Friday, September 23, 2016

A first look at Sony's full-frame A99 II


In the last year alone, Sony launched three major E-mount cameras, the full-frame A7S II and A7R II, along with the A6300 -- all impressive mirrorless models. So you might think it was losing interest in its A-mount single-lens translucent (SLT) series, having just launched one, the entry-level A68, late last year. At Photokina, however, Sony unveiled the Alpha A99 II, the long-awaited successor to its flagship A99 model.

We got our hands on one at the camera show in Cologne, and it a pretty nice combination of speed and resolution: 42.4 megapixels at a 12fps RAW shooting speed with continuous AF and exposure. To get that kind of performance, Sony incorporated its hybrid 4D Focus tech with 79 dedicated phase detection and 399 focal plane phase detection points. It's also got a max 102,400 ISO and new 5-axis stabilization system, so shooting in low-light won't be an issue.

The A99 II is also well-suited for video, allowing full-frame 4K recording at 30fps max. If you use it in crop-frame, "super-35" mode (at a 15-megapixel still resolution), it can do 4K with a full sensor readout, 1.8X oversampling and no pixel binning. If 1080p is okay, you can shoot at 120 fps for optimal slow-mo. Like other Sony models, it uses the XAVC S format to capture video at up to 100Mbps.

A show floor isn't an idea place to try out a camera, but we did get a feel for the handling. The camera is smaller and lighter than the original, so with the new grip, it's easy to heft. Like the original A99, it doesn't have an optical viewfinder -- the translucent mirror is only used for focusing. However, the XGA, 2.36 million dot OLED electronic viewfinder is bright and sharp, and allows up to 10X magnification to nail manual focus.

You can shoot at up to 8fps with live view activated. Based on an informal try, the 12fps burst speed, meanwhile, seems to work as advertised, and it could sustain that rate for several seconds -- not bad considering that each 42.4-megapixel RAW file is as large as 50 MB. All told, this camera should be a worthy flagship for Sony's A-mount series -- we'll know more when we get a look at it later this year.

Aaron Souppouris contributed to this report.

We're live all week from Cologne, Germany, for Photokina 2016. Click here to catch up on all the news from the show.


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Opera's VPN-equipped browser is now available to everyone


You no longer have to grab test software to try Opera's VPN-toting web browser. The company has released the finished version of Opera 40 for desktops, which revolves around a free virtual private network (provided by SurfEasy) that offers both a more secure connection as well as access to foreign content that would otherwise be blocked. Hi, Hulu and Pandora! It can automatically choose whichever VPN server will provide the fastest connection, but you can specify one of five countries (Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Singapore and the US) if you're more concerned about visiting region-specific sites.

The update also brings a reworked battery saver and RSS feeds in personal news, so there's something to check out after the novelty of the browser's central feature wears off. One thing's for sure: it's worth a shot if you hate paying for VPNs, but want to stick to a mainstream browser that includes plenty of familiar elements.

Source: Opera


Kodak's latest 4K action camera captures VR-ready video by itself


The Kodak Pixpro SP360 4K action camera had a branding problem. Yes, you could shoot 360-degree videos, but they weren't spherical -- you needed two cameras to do that, which made it less-than-practical for full virtual reality videos. You won't have to do some extra shopping with the 4KVR360, though. The newly launched cam fuses a 20-megapixel sensor with lenses on both the front and back, letting one camera shoot fully immersive VR video all by its lonesome.

As you might hope, the camera is also very connected: there's WiFi and NFC to help talk to your phone, and Bluetooth to talk to an optional remote control. You can record up to 128GB of footage on a microSD card, so you shouldn't have trouble recording many of your adventures in VR. Kodak's name might be historic, but it's going up against mobile giants like Samsung and camera stalwarts Nikon.

The catch? JK Imaging (which oversees the Kodak camera brand) doesn't expect the 4KVR360 to ship until sometime in early 2017, and hasn't revealed a price. Though we'd expect it to be somewhere between the Nikon's $500 and Sammy's $350 though.


Monday, September 19, 2016

Xiaomi-backed mirrorless camera gives you Leica looks for $330


Xiaomi's camera strategy goes beyond action cams. Its associated Xiaoyi brand is introducing the M1, a Micro Four Thirds mirrorless camera that promises solid performance (not to mention some familiar looks) for the money. This isn't the most advanced camera between its 20-megapixel sensor, a maximum ISO 25,600 sensitivity, and the absence of either a built-in flash or an electronic viewfinder. However, it also starts at the equivalent of $330/£253 bundled with a 12-40mm f/3.5-5.6 lens ($450/£345 with a 42.5mm f/1.8 lens), and bears more than a passing resemblance to modern Leica cameras -- it's a relatively accessible and stylish entryway into the world of interchangeable-lens photography.

And it's not as if the M1 doesn't have a couple of tricks up its sleeve. You can effectively shoot 50-megapixel photos, and record 4K video at 30 frames per second. There's also a 3-inch, 720 x 480 touchscreen to give you "phone-like" control, while Bluetooth and WiFi will help you share your photographic output with your smartphone.

The camera will sell through China's on September 23rd. There's no mention of an international release, although it won't be surprising if online retailers are willing to import it. Just don't expect to get quite as big a bargain by the time it reaches your door.

Via: Engadget Chinese (translated)

Source: Xiaoyi


Nikon's VR-ready camera arrives in October for $500


Earlier this year, at CES 2016, Nikon took camera fans by surprise with its announcement of the KeyMission 360. But, back then, not many details were shared about the newly minted camera. The company only mentioned a few notable features, such as 4K video recording, NFC, WiFi and a waterproof design. Now, we're learning that the VR-ready shooter comes with two 20-megapixel (1/2.3-inch) sensors, electronic image stabilization, in-camera footage stitching and a swappable battery.

Most importantly, Nikon today announced that the KeyMission 360 is set to arrive in October for $500. That's a little pricier compared to other similar devices, like Samsung's $350 Gear 360, but the Nikon camera has much better specs.

What's more, the manufacturer also revealed the KeyMission 170 and KeyMission 80. The former, as its name suggests, offers a 170-degree field of view with a 12-megapixel, 1/2.3-ich sensor and "Nikon lens quality." Similar to the 360, the KeyMission 170 shoots 4K and is waterproof, shockproof and freezeproof as well.

Then there's the KeyMission 80, which is very reminiscent of Cisco's old line of Flip camcorders. Nikon says the entry-level KeyMission is intended to be a life blogging camera, designed for easy one-handed use. It comes with two cameras, one on the back (12 megapixels, 25mm lens) and another on the front (4.9 megapixels, 22mm lens) -- the latter for selfies, of course. The KeyMission 80 doesn't have 4K capabilities, so you can only record 1080p videos at up to 30 fps.

To bring these all together, Nikon is rolling out a new app for KeyMission cameras. That'll be a hub to control the cameras remotely, plus transfer pictures and videos from the 360, 170 or 80. The KeyMission 170 and 80 are also hitting stores in October for $399 and $279, respectively.


Fujifilm's GFX 50S is a mirrorless camera with a giant sensor


Fujifilm's been trying to take on its rivals by offering larger sensors for better quality pictures, but its latest system takes the cake. The new GFX 50S is the first to use the company's new G Format sensor, which Fujifilm said it fully customized and designed, and measures 43.8mm x 32.9mm. That's 1.7 times larger than the typical 35mm (aka fullframe) setup in high-end DSLRs and mirrorless cameras. And despite that huge sensor, the 50S still manages to retain a light 800 gram (body only) footprint and a size smaller than a typical fullframe DSLR. The GFX 50S will be available in early 2017, but price is still unknown.

But that's not all. The new sensor will be a whopping 51.4-megapixels sharp, and its pixel size is an obscene 5.3 microns. The GFX 50S will be compatible with a series of lenses using the new G Mount that Fujifilm is launching, with three of them arriving at the same time as the camera. These are a GF120mm f/4 macro lens, a GF32-64mm f/4 and a GF63mm f/2.8 prime. In mid 2017, three more options will be available: GF35mm f/2.8, GF23mm f/4 and GF110mm f/2. The company is expecting to hit 100-megapixels with this G-mount format in the future, so this could be the beginning of incredibly high-res pictures to come.

The GFX 50S looks similar to Fujifilm's X series cameras, which sport a somewhat retro look. It has a foldout display that you can tilt vertically and horizontally, as well as a viewfinder that you can attach with a hotshoe. Fujifilm is also offering viewfinders that you can tilt and rotate to make framing odd angles easier, as well as other accessories that it was somewhat vague about.

Fujifilm isn't the first to market with a compact medium format camera. Hasselblad took that title with its X1D earlier this year. While the X1D is slightly lighter (725 grams) than the Fujifilm, it's also jaw droppingly expensive at $8,995. We don't yet know the price of the GFX 50S, but we are expecting (hoping, really) it will cost less than $5,000. Or cheaper than the Hasselblad, anyway, since that brand tends to be pricier than most.

We'll be checking out the new Fujifilm GFX 50S, along with a bunch of other cameras, directly from Photokina this week, so stay tuned for our impressions.

Aaron Souppouris and Steve Dent contributed to this report.


Gamers beat scientists to making a protein discovery


It's no great shock to see citizen scientists make discoveries that professionals miss, but making it through a video game? That's different. Gamers playing Foldit, a puzzle title that has teams trying to fold the best protein, have identified the shape of a protein before scientists (including two trained experts and 61 University of Michigan undergrads) could manage the feat. And it's not as if there were legions of contributors, either, as it took a relatively modest 469 players to help out.

The protein in question may be particularly significant. It prevents plaque formation, hinting that it might help fight Alzheimer's if and when the medical community develops a practical use for it.

The achievement underscores the primary advantage of crowdsourced research: you can foster the kind of large-scale collaboration that would be utterly impractical for academics. At the same time, though, it may also demonstrate the value of adding a game element to scientific education. Paper co-author Scott Horowitz notes that Foldit players were quick to learn about proteins "because it's fun," while students take "weeks and weeks" of lectures to wrap their heads around the same concept. It's easy to see more studies turned into games going forward -- it could save scientists some valuable time.

Source: University of Michigan, Nature, Foldit


Panasonic rolls out the 4K, full-metal LX10 compact camera


Today, Panasonic is celebrating the 15th anniversary of its Lumix series with a new camera, the LX10. This compact shooter, which the company says is designed to fit in most jean pockets, features a 1-inch, 20.1-megapixel sensor and 24-75mm f/1.4-2.8 fixed Leica lens. The LX10 has a full metal body, giving it a premium look that you don't often see in other $700 cameras. Of course, being a Panasonic product, it shoots 4K video at 24, 25 and 30 fps.

In addition to the LX10, Panasonic's introducing the Lumix FZ2500, a bulky DSLR-like camera with a 20-megapixel sensor (also 1-inch) and a 20-48mm, 20x zoom Leica lens. Like its sibling LX10, the FZ2500 captures 4K as well, although it does so in both cinematic resolution (4,096 x 2,160) and UHD (3,840 x 2,160).

According to Panasonic, the LX10 isn't replacing the LX100 from 2014, noting that the priority with the latest was to have a bigger sensor. On the other hand, the FZ2500 could appeal to many videographers -- although its fixed lens is certainly a limitation. Still, it's better specced than, say, Sony's RX100 IV.

The LX10 is set to hit stores in November for $699, while the FZ2500 will arrive in December for $1,200.


Panasonic's GH5 arrives in mid-2017 with 6K video capture


As expected, Panasonic has unveiled its much-anticipated successor to the Lumix GH4, the GH5, and the focus is once again on video. The flagship model, set to arrive in mid-2017, ups the video capture capability to 6K at 30fps and brings 10-bit, 60fps shooting at 4K. 6K capture may sound like overkill, but it'll give filmmakers more options in terms of reframing, and allow for a better final 4K image. The GH5 will also be much better for slo-mo shots compared to the last model, which topped out at 30fps. At the same time, 10-bit capability will let professional videographers capture billions instead of millions of colors, giving far more latitude for color correction.

The camera will pack Panasonic's new 18-megapixel sensor, which supports up to 8fps in regular burst mode, or up to 60fps in Panasonic's "4K Photo" mode. The company also promised to add 8K, 32-megapixel capture in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. We don't know a lot else about the GH5, since we've only seen an early prototype, and it's not set to go on sale until the middle of next year. However, 6K capture and 10-bit video are huge additions, and should put the camera at the top of the list for videographers looking for new gear in 2017.