15 November 2015

Weekly Tech Wrap: iPad Pro, Best Camera & Tech Awards and MKBHD Explains Smartphone Cameras

Apple launches its newest iPad, DPReview publishes their list of the best interchangeable lens cameras for $500-$800 (£330-£550≈), TrustedReviews hosts their annual best tech of the year event and YouTube's most recognisable tech reviewer breaks down today's smartphone cameras.

Apple goes big, really big

iPad Pro reviews have started surfacing with many more expected to hit over the coming weeks (if the glut of unboxing and hands-on YouTube videos are anything to go by). And so far, they've been positive. Wired's David Pierce gave it 9/10 concluding that it is 'the most versatile, powerful, capable iPad ever' whilst Techradar labels it the 'biggest and best tablet Apple's ever made.' However, Pierce states that it has a 'limited feature set' whilst the size, weight and expense were cons in Techradar's review. 

Personally, I'm struggling to see who exactly the iPad Pro is for. It's got a massive screen and crazy-fast processor and Apple is boasting that it can replace your laptop,  aiming it towards working professionals. But it runs on iOS not OS X so you can't download and install proper desktop applications, you can only run apps from the App Store, albeit a very large collection of apps, but still, they're apps. If one wanted to be productive, the Surface 3/Pro 4 are more enticing prospects with full Windows 10 capabilities and a Type Cover which has its own trackpad and can facilitate heavy productivity.

And what about those who love to watch movies and play games? The incredibly pixel-dense 12.9" display is definitely perfect for kicking back with a film or playing Asphalt 8, but then why have the crazy-fast processor? And what's wrong with the iPad Air for media consumption which is easier to hold one-handed and significantly cheaper.

Running iOS and no trackpad means it can't replace the laptop yet and it can't compete with other '2-in-1s' out there. It certainly seems like a capable device but hasn't quite found a niche. Yet.

WIRED iPad Pro review
Techradar iPad Pro review

Sony snaps the lead

DPReview published their annual roundups of the best interchangeable lens cameras of the year and voted the Sony a5100 and a6000 as the winners in their respective categories ($500 and $500-$800) for the best overall/best value.

About the a5100:

'offers arguably the best overall AF performance - in both still and video - in its class... Great image and solid video quality round out the package. It is a terrific all-around-option for anyone who wants to keep their camera on automatic settings.'

And a6000:

'AF performance in line with the best in its class, great image quality, solid video quality/features with AF and no hunting, and a nice EVF, packed into a compact, enthusiast-friendly body. It's not necessarily the best in all of these respects...but its appeal comes from its all-round capability, and its ability to do a few things really well.'

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-G7, with its 4K output, ease of use and solid AF performance was voted best for video whilst the Nikon 1 J5 and Olympus OM-D E-M10 II were also considered.

Having used a number of Sony mirrorless cameras for the past four years now (and persuaded two of my sisters to purchase their own), I'm not surprised by the vote. Their cameras offer great image quality and portability and Sony seems to be at the forefront of camera technology these days. Yes, the menu system is clunky and unintuitive and the range of E-mount lenses is somewhat disappointing but it's hard to argue against the overall quality of the package.

DPReview 2015 Roundup: Interchangeable Lens Cameras around $500
DPReview 2015 Roundup: Interchangeable Lens Cameras $500-800

Samsung biggest winner at best of tech awards

Samsung won four categories out of 26 at TrustedReviews Awards 2015 including Monitor (U32E850) and SSD (950 Pro M.2) of the Year, making it the most successful manufacturer on the night (which isn't too surprising I guess considering the sheer breadth of their manufacturing catalogue). Most important however, to me anyway, was the Samsung Galaxy S6/S6 Edge taking home Smartphone of the Year, beating out the iPhone 6s, LG G4 and Nexus 6P.

Considering the commercial success and popularity of the iPhone 6s, this was a somewhat surprising result and may have been influenced by the length of time that the S6 has been available (April) compared to the iPhone 6s (September). That being said, the S6 is a comprehensive premium smartphone, delivering the latest in smartphone technology (wireless and fast charging, 2K AMOLED display, Samsung Pay) and definitely a worthy winner. Still, I would personably get the Nexus 6P, which hasn't received as much public attention as it deserves.

TrustedReviews 2015 Awards Winners List

What makes a good smartphone camera?

It used to be the case that in their marketing, smartphone manufacturers would emphasise and strongly promote the number of megapixels crammed into their smartphone's camera and it wasn't just limited to billboards and TV adverts. The Samsung Galaxy S2 had a '8.0 Mega' stamp on the rear whilst the Nokia Lumia 1020 had it printed onto its oversized camera module. This still happens today (Sony Xperia Z5) but it's certainly less common and more understated than it used to be. That's because megapixels aren't everything (as Apple has so successfully proven) and MKBHD has gone about explaining what else makes a good smartphone camera in his latest 'Explained' video. Hit the link to see what other factors go into making a quality camera.

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