Arca-Swiss are known for two things: producing excellent precision photographic gear, and having spotty availability – probably due to very small production runs. This two part review is going to cover what I think are two of the best tripod heads currently available – the P0 and C1 Cube. I picked up the P0 from B&H as a lightweight travel head during my trip to New York earlier in the year; I’ve been using it since – more often than I’d imagined I would. After being very impressed with the little one, I requested a C1 Cube as soon as it finally became available; both out of curiosity, and also to see if the hype was true.
You’re probably wondering why this DP3M doesn’t look anything like the press release photos – my friend attached a RRS grip and plate to it, and rightly so; without it, the camera is not very comfortable to hold.
I eventually caved to both pressure and curiosity, and borrowed the Sigma DP3M from master printer and good friend Wesley Wong – who has the DP Merrill in all three flavors. In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years, Sigma has been going their own way with the DP series of large sensor compacts; all of their cameras now share the same 14.7 MP (effective) three-layered Foveon sensor, with a 4.99 micron pixel pitch and true color/ true resolution information across all photosites. In a nutshell, the difference between Foveon and Bayer sensors is that the former records actual RGB values for each pixel, but the latter only records R, G or B, interpolating the other values from neighboring photosites. It’s difficult to determine precisely just how much resolution loss Bayer interpolation causes, but in my experience it seems to be around 50% or so. Sigma claims that the camera has the equivalent of 46MP (being 15.3 total MP x3 layers) – but this is really pushing it; images upsampled this far simply do not have the pixel-level ‘bite’ of a good Bayer file.
When the Leica X Vario (Typ 107) was first announced about a month ago, I honestly didn’t quite know what to make of it – though it seemed like a logical evolution of the X line, and a compliment to the M line, the headline spec left most photographers scratching their heads – including this one. It packs the same 16MP Sony-derived APS-C sensor as the X2, a body somewhere between the X2 and the M Typ 240 and a 28-70 equivalent zoom. Actually, it wasn’t any of that which caused the consternation visible in the comments on this earlier post – rather, it was the modest f3.5-6.3 maximum aperture, and the stiff price. At $2,850, it’s a solid $850 more than the X2, which has a faster fixed lens, and well into second-hand M8 territory – including a lens. The challenge is one of product positioning: the price is high enough to deter serious photographers from taking a second look, perhaps steered away from Leica’s claims that it’s meant to be a mini-M. The X Vario has the body size of the X2 mixed with design cues from the M (top plate step, thumb grip, chrome D-pad, new 3″, 921k-dot LCD). What I found during my week of use (so far) is that they’re both right and wrong.
I’ve had the opportunity to shoot with a final production Olympus E-P5 for the last week or so, which means I’ve been able to update the image quality section of the review. You can find the whole thing (including the update, of course) here. MT
Thanks to the folks at Olympus Malaysia for making it happen.
I don’t normally review ‘consumer’ grade gear for the simple reason that it’s usually built to a price, rather than built to deliver a certain grade of result (or perhaps it is, only the accountants and engineers know for sure). However, sometimes you come across a piece of equipment that fills a need much better than you imagined; this lens is one such example. The Panasonic Lumix Vario PZ 14-42/3.5-5.6 X G (what a mouthful, hereafter known as the 14-42X) is a very small – about the size of the 20/1.7 pancake when collapsed – zoom for Micro Four Thirds. It was the kit lens for the GX1 and a couple of other cameras for a while, and fortunately also available separately.
Not so long ago, Olympus updated both the E-PL series (E-PL5 reviewed here) and the E-PM series with the OM-D’s sensor and other trickle-down technology. Thus it only made sense that it was also about high time for the E-P3 to be refreshed, too. They’ve taken a bit longer over this one; in fact, the new E-P5 has so much of the OM-D’s technology (and a few other things) that picking one over the other is no longer such an easy decision.
Updated 18 June: I’ve had the chance to shoot with a final production E-P5 and VF-4, and have added conclusions on image quality below. The camera looks and feels physically identical to the earlier prototype I tested. In the intervening time, an update to Adobe Camera Raw has also been released that natively supports the E-P5, so I’ve had the ability to evaluate RAW file quality on a comparable basis to the OM-D.
Following on from yesterday’s review of the Ricoh GR (Digital V) can only be one thing: the comparison shootout between the GR and its natural rival, the Nikon Coolpix A (full review here). Or is it the other way around, since the A came first? Doesn’t matter a single bit, it’s all about the images. Fight!
Not long after Nikon announced their 28/2.8, 16MP APS-C super-compact, Ricoh also decided it’d be a good time to launch an update to their cult GR Digital line. Version V has done a Leica and dropped the model number to confuse us (and Google searches for the new model), but gained a near-identical spec to the Nikon – also 28/2.8 equivalent, 16MP APS-C sensor without AA filter (it does have square and 35mm crop options, but you can always easily apply those in post). Neither one has IS. I covered most of the spec sheet in the preview, here. Now I’ve had some (albeit very brief) time with a final production prototype*, it’s time to report back here on how it actually fares in the metal.
*Meaning some things like image quality and focusing behaviour may undergo final tweaks before production versions ship, but apparently they’re pretty close to it. My camera is running firmware 1.11.
4 October update: Ricoh has released FW 2.03 which fixes a lot of issues I had with the initial camera such as program mode stopping at f4 – the update is downloadable here.
A continuously updated set of sample images on my Flickr is here.
Nikon’s 80-400mm received a long-deserved update earlier in the year; it’s in fact had a complete overhaul and optical redesign. The original lens was Nikon’s very first VR lens, and body-driven to boot – the large front element had a reputation for pinching fingers between the protruding filter ring flange and the zoom ring (I fell victim to this on my first outing with it). It’s gone from being a 17/11 design to a more complex 20/12, gained Nano-Crystal coating, a shorter minimum focus distance (1.75m in AF and 1.5m in MF vs 2.3m), a silent wave motor and internal focusing, second-generation VR, and plethora of additional switches. Gone is the aperture ring, so you’re not going to be using this on a pre-command dial film body. The hood is also now a petal-type design with the same kind of locking catch as the 17-55, 24-70 and 70-200 hoods. It reverses for storage. Unlike the old lens, it’s also fully gasketed and weather sealed. It’s also more expensive; about $800 more, to be precise.
Nikon has finally entered the large-sensor compact game (I don’t count the 1 series, which is a bit of an odd beast in that logically it’s all the system camera most people need, but not the camera that most people want.) The Coolpix A is a 16MP, 28/2.8 equivalent setup that’s built around a Sony DX sensor – an upgraded unit of the one in the D7000 and Leica X2, it seems. Unlike the D7000, and like the D7100 and D800E, this camera has no anti-aliasing filter. It’ll shoot full-fat 14-bit raw files at approximately 4fps, with a reasonably deep buffer. Focus is via a contrast-detect system, and there’s a fly-by-wire ring around the front of the lens for manual focus, plus two command dials – one on the top plate, and the other around the D-pad.
A continuously updated set of images from the camera can be found here on my Flickr stream.