[REVIEW-NIKON D750 DSLR]

Price: $2380 body [street price]
Heavyweight contender…

THE LOW-DOWN: This 24mp full frame digital single lens reflex sits just under the D810 in Nikon’s range, matching most of the features of the more expensive camera, except for the 36mp sensor. Auto focus and exposure technology in this camera is the very best. Attention is paid to improving video recording with the provision of a “flat” picture mode and powered aperture control that works with live view. Construction quality and ergonomics are outstanding. The 8 cm LCD flips up and down. There is built-in WiFi of limited usefulness. The brilliant optical viewfinder is a reminder of the one advantage that the traditional DSLR has over its compact system camera rivals. There are two SD card slots.

LIKE:  Image quality is, as always with Nikon’s top cameras, beyond reproach. Also, like most Nikons, the responsiveness of the D750 is such that it is as fast and easy to use as blinking an eye. Focus tracking is the best we have experienced.

DISLIKE: The WiFi is pointless, providing nothing much more than image transfer. “Live view” is still hopelessly clunky compared with a CSC like the full frame Sony a7MkII.

VERDICT: If your heart is set on a traditional DSLR, or if you have Nikon lenses and are looking to upgrade, then look no further. We took this camera to the Parade, fitted with a 200mm lens, and fired away at the faces in the crowd. From over 100 photos not one was incorrectly exposed or focused and the speed of the camera meant that if we missed the decisive moment then it was not the camera’s fault. This is a lot of camera for the money, and the really good news is that the Australian retail price is the same as (or even a little less) than the US price. 

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[AN AGE OF PHOTOGRAPHS]

Photographers, as we know, come in different forms. There are the specialists in advertising, formal portraiture, art, photo essays, landscape, animal and so on. We see the work of all of them from time to time, whereas every day we see the photographic art and reporting of the newspaper photographers. As photographers ourselves we should pay the newspaper photographers the respect they deserve. They are brilliant specialists.

Photographer, teacher and writer Kathleen Whelan pays tribute to the men and women with cameras who every day add meaning to the bald newspaper narrative with their pictures. Her book, Photography of The Age: newspaper photography in Australia from glass plate negatives to digital, is a history of photography in the paper, a description of the process of assignment and picture selection and biographies of many of the paper’s outstanding photographers. It is a lesson in the art and process of photojournalism.

The first photograph in The Age was of a collision between the Ballarat and Bendigo trains at Sunshine in April 1908. A new dimension was added to the newspaper of record.

The first photographer employed by The Age was Englishman Hugh Bull, who turned up at the paper claiming that he had plenty of experience – apparently an exaggeration – and he owned a camera. He started work in 1926 and was still there 31 years later. In that time he became the first Age photographer to go to Japan after the war where he photographed the ruins of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The changing camera technology over the years brought changes in style. Working with a Speed Graphic camera and twelve plates imposed obvious restrictions. If you only have twelve exposures and you are expected to come back with at least one useable picture then you need to be careful, and you don’t know what you have captured until the film has been developed. With a digital single lens reflex with unlimited image storage and instantaneous review and transmission from the event site to the picture editor’s computer the photographers can be more adventurous and experimental, even though the one-good-picture imperative remains.

Clive McKinnon who worked at The Age for 23 years gives this tip to his colleagues: “When it’s all happening get your first shot straight away and then think of your ideas and observations. Take another and when you are feeling that you have a reasonable pic, take more, but make sure every shot is as good as your last and improve all your next pics.”

Kathleen Whelan has created a truly brilliant tribute to some great photographers.  (Order from kathleenwhelan.com – $44.95 inc postage)

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[OLYMPUS OMD E-M5 MkII HI-RES TEST]

The new Olympus OMD E-M5 MkII has an interesting trick up its sleeve – it can take super high resolution pictures. With a few caveats.

By utilising the in-body image stabilisation mechanism the camera can move the sensor in tiny [less than a pixel] increments. And when the camera is set to its high resolution mode it takes eight images, each very slightly different, and merges them into a single 40 megapixel very high resolution final image.

The caveats are that the camera must be tripod mounted, the subject must be absolutely still and the final merged file is in Large Superfine jpeg, not RAW, even if you have the camera set to RAW.

I took matching photos using the OMD E-M5 MkII and the OMD E-M1, the top Olympus micro four thirds camera, with the same lens on each. I shot RAW in the E-M1 to give it the best chance of matching the new camera. Then I opened both images side by side in Photoshop.

Side by side comparison is complicated by the fact that there is a vast difference in image size – 7296 x 5472 pixels for the E-M5 MkII and 4608 x 33456 pixels in the E-M1. Reducing the E-M5 image to the same dimensions as the E-M1 would give the new camera the unfair advantage of perceptual resolution improvement, and enlarging the E-M1 image would reduce the apparent resolution. 

So, what I have done is clip 1600 x 1600 crops from both images.

The difference in resolved detail is quite startling. If you look at the individual strands of hair or the weave of the doll’s face material the difference is obvious. The texture in the eye is sharper in the E-M5 image and when the entire picture is inspected the rendition of detail in the doll’s clothing is much better with the new camera.

Bottom line: the high resolution shooting mode is not a gimmick, it really does improve an image. And Olympus technicians are working on speeding up the capture part of the process to eliminate the need for tripod mounting.

This is the high resolution image from the Olympus OMD E-M5 MkII

This is the image from the Olympus OMD E-M1


CLICK ON EACH IMAGE TO SEE THE 1600X1600 PIXEL ORIGINALS

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[REVIEW-SAMSUNG NX1 mirrorless camera]

Price: $1770 body only (street price)
Tops

THE LOW-DOWN:
This 28 megapixel APS sensor mirrorless interchangeable lens camera is the flagship in the Samsung range. It has the form of a DSLR even down to a body-top digital display. The construction quality is outstanding and the kit lens adds to the luxurious feeling. The electronic viewfinder is close to an optical finder and the high resolution swivelling touchscreen is of the same quality. The stand-out features are 4K video and three connectivity modes – WiFi, NFC and Bluetooth. Shooting burst mode is up to 15fps. The fast hybrid autofocus system consists of 205 phase and 209 contrast points. The software provided includes Adobe Lightroom 5.

LIKE:  Image quality is excellent, both in jpeg and RAW. Because the NX1 uses the H.265 video codec, not recognised by either Final Cup Pro or Adobe Premiere, we had to convert the files to H.264 for editing, but even downscaled the results are impressive. 


DISLIKE:
The NX1 is big and heavy, matching the bulk and mass of a solid DSLR. Why? Sony and Fujifilm can fit full frame and APS sensors in petite bodies. It can’t be that hard.

VERDICT: The NX1 is a top camera and earns a place alongside the best mirrorless cameras from Olympus, Panasonic, Sony and Fujifilm, but because of its size and shape it is going to be compared with the mid-range offerings from Nikon and Canon. Samsung doesn’t yet have a camera reputation to match the big two but that shouldn’t deter customers. Being a mirrorless camera it has the advantage of full time viewing on the LCD – no clunky “Live View” – making the swivelling screen truly useful. It also has one of the best WiFi smartphone control implementations. Not cheap, but very good.

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