Sony Alpha 99 II Review

Sony Alpha 99 II : Sony’s “A” mount range of cameras is far from dead

Online photography review site Photography Blog UK has published a review of Sony’s “A” mount full frame SLT camera the Sony Alpha 99 II which uses a fixed transulent mirror and packs a 42 megapixel full-frame sensor, other specifications include 4K video recording, a tilting LCD screen, dual memory card slots, an electronic viewfinder and a Bionz X Processor

Sony A99 II Review thumbnail

From Photography Blog UK

“Sony has produced an excellent camera with the A99 II, following on from the excellent work of the original A99. We may have thought that Sony was giving up on its SLT range as it has been concentrating on its E-mount range for some time, but with this camera, it shows that the company is still concerned with larger, more traditional cameras too. 

Thanks to the high build quality and extensive range of buttons and dials, the Sony A99 II is pleasant to use – and of it feels like you’ve got a high performing piece of kit in your hand. 

Images are nicely saturated, but there is an issue of underexposure in some situations which mean that you often have to dial in exposure compensation where you might not normally want to do so. If you’re planning on shooting a lot of low light, low contrast shots, then this is something to be aware of – but perhaps if you’re mainly concerned with sports, wildlife, action and so on – it will be less of an issue for you. 

The A99 II performs well in those scenarios, being able to focus quickly and accurately, and having a high frame rate is useful for fast moving action.

Other manufacturers generally have resisted putting a manoeuvrable screen on their full-frame professional cameras, so it’s great to see one of those here – it’s particularly useful for video recording. Naturally, as we’d expect from an electronics giant like Sony, the A99 II is 4K compatible, too. 

It seems unlikely that anybody who is already a dyed in the wool Canon or Nikon user is going to be tempted over to the Sony system just yet, but, when you look at the price, you may think twice – it’s currently retailing for £500 less than the Canon 5D Mark IV, which was announced at a similar time, so if Sony can keep up this aggressive pricing strategy, it could convince people to switch and make savings over time”. 

My Take:

The previous Sony A99 was a bit of a dark horse, over-looked by many but appreciated by those who took the plunge and bought into Sony’s full frame SLT system. I tested the older A99 a few years back and I was very impressed.

The new A99 II is an even better camera with its 48mp sensor delivering the goods in spades.

Once again for those wanting to be a bit different and seeking to enter the full frame world and who are not already committed to either Canon or Nikon, like the Pentax K1 the new Sony Alpha A99 II is worthy of serious consideration.

Mark Baynham ( February 2017)

Panasonic G80 : Worth serious consideration

Panasonic Lumix G80: Don’t dismiss this gem from Panasonic

Online review site Cameralabs has posted a full and detailed review of Panasonic’s mid-level mirroless micro four thgird (M43) camera, the Panasonic Lumix G80.

Here’s a few thoughts and observation from the review.

From Cameralabs:

“Panasonic’s Lumix G80 / G85 is a highly compelling entry into the competitive mid-range market. Like most rivals at this price point, the G80 / G85 offers a viewfinder, articulated touch screen, loads of manual control and Wifi, but goes beyond the pack by additionally packing great quality 4k video, built-in stabilisation that rivals industry leader Olympus, and a weather-sealed body and kit zoom; the icing on the cake is Panasonic’s innovative 4k Photo which exploit 4k video to shoot 8 Megapixel ‘stills’ at 30fps, or adjust the focus or effective depth-of-field after the event. It all adds up to a camera that’s hard to beat for the money.

When comparing the G80 / G85 against the competition, the first most obvious difference is the sensor: a 16 Megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor that’s both smaller and lower resolution than the 24 Megapixel APSC sensors used by Sony, Fujifilm, Canon and Nikon. But it’s important to note Panasonic has eeked everything it can out of this sensor and in my tests there wasn’t a great deal of discernable difference in real-life detail between them. Even in low light they performed similarly up to 1600 ISO. At higher sensitivities, the APSC sensors suffered from lower noise, but you need to ask yourself how often you’ll need to shoot above 1600 ISO, especially when you take the G80 / G85’s superb image stabilisation into account. If you need to freeze action in low light, such as indoor sports or street photography in the evening, and you demand the cleanest results, you may be better-served by a bigger sensor, but for most situations the G80 / G85 will be more than good enough”

“Panasonic’s Lumix G80 / G85 is a feature-packed camera that stacks-up very well against its rivals. As a mid-range mirrorless camera, you’ll enjoy the usual features including a decent viewfinder, articulated touch-screen, loads of manual control and built-in Wifi, but the G80 / G85 goes the extra mile with great quality 4k video, built-in stabilisation that rivals industry leader Olympus, and a weather-sealed body and kit zoom. Panasonic’s unique 4k Photo modes let you extract stills from video, refocus and even adjust the depth-of-field after the event, and while continuous autofocus during fast bursts is bettered by some rivals, it’ll still track action at 3-6fps with big zooms, and the single autofocus remains one the best around. Overall I find it hard to think of a better general-purpose all-rounder at this price point – highly recommended!”

Good points
Good quality images out-of-camera, close to 20MP models.
Weather-sealed body with big EVF, articulated touch-screen, UHS II slot.
Very impressive built-in stabilisation for stills and videos.
Great quality 4k video with mic input.
Very fast single autofocus speed that also keeps working in very low light.

Bad points
No movie frame rates above 60p, so limited slow motion possibilities.
Rear buttons are too small and flush to the surface.
No USB charging in-camera.
Needs to slow to 3-4fps for continuous AF and live feedback.
Refocusing during movies not as confident as rivals with PDAF.

February 2017

Confirmed: The EM1 II is the best M43 camera

Olympus OM-D EM1 : Worth every penny?

At last cameralabs has completed its in-depth review of the M43 powerhouse which is the Olympus OM-D EM1 II and the article makes a fasinating read.

Basically tye review confirms what every other review has concluded bar none, that the EM1 II is a true and proper powerhouse camera, a genuine high performing “Pro” focussed model that on many levels can and does compete with its bigger APS-C equipped rivals.

Am getting one its just a question when.

Quick Overview of the Olympus OM-D EM1 II

The Olympus OM- EM1 II is the new high -end flagship Micro Four Third ( M43) camera body from Olympus.

The camera is equipped with a brand new 20 Megapixel Live MOS sensor that also has 121-point embedded phase-detect AF points which cover a larger area of the frame than the previous EM1. The phase-detect points are all the sensitive cross-type that work and work alongside a contrast-based system for both Single and Continuous AF. The new beefed up AF system works for Micro as well as older Four Thirds lenses plus Panasonic lenses are supported.

The in-body stabilisation system has been improved to offer a claimed 5.5 stops of compensation or a scarsely believeable 6 to 6,5 stop stabilisation with lenses that support Sync IS (presently only M.Zuiko 300mm telephoto and the new 12-100mm f4 IS PRO zoom)

Impressively the EM1 Mark II will shoot at its full resolution (including RAW) up to 18fps with continuous AF or 60fps with single AF, and deploys a dedicated quad-core processor to AF duties.

The viewfinder still uses an LCD ( as opposed to OLED) and is the same size and resolution as the one in the EM1, but now features a faster 120fps refresh and 6ms response, while the touch-screen has become side-hinged and fully-articulated.

For video joining 1080 video there is 4k UHD and Cinema4k recording at 102 and 237Mbps respectively.

Finally there’s now dual SD memory card slots, a higher capacity battery with quicker charging, and the rugged better sculptured body remains dust, splash and freeze-proof.

All in all one hell of a spec list.

Review From Cameralabs

“Good points
Best-in-class built-in stabilisation for stills and movies.
Tough weather-proof body with twin card slots and great ergonomics.
Effective continuous AF up to 18fps (electronic) or 10fps (mechanical).
High speed bursts up to 60fps, including full-res RAW (48 frames at top speed).
Very good JPEGs from camera; come close to 24MP APSC in resolving power.
Large battery for mirrorless, and quick charging too.
Great quality 4k UHD and C4k video. Flat profile option.
High Res mode generates images up to 50MP under ideal conditions.
Pro Capture mode buffers up to 14 frames prior to shutter press”.

“Bad points
No indication of shots remaining in buffer during burst shooting.
Can’t playback images while buffer is emptying (but can still shoot).
Auto ISO not available above 6400 ISO nor in Movie manual mode.
Autofocus during movies can be hesitant and inconsistent.
Timelapse movies at low frame rates when encoded in 1080p or 4k.
Articulated screen can interfere with mic, headphone and HDMI ports.
No battery charging in-camera over USB.
Sensor output not as clean as larger formats above 6400 ISO in my tests”.

From Cameralabs: Olympus OMD EM1 Mark II final verdict

“The Olympus OMD EM1 Mark II takes the popular weatherproof Mark I, deepens the grip, adds twin memory card slots and employs the most generous battery of any mirrorless camera. It improves the already amazing stabilisation, adds a minor boost in resolution and offers a cunning composite mode which under the right conditions can increase the resolving power up to 50 Megapixels.

The major upgrades though concern video and autofocus. The EM1 Mark II shots great quality 4k and Cinema4k video which work a treat with the stabilisation, while a new embedded AF system can genuinely track moving action at up to 18fps; switch to Single AF and it’ll even shoot up to 48 RAWs at 60fps. It all adds up to a supremely confident and capable camera that can capture images where others can’t, but you’ll really have to need the 4k and or burst capabilities to justify the professional price tag. There’s a lot of very compelling rivals for the same or less money. But if you’ll exploit the feature-set, the EM1 Mark II becomes one of the most powerful and desirable cameras in its class and justifies its asking price regardless of format”.

My Take:

There is VERY little realistically that Olympus could have done to improve on the EM1 II bar maybe a more resolute viewfinder (Like the one in the new Panasonic GH4) and allowing in-camera USB charging?

Image quality is as close to the very best APS-C cameras as to make no real world difference so long as you keep to sub ISO 1600 and even so higher ISO settings are still perfectly useable.

True the EM1 II isn’t cheap but the sort of performance and technolgy it packs was always going to come at a cost.

If your a current M43 user and seek the best take a long hard look at the Olympus OM-D EM1 II

January 2017

 

Panasonic Lumix FZ200 : A mini GH4?

Panasonic Lumix FZ2000 : Geared more towards video than stills

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ2000 Review Image

Online review site has completed a detailed review of Panasonic’s new high-end bridge / superzoom the Panasonic FZ2000 and their conclusions and test results are food for thought for the new camera appears to be definately aimed more towards video than still capture.

FZ2000 at a glance

  • 20MP 1″-type BSI-CMOS sensor
  • 24-480mm equiv. F2.8-4.5 lens
  • Depth from Defocus AF
  • Large 2.36M dot electronic viewfinder
  • Fully articulating 3″ 1.04M dot Touch LCD screen
  • Built-in variable ND filter
  • 4K video capture (DCI/UHD)
  • 10-bit, 4:2:2 output over HDMI

Heres a snippet of DPreviews conclusions:

Pro’s

  • Good image quality, especially in Raw
  • Very well-built body with large grip
  • Impressive continuous AF and subject tracking performance
  • Internal zoom lens allows for smooth and quiet focusing
  • Excellent 4K video quality
  • Numerous video capture controls
  • Built-in variable ND filter
  • Large electronic viewfinder
  • Numerous customizable controls, both physical and on-screen
  • Well-implemented touch functionality
  • Support for V-Log L gamma
  • 10-bit 4:2:2 output over HDMI
  • Handy Focus Stacking and Post Focus features
  • External battery charger included

Con’s

  • Image quality hampered by mediocre lens
  • Heavy noise reduction in JPEGs
  • Yellows have greenish tint which affects skin tones
  • Substantial 1.4x crop in 4K eliminates wide-angle capability and affects low light performance
  • Basic Auto ISO functionality
  • On the bulky side
  • LCD cannot fully rotate when left-side I/O ports are in use
  • Battery life could be better
  • No support for USB charging
Conclusion
“The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ2500/FZ2000 is a well-designed enthusiast bridge camera focused on video, and it offers capture tools that you won’t find on any other camera in its class. 4K video quality is excellent, though there’s a substantial crop factor, essentially knocking out the wide end of the lens. Still image quality is decent, though it’s hampered by a so-so lens and JPEG engine that could use a tune-up. If you’re a videophile then it’s a top choice. If not, there are cheaper options out there”.
My Take:
Once again a review site has concluded that the FZ2000’s lens cannot compete with the one found in Sony’s expensive rival the RX10 III. This show just what an excellent job Sony has done with the optic in its top-end superzoom.
Up until reading Dprveiews review I’d have chosen the FZ2000 as my prefered bridge / superzoom but now am not so sure.
And that’s the stark choice potential buyers of a high-end superzoom face.
If you want the best superzoom / bridge camera on the market its the Sony RX10 III period , it offers superior image quality over its rivals but you’ll pay for that class.
However if video is your thing the Panasonic Lumix FZ2000 is the way to go.
But if value for money is your thing then as Dpreview has correctly pointed out the Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 is still available and its lens is optically superior to the newer FZ model, plus its now a fair bit cheaper.
So on the face of it you either wait a little longer save the pennies and get the Sony RX10 III or get the bargin that is the Panasonic FZ1000.
This leaves the FZ2000 a bit stuck in the middle until you consider that in many ways, video feature wise its a bit of a mini GH4?
Mark Baynham ( January 2017)

Sony RX10 Mark III reviewed

Sony CyberSot RX10 Mk 3: As good as a bridge camera gets… BUT

Sony RX10 III Review Image

The Sony RX10 Mark III is a high-end DSLR esq bridge / super-zoom camera equipped with a 20 Mp 1-Inch  sensor, 4k video, and an impressive high quality 25x / 24-600mm zoom.

The “older” mark 2 RX10 remains on sale whilst the “newer” camera retains many identical features ie the 1 inch stacked sensor with super-slow-motion video, 14fps continuous shooting,  2.3 million dot 0.7x electronic viewfinder and 3- inch 1.3 million dot rear screen that for some unfathomable reason remains a non touch-screen type.

In reality its the RX10 III’s lens that really sets it apart from its predecessor, with a three-fold increase over the 200mm telephoto coverage of the earlier RX10 Mark I and II. The maximum aperture is also a little brighter at the wide angle setting – f2.4 compared with f2.8 on the earlier models, but the big increase in telephoto focual length means the Mk III no longer enjoys a constant f2.8 focal ratio and the lens closes to f4.4, at the long-end. The lens gains a third control ring (handy) but for some strange reason loses the built-in ND filter of earlier versions.

This new RX10 version retains the Mk 2’s robust weather resistant build, but gains one hell of a significant price hike in the process making it by far the most expensive bridge / super-zoom on the market.

On-line review site Cameralabs conducted a full and detailed review of the Sony RX10 III and here’s some quotes and thoughts:

From Cameralabs:

” The biggest competition for the RX10 III is the less expensive Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500. It’s similar in very many respects to the RX10 III, with a 20 Megapixel 1 inch sensor, a slightly bigger electronic viewfinder with the same resolution as the RX10 III, a 3 inch fully articulated touch-screen and a broadly comparable (but not the same) range of video modes with 4K 25p plus Cinema 4K at the top.

But if you’re having trouble deciding between these two models there’s also loads to differentiate them, starting with their respective lenses. The Sony has a 25x zoom starting at the same 24mm wide angle as the FZ2000 / FZ2500, but extending a bit further to 600mm equivalent compared with 480mm. It’ll get you just that bit closer in to distant subjects. The Sony lens is also a little bit brighter at f2.4-4 compared with f2.8-4.5 on the Lumix.

One other important difference is that the Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500 lens now incorporates a pair of neutral density filters allowing you to reduce the amount of light it transmits by up to 64x in 2 stop increments. Interestingly, though the earlier RX10 II had a built-in 3x ND filter it’s been dropped on the latest Mark III. One thing in the RX10 III’s favour though is that its lens has a smallest aperture setting of f16 compared with f8 on the FZ2000 / FZ2500, what’s more, the Sony lens has a dedicated aperture ring which can be configured for stepped or smooth operation.

The screens are the same size and similar resolution, but the RX10 III’s screen can only tilt up or downwards whereas the FZ2000 / FZ2500’s panel is side hinged and can face in any direction including forwards which can be invaluable for video recording. More importantly, the Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500’s screen is now touch sensitive, allowing setting of the AF area with a tap, silent control of movie exposure and much more.

Both models provide full PASM exposure control for movie recording, and exposure can be adjusted silently during recording using the FZ2000 / FZ2500’s touch-screen (which can also be used to adjust focus) or with the RX10 III’s stepless aperture ring. The new zoom buttons and the internal structure of the FZ2000 / FZ2500’s zoom provide better control of zooming for slower, smoother, and steadier results.

Both models are fairly evenly matched for continuous shooting speeds using their mechanical shutters, but the FZ2000 / FZ2500 cleverly exploits its sensor to deliver 4K photo modes offering not just 30fps continuous shooting at 8 Megapixel resolution, but post-focus and focus stacking modes.

Both models feature built-in Wifi and the Sony also has NFC so you can tap it with an NFC-equipped android phone for a quick connection. Other than that both offer quite similar Wifi features in terms of remote control and image transfer, though you can extend the RX10’s capabilities with downloadable apps. Battery life is significantly better on the RX10 III and you can charge the RX10 III battery in the camera over USB. Both camera’s offer a high degree of customisation, but the FZ2000 / FZ2500’s touch screen gives it and edge with programmable touch buttons in addition to the physical ones.

Depending on where you shop, the Sony RX10 III is around 30 percent more expensive than the Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500. For many people that will be enough to swing it in the FZ2000 / FZ2500’s favour, given that these two models are closely matched in many respects and the Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500 is ahead in some areas, namely a wider selection of movie modes, fully articulated touch screen, slightly bigger viewfinder, better continuous shooting and better zoom control on the lens. The thing that pulls you back to the RX10 III is the lens, not just the longer range but the quality which outperformed the Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500 in my tests. The Sony is also officially weather-sealed and supports more professional audio connectivity accessories.

Sony-RX10-III-01

My Take:

Cameralabs have summed it up perfectly. The Sony RX10 III’s lens is optically superior ‘to that on the Panasonic FZ2000 and its body is weather sealed but in other respects (ie fully articulated touch screen, bigger viewfinder and more varied video features) the FZ2000 has the upper hand and in the process also happens to be a fair bit CHEAPER.

Sure the RX10 III’s new lens should in theory deliver slightly superior image quality over the FZ2000 but in the real world the differences are not hugely significant althought from what I’ve seen they do exist.

Personally I’d be hard put to justify the outlay for a RX10- III, yes its the best bridge camera / super-zoom on the market but the Panasonic FZ2000 is 80% of the RX10 III for a fair bit less cash.

If the RX10 III’s rear screen was a fully articulated touch screen and if it re-aquired a ND filter I think I’d fully recommend the RXD10 III even at its current retail price. But for the time being I’d suggest the Panasonic FZ2000 is the more pragmatic purchase.

Mark Baynham ( Janauary 2017)