News aggregator

LandscapePro software promises simple steps to dramatic changes

DPReview News - Fri, 05/20/2016 - 11:14

Anthropics Technology, the makers of the PortraitPro software application, has announced a program that it claims ‘radically simplifies and speeds up’ dramatic reworking of landscape images. LandscapePro offers tools for replacing skies, enhancing water and altering the direction of the light using automatic selection techniques and ‘one-click’ pre-sets. The company says that users will need ‘no prior knowledge or technical skills’ to use the program.

LandscapePro invites users to drag labels, such as ‘grass’, ‘sky’ and ‘water’ on to the relevant areas of an image and the software automatically makes an adjustable selection of that area. A collection of sliders and filters then makes it possible to adjust or replace each type of element. A depth of field simulator can create blur at certain distances while further controls allow photographers to emphasize distance through coloration.

Color temperatures can be adjusted using pre-sets with atmospheric labels to simulate sunset or stormy conditions, and ‘common objects’ such as grass and sand have their own pre-sets as well. There is also a tool that helps to select areas of sky through the branches of a tree.

There are two versions of LandscapePro: Standard and Studio. The Studio version works with Raw files and has options to operate as a plug-in for Photoshop, Lightroom and Elements among other differences.

The Standard version costs $79.90/£59.90 while the Studio version costs $119.90/£99.90, though both are offered at 50% off at the moment.

For more information, and a free trial, visit the LandscapePro website.

Press release:

LandscapePro Launched

New, easy way to enhance landscape photos

Anthropics Technology today announced the launch of LandscapePro, the industry’s first intelligent landscape photo editing software, available in standalone and Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom and Elements plug-in editions. The new software radically simplifies and speeds up outdoor and nature photo retouching. It includes landscape relighting, sky replacement, 3D depth estimation, a depth of field simulator, distance controls, intelligent selection tools, and photo-adaptive controls among other powerful features. With one-click presets and targeted editing available, users can create beautiful landscapes in seconds.

LandscapePro is a new way to enhance pictures that rises to the challenges and nuances of landscape photography. It assumes no prior knowledge or technical skills, and photographers can create unique, dramatic effects quickly. The new product comes from the makers of the award-winning retouching software PortraitPro and PortraitPro Studio with a plug-in mode for Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom, and Apple Aperture.

“Inspired by the success of Anthropics’s PortraitPro software, we are delighted to introduce a new product to help photographers expand their creativity and take landscape retouching to the next level,” said Andrew Berend, CEO, Anthropics. “LandscapePro offers an innovative and easy way to create stunning landscape photography, and can be used by novices or experienced photographers alike. As its intelligent controls uniquely adapt to the features of each photo, it enables photographers to do incredible things with their outdoor photos simply by using sliders.”

Key Features

Easily enhance landscape photos. LandscapePro contains a host of unique tools to enable anyone to create beautiful scenic photographs.

  • Intelligent selection tools.
  • Unique editing controls that adapt to the photo.
  • Easy-to-use slider interface.
  • No technical skills required.
  • LandscapePro Studio handles RAW files and can be run as a Photoshop, Lightroom and Elements plug-in.

Expand your creativity. Create unique, breathtaking scenes. LandscapePro effects are specifically tailored to landscape photography.

  • Landscape relighting. Lighting adjustment to fit any creative goals: change light source, temperature, time of day, or go from dawn to sunset. Note how the side lighting brings out the texture on the ground.
  • Instant sky replacement with presets. The unique sky controls enable photographers to replace sky, change clouds, or cast cloud shadows. Note how the change in sky has automatically relit the ground.
  • Cloud and atmosphere adjustment. Tools to manipulate skies by separately adjusting the clouds and the atmosphere behind them.
  • 3D depth estimation. A unique, easy-to-use depth of field simulator respects 3D objects in the scene. As easy as using a single slider.
  • Distance controls. Change colors in the image depending on the distance to the camera - make distant objects bluer, highlight the middle distance, or add fog.
  • Landscape-specific tools for dealing with common issues such as selecting small patches of sky behind trees.
  • Color adjustment tools targeted at common objects in landscapes, e.g. tools to make grass look lush, change the color of the sea, or to make sand golden.
  • One-click presets such as wet sand, stormy water, red sunset, lush trees.
  • Automatic area selection. Tag areas as sky, trees, buildings, grass, sand, rock, water and the selection will be applied instantly.
  • Targeted editing. Specially designed controls for different areas, e.g. change clouds to stormy or add thunder clouds, adjust waves, or add sunrise reflection to the sea.
  • Whole picture and individual object enhancements. Transform the whole photo instantly or use a new workflow where you select several objects in your scene first, before editing.

Editions

LandscapePro Standard - dedicated landscape photo editing.
LandscapePro Studio - handles RAW files, 48 bit per color TIFFs, supports different color spaces, and can be run as a plug-in for Photoshop, Lightroom and Elements.

Compare the different editions: www.landscapepro.pics/editions.
Availability, Free Trial and Pricing

LandscapePro is available to purchase or for a free trial from http://www.landscapepro.pics/.

Categories: Photo Gear News

Google teams with IMAX to create next-gen VR rigs for the film industry

DPReview News - Fri, 05/20/2016 - 11:01

At its I/O developer conference this week, Google announced a new partnership with IMAX to develop next-gen VR camera rigs for use in the film industry. These camera rigs will be different than Google’s previously unveiled GoPro VR rig, but will likewise utilize the company’s Jump virtual reality platform for post-processing. The cameras are being created in part with tech from Chinese company Yi Technology. Likewise, IMAX has announced plans to open VR experience spaces in six locations across the US.

The companies haven’t revealed any details about the planned cameras at this time, except that they will feature Jump integration. The announcement comes at a time when competing high-end VR cameras have made public debuts, including the 4K-capable $2500 Sphericam 2 and Nokia's $60,000 OZO camera.

Via: Yahoo

Categories: Photo Gear News

2016 Roundup: Interchangeable Lens Cameras around $500

DPReview News - Fri, 05/20/2016 - 04:00

While they aren't cameras that make headlines, one thing is for certain: entry-level interchangeable lens cameras sell by the truckload. The majority of them are stripped-down versions of their midrange siblings, with things like newer sensors, advanced autofocus systems, customizable controls and 'premium' build quality being left out. That doesn't mean that these aren't capable cameras - quite the contrary, actually.

All of these cameras - both mirrored and mirrorless - produce good image quality, offer respectable performance and can record Full HD video. The majority have Wi-Fi. Many of them are targeted toward beginners, with 'help' systems that point out the best settings to use for various shooting situations.

Those unfamiliar with DSLR and mirrorless cameras may be wondering what advantages and disadvantages each brings to the table. DSLRs are larger cameras, with a more 'traditional' shape and control layout, as well as an optical viewfinder. While they're great for shooting stills, they're not as well suited to video capture, and focusing using live view can be sluggish. Mirrorless cameras are typically smaller and are very capable video shooters, since live view focusing is much faster than most DSLRs. Two negatives about mirrorless cameras are that battery life isn't nearly as good as a DSLR and - especially true in this class - they often lack a viewfinder.

Let's take a look at several entry-level ILCs, with US MSRPs in the $500 region, kit lens included. 

Categories: Photo Gear News

Processor designer ARM acquires Apical

DPReview News - Thu, 05/19/2016 - 10:52

Processor designer ARM has acquired the UK-based imaging technology company Apical for a cash consideration of $350 million. The Apical name might not be too well known among consumers, but the company's technology can be found in a very large range of digital cameras and smartphones.  

The company's products include Assertive Display which makes screens adapt to changes in lighting, and Assertive Camera, a range of image signal processors (ISPs) and software modules that manage HDR capture, noise reduction and color management among other tasks. Apical is also one of the UK's fastest growing technology companies and currently employs approximately 100 staff, most of them at its research and development center in Loughborough. 

According to the press release, with the acquisition ARM is hoping to get into new markets where computer vision technology is in demand, including connected vehicles, robotics, smart cities, security systems, industrial/retail and the 'Internet of Things' devices. That said, Apical also complements ARM's offerings in the smartphone and digital camera sectors. 

“Computer vision is in the early stages of development and the world of devices powered by this exciting technology can only grow from here,” said Simon Segars, CEO, ARM. “Apical is at the forefront of embedded computer vision technology, building on its leadership in imaging products that already enable intelligent devices to deliver amazing new user experiences. The ARM partnership is solving the technical challenges of next generation products such as driverless cars and sophisticated security systems. These solutions rely on the creation of dedicated image computing solutions and Apical’s technologies will play a crucial role in their delivery.”

Apical's dynamic range compression algorithm, 'Iridix' was used by a range of camera makers, including Nikon, Olympus and Sony as they developed their in-camera dynamic range options Active D-Lighting, Shadow Adjustment Technology and Dynamic Range Optimizer.

Categories: Photo Gear News

Michael Reichmann, founder of Luminous-Landscape, dies aged 71

DPReview News - Thu, 05/19/2016 - 10:21

We are very sad to report the death of Michael Reichmann, founder of Luminous-Landscape. 

Luminous-Landscape and dpreview.com came of age at around the same time. While we focused on lab testing and measured performance, Michael's perspective was always that of a passionate photographer. 

Michael Reichmann, founder of Luminous-Landscape has passed away aged 71. Photo by Nick Devlin, used with permission.

I was a keen reader of Luminous-Landscape before I discovered DPReview (shhhh, don't tell Phil), back when it seemed like almost every month brought a new paradigm shift in the quality of digital cameras. I still remember poring over Michael's now-famous (and still controversial) study of Canon's EOS D30 against Fuji Provia, in which he concluded that grainless 3MP digital files were in most respects superior to film.

"Life is short, death is long and I'm busy enough as it is"   Michael Reichmann, on exhaustive side-by-side testing

Michael was a towering figure in the North American photography press, and a natural writer. His humility and sense of humor shone through his work on Luminous-Landscape and made him wonderful company. He'd seen it all before, and didn't take any of it - certainly not himself - particularly seriously. In failing health, Michael spent the last year of his life focused on the Luminous-Endowment, a charitable fund that he set up to benefit photographers across the globe.

Just last week I enjoyed (re) reading his excoriating 2004 'non-review' of the Contax N Digital, and I almost emailed him to see how he was doing. I wish I had. Michael will be missed by all of us at DPReview.

Categories: Photo Gear News

Michael Reichmann R.I.P.

The Online Photographer - Thu, 05/19/2016 - 10:07
I'm extremely sorry to have to pass along the news of the death of a friend of us all. Michael Reichmann, known all across the sprawling Internet photography community simply as "MR," has passed away after a long battle with... Michael Johnston
Categories: Photography

Fast and steady: Tamron 85mm F1.8 Di VC USD real-world samples

DPReview News - Thu, 05/19/2016 - 04:00

The Tamron 85mm F1.8 claims the title of the world's first fast-aperture 85mm lens with stabilization. The focal length will certainly appeal to portrait photographers, and the combination of Tamron's vibration compensation with an F1.8 aperture might just give it an edge in low light situations. We've been shooting with it over the past couple of weeks, both on full-frame and crop sensor bodies, to get an idea of its performance.

Categories: Photo Gear News

Weather-resistant Fujifilm 2x teleconverter brings 1219mm focal length to X-Series

DPReview News - Wed, 05/18/2016 - 21:00
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Fujifilm X-Series users will soon be able to purchase a 2x teleconverter compatible with two of the company’s telephoto zoom lenses, delivering a maximum equivalent focal length of 1219mm for its interchangeable lens compact system. The XF2X TC WR teleconverter will be weather and dust-resistant when used with the X-T1 and X-Pro2 camera bodies combined with the XF50-140mm F2.8 R LM OIS WR and XF100-400mm F4.5-5.6R LM OIS WR lenses.

Fujifilm says that the teleconverter will deliver an angle of view equivalent to that of a 1219mm lens on a full frame camera when it is used with the 100-400mm lens, once the crop factor of the APS-C format is taken into account.

The converter consists of nine elements in five groups and adds 30.2mm to the physical length of the camera/lens set-up. With the 2-stop light loss, the AF system of the X-cameras will revert to contrast detection with the 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 lens, but phase detection will still work with the 50-140mm F2.8. Both lenses will need a firmware update in order to operate with the new teleconverter so that adjusted aperture and focal length values can be recorded in the EXIF data and displayed on-screen.

Fuji suggests that the converter will be compatible with other lenses in the X-Series range, and has set up a website on which it promises to post information about future lens compatibility.

The Fujifilm XF2X TC WR teleconverter will be available in June priced $449/£349. For more information visit the Fujifilm website.

Press release:

Fujifilm announces the FUJINON XF2X TC WR Teleconverter

High-performance weather and dust resistant teleconverter with excellent optical design to be added to the X-Series interchangeable lens line-up in June

FUJIFILM Corporation (President: Shigehiro Nakajima) is proud to announce that the new FUJINON TELECONVERTER XF2X TC WR, a teleconverter extending the telephoto area of some X Mount lenses*1, will be added to the mirrorless digital camera X-Series interchangeable lens line-up in June 2016.

The FUJINON TELECONVERTER XF2X TC WR is a high-performance teleconverter, capable of multiplying the focal length of mounted lenses*1 by two. It features excellent optical design with a construction of 9 elements in 5 groups to maintain the optical performance of the original lens.

In addition, thanks to the unified design when mounted to a compatible lens*1, the teleconverter is weather and dust-resistant and operates at temperatures as low as -10°C. This makes it possible to be used with confidence outdoors when used with the weather and dust-resistant X-T1 and X-Pro2 camera bodies, and the XF50-140mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR and XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR lenses.

*1 Compatible lens (As of May 19, 2016)
XF50-140mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR = 100-280mmF5.6 with teleconverter mounted (Equivalent to 152-427mm on a 35mm format)
XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR = 200-800mmF9-11 with teleconverter mounted (Equivalent to 305-1,219mm on a 35mm format)

1. Main Features

(1) High image quality design which maintains the optical performance of the original lens

  • Construction of 9 elements in 5 groups maintains the optical performance of the original lens.
  • By using the optimal image quality parameters for the overall characteristics of the original lens and 2x teleconverter, excellent imaging performance with great aberration suppression is still achieved.
  • The aperture becomes two f-stops higher when the teleconverter is mounted, and the camera displays and records information reflecting the change in aperture and focal length.

(2) Autofocus performance

  • Phase detection AF is still available when using the XF50-140mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR with the 2x teleconverter mounted.
  • Contrast Detection AF is still available when using the XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR with the 2x teleconverter mounted.
  • Accurate focusing at super-telephoto focal lengths with shallow depth of field is possible thanks to the AF performed by the image sensor, thanks to the ‘Live View’ feature on the cameras.

(3) The optical image stabilization performance

  • The camera’s optical image stabilization performance*2 is unaffected by the addition of the teleconverter

*2CIPA guidelines, at telephoto end.

(4) Weather and dust-resistant and -10°C low-temperature operation

  • Using the teleconverter with a weather-resistant camera, such as the FUJIFILM X-T1 or X-Pro2 mirrorless digital camera and the FUJINON XF50-140mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR or FUJINON XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR lens does not affect the weather resistance of the system.

(5) High-grade subtle appearance

  • The teleconverter’s high grade metal exterior has been designed with the X system in mind. When attached to a compatible FUJINON lens, the two products appear as one single lens.

2. Main Specification

Type FUJINON LENS XF2X TC WR  Lens construction 9 elements 5 groups Focal length 2x that of original lens Max. aperture 2 additional stop Min. aperture 2 additional stop  Focus range Approx. same as that of original lens Max. magnification 2x that of original lens 

External dimensions: Diameter x Length (distance from camera lens mount flange)

 
Approx. ?58mm x 30.2mm Weight
(excluding lens caps)  
Approx.170g

4. Support Information

A firmware update is required for the FUJINON XF50-140mm F2.8 R LM OIS WR and FUJINON XF100-400mm F4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR lenses in order to provide full compatibility. This firmware is planned to be available at the beginning of June 2016. Please note that when updating firmware, make sure to update the latest camera firmware before updating the lens.

Please refer to the following website for information on how to confirm your firmware version and its update methods. http://www.fujifilm.com/support/digital_cameras/software/fw_table.html
Please be sure to check the following website as we will continue to update it with information regarding mountable lenses. http://fujifilm.com/products/digital_cameras/x/fujinon_lens_xf2x_tc_wr/

Categories: Photo Gear News

Google Art Camera uses robotic system to take gigapixel photos of museum paintings

DPReview News - Wed, 05/18/2016 - 10:10

The Google Cultural Institute, an online virtual museum with high-quality digitizations of artifacts from across the globe, recently added more than 1,000 ultra-high-resolution images of classic paintings and other artwork by Monet, Van Gogh and many others. A new robotic camera system Google has developed called 'Art Camera' has made it possible for the organization to add digitizations faster than ever before.

Previously, Google's collection included only about 200 digitizations, accumulated over approximately five years. Art Camera, after being calibrated to the edges of a painting or document by its operator, automatically takes close-up photos of paintings one section at a time, using a laser and sonar to precisely adjust the focus. This process results in hundreds of images that are then sent to Google, where they're stitched together to produce a single gigapixel-resolution photo.

Instead of taking the better part of a day to photograph an item, as the old technology did, Art Camera can complete the process in less than an hour; speaking to The Verge, Cultural Institute’s Marzia Niccolai said a 1m x 1m painting can be processed in half an hour. Google has built 20 Art Cameras and is shipping them to museums around the world for free, enabling the organizations to digitize their artwork and documents. The resulting gigapixel images can be viewed here.

Via: Google Official Blog  
Categories: Photo Gear News

VR / Action cameras forum just launched

DPReview News - Wed, 05/18/2016 - 09:20
Be like these guys.

Are you excited about VR but frustrated that we don't have a clearly demarcated area in our forums for you to talk about it? You're not alone, probably. But we're pleased to announce that your nightmare is over, with the launch of our dedicated VR and action cameras forum!

Moderated by DPR contributor and VR enthusiast Mark Banas, this is the place to discuss VR capture, action cameras and related technologies.

Categories: Photo Gear News

Sony Xperia XA Ultra comes with 16MP OIS front cam

DPReview News - Wed, 05/18/2016 - 08:30

Sony first announced its new Xperia X line of smartphones at MWC earlier this year. Now the Japanese manufacturer has added another model to the line in the shape of the Xperia XA Ultra. As the 'Ultra' moniker suggests the new device is larger than the standard XA model. The XA Ultra display measures 6 inches instead of 5 but retains the 1080p resolution and overall design. 

That said, the XA Ultra's headline feature is its front camera. It comes with a 16MP Exmor R sensor, optical image stabilization and a front flash, making it a significant upgrade to the original XA's front camera, which at 8MP is no slouch either. The wide 88 degree viewing angle should allow for group self-portraits without selfie-sticks or similar contraptions.  The main camera has been upgraded as well and features a 21.5MP Exmor RS sensor with Hybrid-AF, which sounds similar to the camera specification of the Xperia Z3+.

The rest of the specification arguably puts the XA Ultra into the mid-range bracket of the market. The Android 6.0 operating system is powered by a MediaTek MT6755 chipset and 3GB of RAM. 16GB of storage can be expanded via a microSD slot and Sony says the 2700 mAh battery is good for two days of use. Given the large screen, we'd take that statement with a pinch of salt though. The Sony Xperia XA Ultra will be available from July but no detail on pricing and regional availability has been released yet.

Categories: Photo Gear News

A Different Afghan Girl

The Online Photographer - Wed, 05/18/2016 - 07:36
Well, it was fun to make that little academic excursion into terminology yesterday, although today I have a bit of a hangover from it. I like words and write reasonably well, but I have no gift for names and naming.... Michael Johnston
Categories: Photography

Fast machines: Shooting motocross with the Nikon D5 and Canon 1D X II

DPReview News - Wed, 05/18/2016 - 04:30
Introduction Big cameras. Big performance.

The Nikon D5 and Canon EOS-1D X Mark II are purpose-built machines. Firing at 12 and 14 frames per second respectively, they are designed for speed and durability to help you make sure you get the shot no matter what conditions you find yourself in. Conditions like those at the Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, Washington recently, where DPR staffers Dan Bracaglia and Carey Rose went to get some preliminary findings on the cameras' AF systems.

Bear in mind we're camera reviewers, and not pro sports photographers - we're actively working to get the Nikon and Canon cameras into the hands of working pros to get some real-world opinions on them. But for now, we thought there was some value in sending Dan out to get some early findings from the 1D X Mark II, which had arrived only recently into our offices, and Carey out with the D5, the review of which is fully under way. Since these cameras are likely to be shot alongside each other at many a major sporting event, we figured we'd try our best to do the same and compare our results.

The Nikon D5

by Carey Rose

Flyin' high. Photographed in Auto Area AF. Nikon 24-70 F2.8E VR @ 38mm | F11 | 1/250 sec | ISO 100

For someone as interested in motorcycles as I am, it’s almost embarrassing to admit that this was my first time watching motocross in person, much less photographing it. And even though we were shooting a Sunday 'practice' session, it proved a good test for Nikon’s flagship sports shooting machine. As riders brapped and blipped their engines, rocketing around the track at over 40 mph, I snapped and clacked the D5 away at 12 fps nearly the whole time. You just don’t realize how nice all those frames per second are until you really – truly – need them.

But before we get to the burst rate and the photos, let's dig into the D5's autofocus system a bit. The continuous autofocus modes I chose to try out were 3D Tracking, single-point, Group Area AF and Auto Area AF. Here's what all those modes mean, how they behave and some common use cases.

  • 3D Tracking utilizes the D5's phase-detection autofocus module for distance information and combines that with pattern and color information from the RGB metering sensor (basically a low-res image sensor) to effectively track subjects around the frame with a single point. Put another way, place your chosen AF point over your subject, initiate focus, and the point should stick to that subject whether you or your subject move. Frankly, it's worked so well in my experience that I default to this mode almost all the time for general shooting.
  • Single-point AF utilizes depth tracking from the phase-detection module to effectively track an object that is moving towards or away from the camera, so long as you keep the point over that subject. Despite how good 3D Tracking performs, it can still sometimes be fooled. If you know your subject's trajectory and can comfortably follow that subject with the AF point over it, this mode also comes with a high degree of precision.
  • Group Area AF works very similarly to the single-point method, but uses a tight group of 5 AF points instead of one. With a larger 'zone' of focus coverage, it should be easier to follow unpredictable subjects in this mode, and it's commonly used for photographing birds in flight.
  • Auto Area AF works basically by letting the camera take over entirely. Like 3D Tracking, this mode uses the camera's PDAF module and metering sensor in tandem to intelligently discern what it should be focusing on. It will usually bias to objects closer to the camera, so watch your foregrounds, but it should also intelligently be able to read colors, and in Nikon's newest models, faces and eyes. This is a good mode for photographing people at events, or if you don't have time to react and just need to get a photograph, there's a chance Auto Area AF will get you what you need.

It goes without saying that all of these modes, despite how computationally intensive they may be for the D5, work perfectly well at its full burst rate (not mirror lock-up mode).  And as someone who is used to 5fps bodies, the higher frame rate is something to behold. 

12 fps

After some quick and informal testing, I soon started to take 12 fps for granted. Slowing down the D5 in ‘Continuous Low’ mode to 6 fps to simulate a less sports-oriented body was torturous. Predictably, instead of getting a solid six-to-eight shots of a rider flying past me with wide-ish framing, I’d get maybe two or three. I was often left wanting an additional shot in-between the few that I managed to get, and because of this, I ended up trying to get just a single shot at the right moment and hoping that my timing worked out. It often didn’t. Back to 12 fps mode for me.

A high frame rate gives you more compositional options in situations such as this, where two riders are constantly changing their positions relative to each other. Nikon 70-200 F2.8G VR II @ 200mm | F5.6 | 1/1250 sec | ISO 400 Following and focusing with single-point AF

But of course, 12 fps is useless if you can’t see what you’re shooting. The good news is that the viewfinder blackout is so short on the D5 even at 12 fps that I was able to pan and follow a fast-moving rider at a very close distance with ease. Nikon’s 3D Tracking worked well (more on that later), but because I could see so clearly in 'real time', using single-point continuous autofocus and just keeping a point over my subject was a completely viable option when panning and this approach netted a high number of ‘keepers.’ What’s more, the frame coverage of the D5's autofocus array is so generous that I rarely felt compositionally constrained by picking a single point to keep over my subject.

Of course, for the sake of some variety, sometimes it's best not to follow the action and just let it pass you by. Nikon 300m F4 PF | F5.6 | 1/500 sec | ISO 100 Group AF

Group AF on the D5 works similarly to single-point, but with the idea that a group of tight points will afford you a little more sloppiness in point placement than the higher precision one point alone requires. The idea is great in principle and it usually worked well, but there were a handful of times where I let a part of the group stray off the rider, and the camera quickly readjusted to focus on the background. Part of this is probably due to to the fact that I had the AF system set up for ‘erratic’ subjects since 3D tracking and single-point worked so well in this mode, but in any case I tended to avoid Group AF for the rest of this shoot. It's a great focus mode though for when you expect a subject to suddenly appear in one part of the frame: wait for it, then when the subject is under the general area of your selected group, jam the shutter button to both initiate AF and take the shot.

Motorcycles in flight. Nikon AF-S 300mm F4 PF | F4 | 1/1600 sec | ISO 100 3D Tracking

One of the most exciting autofocus developments for DSLRs in recent years, Nikon’s 3D Tracking, worked as well as I have come to expect with only a single exception. When at wider focal lengths and attempting to initiate tracking on a rider at a distance, the D5 would usually just not be able to find my subject. The user manual reflects this though, saying that the camera collects color information from focus points surrounding the one you've chosen, storing that information and using it to initiate tracking.

So with a distant rider, the D5 was seeing mostly the dirt color, despite the bright colored clothing of my intended subject. Put another way: the metering sensor was not high enough in resolution to discern a small rider from its immediate background. In any case, if I let the subject get a little closer, or if I used longer lenses that produce inherently shallower depth-of-field, 3D Tracking proved itself to be pretty magical, constantly re-focusing and re-positioning the autofocus point in the viewfinder even when I was shooting at 12fps.  

Nikon's 3D Tracking did a great job of tracking this rider with a single AF point pegged to his riding suit. Nikon AF-S 300mm F4 PF | F4 | 1/1000 sec | ISO 100 Auto Area AF

The last mode I experimented with was Auto Area AF, which is usually a mode that I tell people to avoid using. The D5 might just change my mind on that one. The camera was able to find a moving subject and hit it with anywhere from one to nine AF points almost every single time.

1 2 3 4 5

In the above series of (unedited) images, Auto Area actually directed the camera to focus on the background first. But then in the middle of that 12 fps burst, focus snapped to the rider flying through the air in front of me within two frames. I generally prefer a higher degree of control than Auto offers, but I can see this mode being genuinely helpful if you have milliseconds to get a shot and you don’t have time to place an autofocus point manually.

All those buttons

One of the best parts of the new D5 (and its sister model, the D500) is the level of button customization regarding autofocus modes. I am a back-button AF shooter, as I do sometimes like to pre-focus and wait for a subject to enter the frame without having to switch into manual focus. But even with the shutter button decoupled from any autofocus functionality whatsoever, I can assign AF-ON to be 3D Tracking, then assign the FN1 button on the front of the camera (under my ring finger) to switch to single-point continuous autofocus, and then also assign a full press of the AF joystick to switch into Auto Area mode.

So without even shifting my grip, I’ve got three different autofocus modes at my fingertips. This is incredibly handy as I often found myself changing AF modes depending on my lens, my position and the riders' movement. It's also a feature you won't find on any other camera on the market, save for the D500.

Having watched this rider come around this corner a number of times, I wanted to focus on just how much dirt he kicked up as he plowed through the scene. Having de-coupled autofocus and my shutter button, I pre-focused just behind where his rear tire is, shot a burst as he entered and exited the viewfinder with the tight framing I wanted and I didn't have to worry about the focus shifting or missing (an admittedly minor concern with the D5). Nikon 300mm F4 PF | F4 | 1/2000 sec | ISO 200

So, now that we've seen how the Nikon D5 performed, let's move on to Canon's EOS-1D X Mark II.

Categories: Photo Gear News

Go wide or go home: Voigtlander 15mm Super-Wide-Heliar lens gallery

DPReview News - Wed, 05/18/2016 - 04:00

Sony shooters took note in October when Voigtlander announced it would release three ultra-wide-angle primes for full-frame E-mount cameras. When we managed to borrow a 15mm F4.5 Super-Wide-Heliar for a few days, we handed it right over to DPR staffer and veteran landscape photographer Chris Williams. Read some quick impressions on the lens and take a look at a small selection of his images.

As a professional landscape photographer I’ve shot a number of wide-angle lenses and to say that I was impressed by the Voigtlander 15mm prime is a bit of an understatement. The lens excels in sharpness throughout the frame and maintains a high level of performance across nearly every aperture. Being that it is a super wide prime, it does suffer from barrel distortion (as most ultra and super wides do) but the amount of lens that you get for the money is impressive.

Chromatic aberration really only becomes apparent wide open where the corners also tend to soften up a bit. Overall the lens performed very well, so well in fact that I may pick one up for myself at some point.

The other really nice thing about the Voigtlander 15mm is that it accepts traditional screw on filters. The Tokina 16-28mm F2.8, Nikon 14-24mm F2.8 and the Canon 11-24mm F4L all require external filter systems like those designed by Fotodiox. The Voigtlander accepts standard 58mm threaded filters, which is rare for a prime (or even a zoom) this wide.

Categories: Photo Gear News

Samsung offers NX1 and NX500 firmware updates

DPReview News - Tue, 05/17/2016 - 14:08

Samsung has released firmware updates for the NX1 and the NX500, bringing the NX1 up to firmware version 1.41 and the NX500 to firmware version 1.12. Both updates fix a Bluetooth issue that arises when pairing the cameras with smartphones running Android 6.0 Marshmallow. The NX500 update changelog advises users to update the camera firmware together with the Samsung Camera Manager App.

Samsung has all but backed out of the digital camera market. Its flagship NX1 was discontinued late last year, though the NX500 remains in stock for the time being. While a question mark remains over exactly what long term support for Samsung camera owners looks like, at least for now the manufacturer will continue to support the latest version of Android's OS.

The NX1 firmware update is available here, and the NX500 is available here.

Categories: Photo Gear News

DxOMark Mobile Report: Lenovo Moto G Plus

DPReview News - Tue, 05/17/2016 - 08:56
DxOMark Mobile Report: Lenovo Moto G Plus Summary

The Moto G Plus is the newest arrival in the Moto G series of mid-range smartphones. With a 1/2.4-inch Omnivsion OV16860 16MP sensor with a large pixel size of 1.34um, F2.0 aperture, on-sensor phase detection and laser-assisted AF the camera specification would look right at home on a high-end device. You can read our first impressions review of the Moto G Plus here.

In its DxOMark test the Moto G Plus scores 84 points, which puts it on the same level as current flagship phones, such as the Apple iPhone 6s Plus, Google Nexus 6P or Motorola/Lenovo's own Droid Turbo 2/Moto X Force. When shooting still images the testers liked the "very good detail preservation" in bright light, the "fast and accurate autofocus" and "good noise reduction in outdoor conditions". They also noted the colors, which are "vivid and pleasant" in daylight and the good white balance in low and artificial light. On the downside, outdoor images show "some loss of detail in the shadow areas", a "slightly bluish cast is sometimes visible in outdoor scenes" and "some irregularities in HDR activation and white balance are visible". Some outdoor images also showed a "cyan shift close to sky saturation".

In video mode the DxOMark team liked the "good stabilization both in bright light and indoor conditions, good color rendering and white balance, fast autofocus convergence and good noise reduction in outdoor conditions". However, they also found that "from macro to infinity, some steps during the autofocus convergence are visible" and saw "occasional autofocus inaccuracies in low light". "In low light some detail is lost and luminance noise is visible" and there are "visible steps in exposure adaptation".

Still Photography Color, Exposure and Contrast

The DxOMark team found the Lenovo Moto G Plus images to show "vivid and pleasant color", with good white balance and without any color shading. Target exposure is generally good. However, in difficult light situations highlights are occasionally clipped, "some irregularities in HDR activation are visible" and a "slightly bluish cast" sometimes appears in daylight images. In low light "very slight color shading is visible."

Overall DxOMark awarded the Lenovo Moto G Plus scores of:

  • 4.4 out of 5 for Exposure
  • 4.5 out of 5 for White Balance accuracy
  • 3.9 out of 5 for Color shading in low light*
  • 4.5 out of 5 for Color shading in bright light*
  • 3.0 out of 5 for Color Rendering in low light
  • 4.5 out of 5 for Color Rendering in bright light

*Color Shading is the nasty habit cellphone cameras have of rendering different areas of the frame with different color shifts, resulting in pictures with, for example, pinkish centers and greenish corners.

Noise and Details

DxOMark's engineers reported that the Lenovo Moto G Plus images show "very good detail and good noise reduction in outdoor conditions". However, there is also "some luminance noise and some loss of detail in low light".

Texture Acutance

Texture acutance is a way of measuring the ability of a camera to capture images that preserve fine details, particularly the kind of low contrast detail (such as fine foliage, hair or fur) that can be blurred away by noise reduction or obliterated by excessive sharpening.

Sharpness is an important part of the quality of an image, but while it's easy to look at an image and decide visually whether it's sharp or not, the objective measurement of sharpness is less straightforward.

An image can be defined as 'sharp' if edges are sharp and if fine details are visible. In-camera processing means that it's possible to have one of these (sharp edges) but not the other (fine details). Conventional MTF measurements tell us how sharp an edge is, but have drawbacks when it comes to measuring fine detail preservation. Image processing algorithms can detect edges and enhance their sharpness, but they can also find homogeneous areas and smooth them out to reduce noise.

Texture acutance, on the other hand, can qualify sharpness in terms of preservation of fine details, without being fooled by edge enhancement algorithms.

A dead leaf pattern is designed to measure texture acutance. It's obtained by drawing random shapes that occlude each other in the plane, like dead leaves falling from a tree. The statistics of this model follow the distribution statistics in natural images.

In this example from a DSLR without edge enhancement, sharpness seems equal on edge and on texture. Many details are visible in the texture.

In this second example, edges have been digitally enhanced, and the edge looks over sharp, with visible processing halos ('ringing'). On the texture part, many details have disappeared.

At first sight, the images from these two cameras may appear equally sharp. A sharpness measurement on edges will indeed confirm this impression, and will even show that the second camera is sharper. But a closer examination of low contrasted textures shows that the first camera has better preservation of fine details than the second. The purpose of the texture acutance measurement is to qualify this difference.

Note: Acutance is a single value metric calculated from a MTF result. Acutance is used to assess the sharpness of an image as viewed by the human visual system, and is dependent on the viewing conditions (size of image, size of screen or print, viewing distance). Only the values of texture acutance are given here. The measurements are expressed as a percentage of the theoretical maximum for the chosen viewing condition. The higher the score, the more details can be seen in an image.    For all DxOMark Mobile data presented on connect.dpreview.com we're only showing 8MP equivalent values, which gives us a level playing field for comparison between smartphone cameras with different megapixel values by normalizing all to 8MP (suitable for fairly large prints). DxOMark also offers this data for lower resolution use-cases (web and onscreen). For more information on DxOMark's testing methodology and acutance measurements please visit the website at www.dxomark.com.  Texture acutance is a touch higher under daylight than tungsten light.  In bright light the Moto G Plus is up with the best but drops off a little at lower light levels. Edge Acutance Edge acutance is a measure of edge sharpness in images captured by the phone's camera. Again we're only looking at the most demanding of the three viewing conditions that DxOMark reports on - the 8MP equivalent.  In terms of edge acutance the Moto G Plus is performing on flagship level.   Edge acutance is very consistent across all light levels.  Visual Noise

Visual noise is a value designed to assess the noise in an image as perceived by the human visual system, depending on the viewing condition (size of image, size of screen or print, viewing distance). The measurements have no units and can be simply viewed as the weighted average of noise standard deviation for each channel in the CIE L*a*b* color space. The lower the measurement, the less noise in the image.

 The Moto G Plus noise levels compare well to the competition at all light levels  Measured noise levels only increase moderately in lower light. Noise and Detail Perceptual scoring DxOMark engineers don't just point camera phones at charts, they also take and analyze plenty of real-world shots and score them accordingly. Their findings for the Lenovo Moto G Plus are: Natural scene
  • Texture (bright light): 4.8 out of 5
  • Texture (low light): 3.7 out of 5
  • Noise (bright light): 4.1 out of 5
  • Noise (low light) 3.9 out of 5
 Bright light sample shot  100% crop: good noise reduction  100% crop: good detail preservation  Low light (20 Lux) studio shot 100% crop: some luminance noise in areas of plain color 100% crop: some very fine detail is being lost Artifacts

Phone cameras, like entry-level compact cameras, tend to suffer from artifacts such as sharpening halos, color fringing, vignetting (shading) and distortion, which can have an impact on the visual appeal of the end result. DxOMark engineers measure and analyze a range of artifacts. Their findings after testing the Lenovo Moto G Plus are shown below:

  • Cyan shift close to sky saturation visible in outdoor shots
  • Some color fringing noticeable in backlit scenes
  • Moiré is occasionally visible
Perceptual Scores
  • Sharpness 4.5 out of 5
  • Color fringing 3.6 out of 5
Measured findings
  • Ringing center 7.6%
  • Ringing corner 4.9%
  • Max geometric distortion -0.4%
  • Luminance shading 9.4%
Distortion and Chromatic Aberrations The graph shows the magnification from center to edge (with the center normalized to 1). The Lenovo Moto G Plus shows a very slight pincushion distortion, which you are not going to notice in normal photography.  Chromatic aberrations are well under control. Autofocus

DxOMark also tests autofocus accuracy and reliability by measuring how much the acutance - or sharpness - varies with each shot over a series of 30 exposures (defocusing then using the autofocus for each one). As with other tests these results are dependent on the viewing conditions (a little bit out of focus matters a lot less with a small web image than a full 8MP shot viewed at 100%). Using the 8MP equivalent setting, the Lenovo Moto G Plus performs very well in all light conditions. The overall score is 95/100 in bright light and 87/100 in low light.

Pros: 
  • Accurate and repeatable autofocus in all conditions

Cons:
  • Strong instabilities and overshoots in preview mode, particularly in low light
  • Slow convergence, particularly in low light
Autofocus repeatability - average acutance difference with best focus: low light 3.26%, bright light 1.63% Flash

The Lenovo Moto G Plus offers a dual-LED flash for illumination in very low light. DxOMark scored the camera a 77/100 overall for its flash performance. 

Pros: 
  • Good exposure and vivid colors
  • Pleasant colors when flash is mixed with tungsten light
Cons:
  • Some focus and exposure irregularities
  • Noticeable hue non-uniformity in the field
  • Noise and attenuation visible in the corners
Overall DxOMark Mobile Score for Photo: 84 / 100 Video Capture

DxOMark engineers put phone cameras through a similarly grueling set of video tests, and you can read their full findings on the DxOMark website here. Overall, DxOMark found the Lenovo Moto G Plus video mode to perform very well, with fast autofocus, good stabilization and good color. On the downside, some stepping can be visible when the AF is adjusting and luminance noise is visible in low light footage.

Pros: 
  • Good stabilization
  • Good color rendering and white balance
  • Fast autofocus convergence
  • Good noise reduction in outdoor conditions
Cons: 
  • Some steps are visible during autofocus convergence in bright light
  • Occasional autofocus inaccuracies in low light
  • In low light some detail is lost and luminance noise is visible
  • Visible steps in exposure adaptation
Overall DxOMark Mobile Score for Video: 81 / 100 DXOMark Mobile Score 84 DXOMark Image Quality Assessment

With a DxOMark Mobile score of 84 the Lenovo Moto G Plus performs on the same level as flagship models, such as the Apple iPhone 6s Plus, Google Nexus 6P or Motorola's own Moto X Force / Droid Turbo 2, in the DxOMark smartphone rankings The test team liked the good detail in bright light, good color, low noise levels and reliable AF in bright light. However, they also found some loss of detail in the shadows and an occasional slightly cool color cast.  

In video mode the Moto G Plus has efficient stabilization, good color and very decent noise reduction in bright light. However, testers also found some AF inaccuracies and luminance noise in low light. For a more detailed analysis, visit www.dxomark.com.

Photo Mobile Score 85   Video Mobile Score 81 Exposure and Contrast 84   Exposure and Contrast 84 Color 85   Color 81 Autofocus 91   Autofocus 75 Texture 85   Texture 83 Noise 86   Noise 85 Photo Artifacts 85   Video Artifacts 80 Flash 77   Stabilization 81
Categories: Photo Gear News

Primer: What is VR, and why should photographers care?

DPReview News - Tue, 05/17/2016 - 08:00
VR was everywhere at NAB, and at CES this year.

Virtual reality is an immersive experience that involves multiple senses, and, most importantly, responds to the intentional interaction of the viewer. From the earliest days of synchronized film and sound playback, the illusion of being in a different place or time, and generating an emotional response to the experience, has been the goal of most modern communication and entertainment mediums.

In VR, this illusion is referred to as 'presence,' where not only the sights and sounds (and other sensory input) are believable, but the ‘show' itself reacts to the participant's actions in a plausible way.

It isn't hard to imagine how different the experience of browsing through a gallery of images can be when they are not just thumbnails on a tight grid, but rather 'virtually' hung by the artist in a spacious VR room that mimics a physical gallery space. VR video adds the active immersion of being in the middle of a busy plaza, or riding inside a rally car during a nighttime ice race. The opportunities to share even simple, daily events become less about what was in the frame at the time, and more about what the whole location felt like.

VR differs from flat, 2D photos by requiring at least a seamless 360-degree view, and eventually full freedom of 3D motion.

Semantics

First, let's get some semantics out of the way. 'Virtual reality,' or VR, has generally been applied to 3D computer-generated graphics. There are some who say that anything that starts with a camera pointed at the real world is not VR. This ignores some of the history of VR (see below), as well as the coincidence that interactive panoramic images and videos on the web are displayed as textures on the inside of a 3D cube (or sphere, in some cases). There are also ways to create realistic 3D data from photographs, and from spherical panoramas in particular, both of which currently offer greater realism than 3D graphics created without the aid of photography.

While we could separate photography from 3D graphics by dogmatically referring to 360 x 180-degree images as 'spherical panoramas,' and try to demarcate 2D/3D hybrid technologies as 'not photography,' this would be unfair. Therefore, this article will still refer to VR as both an immersive experience, and something that a camera can capture. 

This primer will touch on the various technologies and companies involved in VR, but the underlying theme is on how conventional photography and cinematography influence VR, and how VR will influenced them in return. 

History of VR (Clockwise from upper left) Sensorama, Battlezone, Virtuality arcade, USAF virtual cockpit, UIC CAVE, Telepresence HMD.

The term 'virtual reality' was originally coined (in French) by Antonin Artaud in his 1938 essays on the nature of theatrical performances, so it's rather fitting that the first functional VR experience, Sensorama, was conceived and patented (in 1957) by cinematographer Morton Heilig. In 1961, Heilig also patented a head-mounted, stereoscopic display system. While these inventions relied on pre-recorded films with very limited interaction, they introduced the concept of a viewer being immersed in a different environment; including the sights, sounds, smells and even windspeed of the environment being represented.

Though the entirely analog Sensorama never really took off, the concept of immersion was a core aim for early computer-generated 3D graphics. Most pioneering modern VR development was focused on military and aerospace training, where it is much safer, easier, and ultimately cheaper, to teach someone how to react to difficult situations in a virtual environment. The first 3D VR displays showed only glowing wireframes against a black screen (a la Battlezone), while the physical surroundings mimicked a real cockpit or driver's seat, complete with hydraulics to pitch the cabin during the experience.

In the 1980's and early 90's, the increasing visual fidelity of real-time computer graphics (driven both by industrial and entertainment uses) promised more realistic virtual environments, and the first wave of hype for consumer VR built up, entering popular culture with arcade entertainment like the Virtuality systems, and creative works like Neuromancer and The Lawnmower Man.

Recent times

Once this wave of hype broke on the shores of limited computing power, minimal content, and vaporware consumer displays (anyone remember SegaVR?), the relevant technology continued to advance in a consistent, but much quieter, fashion. Real-time 3D computer graphics progressed from plasticky representations on expensive workstations, to the increasing visual realism of PC and console games. In 1994, Apple introduced QuickTime VR as a very simple, portable way to display panoramic content with the freedom to look around, and this extension of QuickTime quickly became known for real estate 'virtual tours' and other early forms of photography-based VR on a computer.


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This content requires HTML5 with CSS3 3D Transforms or WebGL. // Please enable Javascript to view this example. HTML5 static 360 VR sample - click this link for the VR headset version. (Made with Pano2VR)

In 2003, Linden Labs created Second Life, an entirely virtual 'social world' in which users could interact using human-looking avatars within an entirely synthetic, and user expandable, 3D world. Connecting people via the internet was not new, nor did Second Life initially support VR headsets with stereoscopic rendering, but this remains a good example of a successful shared 'virtual reality', in the original theatrical sense.

The 2007 introduction of Google Street View democratized the idea of spherical panoramic imagery (360 x 180 degrees of coverage) to immerse a viewer in various locations in the real world. This blending of photographic content with geographic data has broadened consumer acceptance of photographic VR, while the 2014 introduction of Google Cardboard (an inexpensive way to turn a modern smartphone into a VR headset) allows this vast amount of panoramic data to be viewed in a more natural, immersive way. 

The new hype of modern VR

Recent advancements in consumer electronics have reinvigorated virtual reality and given it new vigor, as well as inspiring new generations of researchers, entrepreneurs, and content creators. The ever-increasing computing power and screen resolutions of smartphones, combined with their built-in gyroscopes and accelerometers (useful for head tracking), have made these ubiquitous devices almost ideal for repurposing as a viewer for VR games, images, and video. 

Combining a phone with the simple mechanics of a Google Cardboard-type viewer, VR photos, apps and games (as well as New York Times articles)  means that VR content can be appreciated by a wider audience.

Google Cardboard - a $15 immersive display for anyone to try out.

Prior to Cardboard, most attempts at making a smartphone into a viewing platform were limited to stereographic toys, without enough software and hardware polish to make it a good experience. Samsung changed this by partnering with Oculus to produce the (currently $99) Gear VR headset, which is more than just a pair of lenses and a phone holder. Gear VR has its own accelerometers and gyroscope, as well as a USB connected control-pad, while Oculus provides a content store and software to enhance the experience. All of this pushes accessibility up from the bottom.

The same technology from smartphones has driven down the component cost of higher-end systems for virtual reality and augmented reality (AR), leading to consumer-level, dedicated, head-mounted displays like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, and extensions to game consoles like Playstation VR. While the initial adoption of these systems may be mainly with hard-core gamers and technophiles, the experiences and content being developed for these systems can be more ambitious and immersive, which in turn will draw more users to the hardware. The VR ecosystem is spreading rapidly, and spherical VR photos and videos are frequently the first experience most consumers will have.

Follow the money

Recent years have seen explosive growth in terms of business investments into VR, from the display systems (Facebook buying Oculus for $2 billion in 2014), to content creation (Nikon and Samsung have recently announced consumer 360 cameras, and Ricoh is on v.3 of theirs), while various VR startups raised over $658 million in funding just in the past year. The established games industry has already spent millions of dollars preparing for the 3D VR gaming revolution, which many analysts now say is no longer an 'if' proposition, but rather a 'when.'

Consulting and auditing firm Deloitte has predicted that the VR market (for content and devices) will hit $1 billion in sales during 2016 alone. Meanwhile, the games and VR consulting firm Digi-Capital goes even further to say that by 2020, the virtual reality and augmented reality markets will be worth around $120 billion. These market predictions are not based on advances in research labs and high-end applications, but rather from the groundswell of video game and mobile technology, along with increasingly diverse content.

As Alexandre Jenny, the Senior Director of Immersive Media at GoPro, puts it; "We are no longer wondering 'will VR change the world,' we are in the stage of 'how will VR change the world?' VR is certainly the best way to give someone an immersive experience, and that fact is really disruptive in many industries."

Commercial applications

Aside from research and purely artistic uses of VR (both of which have a long and fruitful history), there are numerous commercial applications for virtual reality, and many more are being developed as the tech progresses. Below are just a few examples.

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Categories: Photo Gear News

C-E-R

The Online Photographer - Tue, 05/17/2016 - 07:22
Why we shouldn't say "post" or "Photoshopping" any more. - By Michael C. Johnston all rights reserved Ctein hates the term "post-processing." It's one of those (unfortunately all too common) terms that grew up twisted and parasitic, like an invasive... Michael Johnston
Categories: Photography

Above and beyond: Lenovo Moto G Plus first impressions review

DPReview News - Tue, 05/17/2016 - 05:00

The Moto G Plus is a brand new model in Motorola's Moto G mid-range series, but its camera specification looks pretty much top-notch. A 1/2.4-inch Omnivsion OV16860 16MP sensor with a large pixel size of 1.34um is paired with a fast F2.0 aperture. Its contrast detect autofocus is supported by on-sensor phase detection and a laser to measure subject distance. A dual-LED flash is on board for shooting in very dark conditions, and in the camera app a new Professional mode allows for manual control over the most important shooting parameters like shutter speed and ISO.

The new Professional mode allows for manual control over shutter speed and other shooting parameters via a range of virtual dials. It's also possible to display just one dial at a time.

We have had the chance to use the Moto G Plus for a couple of days before launch and shot a good number of samples in a variety of situations. Read on for our first impressions of the new smartphone and its camera. 

Image Quality

In bright light the Moto G Plus 16MP camera module does a very good job at resolving detail. Thanks to very well balanced sharpening and noise reduction, fine textures and low contrast detail, such as the trees in the distance in the left sample below, are rendered very nicely. The lens in our test unit is sharp,  with only some minor softness toward the edges. Skin tones look natural and color is overall pleasantly neutral, without any white balance issues in natural light. 

 ISO 64, 1/1236 sec  ISO 64, 1/137 sec  100% crop  100% crop

Some luminance noise is visible in blue skies but it is finely grained and not too intrusive. In the shadow areas some smearing of detail is noticeable, but again this is well within acceptable limits. Shadow noise is very well controlled as well.

 ISO 64, 1/2836 sec  ISO 64, 1/450 sec  100% crop  100% crop

The well-balanced approach toward noise reduction is maintained throughout the ISO range and while noise and the effects of noise reduction inevitably become more evident in lower light the Moto G Plus performs very well in dimmer conditions. 

 ISO 160, 1/33 sec  ISO 400, 1/30 sec  100% crop  100% crop

In lower light shutter speeds are reduced down to 1/15 sec which, without optical image stabilization, can result in the occasional shaky image. However, as long as you keep your hands steady the Moto captures very good detail, color and exposures in lower light. Both images below were shot in fairly dim conditions. In the one on the right the camera deals particularly well with the mix of artificial and very low natural light.

 ISO 640, 1/20 sec  ISO 800, 1/15 sec  100% crop  100% crop

Like on the higher-end Moto models, the Moto G Plus offers a multi-frame Night Mode that kicks in when things get too dark. This allows for decent exposures of even very dark scenes, such as the image on the left below which was captured in a museum in very low light. We also liked the Moto G Plus flash performance which delivered well-exposed images with good color and detail during our brief test. 

 ISO 1250 1/15 sec  ISO 2000, 1/15 sec, flash on  100% crop  100% crop Special modes

The Moto G Plus comes with the same panorama mode as previous Moto devices and image output is very similar. Stitching is generally very good but panorama mode does not deal well with moving subjects in the scene. At under 3000 pixels the output size is very small. 

 Vertical panorama, 2472 x 704 pixels

HDR mode works in the conventional way and combines several exposures into one. On the Moto G Plus the effect is much more pronounced in shadow areas, which are noticeably lifted while highlights are only recovered minimally. 

ISO 64, 1/1196 sec,  HDR off  ISO 64, 1/1158 sec, HDR on

In video mode the Moto G Plus can capture 1080p footage at 30 frames per second that is digitally stabilized. Detail is good, the autofocus tends to be stable and the stabilization works efficiently, making for smooth panning and stable hand-held recording.

First impressions

During our testing we were impressed with the image output produced by the Moto G Plus. The large pixels in combination with very well-balanced image processing result in image quality that we would typically expect from devices in a higher price category. Images show good detail and well-controlled noise levels across the ISO range. Colors are pleasantly natural, even in difficult light situations, and thanks to its night mode the Moto is capable of capturing decent exposures even at very low light levels. On the downside, in dim conditions camera shake can lead to some image blur, though it is typically only noticeable at a 100% view.

The new Professional mode is good news for those mobile photographers who want maximum control over the capture process, and the large 1080p display is nice for viewing and composing images. The fingerprint sensor performs very swiftly and increases the security of your image and video files that are stored on the device. The plastic back is in line with a mid-ranger but overall the Moto G Plus looks like a great option for consumers who want excellent camera performance without spending money on a flagship device.

Categories: Photo Gear News

Lenovo's Moto G Plus comes with 1/2.4-inch sensor and fingerprint reader

DPReview News - Tue, 05/17/2016 - 05:00
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Motorola's Moto G series has always been one of the best options for smartphone users looking for top performance at mid-range pricing. Now, the first new G model has been launched since Motorola became a Lenovo company. True to form, the Moto G Plus offers several features we are used to seeing on high-end devices and a promising-looking camera specification.

An Omnivsion OV16860 1/2.4-inch 16MP sensor with a large pixel size of 1.34um is paired with a fast F2.0 aperture, on-sensor phase detection and laser-assisted AF. There is also a dual-LED flash and a 5MP front camera with F2.2 aperture. On the software side of things a new Pro mode allows for manual control over shutter speed and other essential shooting parameters.

Like all recent Moto devices, the Moto G Plus comes with a 'pure' version of Android 6.0, without any manufacturer-specific add-ons, to keep things as responsive and smooth as possible. Google Photos is the default photos app and includes two years of free storage at original image quality for Moto G buyers.

The OS and other software is powered by a 1.5 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 chipset with octa-core CPU and 550 MHz Adreno 405 GPU. There are 2GB of RAM and microSD-expandable storage options ranging from 16 to 64GB. Images can be viewed and composed on a 5.5-inch 1080p display that is covered with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 for protection. 

The 3000 mAh battery features Motorola's TurboPower charging which can provide approximately 6 hours worth of power in 15 minutes of charging. A fingerprint reader at the front increases security and provides a convenient way of unlocking the device. The Lenovo Moto G Plus has first been launched in India where it will be exclusive to Amazon.in and start at approximately $200 for the base 16GB version. Pricing for other regions has not been revealed yet. With the Moto G Plus Lenovo has also launched the 4th generation of the standard Moto G model which comes with identical processor specifications but has to make do without the fingerprint reader and, with a 13MP Sony IMX214 image sensor, offers a very similar camera specification to last year's Moto G

Key specifications:
  • Omnivsion OV16860 1/2.4-inch 16MP sensor
  • F2.0 aperture
  • On-sensor phase detection and laser-assisted AF
  • 1080p video
  • 520p slow-motion video
  • Dual-LED flash
  • Manual control over shutter speed
  • 5MP / F2.2 front camera
  • Android 6.0
  • 5.5-inch 1080p display (401 ppi)
  • 1.5 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 chipset with octa-core CPU 
  • 2GB RAM / 16, 32 or 64GB storage
  • MicroSD support up to 128GB
  • 3000 mAh battery with quick charging
  • Fingerprint reader
Categories: Photo Gear News
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