Leica X Vario, a 16mp APS-C sensor with fixed zoom lens

The Highly Anticipated ‘Mini M’ Features Characteristics Reminiscent of the Legendary M-System

Solms, Germany, 11 June 2013: Leica Camera AG has unveiled the latest addition to its digital compact camera offerings and presents the Leica X Vario. Made in Leica Camera’s headquarters in Germany, the X Vario features a high-performance 16.5-megapixel (effective 16.1), APS-C format, CMOS image sensor, a zoom lens covering a range of focal lengths from 28 to 70 mm (35 mm equivalent) and Full-HD video recording capability. With several design and handling characteristics of the storied M-System, the ‘Made in Germany’ Leica X Vario offers great versatility and creative freedom. . . . read more

Nikon Coolpix A review at DPreview "while solid in most respects, it's not class-leading in any respect."

"The Coolpix A is a very good camera that, if it stood in isolation, would represent an interesting addition to the camera market. Of course the reality is that it doesn't exist in a vacuum and, while many photographers will be very happy with it, a considerable portion of its thunder is stolen by the Ricoh GR - a camera that achieves the unusual trick of being a touch better in almost every respect while also being significantly cheaper.

We're also not totally convinced about the price/size/performance balance that either of these cameras strikes, given their only moderately-bright F2.8 lenses. In the course of the review process we have increasingly appreciated their pocketability, though."

Fujifilm X100S review at Cameralabs " it's hard to be disappointed in the X100S"

"The Fujifilm X100S is the successor to the X100, a model that almost single-handedly rekindled the market for high quality advanced compacts with fixed lenses. With its hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder, bright f2 lens and retro rangefinder styling, after a shaky debut, solidified with a succession of firmware updates, the X100 attracted an enthusisatic following.

With the X100S, Fujifilm has sensibly retained the most popular aspects of its predecessor, namely the design and control layout, but on the inside much has changed. At the heart of the X100S is a new 16 Megapixel APS-C sensor, similar to the X-Pro1 and X-E1 interchangeable lens X-Series models but with phase-detect points on the sensor for faster, more confident AF"

Fujifilm X100s review by Dan Seifert at The Verge: For the hardcore photographer with not so deep pockets.

"During my entire time with the X100S, I've struggled with who exactly this camera is for. It's not a camera that an average buyer can easily pick up and use, and its $1,299.99 price will keep most of those buyers away anyway. And for the hardcore photography enthusiasts with deep pockets, the Sony RX1 offers better controls and full-frame image quality — albeit at twice the sticker price. But the X100S does have its own charms, and its unique viewfinder and special features like high-speed flash sync may be just what some particular photographers are looking for. Furthermore, its strong picture quality and . . . read more

Fujifilm X100s Review by Nick Devlin at the Luminous Landscape: Good enough to fall in love with.

When the "only fatal flaw" found on a camera is its (Silver-ish) colour scheme, you know that we're dealing with a momentous camera:

"The more significant development, in my mind, is that the autofocus can see in the dark. It was able to focus in light levels approach EV -6. It focused on my cat in the sink at midnight with only reflected street light to see with. Why I am taking pictures of my cat in the can in the middle of the night is a whole other story, but should your photographic perambulations take you into the outhouses of Borneo under a full moon, rest assured, any rare felines co-inhabiting the facilities will be autofocused-upon accurately. . . . read more

Fujifilm X20 Review @ DPreview "It's a capable enthusiast compact that offers just about everything that an advanced user would want"

"The X20 is generally a very responsive camera. The startup time can be as little as 0.5 seconds, allowing you to capture any moment that appears. The X20's new Hybrid AF system - which builds phase detection right on the CMOS sensor - is noticeably faster than the X10's contrast detect-only system, and among the best in its class. Shot-to-shot delays are reasonable, and the X20's burst mode allows you to shoot at full resolution at speeds exceeding 9 fps. It can take over twenty seconds for the camera to flush the buffer after a burst of Raw images, though. The two main performance issues that bothered us were . . . read more

Fuji X20 review by Steve Huff "When the X20 is slung around you many will think you are shooting an old film camera"

"The X20 makes for a great little “Mini Monochrom” camera...

The X20 also makes for a nice B&W only camera if you shoot it in B&W mode because I find the color images a little lackluster once you get past ISO 640 if you are not in the perfect light. While it is nowhere near as versatile as the Leica MM in ISO, smoothness or lens capabilities it can create some nice B&W images on the cheap.

Now I am in no way saying the Fuji X20 can replace a Leica Monochrom, because it can not. But it can be fun to head out with it with the mindset of shooting only in B&W. While gorgeous color can come from the X20, it can do B&W equally as well. With a 28mm to 112mm lens on board you also have some versatility although I admit I prefer just shooting it at 28mm and f/2 when I can. When the X20 is slung around you many will think you are shooting an old film camera, and you can go out with that mindset and if  you do I suggest turning off the LCD and just using the OVF. Set it to B&W JPEG mode and fire away."

Fujifilm X100s review @ digitalversus. "Picture quality has taken a giant leap forward, making the X100s a true reference to be reckoned with across all camera categories"

"One key new feature in the X100s—and a worldwide first—is the Digital Split Image (DSI) manual focusing assistant, which makes clever use of Fuji's phase-detection AF system integrated into the new X-Trans CMOS II sensor. The DSI mode is effectively a kind of digital stigmometer that splits an out-of-focus image in two. As you focus the lens manually, the images look to blend together until they form one when you find the right focus position. 

From a technical point of view, the DSI function is a very clever use of the AF system. In fact, it's hard to image how no-one has thought of doing this before. In reality, though, it's a little less exciting. This function definitely makes manual focusing easier, but it can be hard to see exactly when you've found the right focus, as the split image just doesn't look sharp or precise enough onscreen. A touch of peaking over the top could have made a nice addition here (note that a separate peaking mode is available). Plus, seeing as the lens uses an electronic rather than a mechanical focusing system, the whole experience could generally be more pleasant and more accurate. The DSI mode is therefore best left as an occasional helping hand in complex situations that the autofocus may have trouble dealing with (shooting in conditions that are too bright, working with uniform subjects, etc.). All in all, it's an impressively innovative function, but it feels like it still needs a little polishing.

Thankfully, the X100s has a secret weapon: 

. . . read more

Leica X2 Review @ Photographyblog " it is capable of delivering shots that are lovely enough for you to consider leaving the DSLR at home"

"The Leica X1 is a 16 megapixelcompact camera with a 36mm fixed lens and a 2.7 inch LCD screen. The X1 has an APS-C sized, 23.6x15.8mm CMOS sensor with a 3:2 aspect ratio, which promises to deliver similar image quality to a DSLR camera. The image-stabilized Leica Elmarit 24mm f/2.8 lens provides a focal length of 36mm in 35mm terms, there’s a pop-up flash and a hot shoe, and the X2 offers a full range of advanced controls from manual exposure to manual focus. Other key features of the Leica X1 include an improved autofocus system, a sensitivity range of ISO 100-12,500, maximum shutter speed of 1/2000th of a second, JPEG and DNG RAW file support, and a continuous shooting rate of up to 5 frames per second. The recommended retail price of the Leica X1 is $1995 / €1550. Also new to the X series is an optional Viso-Flex high-resolution electronic accessory viewfinder with 1.4 million dots and a 90° swivel function for shooting from unusual angles, and a bright-line optical viewfinder which provides a bright and clear view at all times, with no impact on thecamera’s battery power."

Nikon Coolpix A gets its DxO Mark "offers similar or better image quality to many entry-level or mid range DSLRs"

"Launched in March 2013 the $1097 Coolpix A is Nikon’s first compact camera with an APC-S sensor and features the same 16.2-megapixel DX sensor from Nikon’s D7000 DSLR but with its optical low-pass filter removed. Utilizing a fixed NIKKOR 18.5mm f/2.8 prime lens (equivalent to 28mm in 35mm terms) the Nikon Coolpix A has the right ingredients for great image quality so let’s see how it performs.       

Not wanting to undermine their DSLR sales Nikon have used a smaller 1-inch sensor in their 1 Series of Hybrid cameras but it seems with the Nikon Coolpix Athey’re looking to gain market share in the high-end compact market, too. With less versatile fixed lenses and high price tags it’s a niche segment of the overall camera market however and one that’s already brimming with options like the $1299 Fujifilm X100S,  $2798 Sony RX1 and $999 Sigma DP3."

Fujifilm X20 Review @ Photographyblog "... a much faster version of the original X10, with a few handling tweaks that make it even more intuitive to use"

"The Fujifilm X20 produces images of outstanding quality. It recorded noise-free JPEG images at ISO 100 up to 800, with a little noise and slight colour desaturation at ISO 1600 and more visible noise at ISO 3200 at full resolution, an excellent performance for a camera with such a small sensor. Even ISO 6400 is worth using, although the same can't be said about the range-topping ISO 12800. The RAW files were also excellent, with usable images throughout the entire range of ISO 100-3200, and they are noticeably sharper than on the original X10."

Sigma DP3 Merrill review by Mark Goldstein at Photography Blog

The DP3 Merrill is something out of a short tele-range fan's fetichist dreams. It comes with a 75mm equivalent f2.8 lens:

"Image quality is the DP3 Merrill's star turn, indeed the principal reason to put up with its numerous other shortcomings. The Foveon X3 sensor, be it 46 megapixel or 15 megapixels, and the prime 50mm lens deliver stunningly sharp, high-resolution images that are a joy to behold. Chromatic aberrations like purple and green-fringing are simply non-existent on the DP3 Merrill, testament to the excellent prime lens, which is also the . . . read more

Fujifilm's XF1 gets DXO Marked: "Stylish, creative controls and image quality amongst the best compacts"

"Introducing a new XF product line, Fujifilm looks set to launch more options in to the ever-popular small camera with high image quality category. The first camera in the new range, the XF1 uses the 2/3-inch type sensor that’s smaller than the APS-C, Micro Four Thirds or 1-inch type sensors used in interchangeable lens Hybrids, but it’s a little bigger than the 1/1.7-inch type predominantly used in more expensive compacts.

. . . read more

Nikon unveils the Coolpix A, a DX sized fixed lens prosumer camera.

Nikon's much rumored DX entry in the prosumer segment is finally here, and if you ask me, its quite underwhelming. For $1100/£1000/€1200 a prospective buyer gets a metal prosumer body camera with a fixed yawny 28mm f2.8 lens, the same sensor that was used in the D7000, but sans the antialiasing filter, and that's pretty much it. Notably missing from this 1000+ camera are features like GPS, WiFi, and an articulated screen. Furthermore, Nikon does 'a Sony' here and prices the optical viewfinder at almost $500. I Can't see this camera selling in serious numbers at anywhere near its initial price, maybe Nikon chose to put the Coolpix A at this price to make its entry level Dslr cameras look cheap by comparison.  . . . read more

Adobe posts Lightroom 4.4 and ACR 7.4 release candidades, promises proper Fujifilm X-Trans sensor support at last. Also, bug fixes and some new cameras and lenses supported.

It is not every day Adobe goes back and changes the de-mosaicing algorithms for previously supported cameras, but this time they've done it, and the first preliminary reports are in. DPreview's Amadou Diallo runs some tests with a couple of X-Pro1 raw files: 

"Capture One Pro 7 produces more crisp results than ACR with contrast and saturation defaults that more closely mimic the in-camera JPEG. Having said that, however, ACR 7.4 RC avoids the edge halos and even more obvious aliasing patterns that exist in the Capture One Pro 7 renderings of our real world and studio test scene. Overall, the ACR 7.4 RC files deliver more realistic, natural results in areas of organic low-contrast detail like the foliage in the street scene above and the fuzzy balls in the studio scene below." . . . read more

Sigma releases Photo Pro 5.5 software update with Monochrome mode and several fixes.

Sigma Press Release

Ronkonkoma, New York —February 21, 2013 — Sigma Corporation of America a leading researcher, developer, manufacturer and service provider of some of the world’s most impressive lines of lenses, camerasand flashes, is pleased to introduce Sigma Photo Pro 5.5 software, which includes upgrades and updates for both Mac and Windows platforms, as well as a new Monochrome Mode processing interface. This updated software is now available for download for both Mac and Windows operating systems. . . . read more

Fujifilm posts sample images from the X100S and X20

And they sure look good. This being Fujifilm, they're all shot in a film simulation mode, and only go as high as Iso 800. Links: X100s image samples gallery, X20 image samples gallery. . . . read more

A set of nude portraits shots with the Sony RX1 (and the A99 and NEX-6), by photographer Wataru M, at 500px.

This must be the first set of nude shots by the Sony RX1 posted on the Interwebs. A mix of portraits and sensual nudes. It is kind of possible to distinguish the files from the RX1 without looking at the exif info to the right of the images, there's something special in its rendering of skin tones. Disclaimer for our American public: Only click the link if you're an adult/mature person, warning explicit nude images, yadda yadda. Here's Wataru's artist statement:

"I'm looking to explore visuals that inspire and challenge me. As a huge videogame geek, my themes mostly revolve around strong female characters. I also love a great traditional portrait."

Sony RX1 in-depth review by Richard Butler and Lars Rehm at DPReview: "If a fixed 35mm lens will fulfill any of your shooting requirements, then there's nothing to touch the RX1."

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1 full frame camera with zeiss 35mm f2 lens front view

The Sony RX1 could be the ultimate 'Decisive Moment Camera' if it wasn't for some major niggles, like the lack of a built-in viewfinder, the subpar AF system, and that horrible orange bling ring around the lens. Common Sony, this isn't  a Hyundai Coupe, the owners of this camera already know they got a '35mm full frame CMOS image sensor' camera, no need to have a screamy text reminding them of it.

"At the start of this review we asked if the RX1 was a good enough camera to play in the same league as Leica. The answer is yes. The lens is excellent, as is the sensor (something that's not been true of digital Leicas so far), meaning it'll more than hold its own against the M-series cameras in image quality terms, even if it's not quite as engaging as a true rangefinder. Or, put another way, it's arguably the camera the Leica X-series aspires to be. . . . read more

Pentax MX-1 review by Mark Goldstein at the Photography Blog: "If you're looking for a good-looking, well-built, advanced compact camera, and you can afford to take a more leisurely view of the world, then the Pentax MX-1 is well worth considering."

The first buyers of the MX-1 have noticed the painfully slow RAW file processing times, and Mark Goldstein verifies this. I'm completely flabbergasted as to why Pentax couldn't address this issue before releasing the camera, did all of their testers only shoot in Jpeg modes? Its a big shame, because this brass laden gem seems to otherwise be a very capable and feature-rich compact shooter:

"Quite apart from its obvious retro appeal, the MX-1 ticks a lot of the boxes that any experienced photographer is looking for in a serious compact - a “sensible” 12 megapixel count, a very fast lens, raw file support, a reliable 25 multi-point AF system, and a high-resolution, tilting LCD screen. It's a shame then that the excruciatingly slow Raw processing times would ultimately force us to shoot in JPEG format, especially since you can also edit the Raw files in-camera.

. . . read more

Panasonic Lumix LX7 review by Barry Smith at the Digital Photography School: An ideal companion shooter to a Dslr.

"In typical fashion I kicked on the power before reading the manual, selected Program as my exposure mode, then spent some time scratching my head as to how to alter the lens aperture. Voila! Twirl the lens ring! With the LX7 you get direct access to the f numbers. Simply ‘mazing. While this camera could easily serve as day-to-day snapshot camera, it would be wasted. It would be ideal as a companion shooter to a DSLR. IMHO it would not be ideal as a travel companion due to its limited zoom range." . . . read more

Sony RX1 in-depth review by Duncan Davidson

"Despite any quibbles and the outrageous prices of the accessories, I don’t have any qualms about purchasing the RX1 and the optional EVF. The RX1 gives me no-compromise images in a package that comfortably goes with me anywhere. I’ll go so far as to say that if anything happened to it, I’d replace it with another one without so much as a second thought. Of course, it doesn’t replace my Nikon D800 or my D4 and my collection of Nikkor lenses for lots of uses, but it has replaced my Fuji X100 as my everyday carry about camera. . . . read more

Panasonic's LX-7 lays its sensor on the DXO Mark Bench: "The LX7 represents a serious challenge to both the Canon PowerShot G15 and the Nikon Coolpix P7700"

The review fails to mention that the LX-7 is currently priced at $299 at various U.S outlets, and as such, it is the best prosumer camera currently available at that price:

"From the time of its introduction in 2005, the high-end Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX series has provided an attractive alternative to the mainstream (and longer running) G-series from Canon as well as the popular and more recent Nikon CoolPix P7000 series. Apart from the diminutive dimensions and low weight, the LX series offered very high image quality from the combination of a high-grade image-stabilized Leica-branded zoom and what was originally a wide-aspect ratio (16:9) 1/1.65-inch sensor.

. . . read more

Leica D-Lux 6 (a.k.a Panasonic LX-7) Review by Joshua Waller at EPZ: "The Leica D-Lux 6 packs many useful features with superb image quality, although the price is high."

The 'Price is high' can be roughly translated to 'it costs almost twice the money it is worth'. This Panasonic LX-7 rebranding costs for example more than the Fujifilm X100, or the Sony RX100, so, it is aimed for 'special' kinds of people. 

"The Leica D-Lux 6 is a superb camera with many DSLR features packed into a compact body with a number of external controls, which produces excellent images. If you have a good budget to spend and aren't concerned by large amounts of optical zoom, but want a serious camera capable of great results, you can't go wrong, although the price will be off-putting to many. You can shoot at full resolution at 11 fps, battery life is excellent, there is low noise up to ISO 3200, and full manual controls with RAW shooting. The camera has a more subtle design than the Panasonic Lumix LX7, the prestigeous Leica red dot, as well as a a number of bundled extras." . . . read more

Fujifilm XF1 camera review by Ben Pitt at expert Reviews

"The Fujifilm X10 is an excellent alternative, and currently available for around £310. It has better controls, an optical viewfinder and a brighter aperture at the long end of the zoom. Then there's the forthcoming Fujifilm X20 with the promise of sharper detail, and the Panasonic LX7 with its superior videos, faster performance and even brighter lens. However, we'd be tempted to trade all of this for the XF1's slimmer design and integrated lens cap, which makes it much easier to slip in and out of a pocket. With its lower price and gorgeous design, the XF1 is at least as good as the LX7, and fully deserves our Best Buy award."

Sony RX1 vs Canon 5D Mk III with Sigma 35mm f/1.4 sharpness comparison at the Photography Blog

Can't really understand the narrow focus or the scope of this comparison, but it is an interesting one, not many people get to have their hands on both these lenses at once :)

"The sharpness tests for this review were carried out using a real-world subject rather than a test chart. Both the Sony RX1 and the Canon EOS 5D Mk III DSLR / Sigma 35mm f/1.4 lens were mounted on a sturdy tripod. The camera's self-timer mode was activated to avoid camera-shake. Tonal and colour variances across the crops are due to changes in natural light during the session. Centre sharpness is very good from f/2.8 onwards on both the Sony . . . read more

Sigma DP1 Merrill review at PC Mag: "The Sigma DP1 Merrill is capable of producing amazing images, but you'll have to put a lot of time and effort in to get the most out of this pricey point-and-shoot."

Reviewed by Jim Fisher, who clearly needs to read up on the 'point and shoot' definition:  

"To say that the Sigma DP1 Merrill is not for everyone is an obvious statement. If you're a casual snapshooter who simply wants a point-and-shoot camera that produces excellent images, you'll want to take a close look at the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100—its 1-inch image sensor and zoom lens are better suited to the task. But if you are serious about photography, keen on the advantages of the Foveon sensor, and willing to live with the workflow that goes along with it, the DP1 Merrill is an appealing camera. It's also the only one of its class to offer a 28mm equivalent prime lens—the Fujifilm X100s, Leica X2, and Sony . . . read more

Pentax MX-1 hands-on field test by Chris Niccolls at the Camera Store TV

The Pentax retro styled, brass laden MX-1 prosumer camera is poised to take on such household names as the Canon G15 and the upcoming Fujifilm X20. Is it up to the task? Oh yes, Chris seems mightily impressed by the MX-1's optical performance and unusual array of features: 

"We weren’t planning on doing a video on the MX-1, the specs looked good but it didn’t stand out to us as a hugely exciting camera.  Then we had a chance to play with the camera for a bit, and both Chris and I were impressed with the quality of the camera in every respect.  Also, after a number of weird design missteps, the MX-1’s retro design does exactly what we’ve been hoping Pentax would embrace.  It brings back fond memories of great classic Pentax . . . read more

Sony RX100 review by Jordan Steele at the Admiring Light: "while it has its quirks, the Sony RX100 is definitely the finest compact camera I have ever used."

If the Nikon D800 was the Dslr camera of choice in 2012, the Olympus E-M5 the award reaper in the mirrorless segment, then the Sony RX100 appears to be the undisputed king of the compact category. Here's another +1 for Sony's miniature powerhouse:

"Overall, the Sony DSC-RX100 is a serious camera.  Not just for those looking for a high quality point and shoot as their sole camera, but even for the serious photographer looking for a take anywhere camera.  While the limited aperture at the long end would make me look elsewhere as my only camera, I loved shooting with it as a ‘take anywhere’ camera.  Most importantly, I never really felt I was compromising my ability to get high quality shots when I left my OM-D in the car and was testing this little guy. . . . read more

Sigma posts first sample images by the DP3 Merrill

And in line with what I ranted wrote about earlier today, they don't dare venturing into higher Iso ground..in fact they keep it at Iso 200 maximum. All photos taken Tomio Seike. Anyway, first impressions: yey for Foveon goodness.

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