[REVIEW—FUJIFILM X-T10]

Fujifilm XT10

Price: $1190 with 16—50mm lens (street price)
King of high ISO

THE LOW-DOWN: This 16mp camera with an APS sized X-Trans (unique to Fujifilm) sensor is a slightly more affordable version of the highly praised X-T1. It has most of the features of the more expensive camera but with a less elaborate viewfinder. It still has a version of the digital split image focusing aid for manual focus. The 2.36m dot viewfinder is outstanding, complemented by a good resolution tilting LCD. The magnesium alloy body is true to the Fujifilm design form, looking and working like a classic film SLR, down to a threaded socket in the shutter release for a cable. Aperture is selected with a conventional lens ring and shutter speed with a body-top dial. Put them both to A and the camera is fully auto.

LIKE: The stand-out feature of the X-T10 is its high ISO ability. At ISO3200 there is no discernible noise even in open shadows where it could be expected to cluster. Combined with excellent colour and sharpness the camera output is virtually in a class of its own.

DISLIKE: The tiny shutter release button is taking retro too far. And putting the SD card in the battery compartment is unforgivable in a $1200 camera that is bound to be used on a tripod.

VERDICT: Fujifilm’s pricing is confusing. They are currently offering $200 cash-back on the X-T1 which make it about the same price as the X-T10. Consult your local retailer, but you’ll need to be quick. The offer ends on 31 July. These two cameras are the pick of the APS mirrorless category. They are expensive compared with Sony and Samsung offerings but they offer just about enough features to justify the price difference. And the Fujifilm lens range is outstanding.

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[HEAD FIRST ON TO THE FUTURE]

It’s no bed of roses out here on the cutting edge of the digital universe. Keeping one step ahead of the Joneses is a constant struggle requiring endless vigilance and expense.

We have given up all hope of the National Broadband Network wending its lethargic way to our place. It seems that those who are already on cable internet just have to be content with what we have. And what we have doesn’t even meet the US FCC definition of “broadband” which specifies a minimum download speed of 25Mbps and a minimum upload of 3Mbps. Our Bigpond speeds were occasional 25Mbps download and 1Mbps maximum upload. It was time to to see if Telstra could do any better, because how on earth were we going to watch 4K video on our 5K iMac at Abbottspeed?

Alvin, the Telstra chap in Manila, said he would put us on a higher “bundle plan” and send out a sooper dooper Telstra Gateway Max modem/router, toot sweet. How much will all this cost, we asked? “An extra $2 a month.” And the price of the modem? “It is free. And it will be delivered in three to five working days. Please be patient.”

Now this you won’t believe because it involves both Telstra and Australia Post: the modem was delivered from Sydney to Melbourne in twenty-two hours. It came so quickly that it arrived before the “plan” had been upgraded. Once that was done we were motoring down the global information superhighway at a steady, non-fluctuating 36Mbps. Sadly the upload speed is still a miserable 1Mbps.

That 36Mbps is continuous, and on both desktop via ethernet and laptop via wifi. That download speed is acceptable, but not flash by international comparisons. We now pay $119 per month for a 500GB download limit, all local and national phone calls and calls to Australian mobiles. Telstra call the plan “Large”.

We’re not quite at the future yet — we would need to migrate to South Korea for that — but we can see it on the horizon. Now we stream 4K video from YouTube and it is absolutely gorgeous.

If we could get decent upload speeds we could share our own priceless 4K footage with the world, but as things stand it would take from now to Christmas to transfer a video. Seeing that almost all new cameras offer 4K video capture this is a shame.

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[REVIEW–CANON EOS 5Ds]


Price: $5000 body only (street price)
The leading edge

THE LOW-DOWN: This digital single lens reflex’s claim to fame is its 50 megapixel sensor. The body is much the same as the 5D MkIII but with some differences. Canon stresses that stability is important with such high resolution and to that end they have strengthened the tripod mount and re-engineered the mirror mechanism. Instead of being spring activated the new mirror is motor driven and well damped to minimise shake. Instead of the familiar slap of mirror and shutter the new noise is like a soft switch. Because the assumption is that buyers of the 5Ds will be obsessive about sharpness and noise the maximum ISO is restricted to 6400, with an accessible extension if you absolutely must.

LIKE: In spite of being advised by Canon to use a tripod we went boldly about with the 5Ds and two Canon lenses without stabilisation and had no difficulty getting stellar results. Putting the camera on a tripod possibly improved sharpness but there is a trade off. The LCD is fixed which makes low level shooting on a tripod awkward. Anyway, the big question is: do we see a difference using the very high resolution sensor? The answer is definitely yes, if we have the display technology to appreciate it. (See the main story today.)

DISLIKE: If you are content with the old-fashioned DSLR form then there is nothing to dislike.

VERDICT: For photographers looking for medium format resolution in the more portable DSLR form the Canon is superb (its twin is the 5DsR on which the effect of the anti-aliasing filter can be over-ridden for a little extra sharpness.) For studio use or for the fastidious landscape photographer the Canon takes its place alongside the Nikon D8x0 series or the new Sony a7R MkII, delivering the best image quality at a hefty price.

 

 

[100 per cent crop]

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[AWAY WITH THE PIXELS]

Last year we cheekily asked an executive of the Olympus camera company, on the occasion of the release of a new model, why the life span of a digital camera is measured in months. In the good old days a 35mm film camera would have a model life of years.

He patiently explained that the technology inside digital cameras is constantly evolving and no company can afford to be left behind. Sensors, image processors, automatic focus and exposure functions are always improving, so the model life could get even shorter in the next few years.

For the cash-strapped keen amateur the galling consequence of camera evolution is the need to upgrade all the other hardware to match. A 50 megapixel sensor in a Canon 5DS is not going to impress the customer still running a 1024×768 pixel monitor and a low definition multi-purpose printer.

And consider the memory card. The Canon generates RAW files up to 68mb in size. Our first Canon, bought 13 years ago, came with a 16mb Compact Flash memory card and we wondered how we would fill it.

Our Canon Pixma 9500 prints up to A3+ (33x48cm) whereas the Canon 5DS file prints 49x73cm at 300dpi without any enlargement.

You may say: Pfff! Who needs it? But the fact is, as we know from experience, the on-the-edge innovation today will be tomorrow’s commonplace standard. Both Sony and Nikon are pushing close to 50 megapixels with the a7R MkII and the Nikon D810. Technology is like love, resistance is futile.

It is our good fortune to be concurrently testing the Canon 5DS and the 5K iMac from Apple. This 675mm monitor is very high resolution with pixel dimensions of 5120×2880, better than 4K ultra high definition television. Sitting as close as 10cm from the screen it is impossible to see the pixel grid. This is as near as we get at the moment to looking at an image as though its subject is the other side of clear glass. Sheer visual bliss. But, with 14.7 million pixels, it doesn’t come close to the resolution of the 5DS with its 50 megapixel array.

To put things in perspective, the average new computer monitor has about the same pixel count as a high definition TV–2 megapixels.

Canon, Sony and Nikon are pushing digital imaging into the stratosphere and all ancillary equipment will need to keep up. That’s the capitalist imperative for you. Enjoy it!

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