Beginner Digital Photography: Mirrorless 2017

Last week I covered the traditional DSLR cameras, today I will cover the mirrorless camera options that are available to you as a beginner entering the scene of photography. The biggest difference between a DSLR and a mirrorless camera is the size. They are a breeze to carry around and are very compact even with the lens on. Many entry-level mirrorless cameras will easily fit into your coat pockets, handbags and small bags. With the smaller size also comes the reduced weight, making it easy to lug around your neck or bag. Furthermore, since mirrorless cameras are an improving technology, many older but still good models are becoming cheaper and the capabilities are forever increasing.

To quickly understand how mirrorless cameras work, instead of having a mirror that reflects the light coming into the lens into the viewfinder, the light goes straight onto the image sensor which the user previews through the electronic viewfinder or screen. Therefore, there are fewer moving parts in the camera, meaning a greater shooting speed. There are many advantages of mirrorless cameras, such as a lot more autofocus points, better image stabilization (for price point) and a much better video quality. Referring to ISO levels in last weeks post, mirrorless cameras have a much higher ISO point, making them ideal for low light photography. Keep an eye out for a head to head comparison between mirrorless cameras and DSLRs.

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Today we will be looking at some of the mirrorless cameras that are on the current market which I consider to be the best for beginner photographers.

1. Sony A6000

The sony A6000 is a fantastic mirrorless camera that is pure bang for the buck. You can find these cameras constantly on sale and are fantastic little units. Inside they have an APS-C sensor, 11 frames per second shooting and some of the best low-light photography at the price point with its max ISO being 25600. The A6000 is essentially a striped back version of its older brother the A6300. The electronic eyepiece is definitely usable where a DSLR shooter would be able to use. The earlier you start with using the eyepiece, the more comfortable you will be with it.

It has a 24MP sensor, 3 inch tilting screen, 11FPS shooting, 1080p video and uses Sony’s E-mounts. I would highly recommend this camera for anyone entering the mirrorless scene.

2. Panasonic Lumix GX85/GX80

The panasonic Lumix GX80, GX85 for the USA, is another bang for the buck mirrorless camera, however with more options over the A6000. This time the sensor is a micro four thirds sensor, which is similar to the APS-C sensor where it crops the image compared to full frame, however the cropper is more significant. This generation of camera incorporates 4K video, which is a huge positivity for crisp videos and can capture 8MP stills from recorded video. The Autofocus is very fast and has a 5 axis image stabilization, which is incredibly helpful to obtain sharp shots. The shutter shock is also reduced, which was a problem in the previous generations. Panasonic has stepped up its game with this camera, If you want the next step up, look into the Panasonic GX8, however it is pricier.

It has a 16MP sensor, 3.0 inch tilting touch screen display, 8FPS shooting and 4K video. I would highly recommend this camera if you also want 4K video.

3. Sony A6300

The Sony A6300 is a beast of a camera, though it is a lot pricier than its competition. It has a much improved sensor over previous generations and also offers 4K video. With a microphone jack, this camera becomes a viable option for those who also want to get into cinematography. The build quality of this camera is better than the A6000 and also contains weather sealing and a higher ISO range. Sony opted for a sharper OLED viewfinder, however the LCD panel is not touchscreen. The camera is dropping in price which makes it perfect for a beginner who wants to start off with an more advanced mirrorless camera.

It has a 24MP sensor, 3.0 inch tilting display, 11FPS shooting and 4K video. I would highly recommend this camera if you are interested in having some of the most advanced features.

4. Olympus OM-D E-M10 II

This camera is sort of an underdog, it is fantastic value for money, looks great and has loads of features. This new generation includes a 5 axis image stabilization like the panasonic and the shooting speed has increased to 8.5FPS. The only major let back of this camera would have to be the micro four thirds sensor, which by the way is half a typical APS-C sensor. It has a max 1080P and has a really high shutter speed of 1/16000s. This camera excels in street photography as well as portraits. With the retro looks, the camera sure looks fantastic around your neck.

It has a 16MP sensor, 3.0 inch tilting display, 8.5FPS and 1080p video. Being one of the cheapest and powerful contenders on this list, I would definitely recommend this camera.

5. Fujifilm X-T20

The X-T20 takes the good bits from its older brother and places it in a smaller and much more affordable body. The design is superb and has the similar retro theme like the E-M10 II. The Fuji makes use of an APS-C sensor, being 24MP. It produces extremely rich and detailed images thanks to its sensor. Once again, this mirrorless camera is capable of shooting at 4K with an external microphone port and has a max ISO of 12800. Unfortunately there is no image stabilization which means the user needs to be extra stable when taking photos. This camera excels at landscape photography.

It has a 24MP sensor, 3.0 inch tilting display, 14FPS and 4K video recording. I would definitely recommend to try out this camera as the buttons have a really nice feel to them.

Overall thoughts?

I would recommend all of them, however my top recommendation would be the Olympus OM-D E-M10 II, it is a fantastic camera with excellent image quality, class leading features and is relatively cheap which is fantastic. Not only this, in my opinion the olympus looks the best with its retro theme and the lens selection is relatively large. However, if you were wanting to shoot 4K, I would recommend the Panasonic Lumix GX80/GX85 as the pricing for the camera is incredible, being slightly more expensive than the sony A6000. The kit lens that comes with the camera is more than capable and make sure to invest in spare batteries, mirrorless cameras chew through batteries twice as fast as DSLRs, however most can be powered and charged by external power banks (the ones use to charge phones). This feature makes mirrorless cameras seem like a better investment compared to DSLR cameras.

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Beginner Digital Photography: DSLR 2017

Photography has to be one of the best and most rewarding hobbies. Each photo you capture tells a story. How you got there, what the photo is of, why the photo etc. You could take a photo then create an entire story based off the photo. With the current stresses of modern day life, I think it is important to take time out to relax and get behind a camera. To me, photography makes me relieved, walking in the fresh air and observing the world with an open mind. I will be honest, photography is one of the most expensive hobbies that are out there and also the most diverse. You may be wondering the same questions I was asking towards the end of 2015, how do I get into photography? What do I do? What do all these buttons do? Each week we will go through a specific part to ensure you get the most fullest and most engaging photography experience.

 

When I went to buy my first camera, I literally had no idea what I was doing. I went under the impression that the megapixel count was all that mattered. Despite watching so many youtube videos and reviews, nothing still made sense and salespeople will make you buy expensive equipment. It was only after a month of owning my camera did I know about all the other cameras in the market.

 

A few things you may hear when you buy a new DSLR is the term APS-C crop sensor and full frame. APS-C crop sensors are smaller and found in beginner DSLR’s and there is nothing wrong with them. Most lenses are made for APS-C cameras and they are cheaper than the full-framed version. I would recommend full-frame as your second camera after you are comfortable and enjoy photographing. The more megapixels on a crop sensor would mean a higher-resolution but please remember that this does not equate to a better shot. The shutter speed on Budget cameras normally go up to 1/4000, this is plenty fast to take photos of moving objects. Furthermore, ISO levels are not make or break, a lot of images can be edited through software and you can always adjust the brightness of the shot by changing other factors. If you are confused reading all of this, do not worry, I will be going through each term later. The bottom line is, specs aren’t extremely important.

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My first DSLR was the Nikon D5200, which is a fantastic beginner camera. The internals are nearly identical with the predecessors going up to the Nikon D5500. However, let’s go through the current day offerings and see which camera is the best to begin with. 

 

  1. Nikon D3400

You seriously cannot go wrong with this camera, the pricing and features/performance of this camera make it one of the best bang for buck camera. It is a very simple to use camera and has a lot of built in functionality with a guide mode. The image quality coming out of this camera is superb. If you do not believe me, insta the hashtag #3400.

 

It has a 24.2MP sensor with a 3 inch screen, 5 FPS shooting and 1080p video. I would recommend this camera to anyone. DX lens mount.

 

  1. Nikon D5600

The older brother of the D3400, this camera contains the same sensor internals as the D3400 however introduces a larger swivel touch screen, increased autofocus points, larger flash and a microphone jack. If you feel like you will videoing, I would spend the extra money to get the D5600, the swivel screen helps so much when you are getting trying to something down low or high above. The image quality is better than the D3400 with a few extra internals being included and is just as easy to use. If you have the money, definitely go for this camera.

 

It has a 24.2MP sensor with a 3.2 inch touch screen, 5 FPS shooting and 1080p video. I would recommend this camera to anyone. DX lens mount.

 

  1. Canon EOS Rebel T7i (EOS 800D)

Direct competitor to the D5600, the canon puts up a strong fight. This newly released camera comes with a 24MP sensor however has a lower ISO range compared to the two Nikon cameras. This camera is very capable with a 3 inch swivel touch screen. The specs are very similar to the D5600, however with the D5600 being newer, it contains more options. It is however pricier but you may be interested in Canon’s larger lens collection, which is a bonus later down the track when you need to upgrade your lens to suit your needs. I would recommend Canon over Nikon when it comes to videos.

 

It has a 24MP sensor with a 3 inch touch screen, 5 FPS shooting and 1080p video. I would recommend this camera to anyone. EF-S lens mount.

 

  1.   Canon EOS Rebel T6 (EOS 1300D)

This Canon is a competitor to the D3400, It is Canon’s cheaper budget option with good quality images. The megapixel count is however only 18MP, meaning a smaller maximum resolution. What separates the Nikon from the Canon is the continuous shutter speed with the Canon at a measly 3fps and the Nikon with 5ps. This could be a deal breaker when it comes to photographing sports and any moving object. As a beginner photographer you would want room to grow before you move up in the photography game.

 

It has a 18MP sensor with a 3 inch screen, 3 FPS shooting and 1080p video. I would recommend to stay away from this camera. EF-S lens mount.

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What about other brands?

I have excluded other brands from this list as these are DSLR cameras and I will create another list for mirrorless cameras. The problem with the current mirrorless cameras are battery life however they are extremely compact. Pentax also have a range of bang for buck DSLR’s, however they have a very limited lens range which also means the pricing of certain lens would be higher due to the rarity. As a beginner, it is best to start off the common cameras with all the forums and other users.

 

Overall thoughts?

Nikon D5600 would be the camera to buy as your first camera. It has everything you could possibly need as a beginner and will help you become an amateur photographer and help bridge the gap into full frame photography. For a beginner I would recommend the kit lenses as they provide a perfect range for most photography.  

 

 

 

Honest review: HP Spectre x360 2017

At the beginning of the year I was in the market for a new laptop for university. There were so many options to choose from however I ended up picking the fully spec’d HP. Here is my take on this device.

The Spectre x360 is one of the most versatile 2 in 1 laptops on the market, however it falls short of being the perfect laptop. The version I purchased was the top of the line model, costing just over 2 grand with the 40% off student discount. If you are unaware of this discount and are a student, register through unidays to obtain this discount. Let’s go through this laptop category by category.

Build quality

WIthout a shadow of a doubt, the HP spectre x360 has one of the best build qualities in its class. The slim bezels are appealing, giving the sense of a larger screen, and an all aluminum chassis makes the laptop feel extremely premium. The keyboard layout spans the entirety of the laptop, even including function keys above the left arrow key. What sets this laptop apart from the competitors is the speaker setup, the modern looking grille on the top and two downward face speakers. making the spectre sound louder than a mid-ranged portable bluetooth speaker.

My biggest complaint comes from the hinges of the laptop as well as the colouring of the keyboard. The hinges are stable enough so when typing on a solid surface, no screen wobble is experienced, however once you take away the solid surface, the spectre’s screen starts to produce noticeable wobble. Furthermore, the screen wobble is definitely noticeable when using the touch functionalities.  What the HP should of done with the keyboard is produce some contrast, like the new 360 elitebook where the keyboard is contrasted against the body of the machine. Fortunately, buyers are now given the option of choosing the black and gold colour scheme over the silver. In my opinion, the keyboard has to be one of the best feeling keyboards on the market, the travel distance is perfect for my taste and the massive trackpad is a huge bonus. Unfortunately, the trackpad can feel mushy at times and the key spacing can be a struggle with those with smaller hands. Apart from that, the build quality is 4.5 out of 5.

Features

The Spectre unfortunately has a limited range of ports, however this range contains the best of both worlds, two thunderbolt usb-c ports and 1 usb 3.1 port. My purchase came with three free dongles, HDMI, ethernet and VGA. Out of the three I have been given, only the HDMI dongle has been used. What I would recommend purchasing with this laptop is a USB-C to SD card reader as the lack of the SD card reader can be disappointing and a hassle. Upon signing in, you may see two red lights flash up next to the webcam, these are the built in infrared cameras which are linked to windows hello. The sign in process is surprisingly very fast, I would often open the laptop before reaching a desk and I would already be signed in. Be mindful that this feature can drain your battery as well as leaving cortana on. Now, one feature I was impressed with was the screen, the screen is very bright and can easily be seen in direct sunlight at full brightness. In my lecture theatres, I find the lowest setting too bright, which is a compliment to the screen. However, the glossy screen is a fingerprint magnet, though cleaning it with a cloth is easy and worth the effort. The features comes in as a 4.5 out of 5.

Performance

So far, the performance of the HP spectre has been inconsistent, very inconsistent. At times, the laptop would speed through many opened applications, including chrome, photoshop, spotify and utorrent. However, at other times, chrome begins to freeze, word begins to freeze and spotify becomes extremely distorted. I cannot confirm this has to do with the machine or chrome, but it sometimes can be a real hassle. Another thing to note is that this is not a gaming machine and was never built as a gaming machine, I mean it can still play games, but don’t expect to be running crysis 3 on max settings, or any game for that matter on maximum settings. I installed Overwatch and got a mixed bag performance, I wouldn’t recommend playing competitive. Though for the light casual gamer, this machine performs more than adequate playing League of Legends and Civilisation V. Another thing to note is that when the laptop is installing applications, prepare for the fan to spin up and expect the fans to go wild when playing games or using any cpu intensive application. My laptop contains the 7th generation Intel core i7 -7500U cpu, however the Intel core i5 processor is more than adequate enough. Storage wise, the PCIe-NVMe storage is crazy fast and if you have the budget, definitely do not shy away from the 1tb option, you will not regret. The performance comes in as a 4 out of 5.

Battery Life

Big promises were made with this laptop, HP claimed a battery life of some ridiculous number in the 15 hour region. Trust me, you will never get this figure, heck you will able to get 8 hours! The most I have ever gotten out of this laptop is close to 8 hours of productivity, this was when the laptop was new. Like any lithium power device, the battery capacity shortens up to around 20% over one year, currently it’s shortened by around 4% 4 months in. Though with constant day to day use, you will see figures of around 6 hours. If you are a uni student like me, you will find ports everywhere you go. The battery comes in as a 4 out of 5.

Complaints

There are a few complaints you should know of before you buy this laptop. The first one being that this laptop can get hot, despite its new fan cooling design. It is a step in the right direction, but it would be one of the worst in its class when it comes to cooling. To put this in perspective, when I was charging this laptop and typing this review, my water bottle next to the fan got lukewarm, yes lukewarm, something you would find after leaving your drink bottle in the car in direct sunlight for a few hours.

Another major complaint is the weird beeps when the cpu goes from an intense state into the low energy state. Yes, I will make it clear, the laptop shrieks when you close the lid after the cpu has had an intensive session. Other users have experienced this. This isn’t something that will affect the performance, but it does get annoy and can freak other people out, especially in a lecture theatre. The noise is not appealing at all.

Overall thoughts

This laptop is one of the most underrated laptops in Australia, the marketing for this product is minimal and only appears once you have googled it, damn cookies! This product is as close as it can get to perfection when compared to its competitors. The dell xps 2 in 1 is underpowered compared to this machine, the surface book is possibly the only closest competitor. HP have stepped in the right direction with this laptop, if they keep up with this pace, we should be seeing some killer laptops in the near future.

If you are in the market for a new laptop that is light, powerful and has decent battery life, this laptop is for you if you don’t mind having a touchscreen that can flip into a tablet. This laptop is the jack of all trades but is the master of none, it does everything well but doesn’t do anything exceptionally well. It is a very solid laptop that would receive my recommendation.

Total score: 17/20 = 85%

Competitors:

  • Lenovo Yoga 910
  • Dell XPS 13 2 in 1
  • Microsoft surface book 

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