Now it can be told! - FULL review of Nikon Coolpix 995 on line!
Well, this has to be one of the most-awaited digicam announcements of the year: Nikon has updated their wildly popular Coolpix 990, calling the new model the Coolpix 995. New features include a 4x zoom lens, popup flash to reduce redeye problems, an (included!) rechargeable LiIon battery, support for the new 512MB and 1GB IBM MicroDrives (but not the original 340MB model, which has compatibility problems with several digicams), variable ISO from 100 to 800, and new noise-reduction technology for incredibly clean low-light time exposures. To accommodate the fancy molding needed to house the popup flash, the lens side of the case is high-impact polycarbonate, while the grip side is still the magnesium alloy so popular in the 950 and 990. Phew! The new camera is very much an evolutionary upgrade of the 990, so we suspect that few 990 owners will be tempted to trade in their cameras for the new model. It may entice some 950 owners to finally upgrade to 3 megapixels though, and will certainly compete strongly against competing models from other manufacturers. Check out the review for all the details!
Special note to our readers: Given the near-frenzy that seems to be brewing out there over this camera, and considering that we're one of only two sites that will have a review up today, we're expecting to get hit pretty hard. Downloading the "print friendly" version of the review rather than browsing back and forth through the multi-page version should save us some server load, and we ask that you go light on viewing the high-res test images for the next few days. Our peak traffic hours are from roughly 13:00 to 18:00 Eastern Daylight Time, US. (GMT -4 hours), so you'll get better download times if you avoid that time window. Thanks for your help and patience!
Olympus C-3040 - new sample pics posted!!
After posting our Olympus C-3040 review, we received several emails from readers commenting on the pronounced corner softness apparent in many of the test images. We'd noticed this, but written it off to a new lens design that was (how to put it politely?) "less than optimal" in the corners. After several emails prompted us to go back and look at the shots, we concluded that a manufacturer with Olympus' long history of quality optics couldn't have produced a lens *that* bad, so we asked Olympus themselves about it. Their reaction verged on shock and horror: Eeek! (paraphrasing loosely) they said - That surely isn't right! They promptly shipped us another sample (both were full-production units in full retail dress), which we just laid hands on yesterday. A brief time shooting with it showed dramatic improvements over the first model. We've posted the first sample images to replace the earlier Far-Field and Resolution Test Target images, and will continue to fill-in and replace the other test shots we did. (Given the hours it takes to collect all our test shots, you can imagine the hassle this is.) We'll be posting the replacement images as rapidly as possible over the next week, but have an unusually heavy shooting/review load at the moment, so it could well take till the end of next week to get fully caught up with this. Meanwhile, we've inserted a notice in the carrier pages for all the original test shots, identifying them as having come from the unit with a lens problem. Thanks to those who wrote to inquire about the poor performance, prompting us to explore further! (As an aside, when we went looking at other sites to see if their cameras had similar problems, we were surprised to find how few images were published that really stressed image sharpness in the corners. Among other things, the exercise pointed out how rigorously the IR test suite exercises the cameras we examine!)
Full Review Posted for the Nikon Super Coolscan 4000 ED Film & Slide Scanner!
It's been almost two years since we reviewed Nikon's previous high-end 35mm film scanner, the LS-2000. Now, Nikon's updated the design and boosted critical operating specs in several areas. Resolution is now a full 4000 dpi, up from 2700 on the original, the digitizing is up to 14 bits/channel, up from 12, the computer interface is now IEEE-1394 ("FireWire") instead of SCSI, and it looks to us like the signal-processing electronics have been significantly upgraded as well. The new scanner has by far the best dynamic range and noise performance of any unit we've tested to date: Even in 8-bit mode, it did better at digging detail out of dense slides and negatives than many units we've tested did working at 12 bits. We found the software to be a bit buggy, at least on our Mac G4, as we never did manage to get it to operate as a Photoshop plugin, but it did very well running standalone. Because our test scanning is so exacting, we initially went a little batty with what seemed to be an interminable tweaking process on each scan: We seemed to spend half the day waiting for preview scans to come up on the screen. Happily though, once we got to more routine production scanning (taking advantage of the 4000's presence to scan a number of rolls of the family film archives), we found that the scanner can really be a tremendous workhorse. By using the Digital ICE dust/scratch removal feature, and scanning in the background, we could get literally dozens of high-quality scans done per day.
There's a lot to talk about with this scanner, and in typical Dave/IR fashion,
we talked about *all* of it: The full review runs something like 12,000 words!
We spent so much time on it because the scanner seems so significant in the
marketplace, and also because the same software drives the two other new Nikon
scanners, both of which we'll be reviewing in the weeks/months to come. Stay
tuned over the next couple of months for a complete overview of all the major
film scanners on the market: We'll finally be updating our scanner section to
include coverage of the latest from Nikon, Polaroid, and Canon. (Maybe Microtek
too.) Meanwhile, check out the Super Coolscan
4000 ED review for *all* the details!
Sony CyberShot DSC-P50 pictures page updated with new test sample shots!
We've just updated our Sony DSC-P50 picture index, to include test samples shot with the P50's "Twilight" mode. Twilight mode allows longer exposure times (up to 2 seconds, vs 1/15 in normal modes) and uses a lower ISO setting. The net result is good low light performance down to about 1 foot-candle (about the equivalent of a well-lit city night scene), with pretty low noise. Check our DSC-P50 pictures page for the details.
Full Review Posted for the Olympus C-3040!
We've just completed our review of Olympus' 'third generation' 3 megapixel camera, the C-3040. We say 'third generation' because this new model is based heavily on the earlier C3030, and the two megapixel C-2000 before that. The maturity of the design shows, in a well-developed user interface. Some have complained that UI elements are buried too deeply or are confusing, but we didn't personally find that to be the case. (On the other hand, we're definitely long-term Olympus users, so that may be a factor.) Whatever the case, the 3040 does sport a new lens, with a much 'faster' maximum aperture. Check the review for all the details!
Review Posted for the Sony
Continuing our march through the ranks of Sony digicams, we've just posted our review of the MVC-FD92. This camera has a 1.3 megapixel sensor, but with interpolation to a final maximum file size of 1.6 megapixels. Interpolation as always is an uncertain benefit, but Sony's seems to do pretty well. (As the saying goes, you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, but on the other hand, you can sure gussy it up a bunch...) To our mind, the biggest feature of the FD92 is one it shares with the new FD97 we reviewed a little while back: It's a true "dual media" camera, supporting both floppy disks and Sony's Memory Stick flash cards. As we found on the FD97, the availability of Memory Stick storage removes some of the storage-related limitations that plagued earlier high-end Mavicas. The MemoryStick gives you high-quality low-compression, fast file storage, but you still retain the convenience of the floppy for sharing photos with friends and colleagues. Overall, the FD92 turned in a nice performance, and looks to us like an excellent choice for an all-around "office" camera, or for anyone for whom the ease of just handing someone a floppy with your pictures on it is appealing. Read the review for all the details!
Massive Comparometer(tm) update!
We've finally about caught up to the run of recent reviews, updating our Comparometer(tm) image-base with test shots from the Canon Pro90IS and S300, the Olympus C-2040 and C-3040 (review coming soon), the HP 215, 315, 618, and 912, and the Sony P30, P50, CD200 & CD300. (Phew!) We'll update it to include our test shots from the new Fuji 6800 Zoom (see below) as soon as the @!%! weather cooperates and gives us some clear afternoon sun for our outdoor shots. Meanwhile, check the Comparometer to tap into the largest database of digicam test images on the internet, and compare test photos side by side!
Reviews Posted for Sony
Back before PMA, we posted a brief "First Look" review for Sony's new compact digicams, the Cybershot DSC-P30 and DSC-P50. Virtually twins, about the only differences between the two are in the sensors: The P30 has a 1.3 megapixel CCD, while the P50 sports a 2.1 megapixel version. Our initial impressions of these new models were pretty favorable, and after running them through all our tests, we didn't find anything to change our minds about them.
The P30 and P50 to represent what we think will be a trend in
consumer digicams, filling in the middle ground between bargain-basement cheapies with limited feature sets, and high-end "prosumer" models. These cameras aren't the cheapest in their respective resolution classes, but aren't the most expensive either. They both offer good value, with pretty rich feature sets, good image quality, and a very easy to understand user interface. They strike us as good choices for people who want good picture quality and enough flexibility to be able to handle more challenging shooting conditions, but who don't want or need a lot of fancy exposure modes and elaborate controls. We've given up trying to be market prognosticators, so won't try to predict the market success for the new models. If you want a solid digicam at either the 1.3 or 2.1 megapixel level though, you can't go wrong with either model. Check out the Sony DSC-P30 and the Sony DSC-P50 reviews for all the details!
Full review posted for the Fuji FinePix 6800!
It's been a year since Fuji introduced their first SuperCCD camera, the FinePix 4700 Zoom. Earlier this year, they announced a significantly upgraded version, the FinePix 6800 Zoom. We've finally gotten our hands on a full production model, and found its image quality pretty impressive: The new model sports a 3.3 megapixel SuperCCD, providing an uninterpolated image size of 2048x1536, and an interpolated maximum file size of 2832x2128 pixels. While not nearly the equivalent of a camera with a 6 megapixel sensor, we felt that we did observe improvements in image quality in the 6 megapixel file that went beyond what we've seen from other 3 megapixel cameras. Image quality otherwise is very good also, with color reminiscent of what we saw on the Fuji S1 Pro camera. (Which we still consider to be about the best we've seen from any digicam.) The main limitations we found were that the camera didn't handle incandescent lighting very well, and had a fairly modest low-light limit of about 1 foot-candle. (Roughly equivalent to the lighting of a city night scene, under streetlights.) Overall though, a very competent performer with very nice image quality in a very compact package. Definitely "Recommended". Check the review for all the details!
Full review posted for the Canon PowerShot S300!
Canon amazed everyone a year ago when they brought out their first true "Digital ELPH" camera, bringing the tiny form factor and rugged construction of their runaway best-seller ELPH line to the digital world. At the time, we found a lot to like about the tiny PowerShot S100, but the image quality seemed to be a notch below that of Canon's larger (but still compact) camera, the S10. Now, Canon's come back with round two of the Digital ELPH line, in the form of the PowerShot S300. It's still a two megapixel camera, but now sports a full 3x optical zoom lens (the S100 had a 2x design), and image quality seems to be significantly improved all around. What a difference a year makes! - The new S300 Digital ELPH really competes comfortably at the very top of the 2 megapixel camera world for sharpness and color fidelity, while trading off only the slightest increase in size. Overall, a really sweet little camera, now one of our personal favorites! Highly recommended~ Check the review for all the details!
Hewlett Packard PhotoSmart 912 Camera Review Posted!
Continuing our "streak" of HP cameras, we've today posted a full review of the HP 912 SLR. This is a top of the line 2 megapixel SLR, offering true through-the-lens viewing. It also offers the Digital operating system, which provides exceptionally clear (if not a little verbose and "deep") menus, as well as the ability to custom-program the camera for special applications. (Using a software development kit from http://www.flashpoint.com/.) Overall, the PhotoSmart 912 is the lowest-cost digital SLR on the planet, priced at only a fairly small premium relative to non-SLR designs. Check the review for full details!
Hewlett Packard PhotoSmart 618 Camera Review Posted!
We've just posted our full review of the HP PhotoSmart 618. This is a midrange model, with 3x optical zoom lens, 2 megapixel CCD, and a heft and solidity we found very pleasant. (Despite a plastic case, it handled well, and had a very good "feel" in the hand.) The 618 is a camera based on FlashPoint's Digita operating system, and as such shares many user interface characteristics with other cameras built on that platform. We're not crazy about how deeply Digita nests frequently-used camera functions (such as exposure compensation), but have to admit that it's a very user-friendly interface, presenting a very reassuring face for novice users. The 618 is also a nice midrange offering, because it offers both auto-everything and aperture- and shutter-priority exposure modes. - Easy to start with, but with room to grow as your photo capabilities expand. Check the review for full details!
Hewlett Packard PhotoSmart 315 Camera Review Posted!
This PhotoSmart model holds the distinction of having been THE most popular camera (either film or digital) in the US during the red-hot Christmas 2000 selling season. It's *very* simple to operate, having only the bare minimum of controls. (Leaving off even exposure compensation, which we view as being pretty important.) Despite the paucity of controls, it manages to take reasonably well-exposed and color-correct photos under a wide range of conditions. Resolution and detail were a little down from what we're accustomed to seeing in 2 megapixel cameras, but it should make fine prints up to a 4x6 size. It also ships with a very consumer-friendly software collection, which we suspect has contributed to its commercial success. We'd dub it as a good camera for a family getting into digital, looking for both simplicity and low cost. Check the review for the full story!
Full review of HP PhotoSmart 215 Digicam posted!
For all of you who've emailed, asking "What about HP?", we've finally gotten a complete collection of the HP PhotoSmart cameras in-house for testing. The first one out of the mill is the entry-level PhotoSmart 215, a bare-bones-simple 1.3 megapixel camera intended to be literally a digital "point and shoot." As such, it lacks controls for things like white balance and exposure compensation that we're accustomed to seeing on higher-end cameras, but nonetheless manages to capture at least usable photos across a wide range of shooting conditions. Image quality is also "entry level", a notch down from the more expensive 1.3 megapixel models we've tested, but still eminently usable for prints up to 4x6 inches. (This looks to us like a good take-along camera for a teen, or anyone looking for ultmate point & shoot simplicity, and who will mainly be making 4x6 prints or emailing photos.) Check out the review for all the details,. (And stay tuned toward the end of this week for more HP camera reviews!)
Full review of Sony MVC-CD200 Digicam posted!
This is the "little brother" to the CD-RW equipped CD300 we reviewed about a week and a half ago. This model is a 2 megapixel camera, virtually identical in operation to the 3 megapixel CD300. Besides the smaller sensor, a few features contribute to the $200-lower selling price ($799 vs $999 at announcement.) The CD200 doesn't share the Zeiss lens of the CD300 (also used on the DSC-S75), nor does it sport the "Burst3" 3-shot burst mode, or the exposure bracketing feature of the CD300. Other aspects of the CD200's performance are very similar though, including excellent image quality, and the capacious 156 megabyte CD-RW drive it's equipped with. Check out the review for all the details, we think this will be a very popular digicam.
Full review posted of PhotoGenetics 2.0!
It's been more than a year since we first reviewed the PhotoGenetics photo-tweaking application. Even in its first release, we saw tremendous value in this ultra-easy photo adjusting tool for digicam owners. The program's bottom line is that it makes it trivial for any digicam owner to adjust the color and tone of their images, with absolutely no knowledge of color theory or image editing. We thought it literally couldn't be any easier, but version 2.0 has now made it just that. Thanks to some additional "intelligence" in the program and an even more streamlined interface, PhotoGenetics 2.0 is both more capable and easier to use than the original. But all this is really only part of the story for digicam owners: The real power of PhotoGenetics lies in its batch-editing capability. Most digicams fall short of the ideal in very characteristic ways, and are quite consistent from shot to shot. In PhotoGenetics, you can create and save "genotypes", collections of predefined image adjustments that you can then batch-apply with only a few mouse clicks to dozens of images at once. The bottom line is that PhotoGenetics amounts to a $30 "camera upgrade", because it can improve literally every photo you take. Check out the review for all the details, it's a fantastic little product.
Reviewed: Auxiliary Lenses for Nikon digicams
The Nikon line of digital cameras has been extraordinarily popular, thanks to great image quality and rich feature sets. Besides the flexibility afforded by the cameras themselves, Nikon has also produced a pretty extensive line of high-quality auxiliary lenses for them, extending the cameras' focal length range from 35mm equivalents of 8mm (fisheye) to 345 mm (a pretty long telephoto). A third-party manufacturer Eagle Eye Optics has also made an even longer 5x add-on lens, that extends the telephoto range to the equivalent of an amazing 575mm! Dave and Newsletter Editor Mike Pasini combined forces to test these lenses under informal conditions. (Our test lab isn't nearly long enough to accommodate these ultra-telephoto lenses!) The results should be interesting to any current Nikon digicam owners. If you're shopping for a digicam, the availability of such a wide range of accessory lenses could be an important part of deciding in favor of a Nikon model. Check out the article for the full story!
Top 3 photos this month win:
1 Canon PIXMA PRO-100
2 Canon PIXMA MG6320
3 Canon PIXMA MG5420