Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Samsung NX1

Digital Photography Review has published a full review of Samsung's 'enthusiast' mirrorless camera.

Snippets from the conclusion follow:

"One can almost imagine a group of Samsung engineers sitting in a conference room and having the spec sheets of every leading APS-C and four thirds camera dropped in front of them, along with a directive to outperform the whole lot."

"And to a certain extent they seem to have pulled it off. Canon 7D II for autofocus and frame rate? Check. Panasonic GH4 for video? Check. Sony sensors for dynamic range and ISO sensitivity? Check. The result is a camera loaded with features for both still photography and video, and which excels at both."

The company seems to have listened to users when designing the camera. Not only is it a well designed tool from a usability standpoint, but Samsung managed to pack it full of technical improvements that are hard to ignore, such as best in class image quality and best in class video quality.

We could probably justify giving the NX1 an award simply based on technological advancements and raising the bar for both image quality and video performance in its class. But those achievements are wrapped inside a well designed camera with a great user experience. Congratulations to the Samsung NX1 for winning our Gold Award.
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Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Microsoft Office Lens for iOS and Android

c|net reports: [edited]

Office Lens, a scanning app that's been a hit on Windows Phone, is coming to iOS and Android. The free App allows users to take pictures of receipts, business cards, whiteboards, sticky notes and export them to OneNote, Microsoft's note-taking app, as well as Word, Powerpoint, PDF, Mail & Photo Library.

Office Lens automatically crops, enhances and cleans up images. It also enables users to search for key words in the images via optical character recognition.
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Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Fuji X100T

Digital Photography Review has published a review of Fujifilm's large sensor prime compact.

Snippets from the conclusion follow:

"The X100 was a breakthrough camera when it first appeared: making good on the large sensor, small camera idea first pursued by Sigma. It was a potentially great camera, riddled with quirks and inconsistencies. However, Fujifilm continued to develop the camera and the X100 today is much closer to being the classic that its looks imply."

"Whether it's the addition of Wi-Fi, the provision of 1/3rd stop increments on the aperture dial or the move to dedicated directional buttons, rather than the cheap-compact style wheel on the back of the camera, there are plenty of changes that make the camera better. Equally, the addition of an electronic shutter option and a greater degree of camera customisation make a big difference.

We've been really impressed with the image quality from the X100 series, the JPEG color is excellent and the F2 maximum aperture is wide enough to give a little bit of background blur at reasonable working distances, meaning you can get images that look distinct from most other small cameras.

There's nothing else on the market that offers the same combination of image quality and shooting experience, thanks to its direct controls and clever viewfinder.

Overall, it's a small but significant step forward for the series. It's a lovely camera, and well worth considering if you've never owned one of the series before, but it's not the 'rush out and buy one now' product that we keep hoping the X100 series will be.
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Friday, 27 March 2015

Using video games in job interviews

New Scientist reports: [edited]

Last week a company called Starfighter was launched. Its aim is to create games you can only master if you have a talent for programming, although those with a natural aptitude can learn as they play. If you do well in a game, the firm knows you are ripe for hiring.

Starfighter's games will have a story. "You'll pretend you're a spy for the day, for example," says Patrick McKenzie, Starfighter's CEO and co-founder. "The story might be to break into tech that's securing state secrets, but it's the same tech you'd use to secure a bank in the real world."

The assumption is that the players who are best at breaking into the software in the game will also be the best at securing it in the real world. Starfighter works with top players to place them in jobs fitting the skills they have demonstrated, if they want them.

Starfighter's games will be totally free, and while they won't have fancy graphics, they will be engaging to play just for fun. Starfighter isn't ready to talk about exactly which skills their games will test, but its founders have already built a game called Microcorruption. It imagines a scenario in which players must break into locked warehouses all over the world, each one stuffed with cash. A smartphone app controls each warehouse lock, and the players have to break in without knowing the code. Of 12224 players, just 182 passed the hardest level. The firm will get in touch with these elite players and help place them with one of their clients, who pay Starfighter a fee.
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Thursday, 19 March 2015

Olympus OM-D E-M5 II

Digital Photography Review has published a full review of the update to Olympus' OM-D E-M5.

Snippets from the conclusion follow:

"The Olympus E-M5 II is a more significant reworking of its predecessor than its looks or choice of sensor seem to suggest. The camera boasts a wealth of additional features and refinements to many of the existing ones have been upgraded."

The image quality isn't radically changed, compared with the original E-M5. This means it's still very good, with Raw files as clean and malleable as you'd expect for a Micro Four Thirds camera. The JPEG engine remains one of our favorites, producing bright, pleasant images at all but the highest ISO settings.

Raw performance is strong, in that it offers a similar performance (proportionate to sensor size) to its other Sony-sensored rivals (such as the Nikon D5500 and Sony a6000). However, while this means it offers more flexible Raws than the current batch of Canon APS-C cameras, the advances Samsung has made in its NX1 and NX500 mean the M5 II's performance is no longer standout excellent.

The high-res mode is only useful in a narrow range of situations, requires a good lens and requires absolute stability, but the results it yields can be impressive.

The camera feels great and fits well in the hand, and offers an impressive amount of direct control for a body that's so small. This compact form factor is aided by separating the flash out as a separate clip-on unit.

The E-M5 II is probably the stand-out Micro Four Thirds camera in a market with some very good rivals. This shifts more of the emphasis of its appeal and appropriateness to the strength of the Micro Four Thirds system as a whole: if it offers the lenses and size/price/image quality balance that's right for you, then the E-M5 II should be top of your list. But in these competitive times, the E-M5 is no longer the mirrorless king: it's merely the heir-apparent to one of the great mirrorless families.
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Wednesday, 11 March 2015

MacBook 12" First Impressions

Wall Street Journal reports: [edited]

At some point, I will stop being surprised at how thin and light gadgets continue to get. But not today. Picking it up the MacBook feels like lifting an iPad rather than a laptop. And when you look at the 13.1mm-thick machine from the side, it looks like a screen propped up by a metal stand.

Of course, it’s thin because all the ports you know and love are in the trash. No more SD card slot, no more full-sized USB ports or Thunderbolt. All that’s left is a headphone jack and one — and only one — USB Type C port. The latter charges the laptop, but also can be used to send video to monitors and connect and charge other devices.

The edge-to-edge, 2304×1440-pixel Retina 12-inch display is crisp and bright — a huge improvement over the current MacBook Air.

The trackpad has a smoother coating and new touch capabilities. Called Force Touch, the pad is now a single piece of flat glass that can respond to different pressure. You’ll still feel a 'click' when you press down on it, but that is actually all done with software. In a demo, Apple showed me how to press gently on the pad and then more firmly to speed up a video. I’m not sure how useful that feature will be, but the good news is that for regular navigating, the trackpad feels better than ever.

To accommodate the thinner bottom, the keyboard also had to be slimmed down. A new mechanism under the keys still gives them a slight spring—functional. It is harder to tell where the keys start and end. So I was shocked at how fast and accurate I was able to type.

It weighs 920 grammes (less than my iPad 3 with its case, Ed.) Apple claims the new MacBook will get nine hours of battery life.

Available in Silver, Gold and Space Grey. Prices start at £1049. Available 'soon'.
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Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Free Font - Blenda

Behance reports: [edited]

Blenda Script is a free experimental font inspired by Lobster Font with a number of alternative letters and swashes.

License: Free for personal and commercial use.
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