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Sony a7 IV initial review

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Sony a7 IV initial review

The Sony a7 IV is the fourth generation of the company’s core a7 full-frame mirrorless camera model. It’s the most advanced yet, bringing many of the improvements Sony has made in terms of autofocus and interface design since the launch of the a7 III, back in February 2018.

Key Specifications

  • 33MP BSI CMOS full-frame sensor
  • Up to 10 fps shooting in lossy Raw with extensive buffer
  • In-body stabilization rated up to 5.5EV
  • Full-width oversampled 4K from 7K, up to 30p
  • 4K/60p with Super35 / APS-C mode
  • 10-bit video or HEIF stills capture
  • H.265 video, S-Cinetone color mode
  • 3.69M dot OLED viewfinder
  • Twin card slots (1x CFe A/UHS-II, 1x UHS-II SD)
  • Full-time Bluetooth LE connection

The a7 IV sees just about every one of its specifications improved over the a7 III, from basics such as the resolution of the sensor and viewfinder to significantly increased video capture options.

The a7 IV will be available from late December 2021 at a recommended price of $2499, a $500 increase over the launch price of the a7 III.


What’s new

33MP BSI-CMOS Sensor

At the heart of the a7 IV is a new 33MP BSI-CMOS sensor. This represents a move away from the 24MP chip used by the a7 III and its immediate Panasonic and Nikon rivals. Given that BSI sensors are already widely used in the current generation of cameras, we’re not expecting huge leaps forward in image quality. A slight uptick in detail and comparable low light performance is the most likely thing we can expect, in terms of image quality.

Despite the higher resolution, the a7 IV can still shoot at 10 frames per second. However, it can only do so in the lossy compressed format if you want to shoot Raw. The a7 IV has a lossless compression option, for when you need maximum processing flexibility, but the burst rate drops to around 5 fps if you use it. Sony says the camera’s buffer depth allows over 800 Raw+JPEG images (or over 1000 JPEGs), but this is in the uncompressed Raw format, which again shoots at around 5 fps.

Our first look at the rolling shutter rates suggest this isn’t an especially fast sensor. 14-bit readout of the whole sensor for stills takes around 1/15 sec (~66ms), which is around seventeen times longer than the super-fast a1 takes to read out its sensor. This means silent shutter mode is likely to result in significant distortion with moving subjects.

Silent shutter mode is likely to result in significant distortion with moving subjects

Full-width 4K video takes around 26.5ms, which is comparable with the other models in its class. It’s likely the camera is dropping to 12-bit readout for video mode, but the process of combining pixels should reduce noise and hence prevent DR dropping to ~12EV. 60p footage has rolling shutter rate of around 12.8ms, which is low enough to avoid distortion of all but the fastest movement.

Autofocus

In terms of autofocus, the improvements over the a7 III should be fairly significant, not so much because of the promise to focus in conditions that are one stop darker (–4EV with an F2 lens) but because that camera was one of the last Sonys that didn’t integrate Eye AF into its main AF system, and relied on a much more primitive AF tracking system. The a7 III could detect human eyes, but it couldn’t seamlessly and dependably switch between eye, face and body tracking, if you set the camera to focus on a person.

The a7 IV does exactly this, and has modes that can detect and more accurately track animals, include birds, dogs and cats. For the first time, these animal detection capabilities extend to the camera’s video mode, too.

The a7 IV still offers a dizzying array of AF area modes (including ‘tracking’ variants of each), but you can at least disable all the ones you don’t use. The tracking versions are unavailable in video mode: instead you tap the rear screen to select a subject for the AF to follow.

The simplicity of the system makes it difficult to convey just how effective it is. But like Canon’s latest AF system, you need only indicate to the camera what you want to focus on and it’ll use the most appropriate of its powerful AF algorithms to maximize your hit rate. Until you’ve used a system like this, or the comparable one in recent Canon cameras, it’s difficult to appreciate how powerful, reliable and simple they can be.

Video

Movie mode gets its own switch, rather than being part of the exposure mode dial. The camera lets you choose different settings (WB, color mode), custom button layouts and Fn Menu options for stills and video modes but exposure values are carried between the two.

Breathing compensation

The a7 IV adds a Breathing Compensation mode that crops and resizes the video to cancel-out any change in a lens’s angle-of-view (AoV) as it focuses. The mode only works with select Sony lenses (all the GM lenses and some G series glass), as the camera needs a profile of the breathing characteristics. Video is cropped to match and maintain the narrowest AoV that might occur if you focused from minimum focus distance to infinity, meaning there’s no distracting change of framing as you refocus.

After autofocus, the biggest area of improvement is in terms of video capability. The a7 III was the first a7 model to offer 4K capture. Its implementation was pretty good for early 2018, with oversampled 24p capture from the full width of its sensor but a crop required for 30p shooting. All footage was captured in 8-bit precision, at relatively modest bitrates.

The a7 IV moves things forward considerably, adding 10-bit capture to increase the processing flexibility of Log footage and to allow full Hybrid Log Gamma (HLG) capture for playback on HDR TVs.

It also gains the ability to shoot 4K/60p for action capture or slow-mo work, but this requires a crop to APS-C/Super 35 dimensions. There are also options to use H.265 compression (XAVC HS) and apply the S-Cinetone color profile.

Eye AF is now available in video mode, which should substantially increase the degree to which you can depend of autofocus staying on your chosen subject. As in stills shooting mode, the camera has been trained to recognize humans, animals and birds.

However, while you can set video mode to use different color and white balance settings, define separate button setups and Fn menu layouts for stills and video, the camera still carries its exposure settings over from stills to video shooting, which isn’t always ideal.

Live streaming

A fully articulating screen can be useful for waist-level shooting, vlogging or selfies. It also allows you to monitor the camera if you’re using its streaming mode.

The a7 IV also offers the ability to live stream video over its USB connection using the audio and video standards (UVC/UAC) that are part of the USB standard. This allows a choice of HD or FullHD resolutions with FullHD available at up to 60fps. There’s also a 4K option but this only supports 15 frames per second, which gives a dreadful stop-motion look to the footage. Connection is designed to be as simple as possible, using the Imaging Edge Webcam software for Mac or PC. A connection via smartphone is also possible, though audio may not be available at resolutions above HD (720).

HEIF 10-bit stills

The a7 IV gains the ability to capture 10-bit compressed images, rather than just the 8-bit JPEGs historically offered. Unlike Canon, which only uses HEIF capture for HDR images, the Sony lets you shoot standard DR images in 10-bit, with a choice of 4:2:2 or 4:2:0 chroma sub-sampling, if you can find benefit to doing so.

The downside of this added flexibility is that you need to engage HEIF capture before you can engage the Hybrid Log Gamma (HLG) color/gamma mode, rather than having both settings change to match one another. It’s worth trying, though: images shot in HLG can show much more of the camera’s dynamic range to give a much more lifelike version of your image, if viewed with an HDR-capable TV.


How it compares

The a7 IV becomes the most expensive iteration of the a7 model yet, with a price that makes it among the most expensive of its peers. We’ve lined it up next to the similarly priced EOS R6 and the significantly cheaper Nikon Z6 II. Panasonic’s Lumix DC-S5, which we didn’t have space to include, offers a pretty similar video spec (10-bit 4K capture, including 60p from its APS-C crop) but its autofocus isn’t quite as effective. Like the Nikon, thought, it’s markedly less expensive.

We’ve included the a7 III to show what the a7 IV gains over its predecessor but there’s also the smaller, less expensive a7C that shares most of its specs with the a7 III. The only major difference is that the a7 C has a slower flash sync speed and a smaller but higher resolution viewfinder. The a7C has a newer AF system than the a7 III, so its performance and usability will be a little more like that of the new camera.

Sony a7 IV Canon EOS R6 Nikon Z6 II Sony a7 III
MSRP at launch $2499 $2499 $1999 $1999
Pixel count 33MP 20MP 24MP 24MP
Sensor tech BSI-CMOS CMOS BSI-CMOS BSI-CMOS
AF system On-Sensor PDAF Dual Pixel
(On-sensor PDAF)
On-sensor PDAF On-sensor PDAF
Image stabilization 5-axis 5-axis + sync with lens IS 5-axis 5-axis
CIPA rating Up to 5.5EV Up to 8EV Up to 5EV Up to 5EV
Maximum frame rate 10 fps (lossy Raw) 12 fps mech shutter
20 fps electronic
12 fps
(14 fps*)
10 fps
Flash Sync speed 1/250 sec 1/250 sec** 1/200 sec 1/200 sec
Viewfinder
res / mag
3.69M dots
/0.78x
3.68M dots
/ 0.76x
3.68M dots
/ 0.80x
2.36M dots / 0.78x
Rear screen 1.04M fully-articulated touchscreen 1.62M-dot fully articulated touchscreen 2.1M-dot tilting touchscreen 0.92M-dot fully articulated touchscreen
Top-plate settings display No No Yes No
Video capture UHD 4K 30p
(full sensor)
UHD 4K 60p
(1.5x Crop)
UHD 4K 60p
(1.05x crop)
UHD 4K 30p
(full sensor)
UHD 4K 60p
(1.5x Crop)
UHD 4K 24p
(full sensor)
UHD 4K 30p
(1.2x Crop)
Log/HDR modes S-Log2 / 3 / HLG
10-bit internal
C-Log
HDR PQ
10-bit Internal
N-Log
HLG
10-bit (HDMI)
S-Log2 / 3 / HLG
8-bit Internal
Memory cards 1x CFe Type A / UHS-II SD
1x UHS-II SD
Dual UHS-II SD 1x CFexpress B
1x SD (UHS-II)
1x UHS-II SD
1x UHS-I SD
Battery life (CIPA) LCD/EVF 580 / 520 510 / 380 410 / 340 710 / 610
USB-charging Yes Yes Yes Yes
Dimensions 131 x 96 x 80 mm 138 x 98 x 88 mm 134 x 101 x 68 mm 127 x 96 x 74 mm
Weight (CIPA) 659 g 680 g 675 g 650 g

* When shooting 12-bit Raw using a single AF point
** In electronic first-curtain mode: 1/200th with mechanical shutter

This table should make clear that the a7 IV is well specced, but not to the point of standing out from its less expensive rivals. As such, it’s going to be the real-world performance of the AF system, the degree of rolling shutter in its 4K footage, and its ability to maintain its 10fps burst rate for many hundreds of images that will need to set it apart.


Body and controls

The shoulder dial (with the toggle-lock shown in its unlocked state) controls exposure comp by default, but is now unmarked and can be set to control other functions.

The a7 IV appears to share its body with the a7S III, which offers a series of refinements over the previous a7 model. The grip is slightly deeper, the joystick on the back is improved and there’s a full-size Type A HDMI socket on the side of the camera.

A further improvement over the a7S III is the move to an unmarked lockable dial on the shoulder of the camera, meaning it can be re-purposed if you don’t shoot in a manner that requires exposure compensation.

There’s also a fully-articulating rear screen. These aren’t to everyone’s taste but allow video, vlogging and selfie shooting in a way that a tilt-out screen doesn’t.

Both of the a7 IV’s slots accept SD cards (up to UHS-II type), with the top slot also having an inner recess that accepts CFexpress Type A cards. There’s only one slow-mo video mode that requires the use of CFexpress cards: everything else can be written to V90 SD cards.

The a7 IV still offers twin card slots: both accept UHS-II SD cards with the upper one also able to take one of Sony’s small CFexpress Type A cards, which can maintain much faster write speeds than the fastest SD cards (typically 400MB/s minimum sustained write, vs 90MB/s minimum sustained write for V90 SD cards).

The a7 IV also gains the white balance sensor from the a7S III, which should help deliver greater white balance consistency, even if you’re shooting tight-in on a brightly colored subject.

Improved UI

More than the ergonomic changes, we’re delighted to see the a7 IV gain the improved menus and expanded touchscreen utilization first seen in the a7S III. The menus now have their section tabs down the left-hand side of the screen, meaning you’re only ever a click or so away from being able to jump between tabs. They’re also touch sensitive, so you may not need to click or nudge anything at all.

This layout makes the menus much quicker to navigate, as do sub-section headings within each tab. The arrangement differs from previous Sony cameras but the underlying relationships between settings remain the same, so it shouldn’t take too long to familiarize yourself with the new system, if you’re an existing Sony user.

Constant smartphone connection

Sony has offered Bluetooth on its cameras for many years but has used it solely for transferring location data from smartphones. The a7 IV adds a constant-connection option of the type offered by most of its rivals. This means you only have to pair the camera with your smartphone once, after which they will automatically re-establish a Bluetooth Low Energy connection, making it much quicker and simpler to transfer images to your phone.

Closable shutter

The a7 IV gains the ability to close its mechanical shutter when the camera is turned off, helping to prevent dust build-up on the sensor. Shutter blades tend to be very lightweight, which also means they can be pretty fragile, so this should be seen as a dust prevention, rather than physical protection measure.

Battery

The a7 IV uses the same NP-FZ100 battery as the a7 III and other more recent Sony cameras. It’s a usefully hefty unit that, combined with the relatively modest viewfinder res, lets the a7 IV achieve a CIPA battery life rating of 580 shots per charge using the rear screen and 520 shots per charge using the EVF.

As always, these figures are more useful for comparing cameras, rather than getting an idea of exactly how many shots you’ll get (in our experience, getting double the rated number isn’t unusual with a new battery). We tend to find a rating of over 500 shots per charge means not really having to worry about battery life in anything but the most intensive pro sports or wedding shoots.

As you might expect of a new camera, the a7 IV can be either charged or powered over its USB-C socket.


Initial impressions

Much has changed in the eight years since the original a7 was launched: with Sony now far from alone in offering a modern full-frame mirrorless camera. Technology has made huge leaps forward, too, with autofocus in particular improving in terms of speed, sophistication and simplicity, to the point that no one would now suggest DSLRs retain the upper hand.

Sony’s move to bigger batteries has had a huge impact on its cameras’ usability, and its ergonomics and user interface have been radically improved with each iteration. The video features have also expanded significantly, with the fourth a7 model bringing the series back into line with its competitors.

Sony FE 35mm F1.8 | F3.5 | 1/160 sec | ISO 100
Photo: Richard Butler

What’s clearly changed, in the meantime, is the positioning. The original a7 was launched at what was then a record low price for a full-frame camera: $1700, body only. Even taking inflation into account, that’d still be a hair under $2000 in today’s money. The a7 IV’s price is a significant increase over this, and it’s notable that Sony now offers the a7C for more price or size-conscious buyers. This provision of a relatively up-to-date sister model, rather than simply lowering the prices on outdated models is a welcome change. The a7C might not have the improved menus of the a7 IV but it doesn’t feel as unrefined and clunky as the Marks I and II do, by comparison to the latest cameras.

Owners of the first two a7 models, and even some a7R series users are likely to be stunned by how far the series has come in the past few years

This move allows the a7 IV to address the needs of more dedicated enthusiasts, and makes it a direct competitor to Canon’s very likable EOS R6. On paper, at least, it doesn’t go far beyond the Canon, though, so it’ll be interesting to see how they compare in real-world use. Of course, if Sony decides to continue the a7 III at a lower price, the waters get significantly muddier. The a7 III’s autofocus is recognizably more than a generation behind the new camera, but it isn’t made to look like a work-in-progress, the way that the older models were when the Mark III arrived. The a7 III still does very well at most of the things the a7 IV does, which could undermine the attempt to push the series upmarket.

Sony seems very keen to say that the a7 IV has gained many of its improvements from the flagship a1, which we think that risks implying a closer connection than actually exists. While it is not untrue that the a7 IV has some features that arrived with the a1, the new camera doesn’t have the Stacked CMOS sensor that provides the brute power underpinning the a1’s performance. In many instances, it’s fairer to point out that the a7 IV’s features are shared with the video-centric a7S III. Still not a bad thing to be able to claim, but perhaps setting more realistic expectations, in terms of how much star quality you expect to rub off on the more mass-market model.

Overall the a7 IV looks to be a very capable camera: one with much-enhanced video and more sophisticated autofocus. For newcomers the increased price, an array of credible rivals and the high bar set by the a7 III means it’s going to have its work cut out if it’s to stand out in the way earlier a7 models did. However, owners of the first two a7 models, and even some a7R series users are likely to be stunned by how far the series has come in the past few years.


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Ricoh launches Pentax 17 half-frame fixed lens film camera

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Ricoh launches Pentax 17 half-frame fixed lens film camera



Ricoh has revealed the Pentax 17, the half-frame film compact with a manual focus fixed prime lens.

The Pentax 17 has a 25mm F3.5 lens which works out at 37mm equivalent, and derives its name from the horizontal width of the 17 x 25mm frames it captures. The company says the vertical format makes it similar to images shot by smartphones.

It has a manual focus lens that can be set to one of six preset distances, from 0.25m to infinity, indicated with icons on the top of the lens. The company says the lens is based on the design of 1994’s Pentax Espio Mini and features three elements in three groups. It features a leaf shutter that gives a circular aperture shape all the way from F3.5 to F16, and gives a shutter speed range from 1/350 sec to 4 seconds, and offers a Bulb mode for longer exposures.

The company says its targeting a younger audience who enjoy the experience of shooting film and will appreciate the cost-savings of shooting two exposures on each 36 x 24mm frame. The 17 will also provide the certainty of a full warranty with good availability of spare parts, which second-hand cameras lack. It will come with a one year warranty and, in the US at least, the option of a second year of coverage.

The camera features magnesium alloy construction and uses a standard CR2 lithium battery to power its flash, light meter and viewfinder indicators.

The 17 will be available from late June 2024 at a cost of $499.95.

Press Release:

Ricoh announces the PENTAX 17 compact film camera

PARSIPPANY, New Jersey, June 17, 2024 — Ricoh Imaging Americas Corporation today announced the highly anticipated PENTAX 17 compact film camera. The PENTAX 17 is a half- frame camera, capturing two 17mm x 24mm pictures within a single 35mm-format (36mm x 24mm) film frame. It produces vertical-format pictures, with similar ratios to those captured by smartphones, for seamless sharing on social media after the film is developed and scans are produced by a film lab.

The popularity of film cameras has grown rapidly in recent years — especially among young photographers — because of the distinctive, somewhat nostalgic experience provided that is so different from using digital cameras. The compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for the global film camera market is projected to be 5.2% through 2030 and a quick search of the hashtag #filmphotography on Instagram pulls up more than 42.6 million posts.

Borne out of the PENTAX Film Camera Project, a concept first announced in December of 2022, the new camera resulted from a close collaboration between Ricoh Imaging and PENTAX experts and younger engineers. The experts shared their vast knowledge and decades of experience in film and imaging technology with the current team members to design a film camera that would allow photographers to express their originality and creativity by leaving some room for manual operation, rather than making it a fully automatic camera.

| Design merges manual operation and ease of use for maximum creative expression |

The design of the PENTAX 17 was inspired by the PENTAX brand’s heritage, incorporating manual operations unique to film photography that are gaining a loyal following in today’s digital world. This includes a selectable zone-focus system, manual film winding, manual film advance lever, and exposure compensation and ISO sensitivity adjustments, each with their own dials. The classic design of the camera body was developed with high-quality materials; the top and bottom covers are made of solid, lightweight magnesium alloy and the 40.5mm filter mounting thread enables the use of a range of filters.

The PENTAX 17 features a newly-developed 25mm F3.5 lens (equivalent to a 37mm lens in the 35mm format). Further building on the PENTAX brand heritage, the lens is based on optics incorporated in the acclaimed PENTAX Espio Mini — which was marketed in 1994 —redesigned to support the half-frame format. The lens is treated with HD (High Definition) coating to optimize the clarity and sharpness of the half-frame photos. In a nod to Ricoh’s rich history in optics and photography, the designers based the lens design on the lens in the RICOH Auto Half – a best- selling half-frame model first marketed in 1962 – incorporating the angle of view and focal length to make casual, everyday picture-taking simple and flawless.

The camera’s zone-focus system is divided into six focus zones that can be selected on the zone focusing ring to capture subjects at a long distance or as close-up as 25 centimeters away in the macro zone. Its bright optical viewfinder features a bright, Albada-type frame finder to facilitate framing a scene as well as a close-up visual field compensation frame to help users more easily compose close-up images. The zone focus marks can be seen directly through the viewfinder to further support composition.

The PENTAX 17 has seven shooting modes to accommodate different applications and scenarios. It automatically adjusts exposure settings based on lighting data collected by its metering sensor. In addition to the Full Auto mode in which all exposure settings are selected by the camera, it provides six other shooting modes including: Slow-speed sync, which is useful in twilight photography; and Bulb, a long-exposure mode useful for photographing nightscapes and fireworks.

The camera supports a wide selection of ISO film speeds and features a note holder on the back cover where the end of the film package can be inserted for at-a-glance confirmation of the film in use, three strap lugs to accommodate both horizontal and vertical suspensions, and compatibility with the optional CS-205 Cable Switch for use in extended-exposure photography in Bulb mode.

| Industry support for PENTAX 17 |

“Film photography has been growing in popularity over the past decade and especially recently! The new PENTAX 17 film camera is going to kickstart an entirely new generation of film shooters,” said Philip Steblay, Cofounder of The Darkroom, an online film developing service. “This terrific new camera will add to the great pleasure and enjoyment of shooting film. The PENTAX analog functionality, film selection process and thinking more carefully about your shots will enhance the fun of photography. This, coupled with the anticipation that comes with waiting for your images to process, adds to the joy of photography. With new cameras and film coming to market the future of film photography looks bright.”

“The PENTAX 17 is a stunning camera, both in form and function,” said Kyle Depew, founder, Brooklyn Film Camera. “Its design is handsome and classic, yet it features elements that are delightfully unique and innovative. It’s amazing to see modern PENTAX engineering applied towards a new film camera. We couldn’t be more delighted.”

“The film photography community is vibrant and growing, and we are thrilled to see Ricoh Imaging recognizing this and creating new products for this market,” said Meredith Reinker, managing partner, Roberts Distributors LP. “Film photography has been growing in popularity over the last several years and supporting this community is supporting a growing industry as well as supporting the arts. We are honored to be partnering with Ricoh to make this camera available through our distribution channel of independent, local and analog-focused businesses. We look forward to watching the analog community embrace this exciting announcement as we all have a shared goal of keeping film photography alive and accessible.”

“This camera has been a reminder to have fun and not take things too seriously,” said Matt Day, photographer. “It’s fun to shoot with, it’s compact enough to carry anywhere, and double the amount of exposures makes it easier to shoot more.”

“Many photographers were first introduced to the joys of photography using a PENTAX film camera. We’re hoping to introduce a new generation to the world of film photography with the PENTAX 17,” said Ken Curry, president, Ricoh Imaging Americas. “It is an ideal model not only for film camera enthusiasts who have enjoyed film photography for years, but also for photographers who are excited about trying film photography for the first time.”

| Pricing and Availability |

The PENTAX 17 will be available late June at www.us.ricoh-imaging.com as well as at Ricoh Imaging-authorized retail outlets nationwide for a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $499.95.

| Main features |

1. Half-size format

The PENTAX 17 features the half-size format, in which two 17mm x 24mm pictures are captured within a single 35mm frame (36mm x 24mm). It also employs a manual film advance lever. When holding the camera in traditional orientation, the PENTAX 17 captures vertical-format pictures, similar to the familiar images captured by smartphones, which are commonly used today for picture-taking.

2. Manual camera operation unique to film cameras

The PENTAX 17 features a manual film-winding mechanism based on those incorporated in PENTAX-brand single-lens reflex (SLR) film cameras. The film advance lever lets the user enjoy the film winding action and a wind-up sound after every shutter release. An easy-loading system is designed to prevent film-loading errors, especially for first-time film camera users. It also features other mechanisms unique to film cameras, such as manual film rewinding operation using the rewind crank; exposure compensation via the exposure compensation dial; and ISO sensitivity setting via the ISO sensitivity dial.

3. Newly developed lens combining time-proven optics and the latest lens coating technology

The PENTAX 17 features a newly developed 25mm F3.5 lens (equivalent to a 37mm lens in the 35mm format). Based on the optics incorporated in the acclaimed PENTAX Espio Mini (marketed in 1994), it has been redesigned to fit perfectly in the half-size format. It is also treated with HD (High Definition) coating — a highly acclaimed multi-layer coating — to optimize the clarity and sharpness of half-size pictures. Using the lens used in the RICOH Auto Half (a best-selling half- size model first marketed in 1962) as a reference, the angle of view and focal length were selected to make casual, everyday picture-taking simple and flawless.

4. Zone-focus system to switch the in-focus area via simple selection of zone marks

From close-ups to long distances, the PENTAX 17’s zone-focus system can handle it all. The system is divided into six focus zones, indicated by marks that signify each zone. All the user has to do to set the camera’s focus is select the mark best suited for the subject distance on the zone focusing ring. In the Macro focus zone, the user can capture a close-up photo from approximately 25 centimeters away. The hand strap (included as a standard accessory) lets the user measure subject distance more accurately.

5. Bright optical viewfinder for real-time confirmation of a subject image

The PENTAX 17’s optical viewfinder features a bright, Albada-type frame finder that helps to facilitate framing a scene. It also comes with a close-up visual field compensation frame to help the photographer more easily compose close-up images. It is possible to check the zone marks directly through the viewfinder.

6. Seven shooting modes to accommodate different applications

The PENTAX 17 automatically adjusts exposure settings based on the lighting data collected by its metering sensor. In addition to the Full Auto mode in which all exposure settings are selected by the camera, it provides six other shooting modes, including Slow-speed sync, which is highly useful in twilight photography; and Bulb, a slow-shutter speed mode that comes in handy for photographing nightscapes and fireworks. The PENTAX 17 also features an independent exposure compensation dial, which allows the user to swiftly shift the exposure level to accommodate different types of subjects or express the user’s creative intentions.

7. High-quality body with meticulous attention to every detail

The PENTAX 17’s body has a classic design, reminiscent of traditional film cameras. The top and bottom covers are made of a solid but lightweight magnesium alloy to optimize the camera body’s rigidity. The 40.5mm filter mounting thread allows the user to mount a range of filters, which are available for purchase on the market. With meticulous attention paid to every single detail, the PENTAX 17 is designed to be a joy to own.

8. Other features

  • A wide selection of ISO film speeds (50, 100, 125, 160, 200, 400, 800, 1600 and 3200)
  • Note holder on the back cover, into which the end of the film package can be inserted for an at-a-glance confirmation of the film in use
  • Three strap lugs to accommodate horizontal and vertical camera suspensions, to best suit
    the user’s shooting style
  • Compatibility with the optional CS-205 Cable Switch, which comes in handy for extended-exposure photography in the Bulb shooting mode



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Nikon Z6III initial review

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Nikon Z6III initial review


Product Photos by Richard Butler

The Nikon Z6III is the company’s third-generation full-frame mirrorless camera, bringing a faster 24MP sensor that boosts the autofocus and video capabilities of this stills/video hybrid.

Key specifications

  • 24MP “Partially Stacked” CMOS sensor
  • 14fps with mech shutter, 20fps e-shutter up to 1000 Raw files
  • In-body image stabilization rated at up to 8.0 stops
  • 5.76M dot EVF with high brightness and wide color gamut
  • Fully articulated 3.2″ 2.1M dot rear screen
  • 6K/60p N-Raw video, 6K/30p ProRes Raw
  • 5.8K/60p H.265 video
  • Pre-burst capture, pixel-shift high-res mode

The Nikon Z6III will be available from late June at a price of $2500. This is a $500 increase over the previous Z6 models but brings it into line with the likes of Canon’s EOS R6 II and Sony’s a7 IV, with which it directly competes.


What’s new

24MP “Partially Stacked” CMOS sensor

Nikon’s image of the Z6III’s sensor, showing the extensive readout circuitry above and below the sensor.

Image: Nikon

The sensor at the heart of the Z6III is responsible for much of what the new camera brings. Nikon uses the term “Partially Stacked” to suggest it has some of the performance benefits of the Stacked CMOS chips it uses in its Z8 and Z9 models, but without the associated cost.

Nikon hasn’t given us precise detail but it appears the readout and analog-to-digital conversion circuitry around the edge of the chip is stacked, allowing it to be both more sophisticated and closer to the pixels themselves, delivering faster readout.

The effect result is that the camera can read out its sensor fast enough to deliver full-width 6K video at up to 60p in N-Raw mode and a flash sync speed of 1/60 sec. This means it must be able to read the entire sensor in less than 1/60 sec,

However, that maximum sync speed of 1/60th is around a quarter of the speed of true Stacked CMOS sensors and not a vast leap forward from the previous generation of sensors. It should improve AF performance and video capabilities but won’t deliver the blisteringly fast performance of the likes of the Z8.

Improved AF

Along with the faster sensor, the Z6III also gains the autofocus improvements seen in Nikon’s recent models, including 3D Tracking and subject recognition. The company says AF is up to 20% faster than it was in the Z6 II, and that the performance is comparable with the Z8 and Z9.

On top of this, the camera can focus at down to –10EV without you having to engage the Starlight AF mode (though it’s worth noting that this figure is predicated on an F1.2 lens being attached). It also gains most the subject recognition modes from the Zf, though lacks the dedicated bird detection mode that the Z8 and Z9 have recently gained.

Subject detection modes
  • People
  • Animals
  • Vehicles
  • Airplanes
  • Auto

(Dogs, cats, birds)
(Cars, motorbikes, trains, airplanes, bicycles)

These all reflect a significant improvement over the Z6 II. The 3D Tracking system resembles those on Nikon’s DSLRs: pick an AF point and the camera will follow whatever’s under that point when you hold the shutter half depressed or the AF-On button. As soon as you release it reverts to your previously chosen position. Unlike the Z6 II’s system you don’t need to press a button to cancel tracking and it doesn’t revert to the center.

But as well as this increased ease-of-use, the interface controls a much more effective and reliable tracking system that’s much less likely to lock onto the wrong thing or just lose it completely (which was not uncommon, especially in movie mode, on the preview generation of cameras). Add to this the camera’s ability to recognize a series of subjects near your chosen AF point and the Z6 III should be much quicker and easier to work with than previous mid-level Nikons.

Video

The faster sensor sees the Z6III’s video capabilities gain a significant upgrade, compared with its predecessor. It’s too soon for Nikon’s purchase of cinema camera maker RED to have played into this camera’s development, but it relieves any uncertainty around the inclusion of onboard capture of both N-Raw and ProRes Raw video formats.

All of the codecs offer both UHD 4K and a higher-resolution capture mode, all of which use the full width of the sensor. The Raw modes offer 6K or 4K capture, while the gamma-encoded modes (ProRes 422, H.265, H.264) offer 5.4K or 4K recording.

Codec Resolutions and max frame rates
N-Raw 6K/60p
UHD 4K/60p
ProRes RAW 6K/30p
UHD 4K/60p
ProRes 422 5.4K/60p
UHD 4K/60p
H.265 5.4K/60p
UHD 4K/60p
H.264 UHD 4K/30p

Like the Z8, the Z6III includes shooting aids such as waveforms, zebras and focus peaking.

The Z6III also becomes the first Nikon to accept a line-level input over its mic socket. It’s also compatible with Atomos’ AirGlu, a Bluetooth-based Timecode sync system.

Additional functions

The Z6III also gains all the other functions that have been added to Nikon cameras since the launch of the Z6 II, including pre-burst capabilities and multi-shot high resolution modes.

It also has the image stabilization system that centers its correction on your chosen AF point. This is particularly valuable if you’re focused in the corners of wide-angle shots, where the required pitch and yaw correction is significantly different from that needed at the center of the image.

In addition, like the Zf, the Z6III can use its subject recognition system even if you’re in manual focus mode. This means that engaging magnified live view will punch in on your subject’s eye, as you check focus, rather than you having to navigate around the scene to find it.

Finally, the Z6III will be compatible with a “Flexible Color” tool that will be added to Nikon’s NX Studio software, which provides an enhanced set of color tools for creating custom Picture Control color modes to install on the camera.

Cloud access

The Z6III will be the first Nikon camera to use the Nikon Imaging Cloud service. This will fulfill a series of functions. At its most basic it’ll be a service to which images can be uploaded and then sent on to other storage and social media services (rather than the camera itself having to know how to connect to multiple services).

It’ll also be a source for “Imaging Recipes,” which are camera settings intended for taking specific types of image, created with the help of Nikon’s sponsored creators. There will also be “Cloud Picture Controls” presets that can be downloaded. This service isn’t available yet, so we won’t be able to assess its usefulness until it is.


How it compares

The $500 price hike brings the Nikon directly into line with the MSRPs of its two most comparable competitors: Sony’s a7 IV and Canon’s EOS R6 II. All three cameras are highly capable stills and video machines with strong AF systems. We’ve included the more expensive Panasonic DC-S5II X here because its video capabilities and price are closer to those of the Nikon.

Nikon Z6III Canon EOS R6 II Sony a7 IV Panasonic Lumix DC-S5II X Nikon Z6 II
MSRP $2500 $2500 $2500 $2500 $2000
Sensor type “Semi-stacked” BSI CMOS Dual Pixel AF FSI CMOS BSI CMOS BSI CMOS BSI CMOS
Resolution 24MP 24MP 33MP 24MP 24MP
Maximum shooting rate 20fps (Raw)
60fps (JPEG)
40fps (12-bit Raw or JPEG) 10 fps (lossy Raw) 30fps (e-shutter) 14fps
10fps (14-bit Raw)
Rolling shutter rate (ms) ∼14.6ms
(14-bit)
∼14.7ms
(12-bit)
∼67.6ms (14-bit) ∼51.3ms
(14-bit)
∼50.8ms (14-bit)
Video resolutions 6K (Raw)
5.4K
UHD 4K
6K (Raw over HDMI)
DCI 4K
UHD 4K
UHD 4K 6K
5.9K
5.9K (Raw over HDMI)
DCI 4K
UHD 4K
UHD 4K
Uncompressed video N-Raw
ProRes RAW
Over HDMI Over HDMI Over HDMI
Viewfinder res/ magnification/ eye-point 5.76M dot OLED/ 0.8x/
21mm

3.69M dot OLED/
0.76x/
23mm

3.68M dot OLED/ 0.78x/
23mm
3.68M dot OLED/
0.78x/
21mm
3.69M dot OLED/ 0.8x/ 21mm
Rear screen 3.2″ fully-articulated 2.1M dot 3.0″ fully articulated
1.62M dot
3.0″ fully articulated
1.04M dot
3.0″ fully articulated
1.84M dot
3.2″ tilting 2.1M dot
Image stabilization Up to 8.0EV Up to 8.0EV Up to 5.5EV Up to 5.0EV
Up to 6.5EV with Dual IS 2 lens
Up to 5.0EV
Media types 1x CFe B
1x UHS II SD
2x UHS II SD 1x CFe A / UHS II SD
1x UHS II SD
2x UHS II SD 1x CFe B
1x UHS II SD
Battery life EVF / LCD 360 / 390 320 / 580 520 / 580 370 / 370 360 / 420
Dimensions 139 x 102 x 74mm 138 x 98 x 88mm 131 x 96 x 80 mm 134 x 102 x 90mm 134 x 101 x 70mm
Weight 760g 670g 659g 740g 705g

What the table can’t capture is the subtle differences in performance between these models, which is increasingly what it comes down to, in this most competitive of classes. Our early impressions are that the Z6III matches the Canon and Sony in terms of autofocus tracking performance and usability, wheres the Panasonic lags a little and the Z6 II feels like it’s left significantly behind.

Likewise the new Nikon and the Canon stand ahead in terms of video performance, as they offer faster video capture with less rolling shutter, especially compared with the rather slow Sony. We’ll need to shoot the Nikon more to know whether it can outdo the Canon’s video AF, which isn’t the most dependable.

The stills stabilization figures do nothing to convey the smoothness of video stabilization, either, with the Panasonic doing particularly well in this regard. Increasingly, choice and availability of lenses will be the critical deciding factor for a lot of people.


Body and handling

The Z6III looks, at first glance, a lot like the existing Z6 and Z7 models, with a familiar low-height camera with significant hand grip and viewfinder hump extending from it. But if you put them side-by-side you find that the Z6III is a very different body, even if it uses the same styling cues.

It’s a larger camera than its predecessors and heavier. However, it’s much closer in size to them than it is to the Z8. It’s wider and thicker but maintains a solid, comfortable grip. The button positions are essentially unchanged, compared to the previous cameras, with twin function buttons on the front and an AF joystick on that back.

Viewfinder

The Z6III is a larger, heavier body than its predecessor, but the controls are essentially the same. The Playback and drive mode buttons have been swapped, but that’s the most significant change. There’s also a button on the top plate to illuminate the settings panel.

The Z6III becomes the first Z-series camera to move beyond the 3.69M dot panels used so far. It sees a jump to 5.76M dots but, more importantly, also gains a significant brightness boost. The panel can go as bright at 400nits and can cover the full gamut required for HLG.

You’ll need to manually push it to its brightest setting to get this full brightness but it means the camera can represent true HDR capture when shooting in HEIF mode, and generally give a viewfinder that differs less in brightness, relative to the real world.

Articulated rear screen

The Z6III becomes the first mid-range Nikon to gain a fully-articulated screen, rather than the tilting panels that the previous models have had. It’s a 3.2″ LCD panel with 2.1M dots.

The hinge is very close to the camera’s (full-sized) HDMI port and only a little in front of the mic and headphone sockets, so expect it to be a little awkward to use if you’ve got a lot of things plugged into the side of the body.

Battery

The Z6III uses the same EN-EL15c battery as its predecessor, and is rated as delivering a similar number of images. In standard mode it is rated to give 390 shots per charge if used via the rear LCD, and 360 shots through the viewfinder. Move into power saving mode and these numbers increase to 410 and 380 shots per charge, respectively.

As always, these numbers tend to significantly under-represent the number of shots most people will achieve. Getting twice the rated figure isn’t unusual, and more if you shoot a lot of images as bursts.

A battery grip with vertical controls and space for two, hot-swappable, batteries has been created. The MB-N14, which will be available in summer 2024, has been designed so that it’s backward compatible with the Z6 II and Z7 II. This grip displaces the internal battery, meaning you end up with two batteries in total. It has its own USB-C socket for charging the batteries even with the grip detached.


Initial impressions

By Richard Butler

The Z6III closely resembles the Z6 II (and Z7 II, pictured), but is slightly deeper, and has a larger top-plate settings panel.

The dullest possible reaction to the Z6III would be to take a quick look and conclude it’s all about video. Because, while there are plenty of video improvements, the Z6III is also a much better stills camera than we’ve seen from the company at this level. After the rather subtle refresh of the Z6 II, the III represents a much more significant step forward.

Admittedly, the video improvements are easier to spot. Internal Raw video, a full-sized HDMI socket, that fully-articulating LCD, waveforms, full-sensor 4K and 6K/60p: these collectively move Nikon from bringing up the rear of this class to arguably leading it. It’s striking that this mainstream class of cameras now offers the kinds of capabilities you’d previously have found only in dedicated video cameras like Panasonic’s GH series.

Part of this feature set has trickled down from capabilities developed for the Z9 but a lot of it comes from the new, faster sensor. And that faster sensor is a benefit to stills shooters, too.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-Rxu4mUxuM

The faster shooting rates are the most obvious sign of this, but the autofocus is also improved. The addition of 3D Tracking and Subject Recognition make the system more powerful and quicker to use, but according to Nikon the faster readout also means the Z6III will outperform the Zf, which has the same processor and interface.

But the improvements for photographers go beyond the performance boost: the higher-resolution viewfinder that can more closely match the brightness of the real world, and can better preview HDR shooting is a major benefit for photographers. Then there’s the addition of options such as pre-burst capture and the multi-shot high-res mode, for those who find them useful.

The Z6III doesn’t (at launch, anyway), have the standalone ‘Bird’ detection mode that has been added to the Z8 and Z9, but it can detect them in its Animal mode.

Nikkor Z 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 VR S with Z TC-1.4 | ISO 1250 | F7.1 | 1/640
Photo: Richard Butler

And for every photographer disappointed about the move to a fully articulating rear screen, there may be another who appreciates this as being the only camera in this class to have a top-plate settings display. Nikon has made the camera a little larger but it hasn’t spoiled the ergonomics that we’ve always rather liked.

It’s interesting to look back ten years to the launch of Nikon’s D750 DSLR, a camera that seemed to offer everything a keen enthusiast photographer would want. Image quality hasn’t improved radically since that point: we’d expect the Z6III’s high ISO performance to be a little better, as the D750 pre-dates dual-gain chips, but it won’t be a radical difference. But everything else is unrecognizably better. Modern lenses are sharper and more consistent, autofocus is quicker, more precise and easier to get the most out of, the Z6III is more compact yet will merrily outperform the D750’s pro-sports contemporary, the D4S, in speed and AF while showing less viewfinder blackout. And that’s before we even consider what happens when you press the red REC button.

It would absolutely be possible to take this photo using a Nikon D750, with enough practice and patience, but the Z6III makes it significantly easier.

Nikkor Z 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 VR S with Z TC-1.4 | ISO 450 | F8.0 | 1/500
Photo: Richard Butler

I’ll admit that, having seen how much Nikon had squeezed out of the existing sensor with the Zf, I thought the Z6 III might simply be a repackaged version of that camera, especially as Panasonic’s S5 II twins also continue to rely on that same chip. But the Z6III is much more ambitious, and something that brings Nikon into serious contention in terms of both specs and performance, in what’s probably the most competitive sector of the market.

Pre-production sample gallery

Please do not reproduce any of these images on a website or any newsletter/magazine without prior permission (see our copyright page). We make the originals available for private users to download to their own machines for personal examination or printing (in conjunction with this review); we do so in good faith, so please don’t abuse it.

All images taken using a pre-production Z6III, from which we can only publish the out-of-camera JPEGs.



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DPReview Rewind: Nikon D1, the first in-house DSLR

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DPReview Rewind: Nikon D1, the first in-house DSLR


The Nikon D1 was the first DSLR developed in-house by a camera maker and the first to generate JPEGs internally.

Photo: Phil Askey

In 1999, you could already buy an F-mount DSLR: Kodak had been selling modified Nikon SLRs since the DCS100 in 1991. But at the turn of the century, its prime offering was still a rather inelegant combination of a Nikon F5 film camera and a bolted-on digital imaging unit called the Kodak Professional DCS-620.

The camera Nikon revealed on June 15th 1999 was arguably the first ground, up digital SLR: still borrowing heavily from the F5 and F100 film models, but clearly designed as a coherent whole. Everything was crammed into a conventional two-grip professional body of the kind that’s still made today.

The D1 had a recommended retail price of $5,500, body only, meaning it cost around half as much as the DCS-620. And its APS-C CCD boasted 2.62 megapixels, to the Kodak’s 1.99MP. It was also the first DSLR to natively shoot JPEG: another feature that, for better or worse, is still recognizable.

DPReview founder Phil Askey got his hands on an early sample around three months after this announcement, but his (and the site’s) move from Singapore to London caused a significant, and understandable, delay in the review.

By the time he was able to complete his write-up, the Nikon had serious competition, not from Kodak but from Canon’s $3000 EOS D30 with its 3.2MP CMOS sensor and single grip design, and from the Fujifilm S1 Pro, which was another Frankencamera, grafted into Nikon N60/F60 body but promising 6.13MP images from its 3.07MP Super CCD sensor, at a cost of $4000.

Even before these players entered the market, Phil noted in his review that he’d spoken to Kodak employees who seemed “blasé” about the threat that the D1 represented. Quarter of a century later and Kodak’s only presence in photography is via companies licensing its name.

Even in the light of the new contenders released since its launch, DPReview considered the D1, with its “ultra-fast AF,” to be “the digital tool for professional photographers.” After we’d explained the impact of the APS-C sensor on full-frame lenses.

Read our original Nikon D1 review

Nikon D1 sample gallery



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