Camera review Travelling Light: Part 1 You don’t always want the bulk of your DSLR body and bag full of heavy lenses, but what alternative do you have if you want high-quality images? We go hands-on with some of the options to see what they can offer on test
to DSLR performance in many cases – they have large sensors and interchangeable lenses, but more compact bodies because they don’t need a mirror. There are potential pitfalls – focusing is often slower, viewfinders are electronic or absent, and the size can compromise handling. But the variety is huge, and the chances are there’s one out there that would suit you. A recent glut of premium compacts have added another alternative. These knock your average high street compact out of the park, with bigger sensors for surprisingly good image quality and low-light performance, and high-quality zoom lenses withwidemaximumapertures. You’ll more than likely have to compromise on handling, and performance is unlikely to match that of your DSLR, but the difference may just be worth it for the added convenience. Over the next two issues, we test a selection of CSCs and compacts to see if they’re genuine options as an alternative to your DSLR, or whether they fall too short to consider seriously.
Words by Ian Fyfe
As long as you have your DSLR with you, you know you’ll get great shots. It offers you complete control at the touch of a few buttons, allowing you to fulfil your creative vision, and with a selection of lenses on your shoulder, the options are endless. This often makes it worthwhile to carry your heavy kit around, but there’s no denying it can be cumbersome. And there are situations when the size of your kit is just plain inconvenient – when you’re a guest at a wedding, on a long day out, or when you’re taking a flight for example. Leaps in camera technology in the last few years mean there are now smaller options that don’t necessarily mean a compromise in performance. Compact system cameras come close
CanonPowerShot G16 FujifilmX-M1
The Galaxy NX is the first CSC to run on an Android operating system, making it a hybrid of a high-quality camera and a smartphone. In the process of incorporating this technology into a CSC, Samsung could easily have neglected aspects of the camera, but this hasn’t happened, and the whole system works together to appeal to photographers. The operating system powers up in the dedicated camera app, there’s a dedicated DRIMe IV image processor alongside a smartphone chip, and it has a 20-megapixel APS-C sensor for DSLR-like image quality. Nevertheless,theAndroidoperatingsystem opens up all sorts of opportunities – obvious ones, like the ability to share high-resolution photos directly online or the hundreds of photo-editing apps, but also more subtle ones of practical use to any photographer. For example, Autoshare transfer provides an instant backup to your mobile device, and Photo Suggest identifies nearby photo hotspots – useful in an unfamiliar location. To consider this as a portable alternative to your DSLR though, this technology should be an added bonus, so does the core of the camera measure up?
It was the Micro Four Thirds system that kicked off the compact system camera craze, and Olympus has enjoyed huge success with it. The major advantage of the Micro Four Thirds system is that the sensor is a lot smaller than full-frame and APS-C chips, meaning the entire setup can be miniaturised – camera, lenses and everything that goes with them. This is a good start if you’re looking for a lightweight DSLR alternative. TheOM-DE-M1isdesignedforprofessionals; it’s dust, freeze and splashproof, and its insides include a newly developed 16-megapixel sensor with no anti-aliasing filter and a new TruePic VII image processor. The sensor also includes phase-detection autofocus pixels, which allow efficient focusing when Olympus E-System Four Thirds lenses are attached, so you can revive your existing collection, or it expands your lens options to a total of 63 new optics. There are great creative features too, such as Olympus’s Art Filters and the new Photo Story Mode, as well as Wi-Fi that lets you use your mobile device to control the camera remotely. It’s packed full of features, but when it comes to the crunch, it’s performance that counts.
With the rise of compact system cameras, it’s no longer the case that small means less powerful, and with the X-M1, Fujifilm proves the point. The innards of the bigger and more expensive X-Pro1 and X-E1 are wrapped up in a smaller and lighter body that could be mistaken for a compact. This includes Fujifilm’s X-Trans sensor technology, which uses an arrangement of pixels that differs from the traditional – it dramatically reduces the risk of moiré, negating the need for an optical low-pass filter and therefore providing potential for sharper images. The sensor is also APS-C sized, the same as most DSLRs, so promises image quality to match. Despite being the size of a compact, the X-M1 has the advantage of interchangeable lenses, and there is already some serious prime glass designed for the top-end X-Series cameras but compatible with the X-M1. If you don’t have the budget for this, then Fujifilm has also introduced more affordable options – the X-M1’s 16-50mm kit lens is one of them. On the face of it then, the X-M1 combines everything you could want from a DSLR alternative, so let’s see if it lives up to expectations.
You can’t get much smaller and lighter than a compact, but they have small sensors that mean sacrificing image quality, don’t they? Well, not necessarily. Canon’s premium G series compacts are highly regarded amongst serious photographers, and the G16 is the latest generation. A major improvement in this model is the low-light performance, which is underpinned by the debut of Canon’s newest image processor, the DIGIC 6. This also provides a boost in speed for an impressive 9.3 frames- per-second top sustained burst rate. Many of the other features are carried forward from the G15, including an f/1.8-2.8 retractable zoom lens with a 35mm equivalent zoom range of 28-140mm. There’s also a first for the G series though, in the form of Wi-Fi, which allows you to connect the camera to other devices for transferring and sharing images, or backing themup directly onto the Internet via Canon’s Image Gateway. Aside from the fixed lens, much of the specification reads like a DSLR, but as a compact, is it a genuine option for when you want to leave your DSLR behind?
Issue 2 | Photography News
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