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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Gadget Bag: Large Sensors, Compact Cameras

The brand-new class of fixed-lens compacts with big sensors and pro features

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This Article Features Photo Zoom
APS-C sensors aren't quite as big as full frame, but they offer a lot of imaging real estate. Because of the crop factor of projecting a full-frame circle to an APS-C sensor, these sensors offer a 1.5x to 1.6x equivalent focal length.

Fujifilm FinePix X100S
The design of the Fujifilm FinePix X100S is retro, but underneath the hood is an entirely different story. The X100S updates the X100, with Intelligent Hybrid AF for combining the advantages of both phase and contrast-detect autofocus. Fujifilm claims autofocus within 0.08 seconds in the High Performance mode. The 16.3-megapixel X-Trans CMOS II APS-C sensor and EXR Processor II offer a full-res burst rate of 6 fps for up to 31 frames, 14-bit RAW capture and shutter lag of 0.01 seconds. A unique Digital Split Image feature allows you to focus the camera through two overlays, much like a rangefinder. Video is available in 1080p 30/60 fps; ISO ranges from 100-25,600. List Price: $1,299. www.fujifilm.com

Leica X2
Available in silver or black, the Leica X2 is an elegantly designed compact, though the interior specs are somewhat lacking. There's a 16.1-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor with 4944x3272 resolution and an Elmira 24mm ƒ/2.8 ASPH lens that provides an equivalent 35mm angle of view. At 4.88x2.72x2.03 inches, the X2 weighs less than a pound, and unlike most other Leica models, autofocus is available alongside the manual controls. There's no video, however. Additional features include a 2.7-inch live-view screen with 230K resolution and a retractable flash. RAW capture is also available in the DNG format. List Price: $1,995. us.leica-camera.com

Sigma DP3 Merrill
Sigma produces not one, but three compact cameras with large APS-C imaging sensors: the DP1 Merrill with a 19mm lens (28mm equivalence), the DP2 Merrill with a 30mm lens (45mm equivalence) and the most recent model, the DP3 Merrill, with a 50mm lens and 75mm equivalence. The unique Foveon sensor offers three layers of stacked photodiodes that capture RGB values independently, unlike typical Bayer sensors that must interpret color information from a checkerboard-like pattern of photodiodes. Sigma fans say this results in very sharp images, even from a compact. All three compacts are otherwise the same, offering a nine-blade diaphragm with an ƒ/2.8 aperture, standard-definition VGA video capture and roughly 15 megapixels of resolution on the 4704x3136-resolution sensor. (Sigma states 46 megapixels of resolution because there are three layers of photodiodes on the sensor.) ISO ranges from 100-6400. Estimated Street Price: From $949. www.sigmaphoto.com

1/1.7-Inch Sensors
The 1/1.7-inch sensors are smaller than DSLR sensors, but still much larger than sensors found in most compacts and smartphones. Several recent 1/1.7-inch sensors employ backside illumination, which exposes the rear of the sensor to light for achieving much better quantum efficiency with a notable improvement to low-light abilities and much less image noise.

Canon PowerShot G1 X
Canon's flagship model for its PowerShot series of compacts, the 14.3-megapixel PowerShot G1 X, was joined at CES last year by the 12.1-megapixel PowerShot G15 as a serious fixed-lens compact solution for pros. The older G1 X sports a huge 1.5-inch CMOS sensor (even larger than the Micro Four Thirds sensor in Olympus and Panasonic cameras) with 4352x3264 effective resolution. The G1 X incorporates a fixed 15.1-60.4mm lens for an equivalent 28-112mm zoom with a variable aperture of ƒ/2.8-5.8. Meanwhile, the newer G15 with 4000x3000 maximum resolution offers a 1/1.7-inch sensor at roughly one-sixth the size of the G1 X. The G15 offers a much faster variable aperture of ƒ/1.8-2.8, with a focal length of 6.1-30.5mm with 28-140mm equivalence. Both range in ISO up to 12,800, and each offers video in 1080p at 24 fps and 720p at 30 fps. They're compatible with Canon Speedlite flashes. List Price: $699 (G1 X); $499 (G15). www.usa.canon.com


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