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Posts tagged ‘Sony’

26
Sep

Sony Xperia X Compact review


While we have seen a lot of “mini” iterations of popular flagship smartphones, these devices tend to fall in the mid-range category. Sony is the lone holdout in this regard, with their Compact devices only shrinking in size, while retaining the specifications and features of their flagship counterparts, which is the case with one of Sony’s latest offerings, the Xperia X Compact.

  • Sony Xperia X Performance review
  • Sony Xperia X Compact Hands on
  • Why Sony deserves some credit – but not too much
  • Sony Xperia XZ hands on review

Is there still a market for such compact smartphones, and what does this device have to offer? We find out, in this comprehensive Sony Xperia X Compact review!

Buy the Sony Xperia X Compact now

Design

While the Xperia X Compact is technically a smaller version of the Xperia X that was announced back at MWC this year, it borrows its design language from the flagship Xperia XZ that was launched alongside it at IFA 2016. However, it doesn’t feature the premium build quality of its high-end counterpart, with the Xperia X Compact being made entirely of plastic.

The X Compact may not offer the same feel as other Sony devices that offer metal and glass builds, but the phone is surprisingly sturdy. It comes with a very glossy finish, that gives it a ceramic look that is really nice, but does make for a huge fingerprint magnet. The top and bottom of the phone are completely flat, which means that the device can stand on its own, and there are frosted matching color inserts that flow well with the rest of the design.

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The X Compact also features what Sony is calling a “loop” design, which is essentially a fancy way of explaining the tapers along the sides the make the transition from glass to plastic seamless, and makes the phone more comfortable to hold. Despite some aesthetic changes, the signature rectangular shape that Sony is known for is still seen here.

The best part about the Sony Xperia X Compact is how easy it is to use with one hand, which is obviously the point of a mini smartphone. With so many large display phones out there, it is quite refreshing to use a device that is this compact, with a screen that you can reach across very easily and without any hand gymnastics.

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Taking a look around the device, the headphone jack and USB Type C port are at the top and bottom respectively, on the left side is the slot for the SIM card and microSD card, and on the right are the power button, volume rocker, and a dedicated camera button. The physical camera shortcut key is extremely convenient, with it not only providing a quick and easy way to launch the camera, but also because it works as a shutter button.

However, having all these buttons on one side can make it feel a touch cluttered, and the volume rocker sits too far down to make it comfortable to reach with your thumb. The position of the volume keys do make sense when using them to adjust the digital zoom of the camera, but is not in the optimal position for controlling the volume, which is its primary purpose.

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The Xperia X Compact also comes with a fingerprint sensor that is embedded into the power button, but for reasons unknown, this isn’t available with the US version of the device, which is certainly an extremely odd choice. Unlike its flagship counterparts and previous Compact smartphones from Sony, the X Compact doesn’t come with dust and water resistance, which is another surprising omission, and could be a deal breaker for some.

Display

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The Xperia X Compact comes with a 4.6-inch IPS LCD display with 720p resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 319 ppi. 720p may not be particularly impressive in the current scheme of things, but is certainly more than enough with a display of this size. The display is plenty sharp, and there have been no issues with reading text.

The display is pretty good, offering nice color reproduction and saturation, and good viewing angles. The screen also gets surprisingly bright, allowing for a comfortable viewing experience even in direct sunlight. Typing on the small screen isn’t much of an issue, but the media consumption experience isn’t going to be as good, not because of the quality of the display, but because of its size. It’s something that will take some getting used to, but is certainly not a deal breaker by any means.

Performance

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Under the hood, the Xperia X Compact retains the same processing package as its larger namesake, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 650 processor, backed by the Adreno 510 GPU and 3 GB of RAM. Even though it doesn’t feature top of the line specifications, performance hasn’t been an issue with the X Compact.

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Everything has been fast and responsive, and the device can even handle high-end games without struggling. Granted, the load times may be a little longer, but once a game loads, it runs very smoothly, with rarely any dropped frames to be seen. Overall, the performance has been quite impressive, and goes beyond what you would expect from a mid-range processor like the Snapdragon 650.

Hardware

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As far as storage goes, 32 GB is your only option, but expandable storage via microSD card allows you to add up to 256GB additional storage, which should take care of all your needs.

Above and below the display are two thin slits that house the dual front-facing stereo speakers. The overall volume is on the quieter side when compared to other front-facing setups, but the quality of the sound is actually quite good, with clean, clear sound, with no distortion.

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However, you will have a far better audio experience when plugging in a pair of headphones. The Xperia X Compact has built in support for Hi-Res Audio like FLAC, ALAC, DSD, and LPCM, but if you don’t have audio in these formats already, the device can also upscale any compressed audio files to give it a Hi-Res sound.

The Xperia X Compact comes with a 2,700 mAh battery, which allows for surprisingly good battery life, helped along by the relatively lower resolution display that it has to power. The battery comfortably provides a full day of use, and even with heavy usage that involved a lot of gaming and watching videos on Youtube, I rarely had to charge the device in the middle of the day.

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The device comes with Qualcomm QuickCharge 3.0 support, and given the capacity of the battery, it doesn’t take long to get back to a full charge at all. However, one thing to remember is that Sony doesn’t include a QC 3.0 charger in the box, so you will have to pick up a third-party one to take advantage of the phone’s fast charging capabilities.

Camera

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Sony is also making a big deal about the camera of the Xperia X Compact. The front 5 MP shooter is a fairly standard wide angle lens camera, and gets the job done when it comes to taking selfies. On the back is a 23 MP camera, which is the same sensor that is found with Sony’s higher-end offerings like the Xperia XZ.

To improve the camera, Sony has added a new laser auto focus system to help with sensing distance and taking better shots in low light situations, and there is also a new color sensor to help you get much better white balance. The real kicker here is that the X Compact has 5 axis image stabilization for both the front and rear cameras when recording video, but there is no physical hardware inside to make this stabilization happen, with all the stabilization being software based.

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Before you get too excited though, the 5 axis stabilization is utilized only when recording “macro” shots, so unless you see the word macro pop up in the corner of the viewfinder, you only get 3 axis stabilization, which does work well to keep the footage stable and without any warping or distortion. It is somewhat strange that Sony hyped a feature that is used only in limited situations, since macro video isn’t something a lot of people typically use their smartphones to record.

The camera application offers what we’ve come to expect from Sony devices, and it doesn’t look like it has changed significantly over the years. You can swipe up or down on the viewfinder to switch between various modes, that include Superior Auto, manual, and video recording, along with the slew of camera effects that Sony always adds. It isn’t the most intuitive camera app, and HDR still only works when using the manual mode, but the overall camera shooting experience is fairly straightforward.

Sony Xperia X Compact camera samples:

It is easy to quickly launch the camera and take a shot using the dedicated camera shutter button, and the image quality is well above average. Images are extremely sharp and well detailed, and while there is a good amount of color and saturation to be had, shots do look more natural when compared to the oversaturated photos that are taken with some other smartphones.

The camera also has a predictive hybrid auto focus feature that can continuously track moving objects and capture them without motion blur. As long as the object isn’t moving ridiculously fast, this feature does work really well. In low light conditions, there is still a fair amount of detail to be had, and images generally tend to be noise free. However, the shutter speed can be really slow in such lighting situations, so very steady hands will be required to avoid blurry photos.

Software

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On the software side of things, the Xperia X Compact is running Android 6.0 Marshmallow with Sony’s custom skin on top. Calling it a custom skin is certainly a stretch however, considering how many stock Android elements are to be found throughout the user interface.

Sony has really scaled back on their own customizations, and has even gone as far as to add the Google Now homescreen to this launcher, which really makes the experience feel closer to stock. That said, it does come with a lot of bloatware, including pre-installed Sony apps and a few third-party ones, but all of these can be disabled and moved out of the way.

Overall, Sony has done a fantastic job with keeping the software experience clean and simple, which is also a contributing factor to the smooth performance that is available with the Xperia X Compact.

Specifications

Display 4.6” HD Triluminos IPS LCD
Processor Hexa-core, 64-bit Snapdragon 650 (2 x 1.8 GHZ, 4 x 1.2 GHz)
RAM 3 GB
Storage 32 GB + microSD
Dimensions 129 x 65 x 9.5 mm
Weight 135g
IP rating No
Main camera 23 MP, predictive hybrid auto-focus, triple image sensing technology, 5-axis stabilization
Front camera 5 MP
Battery 2,700 mAh, Quick Charge 3.0, Qnovo Adaptive Charging, USB Type-C
Fingerprint sensor Yes
Networks GSM GPRS/EDGE (2G), UMTS HSPA+ (3G), Cat. 6 LTE
Connectivity A-GNSS (GPS + GLONASS), Wi-Fi Miracast, Bluetooth 4.2, NFC

Gallery

Pricing and final thoughts

So there you have it for this in-depth look at the Sony Xperia X Compact! The unlocked version of the Xperia X compact is available in the US for $500, which is really steep for what is basically a mid-range smartphone, and its price point puts this phone in a rather awkward position.

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There are a lot of other options out there, like the Nexus 6P, that arguably offers a lot more value despite being a year old, for the same price or less, and if you are looking for something more current, great choices include the OnePlus 3, the ZTE Axon 7, or the Honor 8.

  • Sony Xperia X Performance review
  • Sony Xperia X Compact Hands on
  • Why Sony deserves some credit – but not too much
  • Sony Xperia XZ hands on review

The Xperia X Compact is a great phone, and if you choose to buy one, you certainly won’t be disappointed. However, without a fingerprint sensor (with the US version), or features like dust and water resistance, the $500 price tag is hard to accept, just for the convenience that its size offers. If you are looking for the best value for money, this phone isn’t the one to get, but if you just want a compact phone that doesn’t compromise a whole lot, that’s when you might find this device to be worth every penny.

Buy the Sony Xperia X Compact now

26
Sep

PlayStation 4 Slim review: Wait for the PS4 Pro if you can


After selling over 40 million consoles, Sony is refreshing the PlayStation 4. That starts with the PlayStation 4 Slim, available now for $299, along with the PlayStation VR headset (out next month) and the higher-powered PS4 Pro, which comes out in November. Sony has said that the PlayStation 4 Slim will become the new standard PS4, replacing the tried-and-true model that launched in 2013. So how does it compare?

Hardware

As its name suggests, the Slim is indeed a more compact version of what came before. The Slim drops over 2 pounds in weight, down to 4.63 pounds from 6.17, and it measures 10.43 x 11.34 x 1.54 inches, versus 10.83 x 12.01 x 2.09 inches on the older model. From the front, the PS4 has always looked like a sandwich cut at a funny angle. Both pieces of “bread” were an inch tall. That changes with the Slim. The bottom piece of “bread” is 7/8ths of an inch, and the top is 7/16ths of an inch. The Slim is 25 percent lighter, according to Sony, but it manages not to feel cheap or hollow. All of which is to say that the console is even more portable than its predecessor.

Much like the original PlayStation 3 and the PS3 Slim, the PS4 Slim retains the overall shape of the PS4 and drops its glossy black plastic in favor of a textured matte finish. This makes it much less prone to collecting dust, fingerprints and scratches. Meanwhile, sharp corners have given way to softer, rounded ones. It’s up front where you’ll notice the biggest changes.

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The touch-sensitive power and eject buttons have been replaced with physical buttons. The power key is physically larger, while the eject button is a cute circle. Both are slightly recessed, but differentiating between them in the dark shouldn’t be a problem. The power button also acts as a replacement for the color-changing LED strip that adorned the top of the original PS4. Ten pin-size LEDs glow white when the system is powered on and orange when it’s in standby. They turn off completely when the system is powered off. I always thought the launch model’s strip was a little much; meanwhile, the new power button conveys the same information in a less obnoxious way. I’m a fan.

Above those buttons is a slot-loading Blu-ray drive. The system’s two USB 3.0 connections are now spaced roughly 6 inches apart, with one next to the optical drive and the other sitting next to the console’s right edge. Along the right side where the “meat” of the sandwich is, there’s a threaded hole halfway between the front and back where you can screw in a stand for setting up the console vertically. Around back are ports for the power cable, PlayStation Camera, an HDMI 2.0a socket and an Ethernet jack. If you have an older A/V receiver or are using certain types of gaming headphones, the lack of an optical audio port is going to sting quite a bit.

When I asked Sony about this omission, a spokesperson said the decision was based on “market trends and the needs of the audience we’re targeting with the new standard PS4.” Basically, Sony is saying that you should upgrade your other A/V gear to accommodate its cost-cutting measure.

There’s also a flimsy L-shape piece of plastic covering the hard-drive bay, granting easy access for future storage upgrades. Seemingly it’s an admission on Sony’s part that the pack-in 500GB hard drive is much too small. Usually, the underside of a video-game console doesn’t warrant any sort of attention (who even looks there?), but the Slim’s is kind of neat. The rubber feet at each corner are triangles, circles, squares and Xs in a nod to the platform’s face buttons, with a PlayStation logo in the center.

Any internal changes here should have minimal impact on day-to-day performance, but Sony says power consumption has been reduced an impressive 34 percent. That’s a significant change, yet you aren’t likely to notice any differences in performance. Load speeds on Doom and Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End are still lethargic, but even with some of the more-demanding sequences from each, I didn’t hear the fan kick into overdrive the way it does on my launch model. And yep, I blow the dust out of that once a year, so this isn’t a case of my console overheating due to dirty innards.

One of my biggest gripes with the original PS4 was its reliance on aging wireless standards. Sony has addressed that with the Slim by stepping up to an 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0. Finally. Connected to my 5GHz network, I’m getting similar download speeds on both WiFi and Ethernet, but as you’d expect uploads over 802.11ac still aren’t as fast as on a wired connection. That will matter if you’re planning to jump into Street Fighter V or maybe some Star Wars: Battlefront online, but if all you need to do is download a few games and aren’t physically near a router, you shouldn’t have to sacrifice much speed, if any.

The controller

The DualShock 4 is one of my favorite gamepads ever, but its battery life is absolutely awful. When images of a revamped controller started surfacing along with leaks of the Slim console itself, I hoped we’d get a more-power-efficient gamepad, or at least one with a bigger battery. The product label on the controller’s underside reveals that there’s an 800mAh battery tucked away, the same capacity as on the original. That’s a huge missed opportunity on Sony’s part, especially when you consider that with the Xbox One S, Microsoft retooled its standard gamepad to address shortcomings on the original controller.

That’s not to say there aren’t a few differences here, though — it’s just that they’re mostly cosmetic. The thumbstick pods feel a little smoother in motion, while the share and options buttons aren’t as stiff. The spaces where the face buttons and D-pad sit have changed, and have a matte, not glossy, finish. Oh, and all the touch-points, save for the touchpad and PlayStation/home button, are a carbon gray color versus monochrome black on the original.

Speaking of the touchpad, you can now see what color the controller’s lightbar is without flipping the gamepad over. That’s because the TV-facing distraction has been given a narrow window at the top edge of the touchpad. It’s subtle enough that in play it didn’t distract me from slaughtering hordes of demons in Doom. When the controller is turned off, you can’t even see where the top light would come through.

Perhaps the biggest change, though, is that the DualShock 4 will now transmit data over USB. For folks who count animation frames in Street Fighter or do competitive gaming, this is a big deal because it eliminates lag between the controller and the console. But if you’re casually playing single-player games like Darksiders 2 or Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, you probably won’t notice a difference.

The competition

At this point, it’s impossible not to compare the PS4 Slim to the Xbox One S. The revamped Xbox One went on sale last month starting at $299, with an Ultra HD Blu-ray drive and support for HDR gaming. In terms of pure specs, the Xbox One S is a much better value. That UHD drive future-proofs you, making it hard to dismiss even if you don’t currently have a 4K TV.

Movies are one thing, though — it’s the games that make or break a game console. If you want to play Gears of War, Forza Motorsport and Halo, or catch up on a raft of Xbox 360 backward-compatible titles, the Xbox One S is the console for you. But if Uncharted 4, Until Dawn, The Last Guardian or virtual reality are more your speed, then buy a PS4 Slim. That is, unless you’re waiting until next month for the PS4 Pro, which boasts 4K output (but no UHD Blu-ray drive), more power and HDR gaming. Just keep in mind that the Pro will set you back $399 versus $299 for the Slim.

Wrap-up

The PS4 Slim is a great console. It’s smaller, quieter and less obtrusive than the PS4 that launched in 2013. The addition of 5GHz WiFi is incredibly welcome, but no UHD Blu-ray drive makes it a tough sell against the comparably priced Xbox One S. The only reason to buy the Slim is if you need a new console right this minute and have a hard budget of $299. If you can hold out until November and sock away another $100 for the PS4 Pro, though, you absolutely should.

24
Sep

At Photokina, camera makers carve out their territory


Let this sink in: Since 2010, digital camera sales have fallen from around 120 million to 40 million units. The main reason, obviously, is that consumers can fulfill most of their photography needs with a smartphone. That leaves manufacturers a small but profitable high-end market. Judging by what I saw at Photokina, however, Canon, Nikon, Fujifilm, Olympus, Sony and Panasonic are all targeting that niche in different ways.

Canon is still popular, judging by the throngs clamoring to try the new 5D Mark VI (and our Twitter poll). The company just released the EOS M5, easily its best mirrorless camera to date. The model has some nice features, like 7 fps shooting and a fast Dual Pixel contrast autofocus system that tracks moving subjects for video. The fact that it jumped into the mirrorless game late is starting to show, though.

It’s lagging behind competitors, especially considering the $980 price (body only). For the same sum, you can get a Sony A6300 mirrorless camera with a similar sensor that shoots 4K instead of 1080p and has better low-light capability and superior (11 fps) burst shooting.

Canon’s bread and butter is still DSLRs, but as mirrorless cameras improve, folks are going to switch. Personally, I don’t want to lug around my Canon DSLR anymore when a Fujifilm or Sony model is just as good and weighs half as much. In other words, Canon’s next mirrorless model had better be at least on par with its rivals.

Nikon is doing even less than Canon in mirrorless as rumors swirl around the future of the Nikon 1 series. While still leaning on its pro DSLR market, the Japanese company is now banking on a whole new category: virtual reality. Nikon announced two new KeyMission action cameras (the 270 and 85), plus an October release date and $500 price for its impressive-looking 4K KeyMission 360 camera. Though known for its optics, Nikon has nailed the stitching software on the KeyMission 360, judging by a (very short) demo.

It is again targeting its bread-and-butter pro market by pitching the KeyMission 360 to DSLR photographers as a way to capture VR video during photo shoots. (It even has a hot-shoe mount that lets you stick it on top of a D700 or D5.) But this is a side project for Nikon right now; like Canon, it really needs to make headway in the mirrorless market.

Is Olympus held back by its smallish Micro Four Thirds sensor, compared with Sony’s, Canon’s and Fujifilm’s APS-C models? The new OMD-EM1 Mark II flagship will test that theory. It seemingly has everything a pro photographer would need: 18 fps shooting speed with AF and exposure tracking (up to 60 fps with AF locked), 4K video, a stellar EVF and a body that’s as lovely to hold as it is to look at. The company also revealed a new 25mm f/1.2 25mm lens, allowing the bokeh and light sensitivity that pros expect.

Judging by several conversations with colleagues at the show, however, many won’t even consider it with that sensor. We don’t know the price yet, but if the OMD-EM1 II is the same as the first model ($1,500), buyers will be more tempted by, say, Sony’s $1,600 (body only) Alpha A7 II, which has a full-frame sensor — twice as large as that on the Olympus model.

Panasonic again emphasized video at Photokina. The three cameras it introduced at the show all feature 4K, and the freshly unveiled GH5 (due in 2017) adds internal 10-bit, 4:2:2, 60 fps recording, making it a truly professional-grade product. Even the photo features are video-oriented. Panasonic touted “4K Photo” and upcoming “6K Photo” as features that let you take 18-megapixel stills at 30 fps. That way, photographers can choose the perfect image from an action sequence.

Like Olympus, Panasonic is hindered by the Micro Four Thirds format. The small sensor is an advantage for video, though, striking the right balance between too much and too little depth of field. However, other competitors, particularly Sony, could step on Panasonic’s turf by including 10-bit or even 6K video in future models.

Speaking of the sort, Sony not only makes the sensors used by most other manufacturers but has an excellent, well-rounded camera lineup of its own. Its latest mirrorless E-mount models, in both the APS-C and full-frame categories, have generally received raves. At Photokina, it reminded us that it also makes Alpha mount SLT (single-lens translucent mirror) by launching the flagship Alpha A99 II.

The A99 II has the specs you’d expect from a $3,600 DSLR. That includes a high-res 42.4-megapixel sensor, 5-axis image stabilization and 12 fps RAW burst speeds. It’s not messing around with video either, as the A99 II does 4K at 4:2:2 quality and, provided you use the cropped Super-35 mode, no pixel-binning. Sony’s lineup has few weaknesses, except perhaps one: Its full-frame lens selection is limited and expensive.

Finally, there’s Fujifilm, which created the most Photokina buzz with its GFX 50S medium-format model. Due early next year, the 50.4-megapixel camera is the first in a brand-new system. It was launched with three new lenses, each capable of resolving at least 100 megapixels. The company told Engadget that its X-series models already stand up against rivals’ full-frame cameras, so it wanted to jump the category altogether.

Fujifilm packed the sensor into a relatively compact DSLR-size body. It’s not going to be cheap — less than $10,000 was all that the company would say. But it instantly becomes a top choice for medium-format photographers considering Pentax, Hasselblad or Phase One. It could even take a bite out of Nikon and Canon’s high-end DSLR market for fashion, architectural and other photographers who want as big a sensor as possible.

My takeaway from Photokina 2016 is that we’re living in a golden age of high-end digital cameras — a boon for consumers. Things are less warm and fuzzy for manufacturers, however. If overall sales continue to decline, Darwinism could take its toll on brands that don’t innovate fast enough. I’m looking at you, Canon and Nikon.

We’re live all week from Cologne, Germany, for Photokina 2016. Click here to catch up on all the news from the show.

23
Sep

A first look at Sony’s full-frame A99 II


In the last year alone, Sony launched three major E-mount cameras, the full-frame A7S II and A7R II, along with the A6300 — all impressive mirrorless models. So you might think it was losing interest in its A-mount single-lens translucent (SLT) series, having just launched one, the entry-level A68, late last year. At Photokina, however, Sony unveiled the Alpha A99 II, the long-awaited successor to its flagship A99 model.

We got our hands on one at the camera show in Cologne, and it a pretty nice combination of speed and resolution: 42.4 megapixels at a 12fps RAW shooting speed with continuous AF and exposure. To get that kind of performance, Sony incorporated its hybrid 4D Focus tech with 79 dedicated phase detection and 399 focal plane phase detection points. It’s also got a max 102,400 ISO and new 5-axis stabilization system, so shooting in low-light won’t be an issue.

The A99 II is also well-suited for video, allowing full-frame 4K recording at 30fps max. If you use it in crop-frame, “super-35” mode (at a 15-megapixel still resolution), it can do 4K with a full sensor readout, 1.8X oversampling and no pixel binning. If 1080p is okay, you can shoot at 120 fps for optimal slow-mo. Like other Sony models, it uses the XAVC S format to capture video at up to 100Mbps.

A show floor isn’t an idea place to try out a camera, but we did get a feel for the handling. The camera is smaller and lighter than the original, so with the new grip, it’s easy to heft. Like the original A99, it doesn’t have an optical viewfinder — the translucent mirror is only used for focusing. However, the XGA, 2.36 million dot OLED electronic viewfinder is bright and sharp, and allows up to 10X magnification to nail manual focus.

You can shoot at up to 8fps with live view activated. Based on an informal try, the 12fps burst speed, meanwhile, seems to work as advertised, and it could sustain that rate for several seconds — not bad considering that each 42.4-megapixel RAW file is as large as 50 MB. All told, this camera should be a worthy flagship for Sony’s A-mount series — we’ll know more when we get a look at it later this year.

Aaron Souppouris contributed to this report.

We’re live all week from Cologne, Germany, for Photokina 2016. Click here to catch up on all the news from the show.

23
Sep

Sony’s Xperia XZ arrives in the US October 2nd for $700


Sony debuted its latest handsets back at IFA and now the duo will soon debut in the US. The flagship Xperia XZ is slated to arrive October 2nd at Amazon, Best Buy and other retailers. Priced at $700 unlocked, the unlocked model supports GSM networks while packing in a 5.2-inch 1080p display, Snapdragon 820, 3GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage that can be expanded via a microSD slot. The XZ also has a USB-C port to keep up with the times and features like 4K video and enhanced image stabilization for its 23-megapixel camera. It’s also IP65/IP68 dust-tight and water resistant for added protection from the elements and any unforeseen accidents.

The mid-range Xperia X Compact will go on sale September 25th in the States, a few weeks after making its debut in the UK. A smaller 4.6-inch device, the X Compact is priced at $500 unlocked with a 720p display and the same 32GB of storage, a microSD card slot and a USB Type-C jack as the Xperia XZ. The GSM-compatible X Compact also touts that 5-axis video stabilization that Sony offers on the larger phone. All of features are driven by a Snapdragon 650 chipset alongside 3GB of RAM and an Adreno 510 GPU. And yes, the same 23-megapixel camera that’s on the XZ is here as well. If you can’t wait an extra week for the XZ, the X Compact still offers some of the same features as its bigger and pricier companion.

21
Sep

WatchESPN’s live and on-demand streaming arrives on PS4


Rejoice, sports and console gaming fans: ESPN’s self-titled streaming app WatchESPN is now available on the PlayStation 4. According to the network, subscribers can now access ESPN’s live and on-demand content on every major streaming device, and non-subscribers can use the app to browse short-form clips and highlights. So now you can switch between a heated game of Call of Duty and the drone racing championships without putting down your DualShock 4.

“Gaming consoles have historically attracted significant engagement in minutes consumed for WatchESPN,” ESPN/Disney Senio VP Sean Breen said in a statement, “and with today’s launch, the app increases its distribution footprint to reach fans on the most widely adopted platforms.”

Unfortunately for cord-cutters, users will still need a cable subscription to access the majority of ESPN’s streaming content, but those with an authenticated subscription will have access to all of ESPN’s subsidiaries including ESPNEWS, ESPN Deportes, SEC Network, ESPN Goal Line and more.

While WatchESPN is also available for computers, smartphones and tablets, users on older PlayStaion consoles will have to wait a bit longer for a PS3 version of the app. That said, ESPN promises it will arrive “in time for the remainder of the college football season.”

Source: ESPN

19
Sep

Sony’s A99 II promises fast focus in a full-frame camera


It’s been four years since Sony last introduced a flagship-class full-frame camera, but it’s finally back with more. Sony is launching the A99 II, a 42.4-megapixel pro cam that incorporates many of the upgrades you’ve seen in recent Alpha DSLRs and mirrorless models… and then some. To start, it promises to be an autofocusing champ. This is the first full-frame Alpha to use 4D Focus tech, delivering a hybrid autofocusing system that melds 79 dedicated phase detection points with 399 focal plane phase detection points. Between this and the lack of a moving mirror, Sony is promising “full-time” autofocus that can track fast-moving objects — important when you can shoot up to a brisk 12 frames per second (8FPS in live view).

This is also a big improvement if you like to shoot at night. The A99 II adapts the A7 II’s 5-axis image stabilization to a full-frame body, helping it counter both shifting blur in close-ups and rolling blur in low light. Reportedly, it’s equivalent to a 4.5-step shutter speed advantage. Combine that with a peak ISO 102,400 sensitivity and it may be an easy choice for in-the-dark shooting, although you won’t get the extreme sensitivity options of very high-end DSLRs like the Nikon D5.

You’re getting a newer design, to boot. The magnesium alloy body is about 8 percent smaller than the first A99, and you’ll get both a newer grip, twin SD card slots and seals that make the camera both dust- and water-resistant. The 1,024 x 768 OLED viewfinder should help, too, and you’re getting a redesigned menu that should be easier to use in the midst of a hectic photo shoot.

Other perks? You can finally record 4K video on a full-frame Sony DSLR (without pixel binning, even), and there’s a “Slow and Quick” mode that combines both slow-mo and accelerated video speeds. Pro movie makers may also appreciate better gamma handling (including S-Log2 and S-Log3 gamma for wide dynamic range videos) and a zebra mode that helps with tweaking the exposure.

The A99 II should arrive in November, and it’ll be relatively affordable for the category at $3,199 (€3,600) for the body alone. That’s not trivial, but it’s less than Canon’s EOS 5D Mark IV — and it looks to be more powerful than the two-year-old Nikon D810.

Aaron Souppouris contributed to this report.

Source: Sony, Sony Press Centre

19
Sep

‘Jackal Assault’ is all I ever wanted in a seated VR game


There’s already plenty to look forward to in Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare due out on November 4th: Space, futuristic weaponry, rifle customization, enhanced multiplayer modes and a bit of Jon Snow. While I missed the opportunity to try the game at the Tokyo Game Show this week, I did come across Jackal Assault which is a PlayStation VR freebie that comes with the CoD title, and it didn’t take long before I fell in love with this space dogfight demo. More importantly, I didn’t feel sick at all, which is surprising given the speedy maneuvers I managed to pull.

There’s no gameplay footage of Jackal Assault at the time of writing this article, but most part of the demo I tried was very similar to what’s shown in the above CoD footage (from 1:35 to 3:05). The game puts you inside a Jackal fighter jet, you have a bit of time to look around the launchpad, and moments later you’re shot into cold space behind a fellow Jackal, with Planet Earth staring right back at you. You’re then tasked with a simple debris removal job to get you familiarized with the controls, which are straightforward on the PS4 controller.

Suddenly, an anomaly is detected nearby, and you’d end up being ambushed by a fleet of similarly-sized enemy spaceships plus their large but stationary battleship. That’s when the game really begins. Soon I found myself taking full advantage of my 360-degree view to track down enemies while flying smoothly at full speed, and occasionally braking to make sharp turns in the debris field. There was certainly no shortage of adrenaline throughout the game. Interestingly, at no point did I notice any nausea even while moving my head around, so I could simply focus on pointing my Jackal at the damn things to shoot them down with my rounds and missiles. Every explosion put a smile on my face.

That was until the demo got cut short by a black hole that came out of nowhere and sucked everything in. Given how simple yet thrilling Jackal Assault is, I wouldn’t mind a longer demo, but then again, it was a good time for me to wipe away my sweat.

17
Sep

Sony’s Shuhei Yoshida ‘understands the criticism’ of ‘No Man’s Sky’


The vast and ambitions No Man’s Sky didn’t have the smoothest of launches. Even after pushing out a huge day-one patch, some players still encountered glitches and crashes, and some players even feel like the game didn’t deliver on what the marketing campaign promised. Speaking to Eurogamer, Sony Studios president Shuhei Yoshida said he understands complaints from players who don’t feel like they’re getting what was promised to them.

“I understand some of the criticisms especially [creator] Sean Murray is getting, because he sounded like he was promising more features in the game from day one,” Yoshida said.”It wasn’t a great PR strategy, because he didn’t have a PR person helping him, and in the end he is an indie developer.” Indeed, No Man’s Sky is one of the most massive “indie” releases of all time, and it’s plausible that Murray simply got overwhelmed with the work as his game got bigger and its release became more and more anticipated by players.

Regardless of some unhappy players, Yoshida is still happy with the game overall and is glad it’s on Sony’s platform. “I am super happy with the game actually, and I’m amazed with the sales the game has gotten,” he said. But Yoshida has also had to deal with lots of customers unhappy with the game who wanted to return it, so even if it’s selling well, it’s far from a runaway success for Sony.

Source: Eurogamer

17
Sep

The best of the Tokyo Game Show 2016


The biggest gaming show outside of the US, the Tokyo Game Show has a different atmosphere that;s all its own. While it’s contracted and shrunk over the last few years, the heat and interest in virtual reality has reinvigorated the show — despite the lack of an official Xbox or Nintendo presence. Sony may have already revealed two new consoles in the last month, but it wanted to remind everyone that it’s got a VR headset coming out. In short: lots of VR, PlayStation and domestic-centered games, sprinkled with just enough weird.

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