February 17, 2012

exciting new cameras for photographers

This photo was taken at a recent workshop where I was one of the instructors. I used the new Fuji X10 camera (B&H) and when I zoomed in to check the image sharpness on the camera’s display, I was a little surprised at just how good it looked. Crisp! There wasn’t anything immediately obvious there that would reveal the photo wasn’t taken with A Big Camera.

This article was originally going to be a review of the Fuji X10 camera (B&H).  However, with my workload, compiling material for a comparative review between the Fuji X10 and several other Point & Shoot cameras, took longer than I intended.  And now we’re at a point where there’s a range of other truly impressive cameras to about to hit the market. With such a fast-paced release of new tantalizing cameras, it felt to me like a single review might’ve become a little redundant a few month later.

Of course, various cameras are aimed at different sectors of the market, so they are not all equal. But if we have a look at the results from this small-sensor Point & Shoot camera, then it’s a real surprise how good the image quality is … and then we have to wonder what the cameras coming up in the next year or so, will deliver.

2012 is looking to be like a Big Year for camera enthusiasts photographers:

Mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras look like they might become all the rage in the next year or so, with the Canon G1 X (B&H) and the Fuji X-Pro-1 (B&H) about to become available.  Sony already has two great cameras in the Sony NEX-5N (B&H) and Sony NEX-7 (B&H), and there’s a bunch of other cameras on the market. The Fuji X-Pro 1 looks especially good, if we can go by the image quality of the Fuji X100.

Nikon is releasing two cameras with incredible spec – the Nikon D800 (B&H) and the Nikon D4 (B&H)  - and we’re just waiting for them to hit the streets properly and be readily available. Canon announced the Canon EOS-1D X towards the end of 2011, and the Canon 5D Mark III (B&H) will be available later on in the year.

With all that, it feels like the possibilities in photography have expanded even further. (And it’s not like our current cameras are suddenly not capable anymore.)  With image quality so good that a point and shoot camera can make you sit up and take notice, the limitation really is our imagination. Even more so now than ever before.

Fuji Finepix X10 review

I had the following four cameras available for review, and I got to play with them a bit:
Fuji X10 (B&H) – $600
Canon Powershot G12 (B&H) – $380
Nikon Coolpix P-7100 (B&H) – $420
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 (B&H) – $340

My intention was to do a comparative review, with images taken out on the street in Manhattan, of a variety of subjects.
In the end, it wasn’t just the image quality that counted for me, but also:
- handling and controls
- each camera had a different personality … a different feel.

They vary greatly in price and features, and ultimately, image quality.

They all have 10 megapixel sensors, except the Fuji X10 at 12 megapixels.

The image quality of each camera was distinctly different. For me, the Fuji X10 had the best image quality of the four cameras. The way the noise-reduction was handled in-camera, gave the images less of that “artificial” look that you get from digital point and shoots.

The Panasonic LX-5 and Canon G12 would be the runners-up in my opinion. But the Nikon P-7100 sadly fell behind. Disappointing.

Handling – the Canon G12 had the best laid out controls. No need to dive into the menu or press multiple buttons to change settings. They were all on hand. The Nikon P-7100 was nearly as good – a sexy looking camera with all the controls intuitively available.  The Panasonic LX5 had much more sparse controls, and for me, this was limiting. I need the buttons and controls.

The Fuji X10 here was an odd camera.  There were some things I really liked .. but then this was off-set by having to dive into the menu for some settings. On the G12, the ISO can be changed on the top deck. With the Fuji X10, you have to assign the function button for that, and then change the ISO in the menu. Like the Fuji X100, there is some quirky design philosophy behind all this.

Where the Fuji X10 stood out – you had to manually zoom the lens! It felt like you were holding an actual camera and controlling the focal length by manually rotating the lens. Beautiful.  So much easier than a rocker switch you have to look for, and then having to zoom back when you accidentally zoom too much.  I really liked this.

The Canon G12 and Nikon P-7100 have a zoom lens each that has an f2.8 to f5.6 aperture range.  Compare that to the Fuji X10′s f2 to f2.8 and you have a camera that you can shoot in lower light with … nevermind that the Fuji X10 gave the least amount of high-ISO noise.

All four cameras have image stabilization via optical means.

They all offer video at 720p resolution, except the Fuji X10 that offers a full 1080p video capability.

A 100% crop of the in-camera JPG … 400 ISO

In reducing the noise, the image became slightly softer.
Inevitably we deal with that trade-off every time.

A street performer late at night in Times Square

1/100 @ f2.5 @ 800 ISO

The 100% crop of the image, showing the surprising lack of noise in the shadow areas.

None of the other three cameras could match this.

Finally, in considering all this, I just liked the Fuji X10 so much, that this isn’t so much a comparative review between four point and shoots, but a kind-of review of the Fuji X10. It’s more spendy than the other three cameras, but the image quality is better, and it just has more … and don’t hate me for bringing in a description so vague … but it just has more personality. It’s a likable solid little camera.

- equipment reviews 

Fuji X100 camera review – photo shoot with a model
Fuji X100 review – photographing a wedding

 

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{ 11 comments. } Add a Comment

1 Ben Jamison February 18, 2012 at 1:08 am

Just as I was about to hit the button on the X100, Canon and Fuji come along with alternatives that stop me yet again!

While I’m a Canon guy at heart, Fuji does seem to be rocking some amazing gear in the advanced P&S department – and the quality in your images above is remarkable (though at least 3/4 of that is down to you!)

Ahhh, maybe I’ll just use the money I’d saved to buy the wife some new shoes. Might be the easiest option!

Thanks as always form the sunny Bahamas!

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2 Matt Carr February 18, 2012 at 10:25 am

I’d be interested to see how the Fuji X10 stacks up against the new Canon G1X. The Canon is listed at $200 more, but by it’s spec’s, I don’t see why I’d pick it over the Fuji. You’re images above are truly amazing for a P&S.

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3 Michael February 18, 2012 at 11:37 pm

Neil,

Your website and books (I bought both) have been so helpful to me, I would like to help you out in return. I’ll offer to store those D4s in a safe place, so you can have some peace of mind when not using them.

Sincerely,
Not a crazy guy

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4 Jason February 19, 2012 at 6:55 am

Neil told us he ordered a D4. When I read the heading “2012 is going to be exciting for photographers”, I thought this picture was taken with the D4! The quality is really good.

My second digital compact camera was a Fujifilm S5000. I am still amazed with the picture quality of this old camera, although it has a terrible shutter lag, and other problems.
http://www.flickr.com/groups/finepixes/

The Fijufilm S9600 replaced the S5000, but it wasn’t as good. Therefore, newer camera’s isn’t always better.

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5 Sune Bertelsen February 20, 2012 at 7:13 pm

So via your website you’ve helped me out a numorous of times, and ill for sure be buying one or more from your medias,no questions!
But one question is still open to me, why go for the more expensive D4, when the D800 offers higher resolution and as i undrestand better dynamic range as the D4, and on top of that, an iso range as paar with the D7000, with almost as good specs as the D3/D700?
Do you need that extra 1 to 1,5 sto?, as far as i know, they both have the new AF ability, and with your skills, the D800 have to be very interesting, knowing, and owning a lot of the flashgear needed to do do pictures in difficult situations is it not more interesting with a higher resolution?

BR The Danish fan.

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6 Neil vN February 20, 2012 at 7:38 pm

Sune … the truth here is that I simply don’t need that kind of resolution for the work that I do.

36 megapixels would be a dream for landscape photographers, and I guess architecture photographers and such. But for event photographers, it’s just too big a file to deal with.

Even with the 12 megapixels of the Nikon D3, I am down-rezing the files for use in albums and prints.

So for me, even at the higher cost, the Nikon D4 is what I want.

Neil vN

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7 Jason February 20, 2012 at 9:38 pm

Neil, I can’t wait for you to get a hold of those D4s! It should be fun!

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8 Phil Webster February 27, 2012 at 6:35 am

I am sorry to bug you with this question (you probably know what’s coming!) – I would LOVE to buy one of these cameras, I have been waiting for years for a camera of this design/specification and would have bought one already had it not been for the reviews regarding ‘orbs’ – have you had any experience these blown highlights? I need to hear from a real user the real world impact of the orb problem!

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9 Neil vN March 3, 2012 at 6:53 am

Phil … I saw the comments on DP Review about the “orbs”, and the heated discussions about them. It would appear there is some substance to this. However, the examples I’ve seen of the “orb” problem have been over-exposed shots of pin-point light-sources. Not a big issue in general, and especially not with a point-and-shoot camera.

I must honestly say that if I didn’t read about it, I most likely would never have noticed. So for me, it is a non-issue.

Neil vN

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10 Shig Tokuda March 3, 2012 at 11:00 am

Hi, Neil

Along with the Canon 5D Mk3, the Speedlite 600EX-RT has gotten my attention. I am sure that lots of folks here must be interested in this new flash because it has built in wireless radio trigger system!! How about you, Neil? 2012 is surely exciting for photographers, and I have to make lots of black foamy things.

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11 Neil vN March 3, 2012 at 4:41 pm

It is exciting indeed. I really think that the Canon 600EX-RT speedlite is going to change the flash photography landscape considerably. And I am sure the RadioPopper and PocketWizard people are quite concerned here as well. The new Canon flash will change a LOT of things.

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