If you’re worried about missing a once-in-a-lifetime photo op, Panasonic and Red have a proposition: Why not shoot ultra high-res video and just grab still images? Both companies had the same idea at Photokina 2014 (though Red had it long before that), albeit with wildly different thoughts about price and quality. Panasonic’s system is called “4K Photo,” and allows you to extract a still from its 4K, 30 fps, 100 Mbps video stream, for as little as $900 on the new LX100 compact camera. Red, on the other hand, has got a more extreme plan: Capture up to 100 fps, 19-megapixel RAW stills starting at $17,000 for its Red Scarlet Dragon cinema camera.
We spoke with both companies at the bi-annual photo show about shooting video for still photos. Panasonic has implemented the new “4K Photo” feature on its new high-end compact, the Lumix LX100, along with the FZ1000 superzoom, CM1 camera phone and the HC-X1000, its latest 4K camcorder. The feature is also now available on the Lumix GH4 thanks to a new firmware upgrade. Here’s how it works: Simply shoot 4K video and search through the resulting footage to retrieve a desired still, complete with EXIF data. Images can be captured at 16:9, 4:3, 3:2 and even 1:1 (hello, Instagram). With a data rate of 100 Mbps, that will give a compressed .MP4 still image of about 400-plus KB, not very much for an 8-megapixel photo, but still equivalent to about a 70 percent compressed JPEG image. You could use an external recorder to capture better-quality stills on the GH4 too.
Panasonic sees it as a way for the average Joe to extract that one fleeting, perfect moment. With a 1/16,000th of a second shutter speed, you could freeze a water splash from Junior’s cannonball, for instance. This can all happen while you’re also grabbing video, though there’s one drawback. In order to capture still frames, the necessary higher shutter speed will eliminate the normal (desirable) motion blur from video. That means that event videographers who want to grab still photos from video will need to choose between natural-looking video or non-blurry still images. Still, having more options is always better, and this is opening up a new way of shooting photos on a $900 camera.
On the other end of the scale, professional photographers have been using Red cinema cameras to do the same thing since a Megan Fox photo spread appeared in Esquire back in 2009. For Photokina this year, the company has formalized the process with a new tethering system that lets you send RAW images across an Ethernet network. On top of that, the company’s RedcineX Pro now supports frame tagging, making it easier to pre-select still frames from a video feed of up to 100 fps.
The company gave me a quick demo of the process. It starts by shooting 6K RAW video at 15 fps on the Red Epic Scarlet ($16,700 for the body only) up to 100 fps on the Red Epic ($31,200). While shooting, the photographer can tag frames to help the editor find the best shots. With the new Dragon sensor, Red claims you’ll get a 16.5-stop dynamic range (DR), with 16 bits of color information from its sensor — which is larger than APS-C, but smaller than full-frame. That beats every other DSLR on the market for DR, though 19 megapixels is half of a Nikon D800’s resolution — and many photographers prefer larger full-frame or medium-format sensors. I tried hefting a stripped-down RED Scarlet Dragon camera (above) with a Canon EF mount and it’s definitely heavier than any DSLR I’ve hoisted, but certainly feasible.
The photos can instantly be transferred along an Ethernet network thanks to a camera tether, though that option is still in the testing stages. But to prove its point, Red was grabbing stills from a swimsuit photo shoot (yes, it’s a trade show) and printing them out at poster sizes from a large, professional printer. Judging by the results, the cameras could be equally at home on a Vogue photo shoot or the set of a Hobbit movie.
Of course, all of this was possible before Red and Panasonic put a label on it. There’s no reason why you can’t take high-quality stills out of cameras from Sony, Samsung, Blackmagic Design (above, with 4K RAW DPX) or others. What has changed is that 4K video is becoming more and more common — and 4K can give you an 8-megapixel still, compared to only two megapixels for HD. Since most of us aren’t professional photographers with perfect instincts and reflexes, that means we’ll no longer need leave it to pure chance to capture the perfect image.
We’ve seen plenty of interesting rebrands in past years. Leica’s perhaps the most prolific manufacturer to redesign housings and jack up a camera’s price, but Hasselblad is also guilty of trying to pass off a competitor’s cam as its own, with the $10,000 Solar. Leica’s own recreations are hardly as egregious — select photographers certainly don’t mind paying a few hundred dollars more for what’s arguably a better-looking camera from a more premium brand, making this year’s V-Lux and D-Lux a reasonable purchase for some. That first model is based on the Panasonic Lumix FZ1000, while the D-Lux is a deluxe version of the LX100, which squeezes a powerful Micro Four Thirds sensor into a surprisingly compact body.
The challenge, of course, comes down to pricing. If you opt for the generally identical Panasonic models, you’ll pay much less. Panasonic’s FZ1000 costs $899, for example, though Leica’s pricing its equivalent at €1,100 (about $1,425). The LX100, meanwhile, will also run you $899, compared to €995 (nearly $1,300) for the Leica D-Lux model. If you can afford to look past that discrepancy, you’ll end up with a great (perhaps better) looking alternative to two of the most powerful point-and-shoots on the market. The V-Lux hits shelves next month, while you’ll need to wait until November to pick up a D-Lux.
Photos by Edgar Alvarez.
Filed under: Cameras
The rumors were true: Microsoft is buying Minecraft developer Mojang for $2.5 billion. Crazy, right? That’s not all that happened today though. Go ahead and spice up your Monday with Engadget’s news highlights from the last 24 hours. You know you want to.
If you’re thinking about buying Sony’s sublime RX100 III compact camera, Panasonic has just made that decision a lot more difficult. The new Lumix DMC-LX100 is leaps and bounds ahead of its LX7 predecessor and the most sophisticated compact the Japanese company has ever built. For starters, Panasonic has trumped the RX100’s 1-inch sensor by equipping the new model with a Micro Four Thirds, 12.8-megapixel MOS chip, the same size used on its big-boy interchangeable-lens models. It’s also got a fast Leica 24-75mm (35mm equivalent) f/1.7-2.8 lens, a wide-screen, 2,764K dot LVF (live viewfinder) and 4K video capture. Some of those specs put it on par with the company’s flagship GH4, and well ahead of all its other interchangeable MFT models.
It also borrowed the GH4’s autofocus, boosting it over the LX7 to 0.14 seconds with an 11fps burst speed. Other features include WiFi, NFC capability for easier smartphone pairing, in-camera RAW to JPEG conversion and an (included) external flash. Despite all that, the metal-bodied compact is only a hair bigger than the last model. Panasonic claims that the new 4K video mode can also be used to capture 8-megapixel stills at up to 30fps. It added that the much larger sensor combined with the relatively low 12.8-megapizel count will give the LX100 not only better depth of field, but superior low-light capability too. It now has a 25,600 max ISO instead of 12,800.
The Lumix DMC-LX100 is slated to arrive at the end of October, but Panasonic has yet to reveal the all-important price. For comparison’s sake, though, the RX100 Mark III runs $800 and Panasonic’s own LZ1000 superzoom (with a 1-inch sensor) is $900. The higher-res LVF, 4K and other specs also trump Panasonic’s latest ILC, the GM5, showing that the compact market is from from dead — instead, it’s just heading upmarket.
Filed under: Cameras
Panasonic has just launched the Lumix DMC-GM5 targeted at shooters who want high performance with a form factor that’s about as small as you can make an interchangeable lens, Micro Four Thirds camera. To remind you (Panasonic has a dizzying array of MFT cameras that even confuses us), the GM5 is the successor to the GM1, the company’s smallest form-factor ILC model. It’s roughly the size of a pack of cards, and weights about 0.62 pounds including a battery and lens. Specs remain similar to the GM1, with a 16-megapixel sensor, 1080p/60fps video, a max ISO of 25,600, a 1/16,000 shutter speed and a new “snap movie mode,” that allows photos and video to be taken at the same time. The other new toy is a 1,166K-dot live viewfinder (LVF) with a 100 percent FOV and full color reproduction. Ironically, most of those specs (other than the pixel count) are lower than Panasonic’s LX100, a new compact, fixed lens MFT model also introduced today. We’re guessing the GM5 will actually be much less expensive, even with a kit lens included — we’ll find out by mid-November.
Filed under: Cameras
Compact, point-and-shoot cameras are dying, simply because people would rather use smartphones and tablets to snap their dinner and instantly share them to Instagram. Unfortunately, that’s a segment of the market that Panasonic abandoned (at least in Europe) back in 2013. That left the company without a convincing rival to the Lumia 1020 and Samsung’s various phone / camera hybrids. That’s why the company has now launched the DMC-CM1, a “connected camera” (i.e. a smartphone with a proper lens) that’s capable of taking 20-megapixel stills and record 4K video thanks to a one-inch MOS sensor.
For its part, Panasonic knows that the device won’t beat equivalent smartphones on a spec-for-spec basis. Instead, it wants people to concentrate upon the photographic equipment that’s been crammed into this slender device. Perched atop the aforementioned one-inch sensor is an f/2.8 Leica DC Elmarit lens. The lens is fixed, but works equivalent to a 28mm zoom lens, packing an aperture that’ll run all the way up to f/11. A manual control dial runs around the lens, which you can assign to a function of your choice, lending this an old-school feel. In fact, the CM1 looks like the Lumia 1020 by way of Dieter Rams, all austere chrome with cracked-leather style back, and has a weird retro-futuristic look that’s tremendously attractive.
On the surface of it, it’s no slouch in the phone department either, packing a 4.7-inch full HD touchscreen that’ll offer full manual control of your images. Sandwiched between the frame is a 2.3GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 with 2GB RAM and Android 4.4. The 16GB of internal storage can also, thankfully, be improved with microSD cards up to 128GB in capacity. Battery-wise, there’s 2,600mAh unit lurking inside the hardware, although we’d be concerned that it won’t hold enough juice to get you through a full day of snappin’ and callin’. If there is one downside, it’s that the CM1 is only earmarked for release in France and Germany of Christmas of this year. Still, we imagine that plenty of camera enthusiasts will be racing to get back in contact with some long-lost Gallic grandmother in the hope of scoring one of these as a present.
Steve Dent contributed to this report.
Filed under: Cameras
It was going to be either me or my male colleague. That’s a lie: It was absolutely going to be me. It was my last day at IFA, Europe’s biggest technology show, and Brad Molen and I were sitting inside a sparsely decorated smart home that Panasonic had built in the middle of the demo area. Panasonic needed a volunteer to sit in front of its prototypical smart mirror, which applies digital “makeup” so you can sample new looks. I exchanged a look with Brad, imagining his bearded cheeks with blush on them. Then I sat down and agreed to let a machine tell me everything that was wrong with my face.
Embarrassingly enough, this isn’t even the first time I’ve tested such a product for Engadget. Back at CES, if you recall, I got hands-on with a modded Windows PC that used a Kinect sensor to apply makeup and give people nose jobs. If that’s all Panasonic’s mirror did, I would have walked away, my dignity intact. But this thing is a little more sophisticated. With the help of sensors and facial recognition software (the same kind as Panasonic’s cameras), it creates an enlarged, hologram-like image of your face, and then diagnoses your weak areas — wrinkles, smile lines, blemishes, et cetera.
When it’s done, it makes custom recommendations based on your skin condition. In my case, the mirror zeroed in on the dark circles under my eyes, marking the area with a series of blue lines. I was jetlagged, exhausted and operating on very little sleep. “Get this girl some concealer!” it may as well have said. Then it offered to sell me anti-aging products and have me download a juice recipe. Well played, machine. Well played.
From there, you can do all sorts of things to your eyebrows, lips, cheeks and eyebrows, just as you’d expect. For the purposes of this demo, the presenter was using a remote, but it’s also capable of voice commands, including “Mirror off.” In addition, the mirror could in theory sync with your calendar, and recommend entire looks for different occasions. A first date after work? Meeting with clients? Spending the day at a trade show? (J/k: The answer there is “no makeup.”) Of course, I say “in theory” for a reason: Not only is this a prototype, but it isn’t necessarily destined for your home, either. Instead, a Panasonic rep told me, the mirror is really intended for places like salons and department stores. Which is just as well: Only a professional could tell me when a space-alien look is called for.
Brad Molen contributed to this report.
Filed under: Household
Several states have been in the running for a multi-billion dollar facility Tesla Motors has envisioned to build components for its electric cars (including the $35,000 Model 3), but it appears Nevada is the one. CNBC sources indicated a deal was close earlier today, and now Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval has timed a “major announcement” for tomorrow at 7PM ET. Other sources like Bloomberg claim CEO Elon Musk and other Tesla representatives will be at the event, and also mention that there could be more factories to follow. A joint operation with Panasonic, the ‘Gigafactory’ is key to Tesla’s strategy to lower the price of EVs in the future by working on different parts for the batteries (raw materials, cells, modules and battery pack enclosures) all in one place. Naturally, the prospect of some 6,500 or so new jobs have had southwestern states ideal for its renewable energy plans fighting over the right to play host.
Stay tuned for a major announcement tomorrow at 4PM related to economic development in #NV.
- Governor Sandoval (@GovSandoval) September 3, 2014
Filed under: Transportation
Technics, Panasonic’s high-end audio brand, may never have actually gone away, but it certainly fell out of the gaze of the mainstream. Now, however, the company feels that it’s the time for the name to make a comeback with a pair of speaker-and-amp combinations that’ll appeal to audiophiles everywhere. At the top end is a “Reference Series” R1, which comprises of a stereo amp, network audio control player and a pair of speakers. If your cash won’t stretch that far, however, then you’ll be able to shift down a gear with the “Premium Series” C700 range, which offers an amp, speakers, network audio player as well as – wait for it – a compact disc player. There’s no word on what the company is going to be pricing this hardware at, but we’d assume that Technics won’t sully its name with some budget devices. Still, it won’t be long until we find out, since both ranges will land in Europe in December, with global sales coming in early 2015.
Filed under: Home Entertainment
Both Netflix and Amazon stream in 4K. Cameras like the Sony a7S and the Panasonic Lumix GH4 can shoot in 4K. Even smartphones have been getting in on the act, with handsets like the LG G Pro 2 and Sony Xperia Z2 capable of recording 4K video. So with the amount of 4K content available increasing every day, you may have been thinking about buying a 4K set so you too can bask in the glow of 3,840 x 2,160 resolution. But 4K sets don’t come cheap, and you’re going to want to do a bit of research before dropping that much cash. While we don’t really review televisions here at Engadget, we’ve done the next best thing, compiling the opinions of trusted critics from across the web. Which set offers you the most bang for your buck? Do bells and whistles like a curved screen make a difference? Check out a few members of the 4K Class of 2014 below.
Price: $2,300 and up
Walk into a room and the first thing you’ll notice about the Samsung U9000 is its curved screen, which CNET says adds a “unique, futuristic look” to a set that is overall “drop-dead gorgeous.” It says the picture is equally stunning, offering “deep black levels, accurate color and great bright-room viewing qualities.” But what about that curve? Though it’s meant to create a feeling of depth and immersion, CNET found it “didn’t have any major effect on the picture aside from reducing reflections somewhat,” and Reviewed.com found it actually made some reflections worse, such that “lamps and lights are occasionally stretched across the entire arc of the screen.” It’s worth noting that the U9000 also includes an improved Smart Hub experience, but you can also find other Samsung sets that are a lot cheaper (and less curvy).
Price: $3,297 and up
The Samsung U8550 is a set that eschews the curved screen of its high-end sibling U9000 in favor of “trim bezels and a very narrow panel” that Reviewed.com says “lend this television a modern air.” The picture also does it credit, with LCD TV Buying Guide complimenting its “brilliant images in 4K,” while Sound+Vision was impressed with the “crisp detail and the clean, smooth clarity” of its upconversions. As on the U9000, the Smart Hub has been upgraded with “subtle improvements” that “hit the mark” according to LCD TV Buying Guide, and Reviewed.com says it provides “all of the streaming content and web-browsing functions you’d expect for the price.” And that’s a price that undercuts the competition by $1,000, leaving you some extra cash for an awesome sound or gaming system on the side.
Price: $1,597 and up
Price: $2,998 and up