Wednesday, October 20, 2010
I have managed to try this phone several times at the Nokia showroom. You can probably find lots of camera samples and image quality comparisons. I will not talk about those things here. Here are my opinions from the usability perspective.
The general GUI and performance of the phone seems acceptable. scrolling is smooth and responsive and the pages follow my finger pretty closely as I swipe it across the screen. I would say at a glance, the performance is almost comparable to Android and iOS.
The main draw of this camera is supposed to be the 1/1.83" 12 mpx sensor which rivals the advanced compact cameras such as G12, LX5, EX1 and the S95.
However, I find the camera interface to be a huge disappointment.
- The amount of control on ISO is limited. You can select a range: high, medium, low but you are not able to select the exact ISO value. For a phone touted to have an large-advanced sensor I find it surprising that Nokia would limit the ability to set ISO. My opinion is that people who does not know about ISO would not even bother to set the range of the ISO. On the other hand, those who bothers to set ISO would probably like to be able to set the actual ISO value, not just a cryptic range. Now Nokia really baffles me here.
- There is no display of shutter speed. Every shot I took was a gamble. I could only hope that the phone would get it right and there were no camera shake.
- There is no option to change the metering mode. Even my 2 year old Sony Ericsson C901 supports 'spot metering'.
- There is no ability to zoom into an image immediately after a shot is taken. Most photographers shooting with digital cameras have the habit of immediately zooming into an image to check for motion blur or sharpness. After a shot is taken, the N8 preview does not allow you to do much. You will have to select 'edit', wait some time for the image to load and then be able to zoom. This is a major irritant to me. To get back to shooting mode, you have to exit the edit mode and select 'back' again to return to the camera.
- The focus area is really huge. This limits the ability to focus on smaller objects.
- The camera menu is not well thought of. Instead of the usual important settings such as ISO, Macro, Metering mode, EV compensation, there is only a flash button on the main page. If you access the settings menu, you are presented with a bunch of less important settings like the sharpness, the contrast, etc... Perhaps the designer of N8 should buy him/herself a proper PnS camera to see how to design a camera interface.
To conclude, I find the N8 to be a camera phone with all the right hardware but the wrong firmware. The picture quality is good and Nokia has to realize that the camera is the main selling point of this phone. With such a great sensor and lens, this should have been a home run for them. I cannot believe they screwed up the most important part of the phone, the GUI of the camera. It is like giving you a car with the most sophisticated turbocharged engine but it comes only with the steering wheel and accelerator, without any mechanism for gear change or gauges to display engine parameters.
Hopefully there will be a software update or a 3rd party camera app which provides a better camera GUI.
Sunday, August 22, 2010
Sunday, August 15, 2010
Sunday, August 8, 2010
In the past two years, Canon has been announcing the new G series right about this time. The G10 was announced in Aug 2008 while the G11 was announced in Aug 2009. Will we see an announcement in Aug 2010? There is after all, already news of some new Powershots to be announced on 26th Aug... Could it be?
Canonrumors reported that the S90, which was announced together with the G11 on Aug 2009 was already retired...
Will my dream G12 be announced in a couple of week's time?
Saturday, July 17, 2010
It has been long overdue but finally, it seems like the LX5's long awaited debut is imminent. Several sites have posted leaks of the specs for LX5. Here they are:
- 10.1 mpx CCD Sensor (supporting 3:2 and 16:9 at 9.5mpx)
- AVHCD lite video 720p (30fps sensor, 60fps max)
- 3.8x zoom 24-90mm
- Optional Optical and EVF
Looking at the specs, it seems like there has not been any earth shattering advances in terms of features...
The increase in zoom range is definitely a plus and the video seems better. As of now, the 5x zoom and OVF of the G11 is still hard to beat and it seems like there will not be a clear winner yet. If high ISO performance and DRange have improved leaps and bounds, that could swing things its way though. I can't wait for some reviews to come soon...
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
As a consumer, I would probably be the best designer of Canon's next gen G series compact. Definitely a lot better than a geeky, excitable engineer in a lab. If I were asked to design the G12, I would most definitely include the following:
- A larger sensor, maybe a 2x crop of even a 2.7x crop sensor (1"). Most probably CMOS. At this size, Canon can afford to incorporate some clever tricks in the CMOS sensor.
- To cater to the larger sensor size, I have designed the lens to be about 30% larger
- With the larger lens, I would not include the optical viewfinder which is useful but not really accurate. I would invest in a more efficient battery instead. With a better batt capacity, the need for an OVF would not be as pressing.
- I would remove the dedicated dial for Exposure Compensation. Even in dSLR, this is often controlled via the common dial and perhaps activated by a single button on the back of the camera.
- Popup flash, to cater to the bigger lens, there would not be any real estate left for a flash. The space vacated by the Exposure Compensation can be used for this purpose. Something around 6GN(ISO 100) would be more than useful.
- Faster Image Processor and AF performance. I would target something like 3fps with shot to shot time of about 1 sec or faster. Af performance need to be about 0.3s-0.4s
- AF assist lamp. For CDAF focusing system, the Af assist lamp is extremely essential.
- Maintaining 5X magnification Lens from 28mm-140mm and f2.8-4.5 would be beyond usefulness and is almost critical in making this product a success.
- Adapter thread for Wide Angle and Tele converters. I believe a good Wide/Tele converter means that there is no need to change lens. Why would anyone change lens if this camera can cover 24mm-200mm (35mm equiv) and supports Macro. If anyone needs anything more, she should get a dSLR and not complain about weight.
My previous post talked about why SLD or EVIL camera would face limitations in terms of miniaturization due to large lenses. It so happens that a few weeks after that post, a very credible rumor has emerged here that Panasonic is working on a compact non-interchangeable lens camera with a micro fourthird sensor and a Leica designed 3x zoom lens.
If we need another set of alphabets in our soup, I would call it CLSZ - The Compact Large Sensor with Zoom :)
Despite the success of SLD and EVIL cameras, I believe that they are still not the killer products which would truly dominate the prosumer market. Together with some of the factors I have mentioned my previous post, here is a list of reasons why I think this Panasonic CLSZ cameras would be that killer product.
- The Non-Interchangeable Advantage -As I have mentioned, SLD/EVIL cameras are system based and prosumers with dSLRs may not want to invest in another system. Especially when the new system often have a much more limited lens selection
- Size Matters, really - SLD/EVIL zoom lenses are often not small, this defeats the purpose of such systems. Pancake prime lenses may go well with pros but some PnS upgraders (which forms the bulk of the target market) would definitely prefer zoom lenses.
- Convenience - CLSZ cameras would likely fit into a small pouch or even the pocket. SLD/EVIL cameras would require an dSLR like bag especially if more than one lens is required.
- Complexity (of SLD/EVIL) - Most PnS upgraders merely want a PnS like camera with superior image quality. They do not want the complexity of system cameras. Many SLD/EVIL owners do not think they will change the lens at all. This explains the huge amount of interest in the likes of Canon G11/S90, Panasonic LX3 and Samsung EX1.
- Price/Performance - The interchangeable capabilities would mean that SLD/EVIL would cost a lot more than a competing PnS. Fixed lenses have a advantage of being easier/cheaper to design, more compact and may even provide much better performance than an equivalent interchangeable zoom lens.
- Limited zoom range - Personally, I feel that the 5x zoom lens of the Canon G10/G11 is about as adequate as it gets in such a compact camera. The announced 3x seems a little limited. Although Tele/Wide converters + adapters add to the total weight & size of the package, they are most definitely still simpler, cheaper and lighter than an interchangeable lens system.
- Performance - So far, most compact with large sensor cameras like Ricoh GXR, Sigma DP1/DP2 and Leica X1 are very slow cameras. Given Panasonic's track record in terms of m4/3 camera AF speed, I am confident a company such as Panasonic can do better than most in terms of AF performance.
- Accessories - The prosumer market segment, as the name suggests is made of professionals and enthusiasts. It means that while most of the enthusiast would want an easy to use camera, there are times when the professionals would want something relatively advanced. As mentioned earlier, Wide/Tele adapters, flash, and other accessories have to be sufficient to meet the requirements of the wide range of users in this segment. I know this contradicts my earlier comment about wanting to make this group of cameras simpler and cheaper, but hey this is a very confusing segment... Options are often very welcomed. This is where the accessories come in to fill the gaps.
Now, with such a great track record with the G series, what can Canon do to try to catch up? I would really really love to see the G series with a larger sensor, improved performance while keeping most of the features that they currently have, including the very impressive zoom range.
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
When Panasonic's first EVIL camera, the G1 first appeared, I was one of the first to buy it. However, I was contemplating hard whether to get the LX3 or the G1 to complement my dSLR, the Canon 450D (at that time). The promise of an ultra compact system with capabilities of a dSLR was too hard to resist.
The reality is that the EVIL/SLD type system cameras are not actually very small. Sure, if you look at them in some comparison pictures, they do look like the designers have shaved off quite a bit of mass versus their dSLR counterparts. The reality is, however, they are not pocket-sized small.
My thinking is that for anything that is not pocket-sized small, you will need a pouch or a small bag to carry and if you need a small bag to carry them, it will not make too much difference if you carry a marginally larger pouch or a smaller one.
The latest Sony NEX5 has probably come closest to what is thought as a PnS sized system camera with dSLR capabilities. Yes, it is.... but only for the body. When you put on a zoom lens, like the 18-55mm kit, again, it is no longer that small.
Canon and Nikon are still dragging their feet when it comes to SLD/EVIL type camera. Why? Perhaps they want to strategize. Perhaps, their answer is already there...
It is easy to think why Canon should still focus on the Powershot G series type camera (and Nikon, the P6000). Here are the reasons why:
1) EVIL/SLD are system cameras, so consumers need to invest in the system. Flash, EVF, lenses, lenses, lenses.... Unfortunately, most EVIL/SLD lenses are NOT compatible with their professional brethens. If consumers were to invest in a system, they would want to consider potential upgrades into prosumers level equipments. If on the other hand, consumers invest in only one vacation lens, like the Sony 18-200 or Panny 14-140mm which I believe many would do, then it defeats the purpose of a system camera. Flexible cameras like the G11 comes with a compact fixed lens (28-140mm) which is more than enough for most vacationer. If more reach is required, there is always that tele-converter.
2) Size of the Sensor - While the APS-C and 4/3 sized sensors give the EVIL/SLD advantages in terms of Image Quality over PnS, it is also their curse. Larger sensors require larger lenses. While some manufacturers such as Panasonic does in-camera processing to fix lens issues, thus allowing smaller lenses to be made, there is a limit to how much sacrifice can be made in terms of quality. Smaller 1/1.7" sensors used in advanced PnS is probably the sweet spot in the compromise between sensor size vs lens size. Despite being almost the same size as the GF-1 body, the G11's lens is fully retractable, thus giving it a huge size advantages when compared to the GF-1 + Kit lens. Although some reviewers feel that the GF-1's sensor is still ahead of the Canon G11's, others feel that if shot in the RAW format, the performance gap is not as big as some might think.
3) Accessories - The main advantage of the SLD/EVIL cameras is the ability to mount external flashes and remote triggers. Advanced prosumers such as Panasonic LX3 and the Canon G11 can do the same (except for triggering which has been removed from the G11. Why Canon?!). These advanced prosumers can also accept adapters for filters, wide angle and tele converters, which expands the capabilities of such cameras.
4) Speed and Features - Advanced prosumers can shoot at shutter speed of about 1/4000 (G11) and 1/2000(LX3). This is similar to the likes of GF-1, NEX-5, EP-1 and EP-L1 (1/2000). Although the continuous shooting and shot to shot time of the G11, and to a certain extend the LX3, is still a bit lacking. I believe that is a technical challenge that can be overcome if given the right motivation and budget.
Ok, so some of you may say that the G11 is not actually pocket-sized as well. Hey, I managed to stuff it into my bermudas pants pocket and walk around for a day in the mall without being arrested for obscenity. That's something I probably cannot do with the NEX5+18-55mm.
So there I have said it, I think the G11/LX3 type camera is actually a better solution than the EVIL/SLD type systems when it comes to portability vs performance. I do admit that the image quality of such prosumer PnS cameras leave a lot of room for improvement, especially when compared to the APS-C or m4/3 models. Therefore, manufacturers such as Canon may very well design themselves a winner if they take the G11 and slap on some improvements such as:
A) A Slightly larger sensor - This would be a challenge but I think this market segment has just been pushed into the limelight. Manufacturers such as Canon with their own sensor technology cannot hide behind Sony's off-the-shelves sensors anymore. They need to create their own sensor for this category. I think a 2/3" or 1" type sensor would be quite interesting. It may be able to close the gap against the m4/3 while maintaining a reasonable overall size.
B) A Faster Performance - Features wise, the Canon G series and the Panasonic LX series are already very close to entry level dSLR. What they need is the speed to match. A 3 fps shooting speed, a shot to shot time of < 1 sec and and Af speed of about 0.4s to 0.5s would put them in a very good position versus the EVIL/SLD.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Until now, cameras on phones have been treated as secondary citizens (at best) in the camera world. They generally come with sensors roughly about 1/2.5" or smaller and LED flash which is only effective if your subject is about 3 inches away from the phone.
Here is a list of sensor sizes on camera phones:
- Sony Ericsson Satio 12MP – 1/2.5″
- Samsung Pixon12 12 MP– 1/2.5″
- Nokia N86 8MP – 1/2.5″
- Sony Ericsson Vivaz 8MP – 1/3.2″
source: GSM Arena
Here comes the Nokia N8, an advanced shooter with phone functionality running on the Symbian OS. Here are some of the impressive camera specs on the phone:
- 1/1.83" Sensor. This is almost as big as advanced prosumer cameras such as the 1/1.7" Canon G11/S90, Ricoh GRIII/GXR-S10 and the 1/1.63" Panasonic LX3.
- Xenon Flash
- 28mm f2.8 Carl Zeiss Lens
- ISO 1200 (max)
- 10cm close up
- Improved Symbian OS for faster Autofocus, Noise Reduction and shot-to-shot speed
- ARM 11 680MHz Processor with HW 3D accelerator (this is probably more powerful than most camera processors)
- Dimension: 113.5 x 59.1 x 12.9 mm, 86 cc, 135g
From a phone perspective, the N8 comes with all the bells and whistles of a smart phone.
- Quad Band
- 3.5G HSDPA, 10.2 Mbps; HSUPA, 2.0 Mbps
- Wifi b/g/n
- 360x640 3.5" AMOLED Screen 16m colors (This means 230k pixel screen)
- 16GB Built in memory
- 3.5mm Jack
- 720p 25fps video with LED
- HDMI TV Output
- A-GPS support; Ovi Maps 3.0
Monday, May 10, 2010
- AF speed seems to be very acceptable at 0.441 - 0.444 sec. (This is comparable to the Panny G series)
- Flange distance is only 18mm vs the 20mm of m4/3 and 25mm for Samsung NX series. This means that while the NX series will have problem mounting the Leica M mount lenses. The NEX series can mount most lenses with the appropriate adapters.
- It is even smaller than the EPL1, GF1 and EP1/EP2. Slimmer and shorter with a comparable length.
- It has very good high ISO noise performance. Very comparable to the 5000D and 500D and trumping them in several scenarios.
- It has an APS-C sensor which means there is no compromise on DRange and in some cases, the Bokeh.
- Continuous AF during video, this is not available on Samsung NX10
- There is a small flash unit that you can detach easily at GN 7
Monday, April 26, 2010
The first pictures of the Sony EVIL cameras are out. They have been rumored to be announced on 11th May 2010. Apparently two versions of the camera will be released, the NEX3 and the NEX5. Both will have the EXMOR 14mpx sensor but the NEX5 will come with a faster fps and 1080p capability. The NEX3 will only support 720p. Apparently there won't be any EVF, only a detachable OVF... (hmmm... I wonder how that would support zoom lenses)
Based on some observations made on the NX10, I believe these are the critical factors which will determine if the camera will be a success:
- AF speed, AF speed, AF speed - This was the main concern on EVIL cameras, Panasonic managed to get it right, Samsung NX10 came close and Olympus's latest firmwares seem to have gotten it much closer to an acceptable AF speed. Unless Sony can get this right, we can all forget about the NEX series - the good news is, even Sigma DP1x managed to make great improvements in this department, so the chances are high that Sony will get this right.
-High ISO noise - The m4/3 are the most successful EVIL cameras around and in order to beat it, Sony need to make sure they make full use of their main advantage, their larger APS-C sensor. Numerous tests of the similarly spec'ed Samsung NX-10 showed that the high ISO performance is not very different from the m4/3, thus neutralizing much of the advantages of the bigger sensor. Judging from the current Sony dSLR line up, they do have a lot to do in this aspect.
- Lenses - The m4/3 was a semi-compatible system with the 4/3 and that gave the system, at least psychologically, a lot of boost when it was first introduced. The fact that it can mount Leica M mount (and practically any other interchangeable lens mount) helps in its success. Sony will have to make sure enough lens compatibility to ensure that consumers do not feel they are buying into a very custom and niche system.
-Video Features - Many of the EVIL camera users are PnS upgraders and they are very used to having cameras (and mobile phones) capable of doing AF and other sophisticated features during video filming. It simply doesn't make sense to upgrade to an EVIL camera with better still photos but is heavily handicapped when taking video.... and pleeease provide an external mic jack.
- Overall Camera Performance - Why is this different from AF speed? Let's take the Sigma DP1x for example. The AF speed has improved tremendously, some say it is up to 30%-40%. Shot to shot time?... it went something like 6.5 to 6.0 seconds...zzzz With shot to shot time like this, your subjects have better be sleeping, frozen, dead or non-living to begin with. Even the Samsung NX-10 has room to improve in terms of its buffer clearing time.
- AF Assist Light - This will definitely improve low light focusing speed. However, an option to turn this off is a must. Unless you enjoy irritating your friends in parties.
- Popup flash - From the picture above, it seems like an external flash has been used. Again as a camera for PnS upgraders, popup flashes no matter how unprofessional they are, are a must. Olympus's decision to leave them out in the EPx series gave the GF-1 a leg up against it.
Sony have always been great and giving good quality finishing to their consumer products and from the pictures above, I believe the NEX series will be no different. Just hope that Sony can deliver the features to match the finishing.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Yes, the DOF calculators such as this one http://www.dofmaster.com/dofjs.html would produce results that contradicts this notion, at least as I interpret them. All this while, I always thought that I was merely misinterpreting or misunderstanding things and that FF sensors would produce shallower DOF and more Bokeh.
Then I came across this from Bob Atkins. It is the 5 Basic Truths of DOF
- For an equivalent field of view, a Canon APS-C crop sensor camera has at least 1.6x MORE depth of field that a 35mm full frame camera would have - when the focus distance is significantly less then the hyperfocal distance (but the 35mm format needs a lens with 1.6x the focal length to give the same view).
- Using the same lens on a Canon APS-C crop sensor camera and a 35mm full frame body, the a Canon APS-C crop sensor camera image has 1.6x LESS depth of field than the 35mm image would have (but they would be different images of course since the field of view would be different)
- If you use the same lens on a Canon APS-C crop sensor camera and a 35mm full frame body and crop the full frame 35mm image to give the same view as the APS-C crop image, the depth of field is IDENTICAL
- If you use the same lens on a Canon APS-C crop sensor camera and a 35mm full frame body, then shoot from different distances so that the view is the same, the Canon APS-C crop sensor camera image will have 1.6x MORE DOF than the full frame image.
- Close to the hyperfocal distance, the Canon APS-C crop sensor camera has a much more than 1.6x the DOF of a 35mm full frame camera. The hyperfocal distance of a Canon APS-C crop sensor camera is 1.6x less than that of a 35mm full frame camera when used with a lens giving the same field of view.
So you open an image in Photoshop, do some cropping, and voila the DOF changes? Ofcourse not! That is precisely what APS-C sensors do - cropping.
Why DOF is seen as shallower for FF sensor is because of point 4 (in blue). Photographers need to get closer to the subject to get the same angle of view. In many of the so called bokeh test, the distance to subject is not constant. As an FF camera gets closer to the subject to get the same angle of view as an APS-C camera, the DOF decreases and the bokeh increases.
Makes sense? At least this seems to be the most logical explanation of all the confusion I had with APS-C, FF, DOF, Bokeh, man, women, Tax Filing, etc.... well, at least it solved the first four things for me... :D
Sunday, January 3, 2010
Noble Black and Titan Silver
14.6M APS-C CMOS
Samsung NX Mount
3.0” AM OLED (VGA)
720p HD (MP4. H.264)
Size & Weight
4.8” x 3.4” x 1.6” (excluding the projecting parts of the camera)
.78 lbs (without battery and card)
100 - 3200
Built-in Pop-up Flash
· APS-C sized image sensor
· 3.0” AMOLED
· Smart Range
· HDMI (Anynet +)
· Fast & Decisive Contrast AF
· New DRIMe II Pro engine and advanced AF algorith