Compact Cameras

Hands-on with Samsung NX200, MV800, and WB750 Cameras

Hands-on with Samsung NX200, MV800, and WB750 Cameras
Text and Images by Lynne Eodice

Last week we reported on the newly announced Samsung NX200 mirrorless interchangeable lens compact camera. I was able to get a hands-on look at the camera on the show floor at IFA Berlin, as well as take it for a test spin around the historic German city. I also got to check out the other brand new Samsung cameras: the multiview MV800 with a Flip-Out touch screen LCD display, and the WB750 ultra compact camera with the longest zoom lens that Samsung offers.

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Samsung SH100 WiFi Compact Camera Review

Samsung SH100: Pocket Camera with Instant Image Sharing
Text and Images by Allison Gibson

First revealed at CES this year, the Samsung SH100 ($199.99 MSRP) compact digital camera offers instant, wireless sharing of images—via email or upload to social networking and photo sharing sites—directly from the device. For a petite pocket camera, this gadget has a far reach. It features a 14-megapixel CCD image sensor, a 5x optical zoom 26mm f/3.3-5.9 Samsung lens, and 720p High Definition video recording (30fps).

Instant Sharing

The most notable feature of the Samsung SH100 is its ability to share and automatically backup captured images instantly and wirelessly, with easy menu options for single or bulk image sharing. By using the camera’s built-in wireless, you can connect to your WiFi network, to other Samsung WiFi cameras, or to an Android-powered Galaxy S smartphone to share your images. The phone can also be used as a remote viewfinder, offering real time preview and control of the shutter release.

The options for sharing include: email, and upload to Facebook, Picasa, YouTube and Photobucket. You can also browse existing photo albums while logged into Facebook, but cannot view walls or post statuses (there’s no qwerty keyboard on the camera).

When I recently met with members of the Samsung team, I nagged them about the fact that the SH100 wasn’t Twitter compatible, given the massive global popularity of the social networking site. Twitter users regularly include images in their tweets and I saw this as a missed opportunity for Samsung. Another obvious missed opportunity for the photo sharing community is Flickr. The good news is, I was told that Twitter and others are being considered for the next generation of the camera, and that adding support for new services is easy now that the technology for sharing is already there there. The fact that the remote viewfinder feature only works with Samsung smartphones seems a little incestuous and excludes users of other smartphones, but I can understand the interest in keeping the technology within the brand.

Design & UI

click thumbnails to enlarge

With a 3-inch touchscreen LCD that operates in the familiar way of a smartphone, the menus are easy to navigate, if a smidge less graceful in the dragging department than the smartphone that I’m most familiar with—the iPhone 4. The only button on the back of the camera, to the right of the LCD, is a dedicated Home button, which brings you back to the main menu from wherever you happen to be. At the top of the camera, you have the power button, zoom toggle and playback button. Otherwise, everything else is in the digital menu, which certainly helped to keep the camera’s slim profile in check. At 3.66″W x 2.12″H x .74″D, the SH100 is very compact, and also lightweight. Another way they keep the size of the body down is to use MicroSD for memory, rather than the more common SD/SDHC cards.

The thing about these tiny digicams, though, is that they are sometimes too small to stabilize, making them prone to blur from camera shake. And, unfortunately, the SH100 only features “Digital Image Stabilization,” not OIS (optical image stabilization, which stabilizes before the image is converted digitally) to compensate for shakiness. However, one exterior aid is the thumb grip on the back of the camera, which allows the camera to sit more securely in-hand when recording. But even then, especially in low-light conditions, you will need to brace the left side of the camera and turn up the ISO sensitivity to combat blur. I think one way to combat this—externally— in a future generation would be to raise the shutter release, rather than leave it in the recessed position it is in now. As it is now, it requires a lot of pressure to snap a shot, and any extra pressure is bound to cause camera shake.

Creative Touches


Magic Frame: Billboard 1 (click to view full-size image)

One of the many creative features of the SH100 is called Magic Frame Shot, which allows you to layer your photograph into a digital template of your liking, with real time preview of the effects as you shoot. The options include: Wall Art, Album, Ripple, Full Moon, Old Record, Magazine, Sunny Day, Classic TV, Yesterday, Holiday, and two Billboard choices. Options such as image quality, flash and self-timer may still be applied to this effect. As with a regular shot, a Magic Frame Shot can be instantly shared on Facebook or emailed once captured.


Photo Filters: Vignetting, Fish-eye, Miniature; Smart Auto mode (click images to enlarge)

Another built-in creative feature of the SH100 is Photo Filter, which includes a menu of distinct automatic art filters, such as: Miniature (similar to Tilt-Shift or Toy Camera options seen elsewhere), Vignetting (similar to a Pinhole camera effect), Soft Focus, Half Tone, Sketch, Fish-eye, Defog, Classic, Retro, Negative, and two Old Film options. I was pleased to find that the Fish-eye filter is one of the better digital replications of the fish-eye lens effect that I’ve seen to date, after having tested the effect in several other cameras’ art filter lineups—including that of the PENTAX K-x and K-r DSLRs. I only wish the fish-eye images weren’t framed with that black vignette, which sort of looks like an old television set.

Additional creative features include: Scene Modes, Vignetting, Beauty Shot, Movie Filter, Night Shot, Palette Effect and Object Highlight. There is also a built-in Photo Editor. The SH100′s Smart Auto 2.0 for still images and video does the guesswork for you by choosing one of 17 different shooting modes.

Conclusion

While the Samsung SH100 isn’t the first WiFi point-and-shoot, it does offer the most avenues for connecting. Hopefully soon this will be standard fair for pocket cams, with even more options, as instant sharing is the name of the game these days.

Samsung SH100

  • MSRP:
  • $199.99
  • Size/Weight:
  • 3.66”W x 2.12”H x 0.74”D
  • Image Sensor:
  • 14-megapixels, CCD (1/2.33″)
  • Still Recording Format:
  • JPG
  • Memory:
  • Micro SD
  • Display:
  • 3-inch touch LCD
  • Video Recording Mode:
  • 1280×720 (30/15fps); in H.264 format
  • ISO Equivalent:
  • Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200
  • Power Source:
  • Rechargeable Battery
  • Contact:
  • www.samsung.com/us
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Compact Superzoom: Nikon COOLPIX P100 Review

Nikon COOLPIX P100
Text and Images by Allison Gibson

Compact Superzoom

The Nikon COOLPIX P100 may just be exactly what you’re looking for if you’re in the market for a fun, high-end, compact superzoom with impressive image quality, the ability to shoot high-speed full resolution stills at 10 frames per second (fps) and full High Definition (1080p) movie recording. The 10-Megapixel P100 has a back-illuminated CMOS sensor and a 26x optical wide-angle zoom lens—and its sturdy body feels professional in-hand yet much lighter than any entry-level D-SLR. With a host of specialty shooting modes as well as full manual control, the P100 is aimed at the amateur enthusiast crowd, and could be a good option even as a back-up camera for a pro.

Nikon COOLPIX P100
click the thumbnails to see full-size images

UI & Design

The COOLPIX P100 has a solid, professional-looking body, which like most cameras in its class imitates the design and feel of a small D-SLR. The handgrip is deep and coated with a rubberized texture for maximum comfort and one-handed shooting control. Your finger naturally hits the shutter release up front and the thumb rests on another small textured pad in the back, within reach of surrounding controls. The electronic viewfinder juts out far enough from the back of the camera that you’re not forced to smash your cheek against the display screen below it, and is encased in smooth plastic for comfort.

The 3-inch high resolution (460,000-dot) vari-angle LCD pulls out from the back of the camera and tilts up and down, allowing you to more easily get shots in unique shooting situations. This comes in handy at a place like a concert, when you would normally just hold the camera up above the crowd and blindly snap away, hoping you were aimed at the stage rather than the ceiling or the tops of the audience’s heads. It worked great for me when shooting ornate cathedral ceilings in Italy, and also for capturing the carpet of pigeons that lined the ground in Venice’s Saint Mark’s Square. Although the vari-angle LCD offered me this extra freedom when shooting, I would have preferred if it hinged sideways as well—like, say, the Canon G11’s LCD—because that allows for so many more options, such as taking self portraits and shooting around corners.

Performance

The P100 was an ideal travel camera because of its superzoom capabilities and compact size. With the wide-angle (26mm) lens I was able to capture sweeping views of ancient cities, and with the telephoto range (678mm) I could close in on far-away objects from the same location. F/4.6 is not that wide an aperture, but I was able to capture vivid, selective focus photos of exotic foods and wares in markets.

Nikon COOLPIX P100: wide-angle, telephoto, Auto WB, Active D-Lighting
click the thumbnails to see full-size images

Under normal daylight conditions, the P100 did pretty well. I could capture sharp and accurately-colored (in Auto White Balance mode) images that make for crisp prints at modest sizes—which typical travelers would probably choose to print at. In high contrast conditions, there was a loss of initial detail, however. This is where Nikon’s Active D-Lighting function came in handy, darkening blown-out highlights and lightening up dark shadowed areas a bit.

Under indoor incandescent lighting, the Auto and Incandescent WB settings tended toward the warm side , so it was best to kick into Manual there. At ISO 160-400 detail held up impressively, but then noise began to sneak in going past that range, and definitely past 800. This isn’t all that shocking—or frustrating—for a compact of this class though.

Conclusion

The COOLPIX P100 was a fun travel companion and satisfied the needs of a traveler who was constantly moving from place to place, and who did not want to be weighed down by heavy equipment, nor the need to constantly swap out lenses. With this compact superzoom, I was able to capture a much wider diversity of shots than those of my travel companions who used smaller point-and-shoots. And yet, just like them, I could also slip the P100 into my small shoulder bag and keep it concealed in crowded subway cars or in sparsely populated neighborhoods at night. The handling of the camera was really nice and intuitive and the overall image quality was good for the scale of printing output that most enthusiast photographers would probably need. The standout feature of the P100, for my travel purposes, was its ultrazoom capability and the creative freedom that it offered. It is a diverse and portable compact camera that has more than a few impressive tricks up its sleeve.

Nikon COOLPIX P100

  • MSRP:
  • $399.95
  • Size/Weight:
  • 4.5”W x 3.3”H x 3.9”D; 12.5 oz.
  • Image Sensor:
  • 10.3-megapixels, CMOS
  • Lens zoom:
  • 26x
  • Memory:
  • SD/SDHC Memory Card, 43MB internal
  • Display:
  • 3-inch (460,000 pixels) Vari-angle TFT-LCD with anti-reflection coating
  • Video Recording Mode:
  • Full HD: 1920 x 1080p / 30fps; HD: 1280 x 720p / 30fps; Standard TV: 640 x 480 / 30fps; Small Size: 320 x 240 / 30fps; HS movie: (slow motion) 320 x 240 / 240 fps, 640 x 480 / 120fps, 1280 x 720 / 60 fps ; HS movie: (fast motion) 1920 x 1080 / 15fps; in MPEG-4 AVC H.264
  • ISO Equivalent:
  • Auto/160/200/400/800/1600/3200
  • Power Source:
  • EN-EL5: 250shots
  • Contact:
  • www.nikonusa.com
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High Speed: Casio EX-FH100 Review

Casio EX-FH100 Review
Text and Photos by Allison Gibson

The Casio EX-FH100 has been making waves since its announcement at CES due to its inclusion of a back-illuminated CMOS sensor, 10x optical zoom and—most notably—high-speed video and still recording. Priced at $349.99, the FH100 offers a lot of features, including full manual shooting and the ever-alluring possibility to capture slow-motion video, all in a sleek and compact body. The fact that the FH100 can shoot high-speed movies at 1,000 frames per second (fps) and burst mode stills at 40fps tops the list of reasons that it’s an exciting piece of equipment, and the superb quality of its still image capture makes it a nice overall camera, albeit with a few frustrating UI kinks.

High Speed Still Images

High-speed shooting is accessed at any time by pressing the HS button on top of the camera, or by turning the shooting mode dial to the red Continuous Shooting option. With the HS button you can toggle between continuous shooting and single shot, regardless of whether you are in CS mode, Manual, Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority. Continuous shooting is not available when shooting in Best Shot mode. In continuous shooting mode, you have the option of capturing up to 30 images at rates of up to 40fps. These choices are accessed by pressing the SET button. For capturing action such as sports or fast-moving subjects such as pets, the EX-FH100 is almost unparalleled among compact cameras.

Super Slow Motion Video

As I mentioned, the show-stopping feature of this camera is its ability to shoot high-speed movies at up to 1,000 frames per second—which allows for a super slow-motion effect (33 times slower than true life). With video becoming not only popular but expected in compact cameras these days, the Casio EX-FH100 goes above and beyond in delivering exciting possibilities for creating slow-motion movies with pocket-size equipment. The drawback, however, to recording these impressive slow-motion movies at 1,000fps is that the resolution is substantially decreased, bringing videos all the way down to 224 x 64 pixels in size (640 x 480 at 120fps, 448 x 336 at 240fps, 224 x 168 at 420fps).

What Needs Work

This camera is a serious piece of equipment—both the features and the price reflect that—and yet the thing handles quite inelegantly. The screeching electronic noise that the lens motor makes when you zoom and focus is truly painful. It sounds as if the camera is frying on the inside. Frankly, it sounds cheap. And then there’s the auto focus lag, which is a problem in several of the shooting modes from the Best Shot menu—even when you press the shutter release half way down. The worst of it happens when shooting in “Multi-motion image” mode from the BS menu. Once the image is finally captured, the screen goes black and then says “Busy…Please wait…” for 15 seconds. Obviously in the interim you are bound to miss any other photo-ops. It’s hard, however, to complain too much about this when the high-speed camera offers continuous shooting mode to make sure you capture a whole sequence instead of worrying about shot-to-shot lag time. But sometimes you just want to take one picture, not 30, not 10, not even 5.

The layout of the camera’s buttons also leaves much to be desired. Where one’s thumb would naturally sit when gripping the camera, the video record button also sits. There is also the chance that a thumb will inadvertently press the HS button when pressing the shutter release because of where it sits, making it easy to accidentally switch to or from high-speed mode. The camera’s large 3-inch LCD is nice and bright, but is probably the culprit as to why buttons seem awkwardly placed in the meager space beside it.

Conclusion

The battery life of the EX-FH100 is remarkable, and its compact size makes it easily portable, though it is noticeably heavier than many point-and-shoot cameras on the market right now. Because it uses a backlit CMOS sensor, it does incredibly well in low-light, capturing sharp images even in the dimly lit temperate rain forests of northern Washington State. With a whole host of Best Shot scene modes, as well as Manual, Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority modes, the EX-FH100 does stand alone as a feature-rich compact digicam, but if you are looking into purchasing this camera it’s most likely for its specific high-speed capabilities.

Casio EX-FH100

  • MSRP:
  • $349.99
  • Size/Weight:
  • 4.1″W × 2.5″H × 1.2″D; 0.77 lbs.
  • Image Sensor:
  • 10-megapixels, 1/2.3-inch high-speed CMOS (back-illuminated type)
  • Still Recording Format:
  • RAW(DNG),JPEG (Exif Ver. 2.2),DCF 1.0, DPOF compliant
  • Memory:
  • SDHC Memory Card compatible
  • Display:
  • 3.0-inch TFT color LCD
  • Video Recording Mode:
  • Still images: RAW/10M(3648×2736)/3:2(3648×2432)/
    16:9(3648×2048)/9M(3456×2592)/7M(3072×2304)/
    4M(2304×1728)/2M(1600×1200)/VGA(640×480) High-Speed Movies: 224×64(1000 fps)/224×168(420fps)/448×336(240fps)/640×480(120fps)/448×336(30-240fps)/640×480(30-120fps) HD Movies:1280×720(30fps)
    STD Movies: 640 x 480 (30fps)
  • ISO Equivalent:
  • Auto/ ISO100/ ISO200/ ISO400/ ISO800/ ISO1600/ ISO3200
  • Power Source:
  • Rechargeable lithium ion battery (NP-90) x1
  • Contact:
  • www.casio.com
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Pentax Optio I-10 Review

Pentax Optio I-10 Review
Text and Photos by Allison Gibson

Retro Cool Compact

Similar to the white Pentax K-x D-SLR, the white Pentax Optio I-10 compact camera is eye-catching and envy-inducing—a beautiful object in the hand of the photographer. Weighing only 5.4-ounces, and measuring 1.1-inches thick, this ultra compact point-and-shoot is light and slim. And with the charming retro look of its pearl white body, the I-10 (which also comes in black) has style.

What’s Old is New

Because so many point-and-shoot cameras share similar specs and price points, manufacturers sometimes try to attract consumers by setting their cameras apart with style. Most camera makers opt to go the route of sleek and futuristic for these compacts, but Pentax has taken a look back for their style cues—back to the once beloved Pentax Auto 110 film camera. The new Optio I-10 (notice the homage to the past even with the name?) is styled after its elder—with a digital face-lift of course. At PMA in February, I had the chance to check out the old and new side by side, and the similarity is staggering. Both fit right in the palm of your hand. With the popularity of all things vintage in photography right now, such as the Hipstamatic iPhone app and resurgence of Pinhole photography, the I-10’s retro cool looks are right on trend. But how does it fare as a contemporary camera?

Beyond the Beauty

With a 12.1-megapizel CCD sensor and offering 5x optical zoom, the I-10 features much of what consumers want in a slim and stylish point-and-shoot. The 5-25mm (28-140mm equivalent) f/3.5-5.9 PENTAX zoom lens does offer a less than desirable aperture range, however. The camera’s 2.7-inch LCD screen—with a 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio—is quite bright, even in direct sunlight. Though a 3-inch screen is ultimately more desirable for framing, it would have caused the camera body to be larger, and one of the I-10’s most celebrated features is its petite size.

Shooting Modes and Special Features

The I-10 features a host of subject and setting-specific shooting modes, which are accessed at the touch of the “Mode” button on a four-way D-pad to the right of the camera’s LCD. It is convenient that Pentax has chosen to not bury this menu deep in a digital folder somewhere because most users of this point-and-shoot will opt to swap modes fairly often, as the shooting environment changes from, say, Surf and Snow to Night Scene. Also included among the 24 shooting modes are: Auto Picture, Program (which allows slight tweaks to Auto such as white balance and exposure compensation), Portrait and Digital Shake Reduction (SR). There is also a mode called Digital Wide, which stitches together two pictures to create a wider image. This is not to be confused with Digital Panorama mode, which stitches together more than two images taken with the camera to create a panoramic photograph.

In addition to the point-and-shoot friendly shooting modes, there are a few features that are meant to assist in quality image capture. Another of the four-way D-pad choices takes you directly to a Focus Mode menu, where you can choose from among: Standard, Macro, Super Macro, Pan Focus, Infinity and Manual. To help the photographer avoid taking blurry pictures in challenging lighting conditions, the I-10 features a mechanical sensor shift Shake Reduction system. The Optio I-10 also features High Definition video (720p at 30fps) in .AVI format.

Interface

As I touched on above, there is a four-way control on the back of the camera, located to the right of the LCD, and owing to its petite size, there is room for few other manual controls on the body. A playback button and a button for Smile Capture and Face Detection are found above the four-way D-pad. Pentax’s “Green Button,” which is also found on the Pentax Kx, allows for a customizable quick-jump to a specific menu feature—I set it to EV Compensation. The button also doubles as the trash option when reviewing images in playback mode. To the left is the Menu button, where a fairly straight-forward set of options is presented in lists. At the top of the camera, we find the on/off button, shutter release and zoom toggle.

Beyond the D-SLR-like looks of the I-10, it carries over the feel of one in a small but important way with the raised hand grip on the front of the camera and the “leatherette” texture in the same place. I find that too many ultra compact digicams are hard to get a comfortable handle on, with their sleek body designs and slick plastic cases. The I-10 feels a lot more secure in-hand than most due to the small details of the grip and texture.

Performance

I did the bulk of my test shooting outside on a sunny day at a farmer’s market, and found that this was the ideal shooting condition for the I-10. It does well handling detail in bright spots and shadows, and focuses quite quickly on still objects in good lighting. In Auto Picture mode, with the Standard Focus option, I was able to get close-up shots with shallow depth-of-field, as it “took the guesswork out of photography” for me, as they say, reverting automatically to f/3.5 and ISO 80 to capture food displayed at a seller’s stand. When I shot the food that was inside of my farmer’s market tote, it punched up to ISO 800 in Auto mode and still maintained low noise. The results of photographing moving subjects in difficult lighting conditions were less consistent, however. At a fashion show in Malibu (a prime environment for showing off the stylish little digicam, by the way), the I-10 had some trouble tracking the fast-moving runway models under the inconsistent catwalk lighting.

The Price of Beauty

The I-10’s price that has been raising a few eyebrows since its January announcement, though I have to note that at $299.99 $249.99 (updated price) (MSRP) it’s not outrageous. People seem to expect to get everything they ever dreamed of in a camera these days for less and less money. All said, it is in the same ballpark as—or even less expensive than—some digicams with comparable specs. But I don’t like to play the spec-by-spec comparison game. It’s best to get your hands on a camera, get your eye to the viewfinder (or fixed on the LCD in this case), to judge whether it’s worth your money. You’ll need to weigh the limited aperture range against the stylish looks and ultra compact portability; the less consistent capture of moving subjects in difficult lighting against the impressively low-noise capture at higher ISOs when shooting still objects. In my estimation, the Pentax Optio I-10 packs an intuitive UI, HD video and a good zoom into its ultra compact and portable little body. Your major decision might come down to whether or not you want to commit to the camera’s unique retro look.

Pentax Optio I-10

  • MSRP:
  • $299.99 $249.99 (updated price)
  • Size/Weight:
  • 4.0”W x 2.6”H x 1.1”D; 4.7 oz. loaded
  • Image Sensor:
  • 12.1-megapixels, CCD
  • Still Recording Format:
  • JPG
  • Memory:
  • SD/SDHC, 26.7MB internal
  • Display:
  • 2.7-inch LCD (230,000 pixels)
  • Video Recording Mode:
  • 1280×720 (30/15fps); 640×480 (30/15fps);
    320×240 30/15fps in .AVI (Motion JPG) format
  • Image Stabilization:
  • Still: Sensor-Shift SR, Pixel Track SR, Digital SR (ISO 3200-6400 5M or 3.8M) Movie: Movie SR
  • ISO Equivalent:
  • Auto: 80-800, Digital SR 80-6400 (ISO 3200-6400 at 5M or 3.8M) Manual: 80-6400 (ISO 3200-6400 at 5M or 3.8M)
  • Power Source:
  • Rechargeable Li-Ion Battery D-LI92
  • Contact:
  • www.pentaximaging.com
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