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A break from the artworks – lets look at the exciting world of cross-platform radio remote TTL flash for Olympus, Panasonic, Fujifilm, Sony, Canon, Nikon, Sigma, Pentax users – our world has changed!

Friday, July 28th, 2017

Until recently if you wanted to do radio remote TTL flash, you needed a Canon dSLR with a Canon-compatible flash and a radio remote system, or a Nikon dSLR with a Nikon-compatible flash and a radio remote system.

Initially these radio remote systems were provided by companies such as PocketWizard or RadioPopper, and then a couple of years ago both Canon then Nikon added their own radio remote TTL flash to their latest cameras and flashes.

The PocketWizard system particularly became very popular with the professional photographers and is renown for its reliability, build quality and the early ground breaking ability to not only provide remote TTL flash and HSS flash and pas-through TTL to a top-mounted hotshoe but also its proprietary HyperSync which allowed full output flash at marginally faster than usual shutter speeds without the power output loss that HSS flash caused.

Unfortunately, Pocket Wizard failed to recognise the ground swell of mirrorless cameras and increasing cross-system ownership that has resulted and although they did create a remote system which supported the Panasonic GH4, in general their receivers would not fire Olympus flashes even in manual mode let alone TTL mode with Olympus cameras, and of course if you owned a couple of camera systems you had to have a different set of Pocket Wizard units (Flex TT5/TT6/MiniTT1)  for each camera system, and there was, and still is, no mix and matching of systems in TTL mode.

But its now mid-2017, and we are in a totally new scene thanks to Cactus V6 II remote system and the Godox remote system – both of which offer cross-platform radio remote TTL flash albeit with different approaches.

If I were to buy a flash unit or studio flash now, I would strongly consider how it would be used for my Olympus, Sony and Canon cameras with either or both of the two new systems – neither of which are perfect but a vast improvement on what we currently have, and far better than the rubbish optical remote RC mode of the Olympus system (yes, I love Olympus but I am not paid by any company including Olympus who have never offered me any freebies or special discounts and so yes, I am able to call them out when I feel it is appropriate – that said perhaps they have done us all a big favour in allowing these new third party solutions to come to the party and solve our problems).

Let’s compare the two cross-platform approaches to radio remote TTL flash:

The Cactus V6 II approach:

This is the more cost effective approach, particularly if you have existing flash units – you just buy 1 transceiver to mount on the camera and another to mount on your digital-TTL capable flash (the flash will need to be either Canon, Nikon or Olympus digital TTL capable – not Pentax unless you are also using a Pentax camera, and not Fujifilm unless you are also using a Fujifilm camera).

These transceivers are able to AUTO-Detect the camera or flash system (although there are a few gotchas and workarounds – see later).

This means IF it all works as the manufacturer suggests it will, you could buy 5 units, place one on your Olympus camera’s hotshoe (which can optionally also mount any digital TTL flash unit as outlined above) and attach one to each of a Canon 580EXII flash, an Olympus FL50R flash, a Godox TT685 flash and a Nikon SB-900 flash and ALL will fire with radio remote TTL exposures with flash exposure compensation in 0.1EV increments and separate for each (if they are assigned to one of the 4 possible radio groups)  and optionally in HSS/FP mode for faster shutter speeds and wider apertures, or one of the two Group Sequence modes, remote manual flash zoom, and even in the Cactus proprietary Power Sync mode which allows a slightly faster than usual shutter speed at full flash output – and yet there is much more it can do including display all flash unit power outputs, Delay mode, AF assist light and remote camera shutter release!

Decide to use your Canon dSLR to shoot instead, cool, just turn the transceiver off, put it on the Canon, let it auto-detect and away you go.

Working in an environment with lots of other photographers using the same system which is causing cross firing – no problem, just set all your transceivers to the same 4 digit RADIO ID value.

If you are running a workshop and want other users to fire your flash set up – no problem – just make sure they are using the same radio ID and turn on Multi-Master mode each photographer can choose their own exposure compensation settings – just try to avoid firing at the same time as someone else!

As an alternative, you can buy a very affordable Cactus RF60X flash unit which already has a remote transceiver built in so this saves you money and complexity.

Some gotchas and workarounds of the Cactus V6 II system:

  • there is a special Sony version of the transceiver (V6 IIs) which is required if you wish to attach to either a Sony camera or a Sony-mount flash, but it can essentially achieve the same as the above.
  • requires firmware upgrade for cross-platform compatibility, the Olympus/Panasonic/Micro Four Thirds compatibility should be available August 2017.
  • as with the Godox system, it operates in the 2.4GHz radio frequency range and this may have issues with interference at times and is generally limited to 100m
  • READ the MANUAL: to auto-detect camera system, half-press the shutter release of camera while switching on the V6 II to TX mode
  • Power Sync may require the user to adjust the sync time in order to eliminate any banding issues (black line across the image).
  • “Power Sync” may not give you much more and there is no option to go less than full power output – but then you usually want full power output in these situations unless you also need short recycle times.
  • Cactus V6 II does not work with Cactus V4, V2s or V2 flash trigger models (but is compatible with V6 but not in HSS mode, and with V5 for basic non-TTL modes only including flash triggering and shutter release triggering)
  • there is a limited range (currently 60 units) of currently available flash units that are automatically usable with this system – others will require you to create your own custom flash profile on your computer and upload it to the transceiver (this can store up to 10 such profiles) and then you will need to manually select which profile to use for the flash.
  • some cameras have a  thicker than usual metal spring plate in the hotshoe which can interfere with the flash contacts and this may need to be removed (easily done) – examples include some Olympus OM-D E-M1 and Fujifilm models – this does not appear to be a problem with my E-M1 mark I or mark II
  • the hotshoe locking pin position is optimised for Canikon and thus there may be some mechanical instability on other systems, when using Olympus flashes, moving it 0.5mm may remedy this, but there may still be issues on the camera and this becomes more risky if you are mounting a flash onto the camera-mounted transceiver as the weight may cause it to fall off – this does not appear to be a problem with my E-M1 mark I or mark II
  • the latest July firmware has issues with TTL passthrough when used with the Olympus E-M1 Mark II (mark I seems to be OK in brief testing)
  • there is limited compatibility with some cameras including:
    • Nikon D600 and Panasonic GX-8 camera are not fully compatible with HSS mode when used with a Cactus RF60 flash (but presumably the RF60X is OK)
    • high-speed sync modes not supported on Fujifilm X-E2 / XE2S, Fujifilm X100T cameras, and, Fujifilm flashes do not support HSS capabilities.

The Godox X1 approach:

Godox have really taken massive strides towards world domination of enthusiast and pro lighting (and their sudden rise in popularity perhaps may be part of the reason for Bowens lighting company apparently going out of business – although the Bowens name will live on thanks to the Bowens S mount which is one of the more universal lighting accessory mounts – including for the Godox studio style lights).

In the first instance they brought to the market their lovely, powerful and versatile portable flash units with lithium ion batteries and battery packs which have made strobists all over the world jump for joy.

Next, they upped the ante substantially this year when they announced cross-platform support.

Unlike the Cactus system (other than the dedicated Cactus V6 II Sony module), the Godox remote transceivers require a system dedicated transceiver attached to the camera hotshoe such as:

  • for Olympus or Panasonic cameras either:
  • for Canon cameras, X1C TTL Wireless Flash Trigger
  • for Nikon cameras, X1N TTL Wireless Flash Trigger
  • for Sony cameras, the X1S TTL Wireless Flash Trigger
  • for Fuji cameras, the X1T-F TTL Wireless Flash Trigger

Each of these camera mounted X1 triggers have a TTL-pass-through top hotshoe.

Like the Cactus system with their Cactus RX60X, there are Godox flash units with inbuilt receivers and a very nice range of units there are such as:

  • Godox Wistro AD600 portable 600Ws lithium ion battery studio flash with ability to be used with either a 600Ws or incredible 1200Ws flash head (this requires two AD600′s to power it), and optional lithium ion battery pack and Bowens or Godox mount studio lighting accessories such as softboxes
  • Godox Wistro AD360II - a more portable option but it is regarded as too heavy to mount on a camera, usually used with hand grip and power pack and strobists accessories
  • Godox Wistro AD200 pocket flash
  • Godox Wistro AR400 ring flash
  • Godox V860II-O - similar to an Olympus FL-50R in that it can use the Olympus optical RC system as master or slave, but in addition it can be used as a slave (and perhaps as a master according to web page specs) for the Godox  X1 system, and it uses a 2000mAh lithium ion battery pack for 650 full power shots per full battery charge

Unlike the Cactus system, if you wish to fire a non-Godox flash unit in remote TTL mode, you will need a different Receiver unit and specifically, one that matches the flash system, thus, for a Canon flash you will need the X1R-C receiver to attach the the Canon flash.

A brief side-by-side comparison:

 

Cactus V6 II Godox X1
Price $US95 per transceiver
$US46 for transceiver
types of units needed only 1 type BUT need a different one for a Sony camera or flash need a different one for each camera system, and a different receiver for each system of non-Godox X1 flash, for example, a XTR-16, XTR-16S receiver
radio frequency 2.4GHz, range up to 100m
2.4GHz, range up to 100m
radio groups 4
5
radio channels 16 32
Radio ID 4 digit
No
HSS / FP mode most cameras (except Fujifilm flashes)
most cameras except Fujifilm?
front/rear curtain sync Yes
Yes
Multi-flash strobe mode Yes
Yes
flash exposure compensation Yes, +/- 3EV in 0.1EV increments
Yes, +/- 3EV in 1/3rd EV increments
remote manual zoom control Yes
Yes
AF assist lamp Yes 1W LED
Yes manual open
Multi-Master mode Yes, up to 20 photographers
?
Power sync mode Yes but needs user to configure
Can sync E-M1 to 1/320th in PC-Sync non-TTL mode
Flash delay mode Yes 1msec to 999 secs
0-10msec for synch delay adjustment
hotshoe locks into Olympus cameras to avoid slippage Maybe (lock pin slightly out as optimised for Canikon) Yes (X1T-O)
PC sync socket Yes
Yes
USB firmware upgradeable Yes Yes
Can remotely trigger camera shutter release via cable Yes “Relay mode” – also available is a laser motion detection trigger to radio remotely act on the V6 II ?
power supply 2 x AA batteries 2 x AA batteries
size 72x72x42mm, 96g
72x75x52mm, 90g
ease of use must set to auto detect when starting, but otherwise fairly universal plug and play
camera-dedicated transceivers do not need to auto detect
low power output for short flash exposures 1/256th output
1/128th output only?
lock flash exposures Yes ?
display power of each flash unit Yes displays exp. compensation or power output fraction only
compatible flash units 60 plus ability to store 10 custom profiles which user can create, or Cactus V6 II specific units such as RF60X
system-specific flashes for the receiver, or Godox X1 compatible flashes including Wistro studio flashes
flash system for TTL mode when mounted on the transceiver on camera any compatible flash – should Auto-detect?? no passthrough TTL – single pin hotshoe only

 

Which system should you buy?

If you need to purchase new flash units, and in particular, the awesome units such as the Wistro AD600 or AD360II, then it makes sense to go with the Godox system as you just need the flash units and the system specific transmitter for each camera system you own.

If you already have a mix of flashes, or you wish to use the special features of the cactus system such as Power Sync, then the Cactus V6II transceivers would be the way to go, although you may be wise until Cactus finalises all their TTL firmware and it is found to work as advertised.

It would not be entirely crazy to have BOTH systems for different needs.

It does alter which flash units I would invest in though, and perhaps the 3rd party flashes may be the best approach although there is always a risk the camera manufacturers introduce incompatibilities, but it is likely that Cactus and Godox will be able to address these through firmware updates.

Many pros will stay with their tried and true Pocket Wizards which do use a different bandwidth and are system specific with no cross-platform TTL or HSS capabilities – and there is no Olympus version as yet – ah yes, I have been waiting nearly 10 long years for an Olympus version and still there is no word.

For more information on remote TTL flash, see my wikipedia pages.

Fujifilm announce a new high end mirrorless camera system with a new sensor design

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

The long awaited announcement from Fujifilm has finally arrived.

Their take on a mirrorless camera system is clearly targeting the enthusiast photographer who does not care for taking movies nor need zoom lenses, but who want high quality images using wide aperture prime lenses.

See here for details.

In short, it is based upon a new APS-C sized “X-Trans” sensor which has a new pixel array instead of usual Bayer pattern, and no anti-alias filter which should mean it can capture more detail than comparable traditional sensors with anti-alias filters.

The 1st camera, the X-Pro1 is expected to retail at $1600 body only and there are only 3 prime lenses available, each expected to cost $600-700.

The hybrid optical/EVF viewfinder is designed to change optical magnification to suit each of these 3 lenses, so I would not be expecting a big range of lenses.

That said, their traditional film era choice of lenses may well be adequate for the target audience (in 35mm terms):

  • 27mm field of view at f/2.0
  • 53mm field of view at f/1.4
  • 90mm field of view portrait/macro lens at f/2.4

Clearly they have done their homework on lens choice given the popularity of the following Micro Four Thirds lenses:

  • 12mm f/2.0 = 24mm
  • 20mm f/1.7 = 40mm
  • 25mm f/1.4 = 50mm
  • 45mm f/1.8 = 90mm
  • 45mm f/2.8 OIS macro = 90mm macro

However, personally I would have preferred the following range in 35mm terms:

  • 24mm at f/2.0
  • 35mm at f/1.8
  • 50mm at f/1.4
  • 90mm at f/2.0 with macro
  • 150mm at f/2.0 with OIS
  • 250mm at f/4 with OIS

I presume the optical viewfinder technology may be the limiting factor in providing such a range of lenses.

The Users Manual can be downloaded from Fuji here (pdf).

A few more features:

  • 16mp APS-C sized sensor with no anti-alias filter
  • SD/SDHC/SDXC memory card support
  • only +/- 2EV exposure compensation
  • auto switching between OVF and LCF screen via eye detection as with Panasonic GH series
  • manual switch on front right to switc between OVF and EVF and set the OVF zoom
  • aperture ring on lenses with Auto selection as well
  • for Programmed Exposure Mode, there is no P mode but you set both Shutter dial and Aperture dial to A (but only allows speeds 1/4000th sec – 1/4 sec) – makes good sense
  • all shutter speeds (1/4000th sec to 1 sec ) are selected and visible from the top dial – makes street shooting much easier, for Aperture Priority, set this to A for auto shutter speed
  • for Manual Exposure mode, just chose shutter speed and aperture that is not A
  • for timed long exposures 2-30 sec, set shutter dial to T then use EVF with menu buttons to select actual exposure
  • for Bulb long exposures, set shutter dial to B -can take up to 60 minute exposures but if you set aperture to A, the exposure will be set to 30 sec
  • the shutter button even has a traditional screw in shutter release cable facility – one of the few digital cameras to have this – very nice and retro indeed!
  • exposure compensation is via it’s own top mounted dial and clearly marked – again great for the street shooter or tripod user
  • Macro mode on the rear buttons automatically changes OVF to EVF to avoid parallax error – seems strange to bother, as the type of user for this camera would know to do this anyway!
  • burst mode 6fps or 3fps
  • 2 exposure multiple exposure mode
  • panoramic stitching mode
  • self-timer activated via menu system  or allocated to the Fn button
  • viewfinder displays focus distance as this is not visible on the lenses – perhaps the biggest let down for the street photographer!
  • does not appear to be any manual focus aids other than a single zoom magnified focus enabled by pressing the centre of the command dial
  • ISO 100-25,600 although only 200- 6,400 in RAW mode and Auto but no intelligent ISO as with Panasonic cameras which assesses degree of subject movement
  • 10 film simulation modes including B&W with either Y,R or G filter, and a sepia mode
  • flash sync 1/180th sec, PC-sync terminal as well as hotshoe, no built-in flash, no remote TTL flash, no HSS flash?
  • 1080 and 720 24fps HD video, stereo mic, C-AF, 3x zoom some manual controls but perhaps not shutter speed selection?
  • weght 450g incl. battery and memory card
  • size 140mm x 82mm x 43mm – certainly not as small as the Olympus Pen or Sony NEX cameras

Potentially this is a great camera for many enthusiasts who want high image quality, want to use prime lenses only and only in this range, and who want to be able to see at a glance what aperture, shutter speed or exposure compensation they have selected by looking down on the camera. The hybrid OVF/EVF certainly appears to be a very attractive feature but will it be enough to overcome the camera’s other limitations?

Unfortunately for its high price, it lacks the versatility of the Micro Four Thirds system, and the enthusiasts will not be so happy with its lack of manual focus or focus indication functionality, nor its poor exposure compensation range.

Perhaps they should do a deal with Olympus and get in-body image stabilisation, sensor dust removal system, Super-FP HSS flash and remote TTL flash all of which are absent in this camera!

At its price point I would have hoped for a faster flash sync and potentially compatibility with a major brand’s remote TTL flash system such as Nikon, Canon or Olympus.

The HD video capabilities are reasonable but much more limiting than with other mirrorless cameras.

 

Auto focus, Micro Four Thirds cameras, the new Fuji hybrid AF system and the future

Friday, August 6th, 2010

The Micro Four Thirds camera system, along with other mirror-less camera systems are  currently solely reliant on contrast detect autofocus systems.

Contrast Detect AF (CDAF):

Contrast Detect AF relies on assessment of the image contrast at the sensor and then uses a series of iterations of lens element movements so that it can reassess the level of contrast and determine the point of maximum contrast.

The capability of this mechanism to achieve fast AF is limited by the weight of the lens elements involved in focus, the AF motors, the data communication band width between the camera and lens, the AF computer algorithms, subject contrast and movement.

At present technology, even with Panasonic adding 2 extra lens coupling pins for the Micro Four Thirds standard and developing smaller lenses optimised for CDAF, while the AF is very fast for slow moving or stationary subjects, even in low light, even with this optimisation, it has great trouble locking onto faster moving subjects, and thus has limited applicability to sports photography.

When using non-CDAF optimised lenses, AF can be VERY slow, if it works at all (generally will not work on Panasonic GH-1, G1, GF-1 models but will work slowly on later Panasonic models or on Olympus models).

CDAF does have a number of significant advantages over phase contrast AF such as:

  • allows almost any area of the image to be the AF point instead of specified AF sensor sites
  • works even at small apertures as long as there is enough light coming in
  • allows face recognition AF
  • allows AF tracking of slow moving subjects of a specified appearance just by selecting a subject to lock onto
  • eradicates the perennial problem of AF calibration errors

Phase contrast autofocus:

All current dSLRs use phase contrast AF sensors as the primary mechanism.

The AF sensors are generally located under the SLR mirror and some light passes through the mirror then through light splitting prisms to reach the bank of AF sensors.

The light is split so that each sensor detects only light coming from one side of the lens.

Basic AF sensors detect the lateral displacement of a vertical line in the image when the image is out of focus, with the line being displaced to opposite sides of centre depending on which side of the lens the light is coming from.

The camera computer can then use this information of lateral displacement to accurately determine the correct position of the lens focus element required in order to achieve focus.

This makes AF very fast and even predictive continuous AF is fast and can be quite accurate.

Unfortunately, if there is no vertical line, such as sensor will not function, and thus most newer and more expensive dSLRs use AF sensor with horizontal and vertical capabilities (“cross hair” sensors) which increase the chance that it will be able to use part of the subject to AF upon.

As the distance from the lens to the sensor is potentially different to the  distance from the lens to the imaging sensor, there is a potential that different lenses, different temperatures, etc can result in minute changes to these distances and thus the potential for consistent back-focusing or front-focusing to occur which requires AF calibration to correct. Fortunately this is now possible by the end user with newer camera models – previously you would need to send the camera and lens to the manufacturer for calibration.

Another problem is that due to cost issues, generally only the centre AF sensor is made sensitive enough to allow lens apertures up to f/8 while other AF sensors may only work at wider apertures.

This means that if you try to use a 2x teleconverter with an f/5.6 lens, phase contrast will NOT work.

Hybrid AF systems:

dSLR’s:

Most dSLRs made in the last few years have “Live Preview” mode in which the mirror is temporarily raised and light hits the sensor directly, thus bypassing the phase contrast AF sensors, and thus CDAF must be used. Unfortunately, these systems are not generally optimised for CDAF and thus AF in live preview is quite slow.

A handful of cameras allow phase contrast AF during Live Preview whilst having the mirror in the normal down position by having a separate image sensor in the pentamirror compartment which sends the video feed to the LCD screen. This was first seen in the Olympus E330, and has since been taken up by Sony in some of its models.

Mirror-less camera systems:

Fuji has just announced a new “hybrid AF” technology which essentially converts strips of image sensor photosites into phase contrast AF sensors.

See dpreview’s description of how this works.

This is an exciting development which may allow cameras like the Micro Four Thirds to have fast and accurate action AF without having to worry about mirrors, and then perhaps we will see the development of very fast burst rates of much more than 10fps as there is no physical limitations of moving the mirror up and down.

Olympus is taking their time in developing their new Four Thirds dSLR and this is rumoured to be quite different to previous models and likely to allow both fast CDAF and phase contrast AF – and perhaps optimised for either Micro Four Thirds or Four Thirds lenses – perhaps we will see something in the next few months.

Creating AF lenses from legacy manual focus lenses:

As mentioned in a previous post here, Olympus appears to be working on a new Olympus OM adapter for Micro Four Thirds which not only includes a 0.5x wide converter to give the natural field of view of these lenses but which would also allow fast CDAF.

Also, as mentioned in this post, Panasonic appear to be working on an adapter which includes a pellicle mirror and phase contrast AF sensors which would allow phase contrast AF with Four Thirds lenses and perhaps other legacy lenses when mounted on Micro Four Thirds.

Now these would be a very exciting developments indeed!.

Whatever happens, the improving sensor technology along with improving AF technology will only make the Micro Four Thirds cameras even more compelling as THE camera to take with you every where.

The ultrazoom for travel – maybe a compact digital will suit some better than Micro Four Thirds?

Saturday, May 8th, 2010

I was asked by a friend this week to recommend a camera for travel that is relatively light and compact and unfortunately, her main priority was that without changing lenses, she wanted to be able to do wide angle landscapes as well as shoot super telephoto shots of eagles whilst riding on a donkey across America.

BUT, BUT, I protested, you can’t do this unless you get an ultra-zoom digital compact, and you will be forced to sacrifice image quality and be limited to prints of 11″x14″ or computer screen display, and well lit scenes as image noise at ISO higher than 400 would become intolerable.

Why don’t you just get a Panasonic GH-1 with 14-140mm 10x zoom, and know that you can deal with lower light levels, and you will have image quality capable of very good 20″x30″ prints, and you could do HD video, and buy a Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 lens for those times when light levels are too low?

She said, she didn’t really care about image quality – she wanted just one lens and 30x zoom range so she could document her travel.

So, that meant both dSLRs and Micro Four Thirds were out of her picture as the longest zoom range options for these cameras are combinations such as either:

  • Micro Four Thirds with Lumix 14-140mm f/4-5.8 10x zoom (28-280mm in 35mm terms)
  • Micro Four Thirds with Olympus 14-150mm (28-300mm) +/- Olympus 9-18mm (18-36mm)
  • Micro Four Thirds with 14-45mm (28-90mm) + Lumix 45-200mm (90-400mm)
  • Micro Four Thirds with 14-45mm (28-90mm) + Olympus 70-300mm (140-600mm)
  • Sony NEX-5 with Sony E 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 (27-300mm)
  • Four Thirds with 12-60mm (24-120mm) + 70-300mm (140-600mm)
  • Four Thirds with 14-54mm (28-108mm) + 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 (100-400mm) + 2x TC (200-800mm)
  • Canon APS-C dSLR with Tamron 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 15x zoom with macro (29-432mm) – 560g lens
  • Canon APS-C dSLR with Canon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 (29-320mm)
  • Canon full frame with Canon 28-300mm L lens (28-300mm)
  • Nikon DX dSLR with Sigma 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 13.9x zoom (27-375mm) – 628g lens
  • Nikon DX dSLR with Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 (27-300mm)

That left her with the 30x ultra-zoom compact digitals with their tiny sensors and lower image quality:

Essentially that came down to two current models:

Olympus SP-800UZ:

  • 28-840mm f/2.8-5.6 30x ultra-zoom introduced in Feb 2010
  • 14mp 1/2.33″ sensor with up to 10fps burst rate, 3″ fixed LCD, SD memory card
  • 720p HD video
  • limited shutter speed range 1/4sec – 1/2000th sec but thankfully can do up to 4sec in night scene mode albeit without any manual control
  • sensor shift IS?
  • no EVF, no RAW mode but does have option of Olympus Art Filters
  • timelapse with interval settings of 1-99 minutes and number of shots from 2-99 with sleep mode during intervals
  • 435g, 110 x 90 x 91mm

Fujifilm Finepix HS10:

  • 24-720mm f/2.8-5.6 30x ultra-zoom introduced in Feb 2010
  • Sony 10mp back-illuminated 1/2.3″  sensor at up to 10fps via mechanical shutter
  • 1080p/30fps HD video with stereo sound, various video capture rates even 1000fps but tiny images at that rate
  • sensor shift IS
  • electronic viewfinder but no where as good as the EVF for the Panasonic GH-1 or the Olympus E-P2
  • fold out LCD – not flip and swivel though as with a Panasonic GH-1
  • a very limited shutter speed range of 1/4 sec to 1/1400th sec but this should not limit her photography needs but may impact on other’s needs
  • RAW or jpeg; AA batteries
  • 636g, 131 x 91 x 126mm

Unfortunately, I could not comment on comparative image quality of the two but as image quality was not that important to her, I think she quite wisely chose the more expensive and heavier Fuji HS10 as it best matched her needs, in particular:

  • if shooting at long telephoto without a tripod, holding the camera to the eye is critical in stabilising the camera, and the lack of EVF in the Olympus could be seen as a major shortcoming in design.
  • the wider field of view of 24mm on the Fuji  vs 28mm on the Olympus is more likely to be useful for travel than more telephoto.
  • the flip out LCD on the Fuji will come in handy for ground level or waist level shots
  • more video shooting options including up to 1000fps in low res frames, plus 1080 HD instead of just 720p.
  • a much more sensible 10mp sensor than the silly 14mp sensor in the Olympus

Would I buy a 30x ultra-zoom?

Well, no… for me, image quality, high quality EVF, ability to use external TTL flash, have more control over shutter speed and lens selection  is far more important than super compact ultra zoom capability.

I would much rather carry around a Panasonic GH-1 with 14-140mm lens and an Olympus E-PL1 with Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 lens and maybe an Olympus 9-18mm lens or Panasonic 7-14mm lens for some ultra wide work – and I would sneak in an Olympus OM 135 f/2.8 lens to allow low light telephoto work (ie. 270mm f/2.8) – of course, this kit would cost a LOT more than a Fuji HS10, but then at least I could be confident those treasured moments will be captured in an image quality I could be proud to show others and not appear to be just snapshot quality full of noise and smeared details which I would forever regret.

The most important possessions most of us have are our travel and family photos – I for one do not mind spending a bit more and carrying a bit more to ensure that these are of high  quality without the equipment becoming a burden, and this is where the Micro Four Thirds system excels – although it is still an immature technology with much development to follow in the next 2-5 years.

You can’t have your cake and eat it too – cameras are always about compromise – that is why there is not one perfect camera.

If you don’t need 30x zoom, perhaps one of these more compact travel 12-15x zoom cameras may be more your cup of tea:

In May 2009, dpreview.com compared 6 of these cameras and the clear winners were the Panasonic TZ-7 (ZS-3) 12x zoom and its cheaper version, the TZ-6 (ZS-1).

Since then, Samsung have added their WB650 sporting a 15x zoom, 920K AMOLED screen, and GPS tagging to go up against the latest Panasonic version – their TZ-10 which has remained with their successful 12x zoom, and added GPS tagging as well.

In June 2010, dpreview.com compared 13 of these travel zoom compact cameras and the winners were the newer Casio Exilim FH-100 and Samsung HZ35W while the Panasonic cameras which had won the previous year, were not far behind.