How much zoom do you need? Ricoh is pushing the limits with the announcement of its forthcoming Pentax XG-1. The fixed-lens camera will feature a 16-megapixel CMOS sensor, super-large aperture range starting at f/2.8 (wide) to 5.6 (full telephoto) and an impressive 52x optical zoom for $400 when it arrives in August.
Unlike with a DSLR or mirrorless camera, the XG-1's lens can't be removed to add others, but with a full frame-equivalent zoom range of 24-1,248mm (more than double what most sports photogs use), what more would you add, anyway? (And if that's not enough, you can extend the zoom digitally — which essentially crops into the photo, decreasing the resolution — all the way up to a the equivalent of 4,992mm.) At such a monumental zoom range, the slightest jitter will look like an earthquake, so the XG-1 includes a sensor-shift shake-reduction system to counteract the effect.
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Additional features include an electronic viewfinder as well as a 3-inch LCD screen. The XG-1 will also have video capabilities with support for 1080p HD video at 30 fps. (Many new cameras now offer 60fps.) Unfortunately, future directors may want something more substantial than just the built-in monaural mic, and there is no external mic jack. The ISO light-sensitivity range from 100-3200 is meager by today's standards, so this is mostly a sunny-day camera. (Many cameras go four times more light sensitive, to ISO 12,800.)
The superzoom makes the XG-1 a natural candidate for shooting sports — from NFL to peewee. And at $400, the XG-1 may be a good camera for young photographers looking to develop their skills. The camera has full manual control as well as aperture- and shutter-priority, but also full automatic settings. Advanced features include high dynamic range (HDR), night shooting mode that takes multiple photos and combines them into a single blur-free composite image, and high-speed continuous shooting with full resolution shots at up to 9 frames per second.
Users will be able to send pictures and videos straight to their TVs from the micro-HDMI port and transfer image files over USB or with a supported Eyefi SD Card (not included, but starts at $40 for 8GB). Enthusiasts should be aware there is not support for RAW format image files.
If this package sounds attractive, you only have to wait another month to grab the latest from Ricoh and Pentax, and at under $400 it's a difficult proposition to ignore.
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