[REVIEW—PANASONIC LUMIX DMC-FZ1000]

by terry on 23 July 2014

FZ1000

Price: $1070(street)
Big but bonzer

THE LOW-DOWN: This 20 megapixel camera has a 24—400mm Leica-branded lens with an aperture range of f2.8—f4. There is 5 axis optical stabilisation. It is called a “compact” but it is larger than a full frame Sony mirrorless camera. The very high resolution viewfinder is complemented by a 75cm articulated LCD. There is both WiFi and NFC connectivity and remote control by smartphone is done using Panasonic’s excellent app for Android or iPhone. The big claim to difference with this camera is its ultra high definition 4K video recording ability. Construction quality and ergonomics are very good – we particularly like the switch on the lens barrel that sets the big control ring to either zoom or manual focus.

LIKE: Jpeg image quality is excellent. Even at full zoom extension and high ISO pictures are sharp and clean. This lens is impressive. And its superb electronic viewfinder is a standout. We couldn’t test the 4K video but we can report that using full high definition the video quality is outstanding.

DISLIKE: The size of this camera is perplexing. It is as big and heavy as some DSLRs and much bulkier than most mirrorless system cameras. It has been suggested that this is a marketing ploy to appeal to people who think that DSLR bigness is a guarantee of beautiful photos.

VERDICT: If the bulk is no deterrent and you want an all-in-one fixed lens camera that produces good images then you can’t go wrong with the FZ1000. We couldn’t check RAW image quality because the only converter available was the useless SilkyPix included in the box, but given the quality of the jpegs we expect the RAW files to be even better, particularly at high ISO where noise reduction can be done in the computer. It’s big, but it’s bonzer.

PanaFZ1000sample02RAW

[UPDATE: Since writing this review Adobe has added the FZ1000 to the supported cameras in Adobe Camera RAW. As predicted the RAW images are sensational, relatively noise free up to ISO1600 and useable to 3200 with judicious noise reduction in the computer.]

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[SMART AND PRETTY TOO]

by terry on 23 July 2014

Sony 50_ TV copy

Back in the Dark Ages (like, four years ago) when we last considered high definition television as the future of digital photo displays TVs were dumb. They just sat in the corner knowing nothing of the world around them. How times have changed. These days every self-respecting TV is “smart”.

“Smart” means it is connected to the rest of the electro magnetic waves in which we daily swim, generated by modems, routers, phones, tablets and computers. The time has come to revisit the television as the ideal device for the resurrection of the slide night. So, we borrowed a Sony Bravia KDL-50W800B – a fifty inch Sony, active 3D, telly.

This set connects to the world using either or both a WiFi or an ethernet connection. And once connected – and the setup is easy, provided you can remember your router key or password – there are so many ways of putting your own photos and videos onto the screen that we fear we might have overlooked a few.

First, there is the direct way, using SneakerNet. Put the photos (either 2D or 3D) on a USB stick or portable hard drive and plug it into the USB port. Too easy and old fashioned.

Or you can upload your creations to Picasa, YouTube or Vimeo and replay them using the pre-loaded apps on the TV. Better yet, for ad hoc photo display use the Android/iOS app for phone or tablet and zap the picture direct from the portable device to the screen. For Windows Phone people the news is not good – as usual.

Video can be streamed from computer to TV and the television recognises and displays a list of all available streaming sources in the vicinity of the WiFi network.

You get the picture(s)? If it exists on a connected device the Sony will find it, grab it and display it. No wonder they call it smart. Brilliant, we’d say.

What about the picture quality on the Sony? Fortunately it is possible to adjust video and still photo parameters separately. Video, out of the box, is good, needing just a few adjustments to make it ideal. Photos are another matter. They are over-sharpened with contrast, brightness and saturation all far too high. Adjustment is easy and only has to be done once, but we needed to radically reduce these settings to get images that approximate what we see on a good computer monitor.

One caveat: most free to air transmissions in this country are low definition garbage that would be an embarrassment in Burkina Faso. Bad source material looks abominable on a big, high definition screen.

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Tamron-SP-150-600mm

Price: $1300(approx street)
Impressive

THE LOW-DOWN: This lens – up to 600mm on full frame cameras and 900mm on APS-C bodies – has an aperture range of f5—6.3. In other words it is not bright (fast) but is par for the type. It will obviously appeal to photographers of wildlife and sport where its fast, silent UltraSonic Drive makes for snappy focussing in contrasty light. At the 150mm end the lens measures 27cm and extended to 600mm it is 33.5cm. Construction is rugged and tight so even with the extreme extension of the barrel there is no slop or wobble. Optical vibration reduction assists in getting sharp pictures hand held. Mechanically it is smooth and nicely damped. There is a lock to prevent the zoom slipping into a different focal length under its own weight. There is a collar for tripod mounting which we found also helped in hand held mode.

LIKE: The sharpness of images taken at 600mm in difficult light is impressive. The focussing is fast enough to use it in tracking mode, at least on the Canon 5D MkII used for our test. Colour and contrast are very good. The image stabilisation works well enough to be able to use the camera hand held in all but critical situations.

Tamron600sample01

DISLIKE: The long telescoping effect is the price you pay for a relatively inexpensive lens with exceptional reach.

VERDICT: We took the lens out on the Canon, hunting for birds and footballers. The results are excellent. The resolution of individual feathers at 600mm exceeded any expectations that we had. This Tamron is another example of a third party lens that out-performs the camera-brand optics at a significantly lower price. It is available in Nikon, Canon and Sony mounts.

Tamron600sample13

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[SCENE ON THE STREET]

July 16, 2014

  At first sight it might seem that the Tamron lens reviewed today with the extra long focal length would be ideal for a little surreptitious street photography. You would be so far from your unsuspecting subject that they wouldn’t know you were there. Well, according to David Gibson, in his book The street photographer’s […]

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[REVIEW—SONY RX100MkIII compact camera]

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Price: $968 (best street price spotted) Still the best THE LOW-DOWN: This 20mp compact camera is the third iteration of the RX100 form in two years. The new features that make the upgrade important include a high resolution pop-up viewfinder; a shorter, faster (brighter) 24-70mm zoom and a close integration with the alpha range of […]

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[CONVERGING VERTICALS PHOBIA]

July 9, 2014

Converging Verticals Phobia is a deep, irrational abhorrence of distorted vertical perspective. For some reason we don’t feel the same about converging horizontals – train tracks merging to a point in the distance look perfectly all right to us – but when we take a photo of a building, looking up from ground level, and […]

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[REVIEW—NIKON COOLPIX P340]

July 3, 2014

  Price: $445(street) Superior compact THE LOW-DOWN: This 12 megapixel compact camera has a zoom lens with a film-equivalent range of 24—120mm with optical stabilisation. The lens is a fast f1.8 maximum aperture. The 75mm LCD is high resolution but non-swivelling. The P340 is a small upgrade from the P330 and it appears that GPS […]

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[IF A THING'S WORTH DOING...]

July 3, 2014

If you are looking for the best camera in a smartphone you should set your browser to dxomark.com/Mobiles. You will see that the phone camera ranking goes Samsung, Sony, Nokia, Sony (again) and then Apple’s iPhone 5s. Does anyone care? Apparently not. Now look at the graph of “cameras used” for Flickr postings at flickr.com/cameras/. […]

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[THE PERFECT CAMERA]

June 29, 2014

WE ARE ALL FAMILIAR with the old aphorism that “the best camera is the one that you have with you.” But if you are going to a concert where there is a total ban on photography and you don’t want to alarm the ushers then the “best camera” requires some thought. Turning up with your […]

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[BEETHOVEN & BERLIOZ]

June 28, 2014

* Saturday dawned cold and miserable, so, on the spur of the moment and regardless of expense [which was considerable] we toddled off to Town for the great Beethoven and Berlioz concert by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. There is always something going on between the station and the concert hall, and today it was a […]

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