B&H Gear News Roundup: September 5, 2014

  • Sony updated its unique, smartphone-friendly lens-style cameras with the QX30 and QX1
  • Zeiss introduced two new fast primes for Sony's full-frame E-Mount: the Loxia 35 and 50mm f/2.0
  • Canon lowered the prices on 26 of its L-series prime and zoom lenses
  • Samsung and Sony announced a slew of new smartphones, smartwatches, and tablets at IFA 2014
  • Sony came out with the HDR-AZ1, an extremely compact action cam, and the HXR-MC2500 camcorder

The New Sony ILCE-QX1 and Cyber-shot DSC-QX30 Digital Cameras

Sony refreshed its QX line with the new Cyber-Shot DSC-QX30 camera, and has added exponentially greater versatility to the unique smartphone camera line with the new ILCE-QX1 camera that gives your smartphone the capability of hosting any E-mount lens.

If you're unfamiliar with the QX line, imagine sticking a digital camera on the back of your smartphone and then using the smartphone screen to control the camera and compose images using the phone's screen. The QX line is, basically, a class of digital cameras without a bunch of buttons or LCD screens. By making your phone an integral part of the camera, this allows you to carry less gear, while adding photographic versatility to your smartphone. The QX cameras do not need to be mounted directly on your phone; they can be used alone (pretend you are shooting film, as you cannot review your images on a screen) or operated remotely via the Wi-Fi connection from your phone.

The QX30 is a fixed-lens update of the QX10 and QX100 cameras that arrived at the beginning of the QX line. Do you feel limited by the photographic power of your cellular phone? Well, slap on the QX30 and suddenly you have a high-performance camera with a 20.4MP Exmor R CMOS sensor receiving light through an extremely, crazily versatile 24-750mm (35mm equivalent) lens. This lens takes you from wide angle to extreme telephoto distances—something no smartphone would dare to do on its own. Extreme telephoto means camera shake, but the QX30 has image stabilization built in to help keep your images crisp. The latest Sony processor, the BIONZ X, crunches the data from the high-resolution sensor.

Maybe you're not a fan of super-zoom lenses, or maybe you have a bunch of E-mount lenses at home and you're curious about this unique smartphone-mounted camera thing that Sony has going on. No problem, my friends! The new ILCE-QX1 allows you to stick E-mount lenses on your smartphone. Imagine a mirrorless camera in its three basic sections: lens, sensor/processor, LCD screen/controls. The QX1 is the middle part of the camera. You attach your favorite E-mount lens to the QX1 and your smartphone handles the screen and camera-control duties while the QX1 records the image on a 20.1MP APS-C Exmore HD CMOS sensor powered by the BIONZ X image processor. Shooting in low light? No problem with ISO sensitivity up to 16000.

For more information about the new Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-QX30 and ILCE-QX1, check out this B&H Explora announcement.

The New Zeiss Loxia 35mm and 50mm Manual Focus E-Mount Lenses

Zeiss has not been shy of late, making high-performance premium lenses for all kinds of camera systems and mounts. The new Loxia T* line, designed specifically for full-frame Sony E-mount cameras, continues that trend, as well as the new convention of naming the lens lines after avian genera; in this case, the Crossbill.

Like Zeiss's other new lens lines, the new Loxia 35mm f/2 Biogon T* and the Loxia 50mm f/2 Planar T* lenses represent not only an entirely new and unique aesthetic, but underneath their new eye-catching exteriors, bring us back to a slightly older era of photography with the absence of autofocus and the presence of a dedicated ring to control aperture.

No autofocus? Aperture rings? What's going on here? Are these lenses decidedly low-tech? Nope, not at all. The aperture rings, like aperture rings of old, click at every ½-f/stop to give a nice tactile feel to the lens. However, if you are shooting video and do not want to have clicking noises picked up by your microphones, you can remove the click using a specialized tool that comes with the lens. Both lenses also transmit full EXIF data to the camera and have the ability to transmit focus-movement info to the camera, enabling the camera's electronic viewfinder to engage a magnified mode for precision focusing.

The Loxia 35mm f/2 is based on the classic Biogon series, features nine elements in six groups, and its minimum focus distance is less than 1'. The Loxia 50mm f/2 is the latest in the classic Zeiss Planar series and features six elements in four groups and a minimum focus distance of approximately 1.5'. For more information about the new Loxia lenses, check out this B&H Explora announcement.

New Audio Gear from PreSonus, Focusrite and Roland

This week in audio, we saw the announcement of a bevy of new gear from PreSonus, including the company’s Ceres monitors, which bring sound based closely on the popular Eris studio monitors to your home theater or living room, with such features as Bluetooth streaming, a front-panel volume control, and headphone jack. Focusrite is hooking up YouTube singer-songwriters with an easier way to make their videos, with improved sound from the built-in stereo mics of their iTrack Pocket (read more about it in this post). Roland’s new V-Drum kit, the TD-1K is aimed at beginners, but is expandable as their talents grow. Also from Roland, the HS-5 Session mixer lets you and your band jam and record silently, much to the relief of your neighbors. More information is available here.

The New Sony HDR-AZ1 and HDR-AZ1VR Action Cam Minis

Sony's latest addition to the Action Cam lines takes many of the features from the flagship HDR-AS100V model and puts them in an even smaller body, just 1 x 1.4 x 2.9" in size. The most notable feature is the professional 50 Mbps XAVC S codec, which can be recorded at up to 60 fps. The camera is inherently splash resistant, and includes a 16' underwater housing for shallow submersion or using around waves. A bundled version is offered, the HDR-AZ1VR, which includes the RM-LVR2V Live View Remote Control Watch. The watch features a similar water resistance to the camera and is equipped with a built-in screen, plus controls, to operate the camera remotely. You can learn more about these cameras in this B&H Explora announcement.

New Sony HXR-MC2500U AVCHD Onboard-Memory Camcorder

Sony adds to its AVCHD line of onboard-memory camcorders with the HXR-MC2500U. It features a similar shoulder-mount design as its predecessor—the HXR-MC200U—but offers several new features and enhancements sure to please event videographers. Updates include improved low-light performance, a built-in LED light, and a new OLED viewfinder. The camera also adds built-in Wi-Fi and NFC support, standard-definition DV memory recording, and a Multi-Interface Shoe for expanded accessory support. More information on the new HXR-MC2500U is available in this B&H Explora announcement.

Samsung Announces New Devices at IFA

While the term "phablet" sounds and looks ridiculous, Samsung manages to make it attractive with the Samsung Galaxy Note 4. An improvement over its predecessor in almost every category, the Galaxy Note 4 holds onto its 5.7" display, but raises its native resolution to 2560 x 1440 and provides a Super AMOLED panel for coverage of up to 90% of the Adobe sRGB color spectrum. The 3.7-megapixel front-facing camera has a wide-angle mode spanning 120 degrees, so you can take extra-wide selfies.

Samsung is also experimenting with the Galaxy Note Edge, which is like a Galaxy Note 4 but with a bent portion of the display. The edge of the screen flows over the lip of the device and provides an extra 160-pixel row. The edge allows you to extend your home screen with seven customizable scrollable panels. It can also be used as a separate screen as well. The edge is located on the right side of the Note Edge, which can make it awkward for left-handers to use one-handed, since they will have to reach across the entire screen to access it.

It's no secret that Samsung has been pumping out smartwatches, and IFA 2014 was no exception. Samsung introduced the Samsung Gear S, which uses Android Wear and has Bluetooth, as well as Wi-Fi, connectivity. The Gear S supports 3G connectivity, and also focuses on the S-Health app with its plethora of sensors, like the pedometer, altimeter, and even a UV sensor.

Holograms aren't viable yet, but you can settle for virtual reality with the Samsung VR. With an integrated accelerometer and gyrometer, you can immerse yourself in a variety of multimedia content. Experience a concert from the stage; take a virtual tour of Marvel’s Avengers; try on an Iron Man mask; and much more. You'll need a Galaxy Note 4 in order to use the VR properly.

Smartphones, Tablets, and Smartwatches at Sony's IFA 2014 Xperia Event

If you thought your next smartphone was going to be between the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and whatever Apple's next iPhone is, Sony just made your choice harder. Announcing a new flagship smartphone, the Xperia Z3, Sony is focused on providing high-quality mobile photography with a 20.7-megapixel rear camera that has an Exmor RS for mobile CMOS image sensor and the new 25mm wide-angle Sony G-Lens. While the 5.2" Full HD 1080p display on the Xperia Z3 isn't quite in "phablet" territory, consumers looking for something smaller might go for the Xperia Z3 Compact, which has a 4.6" display. The only downside is you'll have to settle for HD 720p.

Sony didn't just stop at smartphones. They also introduced the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact, an 8" tablet with 1920 x 1200 native resolution. With a quad-core 2.5 GHz Snapdragon 801 processor and 3GB of RAM, Sony was able to cram reliable performance into the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact, despite measuring a thin 6.4mm and weighing 0.6 of a pound. The Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact will also support LTE connectivity, but you'll need a separate data plan to use it.

Smartwatches are being pumped out by every manufacturer it seems, but don't say Sony is jumping on the bandwagon. The company been making smartwatches before it became popular. Now with Google Android Wear to help facilitate the pairing of your smartwatch and your smartphone, Sony introduced the SmartWatch 3, which has a 1.6" screen. The SmartWatch 3 can connect to a device running Android 4.4 KitKat via NFC. If you're looking for something more in between a smartwatch and a fitness tracker, the SmartBand Talk has a 1.4" e-paper display, as well as an integrated microphone and loudspeaker, which allow you to take and make calls.

More news:

  • Leica Camera AG is a young 100 years old this year, and to celebrate, they are rolling out a group of special-edition products to help you join in the festivities, including special editions of the Leica M, Leica S, and Leica D-Lux 6.
  • Panasonic announced the HC-X1000 4K camcorder. Learn more about it and watch our exclusive video in this B&H announcement.

... and that's your news for the week of September 1st, 2014.

Editor's note: Jaime Traba, William Min, Justin Dise, and Peter Ward also contributed writing to this post.