September 15th, 2014

Photokina 2014: Panasonic Intros Lumix LX100 and GM5 (Hands-on Preview)

 

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Panasonic pulled back the curtain on an advanced Lumix compact camera at Photokina 2014. The Lumix LX100 is the first point-and-shoot with a 1.33-inch Micro Four Thirds image sensor and borrows many features from Panasonic’s high-end head turner, the GH4, including 4K video recording at 30, 25 or 24 frames per second (fps).

Beyond 4K video recording, the LX100 looks to be fast too, with a burst mode of 11fps. It uses the same contrast AF sensor that’s found in the GH4 which, along with the company’s Depth from Defocus technology, gives the LX100 the ability to lock AF in .14 seconds and track AF during 5fps burst shooting. Native ISO ranges from 200-25,600 and can be pushed down to 100.

The LX100 sports a bright f/1.7 lens with a focal range of 24-75mm. According to Panasonic, the lens has been so precisely engineered that they guarantee the lens elements are centered to within 3 micro-meters. There’s a 3-inch tilting LCD and a 2,764-dot live viewfinder, plus Wi-Fi and NFC for wirelessly pairing with mobile devices. Panasonic’s arsenal of creative effects can now be applied to images when shooting in A/S/M mode as well.

4K Photo Mode

Perhaps the most intriguing feature of the new camera is its 4K Photo Mode. The mode lets you isolate an 8-megapixel still image during 4K recording by hitting the function button. When set to 4K Photo Mode, the LX100 sets picture quality and brightness settings that are ideal for still images and users can choose the aspect ratio they want to record in (4:3, 3:2, 16:9 or 1:1). The images are saved as JPEGs with complete EXIF data for each file. The new mode can be used in conjunction with a 4K loop record function that saves the last five 2-minute video clips so you can let the camera roll as you wait for the perfect photo op without devouring all your memory card space.

Panasonic is pitching the feature to portrait photographers in particular as a means of finding the perfect pose for a squirming subject, using still frames plucked from video instead of burst mode to stay on top of the action.

4K Photo Mode will also be available on the GH4 thanks to a firmware upgrade that Panasonic will roll out in October. The new firmware will also give the GH4 the ability to shoot tethered via USB and allow for more control over ISO during video recording.

DSC_0275Back to the LX100. Using the larger sensor, Panasonic was able to implement its Multi Aspect Ratio technology which lets you use various crops of the sensor as you adjust aspect ratio. So while the LX100′s sensor is significantly larger than the 1-inch sensor found on advanced compact cameras from Sony and others, the effective area depends on the aspect ratio you choose and is, at its largest, about 1.5 times larger than a 1-inch sensor (which is still a nice size for a camera this svelte).

We had the opportunity to get a brief hands-on with the camera and were impressed above all with its depth of field capabilities. The combination of the f/1.7 lens (which has nine aperture blades too) with the large sensor produces a very shallow depth of field  for a compact camera. While we didn’t have a chance to dim the lights and crank the ISO, we suspect it will hold up very well in low light environments as well.

Speaking of light, Panasonic decided to skip the pop-up flash on the LX100 but will bundle an accessory flash with the camera. There’s an aperture ring on the lens but no mode dial (you can pop into iAuto using a dedicated button on top of the camera and choose from Panasonic’s effects via a dedicated filter button, also atop the body). The construction is magnesium alloy, giving this advanced compact some reassuring heft when you hold it. There are dials on the top of the camera for setting shutter speed and exposure compensation.

The LX100 ships in November for $899.

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The DMC-GM5

Panasonic also announced the Lumix DMC-GM5 mirrorless interchangeable lens camera at Photokina.

The 16-megapixel GM5 sports a live viewfinder with 100 percent color reproduction and 100 percent field of view with a resolution of 1,166k dots.  A new Face/Eye Detection autofocus mode will debut on the GM5 and other AF modes, such as Pinpoint, Low Light and One-Shot, are also available for your focusing pleasure. Touch focus is available using the 3-inch touch screen display.

The GM5 can burst at up to 5.8fps with AF tracking engaged to an unlimited number of JPEGs or seven RAW image files. The maximum shutter speed is 1/16,000 and the ISO reaches 25600.

You won’t find 4K on the GM5 but it will deliver 1080/60p HD recording in either AVCHD progressive or MP4 formats with AF tracking available during movie recording. Manual exposure control is available during movie mode as well. Panasonic is rolling out a new “Snap Movie Mode” in the GM5 that lets you record short clips of between 2 and 8 seconds that can be stitched in camera with a number of creative effects and transitions to create longer video montages.

It will include Wi-Fi but no NFC. Like the LX100, the GM5 won’t feature a pop-up flash but Panasonic will bundle an accessory flash in the camera’s box.

Look for the GM5 in November for $899.

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New Lens

Panasonic also launched a new lens, the G 14m f/2.5 ASPH is a Micro Four Thirds lens with a 28mm equivalent fixed focal length.

Due in November, the lens uses a stepping motor for quiet autofocus and a seven bladed diaphragm. It will cost $399.

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October 16th, 2013

Sony Unveils Full-Frame Mirrorless Cameras, New Lenses, and High-End Superzoom Model

Sony-7R_frontSony went where no camera manufacturer has gone before this morning, unveiling the world’s first full-frame mirrorless cameras: the 36.4-megapixel Alpha 7R and 24.3-megapixel Sony Alpha 7. Both compact system cameras use 35mm-sized Exmor-branded, CMOS image sensors but the Sony Alpha 7R has no optical low pass filter over its chip to help it capture more detail in photos. The Alpha 7, meanwhile, boasts a new Hybrid AF system, designed to quickly lock in focus on subjects.

Both cameras will go on sale this December, with the Sony Alpha 7R retailing for $2,300, body only, and the Sony Alpha 7, selling for $1,700, body only; or as a kit with a new 28-70mm F3.5-5.6 lens for $2,000.

You could also pair these full-frame mirrorless cameras with five new full-frame E-Mount lenses that Sony just unveiled. The new Sony E-Mount lenses include three Carl Zeiss-branded models: the Sonnar T* 55mm F1.8 ZA ($1,000) and Sonnar T* 35mm F2.8 ZA ($800) prime lenses, and the Vario Tessar T* 24-70mm F4 ZA OSS mid-range zoom ($1,200).

We’re curious what PDN readers think of the new Sony Alpha 7R and Alpha 7 mirrorless cameras. Does the addition of full-frame sensors make you want to give these these high-end compact system cameras a second look or do you plan to stick to your DSLR?

Read more of this story here with details on all of Sony’s announcements this morning and then leave your thoughts in the comments below.

August 1st, 2013

Panasonic Intros DMC-GX7 Camera and Fast, f/1.2 Micro Four Thirds Prime Lens

Panasonic-GH7s-CameraPanasonic has announced the mirrorless, interchangeable lens DMC-GX7, the successor to the two-year old GX1 camera. The DMC-GX7 camera is built around a new, 16-megapixel live MOS sensor that Panasonic promises will deliver better image quality, increased saturation (by 10 percent) and 10 percent higher sensitivity. The sensor offers an improved S/N ratio of 6dB and, with multi-process noise reduction, the new camera may well be able to take advantage of its higher ISO range, which maxes out at 25,600 and can be extended down to a minimum ISO of 125.

The camera is well-equipped with features and functions, including wifi, NFC and focus peaking. While the Panasonic DMC-G6 also offers focus peaking, the GX7 provides on-screen (versus in-menu) adjustable detection levels and a choice of focus peaking colors. For manual focus, a magnified picture-in-picture is available for better accuracy. Autofocus options include magnification for pinpoint AF, and low-light autofocus has been enhanced to -4 EV (versus previous models at -3 EV). A new highlight/shadow on-screen curve adjustment feature allows users to tweak each parameter separately. Among other features, a silent shooting mode is also built into the camera.

In addition to the standard exposure modes and HD video, the GX7 adds new filter effects including Rough and Silky (softer) monochrome options. It also has the ability to use yellow, orange, red and green filters on monochrome to simulate the filter/black and white combination shot on film, bringing the total Creative Control functions up to a total of 22. The GX7 also features creative panorama, time lapse, stop motion and clear retouch.

Interestingly, Panasonic—whose lens optical image stabilization, we think, is quite effective—has added sensor-shift IS to the GX7, so it can maintain stabilization even when used with older, non-image stabilized lenses. However, when paired with an OIS lens, the lens stabilization takes priority over the in-camera stabilizer.

I spent a short time with a pre-production model and while I can’t comment on performance, I have to say that I really like the look and feel of the camera. Physically, the black-and-silver GX7, magnesium alloy body and design (all-black models should be available elsewhere but not in the U.S.), clearly reflects the retro-styling that has become so popular. At 4.83 x 2.78 x 2.15 inches and a fully loaded weight (including 14-42mm lens) of 1.13 pounds, the camera is, overall easier to handle than one of my current favorite cameras, the Fuji X-E1. But the GX7 is more compact and, from the short time I spent with the camera, more comfortable to use.

An eye sensor automatically switches between the 3-inch, tiltable, 1040K dot touchscreen LCD and the 2.76 million dot viewfinder. The latter, can be flipped up 90 degrees so that you’re looking down into the EVF (almost like a Rollieflex, except the viewfinder is considerably smaller); a special optional eye cup accessory can be added.

The camera is fully loaded and has far too many features to list here, but you can find out all the details on www.panasonic.com.Panasonic-lens-nocticron

But that’s not all. Panasonic also just announced a new, fast, f/1.2 lens for G-series cameras: the Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm lens. However, that’s about all we know. Product specs, release date and price are TBA but Panasonic suggests a visit to  panasonic.net/avc/lumix/systemcamera/gms/lens/index.html to view its lens road map.

Meanwhile, the GX7 is slated to ship in September. The body only will run about $1,000; while a bundle with the updated 14-42mm lens will cost around $1,100.
Price:
Body only: $999.99
Kit with updated 14-42mm lens: $1099.99

 

–Theano Nikitas