Monday, 21 January 2013
Sunday, 20 January 2013
In by Satya Jeet // 11:04:00 am //
After dual-SIM feature phones and smartphones, it looks like there will soon be a flurry of dual-SIM tablets in the Indian market. HCL seems to be foraying in this space with its HCL ME Y3 tablet. HCL ME Y3 features a 7-inch capacitive multi-touchscreen with a resolution of 1024x600 pixels. There is a 1GHz Cortex A9 processor on-board and it will run on Android 4.0.4 (Ice Cream Sandwich) operating system.
HCL ME Tablet Y3 with dual-SIM support is now available from online retailers Saholic and Snapdeal. It has a 7-inch (1024 x 600 pixels) capacitive touch screen display, powered by 1 GHz Cortex A9 processor and runs on Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich). It has dual-SIM support with dual standby and lets you make voice calls and use data from both the SIM cards.
The HCL ME Y3 comes with 2-megapixel rear camera and a 0.3-megapixel one in the front. There is 1GB of RAM and 4GB of internal storage, which can be expanded up to 32GB via microSD card. Connectivity options include, 3G, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. One can make voice calls from both the SIMs and it also supports FM Radio. It comes with a 3,100mAh battery. So far it is not clear whether the tablet will support 3G data on both the SIM or just one of them.
The tablet is already listed on the deal site snapedeal.com for Rs. 11,999 and the site is promising to ship it within five business days.
HCL is already offering around a dozen tablets in the Indian market, which range from Rs. 6,700 to Rs. 14,999. However, HCL ME Y3 is the first dual-SIM tablet by the company. Apart from HCL, Swipe and iBall are currently offering dual-SIM tablets in India.
Swipe had launched its Swipe Tab All in One in October 2012 for Rs. 11,999. This tablet comes with 7-inch TFT LCD full-HD capacitive touch screen with 5 point multi- touch and has a resolution of 1028X768 pixels. Swipe Tab All in One runs on Android 4.0.3 (Ice Cream Sandwich) and has a 4,000mAh battery. This tablet comes with 1.5GHz dual-core processor with 1GB RAM and 8GB of internal storage.
The iBall Slide 3G 7334 on the other hand is available in the market for Rs. 10,990. It is a 7-inch tablet that sports a resolution of 1024x600 pixels and 4,400mAh battery. Powered by Cortex A9 1GHz processor, iBall Slide 3G 7334 comes with 1GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage. It runs on Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) and supports 3G on both the SIMs. Just like the HCL ME Y3 tablet, even iBall Slide 3G 7334 supports FM radio.
HCL ME Tablet Y3 Specifications
7-inch (1024 x 600 pixels) capacitive touch screen display
Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) OS
1 GHz Cortex A9 processor
2MP rear camera, VGA front-facing camera
3.5mm audio jack, FM Radio and FM transmitter
3G HSDPA 7.2Mbps, WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth v4.0, mini HDMI
1GB DDR3 RAM, 4GB internal memory , 32GB expandable memory with microSD
3100 mAh battery
Friday, 18 January 2013
In by Satya Jeet // 9:50:00 am //
Toshiba Excite 7.7
7.7" 1280x800 Super AMOLED Plus
Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7
The Galaxy Tab 7.7 is the world's first tablet with an OLED display, a 7.7" Super AMOLED Plus panel, offering 1280x800 resolution. Other specs include Android v3.2, Dual-core 1.4Ghz processor, HSPA+ radio, 16GB to 64GB internal storage and a microSD slot, Wi-Fi, GPS and two cameras (3MP and 2MP).
Amazon.com is now offering the Tab 7.7 for $555. This is an unlocked international model.
7.7" 1280x800 Super AMOLED Plus
Samsung Galaxy Note
Samsung's Galaxy Note is a large Android v2.3 phone (or mini-tablet?) with a 5.3" Super AMOLED display with an HD resolution: 1280x800. Samsung simply calls this Super-AMOLED because it uses PenTile technology (it appears they are not using the Super AMOLED HD brand, they simply calls this an HD Super AMOLED display). Other specs include a dual-core 1.4Ghz processor, 8mp camera, touch display with pen input (it has a stylus). The phone is 9.65mm thick and weights 178 grams.
The Note is now available for AT&T with LTE for $249.99, and you can get it unlocked for $680. The Note is also shipping in the UK - £592 without a contract and in Korea.
5.3" 1280x800 Super AMOLED
Miutech redesigned HDPC
The new Miutech HDPC is a redesign of their older design. It features the same hardware - an external phone (ARM9, 2.4" external OLE and a keypad) and an internal Windows CE or Linux PC. It includes 1Gb of RAM, WiFi, USB and GPS, microSD slot, 32Gb (or larger) SSDs, HDMI and HD audio outputs and T-DMB. It includes 3 different cameras, too.
The HDPC is priced at 500$ for the basic unit and 900$ for the premium one. No release date yet...
External 2.4" 320 x 240 AMOLED
OQO UMPC Model 2+
5" touchscreen OLED, 800x480 (WVGA).
The HDPC MIU is a 'dual' computer - it actually has '2' computers in one - with 2 screens, 2 processors and 2 operation systems. The first is a PDA, running Windows XP on an Intel Atom processor, with a 4.1" LCD (800×480). When the device is closed it's using an ARM processor with a Windows CE OS, and a secondary AMOLED display.
Secondary 2.4" AMOLED screen (320×240)
A linux running "MP3" player. It has 4GB of memory (The linux takes 1.5 of that). It has an FM radio, and supports all sort of music formats. It comes with Turbolinux Fuji, and comes with several apps, including Thunderbird, firefox and skype. It's about the size of an iPod nano (But twice as thick). It will be launched in Japan in February, and will cost around 255$.
Saturday, 12 January 2013
In by Satya Jeet // 10:16:00 pm //
Nikon D90 lenses and autofocus
The Nikon D90 features an F-mount which can accommodate most Nikkor lenses, with the DX-format sensor resulting in their field of view being reduced by 1.5 times. As with all Nikon DSLRs, you’ll need recent lenses to support the full focusing and metering modes. There’s a compatibility chart in the D90 manual or specification sheets, but just briefly you’ll need a Type G or D AF (including AF-S and AF-I) Nikkor to support all functions including the most sophisticated 3D Colour Matrix Metering II system. We’re pleased to report that unlike the entry-level D40, D40x and D60 bodies, the new D90 retains the built-in AF motor required to autofocus non AF-S lenses.
Unlike Nikon’s D300 and D700, there’s no means to manually enter details for non-CPU lenses (allowing them to exploit more sophisticated metering), and the AF fine tune of the D700 is not present here.
The D90 is available body alone, or in a kit with the Nikkor DX 18-105mm f3.5-5.6 VR lens. This is a new lens launched with the D90 which may have a slightly shorter range than the DX 18-135mm typically supplied with the earlier D80, but now crucially features Vibration Reduction to counteract camera shake.
The DX 18-105mm VR has a 5.8x range that’s equivalent to 27-158mm; this takes you from wide angle to reasonable telephoto and we have examples of how you might use this in our D90 Sample Images page. The telephoto end may be 30mm shorter than the lens commonly bundled with the D80, but it’s 50mm longer than most kit lenses, and you can see an illustration of this coverage in practice below.
Nikon D90 with Nikkor DX 18-105mm VR coverage
DX 18-105mm VR at 18mm (27mm equivalent)
DX 18-105mm VR at 105mm (158mm equivalent)
The design and build quality of the DX 18-105mm VR are very similar to the older DX 18-135mm. It’s comfortably larger than the typical 18-55mm models supplied with entry-level models (see our design page), but also a step-up in construction and features. For starters it’s an AF-S model which means it features a built-in SWM focusing motor. This allows the lens to focus faster and much more quietly than most kit lenses, although remember it’s still a budget model so there are quicker lenses in the Nikkor range.
There’s also a slim manual focusing ring with full-time operation, although no window with distance markings. This ring is fine for most manual focusing applications, although if you really get into the D90’s movie mode, you’ll want something smoother and with distance markings.
We’re pleased to report the end section of the barrel does not rotate while focusing, which is good news for users of polarising filters. Nikon also supplies the DX 18-105mm VR lens with a hood and pouch – Canon, are you listening?
So the new kit lens is a classy step-up from rival kit models and we’ll have a full report on it in the near future, but remember it adds around $300 USD to the body-only price of the D90, which is halfway to buying the Nikkor DX 18-200mm VR superzoom. As such it’s well worth thinking carefully about whether you’d be better-off buying the D90 body-only and complementing it with a more sophisticated lens from day-one.
Nikon D90 focusing
The Nikon D90 inherits the 11-point AF system of its predecessor and employs the same Multi-CAM 1000 module with a single cross-type sensor. There’s three main AF modes: AF-S (Single Servo AF), AF-C (Continuous Servo AF) and AF-A (an Auto mode which selects between them depending on whether the subject is in motion – this is the default option).
The AF mode is changed by pressing and holding the AF button on the top surface of the body while turning the thumb dial. A switch to the side of the lens mount sets the camera to auto or manual focus. Unlike many more affordable DSLRs which strobe their built-in flashes for AF assistance, the D90 employs a dedicated lamp – it’s pretty bright, but much more discreet than the flash flickering.
There’s four AF Area modes: Single Point, Dynamic Area, Auto Area, and new to the D90 over its predecessor, 3D Tracking. In Single and Dynamic Area, you can manually adjust the focusing point using the multi-selector, with Dynamic Area also considering surrounding focus points if the subject moves. In Auto Area, the D90 chooses the focus point automatically.
In the new 3D Tracking option, you manually select a focusing point, after which the D90 will attempt to keep the original subject in focus even if you recompose the shot. 3D Tracking also exploits the metering sensor to use colour information to help track a subject. Nikon recommends using Dynamic Area for erratically moving subjects, and 3D Tracking when recomposing photos with relatively static subjects.
We’ve detailed the Live View auto-focusing options on the previous Design page, but just briefly here, the D90 exclusively relies on contrast-based AF in Live View, with the choice of three modes: Normal Area, Wide Area and Face Priority. Nikon claims face detection is also used outside of Live View to recognise and expose for human subjects.
In use, the D90’s phase-change AF system worked very well. Set to the default Auto Area it generally did a good job of recognising the primary subject and locking the lens onto it, with the active AF points highlighted. In Dynamic mode with AF-C, subjects placed under the manually chosen focus point were tracked effectively as they moved towards or away from the camera – we found the D90 with the DX 18-105mm kit lens zoomed-in had no problem keeping vehicles in sharp focus which were approaching face-on at 40kph.
Finally, the new 3D Tracking option was effective at following subjects moving around the frame or as you recomposed with a static subject; this worked particularly well with strongly coloured subjects which stood out from the background, although as Nikon recommended, it’s best-suited to more leisurely motion.
As with all DSLRs which offer a variety of AF options, it’s a case of experimenting to see which works best for your particular application. But if you’re shooting a subject in motion and can keep it within the diamond area covered by the 11 AF points, the D90’s Dynamic Area and 3D Tracking modes should keep it sharp.
Nikon D90 metering, exposures and bracketing
The Nikon D90 offers three main metering modes: Spot, Centre-weighted and 3D Colour Matrix II. These are selected by pressing and holding the metering button on the camera’s top surface while turning the thumb dial.
3D Colour Matrix II employs the same 420-segment RGB sensor as its predecessor, which while less sophisticated than the 1005 pixel sensor of the D300 upwards, still does an excellent job of evaluating the composition. Note you’ll need a type G or D lens to deliver distance information; other CPU lenses do not include range data, and therefore fall back on Colour Matrix Metering II. Custom option b3 lets you change the diameter of the centre-weighted area to 6, 8 or 10mm, with 8mm being the default setting. Spot metering on the D90 uses a circle with a 3.5mm diameter.
The D90 offers shutter speeds from 1/4000 to 30 seconds plus a Bulb option. Exposure compensation is available in a wide range of +/-5EV in 0.3 or 0.5 steps. The shutter block is tested for 100,000 cycles, compared to 150,000 on the D300 / D700 and 300,000 on the D3.
Exposure bracketing is available with two or three frames in steps of 0.3, 0.5, 0.7, 1 or 2EV. Flash bracketing is available with the same settings. White Balance bracketing is also available, again with two or three frames, and with steps of 1, 2 or 3. Exposure bracketing with 2EV steps is nice to have for HDR work, but specialist photographers will much prefer the 9-frame option on the D300.
Nikon D90 anti-dust
New to the D90 over its predecessor are anti-dust facilities, which are implemented in the same way as the D300 and D700. Like those bodies the D90 vibrates the low pass filter in front of the main sensor in an attempt to shake-free any foreign particles. You can set the D90 to perform this process at startup, shutdown, both or neither. You can also activate it manually at any time, along with recording a dust reference frame for automatic dust removal of images in the optional Capture NX software.
Following our usual DSLR torture-test we left the D90 face-up without a lens, inside and outside for ten minutes each; we can’t know how much dust entered the body during this time, nor even how much was present to start with, but we know such a process would result in dust being a problem for most models.
With Cleaning set to take place at startup and shutdown we then powered the camera on and off twice, before taking a series of photos at every aperture setting of a plain white surface at close range with the Nikkor DX 18-105mm VR lens set to 50mm and manually focused to infinity. Dust marks normally become most apparent at the smallest apertures (eg f16 and f22), but it’s also important to test at more common apertures.
Nikon D90 dust example at f22 / f8
100% crop, 18-105mm at 50mm, f22
100% crop, 18-105mm at 50mm, f22
We started as always by examining the f22 sample, as the worse-case scenario, but much to our relief (and surprise), no obvious dust marks were visible. Applying extreme Levels in Photoshop revealed a number of marks, and we’ve cropped a 100% sample of the worst above right. The exact same area is shown above left without Levels, and you’re welcome to download it and apply the Levels command to verify.
Since dust marks become less visible at larger apertures, it’s safe to say there weren’t any offending particles in the other images. This is a great result for the D90, although since we believe it employs a similar – or even the same – anti dust system as the D300, we suspect the result here also has a factor of good luck. But as always, a picture of the effectiveness of anti-dust systems can be built-up by anecdotal evidence, so here’s one in the good camp. If you own the D90, we'd be interested to hear your own experiences with dust in the Nikon section of the Cameralabs forum.
Nikon D90 sensor and processing
The Nikon D90 is equipped with a 12.3 Megapixel CMOS sensor which conforms to Nikon’s DX format and measures 23.6x15.8mm. These specifications are identical to the D300’s sensor, although Nikon describes it as a newly developed sensor with technology directly inherited from the D300. As we’ll see there’s some similarities, but also some differences, at least when considering the complete imaging pipeline.
The maximum resolution is certainly the same: the D90 generates 3:2 aspect ratio images with a top resolution of 4288x2848 pixels and there’s the choice of two lower resolutions, along with three JPEG compression levels: Fine, Normal and Basic. Normal is the default, but we used Fine for all our test shots.
RAW files can be recorded either alone or accompanied by a JPEG with Fine, Normal or Basic compression; the JPEG will be recorded with the selected resolution, but the RAW file will always be at the maximum resolution. The major difference between the D90 and D300 are that the former records RAW files with 12 bits of tonal detail, whereas the D300 can opt for 12 or 14 bits. The D300 additionally offers further compression options for both RAW and JPEG files, along with a TIFF mode, which aren’t present on the D90. It’s a shame the D90 doesn’t support 14-bit data as this is now available on cheaper rivals including Canon’s EOS 450D / XSi.
The D90’s best quality Large Fine JPEGs typically measure 6MB each, while RAW files measure around 10.8MB (Nikon’s figures). The D90 achieves relatively small RAW file sizes by applying lossy compression to the data whether you like it or not – to put them into context, the D300 with the same resolution typically delivers 12-bit RAW files measuring 13.6MB with lossless compression, or 14.2MB with no compression at all. It’s always good to save space, but we’d sooner the D90 employed lossless compression on its RAW files, or at least gave you the option. For that you’ll need the D300.
Nikon supplies its basic View NX conversion software for RAW files, but the more sophisticated Capture NX 2 remains an optional purchase with a free trial. It’s a shame Nikon still doesn’t bundle Capture NX, at least on its mid-range DSLRs upwards – remember all Canon DSLRs come with its Digital Photo Professional software for free.
The D90 shares exactly the same sensitivity range as the D300, running between 200 and 3200 ISO with additional L1.0 and H1.0 options representing 100 and 6400 ISO respectively. High ISO Noise reduction is applied at 800 ISO and above, but you get the choice of four settings: Low, Normal (the default), High, and Off, although even when ‘Off’, there’s some noise reduction applied at 4000 ISO and above. You can see how the same image looks at all sensitivities and NR settings in our Nikon D90 High ISO Noise results pages.
Image processing duties are carried out by Nikon’s EXPEED processor. White Balance can be set to Auto, Incandescent, Fluorescent (with seven sub-presets), Direct Sunlight, Flash, Cloudy, Shade, a manually set colour temperature or a custom preset. Each can be fine-tuned, and bracketing is also available.
Like other recent Nikon DSLRs, EXPEED automatically removes – or at least greatly reduces – the effect of lateral chromatic aberrations, also known as purple fringing. This correction is applied automatically to all JPEG files whether you like it or not, but not to RAW files, which gives us a chance to make a comparison.
Below are crops taken from our resolution test chart taken with the D90 and DX 18-105mm lens at 35mm f8. We shot this using the RAW plus Large Fine JPEG mode. Below left is a crop taken from the JPEG file which is virtually bereft of any coloured fringing. Below right is the RAW file with Capture NX’s default CA Correction applied, which has totally eliminated any coloured fringing – indeed it almost looks like the file has been turned to greyscale.
In the middle though is the same RAW file, again processed in Capture NX, but this time with CA Correction disabled. Now you can see the actual optical aberrations of the lens, and equally how the D90 can greatly reduce them either in-camera or using software afterwards. Note: the D700’s Vignette Control is not offered in-camera, although you can apply it using Capture NX afterwards.
JPEG from camera
RAW without Auto CA
RAW with Auto CA
18-105mm at 35mm f8, 100% crop
18-105mm at 35mm f8, 100% crop
18-105mm at 35mm f8, 100% crop
The headline processing feature remains Active D-Lighting which adjusts the tonal curve of images in an attempt to boost darker areas without blowing highlights. Unlike Nikon’s earlier D-Lighting system, the Active version applies the adjustments to JPEG files as they’re being processed, although normal D-Lighting is still offered in the Retouch menu for existing images.
Active D-Lighting is offered in Low, Normal, High, or new to the D90, Extra High settings and is non-reversible on JPEGs; you can however opt for a bracketing option which takes one picture with Active D-Lighting and the other without. There’s additionally an Auto mode which adjusts the Active D-Lighting depending on the conditions – that’s the default setting, so the one we’ve used in our main Results and Gallery pages.
The current Active D-Lighting setting is also stored with RAW files and applied as you open them in Capture NX, but the software allows you to adjust the setting, or switch it off entirely if preferred. You don’t however get this option on RAW files if they were taken with Active D-Lighting switched off.
Active D-Lighting preserves highlight areas by first reducing the exposure slightly, then boosting the darker areas with a tone curve. You can see two examples of this below taken with the D90 in Aperture Priority at f3.5 and 200 ISO. The first image, on the left side is a normal exposure without Active D-Lighting, and the camera metered a shutter speed of 1/8. To the right is an image taken with Active D-Lighting set to its maximum setting of Extra High, which with the same aperture and sensitivity resulted in a faster exposure of 1/13 of a second.
Nikon D90 Active D-Lighting
Active D-Lighting Off: 200 ISO, f3.5, 1/8 sec
Active D-Lighting Extra High: 200 ISO, f3.5, 1/13 sec
The histograms below each image illustrates exactly how Active D-Lighting works. The shorter exposure above right has retained more highlight detail, which in turn has meant the bright window areas are less burnt-out. At the other end, dark shadow areas have been reduced, while mid shadows have been boosted, brightening the dimmer portions of the scene. Boosting shadow areas, especially in conjunction with a shorter exposure, inevitably increases noise though, and this has become more apparent in the dark areas.
More traditional image processing options are applied using a series of Picture Controls. The Standard, Neutral, Vivid, Portrait and Landscape Picture Controls all offer adjustment of Sharpening (0-9), Contrast (+/-3), Brightness (+/-1), Saturation (+/-3) and Hue (+/-3), while the Monochrome Picture Style swaps Saturation and Hue for nine Toning and four Filter Effects. If you’re in a real hurry, a Quick Adjust option can boost or lessen a group of settings in one go. Note: the Portrait and Landscape Picture Controls are new to the D90. Custom Picture Controls can be created in-camera or using the supplied software.
As always we used the default processing option for our test shots – in this instance the Standard Picture Control. As you’ll see in our Results and Sample Images Gallery pages, the D90’s default JPEG output is quite different to its predecessor. The D80 delivered vibrant, consumer-friendly images out of the camera, which could sometimes appear over-saturated under already bright and colourful conditions. In contrast the D90 is much more refrained, delivering output similar to that from the higher-end Nikon DSLRs – indeed the colour and tone settings in the D90’s Picture Controls are the same as those on the D300, D700 and D3.
As such, the D90’s default output can appear quite subdued compared to the D80, and this can come as a bit of a surprise if you’re upgrading from one to the other. If you miss the D80’s processing strategy though, simply opt for the Vivid Picture Control as your default, or manually tweak the colour and tone settings until you get the result you desire. Better still, shoot in RAW and make the adjustments later.
Nikon D90 drive modes
The Nikon D90 offers six Release options: Single Frame, Continuous Low, Continuous High, Self Timer, Delayed Remote and Quick Response Remote. To adjust these settings, press and hold the drive button on the camera’s top surface while turning the thumb dial.
Continuous Low shoots at 1 to 4 fps depending on custom setting d6. Continuous High records at the D90’s top speed of 4.5fps, which is a significant boost of its predecessor’s 3fps. It’s also comfortably quicker than the 3.5fps of the Canon EOS 450D / XSi and the Olympus E-420 / E-520, although for pretty much the same money, the D90 is up against Canon’s EOS 40D which can shoot at up to 6.5fps.
The Self Timer can be set to 2, 5, 10 or 20 seconds using custom option c3. The two Remote options are designed for use with the optional ML-L3 infra-red remote control; the Quick Response option takes the photo straightaway while the Delayed option releases the shutter two seconds after you press the button which is handy to avoid self-portraits or group shots showing the photographer pointing the remote at the camera.
There’s no explicitly-named Mirror-lockup facility, but enabling custom option d10 introduces a delay of about one second between the mirror raising and the shutter opening. The built-in Intervalometer facilities of the D300 and D700 are sadly not available here.
To test the D90’s continuous shooting capabilities we fitted it with a SanDisk Ultra II 1GB SD memory card and set the Release mode to High; the shutter speed was 1/500, the sensitivity 200 ISO and Active D-Lighting set to its default Auto. With the D90 set to record Large Fine JPEGs, we fired-off 50 frames in 11.3 seconds, before the camera began to slow, corresponding to a rate of 4.46fps. Beyond this, the D90 kept firing, but at a slightly slower rate.
Next we set the D90 to RAW mode and fired-off nine frames in exactly two seconds, corresponding to a rate of 4.5 fps; the D90 took ten seconds to subsequently clear its buffer and write the data to our card.
So the D90 delivered its quoted rate of 4.5fps in practice, which is a decent upgrade over the 3fps of the D80, although again slower than the 6.5fps of the Canon EOS 40D body which costs the same.
PC-based remote control of the Nikon D90 is possible with the optional Camera Control Pro 2 software. This is another area where Canon takes the lead as its EOS Utility offers full remote control of the DSLR (including focusing and Live View), and is supplied free of charge with all current EOS DSLRs including the budget EOS 1000D / Rebel XS. Nikon should rethink its strategy of charging for RAW processing and remote control software when its biggest rival gives them away for free even with the cheapest models.
Nikon D90 Movie Mode
The Nikon D90 may feature a number of upgrades over its predecessor, but the one grabbing the most headlines is its new D-Movie mode – this isn’t surprising since the D90 is the first DSLR to offer the facility, although shortly after Nikon’s news, Canon announced its 5D Mark II would also feature movie recording. During the D90’s lifespan we’d also expect most other manufacturers to start offering DSLRs with movie modes.
But back to the pioneer: the D90 can record video at 320x216, 640x424 or 1280x720 pixels, all at 24fps and with optional mono sound recorded using a new built-in microphone just above the D90’s logo. The first two modes use the same 3:2 aspect ratio as the D90’s still images, while the 1280x720 mode is genuine high definition video in 16:9 using the 720p format.
Video is compressed using the ageing Motion JPEG system and stored in an AVI wrapper. The maximum file size is 2GB, although additional restrictions limit the HD mode to five minutes and the lower resolution modes to 20 minutes. The D90 will stop recording at whichever comes first: the time limit or file size. Our clips worked out at an average of about 2.5MB per second for the HD mode with audio, which corresponds to a bit rate of around 20Mbit/s.
The D90’s movie mode is an extension of Live View: with Live View running, you simply press the OK button to start filming and again to stop. If you’re using the lower resolution modes, the image will fill the same screen area as normal Live View, but if you’re shooting in 720p, there’ll be thin grey bars at the top and bottom of the image to indicate the wider 16:9 frame.
Since the D90 could be about to record stills in Live View mode, the camera allows you to manually set the aperture, shutter, ISO and almost any other value as normal. However only a handful of settings will have any impact if you start recording video instead. The aperture value can be set before shooting, but tests indicate smaller apertures are ignored; we’re confirming with Nikon, but believe the actual operating range may only be from the maximum aperture to around f8. Metering is fixed to Matrix and the shutter and sensitivity adjusted automatically while filming, although you can lock them or apply compensation before starting. VR is supported while filming to reduce camera-shake, but at the cost of higher power consumption.
Probably the biggest limitation though regards focusing: you can autofocus before you start filming, but once the D90 starts ‘rolling’, it becomes manual focus only. This is why having a lens with a smooth focusing ring and distance markings is very useful with the D90. The D90 manual also warns of banding under artificial light and ‘distortion’ if the camera is panned horizontally or an object moves at high speed through the frame.
That’s the theory, now for the practice. In use the D90’s video facility is a mixed bag: embrace the unique qualities a DSLR brings to video recording and you can enjoy spectacular results which would otherwise be difficult or impossible to achieve with a conventional camcorder. Fail to work within its limitations though, or simply become unlucky, and you can end up with very disappointing output.
Let’s start with the good news. DSLRs have large sensors compared to traditional camcorders, which allows them to perform better in low light, and also achieve a smaller depth of field. In practice this bears-out with the D90. The D90’s video really is much cleaner in low light than a typical consumer camcorder (see lens caveats below), and the potential depth of field much smaller.
You can easily throw the background out of focus, or switch focus from one subject to another – a technique we’re all familiar with from professional filming, but something that’s almost impossible to achieve on a consumer camcorder. DSLRs also have the flexibility of interchangeable lenses, allowing you to film with exotic models including fisheyes and long telephotos, or those with macro or perspective control. Try doing that with your camcorder. The audio is also not bad considering it’s coming from a small built-in microphone, but beware as both focusing and zoom adjustments can be heard as faint scraping in the background.
Now for the bad news. Hollywood and the pro movie industry may be used to manually focusing their lenses while filming, but most consumers aren’t. It takes some practice to get it right, and ideally requires a lens with a very smooth focusing ring and distance markings. It’s best-suited to rehearsed sequences with marked focus distances than spontaneous situations.
You’ll also notice zoom lenses for still cameras weren’t designed with video in mind: adjusting the focal length is just not as smooth, proportional or even quiet as a camcorder. It’s almost impossible to manually zoom the lens without severely shaking the camera, and DSLRs are simply the wrong shape to be held comfortably in front of your face while filming video for any length of time.
Speaking of lenses, it’s also important to compare like with like. If you buy the D90 kit, you may be surprised to find its video footage actually suffering from greater noise than your camcorder under low light. This is because the D90’s kit lens at f3.5-5.6 is typically four to eight times slower than an average camcorder lens. So under the same light, a camcorder could be operating at a low sensitivity, while the D90 could be pushed to a considerably higher one. If both cameras were operating at the same sensitivity, then the D90 would deliver cleaner results, but with the kit lens, the Nikon will almost certainly be working at a much higher sensitivity and effectively lose much of its advantage.
The D90’s video mode also suffers from motion artefacts often referred to as wobble, skew or jello. This is a well-known issue with CMOS sensors with rolling shutters which record each frame from top to bottom before returning to the top again for the next one. Should the camera or subject move during this process, the image can appear to tear, skew or wobble. Now many video cameras, both amateur and professional, employ CMOS sensors, but some suffer more from this effect than others. Sadly the D90 suffers more than most. Panning or zooming, fast-moving subjects or simply handheld work can often result in very undesirable artefacts.
This is all why most of Nikon’s approved sample footage is taken under ideal conditions where the camera will impress: fixed camera positions or gentle motion, along with its unique selling points of unusual lenses, low light or focus switching (the last two with optically fast lenses). Indeed, making the most of the D90’s video involves learning what kind of motions best avoid the skewing effect and working around them.
Finally, the D90’s video eats through both your card and battery at a rate of knots, so always carry spares or you will get caught short.
Ultimately the D90 will not replace your camcorder and if you try and use it in the same way for ‘normal’ shooting it will invariably disappoint or frustrate. Whether it’s the discomfort of holding the body, jerky zoom operation, necessity of manual focus, risk of skewing artefacts or the basic mono sound, it’s just not a viable video camera for all situations.
But the D90 can be a great complement to a camcorder, grabbing sequences with which would otherwise be compromised or even impossible. It has the potential to excel in low light and deliver an unusually small depth of field, and can also exploit unusual optics. In each of these respects it can thrash a conventional camcorder and approaches the capability of pro models costing a small fortune, but for the best effect you’ll need to learn its foibles and ditch the kit lens for something brighter with superior manual focus.
So if you’re an amateur film maker or a videographer wanting to insert a few unusual shots in your standard footage (differences in frame rates permitting), the D90 can be a wonderful tool. Just understand its limitations, work around them and realise it will never replace a normal video camera or the way you’d use it.
It would also be remiss of us not to mention Canon’s EOS 5D Mark II, the second ever DSLR to offer video. The EOS 5D Mark II trumps the D90 with nothing less than full 1080p video and stereo sound via an external microphone socket, all recorded using a modern H.264 codec. It does however cost just over two and a half times that of the D90, so is in a completely different category.
Note: despite featuring a built-in microphone and speaker, the D90 strangely does not offer the recording of voice annotations.
Friday, 11 January 2013
In by Satya Jeet // 9:45:00 am //
Sony Xperia Z Vs Samsung Galaxy Note 2 Vs LG Optimus VU: Are You Up For Polished And Pulled Together 5-inch Beauties?
2013 looks like it’s going to be the year of the phablet, what with nearly every phone maker bringing out their own 5-inch offering. As screen sizes get bigger, the one major factor that will affect buyers’ choices would be screen resolution, battery power, and the overall performance of the device. Here’s a list of what we think are the 10 best phablets to look out for in 2013.
Samsung Galaxy Note 2:
Well, this one’s not exactly 5-inches. At 5.55 inches, the Galaxy Note 2 is bigger than the other devices we’ve listed, but it’s fabulous. It’s also the priciest in this category, despite which it has been doing quite well worldwide. A 1.6 GHz quad-core processor, 2 GB RAM, 64 GB of internal storage, and the S-Pen feature make the Galaxy Note 2 worth lusting after. The Galaxy Note 2 has an 8MP rear camera and a 1.9MP front-facing camera.
Sony Xperia Z:
This one promises to be a solid contender against Samsung’s Galaxy Note 2. With its 5-inch fulld HD display, a 1.5 GHz quad-core processor, 2 GB RAM, this one’s absolutely feature-loaded. It features a 13 MP rear camera with Exmos RS technology, which we’re really excited about. Oh, and did we mention that it’s dust and water resistant too?
Huawei Ascend D2:
CES 2013 has seen many smartphone companies unveiling their own 5-inch phablets, and Huawei’s Ascend D2 is just one in this list. Powered by a 1.4 GHz quad-core processor, 2 GB of RAM and with 32 GB of internal storage, it’s designed to help Huawei shake its tag off as a budget phone maker and get known as a premium brand. Like the Sonx Xperia Z, the Ascend D2 is also dust and water resistant and is fitted with a 13MP rear camera.
Alcatel One Touch Scribe HD:
Alcatel’s flagships smartphone was also unveiled at the CES 2013. The Scribe HD features a brand new MediaTek quad-core processor and offers 4G connectivity as well. An 8MP rear camera and a 2 MP front-facing camera will keep the photographers happy, and it will be available in multiple color options – black, white, yellow and red.
Micromax Canvas 2 A110:
If you’re looking for a 5-inch phablet that’s affordable, yet packs a decent punch, the Canvas 2 is definitely something you should consider. Its 480X800 pixel resolution may seem a lot lower than the premium phablets, but for regular usage, it’s satisfactory. Powered by a 1 GHz dual-core processor and 512 MB of RAM, this comes with an internal storage of about 2 GB which can be expanded via microSD cards.
Lenovo’s entry into the world of phablets with the K860 hasn’t yet gathered much of steam. But the phone itself is quite a good pick – with a 5-inch IPS display having a resolution of 720X1280 pixels. Powered by a 1.4 GHz quad-core processor and 1 GB of RAM, it has an 8 MP rear camera and a 2 MP front-facing camera. The K860 has 8GB of internal storage as well as a microSD card slot for those wanting more memory.
LG Optimus Vu:
This one’s quite different from all other 5-inch phablets, primarily because of its unique shape. So if you want something that stands out from the crowd, consider the Optimus Vu with its wider screen. This phone is powered by a 1.5 GHz dual-core processor and 1 GB of RAM, and comes with 32 GB of internal storage. It has an 8MP rear camera but only a 0.3MP front-facing camera, which is a bit of a downer in comparison with its competitors.
Spice Stellar Horizon Mi-500:
The Spice Mi-500 manages to hold its own in the crowded space of affordable phablets. Its 5-inch display has a resolution of 480X800 pixels and it is powered by a 1 GHz dual-core processor and 512 MB of RAM. The phone comes with 4GB of internal memory which can be expanded via a microSD card. However, in terms of camera power, it lags behind with its 5MP rear camera and 0.3MP front-facing camera.
This one has a slightly more powerful 1.2 Ghz dual-core processor in the affordable phablet lineup. The Karbonn A21 comes with an 8MP rear camera and a 1.3MP front-facing camera. The only downside is its smaller battery of 1800 mAh, which means it will need charging more frequently than the other phablets.
Wicked Leak Wammy Note:
Yet another reasonably priced tablet, we especially love its name. In terms of its specs, there’s nothing wicked about the 1 GHz processor, 512 MB of RAM and 4GB internal storage. An 8MP rear camera and 1.3MP front-facing camera is what you’ll get on the Wammy Note, which is just about average in terms of performance.
HTC J Butterfly: