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The Nikon D7500 marks the biggest departure yet for Nikon’s D7xxx series of enthusiast-focused DSLRs, with the camera borrowing quite a bit of the tech from Nikon's top-of-the-range DX-format DSLR, the mighty D500.

Nikon is keen to stress, however, that this new camera isn't a direct replacement for the D7200, which will continue to feature in the Nikon line-up, but rather slots in above it.

So does the D7500 muddy the waters by adding an extra layer of confusion to the Nikon DX-format range? Or does it do enough to stand out among some pretty impressive stablemates?

Features

  • APS-C CMOS sensor, 20.9MP
  • 3.2-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 922,000 dots
  • 4K video capture

One of the biggest shake-ups the Nikon D7500 brings is the change of sensor. While both the D7100 and D7200 sported 24MP chips (as, for that matter, did the entry-level D3400 and D5600), here Nikon has opted to use the slightly lower-resolution 20.9MP sensor from the D500, which, as in that camera, is teamed with Nikon's EXPEED 5 image processor.

As on the D500, omitting the low-pass filter has enabled Nikon to eke out that bit more detail from the 20.9MP sensor, and while it may seem quite a sacrifice to lose almost 4MP compared to the D7200's 24.2MP, the minor drop in resolution does have advantages, particularly when it comes to sensitivity. 

Compared to the D7200’s ISO range of 100-25,600, the D7500’s 100-51,200 standard offers an extra stop of flexibility, but it’s the expanded range that impresses. There’s a low setting of ISO50, while the upper ceiling is a staggering ISO1,640,000. The reality is that these upper sensitivities are likely to be pretty much unusable, but the benefits will be felt further down the sensitivity range, and if the new camera performs like the D500 it should impress in this regard. 

While both the D7100 and D7200 sported 3.2-inch displays that sat flush with the camera body, the D7500 has a 3.2-inch tilt-angle touchscreen display with a 922,000-dot resolution (the D500 has a 2,359,000-dot resolution). There’s also an eye-level pentaprism optical viewfinder that offers 100% coverage.

We’re pleased to see 4K UHD (3840 x 2160) video capture arrive on the D7500, at 30, 25 and 24p for up to 29 minutes and 59 seconds. As usual there are lower-resolution video modes, and Full HD footage can be shot in 60p for slow-motion playback. In addition, 4K UHD timelapse movies can be created in-camera, and there's electronic Vibration Reduction to reduce the impact of camera shake when shooting movies hand-held.

The D7500 also offers simultaneous 4K UHD output – to card, and uncompressed via HDMI – as well as a headphone and microphone jack for pro-level audio recording and monitoring.

Speaking of cards, the D7500 only features a single SD card slot, not two, as on the D7200, which will no doubt be a disappointment for some potential buyers.

As we’ve seen with the D500, D3400 and D5600, the D7500 sports Nikon's SnapBridge technology, enabling the camera to stay permanently linked to a smart device over a low-power Bluetooth connection (or via Wi-Fi). This means that after the initial connection has been made images can be transferred automatically to your phone whenever you shoot. 

Build and handling

  • Weighs 640g / 1lb 6.6oz
  • 5% lighter than the D7200
  • Comprehensive weather sealing

The Nikon D7500 is 5% lighter than the D7200 (and 16% lighter than the D500), and tips the scales at a modest 640g / 1lb 6.6oz. Despite this minor weight saving though, it feels reassuringly solid in the hand.

Compared to the D7200 the handgrip is that bit deeper, and this, combined with the soft-texture coatings on the front and rear of the grip, ensures that the D7500 feels secure and comfortable in the hand. 

The D7500 is chunky enough that when we held the camera our little finger didn't slip off the bottom of the grip, which is just as well as those who want even better purchase and a more comfortable vertical shooting experience will be disappointed to hear that currently there isn't an optional vertical grip available.

Like the D7200, the D7500 is weather-proofed, so you'll be able to keep shooting when the elements turn against you. Interestingly, the magnesium alloy panels in the D7200's construction have disappeared, and are replaced by a single monocoque construction in an effort to save weight, although despite this apparently retrograde step this still feels like a well-made piece of kit for the price – it certainly doesn't feel plasticky.

There have also been some tweaks to the Nikon D7500's button placement compared to the D7200.

On the top plate the metering mode button has disappeared, to be replaced by a dedicated ISO button, as we saw on the D500. Its position has shifted slightly to be closer to the exposure compensation control, making it easier to reach when the camera is raised to your eye.

Moving round the back of the D7500, the general control layout remains virtually identical to the D7200. Metering mode now takes the spot vacated by the ISO control, while the 'info' and 'i' buttons have swapped sides.


The rear display is a touch slimmer than the D500's when you pull it out and away from the body. It can be tilted downwards and upwards, while it's nice to see some touchscreen functionality arrive on a D7xxx DSLR. 

There's obviously tap-to-focus control (you can also tap the area of the screen where you want to focus and trigger the shutter at the same time), while the touchscreen makes reviewing images that much quicker too – you can swipe through photos and pinch-zoom images. The menus can also be navigated via the touchscreen, a first for a Nikon DSLR.

The drop in screen resolution, to 922,000 dots from the D7200's 1,299,000, seems a bit of a backward step however – it's even lower than the D5600's 1,037,000-dot resolution, but in our time with the camera this didn't seem to impact on the user experience, with a decent amount of clarity and good color rendition. 

Autofocus

  • 51-point AF, 15 cross-type AF points
  • Group-Area AF added
  • Auto AF Fine Tune

While the Nikon D7500 borrows a lot from the D500, it doesn’t get the same sophisticated 153-point AF system the D500 enjoys. Instead, it gets an uprated version of the 51-point AF system that was in the D7200.

This system may be getting a little long in the tooth, but it’s a tried and tested one that’s still well specified. Fifteen of the 51 AF points are the more sensitive cross-type variety, which offer greater precision and accuracy, while the coverage can be configured down to 21 and nine points if you wish.

This AF system might be getting a little long in the tooth, but it’s a tried and tested one

The D7500’s AF system now gets a Group-Area AF mode, which we first saw on the D810. This promises to enhance subject detection and tracking, with the D7500 constantly monitoring five different AF fields, and improves focus acquisition and background isolation.

When using with 3D tracking, the D7500 does an excellent job of following subjects through the frame

Another subtle difference from the system in the D7200 is that the AF system is hooked up to a different metering sensor, which is used to aid image recognition when focusing. While the D7200 uses the older 2016-pixel RGB sensor, the D7500 enjoys the same 180,000-pixel RGB sensor as the D500, which when combined with the decent coverage of AF points across the frame  delivers reliable AF tracking performance.

Away from 3D tracking, and the D7500's Dynamic AF mode (using 9, 21 or 51 AF points) is again, very good

Like both the D500 and the D5, the D7500 gets the Auto AF Fine Tune feature, which when in Live View enables users to automatically calibrate autofocus with specific lenses if required.

Despite the Live View AF not being quite as fast as rivals, it still does a decent job


Autofocus in Live View can be a bit of a clunky experience with many Nikon DSLRs, but it's a bit more refined on the D7500. It's not a match for Canon's excellent Dual Pixel AF system that we've seen in several recent cameras, but focusing is better than we've experienced with a lot of other Nikon bodies, while the ability to tap-focus using the touchscreen speeds things up greatly.

Performance

  • 8fps burst shooting
  • 180K-pixel metering sensor
  • 950-shot battery life

With a raft of mirrorless cameras, such as the Fujifilm X-T2, overshadowing the 6fps burst shooting performance of the D7200, it’s no surprise to see the Nikon D7500 offering 8fps.

Helped by the new EXPEED 5 image processor, the D7500 can shoot a burst of 50 raw files before the buffer needs to clear – quite an improvement over the D7200’s 18 raw files at 6fps.

The D7500's metering system performs very well

As we've touched upon, the D7500 inherits the D5 and D500’s 180,000-pixel RGB sensor, which handles metering and white balance, as well as informing the automatic scene recognition system to help improve autofocusing with better subject detection.

As expected the metering system performs very well, consistently delivering spot-on exposures, while the Auto White Balance does a solid job too. 

There's a new battery as well – the EN-EL15a is good for 950 shots before it needs charging. That's streets ahead of most mirrorless cameras, for which you'd need two or more batteries to even think of getting that kind of endurance, but it's actually down 150 shots from the D7200's 1,100-shot battery life – undoubtably one of the trade-offs for having the more powerful EXPEED 5 image processor on board here.

Image quality

  • ISO100-51,200, expandable to 50-1,640,000
  • Impressive dynamic range
  • Excellent noise performance

With the same sensor as the fabulous D500 at the heart of things, the results from the Nikon D7500 are predictably excellent.

It may have slightly less pixels than more affordable DX Nikon DSLRs, but unless you're going to spend most of your time shooting at ISO100, the minor drop in resolution is a compromise worth making.

Don't be put off by the D7500 having 'only' a 20.9MP resolution – there's still plenty of detail

This is underlined when you look at images through the ISO range. Shots taken at the lower end of the sensitivity range display excellent levels of detail, but the camera really starts to shine as you bump up the ISO setting. 

While detail does suffer a touch at ISO6400, results stand up remarkably well. Increase the sensitivity a further stop to ISO12,800, and while there's now a hint of chroma (color) noise in shots, results are still very good.

At ISO100 JPEG files look very clean

Further up the D7500's sensitivity range, at ISO6400, results still look very good

Even at the highest native setting of ISO51,200, image quality holds up very well

As you'd expect, luminance (grain-like) noise becomes more pronounced at ISO25,600 and ISO51,200, but the results are still some of the best we've seen from a camera at these sensitivities. 

Once you go beyond the realm of the camera's native sensitivities, things do tail off. That said, results at Hi1 (ISO102,400) are actually pretty good for such a high value, but banding starts to creep into images shot at Hi2 (ISO204,800); we'd caution against using anything higher, as results can look pretty murky and suffer from a severe lack of detail. 

The Auto White Balance is very good, while colors have a nice punch


Dynamic range is also very impressive. It's possible to recover shadow detail in a shot that's been underexposed by some five stops – even six at a push – and still end up with a very satisfactory shot. 

Verdict

This latest addition to Nikon’s DSLR line-up represents the biggest revamp we’ve seen in the D7xxx series since the D7000 arrived and replaced the D90.

Getting one negative out of the way first, we can't help feeling that the absence of any magnesium alloy in the Nikon D7500's construction is a cost-cutting exercise, although having said that the monocoque construction certainly feels durable enough. 

That aside, there are certainly a lot of tempting features on offer here. The new camera may not get the 153-point AF system from the D500, but the enhanced 51-point system in the D7500 still puts a lot of rival systems in the shade, while the 4K video capture, tilt-angle touchscreen display and 8fps burst shooting are some of the highlights of this very well-specified camera.  

The most exciting thing about the Nikon D7500, though, is the appearance of Nikon's 20.9MP sensor and EXPEED 5 image processing engine in a more compact and affordable body. This is something that's bound to attract the attention of both new users and existing ones who are looking to upgrade, but  who can't quite justify the leap to the D500.

Think of the Nikon D7500 as the D500's smaller brother then – and that can only be a good thing. 

Competition

Nikon D500

The D500 is Nikon's top-of-the-range DX-format DSLR, and a camera that the D7500 borrows a lot of features from, including the 20.9MP sensor. Pay the extra though and you get even better AF performance, thanks to a brilliant 153-point AF system that'll cope with pretty much anything. Marry that to a camera that can shoot 10fps for 200 shots and a rock-solid build, and you have one of the best DSLRs out there.

Read the full review: Nikon D500

Nikon D7200

Nikon's D7200 has been a firm favorite amongst enthusiast photographers, and it's easy to see why. Packing in a brilliant sensor that's complemented by an impressive specification, there's little not to like. The D7500 is the better camera overall, but the D7200 is that bit more affordable, and should still be a tempting proposition.

Read the full review: Nikon D7200

Canon EOS 80D

Perhaps the biggest non-Nikon rival to the D7500 is Canon's EOS 80D. It's a hugely capable enthusiast DSLR, although it's edged out by the D7500 when it comes to performance. That said, if you're going to be shooting a lot with the rear display, you may be tempted by the EOS 80D's rear vari-angle screen and brilliant Dual Pixel AF.

Read the full review: Canon EOS 80D

Posted: July 5, 2017, 10:52 am

The successor to 2015’s EOS M3, Canon’s EOS M6 arrives with a handful of features inherited from its relatively new big brother, the flagship EOS M5. The two share similar intentions and are aimed towards a similar kind of user, but with a slightly pared-down feature set, the EOS M6 arrives with a more appealing price tag. 

Canon may have got off to a slow start with its mirrorless line, but it's made up for this in recent years. It now has four models in its EOS M portfolio, covering the full spectrum from beginner to enthusiast. This model in particular appears to be well suited to anyone who cut their teeth on the original EOS M or EOS M10.  

That said, it’s launched into a very competitive market. Price-wise it not only goes up against a slew of well-regarded models from other manufacturers, but also older, more advanced cameras whose age has allowed them to fall to temptingly low prices. 

The former camp includes Fujifilm’s X-T20, Sony’s A6300 and Panasonic’s Lumix GX8, while in the latter there’s the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II and Fujifilm X-T1 Graphite Silver among others. You can even buy a full-frame Sony A7 kit for just a little bit more.

Features

  • APS-C CMOS Sensor, 24.2MP
  • 3.0-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots
  • 1080p video capture

Like the EOS M5, the EOS M6 has been furnished with a 24.2MP sensor designed with Canon’s Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology. 

This allows the camera to perform full-time phase-detect AF to help keep focusing fast, as well as nice and smooth when recording video, and is one of the main changes from the older 24.2MP sensor inside the EOS M3, which offered Canon’s alternative Hybrid CMOS AF III system.

The sensor works with Canon’s DIGIC 7 processing engine, which is said to provide better subject detection and tracking over the previous DIGIC 6 engine. Another thing it allows is 9fps burst shooting, which drops to 7fps with continuous autofocus enabled, and the camera joins many other recent EOS models in allowing raw files to be processed in camera post-capture.

The EOS M6’s LCD screen is competitively specced, measuring three inches in size and bearing 1.04 million dots. It’s touch-sensitive and tilts downwards over a 45-degree angle, although you can also pull it right round to face the front. Unlike the flagship EOS M5, the EOS M6 doesn't incorporate an electronic viewfinder, although you can use one of two external models – either the tilting EVF-DC1 or the newer, fixed EVF-DC2 – by slipping them into the hot shoe. 

While a number of rivals are offering 4K video recording at this level, Canon has opted for Full HD video at frame rates up to 60p instead. This may disappoint some, although the presence of Canon's Dual Pixel CMOS AF system and a touchscreen that can be used to adjust focus during recording, together with the further option of using an external microphone, mean it’s still worth considering if video is your thing. 

The fact that you can flip the LCD all the way around to face the front also means this camera is likely to appeal to vloggers, while the inclusion of five-axis digital image stabilization when recording video should help keep things a little steadier if you tend to shoot footage while moving around. 

Image stabilization for stills is not provided through the body, but via compatible lenses equipped with their own stabilization systems. If, however, such a lens is used when recording video, the two systems combine to provide a Combination IS system.  

If there’s one area where the EOS M6 shines it’s connectivity options. Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth are all present, with the latter meaning you can keep the camera hooked up to your smartphone at all times. 

Canon claims you can get around 295 frames per charge from the EOS M, regardless of whether you’re using the LCD screen or a separate viewfinder. You can, however, boost this figure to around 425 frames by enabling the Eco mode in the menu system – when you do so the camera's screen will darken and turn off more quickly than normal when the camera isn't being used.

Everything is recorded to SD, SDHC or SDXC media, with support for the UHS-I standard.

Build and handling

  • Five separate physical dials
  • Integrated flash and hot shoe
  • Weighs 390g

In terms of the Canon EOS M6's design, there have been no great departures from the EOS M3 – and that’s no bad thing. With a sculpted grip and a range of buttons that can be extensively customized, there’s a great deal to love. 

There’s been some reshuffling of controls, although the only difference of any significance is the addition of a further dial on the top plate. This now means the top plate offers two command dials, together with mode and exposure compensation dials, which is in addition to a further control dial on the back of the camera. 

This brings to total number of dials to five, which is excellent for those who prefer to access things manually rather than via menus and touchscreens – though you’ll no doubt opt for touchscreen operation at many points when you see how extensively this can be used to operate the camera.

Thanks to the design of the grip the M6 generally feels good in the hands, although those with larger hands may find it a little cramped, and prefer a model with a grip more akin to that found on a DSLR. The eyelet for the camera strap also interferes with holding the camera comfortably, but if you tend to keep your camera hanging from your neck you won't mind this.

The Canon EOS M6 weighs just 520g with its memory card, battery and EF-M 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM kit lens in place, and, thanks to the collapsible construction of the lens, it’s more compact than the average compact system camera at this level. 

While the focal range of the kit lens in 35mm terms equates to 24-72mm – that wide–angle figure being very compared to some other kit lenses – the fact that the lens only offers a maximum aperture of f/6.3 at its telephoto end is somewhat disappointing.

Unlike some of its rivals, the M6 appears to use polycarbonate for its top and bottom plates, although the four dials on the top plate are made of metal, and the bulk of the body is finished with a smart rubber that feels as good as it looks. It’s a shame not to see more robust magnesium-alloy paneling, but attention to detail is still strong and no corners have been cut.

Autofocus

  • 49-point AF system
  • Dual Pixel CMOS AF
  • Focus peaking with color and peaking level control

The camera’s sensor uses 49 areas to autofocus as standard, although you can also manually shift a point around all but the peripheries of the frame. You can also use the touchscreen to tap the subject on which you want the camera to focus, and employ the Smooth zone AF option to keep track of erratically moving subjects within a small portion of the frame.

Focusing speed is generally very good, though not quite as snappy as some rivals

Autofocus performance is generally sound. In good light the Canon EOS M6 is able to bring subjects to focus in good time; perhaps not quite as rapidly as some rivals, but certainly fast enough for static subjects. With its EF-M 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM and EF-M 18-150mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM lenses, it does this practically silently too.  

Thanks to its Dual Pixel CMOS AF system, the M6 is generally very capable of keeping track of a moving subject when set to focus continuously, although as with any such system, the extent to which it manages this is heavily dependent on what you're trying to track. For example, a runner wearing clothing that contrasted well with their background proved to be no issue for the system, but it wasn't quite as reliable when focused on a dog among grass that was only occupying a small portion of the frame. 

When using manual focus you can call upon focus peaking, with red, yellow and blue colours on offer, together with high and low peaking levels to choose from. The peaking outline isn’t quite as thick as on some other models, although this is arguably a good thing as it obscures less of the subject’s details, thus helping with accuracy.  

Performance

  • 7fps burst shooting
  • 295-shot battery life
  • Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth

There’s only the briefest of delays after you flick the power switch, and if you already have an AF point selected the Canon EOS M6 generally finds focus very quickly. If you tend to leave the camera’s autofocus system on its more automated default option it may take a whisker longer to identify the scene, but it’s certainly still speedy enough for all but the most critical situations.  

With a fast memory card the camera manages 18 simultaneous raw+JPEG frames before slowing down, and 28 JPEGs when tested in the same way – perfectly respectable figures for such a model. It takes around six seconds to clear the former and less than two for the latter, and while the camera locks up as this happens – which means you can't enter the menus – this is potentially only an issue in practice if you're using a slower card, which would lengthen these times.

You're able to browse the menus and captured images without any lagging, and even when zooming into images there’s virtually no lag as you use gestures to zoom and swipe around, while if you make use of the freely rotating rear control dial you can zip through a series of images at great speed. 

Thanks to the combination of physical controls, the touchscreen and the camera’s general responsiveness, once you get used to the layout of controls and functions you can operate the EOS M6 very fluidly. The fact that you can customize so many of the camera’s controls, and place so much within a custom My Menu, only makes it better. 

The tilt-angle touchscreen allows you to shoot from a range of angles

The EOS M6's LCD screen responds very well to touch, and while some of the virtual controls are on the small side, you’re unlikely to want to control everything via the screen (the main menu, for example). Should you find the screen isn't bright enough outdoors you can easily boost its brightness through the menus, although one strange issue is that the top plate renders some of the screen’s touch controls inaccessible when the screen is flipped through a 180-degree angle.

Another oddity is the lack of a selectable electronic shutter, a feature that’s pretty much standard on such models. Its absence means you can't shoot as discreetly as you can on rival models, as there’s essential no way to silence the M6's mechanical shutter (which is a shame, given the quiet AF performance from the two aforementioned lenses). This also means you can't access shutter speeds faster than the 1/4000 sec limit imposed by the mechanical shutter, although this is arguably less of a concern here, when you consider the lack of wide-aperture lenses in the current EOS M portfolio.

Image quality

  • Four metering patterns
  • In-camera raw processing
  • 5-axis IS during video recording

The Canon EOS M6 offers evaluative, centre-weighted, partial and spot metering options, and left to the default first of those settings it manages to cope well across both balanced and tricky lighting conditions. It’s a good idea to keep the Peripheral Illumination correction option enabled, as this helps to lift the slight darkness that can form around the peripheries of the frame, and the Auto Lighting Optmizer also proves useful in high-contrast situations.

The EOS M6's evaluative metering does a very solid job

The default Picture Style is Standard, although a comparison with the Auto Picture Style shows the latter to do a much better job of reproducing most colors. Greens and blues in particular appear somewhat undersaturated on the Standard option, so Auto is perhaps a better choice if you’re shooting outdoors, particularly if the scene contains skies and foliage.

The EOS M6's Auto Picture Style does a better job of producing greens and blues than the Standard setting

The auto white balance system appears to be nice and accurate under both natural and artificial sources, and even when these are mixed, although it can remove some of the warmth of incandescent sources. Many recent cameras  feature an option that allows the user to keep white balance on Auto while preserving this warmth, but it's not present here. Still, there is enough control through the various options to allow for all the tweaking you need.

The camera's Auto White Balance does a sound job in both natural and artificial light

One of the strengths of the Canon EOS M6 is just how much you can do with images post capture. In-camera raw processing allows you to edit files and save them as new JPEGs, and while it would be good to see this functionality fleshed out and expanded, the fact that you can control everything through the touchscreen makes the process very quick and easy. On top of this, options to resize images, adjust their aspect ratio and crop finely means you can achieve a fair bit without needing to go anywhere near a computer.

While the M6’s video capabilities fall short of delivering the same kind of detail and clarity as some rivals, it records perfectly decent Full HD video. The ability to use the touchscreen to shift focus between different parts of the scene is particularly useful, with the Dual Pixel CMOS AF system moving smoothly and discreetly as you do this.

Verdict

In isolation, the Canon EOS M6 has plenty going for it. It’s small and light, responsive in use and blessed with a focusing system that’s very capable across both stills and video capture. 

Image quality is decent straight out of the box, and once you acquaint yourself with the camera’s behaviour you can improve on this. There’s also plenty of physical control on offer, and plenty of ways in which you can customize the controls to better serve your shooting, while the many post-capture options that are available help you output your images easily and quickly.

Still, it’s difficult to identify exactly what it the M6 offers that places it ahead of its very capable rivals. 

With no 4K video, no viewfinder, no electronic shutter and a build quality that falls short of what's offered elsewhere at this price point, the M6 has a hard time justifying its asking price – and when you add in the separate viewfinder, this comes to a figure not far off the cost of the viewfinder-equipped EOS M5, which makes you wonder why you’d want to opt for the separate combination when you can just get everything in one.

Competition

Fujifilm X-T20

With key functionality inherited from the co-flagship X-T2 and packed inside a handsome, robust body, the X-T20 has garnered a lot of attention since it landed last year. Over the EOS M6 it boasts 4K video recording, an integrated electronic viewfinder and an AF system that can be expanded from 91 AF points up to 325. Its native lens range is also broader, although its screen isn't as flexible as the EOS M6’s, and there's no NFC or Bluetooth.

Read the full review: Fujifilm X-T20

Panasonic Lumix GX8

Not the newest Lumix but perhaps the closest to the EOS M6 in terms of form, price and target audience, the GX8 has the advantages of a dust- and splash-proof body, an integrated viewfinder, 4K video recording and an electronic shutter over the EOS M6. While its 20.3MP sensor may seem less capable on the spec sheet, the fact that it manages to offer what it does at a significantly cheaper asking price than the M6 makes it hugely appealing, and the fact that it's compatible with a far broader range of native lenses sweetens the deal even further.

Read the full review: Panasonic Lumix GX8

Sony Alpha A6300

Key advantages offered by the 24.3MP A6300 include 4K video, a much more refined AF system with a staggering 425 phase-detect AF points, a built-in electronic viewfinder and a weather-sealed body. It doesn't completely walk all over the EOS M6, though; its display is smaller, less flexible and not touch-sensitive, while Bluetooth is absent.

Read the full review: Sony Alpha A6300

Posted: July 3, 2017, 3:28 pm

The DJI Inspire 1 made quite a splash when it first launched, offering a raft of cutting-edge features and the ability to swap out the camera lens depending on your shooting goals. It's still one of the best drones around, but the market is evolving – and that's where the Inspire 2 comes in.

While it looks very much the same as the previous Inspire model, this new drone is packing a wide range of enhancements under its hood. It's even better at avoiding obstacles, and ships alongside a new Zenmuse camera, the X5S. It also has a dual battery setup for increased stamina.

DJI's rivals have upped their game in recent years, but the Inspire 2 is a different proposition entirely, and comfortably leads the manufacturer's range of flagship, professional-spec drones; the more frugal amongst you will be disappointed to learn that it costs a lot more than the company's more consumer-focused Spark, Mavic and Phantom lines.

Price and availability

The base unit costs around £3,000 / $3,000 / AU$5,200, but once you factor in the latest Zenmuse X5S camera you can expect that price to rise to around £6,000 / $6,200 / AU$10,700 depending on the retailer and what other items they choose to bundle with it.


If you opt for the older X4S camera then you'll still get quite a bit of change from £4,000 (approximately AUD $6,750, USD $5,120), so it depends on how serious you are about getting the best possible package. The Inspire 2 is available direct from DJI in a wide range of territories, or from multiple specialist retailers both online and on the high street.

Design

If you're familiar with the DJI Inspire 1 then the Inspire 2 won't come as too much of a surprise, at least in terms of looks. It retains the same quad-prop layout as its forerunner, and once again utilizes super-tough carbon fiber material for the arms, giving the drone impressive strength. 

DJI has revised the bodywork, too; gone is the white plastic of the previous model, and in its place we have a rather fetching magnesium aluminum composite. Another major change is the introduction of a new forward-facing FPV camera and obstacle-avoidance system, mounted in a bar on the front of the drone, and there's also a dual-battery setup for increased stamina. 

The net result is that the Inspire 2 looks even more like something that Skynet has sent back in time to kill John Connor than its predecessor.


The drone itself doesn't have a camera attached, but you can pick one from DJI's range of Zenmuse cameras (the one shipped with our review unit is the X5S). It's possible to swap the camera out so that you have the right lens for the job at hand, making this the ideal device for professional photographers and video creators who need complete control over their shooting setup.

Build and handling

The original Inspire 1 was built like a tank, but the Inspire 2 is even tougher thanks to its revised aluminum shell. The carbon fiber arms mean bumps and bashes won't damage the unit, with the only weak spots being the plastic, quick-release propellers – which are easily replaceable should they get damaged – and the camera itself, which is also replaceable, although at a much greater cost.

The build quality is almost irrelevant, however, because of the sheer number of countermeasures DJI has included in the Inspire 2. The aforementioned FPV camera and obstacle-avoidance system track for incoming objects 30 meters ahead, while the upward-facing infrared sensors scan for objects five meters above the drone, which is handy when you're flying in enclosed spaces. Terrain detection sensors fitted to the bottom of the Inspire 2 round off the package.

The upshot of all this tech is a drone which is (almost) impossible to crash; it's intelligent enough to avoid bumping into trees or smashing into the ground, although it's worth noting that with the full suite of object avoidance features enabled you're limited to a top speed of 45mph – should you feel confident enough, you can disable these to achieve speeds of around 58mph.


If your enthusiasm gets the better of you and you allow the drone to fly out of sight, the 'return to home' function means you won't end up flushing your £6,000 investment down the toilet by accident.

All these features notwithstanding, it's worth noting that the Inspire 2 is one of the most agile drones we've had the pleasure to test. Not only is it lightning fast, it's quick to respond to user input and – when in the air – is as rock-steady as they come, even in moderate wind.

Performance

As was the case with the Inspire 1, the Inspire 2 is controlled with a dedicated remote that links to the drone via a powerful pair of antennae. There's no screen, so you have to connect your Android and iOS smartphone to the remote via a wired connection – you also need to install DJI's GO 4 app, and not the DJI GO app used with the Inspire 1 and other, older DJI models. 

Once you're in the app you can perform tasks such as calibrating the camera, toggling beginner mode on and off (which limits the distance the drone can travel from its starting point) and much more besides. It's also possible to access the drone's automated flight modes, one of which – Spotlight Pro – allows you to track moving objects with unnerving accuracy.

While other drones have boasted this ability, Spotlight Pro is a real step above anything else on the market. According to DJI, it utilizes "advanced visual tracking algorithms" to stick to moving objects like glue, offering up the kind of images and footage that would, in normal circumstances, require a second camera operator to capture (which, incidentally, is also an option with the Inspire 2 – it's possible to have one remote controlling the drone while a second 'slave' remote controls the camera).

Spotlight Pro is available in the TapFly, Waypoint, and Point of Interest 'intelligent flight' modes , and is an incredibly potent addition to the Inspire 2's already impressive arsenal of features.

Battery life is always a concern with drones, and when you consider all of the additional tech that has been thrown into the Inspire 2, you'd be forgiven for fretting about the impact on stamina. However, DJI has thought of this, and has included a dual-battery setup which boosts your flying time to around 25 minutes.

Naturally, this figure will vary depending on how hard you're pushing the drone – we got over 25 minutes during a gentle flight – but it's a solid benchmark to work to. Charging both batteries simultaneously is easy using the bundled charger – this has four slots in total, so you can purchase more batteries and keep them topped up at all times.

Video and photo capture

DJI's Zenmuse line of cameras has grown alongside its range of drones, and the latest offering – the X5S – has been designed with the Inspire 2 in mind. A Micro Four Thirds snapper, it has a bigger sensor than previous iterations, which means more detail and more vibrant colors. It really is like having a high-end professional stills camera in the air, enabling you to take some truly awe-inspiring static images.

When it comes to video, the Inspire 2 – when twinned with the X5S – creates a setup which most industry professionals would be envious of. 4K might be big news with other drones, but this bad boy can record in 5.2K, albeit at 30 frames per second. 4K is possible at 60 frames per second, and you can scale down to 720p if you wish – although when the footage is this good, heaven knows why you'd want to.

We liked

The Inspire 2 is a joy to fly, with great responsiveness, incredible speed (even with the object avoidance systems switched on) and good stamina, thanks to its twin battery configuration. The DJI GO 4 app is packed with features, including some excellent automated flying modes, and if you buy the Inspire 2 alongside the Zenmuse X5S camera you've got one of the best aerial image and video capture devices money can buy.

We disliked

We grumbled a bit at the price of the Inspire 1, but the Inspire 2 is a whole new world of expensive. You'll need to spend around £6,000 / $6,200 / AU$10,70  to get the setup we've reviewed here, and when you consider that many people might not even spend that much on a car, DJI's flagship offering is going to be totally out of reach for most casual users, making it a drone aimed almost exclusively at industry professionals who will see a return on that investment.

Verdict

The original Inspire 1 was an impressive piece of kit, but the Inspire 2 outperforms it in practically every respect. The design has been improved, with cheap-looking plastic being replaced by metal composite bodywork, while the vastly superior object avoidance tech means you can breathe a little easier as your expensive investment takes to the skies.

A twin-battery arrangement gives more than 25 minutes of flight time, while the ability to swap camera lenses to suit your shooting goals will make this very attractive to serious photographers and video creators – it also ensures the drone is future-proofed to a degree. Add in a fantastic and fully-featured smartphone app and dedicated remote control and you've got a truly epic piece of kit – but the price tag for the best package will put it out of the price range for casual drone users.

If you're not too concerned with the enhanced object avoidance tech and 5.2K video recording, it might be wiser to consider the aging (but still great) Inspire 1 or the DJI Phantom 4, both of which can be purchased for a fraction of the cost without sacrificing too much essential functionality.

Posted: July 1, 2017, 2:15 pm

The original Canon EOS 6D was the most affordable full-frame DSLR available when it was launched some five years ago. While it probably lacked some of the headline-grabbing specs of pricier models, it offered users a sound entry into full-frame photography. 

With a raft of rival models now overshadowing the EOS 6D, rumours of an update have been circulating for an inordinate amount of time. Now the wait is finally over – and we've managed to get our hands on a sample of the EOS 6D Mark II at the official press event to gather some first impressions.

Features

  • New full-frame CMOS sensor, 26.2MP
  • DIGIC 7 processing engine
  • Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth

Canon has improved things across the board for the new model, but the big news is that the camera arrives with a fresh 26.2MP full-frame sensor. This can be adjusted to ISO40,000 before you need to venture into expanded sensitivity settings, which themselves reach a setting equivalent to ISO102,400.

The 6D Mark II also boasts the latest DIGIC 7 processing engine, which is claimed to be an impressive 14 times faster than the previous DIGIC 6 version. This is also the first time we’ve seen it employed inside a full-frame EOS model – it's previously only been used inside APS-C bodies and PowerShot compacts.

Naturally this camera can also record video, but Canon’s decision not to include 4K capabilities is likely to divide opinion. The 6D Mark II tops out at Full HD quality, at frame rates up to 60p, although there is a 4K timelapse option alongside this, which stitches images together into a 4K-resolution video.

Canon’s justification for leaving out a standard 4K option is that this camera is aimed at a slightly different type of user to those who might take advantage of it. This may well be the case, although we can't help drawing comparisons with models that do manage to offer 4K proper.

The EOS 6D Mark II makes use of a glass pentaprism viewfinder that offers approx. 98% coverage, which represents a marginal 1% improvement on the 97% offered by the EOS 6D. While it’s certainly nice in use, and a step in the right direction, it falls short of the approx. 100% coverage offered by other full-frame models, such as Nikon’s D750 and Pentax’s K-1

Another improvement over the EOS 6D is the LCD screen, which is now a 3-inch vari-angle design that resolves images with 1.04 million dots and is fully responsive to touch. Other features include the full Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth trio of connectivity options, plus GPS, together with flicker detection, a 7560-pixel RGB+IR metering sensor, and five-axis digital image stabilization for video recording.

Build and handling

  • Aluminum alloy/polycarbonate body
  • Dust and drip resistant
  • First full-frame EOS with a vari-angle screen

Build quality is one area where the EOS 6D Mark II meets and exceeds a few expectations. The body is crafted from a mixture of aluminum alloy and polycarbonate with glass fibre, with both dust and drip resistance ensured through various seals.

The grip is excellently sculpted, and ensures the camera fits very comfortably in the hand, while the weight of 765g with battery and card in place is just 10g heavier than the original EOS 6D. It feels very well balanced in the hand, although admittedly we only got the opportunity to handle it with the relatively lightweight EF 24-105mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM lens.

Both the mode dial and LCD screen move nice and freely, and the fact that the LCD has a nice, thick profile and a deep groove to its side into which you can slip your thumb also means you can pull it away from the camera easily and at speed. The top plate LCD is also pleasingly large in size, and with masses of information, which is pleasing to see at a time when displays on other cameras are shrinking.

If you're a left-eyed shooter you may find that your nose is in the way of the rear control dial when your face is up to the camera; a longer eye-point may have helped here. Another minor inconvenience is that the menu pad on the rear isn't quite as prominent as it could be, which makes it a little more awkward to press comfortably than on some other cameras.

Autofocus

  • 45-point all-cross-type AF system
  • 27 points at f/8, with 9 cross-type
  • Dual Pixel CMOS AF system

The original EOS 6D came in for a fair bit of stick for only having an 11-point AF system, with just a single cross-type point in its centre. For this latest model, however, Canon has employed a system that’s very similar to the one inside the recent EOS 80D.

This features 45 points in total, and all of these are cross-type (so able to resolve detail in both the horizontal and vertical planes), with the centre point being f/2.8 and f/5.6 dual cross-type. Furthermore, 27 of these remain operational when using a lens, or lens/teleconverter combination, with a maximum effective aperture of f/8, with nine remaining cross-type. 

You also have a fair bit of control over customizing the setup as a whole, and the fact that the system is sensitive down to -3EV is great for those who may be using it in poorer light. Canon’s impressive Dual Pixel CMOS AF system is also on board, and this makes light work of focusing when using either live view or video. 

In use, we couldn't find any cause for concern on the pre-production sample we handled. The command dial on the top plate makes it easy to quickly shift the AF point, and the system seems to get a lock on subjects well. It'll be interesting to see how well this does next to the systems inside some Nikon models, however, as those have become very advanced in recent generations.

Performance

  • 6.5fps burst shooting
  • Flicker detection
  • Burst depth up to 21 raw frames / 150 JPEGs

Next to the original EOS 6D, Canon has not only upped the maximum burst rate from 4.5fps to 6.5fps, but it’s also slightly increased the burst depth, from 17 raw frames to 21. The 150-frame burst depth for JPEGs is admittedly quite a drop from the 1,250 limit on the EOS 6D, although a 150-frame burst depth is hardly limiting.

It’s interesting to see that Canon hasn't included UHS-II support, which might have improved this, although any benefit would depend on how quickly the camera can deal with this information to begin with. Either way, this isn’t a camera aimed especially at sports photographers, and 6.5fps is a very credible burst rate for such a model, potentially suiting it to situations where the original EOS 6D may have fallen short.

Canon has also added to the same flicker detection option that we’ve seen on many previous EOS DSLRs, to help maintain consistency when shooting under artificial light sources. This is great news for those shooting indoors, perhaps events or sports, where such lighting is commonly used.

Early verdict

Canon has made some significant improvements to the bones of the EOS 6D, with a fresh sensor, a faster processor, a much more credible AF system and a stronger burst rate heading a long list of changes. 

This is somewhat reflected in its asking price, which does make you question whether it’s been elevated too far out of its 'affordable full-frame' bracket. Yet, when you consider just how much cheaper it is than the next full frame model in Canon's line-up, the EOS 5D Mark IV, the price seems somewhat justified. 

It feels great in the hand, and the ability to pull away the screen and control it by touch is a huge bonus. The lack of a 100% viewfinder is a pity, and the fact that the model also misses out on 4K video will disappoint some; however, there should be enough here to keep the target market happy.

Posted: June 29, 2017, 4:00 am

With the recent expansion of its EOS-M mirrorless system, and with its compacts getting steadily more powerful, it seems that Canon has already catered well for those who are after a camera that's small and unintimidating, but still powerful enough to take excellent shots.

Nevertheless, it’s great to see the brand refreshing the entry route to its well-respected EOS DSLR system with the EOS Rebel SL2 (known as the EOS 200D outside the US), and the fact that it replaces a four-year-old model – the EOS Rebel SL1 / 100D means there’s a fair bit the company has changed. We got some hands-on time with a sample of the new model prior to its official announcement.

Features

  • APS-C CMOS Sensor, 24.2MP
  • Full HD video recording
  • Guided interface

In place of the outgoing Rebel SL1 / 100D's 18MP APS-C sensor and DIGIC 5 processor, we now have a 24.2MP sensor and DIGIC 7 engine. Canon says the sensor has been used previously, although the engine is the latest-generation version that also appears in the new full-frame EOS 6D Mark II.

It comes as no surprise that Canon’s Guided UI, which popped up in the recent EOS Rebel T7i / EOS 800D, has also been included here. This allows the user to switch the interface to one that makes better use of graphics to explain how to achieve certain things, although you can opt for the more standard system if you feel confident enough.

Canon cites the EOS Rebel SL2 / EOS 200D as “the perfect replacement for the avid smartphone photographer looking to step up to their first camera”. And, to tempt them in it has included a new selfie mode, together with skin smoothing and background blurring controls. Built-in Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth are also on hand to further ease the transition. 

There's no 4K capture unfortunately, but videos can be recorded in Full HD up to an impressive 60p. 

Overall, there are no obvious holes in the spec sheet, and those just getting started should find everything they need here.

Build and handling

  • World’s smallest DSLR with a vari-angle screen
  • 390g with battery and memory card
  • Three different finishes

Aimed at the style conscious as well as the selfie conscious, the EOS Rebel SL2 / 200D is available in three finishes. There’s a white version and a silver/tan option, although most people will likely prefer the more sober black version. This has a pleasingly matte finish that’s particularly fetching against the silver-toned controls on the top plate. Overall, it looks far smarter than it ought to for such an entry-level model. 

Design-wise, the most significant changes include the grip, which is now pleasingly deep, as well as on the top plate, where pretty much everything has been restyled. Canon has opted to have the mode dial recessed into the top plate itself, and has also gone with a new power control that allows immediate access to movie recording. There are also dedicated buttons for connectivity and display, in addition to the previous ISO button.

This setup places a little more direct control in the user’s hands, and with the new grip, the overall result is generally positive. While it’s a small camera the grip means there’s a good deal of it to get hold of comfortably, and both mode and command dials are really pleasing to use. The ISO/Disp buttons are somewhat spongy, however, while the shutter release button has a certain hollowness to it. There’s no issue with the controls on the back, however, all of which travel well.

Autofocus

  • 9-point AF system
  • Dual Pixel CMOS AF system
  • Touch focus

The new model sports a 9-point AF system, just like the EOS Rebel SL1 / 100D did. While some may have liked to see Canon ramp things up with something a little more advanced, the system itself is an impressive performer. It proved its worth in both good light and darker indoor conditions, and found focus against low-contrast subjects better than expected.

Overall focusing performance is boosted by two key additional factors over the EOS Rebel SL1. First, there's Canon’s Dual Pixel CMOS AF system, which allows the camera to use phase-detect AF when using live view and during movie recording. Canon even goes as far as claiming this is the world’s fastest system of its kind (among APS-C-based, interchangeable-lens cameras with phase-detect AF pixels incorporated into their sensors).

Furthermore, as the camera now offers a large touchscreen, you can set focus exactly where you want with your finger and leave the camera to capture the image. This feature wasn't present on the EOS Rebel SL1 / 100D, and combined with the vari-angle LCD it means you can capture certain images far more easily than you otherwise might be able to.

Performance

  • DIGIC 7 processor
  • Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth
  • UHS-I compliant

The fact that the camera makes use of the same DIGIC 7 engine as pricier models is a good sign, and the pre-production sample we got our hands on was certainly responsive in use. In fact, a side-by-side comparison with the EOS 6D Mark II, which uses the same processor, showed the EOS Rebel SL2 / EOS 200D to bring up the menu, Q menu and so on with a little less delay. 

There’s also little to complain about with the touchscreen. In use, it shows excellent sensitivity to touch, while its 1.04 million dots is great to see at this level, considering this is one area where manufacturers sometimes make concessions.

Many of the features we’ve seen on much pricier EOS models have also made the cut, such as the various lens aberration corrections and the timelapse movie mode. Impressively you even get in-camera raw processing, which is great for those who want to share their creations immediately. 

Overall, there seems to be plenty of space for the user to grow into as they become better acquainted with what their camera offers. 

Early verdict

Although the EOS Rebel SL2 / EOS 200D is clearly designed for those taking their first steps in the world of DSLR photography, it’s encouraging to see that Canon hasn't skimped on providing a positive user experience. From the Guided UI and revised exterior design to the fast AF system and responsive touchscreen, this is a camera that feels great, and which, based on our brief hands-on time, appears to perform as we'd expect it to. 

Do we have any concerns? Canon’s main hurdle may be price and competition. Even if we just look at Nikon’s DSLR offerings at around the same price or less, you've got three capable options: the D3400, D5300 and D5600. And that’s before you consider mirrorless alternatives.

Still, Canon deserves praise for making this such an easy camera to warm to, and it's unlikely that anyone looking to get going with DSLR photography will be disappointed. It’s small, light, easy to use and responsive – if the image quality proves to be up to the same standard, Canon will have another smasher on its hands.

Posted: June 29, 2017, 4:00 am

Drones may be getting smaller and more affordable than ever, but few have yet to be a hit with the honest-to-goodness mainstream audience. The DJI Spark hopes to be the first to make its mark with a blend of compactness, automated features and an affordable price point.

No larger than can of soda and likely smaller than that super-sized smartphone you have in your pocket, the DJI Spark is an amazing example of how small drones can get. While it might be tiny, this drone comes fully packed with technology, including obstacle detection, GPS, stabilization and the ability to recognize hand gestures as flying commands.

Controlling a drone with just a wave of our hand is easily the coolest thing we’ve ever done and the closest we’ve ever come to being a Jedi. However, if you look past the headlining features, the DJI Spark runs into a few unavoidable issues that come with the limitations of being so small.

Pricing and availability

With a starting price of $499 (£519, AU$859) the DJI Spark is the company’s most affordable drone. At this price point it competes with other affordable drones like the $549 (£439, AU$649) Parrot Bebop 2 and $399 (£439, AU$629) Yuneec 4K Breeze.

That said, for 500 bucks you’re only getting the drone by itself without a remote controller. If you want the physical controller and the extended range that comes with it, that’ll be an additional $149 (£159, AU$259). Alternatively, the $699 (£699, AU$1,199) Fly More combo comes with the remote controller, a set of replacement propellers, an additional battery, battery charging hub and shoulder bag.

Design

It’s no joke that the DJI Spark is as small as a can of soda. Measuring in at a scant 143 x 143 x 55mm and 300 grams (10.6 ounces), the mini drone is something you can easily stuff into any bag or even hang off the back of your belt.

The DJI Spark also comes in a small foam box that’s really no bigger than a headphone case we would normally put into our bag. The included storage box also has compartments for four replacement propellers and two extra batteries.

Aside from its small size, the Spark is DJI’s first drone to be offered in a variety of colors: Alpine White, Sky Blue, Meadow Green, Lava Red and Sunrise Yellow. The splash of color is welcome piece of personalization in a world of drones that have thus far been a mix of gray, white and black.

In terms of looks, the Spark is a lot like a shrunken DJI Mavic Pro, and that shouldn’t really come as a surprise. It has a very similar angular body with a camera hanging right underneath the front sensor array.

One key difference of the Spark is its limbs don’t fold into the drone like the Mavic Pro and GoPro Karma Drone. The good news is you can fold the propellers to make it a smaller package and these rotor blades will also lock into flight position once they start spinning.

Unlike most other drones, the DJI Spark also has stubbly feet rather than extended landing gear. This is in part to keep the drone as small as possible while also making it comfortable enough to hold when landing the drone onto your palm. That said, the Spark’s tiny feet make it harder to land on uneven and rocky surfaces.

Build and handling

The DJI Spark might be small, but its main body feels dense and solid as a brick. The drone’s limbs feel just a sturdy thanks to some heavy ribbing. With nearly zero visible seams along the drone’s body, it’s clear that most of the Spark’s fuselage is molded from one solid piece of plastic.

Taking off with the DJI Spark takes mere seconds of setup with attaching the propeller guards, turning it on and linking it to your smartphone through the DJI Go 4 app.

Alternatively, you can skip the controller and command the DJI Spark with just hand gestures through the new feature called PalmControl.

Spoilers, this is easily the DJI Spark’s coolest hat trick.

You can have the drone take off from the palm of your after it scans your face. From there you can wave your hands at it to take control of flying it like a Jedi moving objects with the force. Waving your hand commands the drone to fly up and away from you, after which you can form a picture frame with your fingers to have it take a selfie.

Although PalmControl feels intuitive enough, it is also very finicky if you want to do anything beyond the basic navigation commands. You have to wave at the drone in just the right way, and selfies only trigger a third of the time when we make the picture frame gesture.

Another catch of PalmControl is that you need to be within 10-feet of the drone for it to recognize your gestures.

When everything lines up and PalmControl does work perfectly, it feels like magic. Flying a drone becomes spontaneous without a controller. It’s also much more inviting to less-seasoned aviators and tech-savvy people who want try their hand at flying drones.

In fact, we started the drone in PalmControl several times and after just a few moments of instruction we passed control to our friends and family members with ease.

Counter to its small size, the DJI Spark comes with powerful motors that make it nimble in the air. However, at the same time, the Spark visibly struggles to hover in the presence of a heavy breeze, as it shakes in the wind at an off axis. This is especially problematic, as the camera gimbal can’t articulate far enough to compensate for the tilting drone and give you a level horizon line.

At one point in our review, we had to catch the drone before it drifted into a railing on the pier and flipped into the water. The drone was saved from a dip in the drink, but in the process we sustained minor lacerations.

Despite our turbulent experience with the DJI Spark outside, this was the first drone we could reliably fly indoors. It’s maneuverable and predictable enough to be used with the PalmControl gesture commands, and we even had it autonomously follow us through a narrow hall using ActiveTrack.

Speaking of autonomous modes, DJI has also introduced new four automatic flight maneuvers called Quickshots, which are a lot like GoPro Karma Drone’s Auto Shot Paths. The four modes include, Dronie for taking an aerial selfie, Helix plots an upward spiraling path, Rocket sends the drone straight into the sky with the camera looking down, and lastly, Circle has the drone rotate around the user.

Aside from the new features, DJI intelligent flight modes return to the Spark including TapFly to automatically navigate to preset points. ActiveTrack, which we’ve mentioned before, programs the drone to do its best to keep you in the same position in the frame while avoiding obstacles as it flies.

That said, you shouldn’t become too overconfident about the DJI Spark’s intelligence.

Front facing smarts

While the DJI Spark comes collision detection technology as part of its FlightAutonomy system, many of these sensors are front facing only. The obstacle avoidance sensor array consists of just a main camera and forward-facing 3D Sensing System.

Meanwhile, the downward-facing vision system, dual-band GPS (Global Positioning System), GLONASS (Global Navigation Satellite System) and a high-precision inertial measurement unit all help the drone navigate and tell you where it's flying.

DJI Spark can sense when you’re about to send it flying into a pole, but it won’t detect when it’s about to back up into a tree. It’s a limitation you’ll need to keep in mind when you’ve plotted a flight path or enabled Quickshots. Still, we’ll take the few sensors this drone has over the completely blind GoPro Karma Drone any day.

It’s also impressive that all these sensors feed information into a single Intel Movidius Myriad 2 Vision Processing Unit, which takes care of the collision detection, gesture recognition on top of image processing for the main camera.

Similar VPU chips have made their way into DJI’s drones for the last three years, but this is the first to feature a fully built gesture recognition system according to Remi El-Ouazzane, Vice President of Intel New Technology Group and General Manager of Movidius.

The limits of going small

One of our other big problems with the DJI Spark was its limited connectivity, which is due in part to its small size not allowing for a bigger Wi-Fi antenna and also not having the remote controller in hand. When connected to a smartphone, the drone’s effective range is 328 feet (100m); in our experience, the signal starts degrading around the 50- to 75-meter mark.

In more urban areas – such as the pier and city parks – even flying the drone 35m away would cause our video feed artifact and cut out. Worse yet, our control over the drone would intermittently cut out leading to jerky motions or overexaggerated maneuvers.

A lot of these problems are solved by the dedicated remote controller. However, it’s an additional $149 (£159, AU$259) purchase if you’ve just bought the drone. 

It’s a required accessory in our book, as it extends the range of the drone to 1.2 miles (2km) and makes it reliably responsive. All the connection hitches we encountered with using just the smartphone by itself disappear and using the physical joysticks gives us more precision for our aerial maneuvers. That said, you’ll lose a signal if you try to control the drone through a wall or send it too far away.

With the remote controller, you can also shift the drone into sport mode, which allows it to fly up to 31 miles per hour. Combined with DJI’s Goggles first-person view headset for $449 (£499, AU$769), the DJI Spark could make for an interesting racing drone for beginners.

Another shortcoming is DJI rates the Spark’s battery life at 16 minutes, which ends up being closer to 12 minutes of flight time, since you’ll want to reserve juice for landing safely. It’s the shortest battery life we’ve seen from DJI’s drones, but at the same time its impressive given the Spark’s power pack is so small. The GoPro Karma Drone runs for just as long with a battery that’s easily five times larger.

Another good bit of news is the Spark can also be charged up through its microUSB port, allowing you to top it off with a portable power bank or plugging it in while you get coffee. Even with this convenience though, you’ll likely need a spare battery (or two) if you mean to do anything more than a quick flyby and a few selfies.

Video capture

In terms of recording capabilities, the main camera is equipped with a 12-megapixel 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor that can capture Full HD video at 30p and 3,968 x 2,976 resolution images. In front of the digital sensor is a 25mm (35mm equivalent) f2.6 lens that captures an effective 81.8-degree field of view.

The maximum video resolution is a step down from the DJI Mavic Pro and GoPro Karma Drone, which can both record video at 4K resolution. We would say this is an unfortunate downside of the entry-level price, but the lower-priced Yuneec 4K Breeze can also shoot Ultra HD video – admittedly while sporting far fewer features.

So it’s actually electronic image stabilization – on top of a two-axis gimbal – that ends up eating up pixels around the edges and prevents the DJI Spark from shooting in 4K. The good news is all of this stabilization eliminates most vibrations caused by the drone flying around or wind blowing against it.

The backbone of the DJI Spark’s video shooting capabilities is the DJI GO 4 app, which catalogs every piece of content you capture with the drone. From there you can select clips to be combined automatically into highlight reels and share them. Just remember to transfer the original video files, which unfortunately doesn’t fix the low quality songs that are included with the app.

This last level of automation makes it that much easier record and produce video without much knowhow.

We liked

Controlling a drone with just your hand is easily one of the coolest things we’ve ever done with technology. Palmcontroling the Spark is intuitive enough for anyone to start flying, and it’s also just plain fun.

For $499 (£519, AU$859), you also won’t find another drone packed with as many features as this. From Palmcontrol to Quickshots, Spark simplifies the intimidating aspect of drones – flying them. Meanwhile, the DJI Go 4 app automates the video editing process in a way that most users can also appreciate.

We disliked

We wished the DJI Spark was more stable in the air and had a longer battery life, but these are the limitations of going so small. Given our intermittent connection issues with controlling the drone through a smartphone, you’ll definitely want to invest in a controller for the extended range along with a few extra batteries.

Final verdict

There’s no question the DJI Spark is the company’s most approachable drone yet with intuitive gesture controls, a compact frame and low-enough price to compete with other affordable quadcopters. From the PalmControl, Quickshots and deeper smartphone integration, DJI has broken multiple barriers of entry that make drones seem intimidating.

That said, the DJI Spark experience isn’t flawless, especially if you don’t use it with a controller. The gesture controls can be finicky and require a bit of patience. The short flight time also basically requires you to carry around spare batteries. 

DJI is a company that constantly iterates and updates its drone, so we’re sure the DJI Spark will get better with time. Until then, the DJI Spark is a great drone for its price and one you’ll definitely want to check out even if it isn’t completely perfect.

  • The best drones: DJI, Parrot and more for pros and beginners
Posted: June 21, 2017, 4:34 pm
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Canon EOS 77D Preview vs 80D – 8 Differences

 

By: ZY Productions

Published on Feb 15, 2017

What on earth is the 77D? I compare it to the 80D and talk about how they’re different.

P.S: I guess that makes the 800D a super spec-down of the 80D. 77D guts in an even crappier body.

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Tripods: How to Use Them, and Choose Them

 

By: steeletraining

Originally published on Feb 14, 2017

https://www.steeletraining.com – Learn how to use a tripod for photography and how to choose the right one for your needs. Video tutorial by Phil Steele.

For more free tutorials and photography courses visit: https://www.steeletraining.com/

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Sir Elton John’s Modernist Photography Collection – A Home Tour

 

By: Tate

Originally published on Nov 9, 2016

Sir Elton John introduces us to his passion for collecting and his Modernist Photography collection which he lives with, in a home tour.

Made up of over 70 artists and nearly 150 rare vintage prints on show from seminal figures including Brassai, Imogen Cunningham, André Kertész, Dorothea Lange, Tina Modotti, and Aleksandr Rodchenko, The Radical Eye collection presents an unrivalled selection of classic modernist images from the 1920s to the 1950s – a crucial moment in the history of photography.

Book tickets and find out more: http://bit.ly/1U4Lh4x

Subscribe for weekly films: http://goo.gl/X1ZnEl

http://www.tate.org.uk

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Lomography Daguerreotype 64mm f/2.9 Unboxing

 

By: Pentax Forums

Originally published on Nov 17, 2016

This modern replica of one of the first camera lenses every built (over 200 years ago!) has been made available in the Pentax K-mount thanks to community support. Here’s our unboxing video- stay tuned for the full review!

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