Since the new year had started more than few cameras have been announced, some compact, some with a large zoom, one DSLR and two mirrorless – but the most noticeable widespread feature is a tiltable screen that allows the photographers to see themselves, enabling the ever desired type of imagery – the selfie.
Of all the new cameras, four take pride in such an LCD screen – the Nikon D5500, Panasonic GF7 (above) and ZS45, and the FujiFilm X-A2. Among all other important feature, it seams that the clear appeal and market demand for this one, coming straight from the inherent capabilities of all front-facing camera enable smartphones – is guiding camera companies how to fight for their market share in the camera world.
Panasonic Lumix GF7
The GF7 replaces a long bearded camera – the three year-old GF5. When the GX7 first appeared and replaced the beloved high-end GX1, the future of the GF line wasn’t clear. The question whether Panasonic will keep their middle line of mirrorless cameras, between the miniature GM’s and the fancy GX’s just got answered – the GF’s are still here.
Since the first (and famous) GF1, many improvements were introduced, and the new GF7 enjoys most of them, though it closest resembles the GM1 is design and features. It has the same 16 megapixel sensor as the GX7 and GM1, the same 1/16000 sec. electronic shutter and the same 1/500 sec. mechanical shutter of the GM1. It also has focus peaking and wi-fi connectivity and as already mentioned, a 180 degree upward tilting LCD screen. Panasonic shrewdly added an Fn button on its top left (right, when in front) for shooting selfies with your right hand, instead of struggling with your left like in all other cameras.
On top of all that, it includes a bundle of automatic shooting modes, for face detection, buddy detection, jumping detection, etc. Apparently, the target audience is young people or budding photographers who will like to use this camera’s automatic capabilities and features more than its manual and advanced controls.
I must protest against Panasonic’s advertising which argues, according to this promotion clip, that if women take photos of themselves, it’s in a towel after a shower. In spite also adding a selfie in a boxing arena, it includes pink gloves and a model’s pose.
Panasonic Lumix ZS50
In addition, Panasonic announced the next generation of the distinguished ZS dynasty of compact zooms – the ZS45 and the ZS50, replacing the ZS35 and ZS40. Ever since the TZ2 and TZ3 back in 2007, they always come in pairs – one full-featured and the other lower-priced. More often than not, the simpler one is the better deal, as is offers more than enough functionality.
The ZS50 looks quite similar to its predecessor, the ZS40, with the same body and x30 (24-720mm) zoom lens, adding only an eye-sensor to automatically switch between the rear LCD and the electronic viewfinder, which gains a much higher resolution. On the other hand, it loses the ZS40’s built-in GPS.
Surprisingly, the ZS50 takes a seldom popular off-trend approach – actually taking the pixel count down from 18 to 12 million and adds Panasonic renowned 5-axis image stabilizer in a brave attempt to maximize image quality.
Panasonic Lumix ZS45
The ZS45 is very much like its predecessor, the ZS35. In fact, it’s not an easy task to find differences between the two, both in external design and in internal features, except for the enhancement in screen resolution – all the way up to a million dots. It could be argued that the ZS35 didn’t fulfill its selfie potential, mainly because the world had just begun truly embracing it during the past year (Ellen’s historic selfie at the Oscar’s was less than a year ago). Perhaps the ZS45 will be better accepted thanks to its inherited screen from the ZS35.
FujiFilm FinePix XQ2
Fuji introduced two new X-series cameras. The high-end compact of the two is the XQ2, taking the place of the XQ1 in your jeans pocket (read the XQ1’s full review). It too has a 2/3″ X-Trans sensor, a x4 zoom 25-100mm lens with max apertures of f/1.8-4.9. With no apparent changes in body and design, nor in its list of features, it’s not clear how the XQ2 improves the package delivered by the XQ1. Except, perhaps, for enhanced autofocus capabilities, that was the only bug in the ointment with the XQ1. One can only hope that this new camera will behave better in this area and present a more mature product, which is otherwise really great – control wise and image quality wise alike.
The main innovation of Fuji’s new small mirrorless camera is its selfie screen. Other than that – it’s a spitting image of the X-A1. It too has a 16 megapixel APS-C (non X-Trans) sensor, 49 focus points (none of which support phase detection), a maximum shutter speed of 1/4000, a 5.6 fps continuous speed and wi-fi connectivity. Fuji’s takes pride in its latest app version’s remote control capabilities, but it’s not clear whether the X-A2 was invited to that party.
Last year, Fuji’s level of innovation hit the roof with the X30, X100T and the X-T1 – the latter taking all mirrorless cameras a step further into the hearts and minds of serious photographers and completing, if not replacing DSLR sets. The year, so it seams so far, their innovation is restrained and these new models bring nothing exciting to the world of photography. Hopefully, we’ll see more from Fuji by the time this year is out.
It’s interesting to see that here, too, like in the GF7’s promotion clip above, the target audience likes taking photos of themselves and the food they eat. As if the only competition of this camera comes from smartphones and not other cameras which can actually be used to photograph other things as besides those two total bores. It’s Fuji’s entry-level mirrorless camera and the only one in the X series not to be built around an X-Trans sensor, that’s true – but it’s still capable of so much more than sharing a photo of your lunch.
The only DSLR in this bunch joining the notorious selfie club. The D5500 is small and significantly lighter than the D5300 which it replaces (420 grams compared to 530). On top of that it gains improved battery life (820 shots compared to 600) but loses the built-in GPS. What it gets instead is the swiveling touch screen, the first touch ever in a Nikon DSLR.
This DSLR, just like the cameras above, is aimed at smartphone users and shooters. It has an advanced 24 megapixel sensor, no low pass filter, a maximum 5 fps speed, 39 focus points out of which 9 are cross-type, but still Nikon are marketing it as a casual day-to-day camera to take family photos with, nothing more creative than that. It doesn’t matter that the D5500 has a new ‘flat’ filter to retain subtle hues, purposed for post processing. What matters is that it can instantly share photos with no post processing intended.
We can make something of all this about the state in which camera manufacturers find themselves – ordinary compact cameras are now obsolete, as smartphone sensors equal or surpass them – the only justification for cameras being larger optical zooms (which still don’t exist in smartphones but probably will, soon) and image quality delivered by larger sensors. The fact that the GF7, the X-A2 and the D5500 are the basis of a complete system, capable of switching between a large number and various types of lenses is not construed a strong point in the eyes of phonograhpers – it’s obvious that the kit lens would be ‘welded’ to those cameras by most of them, with only a fraction of them actually taking full advantage of what these cameras can do. Companies are aiming at the largest share in the market, even if that means advertising the cameras as extremely inferior than what they really are.