Fujifilm FinePix S3200 review

The Fujifilm FinePix S3200 is the latest 24x optical zoom camera that packs in plenty of zoom at an affordable price. Superzoom cameras have been going from strength to strength over recent months, though the 14-megapixel S3200 is a more budget model to fill the lower-priced gap in the market below the likes of the premium Fujifilm FinePix HS20.

In the picture

The S3200’s zoom lens has a textured grip around its base that looks a lot like a zoom ring, but doesn’t physically move - instead the 24x zoom is controlled using the toggle found around the shutter button. The lens’s 24mm wide-angle setting can fit plenty into the frame and this can extend all the way through to a 576mm equivalent to pick off far-away subjects. This is an obvious sell point and the scope for shooting wide-angle group shots through to portraits and more distant subjects is easily within your grasp. However the widest angle does show notable signs of distortion.

Fujifilm-FinePix-S3200 The S3200 has a variety of autofocus options - Center, Multi, Area, Continuous and Tracking - for tackling various subjects. The camera can decide where to focus in Multi mode, while Area provides more control to select the focus point on screen. Subject Tracking has some success, but as the subject has to be at the centre of the frame to begin with it’s also rather limited. Continuous autofocus may sound like a grand idea, the likes of which you’d usually have to pay much more cash for, but here the super-slow speed by which the camera slips between different subjects renders it obsolete.


With a classic superzoom form, the S3200 has both a 3-inch, 230,000-dot LCD screen and a 0.2-inch electronic viewfinder (EVF) above this. The screen itself doesn’t have a particularly good angle of view, which means when it’s not in line with your eye it’s harder to see, plus reflections from sunlight are problematic. However, the main issue is the poor quality of the pre-shot preview: frame up a shot and subjects can appear overexposed on screen, yet in the final capture this isn’t an issue. Such inaccuracy means the screen feels like more of a guide than accurate tool.

The light reflection issues can, in part, be overcome by using the viewfinder - not only is it shielded from sunlight but utilising it for extra support at longer focal lengths is helpful for sharper pictures too. The EVF may be small, but it’s of a reasonable standard for such a budget model and is most useful in practice, though its 97% field of view means some (3%) of the image you capture won’t be visible when composing.

Sensor-based and high ISO “dual stabilization” helps to keep shots steady too, though the system misses out the crucial lens-based stabilisation that would have helped when shooting at longer focal lengths.

As well as automated modes, including SR Auto (Scene Recognition mode), the FinePix S3200 also lays on the usual array of manual controls. This means more flexibility if you want to get more creative, though the aperture values tend to be restricted to two broad options which does put a bit of a dampener on things. Other options such as Face Detection will recognise faces within a scene for optimum focus, while the Panorama mode works in a real time panoramic sweep and auto-stitches shots in camera. Add to these a 720p HD movie mode that continuously autofocuses and allows for the zoom to be used during recording and there are plenty of enticing options to choose from.

Those hoping for a rechargeable battery may also feel let down by the S3200’s 4x AA batteries. Although the first set of batteries are included in the box, you’ll need to remember to add the cost of some rechargeables to the camera’s overall price, otherwise you’ll be spending loads of cash down the shop to replenish exhausted ones. 


The S3200’s picture quality stands up well for a compact camera, with its ISO 64-400 settings returning decent enough shots. However, images are a little soft at full size and processing does sacrifice finer details, sometimes to the point of obscurity in larger areas. But for those who’ll never need 14 megapixels the files should be good enough for printing at less than full size and sharing online.

Don’t expect the world from the results, and note that the higher ISO settings (1600 is the top full size capture, while ISO 3200-6400 are of lower resolution) are far less welcoming due to image noise too. But the results are apt for this price point, all things considered.


Superzoom cameras are never without compromise, and it’s the FinePix S3200’s low quality LCD, and over-processed images that hold it back. However the camera does still deliver plenty considering its low price point (around £165-220). A huge zoom range, variety of autofocus modes, built-in viewfinder and array of manual controls put plenty of features at your fingertips. Don’t confuse this as a DSLR-beating camera, as it’s nothing of the sort. But if you’re looking for a wide-ranging zoom on a small budget then the S3200 really does deliver across the board.


Sony DSC-TX55 hands-on

Sony DSC-TX55 Sony's created what it claims is the world's thinnest compact camera measuring just 12.2mm thick and we of course have already played with the new Sony DSC-TX55 model at a "behind closed doors" preview.

While we sadly weren't allowed to take away photos or leave the very dark room where we were shown the new camera, we were able to get a quick play with the new DSC-TX55 camera, the touchscreen interface and snap a few shots off of objects in the room (we just can't share those with you).

So what do you get? Well, it's 5mm thinner than the DSC-TX10, comes with a 26mm wide-angle recessed 5x optical zoom, and according to Sony, a new technology that can take that 5x optical zoom and turn it in to 10x.

Before you can say "digital zoom is shit", it's not digital zoom. Sony are using something called by pixel super resolution.

Instead of magnifying the image and then adding more pixels, the technology Sony says uses "pixel creation and pattern matching" so that the magnified image will be clearer and sharper.

Sadly we weren't able to check this feature out, but we will be bringing you more on it when we get one in for review.

On the sensor front, Sony is telling us that the TX55 will feature a 16 megapixel EXMOR sensor. That's the same one as found in many of it's other recent models. 

Back to what we can tell you though from our play. It's very small, very slim, and very dainty, without being flimsy or cheap. The model is cased in a black anodised metal, and while there is a sliver model too, Sony has confirmed to Pocket-lint that it won't be coming to the UK.

The touchscreen dominated the back of the camera - it's 3.3-inches (slightly smaller than the iPhone (it's 3.5-inches) and has a resolution of 1.2m which means everything is very crisp and bright. You'll be happy to show your pictures off.

Other features we gleamed from our play was that it offers a 10 frames per second burst mode, 3D-stills, panoramic sweep options, and the ability to apply special effects to your images in camera similar to Olympus' Art Effects. Sony say there are six in total including things like colour removal and polarisation.

It does 1080i video, but we weren't able to test this.

The new camera is expected out in September. In the US it will cost $350.


Olympus E-PL3 to ship in September for $700

olympuse-pl3-lg1Olympus on Wednesday set out pricing and launch dates for some of the extra photography hardware from its PEN line remake. The middle tier of the cameras, the E-PL3 or PEN Lite, will ship for $700 when mated to either the 14-42mm zoom lens or the 17mm pancake. It won't arrive body-only but will have choices of black, red, silver, and white colors when it ships in September.

The Olympus E-PL3 has many of the features of the E-P3 but trades the OLED touchscreen for a tilting LCD and has fewer control dials. In exchange, it's the fastest-shooting of the three with between 4-5.5FPS at full quality depending on whether or not image stabilization is on. A flash isn't built-in, but a hot-shoe model with basic bounce flash comes in the box.

One new PEN accessory, the VF-3 viewfinder, is getting its debut at the same time. The electronic eyepiece gives a complete field of view and can pivot up to 90 degrees up, with options for tweaking brightness and color.

The VF-3 should cost $180 in stores.


Panasonic announces Lumix DMC-FZ47 megazoom

Panasonic-Lumix-DMC-FZ47-megazoom One of the things that bugged me about Panasonic's Lumix DMC-FZ40 was its noticeably slower performance in comparison with its linemate, the FZ100. That apparently changes with its update, the Lumix FZ47.

Instead of using the same plain ol' 14-megapixel CCD, Panasonic swapped in one of its 12-megapixel high-speed CCD sensors and backed it with its Venus Engine FHD processor. This combo, which is also in the rugged Lumix TS3, allows it to shoot at up to 3.7 frames per second at full resolution and record full HD video in AVCHD. Panasonic also promises faster start-up and response times.

Panasonic says it improved the camera's zoom mechanism to keep it quiet while shooting movies, too. The FZ47 also has full manual control of shutter speed and aperture for video capture.

Much of the rest is the same as the FZ40, though, including the 24x, f2.8-5.2, 25-600mm lens (35mm equivalent), and 3-inch LCD, though its resolution goes up to 460K dots from 230K.

The Panasonic Lumix FZ47 will be available in black for a suggested retail price of $399.99 in August.


Leaked images show Sony Alpha A77 camera

Sony-Alpha-A77Sony's upcoming Alpha A77 DSLR has allegedly surfaced yet again, with several press renderings appearing on the Dyxum forums. The successor to the A700 is shown with a battery grip, which was confirmed early this year in an official teaser at the CP+ expo. The redesigned housing also appears to offer a new OLED panel that mounts via two-axis swivel.

The A77 is also expected to arrive with a magnesium alloy body, 24-megapixel sensor, and 1080p video capabilities. The design also integrates a translucent mirror for quicker autofocus, while the CMOS sensor and double Bionz processor are said to be capable of 10-frames-per-second shooting.
Sony is expected to sell the A77 body for $1,000, though a release date has yet to be confirmed.


Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ45 review

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ45 is an evolution of the older FZ38, with an improved zoom range of 24x. That might sound impressive in isolation, but it’s eclipsed by models offering 30x and more.

The 3in screen is large, but has a relatively low resolution of 230kpixels. The 14-megapixel figure looks more impressive, but with a the same 1/2.3in sensor as most superzooms, the benefits are minimal.

Panasonic-Lumix-DMC-FZ45 Gripes aside, there’s still much to admire about the FZ45. Its battery lasts almost 600 shots, rivalling many DSLRs. All the controls are sensibly arranged, and a clickable jog dial means adjusting settings is easy. There’s full manual control, and Panasonic’s Intelligent Auto mode is excellent for point-and-shoot use. Autofocus tracking, meanwhile, helps when shooting moving objects.

The lens, although shorter than others, is sharp right across its range and into the corners of photos. At 600mm, shots were crisp in good light thanks to effective optical stabilisation, and the 25mm wide-angle setting is great for shooting indoors. Videos record at 720p and look great, too, plus you can zoom while recording.

There are two menu buttons. The QMenu lets you get at the most-used settings quickly. The main menu is overflowing with options, including the ability to set maximum ISO and minimum shutter speeds. You can also choose to shoot in RAW mode and JPEG simultaneously.

As with other 14-megapixel bridge cameras, noise is obvious, but exposures are well judged and colours accurate. Details looked smudged, but we were happier with the images than with some more expensive cameras. Low-light performance wasn’t bad, despite some noise being apparent.

In the end, it was a close-run battle between the FZ45 and Kodak’s Z990 for best budget camera. The Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ45 just misses out thanks to the Z990’s superior quality in bright light and longer zoom.

Author: Jim Martin

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ100 review

At first look, there isn’t an awful lot to differentiate the FZ100 from the FZ45, despite costing a good deal more. Look closer, though, and the differences become clear.

Although the 24x zoom lens (25-600mm 35mm equivalent) and 14.1-megapixel sensor are identical, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ100 is aimed at the enthusiast who wants a little more. There’s a hotshoe to attach an external flash for better shots in low light. You also get a 3in articulated screen that opens and can face any direction.

This screen has twice the resolution of that on the FZ45 (460kpixels), which makes it easier to see if shots are in focus. The electronic viewfinder is less impressive, with only 202kpixels, so we’d be surprised if anyone used it instead of the main LCD.

Panasonic-Lumix-DMC-FZ100 Another difference is the 1080i video mode. It’s better than the FZ45’s 720p resolution, and records footage in AVCHD format at 17Mbits/sec. The level of detail in the FZ100’s footage is superior, and video can be split in-camera so you can trim the beginning and end from clips, saving space.

The FZ100’s controls are excellent – again, similar to that on the FZ45. There’s a command dial, plus shutter, video record buttons and a burst control, with five different modes ranging from 2fps to 60fps. Up to 15 frames can be captured at full resolution at 4.2fps.

And, last but not least, image quality is great. The optical stabilisation is excellent, and we were able to shoot sharp photos throughout the lens’ zoom range. Stills quality is as good as with the FZ45, which is to say, excellent.

The FZ100’s zoom lens may not have the reach of some rivals, but it delivers where it matters: image quality. That, combined with a decent roster of features, top quality movies and a better screen than its brother, the FZ45, means its our favourite superzoom camera right now, and well worth the £330 asking price.

Author: Jim Martin

Kodak Easyshare Max Z990 Review

The name may sound a little low-end, but this camera’s specifications are up there with the best: the Kodak EasyShare Max Z990 has a 30x zoom, a 12-megapixel sensor, RAW capture and 1080p Full HD video recording.

The area where it looks deficient is its pixel count, but a lower resolution can be a good thing, especially since the sensor is the same size as its competitors. Each photo receptor receives more light, which should lead to better quality photos, particularly in low light.

The theory wasn’t borne out in tests, as shots looked blotchy in dim light. However, in better conditions, the Z990 produced excellent shots that wouldn’t embarrass cameras costing £100 more.

Kodak-Easyshare-Max-Z990 The 28-840mm lens has some barrel distortion at the wide end of the zoom but with a maximum aperture of f/2.8, plenty of light gets in. At the telephoto end images look crisp, and in good light the optical stabilisation works to reduce shake. Video performance wasn’t as impressive: colours were fine, as was sharpness, but highlights were blown out and shadows lacked detail.

The Z990 is easy to use, too. Controls have been kept to a minimum and common settings are a few clicks away. There are separate shutter and video-recording buttons, plus command and jog dials. You can tag photos to upload to Facebook, Flickr and the Kodak Gallery, and we liked thoughtful touches like the prompt to transfer images when you insert an SD card.

There are also fun features, including HDR and both manual and sweep panorama modes, but none were particularly successful in our tests.

But with full manual control and RAW capture, it would be churlish to come down too hard on these shortcomings, as the Kodak Easyshare Max Z990 is undoubtedly good value.

Author: Jim Martin

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FH27 camera review: Simple, satisfying, and a solid value

The good: The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FH27 is a straightforward point-and-shoot with a flexible lens and useful touch-screen operation.

The bad: Its 16-megapixel resolution is a bit of a waste and you can't use the optical zoom while recording movies.

The bottom line: Simple and satisfying, Panasonic's Lumix DMC-FH27 is an excellent point-and-shoot value.

There are a lot of people out there who simply want an affordable camera that takes a decent picture in auto, has some extra zoom power, and can still be slipped in a pocket. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FH27 is just that. With camera manufacturers trying to jam in as many features as possible in some models, the FH27 is notable for having only two big features: an 8x, 28mm wide-angle lens and a 3-inch touch screen. The rest of it is pure point-and-shoot backed by Panasonic's reliable Intelligent Auto (iA) mode, a healthy selection of scene modes, and 720p ... Expand full review

Panasonic-Lumix-DMC-FH27 There are a lot of people out there who simply want an affordable camera that takes a decent picture in auto, has some extra zoom power, and can still be slipped in a pocket. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FH27 is just that. With camera manufacturers trying to jam in as many features as possible in some models, the FH27 is notable for having only two big features: an 8x, 28mm wide-angle lens and a 3-inch touch screen. The rest of it is pure point-and-shoot backed by Panasonic's reliable Intelligent Auto (iA) mode, a healthy selection of scene modes, and 720p HD movie capture. The touch screen adds a bit of glitz, helping it stand out in the congested compact-camera market.

The FH27's photo quality is good to very good, but people expecting to be wowed by its 16-megapixel resolution may be disappointed. Though subjects look somewhat soft from the get-go, there isn't much difference from ISO 100 to ISO 400. That means shots taken in good lighting are quite nice and thanks to Panasonic's "Intelligent" technology, you can pretty much leave it in auto and get solid results. It isn't until you go above ISO 400 that things noticeably decline--especially at larger sizes--with smeary details and yellow blotching from noise. If you need something for great low-light shots, this isn't your camera. It does have low-light shooting modes, but the results are really only good for emergencies because of heavy noise reduction and off colors. Then again, if you just need shots for small prints and Web use, the high-ISO results might be acceptable.

Color is pleasing and natural. If you like your colors more saturated, you can switch from the camera's Standard color mode to Vivid when shooting in Normal Picture mode or Happy in Intelligent Auto. Colors are consistent up to ISO 400; there's a noticeable color shift at the two highest ISO sensitivities. Other than the auto white balance being a touch warm under incandescent lighting, white balance is good. Exposure is likewise good and Panasonic's Intelligent Exposure feature improves dynamic range and limits blown-out highlights.

Video quality is on par with a basic HD pocket video camera; good enough for Web use and nondiscriminating TV viewing. Panning the camera will create judder that's typical of the video from most compact cameras. The zoom lens does not function while recording, but you do have a digital zoom. I suggest not using it as the results are not pleasant.

The FH27's shooting options are fairly bare-bones; it's definitely geared for people who prefer to shoot in auto. In the Mode menu you'll find Panasonic's Intelligent Auto, which handles just about everything for you, as well as a Normal Picture mode that gives you the most control over results, with settings for focus, color effects, white balance, ISO, and exposure compensation. If you like scene modes, the FH27 has 27 of them. The list includes familiar modes like Portrait, Sunset, and Night Scenery, as well as High-Speed Burst for action and High Sensitivity for low-light photos (both capturing images at 3 megapixels and below). You get a few creative shooting modes such as Pinhole and Film Grain to experiment with. A MyScene option is also available, letting you associate a favorite scene mode with a spot in the shooting modes. Lastly, there is a Movie mode capable of capturing video in up to 720p HD resolution.

While I wouldn't recommend the FH27 for regularly shooting active kids and pets, the camera is pretty quick for its class, especially in terms of shutter lag and autofocus. The time from off to first shot is very good at 1.3 seconds. The shutter lag in bright conditions (how quickly a camera captures an image after the shutter-release button is pressed) averaged 0.3 second in our lab tests and just 0.6 second in dim lighting. Its shot-to-shot times are good, at 1.6 seconds without the flash and 2 seconds with it. The FH27 can shoot at full resolution at up to 1.1 frames per second with focus and exposure set with the first shot. The camera's 3-megapixel High-Speed Burst mode can capture at up to 4.4fps. The quality is fairly mediocre, suitable for Web use or small prints with little or no cropping or enlarging.

The FH27's design isn't all that different from its predecessor, the FH20. Panasonic basically added a sliver of a grip on the front right so you have something more than the brushed metal body to hold on to. On top are a power switch, shutter release, and zoom ring, and the E.Zoom button. That last one quickly zooms the lens completely out with one touch. However, press it again and it activates the extended optical zoom that basically crops the 16-megapixel image down to its center 3 megapixels. This is not a true optical zoom, but a variation of a digital zoom, making its name misleading. Press the button a third time and the lens goes back to its starting position. That's it for physical controls, though; the 3-inch touch screen is used for everything else.

As with many touch-screen cameras, the FH27's interface can be a bit trying if you do a lot of setting changes, simply because it can take several taps to get anything done. For example, say you want to turn on continuous shooting. You start by touching the Menu icon on the screen's left side, which gets you two icons: one for shooting settings, the other for setup options. Select shooting settings and then you have to slide through the selections--four icons at a time--trying to find what you're looking for. Two screens in you reach the continuous option. Select it and you get a secondary selector to turn the feature on. From there you can half-press the shutter release to start snapping or hit a return arrow twice.

This is essentially the same process you'd have with physical buttons on a Panasonic camera, but something about using the touch interface just seems slower. But if you're not the type to tinker with shooting options then this certainly isn't a deal breaker, and if there are a couple of things you want fast access to, such as ISO, white balance, flash, or exposure compensation, you can add two of them to the left side of the screen. The right side has icons for shooting modes, playback, and a zoom control (which is cooler to look at than use; a record icon for movies would be more useful).

The rest of the touch-screen experience is pretty solid. The screen is responsive and can be calibrated to better respond to your touch. Being able to focus on a subject with a single tap is definitely a plus and tapping to focus and shoot is nice as well--just be careful not to shake the camera too much with your tap. In playback you can use the screen to flip through your photos and movie clips, make a quick crop, or tag them for sharing with the camera's embedded software.


The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FH27 is a good walking-around camera, something you just stick in your pocket and use when you're out for the day and want to be able to capture some moments here and there. Someone doing a lot of indoor or low-light shooting or trying to capture active kids and pets might not be happy with it, but it's otherwise a solid choice and an excellent value.


Samsung NX11 interchangeable lens camera

The Samsung NX11 is an interchangeable lens camera with a 14.6-megapixel APS-C sized sensor and a relatively compact body size. It's the type of camera to go for if you want something slightly smaller than a traditional digital SLR, yet still want to have the flexibility of choosing between different lenses and settings. However, the NX11 doesn't usher in any improvements over the NX10, which was released over one year ago, and this is a little to its detriment.

The NX10 came at a time when existing interchangeable lens cameras didn't offer excellent value for money. The NX10 was one of the only models priced under $900 to offer a built-in flash and electronic viewfinder. Those features, along with its bigger, APS-C sized sensor and an easy-to-use menu system made it a far more interesting value proposition than say the Olympus PEN E-P2. The NX11 doesn't bring with it the same sort of 'wow' factor that the NX10 brought last year; the NX11 is essentially the same camera as the NX10, with the only notable differences being that it now ships with one of Samsung's i-Function lenses and supports GPS features; it's also cheaper, retailing for a respectable $749.

Samsung-NX11-interchangeable-lens Despite the lack of changes from the previous model, the NX11 is still a good camera and we think it's worth considering if you want to get yourself a relatively small camera that will accept different lenses and feel a little like a digital SLR. It brings a digital SLR-sized sensor to a body that is very compact, yet well featured: you get a built-in electronic viewfinder (EVF), a built-in flash, there is also a hot shoe, and a control dial for changing the shutter and aperture values.

The Samsung NX11 uses Samsung's NX lens mount and it ships with one of the company's i-Function lenses (our kit came with the 18-55mm lens). An i-Function lens contains circuitry that allows you to change the shooting settings by pressing a button on the lens and then moving the focus ring. It's a very awkward way of doing things if you ask us, and we're not sure how it's meant to be easier to change settings by moving the focus ring rather using traditional methods. We much prefer the buttons on the back of the camera and the control dial that sits near the shutter button. In fact, we wish it had two separate control dials for the shutter and aperture values when using it in manual mode.

The camera's picture quality is impressive and we think that anyone from a casual user to an avid photographer will like the results. It does a good job in bright light conditions and also in overcast conditions. It's not great for night photography, mainly because there is a lot of noise when you use a value above ISO 800. Images shot at ISO 800 will also look a little grainy and this will be noticeable when viewing the photos at their native size on a screen. It's a shame that Samsung hasn't improved in this area. Cheap digital SLRs from Canon and Nikon are well ahead in this regard. Colour tones and saturation were good in our tests and most photos came out looking rich and vibrant (although this will depend on the settings you use).

PC World

GE PJ1 digital camera and projector

The GE PJ1 serves as both a digital camera and a projector. It can be used to project just-taken pictures or it can be used in conjunction with the supplied cables and software to project the contents of a computer screen. The problem is that it can't perform any function very well.

GE-PJ1-digital The PJ1 isn't the best thought-out product we've ever seen. It wants to be something fun and quirky, while at the same time trying to cater to business users who might want to use it as a tool for presentations. However, it's a product that doesn't really accomplish any of those goals. Its pico projector is not of high enough quality to be used as a business tool; it's barely passable for viewing photos. The only thing that the PJ1 has going for it is a little bit of a 'wow' factor.

The camera in the PJ1 isn't great either. It has a 14-megapixel sensor, a 7x zoom lens with a 28-196mm range, and it has a built-in flash and basic controls. It's easy to operate, but because it only has very limited manual controls, you have to rely on the camera to get the exposure right every time, and it doesn't. Pictures taken in bright environments look pale and muddy and highlights are often over-exposed. In dark environments, images will be noisy and lack adequate contrast. Chromatic aberration is also cause for concern when shooting outdoors.

Basically, the GE PJ1 as a camera is barely any better than a typical smartphone camera. Taking this camera to the park to photograph your dog or ducks swimming in a pond is perhaps not a great idea as you'll probably end up with lots of poorly-defined and over-exposed shots. Its pictures are only just passable for use on social networking sites where they will be displayed at a much smaller size than their native 14 megapixels. If you look at the photos at a larger size on a high-definition screen, then all the problems with the quality will be immediately noticeable.

PC World

Sigma DP2x review

It took camera manufacturers a long time to respond to customers' demands for an SLR-quality camera in a compact body. In the end it was up to Sigma – better known for its lenses than its cameras – to lead the charge with the DP1 back in 2008.

It took the sensor from the Sigma SD14 SLR and paired it with a fixed-zoom, wide-angle lens to keep the bulk down. It was an expensive and fairly eccentric camera, but it put the pressure on its more established competitors to raise their game.

Unfortunately for Sigma, that's exactly what’s happened. Panasonic, Olympus, Samsung and Sony all now produce large-sensor compact cameras with interchangeable lenses, while Leica and Fujifilm have followed Sigma's fixed-lens route.

With these cameras also boasting vast megapixel ratings, 1080p video capture, modern LCD screens and HDMI sockets, Sigma is struggling to keep up. The DP2x is the third-generation model, but it still uses the same sensor as the original. Its screen remains 2.5in in size with a resolution of 230-kilopixels, and video recording is at a thumbnail-sized 320 x 240 pixels.

Sigma-DP2x The unusual sensor has a modest 4.6-megapixel resolution, but measures each pixel in full colour; other cameras use a grid of single-colour pixels and extrapolate for full colour. It's a clever idea, but for all its charms, this particular sensor can no longer compete for detail or noise levels. Our test shots at ISO 100 were breathtakingly smooth and sharp right into the corners of frames, but rivals such as the 14.2-megapixel Sony NEX-5 capture significantly more detail.

Noise was a problem at ISO 800, manifesting itself as grainy shadows and streaks of discoloration across block colours. Higher ISO speeds are available only in RAW mode, and aggressive noise reduction was needed to rescue these images. With the Sony NEX-5 delivering great results at ISO 3200, this sensor simply isn't up to today's standards.

We also found automatic exposures were somewhat unreliable. The automatic white balance would sometimes go awry: the Auto ISO mode's unwillingness to venture beyond ISO 200 lead to blurry shots in low light. Admittedly, most potential users will know their way around manual settings, but we'd prefer the automatic mode to give us more of a head start.

Performance falls behind current standards, too. Autofocus speed is better than on the DP2s, but it still isn’t as fast as Panasonic's G-series cameras, for instance. Elsewhere, the camera often kept us waiting, taking more than four seconds to switch on and almost three seconds from shot to shot. Continuous mode ran at 3.3fps, but lasted for only four frames. The control system is much improved over the original DP1, but the main menu is still awkward to navigate.

Sigma currently sells two models – the DP1x and DP2x – which are differentiated by their lenses. The DP1x has 28mm wide-angle lens with a fairly conservative f/4 maximum aperture, whereas the DP2x is more cropped at 41mm and is brighter at f/2.8. That makes it the more obvious choice for indoor photography, but the 41mm lens is a reasonable choice for general use indoors and out.

However, it's difficult to recommend either model when cameras such as the Sony NEX-5 offer much better photo and video quality, faster performance and the flexibility of interchangeable lenses. Still, the DP2x looks and feels much more like a photographer’s tool than the NEX-5 or any other camera at this price. Maybe that's enough to earn it some success.

Author: Ben Pitt

Olympus Pen Mini (E-PM1) hands-on

The Mini, or E-PM1 to give it its full product name, is the baby of the newly announced Olympus Pen family and Pocket-lint was at the European launch of the new camera to get a hands-on play to see what it's all about.

We say hands-on, but sadly this wasn't a fully working model. What we were shown at the Olympus event was a mock-up of the yet to be priced camera. This means we can unfortunately only run you through the physical feel and aesthetics of the camera, rather than tell you how the supposed world's fastest autofocus actually works.

That out of the way, what do you get? Well the camera boasts the same TruePic VI powered 12.3-megapixel MOS sensor as the more expensive bigger brothers. It even manages to squeeze an interchangeable lens system onto a body that is smaller than some compacts. 

Olympus-PEN-Mini-E-PM1_1 On the back of the Pen Mini is a 3-inch LCD display with rotating clickwheel to the right. It looks like a lot of buttonery of the E-PL3 and E-P3 has been done away with to simplify the camera for the beginner. That said, Olympus has still managed to pack a 1080i AVCHD capable sensor into the body which is even capable of the same 12,800 ISO as the other more expensive Pen offerings. If you ask us, that is a seriously powerful quasi-compact if we ever saw one.

The plastic finish definitely doesn't feel quite the same quality as the other Olympus Pen cameras, but then this was a mock-up so we can't be sure. Ergonomically the E-PM1 definitely sat well in the hand, it is exceptionally tiny for an interchangeable lens camera but thankfully the M.Zuiko Pen lenses are so light that things never feel front-heavy. One thing worth noting on the tiny-front is that an extendable zoom lens or even pancake lens stuck on the front fo the E-PM1 means you won't fit it in a pocket. Unlike a compact you need a piece of glass in front of the sensor to keep it safe, meaning whilst small, you will still need it round your neck.

Both the white and red cameras were on display as well as the silver and and black offerings.Personally we are big fans of the more restrained approach to camera colour, but some may like the shiny approach to some of the other choices.

The E-PM1 has a hot shoe mount on top, meaning external flash can be used in low light situations. There is a lack of mode dial, which means presumably settings will have to be applied via the rear display. An on/off button sits next to the shutter which given the size of the camera, means we could see some accidental switching off occuring.

Given that Olympus decided to unleash a trio of cameras at the same time, all of which have the same powerful MOS sensor inside, it is difficult to pick a current favourite. Expect a good versus to be carried out once more time is spent with the Pen E-PM3.


Olympus Pen Lite (E-PL3) hands-on

Olympus recently announced a trio of updates to its Micro Four Thirds Pen range; the E-P3, E-PL3 and E-PM3 and guess what - we managed to bag some hands-on time with the new "Lite" model at the European event so we can tell you what to expect when it goes on sale later in the year.

The Pen Lite, as the name suggests, this is a diet version of the E-P3 and acts as the middle man in what has been a significant stats update to Olympus's mirrorless setup.

Just like its bigger brother, the E-P3, the Lite has retained the ultra-fast autofocus which is said to outpace all compact system camera competition. In-body image stabilisation and Full HD movie recording are also included in the camera package. One major difference with the Lite is that it has a vari-angle 3-inch rear screen. Unlike the E-P3 however the display is not touch sensitive.

Olympus-Pen-Lite-E-PL3 Pocket-lint were only given a very brief period of time to play with the Lite, which remained in the hands of Olympus staff much longer than ours. From the time we had we did notice that the E-PL3 handled really well. Picking the camera up feels like grasping a very high end compact, the metallic finish is nice to hold and the body grips well in the hand. The Lite feels so much like a compact in fact that it was surprising to be able to switch lenses, let alone benefit from a proper specced 12-megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor.

The silver top complete with mode select wheel matches nicely with Olympus's shiny M.Zuiko Pen lenses. It also has a satisfyingly meaty shutter button, which doesn't have that squishy feel of some of the cheaper entry level cameras. To the right of the LCD display is a dedicated click wheel for camera control. At first glance we felt this could have done with being a bit bigger, it did however work well with menu navigation.

The dedicated video recording button is particularly useful, meaning you can switch instantly to 1080i AVCHD video. Which we might add looked great on the 3-inch display.

The new TruePic VI sensor in the E-PL3 brings with it increased Art Filter functionality. This means Olympus's in-built photo effects software is now super charged. Allowing you to stack filters on top of each other and even view things like grainy black and white effect direct through the camera's screen.

Having handled all three of Olympus's new Pen lineup we are definitely swaying towards the E-PL3 as a favourite. Whilst is loses the OLED touchscreen of the flagship E-P3 and dedicated left-right wheel for manual control, it just feels like the logical size for a camera system of this capability.

The E-P3 is priced in at £800, a lot for a Micro Four Thirds system without a viewfinder. Olympus are yet to confirm the cost or release date of the E-PL3, but that extra price drop combined with similar functionality makes the middle-kid of the Pen family a much more tempting choice. Expect more from Pocket-lint on the E-PL3 when we get a chance to put the camera through its paces properly.


Olympus Pen E-P3 hands-on

Olympus has carved out a crafty little niche in the camera market with its trendy take on the compact mirrorless camera. Previous generations of Pen cameras were adopted for their looks as much as their size and portability.

The entry level DSLR however has always succeeded in outdoing the Olympus offerings, providing just that little bit more bang for your buck specs-wise. At first glance the E-P3 looks like it might just have caught up with the competition. All the functions are there; proper HD video, touchscreen, in-camera Art Filters and a decent ISO response.

The increasing number of mirrorless Micro Four Thirds cameras on the market also force Olympus to up the ante. Just recently Panasonic pulled the fastest autofocus card with its Lumix GF3. The Olympus Pen E-P3 now claims to have outpaced it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Pick up the E-P3 and you are greeted with a reassuring light yet robust feel. The choice of black, white and silver metallic finish all handle slightly differently. The camera is a combination of tough metal on top and bottom with less exciting plastic wraparound. Personally we liked the look of the black, but the silver offering was by far the most pleasing to the touch.

The advantage of mirrorless systems is undoubtedly in the weight department. An afternoon spent snapping with the E-P3 left us feeling like we barely had it round our necks. A welcome relief from even the smallest of DSLR competition. All this weight sacrifice can however leave you feeling like you don’t quite have £800 of camera in your hand.

On the back of the E-P3 is a 3-inch OLED touchscreen. The display boasts no less than 614,000 dots, meaning highly accurate reproductions of snaps. From here just about everything can be controlled camera wise, including ISO, aperture and various other system settings. The screen looked like it coped well in direct sunlight and managed to reproduce our photographic masterpieces with relative vibrancy and clarity. One minor niggle was that the touch to shoot function caused us to constantly snap by accident when holding the camera up to snap.

A left-right scroll wheel is used to control aperture, whilst shutter speed is governed by a round dial. This also acts as a click wheel with which you can navigate menus and options. The wheel itself is tiny, meaning we did manage a few accidental clicks thanks to our abnormally large thumbs. That said controls were silky smooth and it felt nice to have access to a full manual mode on such a tiny camera.

A set of customisable function buttons, pop up flash, mode select dial and on off switch sit on top of the Olympus Pen E-P3. The mode dial can be used to switch to Olympus’s dedicated Art Filters, a sort of in-camera Photoshop that allows for rapid sprucing up of shots. Things like grainy black and white film, bleach bypass and pop art are all included. These can also be stacked on top of each other to create new effects.

Menu-wise, Olympus has kept it as simple as possible. Shooting can be carried out without ever needing to enter the cameras' menu at all. Everything will run smoothly on auto and can be adjusted from within the live view display. There are of course much deeper customisation options, like ISO range, EV comp and things like focus beep, which can be done within camera menus.

The included Live Guide aims to make photography as easy as possible. Doing away with complex terminology and instead offering sliders for background blur control and saturation. Those who want more control over colour can use dedicated settings like i-Enhance and portrait mode.

The TruePic VI powered 12-megapixel sensor brings with it a much speeded up shooting and autofocus system. Olympus claims to retain the AF speed crown with the E-P3 and from our brief hands-on, we don’t disagree. We pitted the 35 point system against that of a Nikon D700 and the E-P3 most definitely kept up. That said until we truly push the system in low light situations and against awkward to focus objects, it is difficult to say.

One noticeable jump over the E-P3's predecessor is in the ISO department. The camera now goes up to a maximum of 12800, control over which can be carried out automatically by the TruePic engine.

The E-P3 has done away with most of the nasty shutter lag you get on mirrorless cameras, snapping at the same speed as a DSLR. Olympus also claims an approximately 3 frames per sec shutter with the E-P3. There is a very quick video recording response time. A tap of the dedicated video button will almost instantaneously begin 1080i AVCHD recording.

All things point to the Olympus Pen E-P3 as being a pretty persuasive offering into the mirrorless camera market. The price tag of £800 for lens and body could however persuade many otherwise. From our brief time with the Pen it looks to be a rounded and capable camera package that could be well worthy of the cost. Check back soon for Pocket-lint’s verdict on the brand new mirrorless flagship.


Canon PowerShot D10 digital camera review

The most striking feature about the Canon PowerShot D10 might well be the range of funky colour choices you get, from blue through to camouflage. Pitched directly to action fans, the D10 is battling it out alongside the likes of Olympus' Tough cameras.

canon-powershot-d10-waterproof-camera In that vein, one of the defining features of the D10 is it's environmental sealing. Yes, the D10 name is matched by waterproofing down to depths of 10 metres and the promise of operating in minus 10 degrees too. It also features shock resistance, so will take the odd bash.

We are quite taken with the looks; with action heroes in mind, the butch styling is something to admire, but it won't be the most pocketable camera around. Essentially, given the 12-megapixel sensor backed by the DIGIC 4 processor and the 3x optical zoom (35-105mm equiv.) it is a similar offering to some of the recent IXUS models from Canon.

With the styling giving a little more scope for external features, you'll find a neat twist lock attachment points on each corner. It looks good, but does limit you to buying the official accessories, rather than just using a normal anchor point.

The biggest bulk, however, is in the housing that covers the lens, giving the PowerShot D10 a distinct bulge to the front, but allowing all the lens zooming to take place in a sealed environment. Fewer moving parts on the outside means less to go wrong when it gets covered in mud or sand.

Minimalist isn't the word, with a rich collection of buttons and controls arranged around the body. The top gives you a power button adjacent to the shutter button – perhaps not the best placing, but it does mean you can power on and shoot with one hand. The zoom buttons which often sit in the top move down to the back, which makes them easy to see, but they are too small to use with gloved hands.

Further controls lie both to the top of the 2.5-inch 230k-dot display and to the right-hand side. The top row gives you – perhaps rather randomly – the print controls, playback and the shooting mode selection. Selecting shooting mode needs the use of the four-way controller and the Func/Set button, which generally makes it a two-handed operation.

However, the Auto mode is pretty smart and will identify the scene it is looking at and pick out the best settings for you. It works pretty well too, as we've found in other Canon models using the same technology. The menus, however, are typical Canon fare, and easy to navigate and pick out the settings you want using the Func button and menus.

There's no sign of manual controls, so you'll have to make do with the Program mode, which gives you control over ISO, white balance, metering and colour tints, but that's about it. For those wishing to use it underwater, there is a dedicated Underwater "scene" mode. This camera doesn't float, so make sure you use a strap of some sort.

The ISO range runs from 80 up to 1600 in Auto modes or via selection in P mode. An ISO 3200 mode is also selectable for those must-have low light shots, although it only shoots at 2-megapixels. Noise races into shadows at ISO 800 but shots remain usable, while at ISO 1600 noise blights most aspects of the image. The ISO 3200 mode still suffers high noise, but perhaps makes the better choice for candid indoor shots for sharing online, if you want to avoid the flash.

Aiding the low light performance is image stabilisation, which takes some of the shake out of longer exposures or the far end of the zoom and a fairly typical F/2.8 max aperture on the lens. Combined, they provide good scope for capturing indoor shots (in daylight) without having to deploy the higher ISOs.

The 2.5-inch display is wonderfully bright and gives colours real punch, making the D10 a great camera for shooting and showing to friends. The screen is a little small by current standards, shrunk to fit in with the design. There is no optical viewfinder.

Video capture comes in at a rather miserly 640 x 480 max, but does give you a nice solid 30fps with good, rich, colours. Audio is not so good, with noticeable noise from hand movements and also struggling to cope with wind noise.

Overall performance for still shooting is very good, with nice bold colours leaping out. Beautifully rich greens are perhaps offset by a tendency to over-saturate reds, but these things are easily adjusted post-shoot and it doesn’t mar the images overall.

High-contrast scenes are handled rather well, with a small amount of purple fringing around edges and the occasional blow-out of light tones in bright conditions, but it copes as well, if not better than many other compacts out there. Barrel distortion is easily noticeable at the wide end of the zoom.

The flash is unusually placed over the top of the chunky lens housing and does seem to be a little under-powered. It's location, however, does mean that you can have a nice solid right-hand grip on the camera without the risk of obscuring it with a wayward finger.

Startup is relatively fast, flashing on in about a second and giving you your first shot about 2 seconds later. Continuous shooting gives you about 1 shot per second, not the fastest, but it will happily chew through plenty of shots without buffering being a problem. Shutter lag is not a noticeable problem either.

The battery gives you a recorded 220 shots, which we found to be about right.


As Canon's first foray into the world of pocket bomb-proof cameras, it's a compelling offering. It is a little more bloated than Olympus rivals, but it does give you something to grip onto when using it in more remote locations, such as diving or climbing, where it sits nicely in the hand when you want to grab it and shoot.

The price, although at the upper end of compact cameras, is reasonable considering the versatility of the D10. The performance is very much in line with models from the top of the IXUS range, which is a good thing: imaging hasn't suffered to give you the weatherproofing.

Those hitting the slopes might want something more compact, but for those who want something easy to grip and happy in all weathers, the Canon PowerShot D10 is well worth a look.


Nikon Coolpix P500 review

If we handed out awards based on specifications alone, Nikon’s P500 would be first in line. Somehow, Nikon has crammed a 36x optical zoom into a body only 103mm deep. It weighs less than 500g and shoots 1080p video at 30fps.

Better still, the P500 has a 12.2-megapixel sensor, an indication that Nikon is sidestepping the megapixel race in a bid for better quality photos. Of course, the sensor is still tiny at 1/2.3in.

Nikon-Coolpix-P500 Another winning specification is the 921kpixel, articulated 3in screen. This tilts up and down by 90 degrees to let you take shots from interesting angles. The only blots on the P500’s copybook are the lack of a RAW mode and a hotshoe for an external flash.

Unusually, there are two zoom controls: one surrounding the shutter release, and the other on the lens barrel. The main control has both slow and fast speeds, but the barrel rocker switch only moves the lens slowly.

Wrapped around the video-recording button is a switch to change from HD to HS. The latter stands for high speed and records at 240fps, albeit at only 320 x 240 and without audio. There’s also the option to shoot at 120fps at 640 x 480. The footage looks great in bright light.

The P550’s performance is respectable. Time from off to first shot is only 1.4 seconds and there’s a five-frame continuous mode that runs at 8fps and shoots at full resolution. If you want more than five frames, you’ll have to put up with a reduced frame rate of 1.8fps.

Nikon-Coolpix-P500.1 Image quality is good, but not great. In bright light, the P500 produces superb photos with sumptuous levels of detail. Colours are muted in typical Nikon style, but exposures are always well judged. The problems come when light drops and ISO speeds rise, with fine details smeared at ISO 400 and above. The Nikon Coolpix P500 struggles to focus in low light at anything beyond 600mm, and with moving subjects even in better light.

We wanted to like the P500 more, and it does have notable attractions, such as the screen and the 1080p video mode. Only the image quality stands in the way of it walking away with top marks.

Author: Jim Martin