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Mighty midget for evening photographers

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Sony delivers the photo goods in the world’s smallest 10x optical zoom camera, writes BRIAN KOPING.

Sony’s DSC-WX100 is said, at the time of writing, to be the worlds smallest camera with a 10x optical zoom lens.

Measuring 92.3 x 52.4 x 17mm (21.6mm across the lens protrusion) the camera weighs a mere 108gms, ready to roll. It is described by Sony as an ‚”evening camera‚”, as it is small enough to fit easily into a ladies dainty clutch bag or gents suit pocket without spoiling the line of the suit.

In line with its ‚”evening‚” status, despite not having a fast lens, its maximum ISO (International Standards Organization sensitivity rating) is 12800, delivering a good, almost noiseless image in very low light.

Looking at this little fellow, it is indeed difficult to believe that it packs an 18.3 MP back-lit CMOS sensor and a 4.5 44.5 (25mm-250mm 35mm equivalent) f3.3-f5.9 zoom lens.

In true Sony tradition, the WX100 has a host of options and functions. So many, in fact, it would necessitate the less experienced user carting an instruction book along with the camera. The good news is that an easily accessible and informative ‚”booklet‚” is built into the camera and will provide answers to most queries.

It is a very sleek machine, with all buttons barely projecting from the body. The only protrusion is the tiny zoom lever, part of the shutter release button surround.

Everything is so small and dinky, however, I found myself using the tip of a fingernail to press the buttons.

Sony consumer cameras normally have Carl Zeiss lenses, with the larger reflex cameras sporting Sony ‚’G’ lenses, said to be a notch up from the already excellent Zeiss configuration. The WX100 has a nifty ‚’G’ lens, totally new to the Sony stable, enabling it to pack a 10x optical zoom into such a small body.

For moviemakers, the WX100 also has full HD facilities and a further 10x digital zoom capability.

The camera is essentially Auto, with no choice of aperture, shutter speed or manual settings. It has an Easy mode for those who want good images without the bother of selecting settings, a Program mode where the photographer can control certain aspects of imaging, a Superior Auto mode for sharp images with reduced noise, Intelligent Auto that selects settings as per the scene being photographed, a 3D setting for play-back through a 3D compliant player, and a Panorama setting that seamlessly stitches sweeping views.

In addition to the usual Face Recognition, Smile Detection and other such functions, there are some interesting options. One of these is the facility to blur backgrounds while keeping the subject sharp.

Despite providing an image similar to a 250mm lens on 35mm camera, the fact is the lens is a 44.5 mm lens and as such conforms to the laws of optics and gives a far greater depth of field than a 250mm lens. To counter this, the background blurring setting effectively gives a ‚”big camera‚” image, with sharp subject and blurred background.

A SCN setting gives 15 custom settings from which to choose.

Similarly, a number of picture effects can be employed. These include Painting, Black and White, a Mini effect, a Toy Camera effect, and a Water colour effect. An Illustration effect makes images resemble comic book drawings. To me, this and the monochrome facility are probably the most useful.

This little machine is a real eager beaver. It springs quickly into action with a press of the power button. Focus is fast and accurate. There is imperceptible lag when taking the picture and colours are clean and vibrant.

The 460k dot 2.7 inch LCD was a little disappointing as far as colour accuracy and enlarged resolution were concerned, but it was bright enough for use in harsh light. The camera has to be held as motionless as possible, especially when taking tele pictures in low light, as there does not appear to be image stabilisation for stills. There is for movies.

My final impression: This is one little mighty midget that can easily deliver detailed images, under diverse conditions, that will enlarge crisply to A4 and larger.

Sensor: 18.2 ¬Ω.3 inch backlit COMS sensor with BIONZ processor.

Lens: 10x Zoom Sony G 4.45 to 44.5mm ( 25mm to 250mm 35mm

equivalent) f3.3 f5.9 using the latest Advanced Aspherical optics.

Monitor: 2.7 inch 460k dot TFT LCD.

Data Storage: SD cards.

Image stabilizer: SteadyShot optical stabilizer.

Connections: HDMI and mini USB.

Video: MPEG 4 AVC/H with Dolby Stereo audio

Rating:

Styling and aesthetics: 4

Finish and Build Quality 18

Ergonomics and Ease of use: 12

Features and functions: 14

Performance: 42

Total 90

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Product of the Day

Hisense adds AI-cameras to handsets

Hisense has entered the AI-camera space with the Infinity H30, aimed at the mid-range market. BRYAN TURNER tests the new camera technology.

Click below to read the review.

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While many know Hisense for its TVs and appliances, it has an impressive lineup of smartphones. Its latest Infinity H30 smartphone packs a serious punch in the mid-range market, including features like a low-bezel screen and AI camera.

Out the box, the phone comes with the usual charger, charging cable and earphones. There is a surprise in the box: a screen protector and a clear case. A nice value-add to the already affordable smartphone.  

The polycarbonate plastic body feels premium, especially for a device in this price range. It has a colour changing body, depending on the angle at which it is held. The colour of the device we reviewed is called Ice Blue, and shimmers in darker and lighter blues. Aesthetically, this is a big win for Hisense.

The 6.5″ screen is a narrow-bezelled FHD+ display with good colour replication. Hisense is known for creating colour-accurate displays and it’s good to see it continue this legacy in its smartphones. The shape of the display is interesting, taking some design notes from Huawei’s Dewdrop display with what Hisense calls the “U-Infinity Display”. It makes the phone look really good. 

On the rear of the phone, one finds a dual-camera setup with fingerprint sensor. On the bottom of the phone, there is a speaker, a USB Type-C Port and a headphone jack. The speaker’s placement on the bottom isn’t optimal and the sound is muffled if one accidentally covers the single speaker area.

The 4,530mAh non-removable battery is very capable, providing a good 12 hours of medium usage (checking messages every half hour and playing an online game every hour) until it reaches 20%. The battery capacity isn’t the only power feature of the device; it runs on the latest Android Pie operating system, which includes AI power-saving software measures to keep background apps from using battery.

It is a little disappointing to see the device came with some pre-installed games. Fortunately, one can uninstall them. Hisense makes up for this by issuing Android updates and security patches as the come out. This, coupled with the MediaTek Octa Core processor, provides a good user experience for playing games and multi-tasking.

The H30 has a whopping 128GB of on-board storage, and it can be expanded even more with a MicroSD card. The 4G-LTE capabilities are perfect for most high-speed broadband situations, with around 40Mbps download and around 10Mbps upload in an area with good cell service.

The 20+2MP rear camera configuration is good at taking shots on Auto mode, but pictures can be better after figuring out all the camera modes available. There is a professional mode for those who want to be extra creative with their photography. It also includes a baby mode, which plays various noises to make a baby look at the phone for a better picture. The AI mode can be enabled to make full use of the processor in the device, and fif the camera mode to be selected based on scenes photographed. 

The 20MP front camera performs equally as well. This camera is the reason for the U-like shape at the top of the screen. The camera app has beauty-face filters, for those wanting a slimmer face or smoother skin.

Overall, the Infinity H30 is a prime example of a good phone in an affordable price range.  The camera is very capable, and the AI processing helps what would otherwise be a regular camera. The aesthetically pleasing colour saves the day, and makes this mid-range device look like a high-end flagship. The device is retailing for R5,499 from most major carriers.

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Featured

Nokia 9 PureView pioneers new camera tech

Nokia packed five camera-lenses into its latest high-end flagship, but does more lenses mean better pictures? BRYAN TURNER took it for a test run.

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Nokia is not new to the high-end mobile photography market. In 2012, it led Mobile World Congress (MWC) with its 41MP Nokia 808 PureView. This year, Nokia returned to MWC with its next PureView handset: the Nokia 9 PureView.

Instead of pushing megapixels, the mobile device maker chose to focus on intelligent exposure and sharp focus quality. It achieved this with a set of five cameras on the rear of the device – the most ever on the back of a handset. All of the lenses are 12MP f/1.8 lenses, and three of them are monochrome. The five lenses work in tandem to blend the best parts of a captured image. This is achieved through software image blending, which has been trained to know what’s good and bad about the image. 

Why monochrome? 

Lighting is dramatically improved with a monochrome sensor. About 2.9x more light can be captured with a monochrome sensor when compared to a conventional sensor. Huawei showed off the advantages of integrating a monochrome camera with the P9. 

Why three monochrome lenses? 

Detail can be captured at three different lighting settings, one to absorb a lot of light, one to absorb a little less light, and one to absorb very little light. These photos can then be blended into one great photo, without the user having to worry about setting the camera’s exposure manually.

The monochrome mode captures photos in crisp detail, while giving an authentic dramatic monochrome photography feel.

Only five lenses have been mentioned so far but the back of the device sports seven holes. The sixth hole is for the flash and the seventh is for the depth sensor. This sensor captures the depth of an image, so autofocus can be a little sharper and focus depth on bokeh images can be adjusted after the picture is taken. This adjustment feature is especially useful when a subject’s hair has been “bokeh’d out”.

Click here to read about the other features of the Nokia 9 PureView.

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