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Sony ZV-E10 II review: small but mighty
5:00 pm | July 10, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Cameras Computers Gadgets Mirrorless Cameras | Tags: , , , | Comments: Off

Sony ZV-E10 II: two-minute review

The ZV-E10 II is a highly recommendable compact vlogging camera. Its diminutive size is deceptive, as it houses a number of key components and features that are shared with Sony’s pricier and more advanced APS-C cameras.

This camera is built around the proven 26MP Exmor R sensor and BIONZ XR imaging engine combo, which is capable of producing crisp 4K video from an oversampled 6K readout. One of the biggest upgrades over its predecessor is that the ZV-E10 II is capable of recording videos in XAVC HS/XAVC S 10-bit 4:2:2 color up to 4K/60p with a data rate of up to 200Mbps. To take advantage of its dynamic range and color upgrade, it also comes with S-Cinetone and Log recording, along with the ability for users to upload a maximum of 16 LUTs via the Creators’ App, which can be baked into footage for quick delivery. It’s a much less elegant approach to deploying custom looks compared to Fujifilm’s famous film simulations or Panasonic’s seamless Real Time LUT and LUMIX Lab solution, but it’s a welcome addition to Sony’s entry-level offering all the same. It can also record proxy files in XAVC HS HD or XAVC S HD with a max data rate of 16Mbps, despite only having a single UHS-II card slot. The ZV-E10 II offers a strong set of features for what is ostensibly a beginner/vlogging camera. 

However, considering that it’s built around the same sensor, processor and power platform as the A6700 and FX30, it’s a shame that Sony wasn’t able to include the 4K/120p video recording that’s available in those cameras, even if it came with a time limitation and the same 1.58x crop. It’s also disappointing to see that the mechanical shutter in the ZV-E10 has been ditched, meaning the ZV-E10 II is electronic shutter only. But with that said, the readout speed is fast, which will significantly negate the impact of rolling shutter in both video and stills. In terms of stabilization, the camera body has no sensor-shift IS, so you’re restricted to Optical Steady Shot (Standard) with compatible lenses or Active SteadyShot, which comes with a hefty crop. Alternatively, you can take advantage of Sony’s free Catalyst Browse desktop software, which uses gyroscopic metadata for the camera to stabilize your footage and reduce rolling shutter effects even further. The software works incredibly well, but it’s an extra step that some may find tedious, especially some people in the target audience for this camera.

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Sony ZV-E10 II on reflective surface and white background

(Image credit: Future | Jon Devo)
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Sony ZV-E10 II on reflective surface and white background

(Image credit: Future | Jon Devo)
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Sony ZV-E10 II on reflective surface and white background

(Image credit: Future | Jon Devo)
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Sony ZV-E10 II on reflective surface and white background

(Image credit: Future | Jon Devo)
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Sony ZV-E10 II on reflective surface and white background

(Image credit: Future | Jon Devo)
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Sony ZV-E10 II on reflective surface and white background

(Image credit: Future | Jon Devo)
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Sony ZV-E10 II on reflective surface and white background

(Image credit: Future | Jon Devo)

As you might expect, the autofocusing capabilities of this camera are second to none in its price range, and much better than those of rival APS-C cameras from competitors; the upgraded 759-point PDAF system finds subjects with ease and tracks them stubbornly. Like the ZV-E10, the newer model has a maximum continuous firing rate of 11fps, but with a more advanced AF system your ‘keeper’ ratio from mode shooting is going to be higher. Product focus mode was one of the standout features in this camera’s predecessor, and it works better than ever with this new model. When activated by pressing the trash icon, the camera will intelligently detect and seamlessly pull focus to a product when it's held up, then return to the person’s face when the product is lowered. It’s a unique feature that makes this an ideal camera for social media content creators who do tutorials, product reviews or promotions.

In terms of design, the ZV-E10 II is almost identical to its predecessor – the button layout is unchanged and the form factor will be familiar to owners of the older model, and while this camera being slightly larger and heavier, you couldn’t describe it as large or heavy relative to the competition. I like that it has a decent-sized grip, despite being super compact, and it feels great to hold and shoot with. Due to its size there’s no EVF, which may turn off some beginners who are more inclined towards photography – they might want to spend a little more and pick up the A6700.

Having only the articulated screen to compose shots on isn’t a problem, but it did become a bit of a struggle on sunny days, as I didn’t find it bright enough, even on its maximum setting. I also found the default Shooting Screen UI cluttered, but you can (and really should) make adjustments to the look and feel of it in the menu. To Sony’s credit, I love the fact that the whole UI rotates when you shoot vertically, making it a little bit easier to see your settings, whatever orientation the camera is in; it’s a small touch, but a nice one. Speaking of touch, the ZV-E10 II also adds direct touch as a means for changing settings and selecting subjects for the AF to track, touch functions not available on the ZV-E10. Again, it’s not a huge feature, but it significantly improves the functionality of the camera over its predecessor.

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Sony ZV-E10 II camera on a stone surface

(Image credit: Future | Jon Devo)
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Sony ZV-E10 II camera on a stone surface

(Image credit: Future | Jon Devo)
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Sony ZV-E10 II camera on a stone surface

(Image credit: Future | Jon Devo)

One of the ZV-E10 II’s USPs is its built-in three-way capsule microphone, which sits along the top of the camera. The unique design helps to isolate audio when the user is speaking to camera without external audio capture, whether holding the camera up vlogger-style or speaking from behind the camera. Sony says the latest version is “intelligent”, and should do an even better job of delivering clear audio. I didn’t have the previous model at the same time that I was testing the ZV-E10 II to compare the two, but I can confirm that the audio quality that’s recorded by the ZV-E10 II’s built-in mic system is good – it will be adequate for most quick shooting scenarios in public, and should certainly suffice for more controlled situations, such as shooting in a studio, although for the best results you’ll want to stay close to the camera, as it's not designed to pick up your voice from a distance. For higher-quality sound recording you have the option of inputting third-party audio sources through the 3.5mm socket. Alternatively, the camera’s digital multi-function hot shoe supports audio data transfer, allowing you to connect a Sony hot shoe mic like the ECM-G1 or a more advanced audio solution such as the Sony ECM-W2BT wireless microphone.

Live online content creators will enjoy the fact that the ZV-E10 II makes it easy to get connected and stream via a wireless network connection or USB-C, at up to 4K/25p with a max bitrate of 38 Mbps. Full HD streaming goes up to 60fps, and it’s also possible to record to the camera while streaming, which is handy for redundancy.

The ZV-E10 II is a camera that covers a lot of bases for content creators who have begun to experience the limitations of a smartphone and need reliability and quality in equal measure, but in a package that keeps things simple. If you can go without a viewfinder and can tolerate overheating limitations when shooting 4K video, the ZV-E10 II is well worth your consideration.

Sony ZV-E10 II on reflective surface and white background

(Image credit: Future | Jon Devo)

Sony ZV-E10 II: release date and price

  • $1100 / £950 body only
  • Available from July 10 2024
  • Can be bought as a kit with the new Sony E PZ 16-50mm F3.5-5.6 II $1200 / £1050

The ZV-E10 II is available to pre-order from July 10th, 2024, with sales starting at the end of July 2024. It can be picked up for an RRP of $1100 / £950 body only or for $1200 / £1050 with the new Sony E PZ 16-50mm F3.5-5.6 II as part of a kit. That’s a pretty big price hike from the Sony ZV-E10. 

  • Price score: 3.5/5

Sony ZV-E10 II on reflective surface and white background

You can take off the lens to easily pack the Lumix S9 away in a small bag. (Image credit: Future | Jon Devo)

Sony ZV-E10 II: design and handling

  • Body is almost identical to previous model
  • Features higher-capacity NP-FZ100 battery
  • Vari-angle touchscreen
  • Digital multi-function hot shoe

The Sony ZV-E10 II is a very compact camera, measuring 4.5 x 2.65 x 2.1 inches / 114.8 x 67.5 x 54.2mm and weighing 13oz / 375g. It’s almost 10mm thicker, a couple of mm wider and 32g heavier than its predecessor.

Sony ZV-E10 II key specs

Sensor: 26MP Exmor R sensor APS-C sensor
AF system: 759-point phase-detect
EVF: None
ISO range: 50 to 102,400 (ISO 100-32,000 video range)
Video: 4K/60p 4:2:2 10-bit internal
LCD: 3.0-inch vari-angle touchscreen
Max burst: 11fps (continuous autofocus), 30fps burst
Connectivity: Wi-Fi 2.4GHz/5GHz, Bluetooth 5.0
Dimensions: 114.8 x 67.5 x 54.2mm
Weight: 375g (Body only with battery and card)

The increase in size is in order to accommodate the NP-FZ100 battery, the same battery used by Sony’s APS-C flagship model, the A6700, as well as most of its recent full-frame E-mount cameras. This also means the memory card slot has been shifted over to the left of the camera body, sandwiched between the microphone and USB-C port at the top and the headphone and micro-HDMI socket at the bottom. The door cover of the UHS-II card slot locks into place and is easy enough to unhinge, even if you’re wearing gloves.

Its 3-inch flip-out articulated screen swings out smoothly and slaps back into place with a reassuring clasp. However, I didn’t like the fact that when the display is flipped all the way out it doesn’t sit flat – it’s at a slight angle. This means the screen doesn’t directly face you when flipped forwards, and it makes composing straight images at extreme perspectives frustratingly inconsistent. Another slight annoyance for me is that I found that some of the buttons and the zoom toggle are too easy to activate by accident, which occasionally led to missed shooting opportunities when trying to capture unanticipated fleeting moments. I do really like the dedicated photo / video / S&Q mode switch at the top of the camera though.

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Sony ZV-E10 II on reflective surface and white background

(Image credit: Future | Jon Devo)
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Sony ZV-E10 II on reflective surface and white background

(Image credit: Future | Jon Devo)
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Sony ZV-E10 II on reflective surface and white background

(Image credit: Future | Jon Devo)
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Sony ZV-E10 II on reflective surface and white background

(Image credit: Future | Jon Devo)
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Sony ZV-E10 II on reflective surface and white background

(Image credit: Future | Jon Devo)

A lot of useful and commonly used settings are buried within the menus, but fortunately Sony makes it relatively easy to curate a custom page under ‘My Menu’. Another positive is the fact that many of the camera’s buttons can also be customized for both photo and video modes, which gives you a lot of flexibility, and some time spent configuring your buttons and creating your own menu should pay dividends in improving your experience of using the ZV-E10 II. A final design touch that I’m a fan of is the inclusion of a red tally lamp on the front of the camera, just above the alpha logo, which turns on automatically when you press record. There’s also a red frame indicator that can be turned on and off to reassure you that you’re recording.

  • Design score: 3.5/5

Sony ZV-E10 II: features and performance

  • Best-in-class phase-detection autofocus
  • Solid battery life
  • No sensor-shift stabilization
  • Overheats when recording 4K/60p
  • Unique 3-capsule microphone array

The Sony ZV-E10 II stands on the shoulders of one of Sony’s most popular Alpha models ever, in the original ZV-E10 – and given that its predecessor doesn’t have a lot of competition, Sony arguably didn’t have to release an update this year. However, while there are a good few meaningful improvements overall, the ZV-E10 II isn’t perfect. Let’s start with the challenges.

As a compact camera with no fan, I wouldn’t expect the ZV-E10 II to deliver unlimited recording at maximum resolution and frame rates, and it turns out that it doesn’t. I found that the camera consistently overheated and shut down while recording 4K/60p video after 24 minutes, even with the screen flipped out which can help to disperse heat. I was able to get it to start recording again by rebooting the camera, and it rolled for another five minutes before stopping for a second time, then it would cut out repeatedly after a minute or two until it was left to cool down. When the overheating issues began the camera became very hot to the touch, and it wouldn’t function normally until it had cooled down; for reference the ambient room temperature was 70F / 21C. I experienced no overheating issues when filming in Full HD resolution.

Sony ZV-E10 II on reflective surface and white background

(Image credit: Future | Jon Devo)

Now that we’ve got the drawbacks out of the way, let me say that the ZV-E10 II shines when it comes to autofocus, although that’s a given when it comes to Sony cameras. The AF is quick and reliable, which means you can focus on capturing the content you want, whether it’s stills or video, and the camera will take care of the rest. It’s also much easier to shoot remotely and share your content, thanks to improvements Sony has made to the Sony Creators’ App experience. When paired, the ZV-E10 II has the ability to transfer content between the camera and your mobile device via 2.4GHz or 5GHz Wi-Fi. The process is quick, and far less frustrating than previous iterations of Sony camera/app file transfer that I’ve used.

When shooting Raw+JPEG you can get 30 frames at 11fps with AF-C in continuous burst mode, before buffering begins to kill your joy while you wait for the camera’s single UHS-II card to write – this is a camera that will be suitable for capturing brief bursts of action, but not extended sequences. If you want an easy way to slow down longer action sequences, shifting the camera into its dedicated S & Q (slow and quick) function is as simple as flicking a switch. The S&Q mode allows you to capture and view slow-motion video in camera, without sound. However, I’m disappointed that the ZV-E10 II maxes out 4K at 60fps, while its higher-end stablemates, with the same sensor and processor, offer up to 4K/120p.

I was impressed by the staying power of the ZV-E10 II. I could comfortably get through a day's photo and video capture thanks to the inclusion of the larger FZ-NP100 battery. It’s a cell that’s rated for roughly 550 shots, which is a lot for a camera in this class. The previous ZV-E10 was already a standout performer when it came to battery life, and the new model raises the bar further still.

  • Features and performance score: 4/5

Sony ZV-E10 II: image and video quality

  • Same 26MP sensor as pricier FX30 and A6700 models
  • Much improved video codecs
  • No in-body image stabilization means shakier video footage

The ZV-E10 II’s 26MP sensor delivers beautiful JPEGs in good light, and usable images in low light, while its raw files provide a good amount of dynamic range for pushing shadows and recovering highlights when needed.

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Sony ZV-E10 II sample image buzz lightyear toy in studio at ISO 50

ISO 50 (Image credit: Future | Jon Devo)
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Sony ZV-E10 II sample images of buzz lightyear toy in dark studio taken at different ISO settings

ISO 50 (Image credit: Future | Jon Devo)
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Sony ZV-E10 II sample images of buzz lightyear toy in dark studio taken at different ISO settings

ISO 640 (Image credit: Future | Jon Devo)
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Sony ZV-E10 II sample images of buzz lightyear toy in dark studio taken at different ISO settings

ISO 1600 (Image credit: Future | Jon Devo)
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Sony ZV-E10 II sample images of buzz lightyear toy in dark studio taken at different ISO settings

ISO 6400 (Image credit: Future | Jon Devo)
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Sony ZV-E10 II sample images of buzz lightyear toy in dark studio taken at different ISO settings

ISO 16000 (Image credit: Future | Jon Devo)
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Sony ZV-E10 II sample images of buzz lightyear toy in dark studio taken at different ISO settings

ISO 32000 (Image credit: Future | Jon Devo)
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Sony ZV-E10 II sample images of buzz lightyear toy in dark studio taken at different ISO settings

ISO 51200 (Image credit: Future | Jon Devo)
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Sony ZV-E10 II sample images of buzz lightyear toy in dark studio taken at different ISO settings

ISO 102400 (Image credit: Future | Jon Devo)

In terms of its movie mode results, the introduction of 10-bit video, something that most of the competition offers, is a great benefit for people who have the time to grade their footage. Having greater color flexibility, including the addition of the S-Cinetone picture profile and log recording, opens up this camera for more professional uses, and I would happily use it as a B-roll camera, mixing in clips with footage from a higher-end Sony camera. At its best, 10-bit 4:2:2 4K/60p footage out of the ZV-E10 II, oversampled from its 6K readout, is reasonably gradable and looks clean when the ISO is kept below 6400. In video mode the ZV-E10 II has a maximum sensitivity range of ISO100 to 32,000, but beyond ISO6400 color shifting and noise starts to get distracting.

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Sony ZV-E10 II sample images of tree in a park

Highlights can be blown in scenes like this, which also force the camera's meter to slightly under expose (Image credit: Future | Jon Devo)
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Sony ZV-E10 II sample images of model wearing bright red clothes

This backlit portrait shows that the ZV-E10 II still focuses on faces well in challenging high contrast situations (Image credit: Future | Jon Devo)
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Sony ZV-E10 II sample macro images of an insect on a plant

The ZV-E10 II paired with the 16-50mm F3.5-5.6 II is a great everyday combination for subjects big and small (Image credit: Future | Jon Devo)
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Sony ZV-E10 II sample images of a skyscraper on overcast day

The ZV-E10 II offers a range of picture profiles that will allow you to capture your shots in whatever look you're interested in portraying (Image credit: Future | Jon Devo)
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Sony ZV-E10 II sample images of a skyscraper on a sunny day

The ZV-E10 II shines in good light, delivering punchy colors and vibrant tones (Image credit: Future | Jon Devo)

The lack of sensor-shift image stabilization is a miss here. However, when the camera is paired with an OSS Sony lens, footage is respectably stable, even if it can’t match the steadiness of a Lumix or Olympus alternative. Sony does have an ace in its hand with its Catalyst Browse desktop software though, and if you have the time and inclination you can achieve footage that’s stable enough to rival video captured with a dedicated gimbal.

  • Image quality score: 4/5

Sony ZV-E10 II: testing scorecard

Should I buy the Sony ZV-E10 II?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Sony ZV-E10 II: also consider

How I tested the Sony ZV-E10 II

  • I attended a pre-brief presentation, followed by one-week review period
  • I paired the camera with the new Sony 16-50mm PZ OSS F3.5-5.6
  • I connected the camera to the Sony Creators’ App

I had a short week with the ZV-E10 II, so my testing opportunities were slightly limited. However, I have experience with its predecessor, as well as the Sony A6700 and FX30, which share the same sensor, processor and battery as the ZV-E10 II, so I’m familiar with the capabilities and limitations of its core components.

The first thing I did when receiving the camera was conduct my endurance tests, which include battery run-downs and heat management. I set the camera up on a tripod in an ambient temperature environment of 70F / 21C, and left it filming continuously while connected to mains power and on battery power alone.

I took the camera out with me on a couple of walks and to a couple of daytime and evening events, using the Creators’ App to transfer and share images on the go. I performed sound-quality tests in a small studio environment, as well as in the street.

First reviewed July 2024

Pentax 17 review: a modern analog charmer
6:41 pm | July 3, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Cameras Compact Cameras Computers Gadgets | Comments: Off

Pentax 17: two-minute review

The Pentax 17 marks a big moment for film photography: it's the first new film camera in decades from one of the historically big names in the analog format. And it's not just a reimagining of a vintage Pentax model, but a completely new concept and design, and the first in what could be a number of cameras spawned by the Pentax Film Project

I shared my initial thoughts in my Pentax 17 hands-on review when the camera was announced. It wasn't love at first sight, but in the couple of weeks since the Pentax 17 has charmed me – and the more I've thought about it, the more it makes sense for 2024 and beyond.

But what exactly is the Pentax 17? It's a compact film camera with a fixed wide-angle 25mm f/3.5 lens, and it's half-frame, which means it accepts the widely available 35mm film, but you get double the amount of pictures from a roll at half the size; the pictures are a vertical-format 17 x 24mm, hence the camera's name. 

When we consider that it's a half-frame camera, the lens' effective focal length for a single photo is around 37mm – that's similar to the portrait lens of your phone, and the lens of the trending Fujifilm X100 VI digital compact, which has become 2024's most popular camera. 

The Pentax 17 is similar in size to the X100VI, and the cameras look similar too, so we can see how Pentax is tapping into today's digital photography trends with its new film model. It also has the obligatory retro look and feel, complete with tactile response from the film crank, and audible feedback as you wind the film on – this could be the digital detox camera that a growing portion of Gen Z is looking for. 

Loading film into the Pentax 17 camera

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

Half-frame cameras shoot vertical- or portrait-format photos, which is how most people compose photos on their smartphones and share images on social media, so it won't take newbies long to get to grips with the Pentax 17 (you can rotate the Pentax 17 by 90 degrees to vertical to get horizontal, or landscape, half-frame photos too).

Simply put, Pentax has delivered a point-and-shoot camera that taps into today's photography trends, and it might have arrived at the optimum moment to become a big hit. However, there's a sticking point: the camera's $499 / £499 / AU$899 list price. That's kind of high given the intended users, especially considering the Pentax 17's plasticky feel.

If it's a compact film camera you're after there are plenty of vintage alternatives on the secondhand market for less than half the price, such as the Canon Canonet 28 or Olympus Trip 35. And if you don't mind a simpler half-frame modern rival with a lesser-quality lens, the Kodak Ektar H35 is a snip by comparison at around a tenth of the price.

However, I think Pentax is onto a winner with the 17. Its lens is admirably sharp, it has some neat design elements, and its film format makes sense for today. I've really enjoyed my time with the camera, and I won't be the only one who will.

Pentax 17 compact film camera  front-on, in the hand with boats in background

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

Pentax 17: price and availability

As mentioned, the Pentax 17 costs $499 / £499 / AU$899, and at first the price seems laughable: why so high? However, there isn't really a direct competitor to this camera, and the 17 is a better-quality compact than cheap point-and-shoot alternatives like the Kodak H35 Ektar; and in the digital space, this kind of camera would be retailing for around double the amount. I still think the price should be lower though. 

You get a wrist strap in the box, but otherwise there are currently no real accessories to speak of besides a cable release, though you don't need to buy Ricoh Pentax's own version. I'd like to see a leather half-case and a full case for the 17 – it seems a shame that neither is available yet because this is the kind of camera that suits a case and, with its plasticky build quality, would benefit from one. 

Pentax 17: design

  • Optical viewfinder has pretty accurate frame lines
  • Handy built-in flash for creative low-light shots
  • Decent grip and overall handling

At first sight and feel, the look of the Pentax 17 and the experience in the hand don't match. You expect the 17 to be weightier given its retro design and price tag, but it feels more toy-like. Apparently the top and bottom plates are magnesium alloy, but I scratched the top plate within the first day of moderate use. 

It's a far cry from the all-metal, tough-as-nails SLR cameras from the 1970s and 80s, and you'll need to look after it – if I was buying a Pentax 17 I'd be on the lookout for a third-party protective case that compliments the retro look of the camera. 

There are various textures going on: the faux-leather body, mag-alloy top plate, and the ridged hand grip, which by the way houses the included CR2 battery, which isn't rechargeable but should last for months if not years. Other than the lightweight and plasticky feel, the 17 has a nice balance in the hand, and is a good size for an everyday camera.

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Pentax 17 camera with film door open

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Loading film into the Pentax 17 camera

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Loading film into the Pentax 17 camera

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Winding on film in the Pentax 17 camera

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Winding on film in the Pentax 17 camera

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Using the Pentax 17 camera film crank

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

On the top plate is a mechanism that you pull up to pop open the film door to load a film, and which you also use to rewind a film once you've used it up – if you're new to film, it's a super-simple process. The film-wind dial is also used to set the ISO speed, which you need to select based on the film that's inserted in the camera; if you want a visual reminder of this you can cut out the logo from your film roll's packaging and slip it into the window on the film door.

There's also a film crank for winding onto the next frame after you've taken a photo, complete with audible feedback, an operation which is pretty addictive, actually. There's a shooting mode dial with auto, program, bokeh, and night modes, plus you get a selection of modes that utilize the built-in flash. Bokeh keeps the 17 set to its maximum f/3.5 aperture, and you'll want to use this mode for portraits, although the program mode delivers similar results.

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Pentax 17 compact film camera  front-on

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Pentax 17 compact film camera rear-on

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Pentax 17 compact film camera top down

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Close up of the Pentax 17 compact film camera's film crank

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Close up of the Pentax 17 compact film camera's top dials and film crank

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Close up of the Pentax 17 compact film camera's ISO dial

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

I love the optical viewfinder, which has frame lines so you can line up your shot. The outer lines are for distant focusing while the inner guides are for near focusing (parallax correction), and through the viewfinder you can see the active zone-focusing mode – it's a really neat bit of design. If you're shooting in the bokeh mode, you'll need to pay attention to zone focusing: the six modes cover close-up (0.82ft / 0.25m, indicated by the flower symbol) to infinity (indicated by mountains), so be sure to pick the right one for your subject.

At first you'll be semi-blinded by flashing orange and blue lights next to the viewfinder display, and you'll need to refer to the instruction manual to know what those lights indicate. Among other things they offer handy reminders that the film needs winding on (you can't shoot multi-exposures unfortunately), and that the lens cap is still on (the 17 knows because the exposure meter is built into the lens).

Overall, plenty of thought has gone into the design of the Pentax 17, and it's a sensible mix of point-and-shoot simplicity with a decent dose of manual control for creative shooting.

Pentax 17: performance

  • Half-size pictures make sense for 2024
  • Surprisingly sharp lens
  • Decent exposure metering

There's a reason that the Pentax 17 is pricier than a camera like the Kodak H35 Ektar: it's lens is much sharper. Its design combines elements of the lenses used in the Ricoh Auto Half and the Pentax Espio Mini, and results in a 25mm f/3.5 optic that's effectively a 37mm lens in the half-frame format. Put simply, it's a surprisingly sharp everyday lens 

The 17 is primarily a point-and-shoot camera, but there is scope for some manual control, too. If you select auto, the brightness values are set by the camera, and there's really nothing else to do other than compose your shot and press the shutter button. However, there are other shooting modes that you can select for specific looks. 

If you opt for the bokeh mode, the 17 will automatically try to shoot with a wide-open aperture. At f/3.5 and for single-person portraits (using the correct zone focusing mode), it's possible to get a shallow depth of field. Otherwise, in auto you'll pretty much always get everything in focus. 

The exposure meter built into the lens automatically sets the shutter speed based on the shooting mode and ISO film selection. It's the perfect place to put the meter – the 17 will detect if the lens cap is left on, and won't take a photo until you remove the cap, plus it'll automatically adjust the exposure when you attach a filter to the lens that necessitates new exposure settings. 

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Pentax 17 films scans of sailing and yacht details

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Pentax 17 films scans of sailing and yacht details

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Pentax 17 films scans of sailing and yacht details

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Pentax 17 films scans of sailing and yacht details

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Pentax 17 films scans of sailing and yacht details

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Pentax 17 films scans of sailing and yacht details

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Pentax 17 films scans of sailing and yacht details

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Pentax 17 films scans of sailing and yacht details

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Pentax 17 films scans of sailing and yacht details

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Pentax 17 films scans of sailing and yacht details

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

Half-frame pictures are half the size of 35mm, and therefore an individual shot is half the quality in terms of resolution. However, the size is still big enough in my opinion to show good levels of detail, and it's much larger than the 110 film used in the recent Lomography Lomatic 110

Ideally you'd ask the lab developing the roll of film to provide scans at the best possible resolution so that you have as many pixels to play with as possible. I received 6MP scans (2904 x 2048) with an average file size of around 4.5MB. 

The look of your shots is down to what film you use. I had Kodak Ultra Max Color and Ilford HP5 to work with, and you can see the results for yourself above. The best camera apps like mood.camera, are doing an increasingly good job of rendering smartphone snaps into film-like photos, but the results don't usually compare to the real analog thing. 

You also get another creative option with half-frame that you don't get so easily with full-frame: diptics. You can consider shooting complimentary pairs of images to sit side by side on the roll of film, for example a portrait alongside an abstract object.

Should I buy the Pentax 17?

Pentax 17 compact film camera  front-on, in the hand  with ocean backdrop

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

How I tested the Pentax 17

Pentax 17 compact film camera

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
  • I used the camera for two weeks
  • I shot three rolls of film
  • I took pictures in a variety of everyday scenarios

I shot three rolls of 35mm film with the Pentax 17, two color and one black-and-white. All rolls of film were ISO 400 with 24 exposures. Given that you get double the number of photos as you would when using a full-frame 35mm film camera, I've got around 150 photos altogether. 

I mainly used the 17 to document everyday life, and I took photos in various scenarios, including outside in bright light by the coast, and indoors. I used all the different shooting modes, using the full range of fully auto and semi-automatic exposure modes, and I also used the built-in flash. 

First reviewed June 2024

SeaLife ReefMaster RM-4K review
10:00 pm | June 19, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Action Cameras Cameras Computers Gadgets | Comments: Off

SeaLife ReefMaster RM-4K: one-minute review

For taking photos underwater, or at the beach or in other situations where your camera could get wet, a dedicated waterproof and toughened compact camera has typically been the preferred solution, at least for consumers. Pro photographers and videographers who own a DSLR or mirrorless camera will alternatively look for specialist underwater housing for their camera, and these tend to be both bulky and pricey.

Falling somewhere in between these options is the small yet outwardly robust SeaLife ReefMaster RM-4K. At its core is a tiny, rectangular GoPro-like digital camera that’s no bigger than a matchbox, which, if used standalone, is not waterproof – though you can use it on land. To use the camera in water you have to secure it inside the provided rubber-sealed, screw-fastened plastic housing. The tiny camera-operation buttons are mirrored on the outer casing with much larger ones, which when pressed essentially operate the smaller buttons within.

SeaLife ReefMaster RM-4K waterproof camera on a stony waterside

(Image credit: Future | Gavin Stoker)

While this doesn’t make for the fastest or most responsive of setups, it works. The camera’s 140-degree fisheye lens enables the capture of up to 14MP stills and 4K video, and the combo is conveniently portable and amazingly lightweight at just 7oz / 200g. The price is comparable to that of a toughened, waterproofed point-and-shoot camera. While this is very much a specific tool for a specific job, you might also want to check out the SeaLife Micro 3.0, which in my opinion this is a slightly neater solution, in that it doesn’t require an external housing for the camera.

SeaLife ReefMaster RM-4K: price and availability

The SeaLife ReefMaster RM-4K is available to buy now, priced at $349.95 / £349.99 / AU$599 – so US buyers are getting a better deal than their British counterparts.

Though the palm-sized camera plus underwater housing combination may appear a little toy-like, its price suggests this is a direct competitor to the all-in-one toughened and waterproofed cameras that are available from the likes of Ricoh, Nikon and Fujifilm, which don’t require a separate waterproof housing. 

The waterproof rating of those compact competitors varies from model to model, and some are more ‘jack-of-all-trades’ devices than dedicated underwater cameras. That being said, if they get covered in sand they can be simply rinsed clean under a tap, as can the housing of the SeaLife ReefMaster RM-4K; however, the camera element needs to stay protected at all times.

Viewed standalone, the SeaLife ReefMaster RM-4K may appear pricey for a matchbox-sized camera with a plastic-y outer housing, but its price is in part justified by its ability to capture 14MP stills and 4K resolution video down to depths of 40 meters. This allows you to capture underwater images and footage in situations where you wouldn’t dare to take your precious DSLR or mirrorless camera. 

SeaLife ReefMaster RM-4K: design

The SeaLife ReefMaster RM-4K comprises a tiny matchbox-sized camera unit that forms the ‘brains’ of the setup, while the rugged plastic outer housing with oversized buttons provides the brawn. 

Once you’ve placed the camera inside the cavity of the housing, you need to screw the unit tightly shut using a red plastic cog to make it waterproof. You’ll need to remove the camera from its housing to recharge its built-in battery via the  supplied USB cable, or to insert or remove the microSD card. Slots for the memory card plus USB and HDMI ports are hidden under a plastic flap on one side of the camera, while two lozenge-shaped buttons on the opposite side are provided for tabbing through on-screen menu options. So far so intuitive.

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SeaLife ReefMaster RM-4K waterproof camera on a stony waterside

(Image credit: Future | Gavin Stoker)
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SeaLife ReefMaster RM-4K waterproof camera on a stony waterside

(Image credit: Future | Gavin Stoker)
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SeaLife ReefMaster RM-4K waterproof camera on a stony waterside

(Image credit: Future | Gavin Stoker)
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SeaLife ReefMaster RM-4K waterproof camera on a stony waterside

(Image credit: Future | Gavin Stoker)

Because the camera’s LCD screen is a tiny two inches in size, menu icons are necessarily large and obvious. The mode button that also doubles as the power on/off button brings up a brief array of options, while pressing the ‘OK’ button next to it confirms settings changes. This button also has a second use, acting as a shutter release / record button, depending on whether photo or video mode is selected. The buttons need to be pressed quite hard, and sometimes a couple of times, before they do what they’re supposed to, which – to look at it from a more positive angle – at least prevents accidental shots or menu activations. It’s not, though, as quick and responsive as a DSLR or mirrorless camera, so deciding on your settings before going shooting rather than making changes on the fly is recommended.

SeaLife ReefMaster RM-4K: performance

While the 2-inch rear screen on the SeaLife ReefMaster RM-4K is tiny and features a low-ish 230k-dot resolution, it’s bright enough to be able to be viewed clearly through the translucent back of the housing. The small size does make it difficult to assess detail, however, and to tell exactly which parts of your scene or subject are or aren’t in focus. Essentially it’s a case of pointing the camera, pressing the button, and hoping for the best.

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SeaLife ReefMaster RM-4K photos alongside a river front

(Image credit: Future | Gavin Stoker)
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SeaLife ReefMaster RM-4K photos alongside a river front

(Image credit: Future | Gavin Stoker)
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SeaLife ReefMaster RM-4K photos alongside a river front

(Image credit: Future | Gavin Stoker)
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SeaLife ReefMaster RM-4K photos alongside a river front

(Image credit: Future | Gavin Stoker)
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SeaLife ReefMaster RM-4K photos alongside a river front

(Image credit: Future | Gavin Stoker)
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SeaLife ReefMaster RM-4K photos alongside a river front

(Image credit: Future | Gavin Stoker)

While the SeaLife ReefMaster RM-4K is a cute and compact solution for anyone seeking to go diving or snorkeling and capture stills and videos, we’d have preferred a clamp-like fastening mechanism as a belt-and-braces solution alongside the hand-turned plastic cog that screws the back into place, mainly as extra reassurance that the setup is going to stay watertight at all times. 

Most toughened compacts that don’t require extra housing feature the two-step mechanism of a sliding latch and another that turns to make sure their rubber insulated battery/card compartments are doubly protected, and I’d like to have seen something similar here. While the back of the SeaLife’s housing can be screwed tightly shut, and the housing itself feels robust, there still remains room for possible user error.

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SeaLife ReefMaster RM-4K photos on a river surface

(Image credit: Future | Gavin Stoker)
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SeaLife ReefMaster RM-4K photos alongside a river front

(Image credit: Future | Gavin Stoker)
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SeaLife ReefMaster RM-4K photos alongside a river front

(Image credit: Future | Gavin Stoker)
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Murky underwater photo taken with the SeaLife ReefMaster RM-4K

(Image credit: Future | Gavin Stoker)
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Murky underwater photo taken with the SeaLife ReefMaster RM-4K

(Image credit: Future | Gavin Stoker)
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Murky underwater photo taken with the SeaLife ReefMaster RM-4K

(Image credit: Future | Gavin Stoker)
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Murky underwater photo taken with the SeaLife ReefMaster RM-4K

(Image credit: Future | Gavin Stoker)

As for image quality, selecting the maximum 14MP setting delivers images approximately 5MB in size, which exhibit the familiar fisheye-like distortion that’s to be expected the closer you get to your subject. You can alter the field of view from the default 140 degrees to a narrower 100-degree setting that reduces distortion. 

Image quality is generally okay, however, and of a snapshot-like standard, with whatever’s in the center of the frame appearing sharper than detail at the edges. This camera is all about capturing a moment rather than producing gallery-quality results, though, so griping about pixel fringing and the like feels like nitpicking here.

Should I buy the SeaLife ReefMaster RM-4K?

SeaLife ReefMaster RM-4K waterproof camera on a stony waterside

(Image credit: Future | Gavin Stoker)

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

SeaLife ReefMaster RM-4K: also consider

How I tested the SeaLife ReefMaster RM-4K

SeaLife ReefMaster RM-4K waterproof camera on a stony waterside

(Image credit: Future | Gavin Stoker)

As I was unable to scuba dive with the camera during my test period and don’t live near the sea, the camera was instead dunked in a river and the local pond, with the resulting images not offering much in the way of enlightenment, save for demonstrating the fact that the controls are large and obvious enough to operate even in poor visibility, or at the end of an extended arm. It also demonstrated that it’s best to configure shooting settings in advance, rather than in the moment.

I also delved into the camera’s shooting menu to adjust its field of view from the default 140 degrees of its fisheye lens to menu-selectable 156-degree and 100-degree settings, as well as trying out the exposure options, which range from the catch-all of auto to manually selectable dedicated settings for deeper water shooting and recording. I also kept a close eye on battery life – SeaLife claims that a fully charged battery is good for a generous 500 shots or around two hours of video, and over the course of a couple of days of use the battery icon on the rear screen had only dipped down by a third.

First reviewed June 2024

Panasonic Lumix S 28-200mm F4-7.1 Macro OIS review: the travel lens that puts the “super” in super-zoom
2:10 pm | June 14, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Camera Lenses Cameras Computers Gadgets | Comments: Off

Panasonic Lumix S 28-200mm F4-7.1 Macro OIS: Two-minute review

It has been said in the past that the selection of lenses for the L-Mount is too limited, however that can no longer be argued. Alongside the wide range of prime lenses, macro lenses, and high-performance zooms, there have been some key releases that have solved a real-world problem for everyday photographers. The Panasonic 28-200mm f/4-7.1 Macro OIS is just such a lens: it has come in as an answer to all of the photography enthusiasts and wanderlusters that want one lens that is compact, durable, versatile and affordable.

In all honesty, I have a rather low opinion of super-zooms as I feel they tend to sacrifice everything on the altar of versatility. This lens has somehow avoided that, maintaining impressive sharpness, autofocus performance, stabilization and build quality, despite its huge zoom range and compact size. Instead of sacrificing all of these things, Panasonic made the decision to make one key compromise: the aperture speed.

Panasonic Lumix S 28-200mm F4-7.1 Macro OIS specs

Type: Zoom
Sensor: Full-frame
Focal length: 28-200mm
Max aperture: f/4-7.1
Minimum focus: 5.5in / 14cm
Filter size: 67mm
Dimensions: 3.0in x 3.7in / 77.3 x 93.4 mm
Weight: 14.6oz / 413g

In a world of lenses like the Sigma 50mm f/1.2, many people will look at the range of f/4-7.1 and dismiss the 28-200mm out of hand, but that would be a mistake. The poor low-light performance is mitigated by the excellent Panasonic camera bodies, which offer Dual Native ISO and internal stabilization that means both photos and videos can be well exposed in low light without the issue of noise creeping in.

The only thing that cannot be overcome is the lack of subject separation at most focal lengths, meaning that this lens will not produce a large amount of bokeh unless you are taking advantage of the compression at 200mm.

So, portrait photographers aside, this lens will cater to a wide range of people, from landscape photographers to travel enthusiasts who don’t want to have to spend $2,000 / £2,000 / AU$3,500 on lenses to get the coverage they need. With dust- and weather-sealing included, there is little reason not to get this lens for your next holiday, and leave the rest at home.

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Panasonic Lumix S 28-200mm travel lens on a wooden table, retracted

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Panasonic Lumix S 28-200mm travel lens in  on a wooden table with lens hood attached

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Panasonic Lumix S 28-200mm travel lens on a wooden table extended to its 200mm setting

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

Panasonic Lumix S 28-200mm F4-7.1 Macro OIS: price and availability

  • Costs $899 / £899 / AU$1,599
  • Available to buy now
  • Lens hood is supplied

The Panasonic Lumix S 28-200mm F4-7.1 Macro OIS was announced on March 26 2024, and costs $899 / £899 / AU$1,599 – a reasonable price for such a versatile lens. 

There's no real Panasonic alternative that covers both wide and telephoto focal lengths, with the 20-60mm F3.5-5.6 covering the wide to standard end, and the 70-300mm F4.5-5.6 the telephoto end. The 24-105mm is a decent alternative for pros, but it's an altogether proposition, being weightier and pricier. 

Panasonic Lumix S 28-200mm travel lens in the hand with leafy background and light rain

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

Panasonic Lumix S 28-200mm F4-7.1 Macro OIS: design

  • Decent balance with Lumix cameras
  • 7x optical zoom
  • Optical image stablization included
  • Rubber-sealed and weather resistant

The small size and light weight of the Panasonic 28-200mm is immediately noticeable, and it balances very comfortably on cameras like the Panasonic Lumix S5 II. It is primarily a plastic build; however it doesn’t feel cheap or flimsy, with smooth resistance on both the focus and zoom rings. 

There are just a couple of switches on the lens, including one for the OIS, which provides an excellent 6.5 stops of stabilization, coupled with an AF - MF selector switch. The metal mount and weather seal further enhance its credentials as a one-and-done travel lens. 

I like the fact that the lens is slimmer than many zooms, with just a 67mm front thread, much like my beloved Sigma 28-70mm f/2.8. I find the large diameter of lenses like the Panasonic 24-105mm F4 to be unwieldy and uncomfortable, making you feel like you are carrying a far bulkier setup when travelling. Whipping my Lumix S5 II in and out of my side bag with this lens on was quick and easy, and it encouraged me to take more photos without feeling conspicuous. 

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Panasonic Lumix S 28-200mm travel lens in the hand with leafy background and light rain

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Panasonic Lumix S 28-200mm travel lens in the hand with leafy background and light rain

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Panasonic Lumix S 28-200mm travel lens in the hand with leafy background and light rain

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Panasonic Lumix S 28-200mm travel lens in the hand with leafy background and light rain

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

Panasonic Lumix S 28-200mm F4-7.1 Macro OIS: Performance

  • Just 14.6oz / 413g
  • Impressive closeup photography ability with up to 0.5x magnification 
  • Moderate flare and ghosting

Panasonic has been clever here: by offering what could be described as an unimpressive aperture range, f/4-7.1, it has allowed the lens to not only be compact, but also sharp and free of most image quality issues. 

Professional photographers know that prime lenses are almost always sharper than zooms. However, their f/1.4 or f/1.8 apertures also cause chromatic aberration and fringing, as well as softness in the corners that is expensive to correct for. These are a non-issue with the 28-200mm, as the aperture range allows the lens to remain sharp from corner to corner, with no chromatic aberration or unwanted rendering elements that I could find.

Panasonic Lumix S 28-200mm travel lens in the hand with leafy background and light rain

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

The fact that this lens also offers macro capabilities is remarkable, and I was pretty stunned to see how close I could get to a subject while still being able to focus. At 28mm, I could capture something just 1.2in / 3cm away from the front element, which created sharp images with wonderfully soft out-of-focus areas.

Of course this won’t be the lens for serious macro photographers who need the reproduction ratio of lenses like the Panasonic S 100mm F2.8, but it is a great added feature for those who want one lens to cover all their bases.

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Sample photos taken with the Panasonic 28-200mm F4-7.1 lens and Lumix S5 II camera

(Image credit: Future | Joshua Chard)
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Sample photos taken with the Panasonic 28-200mm F4-7.1 lens and Lumix S5 II camera

(Image credit: Future | Joshua Chard)

Autofocus speed and accuracy has been one of the key upgrades to the newer Panasonic line of cameras, and this lens doesn’t let down the team here either. Although it uses a linear motor, instead of the smoother stepping motors found in some of Panasonic’s other lenses, it snaps to the subject quickly and holds focus very well when zooming in and out.

I did have a few issues with unpleasant flaring and ghosting when shooting into the sun, which is common in super-zooms, so I would make sure to use the included lens hood when in those situations.

Panasonic Lumix S 28-200mm F4-7.1 Macro OIS: sample images

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Sample photos taken with the Panasonic 28-200mm F4-7.1 lens and Lumix S5 II camera

(Image credit: Future | Joshua Chard)
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Sample photos taken with the Panasonic 28-200mm F4-7.1 lens and Lumix S5 II camera

(Image credit: Future | Joshua Chard)
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Sample photos taken with the Panasonic 28-200mm F4-7.1 lens and Lumix S5 II camera

(Image credit: Future | Joshua Chard)
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Sample photos taken with the Panasonic 28-200mm F4-7.1 lens and Lumix S5 II camera

(Image credit: Future | Joshua Chard)
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Sample photos taken with the Panasonic 28-200mm F4-7.1 lens and Lumix S5 II camera

(Image credit: Future | Joshua Chard)
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Sample photos taken with the Panasonic 28-200mm F4-7.1 lens and Lumix S5 II camera

(Image credit: Future | Joshua Chard)
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Sample photos taken with the Panasonic 28-200mm F4-7.1 lens and Lumix S5 II camera

(Image credit: Future | Joshua Chard)

Should I buy the Panasonic Lumix S 28-200mm F4-7.1 Macro OIS?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Panasonic Lumix S 28-200mm travel lens in the hand with leafy background and light rain

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

How I tested the Panasonic Lumix S 28-200mm F4-7.1 Macro OIS

  • A mixture of landscape, wildlife and portrait photography
  • Used in changeable weather

Panasonic was kind enough to let me take this lens around southern Egypt, where I put it through its paces for real-world travel photography on my Lumix S5 II. From the desert to the Nile, it came with me on boats, camels, to the hotel poolside and through the local streets and markets. For the days I was testing it, I didn’t use any other lenses and relied solely on it for all the moments I wanted to capture. While I take care of my kit, I certainly don’t baby it, and I got to test the ruggedness of the lens along with its performance. 

  • First reviewed in June 2024
Insta360 Go 3S review: a worthy 4K successor to the Go 3
4:00 pm | June 13, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Action Cameras Cameras Computers Gadgets | Tags: | Comments: Off

Insta360 Go 3S: two-minute review

The new Go 3S is the latest in a line of the world's smallest action cameras by Insta360, with convenient magnetic mounting and useful accessories for hands-free operation and unique POVs. When your phone won't do or can't be risked, the tiny and fully waterproof Go 3S steps up. 

It updates the one-year-old Insta360 Go 3 with some key upgrades, chiefly bumping video resolution up from 2.7K to 4K. This makes its handy multi-aspect video recording even more appealing for TikTok and YouTube reels. It's also equipped with Apple Find My, which is a useful addition to a tiny 1.38oz / 39.1g camera. 

Higher resolution video is the main improvement here. Otherwise, there's nothing majorly new in the Go 3S and much of the information in our Go 3 review is relevant to the latest iteration. However, the Go 3S is still a worthy upgrade and one of the most creative and best action cameras available.

Insta360 Go 3 specs:

Weight: GO 3S camera: 1.38oz / 39.1g; Action Pod: 3.4oz / 96.3g
Dimensions: GO 3S camera: 1.0 x 2.1 x 1.0in / 25.6 x 54.4 x 24.8mm ; Action Pod: 2.5 x 1.9 x 1.2in / 63.5 x 47.6 x 29.5mm

Maximum video resolution: 4K: 3830 x 2160 pixels at 24/25/30fps

Maximum photo resolution: 12MP (4:3); 9MP (16:9)

Connectivity: USB-C 2.0, Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi 5GHz

Storage: 32GB, 64GB, 128GB

Battery capacity: GO 3S: 310mAh; Action Pod: 1,270mAh

Quoted run time: Go 3S: 38 mins; Action Pod: 140 mins (for 1080p 30fps video

Its waterproofing depth, double the Go 3 at up to 33ft / 10m, increases slow motion frame rates with up to 200fps in 1080p and it comes equipped with a slightly wider lens.

There's also a neat trick – the Go 3S will automatically switch video aspect ratio based on whether it's horizontal or vertical when filming starts. Sporty types might be interested in the Garmin / Apple / Coros stats overlay option for Go 3S videos.

Gesture control has been added to voice command control, so you can position the Go 3S and start recording without needing to be hands-on, or have the Action Pod element to hand – the pod that's pictured below transforms the Go 3S into a Go-Pro-like action cam.

While the Action Pod transforms the Go 3S' handling and makes it a suitable vlogging camera, it isn't fully waterproof like the camera is, or a dedicated action camera like the DJI Osmo Action 4, so you can't use the pairing everywhere.

Insta360 Go 3S camera in its housing attached to a selfie stick, outdoors

Insta360 Go 3S inside the Action Pod and attached to the optional Insta360 2-in-1 selfie stick. (Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

Naturally, there are some compromises versus bulkier alternatives. Battery life from the tiny 310mAh battery is limited to 38 minutes when shooting Full HD video. That's less than its predecessor's 45 minutes and way less than other action cameras, such as the GoPro Hero 12 Black and Insta360's own X4 360-degree camera.

Overall image quality doesn't compare, either. Although Insta360 says the Go 3S is 'Dolby Vision-Ready' with new HDR technology, there's no HDR video mode like you'd get in a camera such as the DJI Osmo Action 4, meaning you lose out on highlight and shadow detail when lighting is less than perfect. Photos are capped at 12MP in 4:3 or 9MP in 16:9, too.

However, you're buying into the Insta360 Go series for its unrivaled versatility. It's why we rated the Go 3 as the perfect camera for FPV drones and a superb hands-free camera ideal for BTS video and first-person perspectives.

My kids have been super busy getting creative with the Go 3S, attaching it to the soccer goal in the garden, our family dog's collar on walks, and inside the guineapig hutch to see what our cute furballs get up to away from prying eyes (not much, it turns out). 

A quick online search further reveals clever ways people have used a Go camera, shooting from angles you couldn't otherwise consider, such as inside a box for unboxing videos.

And when paired with the Action Pod its functionality is improved, as is battery life, boosted to 140 minutes of 1080p video recording. Being able to choose between the standalone camera and pairing it with the Action Pod further increases versatility.

It might not be perfect, but the Go 3S is edging ever closer and is an excellent smartphone alternative for creative filmmakers.

Insta360 Go 3S camera attached to a sweater magnetically

The Insta360 Go 3S camera magnetically attached to a sweater with the magnet pendant inside the clothing.  (Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

Insta360 Go 3S: price and availability

  • Launched on June 13, 2024
  • Bundles from $399.99 / £349.99 / AU$719.99
  • Can be bought as a standalone without the Action Pod, from $239.99 / £209.99 / AU$429.99

The Insta360 Go 3S can be bought standalone or bundled with the Action Pod. Those that already have the Go 3 but want to upgrade to the Go 3S for its 4K video and new features can save a bit by opting for the standalone option. Like a phone, you can buy the Go 3S in different storage capacities, in this case, 64GB or 128GB versions – the Go 3S has internal memory only. 

The Standard Edition Go 3S bundled with the Action Pod costs $399.99 / £349.99 / AU$719.99 for the 64GB version, or $429.99 / £369.99 / AU$769.99 for the 128GB version. The standalone 64GB Go 3S is priced at $239.99 / £209.99 / AU$429.99 and it's $269.99 / £229.99 / AU$479.99 for the 128GB one. Overall, the Go 3S hovers around the Go 3 launch price, give or take $20 / £20 / AU$40 – in the UK it's cheaper than before. 

I had the Standard Edition bundle in 'Midnight Black'. In the box comes a magnet pendant (lanyard), pivot stand (tripod mount), easy clip (for hats and animal collars, etc), and an adhesive plate. That's a generous selection of accessories (see gallery, below), but additional accessories, such as the 2-in-1 selfie stick that you can see in some of the pictures, are also available on the Insta360 website.

  • Price score: 4.5/5

Insta360 Go 3S: design

  • The Insta360 Go 3S weighs just 1.34oz / 39.1g or 4.78oz / 135.4g with the Action Pod
  • Convenient magnetic mounting and handy supplied accessories 
  • Increased waterproofing up to 33ft / 10m

The Insta360 Go 3S comprises two elements; the camera and the Action Pod  – the latter transforms the Go 3S into a GoPro-style action camera. Without the Action Pod, you have one of the smallest and lightest action cameras available. It has has no real rival.  

Both elements are made from rigid plastic. I'd be happy to put them in harm's way – they've taken the occasional knocks from fast-moving balls and clumsy drops, and come out unscathed.

The thumb-sized Go 3S is a twinge heavier and a fraction deeper than the Go 3 but, otherwise, maintains the same dimensions, meaning it'll work with the same accessories. Put the two cameras side by side and you'd be hard-pressed to note any difference: we're talking a few mere millimeters and grams.

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Insta360 Go 3S camera alongside all the supplied accessories on a wooden surface

The items in the Insta360 Go 3S box (Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Tiny Insta360 Go 3S camera only in the hand

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Insta360 Go 3S camera in its housing with rear selfie screen flipped upon a wooden surface

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Insta360 Go 3S camera in its housing with rear selfie screen flipped upon a wooden surface

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Insta360 Go 3S camera secured in a clip accessory

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Insta360 Go 3S camera in its housing and attached to an accessory on a wooden surface

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

It pairs with the exact same Action Pod to boost battery life and for easy navigation of settings, plus remote control and viewing. Those who already own the Go 3 but want the Go 3S can save a little by opting for the standalone camera over the bundle.

The camera element has just one button that starts and stops recording. It's equipped with a built-in microphone, internal memory (64GB or 128GB), and a magnetic mount along its back. This forms a strong connection with metal surfaces and Insta360 Go accessories, including into the cavity of the Action Pod.

The Action Pod is pretty simple, too. Its control layout includes a USB-C port for charging, lock button to release the docked camera, on/off button, quick menu for shooting modes, and a flip-up touchscreen that reminds me a lot of the Insta360 X4's: it's responsive and large enough to view clearly, and therefore very useable for remote functions instead of the Insta360 Studio app.

It also features a magnetic underside for snapping into place on accessories such as the Pivot Stand, although at almost 3.5oz / 100g the pod is too heavy for placing sideways onto metal surfaces.

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Insta360 Go 3S camera in its housing with rear selfie screen flipped upon a wooden surface

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Insta360 Go 3S camera attached to a sweater magnetically

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Tiny Insta360 Go 3S camera only in the hand

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Tiny Insta360 Go 3S camera only in the hand

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Insta360 Go 3S camera in its housing attached to a selfie stick, outdoors

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

I love the versatility you get with the Go 3S. As a standalone camera, it's the smallest and lightest in the business and super convenient for hands-free videos. Inserted into the Pod, you get easy viewing for vlogs, selfies, and so on. There's a third option, too: remotely controlling and viewing what the camera sees through the Action Pod even when it's disconnected.

There are times you'll want just the Go 3S camera, such as in tight spaces and underwater: it's waterproof up to 33ft / 10m, but the Action Pod is only splash-proof. It may look like an action camera in the Action Pod, but only the camera element can be classed as an action camera.

  • Design score 4.5/5

Insta360 Go 3S: features and performance

  • Reliable Bluetooth connection between Go 3S and Action Pod, albeit with limited range 
  • Modest battery life
  • Effective gesture control and voice command

Both the Go 3S and Action Pod are slick, quick to start up and pair effortlessly. The two elements enjoy a seamless Bluetooth connection when divided, and the Action Pod's real-time view and remote controls are super responsive. 

There is a natural limit to the range the Bluetooth connection covers, so the Action Pod won't work for remote view and control in several scenarios. You'll lose connection beyond the range of a few meters, and sooner still with the Go 3S underwater. 

You can also remotely control the Go 3S using the Insta360 app, although the dedicated user interface of the Action Pod will have you leaning to that instead of your phone.

Insta360 Go 3S camera in its housing with rear selfie screen flipped upon a wooden surface

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

Battery life is a sour note: 38 minutes is respectable for such a tiny camera, but one of the inevitable compromises versus a dedicated action camera. And battery life is less than the Go 3 camera in like-for-like tests recording 1080p video.

To counter this limit, the Go 3S can extend record times by going to sleep for video modes, such as TimeShift and Timelapse. And virtually all the shooting modes are super simple to use and create decent footage with.

You can also boost battery life by docking the camera into the Action Pod, which has a maximum 140-minute life.

Gesture control and voice commands are pretty reliable and it's handy having both options: when you're in noisy environments gesture control is useful. You also get confirmation that filming has started by way of the flashing red light on the front of the Go 3S.

Image stabilization is reasonable, but there are smoother systems out there and the best shots you get with the Go 3S are when it's mounted to a stationary object rather than strapped to a rapidly moving one. You'll get the best results by utilizing the gyroscope. 

  • Features & performance score: 4/5

Insta360 Go 3S: image and video quality

  • Improved video quality, but still not quite as good as rival dedicated action cams
  • Wider and versatile lens
  • HDR is for photos only

Insta360 has addressed the limited video and photo quality of the Go 3 by increasing resolution. We now get 4K video and 12MP stills, versus 2.7K video and 6.6MP stills. If this increased resolution is all that Insta360 upgraded from the Go 3, it would be enough to greatly bolster the Go 3S' appeal, but there's more. 

Videos are sharper than before, with Insta360 also pinpointing 50% increased CPU power and better dynamic range thanks to Dolby Vision-Ready HDR technology. You can see the difference from the Go 3 but I think that overall quality still lags behind the best action cams like the Osmo Action 4 and Hero 12 Black, especially when lighting is anything other than optimum. 

Still, it's a price worth paying to obtain what are otherwise impossible shots.

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A dense woodland, taken with the Insta360 Go 3S

Detail is reasonably crisp in this woodland 12MP photo (Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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A dense woodland, taken with the Insta360 Go 3S

With the image brightened the degree of JPEG processing to reduce noise taking place becomes clear, smudging detail (Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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A backlit fire in the woods, taken with the Insta360 Go 3S

Dynamic range is pretty limited (Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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A backlit fire in the woods, taken with the Insta360 Go 3S

Still, you can darken images to ensure you capture the most amount of detail in highlights (Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Boy doing peace sign in the passenger seat of a car, taken with the Insta360 Go 3S

This is an unprocessed DNG raw file. It has a fine grain to it, whereas the next image which is the JPEG version shows aggressive noise reduction and smudged detail. I prefer the raw file (Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Boy doing peace sign in the passenger seat of a car, taken with the Insta360 Go 3S

This is the JPEG version of the previous DNG raw image, and it shows aggressive noise reduction and smudged detail. I prefer the raw file (Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

Increased resolution is super handy for filmmakers regularly switching between vertical, square, and horizontal formats to shoot Instagram, TikTok and YouTube-ready content. The FreeFrame mode is particularly helpful for this, as you can shoot first and pick the aspect later. Multi-aspect shooting is also better supported by a slightly wider angle lens.

You also get tracking autofocus, with visual confirmation when faces have been detected on the Action Pod's screen proving useful when vlogging. The ultra-wide angle and small image sensor naturally provide great depth of field. There's no official minimum focus distance listed in the product spec sheet, but objects very close to the camera won't be in focus. 

For photos, you do get an HDR option which generally gets you the best results. Overall, colors are pleasant and auto exposure works pretty well, plus you can override it with exposure compensation to brighten or darken the image where needed. 

Videos are recorded onto internal memory. I had the 128GB version and shot a lot of footage before the card filled up. Thankfully, even the 4K video files only take up a sensible amount of memory. 

  • Image and video quality score: 4/5

Insta360 Go 3S: testing scorecard

Should I buy the Insta360 Go 3S?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Insta360 Go 3S: also consider

How I tested the Insta360 Go 3

  • Used in mixed weather with and without the Action Pod
  • Long timelapse and video sequences that tested battery life
  • Experimenting with the various video and photo modes

I tested the Insta360 Go 3S much like any other action camera: playing with its various video and photo modes to record adventurous and creative content, without babying the hardware. 

It's been used extensively to record hyperlapses (TimeShift mode) and slow motion sequences, while the multi-aspect ratio FreeFrame mode has enabled me to pick which format to export videos in using the Insta360 app. 

I've also used the various accessories supplied with the camera: the magnetic pendant for underneath clothing, the magnetic clip, and the Pivot Stand. Insta360 also supplied me with the 2-in-1 selfie stick and Monkey Tail accessories for this review. 

I don't own an iPhone so was unable to test the Apple Find My feature.

Videos and photos have been viewed and edited using the Insta360 Studio app. I then exported both edited and unedited files for clear viewing on a desktop.

  • First reviewed June 2024
Heipi 3-in-1 Travel Tripod review: party tricks abound in this modern tripod
12:01 pm | June 9, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Camera Accessories Cameras Computers Gadgets | Comments: Off

Heipi 3-in-1 Travel Tripod W28: two-minute review

Heipi was a totally new brand to me when I was contacted about its versatile travel tripod. (I’m not even sure how to pronounce the name – does it sound like you're greeting a fruity baked dessert?) However, just because it’s a new name, that doesn’t mean Heipi should be dismissed. In fact, the Heipi 3-in-1 Travel Tripod is one of the most relevant travel tripods today, able to transform for multiple tasks and various camera gear in a way that almost all other tripods can’t. 

The average photographer doesn’t use very heavy gear in 2024; the kind of gear that needs an equally robust and heavy support. Mirrorless cameras and lenses are, overall, smaller and lighter. Heck, people shoot with their phones just as much as a 'proper' camera. Heipi’s tripod is for those photographers, the ones using small cameras like a Canon EOS R10 and one of the best cameraphones, who still need a lightweight and versatile support.

Regardless of size, a tripod still needs to provide firm footing, and unless you’re standing on a gusty cliff face, the Heipi tripod will offer shake-free support for moderate-size gear. A max capacity of up to 55lbs / 25kg feels fanciful, but I'd be happy adding an enthusiast-level mirrorless or DSLR camera with a moderate-size zoom lens.

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Heipi 3-in-1 travel tripod outdoors

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Heipi 3-in-1 travel tripod outdoors

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Heipi 3-in-1 travel tripod outdoors

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Heipi 3-in-1 travel tripod outdoors

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
Heipi 3-in-1 Travel Tripod key specs

Total weight: 3lbs / 1.35kg (including ball head, or 2.35lbs / 1.07 without head)
Max height: 59in / 150cm (with center column fully raised, or 50in / 126cm without)
Legs locks: 4
Packed length: 17.7in / 45cm
Max capacity: Up to 55lbs / 25kg

As a travel tripod that weighs just 3lbs / 1.35kg (with ball head included) and packs away to just 17.7in / 45cm in length, something has to give, and that something is its max reach. It can’t provide the tallest level to work from, just 59in / 150cm with the center column fully raised. 

As its name suggests, this 3-in-1 tripod has many guises. For one it’s a regular, lightweight travel tripod that packs away more compact than most, in its supplied case. That's thanks to its four leg sections, each a smidge smaller than average.

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Heipi 3-in-1 travel tripod outdoors

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Heipi 3-in-1 travel tripod outdoors

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Heipi 3-in-1 travel tripod outdoors

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Heipi 3-in-1 travel tripod outdoors

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

I’ve reviewed heaps of tripods over the past fifteen years, yet Heipi's creation has a design feature I’ve never seen in a tripod before, an innovative center column. You can’t really call it a center column but it does perform as one. 

It's effectively a mini tripod that’s folded into the main tripod with its three legs locked vertically as a column. You can then pull it out and lock it off as a column to extend the reach of the main tripod or remove it completely to gain a hefty and stabler-than-most tabletop tripod: the tripod's second guise.

Heipi 3-in-1 Travel Tripod W28 price and availability

The Heipi 3-in-1 Travel Tripod W28 is available now and costs from $399 / £317 on the Heipi website and from $399 on Amazon US. You can buy it with optional accessories such as a QR plate or opt for a different type of ball head in a pricer bundle. 

Tabletop tripods are particularly popular for vlogging, and the Heipi 3-in-1's robust center column-cum-tripod is more than able to support the best vlogging cameras for such purposes. 

It's a party piece that should be enough to make the Heipi 3-in-1 Travel Tripod stand out, but as its name suggests, it has another trick up its sleeve. 

Remove the tripod plate from the ball head and tucked away is a mobile phone clamp that can be pulled out, transforming the tripod into a mobile phone support (see below). 

The clamp extends enough to support large phones like an iPhone 15 Pro Max in horizontal format. Should you need to shoot in vertical format with your tripod-mounted phone, it's fiddly to rotate the ball 90 degrees, but it's doable if you persevere. 

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Heipi 3-in-1 travel tripod outdoors

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Heipi 3-in-1 travel tripod outdoors

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Heipi 3-in-1 travel tripod outdoors

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

Heipi's tripod is impressively versatile and lightweight, but what’s it like to use?

I'll start by reiterating just how compact the tripod packs down, and how light it is. I've been inclined to add it to my camera bag 'just in case', as it really doesn't add much weight to the overall package.

The main legs tuck very tightly together in between the mini tripod's legs. They fold out easily too, although I pinched my fingers several times in the fiddly locks that further open the maximum angle you can spread the legs. You have to repeat the motion many times to get the pain-free hang of it.

I also found the leg section locks unnecessarily long, they can snag during hectic moments on a shoot, and are fiddlier than most to open and close. However, they provide a secure lock and the process of extending all four leg sections and locking them off is speedy.

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Heipi 3-in-1 travel tripod outdoors

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Heipi 3-in-1 travel tripod outdoors

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Heipi 3-in-1 travel tripod outdoors

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Heipi 3-in-1 travel tripod outdoors

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

When the tripod is fully extended you get a modest maximum height. And if you need to increase the height by extending the center column, the column is quite sticky. 

Doubling up the center column as a mini tripod is a really clever idea, but in its role as a center column, it's not the slickest operator. 

The tripod comes with a matching ball head, while another type of ball head with a different locking mechanism is available as a pricier bundle. Check the prices above if you missed them. 

In terms of strength, the tripod legs lock off tightly and you get a strong support. Despite the claimed 55lbs / 25kg weight capacity, this is designed for those on the move with enthusiast-level camera gear, not those that need the largest and sturdiest support available for bulky gear. 

Ultimately, the Heipi 3-in1 Travel tripod lives up to its name and comes with the TechRadar recommendation.

Heipi 3-in-1 Travel Tripod W28: Also consider

Peak Design Travel Tripod
For style and design, the Peak Design Travel Tripod is the first rival tripod that comes to mind. Of the two, Heipi's tripod is the more compelling option – its ball head has a panning motion, which Peak Design's tripod doesn't, plus you get those two Heipi party tricks AND it's much cheaper.

Read our Peak Design Travel Tripod review

3 Legged Thing Punks Brian 2.0
We rate the 3 Legged Thing Punks Brian 2.0 as the best travel tripod on the market. The reality is the two tripods are for different kinds of users. The 3 Legged Thing tripod is versatile for regular use – it's easier to use and make fine adjustments, and it has a better max height. Heipi's tripod is arguably better if you need to switch between gear, plus it's smaller and lighter. Both are highly recommended.

Read our 3 Legged Thing Punks Brian 2.0 review

Should I buy the Heipi 3-in-1 Travel Tripod W28?

Heipi 3-in-1 travel tripod outdoors

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

How I tested the Heipi 3-in-1 Travel Tripod W28

  • Long term use
  • All three facets properly tried out
  • Camera gear of various size and weight

I've had the Heipi 3-in-1 Travel Tripod for some months and it's had moderate use in this time, traveling many miles with me. I still don't feel like I can say I've properly tested its durability – you need years not months to test a tripod properly and be sure it'll last the distance – but so far, it's withstood the rigors of moderate use as a full tripod and tabletop tripod. It's an ideal travel companion. 

First reviewed June 2024

Shimoda Urban Explore 25 backpack review: a feature-packed pack
4:00 pm | June 8, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Camera Accessories Cameras Computers Gadgets | Comments: Off

Shimoda Urban Explore 25: one-minute review

There has clearly been a lot of thought put into the design of the stylish and simple Shimoda Urban Explore 25. The bag's layout is quite conventional, with a top compartment for everyday accessories, a main camera core at the heart of the bag, and various pockets throughout for productive storage.

Whilst there is nothing massively groundbreaking, the small design touches add up: rubber grips on pockets to prevent items from slipping out, handles on three sides of the bag, a cable management pocket, USB power passthrough, a strap loop for a camera clamp, a dedicated Apple Air Tag pocket, and a secret passport pocket.

The padding provides a good balance between comfort, security, and weight, and I found the bag comfortable to wear all day.

We're not looking at perfection: access to the waterproof cover is tricky and there's  no dedicated spot for a USB battery for the passthrough hole. But these are quite trivial points that don't detract from the overall quality of the Shimoda Urban Explore 25 bag.

A close up shot of the Shimoda Urban Explore camera backpack

(Image credit: Future)

Shimoda Urban Explore 25: design

When worn on the back, the Shimoda Urban Explore 25's minimalist look could fool you into thinking that the bag might be somewhat basic, which is anything but the truth. Beneath the strong, tough Cordura material and stylish leather zip-pulls are discerning features that will appeal to those wanting a photo backpack for that weekend city break. 

Shimoda Urban Explore 25 price and release date

The Shimoda Urban Explore 25 has a list price of $319.95/ £305 and is available in Anthracite or Boa color variants.  There are also 20L and 30L versions of the bag, also available in Anthracite or Boa. The Urban Explore 20 is $279.95/£285, and the Urban Explore 30 is $339.95/£330. 

Obviously, the smaller size will be preferential for those needing less camera kit and using smaller laptops or tablets, while the larger of the three will hold more kit and larger professional laptops. You can find full specifications for each of the bags on the Shimoda website.

The bag layout is quite conventional: there's a main compartment with a removable camera core should you wish to use it as a regular backpack, a top compartment ideal for accessories, plus two pockets one on each side for either a tripod or a drinks bottle. These side pockets are unzipped, with one allowing quick access to the main camera compartment (which can also be zipped closed internally for extra security). In contrast, the other side opens and reveals a pocket and elasticated loops for keeping all those essential cables neat and tidy. Within each of these compartments are plenty of pockets and even hidden spaces, which we will come on to later. 

A close up shot of the Shimoda Urban Explore camera backpack

(Image credit: Future)

Shimoda Urban Explore 25: performance

A close up shot of the Shimoda Urban Explore camera backpack

(Image credit: Future)

There is a decent amount of space in the removable camera core. I added a Sony A7 IV with a Sony FE 24-70mm f/4 lens mounted to it. This was easily accessible when I needed access from the side compartment. It is worth adding here that access to the camera core can be zipped shut so that even if the side of the bag is open, it requires an additional 'unzipping' before your kit can be accessed; again, this adds a touch more security from prying hands. If you want quick access, the side access flap can be tucked into the inside flap of the camera bag, which keeps everything neat and tidy.

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A close up shot of the Shimoda Urban Explore camera backpack

(Image credit: Future)
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A close up shot of the Shimoda Urban Explore camera backpack

(Image credit: Future)
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A close up shot of the Shimoda Urban Explore camera backpack

(Image credit: Future)

In addition to the camera and mounted lens, I could fit a FE 70-200mm f/4 lens as well as a couple of smaller lenses and a flashgun. In summary it has the space you need for a weekend shooting. The camera core also has a hard metal internal frame on one side to prevent your gear from getting crushed in an overhead plane compartment. There is a second metal frame around the edge of the rear of the bag, again preventing it from being crushed easily but also allowing it to keep the bag shape and sturdy.

A close up shot of the Shimoda Urban Explore camera backpack

(Image credit: Future)

Getting access to your laptop is easy. The laptop compartment is accessible from the top compartment, and it runs down the front of the bag rather than sitting against your back, which is more common. Instead, it is the tablet compartment that takes up this spot on the back of the backpack, and it is accessed from the main camera compartment.

There is plenty of space in both the laptop and tablet compartments. The laptop compartment measures 25W x 35.5H x 2D cm / 9.8W x 14H x 0.8D in, meaning it should fit a 16-inch laptop with no issues. I used it for my 13-inch MacBook Air, and it was swimming around in there. My laptop also fits in the tablet compartment, so iPad Pro users shouldn't have any issues.

A close up shot of the Shimoda Urban Explore camera backpack

(Image credit: Future)


The straps on the bag are nicely padded, offering a comfortable carrying experience. They are also adjustable at the top, allowing the user to get a good fit over the shoulder as well as being able to adjust the length. One of the straps also has a little accessory mount, allowing a camera clip, such as the Peak Design Capture Clip, to be easily attached.  

A chest/sternum strap allows for a snug fit, but sadly, there is no waist strap, although there is a way of adding a third-party one behind the cushioning on the bottom of the rear of the bag. All of that said, this is very much a city bag rather than one you will be taking out on technical hikes, so the lack of a waist strap is completely understandable.

There are some lovely design touches on the bag, including an easy-access Apple Air Tag pocket – it is nice to have a dedicated place for it within the bag.  The passport pocket is tricker to find and access, as it should be; no one will be slipping their hand in your bag and getting your passport out.

A close up shot of the Shimoda Urban Explore camera backpack

(Image credit: Future)


For storing accessories, the bag has plenty of space. The top compartment has a zipped mesh pocket, with two individual pockets inside for storing smaller items such as batteries and memory cards. These pockets have a little rubber grip at the top, helping to prevent any items in the pocket from slipping out or shifting around too much; it is a simple touch that adds to the quality feel of the bag. There is also a quick-release loop in this pocket, which could be used for keys or an appropriate accessory.

The top compartment is spacious and can easily hold a pair of headphones and a compact camera; like most top compartments, its location means it is best for things you need quick access to. Interestingly, the entire top compartment can be unzipped. Along with the ability to remove the camera core, this means that the Urban Explore can be used as an everyday backpack when you don't need all your camera gear.

I found the main front compartment to be another useful pocket for easy access to items. The size is perfect for holding a notebook or documents, while the internal plastic pocket is good for smaller general items such as tickets or pens.

A close up shot of the Shimoda Urban Explore camera backpack

(Image credit: Future)


Having a dedicated pocket on the side for cables is great and helps to keep everything tidy and easily found. The USB passthrough comes through this pocket, and one of the few criticisms of the bag is that there isn't a dedicated space to put a USB battery, although it is easy enough to put it in the main camera core or even thread a long enough cable through the top compartment; it isn't a big deal but seems something of an oversight when so much great design has been implemented elsewhere.

Besides the camera core, the main compartment is spare, except for a plastic pocket, which is effectively the rear of the top compartment. This pocket isn't the easiest to access, so it is suitable for things that you may need less often—lens and sensor cleaning kits, spare cameras and lens caps, batteries, etc.

The only other thing of note is that the bag's waterproof cover is tucked into a fold at the bottom of the main compartment. While the bag is water resistant, in a really heavy prolonged rain shower, the rain cover isn't the easiest to access when you really need it. And it could potentially mean exposing your camera gear to the elements to retrieve it. Again, the bag is designed for the city, so you should be able to find shelter somewhere; so for the target market, it isn't a deal breaker by any means, but you would have thought there could be a better place for the cover or at least a better way of retrieving it.

A close up shot of the Shimoda Urban Explore camera backpack

(Image credit: Future)

One thing I liked was the fact that the bag has handles on the side, top, and bottom. You can grab it easily and securely from any angle, which is reassuring when you need to put it in an overhead locker on a plane or generally just move it around.

Carrying a bag with a mid-size tripod was no issue. I just about managed to squeeze all three legs into the side pouch designed for a bottle or tripod legs. Smaller travel tripods will fit comfortably and won't shift around, and for larger tripods, you can just put two legs in and use the straps to tighten everything in place.

Should I buy the Shimoda Urban Explore 25?

A close up shot of the Shimoda Urban Explore camera backpack

(Image credit: Future)

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

How I tested the Shimoda Urban Explore 25

  • I used the bag as a daily camera backpack
  • Walk around 5k with the bag on my back
  • Packed it with as much gear as possible

I have tested the Shimoda Urban Explore 25 by using it as an everyday camera bag. I carried my laptop in the backpack and set off to work in a coffee shop, taking all my weekend camera kit with me for some shooting before and after.

While out and about, I used the bag as I normally would, taking items in and out of the compartments and pockets to use them, all the time thinking about the bag's weak points and whether anything could be designed differently to speed up access or make things more secure. 

It is very difficult to design bags that are overtly different. Most backpacks have standardized layouts, so I was looking for small features on the bag that would make a difference in how I would use it. 

First reviewed June 2024

OM System OM-1 II review: the pint-sized powerhouse
10:45 am | June 7, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Cameras Computers Gadgets Mirrorless Cameras | Comments: Off

OM System OM-1 II: two-minute review

There’s long been a snobbery when it comes to camera formats going back to the days of film. But with digital photography, while this does remain to some extent, the camera landscape is completely different and smaller sensor Micro Four Thirds (MFT) cameras are often some of the most advanced cameras available.

The OM System OM-1 Mark II is one such camera, but it’s more of an incremental update over the original OM System OM-1 than a significant upgrade. However, the new model is still one of the most technologically advanced cameras currently available, offering features and functionality that could easily tempt photographers away from larger format APS-C and full-frame cameras, especially those looking for a lightweight camera system.

The OM-1 II offers many of the same features as the original, including the same 20MP back-illuminated sensor with its 1053-point AF system, 50fps when shooting with continuous autofocus, Live ND filters (software-based) alongside the IP53-rated weather-sealed body to name but a few. The two cameras also look remarkably similar, nearly identical, so what’s so special about the OM1-II?

Olympus OM-1 Mark II

(Image credit: James Abbott)

The OM-1 II is undoubtedly a stunning camera that handles incredibly well and offers features and functionality that I wish my larger sensor cameras had, and I’ll cover many of these in more detail later. But this level of functionality doesn't come cheap – the body-only price is $2,400 / £2,199 / AU$3,599.

This price puts it in the same bracket as many mid-range full-frame cameras, which can seem like a negative when you’re getting a much smaller sensor. However, you're getting a typically smaller and lighter camera system, including the lenses, which most OM System fans favor. It's an easier-to-carry and more compact system that’s capable of shooting any subject, excelling in landscape and wildlife photography.

OM System OM-1 II: design

With its rugged build quality offering IP53-rated splash and dust resistance, alongside being able to withstand freezing temperatures down to -14 degrees fahrenheit / -10 degrees celcius, this compact and lightweight camera is designed to withstand the rigors of outdoor photography. 

The OM-1 II is slightly smaller than the average full-frame mirrorless camera, plus, it’s lighter at 1.32lbs / 599g including a battery and memory card. There are also two SD card slots for dual recording and redundancy.

Despite its slightly smaller size, the camera is comfortable to hold thanks to a well-contoured grip and an excellent thumb plate on the back. If you could say a camera fits your hand like a glove, it’s the OM-1 II. 

There are plenty of direct controls for speedy access to key camera settings, and the menu system itself is well laid out and easy to navigate, which can be an easily overlooked benefit of any camera. Although the OM-1 II looks almost identical to its predecessor, the newly rubberized dials provide greatly improved grip and overall feel.

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Olympus OM-1 Mark II

(Image credit: James Abbott)
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Olympus OM-1 Mark II

(Image credit: James Abbott)
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Olympus OM-1 Mark II

(Image credit: James Abbott)
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Olympus OM-1 Mark II

(Image credit: James Abbott)

Shooting with the OM-1 II is an absolute pleasure, and the 5.76m-dot EVF that now has a blackout-free display when shooting at even the highest frame rates available provides a beautifully clear and bright image. 

The LCD on the back is also impressive, but as is often the case, this is lower resolution than the EVF. The 3-inch vari-angle 1,620K dot touchscreen is convenient, clear and bright, but some of the on-screen icons are on the small side.

The only thing that I don’t like about the design of the camera is that the on/off switch is on the left side of the camera, rather than on the right where you hold the camera. Right positioning makes it much easier to switch cameras on and off when you pick them up by the grip. 

But although in my opinion, this would be much better, the switch positioning certainly isn’t a dealbreaker and is likely to be something you’d get used to if you’re switching from a different camera system.

OM System OM-1 II: performance

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Photo of a daisy taken with the Olympus OM-1 Mark II

(Image credit: James Abbott)
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Photo of a robin taken with the Olympus OM-1 Mark II

(Image credit: James Abbott)
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Photo of an old tanker taken with the Olympus OM-1 Mark II

(Image credit: James Abbott)
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Photo of a pigeon taken with the Olympus OM-1 Mark II

(Image credit: James Abbott)
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Photo of a robin taken with the Olympus OM-1 Mark II

(Image credit: James Abbott)

This is a camera that owes much of its prowess to computational power which includes AI algorithms. I’m not talking about generative AI for image creation, this is AI that aids the functionality and performance of the camera. 

One area where this is put to work is with the improved AI subject recognition that can be set to detect six different subjects as well as being switched off. This subject detection worked extremely well during testing, and the bird setting was fantastic for shooting birdlife, often detecting their eye which is both useful and impressive.

One of the headline new features is Live Graduated ND, which is a digital grad available in 1-stop, 2-stop and 3-stop strengths and can be set to soft, medium or hard graduations (see examples, below). As a landscape photographer who uses square filters, I found these digital equivalents offered harder graduations than my glass filters, but they’re still extremely effective.

There’s unfortunately no reverse grad option for shooting sunrises and sunsets, although the grad can be rotated to most angles. You also have to shoot in manual mode to avoid the foreground exposure from brightening, which is a little odd since you’d expect the algorithm to account for this. Still, it’s undoubtedly an impressive feature.

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Olympus OM-1 Mark II - no Live GND

No Filter (Image credit: James Abbott)

No Live GND filter to 3EV progression alongside a back of camera to show the on-screen Live GND.

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Olympus OM-1 Mark II 1EV Live GND

1EV Medium GND (Image credit: James Abbott)
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Olympus OM-1 Mark II 2EV Live GND

2EV Medium GND (Image credit: James Abbott)
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Olympus OM-1 Mark II 3EV Live GND

3EV Medium GND (Image credit: James Abbott)
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Olympus OM-1 Mark II

Back of camera showing the Live GND guide (Image credit: James Abbott)

The new Live Graduated ND sits alongside Live ND Shooting, which has been extended to ND128 / 7-stops with the OM-1 II to provide long exposure capabilities in-camera, as well as wide aperture shooting in bright conditions. 

The main downside to these two digital filters is that they can’t be used in conjunction, so landscape photographers will need to continue using traditional optical filters in situations where they need to use both ND filters and ND grads. Hopefully, dual shooting could be implemented in a firmware update, and if this is possible it would be phenomenal.

With 8.5 stops of 5-axis in-body image stabilization (IBIS), the OM1-II beats its predecessor here by 1.5 stops, thanks again to software rather than a hardware upgrade. Sync IS also allows the IBIS to work in conjunction with the optical stabilization available in lenses, so when using the OM System 150-600mm F5.0-6.3 IS, for example, I was able to shoot at 600mm (1200mm equivalent) handheld at shutter speeds as low as 1/200 sec, which is nothing short of mind-blowing.

Last but not least, with many of the same fundamentals as the OM System OM-1, image quality is comparable and is overall excellent. ISO handling is best up to ISO 1600 and you could confidently shoot up to ISO 6400 when necessary, although like any camera it’s always best to shoot at the lowest ISO setting possible for the subject and situation you’re shooting. 

Then there's the advanced AWB algorithm that’s claimed to ensure precise color reproduction, which does indeed do a great job and was either perfect or just a little off during testing. Video capture has also seen some improvements, but 4K capture still tops out at 60fps where 120fps would be preferable for slow-motion capture.

Should I buy the OM System OM-1 II?

Olympus OM-1 Mark II

(Image credit: James Abbott)

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

How I tested the OM System OM-1 II

Sony FE 24-50mm F2.8 G

(Image credit: Future)

I tested the OM System OM-1 II over several shoots covering different subjects to test features, handling and image quality. Most images were shot simply to see how the camera performed in different situations, while others were shot specifically for being able to assess the results.

This approach provides the ability to test all aspects of the camera in a real-world environment that’s closer to how photographers will use the camera, rather than relying on statistics and lens charts that provide incredibly useful information, but do so in a way that removes the element of subjective interpretation.

With nearly 30 years of photographic experience and 15 years working as a photography journalist, I’ve covered almost every conceivable photography subject and used many of the cameras and lenses that have been released in that time. As a working photographer, I’m also aware of the factors that are most important to photographers and aim to test cameras and lenses in a way that reflects this.

First reviewed February 2024

OM System M.Zuiko Digital 150-600mm F5.0-6.3 IS review: double your reach
10:00 am | June 6, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Camera Lenses Cameras Computers Gadgets | Comments: Off

OM System M.Zuiko Digital 150-600mm F5.0-6.3 IS: two-minute review

With an equivalent focal range of 300-1200mm, the OM System M.Zuiko Digital 150-600mm F5.0-6.3 IS is a wildlife photographer’s dream. Small and distant subjects are suddenly thrust into the limelight, while mind-blowingly effective Image Stabilization steadies the viewfinder image and makes it possible to shoot handheld at much slower shutter speeds than should be possible. What more could you possibly want or need in this type of lens?

The 150-600mm focal range has become extremely popular in the past 10 years or so with enthusiast photographers, who can enjoy the long reach at a much more affordable price than professional telephoto prime lenses. There's a slight trade-off in maximum aperture and image quality from those pro telephoto prime lenses, but the money saved and versatility afforded is usually worth the compromise.

OM System M.Zuiko Digital 150-600mm F5.0-6.3 IS controls

(Image credit: James Abbott)

The M.Zuiko Digital 150-600mm is not inexpensive at $2700 / £2499 / AU$4099, and it’s only marginally less expensive than the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm f4 IS PRO. The latter is an optically superior lens with an equivalent focal length of 600mm paired with that f/4 maximum aperture, but for the average enthusiast the versatility of the 150-600mm will prove particularly tempting.

This colossal telephoto lens is also quite a beast in itself at 10.41x4.30 inches / 264.4x109.4mm, with a weight of 4.55lbs / 2,065g without the lens hood or lens cap. (It's actually a reworked version of the full-frame Sigma 150-600mm, with the micro four thirds lens mount.) 

Honestly though, don’t let its gargantuan proportions put you off. You can and likely will want to attach the lens to a monopod or tripod anyway for photographing distant subjects, achieved via the Arca Swiss compatible tripod foot or the tripod screw thread on the bottom of the foot.

This may not be one of OM System’s PRO series lenses, but it provides great performance overall in what is arguably a compact and lightweight lens considering the extensive reach on offer. But let’s take a deeper dive into the specifics to see exactly how this lens performs in the real world when shooting wildlife.

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OM System M.Zuiko Digital 150-600mm F5.0-6.3 IS side view

(Image credit: James Abbott)
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OM System M.Zuiko Digital 150-600mm F5.0-6.3 IS rotated on the tripod collar

(Image credit: James Abbott)
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OM System M.Zuiko Digital 150-600mm F5.0-6.3 IS viewed from above

(Image credit: James Abbott)

OM System M.Zuiko Digital 150-600mm F5.0-6.3 IS: design

The 150-600mm is quite a large lens for OM System – its design is based on a full-frame Sigma 150-600mm lens. A shoulder strap is included, which makes carrying the lens comfortable and convenient when walking around. Build quality is fantastic and offers XPX1 weather sealing making it dust and splash-resistant – essential for a lens of this type. 

The only real downside of the lens build is that it has an external zoom mechanism, which means it extends as you zoom, but there is a zoom lock that works when the lens is retracted in its 150mm setting, plus two zoom friction settings. The lower resistance setting allows you to push or pull the front of the lens to change focal length, which is both useful and comfortable.

Other controls available on the lens include focus mode, focus limiter, image stabilization and three customizable Function buttons. So, despite not being a professional lens, the 150-600mm certainly offers controls more commonly associated with higher-end lenses.

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OM System M.Zuiko Digital 150-600mm F5.0-6.3 IS front element

(Image credit: James Abbott)
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OM System M.Zuiko Digital 150-600mm F5.0-6.3 IS controls close up

(Image credit: James Abbott)
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OM System M.Zuiko Digital 150-600mm F5.0-6.3 IS detail shot attached to a camera

(Image credit: James Abbott)
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OM System M.Zuiko Digital 150-600mm F5.0-6.3 IS Arca Swiss compatible foot

(Image credit: James Abbott)

The front element and filter thread are 95mm, so you can use filters if you need to, although this is uncommon with wildlife photography and the screw-on lens hood provides more than adequate protection for the front element while also reducing the risk of flare. The lens is made up of 25 elements in 15 groups, with the front element featuring a fluorine coating to resist dirt and water spots, while the aperture is made up of nine blades.

The lens is surprisingly comfortable to use for long periods despite its size and weight. It doesn’t balance well with typically compact OM System cameras, but this isn’t a problem because using a lens like this with any camera system because you'll at the least be supporting the lens with both hands when shooting handheld.

OM System M.Zuiko Digital 150-600mm F5.0-6.3 IS: performance

The two standout features of the 150-600mm, alongside the incredible focal range, have to be image stabilization and autofocus. The 5-AXIS SYNC Image Stabilization offers up to 7 stops of compensation and uses a combination of optical stabilization in the lens and in-body image stabilization (IBIS) provided by OM System camera bodies.

Image stabilization performance is truly remarkable, and putting this into context, I often found myself shooting at 600mm (1200mm) at shutter speeds as low as 1/200 sec and still achieving sharp results. Autofocus is also fast and positive, not to mention silent, so no complaints here whatsoever and ideal for wildlife. The only problem I found when tracking fast-flying birds when zoomed in at 600mm was that I simply couldn’t keep up with them in terms of framing.

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Photo of a robin taken with the OM System M.Zuiko Digital 150-600mm F5.0-6.3 IS

(Image credit: James Abbott)
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Photo of a duck taken with the OM System M.Zuiko Digital 150-600mm F5.0-6.3 IS

(Image credit: James Abbott)
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Photo of a jackdaw taken with the OM System M.Zuiko Digital 150-600mm F5.0-6.3 IS

(Image credit: James Abbott)
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Photo of a robin taken with the OM System M.Zuiko Digital 150-600mm F5.0-6.3 IS

(Image credit: James Abbott)
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Photo of a pigeon taken with the OM System M.Zuiko Digital 150-600mm F5.0-6.3 IS

(Image credit: James Abbott)
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Photo of a pigeon taken with the OM System M.Zuiko Digital 150-600mm F5.0-6.3 IS

(Image credit: James Abbott)
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Photo of a crow taken with the OM System M.Zuiko Digital 150-600mm F5.0-6.3 IS

(Image credit: James Abbott)
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Photo of a pigeon taken with the OM System M.Zuiko Digital 150-600mm F5.0-6.3 IS

(Image credit: James Abbott)
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Photo of a robin taken with the OM System M.Zuiko Digital 150-600mm F5.0-6.3 IS

(Image credit: James Abbott)

Image quality is, overall, very good considering the focal range on offer. Images are sharp and provide plenty of sharp detail, but it’s fair to say that they lack the level of sharpness produced by professional-level telephoto prime lenses. This isn’t surprising, and in terms of sharpness, the M.Zuiko Digital 150-600mm is comparable to full-frame 150-600mm lenses, with the micro four thirds advantage of double the reach.

With a maximum aperture of f/5.0-6.3 depending on the zoom factor, you could fairly assume that this combined with the MFT sensor size would produce a larger-than-desired depth-of-field. But in reality, backgrounds are sufficiently and pleasingly defocused, placing full emphasis on the subject itself.

Should I buy the OM System M.Zuiko Digital 150-600mm F5.0-6.3 IS?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

How I tested the OM System M.Zuiko Digital 150-600mm F5.0-6.3 IS

I shot with the OM System M.Zuiko Digital 150-600mm F5.0-6.3 IS over several days, opting to focus on bird photography to maximise the full potential of the lens in terms of the reach it provides. Photos were taken at different aperture settings to test handling, sharpness and distortion, while image stabilization was put through its paces by shooting at considerably slower shutter speeds than would normally be possible.

Most images were shot simply to see how the lens performed in different situations, while others were shot specifically to compare the results, all in real-world environments rather than relying on statistics and lens charts.

With nearly 30 years of photographic experience and 15 years working as a photography journalist, I’ve covered almost every conceivable subject and used many of the cameras and lenses that have been released in that time. As a working photographer, I’m also aware of the factors that are most important to photographers and aim to test cameras and lenses in a way that reflects this.

First reviewed June 2024

Voigtländer Nokton D35mm f/1.2 review: the lens Nikon should have made
5:02 pm | May 31, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Camera Lenses Cameras Computers Gadgets | Tags: | Comments: Off

Voigtländer Nokton D35mm f/1.2: two-minute review

I've bemoaned the fact that Nikon's gorgeous new retro cameras, the Zf and Z fc, lack any lenses that equally pack the old-school appeal. However, it turns out that you won't need to make do with modern-style mirrorless lenses, or resort to adapting Nikon's old SLR lenses with old-school quality, because there's another name in today's retro game: Voigtländer. 

I first saw the old-time German lens maker's Voigtländer D35mm f/1.2 Nokton lens at the CP+ expo in Yokohama, Japan. It was mounted on a Nikon Z fc and the pairing offered up a true blast from the past.

Voigtländer Nokton D35mm f/1.2 specs

Type: Prime
Sensor: APS-C
Focal length: 35mm (around 53mm APS-C)
Max aperture: f/1.2
Minimum focus: 11.8in / 30cm
Filter size: 46mm
Dimensions: 2.6 x 1.6in / 65.8 x 41.0mm
Weight: 8.1oz / 230g

Made in Japan, the lens might look like it's from the 1980's, but it is in fact a Z-mount lens for today's latest Nikon mirrorless cameras, and is around two years old now.

The super-brief amount of time spent with the retro stunner at CP+ left me wanting more, and I just had to get my hands on it again for a much longer play. Thanks to the good folks at Flaghead Photographic, that became a reality and now I've completed this long-term review. 

Voigtländer's lens has won over both me, and my camera enthusiast father who first introduced me to Nikon SLR cameras back when I was a teen. Mounted to a Nikon Z fc, the gear has taken us back to simpler times, all while offering Nikon's superb mirrorless tech for 2024. If you already own a Z fc or are considering one, then Voigtländer's lens should be your next lens to go with it.

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Voigtlander D 35mm f1.2 Nokton lens in the hand

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Voigtlander D 35mm f1.2 Nokton lens in the hand

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Voigtlander D 35mm f1.2 Nokton lens in the hand

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Voigtlander D 35mm f1.2 Nokton lens in the hand

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Voigtlander D 35mm f1.2 Nokton lens in the hand

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Voigtlander D 35mm f1.2 Nokton lens in the hand

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Voigtlander D 35mm f1.2 Nokton lens in the hand on a Nikon Z fc

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Voigtlander D 35mm f1.2 Nokton lens on a wooden table

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Voigtlander D 35mm f1.2 Nokton lens in the hand on a Nikon Z fc

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Voigtlander D 35mm f1.2 Nokton lens on a Nikon Z fc

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

Voigtländer Nokton D 35mm f/1.2: Design

  • Made in Japan
  • Meaningful attention to retro details
  • Manual focus only

The Voigtländer Nokton D 35mm f/1.2 is an APS-C lens with approximate 53mm full-frame equivalent focal length. It's also available for Fujifilm X-mount and Sony E-mount, with each version being considerately designed to match each brand's style. For me, the Nikon Z-mount version is easily the pick of the bunch.  

It's a manual focus-only lens decked with a ridged focus ring, focus distance markings, plus an aperture ring with colorful aperture markings. The focus ring has a smooth rotation, while the aperture ring is clicked. All of these details are crucial; they're faithful recreations of Nikon's old-school design.

If you're already fond of Nikon's SLR lenses from decades past, then it will be love at first sight, love at first hold and love at first use. This is the real retro deal, with the design touches alone enough to elevate Voigtländer's lens to the top of Z fc owners' wish list.

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Voigtlander D 35mm f1.2 Nokton lens on a wooden table

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Voigtlander D 35mm f1.2 Nokton lens on a wooden table

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Voigtlander D 35mm f1.2 Nokton lens on a wooden table

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Voigtlander D 35mm f1.2 Nokton lens on a wooden table

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Voigtlander D 35mm f1.2 Nokton lens with lens hood and lens cap attached

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Voigtlander D 35mm f1.2 Nokton lens on a wooden table alongside a Nikon Z fc

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Close up of the electronic contacts on the rear of the Voigtlander D 35mm f1.2 Nokton lens

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Voigtlander D 35mm f1.2 Nokton lens on a wooden table

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

Speaking of the Nikon Z fc, it has shutter speed and ISO exposure dials (see above); but, currently, not a single Nikon Z-mount mirrorless lens has an aperture ring. With the Voigtländer lens you now get aperture control, meaning the manual exposure triangle of ISO, shutter speed and aperture is complete. 

Build quality is solid. The lens mount is made of metal, although it isn't rubber-sealed nor weather-resistant. However, you're afforded the modern convenience of electronic contacts, meaning all metadata is logged in your files for easy reference, including camera settings such as aperture, plus the date created. 

You're primarily buying the Voigtländer Nokton D 35mm f/1.2 because of how it looks and feels, rather than its ease of use – it's a manual focus lens, after all – and, honestly, that will be enough for most people. But what of the images it can produce? 

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Voigtlander D 35mm f1.2 Nokton lens on a wooden table

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Voigtlander D 35mm f1.2 Nokton lens on a wooden table attached to a Nikon Z fc

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Closeup of the Voigtlander D 35mm f1.2 Nokton lens aperture blades

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Closeup of the Voigtlander D 35mm f1.2 Nokton lens aperture blades

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

Voigtländer Nokton D 35mm f/1.2: Performance

  • True sharpness kicks in at f/2 to f/8
  • Characterful bokeh 
  • Manual focusing can be challenging when depth of field is shallow

Technically, you can use the Voigtländer Nokton D 35mm f/1.2 lens with a full-frame camera such as the Z f, but because it's an APS-C lens, you won't be making the most of the lens' image circle; the camera will automatically crop 1.5x because of vignetting, creating a field of view that's approximate to an 80mm lens.

With an APS-C camera, you have an every-day lens that's especially good for portrait photography, provided you get the hang of manual focus, which is pretty tough at such shallow depths of field. Without Nikon's subject detection autofocus at your disposal, you won't get as many critically sharp photos, no matter how long you hone focus nor how still your subject.

There's 12 aperture blades to create a smooth and rounded bokeh, especially when wide open at f/1.2. I've included various sample images that illustrate bokeh, sharpness and distortions, turning all in-camera lens corrections off (although there's no real reason to do that). The images below are taken in sequence at f/1.2, f/1.8, f/2.8, f/4 and f/5.6. 

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Portrait with pronounced bokeh, taken with the Nikon Z fc and Voigtlander D35mm f/1.2 Nokton lens

f/1.2 (Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Portrait with pronounced bokeh, taken with the Nikon Z fc and Voigtlander D35mm f/1.2 Nokton lens

f/1.8 (Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Portrait with pronounced bokeh, taken with the Nikon Z fc and Voigtlander D35mm f/1.2 Nokton lens

f/2.8 (Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Portrait with pronounced bokeh, taken with the Nikon Z fc and Voigtlander D35mm f/1.2 Nokton lens

f/4 (Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Portrait with pronounced bokeh, taken with the Nikon Z fc and Voigtlander D35mm f/1.2 Nokton lens

f/5.6 (Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

Bokeh is cats-eye in shape in the corners; I don't mind that over the sought-after circular bokeh. And in some images the out-of-focus backgrounds have a surreal quality to them – for instance, the photo of the goat with the ground behind it in the general gallery below.

The f/1.2 maximum aperture is faster than any one of Nikon's lenses in this sensor format, giving you excellent low light and shallow depth of field potential. However, to begin seeing the lens' technical quality, you'll need to stop the aperture down to around f/2 for sharper detail and better control over lens distortions such as vignetting.

You're then in a quandry – for many users, the draw for the lens' images will be the fast f/1.2 aperture, where you can get dreamy bokeh, provided your subject in focus is close enough. I've included an out-of-focus shot to show what the bokeh could look like, but the other shot in focus is more realistic based on portraits you're likely to take.

Image 1 of 2

Portrait with pronounced bokeh, taken with the Nikon Z fc and Voigtlander D35mm f/1.2 Nokton lens

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Portrait with pronounced bokeh, taken with the Nikon Z fc and Voigtlander D35mm f/1.2 Nokton lens

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

Bang for buck, I'd say that image quality is good – and the primary reason for knocking a mark off the lens' score, while its undisputed design scores top marks.

There are technically better lenses available, but none can compare to the feeling you get with the Voigtländer. It has certain characteristics that you come to know and grow to love.

If you own a Nikon Z fc because you fell for its charm, then the Voigtländer Nokton D35mm f/1.2 should be the next lens on your shopping list, even if it's a fraction on the pricey side. 

Voigtländer Nokton D35mm f/1.2: sample images

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Voigtlander D 35mm f1.2 Nokton lens sample images at f/1.2

Portrait at f/1.2 (Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Voigtlander D 35mm f1.2 Nokton lens sample images at f/1.2

There's plenty of character in out of focus areas (Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Portrait with pronounced bokeh, taken with the Nikon Z fc and Voigtlander D35mm f/1.2 Nokton lens

At f/1.2 there's vignetting and detail even in sharply focused areas is a little soft (Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
Image 4 of 10

Portrait with pronounced bokeh, taken with the Nikon Z fc and Voigtlander D35mm f/1.2 Nokton lens

At f/5.6 the detail in focused areas is sharpest (Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Portrait with pronounced bokeh, taken with the Nikon Z fc and Voigtlander D35mm f/1.2 Nokton lens

If your subject doesn't mind staying still, manual focusing is wrokable (Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Portrait with pronounced bokeh, taken with the Nikon Z fc and Voigtlander D35mm f/1.2 Nokton lens

Manual focusing for erratic subjects can be challenging. I persevered to get this shot! (Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Portrait with pronounced bokeh, taken with the Nikon Z fc and Voigtlander D35mm f/1.2 Nokton lens

I mounted to a tripod for a slow shutter speed at f/16 to soften the choppy water (Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Portrait with pronounced bokeh, taken with the Nikon Z fc and Voigtlander D35mm f/1.2 Nokton lens

I liked using the Voigtlander lens for street photography (Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Portrait with pronounced bokeh, taken with the Nikon Z fc and Voigtlander D35mm f/1.2 Nokton lens

Detail is sharp if you use an aperture of around f/5.6 (Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Portrait with pronounced bokeh, taken with the Nikon Z fc and Voigtlander D35mm f/1.2 Nokton lens

You'll need to persevere for sharp shots given you don't have autofocus. (Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

Should you buy the Voigtländer Nokton D35mm f/1.2?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

How I tested the Voigtländer Nokton D35mm f/1.2

  • Regular use for over a month
  • All kinds of photos, including portraits
  • Used mainly in fair weather, plus day and night

I've had the Voigtländer Nokton D35mm f/1.2 and Nikon Z fc on long-term loan for this review. The gear has accompanied me on many days out, during walks, documenting family life, capturing portraits – in essence, a walk around lens. 

I've taken the same photos at all aperture settings to check lens sharpness and distortion, and paid much attention to the experience around portrait photography. The lens isn't weather-sealed and so, in general, I've guarded it well – although it has experienced light rain on the odd occasion.

  • First reviewed May 2024
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