Will the Panasonic FZ200 regain its crown?

Panasonic recently announced the upgrade to its successful FZ150 bridge camera the unsurprisingly titled FZ200.

On the face of it the newer FZ200 doesn’t appear very different from its predecessor and to some extent that’s no bad thing as the FZ150 had some core strengths that made it on of the most capable bridge cameras out there. So what does the FZ200 bring to the table? Well the standout feature must be the a constant F2.8 Leica lens covering a 24X focal length of 25-600mm. To be able to shoot at 600mm equivalent wide open at F2.8 is something special, presently unmatched by any rival models and certainly improves further the versatility of the FZ range. I can see a lot of potential buyers being wooed by this impressive lens. The presence of such an optic demonstrates that Panasonic is serious in giving the more discerning bridge camera user the sort of optic many have craved for.

Mark Baynham  (August 2012)

Quick review of the Panasonic LX7 compact camera

Can Panasonic’s recently announced Panasonic Lumix LX7 (the LX5 replacement) become the compact of choice for enthusiasts?

Well there’s been much internet talk about the slight reduction in sensor size (from 1/1.6.3″ to 1/ 1.7″, hardly massive) but could this be missing the point? Sensor size is only one factor in overall optical performance. A decent sensor has to be twinned with a good lens to become viable. Well the LX 7 has a truly impressive lens in the form of a “fast” Leica F1.4 – 2.3 (24mm -90mm equivalent) optic. This represents a significant upgrade / development of the already impressive lens on the current LX5 and whilst the LX7 sensor doesn’t even come close in physical dimensions to the one in say the Sony RX100 or even Fuji X10 the lens specification knocks these models for six. Throw in a sensible 10mp MOS sensor, Venus Engine VII FHD processor, 3 stop ND filter (useful & necessary), a 3″ 920K dot screen (decent upgrade & overdue), sub £450 price and the Panasonic Lumix LX7 begins to look like a very tempting package.

I have waited some time to replace my now elderly Panasonic LX3 (circ 2008), was sorely tempted by the Fuji X10 (great camera, fab looks, top notch results), considered the RX100 (too expensive by far) and the more I look at the new LX7 the more it seems likely  to make its way onto my Christmas list. I reckon Panasonic might have been rather shrewd with the LX7. This new camera maintains the LX5’s core strengths (physical size, handling, hot shoe), still possess a reasonable “big” sensor but adds an unbelievable lens and improved rear screen. The sum of its parts could represent the perfect fusion of capacities to produce the ultimate enthusiast camera?

Mark Baynham (August 2012)

Firmware V2 available for the Canon EOS 7D

Canon have made available the extensive V2 firmware upgrade for its top of range APS-C DSLR the  Canon EOS 7D (See the official Canon website). Usually firmware updates for cameras are relatively minor tweaks but this upgrade is truly extensive adding a number of highly useful additional features. Now as a 7D owner naturally I’ll install the upgrade but what I find curious is the effort being made to bring the 3 year old camera so up to date. A 3 year cycle is a long time in the camera world and the 7D would ordinarily be over due a replacement. Does this mean no immediate 7D replacement, does this reinforce the rumour that the 7D may  be replaced by a wallet friendly (in the broadest sense) full frame 5D3 / 7D clone, to be announced at the up and coming Cologne Photokina trade show?

Mark Baynham (August 2012)

Why the Canon EOS 650D is a significant release

I’ve been asked a few times in the last week or so if I thought the recently announced Canon EOS 650D would be a sensible buy for someone coming into the DSLR world for the first time.

As both a Canon EOS 7D and elderly EOS 500D owner I’ll try not to be too partisan in my initial assessment of the EOS 650D.I have read a few reviews of the camera of late and have come to realise that the 650D whilst initially appearing to simply be a minor tweak of the Canon EOS 600D is actually probably a more symbolically significant development for Canon than first appears.

For starters its a bold move to follow the likes of  the compact camera systems by introducing touch screen capacity. No longer is such a capacity being viewed as a gimmick or lazy. I regularly use the touch screen capacity on my own OMD EM5 and at times it is a genuinely useful feature. To have a touch screen capacity on a fully articulated high res 3″ screen twinned with the new hybrid AF system designed to improve live view performance can only be a good thing especially for those upgrading from a compact camera or users wishing to experiment with video. The 650D has a faster frame rate (courtesy of the newer DIGIC 5 processor) and as a consequence users will be able employ HDR techniques or use muliti shot noise reduction capture, again both helpful features.

Canon is also clearly trying to woo budding videographers out there (and no doubt compete with Sony’s DSLT’s) with the release of the new STM lenses designed to work in unison with the 650D’s new hybrid AF system. This new capacity will appeal to those who maybe haven’t previous considered using a DSLR for video capture. The EOS 650D will no doubt mirror the 600D in the image stakes (no bad thing) so add the additional features mentioned and the Canon 650D is by my reckoning actually quite a significant camera and worth serious consideration if you want to dip your toes into the world of DSLR’s.

Mark Baynham (August 2012)

The Panasonic Lumnix G5: The perfect “peoples” camera?

Some reviews are now available for Panasonic’s latest m4/3rd DSLR esq camera the Panasonic Lumix G5.

The one that caught my eye was the one published by Amateur Photographer Magazine, a publication that prides itself on its precise testing and evaluation of photographic equipment. Bottom line, they liked the new G5.

And that’s no surprise really because Panasonic have taken the core G3 specifications, refined and updated them, added some additional features and produced what is to my mind probably likely to be the best overall entry level compact camera system out there, eclipsing Panasonic’s m4/3rd Partner, Olympus in the process (although Oly’s OMD EM5 is by far my personal m4/3rd favourite).

By combining the 16mp sensor from the range topping Panasonic GH2 with the new Venus 7 II HD processor, adding some GF5 touch screen capacity, introducing an eye sensor, increasing the rear screen resolution (now 921k dots), upgrading HD video capture, increasing frame capture rate (and thereby introducing genuine HDR multi frame capture) and subtly tweaking the body shape (improving handling and allowing a bigger battery to be used) Panasonic have produced a fabulous user friendly but adaptable camera.
Throw in a plethora of really high grade optics from both Panasonic (7-14mm wide telephoto, 25mm F1.4, 14mm F2.5 & 20mm F1.7) and Olympus (45mm F1.8, 12mm F2 & 75mm F1.8) and you have a winner by any measure. A quick glance at published test images reveals noticeably improved low light capture, and wonderfully detailed images that display pleasing colour reproduction.

I wouldn’t hesitate for one second in recommending the new Panasonic G5 to anyone looking to entry the world of compact camera systems (CCS’s) for the first time nor someone looking to upgrade from a compact. Heaven knows how good the new yet to be announced Panasonic GH3 will be?

Mark Baynham (August 2012)