Friday, September 2, 2011

2011 Enthusiast Camera Review

2011 Enthusiast Camera Review
September 2011, Carl Garrard

Just a quick look back at all the new camera announcements so far this late Summer, starting in July of this year. Here are my initial impressions/rants based on features, timing, and overall value for the money. You're opinions of course may vary. Remember not to take this article too seriously, but read between the lines at the same time!

1. Samsung NX200- No EVF built in ?- FAIL. How can they miss that opportunity? So close but so far at the exact same time.

2. Fujifilm X10- Prediction: Massive success. This camera will raise the bar on compacts by nearly creating a whole new category. It will be out of stock immediately. Like a great recipe handed over through generations, the X10 has all the right ingredients for a camera this size. Likely to be the most poplar compact camera ever. Yep, ever, you read correctly.
Fujifilm X10 12 MP EXR CMOS Digital Camera with f2.0-f2.8 4x Optical Zoom Lens and 2.8-Inch LCD

3. Sony A77- A long wait for a very good product. Verdict is out for final image quality, but this camera has all the right stuff to make buyers rethink yet another purchase to Canon or Nikon in this category and higher. Initial reports from users all say the same thing, pretty much stunning autofocus performance and an EVF so good, it's making traditionalists scratch their head in real contemplation of using such a device. Those rapid frame rates work in conjunction with a seriously fast auto focus tracking system. Bravo.
Sony A77 24.3 MP Digital SLR with Translucent Mirror Technology - Body Only

4. Nikon P7100- The compact it should have originally been at the P7000, and too much like the G12. Not enough to set it apart from its rivals. If Canon didn't have the G12, the P7100 would be at the top of the food chain in this class of camera currently, but they do have the G12. A very good me-too product that suffers from imagination paralysis at the design level.
Nikon COOLPIX P7100 10.1 MP Digital Camera with 7.1x Optical Zoom NIKKOR ED Glass Lens and 3-Inch Vari-Angle LCD

5. Sony A65- Depending on your needs, could be the bargain DSLR of the decade. That much resolution and that nice of a viewfinder with a super fast Auto Focus speed and a blazing 10 frames per second performance at $899.00. Can you say Ka-blam!?
Sony A65 24.3 MP Translucent Mirror Digital SLR With 18-55mm Lens

6. Sony NEX-7- So good it's made the Photographic Press nearly mute in comparison to some recent news items. Jaw dropping body design and awesome specifications in a compact customizable form factor. A jacket pocket rocket, with roots in the Rangefinder styling world. It makes the NX200 look like a prototype tossed in the waste basket (Sorry Samsung). Any high class party will welcome its high class looks and performance. Big winner for Sony, huge.
Sony NEX-5N 16.1 MP Compact Interchangeable Lens Touchscreen Camera with 18-55mm Lens (Black)

7. Sony NEX-5n- A decent successor to the already wildly popular NEX-5, some legitimate additions but mostly a slightly incremental upgrade to keep it on top of the mirrorless market.
Sony NEX-5N 16.1 MP Compact Interchangeable Lens Touchscreen Camera with 18-55mm Lens (Black)

8. Canon- Almost a no show, won't even mention the me-too compacts they announced.

9. Ricoh- Finally shows the Leica M module for its *Still* unique GXR system, and issues a couple of firmware updates. Ricoh just chugging along until October till the deal is final with Pentax, then watch out for something very special.

10.Panasonic DMC-FZ150, power zoom lens for m4/3, some firm.........ok stop there. Nothing really to see here. Didn't excite me this year, at all.
Panasonic DMC-FZ150K 12.1 MP Digital Camera with CMOS Sensor and 24x Optical Zoom (Black)

11.Olympus EP3- Looks like Olympus have hit a wall with this model, just as the E5 hit a wall. Some nice improvements to the look of the menu- yet still complicated, and improvement of the speed of the autofocus system, with a removable grip and a few other things. Pretty cool camera when announced, and better than ever... yet I can't help but yawn. That isn't fair of me..
Olympus PEN E-P3 12.3 MP Live MOS Micro Four Thirds Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera with 14-42mm Zoom Lens (Black)

12.Olympus E-Pl3 Pen Lite- Really with that name Olympus, really? An electric bar of soap with an interchangeable lens mount. If you like menu driven cameras "This Bud's For You". The worst most complicated name in cameras ever? Its a tongue twister that makes no sense. Decent price for a DILC camera though, gotta hand it to them for that (just buy an XZ-1 though, duh).
Olympus Pen E-PL3 Micro 4/3 Digital Camera & 14-42mm II Lens (Black/Black)


  1. hahaha! loved this, well said pretty much what I thought too for most of it although you are king of hard on olympus! where are canon and nikon (not that I miss them)

  2. Yes, you are not fair, and biased, are your review even saying anything? Let me do a rewording and you would get what I mean

    Olympus EP3- A decent successor to the already wildly popular E-P2, some legitimate additions but mostly a slightly incremental upgrade to keep it on top of the mirrorless market.

    Sony NEX-5n- With the limited set of NEX lens, looks like Sony have hit a wall with this model. Some nice improvements to the look of the menu- yet still complicated targeted to Point and Shooters. ISO on the new and better than ever... yet I can't help but yawn.

  3. How am I biased, exactly?

    And I said the EP-3 was better than ever, so, what is the issue? I'm biased because I'm not interested in the EP-3? Wow!


  4. So the G12 still has the edge over the P7100? Thought the P7100 might end up being a faster camera.

  5. I am now totally convinced the A77 and A65 have "stunning" and "super-fast" auto focus which clearly puts the EP3 to shame in this department, which only has "improvement of its auto focus". Thanks for the heads-up.

  6. The A77 Viewfinder is a tragedy compared to Sony's own A900.
    And almost no mentions of picture quality!
    This to me is more an opinion than a review.

  7. The perception of bias comes in when someone focusses on the quality of the NEX bodies but ignores the size of their quality their lenses, or focuses on the inadequacies of the MFT bodies yet doesn't mention the advantages of their lenses.

    I don't know what type of jacket you wear to those high class parties, but I doubt it looks very cool. To imply the 7 is a pocket rocket? Not much use without the other thing almost small enough to fit in a jacket pocket: the lense.

    But overall I agree with the thrust.

    For me 2011 was year it became impossible to decide which camera to get. So many great options! But all with their own quirks.

    NEX 5n would have been no brainer, but lense, overheating, clicking noises. Pens are interesting, cheap pl2, pm1, maybe the p3... Or wait for PEN Pro?

    The xz-1 is getting so cheap it's almost disposable. Will go have a look at x10 again.


    Nic Walmsley

  8. oddmario- By review I'm talking about rewinding on what's been announced this year, not reviewing each camera- so in that respect you are right, they aren't reviews.

    However, even "real" reviews are just long exhaustive opinions when you define them- If we're being technical.

    Careful to call the new EVF a tragedy compared to the A900's viewfinder. They have their differences and pro's con's to each, however, there are things this new EVF can do that the A900's beautiful OVF could never do- and that brings new tools to photographers like never before.

    You simply cannot compare one against the other all things being equal. Both are tools that work best for certain circumstances and that my friend is the fact of the matter.

    Try one sometime, prior to giving it a bad rap.


  9. I have both the A77 & A900 right here. The output on the A77 is much better, but the viewfinder is still crap. My main camera btw is a E-5 so obviously i am biased to.
    Do not know the word "never" but in my future the optical for view and hybrid for data is something i could use.

  10. How is it that you have an A77? Only press/pro photographers that Sony have trusted relationships with are loaned these cameras prior to them being available to the public...

    So if you are a pro or press what are you doing here on my blog?

    And define "crap" while you are at it? That means zero to me unless you can explain your thoughts there.

    I've used an E5 quite a bit and the VF is larger in the A77 and I'm able to do many more things with it than I could the E5's in most circumstances.


  11. Might you care to speculate or hypothesize on the Ricoh & Pentax union? I just came across your site today. I am going to be buying my first digital camera by my birthday in April 2012. I have liked alot the film like rendering of the GXR. Read your review of it but would only be interested in large sensor modules. Hopefully, they come up with something better than a $650 adapter for Leica-aphile gang. My sister worked for Ricoh about 18 months ago, so maybe i could get better price via connections if they showcase something 'dazzling'. It would have to be given what Sony, Fuji, and hopefully Samsung NX20 have introduced. What is your greatest hope for the GXR system? Many thanks, Hunter

  12. Hi Hunter,

    The Ricoh and Pentax union hmmm let me see- Two of my favorite camera companies joined forces and have all the dazzling brillant potential in the world. I hope the best for them both. I can think of a thousand ways a combination of these two brilliant minds would come to fruition for us photographers- but in the end, they make the products.

    It's a very exciting proposition thinking of the future potential there.

    As far as the GXR system is concerned, I hope it catches on more and that Ricoh expand the modules and make a different GXR body with a built in EVF (like the NEX-7). I think a module with a short flange distance that will allow the user to use whatever adapter they want is in order (Sony NEX allows this), plus release a few interchangeable lenses of their own.

    GXR is brilliant but brilliant doesn't win alone- it must adapt to the market demands.


  13. How about the new Canon S100?

  14. The Canon S100 came out after I penned this fun little article. If you are asking my opinion of it, I think the Canon S100 is a good progressive development of the S95- but predictable. Since there were a lot of complaints about the lack of any sort of gripping surface, the addition of the minute front grip and rubber thumb pad on the rear were absolute necessities.

    The additional range of the lens is its greatest achievement and will be welcomed wholeheartedly as long as the lens performs to the standard Canon users expect (that's not an easy feat!).

    I have my eye on this camera now to replace my smallest camera- my Ricoh GRD III.


  15. Look forward toward your review of the Canon S100.

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  17. Well done, except I vividly protest your comments about the Nikon P7100/P7000. You talk as if Nikon isn't allowed to have an entry in the same category as the Canon G12. Sure it's very similar. That's because Canon got it right a bit earlier, and Nikon a bit later. What the Nikon gives, is a better zoom, 7X, making it more versatile. This was what made me chose the Nikon over the Canon. In my opinion, both cameras are amazingly well executed products, both having their place: choose Canon if you are content with a 5X zoom that is sufficient for most situations, and the Nikon, if you want that extra zoom for those situations where you really wished the Canon had more... and Nikon just has to try a little harder, because they're not the king of the mountain apparently, so there is a better features/money ratio.
    On a more personal preferences note: I can't figure out, for the life of me, why I would want an LCD display that swings out to the side!!! Is this a fad, because video cameras do that, and they are betting people will think/assume it is better without knowing why? This gimmick was a negative strike against the Canon for me. And the longer zoom was a positive for the Nikon, making the net result a 2 point advantage for Nikon.
    Both definitely have their place, and both deserve accolates for a very well executed design and lots of value in their respective packages. And calling one a knockoff is just irrelevant. This category will grow, rightfully, and the Nikon certainly won't be the last addition - other manufacturers are coming, and I am just grateful that Canon isn't the only choice in this format.

    PS: a note on the design:
    In my view, they both look awesome! The designers actually made these generous-on-the-controls cameras, look like cameras, and not like the myriads of ugly, unfinished designs we are seeing way too much of as of late, where everyone is trying to imitate Canon's UGLY minimalistic, but failed, design (ie: SX130, S95), and which sadly continues it's uglyness streak with the S100. In fact, they are so ugly, I've ruled them out because I'd feel ashamed to be seen with one. What a lousy fad! And I can't wait for it to end! I mean, most new cameras look like they are prototypes, and their chief designer quit their job, and the company was stuck bringing it to market looking fad and vanilla, incomplete in the looks department. Thank God for the G12, P7100, Fuji X10... at least we have SOME choice!

  18. Ok protest noted :). My opinion is that I don't see it doing much all that different than the G12. The lens is a bit longer , but 140mm and 200mm isn't that much of a difference in my book.

    I give props to Nikon for improving the design that sits in that slot for them, too many failures before the P7000.

    I use the tilt and swivel screen all the time for hand held family portraits and odd angle shots. I used to be like you, wanted a simple flat screen- normally I still like them. But I tried something different and really appreciated the G12's design in this respect. Every time I use that screen as it was intended, I'm pleased all over again.

    I just don't see much differences in the design to warrant Nikon's position with this camera. Look at what Fuji did with the X10, same size camera, bigger sensor, better OVF, and a beautiful manual zoom lens that is very fast.

    That's what I mean by different, why make a near clone of someone else's design? Have some imagination and gusto to try something new. Canon has been progressively improving this design since the G7, it's near perfect now.

    Nikon can do better.


  19. Carl, hope I'm not asking you something you feel uncomfortable answering, but would really like your opinion on the "comparometer" (Imaging-Resource. I have come to check it frequently for IQ comparisons. Couple of examples are why I ask: 1) when I compare the images side by side, ISO for ISO, say between the G12 and P7100, the G12 looks much better at all ISO's. 2) when comparing the XZ-1 even with cheaper point-n-shoots, the images all look slightly "water-colory", even at the lowest ISO's, just don't see the point in that camera over, say an Elph 100 HS from Canon, at a price of half on sale right now! Do you put much faith in these comparisons/studio tests? Actually, I decided to buy an Elph 100 HS, simply because it had, to me, a much better skin tone than the "reddish" rendering from the S95 and the G12. Sorry for the length of this, any comments appreciated!

  20. I'm sad to see the only worthy competitor to NEX, Samsung NX, languishing in mediocrity. Samsung is like a sleeping giant in the APS-C sensor camera market. They have the revenue stream from other markets to feed into R&D, they also make sensors and electronics.

  21. Me too. I think Samsung have some great ideas on their cameras too. They need funds and the cuffs removed from the designers to really go after it.


  22. Ha ha. I have a great time reading your article I could say that you have a great sense of hhumor. You have a great list of various camera model. :D

  23. Your reviews, and those of your readers, are very insightful. Living in Tokyo, I have easy access to the big consumer stores as soon as new product hits the aisles. I had to wait for the Thai flood waters to recede to hand-test the new Sony a65 and NEX-7. Funny, my first - and visceral - response to the NEX-7 was "disappointing" due to those odd unmarked buttons and that very bolted on viewfinder feel. I loved the alpha-65 at first sight, a nicer feel oddly than the a-77 despite its lower-price concessions. But Sony is still learning the camera trade - the contrast between the "kit" lenses made of cardboard and Elmer's Glue and the high performance range is huge. The weight of the German glass too, wow. My gut is telling me to go back to the Ricoh GRD-IV if only for its magnesium body, new features, and fast-shutter streetphotog mode. Yes 28mm is not the best choice, 35mm would be nice. But learn the 28mm view - close to what we humans experience with both eyes open - and you will become a fine cameraman. Zoom is for kids.

  24. samsung is so reasonable ,best features ,smart and fashionable camera.

    samsung nx20 review