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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hi-Tech Studio: Daily Drivers

Big on style and capability, these cameras are the ideal off-duty tools when you don’t want to carry the big DSLR

Leica X1; Fujifilm FinePix X100

As pro photographers, we work with some complex, sophisticated gear because our livelihoods depend on it, but we seldom want to cart around our capable, but bulky "A" camera all the time. It’s like being a Formula 1 driver—those open-wheeled cars are tremendous, but Sebastian Vettel isn’t going to run across town in the Red Bull racing machine to do weekend errands. For a “daily driver,” a walk-around camera, there are some much more compact and easier-to-carry bodies that can provide DSLR image quality and make excellent off-duty cameras for pro photographers. Here are a few of the best options for professionals who want something small and stylish, but capable of producing an excellent photo.

Fujifilm FinePix X100
The X100 combines excellent image quality, a functional retro design and a unique hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder to create a highly sought-after camera. The 12.3-megapixel, APS-C-format CMOS sensor features micro-lenses that direct light efficiently to the pixels from edge to edge, while a newly developed EXR processor delivers the best resolution, sensitivity and dynamic range ever in a FinePix digital camera (that big sensor certainly helps, too). The 23mm ƒ/2 Fujinon lens (equivalent in framing to a 35mm lens on a 35mm camera) is compact without collapsing, can focus down to four inches and features a three-stop neutral-density filter that can be activated when desired.

But it’s the new hybrid viewfinder that really sets the X100 apart. It lets you use the eye-level finder as an 0.5x reverse-Galilean optical finder with a variety of data superimposed or as an electronic viewfinder with the same magnification and data display. There’s also a 2.8-inch, 460,000-dot LCD monitor, a built-in flash, RAW file capability, 720p HD movie mode, motion panorama and more.

Leica X1
While a number of recent cameras have been touted as being “Leica-like,” the X1 actually is a Leica—no bells or whistles, just a straightforward, easy-to-use, very compact, very well-built camera that turns out excellent 12.2-megapixel, APS-C digital images for each speed throughout its ISO range. And it carries a Leica-like price tag for a compact camera: $1,995.

Features include excellent build quality, an almost-silent shutter, a Leica Elmarit 24mm ƒ/2.8 ASPH lens (equivalent to a 35mm focal length on a 35mm camera), simple operation with complete control over everything when you want it and accessories such as a hand grip and an eye-level optical finder.

RAW images are saved in the universal Adobe DNG format, but there’s no RAW-only mode—you can shoot JPEG or RAW + JPEG. This is the only camera featured here that doesn’t provide video capability, but that won’t matter to its likely buyers—the main draw here is the Leica name and quality.


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