Nikon invests in computer vision and deep learning startup ‘wrnch’

Nikon has announced a $7.5 million investment in Canadian computer vision and deep learning startup wrnch, Inc. Wrnch was founded in 2014 and ‘uses deep learning to develop and provide tools and software development kits (SDKs) that enable computers to see and understand human movement and activity.’

On its website the company says about itself it is ‘Teaching Cameras To Read Human Body Language.’

Nikon says the move is in line with its medium-term management plan which is designed to expand not only its business-to-consumer but also business-to-business imaging activities. The company is hoping to create synergies by combining resources with wrench and ultimately expand the range of its imaging business.

Nikon is aiming to enhance its automatic shooting solutions for the sports market by fusing its optical technologies, automatic tracking shooting technologies from its subsidiary Mark Roberts Motion Control Limited and wrnch's pose estimation technologies.

In addition the company is looking into providing ‘new imaging experiences' with technologies such as artificial intelligence. In the statement Nikon also says it is open to 'making' further use of its optical technologies and collaborating with companies that offer their own innovative solutions and technologies.’

Slik launches new carbon fiber tripod legs and two ball-heads

Tripod maker Slik has launched a new range of carbon fiber tripod legs and two new ball-heads. All models in the PRO CF series come with 8-layer carbon fiber legs, which are bonded and sealed in a high-pressure furnace for low weight, toughness and rigidness. Slik says the heavy construction makes them ideal for pro photographers who work with big DSLRs and long tele lenses as well as large and medium format cameras.

Customers can choose from four or five-section telescopic legs and three leg diameters. At the lightweight and compact end of the spectrum the PRO CF-635 tripod legs measure only 37cm when folded but can extend to 159cm and hold a 3kg load.

The PRO CF-834 offers the longest legs in the range and measures 48cm in its folded state. At 165cm the maximum extended height is not that significantly more than the CF-635 but the 7kg maximum load is more than double.

Two new ball-heads (PBH-535AS and PBH 635AS) are designed to work with the new PRO CF tripod legs and come with the new ‘Cam-Lock’ quick-release system which is compatible to Arca-Swiss and lets you attach or detach a camera from the head without having to slide the plate it in or out of the groove.

The heads feature three separate knobs for locking, panning and friction control and can hold large cameras and lenses weighing up to 5kg and 6kg respectively.

UK pricing for the new tripods ranges from £220 ($280) to £300 ($380). The heads are £85 ($108) to £90 ($114) respectively. More information is available on the Slik website.

Leica will cut 100 jobs HQ, add 40 ‘digital expert’ to push its computational imaging forward

German business newspaper Handelsblatt is reporting [translated to English] that, as part of a restructuring process, Leica will eliminate up to 100 jobs at the company's headquarters and add up to 40 new ‘digital experts’ to push forward its smartphone and computational photography technology.

According to Handelsblatt, Leica's restructuring is due to ‘profound changes in the market.’ Leica CEO, Matthias Harsch, is quoted as saying ‘We are facing the second digital revolution in the camera business,’ an obvious nod to the market's movement away from dedicated cameras to smartphone cameras.

Leica CEO Matthias Harsch

In addition to the recent controversy surrounding the ‘Tank Man’ advertisement that caused an uproar last month, Handelsblatt also notes Leica's partnership with Chinese smartphone manufacturer Huawei as a potential cause of worry at Leica. Huawei, who has partnered with Leica to put its camera technology in Huawei devices, is reported by Reuters to have lost its licensing of Google's Android operating system as a part of restrictions put in place by the U.S. government amidst security concerns of Huawei devices.

Despite the uncertainty of Huawei's future, Harsch sounds confident the partnership will remain beneficial and further states the significant role smartphone photography will play in Leica's business going forward, saying:

‘The camera function with smartphones is a core business of our future [...] After all, thanks to their smartphones, people have never photographed as much as they do today.’

An illustration of the Leica triple-camera system inside Huawei's P30 smartphone.

Harsch also specifically notes the growing role of artificial intelligence and computational photography in digital images. Leica has been working alongside Huawei for the past four years, developing both the hardware and—arguably more importantly—the software used for mobile image capture and processing. He says ‘These experiences [developing smartphone cameras technology] can be used for the further development of our classic cameras.’

Evidence of Leica's interest in becoming a leader in computational photography is backed by the news that it will be hiring up to 40 experts in the field, investing a ‘double-digit million amount,’ according to Handelsblatt.

Panasonic S Pro 50mm F1.4 sample gallery

We've been hard at work on our Panasonic S1 and S1R camera reviews, and over the course of testing have had an enormous amount of time to gather samples with the Panasonic S Pro 50mm F1.4. Launched alongside the aforementioned cameras, this lens has become a staff favorite thanks to its stunningly sharp results. Have a look for yourself.

See our Panasonic S Pro 50mm F1.4 gallery

Hands-on with the Hasselblad X1D II 50C

Hands on with Hasselblad's X1D II 50C

The new Hasselblad X1D II 50C is housed in a body that’s almost exactly the same as that used for the original X1D 50C. You will notice that the top plate and metal trim are now a dark grey instead of the lighter shade brushed chrome used on the original model, but there isn’t too much to tell them apart at first glance.

Hasselblad's first X system zoom lens

This is the camera with the new 35-75mm F3.5-4.5 lens mounted. This is the first zoom for the X system and is said to produce the quality that exceeds prime lenses. While it is relatively big when compared to the other system lenses it is still well balanced and comfortable on the X1D II 50C body. It isn’t nearly as heavy as it looks either, at 1115g weighing only a bit more than a Nikon 24-70mm F2.8 for the F system. For a medium format lens it is doing quite well.

X1D II 50C top view

The top plate remains unchanged from the previous model, with a Nikon-compatible hotshoe, and the same control layout and operation as before.

Grip changes

There is a slightly different shape to the right hand grip in the new version I’m told. The grip is slightly more angled to the main body, and the finger and thumb holds are a little more pronounced, providing a more secure grip with longer lenses. The difference isn’t dramatic and I’m not sure I could tell without direct comparison, but the grip feels good either way.

Rear screen changes

The change in the rear screen though is dramatic. The new 3.6" display looks significantly bigger and fills a lot more of the back of the camera than the screen on the original model. We have a much higher resolution too, with 2.36 million dots compared to 920k dots, which leads to much greater detail on display.

Higher resolution viewfinder

The viewfinder enjoys a higher resolution as well as a slightly larger magnification of the image on display. The resolution has jumped from 2.36 million dots to 3.69 million, and when you look through the finder window you can see the effect of that extra detail. The refresh rate is also improved to 60 fps which makes a further significant difference. These three changes make this viewfinder a much more modern device and very nice to use.

USB-C and UHS-II

The switch to USB-C allows better communication with external devices, so large files can be moved more quickly to a user’s iPad or computer when shooting tethered or when downloading captured images. The camera has dual SD slots that have been upgraded to UHS-II and which can accept 1TB cards.

Few changes to UI

The main menu screen hasn’t really changed that much. Some of the icons are redrawn to be clearer and with the higher resolution display everything looks a bit sharper and cleaner.

Menu navigation

Accessing the menu items though has changed, so now we have menus in menus, like folders, instead of big long lists of items which take ages to scroll through. The menu can now be viewed in the viewfinder too, which can make operation a good deal more convenient.

Shooting data

The main shooting data display is much the same as before, though now we have the exposure indicator in the middle of the screen.

More responsive touch control

I was very pleased with the reactions of the touch functions and how much more responsive they are now. Touching your subject on the rear screen brings the AF area to that point and the focusing system to life immediately. It is a dramatic improvement on previous performance. We can now also change the size of the AF area just by pinching with two fingers on the rear screen, which is much quicker than before. The three AF area sizes options are still accessible in the menu as well.

Touch pad AF

Now the rear screen can be used as a touch pad to direct the AF area while our eye is to the viewfinder. This also is a massive improvement, and the system works quickly, smoothly and predictably.

Techart TZE-01 is the world’s first Sony E to Nikon Z AF lens adapter

Chinese accessory maker Techart has announced the TZE-01, the first autofocus adapter for using Sony E-mount lenses with Nikon's Z series cameras. Techart describes the adapter's design as having been 'difficult' due to the Nikon Z-mount's flange distance being just 2mm shorter than the Sony E-mount.

The Techart TZE-01 features a PCB sandwiched between the electronic connectors on both sides of the adapter, making it possible to use both the Sony E-mount Auto Aperture and Auto Focus lens functions, even when using the Nikon Z's Face & Eye detection mode.

The TZE-01 finds room for a PCB to 'translate' between the Nikon and Sony communication protocols, allowing Nikon cameras to autofocus E-mount lenses.

Depending on which Sony E-mount lens is used, Techart claims its adapter allows the use of phase-detect AF to offer autofocus accuracy and speed 'very close to (if not better) [than] native Z-mount lenses.' The company claims other functions, including lens-based image stabilization are also supported.

Performance varies between lenses but if it's generally up to a reasonable standard, this adapter considerably broadens the lens choices for Nikon users. It could also significantly lower the barrier to changing systems for Sony users, if Nikon produces a body they're interested in.

The company says it adapter works with Sony E-mount AF lenses from Sigma, Sony, and Tamron / Zeiss. The adapter is shipped with a lens dock for firmware upgrades that will add additional lens support in the future. The TZE-01 adapter is available to purchase for $249 USD from TechartPro.com.


Techart unveils the World’s First Sony E to Nikon Z Autofocus Adapter with a thickness of 2mm

Guangzhou China, Jun 20, 2019 – Techart, who has previously launched the first autofocus adapter for manual lenses, has unveiled another groundbreaking product, Techart Sony E to Nikon Z Autofocus Adapter (TZE-01). The new TZE-01 is the world’s first autofocus adapter that allows Sony E-mount lenses to retain the Automatic Focus functionality when used on Nikon Z6 and Z7 cameras.

The flange distance of Nikon Z-mount is only 2mm shorter than Sony E-mount. This makes the design extremely difficult, let alone an electronic adapter where a chip and the connector pins have to be squeezed into. Techart has managed to pull it off and develop one which include connectors of both sides and a PCB board with chip to “translate” the protocol of the lens and the camera.

The Techart adapter enables both Auto Focus & Auto Aperture functions of Sony E mount lenses to be used on Nikon Z6 and Z7. AF-S, AF-C & MF mode are supported in both still & video shooting. The incredible Face & Eye Detection of Z-mount cameras can also be used. Other functions like lens vibration reduction and timelapse can also be used. Phase-detect Autofocus is adopted to guarantee both AF accuracy and speed to be very close to (if not better) native Z-mount lenses. Please note that functionality may vary when different E-mount lenses are used.

Nikon Z system is a relatively new system and users do not have a very complete lenses selection. Unlike the system of Sony, most lenses manufacturers have been releasing lenses in E-mount and so the selection is complete. The new Techart adapter currently supports most of the Sony, Sigma, Tamron & Zeiss AF lenses with Sony E mounts including some of the best sellers like Tamron 28-75mm, Batis 25mm f/2, Sony 24mm f/1.4 GM and Sigma 35mm f/1.4, etc.

The new Techart TZE-01 adapter comes with a lens dock for firmware upgrade. Simply connect the PC/MAC via a Micro USB cable (not included) and the firmware can be updated via the Techart App. Techart is currently working to support more lenses.

Pricing and Availability

The Techart Sony E to Nikon Z Autofocus Adapter is currently available for pre-order at our official website (http://www.techartpro.com). The recommended retail price before tax is USD 249/pc. Free shipping will be provided during the promotion period. Delivery will start from late June. 1-year warranty is included.

Sandmarc releases anamorphic lens for the iPhone

Apple's iPhone models and other high-end smartphones are increasingly regarded as serious tools for film-making, generating a market for movie-centric smartphone camera accessories. Last year premium lens makers Moment launched an anamorphic lens for smartphones, now rivals Sandmarc follow suit.

The Sandmarc anamorphic lens for iPhones comes with a multi-element design, multi-coating and anti-reflective glass. It uses an aluminum body and can be attached to most recent iPhone models via a dedicated case or a lens clip.

The company says the lens has been designed to create the same kind of image flare you see in movies and, like other anamorphic lenses, captures more horizontal information by squeezing the image.

The end result is a cinematic look with ultra-wide aspect ratio and black bars at top and bottom. The lens is available for the iPhone 7/7Plus and later on the Sandmarc website. The package will set you back $160 and comes with the lens clip and a dedicated case for your iPhone.

Video: The Asus ZenFone 6 flip-camera module is more durable than you might think

The Asus ZenFone 6 comes with a rotating camera module that does away with the display notch and means there is no requirement for a front camera, as the main module can simply be rotated to point towards the front when required.

Asus says the camera module housing is extremely durable and the flip mechanism has been tested for 100,000 actuations. It also closes automatically when a drop is detected.

If this still isn't enough to convince you that there's no need to worry about the camera module's durability, watch the video above. Zack from Youtube channel JerryRigEverything demonstrates how much abuse the ZenFone 6, and specifically its camera, can take...and it's a lot.

Be warned though, the video does not make for easy watching. Zack pushes and pulls the rotating module, twists the hinges and even sellotapes various items to it in order to see how much weight the motor can lift.

The good news is that the Asus withstands all the abuse without any issues and motor, gears and the entire flip-mechanism keep working perfectly. In the video, you can also see the display and housing scratched and heated but most of the camera torture happens right at the beginning and from 5:17 in the clip.

DPReview TV: Deity Connect microphone review

Jordan reviews the Deity Connect wireless microphone, a digital lavalier mic system that supports two microphones using a single receiver and provides drop-dead simple operation. Find out why this is the mic system he's wanted for a decade, and why he thinks it's a compelling choice for so many people who shoot video.

Get new episodes of DPReview TV every week by subscribing to our YouTube channel!

DJI Spark 2 drone will not be released this summer as rumored

It has been almost a year since DJI introduced a new drone aimed at consumers. The Mavic 2 Pro and Zoom models were announced on July 18th of last year. With rumors swirling that the planned Phantom 5 line was canceled, while most of the Phantom 4 series has remained sold out for the past six months, it was expected that the world's top drone manufacturer would release an update to one of its popular models in the near future.

DroneDJ recently reported that a Spark 2 drone was slated for release this summer. The original Spark was released April 15, 2017, making an upgrade long overdue. The spark is even smaller in size than the Mavic series. It's an ideal accessory for vacations and family events which is why the July release made perfect sense. The online publication got some bad news this past Tuesday.

'We have received word that the Spark 2 launch that was scheduled for July 23rd has been postponed indefinitely. An industry insider told us that DJI sent out a memo last week stating: “due to a shift in priorities the July 23 event is now on hold until further notice." Unfortunately, no information was provided explaining the postponement nor was a new date announced.'

'An industry insider told us that DJI sent out a memo last week stating: “due to a shift in priorities the July 23 event is now on hold until further notice." Unfortunately, no information was provided explaining the postponement nor was a new date announced.'

Here are some of the specs and upgrades DroneDJ author Haye Kesteloo expected from the DJI Spark 2:

  • 4K video at 30fps
  • Increased video bitrate
  • An improved 3-axis gimbal
  • ActiveTrack 2.0
  • 2x digital zoom
  • An increased flight time of 18 minutes versus 16 minutes for the original Spark
  • New battery design that is not compatible with the original model
  • Same official range but with a new antenna design and a new remote controller featuring improved tech for a better connection. OcuSync 2.0 will likely not be included
  • Two exterior colors: black and white
  • A new panorama mode

DJI recently released the Robomaster S1, a ground-based robot aimed at educators and students interested in Science, Technology, Education, and Mathematics (STEM). This latest cancellation of the Spark 2 has insiders and enthusiasts, alike, wondering when they plan on shipping a new-and-improved drone.

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