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September 2009 news and reviews

September 30
Canon to miss PMA and concentrate on CES
Canon has said it will have no presence or representation at the annual PMA trade show in Anaheim, California, in February. Canon USA has traditionally had one of the largest stands at the show and the Japanese parent company has regularly sent senior figures to the event. However, in light of the convergence of technologies from across its range: 'the decision has been made by Canon USA to only participate in 2010 trade shows and events that have the broadest reach,' the company said. It will still attend the International CES show organized by the Consumer Electronics Association. The event, which covers a wider range of electronics, takes place in Las Vegas, Nevada on January 7-10th.
Ricoh releases firmware update for GR Digital III
Ricoh has released a firmware update for its GR Digital III compact camera. Version 1.21 fixes minor issues related to playback and manual focus. It also rectifies an occasional Exif data error when using conversion lens GW-2. The firmware is available for immediate download from Ricoh's website.
September 29
Sense and Sensitivity

Sensitivity (ISO) in digital imaging is the subject of quite a lot of confusion - it's becoming common to hear talk of manufacturers 'cheating with ISO.' Here we look at why sensitivity can be hard to pin down, why we use the definition we do and how it's really as complicated as it can seem.

ACD Systems releases ACDSee Pro 3
ACD Systems has released the final version of its ACDSee Pro 3 image browsing software, that was previously available for beta testing. It features an improved interface, more online publishing tools and advanced image processing options allowing both non-destructive and pixel-level editing on most file formats. The software is available for a free 30-day trial and for purchase at US $169.99 via the ACD Systems website.
Samsung releases AMOLED 12M Camera/Phone
Samsung Electronics has released the AMOLED 12M mobile phone which contains a 12 megapixel camera complete with zoom rocker, shutter button and mode dial. The phone's camera has a 3x optical zoom and includes features seen in recent compact cameras including 720p HD video recording, AF Tracking, Smart Auto and Face Recognition. All other functions are controlled via a WVGA (800x480 pixels, 1,152,000 dots) AMOLED (Active Matrix Organic Light-Emitting Diode) touch screen display. Initiailly only available in the Korean market, the phone/camera is a product of Samsung Electronics, which contains Samsung's mobile phone business. The company is reported to be considering absorbing Samsung's digital camera business - currently a separate company called Samsung Digital Imaging.
ISO and Sensitivity: Part 2

We've just posted the second part of our blog post about ISO and Sensitivity. Last week we looked at what the ISO standard is supposed to tell us (the key thing being that it's based on JPEG middle gray and therefore is dependent on the manufacturer's chosen tone curve). This week we have a little look at what's going on behind the scenes when many modern cameras try to boost their ability to capture highlights.

September 28
Phase One introduces 645DF medium format camera
Phase One has released the 645DF medium format camera developed with Mamiya Digital Imaging. The camera, which will be available under both brand names, offers flash sync speeds of up to 1/1600 of a second as well as faster AF and capture rates than its predecessors. It is the only digital 645 series camera offering both focal plane and leaf shutters and it is compatible with most digital backs designed for the Phase One and Mamiya AFD mount, including those from Phase One, Leaf and Mamiya. The two companies have also announced a partnership with lens specialist Schneider Kreuznach. The first results are 55mm, 80mm and 110mm F/2.8 leaf shutter lenses designed for the 645DF. The new camera and lenses are expected to start shipping by the end of this year. The 645DF is priced at $5990/€4290 and the lenses start at $2490/€1790.
Tamron releases 60mm F2 Macro for Sony
Tamron has announced the availability of the its 60mm F/2 Di macro lens in Sony mount, to join the Canon and Nikon versions which are already shipping. The lens features a built-in AF motor, and provides 1:1 magnification with an unusually fast maximum aperture for a macro lens. It's designed excusively for APS-C sensors, and will vignette when used on full-frame camera such as the Alpha 850 and 900. The lens will start shipping from October 2009.
Hasselblad releases  H4D-60 &  H4D-50 medium format cameras
Hasselblad has introduced two new cameras to its H System of medium format cameras. First comes the H4D-60 with a 60MP sensor. It features the 'True Focus' AF system that can measure the movement of the camera when recomposing after focusing to ensure that focus remains on the target - a system Hasselblad calls Absolute Position Lock. Along with the H4D-60, the company has also launched the H4D-50 with a 50MP sensor, replacing the H3DII-50. The H4D-60 will start shipping from November 2009 at a retail price of €28,995 and the H4D-50 will ship in the first quarter of 2010 at a retail price of €19,995.
Panasonic updates firmware for DMC-LX3
Panasonic has posted a firmware update for its Lumix DMC-LX3 digital compact camera. Version 2.0 brings a host of additional functions as well as feature improvements for the 14-month-old camera. Changes include a 20% AF-speed increase at the wide-angle position, the addition of white balance bracketing and an expansion of the available exposure compensation. It also adds a High Dynamic scene mode, 1:1 aspect-ratio shooting and improves white balance performance.
September 25
Panasonic Lumix G 20mm F1.7 lens review

Just posted! Our lens review of the Panasonic Lumix G 20mm F1.7 ASPH (also known, somewhat cyptically, as the H-H020). There's little doubt that this year's small-bodied Micro Four Thirds cameras have attracted a lot of attention, and by way of an appetiser for our upcoming Panasonic GF1 review, we take a look at its compact, large aperture kit lens. True to the system's spirit of cross-brand co-operation, we've also taken the opportunity to shoot an extensive samples gallery using the Olympus E-P1. Click through to discover whether we found the lens to be up to standard.

Breeze Systems releases DSLR Remote Pro v1.0 for Mac
Software maker Breeze Systems has launched a Mac version of its DSLR Remote Pro software. Version 1.0 for Mac brings the remote control of Canon DSLRs to the Apple platform, allowing users to control focus, shoot time-lapse sequences and display live images from their computers. The software is now available at an introductory price of US $75.
September 24
Canon PowerShot G11 samples gallery

Just Posted: Our preview sample gallery from the Canon PowerShot G11. It's the first time in the G-series' history that the nominal resolution has decreased on a new model. We've got hold of a production version of Canon's latest flagship compact camera and so you can see for yourself what impact this move has had on the image output. As usual we've made sure to include a variety of light situations and ISO-settings.

Wacom refreshes Bamboo tablet line-up
Wacom has refreshed its Bamboo line of interactive tablets to include multi-touch and gesture-based control. First up are the Bamboo for office users and Bamboo Fun aimed at photographers and artists. They use either a pen or a multi-touch option that allows finger gestures to zoom, flip and rotate documents and images. There is also a less-expensive touch-only model called the Bamboo Touch. Beyond these three core products Wacom has also launched regional models including Pen-only models.
September 23
Behind the scenes: extended highlights!

Sensors, sensitivity, exposure and dynamic range (blog post)

Lomography offers Diana F+ adaptors for Nikon & Canon
Lomography, distributor of optics from Hong Kong-based Diana has released affordable F+ lens adaptors for Canon EOS and Nikon F-mount DSLRs. These adaptors are compatible with Diana's special effect 20mm, 38mm, 55mm and 110mm lenses. While the adaptors are priced at €12 each, the lenses range from €35 to €50.
ISO and Sensitivity: Part 1

We're seeing an increasing number of posts on our forums expressing confusion about ISO and asking why we don't test cameras based on their 'true' ISO values. So we've just posted the first of a two-part explanation of ISO, what it means, the role it plays in photography and how apparent discrepancies in reported values can occur.

Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 HSM for Nikon
Pre-PMA 2008: Sigma offers Nikon D40 and D60 DSLR owners more reach for less outlay with the launch of two tele zooms with built-in focus motors. The popular 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG Macro lenses in both standard and APO flavors have been motorized for owners of Nikon's D40 and D60 which lack support for tradition screw focusing. More details after the link...
Google announces Picasa 3.5
Google has announced version 3.5 of Picasa, its free image-editing software program. The latest version features improved tagging and import options and enhanced geo-tagging with integration of Google Maps. In addition, the company has also launched a Mac version of the software including most of the features of its PC version.
Adobe releases Photoshop Elements 8
Adobe has released version 8 of its Photoshop Elements image-editing software. Both the Windows and Mac versions see the addition of functions such as 'Adobe Photomerge' Exposure, Recompose and Quick Fix previews. Automated analysis tools can be used to add tags and identify people in your images for easy organization. Priced at US $99.99 and £75.82 in the UK, this latest release is now available for Windows, with a Mac version to follow soon.
September 21
Just posted: our in-depth Sigma DP2 review
Just Posted! Our review of the Sigma DP2. Sigma was the first company brave enough to put a large sensor in a compact body and its DP1 was an interesting, if flawed creation. The DP2 is its second attempt - featuring a 41mm equivalent F2.8 lens and a series of improvements derived from the company's experiences with the DP1. However, it is no longer the only compact camera claiming to offer 'the power of DSLR' so can the DP2 see off the interlopers and does its unique sensor design give it hidden depths?
Fujifilm Finepix F70EXR samples gallery
Just Posted: Our preview sample gallery of shots taken with the Fujifilm FinePix F70EXR, current holder of the 'world's smallest 10x zoom camera' and the first model to sport the new 10 megapixel version of the new Super CCD EXR sensor. We've had an F70 EXR for a few days now and managed to find a break in the clouds long enough to produce a quick gallery of images taken in a wide variety of lighting conditions, using all three EXR modes.
September 18
Canon PowerShot S90 samples gallery
Just Posted: Our preview sample gallery from the Canon PowerShot S90. We've just got hold of a production version of this latest photographers' compact, so, given the apparent level of interest, have put together a preview samples gallery. Canon made a big play of its 'high sensitivity' 10 megapixel sensor so we've made sure we've tried it at a range of ISO settings, and have included a couple of low-light portraits under challenging tungsten lighting.
Samyang offers 14mm F/2.8 IF ED MC Aspherical lens
Samyang Optics, the Korean manufacturer of industrial optics and photographic lenses has announced a 14mm F2.8 IF ED MC Aspherical super wide-angle lens. It is designed for full-frame cameras, but works with APS-C cameras as well. It features two ED, one hybrid aspherical and one glass aspherical lens element. The lens offers an impressive 114° field of view on full frame cameras and 92.5° on APS-C cameras. It will be available from November 2009 in Canon, Nikon, Sony and Pentax mounts.
September 17
Panasonic updates firmware for G1 & GH1 cameras
Panasonic has posted firmware updates for its DMC-GH1 and DMC-G1 Micro Four-Thirds cameras. Both updates improve autofocus performance in low contrast conditions and the stability of auto exposure (AE) for the recently released Panasonic Leica 45mm F2.8 Macro lens. The GH1 firmware v1.2 also decreases the AF operation sound of the 20mm F1.7 pancake lens for quieter video recording.
Panasonic issues firmware for 45-200mm lens
Panasonic has released a firmware update for its Lumix G Vario 45-200mm F4.0-5.6 OIS Micro Four Thirds lens. Version 1.1 enhances several aspects of the lens's operation, including continuous autofocus while shooting stills, and autofocus and image stabilization performance in movie mode.
Pentax announces K-x entry level DSLR
Pentax has announced an upper-entry level DSLR, the K-x. Based on the K2000 (K-m) body, the K-x adds a number of features including a 12.4 Mp CMOS sensor, 11-point autofocus, Live View and HD video mode. It will be available in a choice of colors - black, white, and limited editions of red and navy - from October 2009 at a price of $649.95 with the 18-55mm DA-L kit lens. To accompany the K-x Pentax has also released a budget 'L' version of its 55-300mm F4-5.8 telephoto zoom lens.
Pentax K-x brief hands-on
Pentax's K-x offers an awful lot of K-7 features in what is essentially the same body as the K2000 (K-m). In fact, its high specification and low price are most reminiscent of the much-loved K200D, which could make this a welcome addition to the upper-entry-level market. We were able to borrow a pre-production model so that we could look beyond the various color options to see just what this latest little Pentax offers.
September 15
Sinar assets spun off to two new companies

Swiss medium format manufacturer Sinar has been hived-off into two companies with its Swiss distributor Tekno AG taking over development, sales, service and support for the brand's products and manufacturing passed to Femron, a management buyout of its production facilities. A new company called Sinar Photography formed by Teckno will take over the relevant assets. Former owner Jenoptik withdrew from the medium format market in July 2009 following the collapse of its partner in the Hy6 system: Franke & Heidecke.

Hartblei creates medium format camera with 35mm lens mount
Germano-Ukrainian specialist lens maker Hartblei has announced a medium format camera designed with a 35mm lens mount. The Hartblei CAM can mount any digital or film medium format back up to 4.5x6cm and will be available in Canon EF, Nikon F or Sony Alpha mounts. The company is working to develop the EF-mount version so that it can electronically control the apertures on Canon's latest 17mm and 24mm TS-E lenses. Mounting the Nikkor 14-24mm F2.8, either on the native Nikon version on the EF mount version with an adapter, gives a viewing angle of 135°.
Adobe releases Lightroom 2.5 & Camera Raw 5.5
Adobe has released Photoshop Lightroom 2.5 and Camera Raw 5.5. These are final versions of updates which were originally posted as 'release candidates' on the Adobe Labs site, and are now available for immediate download. Both provide additional Raw support for Nikon D300S, Nikon D3000, Panasonic DMC-GF1 and Olympus E-P1. Although support is offered for Panasonic DMC-FZ35, it doesn't extend to the Japanese and European version of the camera (the FZ38). In addition, the ACR update also includes corrections for sensors with non-conventional color filter arrays (as introduced in the most recent DNG specification).
Olympus posts firmware updates for E-P1 Micro Four Thirds camera and kit lenses
Olympus has released a firmware update for its E-P1 Micro Four Thirds camera. Version 1.1 improves the camera operation in Continuous AF mode (C-AF). The company has also posted firmware updates for the E-P1's kit lenses: the M. Zuiko Digital ED 14-42mm 1:3.5-5.6 and the M. Zuiko Digital 17mm 1:2.8 pancake lens. The updates promise to improve the autofocus operation of both the lenses. Firmware updates can be downloaded via the Olympus Master/Studio software.
September 14
SanDisk unveils more Extreme cards
SanDisk has released a series of Extreme Pro CompactFlash cards with the super-fast read and write speeds of up to 90MB/s. The line supercedes the Extreme IV range and will start shipping this week in 16GB, 32GB and 64GB capacities at a MSRP ranging from $300 to $800. The company has also released another line CF and SDHC cards called the Extreme series (replacing the Extreme III series) offering transfer speeds of up to to 60MB/s and 30 MB/s respectively that will be available from 8GB to 32GB with their price ranging from $130 to $375.
Carl Zeiss announces 18mm F3.5 for Canon
Carl Zeiss has announced the price and availability of the Canon-mount version of its 18mm F3.5 lens. The 'ZE-mount' version of the Distagon T* 3.5/18 super-wide angle lens was first shown in March at the Photo Imaging Expo in Tokyo and will be available in Autumn 2009 for a suggested retail price of €1049.
September 11
Novoflex brings mount adapters for Micro Four Thirds
Novoflex has announced prices for eleven adapters for the Micro Four Thirds standard, including Pentax K, Nikon F and Sony Alpha adapters with built-in aperture control rings. The adapters provide only a mechanical connection between the lens and the body but retain automatic metering for aperture priority mode and allow focusing to infinity. All should be in stock in the US by October, according to the US distributor. Click through for US and European recommended prices.
September 9
Leica X1 and brief hands-on
Alongside the M9 Leica has also announced the X1, a compact camera with a large APS-C sensor and a fixed 35mm equivalent field-of-view F2.8 autofocus lens. Featuring a design reminiscent of M-series rangefinders, complete with analogue-style shutter speed and aperture dials, the camera offers a choice of fully automatic or manual control. A 2.7" LCD and 12Mp CMOS sensor with an ISO range of 100 to 3200 round off the specification. Registered owners will be able to download a copy of Adobe Lightroom to process the camera's DNG raw files. During our visit to Leica two weeks ago we were lucky enough to get our hands on a pre-production camera, click through for our initial impression and hands-on pictures.
Leica Factory Tour
Two weeks ago we visited the Leica Factory in Solms, Germany, for an introduction to the M9 and X1 cameras, and the S2 medium format DSLR system. As well as discussing these new products, we were given a guided tour of the production and assembly areas for the M series rangefinders (including the M9), the M lenses and the S2. Click through for an insight into the painstaking process by which Leica puts together its cameras and lenses.
Leica M9 and hands-on preview

Leica has officially revealed the M9 - a full frame version of its M-mount rangefinder. The Leica M9, with its 24 x 36mm, 18 megapixel sensor is, according to the company: 'the world's smallest full-frame system camera.' The body is available in a new 'Steel Gray' finish and offers minor button re-arrangement over the M8 - all the major changes relate to the internals. The Kodak-developed CCD sensor features improved offset microlenses to optimize performance at the edges of the frame along with a sensor cover with improved filtering of infrared light so lens-mounted IR filters are no longer needed. Most importantly, the 35mm film-sized sensor means every Leica M-mount lens provides the originally intended field of view.

September 4
 Sigma releases 70-300mm F4-5.6 DG OS
Sigma has announced an image-stabilized telephoto zoom in the shape of the 70-300mm F4-5.6 DG OS. Suitable for use on both APS-C and full frame cameras, this lens incorporates Sigma's Optical Stabilization technology allowing hand-held shooting at shutter speeds up to 4 stops slower than usual, along with a circular diaphragm for attractive rendition of out-of-focus backgrounds. The minimum focus distance is 1.5m giving a maximum magnification of 0.26x; unlike Sigma's non-stabilized 70-300mm zooms there's no extended macro focusing option. The lens will available for users of Sigma, Nikon, Canon, Pentax and Sony SLRs at a SRP of £399.
September 3
Corel introduces Digital Studio 2010 with touch operation
Corel has introduced the Digital Studio 2010 image and video editing software package with touch operation. With the right hardware, users can touch and edit their digital files or use traditional mouse operation. The included software allows users to organize, edit and upload photos and videos, create slideshows and home movies complete with soundtracks and voice-over. Digital Studio 2010 is now available for download at a retail price of $99.99 USD or £59 GBP.
September 2
Panasonic GF1 preview + samples gallery
Just Posted: Our hands-on preview of the GF1 - the third model in Panasonic's Micro Four Thirds 'G' system. The GF1 squeezes much the same functionality as the G1/GH1 into a body that's roughly the same size as the Olympus E-P1. We've had an early production sample for a few weeks now; just enough time to produce an in-depth preview and an extensive samples gallery (including plenty of shots taken with the new 20mm F1.7 pancake lens). Enjoy.
Panasonic unveils DMC-GF1 Micro four-thirds camera
Pre-IFA 2009: Panasonic has introduced what it bills as 'the world's smallest and lightest digital interchangeable lens system camera with a built-in flash' in the shape of Lumix DMC-GF1. Sporting a new 'artistic flat' body design similar to that of the recently released Olympus E-P1, the GF1 is 35% smaller than earlier G models. Headline features include the same 12.1Mp sensor as the DMC-G1, 1280 x 720 HD recording in AVCHD Lite format, an optional hot-shoe mounted electronic viewfinder, and a 3 inch LCD with 460k dots.
Panasonic introduces LUMIX G 20mm / F1.7 ASPH. lens
Pre-IFA 2009: Panasonic has announced the LUMIX G 20mm F1.7 ASPH, a pancake type lens that has been designed to complement its latest GF1 Micro Four Thirds camera. With a 40mm-equivalant field of view, the lens measures just 25.5 mm (1 inch) in length and weighs only 100 grams. The optical design comprises seven elements in five groups, including two aspherical elements to minimize distortion and chromatic aberration.
Panasonic Leica 45mm F2.8 Macro lens with OIS
Pre-IFA 2009: Panasonic has also announced the Leica DG MACRO-ELMARIT 45mm F2.8 ASPH. MEGA O.I.S. macro lens. This optically stabilized lens is bundled into a compact body measuring approximately 2.5 inches x 2.5 inches, with an inner focus mechanism that keeps the overall length constant on focusing. The optical construction consists of fourteen elements in ten groups, including one aspherical and one ED element, and the aperture mechanism uses 7 rounded blades for smoothly blurred backgrounds. The minimum focus distance is 15cm, and a switch on the lens barrel allows this to be limited to 50cm for longer range work.
September 1
 Tamron launches stabilized 17-50mm F2.8 zoom
Pre-IFA 2009: Tamron has announced a revised version of its popular 17-50mm F2.8 fast standard zoom for APS-C/DX SLRs, which now incorporates optical image stabilization (or as the company calls it, Vibration Compensation). The SP AF 17-50mm F/2.8 XR Di II VC LD Aspherical [IF] offers a useful wide angle to short telephoto range of 26-78mm (35mm equivalent) in a compact design scarcely larger than its unstabilized predecessor. The 19 element / 14 group optical design employs a host of special elements to minimize aberrations, and features a minimum focusing distance of 0.29m over the entire zoom range, with a maximum magnification of 0.21x. It will be available in Nikon mount (with a built-in focusing motor) from mid-September, with a Canon version to follow.
Samsung releases HZ25W superzoom digital camera
Pre-IFA 2009: Samsung has released the HZ25W (WB5000 in Europe) with 24x optical zoom. A variant of other recently launched superzooms, the camera offers a field of view of 26-624mm equivalent, 3.0 inch LCD and a 12.47 MP sensor. It features 720p HD video recording in an advanced H.264 format, but does not provide an HD output. Other features include RAW format shooting, Image Stabilization, P/A/S/M shooting modes and enhanced Face Recognition.
Canon unveils EOS 7D high-end digital SLR
Pre-IFA 2009: As anticipated Canon has today announced the EOS 7D digital SLR. It boasts a new 18MP APS-C CMOS sensor, Dual DIGIC 4 processors, ISO range expandable to 12800, continuous shooting at 8 fps and full HD video recording. It also incorporates a new viewfinder with 1.0x magnification and 100% coverage and a 3 inch LCD with 920k dot resolution.
Just posted: Hands-on preview of the Canon EOS 7D
Just Posted: Our hands-on preview of the Canon EOS 7D. We've had a bit of time to get to grips with Canon's latest high-end APS-C body. This 18MP camera uses dual Digic 4 processors to offer an impressive 8 frames per second and features a new 19-point AF system with the ease of point selection more usually associated with the 1D series. We delved around under the hood, leafed through the menus and even shot some sample images and a video. Update: the sample gallery and video are now online.
Canon launches 15-85mm and 18-135mm EF-S lenses
Pre-IFA 2009:Along with the EOS 7D, Canon has announced two EF-S, APS-C lenses. The EF-S 15-85mm F3.5-5.6 IS USM is as a high quality standard zoom designed to complement the EOS 7D. It offers a flexible 24-136mm (35mm equivalent) range and offers image stabilizer with a claimed effectiveness of 4 stops. It also includes ring-type USM and a close focus distance of 0.35m through the entire zoom range. Also bolstering Canon's EF-S range is the 18-135mm F3.5-5.6 IS USM, which covers a 29-216mm (35mm equivalent) range and with a claimed 4-stop image stabilizer and a minimum focus distance of 0.45m.
Canon EF 100mm F2.8L USM Macro with Hybrid IS

Pre-IFA 2009:Hot on the heels of Canon's announcement of its Hybrid IS technology comes the first lens to sport this feature and, to no great surprise, it's a 100mm F2.8 macro. The Hybrid IS system is claimed to provide up to 2 stops stabilization at 1.0x magnification, and up to 4 stops at longer shooting distances. This, Canon's third-generation EF 100mm F2.8 macro lens, is also the first to gain the flagship 'L' designation and comes with such goodies as ultra-low dispersion glass elements, a nine blade circular aperture and weathersealing. The Canon EF 100mm F2.8L IS USM macro will supplement, rather than supplant the existing 100mm F2.8 USM macro.