23 July 2012

Canon enters the mirror-less arena with the EOS M

Today Canon unveiled their own mirror-less compact system camera, the Canon EOS M. With the same 18 Mega Pixel 1.6x crop factor sensor as used in the EOS 650D, this is promising to be a very nice compact system camera indeed!
Some specs:
  • 18.0 Mega Pixel CMOS (APS-C, 1.6x) sensor
  • ISO 100-12,800 (expandable to 25,600 in H mode). Note that for video this is restricted to ISO 100-6,400 (expandable to 12,800 in H mode)
  • 1.04 Mega Pixel 3" Touch Screen (!)
  • Phase & Contrast AF (like the Nikon V1 and Canon EOS 650D this will likely mean ultra-fast Auto Focus)
  • Storage: SD/SDHC/SDXC memory card (including the new Ultra High Speed (UHS-I) cards)
  • EF-M mount (an optional adapter to make the EOS M compatible with Canon EF and EF-S lenses will be available too)
  • Built-in three frame HDR
  • Multi Shot Noise Reduction (combines multiple shots to reduce noise)
  • Compatible with existing Canon Speedlite accessories
  • Compatible with the Canon GP-E2 GPS Receiver
  • Size: 108.6 x 66.5 x 32.3mm
  • Weight: 262g (body only), 298g (including battery and memory card)
  • Video:
    • Servo AF
    • 1920×1080 30p/25p/24p (Full HD) and 1280×720 60p/50p
    • MPEG-4, AVC/H.264 encoding
    • Built-in stereo microphone
    • Manual audio level adjustment
    • Video Snapshot mode with touch-screen editing

Together with the EOS M camera, 2 lenses (the EF-M 22 f/2 STM and EF-M 18-55 IS), a new flash (the EX 90) and an EF lens adaptor (to be able to mount Canon EF and EF-S lenses), will be made available too.

For more information and specifications, please see the Canon website.

12 July 2012

Lexar announces XQD memory cards

After Sony's recent announcement of bigger and faster XQD memory cards, Lexar just announced they will be making XQD cards of their own too.

The XQD memory card specification was developed by Nikon, Sony, and Sandisk together, to be able to build faster memory cards than possible with Compact Flash. It is therefore interesting to see that instead of Sandisk, Lexar is going to be the second manufacturer of XQD cards besides Sony…

Apart from announcing availability of the new Lexar XQD cards “this quarter,” details on size, speed, and cost have not been made available yet. Also unknown is whether or not they will be manufacturing an accompanying card reader as well.

At this moment the Nikon D4 is the only camera that makes use of these fast XQD memory cards. Lexar's initiative, however, can be seen as an indication that the XQD card will be more widely adopted in the (near) future.

7 July 2012

Review: Photo Mechanic v5.0

Even when you only shoot a limited number of images a year, there will be a time when you need some sort of tool to help you manage your images and streamline the whole digital workflow process. From loading the images onto your computer, adding image information (meta date), editing, and exporting them to e.g., your website.

Many solutions exist to cover one or more of the digital workflow tasks. Common options include Adobe Bridge (included with Adobe Photoshop), Adobe Lightroom, and Phase One's Media Pro. Nikon shooters may be familiar with a combination of Nikon Transfer and Nikon View (both free programs). Although I have tried out many of the more common solution, I found none of them suited my particular workflow very well. My search for a viable solution brought me to Photo Mechanic, an application developed by Camera Bits, and which I have been using happily for many years now.

Camera Bits just released a public beta for its oncoming version 5.0 of the software and this version will be the basis for this review. As a member of a select group of private beta testers, I have already been able to work with the new software for a while now and in fact contributed to some of the new/improved features.

What is Photo Mechanic?

Photo Mechanic (PM for short) is a standalone application supporting all steps in the digital workflow. It has an extremely fast (perhaps even the fastest on the market?) image browser with very nicely integrated features to support and/or automate your digitial workflow. IPTC and Exif meta data are fully supported and can be applied quickly and easily either on individual images or in batch. Code replacements (e.g., short abbreviations of commonly used terms like player's names) and the use of “variables” make Photo Mechanic a very flexible and powerful tool for Photographers and others participating in the digital workflow process.

I will discuss the various features of the program following the basic steps in the digital workflow, below.

Note: this review does not try to cover each and every detail of the program. I will, however, try to cover the, in my opinion, more important aspects. Also, because this review is based on a beta version of PM5.0, features and implementation details may change in the final product (rest assured, however, no functionality will be removed from the final release of PM 5.0, only enhanced/added!)

5 July 2012

Nikon D4 firmware update

Nikon has released a new firmware update for its D4 camera.

The new 1.02 version of the firmware has the following modifications:
  • Format memory card can now be added to My Menu.
  • Gamut for Adobe RGB images displayed in the camera's monitor has now been changed. This enables more vivid display of images.
  • The stability of network connections when the FTP upload option is selected has been increased.
  • When recording movies using a lens with an aperture ring in [P] or [S] exposure mode, and Aperture ring selected for Custom Setting f10: Customize command dials>Aperture setting, the minimum aperture was applied. This issue has been resolved.
  • When a still image captured during movie recording with 1920 ×1080; 30 fps; crop, 1920 × 1080; 25 fps; crop, or 1920 × 1080; 24 fps; crop selected for Movie settings>Frame size/frame rate and Live frame grab selected for Custom Setting g4: Assign shutter button was displayed in Capture NX 2 or ViewNX 2, the position of the focus point displayed differed from actual recording position. This issue has been resolved.
  • An issue that caused the camera to freeze when attempting to format a memory card (setup menu > Format memory card) while the camera was connected to a network in HTTP server mode has been resolved.

Downloading the firmware updates

You can find the firmware updates on the support sites: Europe / USA
(Or, go to your own country's support site)

How to apply the firmware updates

Applying the fix is easy:
  • Download the firmware update (Mac or Win file)
  • Put the firmware update bin file in the root directory of a memory card
  • Insert the memory card in your camera
  • Turn the camera on
  • Select “Firmware version” from the camera's setup menu and follow the instructions shown for updating the firmware
  • After update has completed, turn the camera off and remove the memory card
To verify you have the latest version of the firmware active, simply select “Firmware version” from the camera's setup menu. Firmware A and Firmware B should both be version 1.02.

2 July 2012

The fastest gets faster: Sony announces new XQD memory card

With the newly announced S series of XQD memory cards, Sony has increased the speed of the (already the fastest available) memory cards. The new cards have read/write speeds of (up to) 168MB/s. The previous H series XQD cards “only” went to 125MB/s. With 168MB/s they actually surpass the theoretical maximum speed of Compact Flash cards!

The S series XQD cards will become available (in Europe) this month in sizes of 64GB, with 32GB memory cards planned later this year.

Note: Currently Sony is the only maker of XQD memory cards (and readers), with the Nikon D4 the only digital camera to accept these cards. With more demanding cameras (megapixels, frames per second, video, etc.), the need for speed as well as storage capacity will keep increasing. Compact Flash is nearing its theoretical limits, it is therefore likely XQD will see more followers in the future.