Photography News 02

Camera review







CanonPowerShot G16 FujifilmX-M1

Olympus OM-DE-M1

Samsung GalaxyNX

Although the pixel count of the sensor is the same as other Samsung CSCs such as the NX20, the Galaxy NX is more advanced, with on-sensor phase-detection autofocus pixels to speed things up. There’s still a moment of hesitation and hunting before the focus locks on, and the time this takes extends as the light levels drop, so the on-sensor AF pixels don’t quite bring autofocus performance up to DSLR standard, but it’s a big improvement on previous Samsung models and adequate unless your subject is moving quickly. The big touch screen also makes it simple to focus accurately – just touch your subject, to lock onto it. Because of the size of the display, it’s easy to be precise with this, and you can also reduce the size of the autofocus area so that it’s smaller than your fingertip. With manual focusing, the screen again comes into its own – the display is crystal clear, making it easier to focus by eyesight alone than with any viewfinder, and on- screen magnification with the option of focus peaking makes it even simpler. Throughout the test, there was a slight tendency towards underexposure in multi metering mode, which preserved the highlights but often came close to clipping shadows and left some scenes looking dark. Nevertheless, the APS-C sensor has 20.3 megapixels, so promises quality to rival some of the highest resolution APS-C DSLRs around, and in practice it stays true to this promise – images are packed with crisp detail and natural-looking colours. Brand new Galaxy NX cameras benefit fromupdated firmware, but if you bought one soon after launch, make sure you have the latest firmware for optimum performance (of course, this applies to every digital camera).

Focusing is another area where the E-M1 comes closer to DSLR standard than most CSCs. All Olympus’s CSCs include Fast AF, which is a contrast detection-based system but just about matches the speed of phase- detection systems in DSLRs. The E-M1 includes the next generation, which steps it up a little when it comes to speed. This is especially the case with the new 12-40mm f/2.8 lens, which locks on almost the instant you touch the shutter button. The speed of the AF system is mirrored in other aspects of the camera – continuous shooting can reach ten frames-per-second without autofocus, and even with autofocus, it tops out at 6.5 frames-per-second. In this situation, it does an impressive job of keeping a moving subject in focus throughout a sequence of shots. The only thing that holds it back is the speed of writing to cards – if you’re shooting Raw files, it takes a few seconds for individual images, and this can lead to a bit of a wait after burst sequences. A highlight of Olympus’s OM-D line is the five-axis sensor-based image stabilisation. You have to set the focal length of the lens in the camera menus to get the best results, but once you do, it works a treat – using a 150mm lens, the 35mm equivalent of 300mm, I got consistently sharp images at 1/20sec. Although the Micro Four Thirds sensor is about 40% smaller than APS-C sensors, it produces image quality that matches most, with lotsofdetail,plentyofcontrastandnatural colours. By and large, the dynamic range is excellent too, with few clipped highlights and shadows, although the inherent contrast can sometimes push them over the edge in JPEGs – shoot Raw, and there’s no problem in recovering them though.

Focusing of the X-M1 is reliable, and failure to lock on was a rare occurrence in good light. It’s not the quickest though, and it can take a moment to settle – it’s susceptible to low light, when it takes much longer or fails regularly in situations where the AF assist lamp isn’t any help. You can change the size of the AF area simply by turning the dials while AF area select mode is active, and the smallest is about the size of a DSLR focus point for similar precision. For manual focusing, on-screen focus peaking is helpful to highlight sharp edges, and combining it with on-screen magnification makes the most of it for extra precision. Although there is a continuous AF mode, this seems flawed. Automatic focusing at the centre of the frame is non-stop even without touching the shutter release, but when you do half-press the button, it refocuses, defeating the object of the automatic focusing. It’s the same with tracking AF – it’s impressive at tracking subjects, but half-press the shutter button and it again refocuses, by which time your subject’s moved on. Using multi metering mode, images were consistently well exposed, with excellent dynamic range – highlights and shadows were rarely clipped, even in high-contrast situations. The Shadow and Highlight Tone controls in the quick menu also allow you to rein in the extremes in JPEGs if necessary, with excellent results. The X-Trans technology in the X-M1 means it doesn’t need an anti-aliasing filter, and this helps to record fantastic detail; colours are bold and rich too. This was the case even with the kit lens, a new budget 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 offering, so the high-quality prime X-mount lenses available can only improve this further.

Compacts can be slow to focus, but with the G16, this isn’t the case. In good light, it’s very quick, and only the Olympus beats it from our group. Dim conditions slow this down considerably, but it still locks on reliably even when it’s pretty dark. The AF area is relatively large and can’t be changed, so precision can be tricky when close up, but manual focusing is available. With no lens ring, focus is adjusted with the control wheel on the back, and this is a bit awkward, but on-screen focus peaking helps a lot – edges can be highlighted with a choice of colours for maximum visibility. Evaluative metering gave good exposures in the majority of images, although it resulted in a touch of overexposure on occasion. The dynamic range was relatively limited too, and with consistent exposure to the right, it was necessary to watch for highlight clipping. Centre-weighted average and spot metering modes are also available, and the latter can be linked to either the centre of the frame, or the position of the AF area. When it comes to resolution, you might expect the G16 to lag significantly behind the CSCs – its sensor does, after all, have a surface area eight times smaller than an APS-C sensor. But the difference isn’t as big as you might expect. At the lowest settings, images are perfectly clean and there’s a lot of detail – not quite as much as with the larger sensors, but the difference is minimal and only a problem if you’re looking closely at full-size images or want to make big prints. Raw files are much softer than JPEGs, but there’s plenty of scope for sharpening up in software, and colours in the Raw files are better too – JPEGs straight from the camera tended to have a green tint that wasn’t there in the Raw versions.

Issue 2 | Photography News

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