Tag Archives: Camera

Blackberry z10: Camera and Multimedia, much much improved


Camera Hardware

Blackberry has not won and awards or praise for quality and innovation on the photo stills and video capabilities on their smart phones. The Z10 may not set any new standards but it does improve Blackberry standards by a big way and ensures its not multimedia that is taking away the buyer from Blackberry.

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The Z10 features a 8MP sensor coupled to a F2.2 lens in the rear, while the front camera features a 2MP sensor coupled to a F2.2 lens as well. 

IMAG0037 The field of view (FOV) of the camera compared to my HTC Butterfly is not great, but HTC is known for there very wide angle lenses compared to the competition.  The FOV i would say is more in line with the Samsung S3 though possibly a bit better (Samsung has one of the worst wide angle implementations, specially in video mode).

Still photos

The 10.0.9.x update which i tried while providing decent stills and videos, i felt were lacking in sharpness and detail. However once i got the 10.1.x update, the story changed.  The quality of still photos improved greatly, so much so that level of details was far better than the photos taken off from my HTC Butterfly under both good and low light conditions.  In good light it seems to offer better pictures than most phone cameras i have ever owned.

While the F2.0 lens of the Butterfly gave it an edge in low light, the Z10 did fairly well but more importantly when i analyzed the photos taken (in auto mode so that i can also consider the camera app IQ) the details were fastly better on the Z10.  A few reviews i read also showed comparison with the illustrious Galaxy S3, and here the Z10 does better than the S3 which is a good indication but came second to the Apple IPhone 5.

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However the low light performance is no match for something like the Nokia 920 which has amazing low light pictures mainly due to its ability to slow down the shutter to absurdly low figures thanks to its hardware stabilization implementation.

The camera app for still photos compared to the Android, Apple and Microsoft (thanks to the Nokia Camera app and lenses modules) is very plain, with only the aspect ratio, mode, and flash settings being controllable.  In order to select the slow motion video, panorama, picture effects you will need to select the “Hopefully coming in the future” menu!

One feature that Blackberry has implemented is Timeshift, a capability currently already offered in the Nokia Lumia phones.  This is available as a complete different shooting mode, and is a very cool implementation.  It takes photos in burst mode, and then for any detected faces it allows you to go through a dial to decide which photo of that person you want to include in the final version.  Very very cool, but the only miss is that it disables the flash on Timeshift mode, so its usefulness is strictly in under good light.

The auto focus of the camera is sufficiently fast, but compared to the speed of AF i have been exposed to this is more in line with the Sony Xperia range than the HTC and Samsung phones for auto focus speed. 

The camera touch focus is implemented in a quirky manner that can take some time getting used to.  In the Android phones if you have enabled touch focus you just touch the location you want it to focus and boom it takes the photo, or it simply focuses on that point and takes the photo on the click of the capture button.  In the Z10, you have a focus point, you must be careful not to tap on it, and move the focus point to the specific area you want to focus and then tap to take the photo.  This approach means taking macro focus shots can be challenging specially in low light condition.

The focus accuracy is fairly good once you get used to this method, as you can see from the sample photos where i have moved the focus point.

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The flash of the camera is decent and more than enough to do the job.  Its a standard single LED unit which provides adequate coverage.

Blackberry like Nokia is well aware that getting good developers to start launching apps for their platforms are going to take of only if the platforms can show they are able to start taking on the two big boys in the form of Apple and Android.  So until then Blackberry like Nokia has implemented a very feature rich image editor that ensures the image editing options are fully covered.  So if someone tells you a Blackberry user, hey your phone does not have this, app, give the response, why do i need it when my in-built editor can do much much better for free 🙂

Video footage

The z10 is capable of recording 1080p at 30fps from its main (rear) camera, and 720p @ 30fps from its front camera. The Z10 really shines here, as the video footage under good and semi-decent light is amazing.  There is very good detail and smoothness on the video, and the audio quality is also very good.  The continuous auto focus does tend to hunt a bit when the subject is moving, and takes around 1-2 seconds to get the focus back.  Under low light conditions the footage becomes grainy and looses the color vibrancy.  However the video footage is very impressive and any Blackberry owner can be happy that the video is in par with the competition.

The video also features an digital video stabilization implementation. When enabled the feature does well in ensuring the video remains stable even if your hands are not steady while recording. 

However the video application is plain vanilla and you won’t find any features such as the ability to take a photo while video capture is going on, or changing the exposure, etc.

Speaker performance and headset

The in-built speaker is of the mono variant, and cannot compare with the new stereo implementations now becoming the benchmark as offered with the latest HTC one.   The speaker blares out a decent amount of volumes, and while the audio clarity is good the bass is lacking.

At max volume the speaker still holds strong rather than getting distorted which is a good, but the audio is best listened through an headset or external speaker.  

One annoying problem i noticed is that the headset is not industry standard, in a time where even Sony has moved away to accept the industry standard headset.

Video Player and editor

The camera comes with built-in player which according to external sites has a good support for codec’s.  The phone hardware is more than capable of handling 1080p videos with ease.

The Z10 also features app called StoryMaker, an app similar to the genre of the Microsoft Movie Maker, which provides cool features for you to trim, merge and downscale videos and also directly upload to youtube.  The app has been well implemented and should be more than sufficient for most video editing needs, which in android and the iOS world you will have to achieve by buying one or many apps.

Music app

The music app is implemented cleanly and provides a simple and quick interface for playlist creation, and music playback.  

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A good source on the use of new OS in addition to the great articles from crackberry was, http://us.blackberry.com/content/dam/bbCompany/Desktop/Global/PDF/Media-Gallery/blackberry-10-pressroom/BB10%20Reviewers%20Guide.pdf

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Low down on Advanced / Pro Compact Digital Cameras


What are Advanced/Pro compact cameras actually?

Advanced/Pro compacts are cameras that are considered the top of the line point and shoot digital cameras, though in features and usage they are more akin to a DSLR than standard point and shoot cameras.  The key features that make pro compacts superior to the other point and shoot cameras are,

  1. The camera sensor is much larger than what you find with most normal point and shoot cameras
  2. The lens of the camera will be very high quality, and very fast (have a large aperture) to allow shooting in low light.  The lens also might be developed by a professional lens specialist firm, and also actually manufactured by the specialist.
  3. The camera body will have loads of buttons and controls to access functions that allow maximize the use of the camera (similar to a DSLR)
  4. The camera will have full manual controls (M) in addition to the auto modes and aperture, shutter priority and program auto modes
  5. The camera will support advanced auto focus capabilities that will allow it to focus better under testing conditions
  6. The camera will allow connecting an external flash (usually one from the DSLR range made by the same manufacturer)
  7. The camera body will be made of special materials making the camera very high in quality and

Who actually buys these camera’s

With the prices of such cameras actually being same or more than some of the lower end DSLR cameras, one may question why not buy a DSLR camera and avoid paying so much what to one’s first impression is a fancy point and shoot digital camera.

  1. DSLR cameras are still much larger than advance compact digital cameras, hence you cannot carry them when you go for a private function
  2. Not everyone likes to have a DSLR camera due to the fact that after a while you get sucked into the “I need more lenses and accessories” game
  3. DSLR kit lens are not that great quality and also have smaller apertures (slower lenses).  Hence these advanced compacts can match or exceed the performance of the low end DSLR with kit lenses in the lower ISO ranges, which is good enough for most.  In addition the faster lenses on these smaller compacts can make them perform better than the lower end DSLR’s indoor.
  4. A DSLR lens with zoom that has the same aperture as the one’s offered by the compact lenses can cost you at least 2-3 times the price of such advanced compact.
  5. The advanced compacts also has a far better wide angle (24mm in most cases) than DSLR camera kit lens which are usually 27 or 28mm.

The primary buyers are the users who don’t want to own the DSLR, and want a camera that can take good to very good photos for family, home, adventure use opt for these advanced compacts.

The secondary buyers are the DSLR camera owners who usually have an advanced compact that they carry with them.  It also provides them the ability to take a quick shot without having to miss the opportunity while the try to change the lens that suits the shot!

What about the entry of the mirror-less compact system cameras

The introduction of the mirror-less compact system camera’s by Panasonic and Olympus, initialy laughed away by the giants Canon and Nikon, has surprisingly caused a large stir.  So much so these camera’s outsold DSLR camera’s in 2011 in Japan, a market that is more open to new innovations than the western markets.  Even the sales in US has increased to almost 20%, and has cause Canon and Nikon to also start developing mirror-less solutions.

Panasonic and Olympus are now challenged by products from Sony and Samsung, which feature the larger sensor found in DSLRs in the same mirror-less configuration.

This year saw two more entries, one from Pentax, a rather odd mirror-less since it features a body hosting a point and shoot type sensor (a sensor smaller than what you find inside an advanced compact!) yet with removable lens, baffling.

The latest entrant has been Nikon with the J1 and V1 models, which have been just released, and these have smaller sensor than the Panasonic and Olympus camera’s  though larger than an advanced compact camera.

The key selling point of these camera’s is that with the omission of the mirror shutter, resulting in these cameras shrinking in size so much that some of them have bodies smaller than the advanced compacts. However the term smaller is only valid when they are usually fixed with a fixed aperture lens, and when a zoom lens is added these are again larger and bulky compared to an advanced compact.  Olympus offers a folding type lens to make the zoom lens configuration also even more leaner, but this is also still larger than the largest advanced compact.

These mirror-less compact systems, with their larger sensor, smaller yet better quality kit lens (most of the kit lenses from these systems are much higher quality than the kit lenses that come with DSLR) offer very good picture quality though they are significantly smaller than DSLRs.  These cameras definitely out perform advanced compacts, but still have some limitations as the DSLRs such as the need to change lens, buy multiple lenses (and the need to be swapping lenses), high quality lenses being very expensive and being bulky than an advanced compact when fixed with a zoom lens.

Hence the need and market for these flagship high quality advanced compacts is not going to vanish very soon, as seen by the increase in the number of competitors in the market.

What models are current and recent Advance Compacts

In recent times the Nikon, Canon and Samsung cameras all use the same sensor supposedly manufactured by Sony, hence it’s the lens, software, features, and size of the cameras that make the difference.   The perennial challenge is from the Panasonic LX, that uses a different sensor but competes and matches the trio.  The newcomer from Olympus also seems to use the same sensor as the Panasonic.  Fuji was the newcomer with a new Fuji EXR sensor that is a bit larger than the other two sensors used by all other cameras.

Canon seems to be doing gentle upgrades mostly to fix the complaints of older models every year, so there are very little notable improvements, with the newer models doing better video and having faster auto focus being key improvement.  While the zoom levels are increased in some, you will notice the lens are also slower at the telephoto end, so be vary of that.

 Model Size (in) Size (mm) Megapixels aperture Zoom Lens
2011 Nikon P7100 1/1.7″ 7.49 x 5.52 10.1 F2.8 – F5.6 7.1 Nikon
2011 Canon S100 1/1.7″ 7.49 x 5.52 12.1 F2.0 – F5.9 5 Canon
2011 Fuji X10 2/3″ 8.8 x 6.6 mm 12.0 F2.0 – F2.8 4 Fujinon
2011 Olympus XZ-1 1/1.63″ 7.89 x 5.81 10.0 F1.8 – F2.5 4 Olympus Zuiko
2010 Canon G12 1/1.7″ 7.49 x 5.52 10.0 F2.8 – F4.5 5 Canon
Nikon P7000 1/1.7″ 7.49 x 5.52 10.1 F2.8 – F5.6 7.1 Nikon
Samsung EX1/TL500 1/1.7″ 7.49 x 5.52 10.1 F1.8 – F2.4 3 Schneider kreuznach
Canon S95 1/1.7″ 7.49 x 5.52 10.0 F2.0 – F4.9 3.8 Canon
Panasonic LX5 1/1.63″ 7.89 x 5.81 10.0 F2.0 – F3.3 3.8 Leica Vario-Summicron
2009 Panasonic LX3 1/1.63″ 7.89 x 5.81 10.0 F2.0 – F2.8 2.5 Leica Vario-Summicron
Canon G11 1/1.7″ 7.49 x 5.52 10.0 F2.8 – F4.5 5 Canon
Canon S90 1/1.7″ 7.49 x 5.52 10.0 F2.0 – F4.9 3.8 Canon
Post 2009 milestone models Canon G-Series (G10, G9, G7, G6, etc)Panasonic LXNikon P5000/5100