree as a camera maker (at least when it comes to DSLR or, in their case, DSLT), features and numbers is their surest way of shifting attention of a potential buyer away from better-known camera manufacturers, such as Canon, Nikon and, perhaps, even Pentax.
1) Sony SLT-A58
The new SLT-A58 is a replacement for two older Sony cameras, A37 and A57, which is a good thing – I’ve always found they had too many models not that different in their positioning. Luckily for current Sony users and temptingly for potential new ones, however, the camera fitted with the usual 18-55mm kit lens will cost around $600, which is on par with Nikon’s lowest-end D3200 camera (while on $100 rebate program). Mind you, on paper, SLT-A58 is no slouch against its competitors.
This is an in-depth review of the Sony NEX-6 mirrorless camera that was released on September 12, 2012 during the Photokina event, along with three lenses for NEX cameras: Sony 10-18mm f/4, Sony 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 and Sony 35mm f/1.8. Just like the Sony NEX-5R that we reviewed last year, the NEX-6 also comes with WiFi capability and the new hybrid autofocus system, offering both phase and contrast detect for quicker focus acquisition and accuracy. The camera is the first from the NEX series that offers a real PASM control dial, along with an ISO standard hot shoe for triggering on and off-camera flash. In this review, I will go over the features and capabilities of the camera and compare it to other mirrorless options, including the Nikon 1 J2, Olympus OM-D E-M5, Canon EOS M and other Sony NEX series cameras.
This is an in-depth review of the Sony NEX-5R mirrorless camera that came out on August 29, 2012, an update to the existing Sony NEX-5N that I reviewed last year. While I loved the image quality from the NEX-5N, its AF performance was a bit sluggish, certainly not anywhere close to the Nikon 1 series cameras. Sony revamped the NEX-5 series with the 5R, introducing its first hybrid AF system that uses both phase and contrast detect AF to acquire focus, added WiFi connectivity options and a couple of other layout/control tweaks, making the NEX-5R a compelling option for new and existing owners. In this Sony NEX-5R review, I will go over the features and capabilities of the camera and compare it to other mirrorless options, including the Nikon 1 J2, Olympus OM-D E-M5, Canon EOS M, Sony NEX-F3, NEX-6 and NEX-7 series cameras.
As promised, I have performed some additional dynamic range tests on the mirrorless cameras I am testing (Nikon 1 J2, Canon EOS-M, Sony NEX-F3, Sony NEX-5R, Sony NEX-6, Sony NEX-7 and Olympus OM-D EM-5) and I have the data ready for your viewing pleasure. As expected, the Sony APS-C sensors performed the best, with the Sony NEX-5R and NEX-6 leading the game (although other NEX series are extremely close) followed by the Olympus OM-D EM-5, then Canon EOS M and then finally the Nikon 1 J2. Here is a comparison chart that shows performance of the various mirrorless cameras:
I have spent a considerable amount of time working with 7 different mirrorless cameras from Sony, Canon, Nikon and Olympus. I apologize for not being able to provide periodic updates on these cameras. I have come up with new ways to measure digital camera sensor performance, so it took me a long time to do it in a way that I believe will be more accurate and objective compared to my previous methods. Not only will you be seeing crops of sensor performance in a controlled environment, but I will also provide some numbers to quantify performance in colors and dynamic range. As I have already mentioned before, I will be measuring dynamic range myself going forward without having to rely on other websites for the data. It will be interesting to see how my data compares to other sites like DxOMark. I am not planning to do anything super intensive and I bet my measurements will not be without issues and errors, but I believe it is something worth trying. Hopefully it will give a different perspective to testing sensors.
Here is the first test that shows the low light performance of the following mirrorless cameras: Nikon 1 J2, Canon EOS-M, Sony NEX-F3, Sony NEX-5R/NEX-6, Sony NEX-7 and Olympus OM-D EM-5. Since these cameras all look excellent at ISO levels between 100 and 800, I decided to only show ISO performance at 1600 and above. Take a look!
Nikon 1 J2
It is no secret that the mirrorless camera market has been growing rapidly during the last several years. With all the major camera manufacturers in the game, the competition has been fierce, especially during the last year. Each player wants a reputable position in the market, so they are developing lots of near cameras, lenses and accessories to complement their unique systems. Personally, I have been patiently waiting for a good mirrorless system that I can invest in and stay with. Exactly one year after my first evaluation of mirrorless cameras, I decided to give another try and see if I can find something I really like, something that I can take with me anywhere I go. I am extremely happy with my high-end Nikon DSLR system, but I have been craving for something smaller and lighter that I can take with me everywhere I go. And while waiting for my right hand to recover from a recent carpal tunnel release surgery, I thought that this would be a great time to re-evaluate small cameras.
Here is what I will be playing with for the next few months:
- Olympus OM-D E-M5 with 12-50mm kit lens
- Olympus 45mm f/1.8
- Olympus 12mm f/2
- Panasonic 25mm f/1.4
- Canon EOS M with 22mm f/2 + 90EX Speedlite
- Nikon 1 V2 with 10-30mm & 30-110mm
- Sony NEX-7 with 18-55mm
- Sony NEX-6 with 16-50mm
- Sony NEX-5R
- Sony NEX-F3
- Sony 50mm f/1.8
- Sony 24mm f/1.4