CES isn't typically a banner week for camera and camcorder lovers and manufacturers, but this year was different. Nearly every major manufacturer announced cameras that are faster, more powerful, and more impressive than ever before — we saw new models with longer zoom, more shooting features, lots of manual control, and better hardware across the board. Companies added features that differentiate their point-and-shoot models from smartphone cameras, and a few launched drool-worthy flagship DSLRs as well. We put together the most interesting camera and camcorder news, plus our hands-on impressions, so check out the stories below to see the best of the first batch of cameras in 2012.
Jan 13, 2012
Panoramic photo technology is nothing new, but the Tamaggo 360-imager is a standalone fisheye camera that packs a decent amount of technology into a relatively small form factor. The prototype we handled felt pretty weighty, but its unique body made it comfortable to hold. The camera's name comes from the Japanese word for 'egg,' an obvious reference to the device's shape.Read Article >
The accompanying software solution is called Pure Player, and will let you pan and zoom photos on Windows and OS X. You'll also be able to embed interactive photos online, though its Flash implementation has questionable performance. Unfortunately the prototypes out on the show floor were non-functioning models, though the final hardware probably won't change too much. The company did, however, have a giant version on display to show what the photos will look like when the Tamaggo ships at the end of Q2.
Jan 12, 2012Read Article >
Alright, the Lytro light field camera technology is pretty impressive and emergent all by itself (it will be shipping in about a month), but I can't help wondering what's next: what about video? Eric Cheng, the Director of Photography at Lytro, was surprisingly forthcoming. Without promising any products in the pipeline, he described the exact technical requirements, and the exact technical feasibility. What's really interesting, and was helpful in me actually understanding how Lytro works, is that it's like a 3D rendering engine in reverse. Instead of tracking a point of light from an object to a virtual camera, Lytro takes the information it has from its sensor on a multitude of light rays and extrapolates the scene from that. Outside of video, and the existing focus-shifting technology (which we demonstrated on our very first On The Verge), the applications for Lytro's technology are pretty much limitless, and I'm excited to see where it goes next.
Jan 11, 2012
We've wanted to check out Sony's NEX interchangeable lens video cameras, the VG20 Handycam and pro-level FS100, and finally got a chance on the CES show floor. We also got to see the full lineup of lenses for the E-mount system, including the new 50mm f/1.8 and 24mm f/1.8 Zeiss models, along with a pre-production 500mm f/4 telephoto for A-mount. Check out the gallery below — hands-on video impressions coming soon.Read Article >
Update: Video below! Please excuse the audio.
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It looks just like a traditional DSLR, only with fewer controls and no way to remove the gigantic lens. It's really heavy, but at least there's a good reason for it: the lens offers 26x optical zoom, from 24-624mm. There's also an impressive Macro mode, which meant that as we were shooting things could be anywhere from a centimeter to a dozen yards away, and still be captured easily. It's impressively fast, and the viewfinder is excellent — it's a similar hybrid to the one found on the X100, with a proximity sensor that knows when your eye is on it and turns on or off accordingly. The biggest drawback, other than its size, remains the price: $799.95 is a serious expenditure for any camera without interchangeable lenses. You'll be able to check it out for yourself at the end of January, and see if this superzoom / DSLR hybrid is worth the expense.
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There probably aren't a lot of people who complain about the retro design of the Fujifilm X100, but if you're not happy, the company's shipping a limited run of blacked-out X100s. We got to check it out under the glass at Fujifilm's CES booth, and it looks...well, it looks like the X100, just black instead of silver. But it's gorgeous — I've always preferred the design of the X10 to the X100, and this limited edition makes the two look quite similar. Fujfilm's only making 10,000 of these, and they'll cost $1700 (a $500 premium over the silver model), so only the most aesthetically picky need apply.
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CES is full of gadgets we'll see sometime in the next year, but Panasonic is showing off two concept camera lenses that are likely much further off. Underneath the glass at the company's booth are 12-35mm and a 35-100mm (their respective equivalents are 24-70mm and 70-200mm), f/2.8 lenses that Panasonic reps said will bring far better focusing to its Micro Four Thirds cameras, especially for video recording. The Lumix GX1 has already improved focusing performance over Panasonic's previous models, and the new lenses will bring the GX1's speed and accuracy to Panasonic's other cameras, along with a new hybrid image stabilzation feature that will combine electronic and optical stabilization. Panasonic's long been touting its lens prowess thanks to its relationship with Leica, and the company seems to smartly know that improved focusing and video on its Micro Four Thirds cameras would open the shooters to a whole new market.
Jan 11, 2012
Some of JVC's 2012 Everio video cameras feature Live Monitoring, allowing iOS and Android devices running a free app to control JVC's newest GX, VX, and EX series video cameras. The user can zoom, take snapshots or record 1080p video, and then wirelessly transfer those files back to the mobile device for emailing, uploading to YouTube, or whatever else people do with still image and video files. The new cameras also feature Home Detection Monitoring — when the camera detects movement it will email a preset address a still image or 15-second video clip. We were impressed with how simple it was to get everything running, but the connectivity conditions at the Convention Center made it tough to really put the new software through its paces. Live Monitoring will be available on three of the company's new cameras:Read Article >
Jan 10, 2012
A rep at Nikon's booth just walked us through one of the D4's most intriguing features. Once the D4 is hooked up to a network via Wi-Fi or its ethernet port, you can pull a network IP address off the screen and use that to connect to the camera with your computer. Assuming the camera and computer are on the same network, you can navigate to the camera through your browser, no apps or connections needed. Once you're connected, you can take photos, adjust all manner of settings, switch to live view, focus by clicking on individual points, and even shoot video. It's worth noting that the live view feed is dependent on your network connection; the view looks a little jerky if the connection isn't great (though you can bump down the resolution to increase smoothness). You can also easily browse all the content stored on the camera's memory cards. This feature completely eliminates the need to tether your camera with USB, opening up a lot more freedom when shooting photos and viewing them immediately on a computer. While this functionality should also come to iPads and iPhones soon, Nikon wasn't yet ready to give a demo.Read Article >
Sam Byford contributed to this report.
Toshiba Camileo Air10 streams 1080p video via Ustream, Z100 shoots glasses-free 3D video (hands-on pictures)Read Article >
Toshiba updated its Camileo line of handheld camcorders this week at CES, and headlining the new class is the new Z100, capable of shooting 1080p 3D video. Even cooler is the camera's 2.8-inch articulating display, which displays 3D footage without need for glasses. It's a really small LCD, but it does display 3D, and actually looked pretty good while we played with a prototype of the camcorder. Something was built wrong in this early version, so we had to wear glasses upside down to see the footage on a TV, but it still looked good even if we looked kind of ridiculous. When you view the footage on your TV, you use whatever glasses the TV needs, and Toshiba says it can be used on any 3D TV.
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The Micro Four Thirds system has a pretty extensive lens lineup, but maintaining a collection can be an expensive hobby. Panasonic is providing a cheaper way to expand your photographic options, though, as long as you already own its Lumix G X 14-42mm zoom or G 14mm f/2.5 prime. The company has announced four converters that attach directly onto the front of a regular lens, effectively changing them into fisheye, wide angle, telephoto or macro optics. The wide angle lens attaches only to the 14mm f/2.5 and expands the field of view to 11mm (22mm equivalent), and the teleconverter doubles the 14-42mm zoom's focal length to reach 168mm equivalent. The macro and fisheye converters attach to either lens, and provide a roughly 14-centimeter minimal focusing distance and 120-degree field of view respectively. No official word yet on pricing or availability, but we wouldn't expect these to cost anywhere near as much as a dedicated fisheye or macro lens.
Seven certainly wasn't lucky for Sony's Alpha division last year — the flooding in Thailand delayed the release of its long-awaited NEX-7 and A77 cameras, with supply only starting to trickle out recently. We managed to get a look at both elusive models here at CES 2012, though, and have the pictures to prove it.Read Article >
Canon's big news at this year's CES was the PowerShot G1 X, about as high-end a point-and-shoot as you'll ever find. The $799 shooter has a gigantic 1.5-inch, 14.3-megapixel sensor, native ISO range up to 12,800, and plenty of the manual controls and shooting features pros love in their DSLRs. We got to play with the camera for a bit, and we really liked the G1 X — though we still can't afford it.Read Article >
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Cisco’s Flip cameras may have died all too soon, but fortunately it wasn’t the only good line of dead-simple, single-purpose camcorders on the market: Sony’s Bloggie cameras, aside from being horrifically named, have long been worthy pocket camcorder competition. Sony’s latest model, the Bloggie Live, takes the concept of dead-simple video recording and gives it a 2012 twist with the addition of Wi-Fi connectivity that allows for live-streaming of video, as well as a lot of simple and easy sharing options for YouTube and Picasa. At $249, it’s considerably more expensive than most other low-end camcorders, but it’s far more powerful in functionality than the Flip cameras ever were. Does the Bloggie Live improve an already-great camera, or do the extra features hurt the turn-it-on-and-press-record simplicity we loved in the Flip line? Does it even do measurably better than your smartphone’s video camera? Read on to find out.
Sony HDR-PJ760V and HDR-CX760V camcorders with 'Balanced' SteadyShot, built-in projectors (hands-on video)Read Article >
It's hard to keep endless camcorder iterations fresh, year after year, but Sony managed a couple nice innovations in this year's crop. A few of its top-of-the-line camcorders now include Balanced Optical SteadyShot image stabilization, which allows the entire lens to bob and weave with your shaky hand movements, even while zooming. Check out the video demo below to have your mind blown. The Sony HDR-PJ710V, PJ760V, and CX760V (pictured, with a crazy 360° speaker accessory mounted on top) all include the new stabilization, and the PJ710 and PJ760V also feature those mini-projectors Sony is building into a ton of its new camcorders. Other features of the cameras are relatively sane, like 1080p 24 recording, 24.1 megapixel stills (okay, not totally sane) and 3-inch LCDs. The cameras will be out in March, with the PJ710V and CX760V going for around $1,500, while the PJ760V (which has 96GB of flash memory, opposed to the 710V's 32GB) will be $1,600.
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There's a price we all pay for the bleeding edge, and in the case of Sony's original HD 3D "compact" camcorder, that cost was chub. The new HDR-TD20V still isn't razor thin, but it's much more manageable. Most of the specs are the same, but they weren't bad to begin with: a 3.5-inch glasses-free LCD, 64GB of flash storage, and dual Exmor R CMOS sensors behind 17x optical zoom lenses, which record at 1080p 60 and 24. At least the megapixel count got bumped for stills: 20 megapixels instead of 7. The camcorder's price is similar as well, at an estimated $1,500 when it ships in March.
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Every point-and-shoot camera manufacturer must at this point be awfully tired of the question "are cameraphones killing your market share?" Panasonic's response was apparently to pack its cameras full of features cameraphones don't have — its new Lumix models have big zoom, great lenses, and plenty of speed to spare. The SZ7 is the headliner, with a 14-megapixel CMOS sensor, a 10x optical zoom lens (from 25-250mm), and an upgraded processor that promises to be faster than ever. Lenses are Panasonic's bread and butter, thanks to its partnership with Leica, and the new Lumix models — the SZ7, SZ1, FH8, FH6, FS41, and FH4 — all benefit with upgraded glass. The cameras also have brighter apertures, record HD video, and offer lots of new filters and in-camera editing features. As always with Panasonic, though, there's no telling which of its models will be available in the US — pricing and availablity were not announced for any of the new shooters.
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On the lower end of the spectrum, Samsung announced the ST76 and ST66, two basic point-and-shoot cameras that pack solid specs for $129 and $119, respectively: f/2.5 aperture, 5x optical zoom, and 720p video recording. All of Samsung's new cameras will be out in this quarter, with the majority coming in March and April.
Jan 9, 2012Read Article >
Fujifilm's press conference just wrapped up and we had a moment to snap a few pictures of the just-announced X-Pro1 before it was whisked away. The camera feels extremely well built and is very sturdy, but also quite heavy. Lens construction matches that of the camera — there's a weighty feeling, but everything's solid and reassuring to hold. Both the screen and viewfinder are beautiful, as well, and there's tons of manual controls (just like the X100 and X10). The $1700 price tag is going to be a deal-breaker for a lot of people, but if you have the cash it feels like this camera will be worth it — as long as the image quality matches the build quality.
Fujifilm X-Pro1 official: 16-megapixel APS-C sensor and multiple lenses, available in February for around $1,700
Three new XF Fujinon lenses are available at launch, compatible with the X-Pro1's new X Mount — the new mount is incredibly thin, allowing for both better images and lower shutter lag. The XF188mmF2 R is a f/2.0 f/2.0 pancake; the XF60mmF2.4 R Macro is a 90mm f/2.4 macro lens, and the XF35mmF1.4 R is a 53mm f/1.4 lens. They're all focused on the quality of the glass, and their apertures stand out in a big way.Read Article >
The X-Pro1 will be available in February. Fujfilm didn't firmly announce pricing, but said it expected the X-Pro1's body to cost around $1,700, and the lenses to be about $650 each.
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GE's cameras got a top-to-bottom refresh today at CES 2012, with upgrades across its entire lineup of inexpensive point-and-shoot models. The new X600 has 25x optical zoom, and its DSLR-sized body also holds a 14.4-megapixel CMOS sensor, a 2.7-inch LCD, and 1080p video recording capability. There's some new HDR functionality as well, supporting up to six frames that get combined into one flawless (or awesomely bizarre) image. The best feature, though, as with all GE cameras, is its price: $199.99 is pretty hard to beat for such huge zoom. GE's other new cameras — the X550, G100, E1410SW, and C1440W — also received solid incremental upgrades, and none cost more than $159.99. GE's probably not the next Nikon, but it's churning out solid cameras at dirt cheap prices, and that's not such a bad combination.
The G1 X is unquestionably Canon's most impressive new camera at CES 2012, but if its $799.99 price tag is hard to stomach, there's something for the rest of us: the company also announced two more affordable PowerShot cameras, the Elph 520 HS and the Elph 110 HS. The 520 HS is the successor to the 500 HS, and Canon says it's the world's slimmest 12x optical zoom camera with a 28mm lens — a narrow category, to be sure, but a feat nonetheless. The camera uses Canon's new DIGIC 5 processor, and has ISO range up to 3200, plus a 10.1-megapixel CMOS sensor. The 110 HS has a 5x optical zoom, but ups the megapixel count to 16.1. Both shoot 1080p video, have 3-inch, 461,000-dot LCDs, and burst modes around six frames per second. Canon's also added some new shooting features to both cameras, plus the ability to tag people on the camera and search through your photos for particular faces. Neither new model is a game-changing point-and-shoot, but both are nice updates to the previous models, and are actually affordable: the 520 HS will be out in March and the 110 HS in February, for $299 and $249 respectively.Read Article >
For the video enthusiast, Canon also announced six new Vixia camcorders. The M and R series were both refreshed, with Wi-Fi added to the top-of-the-line M52, M50, R32, and R30 models — the new camcorders can upload video directly to YouTube or Facebook. All shoot 1080p video at 30 frames per second, offer zoom as high as 51x, and have plenty of video-friendly shooting features. They'll be available in March, between $349 (for the low-end R300) and $749 (for the impressive M52).