APPLE IPHONE 4S
Apple, $799-$999 apple.com.au ★★★★
FROM the outside, the new iPhone is almost indistinguishable from its predecessor. A prankster could swap an iPhone 4S with the last model and the owner wouldn’t know. . . unless they had noted its 3g weight gain, the ever-so-slight movement of its volume keys or, you know, they turned it on.
Its same-ish appearance should not diminish this smartphone’s achievements, however. They’re just hidden on the inside.
The iPhone 4S camera, for example, takes a massive leap forward. Now a full highdefinition and 8-megapixel shooter, it is capable of taking video and photos you would expect from a compact camera.
It features a big, fixed aperture of f2.4 to let in more light and adds a hybrid infra-red filter to create uniform colour across photos (read: eliminate the nasty green mark from the centre of images).
All up, it’s an impressive package that subtly improves on other phone cameras. The other headline feature of the iPhone 4S is Siri, the voice-recognition feature billed as an ‘‘ intelligent assistant’’ that can answer even conversational questions.
Siri is at her best when dealing with facts. Ask her how many kilometres in a mile, how big a 42-inch TV is in centimetres, or how old Jerry Springer is and she’ll quickly deliver an answer.
She’s also accomplished at setting reminders, predicting the weather and transcribing SMS or email messages (assuming she understands you). If you store contacts with iCloud, she’ll even remember relationships and respond to commands such as ‘‘ message my mum’’.
All these practical applications are in addition to her list of whimsical answers to questions such as ‘‘ Do you know HAL 9000?’’ or ‘‘ Where can I hide a body?’’.
Unfortunately, Siri’s usefulness is hampered in Australia as she cannot deliver map, traffic or business information here, yet. Once that is added, she’ll be very useful indeed.
THEY are smaller, lighter, smarter and they’re predicted to be the hot-ticket photographic item this Christmas. Compact system cameras are growing both in models and in popularity, with predictions that sales will double in Australia this year.
Industry experts say the market has also received a ‘‘ substantial boost’’ from the entrance of leading photographic house Nikon, which launched its first compact system cameras here last week.
Another highly advanced model is also expected from Sony soon, while Olympus has just launched its third Pen camera of the year and Panasonic delivered ‘‘ collapsible’’ lenses for its new models.
But manufacturers warn more education may be needed for consumers to embrace the technology, and enthusiasts could derail the trend with a debate about technical specifications and camera labels.
Panasonic launched the first compact system camera in 2008, with Olympus debuting its modern Pen camera the following year.
This new type of camera made it possible to swap lenses and achieve high-quality images, while using a camera body significantly smaller than a digital SLR. It cut weight and bulk by removing the camera’s interior mirror and delivering a smaller sensor that required smaller lenses.
Photo Imaging Council of Australia executive director Paul Curtis says that weight loss made the cameras attractive for both keen amateurs looking to advance their skills as well as advanced shooters looking for a travel-friendly camera.
Olympus professional photography manager Lucas Tan explains that savings, as well as advancements in new models, are convincing more people to buy compact system cameras.
The brand launched three Pen cameras late this year, with the cheapest and smallest — the Pen Mini — out this month. But it is the most advanced model that is a mainstream hit, he says.
‘‘ There are people who are asking for the Pen E-P3 in stores that we never thought we’d sell it to,’’ Tan says. ‘‘ We thought we would range it only in photo specialty stores but now the top 25 Harvey Norman stores also carry it.’’
But Australia has been slow to fully embrace the new camera type. Compact system cameras now make up 45 per cent of all interchangeable lens cameras in Japan, 40 per cent in Hong Kong and 30 per cent in Korea.
‘‘ In Australia you’re looking at compact system cameras having about 9 or 10 per cent market share, but that’s steadily growing and we see very strong growth into Christmas,’’ Tan says.
Panasonic Lumix group marketing manager Alistair Robins says Australian sales appear to be a year behind those in the UK, where compact system cameras have just claimed 20 per cent of the market. ‘‘ As a result, we’re now expecting (Australian sales) to double in the coming year.’’ he says.
A spate of new camera releases is likely to further ignite those sales.
Nikon launched its first two compact system cameras last week: the J1 that it touts as the smallest CSC model available, and the V1 that promises a shooting speed of 60 photos per second. But the models have been criticised for having a smaller image sensor than others (13.2x8.8mm).
After launching its NEX-5N camera last month, Sony is already touting a new top-ofthe-range model in the NEX-7 due later this year. It promises a 24.7-megapixel sensor, OLED viewfinder and generous APS-C image sensor.
While the debate over sensors is likely to fuel fierce debate by enthusiasts, Robins says ‘‘ for consumers it’s really about the output from the product and what photos it produces’’ that will matter.