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Hands on review: Canon EOS 700D

Canon EOS 700D
Canon EOS 700D

Being the brother of the Canon EOS 100D by sharing much of its components and features the Canon EOS 700D is distinguishing itself by adding features I wish the 100D had. The first of these is a better handle that does not need small hands and the ability to add a battery grip. It is not a heavy or cumbersome camera by any length and feels like it’s solidly made.

It also has a 3 inch touch swivel screen, my biggest problem with swivel as opposed to tilt is the general handling of the camera changes when it is opened, the camera also takes twice the horizontal space. However, it feels solid and has the advantage of being functional in both portrait and landscape shooting and I found the touch screen is as addictive as ever.

My biggest surprise by far was the low light handling, it produced far less noise than I expected in both RAW and JPG. The AUTO mode (Scene Intelligent Auto) seems to select the “right” approach and setting in most conditions making it a perfect occasional and novice camera.

Big pipe organ
Big pipe organ – in low light conditions at ISO3200

The colour reproduction of the 18Mp sensor is surprisingly accurate and is not afraid of high contrast situations.
A lot has to be said of the new kit lens, the Canon EF 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS ST, it keeps surprising me. As seen below, short depth of field with clarity is easily achievable add that to its video prowess and it makes it a very desirable lens that easily competes with it’s own bigger brothers. This zoom lens paired the Canon EOS 700D makes this combination a strong contender in this space.


I tested the video and as with the 100D the results were very good, I will not post it because, unbeknown to me, it has a lot of copyrighted material. Fell free to have a look at the Canon EOS 100D video test here which yeilded similar results.

As with most kits most people will find the 18-55mm kit lens does not always satisfy zoom needs and I recommend that a 55-250 or a 70-300 be considered as part of the kit. Most retailers will have these in stock.

More photographs from my Canon EOS 700D review.

The Canon EOS 700D is available in South Africa from R7000 for the body, 18-55 kits are from R7800 and 18-55 + 55-250 kits from R9900.
Test camera kindly supplied by Canon South Africa.

Hands on review: Canon EOS 100D

Canon EOS 100D
Canon EOS 100D

When I saw the announcement a few months back, I asked why we needed another entry DSLR, every body assumed that the small Canon EOS 100D was an attempt at competing with the ever increasing number of mirrorless. I knew this was not the case as soon as I picked it up. It is tiny, for a DSLR, but a far fetch from the mirrorless form factor, admittedly its size could be a problem with bigger hands.

Canon EOS 100D Touch Screen
Canon EOS 100D Touch Screen

The biggest surprise was the touch screen, clear, bright, big and very reactive. I found the tap, focus, trigger useful bordering addictive. The touch screen has also it’s flaws, it does not recognize a finger tap from a palm and that can be a problem if the function is not switch off as the camera will snap away has happily if mishandled. In the final analysis, it comes close to the way we use smart phones and that is a good thing.

Canon EOS 100D - 1x1 crop details
Click to see 1×1 crop details

The 18MP sensor does an amazing job in both bright and low light situations, ISO 6400 being usable to capture priceless memories in low light without the need of a flash. Mixed lighting situations are not has well handled as I expected, since these are rare and often correctable in post-processing I do not think this will be a problem, the colors where relatively accurate in both situations.

The new 16-55mm STM lens is relatively fast whilst paired with the EOS 100D, my only concern with this lens is its short zoom range, 25.6-88mm equivalent or about 0.51 to 1.6 times zoom which most new users will find disappointing. I advise to get the kit that includes the EF 55-250mm f/4.5-5.6 IS II this will overcome the potential frustration with a kit that will be long lasting and not overly priced. The test photographs are a mix of both lenses and I found that both were very acceptable in color rendition and sharpness.

Tangled (Lion cubs)
Tangled (Lion cubs) – Canon EOS 100D with Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 STM IS

The camera is very capable in all modes but I found the effects function a bit superfluous as these are better achieved with programs such as Instagram. Adding Wi-Fi to the camera using an Eye-Fi card is liberating as the photos can be automatically downloaded to a mobile device, edited and published to your favorite social networking site. The bonus here is that the EOS 100D is fully compatible with Eye-Fi cards, my worry was with the battery as the Eye-Fi card is notorious for draining them, I managed a cool 450 photos over 2 days with a single charge which I find very acceptable.

The video function access is very different to other Canon cameras I have use in the past, it is located on the power button, which I found very unusual. Luckily, most the photography functions are still available. As with most DSLR the video is a bit choppy even with the STM lens image stabilization, be aware that the longer the lens the worst it will become, the 55-250 with a fence between it and the subject did not like to be in video mode and started focus hunting as shown in the video. The quality of the video is very acceptable though.

Finally, this is a great addition to the EOS line aimed at the Instagram generation wanting to get into a different type of photography, a controlled purposeful photography beyond the Point-and-Shoots and smartphones. If I had to fault this camera, I would have to say that the lack of Wi-Fi was a serious oversight from Canon and could be it’s biggest enemy. A tilt – not swivel – screen would also have come in handy for both photography and videography.

Leopard gaze (Through a fence)
Leopard gaze (Through a fence) – Canon EOS 100D with Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4.0-5.6 IS II

Overall the camera performed well but is evidently aimed at smaller hands.

Test and product photographs can be found here.
Test camera kindly supplied by Canon South Africa.

Sony invests in mirrorless cameras with new lenses

SONY Aplpha NEX-5
SONY Aplpha NEX-5

On the back of my article entitled “My switch from a bulky dSLR to a sleek mirrorless camera”, one of the major complaints I heard with the mirrorless cameras is the lack of lenses and options around them.

Sony has made some effort in this department over the past few years, making the NEX series more desirable.

There are no less than 11 prime and zoom e-mount lenses, two lens convertors and two extenders available from Sony.

I expect the E-mount lens availability to increase from third party manufacturer as well.

Currently on sale in South Africa are 5 NEX cameras, the Sony NEX -F3/3N/5R/6/7, ranging from R 5500 – R 15000 with a kit lens either 16-50mm or the older 18-55.

These prices are well within the entry to enthusiast DSLR from other manufacturers.

As for specifications there is enough to cover most photographers needs from 16.1 to 24 mega-pixels and ISO100 to up to 25600 depending on model. Add to the mix a variety of features that are usually only available in either point-and-shots or DSLRs but rarely both.

As for the lens choice, this has also grown over the past few years to include a range that now covers from 10 to 210mm or a 35mm focal length equivalent (APS-C) of 15 to 315mm in zooms and starting from f/1.8 aperture in the prime lens range. Also available are a variety of 3rd party lenses from manufactures such as Zeiss, Sigma, Tamron and Rokinon.

Not to mention a various range for adaptors for Sony/Minolta, Canon, Nikon, Voigtlander and many other mounts making the NEX’s echo system more viable every day. Metabone for example is adding value with their adaptor that can add a stop to Canon lenses, even Lensbaby with the Tilt Transformer has something.

Another manufacturer that has seen the rise of mirrorless is ThinkTank Photo with their new range of bags, the Mirrorless Mover series.

The Sony Alpha NEX-5 and NEX-7 impressed me in the past, the additions of higher ISO capabilities on both the NEX-5R and NEX-6 up to 25600 and built in Wi-Fi, entry to mid range DSLRs may just make far less sense than a couple of years ago, given the size and weight convenience of mirrorless as well as a very reasonable 1.5 crop factor allowing for better depth-of-field and creative freedom.

The NEX-5R also adds a useful touch screen; something I thought would have been a gimmick – but this is a discussion for another day.

The next evolution for the NEX would be a full-frame sensor – and it’s not as far-fetched as you may think.

Here are some of the lenses on this platform:
– Sony 10-18 mm f/4 ZOOM
– Sony 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 ZOOM
– Sony 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 ZOOM
– Sony 18-200mm Powerzoom f/3.5-6.3 ZOOM
– Sony 55-210mm f/ 4.5-6.3 ZOOM
– Sony 16mm f/2.8 Prime
– Sony 20mm f/2.8 Prime
– Sony 35mm f/1.8 Prime
– Sony 30mm f/3.5 Macro Prime
– Sony 50mm f/1.8 Prime
– Sony Carl Zeiss 24mm f/1.8 prime
– CARL ZEISS Touit 12mm f/2.8
– CARL ZEISS Touit 32mm f/1.8

Sony is fast becoming a strong contender in the still camera space with the NEX mirrorless, in fact I see it compete with the bulkier DSLR format too for good reasons.

Originally published at on 6 of June 2012.

Hands on: Canon EOS 5D MkIII Pre-production

This article is based on a Pre-production version of the Canon EOS 5D MkIII kindly supplied by Roger Machin of CANON South Africa.

Whenever I get a new piece of equipment in my hands I always get exited about the possibilities. It’s not unusual for me to be disappointed, in fact it is common. So far the Canon EOS 5D MkIII does everything but disappoint. The first thing I noticed was it’s weight and balance as I picked it up, it had no lens and I was surprised that it felt “right” straight away. I mounted the CANON EF 24-105mm f/4 L lens immediately and found it’s balance. Understand me, it is not a light camera, particularly paired with the battery grip and 2 batteries, however the later is  worth having for the extended battery longevity alone, not to mention the portrait  photography controls include the mini-joystick to select focus points amongst other things..


Full Frame sensor

I come from a long line of 1.6x crop sensors, in short, put a 16mm and take a few step back. With the full sensor, put a 16mm and step forward and than a little more. It will required a retraining of the brain, I used to be able to estimate distances from the lens to the subject relatively well, no more.
Than there is the depth-of-filed, it’s shorter, I heard about it before but really how can a sensor be that different? It just plainly is, at f/2.8 I feel like I am at f/1.4, I like that a lot!!!

Depth of field and low light
Canon EOS 5D MkIII BETA ISO 3200, Depth of field

Click on image to enlarge.
Lens: CANON EF 24-105mm f/4.0 L IS
Focal length: 105 mm
Exposure: 1/200sec at f/4.0
ISO: 12800
Edit: Adobe Lightroom 4.1 RC, 20% Noise reduction

Colour rendition

I have an strange issue with colour rendition, I thought my Canon EOS 7D did very well, the Canon EOS 5D MkIII baffled me with accuracy and I noticed it immediately.

1.6 Crop vs. full sensors
Click on image to enlarge.
Camera: CANON EOS 7D
Lens: CANON EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L
Focal length: 24 mm
Exposure: 1/400 sec at f/9
ISO: 200
Edit: Adobe Lightroom 4.1 RC, conversion to JPG only.
Lens: CANON EF 24-105mm f/4.0 L IS
Focal length: 24 mm
Exposure: 1/400 sec at f/11
ISO: 200
Edit: Adobe Lightroom 4.1 RC, conversion to JPG only.

Low light performance

This has been an issue with the Canon EOS 7D, past ISO 3200 it gets too noisy for my taste, doing fast moving sports such as Martial Arts in horrible lights has been a challenge even with a flash and a fast 2.8 zoom lens. Doing HDRs past ISO 1600 was just not an option. Now steps in the Canon EOS 5D MkII, a different beast all together, shoot at ISO 12800 as comfortably as ISO 1600 on the 7D. I did not believe it… Until I made an HDR with 7 brackets at ISO 12800 with very little noise, the noise is easily controlled in software from the raw images. That is opening opportunities, think about it, no tripod required, well that is not quiet true, read on!

Low light performance
Canon EOS 5D MkIII BETA ISO 3200, no edit.

Canon EOS 5D MkIII BETA ISO 3200, 25% Noise reduction edit.
This is a 1 to 1 pixel crop, click on image to enlarge.
Lens: CANON EF 16-35mm f/2.8 L II 
Focal length: 27 mm
Exposure: 1/5000 sec at f/11
ISO: 3200
Edit: Adobe Lightroom 4.1 RC, conversion to JPG only. Edit: Adobe Lightroom 4.1 RC, 25% Noise reduction


This would never affect 90% of the users but it affects me, 7 brackets? Why did I not have this on the 7D? Makes my HDR shooting just so much easier. Now will Canon update the 7D’s firmware to do that too? The only drawback is the frame speed at 6 frames a second, which I have yet to achieve, 7 frames handheld is going to be a challenge, over a second of absolute stillness. Out will come my tripod.

7 brackets HDR

Click on image to enlarge.
Lens: CANON EF 24-105mm f/4.0 L IS
Focal length: 24mm
Middle Exposure: 1/320sec at f/9.0
ISO: 200
Edit: Adobe Lightroom 4.1 RC, Photomatix Pro4.2 and Topaz Adjust

Focusing system

Blistering fast and pin sharp in any light situations, I suspect that the lens profiling helps too.

Dual card slots

CF and SD card slots are available, I write the RAW on the CF card and the JPG on the SD card. A word of warning though, it will slow down the burst speed of the camera dramatically. These 2 card slots are individually configurable, so they can act as one large card or be mirrored.
Unexpected but very welcomed is the full Eye-Fi compatibility, it can be switched on or off too, in camera, allow you to save battery life. This also allows me to transfer the JPEGs to my iPad, do basic retouch quickly and post them online without the need of a computer. Handy functionality that just works.

Surprises good and bad

The HDR mode, which I initially found futile, was a good surprise. It does a decent job which was rather unexpected. it gives me the opportunity to do quick and dirty HDR photography with a relatively acceptable result. I do not think I will use it much but time will tell.
The new button layout will catch me for a few months to come, the 7D’s “Q” button as now been replaced by the menu button and the Q button is a a more logical place next to the “Quick Control Dial”, some brain rewiring will be required.
To my surprise the auto focus mode is now out of the “Q” functions but is available a t a touch of the “Focus Point” button only. Will this be fixed in the final product?
Lastly, all the EOS that I ever used, make use the AE Lock and AF Point selection buttons for Zoom in and out in preview mode, that is gone, replacing it is a zoom button, I did not find that amusing.

Built in HDR a good surprise
Original Photograph. Click to see larger version.
In camera HDR Photograph. Click to see larger version.
Original Photograph

In camera HDR Photograph

Click on image to enlarge.
Lens: CANON EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS
Focal length: 24 mm
Middle Exposure (Shown): 1/500 sec at f/4.0
ISO: 1600
Edit: Adobe Lightroom 4.1 RC, resized and 20% noise reduction

The irritating

Originally I was going to leave this out and it may just be this pre-release model but it seems to be trigger happy, the shutter button is feather-sensitive.
Another point about the HDR mode, it is better to have the Fast Continuous Drive mode on, however in “1 shot” HDR it will disable the HDR functionality but not the continuous drive mode, I got caught out a few times with this lack of functionality.
Both these issues are memory card intensive at an average of 28MB per RAW image it stacks up fast.

All in all the CANON EOS 5D MkIII impresses and outperforms most my expectations. I will post more in the next few weeks,  expect a string of “Living with” posts.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX5V mini review


Had you told me a year ago that I would consider buying a SONY product, let alone owning one, I would of laughed at you, let’s just say my experiences with SONY are not the best. Then again, things change.

I needed a solid functional with reasonable resolution pocket camera and I mean “pocket”. Though the Canon Powershot G12/G13 and the Nikon Coolpix P7000 are great, they are cumbersome, not pocket stuff. I was left with The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX5V. By the way, where do the marketing department find these names anyways?

The considerations were as follows:

  1. It needed to fit in my jeans back pocket (This was non negotiable!)
  2. It needed to be really solid
  3. It needed to have a reasonable zoom range.
  4. It needed more than 10MP
  5. Rechargeable battery
  6. Optional: low light capability
  7. Optional: high frame rate
  8. Optional: HD 1080 video recording
How does it match up?

  1. Fits better than my iPhone, seriously!
  2. You could probably use it as a weapon, not that I’d try.
  3. 10x zoom (35mm equivalent to 25 to 250mm)
  4. 10.2MP just makes it.
  5. Yes it has a rechargeable battery
  6. I am amazed by its low light capability
  7. 10 frame a second burst makes it faster than my DSLR by 2 frames.
  8. HD AVCHD 1080 video recording
  9. And bonus… A GPS with compass.

The first thing I was reminded of when I got the camera was the fact that, as is with most point-and-shoot cameras, there is no RAW function. However, I do not believe that this function is required on point-and-shoot cameras. To me point-and-shoot cameras need to be practical and in reach, no more, no less.

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX5V certainly has a comprehensive feature list that would satisfy most photographers from excellent low light capability to in camera HDR not forgetting two of my favourites, panoramic sweep and 10 frames per second burst. I found that leaving it in full AUTO I get far better results than trying to out smart it. The only time I take it out of AUTO is for panoramas, which it does very well if you know how to, and HDR which actually works well enough for my use, finally for video.

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX5V also has some shortcomings, for one the aperture is rather limited from f/3.5 to f/8 and to be honest the GPS is really slow to acquire a fix. Lastly, this may surprise everyone, it’s heavy but that brings a sense of solidity not often found in this type of camera.

In short, it is not an SLR but it does a brilliant job for what it is a pocket camera that is always ready.


I posted some sample photos to my Flickr account.

You can find in-depth reviews here:


Panoramic Test