Saturday, 25 May 2013

TTL flash delay

Flash metering has come a long way the recent decades. TTL flash metering for SLR cameras was first introduced by Olympus in the mid 1970's. TTL refers to Through The Lens. The camera measures the amount of light coming onto the film through the lens during the exposure, and cuts off the flash as the exposure is sufficient.

Film based SLR cameras


For film based SLR cameras, this is usually implemented by having a flash light meter in front of the film plane. The amount of light reflected off the film from the flash is metered, and the flash is turned off when there has been a sufficient amount of light for the desired exposure. See the illustration below.


Film based SLR camera with lens

In this illustration, the mirror is raised for exposing the film.

This generally worked well, at least as long as the subject was not too dark or too light, in which case you needed to manually adjust the flash exposure.

Digital SLR cameras (DSLR)


With digital cameras, this does not work well, since the imaging sensor, replacing the film, is not reflective enough. To overcome this problem, most DSLR cameras fire a pre-flash before raising the mirror, and then fire the main flash after raising the sensor and opening the shutter.

The pre-flash is used to determine the amount of flash needed for the exposure. With this method, the TTL flash meter is no longer needed, the camera's ordinary light meter is used. See the illustration.


DLR camera with lens

There are some DSLRs that still measure the amount of light reflected off the sensor chip, and avoid the pre-flash. The Fujifilm S1 and S3 does this.

Mirrorless cameras


As you know, Micro Four Thirds is a mirrorless camera system. So there is no mirror, and no viewfinder prism. The camera also has no light sensor anymore. The imaging sensor is the light sensor.

To find the correct flash exposure, a pre-flash is triggered while the sensor is exposed. Then the camera must make the sensor ready for a second exposure, and fire off the flash with the correct amount of light. This typically takes a bit more time than with a DSLR. The DSLR used the separate light meter for the pre-flash, and could expose the main imaging sensor only once.

Here's a basic illustration of a mirrorless camera with lens. It is much simpler, since there is no mirror, pentaprism, or light meter.


Mirrorless camera with lens

Flash and pre-flash timings


To examine the pre-flash and main flash timings, I have video recorded the cameras using a Panasonic GH1. The recording was done at 50fps (to get the most detailed timing measurement), and at 1/50s exposure, so that I would not miss the flash firing.

Using this setup, I video recorded four cameras doing the flash exposure: The Panasonic GH2 and GH3, Pentax K10D, and the Canon EOS 400D. For all the cameras, I used manual focus when taking the test exposures, so that there would be no autofocus delay. I also set the maximum aperture, to avoid the delay of the camera stopping down the aperture.

During normal indoor lightning


Here are the tests, as recorded by the Panasonic GH1:



And the results:

K10DGH2GH3
Pre-flash delay460 ms120 ms80 ms
Main flash delay580 ms220 ms180 ms

Here, we see clearly that the GH3 improves upon the GH2, however, the results are still fairly similar. The GH3 achieves quicker flash activation, which I believe is because it has a shutter that operates faster. The GH3 also takes more pictures per second during continuous drive mode, another indication that the shutter operation is faster.

During very dim indoor lightning


Here are the tests:



And the results:

400DGH2GH3
1st pre-flash delay340 ms120 ms60 ms
2nd pre-flash delaynonenone160 ms
Main flash delay400 ms220 ms260 ms

The Canon EOS 400D was the slowest, taking 0.4 seconds from the shutter was pressed, until the main flash exposed the image. The GH2 was the fastest here, however, that was just because the GH3 decided to do two pre-flashes. This was probably done for better flash exposure accuracy. I would guess that it normally uses only one single pre-flash, in which case it would have been the fastest in the test.

Avoiding the pre-flash


The pre-flash can concievably be a problem. It can cause your subject to blink, for example. As long as you use TTL flash metering, be it with the on-board flash or with an original external flash, there is no way to avoid this.

However, if you have an external flash, it is very likely that you can overcome this by using the so-called "auto" mode. Auto mode for a flash means that the flash has a light sensor, which measures how much light is reflected off the subject, and shuts of the flash when there is sufficient. So only one single flash is needed.

To be able to do this, you need to tell the flash what aperture and ISO rating you are using. See this article for some examples of how to do this using older, legacy flash units. If, on the other hand, you have an original flash for the Four Thirds or Micro Four Thirds format, then the flash will read the aperture and ISO settings off the camera automatically. See my review of the Panasonic FL360 for an example.

The downside of this method, is if your subject is unusually light or dark. The flash has no way of knowing this, and will give you a wrongly exposed image. If you see the image come out too bright, for example, adjust the aperture rating (on the flash) up to a larger aperture (smaller f-number).

Conclusion


The GH3 has an impressively fast response here, only 0.06s delay from pressing the shutter until the camera fires the first pre-flash, twice as fast as the GH2. And the total delay is around 0.2s. On top of this, you will mostly add the autofocus delay. However, since you have most likely focused during composition anyway, this is just a matter of the camera confirming that the focus is ok. Using a lens with a fast AF motor, this will take a very short time, probably around 0.1s

In the second test, the GH3 did a second pre-flash, probably at a different exposure level than the first. This was done to probe how to best illuminate the subject. As a subject, I had a wall with very little contrast, so a normal subject will probably not require a second pre-flash.

When talking about cameras like this, most enthusiasts would say that you should not use the built in flash at all. The reason is that it is fairly low powered, meaning that you cannot expose people at a long distance when taking pictures indoor. Any distance larger than about two meters might be problematic, depending on the lens you use, of course, the larger aperture the better. Also, the flash is located quite close to the lens, which gives you a quite flat lightning

However, my experience when using the Panasonic GH3, is that it does a good job when photographing people indoor using the flash, both for portrait closeups (less than one meter distance) and groups of people. Of course, using a proper flash, like the Panasonic FL360, or the more recent predecessor Panasonic FL360L will give you much better flash images. But when you travel light and happen to need the built-in flash, don't be afraid to use it.




Sunday, 19 May 2013

Multi aspect sensor

An important feature of the Panasonic GH1 and GH2 was the multi aspect, oversized sensor. They had sensors larger than that of the other Four Thirds sensor cameras. This allowed taking pictures in the aspect ratios 4:3, 3:2 and 16:9 with the same diagonal sensor length, and, hence, using the full image circle. This is in contrast with other Micro Four Thirds cameras, which apply sensor cropping at 3:2 and 16:9 aspect ratios.

When the Panasonic GH3 was launched late 2012, it was a big disappointment that it did not offer the multi aspect sensor feature of the two predecessors. But what does it mean?

The illustration below shows the two sensor sizes. The green rectangle is the standard Four Thirds sensor size, while the black corners outline the GH1 and GH2 sensor size. Since the GH3 has the standard sensor size, it crops to achieve 16:9 video recording (orange box). The GH1 and GH2, on the other hand could use the red rectangle for video recording, using the image circle more efficiently and also achieving a wider field of view given the same lens.



In video


In the illustration above, the GH3 video crop of the sensor (orange box) is 7.4% smaller than that of the GH1 and GH2 (red box), when measured by the diagonal. This means that when using one of the kit zoom lenses at the widest setting, 14mm, the diagonal field of view of the GH3 corresponds to 15mm in video mode. This was calculated as 14×(1+7.4%). So, as compared with the predecessor, the kit lenses will give you less wide angle when video recording.

What you can do, then, is to use a different lens. The Lumix X 12-35mm f/2.8 lens starts at 12mm, and hence, gives you a better wide angle during video. On the other hand, it has a more limited zoom range, stopping at 35mm, well before the typical portrait lens focal length of 42mm. It is an excellent lens, though, probably the best I have ever used.

Another option is the Olympus 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 power zoom lens. While this lens generally gets mixed reviews, probably because of the limited maximum aperture, I think it is a very interesting lens. It is the only zoom lens to cover both the very wide and portrait lens focal length. On top of this, it also adds a macro mode and power zooming, as well as coming in a weather sealed constant length package. On the downside, though, it does not feature optical image stabilization, so using it for video recording on a Panasonic lens is going to be tough. Without a tripod or a good support, your videos risk being shaky.

It's good to keep in mind that the lack of a multi aspect sensor in the GH3 is nothing extraordinary. In fact, out of all video enabled consumer system cameras, the GH1 and GH2 were the only to feature the oversized multi aspect sensors. All other do not have this feature. On the other hand, most other video enabled system cameras have an APS-C sized 3:2 aspect sensor. When cropping such a sensor to 16:9 for video, this wastes a relatively smaller part of the sensor than when cropping a 4:3 sensor. Hence, the oversized sensor doesn't make that much sense with APS-C sensor. The illustration below shows this:



The Four Thirds sensor wastes 25% of the sensor area when cropping to video mode, and 7.4% of the image circle (diagonally). The APS-C, on the other hand, wastes only 16% of the sensor size, and 4.5% of the image circle. So the oversized sensor feature does not make as much sense with the more common APS-C sensor format.

Here is a side by side video showing the GH2 and GH3 in photo and video mode, both using the Lumix G 14mm f/2.5 pancake lens. It shows that when changing to video mode, the GH3 loses some field of view due to cropping the from the Four Thirds sized sensor:



In photography


If you like to take photos in the 4:3 aspect ratio, then there is no difference whatsoever between the GH2 and the GH3. The resolution is exactly the same.

However, the GH1 and GH2 had the option of using the 3:2 and 16:9 aspect ratios for photos as well, while still retaining the same diagonal field of view. If you intend to use the images in this format, then you would use the lens image circle more efficiently with these cameras, and the GH2 will give you better resolution to boot. Here is a comparison table:

Photo resolutionGH2GH3
4:34608x3456 (16MP)4608x3456 (16MP)
3:24752x3168 (15MP)4608x3072 (14MP)
16:94976x2800 (14MP)4608x2592 (11MP)

These differences are not that important, surely, but there is in fact a significant difference.

On the other hand, with a camera like the GH3, it is best to stick with the 4:3 format when photographing, and crop the image later, if needed. And that saves time and hassle while photographing, which is not the worst thing you could do. With the GH2, I would often change the aspect ratio when photographing something wide, giving me slightly better resolution. With the GH3, I just skip this part, which is easier anyway.

Conclusion


Losing the multi aspect sensor feature with the GH3 was a setback. However, the consequences are not that severe. You lose the very widest field of view in video mode. If you prefer using longer focal lengths, this might actually be an advantage.

Producing two sensor sizes was probably too costly for Panasonic. So I can understand their desire to standardize the sensor size from an economic point of view. The Panasonic G5 and Panasonic G6 cameras are said to have sensors based on that from the Panasonic GH2. However, they still do not have the multi aspect sensor feature.

In fact, Panasonic has done the same also in the compact camera market. Their LX3 and LX5 premium compact cameras featured a 1/1.63'' (8.07 x 5.56 mm) multi aspect sensor, larger than the typical 1/1.7'' sensor mostly found in these cameras. The newest Panasonic LX7 has a standard 1/1.7'' (7.44 x 5.58 mm) sensor, from Sony, incidentally. It still achieves the multi aspect feature by having a slightly smaller image circle. This also allows for the very impressive aperture rating of this camera, f/1.4-2.3.

I think losing the multi aspect rate sensor opens up the need for more wide zoom lenses. Only two lenses start at 12mm so far, the Lumix X 12-35mm f/2.8 and the Olympus 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3. The first of these is very good, but also very expensive, and a bit short. The second does not have OIS, and is hence not so useful for video on Panasonic cameras. With this in mind, I think that Panasonic should make a lens specified at something like 12-50mm f/2.8-4.5 with power zoom and OIS. That would be great for video use with the GH3.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

GH3 video recording at high ISO

The Panasonic GH3 can record video at a maximum of ISO 6400, up from ISO 3200 on the GH2. And the quality is quite good at ISO 6400, see an example comparison at ISO 200, 800, 3200 and 6400 here.

However, there is a rumour that the GH3 can record video at one stop more, ISO 12800, by dialling in +3 in exposure compensation. So, is this true? The quick answer is: Yes. But it's a somewhat strange process. I'll take a look here.

In A (aperture priority) mode


What's going on is this: In the Creative Movie mode, A exposure mode, you set the aperture and the ISO, and the camera sets the shutter speed. When setting the ISO to the max, and then dialling in a positive exposure compensation, nothing happens until you reach +2. Then, you get one more stop of gain (light) until you reach +3. So, it might seem like the camera gives you one more stop of ISO for free.

But what you don't see is the shutter speed. I think it is a big problem with the GH3 that it does not state the shutter speed during video recording, except in full manual M mode. This makes the camera much more difficult to use for video recording.

However, for the moment, you can trust me that the camera tries to give you a 180° shutter in video mode, meaning that the shutter is open half the time, or a shutter speed of 1/50s if you are using a 25 fps video mode. Except if you dial in +3 exposure compensation, then it reverts to a 360° shutter, one full stop more exposure. You see this as a significant gain in brightness, if you are video recording in a too dim environment.

This can be easily demonstrated. See the video below in the next section.

In S (shutter priority) mode


Set in a similar setting, where the lightning is not enough at ISO 6400, full aperture, and 1/25s (or 1/30s for NTSC camera), when dialling in +3 exposure compensation, you get around one more stop of brightness, as compared with the maximum exposure in M mode.

Hence, it is true to say that you effectively get around ISO 12800 by using the Creative Movie mode in S (shutter priority) mode and dialling in +3. This only makes sense when the lightning is very dim. Otherwise, you simply get a very overexposed scene, which is not what you want.

Here is a video demonstrating the features of the A and S modes:



Here are also comparisons of the exposure levels in the video. From left to right, we have the A mode, M mode and S mode. We see that when using the Aperture Priority (A) mode with no compensation, it corresponds to 1/50s (180° shutter). When dialling in +3, though, it corresponds to 1/25s exposure (360° shutter). In S mode, though, we get around one stop more gain at +3 exposure compensation, effectively around ISO 12800:



Conclusion


The GH3 behaviour is a bit strange here. In A mode, it runs a 180° shutter by default, i.e., one stop less than the maximum exposure. Only when you dial in +3, you get the full exposure, one stop more. Specifying a 360° shutter manually in M mode gives exactly the same exposure, i.e., there is no "magical" extra sensitivity when dialling in +3.

The feature might still be useful. If it is too dark for ISO 6400, and you want the camera to use a shutter speed as slow as possible, you can set the exposure compensation to +3. You might find that easier than switching to the M exposure mode, where you could do the same.

In S mode, though, you can also dial in +3, and get one extra stop of gain, but at the same shutter speed. This appears to be a way to get around ISO 12800 in video mode. Note that this only works when the lens aperture is set to the maximum. Otherwise, the camera would rather first increase the aperture to achieve the exposure compensation, rather than increase the ISO sensitivity.

Alternative solution


If you are stuck in ISO 6400, maximum shutter speed (1/25s in 25fps or 1/30s in 30fps, depending on PAL/NTSC region), and you still need more exposure, what can you do? There is a solution, actually. There is another, semi-hidden feature of the GH3. It can record video at even slower shutter speeds, to capture more light in each frame.

For example, I recorded a video at 1/13s shutter speed at a concert, since I needed one stop more brightness even at ISO 6400. Of course, this gives you only 13 unique frames per second, even if the video stream is still 25fps. And you get significantly more motion blur, since each exposure is slower.

Here is a short description of how it was done, and a comparison between 1/25s and 1/13s. You must set the mode dial to "Creative Movie" mode, and then set manual focus, and the "M" exposure mode. Then you can set slow shutter speeds, all the way down to 1/2s. At 1/2s shutter speed, you only get two unique frames per second, of course, so the video might not be very useful.



As you see, 1/13s gives more exposure, and better brightness in the dim lightning, but more motion blur.

Here you can see the full concert videos as well. The one recorded at 1/13s:



And the one recorded at 1/25s, which is dimmer, but has less motion blur:



Both these videos were recorded using the Samyang 7.5mm f/3.5 fisheye lens. The maximum aperture is only f/3.5, which is quite small for a prime lens. On the other hand, it is normal for a fisheye lens. If I had used a lens with a larger aperture, for example the Lumix G 20mm f/1.7 pancake lens, I would not have needed to use a slow shutter speed.

This feature was also available with the GH1 and GH2. I used it to record fireworks with the Samyang fisheye lens, at ISO 3200, f/3.5, 1/13s. Since the GH2 topped out at ISO 3200 in video mode, this was my only option to be able to capture it. Using the GH3, I would probably have used ISO 6400 and 1/25s exposure.




Saturday, 4 May 2013

Product news

Recently, we have seen some interesting product launches. Here are my opinions on some recent camera news:

Panasonic GF6

The GF1 was the fist "rangefinder style" Panasonic camera. It had enthusiast friendly features, like a PASM mode dial, thumb control dial, plenty of buttons, and the possibility to attach an external viewfinder. Later, though, Panasonic seem to have had a hard time deciding what to do with the GF series. The GF2 and GF3 were all about making the camera as small as possible, sacrificing the enthusiast features like wheels, buttons and the flash hotshoe. The GF5 is quite similar to the GF3, but adds, e.g., a more ergonomic grip.



In April 2013, Panasonic are making a bit of a U-turn with the GF6, bringing it closer to the enthusiast camera territory where the series where born. It is no longer about being as small as possible, but grows a little bit while adding a useful tiltable touch LCD screen, and sees the return of the top mode dial. It also has a metal surface top plate, which I think looks a bit cheesy, but I think many will love it.

It has sensibly shaped grip surfaces for the thumb (rear) and middle finger (front), making it much easier to hold than the smooth GF3.

The GF6 has a sensor inherited from the Panasonic GX1, which should give you a good image and video quality.

It comes with the new Lumix G 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 II kit zoom lens, which is getting good reviews so far, being smaller and lighter than the predecessor.

Panasonic G6


The Panasonic G6 was announced in April 2013, almost half a year after the Panasonic GH3. Still, the GH3 is the better camera in virtually every way.



Not to say that the G6 is useless. Far from it. You may still be interested in the G6 for two reasons, mainly: It is smaller and lighter, and less expensive, while still packing most of the features of the Panasonic GH series.

It has a sensor from the GH2, however, with improved image processing. Sadly, it does not have the multi aspect sensor feature of the GH2. Even if the GH2 sensor on which the G6 is based is old, the updated processing adds a lot to the image quality. So you should still expect a good quality increase from the GH2.

In terms of video, it improves upon the GH2 features by adding 1080p resolution at 50/60fps (depending on PAL/NTSC), and also supports the extended tele conversion (ETC) mode.

When it comes to the design, it follows the GH3 trend by replacing chrome details with matte black. The overall shape bears a clear resemblance to the Leica R8 and R9, with elevated shoulders. While the camera is small, it has a generous grip, for better ergonomics.

This table sums up the size in comparison with the GH3:

CameraGH3G6
Width133mm122mm
Height93mm85mm
Depth82mm71mm
Weight550g390g

Another good news is that the G6 is the first Micro Four Thirds camera to feature "focus peaking". This feature highlights strong edges in the display, making it easier to focus manually, e.g., during video recording.

Panasonic Lumix G HD 14-140mm f/3.5-5.8


The superzoom lens Lumix G HD 14-140mm f/4-5.8 was the third zoom lens from Panasonic within this system. It was used as a kit lens for the Panasonic GH1, and then, later available on a stand alone basis. I was never entirely happy with this lens, as I think it is not very sharp in the wide and long end, and it's focus performance, despite the HD designation, is nothing special compared with cheaper lenses.

With this in mind, it makes me happy that Panasonic is now updating this lens. The new lens has better aperture specifications, about a third stop better in the wide end, and a sixth stop better in the long end.



The new lens is also smaller, and has a front lens thread of 58mm, rather than 67mm for the old lens. With the experience Panasonic has acquired since making the original lens, e.g., from making the excellent Lumix X 12-35mm f/2.8, I'm sure they can do a much better job this time. If you have the choice, I suggest getting the newer lens.

Some might miss a motorized zoom. After all, if this is really a video optimized lens, why is the zooming done with a manual, mechanical ring? Zooming smoothly during video is almost impossible with a manual zoom ring. Most likely, a motorized zoom would be too complicated for such a lens. The motor would need to be very powerful, to be able to extend the duo cam front part of the lens.

Also, I expect this lens to have a pretty well dampened zoom ring. The Lumix X 12-35mm f/2.8 sure does, making it possible to zoom quite smoothly even during video. Unlike the basic kit zooms, which have a quite sticky zoom ring.

Olympus E-P5


The camera was announced on May 10th, together with a new external electronic viewfinder, the VF-4.



Olympus E-P5, shown with the optional VF-4 viewfinder, and the Olympus 17mm f/1.8 lens

The camera inherits a lot of interesting and attractive features from the Olympus OM-D E-M5: It gets a tiltable LCD display, the new five axis image stabilization, now with automatic panning detection. Also, it gets dual control wheels near the shutter button. Using Panasonic lenses with OIS becomes easier, since the camera allows you to choose more easily if you want to use the in camera image stabilization (IBIS) or OIS.

As for the sensor, it is also the same as in the OM-D E-M5, which is good, since it has been hailed for the good image quality. You can take up to 9 frames per second in continuous shooting mode, although only 5 fps with autofocus enabled. For more easy manual focus with legacy lenses or during video capture, there is a "focus peaking" feature to assist you by highlighting sharp edges.

I think it is good that the flagship PEN style camera now comes with a tilting LCD screen. That is very useful. On the other hand, I think the lack of a built in viewfinder makes it less attractive. On the other hand, quite some people like using cameras without eye level viewfinders, so I guess it still makes sense from a market perspective. All in all, this is a modern camera with virtually all the features you could think of, in a somewhat classic retro design.

Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera


There is little doubt that, at the moment, the best Micro Four Thirds camera is the Panasonic GH3. However, the most interesting might very well be the odd Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera:



Not to say that everybody should rush out to buy this camera: Far from it. This is a very specialized camera. It does not take pictures, only video. And the video resolution is 1920x1080, nothing special at all.

However, since it is made for video, it has an imaging sensor optimized for video recording only, not photos. Hence, it is able to achieve much better video quality, especially in terms of dynamic range, handling of moire, and colours. It also supports higher bitrates, giving you less compressed video files.

Unlike the predecessor, the Blackmagic Cinema Camera, which also came with a Micro Four Thirds mount, the pocket version has an active mount. This is a very crucial difference. With a passive mount, i.e., no electronic communication, most Micro Four Thirds lenses are useless on the camera, as you are not able to change the focus or the aperture.

The active mount of the pocket version makes all Micro Four Thirds lenses usable, though. You can operate the aperture and the focus, and OIS even works on the lenses that have OIS built in.

The Panasonic GH3 handles autofocus during video capture surprisingly well, as I have demonstrated here. Even if the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera features autofocus, you should not expect such a performance. Rather, you must probably rely on focusing manually during video capture, and there is a focus peaking mode to assist you.

On the negative side, the camera has a significantly smaller sensor that Four Thirds size. There is a crop factor of 2.88. This means that the Lumix G 14mm f/2.5 becomes a 40mm equivalent lens, i.e., a short normal lens. Finding a good wide angle lens might be difficult.

Also worth noting that the camera does not correct for geometric distortion, for the lenses that feature this. Quite many M4/3 lenses require software geometric distortion correction, and they will give you distortion issues on the Blackmagic camera.

This is a camera for video enthusiast, who want the best video quality in a compact and relatively ergonomic package.

After the release of the two Blackmagic Cinema cameras, Magic Lantern have announced that they will make available firmware upgrades for the Canon EOS 5D MkIII. The upgrades enables RAW video recording at 24fps, at 14 bits depth, suitable for movie makers. The firmware also adds other features like larger resolution videos, 2.5K, 3K, 3.6K and other sizes.

What's even more impressive, is that the features are expected to be ported to the Canon EOS 6D, Canon EOS 5D MkII and Canon EOS 600D cameras! This firmware development may well remove a significant part of the market for the Blackmagic Cinema cameras.

28mm APS-C compact cameras


Within the last months, we have seen two new cameras in the somewhat thinly populated class of large sensor compact cameras. This market segment has previously been pioneered by Sigma with their strange and quirky DP series. Fujifilm were the first to get a good impact here, with the retro design 35mm (equivalent) Fujifilm X100.

Nikon and Ricoh now want a place in this segment as well, with the Nikon Coolpix A and Ricoh GR:

Nikon Coolpix ARicoh GR

Both feature retractable lenses with a 28mm equivalent field of view, and an aperture of f/2.8. What's more, it is reasonable to believe that both feature the same APS-C sensor from Sony. The APS-C sized sensors are commonly used in consumer DSLR cameras.

The Ricoh camera is slightly wider, but slimmer and lower, and also lighter. They have similar features, and the choice largely comes down to what type of ergonomics you like. Beyond that, the Ricoh GR also packs built in ND-filter, which is useful for large aperture shooting outdoor in sunlight. It also comes with a significantly lower price tag. It appears that Nikon want to capitalize on their strong brand name by charging a premium price for their camera.

Given that one would often want a camera like this to be slim and fit in a pocket, I think the Ricoh version looks the most useful. The Ricoh also appears to have the upper hand in terms of optical performance, based on the tests I have seen so far.

Neither of the cameras have a tiltable LCD or the possibility to attach an external EVF, which is too bad, but hardly unexpected since they are intended to be compact and rigid.