[REVIEW—SAMSUNG GALAXY K ZOOM]

Galaxy K zoom


Price: $749
Two for the price of one

THE LOW-DOWN: This is the latest Samsung camera-with-phone-attached, rather than the other way around. This 20 megapixel camera, with a 10x optical zoom, has an Android phone attached. The 12.2cm Super Amoled display is sharp and clear and touch sensitive – the camera can be focused, exposure set and the shutter fired by touching the critical spot on the screen. This is supplemented with a physical shutter release button. There is 4G, Bluetooth, WiFi and NFC connectivity. The 8GB of internal storage can be boosted with a 64GB MicroSD memory card. The K Zoom is heavier than a phone and about the same weight as a basic compact.

LIKE: Image quality is good, albeit with visible noise reduction effects. Dynamic range and auto white balance are excellent. Good editing apps are built in to the system. And the Android OS is the best, with the promise in the near future of RAW capture of images.

DISLIKE: The big question here is the size and weight of the K Zoom. It is a little too large and heavy to be carried in a pocket.

VERDICT: And that is the marketing problem for Samsung: is the picture quality so much better than that from a conventional smartphone that the extra bulk is an acceptable trade-off? In our comparison with the iPhone 5s and Nokia Lumia 1020 we could not see an image difference in the K Zoom to justify the bulk.The pictures produced by Samsung’s own Galaxy S5, as well as by the other top phones, are so good that it is hard to see a significant difference in the K Zoom output. DxO labs rank the Galaxy S5 as joint best phone camera and that would be our choice.

Sammy01

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[HIGH DEFINITION REDEFINED]

KoganTV

The latest ruse of the gadget makers to separate us from our hard earned is the Ultra High Definition television. No sooner do we embrace HD than they want us to go Ultra – aka 4K.

High definition digital television has 1920 by 1080 dots or picture elements on the screen, which we thought was pretty impressive when we first welcomed it into the house. But Ultra (4K) goes four times better with a screen resolution of 3840 by 2160 dots. You have to put your nose on the screen to discern the individual pixels, even with a set as big as the 137cm Kogan Ultra HD television that we have sitting here at the moment.

The great deterrent to purchase is the dearth of source material in native 4K format. Broadcast and disc video has to be upscaled for the Ultra display.

Here’s the good news. Anybody who owns a digital camera has 4K material to hand. Every digital camera produces images that far surpass the pixel dimensions of a 4K image. And that being the case we were anxious to see what our photos would look like in Ultra HD.

Kogan offered us their very low priced ($999) set for review. Keep in mind that we were only using it as a display device for still images. We have no 4K video, and broadcast, DVD and BluRay is beyond our brief.

In still image mode, straight from the box, the Kogan has excellent colour, tonality and resolution. Black and white photos look splendid, with true black and white, with luminous shadows and detailed highlights. Skin tones are beautifully natural with no over-saturation or sharpening.

We played still images from a USB stick, hard drive and also straight from a Sony camera using the camera’s setting for display of 4K still images via an HDMI connector. We also played back 1080p video from the Sony through the HDMI input. Video doesn’t look quite as good as on a 1080 HD display, but it is better than acceptable. There is a “dot for dot” screen size option that shows camera video at its best.

How good is it? Think giant iPad.

A word of caution for MacPixies: photos loaded from the Mac onto a Mac-formatted USB create annoying empty files between the image files. Windows: perfect. Mac: irritating. The “smart” features of the TV are controlled by a version of Android which is an operating system for touchscreen phones and tablets. It does not work so well on a TV unless you buy the optional Kogan keyboard and mouse to assist navigation and selection.

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[REVIEW—NIKON D3300 DSLR]

nikon_d3300_1855_kit_grey

Price: $700(approx street)
The way in

THE LOW-DOWN: This entry to Nikon’s DSLR range comes with a 24 megapixel sensor (also used by Sony and Pentax) and a Nikkor 18—55mm kit lens (27—82 film equivalent). The optical low pass filter has been removed to improve sharpness, as is becoming common on DSLRs. The 921k dot LCD has good brightness and contrast. The “info” panel is useful, though not as good as on mirrorless cameras. The camera will not auto-focus legacy lenses, only the newer lenses with inbuilt focus motors. Ergonomics, as on most Nikons, are excellent. The camera is small and light. There is a good 120 page printed manual.

LIKE: Nikon jpegs, straight from the camera, are always good and this is no exception, even though saturation is a little over done. That is easily corrected in camera settings. RAW image quality is second to none, helped by a decent kit lens. High ISO performance is also good.

DISLIKE: While the price is attractive, undercutting some compacts, it is up against stiff competition from mirrorless system cameras which we think offer better value for the money.

VERDICT: Assessing cheap DSLRs always comes down to the familiar bottom line: you are buying into a system, whether it is Nikon, Sony, Canon or Pentax. At this price the camera body is not expected to last a lifetime, but the lenses and accessories that you buy will. And in time you may buy a better body and go on using your lenses. Buying into the Nikon system is a smart move. If you never aspire to higher things you will still have a good camera, and if your ambition is high then you have a good equipment foundation. At the time of writing Nikon are offering a cash-back incentive on the D3300.

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[WINDOW ON THE WORLD]

It’s probably not true that the best things in life are free – at least where digital photography is concerned. However a surprising number of useful applications can be downloaded and used for absolutely no cost.

One thing missing from both Windows and Macs is a decent photo file viewer. The basic requirement of a photo viewer is that it displays thumbnails of all the pictures in a folder and then gives access to other functions – full sized display, editing, setting as wallpaper, changing file form – with one click of the mouse button.

On the Windows PC we use Irfanview (irfanview.com) a free file viewer with some editing functions that has been around for as long as we can remember, just getting better and better. It is lightning fast in opening and displaying images in any form, including RAW (with the right extensions installed).

For the Mac there is PhotoscapeX. (x.photoscape.org). This is also a quick photo viewer with even better editing functions. Run the program, select a folder of photos, right-click on a thumbnail and you are presented with an array of options including edit, set as wallpaper, copy, rename, change format and so on.

The Mac comes with iPhoto, which is just about all the photo editing power that most people will need. The Windows Photo Gallery is not an acceptable alternative. The version of Photoscape for Windows (www.photoscape.org) doesn’t have the same attractive interface as the Mac version but it is still a useful viewer and editor.

If you think it is time that you asserted your existence with a presence on the interweb then Windows has it all over the Mac for free, must-have applications.

If you blog, using services such as WordPress, Blogger or Typepad (we use the WordPress service on www.dpexpert.com.au) then Windows Livewriter, part of the MS “Live” suite, is indispensable. Livewriter is a blog content manager, which means it is used to update the blog with new words, pictures and links, which we do weekly. It is WYSIWYG and drag and drop, just like Word. One click on the Publish button uploads the content to the designated server.

If you create a web page from scratch, or by using a template (google “free web templates”) then Microsoft comes to the party again with an amazing piece of software: Microsoft Expression Web 4. This is a viable alternative to Adobe’s expensive Dreamweaver, but like Dreamweaver it is not intuitive. You need a guide. And that is also free at tinyurl.com/6o7rsln as a pdf set up to look beautiful on a pad/tablet.

Who are these generous people who give us so much good stuff for nothing?

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