Detailed First Look review posted for Canon EOS-1Ds!
Well, a week of leaks has stolen some of its thunder, but the camera itself is still plenty amazing - I've just posted a detailed preview of the just-announced Canon EOS-1Ds professional SLR. With a body and controls virtually identical to those of last year's EOS-1D, the 1Ds concentrates its innovation on the sensor: A *full-frame* 11.1 megapixel CMOS chip! For Canon shooters, this is both the most megapixels they've ever had available, as well as the first time that they can shoot true wide angle, thanks to a sensor that's the same size as a 35mm film frame. I've had a prototype 1Ds for just a few days now, but am very impressed with what I've seen. Unfortunately, Canon has asked me not to share any of the images I've shot with the camera, due to its prototype status. That's too bad, because they're pretty incredible. As you'd expect, resolution is the highest we've seen yet in a portable SLR, dramatically eclipsing anything we've seen from the current crop of 6 megapixel products. While I haven't done any explicit noise measurements yet, the 1Ds' images look very clean, no doubt thanks in large part to Canon's well-established CMOS active-pixel sensor technology. I did put the camera through its paces in my power and timing measurement systems, and the results were impressive, particularly given the enormous amount of data the camera is dealing with. Read the review for all the details, and stay tuned for a full report with both standardized and "random" test photos sometime next month when I'm due to get a production model to test!
Short form reviews for Pentax Optio 430RS and Optio 330RS posted!
Pentax developed a nice line of compact digicams last year, with the Optio 430, 330, and 230. They've now updated the first two as the 430RS and 330RS, and I've reviewed them both. The 430RS is a four megapixel model, while the 330RS has a three megapixel sensor. Both are packaged in compact, all-metal cases. They share a very nice feature set, allowing a fair amount of image control, without overly complicating the user interface. Color is very good, and while the tone is rather contrasty, it can be adjusted with the optional contrast setting. Unfortunately, the 430RS (at least the one I tested) seems to suffer from a very noise sensor. The final images show only moderate noise, but that's because the noise-suppression algorithm has been cranked up to an unusual level. In the process of suppressing the sensor noise, the 430RS loses much of the fine subject detail, producing rather soft images. This is unfortunate, because the camera has so many other excellent characteristics. The good news though, is that the 330RS seems to have no such noise problem, and actually produces very crisp images, at a lower price than the 430RS model. Accordingly, I'd rate the 330RS an excellent buy in a compact digicam, while I'd suggest that those readers eyeing the 430RS might want to consider the 330RS instead. Check them out - Here are links to my reviews of the Optio 330RS and Optio 430RS.
Short-form review posted for Sony DSC-P2!
Sony has one of the broadest lines of digicams in the industry, with models at virtually every size and level of sophistication. In the subcompact arena, they have a great lineup of models that somehow manage to be tiny yet still manageable for American-sized hands. I reviewed their three and four megapixel models earlier this year (the P7 and P9, respectively), and have finally gotten around to the entry level model in this series, the two megapixel DSC-P2. Apart from the lower resolution, the performance and image characteristics of the P2 were remarkably similar to its "big" brothers, with excellent color and tonality. If you're looking for a compact, "go anywhere" camera (literally, since the P2 fits Sony's underwater Marine Pack housing), and don't need more than two megapixels, the P2 deserves a serious look. Read the review for all the details!
Detailed(!) First Look review posted for Canon PowerShot G3!
Canon was a day or two late getting a prototype to me, but we still managed to put together a pretty extensive "First Look" at it, including a detailed comparison table showing changes since the G2 (and G1, for the sake of history). The G3 is an incremental upgrade from the G2, staying with the same 4MP (3.87 MP effective) sensor, but adding a 4x zoom lens and myriad control changes and feature enhancements. The result may not be enough to tempt current G2 owners to trade in their cameras, but I think the G3 is going to compete very strongly in the high end of the consumer digicam space. I expect there's going to be some foofraw on the 'net over Canon's decision to stay with a 4 megapixel sensor, when much of their competition is forging ahead into 5MP territory, but I also expect that much of it will die down once people look closely at sample photos from it. (Sorry, no sample photos yet, we were asked not to show any photos from the unit we have, as it's still a prototype model.) While I haven't done any extensive photo testing with it yet, at a first glance, the G3's lens looks to be quite sharp, to the extent that I think it will hold up very well against the 5MP competition, just as did the G2. Also, while I didn't get up on my soapbox about it in the review, I really (really) like the newly redesigned user interface on the G3 - The tabbed sub-menus off the FUNC button make it one of the fastest-navigating digicams I've played with. Very straightforward and intuitive to operate, IMHO. Tons of other tweaks and feature enhancements as well - Read the review for all the details!
Full test photos posted for Sony DSC-F717!
Sony got me a full-production model of the F717 much faster than I'd expected, and I've responded in kind by getting all my standard test photos shot and analyzed in jig time. They're all up now, on the F717's Sample Pictures page, including my detailed analysis. I'll get back to the review itself in a day or two, to update my conclusions there, and I'm also working on a gallery of "random" shots with the 717, to show how it behaves under a wider range of conditions.
My initial impressions based on the prototype model have been borne out, now
that I've managed to test a production unit. Multiple functions are noticeably
improved relative to the F707. The F717 still oversaturates strong reds a little,
although seemingly not to the extent that the F707 did, and the 717's handling
of greens is much better. Tone, resolution, noise, and color handling are all
excellent overall. See the Sample
Pictures page for all the details!
First Look review posted for Sony DSC-F717!
I'm predicting that this is going to be a wildly popular camera - It's an update to last year's wildly successful F707, and Sony seems to have really listened to users and reviewers both in coming up with this new model. While it's technically an "incremental" upgrade (eg, it's the same CCD and lens), Sony has made so many improvements, it just about qualifies as an entirely new model. Here's just a partial list of the most significant improvements.
- Dramatically faster AF/reduced shutter lag. - The new F717 has the distinction of being the fastest-focusing consumer-level digicam I've yet tested.
- Much better color rendering, although my final judgement on that will have to await my testing of a production model.
- Awesome auto white balance, one of the best I've yet seen on a digicam.
- Zoom control via the lens collar (the ring on the front of the lens now doubles as focusing and zoom control).
- A Hot Shoe(!) for attaching generic flash units.
- ISO now goes to 800.
- MPEG HQX, allowing high-quality movie recording limited only by card capacity.
- "Live" Histogram in both record and play modes.
- Full auto exposure mode.
- USB 2.0 interface.
- Noticeably improved battery life.
- (Doubtless several others I'm forgetting in my sleep-deprived stupor. ;-)
This is "just" a First Look review, in that Sony asked us not to post any photos shot with the camera (they're apparently still tweaking things in the firmware), but the photos I took (but can't show you) looked *awfully* good. Sony really seems to have gotten a handle on the over-bright greens and reds the 707 sometimes produced, and the 717's auto white balance is about the best I've seen on any camera yet, regardless of price.
I also did a full set of my usual timing measurements, and found that Sony has made really dramatic progress in speeding autofocus and cutting shutter lag times. - This is about the fastest prosumer camera I've tested to date. Oh - and markedly better battery life to boot. All in all, *very* impressive, stay tuned for a further update and a full set of sample photos as soon as I can get my hands on a production model. Check it out!
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