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Latest additions 2/27/12

The scoop on high definition SLRs
Camera manufacturers wishing to be reviewed by real-world photographers please see the Info page.

So far, all of the HDSLR cameras are fine DSLRs. Interchangeable lenses & reflex (or similar) viewfinders.
Their still image capabilities are generally excellent. 
We are focused here with their use in cine, movie, HD and time-lapse image gathering.





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CES Camera Repeat Rumor Department

1/4/11 (Updated from Rumor to Reality)

Fujifilm HS20EXR

30 X Zoom. 1080p. 16 MP.

This may mean something to the photographers who desire a low-bucks everything-cam.

Last year’s HS10 had the same 30X zoom, a 10MP sensor and a whole boat-load of interesting features.

New/Improved for the HS20:

  1. Bullet16 MP sensor with 45° angled pixel array.

  2. BulletElectronic viewfinder (no SLR mirror).

  3. Bullet24-720 equivalent zoom, f/2.8-5.6. (Actual: 4.2-126mm)

  4. BulletISO to 12,800.

  5. BulletLive histogram display.

  6. Bullet“Best Frame” capture (16 x 8MP—you select best).

  7. Bullet60/80/160/320 fps high speed movie modes at reduced image sizes.

  8. Bullet256 zone metering.

  9. BulletImproved shift pixel image stabilization.

  10. BulletStereo mics.

  11. Bullet3” tilting LCD.

  12. Bullet460,000 dot image.

  13. BulletEye Sensor EVF.

  14. BulletTilt level display.

  15. Bullet5-shot People Eraser mode.

  16. Bullet5-shot Combined image mode.

  17. BulletEXR Back Side Illumination CMOS with large sensor patches.

  18. Bullet11 fps 8MP images.

  19. BulletMotion Panorama mode to 360°.

  20. Bullet+1600% wider dynamic range.

  21. Bullet1080p30 / 720p60 / 480p30 / 240p30 movies.

  22. Bullet4 x AA battery power. (C. 400 shots.)

Here’s the PDF brochure for the HS20. Hot off the digital presses.

Note: Our previous “artist’s conception” lead image is now the real thing. It’s only a few pixels different from before.

Price? The HS10 is $400.

We’re wagering the HS20 is $500-ish.

UPDATE: yup, $500.


While the HS20 is only an incremental update to an already interesting camera, it does include a number of improvements that make it even more interesting.

It shares the same limitations found in the HS10 (small chip, forced deep DOF, no interchangeable lens).

But it adds 720p60 video recording (great for slow-mo shooters) and still mode features photographers like. For instance, a Medium frame size that is a smaller, sharper 8MP image (equal to about 10MP in real life) that can be gathered at 11 fps for 16 shots in a row. An ergonomic reviewing system makes this into a very good Best Shot picker.

We don’t know what the moiré situation is in its HD recording, but we can hope there is some improvement from the HS10’s fairly moiré-free performance.

Fuji does a weird thing: They slant the pixels of the image chip at a 45° angle, then translate that into regular streets-and-alleys format for the image output. Additionally, they place two of each color at a slash. One is normal in response, the other (in the HS20) sees through a built-in ND filter and records the bright end of the scene four stops darker.

Why so much? This second, darker image is combined with the “normal” exposure, producing exceptionally good highlight detail. Clouds aren’t pure white, bright backgrounds contain gently gradated detail and almost no highlights end up crashed. The slanting pixels contain contiguous rows of green, and green accounts for 59% of our eyes’ perception of detail. This extended dynamic range (roughly 1600% or 4 stops) works for both still and movies. That’s a Good Thing.

While slanting the pixels creates some detail issues in still images, HD video is soooo much lower in absolute detail that the previous HS10's videos are sharp and well defined.

Fuji has also undertaken BSI (so called Back Side Illumination) which flips the previous traditional fabrication sequence for CMOS chips. The photosensitive layer is on top and the support circuitry is all underneath it. That greatly enlarges the amount of photon-gathering, and in the HS20 allows a maximum ISO of 12,800.

Are there hidden Gotchas in the HS20? We won’t know until we subject one to some punishing challenges. Will Fuji give us one to challenge? Stay tuned.

While we prefer HDSLR designs with interchangeable lenses and large image chips, the tech that Fuji has put into this 22 oz fixed-lens device argues in its favor.

Lumix DMC-GH2:

HDSLR with 1080i60/p60 and 720p60 cine modes.


Panasonic is at it again. And by “it” we mean producing superior (double underline) HDSLR cameras that deliver superior HD results. They also capitalize on a number of the advantages of the 4/3 image format. By using a chip that’s just a tad smaller (17.3 x 13 mm) than the APS-C chips (nominally 23 x 15 mm) in most other interchangeable lens cameras, they keep the camera body compact, light weight, easy on the shoulder and quite affordable.

The GH1 is renowned among HDSLRs for its near-perfect absence of color moiré effects, especially in comparison to current models of the Big Two.

Moiré happens when real-world details fight the necessary grid pattern of sensors on the image chip. In worst-case-scenarios when repeating details land on top of repeating sensors, artificial details bloom into unexpected existence, compromising shots. We guess Panasonic is using a Bigger Moiré Hammer, or some such.

Things that make the GH2 especially delightful for HDSLR use are

  1. BulletFast “Light Speed” auto-focus system. They got it down to 1/10 second, worst case, and it works during movie mode.

  2. Bullet“Full” HD recording in 1080i60 (1080i50 optionally) derived from the chip’s native 1080p60 (50) form.

  3. BulletOptional 1080p24 at 24 Mbps AVCHD (the maximum official rate of the AVCHD standard).

  4. Bullet720p60/50 recording at 17 and 13 Mbps.

  5. BulletSelectable FSH and FH quality record modes for 1080i. (FH and H are Motion JPEG options.)

  6. BulletSelectable SH and H quality record modes for 720p

  7. BulletCinema Mode—a setting to deliver moving images with a cine film look.

  8. BulletMovie Scene Modes. 18 of them. Including Architecture, Food, Pet, Baby 1 and 2 (!) and Peripheral Defocus.

  9. BulletMyColor Mode. Including Retro, Dynamic Art, Silhouette and Elegant.

  10. BulletPositionable Histogram (live) display to track exposure dynamics.

  11. BulletIntelligent Auto Modes (iA in Pana-speak). Detects Scenic, Macro, Portrait and Low Light scenes automatically, making setups on the fly.

  12. BulletiA D-Range internal tweak of dynamic tonalities.

  13. BulletiA MEGA O.I.S. optical shake reduction in three variations.

  14. BulletiA AF tracking tuned to the requirements of movies.

  15. BulletiA Face Focus detection.

  16. BulletiA “Intelligent Resolution Technology” auto detection and tweaking of fine detail.

  17. BulletTouch focus that gives your index finger a new touch-screen job. Made all the better by gentle focus changes during recording.

  18. BulletSide flip-out monitor for viewing from the front on a tripod, plus high/low angles and protection mode.

  19. BulletHigh speed 40 fps full-quality still mode. The limit: you only get 40 4MP shots in a row.

  20. BulletMovie mode Advanced Noise Reduction. Makes high ISO scenes better.

  21. BulletMovie wide shots are slightly wider than 3:4 aspect stills at the same lens millimeter focal lengths due to oversize image chip.

  22. BulletScene length maximums are in the over-an-hour range. Except for cameras legal in PAL recording areas which are limited to under 30 minutes. Ahem!

  23. BulletRemaining time is shown live on the viewfinder.

  24. BulletLive viewfinder has 1.5 million pixels.

  25. BulletDedicated movie roll record button.

  26. BulletMotion recording options of 80%, 100%, 160%, 200% and 300% of normal movie speeds.

  27. BulletManual, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority exposure modes.

  28. BulletExtra Tele Conversion options that turn long lenses into longer lenses without compromising image quality.

  29. BulletHighlight bloom display live.

  30. BulletIn camera movie scene slicing. Cut, then delete.

Other interesting features you wanted to know:

  1. BulletLive MOS (not CMOS) image chip.

  2. BulletFast Contrast AF system.

  3. BulletISO 100 - 12,800.

  4. Bullet18.31/16.5 MP CMOS chip in Micro 4/3 mount.

  5. BulletFull image chip surface AF. Continuous AF during movie recording.

  6. BulletMovie modes include 640 x 480, 320 x 240 and 848 x 480 (16:9).

  7. BulletSD card media.

  8. BulletSquare image of 3,456 x 3,456 available.

  9. Bullet5 fps stills.

  10. BulletAE system with 144-area matrix sensing.

  11. BulletExternal stereo mic input.
  12. BulletDolby sound recording.

  13. BulletWind cut audio equalization.

  14. BulletBulb exposures all the way to four minutes.

  15. BulletDMW-BLC12PP battery (1200 mAh).

  16. BulletVenus Engine FHD processor (new).

  17. BulletBody weight: 390g.

  18. Bullet$900 body. $1500 with 10:1 14-140mm OIS zoom.

  19. BulletAvailable November.

These specs are stunning. For the most part, you’re covered in virtually any still or cine situation. There are, however, a few edges.

Odd that bracketing stills can only be in 1/3, 1/2 or 1-stop increments. This means that HDR images will require a 5-shot bracket to get the desirable -2, 0, +2 -stop exposures.

Too bad the 40 fps 4MP image sequence stopped at 40 shots. That could have been 90 times more useful if it shot for a full five seconds. And it would have been Real Cool to have had a short burst 120 fps or 240 fps mode at HD sizes. Tips for the GH3?

No GPS chip on board. No Bluetooth transmission of live images to my iPad. Dang.

No internal intervalometer for time-lapse shooting. External one required.

It’s nice to see a camera that got so many things right, and so few things missing. We figure by the time the GH5 hits the market in 2015, every single feature under the sun will have been incorporated in its $700 US body.

Ahem. There is an interchangeable 3D lens coming. It has a 3D base (interocular distance) of 10mm. You have an interocular distance of 65mm. Be aware that unless you find examples of this effect to your taste, it is Severely Compromised and falls into the “Just Barely 3D” realm.

The features of the GH2 set it in a different category from all—and we do mean all— the other HDSLRs to date. They can be adapted to virtually any optic on the planet due to the thin body and a ready supply of Panasonic and third-party adapters. Canon, Leica, Nikon, Voigtlander, Pentax K, Yashica, etc.

The camera is almost half the weight of a Nikon D7000 and less than a third of the weight of a Canon 1D Mark IV. That makes it MUCH more comfortable on a Steadicam Merlin.

Attention to detail for movie making characterizes this camera at almost every turn. The number of optics available for Micro Four Thirds has grown to include fisheyes, wide zooms, macros and a stunning 10:1 14-140mm zoom that has been adjusted for movie shooting (smooth zoom, smooth refocus under camera control).

Nikon D7000:

HDSLR with 1080p24 and 720p30 cine modes.


As Nikon evolves in its appreciation of the confluence of still and moving image HDSLRs, it slowly, gradually and deliberately adds the features that users have shown a desire for.

This camera might have been called the D95 in an alternate universe. Its $1,200 price point (body only) and feature set ratify that idea.

Employing the same cine-continuous focus system seen on the D3100 and sporting a new 39-point auto-focus system, the D7000 adds much to the feature set of the D90.

Feature rundown:

  1. BulletISO 100 - 6,400 + 25,600 boost.

  2. Bullet16.08 MP CMOS chip in Nikon DX format.

  3. Bullet39-point AF. Continuous AF during movie recording.

  4. Bullet1080p24, 720p30/25/24 and SD 640 x 424 pixels @ 24 fps.

  5. BulletTwin SD card media.

  6. BulletGlass pentaprism with 100% coverage

  7. Bullet2016-point RGB meter sensor.

  8. BulletEXPEED 2 processor.

  9. BulletInternal Intervalometer (great for time-lapse shooting).

  10. BulletElectronic level displays.

  11. BulletStereo audio inputs.

  12. BulletEN-EL15 battery (new).

  13. BulletBody weight: 690g. (235g heavier than the light D3100.)

  14. Bullet$1,199 body.

Nikon has the BEST autofocus and metering systems in all of the HDSLR universe. The new 39-point system is a great feature, and the continuous AF cine mode is sure to please. Their Matrix metering is nothing short of phenomenal and the new meter more than doubles on the previous 1005-point RGB system.

Nikon’s ergonomics and control choices are often superior to Canon’s. The easy image Trash/discard operation is an example. The D7000 adds a number of improved or re-thought controls over previous models. Legacy Nikkor lenses are often superior for time-lapse shooting (and are often adapted to Canon bodies).

We don’t know why Nikon avoided 1080p30 or 1080p25 shooting modes, or why the SD mode is locked at 24 fps. Perhaps future models will catch up to Canon’s nearly two-year lead in available movie mode frame rate options. We hope Nikon have been able to solve HD moiré issues compared to previous models.

Canon 60D:

HDSLR with articulated monitor.


Suddenly it’s camera season and Canon has their say, too. This one is the $1,099 EOS 60D with an 18 MP APS-C-size image chip, full 1080p30/25/24 options settle any arguments about frame rate options, and 720p60/50 settings bring Canon’s traditionally wise frame rates that are so very useful for slow-motion processing, too.

All frame rates are actually timed to pro standards, so 1080p24 is really 1080p23.976 to fit with the continuing “issue” of NTSC drop frame. SD video is also available at 50/60 frame rates. These are true frames, not fields. Canon has been smart about this since the 7D.

Stills go down at up to 5.3 fps, and media is any SD, SDHC or SDXC cards and ISO ranges from 100 to 12,800, boosted. Colorful features include in-camera basic video editing, manual audio controls, audio wind filter option, digital zoom for SD movie shooting, in-camera RAW processing and the articulated monitor that flips sideways
for subject self-viewing (unlike the Sonys down below two stories). The monitor is new with 1,040,000 dots. Control ergonomics have improved over previous camera back dials, and the screen can fold protectively flat.

Still photo options nod to the growing popularity of HD video modes. You can resize shots to 1920 x 1280 pixel small shot mode or very small 720 x 480 stills for web use.

Feature rundown:

  1. BulletISO 100 - 6,400 + 12,800 boost.

  2. Bullet18 MP CMOS chip.

  3. Bullet9-point AF.

  4. Bullet1080p24/25/30, 720p50/60 and SD 640 x 480 pixels @ 50/60 fps.

  5. BulletDigital zoom for SD recording. Up to 700% magnification.

  6. BulletSD-anything media.

  7. BulletArticulated monitor flips to the side and rotates.

  8. BulletDigic 4 processor.

  9. BulletManual Audio + optional Wind Filter.

  10. BulletLevel display mode in viewfinder and on the monitor.

  11. BulletBody weight: 675g. (145g lighter than the comparable EOS 7D.)

  12. Bullet$1,099 body.

In a way, this is rather like an EOS 7D for $600 less cash outlay, plus a few minor jingle bells and penny whistles.

We can’t tell from the press release what improvements may have been made to image qualities and artifact suppression, but we can hope that Canon got the memo about moiré.

Nikon D3100:

HDSLR from Nikon with 1080p movies.


Lately Nikon seems to be taking the easy way out of evolving their HDSLR capabilities. The D90, D5000 and King of Nikon D3s all had 720p24 as their movie mode. This rendered all the Nikon cameras as less than suitable for anything like technically savvy or professional work.

Added to that, exposure bouncing, poor autofocus during movies, lack of full manual exposure controls for movies and no-such-thing-as-1080p had relegated the Nikon HDSLRs into second third place in my head.

Change is in the wind. And in the D3100. Here’s a Nikon HDSLR with 1080p24, 720p24/25/30 (plus 424p24 if you’re into it) and a new 14.2 MP sensor in DX format, meaning the image chip is identical in size to the patch of film in a 35mm movie camera. Where that last detail is important has to do with the physics of shots. DOF is just like the major motion pictures.

The Expeed computer has been uprated to Expeed 2, presumably faster to handle the 1080p24 image capture. Recording is in AVCHD format at an undisclosed bit rate. We will know more as time passes.

Things you wanted to know:

  1. Bullet3-inch monitor: 230,000 dots. (lower res)

  2. BulletAF during movie mode.

  3. BulletMono internal mic only.

  4. BulletSD media.

  5. BulletStandard Definition option in 640 x 424 images at 24 fps. Ahem.

  6. BulletStill continuous; 3 fps.

  7. BulletD-Lighting during movie mode; likely, not confirmed.

  8. BulletWeight: 1 lb / 455 g.

  9. BulletLens: silent AF 18-55mm.

  10. Bullet11 AF points. Multi-CAM 1000 sensor.

  11. BulletDedicated movie trigger button.

  12. BulletISO 100-12,800 (boosted).

  13. BulletPrice with 18-55 lens: $700 US / £580 / €600.

Nikon has already shown that they CAN capture 1080p30 in pocket cameras. Now they need to demonstrate it in their pro/semi-pro machines. We hope the D95 or D350 will have even superior frame rate options than the Canon 7D has shown. If they really become HDSLR-conscious, they could go for options like 1080p60, 720p120 or CineMode 2160p24 at ISO 25000, but recently Nikon hasn’t been the dream factory for HDSLR users.

The D3100 seems to be a good $700 choice for consumers. So far, the winner in this price range appears to be the Canon EOS 550D / Rebel T2i with its 720p60/50 and 1080p30/25/24.

Sony Pellix Alphas:

HDSLRS α33 and α55 are coming soon.

What we know as of 8/18/10.

During the opening salvos of the HDSLR revolution, Sony has largely been asleep. Now they’re awake with several α-bodies that feature up to 1080p HD shooting.

We expect a lot from Sony, because they’ve been into HD from its technical beginnings way before broadcast HD was available, so they should be doing it right. Tests will confirm or deny that, we shall see.

But that’s not the Big News. They’ve relaunched a word that the world of SLRs had completely forgotten: Pellix.

In the 1960’s Canon introduced the Canon Pellix, the first and only popular camera with a pellicle mirror—a thin, semi-transparent mirror that never moves out of the optical path. The idea is to divert only a portion of the light to the optical viewfinder, and back then, the big deal was to use it for TTL metering or faster continuous modes.

Canon revived the idea just in time to produce the F-1 High Speed body for the 1972 olympics and a few followed in the ‘70s. Nikon played with the pellicle mirror in 1976, but no cameras in the last lifetime have had them—until now.

Get ready. Sony has revived the idea for their latest α cameras, but they’re using the pellicle mirror to divert light to a continuous phase detection (read: movie-perfect) autofocus sensor.

The pellicle mirror brings two Very Important additional movie features:

  1. BulletContinuous EVF viewfinder image.

  2. BulletThe chip is inside a sealed, dust-free chamber.*

By putting a super high res Electronic Viewfinder in the area usually reserved for reflex light viewfinding, you get a great view that lets you find everything.

One thing, though; you dare not swap lenses in an air-nasty environment, because that pellicle mirror is between the subject and its image chip all the time, any compromise to its surface will live with you forever. Any salt spray, bug guts or fleas that land on it may never leave. You won’t get common dust spots, but you might get a permanent haze effect or large shadow. Pellicle mirrors HATE anti-dust propellant, too, so never get that freezy stuff on the pellicle.

As you can see from the α55, above, the articulated monitor is in a rather compromised arrangement. No such thing as viewing a self-timer exposure with that camera on a tripod. Off to the side would have been MUCH better, but it does get you the low and way-high shots when you need them.

Things to know:

  1. BulletMinolta AF mount lenses (Sony A Mount).

  2. Bullet35mm movie frame-size chip, APS-C, CMOS.

  3. BulletBody: Plastic.

  4. Bullet1.44 megapixel EVF.

  5. BulletPellicle mirror light loss: 28%, causing <1/3-stop lower light.

  6. BulletAVCHD or Motion JPEG recording

  7. BulletInternal Sweep Panorama mode.

  8. Bullet15-point autofocus.

  9. BulletContinuous AF during movie mode.

  10. Bullet1080p HD shooting at 1080i60 (delivered from chip at 30fps AVCHD).

  11. Bullet1080p30/25 in HDV format (1440 x 1080 pixels Motion JPEG).

  12. Bullet16 MP chip α55. Movable monitor.

  13. Bullet14 MP chip α33. Locked monitor. Cheaper.

  14. Bullet10 fps α55. 7 fps α33.

  15. BulletTwo memory card slots. Memory Stick and SD.

  16. BulletISO 100-12,800. (HDR up to ISO 25,600 with bracket shot).

  17. BulletInternal GPS on the α55.

  18. Bulletα55: $750 @ 440g. α33: $650 @ 430g. 18-55mm lens included.

  19. BulletDelivery: October (α33 in September)

  20. BulletMissing: p24 modes. 720p-anything.

* Well, it’s better than most, but does flip up for sensor cleaning, and is not hermetically sealed to protect the image chip. Maybe next time...

Sony NEX Step:

Interchangeable lens HD with APS-C chip 7/14/10

While the world is adapting DSLR cameras to become HDSLR hybrids, Sony dropped a bombshell on the field of digital photography with its new, and soon to be available, NEX-VG10 HDSLR camcorder.

Sony is known to be a maverick sometimes. Its successes include the 3/4-inch VCR and the Walkman personal music revolution, but it has seen failures and marginal almost successes including the Betamax 1/2-inch video cassette format and the Memory Stick, neither of which caught the public wind. Nobody uses 3/4-inch video tape any more and iPods beat the suds out of Walkmen, so what have they done for us, lately? Not as much as the rest of the HDSLR revolution’s skirmishes. None of Sony’s DSLRs are HDSLRs, but the NEX-3/5 cameras showed some promise.

That was yesterday. Today the story changes.

On 7.13.2010 Sony announced a new product direction with fully-formed products ready to go, the NEX-VG10 camera which represents nothing less than a near-complete overhaul of digital camera evolution.

It is designed along camcorder ergonomics, yet it contains a 14.2 megapixel still camera and 1080i60 HD video recorder. It’s got chops:

  1. BulletInterchangeable E-mount lenses

  2. Bullet35mm movie frame-size image chip

  3. BulletThree dimensional sound

  4. BulletSolid state recording

  5. Bullet11:1 zoom

  6. BulletSuper optical image stabilization with video “active” mode

  7. Bullet1.4 lb body (620 g) / 2.75 lb with battery & lens (1.3 kg)

  8. BulletSuper-resolution internal viewfinder (1,152,000 dots)

  9. Bullet3-inch LCD (921,000 dots)

  10. BulletISO 100~12,800

  11. BulletD-Range Optimizer (shadow recovery during shooting)

  12. BulletSeveral new still DSLR mode features (fast image layering effects like Anti Motion Blur, Hand-Held Twilight, HDR, bracketing)

  13. BulletStill 7 fps full res images

  14. BulletExternal mic ready

  15. BulletStills: JPEG 4592 x 3056, 3344 x 2224, 2288 x 1520

  16. BulletVideo: 1080i60 AVCHD 24Mbps and 16Mbps and 1440x1080i60 @ 9Mbps

Other companies--Panasonic, for instance--have been hinting at bringing out their version of a 4/3-chip camcorder HDSLR, but Sony will be delivering these about September 10, this year.

The intermediate bit rate --16 Mbps-- is about the same as the NEX-5’s best 1080p rate, suggesting that the 24Mbps rate of the VG10 is about 50% higher quality. We shall see.

Where is the VG10 in terms of the moiré issue that plagues most HDSLR cameras? We have our fingers crossed.

What we know:

The image chip is a full, so-called “APS-HD” sized imager 23.4 x 15.6 mm, slightly larger than the area of 35mm movie film used to capture most major movies and TV shows in Hollywood, Bollywood, Nollywood, Borhamwood, Ozwood and Paris.

Compared to the chip in a typical HD camcorder, it’s nearly 2000% larger, meaning truly cinematic optical physics of depth of field and focal length phenomena.

Compared to the DX chip of Nikon fame, it’s the same. (Okay, Nikon says their DX chips are 0.2 mm larger in each dimension.) For the record, the Sony chip creates images with a 1.5x focal length conversion factor. Canon APS-C chips are a hair smaller with their magnification factor of 1.6x.

Supplied with the VG10 is a new 18-200mm E-mount f/3.5-6.3 OSS (Optical Supremo Stabilization*) lens with manual focus, auto-focus, equivalent to 27-300 mm still camera viewing angles and focusing minimum of 1 ft to 1.6 ft or 305 to 500 mm (wide to tele).

Any E-mount or A-mount Sony lenses will adapt easily and future mounts for Nikon, Canon and other DSLR lenses will follow.

All shooting modes allow fully manual settings to ISO, shutter speeds and aperture settings.

For PC owners, the camera comes with a download coupon for Vegas® Movie Studio HD Platinum 10 editing software. Mac owners will need iMovie ’09 or something from the Final Cut program group.

Of particular note is the microphone array caged up and away from the camera body and lens. Particular care has gone into making the audio pickup very good at front-directed stereo surround sound by using four mic capsules.

The camera and lens mechanisms are extra silent, unlike those in typical HDSLR cameras, presumably to assure that the mic array won’t be plagued by operational noises.

For crews that include a dedicated audio person, external mics are accommodated.

Size is always a factor in cameras, and the VG10 is exceptionally small, light weight and ergonomically useful. The main body is only slightly larger than a typical camcorder, yet the screen is large enough for reading-distance viewing.

One of our first tests will be marrying it to the Steadicam Merlin, and to test its cinematic attributes.

What’s not here:

With the VG10 come some head scratches, too. The 11:1 zoom that comes with the basic kit doesn’t have zoom motors. At all. Zooming is manual only. Is it smooth, like a video lens or sticky, like a DSLR lens? Dunno. We wait to test it.

Only three lenses will be available to start. The 18-200, a 16mm wide prime f/2.8 and a light weight 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom without Optical Steady Shot*.

The LCD is touted as swiveling “180 degrees,” not 270 degrees as is the case with nearly all camcorders. Does this mean no full facial viewing? We shall see.

Still mode exposure evaluation is by a 49-segment (7 x 7) matrix, but not for video auto-exposure.

No announcement of RAW still image gathering has been made. That would kill the VG10 for professional shooters, but worse things have happened in the history of digital photography. Or, maybe it’s just a spec sheet omission. We will know more, later.

Video is limited, they say, to 1080i60 recording at 1920 x 1080 pixels, and for data savings, a format of 1080i60 that captures 1440 x 1080 pixels (as with HDV format camcorders) is available. But no versions of 720p. What would have been the Killer App would have been something like 720p120 for in-camera HD slow motion.

And (major AHEM!) where is the 1080p24?

Perhaps Sony will learn how much these features are needed for the VG20.

Questions down the road:

  1. BulletAssuming that it is as kind to cine image gathering as is the NEX-5 camera, will it be moiré-free, too? That’s the biggest camera killer bug out there in all Canon, Nikon and other HDSLR designs.

  2. BulletBzzt! Late word (October, 2010): Nah! The Moiré on the VG10 is AWFUL!!!

  1. BulletIt looks front heavy. Is that real?

  1. BulletDo camcorder ergonomics suit still shoots?

  1. BulletHow much tweaking will the best AVCHD images take?

  1. BulletWhat surprise artifacts await the buyer?

  1. BulletWhat unadvertised joys await?

What it means:

This is the first touchable expression of a predictable revolution in camera design. At least we have been talking about a number of the features it contains in years previous, but here it is in the flesh.

Once the viewfinder or LCD achieves enough resolution, any need for an optical reflex design will be doomed. Olympus, Panasonic and Samsung have tickled that demon; now the VG10 adds to the mayhem. Traditional DSLR cameras were built to hold up to one’s eye, bodies flat to house film requirements. Then Live View turned them into reading distance viewers with reflex mechanisms made redundant.

Now the ergonomics of the VG10 show unambiguously that the peculiar shapes defined by film-advance mechanisms and flipping mirrors no longer apply to high-end still cameras. Camcorder body plans and ergonomics really do mean something, and the crossover between HD video/cine shooting and still photography has established a new shape of things to come in a few days, and we think, forever after.

What will come:

Surely the VG10 won’t be the last experiment in this vein. Panasonic’s announcement of the derriere-ugly AG-AF100 (right) with its projected price of about $6,000 now seems limp to lame. In its defense, it’s by Panasonic who have avoided most moiré effects. But geez!

That camera’s lunch-box shape and size doesn’t help much, either.

What we predict.

Sony has demonstrated, once again, the ability to take a chance with this camera, and our own sense of it is that this is just step one in a new, long journey. Future versions may have the things this one lacks, but it is ready, willing and able to strike out in new still and cinematic directions. Except for the moiré.

From a user:

Uwe Steinmueller has compiled a number of experimental examples with the VG10. Check those out here.

* OSS = Or Some Such?

Sony NEX5 Thin Cam

Interchangeable lens HD with APS-C chip 6/20/10

Sony did a bold thing by creating a flat, light, interchangeable lens camera with a movie frame-sized chip. Two models: The NEX-3 ($600) and NEX-5 ($700). Both have the same 14 MP CMOS chip at 23.4 x 15.7 mm. The lens mount is a new one: the Sony E-mount.

NEX-5 is thinner, lighter, and shoots 1080p30 video. It has both full 1920 x 1080p30 and a data space saving mode that captures images at 1440 x 1080 for an HDV-like format, eating only 12 Mb/s. Full 1920 pixel wide HD consumes 17 Mb/s. For comparison, that’s fairly low. (The Canon 7D captures 44 Mb/s in both 720p60 and 1080p30.) The more plastic NEX-3 stops at Sony’s 1440 x 1080p30 mode only. The 1440 mode HD image does not have square pixels, but editing programs can work with it, just as they do with HDV files.

The NEX-5’s movies are lovely. No moiré, no patterns and great-looking color and tonality. Technically, they have achieved good tonality, high compression and minimal artifacts. The body is flat; the lenses not so much.

Like the Oly Micro 4/3 E-PL1, these aren’t full HDSLRs, but they do change lenses (3 available now) and they shoot HD, potentially professionally. At 10.5 ounces plus lens, it only weights 2.5x an iPhone 4. Ahem.

Feature packed, they deserve your interest. Pogue-ing fun here.

Oly Micro 4/3 Sweety!

Baseline interchangeable lens HDSLR 4/4/10

Got six Benjis? You could have one of these Olympus E-PL1 Micro 4/3 DSLRs. With the reworked Zuiko 14-42mm zoom the whole thing weighs just 334 g (11.8 ounces).

No reflex viewfinder here, just a nice, light, camera that delivers HD 720p30 capability in a sweet, tiny package—with lens interchageability.

As an HDSLR, it is what we consider minimum. The movie format is the hungry Motion JPEG form. Boo. And maximum shot length is 7 minutes in movie mode.

There is no 720p60, no 1080p30 which would be a Big Deal in the feature department. It will take the Olympus VF-2 electronic viewfinder ($250 at Adorama) for eye-level shooting, or you can shoot while viewing the large 2.7-inch monitor (230,000 dots).

Think of it as “entry level.”

Nikon Goes 1080p30! 2/27/10

A camera story based on a non-HDSLR camera:

Nikon does the right thing in the wrong camera. Proof that Nikon is aware of 1080p30 HD recording has come in the form of the Coolpix P100 ($350 ish), a 10 MP compact camera with neither large sensor (1/2.8”, not APS-C) nor interchangeable lenses (fixed, but 26X zoom).

Why it is significant is that it’s the first Nikon with 1080p30 D-Movie mode, although that feature is notably absent from being detailed in the published Tech Specs page on the Nikon USA site. Look for it as Feature #9 under the Key Features tab.

For a while there, we were convinced that nobody in the Nikon Design Department was aware that 1080p30 even was technically possible, but here it is in a low-cost Coolpix, but significantly missing from the $5,200 D3s which is “Power. Precision. Performance: The Blueprint for Versatility.” Except if you want pro HD.

Of other significant interest in the Coolpix P100 is its hybrid image stabilization feature that combines optical element shift and sensor shift along with subject tracking algorithms to provide extra stable movies and stills. Could this harken future VR III schemes for HDSLRs?

Now that Nikon has broken the 1080p barrier, are manual exposure controls and HDSLR cameras in this format far behind?

Canon EOS 550D/

Rebel T2i/Kiss X4 Digital

HDSLR Mighty Mite.


Today Canon announced a major new contribution to the universe of HDSLR photography.

Long story short: Think EOS 7D for 47% of the cost!

Not kidding. For HDSLR shooters the specs and performance features of the T2i are right down the center line of the 7D from 1080p30/25/24 to 720p60/50 and 480p60/50 from an 18MP APS-C image chip that is the size of a  35mm movie frame.

ISO ranges from 100 to 6400, and a boost option to 12,800 is available, though noisy. Rolling shutter speed maxes out at 1/30 sec—a 360° shutter, in essence, when shooting 1080p30. For 720p60 and 480p60 images, this drops a stop to 1/60 sec, etc.

Differences from the 7D include a 9-point AF sensor [19 in the 7D], 1/4000th sec fastest shutter speed [1/8000], no Kelvin color temperature setting [K°], continuous still shooting maximum of 3.7 fps [8], pentamirror viewfinder [pentaprism], 95% view coverage [100%] and not much else. All the missing features have zero impact on shooting HD movie mode.

Tip: For about the next year or so, this camera will likely be the lightest, major brand HDSLR body you can use with weight-sensitive camera supports such as the Steadicam Merlin.

Like other Canons, it takes all Canon EF and EFS lenses and most Canon accessories, plus, via a simple adapter, it will mount Nikkor lenses, although it won’t interact with them automatically.

Tip: Get it with Canon’s 18-55mm “Kit” IS lens. It’s far and away the lightest optic you could obtain and is plenty sharp enough for all HD shooting. If you ever shoot with a hand-held stabilizer like the Steadicam Merlin, the low weight will be well appreciated.

All newer cameras seem to glow with improved features, and the T2i has a few even in advance of the 7D. Some of them seem trivial, but they’re improvements nonetheless:

  1. Many “Programmed image modes:” Flash Off, Portrait, Landscape, Close-up, Sports, Night Portrait.

  2. Brighter flash. GN: 13/43 [12/39].

  3. Media is SDHC and SDXC capable [CompactFlash].

  4. External monitor has 1,040,000 “dots” [960,000].

  5. Low weight, 530 g with battery [820 g without battery].

  6. Additional 480p60/50 shooting in “Movie Crop Mode” up to 700% enlargement.

  7. Dedicated “Quick Control” button for fast frequent settings.

Movie files are saved in H.264 form, easily integrating with top visual effects and edit programs. In practice, all tips and techniques for movie shooing with the 7D apply to the T2i.

Still mode shots are a full 18 MP with 5184 x 3456 pixels per Large frame. RAW Large shots are about 24.5MB but the T2i doesn’t have the 7D’s Medium and Small RAW options. C’est la guerre.

        What you really wanted to know:

  1. 1080p image quality.

  2. Movie film frame-size sensor.

  3. 720p60 for processing as slo-mo.

  4. Exceptional low light performance.

  5. Very light [530 g].

  6. Stereo external mic input.

  7. Has an on-board flash for fill.

  8. Eight freaking hundred dollars!

Canon Rebel T2i

MSRP without lens: $800 US. With 18-55 kit lens $900 US. Wow!

Update: Drew Painter’s T2i Camera test video on Vimeo.

Canon EOS 7D

HDSLR value leader.


As of this date, the clear winner in the HDSLR camera race (if there is such a thing) is Canon’s EOS 7D. This 18 MP camera shoots 1080p30/25/24 and 720p60/50. And 480p60/50 if you’re so inclined.

ISO is available from 100 to 6400, and a boost option to 12,800 is available, although as noisy as highest settings always are. The slowest shutter speed for 1080p30 images is 1/30 sec—a 360° shutter, in essence. For 720p60 and 480p60 images, this drops a stop.

When shooting at ISO 3200, the image is noisy, but “documentary-tolerable,” in that the image dominates while the noise merely participates. At ISO 2000, things get smooth enough for most work. At ISO 1000, you’re below the Mom Can Tell threshold.

It takes all Canon EF and EFS lenses and most Canon accessories, plus, via a simple adapter, it will mount Nikkor lenses, although it won’t interact with them automatically.

As shown below, a 7D ready to shoot mounted to a 50mm Nikkor f/1.4.

Why? Old Nikkor designs have manual f-stops and infinity locking focus rings. Just like real movie camera lenses.

Tip: Canon’s 18-55mm “Kit” lenses are inexpensive, light weight and supremely sharp enough for HD cinematography.

In our own informal tests, Canon’s movie mode image stabilization function in their 17-85mm IS EFS lens created much more stable hand-held images at 85mm than a Nikon 18-200mm DX VRII lens did when zoomed to 85mm. This says nothing about the ability of those lenses to perform for still images, since the design requirements for still and movie stabilization are usually worlds apart.

Overall, the 7D falls into the “plus extra” category of DSLR cameras that can compete head to head with the best from their rival, Nikon. We would put the 7D as about parallel to the Nikon D300s in most feature comparisons, excluding cine mode from both.

But cine mode is where the 7D has it all over every current Nikon and even the previous Canon 5D Mark II. The extensive range of image size and frame rate options from the 7D are not just idle, rarely-accessed choices. If you wish to use this camera as a motion picture shooter, 1080p24 is your obvious choice. If you’re shooting for PAL or SECAM broadcast, 1080p25 is the way to go. If you’re shooting for eventual conversion to slo-mo, 720p60 is the top choice.

Movie files are saved in a convenient H.264 form, easily integrating with top visual effects and edit programs. It’s compressed, considerably, so good exposure and considerate handling of the images is very important. When importing to Final Cut, we see that capturing the imported files as XDCAM HD422 or Apple Pro Res 422 (LT) keep the image in good shape if only modest amounts of tonal manipulation are applied.

In use, the 7D shows ergonomic improvements over its immediate predecessor, the 5D Mark II. A dedicated switch makes the Movie/Still choice a complete breeze. Snapping a still image while shooting cine mode is easy, although it drops a one second freeze frame into the movie track, along with a recorded camera motor drive sound effect. In practice, this provides you with a quickie Ken Burns moment in editing. Use the still to drop a short cutaway into the shot, and you may not even need to cut around it.

The light weight, a few grams over the 5DM2, is easy to work with on a Steadicam Merlin, leading to very professional shots in hand-held situations.

In still mode, the 7D shoots an 18 MP image with 5184 x 3456 pixels, big enough for nearly all photo assignments. To give that some perspective, a vertical image printed on the side of a building (think Times Square) at 1 inch per pixel, would be over 43 stories tall and you’d have to view it a block away. Or ten stories tall if you wanted 5 ppi and a smaller print cost.

        What you really wanted to know:

  1. 1080p image quality

  2. Movie film frame-size sensor.

  3. 720p60 for processing as slo-mo.

  4. Exceptional low light performance.

  5. Stereo external mic input.

  6. Has an on-board flash for fill.

Canon EOS 7D

MSRP without lens: $1700 US.

Haoda adapter for Nikkor lenses, $80.

Panasonic DMC-GH1

HDSLR minus mirrors and color moiré.


“Challenge Everything” seems to have been the mantra around the design department when Panasonic decided to create the GH1.

  1. BulletInterchangeable lenses for 4/3 format?

  2. Yes, but at the newer, thinner camera body spec.

  1. BulletReflex viewfinder?

  2. Yes, but electronic, eliminating the internal volume-consuming mirror and ground glass reflection system of standard SLRs.

  1. BulletExternal monitor?

  2. Yes, but flip out, face forward or self-protecting.

Geez, when these guys get ahold of an idea, they don’t let go. The gauntlet that this first 14 MP Panasonic HDSLR has thrown at the feet of Canon and Nikon is heavy. And to top it off, the HD images that are captured by the GH1 are almost totally free of the chief bugaboo plaguing all other HDSLRs; color moiré.

HDSLR cameras use Rolling Shutters and skip-line scanning to pull the image off of high-density image chips. By ignoring horizontal rows of Bayer-patterned photosites, the image chip can work at video speeds. Finely focused detail can “fall through the cracks” strongly influencing nearby rows of blue or red sensors and causing color artifacts that are a false interpretation of the subject matter.

Of all current models, only the Panasonic GH1 creates images without the color moiré. Some residual pattern moiré still is in the image, but compared to other full 1080p24 shots from Canon, the GH1 does very well. On a technical note, the 24 fps are divided into a 1080i60 format that shows up in what is called a 3:2 pull-down playback of frames as fields, or interlaced half-frames that present three fields of one frame followed by two fields of the next frame in a continuous 3 2 3 2 3 2... cadence.

3:2 pull down lines movie frames (colors) onto fields (numbered) like this. The green video frames an edit program sees are ones that are interlaced parts from two different movie frames. Cutting on those can put artifacts into the edit.

This is fine for TV playback, but can become confusticating in editing if your edit program can’t handle it gracefully. Some users employ a conversion program to turn the 1080i60/24 images into true 1080p24 prior to editing. If you want to edit GH1 material into other 1080p24 sources, this extra step will avoid a number of “issues.”

Its 4/3 format image chip collects 1080p24 and 720p60 images in AVCHD form, a rather low bit-rate method for storing HD images. As with most AVCHD images, some compression artifacts leak through, and motion isn’t as smooth as in typical 1080p30 clips. Some image areas can become mushy when the AVCHD engine sees low-contrast detail.

The 720p60 option is a great tool, especially if you intend to use the shots for time altering, such as slow motion (slo-mo). It takes 60 full 720p frames every second, and at 50% playback, or 200% stretch in an edit program, the result is clean, smooth half-speed playback.

720p60 when used with a program like Apple’s Final Cut Studio’s Motion, you can bend time into extreme slo-mo. Asking that program for playback at 12.5% is a reasonable request, and it invents the in-between frames—rather the way a Morph effect invents the in-between frames—producing a shot that can look like 240 fps played back at 30 fps.

The images are good enough to make us very curious as to what the GH2 will bring to the edit suite when it appears in 2011. Panasonic has asked the right questions, achieved stunning first-camera results and given the finger to the “more experienced” DSLR makers in a single bold gesture.

Physically, the camera is small. Its narrow lens mount to image plane dimension brings the lens back 20mm closer to the image chip, knocking off nearly an inch of body thickness. This is due to its electronic (think Live View all the time) eye level viewfinder. While not as sharp as a ground glass viewfinder, it has 1.4 million dots, giving the sharpest electronic view to date. Being eye-level, the viewfinder avoids many shots made at arm’s length.

The external monitor articulates to the side but has only 460,000 dots, rather coarse by other HDSLR camera standards. Still, it facilitates viewing from above, below, to the side and even in front of the camera during shooting.

Numerous adapters allow fitting the GH1 with previous 4/3 system lenses, plus a growing list of crossover adapters for fitting lenses from other camera systems, albeit without automatic functions engaged.

Panasonic reworked their 10:1 zoom for cine mode, giving it better cine stabilization, smoother zoom and silent auto-focus operation during cine shooting. Always thinking!

        What you really wanted to know:

  1. Small, light, capable.

  2. AVCHD compressed, 1080p24 formatted as i60. (3:2 pull-down)

  3. 720p60 = slow mo! (handled right)

  4. Average low light performance.

  5. Pattern moiré remains.

  6. Stereo mic on-board.

  7. Auto focus during movie clips.

Panasonic DMC-GH1

MSRP: $1500 US including the 14-140mm zoom lens.

Review assisted by Uwe Steinmueller of Outback Photo.com.

Canon 5D Mark II

HDSLR full-frame leader.


Canon was planning their own first HDSLR during the same timeframe other manufacturers were planning their move to movies via DSLR. Everybody knew that some form of HD would be required, but only Canon seems to have accepted the priority of providing full HD capture.

Nikon saw the movie notion as an interesting added feature and decided early on to target 720p24 as an appropriate compromise.

Panasonic saw a little wider with a goal of 1080p24, but decided that users would be more comfortable if it was packaged to integrate with 1080i60 material, so their output was not absolute 1080p24.

Pentax couldn’t bring themselves to attain full 1080p30, so they decided to package images 1536 x 1024 pixels in a new, previously nonexistent form one might call 1024p30. The aspect is 3:2, not straight compatible with any broadcast or display HD format.

With the 5D Mark II, the promise of “full high definition” was realized as 1080p30. It appeared in a preview movie by Vincent Laforet in September, 2008, called Reverie, a lightweight story constructed to show off the camera’s visual capabilities. Click the still for a link.

Based on the movie, which unambiguously showed everybody what the camera could do in the hands of a master (Pulitzer Prize-winning) cinematographer, every 5DM2 that hit the shelves in December ’08 went out the door instantly.

Photographers quickly found that this camera delivered fine 1080p30 files, all right, but it was missing some things: 1. An easy way to switch to movie mode. 2. Manual exposure. 3. 720p-anything cine mode. 

What it did have was phenomenal. A full-frame 21.1 MP image sensor chip creating a still image 5616 x 3744 pixels. Modest 4 fps continuous still shooting. Great looking, long-scale images. ISO to 25,600. And a movie mode like no other.

The story goes that ASC Cinematographer Shane Hurlbut sat down with a bunch of Canon executives after gathering a gallery of killer motion scenes, and removed their socks by showing them what he had used their camera to shoot. After a ten-minute standing ovation, he dropped the other shoe. The shots were made using Nikkor lenses fitted to his Canon camera.

Why? To control aperture (something the original 5DM2 and Canon EF lenses were lacking) by using older prime lenses that had mechanical aperture rings. Needless to say, the Canon exex went into a huddle, took some engineers into a back alley, pounded out some truths and surprise/surprise, found ways to address these missing essentials.

By June, 2009, Canon released a firmware update that permitted control over f-stop, shutter speed and ISO. By implementing this update as a firmware release, every 5DM2 owner was glad to think Canon was listening, even if it took a Big Gun to catch their real attention. But still, no 1080p24 or 1080p25 (for European filmmakers) or anything in 720p.

In November, 2009, Canon promised an even bigger firmware update to supply these missing modes, a task made more urgent since their EOS 7D came with all of them right out of the box in September, 2009. Significantly the 7D’s 1080p30 mode is compliant with drop-frame SMPTE specs that call for 29.97 fps in order to be compatible with NTSC-based HD. The 1080p30 in the 5DM2 is still exactly 30 fps, and in some cases, that’s going to present some filmmakers with a frustrating lesson in broadcast standards. Sorry.

Rumor has it that the update Canon is planning will bring 1080p29.97, 1080p25, 1080p24, 720p59.94, 720p50 and other new features to existing cameras in Spring, 2010. Hold your breath. Spring isn’t over until June 22.

The big photosites on the face of the 5DM2 image chip allow the camera to shoot movies easily into the ISO 6400 zone with little grain. The large, Vistavision-sized image chip (35mm slide frame size and 21 MP) gives deliciously shallow DOF to movie scenes.

With all it has going for it, the 5DM2 and all other HDSLR cameras to date, save the Panasonic GH1, have a potentially problematic color moiré tendency. And we do not advise holding one’s breath waiting for a firmware upgrade to control that.

        What you really wanted to know:

  1. Killer full-frame images.

  2. 1080p30 upgraded to include 1080p24/25 at drop-frame rates, 3/18/10.

  3. Stunning low light performance.

  4. Mono audio on-board.

  5. Stereo audio by external mic.

  6. 10 grams lighter than a 7D.

  7. New price reduced to $2499 US.

Canon EOS 5D Mark II

MSRP without lens: $2500 US.
Review assisted by Uwe Steinmueller of Outback Photo.com.

Canon Power Shot SX230HR Reviewed 1/9/12
Not an HDSLR—Just Acts Like One
There is such a glut of tech these days that it is easy to miss a gem when it first appears. The Canon SX230 is one of those gems. 

You have to work with it for a while to appreciate its skills, and when I was faced with putting together a “behind the scenes” shooting/editing kit, only then did this camera cross my path.

When shooting and editing in the field (think travel camera) certain factors become over-exaggerated. Like weight. Volume. Flexibility. X-factors.

I wanted a camera with way more than any gadget has a right to contain: Big zoom, HD in 1080p and 720p, big stills, quality images, quick operation, decent mics, small size, top-quality image stabilization, and any feature that added functionality and/or usefulness to the mix.

Others have reviewed this camera before. Go find them. The reviewers like it a lot, and when compared to other “Super Zoom” compact cameras, they point to this as being one of the top two. But on features alone, it quickly rose to my Top One pick.

Features like standard-definition video at 120 fps. GPS shot mapping in EXIF. 14:1 optical zoom. Stereo mics. Extra-light weight. And the pleasantly-surprising, extra-smooth IS system (Canon’s optical Image Stabilization).

You can probably find these at about $185 at this hour. It’s about a year old, and in technology-years, that’s getting up there. Perhaps Canon has an SX240 in mind? Since the original price of these was pushing $350, we would think that a replacement camera would start at about that price point. But you can get one of these for nearly half that. Canon’s MSRP is touted as $300, today.

In strictly technical terms, it’s not a replacement for a Canon 5D Mark II, but it gathers  good, documentary-appropriate HD images in both formats. I much prefer 30 fps to 24 fps for anything that moves generously, but the sharpest 720p final images come from shooting 1080p and dropping those in the edit time-line. A little Sharpening tweak in Final Cut helps.

Designed for consumers, this camera has latent “featuritis.” In other words, features that can be named are sometimes there to sell you the camera, but aren’t the best-implemented version of what they claim.

Focus, for instance. On of the big shortcomings in video cameras is auto-focus. Even dedicated HD camcorders have trouble with AF. Getting this one to lock is not a simple button press—it’s three button presses: Left/Right/Center on the camera’s main control dial. You have to build-into your hand the right habits to get the things you need. The learning curve from novice to graceful camera jockey must be mastered and will take many hours.

Zoom image quality is pretty good, but suffers a bit at the widest setting wide open at f/3.1. Surprisingly, there is virtually zero barrel or pincushion distortion in this 1400% zoom lens.

Here are some of our test videos featuring this unit. Latest at right. Click pix:


Things you wanted to know:

Lens covers 28mm to 392mm equivalent optically. Digital zoom is 4X. 
Included software tracks each shot by GPS. But eats batteries.
Image Stabilization system is probably the best available.
Zoom speed varies with finger pressure. Full range in 2 sec, 4 sec, 6 sec.
Standard definition 120 fps is very good. Video shot at 320 x 240 can be captured at a stunning 240 fps. Looks meh. Featuritis.
Many “scene modes” as well as Program, Aperture, Shutter priority, Manual. Manual does not lock video exposure.
Flash can be dialed back to “fill flash” strength.
Focus can manually be locked. Once you learn the trick.
Video exposure can be locked. Once you learn the right settings.
Stills are 4000 x 3000 pixels, max. There are MANY options, including Square!
Size of two iPhones glued back-to-back. Hence the lead image.
Weighs 223g. An iPhone weighs 148g.
Available now for around $175. 
The replacement SX260 (20:1 zoom from 25mm wide) will be around $350.

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