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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

Panasonic Lumix S9 review – small, simple, powerful, flawed
7:06 pm | May 22, 2024

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

Panasonic Lumix S9: two-minute review

There's much to like about the Panasonic Lumix S9. It inherits superb video features from its pricier sibling, the Lumix S5 II, and squeezes them into a smaller, colorful body. 

It boasts a 24.2MP full-frame sensor, open gate 6K video recording (taken from the full height and width of the 3:2 aspect sensor), the option to automatically set a 180-degree shutter angle, and one of the best performing image stabilization systems for shooting video on the move. 

Beyond its bigger sibling, the Lumix S9 also brings Panasonic's lesser-known Real Time LUTs color profiles to your fingertips. Fujifilm's Film Simulations have been trending, but Real Time LUTs color profiles are next-level, with no restriction on the look you want. 

Once you're connected to the new Lumix Lab app, you can import a number of Real Time LUTs profiles directly on to the Lumix S9, including a variety of excellent looks made by Panasonic's network of professional creators. This is color grading made easy for photo and video. 

Panasonic Lumix S9 camera in Dark Olive color on a rich red reflective surface

With the Lumix S 20-60mm F3.5-5.6 lens attached, which by the way is one of the smallest L-mount lenses available in 2024. (Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

Design-wise, the Lumix S9 is primarily a video camera, and at $1,500 / £1,500 (Australian pricing TBC) it offers incredible bang for buck. The reason Panasonic has been able to drop the price from the $1,999 / £1,999 Lumix S5 II is simple – this is a much simpler body, and a colorful one at that, designed to appeal to young creatives. 

This is no photographer's tool, despite the excellent-quality 24MP stills: the Lumix S9 doesn't have a built-in viewfinder, or a hotshoe for mounting optional accessories, such as a flash or EVF. The coldshoe is instead limited to other accessories such as an external mic, or even a top handle.  

I missed having a viewfinder. Much of my testing was conducted in bright sunny weather and the flip-out touchscreen isn't the easiest to see under such conditions. 

In bright conditions you can't be fully sure if the Lumix S9 has locked focus on to your subject, you just have to trust it does. To be fair, for the best part it does – the S9 has Panasonic's best ever autofocus system, with human and animal subject detection and both with options for face and eye detection only, or for bodies, too. 

We're missing a headphone jack to monitor audio, which feels like a misstep for a video-focused shooter. You can activate on-screen audio monitoring which gives some indication of audio levels, but there's no easy way to properly monitor sound.

Panasonic Lumix S9 camera in Dark Olive color on a rich red reflective surface

The Lumix S9 is a much bigger package with any lens attached, such as the Lumix S 20-60mm F3.5-5.6 pictured here. (Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

In essence, this is a full-frame camera for beginner filmmakers who want to point-and-shoot and trust that the camera will capture excellent visuals and audio, and for the whole experience to be as close to using a smartphone as possible.

To an extent, the Lumix S9 is successful in its mission. It's visually appealing, small and simple, brings lovely photo and video color profiles to your fingertips and the app is a nice touch, even if it could do with some refining.

However, considering the target market, I'm not entirely convinced this should be an L-mount interchangeable lens camera, rather a fixed lens compact with a tiny wide-angle fast aperture prime lens – much like the Fujifilm X100VI.

It's really hard to make tiny full-frame lenses, and the new pancake lens announced on the same day as the S9, plus the compact zoom in the pipeline, hardly excite. The smallest fast aperture L-mount prime lenses dwarf the camera and I'm not sure beginners will want to mess around with multiple lenses in the first place.

Design-wise, Sony's ZV-E10 feels like a better bet – with its smaller APS-C sensor and lenses, plus a decent grip. All being said, the Lumix S9 does a lot of things really well, new things, too, and we'll have to wait and see if it hits the mark with young creatives.

Panasonic Lumix S9: release date and price

  • Body-only price is $1,499 / £1,499 / Australia TBC
  • Available from June 2024
  • Launched alongside the Lumix S 26mm F8 pancake lens, which costs $219 / £219

The Panasonic Lumix S9 is available in four colors: Dark Olive (pictured, below), Classical Blue, Crimson Red and Jet Black, and costs $1,499 / £1,499 body-only, or $1,799 /£1,799 with the decent 20-60mm f/3.5-5.6 lens, and $2,249 / £2,249 when bought with Panasonic's new travel lens, the 28-200mm f/4-7.1. The camera is available from June 2024, and Australia pricing for all of those options is TBC. 

There's no word yet if the Lumix S9 will be available as a bundle with either of the newly announced lenses, the new 26mm f/8 pancake lens or the 18-40mm F4.5-6.3 compact zoom in development. The pancake lens, which only weighs 2.04oz / 58g, costs $219 / £219 and also ships from June 2024, while the compact zoom is coming later.

At launch, the Lumix S9 is Panasonic's cheapest full-frame camera yet, although the Panasonic Lumix S5 II / S5 II X that shares much of the same tech but in a higher-spec body, is often on sale for a similar cost.

Panasonic Lumix S9 camera in Dark Olive color on a rich red reflective surface

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

Panasonic Lumix S9: design and handling

  • Newly designed body is Panasonic's smallest full-framer yet
  • No viewfinder, hotshoe or headphone jack
  • Vari-angle touchscreen
  • New compact lenses on the way

The Lumix S9 is Panasonic's smallest full-frame camera yet, measuring 126 x 73.9 x 46.7 mm / 4.96 x 2.91 x 1.84 inches. It's not the smallest full-frame camera around – that award goes to the Sigma FP, plus the Sony A7C II is smaller by a whisker.

The body might barely be a handful, but it still needs a lens, and even the smallest full-frame L-mount lenses currently available – excluding the new 26mm F8 pancake – dwarf the Lumix S9. Throw on the excellent 20-60mm F3.5-5.6 and the depth is increased to 133.9mm / 5.28-inches. 

A thumb grip goes some way in providing a secure hold, but with no hand grip you'll probably need to support the camera with both hands, or kit it out with a third-party grip. Relatively chunky lenses are the challenge in handling small full-frame cameras like this – the all round feel is better with a camera like the full-size Lumix S5 II. 

In an ideal world, the Lumix S9 would have a fixed prime lens around the size of Panasonic's new pancake lens, but with a much faster maximum aperture – the Fujifilm X100VI approach. Panasonic could then also install a built-in ND filter, and ultimately create a truly compact video camera that also shoots much better video than your phone.

Still, if you don't mind the size of lenses like the 20-60mm F3.5-5.6 and 50mm F1.8 – both of which I had with the camera for this review – then you can make some excellent quality video.

Panasonic Lumix S9 camera in Dark Olive color on a rich red reflective surface

The Lumix S9's Dark Olive color variation looks the part.  (Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

There's the question of which tasteful color variation you will pick: green, red, blue, or an all-black option for those playing it safe. For now, Panasonic's lenses remain all-black; there's no color-matching kit lenses.

Panasonic Lumix S9 key specs

Sensor: 24.2MP full-frame CMOS
AF system: Hybrid with phase-detect
EVF: N/A
ISO range: 100 to 51,200 (ISO 50-204,800 extended range)
Video: 6K/30p 'open gate' 4:2:0 10-bit internal
LCD: 3.0-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 1.84m-dots
Max burst: 8fps (continuous autofocus), 30fps burst
Connectivity: Wi-Fi 5GHz, Bluetooth 5.0
Weight: 403g (body only), 486g incl battery and card

Control layout is super simple and beginner-friendly: on the top there's a shooting mode dial, video record button, exposure compensation, shutter button and control dial. We get a limited number of ports: mic, USB-C and mini-HDMI, but no headphone jack.

As a small, video-focused camera, there's no viewfinder nor the option to add one, while the coldshoe mount can hold an accessory like an external mic, but it won't connect directly to a hotshoe flash.

The 3-inch vari-angle touchscreen is decent, albeit hard to see in bright light. I couldn't find the option to activate a red border to clearly indicate when the camera is recording video, or even a tally lamp – inexplicable omissions for a small, video-focused camera.

Panasonic Lumix S9 camera in Dark Olive color on a rich red reflective surface

The S9 body is tiny, but it still needs a lens, which adds considerable depth. (Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

In-camera menus are fairly-well laid out. If you select the video mode on the top dial, then all of the photography settings disappear in the menu, helping you access video options much quicker.

You'll want to customize video options to get started, for example setting the 'Shutter Speed / Gain Operation' to prioritize shutter angle to automatically apply the 180-degree shutter angle for smooth video footage. This handy option is not available on a lot of other pricier video cameras.

Panasonic Lumix S9 camera in Dark Olive color on a rich red reflective surface

The vari-angle screen can flip around for selfies, although the camera lacks a clear indicator when recording videos, for instance a tally lamp or red border around the screen.  (Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

A new LUT button on the rear gives quick access to the unmatched variety of color profiles, which can be uploaded to the camera via the Lumix Lab app in addition to those already included. I went for 'Platinum Steel' by Sam Holland for a moody vibe with soft skin tones, among others.

Panasonic wants to create a camera and app experience that's easier than ever. From my brief time using the Android version of the Lumix Lab app, the jury is still out. Connection is faster than most, but the app can still be awkward to navigate, and appears to be limited to file transfers and uploading LUTs profiles. There could be more than this, including remote control.

Panasonic Lumix S9 camera in Dark Olive color on a rich red reflective surface

The Lumix S9's control layout is pared back and beginner-friendly. (Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

Panasonic Lumix S9: features and performance

  • Superb in-body image stablization
  • Panasonic's best phase detection autofocus 
  • Battery life is a respectable 470-shots (depending on lens)
  • Single UHS-S II SD card slot
  • New Lumix Lab app

The Lumix S9 is well supported by Panasonic's best ever autofocus and image stablization performance, both inherited from the Lumix S5 II. 

The S9's bigger sibling was the first Panasonic camera to utilize a hybrid autofocus system, with snappy contrast detection autofocus primarily for stills, and smooth phase-detection autofocus for video, featuring subject detection modes that cover human, animal, car and motorcycles. 

Human and animal detection autofocus can switch between prioritizing face and eye only, or face, eye and body, and in general works really well. 

Image stabilization performance is outstanding. It's possible to shoot sharp photos handheld with shutter speeds in the seconds, while handheld video footage on the go is super smooth – smooth enough for moderate action that you can avoid using a gimbal. 

Panasonic Lumix S9 camera in Dark Olive color on a rich red reflective surface

Connection between the Lumix S9 and Lumix Lab app proved quick and reliable using a Google Pixel 6 phone.  (Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

There's just a single SD card slot with support for the faster UHS-II type, and you can capture up to 120 images in the continuous high burst shooting setting, which maxes out at 8 frames per second with continuous autofocus employed. This is no action photography camera, but it's hardly a slouch. 

Battery life is also decent, especially considering the diminutive size of the camera. According to its CIPA rating, the S9 can squeeze out up to 470 shots from a fully charged battery, or 100 minutes of continuous 4K / 60p video recording. 

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High contrast London street photo taken with the Panasonic Lumix S9 and custom Real Time LUTs applied

A 'Platinum Steel' Real Time LUT profile (Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Sample photos taken with the Panasonic Lumix S9 of London street photography

The original standard color profile (Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

Then there's the Lumix Lab app, which at the time of writing is compatible only with the Lumix S9. In my experience using a Google Pixel 6 and the Android version of the app, pairing the camera is quicker and more reliable than most other rival apps. 

In the app you get quick access to a range of Real Time LUTs color profiles. A number of Panasonic's creators have loaded some of their own publicly available and free to download LUTs in the app's Creator gallery, and I've found a look for just about every scenario. 

I've included a high-contrast street photo taken in London with the Lumix S9's standard color profile, and then applied a free 'Platinum Steel' LUT which suited the scene (see above).

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Screenshot of the Lumix Lab app and LUT color profile options

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Screenshot of the Lumix Lab app and LUT color profile options

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Screenshot of the Lumix Lab app and LUT color profile options

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Screenshot of the Lumix Lab app and LUT color profile options

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Screenshot of the Lumix Lab app and LUT color profile options

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

Sadly, video capture times are severely limited, capped at just 15 minutes, and further reduced to 10 minutes when shooting in 6K. This is presumably to avoid overheating given the Lumix S9 lacks an internal fan, as opposed to any limitations in the camera's performance, including its processor power and card's read and write speeds.

Most people won't shoot individual clips for longer than 15 minutes, but knowing that you can in any situation is one less thing to worry about, whether that's recording speeches at an event or lengthy vlogs.

Panasonic Lumix S9: image and video quality

  • Superb video features including open gate video recording up to 6K / 30p
  • Real Time LUTs color profiles are supremely versatile
  • New MP4 Lite file format
  • Up to 14-stops dynamic range in V-log color profile

With practically the same sensor and video spec as the Lumix S5 II, you can be assured that the Lumix S9 captures superb quality video, plus sharp and punchy 24MP stills. You can read more about the image and video quality to expect in our Lumix S5 II review.

What the Lumix S9 tries to do differently is bring Panasonic's Real Time LUTs to the fore, through quick access via a direct button on the camera's body and the Lumix Lab app, through which you can easily upload any one of a vast array of color profiles for just about any shooting scenario. 

You can create your own color profiles and save them to the camera, or simply take advantage of the profiles already available through the Creator's gallery in the app.

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Sample photos taken with the Panasonic Lumix S9 of London street photography

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Sample photos taken with the Panasonic Lumix S9 of London street photography

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Sample photos taken with the Panasonic Lumix S9 of London street photography

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Sample photos taken with the Panasonic Lumix S9 of London street photography

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Sample photos taken with the Panasonic Lumix S9 of London street photography

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Sample photos taken with the Panasonic Lumix S9 of London street photography

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Sample photos taken with the Panasonic Lumix S9 of London street photography

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Sample photos taken with the Panasonic Lumix S9 of London street photography

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Sample photos taken with the Panasonic Lumix S9 of London street photography

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Sample photos taken with the Panasonic Lumix S9 of London street photography

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

There's also the matter of a new MP4 Lite video format. It maxes out at 4K, 10-bit 4:2:0, but produces files that are around 40% smaller than regular MP4 files, which are also available in the S9. However, for best quality video, you'll probably want to shoot in .MOV format in 4K 4:2:2 10-bit or 6K 4:2:0 10-bit, even if the file sizes are much bigger. 

Whether it's a light and easy ready-made MP4 Lite video with Real Time LUT applied, or 6K 10-bit video in the V-log color profile with 14-stops of dynamic range that needs to be graded afterwards, there's video quality for every level of ability and shooting scenario. 

How I tested the Panasonic Lumix S9

  • Two brief sessions, including a street photography walk 
  • Paired with the 26mm pancake, 20-60mm F3.5-5.6 and 50mm F/1.8 lenses
  • Paired with the Lumix Lab app

I've had a fairly brief time with the Lumix S9 so far, including a London street photography session and a more leisurely time at home and on launch day. I still have the camera at home and will be continuing to use it ahead of the full review. 

I've been shooting both photos and videos, and tried pairing the S9 with the Lumix Lab app to play around with various Real Time LUTs color profiles and making quick edits to photos, among other things. 

During the London session I was briefly able to use the S9 with the only copy of the pancake lens available in the UK, plus I've had more time using the camera with the 20-60mm F3.5-5.6 and 50mm F1.8 Panasonic Lumix L-mount lenses. 

First reviewed May 2024

Fujifilm GFX100S II review – worth switching from full-frame?
11:28 am | May 17, 2024

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

Fujifilm GFX100S II: two-minute review

Fujifilm has bucked the trend by launching a new camera that is actually cheaper than its predecessor, despite three years of inflation and the improved features on board. There is, therefore, more to the new Fujifilm GFX100S II than its upgraded features – it's priced aggressively to grab the attention of pro photographers teetering between the best full-frame cameras and medium-format. 

Costing around 10% less than the GFX100S was at launch, the GFX100S II is available for $5,000 / £5,000 / AU$8,700, which is a similar price to what you'd pay for comparable full-frame mirrorless cameras – a sensor format Fujifilm isn't making cameras for, but a market it clearly wants a piece of.

And with a whopping 102MP sensor creating high-resolution images exceeding those from any full-frame model, even those shot with the class-leading Sony A7R V, there are plenty of pros who could be better served by the GFX100S II's larger medium-format.

Fujifilm GFX100S II camera no lens attached

The grip of the GFX100S II is supremely comfortable. (Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

Not only has Fujifilm priced the GFX100S II aggressively, but it has trickled down some of the most powerful features the format has ever seen from the pricier GFX100 II flagship, including 7fps burst shooting and AI subject detection autofocus.

It might not be quite as fast as the GFX100 II overall, but the GFX100S II is no slouch and goes some way to put to bed the notion that medium-format is simply slow and confined to a small number of scenarios, such as studio portraiture.

During my hands-on time with the GFX100S II, I've taken photos and videos of animals in a wildlife reserve and been super impressed by the details in those images, but also by the overall speed and autofocus performance in what were pretty challenging scenarios, such as shooting through foliage and enclosure fencing.

The question now for pro photographers considering a larger medium-format camera is less about budget and more about needs. Yes, the GFX100S II is still slower in general than a camera like the Sony A7R V, but not by a lot. And with it you get higher-resolution images with true-to-life colors that are noticeable to pros – at times making full-frame camera image quality feel ordinary.

Fujifilm GFX100S II camera in the hand

GFX100S II with GF 100-200mm F5.6 lens attached. (Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

For balance, we do need to consider the system that a camera is part of. Thankfully, there are numerous decent Fujifilm GF lenses for the GFX100S II. However, in general they are pricier and chunkier than full-frame equivalents.

Also, for most users interested in the format, there might not be enough reason to upgrade from the GFX100S II's predecessor, the GFX100S, which despite being phased out is still available to buy and now at cut prices – just $4,399 at B&H Photo or £3,499 at WEX – and with which you still get 102MP photos.

All being said, if you weren't already sure about the sensor format, the GFX100S II is the most compelling case for medium-format yet.

Fujifilm GFX100S II: release date and price

  • Body-only price is $4,999 / £4,999 / AU$8,699
  • Available from June 17
  • Optional metal grip available, but no vertical battery grip
  • Launched alongside the GF 500mm f/5.6 lens, which costs $3,499 / £3,499 / AU$6,099

Fujifilm is clearly going after those teetering between full-frame and medium format, aggressively pricing the GFX100S II. It's actually cheaper than the GFX100S was at launched by around 10%, despite three years of inflation and the improved features added. 

At $4,999 / £4,999 / AU$8,699 in body-only form, the GFX100S II is going up against some of the best full-frame cameras, such as the Nikon Z8 and Sony A7R V, and is a decent alternative for those that need the best image quality over outright speed. 

Unlike the flagship GFX100 II, you can't buy a vertical grip for the GFX100S II, which would improve the ergonomics with larger lenses and increase battery life. However, you can buy a standard metal hand grip for $120 / £135 / AU$245. There's no word on kit bundles yet, but we do know the sales start date, which is June 17. 

Fujifilm GFX100S II camera in the hand no lens attached

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

Fujifilm GFX100S II: design and handling

  • Same body layout as the GFX100S, but with 'bishamon-tex' leather exterior
  • Improved 5.76m-dot non-removable EVF
  • Two-way tilt touchscreen great for shooting at awkward angles

It might look different to the GFX100S, but the GFX100S II has pretty much the same control layout and form factor. The key difference in the looks department is the camera's finish, which is Fujifilm's 'bishamon-tex' leather, as first seen in the GFX100 II (see photo, below). 

The leather finish is a departure from Fujifilm's retro roots and steps into a modern aesthetic that I'm a fan of. Otherwise, it's as you were with its predecessor, meaning a rugged DSLR-style camera with deep and comfortable grip, plus generous displays that include an improved EVF, versatile multi-angle touchscreen and generous top LCD display.

The latest model is actually slightly lighter than the first one, at 1.95lb / 883g, yet remains well-balanced even with Fujifilm's chunkier GF lenses, such as the 100-200mm f/5.6 R LM OIS WR and new GF 500mm f/5.6 that I had during my hands-on.

Fujifilm GFX100S II camera's textured grip

The bishamon-tex leather finish that is the hallmark of Fujifilm's medium format cameras today.  (Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

The camera is akin to a mid-size full-frame camera such as the mirrorless Nikon Z8 or the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV DSLR, and lighter than a sports-style shooter like the Canon EOS R3. With a GF lens attached, it's not the sort of setup you can comfortably carry for hours on end, but it's easy enough to operate.

Fujifilm GFX100S II key specs

Sensor: 102MP medium format CMOS
Image processor: X-Processor 5
AF system: Hybrid with phase-detect
EVF: 5.76-million dot OLED
ISO range: 80 to 12,800 (ISO 40-102,400 extended range)
Video: 4K/30p 4:2:2 10-bit internal
LCD: 3.2-inch multi-direction tilting touchscreen, 2.36m-dots
Max burst: Up to 7fps
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Weight: 883g (body only)

Fujifilm has been able to improve on the GFX100S without encroaching too closely on the current flagship GFX100 II. For example, the EVF has a decent bump in resolution at 5.76m-dots, with a healthy 0.84x magnification, while the pricier GFX100 II has a 9.44m-dot EVF and 1x magnification, plus its viewfinder can be removed or modified using a tilt adaptor.

While the EVF specs are a step down, the display in the GFX100S II is wonderfully big and bright, though like with a lot of EVFs you get lag in low-light conditions.

What remains the same – and needed no real improvement – is the rear LCD, which is a two-way tilt touchscreen. It can't be flipped around for selfies, but it can be tilted in both vertical and horizontal orientations, making it a breeze to view and to operate from virtually any position.

Fujifilm GFX100S II camera in the hand

The large top LCD displays exposure information but can be customized to display other info such as a histogram.  (Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

The backlit top LCD is super-handy, too. It displays exposure information by default, but you can change that to show the histogram among other things. These are the kind of tools that pro photographers appreciate, making the GFX100S II a particularly good landscape photography camera.

For a camera this size, there are relatively few buttons and controls, making each one easy to find, and in general the tactile response of each control is spot on, although the joystick is a little stubborn.

Fujifilm GFX100S II camera's rear screen tilted two ways

The two-way tilt touchscreen makes shooting from awkward angles a breeze, though you can't use it for selfies.  (Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

By design, the GFX100S II is a photography-first camera, although there's all the basics to support video recording, including a dedicated stills / movie switch, plus mic input, headphone jack and on-the-go USB-C charging.

We also get twin card slots, although both slots are SD card only. It's another differentiator from the flagship model, which can also hold the faster CFexpress Type B card type to better support powerful features, and we'll get onto those next.

Fujifilm GFX100S II camera viewfinder

The viewfinder is fixed, whereas the one in the GFX100 II can be removed.  (Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

Fujifilm GFX100S II: features and performance

  • Decent Hybrid AF with AI subject detection
  • Up to 7fps (electronic) for almost 200 JPEGs
  • Dual SD UHS-II slots but no CFexpress Type B support
  • In-body image stabilization specs are optimistic

Fujifilm upped the bar with the GFX100 II, delivering never-before-seen medium-format performance. We can't expect the same power from the much cheaper GFX100S II, but it's no slouch. 

The same X-Processor 5 engine can process 102MP files at 7fps for up to 184 JPEG images or 30 compressed raw files. Those burst-shooting sequences aren't quite as lengthy as you'll get on the GFX100 II, though if you don't mind dropping to 4.1fps then you'll get a huge bump in the number of frames you can capture. 

A comparable full-frame camera such as the Sony A7R V can shoot at 10fps, but we should remember the huge file sizes that the GFX100S II is creating: the full- resolution raw files are around 200MB a pop and measure 11648x8736 pixels. 

Burst-shooting sequences and buffer performance is compromised because the GFX100S II records on to SD UHS-II cards only, with dual card slots, while the GFX100 II can record to much snappier CFexpress Type B cards.

Bear taken with Fujifilm GFX100S II and GF 500mm F5.6 lens

102MP images at 7fps means you can capture superb detail and the best moment. I've heavily cropped into the full-resolution version of this image, shot through a fence with the 500mm F5.6 lens. (Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

Fujifilm says in-body image stabilization (IBIS) performance is improved, with up to 8-stops of stabilization depending on the lens in use. IBIS is possibly the single most important feature of a high-resolution camera like this, compensating for camera shake when shooting handheld to ensure sharp detail.

It's IBIS that enables a 102MP camera like the GFX100S II to break free from a tripod and truly be a handheld camera. Frankly, I found 8-stops a tad optimistic. First impressions are that Panasonic's IBIS in the full-frame Lumix S5 II performs better, as does the Hasselblad X2D 100C. With the new GF 500mm F5.6 lens I was reliably getting more like 4-stops stabilization, but in-the-field tests are hardly scientific and I'll run more diverse tests during a full review.

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Bear taken with Fujifilm GFX100S II and GF 500mm F5.6 lens

Animal detection autofocus nailed sharp focus on the bear's eye (scroll for closeup) (Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Bear taken with Fujifilm GFX100S II and GF 500mm F5.6 lens

Animal detection autofocus nailed sharp focus on the bear's eye (Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

What you do get, though, is the best autofocus performance of any medium-format camera. Of course, being in a wildlife reserve I mainly stuck with the AI animal detection autofocus mode, and on the whole found it to be sticky and reliable, with visual confirmation that the subject's body and eye is being tracked. I have photos of bears with pin-sharp focus on the eyes (see above).

The Sony A7R V's autofocus is quicker and more intelligent, better able to recognize not just subjects but also its posture. In the low light of an enclosure I found the GFX100S II regularly mistook a gorilla's ear for its eye, whereas I'm sure the A7R V would've nailed it. There were also times that it simply couldn't autofocus at all through a fence, but these are challenging situations for any camera.

Gorilla taken with Fujifilm GFX100S II and GF 500mm F5.6 lens

This scenario often tricked the GFX100S II's animal detection autofocus, which often mistook the gorilla's ear for an eye and therefore focused on the ear.  (Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

Fujifilm GFX100S II: image and video quality

  • Incredibly detailed photos
  • ISO 80-12,800 sensitivity range can be expanded to ISO 40-102,400
  • Only 4K / 30p video, but with internal 4:2:2 10-bit
  • Slightly slower sensor readout than the 'HS' sensor in the GFX100 II
  • 20 film simulations

You're buying a 102MP camera like the GFX100 II because detail matters, and you get it in spades – all 11648x8736 pixels of it. Those 4:3 aspect ratio images made with one of Fujifilm's sharp GF lenses are breathtakingly detailed, especially in good light. This camera is an absolute dream for landscape photography.

What's more, such detail gives you immense cropping power, effectively extending your lens, which proved super-handy with the 500mm lens shooting wildlife photography. You can see the full image of a bear in the gallery below and a cropped version of the same image, which would still look great blown up large on screen or print.

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Wildlife photos taken with the Fujifilm GFX100S II

I could crop tight on the gorilla from the full scene and still have pixels to spare. (Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Wildlife photos taken with the Fujifilm GFX100S II

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Wildlife photos taken with the Fujifilm GFX100S II

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Wildlife photos taken with the Fujifilm GFX100S II

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Wildlife photos taken with the Fujifilm GFX100S II

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Wildlife photos taken with the Fujifilm GFX100S II

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Wildlife photos taken with the Fujifilm GFX100S II

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Wildlife photos taken with the Fujifilm GFX100S II

(Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Bear photo taken with the Fujifilm GFX100S II and 500mm F5.6 lens

The full picture. (Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Bear photo taken with the Fujifilm GFX100S II and 500mm F5.6 lens

The kind of cropping that you can easily do with such a vast number of pixels. (Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

Image quality isn't just about detail – color matters, too, and I'm a fan of Fujifilm's straight-out-of-the-box standard color profile in this sensor format. Of course, it being Fujifilm you also get the full range of Film Simulations – color profiles inspired by Fujifilm's film, such as Astia and Velvia and most recently, Reala Ace.

I'm not sure how good image quality will be in low light, having just a few examples from my day with the camera. Photos of the gorilla in an enclosure (see below), shot at F5.6, 1/500sec and ISO 12,800, gave me the closest indicator, with detail not nearly as clean as when shooting at ISO 1600 or lower.

The GFX100S II has decent lenses to choose from – I've used a fair few GF lenses down the years and have always been impressed by their quality. They're quite capable of resolving intricate detail, but also of superbly controlling distortion and flare. 

Wildlife photos taken with the Fujifilm GFX100S II

At ISO 10,000, contrast is reduced and detail less clean, but for such big files is possible to mitigate the adverse impact of noise. (Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

We can't expect the GFX100S II to pack all the same features as its pricier sibling the GFX100 II, and filmmakers in particular will feel the compromises the most. Where the flagship model shoots 8K video, the GFX100S II only records 4K up to 30fps, with no slow-motion option. Still, it's not all bad news, because you can record in superior 10-bit 4:2:2 internally, plus output raw video to an external recorder.

Fujifilm told us that the sensor is a variation of the 'HS' sensor used in the GFX100 II, and its sensor readout is a little slower. This means more potential for rolling shutter in video and in fast action photos, which can look ugly. I'll be checking this out more when I get my hands on the camera again.

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Gorilla photo with various Fujifilm GFX100S II film simulations applied

Velvia Vivid Film Simulation (Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Gorilla photo with various Fujifilm GFX100S II film simulations applied

Reala Ace Film Simulation (Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Gorilla photo with various Fujifilm GFX100S II film simulations applied

Classic Negative Film Simulation (Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Gorilla photo with various Fujifilm GFX100S II film simulations applied

Eterna Bleach Bypass Film Simulation (Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)
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Gorilla photo with various Fujifilm GFX100S II film simulations applied

Acros Film Simulation (Image credit: Future | Tim Coleman)

How we tested the Fujifilm GFX100S II

  • 24 hour period
  • Mostly animal photography in a wildlife reserve
  • Paired with the 100-200mm F5.6 and 500mm F5.6 lenses

I had the Fujifilm GFX100S II for a 24-hour period, during which time it was used extensively in a wildlife reserve taking pictures and videos of exotic animals large and small, out in the open and in enclosures, through foliage and with clear sight. 

The camera was paired with the GF 100-200mm F/5.6 and new GF 500mm F5.6 lenses and various focus modes employed including animal detection autofocus. 

First reviewed May 2024

Fujifilm X-T50 review: putting film simulations at your fingertips
9:00 am | May 16, 2024

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

Fujifilm X-T50: Two-minute review

There have been two branches to Fujifilm’s X-T line, with the double-digit models like the Fujifilm X-T30 and the X-T30 II being the entry-level ones. So you’d think that the successor to the already excellent Fujifilm X-T30 II would also be an entry-level camera, albeit a bit improved. Fujifilm, however, has shaken things up, with the new X-T50 now more in line with the advanced Fujifilm X-T5. It also might explain why the Japanese camera maker has entirely skipped the T40 moniker.

For starters, the X-T50 uses the same 40.2MP APS-C format sensor and X Processor 5 imaging engine as the X-T5, and it also inherits the same 5-axis in-body image stabilization that’s good for up to 7 stops of compensation. 

Fujifilm X-T50 specs

Sensor: 40.2MP APS-C BSI X-Trans CMOS 5 HR
AF points: 425 points
Video: 6.2K/30p, 4K/60p, 1080/240p video and 4:2:2 10bit internal recording
Viewfinder: 0.39-inch OLED 2.36m-dot
Memory card: Single SD/SDHC/SDXC UHS-II
Rear display: 3.0-inch tilt type touch LCD, 1.84m-dot
Max burst: 20fps with electronic shutter
Weight: 438g with battery and SD card

The sensor has a better signal-to-noise ratio compared to the X-T30 II, allowing for the base ISO sensitivity to be 125 as opposed to 160 in the older model. Shutter speed is faster too, with the electronic shutter on the X-T50 capable of dropping to 1/180,000 second. There’s improved AI subject detection autofocus with eye tracking which, again, brings it more in line with the X-T5 and makes it a whopper of an upgrade over the X-T30 II. Video specs have also been updated, with the X-T50 now able to capture up to 6.2K/30p clips.

Overall, that’s an impressive list of upgrades that make the X-T50 a remarkable camera, with top-notch image quality, both for stills and video. One physical change to the X-T50, however, indicates it might still be a more beginner-oriented camera rather than an advanced enthusiast offering.

On the X-T50, Fujifilm has decided to repurpose the Drive mode dial on the top panel to instead provide quick and easy access to up to 11 Film Simulations. This is an ingenious move to make the camera more user-friendly for beginners, but I suspect that more serious photographers would have preferred the Drive mode dial to remain where it always has been.

There are other features that also suggest this is more a beginner camera than one for demanding enthusiasts – there’s still no weather sealing on the X-T50, the EVF has been inherited from the X-T30 II, and the rear display remains a tilting type with the same resolution of 1.84 million dots.

While the chassis itself looks identical to that of the X-T30 and X-T30 II, there are changes to the button layout that don’t necessarily affect the handling of the camera. That said, the grip is still small and could be uncomfortable to hold over long periods of time, and the joystick is still awkwardly placed. I’m also not a fan of the quick menu button being beside the thumb rest, but it’s easy enough to reach without taking your eye off the EVF once you've built muscle memory to find it.

Compact and lightweight, I’d say that the X-T50 could easily become one of the best travel cameras on the market, but all its upgrades have come at a steep price, which makes it harder to recommend over the X-T5.

Fujifilm X-T50 kit on a table

(Image credit: Sharmishta Sarkar / TechRadar)

Fujifilm X-T50 review: release date and price

  • Announced May 16, 2024; release date June 17, 2024
  • Launch price of $1,399 / £1,299 / AU$2,599 body only
  • Kits available with new XF 16-50mm f/2.8-4.8 R LM WR lens

Given the upgrades over the X-T30 II, I’m not at all surprised that the X-T50 is a more expensive camera, with a launch price tag of $1,399 / £1,299 / AU$2,599 body only. What does surprise me is just how much more it costs over its predecessor that had a launch price of $899 / £749 / AU$1,585 a couple of years ago. Even taking inflation and the upgrades into account, that’s a steep markup!

And if you want a kit, you can pick up the bundle that pairs the camera with the new XF 16-50mm f/2.8-4.8 R LM WR lens for $1,799 / £1,649 / AU$3,149.

The X-T50's launch price isn’t too much more than the Fujifilm X-T5’s current price of $1,699 / £1,449 / AU$2,899 for the body alone, which represents better value as you get more advanced features here, including dual card slots. Shop for this camera during a major sale and you could likely get it for less than the X-T50 costs.

Value score: 4 / 5

Fujifilm X-T50 kit sitting on a laptop keyboard

(Image credit: Sharmishta Sarkar / TechRadar)

Fujifilm X-T50 review: Design

  • Similar body to Fujifilm X-T30 II with minor differences
  • Film Simulation dial on top plate
  • Still no weather sealing

When a camera offers oodles of retro charm, there really isn’t the need to change the design... and at first glance, it seems like the X-T50 inherits the same body as the X-T30 series. Not quite so. There are subtle tweaks to the X-T50 chassis which Fujifilm says makes it easier to hold and use. I disagree. 

It's a slightly more rounded body than the X-T30 series, but the grip still remains small when compared to more robust Fujifilm bodies like the X-T5 and the X-S series. It still handles beautifully, although if you plan to hold on to it all day, that grip is not going to be comfortable.

Fujifilm X-T50 camera body

(Image credit: Sharmishta Sarkar / TechRadar)

For the first time on a Fujifilm camera, there’s a Film Simulation dial available on the camera body. Now, that dial itself isn’t new – it’s the same Drive mode dial on the left of the top plate that’s been repurposed. There are eight popular Simulations already marked on the dial, plus three more that can be assigned to the FS1, FS2 and FS3 options. There’s one marked ‘C’ which, you would think, stands for ‘custom’ but it’s actually an Auto option. So, essentially, there are only up to 11 out of the current 20 Simulations at your fingertips. And unfortunately, you also can't assign your own simulation recipe to any of the custom FS options on that dial.

In use, I found that it’s necessary to take the camera away from the eye to turn the dial, as there’s just not enough grip on the body to operate the selection single-handed. That said, the simulation selection you make is displayed on the EVF as well as the rear monitor, depending on what you’re using to frame your scene, so you don’t necessarily need to concentrate on the dial itself.

If you’re familiar with the X-T30 or the X-T30 II, you might notice that the rear button layout is slightly different. Firstly, there’s no autofocus lock (AF-L) to the right of the rear control wheel, with the previous exposure lock (AEL) button being replaced with an AF-ON option to trigger autofocus and metering. The AEL button has been moved to just above the joystick.

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The Film Simulation dial on the Fujifilm X-T50

(Image credit: Sharmishta Sarkar / TechRadar)
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Branding on the top of the Fujifilm X-T50 body

(Image credit: Sharmishta Sarkar / TechRadar)
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A selected Film Simulation displayed on the rear LCD of the Fujifilm X-T50

(Image credit: Sharmishta Sarkar / TechRadar)
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The battery compartment under the Fujifilm X-T50

(Image credit: Sharmishta Sarkar / TechRadar)

A couple of other minor differences include the View Mode button beside the EVF no longer being labeled as such and there is now a tiny Bluetooth icon below the Display/Back button.

Everything else remains the same on the body, including the pop-up flash, the exposure and shutter speed dials on the top plate, the awkwardly placed joystick and, for me at least, the equally awkward quick menu (Q) button.

Fujifilm hasn’t updated the EVF or the rear display from the X-T30 II, so you’re still getting a 2.36 million-dot OLED EVF and a 3-inch tilt-type touchscreen with a resolution of 1.84 million dots.

There’s still only a single card slot, but it now supports the UHS-II speed devices, which is an improvement over the X-T30 II. It remains located on the bottom of the camera within the battery compartment, which makes it hard to reach if you’re using a tripod. And despite the price hike, there’s disappointingly still no weather sealing.

There are three different colorways to choose from here, with the X-T50 available in black, silver (as tested in this review) and a charcoal chassis.

Design score: 4 / 5

Branding on the Fujifilm X-T50

(Image credit: Sharmishta Sarkar / TechRadar)

Fujifilm X-T50 review: Features and performance

  • Inherits high-res sensor and faster processor from the Fujifilm X-T5
  • In-body image stabilization with up to 7 stops of compensation
  • Digital teleconverter available for 1.4x and 2x zoom

While its physical changes may not be too far off from its predecessor, the Fujifilm X-T50’s feature set makes it a massive upgrade. It’s now essentially a baby X-T5.

As I’ve already mentioned earlier in this review, it inherits plenty from the X-T5, including the 40.2MP sensor and the processor. That’s flagship specs right there and it definitely helps the X-T50 be a far superior camera than then X-T30 II. For starters, the extra resolution gives you a little headroom to crop images to get closer to the subject without losing too much image quality. 

In fact, the extra resolution has allowed Fujifilm to add a digital teleconverter to the X-T50 that gets you 1.4x and 2x magnification, just like there is on the X-T5 and the Fujifilm X-S20. What I really like about the built-in teleconverter is that you don't lose a stop of light as you would when using a physical one attached to your kit, so it's a better option for indoor use. 

However, you lose some resolution when using the digital teleconverter as it works by applying a crop. That’s not a bad thing as you still get great image quality, but your file size will essentially be halved and limits how much you can crop further into the image when you make edits.

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A hand holding the Fujifilm X-T50 with a Film Simulation displayed on the rear monitor

(Image credit: Sharmishta Sarkar / TechRadar)
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The tilting screen on the Fujifilm X-T50

(Image credit: Sharmishta Sarkar / TechRadar)
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The ports on the Fujifilm X-T50

(Image credit: Sharmishta Sarkar / TechRadar)
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The rear control panel and LCD display on the Fujifilm X-T50

(Image credit: Sharmishta Sarkar / TechRadar)

For the first time there’s in-body image stabilization available in the entry-level Fujifilm X-T cameras, which is an added bonus for both photographers and videographers. Again, it’s the same IBIS from the X-T5 with up to 7 stops of compensation for camera shake. I was sent the new Fujinon XF 16-50mm f/2.8-4.8 R LM WR that doesn’t have built-in optical image stabilization (OIS) and I found the IBIS alone wasn’t sufficient in reducing shake for a video clip while I was walking, but I think it would come into its own when paired with a Fujinon lens with OIS.

Despite inheriting so much from the X-T5, the maximum burst shooting speed the X-T50 can handle is 8fps using the mechanical shutter and up to 20fps with the electronic shutter engaged and no crop. That's identical to the X-T30 II, and while the the 20fps speed is more than enough for several scenarios including wildlife and sports photography, the buffer memory at this speed is very limited, topping out at about only 20 frames during my testing. At 8fps, though, Fujifilm says the camera can save over 1,000 JPEG frames a second. 

The electronic shutter speed, though, is now blistering fast and can drop down to as low as 1/180,000 of a second, same as the X-T5. That's really impressive as more premium pro cameras like the Nikon Z9 top out at 1/32,000 second. This allows you to shoot wide open with a large aperture lens.

A woman descending stairs inside an ornate building

Fujifilm X-T50 + XF16-50mmF2.8-4.8 R LM WR | 1/100 sec at 16mm and f/2.8, ISO 3200 (Image credit: Sharmishta Sarkar / TechRadar)

Photographers looking to capture specific subjects will be glad to know that the X-T50 gets Fujifilm's latest AI-driven autofocus system, with detection for animals, vehicles and more. This works quite well and, during my testing, it quickly picked up boats, birds and people even if they were at a distance. However, as with Fujifilm's autofocus system previously, it's largely lens-dependent and you could struggle a little if you're using older X-series lenses.

The video features here are similar to that of the X-T5, with 6.2K/30p and 4K/60p shooting options available.

All these features are a massive upgrade over the X-T30 II and bring the X-T50 closer to the X-T5. That's where the lines get blurry between what is, on paper, a new addition to Fujifilm's entry-level line but has the specs and price tag of a flagship.

Features and performance score: 5 / 5

The exposure and shutter speed dials on the Fujifilm X-T50

(Image credit: Sharmishta Sarkar / TechRadar)

Fujifilm X-T50 review: Image and video quality

  • Inherits the 40.2MP X-Trans CMOS 5 HR sensor from the X-H2 and X-T5
  • Can shoot videos up to 6.2K/30p
  • Native base ISO is now 125 as compared to ISO 160 on the X-T30 II

We’ve already seen what the X-T5 can do with the same sensor and processor, so it’s no surprise at all that the X-T50 can produce some spectacular results, whether it’s stills or video.

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A green and yellow ferry on a river

(Image credit: Sharmishta Sarkar / TechRadar)
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A deisel locomotive in an elevated train track

(Image credit: Sharmishta Sarkar / TechRadar)
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A photo of a cluster of tiny white flowers

(Image credit: Sharmishta Sarkar / TechRadar)
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A stained-glass domed roof of a building

(Image credit: Sharmishta Sarkar / TechRadar)
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People walking inside a building with arches

(Image credit: Sharmishta Sarkar / TechRadar)
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An ornate clock hanging from the roof of a building

(Image credit: Sharmishta Sarkar / TechRadar)

The camera really benefits from the high resolution and the faster processor, with JPEGs directly out of camera looking stunning, although shooting in RAW will give you more headroom to make adjustments if you need to. I cropped a JPEG of a flower by 38% and, while I did lose a little image quality, it's still perfectly usable.

Of course, the film simulations go a long way in making the images look great as well. My personal favorite is the Eterna Bleach Bypass, but there’s a total of 20 to choose from to help you get creative. And while the C option on the Film Simulation dial is the Auto mode, it seems to default to the Vivid color profile most of the time.

The higher resolution also boosts the ISO performance. Images taken at ISO 3200 are actually quite good as long as you don't have to crop. Noise begins to appear at ISO 4000 in some scenarios, but even those are perfectly usable. I even shot at ISO 6400 and didn't mind the results. Pushing the sensitivity limits, I tested the camera up to ISO 12,800 – while that image wasn't pretty, I think ISO 10,000 will be fine in a pinch but expect to see noise.

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A photo of Yellow doors on blue walls

(Image credit: Sharmishta Sarkar / TechRadar)
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A black and white photo of a bridge and a jetty

(Image credit: Sharmishta Sarkar / TechRadar)
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A stained-glass window inside a building

(Image credit: Sharmishta Sarkar / TechRadar)

I think the X-T50 is a more photo-centric camera, but it can handle video well. You have the option to shoot at up 6.2K at 30fps but that will incur a 1.23x crop, as will the oversampled 4K mode. This is similar to what the X-T5 also offers and the performance is just as good. And Fujifilm's subject-detection autofocus works well in video too.

Handily, there’s a time duration listed for each video shooting mode, but I found the camera starts to heat up long before it can hit its limit. During my testing I was hesitant to push the video clip limits, so I stopped every time the camera got a touch over ‘comfortably warm’. You will also, of course, be restricted by the SD card you use.

Despite the IBIS, I found it difficult to capture relatively stable footage while walking slowly, as can be seen in the sample above of the galahs feeding on a grassy verge. That said, I'm no videographer and have always struggled with stability when capturing moving pictures. I found it a lot easier to pan with the IBIS engaged. 

Sound pickup by the camera’s built-in mic is quite impressive, but if you are a vlogger shooting outdoors, it would be best to use an external mic for clearer sound. Also note that there's no headphone jack here.

Image and video quality score: 4.5 / 5

Fujifilm X-T50 review: score card

Should I buy the Fujifilm X-T50?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Also consider

If this review of the Fujifilm X-T50 has you mulling over other options, below are three alternatives that could also save you money.

How I tested the Fujifilm X-T50

  • In-depth testing done over two weeks
  • Used it to capture stills indoors and outdoors, plus video clips taken outdoors
  • ISO tests done indoors

Fujifilm X-T50 kit sitting on a laptop keyboard

(Image credit: Sharmishta Sarkar / TechRadar)

I was sent the Fujifilm X-T50 along with the Fujinon XF16-50mmF2.8-4.8 R LM WR lens that launched alongside it prior to the official announcement. I had the kit for about two weeks, during which I tested the camera in different scenarios, including outdoors in bright sunlight, indoors during the day and indoors at nighttime. I also tested the camera under fluorescent and LED lights.

For stills, I had the camera set to capture JPEG + RAW, but based my image quality opinions solely on the out-of-camera JPEGs. I also only used autofocus, and tested it on different subjects including boats, birds and people.

I also spent some time going through the menu system to see how different the setup is now compared to other Fujifilm cameras and also spent some time to determined how the physical controls on the camera would suit different users.

Read more about how we test

[First reviewed May 2024]

Leica SL3 review – the modern Leica workhorse
5:00 pm | March 7, 2024

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

Leica might be best-known for its legendary M-series rangefinders, but for the past decade it's also been building a modern full-frame mirrorless system called the SL series – and the new SL3 is its most fully-evolved model so far.

Unlike the Leica M11 and Leica Q3, which are built around a compact, tactile shooting experience, the SL3 is a modern brute that wants to be your professional workhorse. It still has classic Leica hallmarks, like minimalist menus and a design that harks back to the Leica R3 SLR, but it combines all of that with modern all-rounder specs.

The main upgrades from 2019's Leica SL2 include a 60MP full-frame CMOS BSI sensor, a Maestro IV processor, phase-detect autofocus, a tilting touchscreen, 8K video, a CFexpress Type B card slot (alongside an SD UHS II one) and a slightly smaller, lighter body.

Leica says that its 60MP sensor is the same as the one in the Leica M11 and Q3, but is engineered slightly differently – which means it has a base ISO of 50 (going up to 100,000), rather than 64. In other words, the SL3 is like the Q3's bigger brother, with its studio-friendly body giving you access to the dozens of lenses available for its L-mount.

The Leica SL3 sat on a wooden bench

(Image credit: Future)

But since the original Leica SL arrived in 2015, the full-frame mirrorless camera space has become fiercely competitive. So with incredible cameras like the Nikon Z8, Sony A7R V and Canon EOS R3 all vying for your attention, is the gravitational pull of that red dot still as strong for pro shooters in 2024?

I spent a couple of days with a Leica SL3 in Wetzlar, Germany to find out – as always, the answer depends very much on your priorities (and your bank balance)... 

Leica SL3 release date and price

  • The Leica SL3's body-only price is $6,995 / £5,920 (around AU$11,435)
  • The SL2's launch price was $5,995 / £5,300 / AU$9,900
  • It's available to buy right now at Leica stores and its online store

As always with Leica, the SL3's cost-of-entry is high. And like most cameras, it's quite a bit higher than in 2019, when the SL2 first landed.

The SL3's body-only price is $6,995 / £5,920 (around AU$11,435), which is somewhere between 12%-16% pricier than the SL2's original price, depending on where you live.

Hands holding the Leica SL3 camera

(Image credit: Future)

The SL3 is by no means the most expensive Leica camera around – the Leica M11 Monochrom, for example, costs $9,195 / £8,300 / AU$14,990 (body only) and only shoots in black and white. But this does mean that the SL3 is now much pricier than the Leica Q3 ($5,995 / £5,300 / AU$9,790). 

That's a completely different kind of camera, but the SL3 is also battling for your attention alongside full-frame Nikon Z8 ($3,999 / £3,999 / AU$6,999 body-only), which looks like a comparative bargain.

Leica SL3: design and handling

  • New 3.2-inch tilting touchscreen, but no fully-articulating display
  • Leica SL3 design tweaks make it 69g lighter than SL2
  • Still has magnesium alloy body with IP54-rated weather sealing

Leica's SL series have always felt reassuringly expensive in the hand and the SL3 is no different – it feels like could survive a run-in with a Cybertruck. 

It's a bit of a functional brute compared to stablemates like the Leica Q3, but if you need a hybrid workhorse for stills and video, the SL3 is now one of the best camera bodies around.

Leica SL3 key specs

Sensor: 60MP full-frame CMOS sensor
Image processor: Maestro IV
AF system: Hybrid with phase-detect
EVF: 5.76-million dot OLED
ISO range: 50 to 100,000
Video: 8K at 30p, C4K & UHD at 60/50/30/25/24p
LCD: 3.2-inch tilting touchscreen, 2.3m dots
Max burst: Up to 15fps
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Weight: 769g (body only)

Leica has made a few tweaks to the SL series' design in this third-generation, mostly for the better. For a start, it's shaved off some weight – the SL3 is 69g lighter than its predecessor. At 769g, it's still a pretty weighty mirrorless camera, but that puts it somewhere in between a Sony A7 IV and Nikon Z8.

The biggest departure from the SL2 is the arrival of a tilting 3.2-inch touchscreen. Leica hasn't gone as far as adding a fully-articulating display, which it said could have compromised the SL3's bomb-proof build quality.

The top of the Leica SL3 camera

(Image credit: Future)

While videographers might be disappointed about that, the tilting screen is a welcome addition for photographers, giving you the option of shooting from the hip and low angles. It's just a shame it only tilts in landscape orientation, and not when you flip the camera round for portraits.

In the hand, the SL3 is still a satisfyingly solid hunk of metal. Mirrorless cameras don't come built any better than this – the magnesium and aluminum chassis balances nicely with some of Leica's weighty glass (like the Summicron-SL 50mm f/2 I tried it with), and the tweaked grip and its rubberized indent still feel great in the hand.

The SL3 still has IP54-rated weather sealing too, which means it can handle being sprayed or splashed with water. I haven't yet taken one to Antarctica, but there really aren't any weather conditions where you'll have to worry about the SL3.

Two hands holding the Leica SL3 camera

(Image credit: Future)

Beyond its new screen and lighter weight, the only other design changes are more minor future-proofing tweaks. There's now a new CFexpress Type B slot (alongside a standard UHS-II SD slot) to support 8K video, plus an HDMI 2.1 Type A port for video shooters. 

Inside, there's also now a larger capacity battery (2,200mAh, compared to 1,860mAh one inside the SL2), but this doesn't translate to more shooting time. In fact, with a CIPA standard rating of 260 shots (compared to 370 shots on the SL2), battery life is one of the SL3's main weaknesses.

In more positive news, the SL3 retains the 5.76-million dot OLED EVF (with 0.78x magnification) from its predecessor, and that certainly hasn't dated. It's still an impressive part of the shooting experience, helping you stay connected to the scene with its clarity, color reproduction and 120fps refresh rate.

The Leica SL3 camera sat on a wooden bench

(Image credit: Future)

On the top of the SL3, there's a new dial on the left and a very handy 1.28-inch monochrome display for quickly previewing your shooting settings. Round the front of the camera there's arguably the most important design feature of all – the L-mount bayonet. This gives you access to a huge range of lenses from Leica, but also the likes of Panasonic, Sigma and Samyang – in total, there are now 84 lenses to choose from.

One other nice design touch is the new illuminated power button on the back, which replaces the traditional switch. This doesn't serve any great functional purpose other than making the SL3 feel more modern, but it's the kind of attention to detail you don't often get from other manufacturers.

Similarly, the SL3's refined menu system (complete with new icons) is an example for others to follow. It's clean and simple, with nice touches like the separate photo and video modes, and is a stark contrast to Sony's 'kitchen sink' approach to software menus.

Leica SL3: features and performance

  • 60MP CMOS BSI full-frame sensor, like the Leica Q3 and M11
  • New phase-detect AF system, alongside contrast/object detect AF
  • Can now shoot 8K video and ProRes (in 1080p)

Given the Leica SL2 was launched back in 2019, you'd hope that its successor would get a sizable imaging upgrade – and that's certainly the case. 

The SL3 has a 60MP CMOS BSI full-frame sensor, which is a tweaked version of the one inside the Leica Q3 and M11. While that resolution is handy for cropping later, you also get 36MP and 18MP modes to help boost the buffer during continuous shooting and save on memory space.

Leica says this sensor gives you an extra stop of dynamic range compared to the SL2 (15 stops, compared to 14), but a more obvious upgrade is the Maestro IV processor and its improved autofocus system.

The Leica SL3 camera sat on a wooden bench

(Image credit: Future)

The SL series has never had class-leading autofocus, partly due to Leica's close relationship with Panasonic (which, until last year's Panasonic Lumix S5 II, had refused to embrace phase-detect autofocus). But the SL3 finally offers a hybrid AF system, combining phase-detect AF (good for video and moving subjects) with contrast-detection and object detection. 

In my brief time with the SL3, its subject-detection worked well and reliably locked onto human eyes, producing a good hit-rate. But animal detection was still marked as being in 'beta' on my sample, so this will need more testing – and overall, it's fair to say that Leica is still playing catchup with the likes of Sony for autofocus, rather than surpassing it.

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A sample photo of a model taken on the Leica SL3 camera

(Image credit: Future)
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A sample photo of a model taken on the Leica SL3 camera

(Image credit: Future)
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A sample photo of a model taken on the Leica SL3 camera

(Image credit: Future)
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A sample photo of a model taken on the Leica SL3 camera

(Image credit: Future)
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A sample photo of a model taken on the Leica SL3 camera

(Image credit: Future)
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A sample photo of a model taken on the Leica SL3 camera

(Image credit: Future)

The other benefit of that Maestro IV processor is that it supports the camera's CFexpress Type B card and, consequently, some video upgrades. The SL2 was already Leica's best ever video camera and the SL3 steps things up with 8K video capture. 

This will be a pretty niche mode, though, as it tops out at 30fps with 4:2:0 10-bit color sampling. More useful will be the SL3's 4K/60p and 4K/120p video modes, which you can shoot with 4:2:2 10-bit color sampling for editing flexibility. Combine that with the camera's full-size HDMI port for external monitors and timecode interface, and you have a powerful, professional video camera – which hasn't been very common in Leica world, until now.

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A sample photo of a car taken on the Leica SL3 camera

(Image credit: Future)
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A sample photo taken on the Leica SL3 camera

(Image credit: Future)
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A sample photo of a car taken on the Leica SL3 camera

(Image credit: Future)

Another bonus for shooting handheld video (and stills) is the Leica SL3's five-axis image stabilization system, which gives you five stops of compensation. That's far from the best we've seen – the Sony A7R V's system is good for a claimed eight stops – but it is still an important difference from the original SL, which had no stabilization. It's also ideal if you want to use an SL3 with Leica M glass using the M-L adapter.

In my tests, I was able to shoot handheld down to 1/4s and get usable results, so it's definitely a useful feature, particularly for shooting in low light. Another quality-of-life upgrade are the SL3's speedier wireless transfer speeds, which use a combination of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi MIMO tech to fire full-size DNGs to your phone in only two or three seconds.

That's quite a big jump up from the SL2, which took around 20 seconds to transfer a DNG file, and it worked well in my tests (as you can see above). The Leica Fotos app itself is a suitably premium experience that's a cut above the efforts from most camera manufacturers, and these transfer speeds make it a breeze to get a raw file onto your phone for a quick edit.

The SL3 isn't a sports camera – and despite having a larger buffer capacity than the SL2, its top speeds for continuous shooting have taken a slight dip compared to its predecessor. 

Its top speed is 15fps, which can manage for a few seconds before the buffer fills up, but it can naturally go for longer if you drop down to 9fps or 7fps. You can also get better results by choosing the 36MP or 18MP resolution modes, so there are options – just don't expect it to match a Canon EOS R3.

Hands holding the Leica SL3 camera

(Image credit: Future)

My biggest disappointment with the SL3 was its battery life. I'll need to do some more controlled tests, but during my brief time with the camera I was barely getting above 200 shots (plus some video) per charge. Its official CIPA rating is 260 shots per charge and Leica is rolling out new firmware (version 1.1) soon, so hopefully that might improve things. But prepare to carry around a USB-C charger or spare batteries.

One other strange anomaly is that the SL3 doesn't support Content Credentials, a new industry standard for protecting the authenticity of digital images. That's a little odd considering the older Leica M11-P debuted the feature last year, but Leica told us that "the reason is that the development of the SL3 was already advanced when this technology became mature".

Because Content Credentials requires a dedicated chipset, this also can't be added to the Leica SL3 via a firmware update. But Leica did add that for "future cameras it's our aim to integrate" the AI-combatting tech.

Leica SL3: image and video quality

I took the Leica SL3 for a spin with the Summicron-SL 50mm f/2 lens, which is a sharp, fun partner for the camera. The option of using Leica glass is clearly one of the main draws of the SL3, but whatever you pair it with, you'll get some hallmark Leica character in your images.

Like the Leica Q3, the SL3 captures tons of detail in its 60MP DNGs. I'll need to spend some more time with them to see how far they can be pushed in editing, but the early signs suggest you can recover an impressive amount of shadow detail from the SL3's raw files.

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A sample photo of the Leica HQ building taken on the Leica SL3 camera

(Image credit: Future)
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A sample photo of a model taken on the Leica SL3 camera

(Image credit: Future)
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A sample photo taken on the Leica SL3 camera

(Image credit: Future)
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A sample photo of the Leica HQ building taken on the Leica SL3 camera

(Image credit: Future)
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A sample photo of the Leica HQ building taken on the Leica SL3 camera

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A sample photo of a saxophone player taken on the Leica SL3 camera

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A sample photo of a dog taken on the Leica SL3 camera

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A sample photo of the Leica HQ building taken on the Leica SL3 camera

(Image credit: Future)
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A sample photo of a shed taken on the Leica SL3 camera

(Image credit: Future)
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A sample photo of a car taken on the Leica SL3 camera

(Image credit: Future)

Those files also have bold, vibrant colors, more so than the JPEGs, although they're also a touch noisier than some full-frame rivals. In my early test shots, noise starts to appear from ISO 1600 and is particularly noticeable at ISO 6400. Still, this isn't necessarily a problem – in fact, the grain is frequently attractive (depending on your tastes) and gives the SL3's photos a filmic look.

Video quality looks similarly pin-sharp at lower ISOs, although the SL3's autofocus seemed to struggle a little more with moving subjects in this mode. I'll need to test this more on final firmware, alongside the 8K mode, before making any conclusions. But my early impressions are that the SL3's image and video quality will be comparable to the Leica Q3's, which is certainly no bad thing.

Leica SL3 early verdict

The Leica SL3 camera sat on a wooden bench

(Image credit: Future)

The full-frame mirrorless camera world has changed a lot since the original Leica SL landed in 2015 – and while the competition is now red-hot between Sony, Canon and Nikon, the Leica SL3 still manages to carve out a unique spot for itself.

While it can't match a Nikon Z8 for outright performance or value, the SL3 is a refined, professional workhorse with incredible build quality. Its simple, clean user interface puts most other cameras to shame and it's now a very competitive – if not class-leading – modern hybrid camera for shooting photos and video.

The special sauce of Leica's distinctive image rendering and lenses are added bonuses, although I hope its disappointing battery life is improved in later firmware updates. Right now, you'll need at least two batteries to last you a full day of intense shooting.

If that isn't a deal-breaker for you, then the SL3 could be the combination of modern mirrorless power and classic Leica minimalism you've been waiting for (even if your bank manager feels very differently). We'll bring you our full review very soon.

Leica SL3: how I tested

  • A day-and-a-half of shooting at Leica Park in Wetzlar, Germany
  • A mix of studio, low light and environmental shooting

I used the Leica SL3 for just over a day continuously during a visit to Leica's HQ in Wetzlar, Germany. I've taken sample photos in raw and DNG formats, although I'll need to spend a bit more time with the latter (on the SL3's final firmware) for our full review. 

I took a variety of handheld shots are different shutter speeds to test the effectiveness of its in-body image stabilization, and also took its new phase-detect autofocus and buffer for a spin during a fashion photo shoot.

My only lens during testing was the Summicron-SL 50mm f/2 lens, which was a great companion if not ideal for all shooting scenarios. I also ran the battery down to empty to test its stamina shooting a mix of photos and videos. 

OnePlus 12R review: Long-lasting, eye-popping
5:00 pm | February 5, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets OnePlus Phones Phones | Tags: , , , | Comments: Off

OnePlus 12R: Two-minute review

OnePlus is kicking off 2024 with a pair of new phones, its latest flagship OnePlus 12 and the intriguing OnePlus 12R; which marks the first time an R-series device has launched internationally and not just in India.

While we've seen T-series entries on the global stage before, the R more closely delivers on the promises of the company's full-fat flagship phones and this year's 12R is no exception; running on familiar hardware for those who knew last year's OnePlus 11, while also serving up some company and industry firsts all its own.

OnePlus 12R review back straight perspective

(Image credit: Future | Alex Walker-Todd)

At a glance, you'd be forgiven for mistaking the 12R for both the OnePlus 11 and the OnePlus 12, as all three phones sport a familiar aesthetic, with rounded edges and the distinct 'Starlight Dial' circular camera surround that we were first introduced to on 2023's OnePlus flagship.

The iconic physical alert slider may have swapped sides (OnePlus says this improves antenna performance), and the phone may lack wireless charging and full IP68 dust and water resistance, but it's otherwise a beautifully crafted and premium-feeling phone with plenty of power and battery longevity to boot.

If it weren't for the lesser secondary cameras, the 12R amounts to a revamped OnePlus 11, with the same flagship-class Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 found in 2023's finest, up to 16GB of RAM, 256GB of storage, and the biggest battery ever seen in a OnePlus phone, which translates to the best longevity we've ever gotten from a OnePlus phone – battery life that matches the likes of the mighty Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra.

OnePlus has also included its latest OxygenOS 14 user experience out of the box, which comes with a heap of branded technologies; most importantly the 'Trinity Engine': an umbrella term for a number of features that ensure the 12R's performance doesn't degrade over time, focusing on CPU, RAM, and ROM management.

A killer 1.5K LTPO 4.0 AMOLED display fronts the phone, with a more advanced adaptive refresh rate, touch response rate and peak brightness (4,500nits) than even the OnePlus 11.

OnePlus 12R review front angled

(Image credit: Future | Alex Walker-Todd)

If there's one area where the 12R does fall short of its otherwise flagship standing, it's with camera versatility. The main 50MP Sony sensor delivers a similar experience to that of last year's flagship – running on the same sensor and with a fast shutter not to mention a year's worth of refinement from OnePlus. However the 8MP ultra-wide and 2MP macro cameras don't keep step with regards to quality and consistency.

For the price, there's little that matches the 12R directly, however, alternatives like the OnePlus 11, Samsung Galaxy S23 FE and iPhone 14 come close; provided you're willing to trade away the phone's excellent display tech and battery prowess. One of the best OnePlus phones yet? Quite possibly, even without being a fully-fledged flagship in its own right.

OnePlus 12R review: Price and availability

  • Priced from $499.99 / £649
  • Announced January 23, on sale February 13
  • $300 / £200 lower starting price than equivalent storage OnePlus 12

The OnePlus 12R serves as the global variant of the OnePlus Ace 3, which launched in China at the very start of 2024. The 12R made its debut as part of the OnePlus 12's global launch event in India on January 23, with a staggered on-sale date that sees the phone released first in India (on February 6), before arriving in markets including the US, UK and Europe on February 13.

US customers get the choice of two storage configurations, starting at $499.99 with 128GB of space, while UK and European customers only have access to the single higher-capacity 256GB model, which sells for $599.99 in the US and £649 / €699 in those two other markets, respectively.

Pricing means it undercuts other newcomers, like the Samsung Galaxy S24, Google Pixel 8 and baseline iPhone 15 by quite a margin, and in truth, there's little worth considering around the 12R's launch price, save for more expensive but older phones that have had time to drop in price, including the company's own OnePlus 11.

The company's 2024 flagship – the OnePlus 12 – comfortably sits around $300 / £200 more expensive for the same amount of storage, but for the extra cash you're getting a sharper screen, better cameras, longer-term software support, and Qualcomm's latest and greatest flagship silicon in the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3.

Note though that there's no current Australian availability for the OnePlus 12R or the standard OnePlus 12.

  • Value score: 4 / 5

OnePlus 12R review: Specs

OnePlus 12R review: Design

OnePlus 12R review back angled floating

(Image credit: Future | Alex Walker-Todd)
  • Elegant, premium curved glass and metal aesthetics
  • Physical alert slider on left side
  • IP64-certified against dust and water

The OnePlus 12R presents itself as a premium handset, with a level of fit and finish on par with any of the latest top-tier phones out there, not least because it shares in the 'Starlight Dial' design language of this year's and last year's OnePlus flagships.

The Iron Gray model (pictured) has a matte glass back that's superb at repelling fingerprints (and other marks) but has an almost Teflon-like low friction coefficient, meaning it's a little slippery in the hand. The Cool Blue alternative, meanwhile, is the more head-turning option, that's better at catching the light (and fingerprints), if you're in the market for a little more flare. It's worth noting that colorway availability varies by region and storage variant too.

If you're not a fan of the straight-sided iPhones or Galaxy phones (or the rumored design of the forthcoming Pixel 9 series) leading the market, the 12R is the perfect remedy. The front and back glass curve elegantly into the thin metal frame, which makes it a touch trickier to hold by comparison but nicer in the hand and on the eye.

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OnePlus 12R review alert slider

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OnePlus 12R review alert slider UI

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OnePlus 12R review top

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OnePlus 12R review handheld front

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OnePlus 12R review back straight

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OnePlus 12R review camera

(Image credit: Future | Alex Walker-Todd)

A trait that's slipped in since OnePlus more closely buddied up to sister company Oppo is the adoption of a flat top and bottom to some of its phones' frames, and that's the case with the 12R. A USB-C port, SIM tray and speaker grille reside along the bottom, while microphones and – perhaps most intriguingly of all – an IR blaster can be found on the phone's top edge. This is a novel addition that's seldom seen on phones nowadays, but gives the 12R universal remote functionality which you won't readily find on the competition; great for controlling your TV, aircon, projector, and even some smart lights, all from the one device.

OnePlus' iconic alert slider (oddly absent from previous performance flagships like the OnePlus 10T) is reassuringly present on the 12R, although perhaps not as 'correct' as long-time OnePlus users might expect, as across both entries in the series, this knurled three-stage switch is now found on the opposing side to where it usually sits (the right side). OnePlus claims this helps with antenna performance – especially when gaming in landscape – and in practice, the learning curve of adjusting to a swapped alert slider and volume rocker is negligible.

While the 12R is notably thinner (and a touch lighter) than the standard OnePlus 12, that's partly down to the lack of wireless charging, while that finely-crafted bodywork also falls short of the industry-standard dust and water resistance, with only IP64 certification (most flagships boast IP68 protection against water ingress).

  • Design score: 3.5 / 5

OnePlus 12R review: Display

OnePlus 12R review front angled straight on

(Image credit: Future | Alex Walker-Todd)
  • 6.78-inch 1.5K 19.8:9 120Hz LTPO 4.0 ProXDR AMOLED display
  • Outstanding peak brightness up to 4,500nits
  • Aqua Touch for accurate use in the wet

Look past the marketing spiel (which there's a lot of) and the 12R's display is spec'd as one of the market's best right now. Beyond the fundamentals as a 6.78-inch 1.5K AMOLED panel protected by Gorilla Glass Victus 2, the ProXDR screen on the 12R boasts the same peak brightness as the OnePlus 12, at a whopping 4,500nits (with an HBM or high brightness mode peak of 1,600nits).

For comparison, the iPhone 15 series tops out at 2,000nits, while the S24 series reaches 2,600nits. Although that peak isn't an increment you'll likely hit in day to day use, the additional headroom over screens of the most prominent players in the industry means everything from outdoor legibility to HDR content consumption (it's also Dolby Vision, HDR Vivid and HDR10+ compliant for good measure) is comparatively better. Speaking of HDR content, being able to view HDR imagery shot on device, natively in both the OnePlus Photos app and the Google Photos app – similarly to the likes of the latest Pixel 8 Pro – is a nice flex.

The LTPO 4.0 tech at work also means improved power efficiency (relative to LTPO 3.0, as on the OnePlus 11), as this new panel is able to switch between more frequency increments through its 1Hz to 120Hz range, depending on the situation (lower frequencies equal less power drain, higher frequencies offer more fluid visuals).

As for gamers, an impressive 1,000Hz touch response rate (branded 'HyperTouch') is on-hand to ensure accurate touch input at any pace (that's faster than any of the best gaming phones currently out there), while 'HyperRender' is responsible for backlight calibration when gaming; accounting for the environment you're playing in and optimizing contrast and brightness dynamically.

There's also the presence of Aqua Touch: an algorithm that helps the 12R discern between water droplets and true touch inputs on a wet display; making use in rain or similarly wet conditions far more reliable than you'd experience with a conventional touchscreen and in practice, it's a huge win for convenience, especially if, like me, you're a Londoner all too familiar with the Great British weather's habits.

Throw in 2160Hz PWM (Pulse Width Modulation) dimming for reduced eye strain in low light (backed by independent certification from TÜV Rheinland), and an overall A+ rating from DisplayMate, and OnePlus has receipts to back up its claims surrounding the 12R's screen tech.

Sure, these aren't all headline features worth buying the phone for explicitly but they're 'nice to haves' that elevate the 12R's viewing experience beyond both expectation and more prominent competitors.

  • Display score: 5 / 5

OnePlus 12R review: Software

OnePlus 12R review apps drawer

(Image credit: Future | Alex Walker-Todd)
  • OxygenOS 14 atop Android 14 out of the box
  • Customizable user experience without feeling overwhelming
  • 3 years of OS + 4 years of security updates

If you're a long-time OnePlus user, you'll know OxygenOS has lost a little of its individuality since OnePlus and Oppo more closely collaborated on their respective mobile user experiences (we lost the 1+ calculator easter egg with OxygenOS 13), however, OxygenOS 14 (running atop the latest Android 14) still delivers on the core values of OnePlus' software from previous generations; packed with sparks of software design so good that you'd wish other brands would crib from it.

While delivering a relatively clean aesthetic and user experience, OxygenOS has supported user generated wallpapers long before Samsung and Asus called upon AI smarts to offer similar results with their latest-generation phones, Zen Space is a one-stop destination for mindfulness that supports Android's native Digital Wellbeing toolset, gestures and floating windows add a heap of flexibility to the base OS's multitasking experience, and being able to quick-launch apps from the fingerprint sensor is a nice trick too.

OnePlus 12R review The Shelf

The Shelf on OxygenOS 14 (Image credit: Future | Alex Walker-Todd)

The Shelf is an interesting inclusion that OnePlus has struggled to find a consistent home for within OxygenOS and I'm not convinced its current location – accessed by swiping down on the home screen, replacing quick access to notifications and quick settings – should be its final destination. Nevertheless, as a dedicated home for widgets – akin to Today View on iPadOS – it's a nice way to keep glanceable information all in one place.

OxygenOS manages to walk the line between simplicity and functionality where other brands' user experiences tend to err on the side of 'more features equals better', even if that's at the expense of intuitive navigation and interaction.

The 12R's standing below that of the company's true current flagship does mean that its software support isn't quite as extensive – at three years of OS upgrades and four years of security updates – but that does at least keep it in step with the similarly-spec'd OnePlus 11, meaning both phones won't fall out of favor until Android 18 (and presumably OxygenOS 18).

  • Software score: 4 / 5

OnePlus 12R review: Cameras

OnePlus 12R review camera closeup

(Image credit: Future | Alex Walker-Todd)
  • Robust 50MP Sony IMX890 lead sensor, as on OnePlus 11
  • Same RAW HDR algorithm, as on the OnePlus 12
  • Ineffectual macro camera

While at a glance the OnePlus 12R's rear camera setup may resemble the OnePlus 11's and 12's, it's likely the biggest departure from both phones and one of the biggest cost-saving aspects of the 12R's spec sheet. You still get the same 1/1.56-inch Sony IMX890 sensor that leads the OnePlus 11's camera setup, complete with a year's worth of software refinement, plus improved speed from mode switching to shutter lag, but beyond its main snapper, the 12R's photographic capabilities are more pedestrian.

The 8MP Sony IMX355 ultra-wide serves up consistent colors with the main camera in good lighting, but detail is noticeably lacking when comparing similar shots taken between the two, while the 2MP macro camera lacks the pixels, dynamic range and color depth to be anything other than novel.

OnePlus 12R camera samples

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OnePlus 12R camera sample main Citroen

(Image credit: Future | Alex Walker-Todd)
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OnePlus 12R camera sample main portrait mode Brie

(Image credit: Future | Alex Walker-Todd)

Portrait mode

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OnePlus 12R camera sample ultra wide high street

(Image credit: Future | Alex Walker-Todd)

Ultra wide camera

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OnePlus 12R camera sample main high street

(Image credit: Future | Alex Walker-Todd)

1x zoom

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OnePlus 12R camera sample 2x zoom high street

(Image credit: Future | Alex Walker-Todd)

2x zoom

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OnePlus 12R camera sample 5x zoom high street

(Image credit: Future | Alex Walker-Todd)

5x zoom

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OnePlus 12R camera sample 20x zoom high street

(Image credit: Future | Alex Walker-Todd)

20x zoom

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OnePlus 12R camera sample main jumper sleeve

(Image credit: Future | Alex Walker-Todd)

Main camera

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OnePlus 12R camera sample macro jumper sleeve

(Image credit: Future | Alex Walker-Todd)

Macro camera

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OnePlus 12R camera sample main glass

(Image credit: Future | Alex Walker-Todd)

Main camera

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OnePlus 12R camera sample macro glass

(Image credit: Future | Alex Walker-Todd)

Macro camera

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OnePlus 12R camera sample main garden

(Image credit: Future | Alex Walker-Todd)

Ultra wide camera

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OnePlus 12R camera sample ultra wide garden

(Image credit: Future | Alex Walker-Todd)

Macro camera

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OnePlus 12R camera sample main low light moon

(Image credit: Future | Alex Walker-Todd)

Low light

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OnePlus 12R camera sample main Night mode garden

(Image credit: Future | Alex Walker-Todd)

Night mode

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OnePlus 12R camera sample main manual max ISO and shutter garden

(Image credit: Future | Alex Walker-Todd)

Low light w/ maximum ISO and shutter speed

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OnePlus 12R camera sample selfie

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Front

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OnePlus 12R camera sample selfie Portrait mode

(Image credit: Future | Alex Walker-Todd)

Front camera w/ Portrait mode

If you're serious about shooting on the 12R, all your photos should really come from the OIS-supported (optical image stabilization) main 50MP sensor. It offers enough versatility in its own right to satiate the average mobile photographer, and while there's no Hasselblad tuning to speak of – as on the brand's other premium phones – image quality is generally great; with a particular talent for HDR shooting, exemplified by the 'ProXDR' toggle in the phone's native gallery app that shows this trait off most clearly.

Along with excellent colors, detail, and dynamic range when snapping standard 12.6MP jpeg stills, you have the choice of capturing full-sensor 50MP images, as well as HDR shots in RAW, with the 12R benefitting from the same RAW HDR algorithm as found on the OnePlus 12.

One growing trend from the current era of smartphone photography that isn't as prevalent on the OnePlus 12R is AI-supported shooting, especially when it comes to editing tools. Features like generative fill are being popularized by the likes of the latest Google Pixel and Samsung Galaxy smartphones, and is one such AI feature you won't find here.

  • Camera score: 3.5 / 5

OnePlus 12R review: Performance

OnePlus 12R review gaming

(Image credit: Future | Alex Walker-Todd)
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 SoC
  • Trinity Engine for CPU, RAM and ROM optimization
  • Dual vapor chamber cooling design

If you thought the branding for the various technologies in the display section of this review was a bit much, OnePlus kicks things into overdrive when it comes to talking about the phone's performance. Practically every performance-centric hardware and software optimization comes with a catchy name attached, with the 'Trinity Engine' being the umbrella brand under which they all sit.

Building on memory optimization features the company first introduced with the OnePlus 11, the Trinity Engine consists of three key parts: CPU-Vita, RAM-Vita and ROM-Vita, which collectively work to keep the 12R feeling fast and fluid long into your time with it. This is primarily achieved by throttling for heat management and battery longevity, prioritizing memory allocation for more frequently used apps, and on-the-fly defragmentation of storage to keep files accessible; all in the pursuit of peace of mind for users looking for a worthwhile long-term smartphone purchase.

Running on the same chipset as the OnePlus 11 – paired with the latest UFS 4.0 storage (on the 256GB model, at least) and LPDDR5X RAM for greater speed and power efficiency – you'd expect comparable flagship performance, and in artificial benchmarking tests, you'd be right. In fact, the OnePlus 12R feels as fast and as fluid to use as any current flagship, including more cutting-edge Snapdragon 8 Gen 3-powered phones. The performance shortfall likely won't be felt for at least a year or two, which is to say this phone is comfortable with whatever you throw at it, right now.

Gaming on Genshin Impact with default (medium) graphical settings and a bump up to a 60fps frame rate cap proved zero issue for the 12R for extended periods and seldom were frames dropped. The caveat to that is that despite a new 'Cryo-Velocity' dual vapor chamber cooling system – offering a reported three-times-larger vapor chamber area compared to the OnePlus 11 – heat build-up was more noticeable during intensive tasks than expected; never to a concerning degree, but still.

There are some great user-accessible performance tools worth digging into too. Live Lock is perfect for pinning apps that you want the system to leave resources available for – ideal for downloading system updates for Genshin while doing other things. Gaming Tools let you customize graphical settings, manage notifications and performance allowances, and even toggle improved HDR visuals.

There's also the fact that OnePlus (and Oppo and Realme) phones don't run in a high performance state out of the box. While the 12R feels perfectly tightly wound for responsive everyday use, dive into the phone's power menu and you'll find a toggle for 'high performance mode.' It's a little bonus that you'll likely never need, but additional grunt on tap is never to be sniffed at.

  • Performance score: 4 / 5

OnePlus 12R review: Battery

OnePlus 12R review USB

(Image credit: Future | Alex Walker-Todd)
  • Largest capacity battery in a OnePlus phone ever
  • Up to 100W SuperVOOC wired charging
  • Rated for only 20% capacity degradation after 1,600 cycles

Along with the screen, the battery is arguably one of the OnePlus 12R's greatest strengths. Around the same physical size as the OnePlus 11's battery, the company has managed to up the capacity to a whopping 5,500mAh – making this the largest power cell in a OnePlus phone ever.

Even without the latest-generation Qualcomm chipset, that larger capacity helps deliver the best battery life we've tested in a OnePlus phone, clocking in at around eight hours of screen-on time per charge, equivalent to two days of light to average use on a single charge. It's not quite iPhone 15 series longevity, but matches some of the best Android phones on the market, beating out mainstream rivals like the Pixel 8 series, handily.

Not only that, in most markets save for the US (where it peaks at 80W), the OnePlus 12R comes with rapid 100W fast charging, which OnePlus claims means you can hit 100% charge after only 26 minutes, In testing, the review sample used here reached 92% in the same time, fully charging at the 30-minute mark exactly; making this one of the faster-charging phones out there right now.

Being built for long-term use seems to be a key theme of the OnePlus 12R, with the company promising a four-year or 1,600-cycle on the battery, after which they claim longevity will equate to around 80% of the out-of-box performance. For comparison, Apple officially states that its iPhones reach this same 80% capacity threshold after just 500 cycles.

The only real fly in the ointment here is the reduced peak 80W charging speed in the US (a trait found on other OnePlus phones too) and the absence of any form of wireless charging.

  • Battery score: 4.5 / 5

Should you buy the OnePlus 12R?

Buy it if...

You like media and gaming
The combination of display, performance, and battery life make this a superb phone for high-fidelity gaming or enjoying HDR content for hours on end.

You like curved-edge smartphones
The latest iPhones, Samsung Galaxy phones and, as it currently looks like, the next batch of Pixels have all adopted straight sided designs with flat screens. The OnePlus 12R shirks this design trend and places elegant curves first.

You want an Android phone with great battery performance
One of the longest-lasting Android phones on the market also packs in a battery that's built to charge quickly and last years upon years of recharge cycles with minimal degradation. Great for travelers, gamers, and power users.

Don't buy it if...

You want a killer camera
That main 50MP Sony IMX890 sensor is a real joy to use and highlights the strides OnePlus has made in its camera tuning over the years, but as the 12R packs three cameras on the back, you have to consider the whole packages and those other sensors don't pull their weight.

You need the best water resistance or wireless charging
Most flagships come packing IP68-certified dust and water ingress protection, the 12R falls short of the mark when it comes to withstanding the wet stuff by comparison, and that slim body may look good but leaves no room for wireless charging.

OnePlus 12R review: Also consider

Even though it's a great device, there are issues with the OnePlus 12R, so you might want to consider one of the following alternatives.

OnePlus 11
Similar specs and the same software update expiration date, but the previous year's OnePlus 11 boasts a superior camera with Hasselblad tuning to boot.

Samsung Galaxy S23 FE
The last of Samsung's Galaxy S23 series is smaller than the 12R and doesn't pack the same degree of grunt, but it offers affordable access to a premium Samsung experience and is one of the few phones that comes to market around the same asking price as the 12R.

How I tested the OnePlus 12R

OnePlus 12R review camera closeup alt

(Image credit: Future | Alex Walker-Todd)
  • Review test period: three weeks
  • Testing included: everyday use including web browsing, social media, photography, video calling, gaming, streaming video, music playback
  • Tools used: Geekbench 6, Geekbench ML, GFXBench, native Android stats, OnePlus 100W SuperVOOC charger

Having received both the OnePlus 12 and 12R a week ahead of the OnePlus 12 series' launch, I got straight to using the 12R (check out our OnePlus 12 review if you're curious about the company's new flagship), adding my own Google account and OnePlus account before using the device as my main phone for the duration of the review period.

Usage included streaming video, snapping stills and video with the phone's various cameras, and toying with the ProXDR display's abilities with both compatible content and gaming.

Publicly available, industry standard benchmarking apps were used to meter the CPU, GPU, and AI performance of the OnePlus 12R, and while we don't always publish the results, we keep them on file for comment and comparison with other devices we've tested. Battery life was tested by recording screen-on time each day across a single charge from 100% to 0%, based on normal everyday use, while the in-box charger was used to recharge the phone, with the charge checked at intervals to assess the rate of replenishment.

The cameras were used in a myriad of conditions to test their versatility, with comparisons between sensors and the cameras of other phones as part of the testing process.

Having extensively reviewed numerous smartphones, including a myriad of OnePlus phones during my 12 years of journalistic experience, I felt confident in putting the OnePlus 12R through its paces and evaluating its abilities in a fair and informed manner, based on the market, its target audience, pricing, and the competition.

Read more about how we test

First reviewed February 2024

Sony A9 III review – the high speed camera to beat
11:00 am | November 16, 2023

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

Every now and then a new camera wows the world of photography, and the launch of the Sony A9 III was one of those moments. So is the buzz around the fastest-ever camera justified? After an extended time with the camera for this in-depth review, the answer to that question is complicated, but all things considered it’s a solid yes.

With the A9 III Sony has upped the bar by some margin for high-performance photography for sports and wildlife. A new kind of sensor with ‘global shutter’ unleashes a number of class-leading features, and crucially eliminates the ‘rolling shutter’ distortion in photos and video that you can get with the electronic sensors used in general to enable top performance in most other cameras. 

Put simply, these combined technologies have realized never-before-seen performance that’s overkill for most, and exciting for those that can afford Sony’s flagship prices: 120fps burst shooting and a maximum 1/80,000 sec shutter with flash sync at any shutter speed are the headlines, and they're yours for $5,999 / £6,099 / AU$9,999.

Sony A9 III camera outside with sunny brick wall backdrop

The Sony A9 III is the first consumer full-frame mirrorless camera with global shutter incorporated into the sensor.  (Image credit: Future)

The A9 III is also a camera blessed with Sony’s best innovation, which we’ve seen before, namely in the A7R V, the camera we awarded ‘Best mirrorless camera’ in our TechRadar 2023 Choice Awards: the Bionz XR processor (the A9 III actually has two of them), an AI-autofocus chip for industry-leading subject-tracking AF, high resolution 9.44m-dot EVF with 120fps refresh rate (which maintains peak performance even for continuous shooting), and a 4-axis vari-angle touchscreen.

We also have Sony’s best camera design to date. The A9 III has a similar form factor to high-end Sony models, which means it’s smaller than rival pro sports cameras, but it features Sony’s chunkiest grip to date, and can be bulked out further with a new vertical grip, which you’ll want to do when using large lenses.  

Burst shooting up to 120fps comes with no compromises in terms of the camera’s performance or image quality – that means 24.6MP raw and JPEG with continuous tracking AF and auto exposure – and is frankly over-the-top excellence, even if it's just for 1.5 seconds at a time. Unless Canon or Nikon conjure up a new camera of their own with never-before-seen features, the A9 III will be the subject of envy in press pits at this year’s Paris Olympic Games.

Closeup of the shooting mode dial on the Sony A9 III's top plate

You can set the continuous high drive mode to 30fps or 60fps and then instantly switch to 120fps by holding down a custom button by the lens.  (Image credit: Future)

That said, an unwelcome bottleneck is the use of CFexpress Type A cards; these offer data transfer speeds only half those of the CFexpress Type B cards used in a camera like the Nikon Z9, which consequently means the buffer takes some time to clear before regaining peak performance, by which point the action being captured might have finished – we’ll unpack buffer performance later in this review.

With a custom button, Sony makes it quick and easy to ramp up to 120fps from a ‘mere’ 30fps or 60fps burst shooting speed. After all, not all sports and wildlife scenarios need such high speeds, though I’m sure pro sports photographers hellbent on capturing that fraction-of-a-second of decisive Olympic action will appreciate having the option. Personally I think 30fps is plenty enough, but I’m not being paid to file images from the world’s biggest sporting stages.

After much testing I can confirm that there is a compromise on image quality that comes with using the new global shutter. Put simply, there’s a hit on dynamic range, plus increased noise, when compared to rival cameras. Those who often shoot in low light will want to pair the A9 III with pro lenses featuring the largest possible aperture, such as the FE 300mm F/2.8, to increase light intake.

Rear of the Sony A9 III camera outside with LCD screen folded away

The dual-axis vari-angle screen can be pulled away from the body at multiple angles.  (Image credit: Future)

More important than outright image quality, however, is that the A9 III suffers no ugly rolling shutter effect whatsoever in fast-moving action photos and video. That also means no risk of banding in artificial light. Add in its superb autofocus and burst shooting skills, and this sports photography and video camera can freeze the action and capture the crucial moment to a level above any other camera today.

The A9 III isn’t for everyone, but it’s now the best mirrorless camera for pro sports photography and video, if its 24MP photo and 4K video resolution are sufficient for your needs.

Sony A9 III: release date and price

  • $5,999 / £6,099 / AU$9,999 body-only
  • New VG-C5 vertical grip costs $399 / £390 / AU$749

The Sony A9 III body-only list price is $5,999 / £6,099 / AU$9,999, which is what I’d expect for a Sony camera at this level, although that's a markup from the Sony A9 II and clearly a lot of money. It’s firmly in the professional sports and wildlife photography camp, and it’s available now, ahead of the Paris Olympics which begin in late July. 

A newly designed body means the A9 III requires a new optional VG-C5 vertical grip, launched alongside the camera, to extend the size and battery life and provide a comfortable way to shoot with large lenses and in vertical format. Sony has recognized that pretty much every photographer that adds the A9 III to their shopping basket will also add the grip, and for a limited time is including the grip for free with purchases of the A9 III – its list price is $399 / £390 / AU$749. I can also see the A9 III being a popular camera to hire for special events and commissions – it's an excellent portraits with flash tool. 

  • Price score 4/5

Sony A9 III: design and handling

  • Larger grip and a new optional vertical grip
  • Industry-leading EVF
  • Abundant control layout

As a camera that's designed primarily for pro action photography, the A9 III has the kind of build quality to withstand tough conditions and inclement weather. It's not a chunky affair like the Nikon Z9 though – Sony mirrorless cameras are always small, even the A9 series. Conversely, most pro prime telephoto lenses are big, so how is the balance of the A9 III? Pretty good, actually. 

It has the familiar Sony mini DSLR-style form factor, except that the grip is chunkier for a better hold. I found it a decent pairing with the FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM lens, which was one of the lenses I had for my hands-on review. With larger lenses like the FE 70-200mm F4 G OSS that I had for this test, plus the new FE 300mm F2.8 that I got to try out briefly, the A9 III really benefits from the optional vertical grip. 

A new design means the A9 III needs an all-new optional vertical grip, and I’d expect the majority of A9 III photographers to opt for one – I’d certainly pick one up. Not only does the new VG-C5 grip add a little weight and height for improved balance with large lenses, it offers controls at your fingertips for vertical shooting, replicating the layout of the camera for horizontal-format photos, plus it extends battery life. With the FE 300mm F2.8 lens, which weighs 3.24lbs / 1,470g, attached, there’s a really good balance between camera (with grip) and lens. 

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Top plate from above of the Sony A9 III camera

(Image credit: Future)
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Top dials close up of the Sony A9 III camera

(Image credit: Future)
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Sony A9 III camera outside with background foliage, no lens attached

(Image credit: Future)
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Sony A9 III LCD screen folded out, close up

(Image credit: Future)
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LCD screen of the Sony A9 III camera flipped around to be front-facing

(Image credit: Future)
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Closeup of open memory card door of the Sony A9 III

(Image credit: Future)

In this class, I prefer Sony’s design approach to Canon and Nikon – a small body that can be bulked up with a grip for serious telephoto lenses, rather than a large body that can’t be made any smaller.

We get the same industry-leading EVF as found on the A7R V – the 9.44m-dot unit has a 120fps refresh rate, with no blackout during continuous shooting, and it really does perform flawlessly, maintaining peak performance whatever the shooting mode. Previous models with the 9.44m-dot EVF saw a drop in resolution during burst shooting. 

The touchscreen is also an A7R V special – a dual-axis vari-angle screen that can be positioned at all manner of angles, and folded away completely for protection when not in use. I love how the screen can be pulled away from the body, meaning your view is unimpeded by the viewfinder. Touch function is decent, too, with controls like tracking AF activation, plus a quick menu that can be revealed by dragging from the corner of the screen. 

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Side view of the Sony A9 III camera with 24-50mm lens attached

(Image credit: Future)
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Rear of the Sony A9 III camera, outside

(Image credit: Future)
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Sony A9 III camera outside with background foliage, no lens attached

(Image credit: Future)
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Sony A9 III camera outside with 24-50mm lens attached

(Image credit: Future)
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Sony A9 III camera outside with background foliage, no lens attached

(Image credit: Future)

The control layout is comprehensive, too, including customizable buttons that can activate features like 120fps at a push, more control dials than you can shake a stick at, and a grippy joystick to navigate menus and AF points and the like. I’m not a fan of the variety in how dials are adjusted, though. One has a clicked-release lock, another has no lock at all, while the exposure mode dial requires you to hold down the central lock in order to turn the dial. There’s almost too much going on around the body, and it takes some time before navigating those controls becomes second nature.

Rigid port doors can be opened individually to reveal full-size HDMI, Ethernet, flash sync, headphone and mic jacks, plus USB-C through which you can charge the camera’s NP-FZ100 battery – Sony’s excellent battery that’s used across models. Besides being a tad cluttered, the A9 III is a step in the right direction and Sony’s best design camera yet. 

  • Design and handling score 5/5

Sony A9 III: features and performance

  • First full-frame camera with global shutter
  • Sony says it’s 8x speedier than the A9 II
  • 120fps for up to 1.5 second bursts
  • Flash sync speed at any shutter speed, limited only by your flash
  • Sony's best-ever autofocus

Sony cameras are generally feature-rich, but as this is the first mirrorless camera with a global shutter, that’s where we’ll begin. It’s a pricey sensor type previously found only in high-end cine cameras, and it’s long been tipped for the rumored Canon EOS R1 – a potential rival to the A9 III. So what’s all the fuss about this sensor type?

To summarize: it reads every pixel simultaneously rather than line by line, as other sensor types do when using their electronic shutter (rather than the mechanical shutter). Currently, the Nikon’s Z8 and Z9’s stacked sensor with electronic shutter boasts the quickest sensor readout speed (line by line) of 1/250 sec.

You’d be hard pressed to find distortion in Z9 images, but generally there’s a risk of what’s called rolling shutter when using the electronic shutter – a ‘jello’ effect. In most DSLR and mirrorless cameras you can use a mechanical shutter instead for distortion-free photos, but the shutter’s mechanical speed is limited – the fastest ever speed is 16fps in the Canon EOS 1D X Mark III

The global shutter is the best of both worlds: no distortion, and no real limit on burst shooting speed, up to 120fps. 

Burst shooting sequence of an Olympic athlete jumping over a hurdle on the race track at night

Burst shooting sequence of an Olympic athlete jumping over a hurdle on the race track at night with the continuous high drive mode of the Sony A9 III (Image credit: Future)

That’s what’s so exciting about the A9 III for capturing high-speed action – you can move the camera quickly to track your subject in stills or video, or freeze especially fast-moving subjects like a golf swing, and you won’t see any distortion. You also get the fastest minimum shutter speed ever, up to 1/80,000 sec – although currently that’s reduced to 1/16,000 sec when in any burst shooting mode. It’s an action photographer's dream. 

Sony’s latest Bionz XR processor is in play here, only there are twin processors that Sony says bumps up the A9 III’s speed by 8x over the A9 II. That’s needed for such high-speed work, and for features like pre-capture up to one second. We’ve seen pre-capture in other systems from the likes of Panasonic, but it’s another first for Sony mirrorless; pre-capture can record sequences up to one second before you fully press the shutter, another handy trick for capturing decisive moments. 

Bluetits on a lone tree branch captured with the Sony A9 III's 120fps burst shooting

This video of blue tits on a lone branch is a realtime 30fps continuous burst. Shot at 120fps and it could be slowed down 4x. (Image credit: Future)

A global shutter also has no real shutter speed limit when synchronizing to an external flash, save for the limit of the flash itself. That means the A9 III can in theory flash-sync at any shutter speed, where other systems are limited to up to 1/250 sec – for example, the Z9’s max flash sync speed is just 1/200 sec. 

For those who are into flash photography in particular, the A9 III opens up a whole other realm of creative possibilities, cleanly freezing fast action with no motion blur. It also makes portraits with flash a breeze. The example (below) was shot at 1/2000 sec with the FE 70-200mm F4 G OSS lens at its maximum f/4 aperture, with the Sony HVL F46RM at full power positioned in a softbox and remotely triggered using the Sony FA WRC1M wireless radio commander. I didn’t have to reduce the aperture to f/11 for an accurate exposure because I wasn’t limited to 1/250 sec. I didn’t have to think about workarounds like a ND filter in order to open the aperture right up; I could simply shoot the portrait at whatever exposure settings I liked.  

Flash portrait with golden sunrise and lake backdrop

Portrait made with the Sony A9 III and the FE 70-200mm F4 G OSS II lens. Camera settings 1/2000sec, f/4, ISO 250. Sony HVL F46RM flash at full power positioned in a softbox and remotely triggered using the Sony FA WRC1M wireless radio commander. (Image credit: Future)

Not worrying about the shutter speed limit; being able to use any aperture – these are game-changing flash photography attributes of the A9 III. I thought pairing the A9 III with a flash for such quick flash speed would be a bit of a minefield, and you do need to play around with settings a bit, but in reality it’s not that complicated. Put simply, the A9 III has been the most versatile camera I’ve ever used for flash, and I wouldn’t think twice about hiring it for location portrait shoots. 

Impressive features like 120fps are one thing on paper, but what are they really like to use? Firstly, you’ll fill up memory cards very quickly and create a daunting image organization and editing workflow, so 120fps should only be used sparingly. Fortunately, Sony makes that as easy as possible via a custom button that immediately boosts the A9 III to that super-fast speed from a more modest default speed – I set the continuous high to 30fps, and used the button for a 120fps injection at crucial moments. 

I was typically able to get around 190-200 frames (raw and JPEG) at the top speed of 120fps – in other words around 1.5 seconds of shooting – before the camera slowed right down. Clearly this headline mode is just for decisive moments. At 30fps I was typically getting around 275 frames (raw and JPEG) before the camera slowed down – that’s around nine seconds in all. 

Closeup of open memory card door of the Sony A9 III

Twin card slots can hold either CFexpress Type A or SD memory cards. CFexpress Type B is much quicker and we can hope Sony will adopt faster media in future high-speed cameras.  (Image credit: Future)

Using a SD card for the aforementioned sequences, it took around 30 seconds for the buffer to clear and for the camera to regain full performance once more, while using a CFexpress type A card was a little under half that time. Those wait times are a tiny bit disappointing, given that a CFexpress type B card – used by the Nikon Z9 – is at least twice as quick again. Implementing a redesign to accept type B instead of type A would have made the A9 III completely formidable. Buffer aside, the burst shooting speed and duration are unmatched.

Pre capture is neat, too. You might not want to set it to as much as 1 second, especially with the fast frame rates filling up your card, and 0.5 seconds is probably enough to ensure you capture suddenly unfolding action. I found it particularly useful for bird photography, where subjects move both quickly and erratically.

Olympic athlete jumping over a hurdle on a race track

The A9 III has a remarkable hit ratio of sharply focused action photos.  (Image credit: Future)

In addition to its superb burst-shooting capabilities, the A9 III has the most capable autofocus system of any camera today. You’ll need to get the mode right for your subject, but set to a mode like ‘Focus Area: Expand Spot’ with appropriate subject tracking autofocus, the hit ratio of sharp images the A9 III can achieve in action sequences is unmatched.

The A9 III also has new subject-detection AF modes, including birds and insects, both of which worked decently well in my tests with the 70-200mm F4 lens. We still have human and animal detection modes, which are now more effective than ever thanks to the ‘AI’ autofocus chip equipping the A9 III to recognize subjects in all manner of orientations – the torso, head, eyes and so on.

We also get Sony’s highly effective in-body image stabilization. Beyond enabling the use of slower shutter speeds for photography (which aren’t much use for freezing action), it's so effective that you can get smooth gimbal-like handheld videos, especially when using the Active and Dynamic Active modes.

  • Features and performance score: 5/5

Sony A9 III: image and video quality

  • Same 24.6MP resolution as the A9 II
  • 4K 60p video from full width of the sensor (oversampled)
  • ISO 250-25,600
  • More noise and less dynamic range in low light than rivals

Sensibly, Sony has kept the A9 III’s sensor resolution to 24.6MP just like in the A9 II. That’s a perfectly acceptable resolution for the intended audience of sports and wildlife photographers, and a clear distinguisher from the A1 (and a potential successor), which has around double the pixels. Some may wish for more pixels and more cropping possibilities – the A1 has 50MP – but that would compromise the speed of the A9 III. 

It is of course a different sensor type with global shutter, too, and it comes with a unusual ISO 250-25,600 sensitivity range that can't match that of the A9 II and A1. Those cameras have a base ISO of 100 – a setting that offers better dynamic range and handling of noise than the A9 III’s base of ISO 250. Therefore, if light is good and the shooting scenario merits a base ISO, such as landscape photography, image quality from the A9 II and A1 is superior.

The use of a global shutter has had an adverse impact on the dynamic range and handling of noise of the A9 III, even if it’s just a little. However, we should also remember who the intended A9 III user is – most people won’t buy the A9 III for anything other than high-speed scenarios, using high shutter speeds to freeze the action. In this reality, you wouldn’t be able to shoot lower than ISO 250 anyway, and so the limited ISO range at the low end is a somewhat moot point for pro sports and wildlife photography. 

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Olympic athlete resting by a hurdle on a race track

(Image credit: Future)
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Olympic athlete jumping over a hurdle on a race track

(Image credit: Future)
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Olympic athlete jumping over a hurdle on a race track

(Image credit: Future)
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Olympic athlete in flight doing the long jump

(Image credit: Future)
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Portrait of a sweaty Olympic athlete in the ring during a training session

(Image credit: Future)
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Olympic athlete in training using a punching bag

(Image credit: Future)
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Olympic athlete in training using a punching bag

(Image credit: Future)

The bigger concern is increased noise and reduced dynamic range at the high ISO settings you’ll regularly need when selecting particularly fast shutter speeds, and when shooting in low light. After all, a lot of sporting events are held at night under floodlights, and you won’t get quite as clean image quality from the A9 III compared to rivals – for example there’s more noise in shadows. 

By default, Sony cameras apply fairly aggressive noise reduction to JPEG images, and if you shoot in JPEG-only you may not experience some of the issues mentioned above. 

While reduced dynamic range and increased noise are markdowns for image quality, we need to put this into context. The A9 III can freeze action with no distortion, and nail sharp focus to a degree we’ve never seen before. And it’s these image quality attributes that are more important for action photography and video, where the A9 III scores top marks. Put simply, the A9 III is the most capable sports photography camera available.  

Elsewhere, 4K video up to 60fps is oversampled from 6K – that’s the full width of the 24.6MP sensor. You can also create short 6K slow-motion video clips by using the A9 III's 120fps burst shooting mode and stitching those files together in post. 

Those top frame rates are equivalent to 4x slow-motion video, when played back at the standard 30fps video playback – the A9 III is so fast that you can create slow-motion video from photos at 24.6MP which is equivalent to 6K.

Rival cameras like the Z9 can shoot higher resolution 8K video. However, what’s more exciting than resolution and frame rates is how the A9 III’s global shutter eliminates rolling shutter in video. There’s a pleasing quality to motion in the A9 III’s videos, especially for moving subjects and fast-moving handheld camera shots. In-body image stabilization for video is superb, too, and makes run-and-gun videos without a gimbal entirely possible. 

  • Image and video quality score: 4/5

Sony A9 III: Test scorecard

Should I buy the Sony A9 III?

Sony A9 III camera outside with background foliage, no lens attached

(Image credit: Future)

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Sony A9 III: Also consider

Sony A9 III camera outside with background foliage, no lens attached

(Image credit: Future)

If our Sony A9 III review has inspired you to think about other options, here are two more cameras to consider…

How I tested the Sony A9 III

  • Early access to pre-production model in November 2023
  • A long term loan period of full-production model, more than a month
  • Plenty of action scenarios, including wildlife and sports
  • Remote flash photography portraits with Sony's own HVL-F46RM

I first used the A9 III in November 2023 at its announcement event. During the event I shot a variety of sports that included long jump, hurdles, high jump, gymnastics and boxing, pairing the A9 III with several lenses, including the FE 300mm F2.8 GM OSS, FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM and FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM. 

Three months after its announcement I received a full-production version of the A9 III, which I used for over a month with the FE 70-200mm F4 G OSS and FE 24-50mm F2.8 G, during which time I was able to shoot plenty of wildlife and sports, plus portraits with a remotely controlled flashgun. 

During my extended time with the A9 III I've used all the burst shooting modes, including its headline 120fps, supported by the latest autofocus modes. I've rattled off more frames than I care to count, rinsed the battery, recharged, and repeated.  

First reviewed November 2023

Sony A6700 review: top-spec autofocus in compact packaging
5:00 pm | July 12, 2023

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

Sony A6700: Two-minute review

By combining a 26MP APS-C sensor with AI-powered subject recognition in a body built for shooting on the move, the Sony A6700 lands as a compelling hybrid for hobbyists who value power and portability in equal parts. We gave its predecessor four stars in our full Sony A6600 review, and the A6700 is a shoo-in for a top spot in our round-up of the best travel cameras.

Sony Alpha A6700 mirrorless camera outside on a wall

(Image credit: Chris Rowlands)

On a spec sheet peppered with improvements, Real-time Recognition AF is worthy of note. Driven by the same Bionz XR processor seen on the Sony ZV-E1 and Sony A7R V, it’s capable of accurately recognizing and tracking a variety of targets in the real world, including humans, animals and vehicles. 

Paired with a 759-point phase detection array, plus five-axis optical image stabilization, the result is a neatly proportioned camera that can produce sharp, balanced stills in most conditions, even when shooting handheld. 

Noise does begin to creep in at higher ISOs, especially north of ISO 6400, but not enough to be an issue if you’re only sharing on social. The metering system also has a habit of underexposing scenes on overcast days, but that’s something you can manually compensate for.

Sony Alpha A6700 mirrorless camera outside on a wall

(Image credit: Chris Rowlands)

The A6700 is marketed as a hybrid, and I found that it broadly has the video skills to back up its stills abilities. 4K 60p footage is oversampled from 6K without pixel binning, with 10-bit depth and 4:2:2 color sampling to match its video-focused FX30 and ZV-E1 cousins. The resulting clips are as crisp as you’d expect beneath clear skies.

Less impressive is the 1.6x crop applied to 4K 120p slow-motion footage, and I also found that the in-body image stabilization didn’t eliminate wobble when recording while walking. That said, the availability of subject-recognition AF and auto-framing – which automatically crops to track you – makes it straightforward to capture sharp video.

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Sony Alpha A6700 mirrorless camera outside on a wall

(Image credit: Chris Rowlands)
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Sony Alpha A6700 mirrorless camera outside on a wall

(Image credit: Chris Rowlands)
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Sony Alpha A6700 mirrorless camera outside on a wall

(Image credit: Chris Rowlands)

The A6700 also benefits from revised handling versus the A6600, including a deeper grip that makes it more comfortable to shoot with for extended periods. I didn’t get to test it with a telephoto lens, but the body strikes a great compromise between size and ergonomics. It feels like a camera you could trust to take a few knocks on your travels.

Direct-access control has been meaningfully improved too, with the addition of a front dial, a dedicated dial for switching between still, movie and S&Q modes, as well as several buttons, all of which can be usefully assigned with custom functions – a win for hobbyists who want the option to switch settings quickly when shooting in the street.

And it’s not just the physical setup that’s changed: Sony has revised the menu system for the A6700, with the aim of making it easier to navigate with the vari-angle touchscreen. While the main interface is generally straightforward enough to use, though, I found that there was still a fairly steep learning curve when it came to locating certain settings within the depths of the menus.

Sony A6700 mirrorless camera outside on a wall

(Image credit: Chris Rowlands)

Sony lent me its tidy 10-20mm F4 wide angle lens for my review of the A6700, which I found a little limiting creatively. But a major benefit for consumers is that the camera uses Sony’s E Mount, an established system with a huge catalogue of compatible glass, including plenty of compact options that would team well with the camera for a travel-friendly setup.

If video is your focus, you’ll likely get better results from something like the Fujifilm X-S20. But if you want a compact APS-C hybrid with a capable sensor and the ability to automate autofocus on the fly, the A6700 is well worth considering.

Sony A6700: Price and release date

  • £1450 body-only ($ / AU$ price TBC)
  • Announced July 2023
  • Available from Sony stores and authorized retailers TBC

Sony announced the Sony A6700 on July 12, alongside a new shotgun microphone. The camera will set you back £1450 body-only, while the mic costs £349. 

That’s essentially the same as what the Sony A6600 cost when it launched in 2019. At that time, we though it was a steep asking price for what the camera offered, but you’re getting a whole lot of upgrades with the A6700, including cutting-edge autofocus and refined handling. Given current inflation, we think that price tag looks more reasonable this time around.

Sony Alpha A6700 mirrorless camera outside on a wall

(Image credit: Chris Rowlands)

It still hits shelves at a higher price than some of its closest rivals, though. While the Fujifilm X-S20 doesn’t have the class-leading AI skills of the Sony A6700, it has a comparable APS-C sensor and is capable of recording 6K 30p video, yet comes in a good slice cheaper than the A6700.

Slightly closer in price – but still less expensive – is the Canon EOS R7, one of the best mirrorless cameras for stills photography. It doesn’t offer 4K 120p video recording like the Sony A6700, but it does have a higher resolution sensor and dual card slots.

  • Price score: 4.5/5

Sony A6700: Specs

Sony A6700: Design

  • Refined grip is more comfortable in the hand
  • New dials and buttons improve direct-access control
  • Menu system remains confusing for beginners

Like the A6600 before it, the A6700 is a tightly packaged APS-C camera with flat sides and a viewfinder over to the left. It might not win any design awards, but the neat proportions make it a tidy camera to travel with. That’s still true even with its slightly larger dimensions: it’s deeper than the A6600, but this increase doesn’t make it feel bigger in the hand. It helps that the payoff is a deeper, more ergonomic grip, which makes the A6700 a comfortable camera to carry and use for full days of shooting. It’s also a well-built one, with a sturdy feel bolstered by weather sealing.

What further sets the A6700 apart from its predecessor is the addition of new direct-access controls. Beneath the main mode dial now resides a second dial for switching between stills, video and S&Q (for slow-motion and time-lapse shooting). On the front of the grip lives a further control wheel, which takes care of aperture by default. These are joined by a dedicated video record button on the top plate, an AF ON shortcut on the back and a C1 button on the outside of thumb rest. 

Sony Alpha A6700 mirrorless camera outside on a wall

(Image credit: Chris Rowlands)

Taken together, the updated control array unlocks greater customization options for hands-on hobbyists. Provided you’re prepared to dive into the menu system, each button’s function can be reassigned for swift access to your preferred settings for both stills and video. The more pronounced thumb rest does make the rightmost dial a bit trickier to reach, while the front wheel is a fairly slender thing to scroll with your forefinger. The menu button can also be a stretch to get at with your thumb. Broadly, though, the revamped controls are relatively well laid-out and enhance the camera’s usability.

Sony has also upgraded the touchscreen on the A6700. Slightly sharper at 1.04m dots, it’s now a vari-angle number with a full touchscreen interface, versus the tilt-only display that could only really be used to set AF points on the A6600. On the whole, the screen complements the user experience. Visibility is a little limited in direct sunlight, but the articulating setup offers useful flexibility when framing. 

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Sony Alpha A6700 mirrorless camera outside on a wall

(Image credit: Chris Rowlands)
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Sony Alpha A6700 mirrorless camera outside on a wall

(Image credit: Chris Rowlands)
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Sony Alpha A6700 mirrorless camera outside on a wall

(Image credit: Chris Rowlands)

The software itself is a mixed bag. You can swipe in and out at the sides of the display to show and hide shortcuts, while swiping up reveals two rows of virtual buttons that can be customized for quick access to your favorite settings. These icons are just about big enough not to feel cramped, but it’s still easy to hit the wrong one when operating in the wild. 

In what feels like a recurring gripe for Sony cameras, though, it’s the menu system that holds the A6700 back. Sony has changed the main menu to a grid layout that’s more accessible at a glance, but you have to scroll or tap across twice to reach it. The overall structure has also been revised into vertical columns, but accessing any settings not listed in the main grid can still feel like a labyrinthine task. Even headline features such as auto-framing are buried several levels deep.

This is a shame, because the A6700 is otherwise a lovely camera to handle and shoot with. Not everyone will love the off-centre position of the OLED EVF, yet it feels like the best way to both frame and review images in the field. The viewfinder has the same 2.36m-dot resolution as before, but benefits from a welcome boost in brightness.

  • Design score: 4/5

Sony A6700: Features & performance

  • AI-powered subject detection and auto-framing
  • Rapid and reliable AF across 759 phase-detection points
  • IBIS works better for handheld stills than video

What its menus might lack in clarity, the Sony Alpha A6700 makes up for with cutting-edge performance. Harnessing the same AI chipset as the Sony ZV-E1 and A7R V, it delivers best-in-class subject tracking. Pre-select a target for Real-time Recognition AF to detect, or tap on the touchscreen to select an object: either way, it will lock on with remarkably sticky precision, even as your subject moves around the frame.

In bright conditions, the system is rapid and reliable. Real-time Recognition only works if you’re framing a subject that features on its list of presets, which includes humans, animals and insects, as well as cars, trains and aircraft. In future, we will surely see cameras that can switch between these targets themselves, based on what you’re aiming at. For now, the abilities of the Sony A6700 are at the forefront of AI-driven autofocus.

It isn’t foolproof, as I found when it ignored a sheep I was photographing. Woolly subjects aside, though, it’s a system you can trust to focus for you, even when you’re shooting fast and from the hip. I found its eye-tracking skills particularly good at locking on, regardless of how much I tried to make it break focus.

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Sample image shot using the Sony Alpha A6700 of a bar in Bordeaux

(Image credit: Chris Rowlands)
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Sample image shot using the Sony Alpha A6700 of a bar in Bordeaux

(Image credit: Chris Rowlands)
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Sample image shot using the Sony Alpha A6700 of a bar in Bordeaux

(Image credit: Chris Rowlands)

All of this speed and accuracy is deployed across an expanded array of 759 phase-detection and 425 contrast-detection points. With both the AF-ON and shutter buttons held down, it will continue tracking subjects around the frame while firing off mechanical bursts at 11fps. The 59-raw-shot buffer fills quicker than you might think, but the A6700 at least offers UHS-II card compatibility for speedier transfer rates – although there’s only one slot.

Helping to net sharp stills is the five-axis image stabilization system. Sony claims that an enhanced algorithm provides up to five stops of stabilization for photography, and I certainly had no issues capturing crisp handheld images with the A6700. Active SteadyShot stabilization is also available for video, although I wasn’t as impressed with the results. It effectively levelled handheld clips when I was stood static, but it’s simply not as good as Sony’s Dynamic stabilization when it comes to counteracting wobble while walking. It might be because I’m heavy-footed, but I wouldn’t use it to replace a gimbal.

What the A6700 might be able to replace, though, is your film crew. Like the Sony ZV-E1, it can automatically crop in while recording to compose the scene around your subject. There are three auto-framing settings, with the most aggressive cropping in the closest. It’s an incredibly useful option for content creators shooting solo, as it effectively replicates the inputs of a real camera operator. Helpfully, the A6700 shows the auto-frame as a moving outline within the wider scene, so you know how much space you have to work with. What you can’t do is use Active SteadyShot and Auto Framing at the same time, so the former will make the most sense with a tripod.

I was also impressed by the battery life of the A6700, which continues the A6600’s legacy of strong longevity. Like the ZV-E1, it uses the same FZ-100 battery as the FX3 and A7S III. Real-world results will depend on your combination of stills and video, but a full tank proved more than enough for a full day of photography, interspersed with a few 4K clips. Helpfully, the cell charges in-camera using USB-C, so you don’t need to add another charger to your travel bag.

  • Features and performance score: 4.5/5

Sony A6700: Image and video quality

  • Crisp, balanced results in most conditions
  • Tendency to underexpose on overcast days
  • Noise can be an issue north of ISO 6400

At 26MP, the APS-C sensor inside the A6700 pretty much matches the benchmark for modern mirrorless cameras. There are rivals with higher resolutions, such as the Canon EOS R7, but most hobbyist cameras hover around the 26MP mark – and that’s plenty for the average enthusiast.

It certainly shoots sharp in use, with no shortage of detail. On the whole, the A6700 produces crisp, balanced results, with decent dynamic range and accurate color reproduction. Like many APS-C cameras, sunny days are when it thrives, delivering rich but realistic images with plenty of depth.

In overcast conditions, the A6700’s metering system does have a habit of slightly underexposing images. You can still pull detail out of the shadows in the edit if you’re using Sony’s lossless compressed RAW format, and it’s worth enabling the Dynamic Range Optimizer to help balance the light and dark parts of a scene. All the same, you’ll want to keep an eye on exposure compensation when shooting on a cloudy day.

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Sample image shot using the Sony Alpha A6700 of Bordeaux

(Image credit: Chris Rowlands)
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Sample image shot using the Sony Alpha A6700 of Bordeaux

(Image credit: Chris Rowlands)
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Sample image shot using the Sony Alpha A6700 of Bordeaux

(Image credit: Chris Rowlands)
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Sample image shot using the Sony Alpha A6700 of flowers

(Image credit: Chris Rowlands)
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Sample image shot using the Sony Alpha A6700 of tomatoes at a French market

(Image credit: Chris Rowlands)
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Sample image shot using the Sony Alpha A6700 of a spiral staircase

(Image credit: Chris Rowlands)
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Sample image shot with the Sony Alpha A6700 of architecture in France

(Image credit: Chris Rowlands)
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Sample image shot using the Sony Alpha A6700 of the French countryside

(Image credit: Chris Rowlands)
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Sample image shot using the Sony Alpha A6700 of the beach in Biarritz

(Image credit: Chris Rowlands)
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Sample image shot using the Sony Alpha A6700 of Biarritz beach

(Image credit: Chris Rowlands)

Like the A6600, the A6700 is also a reliable performer after dark. Lower lit scenes come out balanced and sharp, even with multiple light sources in the picture. Improved algorithms also mean it’s more effective at focusing in dim conditions, rarely relying on the illuminator to lock on to subjects.

An expanded ISO range of 50-102400 for photography gives the A6700 useful stills versatility on paper, but crank it anywhere north of ISO 6400 and noise quickly becomes noticeable across the image. This grain will be very evident on larger prints in particular. For sharing low-light shots on social, though, it’s less of an issue. Happily, there’s still plenty of detail beneath the noise, with little of the smoothing that can so often smudge shadows on APS-C cameras.

Sony Alpha A6700 mirrorless camera outside on a wall

(Image credit: Chris Rowlands)

I’ve covered the limitations of Active SteadyShot stabilization for video above, but it’s not the only factor which restricts recording on the A6700. 4K 120p slow-mo is a fantastic addition, but it’s limited by a 1.6x crop that means you’ll need a wider lens to make the most of it. Super 35mm 4K isn’t completely uncropped either, although the factor is marginal at 1.04x.

Shoot longer clips and you’ll also run into the A6700’s recording limits. You can set the auto power-off temperature to ‘standard’ or ‘high’. With the latter selected, the A6700 displayed an overheating warning after 38 minutes of recording 4K 60p video indoors. For capturing short travel clips and b-roll on the fly, this time cap shouldn’t be a major issue. But without the cooling vents of the ZV-E1, this isn’t a hybrid for serious videographers or vloggers who like to record for longer.

Audio out of the camera is very usable, with more tonal depth than you’d expect from a built-in pickup. When walking and talking outdoors, it clearly captured my voice without too much interference. If you do want a more professional setup, you have the option to use the A6700’s microphone and headphone ports, or stick Sony’s new XX shotgun microphone on top of the camera.

Launched alongside the A6700, this hot-shoe-mounted accessory features eight modes for directional audio pickup, plus noise-suppression settings that effectively minimize the impact of factors like wind. It’s a lightweight, compact tool that I can see appealing to travel vloggers who want a streamlined solution for targeted audio capture.

  • Image and video quality score: 4/5 

Should you buy the Sony A6700?

Sony Alpha A6700 mirrorless camera outside on a wall

(Image credit: Chris Rowlands)

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Sony A6700: Also consider

If our Sony A6700 has inspired you to think about other options, here are three more cameras to consider…

How I tested the Sony A6700

Because of its credentials as an enthusiast travel camera, I took the Sony Alpha A6700 on a trip to the south of France for testing. It travelled with me for a fortnight, during which I shot hundreds of stills in all sorts of scenarios. These included candid portraits, daylight landscapes and evening street scenes in Bordeaux. I paid particular attention to how well the A6700 detected subjects in busy urban areas, how comfortable it felt in the hand during full days of shooting, and how its battery held up in the real world.

I was also keen to check out the recording chops of the A6700. To do this, I shot tens of videos, including numerous handheld vlog-style clips to assess the effectiveness of the A6700’s image stabilization for video footage. I pushed the camera to its limits in terms of recording times, to see how well it handles heat, and also tested how effectively it works with Sony’s new XX shotgun microphone.

On the whole, the Sony Alpha A6700 performed well throughout these tests – a fact reflected by the score I’ve awarded it. It’s not a perfect camera, but I found it a fundamentally enjoyable one to shoot with.

Read more about how we test

First reviewed July 2023

Leica M11 Monochrom review – a pricey yet stylish oddity
11:00 am | July 7, 2023

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

Leica M11 Monochrom: two-minute review

A lot of people love to hate Leica cameras; they’re expensive, limited in functionality and carry a prestige many photographers simply can’t relate to. On those grounds, the Leica M11 Monochrom is a camera I almost feel obliged to dislike, but I have to confess that I’m absolutely smitten with it. But before we delve into the good, the bad and the not-so-ugly, let’s take a look at some of the key points that make this contentious camera as much a curiosity as it is a high-end creative tool.

The Leica M11 Monochrom could easily be one of the best mirrorless cameras if you have a huge budget. But thanks to tactile manual controls offering a more traditional shooting experience, it’s potentially one of the best cameras for photography and also one of the best cameras for professionals who shoot exclusively in black & white. And this is the main drawback of the camera – as the name suggests, it only captures images in black & white using its 60MP Monochrome BSI CMOS sensor.

We’ll go into more detail later, but in a nutshell, this means that images will print to large dimensions and those captured at high ISO settings exhibit less noise when compared to standard color camera sensors. Couple this with the optical rangefinder viewfinder, manual focus lenses and traditional manual controls for ISO, aperture and shutter speed, you’re presented with a shooting experience that feels like a traditional film camera but with the benefits of digital technology – no video capture, though – but all within a solid camera with a stunning design.

The camera follows the traditional M-series design and is unmistakably 'a Leica' that's favored by street and documentary photographers. And as a result, it's designed more for discretion, image quality and working in lowlight conditions, rather than for faster subjects such as sport and wildlife. This is reflected in the lackluster 3fps continuous shooting speed when capturing images in DNG raw, and 4.5fps when shooting in JPEG.

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Leica M11 Monochrom rangefinder camera

(Image credit: James Abbott)
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Leica M11 Monochrom rangefinder camera

(Image credit: James Abbott)
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Leica M11 Monochrom rangefinder camera

(Image credit: James Abbott)
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Leica M11 Monochrom rangefinder camera

(Image credit: James Abbott)
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Leica M11 Monochrom rangefinder camera

(Image credit: James Abbott)
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Leica M11 Monochrom rangefinder camera

(Image credit: James Abbott)

Leica M11 Monochrom: release date and price

  • $9195 / £8300 / AU$14,990 body only
  • Announced and released April 2023
  • Available from Leica stores and authorized retailers

The Leica M11 Monochrom follows the typical Leica product cycle of being released just over a year after its color sensor alternative, in this case the Leica M11, with the announcement and release in April 2023. Availability was immediate from Leica stores and authorized retailers with a price tag that could make your eyes water at $9,195 / £8,300 / AU$14,990 body only.

Leica lenses, just like the cameras, come at a price and typically cost in the region of 50% of the price of M-series camera bodies and even as much in some cases, so this must be factored in if you’re not already a Leica owner with a lens or two in your kit bag. 

In terms of the focal lengths available, these typically cover landscape, street, documentary, portrait and general photography. Leica cameras aren’t typically used to shoot subjects such as wildlife and sport, which is reflected in the lack of longer telephoto lenses being available.

  • Price score 3/5

Leica M11 Monochrom: Specs

Leica M11 Monochrom: design

  • Rugged all-metal body
  • Simple yet stylish design
  • Manual focus only

The M11 Monochrom honors Leica's design standards, a lofty quality that many other camera manufacturers can only aspire towards. The minimalist matt black finish looks stylish yet functional, and where the famous Leica red dot is synonymous with the company, its absence on the M11 Monochrom results in a cleaner and ultimately more refined look.

Rangefinder cameras are designed to be small and discreet, so they don’t have the more pronounced grips and contours that are more common with more mainstream mirrorless cameras and DSLRs. The use of typically smaller and lighter lenses is a factor that makes this work, and despite this, the M11 Monochrom fits snugly and comfortably in the hand with a reassuring weight of 0.99lbs / 452g excluding the lens.

The average Leica prime lens weighs in the region of 10oz / 300g, so the combined weight does add up but the M11 Monochrom remains comfortable to carry and use for extended periods. The size of the all-metal body with scratch-resistant paint is 5.4x1.5x3.1-inch / 139x38.5x80mm, with an aluminium top plate, black leather finish and a sapphire glass LCD screen on the back.

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Leica M11 Monochrom rangefinder camera

(Image credit: James Abbott)
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Leica M11 Monochrom rangefinder camera

(Image credit: James Abbott)
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Leica M11 Monochrom rangefinder camera

(Image credit: James Abbott)
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Leica M11 Monochrom rangefinder camera

(Image credit: James Abbott)
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Leica M11 Monochrom rangefinder camera

(Image credit: James Abbott)
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Leica M11 Monochrom rangefinder camera

(Image credit: James Abbott)

The screen itself is a 2.95-inch Active Matrix TFT touchscreen with 2.33m dots, which provides a crisp and clear Live View image and image playback. The screen can be used for composition and focusing thanks to focus peaking, but in my experience, it’s much more reliable to focus using the rangefinder split focus in the optical viewfinder. The viewfinder offers parallax correction in line with the focus distance of the lens, so the image frame moves automatically to compensate for the difference in view between the lens and viewfinder, and on the whole, is extremely effective.

A digital viewfinder can be purchased separately if you’d prefer this for composing, which is a little annoying with a camera that costs as much as the M11 Monochrom. Not to mention, Fujifilm has done a great job of incorporating a dual optical viewfinder/EVF into its X-Pro series and X-100 series cameras, so it would be much more convenient if Leica could incorporate both options into its M-series cameras, even if it bumped up the price a little.

In terms of controls, only the bare essentials are available on the camera body with additional settings and functionality accessed via the simple and intuitive menu system. 

On the top of the camera, alongside the hotshoe, there’s the traditional-style shutter button with a screw thread for a mechanical cable release and the on/off switch below, an ISO dial, a shutter speed dial and one function button. The back is equally minimalist with three buttons next to the LCD, a thumbwheel and a D-pad. It’s not much in the way of direct access controls, but it’s ultimately all that you need.

  • Design score 4.5/5

Leica M11 Monochrom: features and performance

  • Rangefinder handling
  • 256GB internal storage
  • Extra control with the Leica FOTOS app

There’s no getting around the fact that rangefinders aren’t for everyone, so if you’ve never used one before it’s worth dropping into your local Leica store before making an online purchase to be sure this type of camera is right for you. 

Having used a medium rangefinder for years back in the film days, I personally love the experience and feel completely at home with a camera that handles like a film camera despite its digital credentials; using the M11 Monochrom, or any M-series camera, puts you in control and requires a different approach to shooting including the use of techniques such as pre focusing for faster-moving subjects.

The main feature of the camera is the simple fact that it only captures images in black & white. This makes it an extremely niche product, especially for the price, but it does allow you to focus on light, shape and texture in a way that’s often lost with a color camera. Although, even with a color camera, you can set the picture style to black & white to view your images in black & white, even if the resulting raw files are color and require conversion to mono during post-processing.

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Leica M11 Monochrom photo

(Image credit: James Abbott)
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Leica M11 Monochrom photo

(Image credit: James Abbott)
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Leica M11 Monochrom photo

(Image credit: James Abbott)
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Leica M11 Monochrom photo

(Image credit: James Abbott)
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Leica M11 Monochrom photo

(Image credit: James Abbott)
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Leica M11 Monochrom photo

(Image credit: James Abbott)

Overall, features are limited because this is a camera designed purely for capturing monochrome images, but there’s also 256GB of internal storage alongside the SD card slot, a continuous shooting speed that’s sluggish in modern terms at 3fps for DNG and 4.5fps for JPEG, with a 15 shot buffer for DNGs and a 100 shot buffer for JPEGs.

Then there’s the Leica FOTOS app. Connection with the Leica FOTOS app provides remote control of the camera, wireless firmware updates, the ability to view and rate photos before downloading to your smartphone or tablet as well as the ability to embed GPS data and more. It also includes features such as exposure bracketing, interval shooting and a selection of metering modes, too, but these are pretty standard fare.

  • Features and performance score: 4/5

Leica M11 Monochrom: image and video quality

  • Excellent image quality
  • Impressive high ISO handling
  • No video capture is available

To get started with image and video quality, the first thing that has to be said is that there’s no video functionality with the M11 Monochrom. It’s a shame really, because earlier Monochrom models have had video functionality and it’s simply a case of programming it in, but perhaps Leica users have expressed a strong desire to have video omitted. Either way, surely, it’s better to have something you don’t need or want, rather than to not have something you need or may want to use at some point.

Video omission aside, the image quality of photos is excellent and can’t be faulted in any way. The M11 Monochrom features a 60MP monochrome BSI CMOS full-frame sensor with a pixel pitch of 3.76 μm that captures fine detail with excellent noise handling. Images can also be captured in three resolutions: 60MP, 30MP or 18MP. For most people capturing at the highest resolution makes sense – more pixels gives more cropping potential – but switching to smaller files could be a handy feature nonetheless.

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Leica M11 Monchrom photo

(Image credit: James Abbott)
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Leica M11 Monchrom photo

(Image credit: James Abbott)
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Leica M11 Monchrom photo

(Image credit: James Abbott)
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Leica M11 Monchrom photo

(Image credit: James Abbott)
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Leica M11 Monchrom photo

(Image credit: James Abbott)
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Leica M11 Monchrom photo

(Image credit: James Abbott)

High ISO noise handling is impressive throughout the huge ISO 125 – 200,000 range. Images shot at even ISO 25,000 and ISO 50,000 look great. You could use ISO 100,000 and 200,000 because the grain is pleasing and much cleaner than even ISO 1600 black & white film, but the best results are up to 25,000 if your aim is for cleaner images with lower levels of grain.

The excellent ISO handling of monochrome cameras has been a key element of Leica’s marketing strategy in the past, but with Adobe Lightroom’s new Denoise feature, which is incredible by the way, this selling point has been watered down somewhat; high ISO color images can be cleaned up in post with exceptional results. That said, if you’re in the market for a black & white only camera with excellent native ISO handling, the M11 Monochrom certainly won’t disappoint.

  • Image quality score: 5/5

Should you buy the Leica M11 Monochrom?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Leica M11 Monochrom: Also consider

If our Leica M11 Monochrom review has you considering other options, here are two more cameras to consider...  

How I tested the Leica M11 Monochrom

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 that have been released in that time. I’ve also used and reviewed almost many Leica cameras over the years, including most of the Monochrom models, so I’m familiar with these niche cameras.

The Leica M11 Monochrom was tested over a week with a focus on subjects that worked well in black & white, although these typically centred around a more candid approach to shooting. Photos were taken in different lighting conditions to be able to test factors such as dynamic range, ISO handling and, of course, how easy and comfortable the camera is to use handheld over long periods.

Most shooting was handheld because Leica cameras are designed for this way of shooting, although that certainly doesn’t mean they can’t be used on a tripod for capturing long exposures. Photos were taken in both manual mode and aperture priority, using the new 50mm f/1.4 lens which is an excellent companion for the camera.

Read more about how we test

First reviewed May 2023

Autel Evo Lite+ review
1:00 pm | January 16, 2022

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

Editor's Note

• Original review date: January 2022
• Launched alongside Lite, Nano and Nano+
• Launch price: $1,349 / £1,129 / AU $2,499
• Official price now: $1,149 / £899 / AU$2,199

Update: March 2024. Announced in 2021 to go up against the DJI Air 2S, the Autel Evo Lite+ landed in January 2022 with better specs than its DJI rival, but also a higher price tag. While DJI has gone on to release more accomplished drones since, including the dual-camera DJI Air 3, we still rate the Autel Evo Lite+ as a decent alternative to the Air 2S. Its 1-inch sensor shoots quality 5.4K footage at 30fps, and flies for longer at 40 minutes. Larger pixels help it perform well in dim conditions, while aperture adjustment gives it another trump card versus the DJI Air 2S. Probably the key consideration today is price. The DJI Air 2S can be found for significantly less than Autel’s contender online, but if you value those additional features, it’s worth looking for seasonal discounts on the Evo Lite+. Reductions are region-specific, but we’ve seen generous price cuts on its official premium bundle in the UK, for example, which includes two extra batteries, a multi-charger, ND filters and spare propellers.

Two-minute review

In August 2021, Autel threw DJI something of a curveball when it announced four new drones in two new series: the Evo Nano Series containing the Nano and Nano+, plus the Evo Lite Series and its Lite and Lite+ models.

What wasn’t apparent at the time was that DJI was moving to bring the DJI Mavic 3 to market, a drone that none of these designs competes directly with. But, what these new drones did target was three of DJI’s most successful products: the DJI Mini 2, DJI Air 2S and DJI Mavic 2 Pro.

The flagship model of this new Autel generation is the Evo Lite+, a drone with a remarkably similar specification to the Air 2S. It's able to capture 5.4K video at 30fps and 4K at up to 60fps using a low-light capable 1-inch sensor. Offering a variable aperture camera and 40 minutes of flying time, the new Autel Evo Lite+ leapfrogs both the DJI Air 2S and Mavic Pro 2 capabilities.

For existing Autel fans, it offers almost everything they love about the Evo II series, but in a more transportable package and with significantly better flight times. The only obvious caveat is that the Evo Lite+ costs more than the DJI Air 2S, with the standard version commanding a similar price to the Air 2S Fly More Combo. DJI now doesn’t officially sell the Mavic 2 Pro since it launched the Mavic 3, but the Evo Lite+ is cheaper than that drone was when it was available.

The Evo Lite comes in two flavors that offer the same flight dynamics, but different camera options. The cheaper Lite model has the same 1/1.28-inch sensor and autofocus f/1.9 optics that Autel also used on the Evo Nano+. These can record 4K HDR at 30fps video recording and the equivalent of 50MP stills. It also has a four-axis gimbal allowing for recording video and still images in portrait mode, for those looking to publish on social media.

Conversely, the Evo Lite+ reviewed here has a 1-inch sensor and a variable aperture: f/2.8 to f/11, and can record in 5.4K at 30fps, 4K at 60 fps, and 1080p at 120fps. It lacks the fourth-axis stabilization of the Evo Lite, but the larger pixels in the sensor give it better light-gathering potential in low-light conditions. Both Lite series designs come in signature Autel Orange, Arctic White and Deep Space Gray.

Autel Evo Lite+ price and release date

  • Announced on August 28, 2021
  • Standard kit costs £1,129 / $1,349 / AU $2,499
  • Fly More Bundle costs £1,399 / $1,649 / AU $2,999

After making some customers who pre-ordered these drones anxious, the Evo Lite+ started to ship from the manufacturing facilities in China, and availability should improve over the first quarter of 2022.

Like most drones, the Evo Lite+ is available as a standard kit or in a premium bundle that includes many extras, including more batteries. The standard kit consists of the drone, controller, one battery, propellers, a charger with all cables, and costs $1,349 / £1,129 / AU  $2,499.

Autel EVO Lite+

(Image credit: Mark Pickavance)

The premium bundle adds two more batteries, a soft carry bag, three prop replacements, a multi-battery charger and four ND filters. Even with a quoted flying time of 40 minutes or more, a single battery isn’t enough for most customers, so getting up to two hours of operational flying with the premium pack is the way to go.

Design and controller

  • Mounts a 1-inch camera sensor
  • Another compact, foldable design
  • Extra battery capacity delivers longer flight times

Since the original DJI Mavic was so successful, many (but not all) drone makers have followed its structural form.

The Lite+ follows the same pattern as most small drones that can fold for transportation. Four pivoting arms aid with rapid deployment as the blades can remain attached.

Physically, the Lite+ is close to the size of the competitor drone, but at 820g, it’s a good 20% heavier than the 595g DJI Air 2S. Much of that additional mass comes from the battery, which makes up a significant portion of the rear drone superstructure. Instead of the battery fitting inside the drone, it slides from the rear to engage the body and includes the power-on button.

The capacity of this battery is a whopping 6,174mAh (68.7 Wh), a significant increase over the 3,500mAh (40.42 Wh) that the DJI Air 2S has, and this capacity is reflected in a maximum flight time of 40 minutes over the 30 minutes of the DJI drone.

While the 30 minutes quoted by DJI for the Air 2S is considered something of a stretch by most owners, the Lite+ can hover for longer than that if you let the battery levels get low.

We wouldn’t recommend doing that, but our experience revealed that Lite+ could fly for at least 30 minutes or more before getting to 20% capacity. A time that allows for great opportunities to get the shots needed without feeling pressured for time.

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Autel EVO Lite+

(Image credit: Mark Pickavance)
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Autel EVO Lite+

(Image credit: Mark Pickavance)
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Autel EVO Lite+

(Image credit: Mark Pickavance)
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Autel EVO Lite+ Carry Bag

(Image credit: Mark Pickavance)

The nose of the Lite+ is dominated by the large gimbal needed to control the 1-inch sensor and its associated optics, about which we’ll talk in greater detail later.

Anyone who flies drones will be acutely aware that any mistake can be a costly error when flying close to structures and trees. To reduce the possibility of accidents, Autel included a suite of visual collision detection sensors on the front, rear and underside.

There are none on the side, making orbital maneuvers as risky as they are on a drone without avoidance features. These sensors require light to function and are disabled if the drone exceeds standard speeds.

Other notable design choices on this drone are that the microSD card slot is on the left side under a small cover, and a USB-C port is in the mirror position to the right. The drone contains 6GB of internal memory to save the embarrassment of those who forget their SD card, and it can take a 256GB card for those aiming to record plenty of 5.4K video.

Short pegs are molded under each motor position and lift the drone clear of the ground. Still, we’d be cautious about operating this design from grass since the camera gimbal is remarkably close to the surface of even the flattest ground.

Bright LED lights are included both underneath the body and on the end of each arm, making the drone relatively easy to see in low-light or dark conditions. The props are the dual blade variety where centrifugal (or centripetal) forces orientate them when spinning, and they are easily removable without a tool.

We were impressed by the quality of construction and the apparent robustness of the parts. The Lite+ is well built, and the tolerances of the connecting parts are high. We’re sure that it would be possible to damage the Lite+ seriously, especially flying in sport mode. However, the body and arms look tough enough to handle minor accidents without unexpected rapid disassembly.

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Autel EVO Lite+

(Image credit: Mark Pickavance)
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Autel EVO Lite+

(Image credit: Mark Pickavance)
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Autel EVO Lite+

(Image credit: Mark Pickavance)

Equally well-made is the controller, a design that initially looked a little too much like an Xbox controller for our tastes. That said, it’s of high quality, has sufficient battery for at least three or four flights, and the sticks are accurate enough for subtle control without resorting to ‘smooth’ mode, the Autel version of DJI’s ‘tripod’ or ‘cine’ flight mode.

A slight disappointment with the controller is that there isn’t anywhere to store the thumbsticks. Autel doesn’t include spares even in the premium pack, so losing them could be highly problematic. While the DJI controller used on the Mini 2, Air 2S and Mavic 3 might not be as ergonomic to hold as the Autel design, it did stow both the thumbsticks and the phone cable.

A spring-loaded arm extends to securely hold a phone above the controller, though some additional hardware will be required to mount a tablet. Included is a power adapter that will charge both the batteries and the remote. The remote can also be charged using a USB-C cable in a pinch.

In the premium pack, a three-battery charging station is included. It doesn’t speed up the 90 minutes of charging, but the ability to connect them all and walk away is a convenience. 

Other enhancements for premium pack customers are two extra batteries over the one included with the drone, more replacement blades than the one set that comes as standard, and a stylish soft carry case for the drone, charger, cables and all the other spares and accessories.

A set of four ND filters was also in the bag, but the missing item for us was any strap to hold the blades in position while folded.

Features and flight

  • New Fly application
  • Live 2.7K video within a kilometer
  • Real-world flight times of more than 30 minutes

The flight experience of this drone is enjoyable, and transitioning from a DJI drone or other brands should be a breeze for even novice pilots.

What became more apparent as we flew the Evo Lite+ more is that the significant amount of power available in the Lite+ allows for both subtle control and dramatic performance when required.

For example, the Lite+ can climb at 29 km/h, enabling it to reach its typical legal operating altitude of 120m in just 15 seconds. Without restrictions, a flight ceiling of 5 km (16,404 ft) is technically possible, though inadvisable. A top speed of 67.6 km/h can be reached in sport mode, roughly the same maximum as the DJI Air 2S.

However, where this design exceeds the Air 2S is in quoted maximum wind resistance, with the Lite+ being rated to handle 61.2 km/h (38 mph) breeze, nearly double that of the Air 2S.

While we firmly believe that the wind resistance of the Air 2S is probably understated, the extra mass of the Lite+ may give it a significant advantage on blustery days.

Up to a kilometer away, the transmission system relays 2.7K video back to the phone or tablet, enabling a clear view of what the drone is observing. Beyond that range, the quality drops to 720p. And for those flying in a region where it is legal to operate outside visual range, the Lite+ transmission can function out to 7km.

At shorter ranges, being behind buildings or other obstructions had minimal impact on the video quality or the control responses.

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Autel EVO Lite+

(Image credit: Mark Pickavance)
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Autel EVO Lite+

(Image credit: Mark Pickavance)
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Autel EVO Lite+

(Image credit: Mark Pickavance)

For the new Evo Lite and Nano drone series, Autel has a new software package that replaces the Autel Explorer with the Autel Sky application. In use, it is similar to the DJI Fly application and provides similar functionality that anyone flying the DJI Mini 2 or Air 2S would recognize.

It includes a selection of four 'quick shots' that are named differently but automate various classic drone moves without the need for manual intervention. Autel promises a firmware update shortly that will add dynamic tracking and a few other tweaks that aren’t in the Lite+ we tested.

We’ll talk more about video and still capture later on, but there are plenty of options for all manner of photographic exercises. In the settings are the usual suspects for controlling what happens when the drone disconnects, its return-to-home altitude, and the different controller flight modes. 

By default, when the drone is first activated, it enters Novice mode, where the height and range from the controller are limited. Once Novice mode is deactivated, you can set these to the legal limits in your region, but this flight envelope isn’t enforced, and the drone isn’t geofenced.

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Autel EVO Lite+

(Image credit: Mark Pickavance)
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Autel EVO Lite+

(Image credit: Mark Pickavance)
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Autel EVO Lite+

(Image credit: Mark Pickavance)

In smooth and standard flight modes, the collision detection system is active and provides visual and audio feedback if you are moving toward obstructions. Should you ignore the warnings and push on, the drone will eventually refuse to move in the direction it considers to be potentially hazardous.

Depending on what you are trying to do, this can be irritating or a feature that could avoid a huge repair cost. It is possible to disable it, and it will turn off automatically when the drone is flying fast in Sport mode, but it has its uses. The system might also miss thin wires and twigs, and it can’t see to the sides, so never assume that it will always keep you from trouble.

Video and image quality

  • 1-inch 20MP sensor
  • Shoots up to 5.4K video
  • Clean images even at high ISO settings

Emblazoned with a ‘6K’ label, the camera has a maximum recording resolution of 5472 x 3076 at 30fps recording video and 5472 x 3648 for still images. That’s almost identical to what the DJI Air 2S offers, but that drone has a fixed f/2.8 lens, whereas the Lite+ can adjust aperture from f/2.8 to f/11.

That allows this drone to lock its frame rate but control the amount of light in the exposure, reducing the need for ND filters. And, if you do use ND filters with it, there is a much larger scope for adjustment and better depth of field control.

The advantage of a 5.4K resolution sensor is that it allows a good margin for cropping to 4K in post, or a lossless zoom in 4K, 2.7K and 1080p capture. Obviously, you only get a 1.3x lossless zoom in 4K, but more in the lower resolutions.

Going beyond 4x zooming is largely pointless, but the Fly app will allow up to 16x zoom to be selected for those that like pixelation.

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Autel EVO Lite+

(Image credit: Mark Pickavance)

Automatic settings shot

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Autel EVO Lite+

(Image credit: Mark Pickavance)

Automatic settings shot

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Autel EVO Lite+

(Image credit: Mark Pickavance)

HDR from 5 images

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Autel EVO Lite+

(Image credit: Mark Pickavance)

HDR from 5 images

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Autel EVO Lite+

(Image credit: Mark Pickavance)

HDR from 5 images

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Autel EVO Lite+

(Image credit: Mark Pickavance)

Standard settings shot

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Autel EVO Lite+

(Image credit: Mark Pickavance)

Wide panoramic stitched by Sky app

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Autel EVO Lite+

(Image credit: Mark Pickavance)

Night mode shot

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Autel EVO Lite+

(Image credit: Mark Pickavance)

Standard photo settings

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Autel EVO Lite+

(Image credit: Mark Pickavance)

Wide panoramic stitched by Sky app

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Autel EVO Lite+

(Image credit: Mark Pickavance)

Default settings

As you might reasonably expect using a sensor of this scale, the quality of the images and video it can capture is high.

Professional drone cinematographers might not be pleased to discover that this camera is only 8-bit and not 10-bit. And, there is also no D-Log profile. For those who pride themselves on extracting every bit of contrast and saturation from their footage, the Lite series is something of an affront.

For others with less demanding requirements, it produces usable footage that is reasonably balanced by default without the need for convoluted post-processing. It’s a different mindset, and those who don’t like this approach can always invest more heavily in the DJI Mavic 3 or the disturbingly expensive DJI Mavic 3 Cine.

Autel tells us that it's working on LUT for the standard profile, as it did for the Evo II series drones.

The Evo Lite+ shines in its low-light capability, as it offers unique night photography and videography modes. With these, it is possible to boost the ISO up to 64000, yet keep excessive grain from rendering the footage unusable.

The best still images we captured in normal light used the exposure bracketing mode with five combined images. This feature doesn’t allow the EV offset between each image to be defined, sadly.

There are also various panoramic, spherical and wide-field shooting modes, and the Autel Fly application post-processes these for you while retaining the source images.

As will most action cameras, the images tend to have strong pin-barrel distortion that might need to be adjusted in editing software, but the results are generally free of chromatic fringing.

Overall, the image and video quality on the Lite+ is excellent, even if there is no Log mode or bit-rate adjustment available. The autofocusing technology is first-rate, and the stability of the drone provides an excellent platform for stationary and moving cinematography.

Should I buy the Autel Evo Lite+?

Autel EVO Lite+

(Image credit: Mark Pickavance)

Buy it if...

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