Snapshot Voyager is about my own personal photography journey. I am always looking to try something new, inquisitive as to how it works, and to the end results I might achieve.

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Nikon Coolpix A - A short review

Recently I acquired a Nikon Coolpix A in a trade for my Fuji GA645i, and thought it would be an opportune time to share some thoughts.  

The camera itself is far from mint, and has some cosmetic "war wounds" as the seller put it, but it works fine, and the screen and lens are all good.  I wasn't using the Fuji much, so an opportunity to pick up a really nice digital compact that I could get some use out of was a tempting offer.

The Coolpix A is not a cheap piece of equipment to purchase new, retailing for almost $1,300.  Its claim to fame is having a large DX size sensor in a true compact body, that is truly pocketable, in a way that a Fuji X100 and Sony NEX 5 aren't quite.  It has a sharp 18.5mm lens (equivalent to 28mm) and a large 3" high definition screen.

First impressions with this camera are good.  The camera has a nice heft, but is still relatively light, the buttons feel like precision instruments and the whole camera gives an impression like it was carved out of billet aluminum, just like a Barnack Leica.

On my first test run, which was in good light, the lens proved to be very sharp and the sensor showed excellent detail, on par with the better DX sensors in DSLRs.  I'm sure the lack of an Optical Low Pass Filter helps in this regard. The AF is reasonably quick, though not  DSLR quick, and most shots seem to look very nice. All in all, a fun camera to have around.

A later test in a darker indoor environment started to show a few flaws.  Firstly the AF is much slower and not as reliable, and if you use it on macro mode, which enables the AF to zoom through the entire range, it can be 'moment missing' in darker environments.  The DX sensor isn't as good in low light as what I thought it would be.  ISO 3200 show quite a bit of noise, more than the Fuji X100, and about on par with my D90; though certainly better than my mother in law's Nikon Coolpix P330 with the 1/1.7" sensor (which coincidentally was launched on the same day).  This is actually quite disappointing as this is where I saw the camera as being most beneficial versus a regular compact.  

Another issue is the very strange colour balance in low incandescent light.  If you use the white balance to incandescent or set the colour temperature even lower, it gives the shadows and an ugly blue tinge, which is very disconcerting, and takes a bit of work is post processing to get it out.

The other big disappointment is the flash, which on Aperture Priority or Manual, is almost always completely out, and generally an utter disaster.  It works fine on Program or Auto mode, so I may take a look to see if there is 'user error' involved.  However, compared to the 100% reliable and always perfect flash on the X100, this is very disappointing.

One area that was better than expected was manual focus.  Compared to the X100, even with the latest firm ware, it is much quicker and more precise.  The other nice feature was the full menu, almost the same as Nikon's DSLRs, allowing for a lot of adjustability.

So overall first impressions?  A nice, but relatively flawed camera, like an early build X100 was.  I honestly thought it would be better.  Would I pay $1300 for it?  No way.  But at the approx $400 or so from trade value, it was still a good deal.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Nikon Df - Thoughts and Comments

The new Nikon Df is a delicious looking camera, beautifully styled in traditional late '70s early '80s camera garb.  Just like my favorite two Nikon film cameras, the F3 and FE2.

Inside it is basically a D4 in a lighter body.  So who will buy it?  I doubt a pro will; however cashed up amatuers who shot film on Nikon cameras in their younger years are prime targets.  Those who appreciate classic styling in a modern body and wish to reminise about their photography from 30+ years ago.
That's a generation ahead of me, but I appreciate old cameras - I now have a dozen or so, including 4 Leicas - and its also why I like the classic styling of my Fuji X100.

The specs are interesting too.  Nikon chose to use the lower resolution D4 sensor, rather than the higher resolution D600 or D800 sensors.  This 16MP sensor does have exceptional low light performance, with 200,000+ ISO capability and is also the lightest full frame Nikon available.  Clearly a camera designed for you to go out and take pictures, rather than photographing test charts.

One feature I really like is the external wheel dedicated to ISO.   This is an excellent feature, as it is one of the controls I use the most.  One thing that is a little odd is the combination of a Nikon 50mm f1.8 with slightly retro styling.  Sure its a good lens, but its kinda basic.  What about the new 58mm f1.4 instead?  That seems like it would be a killer combination with this camera, if not quite expensive at $4,500 or so.

Would I buy a Df?  If I could afford it, in a heart beat!

Nikon D600 - Tamron 24-135mm f3.5-5.6

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Fuji X100 Firmware Update

Fuji has just released their latest firmware update for the X100, which provides much faster AF on both normal and macro mode, as well as high contrast focus peaking on MF mode with improved MF operation.  There is also a few other minor updates, the biggest of which is faster start up time.

I downloaded it a few days ago, and frankly I am very impressed.  Impressed in two ways actually.  Firstly the updates significantly improve the camera's operation in ways that you can immediately see and notice.  The AF really is a lot better, and the MF operation is good, though I must say I prefer Sony's style of focus peaking to the Fuji's.  However it is still a good improvement.

The other reason I am impressed is that Fuji bothered to do this at all.  It would be very easy to let sleeping dogs lie, and encourage users to go buy a new X100s.  It really engenders brand loyalty for me, and frankly it will make me highly consider another Fuji when it comes time to trade up.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

The return of the FE2

There is a rumour on the internet that Nikon will sell a full frame DSLR that is styled similarly to Nikon's excellent FM2 of 30+ years ago.  I've owned both an FE2 (sister camera to the FM2) and an F3 (similar, but a bit more robust), and loved them both.  I liked the relatively light weight, compact size and classic styling.  I will admit that neither got significant use (the convenience of digital does that), but both shot photos I can instantly remember.

Personally, I love classic styling, and the Fuji X100 is the camera that best encapsulates this.  If the pricing is right (ie under $2000) I can see a digital FE2 being a major hit.  I've got my hand up!

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Sony A7 and A7r

Aside from perhaps a Leica M 240, the just released Sony A7 and A7r full frame E mount cameras promise to be the ultimate mirror-less camera you can buy.  A compact full frame sounds like a dream, especially for those who like using adapted lenses, even more so for Leica M lens lovers.  

Certainly if I had plenty of spare money and time, this camera would be high up there for me.
Perhaps the main thing I dislike is the exorbitant prices of the Zeiss lenses it has been released with.  I am sure they are excellent, but at 4-5 times the going rate of the equivalent Canon or Nikon, they'd better be exceptional.  In fact the prices are really not far off the equivalent for a Leica M product, and higher than the equivalent Zeiss M mount lenses.  That's going to scare off a lot of enthusiasts, and keep potential volumes low.

There are a couple of questions that really still need to be answered, and for me the biggest is what will the performance be like on wide angle Leica M mount lenses.  Performance on crop bodies for some lenses, especially symmetrical type lenses typified by the small Voigtlander wide angle lenses.
Still, I'm watching this camera closely as I think it will be an excellent product.

Leica CL and Voigtlander 35mm f1.4 Nokton SC