Review: Nikon D3100 DSLR camera

Falling into line just above Nikon’s other entry-level D3000 DSLR, the D3100 has some fresh features that make it a very attractive DLSR option for photographers who are starting out. Its notable new features include 1080p HD video, and continuous autofocus in Live View and movie modes. A smart and simple design aesthetic and clear and helpful Guide Mode combine to make it an ideal camera for new DSLR users who want to learn the basics.

Nikon says that the $700 D3100 is not a direct replacement for the $550 D3000, which is still available. However, the DSLRs have similar features and are aimed at the same audience. The bump in image quality and slew of new and improved features make the D3100 a tempting choice over the D3000 for a small price difference.

How the features stack up

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Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5

The 10-megapixel Lumix LX5 backs up its F2.0 ultra-wide-angle zoom lens (3.8X optical zoom, 24mm to 95mm) with manual controls for both still shots and video, a great macro mode that practically lets you touch the lens to your subject, fast access to focus controls, and a button layout that provides easy access to in-camera settings. On the back is a 3-inch LCD screen for framing your shots, but there's no optical viewfinder; instead, a proprietary hot-shoe connection lets you connect an eye-level electronic viewfinder (EVF) that's compatible with Panasonic's G-series interchangeable-lens cameras.

The Lumix LX5 resembles a miniaturized, fixed-lens version of Panasonic's interchangeable-lens Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1, right down to the boxy, classic-looking frame, the pop-up flash, and the stand-alone lens cap. The LX5 is a larger-than-average point-and-shoot camera and won't fit in your pants pocket, but it's compact enough to slip into a jacket pocket or a purse.

Fast autofocus has become Panasonic's specialty over the past few years, and the LX5 continues the trend. You can power up the camera and snap a sharp shot within 1 second (assuming that you remember to remove the lens cap), and the camera rarely searches in and out as it locks focus on a subject.

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Canon PowerShot S95

The PowerShot S95 a small, most pocket-friendly camera that is a minor upgrade to last year's highly rated Canon PowerShot S90 (it adds 720p high-definition video capture at 24 frames per second and an HDR scene mode to the S90's array of offerings), and in many respects it's a tiny, pocketable version of the Canon PowerShot G12. It offers most of that camera's fun shooting modes, and its image and video quality are impressive for its size. It's also noteworthy among the five models we tested for being the most accessible to casual shooters.

The S95's most unusual feature is its control click-ring, which surrounds the camera's 3.8X optical zoom lens (28mm to 105mm) and leaves the rest of the body largely uncluttered by buttons. You can use the control ring to adjust anything from manual focus controls to aperture and shutter settings, by choosing your preferred control via a top-mounted Ring Function button. The control-ring navigation ensures that one of your hands is almost always bracing the camera by the lens, and that's a good thing: The S95 doesn't have a raised hand grip—a design decision that helps keep it compact but also makes it a bit hard to handle.

In our lab's subjective tests for still and video quality, the PowerShot S95 earned high marks for color accuracy, exposure quality, and video quality, posting an overall imaging score of Very Good. Sharpness was a bit of a weak spot, and battery life was merely fair: The S95 shot just 200 images per charge of its battery.

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Expo Notes: Sort Shots iPad app adds metadata features

The iPad’s minimal design and high resolution screen make it an ideal portable portfolio for photographers. Unfortunately, the built-in Photos app offers a very limited set of tools for organizing images, including no options for sorting on the go, and no ability rate or tag images.

Sort Shots iPad Edition is a $5 photo and video organizing and viewing app that picks up where Photos leaves off. With a major new update to the app released last week in conjunction with Macworld Expo, the app now has the ability to use existing metadata and EXIF tags—a feature iPad-owning photographers have long been clamoring for.

Sort Shots iPad Edition

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Review: Samsung TL500 point-and-shoot camera

The Samsung TL500's spec list reads like an all-star team recruited from other advanced point-and-shoot cameras' more enticing qualities. Like the Canon PowerShot G12, it comes equipped with a flip-and-rotate screen to help with odd-angle shots. Like the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5, it offers an ultra-wide-angle 24mm lens (and a separate lens cap). And like the Nikon Coolpix P7000 and the PowerShot G12, it has a slightly bulky body and a raised handgrip that feel good in the hand. It also packs a hot shoe that you can use with Samsung's external flashes, and it has a 3X optical zoom (24mm to 72mm).

The 10-megapixel TL500 has a few features that not many other cameras can match, such as a very wide F1.8 maximum aperture and an adjustable 3-inch OLED display. You can record fast-action still images at a clip of 1.5 shots per second in the camera's burst mode. Your images and the navigation menus look reasonably sharp on the OLED screen, and it's bright enough for satisfactory viewing under most lighting conditions.

The TL500 takes great-looking photos when it's on a tripod or otherwise held very steady, but handheld shots look best when the camera is in Dual Stabilization mode. In other mode settings, the camera's optical image stabilization is less effective than that on other cameras in its class, and shots can look a bit blurry.

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Expo Notes: Ortery brings interactive photos to iOS devices

Showing products online is typically a flat, 2D affair. The ability to create interactive 3D and 360-degree photographs of objects isn't new, but properly lighting, capturing, and combining the numerous images needed for an interactive animation is a daunting and expensive task.

An interactive image as viewed on the iPhone.

Ortery greatly simplifies the process for businesses who want to create their own images on-site (and without a professional photographer) with a combination of turntables, lighting, and software. And now the company is offering tools to save the final interactive animations in formats that are iOS-compatible. You can see an example that works on any iPhone, iPad, or Mac.

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New Ricoh CX5 camera set to replace CX4

Ricoh has just announced the launch of its new CX5 compact camera, which replaces the CX4. The CX5 has a 10-megapixel CMOS sensor, a 10.7X zoom lens with a range of 28mm to 300mm and it includes new scene modes as well as a new 'hybrid' autofocus system. The new autofocus system attempts to make focusing operations much quicker throughout the entire zoom range of the lens. The new, quicker focusing system can also work in conjunction with the motion tracking focus that was introduced in the CX4.

 

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