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New Mirrorless Compact Cameras Up The Ante

NEW YORK — Just weeks before the Photo Plus Expo 2013 was to take place here, a handful of leading camera brands ramped up their mirrorless compact camera portfolios heading into the critical holiday selling season.

Fujifilm, Panasonic, Ricoh/Pentax and Sony all offered significant new offerings that upped the value-performance equation for enthusiast- level audiences.

Fujifilm North America introduced X-E2 – the fifth interchangeable lens camera model in the X-Series – featuring a 16.3-megapixel APS-C X-Trans CMOS II sensor, EXR Process II and an ultra-fast 0.08-second autofocus system.

The camera will ship in November at a $999.95 suggested retail price (body only) in black and silver/black configurations, and in a $1,399.95 kit including an XF18mm-55mm f2.8-4 lens.

The X-E2 premium mirrorless compact system camera includes an APS-C X-Trans CMOS II sensor that was designed to control moiré and false color generation, using an original color filter array with a highly randomized pixel arrangement in place of an resolution degrading Optical Low Pass Filter (OLPF).

Also added is what Fuji calls: “the first Lens Modulation Optimizer (LMO) for interchangeable lens cameras.”

The EXR Processor II more than doubles the processing speed.

Fuji said it has developed an advanced integrated system through which the lens, sensor and processor, combine to maximize the optical performance and characteristics of individual lenses.

Camera start-up time is listed at 0.5 seconds, with minimal shutter lag of 0.05 seconds, and a continuous shooting speed of 7.0 fps (up to approximately 28 frames).

An auto switching AF system combines contrast AF with an improved phase detection AF algorithm to improve accurate capture of low-contrast subjects in low light and at high-speed.

Digital Split Image technology is added for manual pin-sharp focusing by simply adjusting focus to line up the four stripes displayed in the central part of the live view.

The X-E2 features a 2.36 million-dot OLED viewfinder and a 3-inch 1.04 million-dot LCD screen.

Video is captured at up to FullHD 1080/60fps with AF tracking performance at a 36Mbps high bit rate.

Other features include Wi-Fi connectivity with a dedicated button to transfer stills and movies using a dedicated App to smartphones, tablets and computers; Advanced Filter function and Film Simulation modes; ISO range from 200 to 6,400, extended ISO settings of 100, 12,800 and 25,600; built-in pop-up flash; and hot-shoe for external flashes.

Panasonic said it will ship in mid-November what it is calling the world’s smallest mirrorless compact system camera. The pocket-sized Lumix GM1 ($749.99 suggested retail with 13-32mm f3.5-5.6 kit lens) packs many of the same core features and picture quality as the flagship Lumix GX7, but its body is roughly 50 percent smaller, or about the width and height of a playing card. The walls of the magnesium alloy body are also made thinner to significantly reduce camera weight.

The GM1 also presents a cost savings to photo enthusiasts. For comparison purposes, the GX7 carries a $999.99 suggested retail for the body only.

The GM1 includes the same 16-megapixel Micro Four Thirds Digital Live MOS sensor and Venus Engine image processing systems as the GX7, resulting in very similar still-image picture quality. It also captures FullHD 1080 resolution, but only at 30p and 60i frame rates. It doesn’t have the 60p frame rate of the GX7 to reduce internal heat.

The diminutive camera also omits the sensor-based image stabilization feature of the GX7, but does work with Panasonic’s lenses with built-in opticial image stabilization.

The camera also features a 3-inch 1,040,000-dot LCD viewscreen, but lacks the GX7’s added electronic view finder. It also omits a hot shoe, but includes a newly designed built-in pop-up flash, built-in stereo mic, and fast AF system.

The GM1 includes Wi-Fi connectivity with PCs and smart devices, but omits nearfield communications (NFC) linking.

The tiny camera will accept all of the Lumix G-series lenses, although a special optional bracket grip is added to more comfortably handle some of the largest lenses in the family.

The GM1’s 13-32mm kit lens is the first in a new series of special GM lenses that are designed to be more compact. To reduce its size, the lens omits a manual focusing ring, in favor a touch-screen focus slider control.

The GM1 will only be sold as a kit, but the 13-32mm lens ($349.99 suggested retail) will be offered as a standalone for other Lumix G series cameras. However, the touchscreen manual focus function will not work with non GM1 cameras at launch.

Sony introduced a pair of full-frame Alpha-series mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras in models A7r and A7 – one built for top resolution the other for DSLR-like speed.

The weather-sealed cameras will ship in December. An A7 kit for a $1,999 SURE price (unilateral pricing policy) includes a 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 lens with optical image stabilization. The A7r will carry a $2,299 SURE price for the body only.

Both models are billed as the world’s lightest interchangeable- lens full-frame cameras; are fully compatible with Sony’s new full-frame and E-mount lenses; include direct access interface for fast, natural shooting control; have high-contrast 2.4-million dot OLED viewfinders, 3-inch 1.23M-dot tilting LCD screens, and fast intelligent AF systems; offer built-in Wi- Fi connectivity with NFC support; and produce FullHD movies in 24p/60i/60p with uncompressed HDMI output.

The Alpha ILCE-7R includes a 36.3-megapixel Full-Frame sensor that removes the optical low-pass filter and combines with a new BIONZ X image processing engine to reproduce fine detail.

The camera also supports gapless, optimally positioned on-chip lenses to cover every pixel and significantly enhance light-gathering efficiency. The design eliminates gaps between the micro-lenses to collect more light. Lenses are optimally positioned to accommodate the sharper angle of light entering the periphery, which is caused by larger sensor dimensions being teamed with the E-mount’s short flangeback distance, Sony said.

Both cameras also offer 4K Ultra HD still image output (3,840 by 2,160) via HDMI 1.4 or Wi-Fi to compatible Ultra High-Definition TVs and Eye AF control that pinpoints the eye of a subject as the focus point to ensure an entire face is in focus when shooting with a shallow depth of field.

The Alpha ILCE-7 features a Full-Frame 24.3-megapixel sensor with 14-bit RAW output and a BIONZ X processing engine that enables up to 5fps high-speed continuous shooting.

The A7 also packs a hybrid AF with phasedetection and accurate contrast-detection enabling DSLR-like focusing speed. The system has been accelerated, Sony said, using a new Spatial Object Detection algorithm. It is said to be the first phase-detection AF with 117 densely packed AF points.