Thursday, March 21, 2013

Canon Announces EOS SL1

Canon Announces EOS SL1

Canon today announced two new DSLRs to its EOS line-up, one a completely new design in the Rebel EOS SL1 and the other an update in its popular Rebel T series, the T5i.  Of the two, the EOS SL1 is by far the more compelling new design.

The EOS Rebel SL1 / 100D Digital SLR

The Canon EOS Rebel SL1 / 100D with the new EF-S 18-55 f/3.5-5.6 IS STM Lens.
The EOS Rebel SL1 DSLR is being marketed as the world's smallest and, at 14 ounces, lightest DSLR--that is, of any DSLRs that use an APS-C sized sensor.

The SL1 offers the same 18 Megapixel sensor and Digic 5 image processor as the co-announced T5i but in a dramatically smaller form factor.  In fact, the SL1 is closer in width and height to Canon's mirrorless EOS-M and Micro Four Thirds mirrorless cameras such as the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G5 than it is to other Rebel series SLRs.
Canon EOS SL1
The EOS SL1 is about the same width as the Canon EOS-M.

Of course the SL1 is deeper than mirrorless cameras, but it retains an optical viewfinder, something most mirrorless systems cannot match.

Equally impressive is that the SL1 manages to retain most of the features of its T-series brethren:  4 frames-per-second shooting, a 3 inch fixed touch-capacitive screen (same as the EOS-M), 9 point autofocus, ISO from 100 to 25600, 1080p30 video recording (and a stereo input jack!), and continuous autofocus in movie mode with subject tracking.
Canon Rebel EOS SL1 touch screen.
The SL1 has the same touch-sensitive screen as the EOS-M.

The SL1 will no doubt cannibalize the EOS-M series, or at least version I, but it offers a strong challenge to naysayers who believe that DSLRs are a thing of the past.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Olympus Stylus SZ-15 Sample Images & Hands On Review

Olympus Stylus SZ-15 Sample Images & Hands On Review

The Olympus' SZ-15's slim design belies its powerful zoom.
Olympus' new SZ-15 somehow packs a massive 24x  optical zoom (25-600(!)mm 35mm equivalent) in a relatively slim, compact body.  With a strong 16 megapixels and a 3 inch LCD screen, this point and shoot will appeal to people looking for the focal length of a bridge super-zoom but hoping for a more compact--and more reasonably-priced--point and shoot.

The SZ-15 also features Dual Image Stabilization, Face Detection and AF Tracking to help capture moving subjects like kids or pets. 


The Olympus SZ-15 is built around a 16 megapixel 1/2.3" CCD sensor with Olympus' Truepic III+ Image Processor, which together help deliver quicker image capture and transfer speeds.  The 25-600mm f/3.0-6.9 lens focuses relatively quickly for such a wide-ranging zoom, and can shoot macro as close at 1.2 inches away.  

The Olympus SX-15 at 25mm. f/3.0 at 1/320 Sec., ISO 400.

Detail of the above at 600mm.  f/6.9 at 1/60 sec., ISO 400.

Another detail at 600mm.  f/6.9 at 1/80, ISO 400.

The camera only offers a somewhat disappointing ISO maximum of 1600, so it's really intended for outdoors shooting.  Of course the pop-up flash helps fill in photos, and I'd venture to say that the camera will deliver better photos with the flash than smartphones with their tiny LED flashes.  Still, I'd recommend learning to use the 2 second delay self timer as a way of countering shutter lag camera shake in low light.

Hands On

The Olympus SZ-15 is quite easy to use, with an intuitive zoom and other basic controls.  Olympus' menu system can get very complicated, but the menus on the SZ-15 are actually not to difficult to understand.  The simple interface on the back of the camera is perfect for likely users of this camera.

Can your smartphone do that?  No way.  Zooming in at almost 500mm. 



Image quality is also quite strong, particularly when compared to smartphone cameras or other weak point and shoot system.  Few cameras offer as much zoom in such a compact form factor, and image quality cannot be compared to larger cameras or DSLRs.   

Very good detail at approx. 70mm.  f/4.3 at 1/50 sec., ISO 200.
For the price, size and features--the long zoom in particular--the SZ-15 delivers great digital images. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

Canon PowerShot 330 HS Hands-On Review & Sample Images

Canon PowerShot 330 HS Hands-On Review & Sample Images

The new but familiar-looking Canon ELPH 330 HS.

Canon's latest upgrades to its digital PowerShot point and shoot lineup includes the ELPH 330 HS, a tiny 12.1 megapixel mid-range camera with a 10x optical zoom and a 24mm wide lens.  With an upgraded Digic 5 processor, a 461k-dot 3" LCD and, most notably, built in WiFi, the 330 HS definitely packs a lot into its small frame.

Canon ELPH 330 HS Sample Images
Point and Shoot?  Yes!  They still take better pics more quickly than your smartphone.  Canon ELPH 330 HS, f/3.0 at 1/320 sec, ISO 400, auto mode.

Point and Shoot?

While the proliferation of smartphone cameras has decimated the point and shoot digital camera market in general, point and shoots still offer more control and deliver better image quality than iPhones and Samsung Galaxy's.  This is most noticeable when zooming, using a flash, and shooting at higher ISO's. 

Canon ELPH 330 HS Sample Images
The ELPH 330 HS zoomed at almost 10x.  f/5.6 at 1/320 sec., ISO 80, in auto mode.
Indeed, the growth of the high end point and shoot market, such as Canon's PowerShot S Series (the S110 is the latest version), is directly correlated to the shortcomings of smartphone photography.  At the same time, mid-range point and shoots such as Canon's 330 HS are improving and offering more features in order to compete. 

Program Mode

The ELPH 330 HS offers some manual control through its Program Auto mode, such as setting ISO and exposure compensation (EV).  It is also very easy to switch into various scene modes, especially if you are familiar with Canon's best in class user interface. 

Canon ELPH 330 HS Sample Images
Add caption
Canon ELPH 330 HS Sample Images
The Empire State Building, zoomed in 10x from the same position as above.  f/6.9 at 1/200 sec., ISO 80.
At the same time, the elimination of "landscape" modes in favor of an "infinity" focusing mode that does not raise the aperture particularly high is somewhat perplexing.  Similarly, a "sports" mode comes near the end of the various optional scene modes; in days past landscape and sports fell just after portraits and flowers as the most easily accessible--and most frequently used--modes).
Canon ELPH 330 HS Sample Images
More zoom:  at 10x optical zoom.  f/6.9 at 1/100 sec., ISO 500.

The Canon ELPH 330 HS comes with a 10x optical zoom with a maximum aperture ranging from f/3 to f/6.9.  The included Digic 5 processor allows for an ISO range of 80-6400, as well as a burst mode of 6.2 frames per second (not available in Program mode).

ISO Comparisons

Canon ELPH 330 HS ISO Test
The Canon ELPH 330 HS at ISO 1600:  Decent image quality in low light.

Canon ELPH 330 HS ISO Test
The Canon ELPH 330 HS at ISO 3200:  More noise, but still respectable, especially compared to smartphones.

Canon ELPH 330 HS ISO Test
The Canon ELPH 330 HS at ISO 6400:  You don't want to shoot here if you can avoid it, but--again--still much, much better than your iPhone!

Wireless / WiFi

The biggest upgrade is the included and improved wireless connectivity, which allows you to connect the camera to your smartphone or home computer and to transfer files wirelessly.  This, of course, lets you shoot better photos than your smartphone might otherwise and to upload them to various social networking sites through your smartphone.  Yes, it's a somewhat duplicative process, but if image quality is important, mid-range point and shoots still deliver better photos than what a smartphone alone can offer.


While the ELPH 330 HS may not warrant an upgrade from more recent Canon offerings, if you don't already have a mid-range point and shoot and are wondering whether there is still a place for such cameras, definitely consider the Canon ELPH 330 HS.  With 10x optical zoom, some manual control over the camera, broad ISO capabilities, and included WiFi, the 330 HS offers great features from a dependable company in a tiny package.