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Panasonic Lumix ZS100 / TZ100

Panasonic entered the digital camera market in 2001, and in 2006 produced the first of its popular ZS range (TZ outside the US), a series of cameras with a small body and a large zoom range designed to appeal to travellers.

It’s safe to say that in the 10 intervening years, lots of advancements have been made, many of which Panasonic itself has been first to introduce. ZS / TZ cameras have proved a big hit over the years, and with the shift towards more high-end features in compact cameras, Panasonic has now raised its game with a new model, the Lumix ZS100 / TZ100.

The most noteworthy change that the ZS100 / TZ100 brings is the move from a 1/2.3-inch sensor like the unit found in the ZS60 / TZ80, to a much larger 1-inch type device with 20.1 million effective pixels. One inch sensors have become very popular in the past few years, first with Sony’s RX100 range, and more lately, with Canon’s latest G series compact cameras.

Features

  • 1.0-inch CMOS sensor, 20.1MP
  • 25-250mm f/2.8-5.9 zoom lens
  • 4K video capture

A 1.0-inch sensor immediately raises the ZS100 / TZ100 above the level of many other rival travel cameras. It’s the same same sensor as is found in Panasonic’s top-end bridge camera, the very successful Lumix FZ1000. In the ZS100 / TZ100, it is combined with a new Venus Engine processor and a Leica DC Vario-Elmarit 25-250mm f/2.8-5.9 zoom lens. There’s also Panasonic’s Power OIS stabilisation system for stills photography and 5-axis hybrid OIS stabilisation for video.

Despite the increase in pixel count over that of last year’s ZS50 / TZ70, the fact that the sensor is 4x larger in the ZS100 means that the pixels are 2.4x bigger, which should be very good news for image quality and noise control in particular. This has given Panasonic the courage to give the ZS100 a native sensitivity range of ISO125-12,800, and there are also expansion settings of ISO80, 100 and 25,600.

The 10x optical zoom means that Panasonic is describing the ZS100 as belonging to an entirely new sector of the travel compact market – premium superzoom. All of the other small form (pocketable) one-inch sensor cameras are limited in their zoom range, so it’s quite exciting to see the company coming up with a camera which should appeal even more to travelling photographers.

Given Panasonic’s enthusiasm for all things 4K, it’s no surprise that the ZS100 has 4K recording capability (at 30 or 25 frames per second) and 4K Photo modes are present to make it easy to shoot 8MP still images at 30 frames per second (fps). There’s also Panasonic’s latest addition to the 4K fold, Post Focus mode. In this mode the camera takes a sequence of images with different focus distances and you can choose the shot in which your subject is sharp post capture.

In addition, the ZS100 has 4K cropping which enables the composition of 4K footage to be improved and down-sampled to Full HD in-camera.

Another cherry on the specification cake is the fact that the ZS100 can record raw files as well as JPEGs

Viewfinders are making a welcome comeback to compact cameras and the ZS100 / TZ100 has a 0.2-inch, 1,160,000-dot electronic viewfinder built-in to make it easier to compose images in bright ambient light. Naturally this is accompanied by a larger screen on the back of the camera, and in this instance it’s a 3-inch 1,040,000-dot unit that is touch-sensitive. Helpfully there’s an eye sensor to detect when the camera is held to the eye to switch off the main screen and activate the EVF.

Another cherry on the specification cake is the fact that the ZS100 can record raw files as well as JPEGs. This sits well with the aperture priority, shutter priority and manual exposure modes that accompany the automated shooting options. Also, the shutter speed may be set to 60-1/2000 secs when the mechanical shutter is in use or 1-1/16000 secs with the electronic shutter. It should therefore be possible to freeze very fast movement and use the widest aperture in bright light.

Interestingly, although Wi-Fi connectivity is present, NFC technology is not – Panasonic says that this hasn’t proved as widely used as expected. In terms of competition, the ZS100 goes up against the latest one-inch compact cameras from rivals Sony and Canon, including the RX100 IV and the G7 X Mark II – but neither feature such extensive zooms. Arguably, therefore, the ZS100 doesn’t currently have any close competitors.

Build and handling

  • Solid metal construction
  • Black and Silver and Black finishes
  • Weighs 310g

One of the most exciting aspects of the ZS100 / TZ100 is that it’s not a great deal bigger than the ZS60 / TZ80 announced at the same time. It’s about 6mm (0.236 inches) thicker than the ZS60, plus 2.2mm (0.0866 inches) longer and 0.5mm (0.0197 inches) wider. That makes it just about small enough to slip in a jeans pocket and it has a metal body shell that feels solid enough to suggest it would survive being carried in that way over a long period of time.

The ZS100 looks fairly similar to the LX100, Panasonic’s other current premium compact. It has fairly clean lines, along with a step in the top-plate. The camera will be available in black, or black and silver finishes, with the black and silver version having a red band around the small silver portion of the top-plate. This is a new styling for Panasonic, so it will be interesting to see if this appears elsewhere in the future.

On the front of the camera there’s no texture or grip, but there’s an indent which helps the camera to sit nicely in your hand. Nevertheless, it makes sense to attach the wrist strap to give an extra degree of security.

Almost all of the ZS100’s buttons are grouped towards the right hand side of the camera, making it easy to use one-handed. On top of the camera are two large dials. One is an exposure mode dial which means you can quickly switch between shooting modes (there’s a collection of automated and scene modes, along with more advanced program, aperture priority, shutter priority and manual options).

The second dial controls different functions depending on the shooting mode you’re in. If you’re working in aperture priority, you can use it to alter aperture, or shutter speed if in shutter priority. It’s in a convenient position for your thumb and has a satisfying amount of stiffness when you turn it.

There’s also a ring around the camera’s lens which, again, has a different default function depending on the shooting mode. Both this and the dial on top of the camera can be customised to change something else if you prefer. There are also a further four function buttons (marked Fn), which each have default functions, but can be changed to suit a different purpose if you wish. There are five more “virtual” function buttons, which are accessed via the touchscreen and are also customisable.

The (physical) Fn3 button accesses the ZS100 / TZ100’s quick menu by default. You can use this menu to move quickly between common settings, such as ISO, metering and white balance. By default, two of the function buttons are used to access the camera’s 4K photo modes.

The ZS100’s electronic viewfinder is ready for action at any time that the camera is powered up and it doesn’t need to be popped out for use

Unlike the electronic viewfinder in Sony’s popular RX100 III and RX100 IV compact cameras with 1-inch type sensors, the ZS100’s electronic viewfinder is ready for action at any time that the camera is powered up and it doesn’t need to be popped out for use. Furthermore, there’s a sensor which automatically detects when the camera has been lifted to your eye to switch on the viewfinder, and switch the screen off. Although undoubtedly useful and a bonus on a pocketable compact camera, the ZS100’s viewfinder is small, and while the image is clear and sharp, because of its small size it’s unlikely you’ll want to use the viewfinder for every shot.

The ZS100 / TZ100’s screen is touch-sensitive, which means you can use it to set the focus point, simply tapping an area on the screen you want to use (if you have 1-Area focusing selected). You can also use it to navigate through and around the main menu and the function menu. If you don’t like using touch screens, the good news is that everything can also be controlled by a physical button, or a combination of buttons, if you prefer.

In order to use the super fast shutter speeds that the electronic shutter facilitates, you’ll need to change from mechanical shutter in the camera’s main menu. Once you’ve done this, you can move past the 1/2000 fastest shutter speed offered by the mechanical shutter and reach speeds up to 1/16000.

Autofocus

  • 49-point AF
  • Face/Eye detection
  • Post-focus function

Lumix cameras have always delivered the goods when it comes to AF speed, and the ZS100 / TZ100 is no different – in good light you can expect the camera to lock-on quickly with almost no delay. 

Even when the light levels drop, the ZS100 performs very well, though the contrast-detect AF will start to struggle when light levels are really poor – but that’s to be expected.

Performance

  • 10fps burst shooting (6fps with continuous AF)
  • Decent optical quality
  • 300 shot battery life

The ZS100 / TZ100’s all-purpose metering system provides generally accurate exposures, only failing slightly when photographing something with areas of high contrast – but it’s no more than we would expect from any camera. Similarly, the automatic white balance system copes well when faced with different lighting conditions. Slightly warmer tones are produced when photographing under artificial light, so if you’re concerned with ultimate accuracy, either switch to a preset value or set a custom white balance.

Detail is kept well throughout the ZS100’s optical zoom range, with roughly the same amount of detail at the far reach of the telephoto zoom as seen at the wide angle end.

The ability to shoot at 10 frames per second (fps) is pretty impressive, while even with it dropping down to 6fps when you want to use the ZS100’s continuous AF is nothing to be sniffed at.

At 300 shots, battery life is reasonable, but if you’re intending to use the viewfinder quite a bit, this does drop to 240 shots, so if you’re going to be away for a long weekend or longer, then it might be worth thinking about investing in another battery.

Image quality

  • ISO125-12,800, expandable to 80-25,600
  • Can record plenty of detail
  • Pleasing images straight from camera

As the ZS100 / TZ100 uses the same sensor as the FZ1000, we had high hopes that image quality would be good. Happily, those hopes have been borne out both by results from our labs and real-world images.

JPEG images display a great amount of vibrance and punch, without straying too far into unrealistic territory, while the overall impression of detail is fantastic.

At normal printing (A4 or smaller) or on-screen viewing sizes, the ZS100’s images, have detail comparable with shots taken on cameras with much larger sensors, such as the GF7 (which has a Four Thirds sensor). And at 100% on screen, despite a little smoothing, it’s hard to tell the ZS100’s low sensitivity JPEG images apart from the GF7’s.

Our lab tests indicate that the ZS100 / TZ100 competes very strongly with the Sony RX100 IV and Canon G5 X, all of which have 1.0-inch type sensors

Our lab tests indicate that the ZS100 / TZ100 competes very strongly with the Sony RX100 IV and Canon G5 X, all of which have 1.0-inch type sensors. For signal to noise ratio, the ZS100 beats the other cameras on test throughout the ISO 100-800 range, and most significantly at ISO200. From ISO 1600, the ZS100 is extremely closely matched to the other cameras, while at ISO 3200, the ZS100 beats both the Sony and the Canon.

It’s a slightly more complicated picture for the raw format files, where at the lower end of the scale (ISO100-200) the ZS100 is beaten by the Sony and Canon cameras, but from ISO800 right up to ISO12,800, it beats all of the other cameras on test.

For dynamic range, the story is also a little more patchy. For JPEG images taken at the lower end of the scale (ISO200-800), the ZS100 is beaten by the Canon and Sony, but is still pretty good. At 1600, the ZS100 is pretty much tied with the Sony and Canon, while at ISO3200, the Canon beats the ZS100 very slightly, but the ZS100 beats the Sony. At 6400, all of the cameras are closely matched, but at 12800, the ZS100 wins out more significantly.

Looking at the raw format files, performance is particularly impressive. Although at ISO200 it is beaten ever so slightly by the Canon, from ISO 400 the ZS100 beats the other cameras on test, at times by quite a significant margin.

In terms of resolution, we can use a combination of the labs test and the real world images to make a judgement on how well detail is resolved. At the low-medium end of the ISO run (ISO200-1600), the ZS100 is capable of matching Canon’s G5 X sensor, and is slightly worse than Sony’s RX100 IV. However, at the higher end of the spectrum (ISO3200-6400), it’s better than Canon and matches the Sony’s capability, while at 12,800, the ZS100 is the best performer.

Looking at a corresponding raw file, it’s clear that the camera is applying a fair amount of noise reduction to JPEG images. While that noise reduction generally results in natural-looking, low-noise images, if you’re photographing something particularly detailed, you may appreciate the ability to bring that back by editing the raw format files.

When all noise reduction is turned off, images taken at ISO3200 (see shot above) and 6400 have visible chroma noise at 100%, but it’s fairly evenly spread throughout the image and therefore easily tackled by noise reduction software. Even without noise reduction being applied the images still look decent at normal printing and viewing sizes.

Using the electronic shutter allows you to shoot at wide apertures in bright sunlight – this image above has been taken with a 1/16000 sec shutter speed.

Verdict

Panasonic takes aim squarely at the pocket-friendly 1.0-inch sensor compact camera market with the ZS100 / TZ100, upping the stakes with a 10x optical zoom, something which other manufacturers haven’t yet produced.

Although 1.0-inch sensors aren’t particularly new or exciting any more, when you couple one with a 10x optical zoom, the resulting camera becomes a much more flexible option which is bound to appeal to travelling photographers looking for something high quality, but convenient.

The ZS100 / TZ100 produces lovely JPEG images, while the raw format images give you good scope to bring out extra detail should you need it. The sensor happily competes with Sony and Canon, who have so far been the big players in the 1.0-inch sensor market. The large sensor facilitates decent low-light shooting, making it a good all-rounder camera.

It’s also an enjoyable camera to use, with a good number of buttons and dials, a very responsive touch sensitive screen and an (albeit small) electronic viewfinder. There’s also inbuilt Wi-Fi and a range of creative filters. It would perhaps have been nice to see a tilting or articulating screen, but that may have added extra bulk, and certainly extra cost to the camera.

Panasonic claims that it has created a new segment of the market with this camera, and it’s hard to disagree with that claim.

Competition

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Sony Alpha A5000 review

The Sony Alpha A5000 was the fourth compact system camera from Sony to appear after the company decided to drop its NEX name for E-mount cameras. Instead it uses the Alpha brand, often shortened simply to “A”.

[Update: The Sony Alpha A5000 was launched at the start of 2014 and has since been superseded by the A5100, while higher models in the Alpha range have since become more competitively priced. A good entry-level option, but if your budget will stretch to it, you’d be better off with the 24MP Alpha A6000.]

The first model was the Sony a3000, an entry-level camera with a DSLR like design, more akin to the A-mount entry-level Alphas offered by the next company. The next two were the Alpha 7 and Alpha7R, two high-end, full-frame cameras.

Sony refreshes its range of compact system cameras, especially those at the lower – middle end of the ranges, roughly every 12 months. The a5000 was announced at CES and is a replacement for the NEX-3N. It sits below the NEX-5T, which is yet to be replaced, and the A6000, the camera which now sits at the top end of Sony’s enthusiast APS-C range.

Whereas the A7 and A7R are aimed at enthusiast and professional photographers, the a5000 joins the a3000 at the entry-level end of the line-up. This camera however takes the familiar NEX shape we’ve been used to for some time now, with a flat, compact (body only) design.

That’s not to say it doesn’t feature some of the features from those cameras higher up in the range. Inside the Sony Alpha a5000 is an APS-C format Exmor APS HD CMOS sensor with 20.1 million effective pixels and the same Bionz X processor as found in the A7, A7R and the recently announced A6000.

This combination allows sensitivity to be set up to ISO 16,000, but the maximum continuous shooting rate is more modest at just 2.5fps, or 3.5fps in Speed Priority Continuous shooting mode.

Although aimed at novices, the Alpha 5000 has advanced exposure modes (program, aperture priority, shutter priority and manual) in addition to iAuto, Superior Auto, Scene selection and Sweep panorama for less experienced photographers. This means that users have room to grow as they learn about the camera.

Picture effects

There are also 13 Picture Effects such as High Contrast Monochrome, Toy Camera and HDR Painting that can be applied to JPEG images. Raw files can also be recorded, but not at the same time as using the Picture Effects.

There is no viewfinder on the A5000, but the 3-inch 460,000-dot LCD screen is a tilting unit that can be tipped up through 180 degrees to help when shooting selfies. It’s worth noting that there is also no hotshoe or accessories port, so you can’t add any external accessories to the camera.

In addition, NFC and Wi-Fi technology is on-board, with the former allowing quick connections to be made to NFC mobile devices such as Android smartphones and tablets.

The Wi-Fi connectivity enables Sony’s PlayMemories Camera Apps to be downloaded to the A5000 to add extra functionality. These include options such as Direct Upload that enables images to be uploaded to Facebook, PlayMemories Online or Flickr; Smart Remote Control that enables the camera to be controlled by a phone or tablet; and Time Lapse to enable easy time lapse movie creation.

The a5000 is billed as the world’s smallest APS-C sized interchangeable lens camera. It’s not as small as the tiny Panasonic GM1, but that has a smaller (in comparison to APS-C), Micro Four Thirds sensor. The a5000 competes with other entry-level compact system cameras such as the Samsung NX2000, Panasonic GF6 and Olympus PEN E-PM2.

The a5000 is very similar in size, style and shape to the NEX-3N, which it replaces. Although the camera is in the flat, compact style of other NEX CSCs, it has a chunky grip which is textured and feels very secure in the hand. With heavy cameras, it’s fairly unlikely that you’ll often be using it one handed, but the a5000 is very light, so there’s a good chance you might – in which case that chunky grip really makes it feel steady.

Additionally, almost all of the buttons on the a5000 are grouped on the right hand side of the camera, making them easy to reach with the thumb, again a good indicator that the camera is designed to be used one handed.

On top of the camera, around the shutter release button, is a switch for turning the camera on and off. There’s also a zoom lever which you can use when a power zoom lens is mounted to the camera, such as the 16-50mm kit lens – you can also use a switch on this lens itself if you prefer. The zoom lever on the top of the camera is also used for zooming into images in playback to check focus.

Also on top of the camera (but at an angle so as to not accidentally knock it) is a dedicated movie record button. The only button not to be grouped on the right hand side of the camera is the button which is pressed to lift the flash, which can be found on the left hand side of the camera, next to the pop-up flash unit.

On the back of the camera is the tilting LCD screen. This is neither touch screen, nor fully articulated. It only tilts up, which makes it useful for shooting from above, or for self portraits (it tilts so far as to fully face the front); but for shooting from above, or portrait format images, it’s less useful.

Sony A5000

As with most other Sony cameras, many of the buttons on the back of the camera can be customised to the settings you use most often, which is useful. There is a dial which doubles up as a four-way navigational pad, each of the directional keys here can be customised, as well as the button in the centre of the pad.

There’s also another button in the bottom right of the camera, which has a question mark on it, which can be set to a particular function.

As there’s no dial anywhere on the camera to switch between different shooting modes, such as aperture priority, fully automatic, manual and scene modes, this can be done in one of two ways. You can either navigate to Shoot Mode in the main menu (via the menu button), or you can set one of the custom buttons to quickly access Shoot Mode.

The scrolling dial on the back of the camera is used for altering aperture or shutter speed, depending on the mode you’re shooting in. If you’re shooting in fully manual, you’ll need to press the down directional key (set to exposure compensation by default) to switch between the two parameters. If you’re shooting in shutter priority or aperture priority, press the down key to access exposure compensation then use the dial again to dial in or down however much compensation you need.

Autofocus

Setting the autofocus point, as we’ve found with other Sony cameras, can be frustratingly laborious. There’s no dedicated button for changing the autofocus point, but you can set one of the focus buttons to change the Focus Area, after which you’ll be able to move around the screen to the point you require.

There seems to be no quicker way to do this, and it’s a little annoying when you want to quickly move the spot. A touchscreen here would have made this very easy – but Sony seems very resistant to using this technology on all of its cameras. We’d recommend if you’re looking for speed, setting the autofocus point to the centre and focusing and recomposing, only changing the autofocus point if you have the time (or inclination).

Sony has decided to simplify its menu systems across the range, so the NEX menu of old is no more – something which we’re pleased about since that was a little confusing at times. Instead, the menu here is similar to those found on Alpha DSLRs, and will be the menu found on all Sony cameras from here on in.

This menu is sensibly laid out, being split up into different areas, such as camera settings, custom settings, playback and setup. It doesn’t take long to get used to, and it’s worth exploring the setup for some time to get used to the layout.

All of Sony’s recent cameras have impressed us a lot when it comes to image quality. Generally speaking, some of the quirks of handling are usually more than made up for by the fact that image quality is so good.

Happily, the a5000 has proven itself to be no different. Once again, images contain lots of fine detail, while colours are beautifully saturated.

We were similarly impressed by images from the NEX-3N, and saw no reason why the a5000 would be any worse. In fact, including the latest Bionx X processor, should have a positive impact on results.

Bionz X processor

One of the benefits of the Bionz X processor is a reduction in noise when shooting at higher sensitivities. At ISO 800, noise is controlled very well, while lots of detail is kept. A small degree of image smoothing can be seen at the lower end of the sensitivity scale, while this increases as you move through the ISO range.

At ISO 3200, noise is apparent when zooming in to 100% – some areas of an image start to have a painterly effect, but, when viewing images at normal printing or web sizes, such as A4 or below, images are very good and more than acceptable to use. We’d happily use up to ISO 3200 for any images that weren’t going to be printed at a very large size.

The automatic white balance setting is very good, producing accurate colours even under artificial lighting in the majority of instanceswe used it. You can alter the specific setting if you find it’s not quite matching up to the correct whites, but we found that this wasn’t necessary most of the time.

It’s great to see accuracy in this area, where previous cameras tended to err towards orange or warm tones under artificial lights. Similarly, all-purpose metering does a good job in the majority of conditions in helping to produce a well-balanced exposure.

Although the A5000 doesn’t claim speeds as quick as its more advanced stablemate, the A6000, or indeed Micro Four Thirds cameras, it is still pretty quick to focus, especially in good light. Focusing speeds drop a little in lower light, sometimes hunting around for a while before locking on, but it’s rare for a false focus to be presented.

Sony A5000

The kit lens supplied with the A5000 is a 16-50mm PZ lens which we have seen before on other models including the 3N and the 5T. It’s a decent all-round performer, offering a flexible focal length that will suit a good variety of subjects. Even though the maximum aperture of this lens is f/3.5 you can still get some nice shallow depth of field effects, thanks to the camera’s large sensor.

Sony has some good additional lenses in its line-up, and while that number isn’t quite as large as the number of proprietary Micro Four Thirds optics, there are quite a few useful additions.

During this test we also used a 50mm f/1.8 lens, which is great for shallow depth of field effects, portraits, or if you’re shooting in low light, and would make a good second lens. We also used a 30mm f/3.5 macro lens, which is good for shots which require a lot of detail, such as still life.

A number of digital filters, such as Toy Camera, can be found on the A5000, which are worth experimenting with. It’s a shame that you can’t shoot these in raw format, so if you decide that you don’t like the filter down the line, then you’ll be stuck with it. If you want to be a little more flexible, then you can choose different Creative Styles. These allow you to shoot in raw format, and include settings such as Monochrome, Vivid and Portrait.

As part of our image quality testing for the Sony A5000 review, we’ve shot our resolution chart. These images were captured using a full-production sample of the camera.

For a full explanation of what our resolution charts mean, and how to read them, check out our full explanation of our camera testing resolution charts.

Examining images of the chart taken at each sensitivity setting reveals the following resolution scores in line widths per picture height x100:

ISO100

JPEG

ISO 100

ISO 100, Score: 26. Click here to see the full resolution image.

ISO 200

ISO 200, Score: 26. Click here to see the full resolution image.

ISO 400

ISO 400, Score: 26. Click here to see the full resolution image.

ISO 800

ISO 800, Score: 24. Click here to see full resolution image.

ISO1600

ISO 1600, Score: 24. Click here to see full resolution image.

ISO3200

ISO 3200, Score: 22. Click here to see full resolution image.

ISO 6400

ISO 6400, Score: 20. Click here to see full resolution image.

ISO 12800

ISO 12800, Score: 16. Click here to see full resolution image.

ISO 16000

ISO 16000, Score: 12. Click here to see full resolution image.

RAW

ISO 100

ISO 100, Score: 26. Click here to see full resolution image.

ISO 200

ISO 200, Score: 26. Click here to see full resolution image.

ISO 400

ISO 400, Score: 24. Click here to see full resolution image.

ISO 800

ISO 800, Score: 24. Click here to see full resolution image.

ISO 1600

ISO 1600, Score: 24. Click here to see full resolution image.

ISO 3200

ISO 3200, Score: 22. Click here to see full resolution image.

ISO 6400

ISO 6400, Score: 22. Click here to see full resolution image.

ISO 12800

ISO 12800, Score: 18. Click here to see full resolution image.

ISO 16000

ISO 16000, Score: 12. Click here to see full resolution image.

We shoot a specially designed chart in carefully controlled conditions and the resulting images are analysed using DXO Analyzer software to generate the data to produce the graphs below.

A high signal to noise ratio (SNR) indicates a cleaner and better quality image.

For more more details on how to interpret our test data, check out our full explanation of our noise and dynamic range tests.

Here we compare the Sony A5000 with the Fuji X-A, the Panasonic GF6 and the Olympus E-PM2.

JPEG signal to noise ratio

JPEG signal to noise ratio

In this graph we can see that the A5000 puts in a relatively consistent performance which is pretty closely matched with the Panasonic GF6 and the Olympus PEN E-PM2. It is the Fuji X-A1 which really storms ahead here though, producing better results, by quite some margin, at every sensitivity setting.

Raw signal to noise ratio

Raw signal to noise

For the raw (after conversion to TIFF) files, it’s a similar story here, with the A5000 putting in a decent performance. It is however beaten by the Panasonic GF6 and Olympus PEN E-PM2at the same sensitivities. At the very lowest sensitivity (ISO 100), it is almost exactly tied with the Fuji X-A1, but the Fuji takes over from ISO 400 and above.

JPEG dynamic range

JPEG dynamic range

For dynamic range, the Sony A5000 puts in a good performance in JPEG files across the sensitivity range. It is beaten by the Olympus PEN E-PM2 at every sensitivity, but it comfortably beats the Fuji X-A1, which has a much flatter dynamic range. In the Fuji’s defence, this type of graph is borne out by warmly saturated, pleasing to the eye images, whereas the Sony’s are more accurate.

RAW dynamic range

Raw dyanamic range

In terms of the raw files (after conversion to TIFF), the A5000 is very closely matched with the X-A1, demonstrating the processing that Fuji cameras apply to its JPEG images. This suggests that colours from the A5000 are very natural and true to life, something which I have found to be true in real-world testing. It is however the Olympus PEN E-PM2 which steals the show here, beating all of the cameras on test by a considerable amount, at every sensitivity.

1

Click here to see the full resolution image

The A5000 copes well when shooting in low light, producing bright, detailed images while keeping noise to a minimum.

2

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The 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens is a decent optic for a carry around lens, and seems likely to be the lens that most users will stick with.

3

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The A5000’s metering system copes well in the majority of conditions, sometimes slightly under exposing meaning you need to dial in some positive exposure compensation.

4

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Creative Styles allow you to experiment with a different look for your images, without losing the ability to shoot in raw format. If you decide you want a colour version down the line, you’ll be able to rescue it from the raw file.

5

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The A5000’s sensor is capable of resolving lots of fine detail.

6

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Colours straight from the camera are bright and punchy, showing a nice level of vibrance and saturation without looking unnatural.

7

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There is a good range of lenses available for the Sony E mount. Since Sony has removed the NEX branding from its E-mount range of cameras, be careful which type of lens you’re buying. This was shot with a 30mm f/3.5 macro lens.

8

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You can get attractive shallow depth of field effects from the A5000, thanks to its larger sensor.

9

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Another image shot with the 30mm f/3.5 macro lens. This kind of lens makes for a good second lens as it offers a 45mm equivalent focal length – a classic length for a variety of different subjects.

9

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Noise at mid-range sensitivities, like ISO 640, is hardly present at all – even when zooming in at 100%.

10

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At higher sensitivities, such as ISO 3200 here, noise is much more apparent when examining an image at 100%, but at normal printing and web sizes, it’s much harder to see.

11

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The camera’s automatic white balance system copes well in the majority of conditions to produce accurate colours.

13

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Another example of pleasingly saturated colours, straight from the camera.

14

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If you want to boost the saturation of images, you can alter Picture Styles to up the contrast. This has the advantage of being able to be shot in raw format, meaning you can view a “clean” version of the image.

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The 50mm f/1.8 lens for E mount is useful for shooting portraits, offering an equivalent focal length of 75mm.

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The 50mm f/1.8 lens also makes a good walkaround lens for street photography and so on, helping to isolate the subject from the background.

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The A5000 is suited to a wide range of subjects, including landscapes.

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Sony has been making cameras for long enough to know what its doing, and it hasn’t produced any duds in some time. The a5000 joins the list as another reliable, solidly built compact system camera which will particularly appeal to beginner cameras.

It’s ideally pitched at those looking for their first interchangeable lens camera, while its size and body shape make it likely to appeal to those who are stepping up from a mobile phone or compact camera.

The a5000 is capable of producing some great quality images which are packed with detail, are great at high sensitivities and have beautiful, warm colours. The kit lens is a decent performer, while the lens range for Sony E-mount cameras is good, and growing, so it’s a system you can buy into and grow with.

Sony A5000

On the one hand, it’s true that Sony puts a lot of thought into the way that people want to use its cameras, with options to customise buttons being a welcome one. On the other hand, some options are just that little bit more difficult than they should be. It shouldn’t be so fiddly to change the autofocus point for instance.

We feel like we’re repeatedly banging the same drum here, but a touchscreen would make this operation so much easier. Given that this camera is aimed at beginners who are probably used to touchscreens and Sony has this technology at its disposal, it’s pretty disappointing that it chooses not to include one on its cameras.

It’s nice though that the camera includes a tilting screen. As it only tilts up, it’s not particularly useful for several angles, but for users who want to take self-portraits or shoot video, it is helpful.

There’s plenty here to appeal to the creative photographer, with a range of digital filters being particularly appealing. It’s also nice to have a panoramic mode, and Creative Styles for when you want to shoot in raw format. Again though, it’s disappointing that digital filters can only be shot in JPEG only, not least because you’ll need to dive into the menu and switch raw shooting off when you want to use them.

If you can possibly stretch to the extra cash, then the NEX-5T might be a wiser investment for those who might want something a little more advanced in the future. Not only does it produce great images, but it also has a touchscreen and an accessories port if you did want to attach a viewfinder or external flash.

We liked

This camera’s small size is its headline feature, and Sony has done a good job of miniaturising to make a very small APS-C format camera. Although it’s not as small as the Panasonic GM1, the sensor size is also significantly larger, so that’s worth bearing in mind. The kit lens also retracts into itself, making the overall package small enough to fit in a large jacket pocket, and very neatly into a kit bag.

We disliked

Although this is an entry-level camera, it would be nice if Sony gave a little bit more for your money at this end of the range. While we appreciate that adding a touchscreen potentially bumps up the cost, it would make some of the frustrations of using the camera virtually non-existent. That aside, images are great, so if you can live with some of those quirks, or you’re not the kind of user that is changing settings all that frequently, it is a good buy.

Final Verdict

Another decent, well performing camera from Sony here. The A5000 is a good buy for those looking for their first compact system camera, offering a decent range of options for both beginners and those who are a little more experienced.

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Detu Twin 360-degree camera

Will the 360-degree video format ever really catch on? The jury’s still out, and it probably hinges on the extent to which virtual reality headsets take off. Realizing that videographers are hesitant about spending big money on 360-degree gear, Detu has come out with the Twin, a simple and affordable 360-degree camera aimed at casual users looking to capture footage that’s a bit different to upload to social media. 

At around $180 / £200 / AU$275 the Twin is much more affordable than its closest competitor, the Ricoh Theta S, but that low price does set the alarm bells ringing. Can a 360-degree camera really deliver the goods at this price point?

Features

Let’s not pretend the Detu Twin is anything other than an attempt to undercut the very similar-looking Ricoh Theta S, one of the more successful – and certainly one of the simplest – 360 cameras around.

It’s got the same dual f/2.0 fisheye lenses that record video at 30fps, although while its rival manages Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels) from each camera, the Detu Twin takes that down to a stretched HD-ready 1440 x 720 pixels, which isn’t that much when you’re filming a 360-degree landscape.

The Detu Twin establishes its own Wi-Fi Direct network to which you can connect a phone or tablet for the purposes of remote operation, video/photo uploads to a phone or to Facebook or YouTube, and – an upcoming feature not available at the time of this review – livestreaming to those same social sites. 

Design

Like the Ricoh Theta S, the Detu Twin is designed to be held in one hand. The two lenses are arranged on either side of the top of the device, with the standby and Wi-Fi buttons on one side.

It’s a slightly flawed design; during operation it’s too easy to switch off the Detu Twin while recording a video. However, the actual record button is a thumb-friendly design on the product’s front. When you hold it down it lights up and makes a noise as recording begins, although when you’re outdoors it’s very easy not to see or hear these all-important notifications.

After seeing so many 360° cameras that can only be used while mounted on a phone – essentially limiting them to being used only for novelty selfies – it’s a relief to see that the Detu Twin has a standard tripod thread on its base.

This unleashes some creative options, as you don’t have to be in the video yourself (a ‘set and forget’ approach to 360-degree cameras is, in our opinion, one of the format’s most appealing uses). So not only can the Detu Twin be used with any tripod and thus be positioned anywhere, but a selfie stick can be used to give it some height, and to keep the user out of shot. 

Alongside the tripod thread on the bottom of the camera are a small microphone and a mini HDMI output for linking the Detu Twin to a TV. It’s also great to see a microSD card slot under a flap on the side, which can accept cards up to 64GB. Alongside that is a micro USB slot for recharging. 

Performance

The Detu Twin is easy to use, but provides only a short-lived experience. Despite being fully charged, our review sample failed to make it through a day of sporadic use. In total we managed just over 15 minutes of footage, which isn’t much at all, although it’s not much less than the Ricoh Theta S’s 25 minutes.

Sadly the Twin can’t be used while it’s charging, although it would make sense to carry a portable power pack with you if you’re out for the day, so that you can recharge the camera when you’re not shooting with it. 

The 360 videos and JPEGs produced by the Detu Twin are of basic quality. Those 3040 x 1520 pixels – technically a 3K resolution – are stretched a long way, and the camera’s MP4 files often blurry and blocky, although at least they’re reasonably colorful.

The Twin works best when subjects are relatively close to the camera. It’s also wise to make sure the main subjects – especially if they’re people – are in full view of one or other of the lenses to avoid an odd-looking effect they won’t thank you for; the parallax stitching that the Detu Twin performs in-camera is actually very good, but it’s not quite perfect, although the line is barely noticeable on backgrounds (partly because of the low resolution video). 

App

Initially the app impresses. We were quickly able to connect to the Detu Twin’s Wi-Fi network to edit and share videos from an iPhone, and it’s also possible to monitor and operate the camera remotely via the app.

During our tests we had some issues sustaining a connection to the Twin, although after installing the camera’s latest firmware we were able to start and finish video recording solely via the app without any stalls or drop-outs. 

The app itself is mostly impressive. It’s easy enough to transfer files to a phone, or to share them online, with various format options ranging from ‘tiny planet’ to flat panorama.

However, we found the 30-second sharing limit on videos, which wasn’t obvious at the outset, extremely irritating. In practice a 31-second video can be uploaded, but no more, which leaves any longer footage largely useless. 

Verdict

While it can’t match the Ricoh Theta S for image quality, the far more affordable Detu Twin is nevertheless a decent entry-level product that would suit someone wanting to tip their toes into the world of 360 video.

It’s easy to use and fun to experiment with, and its tripod/selfie stick thread opens up a lot of creative possibilities. However, the basic video quality, the 30-second limit on shared videos, and the super-short battery life (take a portable power pack) mean the Detu Twin can’t be regarded as much more than a novelty camera. 

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Sony Alpha A7R III review

The Alpha A7R III is Sony’s latest high-resolution mirrorless camera, and an update of the excellent Alpha A7R II, which was responsible for tempting many a photographer away from the comfort of their Canon and Nikon DSLRs. 

This latest model looks to draw on many of the technologies used in the speed-orientated Sony Alpha A9, which is just as well, because with the likes of Nikon’s brilliant D850 offering a tempting combination of high resolution and high performance the Alpha A7R II was beginning to look a little pedestrian. 

With some impressive boosts to performance, as well as tweaks to handling and the peace of mind of a five-year guarantee, could the new Alpha A7R III see even more second-hand Canon and Nikon DSLRs appearing on the shelves of camera stores as more photographers make the switch to Sony? 

Features

  • Full-frame stacked CMOS sensor, 42.2MP
  • 3,686K-dot electronic viewfinder with 100fps refresh rate
  • 3.0-inch tilt-angle screen, 1,440,000 dots

While many might have expected Sony to boost the amount of pixels to match or exceed DSLR rivals like the D850 and Canon EOS 5DS, it’s actually opted to stick with the same count as the Alpha A7R II.

At the core of the A7R III then is a 42.2MP back-illuminated full-frame Exmor R CMOS sensor, although Sony has borrowed some of the innovations from the 24.2MP Alpha A9 and integrated them with this more densely populated chip. 

There are gapless microlenses and a new anti-flare coating for starters, while the Alpha A7R III features a new front-end LSI that almost doubles the readout speed of the sensor. It also takes advantage of the latest BIONZ X image processing engine, and combined, these enhancements deliver a boost of up to 1.8x in processing speeds compared to the A7R II.

Sony says the A7R III has a staggering 15-stop dynamic range at low sensitivity settings

The A7R III’s sensitivity range remains unchanged (ISO50-102,400 at the camera’s expanded setting), so those hoping for something to match the Nikon D850’s expanded ISO32 setting may be a little disappointed. However, the new processing engine should be able to handle image noise better than its predecessor, while Sony also claims the Alpha A7R III will have a staggering 15-stop dynamic range at low sensitivity settings. 

The Alpha A7R III has the same electronic viewfinder (EVF) as the Alpha A9, with the Quad-VGA OLED EVF sporting a resolution of approximately 3,686k dots, and utilizing a Zeiss T* Coating to reduce reflections. On top of this, the A7R III supports a customizable frame rate for the EVF, with options of either 60fps or 120fps, again matching the 120fps offered by the A9.

Along with the EVF, the rear tilt-angle display has also been upgraded over the outgoing model; it now has a resolution of 1.44 million dots, and, just as we’ve seen with recent models like the RX10 IV, offers touchscreen functionality. 

Also as with the A9, Sony has shunned the XQD card format (even though it’s now the sole manufacturer of that format), instead opting for dual SD card slots on the Alpha A7R III, with only one of those supporting UHS-II type cards.

The Alpha A7R III offers 4K (3840 x 2160 pixels) video capture, with the option to use either the full width of the sensor or Super 35mm format mode, with the latter using the full pixel readout without pixel binning to collect 5K of information, and oversampling this to produce what promises to be even crisper footage. 

As well as this, the Alpha A7R III now features a new HLG (Hybrid Log-Gamma) profile that supports an Instant HDR workflow, allowing HDR (HLG) compatible TVs to play back 4K HDR footage, while both S-Log2 and S-Log3 are also available. 

If you want to shoot Full HD footage you can capture this at up to 120fps, while there are ports for both a microphone and audio monitoring.

Build and handling

  • Magnesium alloy construction
  • Dust- and moisture-sealed
  • Weighs 657g

The look and feel of the Sony Alpha A7R III broadly follows the design of the A7R II, but there are a host of tweaks and refinements when you start looking a little closer. 

While the new camera doesn’t get the dedicated drive mode dial/focus mode selector that sits to the left of the EVF on the Alpha A9, it does get a similar multi-selector joystick.

It may seem a small thing, but the arrival of the joystick greatly improves handling over the A7R II, as it makes for much quicker AF point selection. The A7R III also sees the addition of a dedicated AF-ON button for back-button focusing, again as on the A9.

In fact, the rear of the camera mimics the control layout of the A9 – that means the A7R III gets an additional ‘C3’ custom button, while the rear scrollwheel is more pronounced, and less likely to be accidentally knocked.

The changes may be modest, but they combine to make the A7R III that much more user-friendly and satisfying to shooting with

The rear touch display, meanwhile, does away with an annoying quirk of the A7R II. If you were shooting from the waist with the screen angled outward, the older camera would think you had the camera raised to your eye, resulting in the feed being cut on the screen. The display on the A7R III disables the eye sensor when the screen is flipped out, allowing you to shoot at waist level uninterrupted. 

The body is slightly thicker than the A7R II, but fractionally slimmer than the A9, and features a magnesium alloy top, front and rear covers, as well as an internal frame. Sony has also increased the number of lens mount screws to six for enhanced durability, while all major buttons and dials are sealed, and there’s sealing throughout the body, to protect the A7R III from dust and moisture.

The menu system has also been overhauled. Now color-coded, it’s that bit easier to navigate, but the menu system on the Alpha A7R III is still incredibly comprehensive. That said, once you’ve tailored the various custom buttons to your desired settings, these, along with the body-mounted controls, mean there should be little need to be regularly diving into the main menu. When you do though, give yourself a bit of time to find exactly what you’re looking for.

The changes may be modest, but they combine to make the A7R III that much more user-friendly and satisfying to shoot with. 

Autofocus

  • 399 phase-detection points
  • 425 contrast-detection points
  • Eye AF with enhanced tracking performace

Sony has improved the focusing system as well. The 399 focal-plane phase-detection AF points from the A7R II remain (with 68% coverage of the frame), but Sony has bolstered the number of contrast-detection AF points from 25 to 400. 

Sony reckons this overhaul should improve autofocus speed, delivering up to roughly two times faster speeds in low-light conditions, along with improved AF tracking performance. 

The Alpha A7R III can also focus in brightness levels as low as -3EV. When you consider that’s pretty much complete darkness, it’s very impressive, although the D850’s central AF point just edges it at -4EV.

As we’ve seen on other Sony mirrorless cameras, there’s a wide range of autofocus settings. Wide or Zone modes are good for general photography and will take care of much of the decision-making for you, while Center mode uses the central AF point. 

There’s also a Flexible Spot mode (with the choice of three AF area sizes) that enables you to use the joystick to position the focus area pretty much anywhere in the frame, while the Expanded Flexible Spot mode takes advantage of additional AF points to assist with focusing. 

Focusing is fast in single servo mode, but it’s when you flick the focusing over to continuous that the system really impressives. You get the same focusing modes as before, but with the addition of a Lock-on setting – use this mode and you’ll find the Alpha A7R III can do a stunning job of tracking your designated subject as it moves round the frame. 

The Alpha A7R III’s Eye AF has also been enhanced, and now uses the same autofocus algorithms as the Alpha 9. This means that when the A7R III is in AF-C mode and with Eye-AF activated, the system should be able to continuously track and focus on your subject’s eye, even if they look down or away from the camera.

In our time with the camera this really impressed us. The A7R III managed to happily maintain focus on a subject in two challenging scenarios – while they were moving round the frame quickly as well as moving towards us, or looking down or away from the camera. 

Performance

  • 10fps burst shooting
  • 5-axis image stabilization
  • 530-shot battery life

While the A7R II could only manage 5fps burst shooting, the enhanced processing power inside the Alpha A7R III sees that rate double to 10fps, and that’s with continuous AF/AE tracking. It can sustain this for up to 76 JPEG/raw images, or 28 uncompressed 14-bit raws. 

You have the option of using the A7R III’s mechanical shutter to achieve this, or if you prefer you can opt for the camera’s electronic shutter for silent shooting. And, rather than having to wait while the camera writes large quantities of images to the card, it’s still possible to use many of the A7R III’s key functions.

The Alpha A7R III is kitted out with Sony’s 5-axis optical image stabilization system, and this has been tweaked for the new camera to deliver a 5.5-stop shutter speed advantage, improving on the A7R II’s 4.5-stop system. To reduce the risk of vibration and image blur, especially when shooting at 10fps, there’s a new low-vibration shutter mechanism. 

You can expect the A7R III to carry on shooting for 530 frames

The electronic viewfinder is excellent, with a clear and large view thanks to the fast refresh rate and 3,686k-dot resolution, while the rear display doesn’t disappoint either. 

One of the biggest complaints levelled at the A7R II was its poor battery life, with just 270 shots possible if you were lucky. Sony has swapped out the W-series battery used in that camera and replaced it with its latest Z-series unit, and you can expect the A7R III to carry on shooting for 530 shots if you use the viewfinder, or 650 shots using the rear display. It’s a welcome improvement, but still some way behind the likes of the Nikon D850’s 1,840-shot rating.

Image quality

  • ISO100-32,000, expandable to 50-102,400
  • 15-stop dynamic range
  • 14-bit raw shooting

The Alpha A7R III is able to resolve an impressive level of detail; you’d be hard-pushed to distinguish between its images and those from the more densely populated sensors on the 45.2MP Nikon D850 and 50MP Canon EOS 5DS. At the end of the day, if you’re planning to produce large A2 sized prints, you won’t be disappointed with the files from the Alpha A7R III.

Noise control is another area in which the Alpha A7R III is very strong. Noise levels are kept well within acceptable limits, delivering pleasing results with natural-looking granular noise and minimal Chroma (color) noise even when you’re shooting at the higher end of the native sensitivity range (up to ISO32,000). As with most cameras, we’d avoid resorting to the high expansion settings (the maximum here is ISO102,400) unless getting a shot is more important than its ultimate quality.

The Alpha A7R III’s dynamic range performance is also very impressive. If you’re shooting at low sensitivities and purposefully underexposing the shot to retain highlights, you’ll have to really push the file in post-processing before you see any signs of quality beginning to deteriorate in the shadows. For general editing of raw files where you want to recover detail, you’ve got plenty of flexibility with the A7R III’s files. 

Verdict

If Nikon thought it was going to have things all its own way with the D850, it should think again. Sony has taken one of our favorite mirrorless cameras and bolstered the performance to make the new Alpha A7R III a much more capable and well-rounded offering.

As we’ve seen with the D850, you no longer have to sacrifice performance for resolution or vice versa. The heady mix of 42.2MP and high performance that includes 10fps burst shooting and a very sophisticated AF system is bound to help this camera appeal to an even broader range of photographers than the older model. This is a camera that would be equally at home perched on a mountain as in a studio or on the sidelines of a football match.

For now, the Alpha A7R III is not only the most well-rounded mirrorless camera you can buy, but one of the best cameras out there.  

Competition

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Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III review

The Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III is the latest in a long line of enthusiast-focused compact cameras, designed for photographers looking for something to complement their DSLR, or for those looking for a versatile alternative to a DSLR in a relatively compact body. 

The original PowerShot G1 was launched in 2000, and for a while that camera and its successors were the obvious choice when it came to choosing an enthusiast compact.

But with rivals like the RX100 series from Sony, the LX range from Panasonic and Fujifilm’s X100 line, Canon’s flagship PowerShot compact has struggled to stand out from the crowd in recent years. And it would be fair to say the outgoing G1 X Mark II, with its unique 1.5-inch sensor, missed the mark, so Canon is throwing everything at the G1 X Mark III.

Features

  • APS-C CMOS Sensor, 24.2MP
  • 3.0-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots
  • 1080p video capture

Where the G1 X Mark II used a 1.5-inch sensor, the G1 X Mark III uses a 24.2MP APS-C CMOS chip that’s some 36% larger; it’s nearly identical to the one in Canon’s EOS 80D DSLR, delivering an ISO range from 100 to 25,600.

This is hooked up to Canon’s latest DIGIC 7 image processor, allowing the PowerShot G1 X Mark III to not only handle data that much quicker than the older model, but promising to reduce the need to edit images thanks to an Auto Lighting Optimizer and Diffraction Correction.

The G1 X Mark III sports a slightly more modest zoom range than the older model, at 24-72mm compared to 24-120mm, and has a f/2.8-5.6 aperture range. It also offers a close-focusing distance of just 10cm, while the lens features a nine-bladed aperture, which Canon says will produce pleasing background blur.

To minimize blur caused by camera shake, the PowerShot G1 X Mark III features a dual-sensing image stabilization system that can compensate for movement by up to four stops.

There’s also five-axis Advanced Dynamic IS for video recording. While we’re touching on video, the PowerShot G1 X Mark III can shoot 1080p video at up to 60p – there’s no 4K video capture here. 

The PowerShot G1 X Mark III also gets a panoramic sweep mode, allowing you to capture a 67MP image (24,064 x 2800 for horizontal shots, 16,000 x 4200 for vertical images), with the camera automatically stitching the panorama as you pan the camera.

The PowerShot G1 X Mark III features a built-in EVF – something that was missing from the Mark II – with a 2.36 million dot 0.39x Organic EL display, while there’s a 3.0-inch vari-angle touchscreen display with a resolution of 1.04 million dots, identical to the screens on the latest EOS DSLRs, such as the EOS Rebel T7i / 800D.

There’s Wi-Fi, NFC and always-on Bluetooth connectivity to enable you to remotely transfer images from your camera to a compatible smart device. Canon’s Camera Connect app also lets you wake the camera from its slumber (provided you haven’t turned the camera fully off), as well as browse photos and operate the camera remotely. 

Build and handling

  • 14.8mm thinner and 16% smaller than G1 X Mark II
  • Similar weather protection to EOS 80D
  • Weighs 399g

The design of the Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III is quite a shift from the Mark II, more closely resembling that of the PowerShot G5 X, and it’s all the better for it.

The G1 X Mark II never felt that satisfying to hold, and felt unnecessarily cumbersome. The Mark III feels much better in the hand – despite squeezing in a larger sensor the camera is some 16% smaller and 14.8mm thinner, while the fit and finish are a noticeable improvement over the older model. There’s a tiny built-in flash above lens, while the PowerShot G1 X Mark III is even dust- and drip-proof, with Canon stating that it offers similar weather sealing to the EOS 80D. 

The PowerShot G1 X Mark III is in actual fact only a bit bigger than the G5 X

The PowerShot G1 X Mark III is in actual fact only a bit bigger than the Powershot G5 X – you’d be hard pushed to tell their silhouettes apart. Despite its diminutive proportions though, it still provides a pleasingly secure purchase thanks to the sculptured front grip and pronounced thumb rest. The textured grip has a nice tactile feel as well, which adds to the overall satisfying feel of the camera. 

The controls are sensibly positioned, with the front command dial and top plate exposure compensation dial falling under the fingers nicely, while Canon has designed the shutter release to match those of high-end EOS cameras. There’s now a single click-less control ring round the front of the lens as well, which can be assigned to functions such as manual focusing, or be used to zoom the lens, though we found the rocker switch positioned round the shutter button quicker to use for the latter. 

Autofocus

  • Dual Pixel CMOS AF
  • Touch-and-drag AF
  • 49 AF points on a 7 x 7 grid

Canon’s Dual Pixel CMOS AF has impressed us for Live View photography on its latest range of EOS DSLRs like the EOS Rebel T7i / EOS 800D, so it’s no surprise to see it make an appearance in the PowerShot G1 X Mark III. 

Featuring 49 AF points arranged in a 7 x 7 grid, the system provides good coverage across the frame, although not quite edge to edge. Focusing is swift, with Canon stating 0.09 secs to acquire focus, while there’s also the ability to touch and drag the AF area via the rear screen (even when using the EVF). 

We found autofocus performance to be very good on the whole. Focusing is quick in good light, and while speed drops a bit when light levels fall, it still seemed to focus happily in most instances. 

The PowerShot G1 X Mark III can do a solid job at tracking moving subjects as well, though it’s not quite a match for the RX100 V’s sophisticated AF system. We found it behaves better when the subject you’re following contrasts more with the background, but it’s still a capable performer.   

Performance

  • 7fps burst shooting (9fps with focus lock)
  • Polished interface
  • 200-shot battery life

The Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III can shoot at a pretty rapid 7fps, while if you need even more speed you have the option of shooting at 9fps, provided you’re prepared to have focus locked at the first shot. This doesn’t quite match the blistering 24fps offered by the Sony RX100 V, but it’s a decent burst speed that should be up to the job for most of the scenarios the G1 X Mark III is intended for.

Buffer performance is also pretty respectable, with the camera capable of capturing 24 JPEGs or 19 raw files before it slows up – again, that’s nothing like the RX100 V’s 150 JPEG shots, but it should satisfy most potential users. 

The touchscreen interface has to be one of the best around – it’s easy to use, and really responsive

The viewfinder is nice and crisp, while the rear display doesn’t disappoint. The gapless design means viewing angles are excellent, while the touchscreen interface has to be one of the best around – it’s easy to use, and really responsive.

The image stabilization system works very well – we found it was certainly possible to achieve nice, sharp shots with shutter speeds much slower than we’d otherwise be comfortable with.

The PowerShot G1 X Mark III uses real-time metering from the sensor, and offers Evaluative, Centre-weighted and Spot metering options, with the evaluative system doing a sound job under most lighting conditions. 

Battery life is pretty limited on the G1 X Mark III, however, at just 200 shots. This is a little less than the likes of the RX100 V’s 220-shot battery life (which isn’t that impressive to start with), so you’ll definitely want to consider additional batteries if you’re going to be out for the day or weekend. 

Image quality

  • ISO100-25,600
  • Panoramic shot mode
  • +/-3 EV exposure compensation in 1/3 or 1/2-stop increments

With the Powershot G1 X Mark III using a 24.2MP APS-C CMOS sensor that’s almost identical to the EOS 80D’s, there are no nasty surprises when it comes to image quality. 

Detail rendition appears very good, while noise is also handled well. Results from ISO100 to 1600 appear very good, with pleasing color reproduction. While shots taken at ISO3200 and 6400 display some signs of luminance (grain-like noise), it’s very fine in structure, while there are some minor hints of chroma (color) noise creeping in.

Overall though, these don’t impact on images enough to make it become an issue. Above those settings files start displaying more pronounced luminance and chroma noise, causing detail and color saturation to suffer. While we’d avoid using ISO25,600 where possible, it’s still possible to get a satisfactory shot. 

Lens performance is good – at 24mm it’s nice and sharp at the centre wide-open at f/2.8, though when zoomed in to 72mm you’ll need to stop down a little bit beyond the maximum f/5.6 maximum aperture to improve sharpness. Distortion is well-controlled in camera, while it was hard to spot any noticeable vignetting. 

Verdict

The Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III is certainly a big improvement over the undercooked G1 X Mark II. The fact that Canon has managed to engineer a camera this size with a large APS-C sensor is very impressive – and even more impressive is the fact that this is the first APS-C format compact camera to feature a zoom lens, making it something quite unique. 

The sticking point might be the asking price, especially when you compare this camera to DSLR or mirrorless rivals. However, if you’re set on a premium all-in-one compact camera, the G1 X Mark III doesn’t look that bad when you compare it to similarly priced rivals. The fabulous Fujifilm X100F costs more, but doesn’t offer a zoom lens, while the slightly more affordable Sony RX100 V offers a longer zoom and snappier performance, but with a smaller 1-inch sensor. 

All things considered, Canon may have hit the sweet spot for enthusiast photographers looking for a compact partner for their DSLR kit, or for those looking for a versatile and neat all-in-one solution that delivers DSLR-quality images.

Competition

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Fujifilm X-A3

The Essential Review

This is TechRadar’s review summary, which gives you all the key information you need if you’re looking for quick buying advice in 30 seconds – our usual full, in-depth review follows.

The Fujifilm X-A3 is a great camera with a vintage-ish look that produces consistently good images. 

Designed as step-up from both a smartphone and a point-and-shoot compact, this entry-level mirrorless camera is reasonably priced, and reasonably easy to get to know, while images can be quickly transferred to a phone via the basic, but comprehensive and reliable, Fujifilm Camera Remote app. 

Fujifilm is clearly aiming this advanced camera at those who love taking photos, but who are aware that most of the best snaps they see on Instagram are taken with a ‘proper’ camera rather than a phone. Hence the attempt to woo the vain with a 180-degree tilting LCD screen and a mostly-effective ‘smile’ mode that takes a photo if it detects a cheeky grin. Ditto its dozens of Instagram-style filters and best-in-class Film Simulation modes.

Despite these everyman features though, the X-A3’s user interface is as retro as its exterior, and will present something of a learning curve for beginners. 

There’s no built-in electronic viewfinder (you’ll have to pay a bit more for something like the Fujifilm X-E3 if you want one), but if you’re the kind of photographer who doesn’t mind composing their shots on an LCD screen, the X-A3’s is pretty good; it’s colorful and contrasty, with a wide viewing angle. 

Any photo taken on the X-A3 will indeed look much better than a phone can manage, but full creative control isn’t as easy as on a DSLR, if that’s what you’re after. This is certainly a camera aimed at those looking for good-quality photos without getting bogged down in photography basics.

Reasonably small and lightweight, easy to use and – most importantly – supplying reliably detailed and colorful, clean images, the Fujifilm X-A3 has very few annoyances and is a likeable, dependable and good-value camera, with a capable 16-50mm kit lens. 

Who’s it for and should I buy it?

Fujifilm is clearly aiming this advanced compact at those who love taking photos – including plenty of selfies – and who are ready to make the jump from their smartphone to a ‘proper’ camera. 

However, despite the X-A3 not being exceptionally complicated to operate, it’s still a lot to take on for the average ‘phoneographer’. Persevere though, and you’ll be rewarded with colorful and detailed images that are a huge leap forward from those taken on your smartphone. 

Fujifilm X-A3 price

  • Current price: £479 / $549 / AU$949 with 16-50mm lens 

A good value mirrorless camera that’s all about the images

  • APS-C CMOS sensor, 24.2MP
  • JPEG and raw files
  • 16-50mm kit lens

For a relatively compact camera, the Fujifilm X-A3 features a large sensor – it’s a 24.2MP APS-C sensor, similar in size to those in many DSLRs. While the resolution is identical to that offered by its more expensive siblings like the X-E3, X-T20 and X-T2, there’s a subtle difference in the actual design of the sensor. Rather than getting Fujifilm’s X-Trans technology, the chip here gets a more standard primary color filter design, and while there’s nothing wrong with that per se, it won’t quite be a match for its premium siblings in the image quality stakes.

The X-A3 has a native ISO range of 200 to 6400, which is expandable up to ISO25,600 if necessary, though we’d avoid using this other than as a last resort. The autofocus system is generally impressive, if not the quietest. 

The camera comes with an XC16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS II lens as standard, which is versatile enough to suit most for everyday photography. However, the beauty of the mirrorless camera genre – aside from the reasonably lightweight, travel-ready form-factor – is the option to swap-out lenses, and, equipped with a standard Fujifilm X Series lens mount, the X-A3 is compatible with more than 30 different lenses. 

Unlike models higher up the Fujifilm range, the X-A3 can’t shoot video in 4K, just Full HD. That’s just as well, as the often-slow X-A3 certainly doesn’t have the processing power to handle 4K. 

Retro design meets solid and simple handling

  • Lightweight at just 339g
  • 180-degree tilting touchscreen
  • Faux-leather exterior finishes

As with most Fujifilm cameras, there’s a touch of retro about the X-A3. Our review sample came in a two-tone brown faux leather and metallic finish (it’s also available with black or pink faux leather), and while there are some aluminium parts (including the front cover, top plate and top dials), it does have quite a plasticky feel. 

On the right-hand side of the camera is a rigid flap covering a micro USB slot via which you recharge the X-A3 (which we find preferable to a battery charging cradle) alongside a micro HDMI output. The undercarriage holds a compartment for the battery (rated at 410 shots) and a SD card slot. 

There’s a fairly standard menu system that will be easy enough to master for DSLR owners, but likely off-putting to anyone upgrading from a smartphone

The X-A3’s physical controls are limited, both by the size of the body and the camera’s ambitions. On the front of the camera, next to the lens, is a tiny dial for toggling between single, continuous and manual shooting, while the back contains shortcuts to autofocus, timer, burst shooting and white balance settings.

There’s a fairly standard menu system that will be easy enough to master for DSLR owners, but likely off-putting to anyone upgrading from a smartphone (there are eight pages of multi-screen lists). 

There are also buttons to initiate video recording, which is always helpful, and the usual ‘quick menu’ button for accessing oft-needed tweaks such as ISO, white balance and aspect ratio. A dial on the top of the camera is required to toggle through everything, and using this becomes second nature pretty quickly, while a second dial proved useful for manually adjusting exposure. 

The X-A3’s LCD screen with 180-degree tilt presents some nifty usability options. For example, you can use the X-A3 to take selfies by turning the LCD screen 180-degrees and pulling it up slightly so that you can see your entire mug (albeit upside-down, but it’s enough for framing purposes). Its ‘smile mode’ for selfies works really well, although in our tests it was also triggered by some random inanimate objects that definitely weren’t smiling. 

The more serious photographer will appreciate that flip-up screen making it  easier to shoot over the heads of crowds, or to get down close to the floor and take shots from unusual angles without having to kneel/lie on the ground.

In our tests with an iPhone the Fujifilm Camera Remote app worked reasonably well; it allowed us to remotely operate the camera and make manual adjustments (most obviously to ISO and exposure compensation), and consistently maintained a connection over Wi-Fi. 

It’s pretty much a one-page app, and when trying to escape from the remote viewing page the app always wants to disconnect from the camera, although despite this quirk we were able to transfer a batch of images successfully several times in a row. 

Image quality

  • Images have decent levels of detail 
  • Film Simulation modes are great
  • Panoramic mode 

Although we had a few different lens options for this review, we mainly used the 16-50mm kit lens that most buyers will get. This is restricted to f/3.5-5.6 aperture, but proved a good general-purpose lens in our tests.

It features a built-in anti-shake system, and handheld shots impressed, with autofocus working well (though its constant beeps and whirs get annoying). Touchscreen focusing is also possible, though it’s best avoided if you want maximum sharpness. 

In another nod to the Instagram generation, the X-A3 has a decent selection of artistic filters. There are 10, including Nostalgic (to who?) Toy Camera, Miniature, which adds graduated blurring to give scenes the appearance of table-top models, and a Fisheye distortion effect. In addition you get Fujifilm’s excellent Film Simulation modes, which provide more subtle and satisfying results, with 11 options to choose from.

The X-A3 does have a few other ‘novelty’ modes, and for the most part they work well. Hidden in the Advanced Filter menus is a Panoramic drag-and-drop mode, which makes a very loud fake shutter noise (the volume of which can be turned down), and produces a fairly soft image. There are also a plethora of selfie modes. 

The panoramic mode is easy to use and delivers pretty good results

Not convinced? Try these

If the Fujifilm X-A3 mirrorless camera isn’t for you, here are three excellent alternatives for you to consider… 

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Nikon D3400

The D3400 is the latest in a line of Nikon entry-level DSLRs that adheres to a no-frills template, one that prioritises small size, light weight and a simple design, all the while maintaining the benefits of an interchangable-lens system.

A follow-up to the brilliant D3300, Nikon has managed to shave a little of the D3300’s weight off the body for this new iteration, but it’s also boosted its battery life and improved a number of features to make it an even mightier proposition for the novice user. 

It’s also launched the camera alongside a redesigned kit lens, one that sports a retractable inner barrel and a more streamlined design that eschews the focusing and Vibration Reduction switches we’re used to seeing.

But, after so many warmly received models and a raft of fine competitors in both DSLR and mirrorless categories, does the D3400 have enough going for it to make it worth the beginner’s attention?

Features

  • APS-C CMOS sensor, 24.2MP
  • 3.0-inch screen, 921,000 dots
  • 1080p video capture

The Nikon D3400 sports an APS-C sized sensor – as is the case with every entry-level DSLR, with its 24.2MP pixel count very respectable – certainly we wouldn’t expect this to be any higher at this level – and this is heightened by the lack of an optical low-pass filter, which should help it to capture better detail than would otherwise be the case.

This works over a reasonably wide sensitivity range of ISO100-25,600, which represents a one-stop expansion over the native ISO12,800 range of its D3300 predecessor. Once again it’s paired with Nikon’s Expeed 4 processing engine, which, among other things, allows for 5fps burst shooting and Full HD video recording up to an impressive 60p. Nikon’s familiar Picture Controls are also on hand, although for those wanting their images and videos processed into more distinct styles immediately, Effects such as Super Vivid, Illustration and Toy Camera are also accessible through the mode dial.

The camera’s 11-point AF system features a single cross-type point in the centre of its array, with a maximum sensitivity down to -1EV. You can set the system to focus continuously on a subject, including with Nikon’s 3D tracking technology, and the camera can also continue to autofocus in live view and when recording videos. Manual focus is also possible, selectable through the menu and performed with a ring at the very front of the camera’s kit lens.

Not that they’re not bettered elsewhere, but the specs of both the viewfinder and LCD are in keeping with what we expect at this level. The viewfinder is based on a pentamirror construction and shows approximately 95% of the scene, while the LCD measures 3in in size and has a respectable resolution of 921k dots.

Wi-Fi hasn’t been included inside the body, although wireless image transmission is still possible through the SnapBridge feature. First incorporated inside the D500, this uses always-on Bluetooth Low Energy to deliver images straight to smart devices, either as they are captured or afterwards. It’s not possible to control the camera’s shooting settings remotely in any way, although this is not too great an omission on such a model.

To help the first-time user understand their camera better, Nikon has once again implemented its Guide mode feature

To help the first-time user understand their camera better, Nikon has once again implemented its Guide mode feature. This provides an alternative to the main menus and helps the user quickly capture specific types of images. There’s also the familiar ‘?’ button that can be called upon to explain camera functions.

Nikon though has made a few omissions from the D3300. Gone is the microphone port around the camera’s side, which means that you’re restricted to the built in monaural microphones, although this is not a critical loss when you consider that it’s aimed at beginner users. The flash has become weaker too, its guide number dropping from GN 12m at ISO 100 to just 7m here. Perhaps most importantly, built-in sensor-cleaning technology has also failed to make the cut, which means you have to use a more tedious process that requires you to take a reference photo before processing it with the included Capture NX D software, or raise the mirror and physically clean it with a swab or blower.

The core specs – notably the sensor, AF system and video specs – compare well with the camera’s chief rival, the Canon EOS 1300D, although these and others are essentially unchanged from the D3300. Some may lament the lack of built-in Wi-Fi, however, as well as a touchscreen.

Build and handling

  • Polycarbonate construction
  • Design little changed from D3300
  • Weighs 445g

The D3400 is designed to be small and lightweight, but Nikon has ensured there is enough grip to get hold of the camera and space on the rear for the thumb to rest without knocking into any controls. At just 650g with its battery, memory card and kit lens in place the model is one of the lightest DSLR combinations around, around 40g lighter than the Canon EOS 1300D and its own 18-55mm kit lens and around 200g lighter than the Pentax K-50 and lens.

Naturally, such a small and light body does have its downsides. Mounting anything but Nikon’s smallest and lightest lenses makes for an imbalanced partnership, for example, and it’s easy to get your nose in the way of the menu selector pad on the rear which can make adjusting the focusing point tricky. The camera also lacks the build quality of its D5xxx siblings like the D5600, which is to be expected given its lower billing.

A soft rubber around the grip improves the model’s feel in the hand, and this is complemented with the same finish on the thumb rest

Still, there are many positives elsewhere. A soft rubber around the grip improves the model’s feel in the hand, and this is complemented with the same finish on the thumb rest. The mode dial is easy to grip and rotate, and while buttons are somewhat flat and lack much travel they are reasonably sized and well marked. The customisable Fn button to the side of the lens mount is very welcome, particularly in the absence of a direct control for ISO, although this can be assigned three alternative functions. Also nice to find is a dedicated drive mode button, which you’ll no doubt find useful if you tend to call upon burst-shooting and self-timer options with any frequency.

Autofocus

  • 11-point AF, 1 cross-type AF point
  • AF-assist illuminator
  • 3D-tracking AF

In line with many other APS-C based rivals, the camera’s 11-point Multi CAM 1000 AF system covers a healthy proportion of the frame, the points arranged in a diamond-like formation. This is essentially unchanged from previous models, although the new AF-P 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR kit lens has been engineered to provide fast and quiet focus.

It is indeed very quiet, with just a slight burr as it works, and something that’s easily masked by most ambient noise. Overall speed is also very good, with the system bringing subjects to focus as promptly as expected when shooting in good light. Naturally this slows in poorer light, although the AF assist lamp is relatively bright and readily springs into play.

Although only the central AF point is cross type for enhanced sensitivity, the points immediately above and below it also prove to be more sensitive than the other surrounding points. I found this triplet could focus on very low-contrast subjects where the other eight could not.

When set to track a moving subject the system is capable of keeping up as a subject moves around the scene, although as points are positioned much further apart from each other than on cameras with a more densely packed array, it can often lose subjects if they don’t occupy enough of the frame to begin with.

There’s a slight focusing slowdown in live view, although a comparison with a similarly-sized Nikkor lens with an SWM motor shows the newer AF-P version to be both faster and quieter. In good light it still manages to find the subject without too much hesitation, although during this review there were occasions in poorer light where the system could not find focus at all. Still, for studio and other tripod-based shooting, this is completely usable.

Performance

  • 5fps burst shooting
  • SnapBridge connectivity
  • 1200 shot battery life

We were pleased to see the D3400’s metering didn’t tend to overexpose when faced with a predominantly dark subject, although, as is the case with many DSLRs, it does appear to lean slightly towards underexposure when faced with brighter areas. Still, with a dedicated exposure compensation button on the top plate that works in conjunction with the rear command dial, any intervention here is fast and straightforward.

The camera’s Auto White Balance performance is similarly very good, with just a handful of slips during the course of this review. It did better than expected under artificial lighting, with just a little warmth taken away from some scenes, although performance under the traditionally difficult mixed natural/artificial conditions remained commendable.

The D3400’s Matrix metering performed well under a range of lighting conditions

The D3400 is unlikely to be anyone’s first choice for action photography, capable of shooting at a modest 5fps. This performance is likely to be deemed adequate of most shooting situations, but those wanting to capture prolonged bursts may find it tricky to do so when shooting raw files.

The camera’s viewfinder produces a pleasingly clear, color-accurate and reasonably bright rendition of the scene, while the LCD display beneath it is fixed in place and not sensitive to touch. 

These are not features we should expect as standard on an entry-level DSLR (even if a handful of rivals do offer one or the other, or both), but the key thing is that it can reproduce the scene faithfully and show details clearly, and with 921k dots it does a good job to do both in balanced conditions and indoors. 

One feature that deserves high praise is the 1200-shot battery life…this places the D3400 at a huge advantage over other models

Wireless image transfer takes place over the camera’s Bluetooth-running SnapBridge system, for which you need Nikon’s dedicated app of the same name. This has not been well received since it introduction earlier in the year, and it was not possible to establish a connection when paired with an iPhone 6 for the duration of this test, despite both devices recognising each other.

It doesn’t come as too great a surprise that the camera doesn’t quite stretch to recording 4K video, offering Full HD instead, although good results are possible. Manual control over exposure may be enabled and while a little rolling shutter is visible in certain scenes, this is only really an issue if you pan the camera at speed. 

One feature that deserves high praise is the 1200-shot battery life. Having initially charged it fully, the camera maintained a full three bars after two days of being tested. Battery life is an issue for many compact system cameras, whose small batteries often have to power both LCD screen and electronic viewfinders, although the D3400’s battery is far juicier than most other DSLR batteries too (certainly in this class). This places the D3400 at a huge advantage over other models.

One small annoyance is that Nikon has maintained the same ‘this option is not available at the current settings or in the camera’s current state’ error message from previous models. This is particularly unhelpful when faced with unselectable options as it doesn’t explain exactly why they cannot be chosen, and it may cause the first-time user to have to check their manual more often than should be necessary.

Image quality

  • ISO100-25,600
  • No low-pass filter
  • Picture Control image effects

With no low-pass filter in front of its sensor, it’s possible to record a very good level of detail in images, particularly if you use a high-quality prime lens, a macro optic or one of Nikon’s pro-oriented zooms. One thing that lets down image quality is the standard of the 18-55mm VR kit lens, particularly at the wideangle and telephoto extremes. Partner the D3400 with some good lenses though, and you achieve images with excellent levels of detail – like the shot below.

The 24.2MP sensor inside the D3400 is capable of delivering excellent levels of detail

At wider apertures images are somewhat soft, particularly in corners and at the edges of the frame, although when used in an intermediate focal length it’s possible get some very good sharpness in the centre of the frame. As with many similar kit lenses, lateral chromatic aberration and curvilinear distortion can be visible in Raw files, although both are successfully and automatically dealt with in JPEGs.

It’s possible to recover a decent amount of detail in post-processing

One thing those processing images will appreciate is the camera’s healthy dynamic range. I found images underexposed by up to around 3-3.5EV stops could still be rectified (depending on ISO) without noise becoming an issue – at least not one that can’t be dealt with by way of careful noise reduction. Just take a look at the shots above.

The camera’s slight tendency towards underexposure when dealing with bright areas also means that more highlight detail is retained than would otherwise be the case, although these areas can be tamed in post-production too. Against high-contrast edges it’s also easy to spot purple fringing, and this remains in JPEGs, so this is one area of attention for raw post-production.

In the kinds of conditions in which high ISOs would be called upon, images captured up until around 800 range are still well coloured and troubled to no great degree by noise, although it becomes harder to process this out from images captured after this point. It’s a shame there is no control over high-ISO noise reduction past on and off, as some may prefer to adjust this in finer increments. Fortunately, the effective VR system inside the kit lens means you shouldn’t immediately need to call upon higher options as light levels fall.

The Vivid Picture Control mode is a lovely choice for flowers and foliage

Nikon’s Picture Control options provide a sensible array of color options, and it’s great to see the Flat option that first came along in the much more advanced D810. This can be used when recording videos, as a means of providing a better starting point for grading. Otherwise, the Standard mode is suitable for everyday shooting, neither saturating colors unnaturally nor leaving them lacklustre. The Vivid mode is a lovely choice for flowers and foliage, and gives colours just the right pep, although all can be adjusted fairly comprehensively with regards to contrast, saturation, brightness and so on.

Verdict

The Nikon D3400 is a fine performer and more than enough camera for most people just getting started with DSLR photography. Its body is small and light and its specs, while very similar to its predecessor’s, are perfectly decent for a model of its class. Image and video quality is more than satisfactory too, and with the further benefit of in-camera raw processing, you can also polish up your creations quickly and easily for immediate use if you wish.

As a Nikon DSLR, its compatibility with decades worth of top-quality Nikkor glass is another major advantage. Furthermore, the benefit of its optical low-pass-filter-free sensor means that you can get the best out of these optics.

Perhaps most importantly for a entry-level DSLR, the built-in Guide mode and straightforward controls make the D3400 incredibly easy to use

The advantage of the 1200-shot battery shouldn’t be overlooked too (especially when compared to mirrorless rivals), and means that it’s much more likely to be taken to a festival, on holiday or elsewhere where you may not always have easy access to a power supply. 

Perhaps most importantly for a entry-level DSLR, the built-in Guide mode and straightforward controls make the D3400 incredibly easy to use. 

Initially quite a pricey option when launched last year, prices have fallen steadily to make the D3400 a much more appealing proposition. If you’re after an easy to use DSLR with a huge back-up of lenses and accessories at your disposal, this is a great starting point.

Competition

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Sony Alpha A6300

New: The Alpha A6300 has since been replaced by the Alpha A6500, but it remains in the Sony mirrorless line-up. The A6500 features a number of performance improvements, as well as touchscreen control. Don’t discount the A6300 as it’s still a very capable mirrorless camera, and is now more affordable than ever.

Sony may have spent the last few years reshaping the full-frame market with a string of popular compact system cameras, but it’s also managed to simultaneously keep its APS-C alternatives relevant and exciting.

Its previous A6000 was very much testament to this, with a well-rounded spec sheet and excellent performance helping it to become a successful model for the company. Thankfully, the new A6300 retains what made that model so popular, but the areas in which Sony has sought to improve it should give it many added layers of appeal to enthusiast users, whether they tend to shoot sports, video or something else.

As an upper-level APS-C model the camera goes up against the likes of the Fujifilm X-T2, as well as the newer and pricier X-Pro2, together with Micro Four Thirds offerings such as the Olympus Pen-F and more affordable Panasonic Lumix GX8. Interestingly, at its current price, it also occupies something of a middle ground against Sony’s full-frame alternatives, being a little cheaper than the Alpha A7 II but pricier than the still-available A7 and A7R.

Features

The Exmor CMOS APS-C sensor maintains the same 24.2MP pixel count as the one inside the A6000, although the sensor itself is newly developed, and features copper wiring in its construction to boost readout speed and light-gathering efficiency.

Sony has also said that refinements to the camera’s BIONZ X processing engine mean it can squeeze all the goodness out of the new sensor, with particular focus on low-noise, high-resolution results in the upper range of the camera’s ISO100-51,200 sensitivity span.

Sony has also equipped the camera with its 4D Focus system, with 425 phase-detect AF pixels that reach almost to the peripheries of the frame. This is the highest number of phase-detect points we’ve seen on an interchangeable-lens camera to date, and this density, together with 169 additional contrast-detect points, is said to enable the camera to focus on moving subjects in as little as 0.05 seconds.

Furthermore, the camera’s phase-detect points continue to function when using A-mount lenses via an adapter, which will no doubt please those moving up from the older system.

Those intending to use the camera for moving subjects will also be pleased to learn that not only has the 11fps burst-shooting option of the A6000 been maintained – with focus tracking and exposure adjusted throughout the burst – but that a slightly slower 8fps alternative option is also on hand, with a blackout between each frame to provide a similar experience to using an optical viewfinder.

Video recording has also received plenty of attention. In contrast to the Full HD standard on the A6000 and most other cameras at this level, the A6300 ramps up to 4K shooting in the Super 35mm format – a first for a non-full-frame Sony model.

Thanks to the changes made to the focusing system, focus speeds are also said to be twice as fast as the system inside the A6000

Instead of using pixel binning, this captures 6K footage – i.e. oversampling the scene – before downsampling it to a 4K resolution, a process that Sony claims produces ‘exceptional’ depth and detail.

Other changes include a new XAVC S codec used for the above, and the S-Log Gamma function. Thanks to the changes made to the focusing system, focus speeds are also said to be twice as fast as the system inside the A6000, while a 3.5mm mic port has also been included.

The 3-inch display on the rear, with its 921k-dot resolution and ability to be tilted, has been carbon copied from the A6000, which means it’s shaped in the video-friendly 16:9 aspect ratio, although sadly it’s not a touch-sensitive screen.

The 0.39-inch electronic viewfinder above this, however – or ‘Tru-Finder’ in Sony parlance – has now been equipped with a 2.359 million-dot XGA OLED panel, against the 1.44 million dots seen previously.

If this viewfinder sounds familiar, it’s probably because many other Sony models higher up have also sported one with similar specs, from the Cyber-shot RX1R II compact to the A7 family of mirrorless models. Magnification is once again set at 1.07x, which is roughly equivalent to 0.70x in 35mm terms, and Sony also claims that setting it to its maximum display rate of 120fps results in very few afterimages.

Other changes include improved dust and moisture resistance, although not quite to the same splash-proof level as the Olympus OM-D E-M5 II and Fujifilm X-Pro2

Other changes include improved dust and moisture resistance, although not quite to the same splash-proof level as the Olympus OM-D E-M5 II and Fujifilm X-Pro2, as well as a gauge for keeping shots level, and a new silent shooting mode that should see the camera more suited to sensitive environments.

Battery life has also been boosted, with 350 frames quoted when using the viewfinder and 400 frames when using the LCD screen, although the number actually achieved will be subject to display settings and image-reviewing habits, among other things.

In terms of connectivity, the camera is furnished with the standard USB and HDMI micro connections, with Wi-Fi and NFC on the inside to keep things cable-free where necessary. As with the majority of such models, it records all images and videos onto SD, SDHC and SDXC media (with support for up to UHS-I), as well as the less-common, Sony-specific Memory Stick PRO Duo format.

The A6300 makes a positive first impression. The large, rubbered grip, combined with the body’s depth and the raised edge on the thumb rest, makes it easier to handle than many similar cameras. The body also appears to strike the right balance between offering plenty of logically positioned controls without attempting to cram these onto every surface, causing you to press buttons inadvertently.

Occasionally, however, I felt the grip wasn’t raised far enough from the front plate for it to always be entirely comfortable, particularly when holding the camera between shots. I found the tips of my fingers were often squashed against the front plate, and ultimately I resorted to holding the camera by the lens rather than the grip when carrying it, with my index finger on the back plate for extra security.

The top and front plates are somewhat minimal in their design, with only one button present across both (a customisable control next to the shutter release button/power switch collar). Because of this the camera is able to offer both a built-in flash and a multi-interface shoe in addition to the electronic viewfinder, together with two large dials – a command dial and another for changing the shooting mode.

The stiffness of the shooting mode dial is welcome, as most photographers won’t be adjusting this with such frequency that would require it to be looser (and thus more prone to accidental turning). Likewise the stiffness of the command dial next to it, which can be used to adjust aperture, shutter speed, exposure compensation and more – which is perhaps just as well given its more exposed and easy-to-knock edges, although it would be good to see the camera more responsive to its turning, as it can take a fair few turns to get to where you want to be.

The back plate mostly follows a tried-and-tested formula, with a handful of well-marked controls and the loosely moving control wheel enabling you to navigate menus and scrutinize images with ease.

One new change is the arrival of a collar around the magnify button; this can be used in conjunction with the button to select Auto-Exposure Lock, or alternatively to quickly switch to manual focus. This works well and falls right next to the thumb, so it’s great if you often find yourself fine-tuning focus.

The rear display pulls away easily, but is stiff enough to remain in the position to which it’s adjusted. When extended to certain positions, however, some of the most frequently-used controls are awkward to operate, particularly the Fn and menu buttons, as well as the control wheel.

Sony A6300 review

The menu system is comprehensive, with a generally good level of clarity in terms of display and language (a handful of abbreviations are used, although the majority aren’t quite as cryptic as on other cameras).

But, although options are segregated into different tabs, some groups of settings overflow where they could easily be placed under one. Given that there are 27 separate screens, all appearing very similar on account of there being no colour-coding – something present on other Sony models – it can sometimes be difficult to find what you need.

One slight annoyance is the position of the movie record button, right at the edge of the rear plate. During this test, I assigned movie recording to the C1 button on the top plate to make this more convenient to press, although this can be assigned elsewhere should you already have this set to another function of your choosing.

The diopter correction wheel is also in perhaps the least convenient place possible, making adjustments while your face is to the camera unnecessarily awkward.

Although the A6000’s viewfinder was a capable performer it’s still welcome to see this component upgraded on the Sony A6300, given how key a part of the camera it is. As someone who doesn’t wear glasses I found its eye-point to be in just the right spot for me when held at a comfortable distance away. The panel’s resolution provides very good clarity and contrast is high, and although noise and lagging increased in darker conditions I still found it perfectly usable.

The on-screen (shooting) display of the LCD is large and clear, and the fact that images captured in the standard 3:2 aspect ratio do not occupy the entirety of the screen helps, as the black borders on either side allow for most of the secondary shooting information to stand out (the rest is superimposed on the image).

The screen itself appears somewhat underpowered when used outside, however, even under overcast conditions. Switching the camera to the Sunny Weather option, or brightening the display manually, is a great help, although this obviously comes at the expense of battery life.

Although the camera doesn’t quite offer the near-instant start-up time of a similar DSLR, it’s not so far behind that it makes any difference in all but critical situations.

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The high density of AF points and continuous focus meant the camera did an excellent job of tracking this duck, almost to the very edges of the frame

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Sony A6300 review

The camera’s auto white balance system has done well to reproduce the scene accurately in this mixed-lighting environment

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Sony A6300 review

The Vivid colour option doesn’t appear to saturate colours to the same extent as similar settings on other cameras, but the results are perhaps more realistic for it

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Sony states that the A6300 can shoot 21 consecutive raw frames or the same number of Raw+JPEG frames, and 44 JPEG frames at the highest quality setting. In practice, the camera easily met all of these targets, even exceeding them by the odd frame, although slower memory cards may throttle this.

Helpfully, the camera also remained operational while writing images to the card, not fully functional but often allowing a few subsequent frames to be captured as these were being dealt with.

The revamped focusing system is one of the A6300’s main highlights, so does it deliver on the high expectations? Largely, yes. In good light it brings subjects to focus with very little delay, refocusing whenever the lens is zoomed to an approximate point so that focusing takes as little time as possible when initiated by the user.

The camera also willingly deploys the AF assist light wherever it feels it needs to, which helps to keep focusing speed swift in poorer light.

Sony A6300 review

The density of shadow areas in this scene means noise is less visible in the JPEG here than in the raw image (below), but shadow details are, not surprisingly, less visible too. There is, however, plenty of detail in well-lit areas

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Sony A6300 review

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The high number of phase-detect AF points, and in turn their density, also plays a significant part in ensuring that moving subjects are tracked successfully – and performance here is strong. As soon as focus is acquired, the relevant number of points dance around the subject, and continue to adhere as the subject or camera moves.

I found this appeared to work very well whether the subject was moving towards or away from the camera, roughly along the optical axis, or if it was moving across the frame. In the latter case the camera would, more often than not, continue to track the subject as it approached the very edge of the focusing array (it doesn’t stretch right up to the peripheries, but close enough), and it managed to do this with subjects moving at a variety of speeds.

Although I could appreciate how well the A6300 did from monitoring the focus points’ movement at the time of capture, examining my images afterwards showed that while it did occasionally leave the subject, and sometimes move instead to a flat, featureless area that you wouldn’t ordinarily expect would present any kind of distraction, on many occasions it successfully managed to make its way back to the subject. On other occasions it did not, although the overall hit rate showed the system to be highly capable in such scenarios. Overall, when it works well – and it usually does – it works very well indeed.

Sony A6300 review

The closest focusing distance of the Sony E 16-70mm f/4 Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar T* ZA OSS, which is a logical kit lens upgrade, enables backgrounds to be nicely out of focus at wide apertures

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Sony A6300 review

The camera’s auto white balance system has got the colours pretty much spot on in this image, captured under a tricky mix of artificial lighting

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Sony A6300 review

The camera’s default multi metering mode has underexposed this image by around half a stop, but this isn’t uncommon, and it can be easily rectified through exposure compensation and/or raw processing

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The 8fps burst shooting mode will be a popular option for those coming from DSLRs, given how it’s not possible to appreciate exactly when images have been captured using the faster 11fps mode. Of course, the sound from the shutter gives you some idea, but the lack of a visible cue does result in the disconnect that Sony has attempted to remedy with the slower option.

There is an even slower ‘Lo’ option, which fires at three frames per second, although whichever mode you use the constant presence of the focusing points and their movement keeps you updated on how accurately the camera is keeping up on the subject. It’s a shame, however, that only the Lo option can be used in conjunction with silent shooting, as you may want to use the faster options when capturing live subjects.

The Sony A6300’s metering system is largely reliable, with just an occasional bias towards underexposure. Often this would only be around half a stop or so away from what was expected, so could easily be rectified either with exposure compensation or in post-capture raw processing.

The camera’s auto white balance system also did very well to faithfully reproduce colours in a range of conditions, even impressing under typically problematic artificial sources.

Sony A6300 review

The Vivid Creative style gives JPEG images like this a pleasing punch over the raw version (below), with nice colour, good contrast and no sharpening artefacts visible

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Sony A6300 review

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The quality of JPEGs straight out of the camera is very good. Images show good sharpness, contrast and colour next to raw files, although the raw files are generally well coloured to begin with, so the difference here is not as significant as usual.

JPEGs also show that the DRO system does well to slightly bring up shadow areas, to make images more suitable for immediate use.

Noise is generally well controlled across the range, and images are perfectly usable even at higher settings such as ISO6400. My only reservation is the camera’s Normal noise reduction setting, which appears somewhat heavy handed in its approach to high-ISO images; thankfully, a Low setting and the option to disable the feature completely are on offer.

With the Sony E 16-70mm f/4 Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar T* ZA OSS mounted the level of detail in raw files is very good, with a pleasing consistency across the frame when the lens is stopped down to a mid-range aperture. Many users, however, are likely to be using the camera in conjunction with the Sony E 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 PZ OSS kit option, which I didn’t have access to for this review.

Overall video quality from the A6300 is excellent. Footage shows plenty of detail and motion is nice and smooth, and there are no obvious artefacts present in footage captured under balanced conditions. Even in lower light, where noise patterning starts to take hold, footage shows just a slight texture rather than being swamped with unsightly coloured noise. If you’re viewing results on a display with a resolution lower than 4K, you’re also likely to see such imperfections to a lesser degree.

Audio quality in videos is also decent, with a clean sound and good balance between bass and treble. As with many other cameras, it is somewhat susceptible to the battering sounds of wind noise, although using an external microphone with a deadcat or a similar windshield is possible.

Sadly, it’s not possible to use the Sunny Weather setting when recording in 4K, which means the aforementioned screen brightness issues rear their head.

We chose three rival cameras for the Sony A6300 to see how it measured up in our lab tests: the Panasonic GX8, the Olympus PEN-F and the Fuji X-Pro2

We’ve carried out lab tests on the Sony A6300 across its full ISO range for resolution, noise (including signal to noise ratio) and dynamic range. We test the JPEGs shot by the camera, but we also check the performance with raw files. Most enthusiasts and pros prefer to shoot raw, and the results can often be quite different.

Sony A6300 resolution charts

We test camera resolution using an industry-standard ISO test chart that allows precise visual comparisons. This gives us numerical values for resolution in line widths/picture height, and you can see how the Sony A6300 compares with its rivals in the charts below.

Sony A6300 review

JPEG resolution analysis: The A6300 leads the way for detail resolution amongst its competition here.

Sony A6300 review

Raw (converted to TIFF) resolution analysis: The A6300 puts in an impressively consistent performance, managing to maintain a high level of detail into the high sensitivity settings.

Dynamic range is a measure of the range of tones the sensor can capture. Cameras with low dynamic range will often show ‘blown’ highlights or blocked-in shadows. This test is carried out in controlled conditions using DxO hardware and analysis tools.

DxO Analyzer

We use DxO Analyzer to measure noise and dynamic range in controlled laboratory conditions.

Read: Noise and dynamic range results explained

Dynamic range is measured in exposure values (EV). The higher the number the wider the range of brightness levels the camera can capture. This falls off with increasing ISO settings because the camera is having to amplify a weaker signal. Raw files capture a higher dynamic range because the image data is unprocessed.

Sony A6300 dynamic range charts

Sony A6300 review

JPEG dynamic range analysis: Lab testing shows a great performance with regards to dynamic range at lower and higher sensitivities next to its immediate rivals, with just a slight dip in the ISO3200-6400 region. Nevertheless the X-Pro2 does a little better for much of the sensitivity range.

Sony A6300 review

Raw (converted to TIFF) dynamic range analysis: Dynamic range in raw files starts at a reasonable level, although by ISO400 this starts to slip, and at the highest settings performance from the Panasonic GX8 and Olympus Pen-F is considerably stronger.

This is a test of the camera’s noise levels. The higher the signal to noise ratio, the greater the difference in strength between the real image data and random background noise, so the ‘cleaner’ the image will look. The higher the signal to noise ratio, the better.

Sony A6300 signal to noise ratio charts

JPEG signal to noise ratio analysis: The A6300 does an excellent job to match the signal to noise performance of its rivals at its base ISO, and remains strong as sensitivity is raised. Even at the highest settings tested, the readings show it to be very capable.

Sony A6300 review

Raw (converted to TIFF) signal to noise ratio analysis: Despite strong JPEG results, the camera fails to keep up with the competition when raw images are analysed here. Performance is consistent across the sensitivity range, but sadly lower throughout.

While there’s room for improvement in terms of design and operation, the A6300 is nevertheless a competent and reliable camera that does what it sets out to do very well. Crucially, it captures pleasing images on standard settings and records video to a high standard.

The previous A6000 can currently be had for less than half the price of the A6300, and this could make the newer model appear overpriced – although those using the viewfinder or focus tracking with some frequency, or needing 4K video recording to hand, may find this premium more reasonable.

Still, the model isn’t short of strong competitors. Videographers may well be drawn to the cheaper 4K-shooting Panasonic Lumix GX8; that camera’s form, and the additions of an electronic viewfinder and flexible LCD, make it seem like the A6300’s closest rival, while the company’s bulkier GH4 or the GH4R update are also viable alternatives if video recording is key.

Those not fussed about 4K video resolution can also turn to the excellent Olympus OM-D E-M5 II or newer Pen-F, both of which offer the advantage of built-in image stabilization over the A6300, and many prospective purchasers may also add the Fujifim X-T1, and even one of Sony’s similarly priced A7-series models, to their shortlist.

We liked

There’s plenty to like about the A6300. Its focusing system is sound, replete with options for capturing a range of different subjects and performs strongly when tracking moving subjects, while the viewfinder is a pleasure to use. The tiltable screen makes composing images at ground level or high up easy. Video quality is excellent, and images are pleasing straight out of the camera.

We disliked

In the absence of any significant failings, it’s only really a handful of smaller shortcomings that let the A6300 down. The screen feels somewhat underpowered; some of the controls aren’t quite as accessible as they could be; and the lack of in-camera raw processing is a shame. Furthermore, while the tiltable LCD is great, it’s shame it’s not a touchscreen.

These are all minor issues though, and none of them should realistically discourage anyone interested in what the A6300 offers.

Final verdict

The A6300 is a well-rounded model that should have wide appeal, both on account of what it offers on paper and its performance in a range of situations.

Those intending on using the A6300 for more considered video recording, or for tracking moving subjects (or both) are likely to be very pleased with what the camera offers, while the excellent electronic viewfinder also makes it a good choice for traditionalists who may have reservations about moving away from optical types. It’s only really a handful of design and handling issues that let it down, making it slightly less convenient to operate than needs be.

Those who are tempted by what the camera offers but are on a budget should consider the previous A6000, which is still available at a temptingly low price.

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Canon EOS 77D review

When Canon launched the entry-level EOS Rebel T6i / EOS 750D DSLR a couple of years ago, announced alongside it was the Rebel T6s / 760D

While it was virtually identical to look at, and sported pretty much the same internal feature set, the T6s offered more body-mounted controls and a small LCD display, designed to appeal to more experienced users wanting more control. 

Fast-forward two years and Canon has done the same thing again, launching the EOS 77D alongside the EOS Rebel T7i / EOS 800D.

Things are a little different this time though. The EOS 77D may share the same features as the T7i, but Canon has opted for a more distinctive and slightly larger design for the 77D to differentiate the two models. 

Features

  • APS-C CMOS Sensor, 24.2MP
  • 3.0-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots
  • 1080p video capture

Look under the skin of the EOS 77D and it’s pretty much identical to the EOS Rebel T7i / EOS 800D. That means it gets the new 24.2MP APS-C CMOS sensor, which uses Canon’s latest sensor technology.

This should mean it uses the same on-chip analogue-to-digital conversion technology we’ve seen on the likes of the EOS 5D Mark IV. If this is the case, it should produce cleaner images at higher ISOs compared to the older sensor in the Rebel T6i and T6s.

Regardless of this, the EOS 77D promises to handle noise better at higher sensitivities thanks to the arrival of a new DIGIC 7 image processor, with a native ISO range of 100-25,600 that can be pushed another stop further to an ISO equivalent of 51,200 (you’ll have to dive into the menu to access this Hi setting). In addition, the DIGIC 7 chip is also said to improve AF performance over the DIGIC 6 processor.

Like the EOS Rebel T7i / 800D, the EOS 77D uses a 3.0-inch, vari-angle touchscreen display with a resolution of 1,040,000 dots. It’s a solidly specced screen, but perhaps a slightly larger 3.2-inch display, or a boost in resolution, would see it leapfrog rivals like the Nikon D5600.

It’s also disappointing not to see 4K video on the EOS 77D, especially given Canon’s heritage in this area – as we’ve seen with mirrorless rivals like the Panasonic Lumix G80 / G85 and Fujifilm X-T20, 4K video is becoming an increasingly standard feature at this level. 

Instead, you get Full HD capture up to 60p, while the EOS 77D also sports Canon’s new 5-axis image stabilization system for shooting hand-held footage. This in-camera system is designed for videos only – Canon isn’t ditching its lens-based IS system, but IS optics will be able to work in tandem with the in-camera system for video if you want.

The EOS 77D supports Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity, while there’s also the option to set up a low-energy Bluetooth connection so you can always be connected to the camera. This enables you to remotely wake the camera from its sleep mode (provided you haven’t turned the camera fully off), as well as browse photos and operate the camera remotely from your smart device.

Build and handling

  • Aluminum alloy and polycarbonate construction
  • Design features a top-plate LCD
  • Weighs 540g

If the EOS Rebel T7i / 800D and more enthusiast-orientated EOS 80D had a baby, the EOS 77D would be it. 

It’s proportionally larger than the T7i / 800D, but not quite as large as the EOS 80D, sitting neatly in between the two in the range.

The build and finish of the EOS 77D is most closely related to that of the T7i, though, with a similar combination of aluminum alloy and polycarbonate resin employed – in fact, it only weighs 8g more than its more compact sibling. 

As with the EOS Rebel T7i / 800D though, we have an issue with the ultra-smooth finish on the majority of the exterior, which feels quite plasticky to the touch and at odds with the camera’s price. That said, the grip is comfortable and the textured finish has a nice tactile feel.

The number of body mounted controls is where the real differences between the EOS 77D and T7i / 800D become noticeable, starting with the top-plate LCD display, which the latter camera lacks.

It’s smaller than the top plate LCD on the EOS 80D, but still provides a quick reference point for a host of key shooting info – ISO setting, aperture and shutter speed, exposure compensation, battery level, Wi-Fi activation and shots remaining. 

In front of this display are dedicated controls for ISO and AF, as well as a button to illuminate the LCD in poor light. The positioning of the LCD display means the mode dial moves to the left of the viewfinder, and unlike on the T7i / 800D, it features a locking mechanism; you’ll need to press and hold the central button to spin the mode dial round to the desired setting.

Moving round the back, there’s a dedicated AF-On button for back-button focusing, which can be really handy if you regularly shoot using continuous focusing. Rather than the T7i / 800D’s four-way control pad the EOS 77D features a multi-directional control pad encircled by a scroll wheel; this mirrors some higher-end EOS DSLRs, enabling you to quickly toggle key settings, and it’s handy when the camera is raised to your eye.

Then there’s the EOS 77D’s touchscreen interface. We may have liked to have seen something a bit larger, and/or with more resolution, but there’s no quibbling about its functionality. It’s nicely integrated into the camera’s interface, works really well and is one of the most polished examples we’ve seen. 

There’s also an optical viewfinder with 95% coverage; this is typical for an entry-level DSLR, but with the EOS 77D having loftier aspirations it’s a little disappointing, especially with similarly priced rivals offering 100% coverage. While it might not seem that much of a difference, you’ll be surprised at how unwanted elements can encroach on the edges of the frame when you review your images.

Autofocus

  • 45-point AF, all cross-type
  • Sensitive down to -3EV
  • Dual Pixel AF for Live View

Like the Rebel T7i / 800D, the EOS 77D takes advantage of a 45-point AF system with all cross-type sensors, which are sensitive in both the horizontal and vertical planes to deliver more accurate focusing. The setup here is a welcome boost over the EOS Rebel T6s / 760D’s modest 19 AF points.

It compares favorably to the Nikon D5600’s 39-point AF system (with 15 cross-type) and while it just loses out to the D7200’s 51-point system for total AF points, that camera, like the D5600, only has 15 cross-type points.

The EOS 77D’s autofocus system is also sensitive down to -3EV, so when light levels drop you should still be able to lock focus on poorly lit subjects, while 27 focus points are sensitive down to f/8 – while it might not be a key selling point for a lot of users, this can handy if you’re shooting with a lens that has a maximum aperture of f/4 and you’ve paired it with a 2x teleconverter, as you’ll still be able to take advantage of those 27 points.

Focusing speed was very prompt, with the 77D locking on briskly to our desired target in One Shot AF mode

As we’ve found with the T7i / 800D, which uses the same phase-detect AF system, this array does a very good job. Focusing speed was very prompt, with the 77D locking on briskly to our desired target in One Shot AF mode, even in poor light with the new 18-55mm lens fitted. 

When it comes to shooting in continuous (AI Servo) AF mode and tracking a moving subject, there’s a noticeable boost in performance over the T6s / 760D’s 19-point arrangement. It’s much more reliable than the older 19-point system, and the EOS 77D also uses its 7560-pixel RGB+IR metering sensor to help track subjects across the frame.

It will still mis-focus the odd shot in a sequence though, while there’s no real customization on offer – for instance, it’s not possible to tell the EOS 77D’s AF system that you want the bias to be towards the front or rear of the frame, while there are none of the advanced presets that more advanced EOS DSLRs, or rivals like the X-T20, offer. 

While models higher up the EOS food chain feature a dedicated joystick for AF point selection, the EOS 77D relies on the multi-directional control pad and scroll wheel to do this.  

For Live View and video recording the EOS 77D uses Canon’s proven Dual Pixel AF technology, which offers 80% coverage of the frame. 

We’ve seen this system in a host of recent Canon cameras, such as the EOS 5D Mark IV and EOS M5, and we’ve never failed to be impressed by how well it works. It’s easily the best system in a DSLR, delivering snappy focusing, even if you want to track a (moderately fast) moving subject.

Performance

  • 6fps burst shooting
  • User guide on camera
  • 600-shot battery life

Like the T7i / 800D, the EOS 77D can rattle off shots at 6fps – we’d have liked to have seen this number improved to match mirrorless rivals like the Lumix G80 / G85, which is capable of 9fps, although that would risk the new camera treading on the toes of the EOS 80D’s 7fps. 

Battery life is good, at 600 shots, although you’ll want to keep a spare handy if you plan to shoot predominantly with the rear display activated, as this will see battery life drop to 270 shots. It’s also worth bearing in mind that Nikon’s D5600 has a 820-shot battery life, while the D7200 can go for 1,100 shots. 

Also like the T7i / 800D, the EOS 77D takes advantages of Canon’s new clean-looking graphical interface, which is designed to help inexperienced users get to grips with some of the camera’s key controls. Where the cameras differ is that you have to turn this feature on in the display settings of the EOS 77D, whereas it’s the default mode of the T7i / 800D.

The EOS 77D sports Canon’s tried-and-tested 7560-pixel RGB+IR metering sensor, which we’ve seen in numerous Canon DSLRs (it’s also in the EOS Rebel T7i / 800D), with 63-zone Evaluative, Partial, Centre-weighted and Spot metering options.

Metering is pretty sound, but the system can be tricked by high-contrast scenes

For the most part the evaluative mode will be the one you’ll be using, and it does a good job. As we’ve found with other EOS cameras though, because the system is weighted to the active AF point you can run into issues in high-contrast situations, as simply shifting the AF point can throw up two different exposures – some of our shots were a little overexposed for our liking.

The white balance system performs very well, while the option of an Ambient Auto White Balance mode has its uses, delivering slightly warmer results that can be welcome, while White Priority can deliver clean, neutral results even in artificial lighting.

Image quality

The EOS 77D uses Canon’s new 24MP APS-C CMOS sensor, and as we’ve seen with the T7i / 800D this performs very well. Resolution is pretty much identical to the results from the T6s / 760D – which is hardly a surprise when you consider that they share the same pixel count – but it’s elsewhere that the new sensor design shines, particularly the way the camera handles noise.

The 24MP sensor renders a very good level of detail

At lower sensitivities shots appeared very clean with good levels of saturation, but it’s when you start increasing the ISO that the EOS 77D’s sensor really impresses. Looking at raw files edited in Adobe Camera Raw, our test images looked very pleasing to the eye even at ISO6400. Granted, there’s some luminance (grain-like) noise present, but it’s well controlled and has a fine structure. There’s hardly any chroma (color) noise present, and while saturation suffers a touch at this sensitivity, the overall result is very good.

ISO100

ISO800

ISO6400

Knock the sensitivity up another couple of notches, to ISO25,600, and saturation and detail deteriorate, while noise becomes very noticeable. We’d avoid using this setting where possible, although images will still be just about usable if you have to shoot in poor light and it’s your only option.

Dynamic range is better than we’ve seen from the T6s / 760D, but the latitude available to recover detail in the shadows and highlights isn’t quite a match for rivals like the D5600 or X-T20.

The EOS 77D delivers pleasing JPEG colors, though they can perhaps look a little muted when up against rivals with more punchier color output. If you want to give your JPEGs a little more ‘bite’, opt for one of the Picture Styles, or shoot raw for complete control.

Verdict

The EOS 77D is a very capable DSLR, but it’s a hard camera to get excited about. Don’t get us wrong, it does a lot of things well: image quality is very good, while the Live View performance is the best we’ve seen in a DSLR. There’s also the polished touchscreen controls, helpful interface and decent 45-point AF system.

However, there’s no 4K video capture, the viewfinder offers only 95% coverage (and it’s a cheaper pentamirror design as opposed to pentaprism) and the plasticky finish just doesn’t chime with the price Canon wants for the camera. Mirrorless rivals have managed to use magnesium alloy if not on the entire body then at least on the top plate, so it’s a shame the EOS 77D doesn’t have this same tactile feel. 

And that’s the rub with the EOS 77D – there’s nothing here that makes it stand out from the crowd. If you want an entry-level DSLR the Canon EOS Rebel T7i / 800D is the one to go for, while those looking for something more advanced should spend the extra to get the EOS 80D. There’s also the likes of the Nikon D5600 and D7200 to consider, as well as Panasonic’s Lumix G80 / G85 and the Fujifilm X-T20. Until the price drops, the EOS 77D sits in a small patch of no man’s land.

Competition

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Sony Cyber-shot RX100 V

With smartphones pretty much destroying the low-end compact camera market, manufacturers have had to work hard to keep people’s interest in this sector. 

Rather than opting to compete directly with smartphones, Sony hit on the idea of producing a high-end, premium compact camera that delivered much better images than smartphones, but without the bulk of a mirrorless camera or DSLR. 

The original RX100 was a true landmark camera, and led to the likes of Canon and Panasonic following suit with cameras like the PowerShot G7 X II and Lumix LX10 / LX15.

The RX100 arrived back in 2012, and since then we’ve seen another four models, including this latest Mark V version – you certainly can’t knock Sony’s enthusiasm.

But with so many updates arriving in a relatively short space of time, does this latest model offer the photographer anything new – especially when all four previous iterations are still available?

Features

  • 1.0-inch CMOS sensor, 20.1MP
  • 24-70mm f/1.8-2.8 zoom lens
  • 4K video capture

While it may share the same 20MP resolution as the original RX100, the 1.0-inch sensor in the RX100 V is a quite different beast. Using the same stacked Exmor R back-illuminated CMOS sensor technology that we first saw in the RX100 IV, Sony says it has tweaked the chip, while the clever stacked sensor design means it has memory chips built right onto the back of the sensor.

This means data doesn’t have to flood out to the edge of the sensor, and, coupled with a new LSI chip, it means the sensor can deliver incredibly fast readout speeds.

This enables one of the key improvements in the RX100 V over the IV, with the latest version capable of shooting at an incredible 24fps compared to a still-snappy 16fps. What’s even more striking is the fact that it can do this at full resolution with continuous AF and auto exposure. 

The fast 24-70mm f/1.8-2.8 zoom lens remains the same, and while it’s not quite as fast as the lens on the Panasonic LX10 / LX15, which has a 24-72mm f/1.4-2.8 optic, you’re still getting a high-quality Zeiss-branded standard zoom lens.

Unlike in its A6500, which was announced at the same time as the RX100 V, Sony hasn’t been tempted to bring touchscreen functionality to this camera’s rear 3.0-inch display, which seems quite an oversight for a camera of this type, especially as its closest rivals sport this feature. 

The resolution of the vari-angle screen also remains the same as on the IV at 1,299,000 dots, and it also has the same range of movement: 180 degrees outwards and upwards, and 45 degrees downwards.

The concealed pop-up electronic viewfinder that we first saw on the RX100 III carries over to the V, with the 0.39-type EVF sporting a 2.36-million-dot resolution, again the same as on the IV.

While the RX100 IV was capable of shooting 4K video footage, the V takes this one step further. Now oversampled from 5.5K (5,028 x 2,828 pixels), footage promises to be even sharper that we saw from the RX100 IV, while the even faster sensor readout that enables the RX100 V to shoot at 24fps should also suppress the effect of rolling shutter (that horrible jello effect when shooting some moving subjects) in captured footage.

This also has a benefit when shooting stills. While the RX100 V has a mechanical shutter that can be used with shutter speeds up to 1/2000 sec, there’s also an electronic shutter that kicks in at speeds above that, up to 1/32000 sec.

The faster readout speed from the sensor and LSI reduces any distortion that may occur in fast-moving subjects, as the scene is scanned on the sensor from top to bottom, rather than a whole snapshot of the scene being taken with a mechanical shutter. This is important because to achieve that rapid 24fps, the RX100 V has to use its electronic shutter; there’s an option to solely use the mechanical shutter, but this is limited to 10fps.

Build and handling

  • Solid metal construction
  • Design remains virtually identical to RX100 IV
  • Weighs 299g

Sit the RX100 V next to its predecessor – or the RX100 III for that matter – and with the exception of the model number you’d be hard pressed to tell them apart. The pocket-sized metal body is pretty much exactly the same, and follows the same minimalist design we first saw on the original RX100. 

It’s certainly a sleek, understated-looking compact, with the high-end, premium feel you’d expect from a camera of this calibre. 

However, sticking with the same design ethos also means Sony continues to determinedly avoid putting any form of handgrip on the front, which is a shame, because the smooth finish doesn’t deliver the secure grip we’d like, especially when you compare it to the Canon G7 X Mark II, which has a raised and textured grip to provide a much more satisfying hold.

There are aftermarket solutions – including some from Sony itself, like the AG-R2 – but it would have been nice to have seen some effort to come up with a built-in solution on what is, after all, the fifth-generation model. 

The RX100 V kicks into life either via a press of the On/Off button or when you release the pop-up viewfinder – there’s a sprung switch on the side of the camera that releases the EVF, and the front section then extends away from the casing before being locked into place.

It would be nice to see a little more resistance here, as we found that on occasion, especially if you’re wearing glasses, it’s a little too easy to inadvertently push the viewfinder back into the housing when the camera is raised to your eye. 

There’s a customisable control ring around the barrel of the lens to which you can assign a range of functions, but it does have its quirks. If you’re shooting in aperture priority mode it’s intuitive to set the ring to adjust the aperture, but the rear control ring also defaults to this function, with exposure compensation accessed only once you’ve tapped downwards to activate it – it would be nice to see exposure compensation enabled here by default.

Swap to shutter priority mode and the control ring is disabled, requiring you to dive back into the overly complicated menu system to re-assign the functionality of it. You can still use the rear control ring to set the shutter speed, but it’s frustrating that the front control ring can’t just swap automatically between aperture and shutter control when you switch between these two popular shooting modes.

Don’t get us wrong: there’s a wealth of customisation available with the RX100 V, but it can be unnecessarily fiddly getting to some settings

To make life simpler, the most straightforward setup we found was to set the front control ring to exposure compensation, and use the rear control ring to adjust either aperture or shutter speed, depending on which mode was selected. 

Don’t get us wrong: there’s a wealth of customisation available with the RX100 V, but it can be unnecessarily fiddly getting to some settings, and perhaps it’s time Sony took another look at the control layout, which has remained pretty much unchanged since the original RX100, given that several new features have been added since the first model came out.

Autofocus

  • 315-point phase-detection AF
  • 5 focus area modes
  • Advanced focus tracking

Perhaps the biggest change from the RX100 IV is the arrival of a 315-point phase-detection AF system – something we’ve never seen before in a 1.0-inch sensor compact camera. Coverage is pretty impressive too, with most of the frame covered, with the exception of the extreme left and right edges.

That said, if you’re in Single AF mode you’re unlikely to appreciate the level of sophistication on offer from the AF, with the RX100 V relying on a hybrid AF system – phase-detect AF is used to initially snap the subject into focus, with contrast-detect taking over to fine-tune focus, so there’s a very brief delay (and we’re splitting hairs here) as the system monetarily hunts to acquire focus.

Select the Wide area AF option in Single AF mode, though, and you’ve got a fast and hassle-free way of getting your shots in focus, with the camera automatically deciding what part of the frame it wants to give prominence to. 

If you need to give the RX100 V some direction you’ve got Center, Flexible Spot and Expand Flexible Spot (with the addition of eight points around the desired AF point to assist with AF) modes – with the latter two of these enabling you to manually move the AF point round the frame.

The RX100 V’s AF system delivers snappy focusing

This is where a touchscreen interface would come in handy, as to shift the AF point round the frame you first have to hit the button in the center of the rear control ring, before toggling it round the frame to arrive at your desired point – and not forgetting to hit the central button again to exit AF point selection, otherwise you’re locked out of the RX100 V’s other shooting controls. It would be much easier and quicker to simply tap where you wanted to focus.

On top of that there’s Face Detection, which can be switched on and off within the menu.

Continuous AF is where things get interesting though, if a little complex given the multitude of settings at your disposal, especially as there’s the extra Lock-on AF focus mode added to the mix, with the choice of Lock-on Center, Flexible Spot and Expand Flexible Spot. There’s almost too much choice here.

Once the camera has locked onto your subject – once you’ve specified your subject that is, which isn’t always as straightforward as it may seem, with brightly colored subjects seeming to take precedence over the subject we pointed our AF point at – the speed at which it tracks your subject is impressive, and all this at 24fps.

Performance

  • 24fps burst shooting
  • 150-shot buffer at 24fps (Extra Fine JPEG)
  • 220-shot battery life

While the Sony RX100 V’s 24fps burst shooting speed would make the likes of the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II and Nikon D5 blush, just as impressive is the fact that it can sustain this for 150 shots (Extra Fine JPEG) before it needs to take a breather, and for raw shooters, 72 continuous frames isn’t to be sniffed at either.

When it comes to metering, meanwhile, keep the RX100 V set to Sony’s multi-zone mode and you’ll be rewarded with dependable results, only having to intervene in high-contrast lighting conditions, while the camera’s Auto White Balance does a decent job under a range of lighting conditions.

Considering how compact the viewfinder is, when you lift your eye up to the camera it’s a pleasant surprise to see how generous the field of view is

There are no complaints about the rear display either – Sony may have used the same-resolution screen since the first RX100, but clarity is great. And for those looking to shoot candids on the street, the ability to shoot at waist-level with the screen pulled outwards is most welcome – just remember to turn down the volume of the annoying AF confirmation beep first. Put a touchscreen interface on there, however, and things would be even better… come on Sony.

Considering how compact the viewfinder is, when you lift your eye up to the camera it’s a pleasant surprise to see how generous the field of view is. Don’t get us wrong – it’s nothing like we’ve seen in some recent mirrorless cameras, but it’ll certainly do the job. 

Here’s the thing though: we found that we relied on the rear display much more than we’d thought we would, only resorting to the EVF on the odd occasion. Everybody’s style of shooting will be different, but it’s something to consider if you think this is a feature you can do without.

Battery life has taken a bit of a hit compared to the RX100 IV, down from 280 shots to just 220 (and 100 fewer than the RX100 III). This is perhaps due to the improvements in performance that Sony has carried out under the skin, but you’ll soon be getting a flashing red battery light should you get a bit trigger-happy with a series of 24fps high-speed shots. 

Image quality

  • ISO125-12,800, expandable to 80-12,800
  • Image quality virtually identical to RX100 IV
  • Multiple picture effects

The results from the RX100 V are pretty much identical to those from its predecessor, but that’s no bad thing at all, with perhaps the only tangible difference being slightly more pronounced sharpening of JPEG files. 

You can expect plenty of detail from the 20.1MP sensor when shooting at the lower end of the sensitivity range, with the camera outputting files at 5472 x 3648 pixels, allowing you to make an A3 print at 300dpi without the need to increase the size of the file.

It’s only when you increase the sensitivity beyond ISO400 that detail resolution begins to dip, and image quality only really begins to suffer at ISO6,400 and 12,800.

Image noise is nicely controlled at under ISO800, but above that you’ll start to see color noise encroach on the shadow areas of the image. That said, even at ISO3,200 images don’t look at all unsightly. There’s some color and luminance (grain-like in appearance) noise present, but that’s to be expected. We certainly wouldn’t have an issue using this setting – and raw files offer even more scope for noise control should you need it – although we’d avoid the top end of the scale as far as possible.

Unlike with smaller-sensor compacts, it’s possible to effectively isolate a subject from their background

Dynamic range is also very impressive, and the RX100 V has a host of Dynamic Range Optimizer settings; even with JPEG files we found it was possible to recover plenty of detail post-capture, especially in the shadows, although for more natural-looking results we’d always prefer to do this in camera.

Verdict

The RX100 V is one of the most advanced compacts we’ve seen, with a specification dripping with advanced features that would shame some pricier mirrorless and DSLR cameras.

This isn’t entirely a good thing however – the RX100 V is almost too advanced for its own good, and you have to question how many photographers actually need this level in performance in a pocket camera. Being able to burst-shoot at 24fps is great, but with a 2.9x optical zoom its application is pretty limited.

It can also be a frustrating camera to use on occasion. We don’t want to bang on about the absence of a touchscreen, but it would transform the handling, while the absence of a decent hand grip is also disappointing – at the very least the AG-R2 grip should be included in the box when you consider the RX100 V’s price.

If it sounds like we’re being a bit harsh on the RX100 V, we’re not meaning to be. There’s no question that it’s a fabulous camera, and a brilliant showcase for some of Sony’s best camera tech, and it will certainly have a pull for those with deep pockets who are looking for a highly-capable compact stills and video camera. But there are more affordable alternatives out there which, while they might not offer the same jaw-dropping performance as the RX100 V, are still great premium compacts in their own right.

Competition