Leica and skateboarding? Not an obvious association, but the German maker has teamed up with skater, musician and photographer Ray Barbee and fashion label Vans to introduce the limited-edition Leica D-Lux 7 Vans x Ray Barbee.
According to the company, the limited edition “encapsulates the spirit and lifestyle of skateboarding culture.”
The camera is covered in Vans’ famous checkerboard pattern, while the top plate features Ray Barbee’s signature, as well as the Vault logo – a sub- brand which Vans reserves for particularly high-end products and exclusive collaborations.
The set includes a special carrier strap and matching dust bag, both in petrol blue. One side of the bag is adorned with Barbee’s quote, “The joy is in capturing the journey,” while the other is emblazoned with some bon mots from Leica founder Ernst Leitz II: “Ich entscheide hiermit: Es wird riskiert” (“I herby decide: the risk shall be taken”). This utterance marked the go-ahead for the production of the Leica I in 1924, and Leica was off to the races.
The limited-edition Leica D-Lux 7 Vans x Ray Barbee has the same technical specifications as the conventional model, featuring a large Micro Four Thirds sensor and fast zoom lens with a full-frame-equivalent range of 24 – 75 mm.
Picture credit Ray Barbee
Vans, meanwhile, is marking the collaboration with specially designed T-shirts as well as shoes (including a petrol-coloured model with red eyelets and checkerboard lining) adorned with the afore-mentioned quotes by Barbee and Ernst Leitz II.
The Leica D-Lux 7 Vans x Ray Barbee Edition is priced at £1,325.00.
If money is of little concern and cameras are what you’re interested in, then let us guide you through the realm of exotic and super-expensive cameras.
If you’re a professional photographer, then it’s likely that you’ll want to purchase a camera that fits your work-based requirements. For a great number of photographers, brands such as Canon, Nikon, and Sony will probably have something that will fit your needs. However, if money is no object and you want a camera that you can use for your work but also show off with, then this guide is just the one for you.
Price: $6,399 Sensor Type: 43.8 x 32.9 mm (medium format) Resolution: 50 megapixels Lens mount: Hasselblad X Mount Screen: 3.2-inch tilting touchscreen LCD, 2,400,000 dots Max burst speed: 2.7 fps
The Hasselblad 907X is arguably the most beautiful medium format camera currently on the market. The design of this camera takes inspiration from the much-loved 500 series Hasselblad cameras that were produced during the film era. The leatherette finish, solid metal construction, and compact design make it more than just a camera. It’s a work of art, not to mention the fact that it may be the smallest medium format camera on the market.
For those of you interested in more than the aesthetics, this camera produces stunning results. The large sensor in this camera captures an incredible amount of data, making it a post-production dream. And for those that want perfect images straight out of the camera, the Hasselblad 907X is known for its amazing color rendition.
Despite being the least expensive option on this list, the Hasselblad 907X is not a compromise.
Produces some of the best-looking colors from any camera system.
A high-resolution sensor produces incredible detail.
The best menu system of any camera produced so far.
Compatible with a wide range of lenses, including both current and older film-era lenses.
Price: $8,995 Sensor Type: 24 x 36 mm (full frame) CMOS Resolution: 40 megapixels Lens mount: Leica M Screen: 3.0-inch fixed touchscreen LCD, 1,036,800 dots Focus System: Manual focus only
Leica has become synonymous with luxury. To some extent, Leica M series cameras could be considered a kind of jewelry. This is not to say that they’re not capable as cameras, because the Leica M10-R is utterly brilliant. With its 40-megapixel sensor and incredible ability at rendering colors, it’s difficult to be disappointed with it.
Also, the camera feels like a piece of art in the hand. The solid brass construction, along with the leather and glass, emanate quality. Leica M series cameras are a piece of history that have continued within the photography industry. If you have the funds available, it would be foolish not to have at least one M series camera in your collection.
It’s a Leica.
A wonderfully satisfying camera to shoot with.
Small and compact design.
Does not compromise on image quality.
Price: $9,999 Sensor Type: 43.8 x 32.9 mm (medium format) CMOS Resolution: 102 megapixels Lens mount: Fujifilm G Screen: 3.2-inch tilting touchscreen LCD, 2,360,000 dots
The Fujifilm GFX 100 is probably the best medium format camera currently on the market. It’s the first-ever medium format camera with phase-detect autofocus and built-in sensor stabilization. It’s without a doubt the most sensible camera to purchase if you want something that costs a lot of money but can also produce the goods. Of course, if you’re planning on being sensible, then the Fujifilm GFX 100S is probably a better option.
Then again, luxury is rarely about being practical. And also, who wants to spend $4,000 less for something that’s almost as good, only to forgo all of the bragging rights an almost $10,000 camera brings.
Probably the most capable and practical camera on this list.
Price: $19,995 Sensor Type: 30 x 45 mm (medium format) CMOS Resolution: 64 megapixels Lens mount: Leica S Screen: 3.0-inch fixed LCD, 921,600 dots
With the Leica S3, we can start to look at properly expensive cameras. At almost $20,000, the Leica S3 will give you that “look down your nose” attitude when you look at most other camera systems. Its medium format sensor offers a good deal of resolution and helps to produce beautiful results. It may not be as pretty as the Leica M10-R, but then, this is more of a powerhouse camera.
Of course, one could make the argument that the Fujifilm GFX 100 is a superior camera. However, the Leica S3 costs more money, so that means it’s better, right?
Price: $32,995 Sensor Type: 53.4 x 40 mm (medium format) CMOS Resolution: 100 megapixels Lens mount: Hasselblad H Screen: 3.0-inch fixed touchscreen LCD, 920,000 dots
The Hasselblad H6D 100c is the first camera on this list that some consider being a “proper” medium format. The sensor in this camera is huge in comparison to most digital cameras. This is also one of the reasons it’s so expensive. The H6D 100c is what real photographers should be shooting with. Anything less than this is not even worth looking at.
The images this camera produces have a certain magical look to them that simply isn’t possible to produce with anything else. The “medium format look” is pretty much synonymous with Hasselblad, and the H6D is the current flagship.
The colors from this camera are in a completely different league.
Seriously, the colors from this camera are incredible!
We finally arrive at the current most expensive commercially available camera on the market. The Phase One XT IQ4 150 MP is the highest resolution medium format camera. More resolution is often better, and Phase One sits in its own league.
The XT camera system is unique in how it operates. It’s predominantly built for architectural work or for photographers that wish to have better control over perspective. This camera system truly is something for the elite photographer.
When you’re building a PC for photo editing purposes, you may think it’s critical to go with a top-of-the-line configuration. After all, most photographers are using complex post-processing software like Photoshop and Lightroom that can benefit from a fast computer.
But even though that’s true to a certain degree, there are a lot of misconceptions around what computer setup you need to run software like Photoshop. You probably don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on a high-end gaming build with truckloads of features.
In this article, let me demystify facts from myths so that you neither compromise on performance nor throw out hundreds of dollars on things that aren’t necessary. I’m targeting the features you’ll need in order to run Adobe Photoshop smoothly, and I’m keeping the overall price under $1000.
Note that a PC that runs Photoshop as well as possible may not be optimized for other needs like video editing or gaming. But it will be more than adequate for other post-processing software like Lightroom, Capture One, or Luminar, with a few exceptions for features that require a high-end graphics card with 4-6 GB of RAM.
Before venturing into the actual PC build, let us first understand what Photoshop requires to run smoothly.
Photoshop 2021 demands a 64-bit system and will not run on 32-bit systems. The latest iteration of Photoshop also requires an SSE4.2 or higher socket system. Beyond that, you’ll need a processor with clock speeds of at least 2 GHz to run Photoshop smoothly. So, any sixth-gen Intel chip or third-gen AMD Ryzen (or later) will run without hitches.
Photoshop prefers a single core capable of higher clock speeds as opposed to multiple cores with slower clock speeds, at least in theory. Even though I will suggest an eight-core processor in this article, Photoshop can run on quad-cores or 6-core processors, provided the clock speed isn’t less than 2 GHz.
You need to be on Microsoft Windows 10 version 1809 or higher to run Photoshop. The update 1809 was first available in November 2018. I’m sure that’s not a problem for most of you out there, who are probably using the latest 21H1 version anyway. But if you have a legacy version of Windows, the newest Photoshop will not run.
I have found Windows Home to be more than sufficient to run Adobe’s latest creative cloud. Neither Pro nor Enterprise is required.
Adobe recommends a minimum of 8 GB RAM and says 16 GB is preferable. For this PC build, I’ll be using the latter. However, to take advantage of the dual-channel memory module that has become a standard these days, I’ll go for 2 x 8 GB memory modules. (A dual-channel memory bus is generally faster than a single-channel memory bus, like two lanes of traffic versus one.)
Obviously, you need truckloads of high-end graphics memory… right? Wrong. When you’re selecting a graphics card for photo editing, you don’t really need a top-of-the-line graphics card like the NVIDIA GTX 3060 and can get away with a less expensive model.
That said, Photoshop is complex software and it does take advantage of a dedicated graphics card for some tasks. Adobe recommends a 2 GB graphics card as the minimum requirement. While you may want more if you’re editing with a 4K monitor, 2 GB will be more than sufficient if you’re working with a 1080p monitor. In any case, I’ll cover this in more detail in the upcoming sections.
Now that you know the minimum/recommended requirements of Adobe Photoshop 2021, let me take you through the build.
AMD Ryzen 7 3800X Processor
Whether you build your own PC or plan to buy something pre-assembled, the CPU is the single most vital component. And the Intel vs AMD debate is even more ferocious than the Nikon vs Canon vs Sony one.
Intel used to be the undisputed king in processor manufacturing. I personally remember recommending that people stay away from AMD during the Athlon days. However, a lot has changed since then. AMD has come a long way in standing toe-to-toe to Intel and recently has even managed to out-perform Intel in a few segments.
For example, AMD had issues with heating and reliability during Athlon days, especially with complex, core-intensive processes. But today, especially with their Zen 2 & 3 architecture, AMD has pretty much improved on all fronts. As a result, the two are pretty close rivals these days in performance, price and reliability. I’ve chosen to cover AMD for the build in today’s article.
6 Cores Vs 8 Cores
I mentioned a moment ago that, at least according to Adobe, Photoshop takes advantage of single cores with higher clock speed more than multi-cores with slower base clock speed. Yet, I have noticed a difference in loading times between 6 core processors (Ryzen 5 5600X) and an eight-core processor (Ryzen 7 3800X), with everything else near identical.
Even though Photoshop does not exploit multi-core processors to the fullest today, it’s quite possible that future versions will be multi-core dependent. It’s also plausible that you’ll be using Photoshop in conjunction with other apps open at the same time, like FastRawViewer or Nikon’s own software, that can benefit from using multiple cores. So, I recommend getting an 8-core processor.
AMD 3800X Vs 3700X
The AMD 3800X has a base clock speed of 3.9 GHz, whereas the 3700X has a base clock speed of 3.6 GHz. At the time of writing this article, the 3800X retails for $345, whereas the 3700X had a price tag of $320, making the 3800X only $25 more expensive than the 3700X.
On paper, both the processors have only two differences apart from price. First, the 3800X is 0.3 GHz faster than the 3700X. Second, the 3700X runs at a max of 65 Watts, whereas the 3800X runs at 105 Watts. I did notice slightly faster performance on the 3800X when doing process-intensive operations like saving large files, loading, and photo merging. But the two are pretty similar.
It is always wise to go for the best possible CPU for a given budget. The performance difference between the 3700X and 3800X might not be huge today, but neither is the price difference. It’s worth getting the 3800X.
Wraith Prism Cooler
All AMD 3rd-generation Ryzen 7 and 9 processors come with a built-in Wraith Prism Cooler. Generally, when idle, the CPU core temperature is about 5-8°C warmer than the ambient temperature. So if you choose the 3800X over the 3700X, expect the core temperature to be warmer since the 3800X runs at almost 40% more maximum power than the 3700X (105W vs 65W). I live in the tropical zone, where ambient summer temperatures get over 40°C, so this is no small concern for me!
In my experience, even for core-intensive processes, the stock Wraith Prism works just fine. The CPU core temperatures rarely get past 70°C, even while performing heavy-duty operations. For me, on a hot, humid day, the highest CPU core temperature touched 73°C when I had to stitch five 16-bit TIFF files using Photomerge with distortion correction, vignette removal, and content-aware fill transparent areas turned on.
Generally, Photoshop, Lightroom, and other photo editing software do not demand sustained maximum CPU usage. But if you feel the stock CPU cooler is insufficient, you can go for a Be Quiet! Dark Rock Pro 4 Air cooler instead for an additional $90. I don’t think you need anything beyond that, like liquid coolers, for photo editing purposes.
MSI Mag B550 Mortar Motherboard
Choosing a motherboard is one area where most people go wrong. Many beginners either end up buying boards that aren’t compatible or end up buying boards that they might never need. Before we go into selecting a motherboard, let me take you through a few points worth mentioning.
Motherboard Specification Recommendations
The 3800X is based on AM4 Chipset (so is the 3700X). So, first, you need an AM4 chipset motherboard.
Next, you need a motherboard that has preferably two (or at least one) NVMe Gen3 or Gen4 M.2 SSD slots. Boards with M.2 slots with a cooling solution like MSI’s Shield Frozr are better. Gen3 M.2 card slots can deal with theoretical speeds of up to 64 Gb/s, whereas the Gen3 M.2s can theoretically get to 32Gb/s.
If you have a motherboard that supports a Gen4 M.2 slot, your motherboard could be equipped with Gen4 PCI-E slots as well. But, of course, it always is best to go for a board with at least two PCI-E slots.
You’ll also want a high-speed LAN card. Even if you do not possess high-speed internet, such as a 1 GBPS line, it is better to use a motherboard that supports 2.5 Gbps internet. Some of you might wonder why one would need a LAN card in the WiFi era. When you decide to build a PC, you certainly aren’t planning to carry it around. Furthermore, with cloud-based computing becoming a norm these days, most WiFi systems aren’t as secured or, in most cases, as fast as wired connections yet.
Finally, you need a motherboard that supports one or two HDMI slots, at least two USB-3 ports, and about half a dozen USB ports in addition to the built-in audio ports.
Motherboard Form Factor
There are 8 basic forms of motherboards depending upon their size, but only two are widely used. The most widely used are ATX motherboards. With a dimension of 12 inches x 9.6 inches, these can dock two large graphics cards. They also have at least half a dozen SATA ports and enough USB-2 and USB-3 ports.
An alternative is a Micro-ATX form factor, which is the choice for folks who wish for a comparatively compact size without compromising on features. With a size 2.5 inches smaller than the standard ATX cabinets, this form factor is the jack of all trades. If you do not wish to build an ultimate PC or keep upgrading with every new iteration of add-ons, a Micro-ATX cabinet is more than sufficient for most gaming and photo editing needs.
B550 Vs X570
Most people have an assumption that the X570 motherboards are far superior to the B550 – and it’s true that the X570 boards do have the edge over the B550. But for a Ryzen 7 processor, the B550 is a great “value for money” option. Now that the B550 supports Gen4 M.2s and PCIe slots, the only major difference between the two is that the X570 supports Gen2 Ryzen processors, especially the ones with a built-in graphics card. The increase in the X570’s VRM speed as compared to the B550 is only marginal.
If you are going for a Ryzen 9 processor, the X570 will be the obvious choice. But as for Ryzen 7, most processors can work as intended with the B550 with little noticeable difference. That would be my recommendation if you’re on a budget.
So, which motherboard to get? The MSI Tomahawk B550 is a good one that meets all the specifications mentioned above. In addition, it also supports AMD Crossfire. That means it can combine more than one graphics card and render 3D graphics using both. The Tomahawk is a B550 motherboard with two PCI-e slots, two Gen4 M.2 slots. It also comes with 6 SATA ports, 3 USB 3.2 ports, out of which one is a USB type C. And it sells for a pretty competitive price of $166.
The easy trap to fall into is to seek out a motherboard with built-in WiFi and spend far more money on it. Instead, the factors that matter the most are higher VRAM, power output, and cooling efficiency. You can buy a good USB WiFi dongle for less than $10. Besides, if you have a 1 GBPS or faster internet line, a wired connection is better than WiFi any day.
Crucial Ballistix DDR4 3200 Mhz Ram
Another misconception among some people is that more RAM is always the best way to increase speed.
It’s certainly true that RAM can be a limiting factor if you don’t have enough of it. Let us say you have 4 GB of RAM. Windows 10 will consume about 2-2.5 GB. If you have a third-party anti-virus, which you should, it will consume about 500 MB. Photoshop 2021 will consume about 2 GB for itself without opening any pictures. And now we’ve already exceeded the available memory.
Once you cross about 80% of available memory, your PC will be noticeably slower, and as it gets closer to the 100% mark, it certainly will hang up a lot.
So, how much RAM do you actually need? Take a look at the illustration below.
As you can see, I have opened four images (marked red) in Photoshop, all of them 16-bit TIFFs. The smallest file was about 2.5 GB, and the largest was about 4.5 GB. Each file had at least ten layers (marked green). Most of us generally do not open that many large files simultaneously. But despite the heavy use, you can see that my memory usage is only 81% of the total available memory of 16 GB. (Of course, to utilize dual-channel capability, I used 2×8 GB rams slotted in the 2nd and the 4th slot as recommended by the manufacturer.)
So, for most photography needs, 16 GB of RAM will be sufficient, although a bit more can be nice. You can start with 2×8 GB, and if you have the need, you can add another 2×8 GB in the remaining slots. That results in 32 GB of RAM, which should be more than sufficient for photography; we will not breach 20 GB in most cases. If Photoshop is your most intensive program, anything more than 32 GB of RAM will probably only be for bragging rights.
Samsung Evo 970 500 GB M.2 SSD: Primary Storage
One of the breakthroughs in PC technology in the last ten years has been the rise of SSDs, especially M.2 storage. Conventional disks (which are equipped with heads that move mechanically) have always hampered processing speed. For a long time, even though processors and motherboards were extremely fast, the internal magnetic drives dragged them down to a level where their speeds did not make a big difference. The M.2 SSD storage lets us exploit the actual potential of our multi-core processors and motherboards with large VRMs.
With a theoretical sequential read speed of 3.5 GB/s and write speed of up to 3.3 GB/s, the Samsung Evo 970 M.2 is one of the best options available for primary storage today. It has 500 GB of storage.
The idea is to store applications and your operating system on this drive while keeping your photos and other files on a secondary hard drive for speed purposes. The total of Windows, Photoshop, and Photoshop’s scratch disk leaves you with about 400 GB for other applications. (I recommend keeping at least 30% of your primary disk free.)
Seagate 2 TB Barracuda 7200 RPM SATA III 3.5″ Internal HDD: Secondary Storage
With the primary storage taking care of your operating system and Photoshop, you can go for any basic 2 TB internal hard drive to store your photos.
An SSD of a similar size is going to be about four or five times as expensive. So until the cost of SSDs comes down dramatically, I think this is still the way to go if you’re on a budget.
Current motherboards hold close to a dozen SATA ports, so I personally am inclined to have multiple smaller storage drives (preferably 2 TB) rather than one large drive. This lets you make backups more easily in case of a hard drive failure.
As a side note, even though all hard drives fail eventually, I have found that internal drives like this tend to last much longer than portable external hard drives. They’re less expensive, too.
NVIDIA GeForce GT710 Graphics Card
Photoshop does not demand top-of-the-line 6 GB or above graphics cards, as I have mentioned earlier. In fact, except for a few options, Photoshop does not need to use your graphics card at all. Those exceptions are shown below:
As for GPU RAM, you can see that Photoshop will work with a system with anything over 1500 MB of RAM.
You may think that by going with the minimum requirements, Photoshop will run but not might run but not perform as expected. But that’s not really true. I have been using the basic $60 ZOTAC NVIDIA GeForce GT 710 for a few months now without issue.
So far, I haven’t had any performance issues despite working with Blur Gallery, Camera Raw, HDR Pro, and Photomerge, let alone basic operations like the brush tool and smart selection tools. Below are GPU memory and processor usage I measured for various operations, both basic and intensive:
Let me compare the above GPU usage figures with loading a 2006 game.
The Graphics Card Crisis
Initially, I never intended to buy a 2 GB low-profile graphics card. I was looking at an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 as the minimum. However, despite three months of searching, I couldn’t find one either online or in a local store. The stores that had one in stock were selling them at exorbitant prices, two or three times the price they’d usually sell for.
Since the pandemic struck, semiconductor factories have been shut down. All the existing stock has been sold off in the last year and a half, and production hasn’t ramped all the way back up yet. Not to mention that demand has piled up like crazy in the meantime.
Add the mining demand to the gaming demand, and there is no wonder we have a GPU crisis. It looks like it will take another year for GPU prices to get back to sane levels. Even though a 4GB card like the GTX 1650 would be a better option, especially if you have a 4K monitor, you’ll have a hard time finding one at all, let alone at reasonable prices.
So, I suggest going for something more basic like the GT710 until prices get to reasonable levels and only then move on to a better GPU.
Lian Li LANCOOL Mid Tower PC Casing
For this PC build, I would recommend a mid-tower casing with at least 3 fans. The Lian Li mid-tower is equipped with two 200mm, 800 RPM fans at the front and one 120mm, 1200 RPM fan at the rear. It also has options to add two 140mm fans on the top.
I would recommend at least one fan at the top, mounted just above the CPU. With a system built around a 105-watt processor, cooling on at least three sides becomes mandatory to keep the core CPU temperature inside the recommended 70°C or less. The cabinet has decent cable handling and comes with two built-in USB-A ports and an audio port.
Corsair CX650M 80 PLUS Brozen SMPS
At this point, we have almost everything we need. The last component to add is the SMPS.
The most important thing to consider when choosing an SMPS is the wattage. The general rule of thumb is to select an SMPS with at least twice the wattage you’ll need. The build I’ve discussed so far consumes about 300 W at peak performance, including everything from the processor to the RGB fans. So it’s best to go for a 600 watt SMPS. The following SMPS, the Corsair CX650M, is my choice.
SMPS Ratings Explained
Power supply ratings might seem confusing, especially if you’re new to building PCs. An SMPS that’s rated “80+” and “Bronze certified” may seem like gibberish. However, it isn’t as complex as it appears.
First, let me explain what SMPS means in the first place. It stands for “Switch Mode Power Supply,” which literally means it will draw only the amount of power that the system demands. For example, in this PC build, the highest power usage will be about 300 watts. So, a 650 W SMPS would draw only 300 watts of power from the board. And 80+ means that, regardless of usage, the SMPS will deliver a minimum of 80% power efficiency.
Beyond that, the ratings for SMPS systems are classified as Gold, Silver, Bronze, Platinum, and Titanium depending upon their efficiency. The most commonly used standards are Gold and Bronze. Bronze is more than sufficient for most consumer-grade use.
What’s the difference? A gold-certified power supply gives 90% efficiency at 20% usage, 92% efficiency at 50%, and 89% efficiency at 100% usage. A bronze-certified SMPS yields 85% efficiency at 20% usage, 88% at 50% usage, and 85% at 100% usage.
The average difference in efficiency is less than 10% across all usage ranges between Gold and Bronze-rated SMPS, but the price differences can be substantial. Hence why I recommend the Corsair CX650M Bronze for this PC build.
Apart from the power efficiency, SMPS are classified by the type of cable attachments they come with. This is known as modular vs non-modular.
A fully modular SMPS comes with no fixed cables attached. All cables are plug and play. On the other hand, non-modular SMPS have all the cables attached.
A semi-modular SMPS is somewhere in between the other two. Some of the most important cables like the one that powers the motherboard, PCI slots, and a couple of hard drives come attached. The rest are detachable and can be added later depending upon the number of hard drives that you eventually add.
The Corsair CX650M SMPS is a semi-modular design that gives a balance of detachable cables, which I consider ideal. It makes cable management cleaner and easier.
After building the PC with the above specifications, I ran the R20 benchmark to see how well it worked. Below are the results for multi-core and single-core performances.
As you can see from the benchmark results, this PC build performs way above average. But how does that translate for photographers? Below are loading/processing times that I tested with Photoshop 2021:
Time Taken (Seconds)
Photoshop loading time (This time depends a lot on your internet speed as well) :
Opening 16-bit TIFF (File size: 2.5 GB)
Photomerge five 16-bit TIFF Files
Saving 2.5 GB 16-bit TIFF
HDR Pro Preview four 16 bit 6000×4000 resolution images
Not bad! For the price, these speeds are hard to beat, and they won’t represent a bottleneck for most photographers out there.
Below is the total cost of the build:
As you can see above, the total build adds up to $886 at the time of writing this article. If you’ve budgeted $1000, I recommend spending any leftover cash on backup storage devices if you don’t already have a good backup system in place.
In this article, I have suggested a PC build that works way above average for photography needs. It isn’t quite an ultimate PC build like the one we’ve written about previously, but it’s a very solid system that should hold for a minimum of five years.
Hopefully, even if you have different requirements or budget, my explanations behind each component will help keep you informed about which choices you should get instead. And if you have any questions at all, please let me know in the comments section. Happy PC building!
Hasselblad, the beloved Swedish camera manufacturer, is celebrating the 80th anniversary of the release of its first camera, the HK-7, by—you guessed it—releasing a limited edition camera. The medium format 907X Anniversary Edition Kit sells for $15,100 and is available for preorder now. Though act fast, there are only 800 available worldwide.
What is Hasselblad celebrating?
Although nominally commemorating the 1941 development of the ROSS HK-7 aerial camera, the 907X Anniversary Edition is more of a general opportunity for Hasselblad to celebrate (or cash in on) 80 years of camera history—as the press release makes pretty clear. The 907X Anniversary Edition is inspired both by the first camera on the moon (the Hasselblad Data Camera [HDC]) and the Super Wide Camera (SWC), an early wide-angle medium format camera.
The 907X specs
The Anniversary Edition kit includes limited-edition versions of:
The only differences between the limited edition versions and the regular retail offerings are cosmetic. This means the 907X and 50C sport:
A 50MP medium format CMOS sensor with up to 14 stops of dynamic range and 16-bit RAW files
A 3.2-inch rear display that tilts to 90º for waist level shooting
Compatibility with “most V System cameras made from 1957,” so you can use the 50C digital back with that old Hasselblad film camera you have lying around
Compatibility with HC/HCD, V, and XPan lenses using adapters
The XCD 3,5/30 is a 30mm wide-angle lens. The Control Grip gives you buttons to control aperture, shutter speed, and other camera functions. And the optical viewfinder makes it easier to shoot at eye-level. The regular retail versions of everything would set you back $11,562 and offer the exact same performance. So, what does the extra $3,538—enough money for a second lens—get you?
The limited aspects
As with all these limited editions, you’re not paying for the camera so much as the collectible nature of the whole package. While the difference between the 907X Anniversary Edition and a regular 907X 50C are cosmetic, they’re still a nice nod to Hasselblad’s history.
The 907X camera, 50C digital back, and control grip are all trimmed in anodized “Lunar Grey” and covered with black leatherette. The coloring is consistent with the SWC from the 1950s, and it’s hard to ignore the on-the-nose nature of “Lunar Grey.” There’s also a plate on one side of the camera that says “Since 1941” and “Hasselblad” is printed on the camera body and optical viewfinder in “handwritten lettering marks.”
The lens selection in the kit is also a reference to the SWC. The press release declares “the 30mm wide-angle lens was thoughtfully selected to echo the Biogon 38mm wide-angle lens used in the SWC.” Instead of the usual black, it’s also Lunar Grey, and the focus ring is etched with a Hasselblad logo print (which actually looks super cool).
The right camera for you?
Are these cosmetic differences objectively worth $3,500? No, not if you want to use the camera to take photos. But if you want a collectible piece of Hasselblad history and have the cash, go right ahead. (We’ll be here looking on with envy.)
To celebrate 80-years since the launch of Hasselblad’s first camera, a 907X Anniversary Edition Kit featuring a CFV II 50C digital back, 907X camera body, control grip, optical viewfinder, and XCD 3,5/30 Lens has been introduced.
Main features of the Hasselblad 907X Anniversary Edition Kit:
Large medium format 50MP 43.8 x 32.9mm CMOS sensor
Up to 14 stops of dynamic range
16-bit colour definition
Integral central lens shutter (speed from 1/2000th of a second to 68 minutes)
Hasselblad Natural Colour Solution (HNCS)
3.2-inch TFT rear display, 2.36M dots, tilts up to 90 degrees for waist-level shooting, supports 2.4GHz and 5.8GHz wireless connection
USB-C port for charging, up to 5Gbps transmission rate
Dual UHS-II SD card slots
Hasselblad User Interface (HUI), easy to use and intuitive
Compatible with Phocus Mobile 2 for tethered capture, image editing, importing and exporting photos, and firmware updates
The 907X Anniversary Edition Kit will be limited in quantity and is now available for pre-order. Please inquire with local dealers. The Edition Kit has an MSRP of £13,900 including VAT.
To coincide with the release of No Time to Die, the 25th James Bond film and the fifth (and final) one starring noted photographer Daniel Craig, Leica has announced the limited edition Q2 “007” Edition. Just 250 individually numbered cameras are being sold worldwide for a cool $7,995 a pop.
The whole situation is a tad odd, especially given that the Leica S (Typ 007) is an already existing $19,995 medium format camera, but let’s explore it anyway.
Let’s make one thing clear: the Q2 “007” Edition (henceforth, “the 007”) is mostly being sold as a collectible item, not a camera. It’s really a regular Leica Q2 (retail price, $5,495), which means it’s got:
A 47.3-megapixel full frame sensor
A fixed 28mm f/1.7 ASPH Summilux lens (though you can digitally zoom to 35mm, 50mm, and 75mm equivalent angles-of-view)
IP52 weather sealing, so it’s protected against dust and water
A high-resolution OLED viewfinder and a touchscreen display
The ability to capture 4K video at up to 30 frames-per-second, or full-HD video at up to 120 frames-per-second
A bright red Leica logo
So what does the extra 2,500 simoleons for the 007 get you? (Other than the potential to resell it later.)
Well, the special edition has the iconic 007 logo on the top plate and the famous Bond gun barrel design on the lens cap. It’s also wrapped in an “Ocean Green” leather finish that matches the “handcrafted case designed by the British luxury suitcase brand Globe-Trotter.” Each camera is also individually numbered, just to double down on the whole collectible thing. (I’d imagine that in a few years, No. 007 will sell for a lot of money.)
Over the last few years, the Bond films have become heavy with product placement. The last movie, Spectre, felt like a GQ photoshoot. There were prominently displayed products from Omega, Heineken, Gillette, Sony, Persol, and lots more—many of which released tie-ins.
There’s also an exhibition of 25 behind-the-scenes photos shot by Greg Williams, Nicola Dove, Daniel Craig (yes, that one), and Michael G. Wilson (a producer on the film) using Leica cameras. They’ll be on display in Leica stores in Frankfurt, London, Seoul, Singapore, Taipei, Salzburg, Vienna, Tokyo, and Osaka over the next few months.
Also, this isn’t even the first limited edition Leica involving Daniel Craig. The Leica Q2 “Daniel Craig x Greg Williams” came out earlier this year for $6,995. There were 750 cameras with a black-gold color scheme in the edition. (It’s actually much nicer looking than the 007.)
Leica claims the limited edition “exudes understated elegance—just like James Bond.” Whether it does or not, is up to you. Personally, I think it all feels a bit tacky. Understated elegance kind of precludes slapping heavily trademarked corporate logos all over your stuff.
If you’ve never heard of Realme, you wouldn’t be an outlier — at least in North America. The brand, which first came to market in 2018, falls under the Oppo banner, which also joined forces with OnePlus earlier in 2021. Realme’s focus on affordability and growth in other markets around the world have put it in seventh place as a smartphone brand globally. It’s growing fast in China, India, Russia, and the Philippines, and only time will tell if it gets a bigger piece of the action in the West.
To do that, the Realme GT Explorer Master Edition and GT Master Edition would be the brand’s latest phones trying to deliver. Neither is what you’d consider a flagship, and certainly not a “flagship killer,” but there is a real focus on trying to offer value at a highly competitive price. The particular focus on photography suggests Realme is positioning these phones as competitive shooters, too.
Being the higher-end of the duo, the GT Explorer Master Edition has the better specs for mobile photography, with what Realme calls “flagship sensors.” While as mentioned the brand isn’t trying to outshine flagship phones, it does think it has the chops to be highly competitive as an upstart.
Design and build
The GT Explorer Master Edition is an objectively nice phone to hold and look at. I’m never a fan of curved displays on phones, and this one isn’t all that subtle in how it meets the edges. The 6.55-inch Super AMOLED is vibrant, helped by the smoother navigation afforded to it by the 120Hz refresh rate. The Luna White backplate on my review unit has a tasteful veneer that not only looks nice, but also has a reasonable grip to it. Like other Chinese brands, though, Realme includes a silicone case in the box to at least offer some protection from the start.
What’s odd is that this phone runs on the Snapdragon 870 processor. The company previously launched its GT 5G phone earlier in 2021 with the faster Snapdragon 888 chipset, only to opt for the slower CPU here. I haven’t tried the GT 5G, but I imagine the performance difference isn’t going to be all that substantial as it relates to the GT Explorer Master.
The phone does come in two memory variants: one with 8GB of RAM, and the other with 12GB. There’s 256GB of internal storage, albeit without a microSD card slot to expand further on that. In lieu of the card slot, there is a dual-SIM slot in there. It doesn’t support wireless charging, and there is no rating for water resistance at all, so there is some level of fragility to bear in mind here.
My review unit was a Chinese variant that forced me to sideload the Google Play Store and other Google apps. There are North American variants and they do support Sub-6 and mmWave 5G bands, except U.S. coverage is limited to the 850 and 2500 bands.
The triple camera array in the rear is anchored by a 50-megapixel primary (24mm equivalent) with an f/1.88 aperture. It’s a 1/1.56-inch Sony IMX766 image sensor that Realme claims can capture up to 64% more light.
Flanking it is a 16MP ultra-wide (14mm equivalent and 119-degree field of view) with an f/2.2 aperture using a Sony IMX481 image sensor. And the 2MP macro (at f/2.2) rounds out the array, though it isn’t a Sony sensor. Instead, Realme put Sony’s IMX615 at the front as a 32MP selfie shooter with a 26mm equivalent. Clearly missing is a telephoto lens, meaning the only option to get closer to a subject is to either physically move closer or accept degradation by using digital zoom.
Realme UI 2.0 acts as the Android overlay for the GT Explorer Master, though my experience varied because of the Chinese variant. The bloatware notwithstanding, there’s plenty to wade through once you launch the camera app. Realme’s focus on offering a number of modes and options is largely centered on what it thinks makes it different.
Street photography is one of them, as is the 50-megapixel mode for higher-resolution photos. The interface has some extras, like pulling down the pane from the top of the frame to reveal tilt-shift, aspect ratio, and the timer. AI Scene Enhancement is supposed to help with composition, but it’s probably best to leave it off because you can’t constrain its own excesses. HDR is worth using, and is on auto by default.
Not surprisingly, there is an AI Retouching slider for smoothing skin, which is an old hat now for phones coming from Chinese brands. There’s a fair bit to try out here, including an unusual mode you can use for photo IDs, which may not be as practical as it sounds.
In most circumstances, the primary sensor shoots at 12.5-megapixels, since there’s pixel binning at work. The 50-megapixels sensor has its own mode, as noted earlier, and is at its best when lighting conditions are optimal because the Micron Pixels are smaller. Realme’s assertion that the lens captures more light is specific to the binned 12.5-megapixels shots, rather than the full gamut of the sensor, which isn’t all that surprising since it’s the same story with other phones as well.
For the most part, the sensor can capture good photos, with fairly vibrant colors and acceptable detail. Zoom in and it’s pretty clear Realme applies some sharpening and perhaps a little vibrancy right after taking the shot. Mind you, this is with AI Scene Enhancer turned off. When on, it interpolates any scene based on what it thinks is in the frame. Shoot a forest, and it will try to apply more color, but it was hard for me to see real value coming from it at any time.
HDR comes in with an assist when need be, and leaving it on auto was probably for the best in my testing. It doesn’t need to be there for every shooting scenario, though I was disappointed when it did little to improve upon an image where the sky could get blown out while a foreground subject was more properly exposed. It was hit or miss, and always nice when it was an actual hit. For that reason, I tried to be pragmatic and turn it on manually when faced with a scene that had some heavy contrast to it.
But I also had to remind myself that this is more a mid-range device, not a flagship. At first, I took issue with the exposure slider (after tapping to focus) because it sometimes mistook a swipe for switching lenses. But soon after, I got the hang of it and noticed I could swipe up and down anywhere in the frame to make those adjustments.
Given this is Sony’s IMX481 sensor, one seen in several Xiaomi handsets, the results weren’t all that surprising. Output falls into a similar boat, where good lighting conditions generally deliver better shots, unless things dim and the lens struggles to capture the scene with greater detail. It’s evident Realme applies additional sharpening to these images. The closer I looked, the blotchier the image turned out to be.
Strangely, Realme shoves the ultra-wide lens to the top menu in Pro Expert mode rather than within the frame. Instead, the company chose to prioritize zoom as an alternative in that mode, even though there is no telephoto lens. It’s a bizarre choice that doesn’t serve the phone well, especially considering how much noise digital zoom produces.
There’s only so much to expect from a macro camera this limited in scope. It’s just 2-megapixels, and using a sensor that is neither Sony’s nor anyone else noteworthy. Hence, the results are predictable, which is to say they’re not very good. The sweet spot is 4 centimeters from the subject, as a message says when it pops up onscreen, but focusing is often finicky and the images you get are noisy, even in ideal conditions. I can understand Realme needing to cut corners to keep the price down, but a telephoto lens probably would’ve served users better.
Pro modes are supposed to be a way to get the most out of a smartphone camera, though I was left with the impression that something was missing here. It’s great to be able to control the basics, like shutter speed, ISO, white balance, and exposure, and Realme wisely includes brief explainers on what each of those is. The onscreen cheat sheet, notwithstanding, results speak for themselves, good or bad.
Unfortunately, they’re not great. The issues reveal themselves more in post-production, especially when contrast was higher. When I processed those RAW photos in Lightroom, the flaws became easier to see. Chromatic noise is abundant in darker scenes, even at low ISO levels, making it hard to capture shots with more significant contrast. Phone screens are small, so they might mask it a little more, but there are visible artifacts anyway.
Night and Low-Light Photography
Despite limitations and issues along the way in other respects, the primary camera isn’t all that bad when it comes to low-light photos. It does depend on what kind of light sources you’re dealing with, and Night mode does have its quirks. For one, Realme made a nice move by adding a slider to add sliders for ISO, shutter speed, white balance, and focus. It effectively gives the mode a manual option, except it omits the ultra-wide lens once you slide it over. Leave it on AI, and you can use that lens.
What’s odd is that the shutter in Night mode turns into a stop button while it captures multiple exposures, only it does nothing when you press it while that happens. I was trying to limit the exposure to keep the night sky darker, but failed every time. Realme did issue a software update in September 2021 to remedy that, though didn’t address the exposure stoppage. That means you basically accept whatever results come from it. There’s room for improvement, and if Realme continues its support through software updates, it may make low-light shooting increasingly viable.
Night photography is always extra work to find the right balance in settings. Nightscape, much like other night modes, emulates long exposure photography and makes it applicable to handheld scenarios. The interface does pop up to point out that a tripod would be better in some instances, but the general idea is that you can capture a darker scene like you would any other snapshot.
Realme touted its Street mode as a way to capture urban scenes in ways that would make the GT Explorer Master unique. The mode’s interface notes the focal length for the two lenses at play in the primary and ultra-wide, along with two zoom options, both of which are digital. You can shoot in RAW in this mode, and choose from eight filters to add some flair to those shots. One caveat is that you can only use the primary lens in RAW. The whole thing is an interesting idea, and can be fun to shoot with, only that results can either vary widely or not seem all that different from a standard shot.
Starry mode is surprisingly good, capturing the stars in the sky with great color and some detail. It’s a four-minute exposure for photos, or you can shoot timelapse videos between 60 and 240 minutes. It naturally doesn’t work well in places with a lot of light pollution, but darker places should yield good results.
Text Scanner is an interesting tool, though it struggles with turning handwriting into text. Breeno Scan offers translation, QR code scanning, object recognition, document scanning, business card scanning, and more. It’s interesting, though prone to difficulties, especially since it often gets matches wrong.
Trying to Deliver the Goods for Less
Realme produced a mixed bag with the GT Explorer Master. The phone is fine, as is, only that the camera is where things are a bit disjointed. It is capable of taking good shots — impressive ones even for a mid-range device — but there are various reasons why that happens that you can’t always control. The hardware isn’t so much the issue, it’s the software that needs refinement, and it’s a good sign the company is already updating that to try plugging some performance gaps.
Are There Alternatives?
At some point, Realme will bring this phone to the U.S. when it releases an international version for the North American market. The company’s confusing nomenclature and marketing makes this phone sound a little too close to the GT Master, which is a different phone altogether. Between the two, the Explorer Master has the better camera array.
Mid-range phones have tight competition these days. The U.S. is one of only two markets with the Google Pixel 5a, which comes in cheaper than this phone. The Samsung Galaxy A52 5G is also less expensive, and offers an extra year of Android updates.
Should You Buy It?
No, because there’s no reason to yet. The Chinese variant forces too many compromises, even if sideloading is easy. The cameras are good, though not exceptional enough to stand out as the best in their class. It would be interesting to see where the phone stands by the time Realme launches one stateside, but for now, you can wait before reaching out for one.
Leica has announced that the Leica Q2 007 Edition camera will be available, limited to 250 cameras, all individually numbered and priced at £6750. The camera comes with a customised and handcrafted case designed by the luxury suitcase brand Globe-Trotter.
The Leica Q2 special edition features the iconic 007 logo on the top plate, as well as the famous Bond gun barrel design on the lens cap, as we as an “Ocean green” leather-effect grip, with the same colour used for the case, which feature in No Time To Die.
The camera celebrates the release of the 25th Bond film, No Time To Die, and there will be an exclusive photography exhibition to celebrate the forthcoming movie.
Oh, and if you wanted to use the camera as an actual camera, rather than the collectors item that it so clearly is, then it has the following features, with a 47.3MP full-frame CMOS sensor, a 28mm f/1.7 optically-stabilised lens, ISO 50-50,000, a 3.68m-dot OLED viewfinder, and a Dust and splash-resistant construction.
From Leica: “Every photographer has their very own style, but I feel that with our Leica cameras, we all speak with one voice.” Michael G. Wilson
Leica’s partnership with British cinema’s longest-running film franchise has seen the cameras play a role both on set and behind the scenes.
In No Time To Die, Leica worked with the 007 production team to display Leica cameras on the sets of James Bond’s Jamaican home, and fittingly the ‘Leica Q2’ in Q’s home in London.
Off-screen, Michael G. Wilson has curated an exclusive photography exhibition featuring 25 unique black and white behind-the-scenes photographs shot on Leica cameras by Michael G. Wilson, Daniel Craig, and No Time To Die photographers Nicola Dove and Greg Williams.
You can view the exhibition No Time To Die – Behind the Scenes, 25 photos at Leica Galleries/Stores from Sept 9, at Leica Galleries/Stores Frankfurt (until Oct. 30, 2021), London (until Oct. 17, 2021), L.A. (until Oct. 11, 2021), Seoul, Singapore (both until Oct. 31, 2021), Taipeh (until Nov. 15, 2021) as well as in Salzburg (Sept. 17 — Oct. 21, 2021), Vienna (Sept. 17 — Oct. 30, 2021), Tokyo (Sept. 24, 2021 — Jan. 25, 2022) and Osaka (Nov. 3, 2021 — Jan. 11, 2022).
If you can’t make it to the galleries, then you can view some of them on the Leica blog.
Enter today’s Christmas Prize Draw for the chance to win either an XP-Pen Innovator 16 or Artist 13.3 Pro Holiday Edition Graphics Tablet!
Introducing The Artist 13.3 Pro Holiday Edition & Innovator 16 Graphics Tablets
XP-Pen are honoured to be giving away their best-selling Artist 13.3 Pro holiday edition and the Innovator 16 as prizes in the ePHOTOzine Christmas Prize Draw!
The Artist 13.3 Pro holiday edition features specially-designed packaging that XP-Pen introduced recently and, as well as offering professional features and portable size, they have included lots of extra goodies including a poster and jigsaw puzzle. The Innovator 16 is another popular graphics tablet that has a unique, stylish design and excellent performance.
XP-Pen also has a wide range of other graphics tablets for you to take a look at this Holiday Season.
Win either an XP-Pen Innovator 16 or Artist 13.3 Pro Holiday Edition Graphics Tablet!
XP-Pen recently introduced the Artist 13.3 Pro holiday edition to its graphics tablet line-up and it’s equipped with professional features such as 8192 pen pressure, pen tilt and a wide colour gamut. Plus, with its reasonable price, the Artist 13.3 Pro holiday edition will make a great gift option for beginners and professionals alike.
As well as the Artist 13.3 Pro, XP-Pen also offer the 15.6″ Innovator Display 16 with its industry-leading 9mm profile and a sleek black/silver design. Perfect for drawing on the go, the Innovator Display 16 equips both a mechanical and a virtual wheel with full lamination technology, allowing you to zoom in/out of your canvas. Plus, by using two wheels, it creates a minimal parallax visual experience.
Enter below to be in with a chance of winning an XP-Pen Innovator 16 or Artist 13.3 Pro Holiday Edition Graphics Tablet!
P.S. a huge ‘thank you’ to all of our members for being part of our amazing community and to those clients who have supported us through these unprecedented circumstances. It’s been a tough year, so ‘thanks’ – we couldn’t have made it through 2020 without you!
Wishing you all a lovely Christmas and here’s hoping 2021 will be healthy and happy all round.
The K30 Pro Zoom Edition is the latest flagship in the Chinese manufacturer Xiaomi’s Redmi range of budget-friendly smartphones. Replacing last year’s K20 Pro Premium model, the new device sees upgrades to both the phone spec sheet and camera modules. There’s a slightly larger 6.67-inch FHD+ AMOLED display, a faster Snapdragon 865 chipset, a higher-capacity 4700 mAh non-removable battery, and either 128/256GB storage with 8GB RAM, or 512GB with 12GB RAM.
Taking pictures with the Xiaomi Redmi K30 Pro Zoom Edition
The K30 Pro Zoom is now a quad camera device, too, thanks to the addition of a new depth sensor alongside the standard wide, ultra-wide, and telephoto cameras. The primary camera offers a higher-resolution 64MP Quad Bayer sensor with a 16MP output (compared to the 48Mp sensor on the K20 Pro Premium), coupled to a 26mm-equivalent standard wide-angle lens with phase-detection autofocus (PDAF) and optical image stabilization (OIS).
The tele-camera continues to utilize a similar 8MP 1/4.0-inch standard array sensor with 1.0µm pixels like its predecessor, but with the addition of a longer 80mm-equivalent lens for 3x optical zoom shots. The K30 Pro Zoom’s dedicated wide-angle camera features a 13MP 1/3.0-inch sensor with 1.12µm pixels and a 16mm-equivalent lens. Finally, for still photos, the addition of a new 2MP depth sensor on the K30 Pro Zoom should help improve bokeh shots.
For video, the K30 Pro Zoom is now 8K enabled, capturing 4320p footage at 24/30fps, as well as 2160p at 30/60fps or Full HD 1080p up to 960fps for super-slow-motion effects. There’s gyroscope-enabled electronic image stabilization (Gyro-EIS) for video, and an innovative adaptive frame rate solution that enables the device to automatically switch between 30 or 60fps depending on the lighting conditions.
Key camera specifications:
Primary: 64MP 1/1.72-inch Quad Bayer sensor, 26mm-equivalent lens with PDAF and OIS
Telephoto: 8MP 1/4.0-inch sensor, 80mm-equivalent (x3 optical) lens with PDAF and OIS
About DXOMARK Camera tests: For scoring and analysis in our smartphone camera reviews, DXOMARK engineers capture and evaluate over 1600 test images and more than 2 hours of video both in controlled lab environments and in natural indoor and outdoor scenes, using the camera’s default settings. This article is designed to highlight the most important results of our testing. For more information about the DXOMARK Camera test protocol, click here. More details on how we score smartphone cameras are available here.
Achieving an overall DXOMARK Camera score of 120, the Xiaomi Redmi K30 Pro Zoom Edition slips into the top 10 in our rankings of smartphone image quality, just behind Xiaomi’s own Mi CC9 Pro at 121. A solid Photo score of 129 means you can be confident of excellent still image quality, with no serious flaws, that often bests competitors in a similar price bracket. Despite lower hardware specifications compared to such high-end Xiaomi devices as the Mi 10 Pro and Mi CC9 Pro, the K30 Pro Zoom manages to produce comparable image quality in many respects.
Xiaomi Redmi K30 Pro Zoom Edition, excellent exposure, color, and detail ensure very pleasant results from the main camera.
Global attributes for exposure and color are very well handled. Generally accurate exposure, wide dynamic range, neutral white balance, and good color saturation ensure pleasant results in almost all lighting conditions. The texture/noise compromise is also well controlled. Although it’s fair to say it’s not quite as good as devices with a physically bigger and higher-resolution sensor, for the most part the K30 Pro Zoom’s primary camera delivers well-defined images with low noise. Autofocus is flawless, with quick response times ensuring you capture a picture as soon as requested, and we observed no failures during any of our tests.
It’s not quite all good news, though, with a couple of obvious artifacts letting down what is otherwise a stellar performance from the primary camera. The most obvious problems relate to HDR images, where ghosting on moving objects, together with some unusual texture rendering in some areas, can be a little distracting.
The K30 Pro Zoom’s dedicated ultra-wide camera is a little average overall, but without any serious flaws. The 16mm lens offers a respectable field of view, although serious wide-angle shooters may prefer something a little wider. At its default focal length, exposure isn’t quite as good as the main camera, with slightly low exposures and dynamic range, but it’s acceptable and color remains good. Noise is visible even in outdoor images, though, and detail is low, which is especially true towards the edges of the frame. On the plus side, geometric distortion and anamorphosis are well controlled.
If you’re after a nicely-priced smartphone with an excellent zoom, you won’t go far wrong with the K30 Pro Zoom. Combining images from either its main or tele-lens cameras depending on the magnification requested, Xiaomi’s latest device delivers well-defined detail at all focal lengths. Exposure and color are very good, along with well-controlled noise and no obvious artifacts. Zoom images aren’t quite as detailed at long range (~8x magnification) compared to the very best in our database, but remain more than acceptable, surpassing many phones at a similar price. The tele-camera excels at medium range up to around 5x magnification.
K30 Pro Zoom Edition wide-angle shots display slightly low exposure and limited dynamic range, but the results remain satisfying overall.
Zoom shots are a key strength for the K30 Pro Zoom Edition, with excellent detail recorded at all magnifications.
Shooting in portrait mode, the K30 Pro Zoom’s bokeh shots are also among the best we’ve analyzed, with the Xiaomi device posting close to a top score. Importantly, the effect is consistent and repeatable, with an attractive background blur effect, pleasant spotlights, good subject segmentation, and a natural blur gradient. Unfortunately, HDR doesn’t appear to activate in portrait mode, which is disappointing, and we’d prefer a 50mm-equivalent focal length compared to the effective 34mm it captures. These are slightly minor quibbles about an otherwise excellent bokeh mode, however.
It’s a bit of a mixed bag for night photography, with the device capable of very pleasant low-light cityscapes, but less successful flash portraits. With flash off, cityscapes are generally well exposed with good color. Detail is a little low and some noise is visible, but overall we were pleased with the results. Turn the flash on for a portrait, though, and although exposure and noise on the subject are ok, skin tone rendering is slightly unpleasant, the red-eye effect occurs, and detail is low.
Bokeh shots are among the best we’ve seen, with good subject segmentation, but unfortunately HDR processing is not applied to images captured in portrait mode.
For night photography, the K30 Pro Zoom Edition’s most successful shots are captured in flash-off mode, where nice exposure and color render a very pleasant final image.
Tested and scored in 4K mode with the adaptive frame rate activated (which offers the best results), the Xiaomi Redmi K30 Pro Zoom achieved an overall Video score of 101 points. That’s only a couple of points behind more expensive devices at the top of our rankings, such as the Huawei P40 Pro at 105 points. The adaptive frame rate offering 60fps in bright light is a real benefit for capturing fluid motion and reducing judder, and again, autofocus is very good.—In fact, it’s excellent in static videos, but the K30 Pro Zoom doesn’t handle video captured with walking or panning actions as well. Autofocus tracking and stabilization start to become a little less reliable, although not bad. Obvious and unnecessary variations in exposure can be distracting, though. That aside, video color is consistent and generally accurate, detail is excellent in reasonable lighting conditions, and noise is well controlled.
Xiaomi Redmi K30 Pro Zom Edition, outdoor video
Photo scores explained
The K30 Pro Zoom achieves a very good Photo score of 129, with no serious weaknesses observed during our tests. While the device remains a few points behind our top performers for stills, the latest Redmi device isn’t far behind the best for many attributes and often outperforms similarly-priced smartphones. In this section, we take a closer look at how each sub-score was determined and compare image quality against key competitors in a similar price bracket, such as the OnePlus 8 Pro, the Apple iPhone SE (2020), and the Honor V30 Pro.
Exposure and Contrast
Xiaomi Redmi K30 Pro Zoom Edition
Exposure management is a nice strength for the K30 Pro Zoom, thanks to accurate target exposures in all lighting conditions, wide dynamic range, and high levels of contrast. In high-contrast conditions, dynamic range is very good, but not quite the best we’ve seen. Occasional highlight clipping occurs in very challenging scenes, but nothing too problematic, and you can see from the example below that the K30 Pro Zoom records bright areas through the archway more successfully compared to the iPhone SE (2020). It doesn’t recover dark areas quite as well as the OnePlus 8 Pro in this scene, but it does record some detail; moreover, strong contrast ensures a pleasant overall result.
Xiaomi Redmi K30 Pro Zoom Edition, good dynamic range, well-controlled highlights, high contrast
OnePlus 8 Pro, good dynamic range, well-recovered shadows, slightly more highlight clipping
Apple iPhone SE (2020), slightly limited dynamic range, more obvious highlight clipping
In our lab analysis, the K30 Pro Zoom achieved very good measurements for exposure and contrast in all simulated lighting conditions. In well-balanced lighting, the device records reasonably bright exposures even in near-dark conditions of just 1 lux. Color saturation is affected in such challenging conditions, but images remain usable and noticeably brighter compared to such competitors as the iPhone SE (2020).
Xiaomi Redmi K30 Pro Zoom Edition, 1 lux, low but acceptable exposure and color
Honor V30 Pro, 1 lux, accurate exposure and good color saturation
Apple iPhone SE (2020), 1 lux, more obvious underexposure and poor color saturation
Xiaomi Redmi K30 Pro Zoom Edition
Color rendering is also a strength for the K30 Pro Zoom, with particularly consistent results in a range of different lighting situations, as well as good scores in our perceptual analyses for white balance, color rendering, and uniformity. Outdoors, white balance tends to be a little on the warm side, which results in slightly orange tones in some areas, but it’s far from offensive and often preferred by users over a more neutral cast that can appear cold. The main problem for color is a visible hue shift in blue tones which can give skies or blue objects a pinkish or purple tint. Those issues aside, color rendering is generally pleasant in most images.
Xiaomi Redmi K30 Pro Zoom Edition, warm white balance, pink tint to the blue tones
OnePlus 8 Pro, neutral white balance, bold blues
Apple iPhone SE (2020), neutral white balance
White balance is accurate in indoor shots, too, and is often slightly more neutral compared to outdoor images. Color saturation also remains good in both indoor and low-light conditions down to around 20 lux. In extreme low light (5 lux), reds start to desaturate, but it’s only in near-dark conditions of 1 lux where desaturation of all colors starts to become a problem.
Xiaomi Redmi K30 Pro Edition, accurate white balance, good saturation
OnePlus 8 Pro, accurate white balance, good saturation
Apple iPhone SE (2020), accurate white balance, good saturation
Xiaomi Redmi K30 Pro Zoom Edition
Fast, accurate, and reliable autofocus is another key strength for the K30 Pro Zoom. The device achieves a perfect score, thanks to its excellent performance in our benchmark lab testing, and no focusing failures observed shooting natural test scenes either. Under all simulated lighting conditions in the lab, images snapped sharp in lighting-quick time and all pictures were in focus. Acutance was consistently measured at around 100%, too, which means the camera does not apply any aggressive oversharpening, and autofocus performance is very reliable. Although the OnePlus 8 Pro and the iPhone SE (2020) also offer very good autofocus, you can see in the analysis chart below that the K30 Pro Zoom is more consistent for both speed and accuracy when shooting 30 consecutive images in the lab.
The K30 Pro Zoom’s pixel binning processing ensures it offers a very good texture versus noise trade-off. Intricate areas aren’t as well defined compared to the Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro or the Honor V30 Pro, which offer physically larger sensors with a higher resolution, but the level of detail is generally high on the K30 Pro Zoom. Fairly consistently comparable with the OnePlus 8 Pro, the latest Redmi device recorded high levels of acutance of around 80% on handheld shots between 5 and 1000 lux in our lab measurements. That’s a slight improvement over the iPhone SE (2020) in bright light (1000 lux), with a more noticeable difference in our measurements under indoor (100 lux) and especially low-light (5 lux) conditions.
Xiaomi Redmi K30 Pro Zoom Edition, texture acutance comparison
When evaluating indoor images, we found the K30 Pro Zoom slightly outperformed the OnePlus 8 Pro and was noticeably better than the iPhone SE (2020). At close inspection, the Xiaomi device preserves fine details better, flat areas are free from noise, and texture looks natural, since the K30 Pro Zoom doesn’t oversharpen details like the iPhone.
Xiaomi Redmi K30 Pro Zoom Edition, indoor detail
Xiaomi Redmi K30 Pro Zoom Edition, crop, good detail
OnePlus 8 Pro, indoor detail
OnePlus 8 Pro, crop, decent detail
Apple iPhone SE (2020), indoor detail
Apple iPhone SE (2020), crop, slight softness
Effective noise management also ensures that visual noise is generally well controlled on the K30 Pro Zoom in all lighting conditions. A slight pattern noise is often visible in dark areas in outdoor HDR scenes, but it’s not too distracting; and in indoor or very low light, the device manages to avoid any significant luminance or offensive chromatic noise.
Xiaomi Redmi K30 Pro Zoom Edition, visual noise comparison
In this indoor example below, the K30 Pro Zoom outperforms both competitors in a similar price bracket. The Xiaomi device preserves fine details better compared to the OnePlus 8 Pro, and it has less luminance noise compared to the iPhone SE (2020).
Xiaomi Redmi K30 Pro Zoom Edition, indoor noise
Xiaomi Redmi K30 Pro Zoom Edition, crop, good detail
OnePlus 8 Pro, indoor noise
OnePlus 8 Pro, crop, slight loss of fine detail
Apple iPhone SE (2020), indoor noise
Apple iPhone SE (2020), crop, slight loss of fine detail
Xiaomi Redmi K30 Pro Zoom Edition
Control of artifacts isn’t a strong point for the K30 Pro Zoom, with some fairly obvious problems often visible. We applied point deductions mainly for flare in backlit images, for aliasing along slanted contrast edges, as well as for ghosting or fusion effects in HDR scenes. The latter are the most problematic, as the issues are fairly obvious even when viewing the images on the device’s screen. Ghosting or blurring of fast-moving elements, such as the birds in the example below, as well as an odd fusion effect that can result in some fairly unnatural-looking texture, can spoil what are otherwise successful HDR pictures. Tone compression is sometimes visible in HDR scenes, too, and a noticeable difference in sharpness towards the corners of an image is often evident across consecutive images shot in low light.
Xiaomi Redmi K30 Pro Zoom Edition, artifacts
Xiaomi Redmi K30 Pro Zoom Edition, crop, unnatural texture rendering
Xiaomi Redmi K30 Pro Zoom Edition, artifacts
Xiaomi Redmi K30 Pro Zoom Edition, crop, ghosting
Xiaomi Redmi K30 Pro Zoom Edition
As its name suggests, the K30 Pro Zoom is an excellent device for zoom shots, with well-managed exposure, color, and detail at all distances. Although it doesn’t challenge the very best zoom devices equipped with periscope-style folded optics like the Huawei P40 Pro, the Redmi consistently delivers high-quality zoom shots and ranks in the top ten for this attribute in our database.
At close range, the device applies a digital crop to images captured with the primary sensor and outputs a final 8MP image. With either no or very little upscaling applied to achieve this, the final image is well rendered, maintaining excellent detail and noise in all lighting conditions. The device starts to utilize the 80mm tele-lens at medium range, where the device often combines images from the main and tele cameras, and again outputs a final 8MP image. Detail is exceptionally well maintained at medium range in both indoor and outdoor lighting conditions, and although there’s a noticeable reduction in texture preservation in low light, it remains good. You can see that the K30 Pro Zoom captures fine structures a little better than the OnePlus 8 Pro — also equipped with a 80mm tele-lens — and offers a significant improvement over the single-cam iPhone SE (2020).
Xiaomi Redmi K30 Pro Zoom Edition, medium-range zoom
Xiaomi Redmi K30 Pro Zoom Edition, crop, very good detail
OnePlus 8 Pro, medium-range zoom
OnePlus 8 Pro, crop, good detail
Apple iPhone SE (2020), medium-range zoom
Apple iPhone SE (2020), crop, poor detail
The difference in detail between the Xiaomi and OnePlus devices is even more significant at long range, where the K30 Pro Zoom is clearly more detailed. Of course, the iPhone SE (2020) applies a lot of upscaling on a 12MP image to achieve the same magnification in this shot, so the level of detail drops off significantly.
Xiaomi Redmi K30 Pro Zoom Edition, long-range zoom
Xiaomi Redmi K30 Pro Zoom Edition, crop, excellent detail
OnePlus 8 Pro, long-range zoom
OnePlus 8 Pro, crop, good detail
Apple iPhone SE (2020), long-range zoom
Apple iPhone SE (2020), crop, poor detail
Xiaomi Redmi K30 Pro Zoom Edition
Portrait mode is another strength of the K30 Pro Zoom, which achieves close to the top score and again ranks in the top ten for this attribute. With the 80mm tele-lens too long for portraits, the devices utilizes its wide camera for the bokeh effect, combined with a cropped image from the main camera. The resulting image is an 8MP file with 34mm-equivalent focal length, which isn’t quite as effective for portraits as a 50mm-equivalent shot, but that aside, results remain good.
The depth-of-field effect is pleasant, although not as strong as some devices, and spotlights often display a nice shape with good contrast. Performance is consistent, so the effect is consistently applied when requested, and noise is well controlled in outdoor shots, with good uniformity across blurred and sharp areas. Depth estimation is generally pretty good, and aside from some minor errors around complex or fine structures, where some edge artifacts are occasionally visible, the K30 Pro Zoom does a good job of subject segmentation. The main problem is dynamic range, however, with the device seemingly foregoing any HDR processing, which leads to noticeably clipped highlights in many outdoor examples.
Xiaomi Redmi K30 Pro Zoom Edition, outdoor bokeh
Xiaomi Redmi K30 Pro Zoom Edition, crop, good subject segmentation
RealMe X2 Pro, outdoor bokeh
RealMe X2 Pro, crop, good subject segmentation
Apple iPhone SE (2020), outdoor bokeh
Apple iPhone SE (2020), crop, good subject segmentation
Results aren’t quite as effective under indoor lighting conditions, however, where lower detail and more visible noise in faces starts to become obvious. It’s certainly not terrible and results are noticeably better than the OnePlus 8 Pro’s in this example, but they’re not as good as the iPhone SE (2020), which maintains better facial details with less noise.
Xiaomi Redmi K30 Pro Zoom Edition, indoor bokeh
Xiaomi Redmi K30 Pro Zoom Edition, crop, less detail and more noise
OnePlus 8 Pro, indoor bokeh
OnePlus 8 Pro, crop, poor detail and noise
Apple iPhone SE (2020), indoor bokeh
Apple iPhone SE (2020), crop, good detail and noise
Xiaomi Redmi K30 Pro Zoom Edition
The ultra-wide camera is a slight weakness for the K30 Pro Zoom, and although results are far from terrible, some exposure, detail, and noise issues affected its score. While overall exposure is acceptable, target exposures are a little low compared to the best-performing devices, and slightly limited dynamic range leads to a little highlight clipping in very bright areas. You can see that the OnePlus 8 Pro is able to record a brighter overall picture with more detail in the building and less highlight clipping in the clouds in the example below. Luminance noise is often visible in areas of uniform color, even in outdoor images, and the level of detail is a little low on wide shots. Color is good, with high levels of saturation, and aside from those slight pinkish casts in blue tones that we observed on the main camera as well, white balance is generally neutral.
Xiaomi Redmi K30 Pro Zoom Edition, low target exposure and slightly limited dynamic range
OnePlus 8 Pro, excellent target exposure and dynamic range
RealMe X2 Pro, good target exposure and dynamic range
Color fringing is often evident along high-contrast edges and a significant loss of detail is evident towards the corners of the frame in many examples. Geometric distortion and anamorphosis are well controlled, through, so the K30 Pro Zoom keeps lines generally nice and straight, with no significant stretching of faces or other elements in the outer field. Performance is also best at the default field of view, which we measured at 16mm, with a further loss of detail evident when applying any zoom while using the ultra-wide camera.
Xiaomi Redmi K30 Pro Zoom Edition, default field of view
Xiaomi Redmi K30 Pro Zoom Edition, crop, slightly low detail
OnePlus 8 Pro, default field of view
OnePlus 8 Pro, crop, excellent detail
RealMe X2 Pro, default field of view
RealMe X2 Pro, crop, good detail
Xiaomi Redmi K30 Pro Zoom Edition
Although not a top-ranked device in our series of night photography tests, the K30 Pro Zoom put in a reasonable performance. Results are particularly good in flash-off mode when shooting low-light cityscapes, where the device captures good-looking pictures with generally accurate exposure, wide dynamic range, and nice color. It’s not quite as good as the very best nocturnal shooters, which are capable of recording a brighter exposure, better detail, and less noise in very dark conditions, but the K30 Pro Zoom offers good results overall that often surpass its main competitors.
Xiaomi Redmi K30 Pro Zoom Edition, low-light cityscape
Xiaomi Redmi K30 Pro Zoom Edition, crop, nice color, reasonably wide dynamic range
Honor V30 Pro, low-light cityscape
Honor V30 Pro, crop, low target exposure, poor dynamic range
Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro, low-light cityscape
Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro, crop, acceptable color, limited dynamic range
In auto-flash mode, the flash often fires accurately when a face is detected. The flash exposure is pretty good, ensuring a well-exposed portrait, but skin tone rendering tends to look a little unnatural, colors are a touch orange, and the red-eye effect is often visible. Noise on faces is well controlled, too, but detail is low, especially compared to high-end devices like the Honor V30 Pro.
Xiaomi Redmi K30 Pro Zoom Edition, flash-auto, good exposure but unnatural skin tone rendering
Honor V30 Pro, flash-auto, acceptable exposure, cold white balance
Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro, flash-auto, acceptable exposure, pleasant skin tones
The K30 Pro Zoom also offers a dedicated night mode that often improves exposure, dynamic range, and color compared to flash-off shots, which is particularly true for low-light cityscapes. Shooting portraits in night mode, ambient light in the background is much better exposed compared to auto-flash shots, but unless your subject is standing in good light, they tend to be a little underexposed. Detail is fairly low, but not significantly worse than top performers like the Honor V30 Pro, but noise is often a little more evident.
Xiaomi Redmi K30 Pro Zoom Edition, night mode, wide dynamic range but low detail
Honor V30 Pro, night mode, good exposure and color but low detail
Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max, night mode, very low detail and high noise
Video scores explained
A device’s overall Video score is derived from its performance and results across a range of attributes in the same way as the Photo score: Exposure (85), Color (89), Autofocus (89), Texture (79), Noise (81), Artifacts (88), and Stabilization (93). In this section, we take a closer look at the device’s strengths and weakness for video, with some comparisons against our key competitors.
Under benchmark testing in the lab, video target exposures on the K30 Pro Zoom are generally very good, delivering bright videos in all lighting conditions down to 5 lux. Shooting natural test scenes, our testers found target exposures remain bright and stable in static videos, even in low-light conditions. Dynamic range can be a little limited in very high-contrast scenes, where dark areas are noticeably underexposed compared to devices like the iPhone SE (2020), but strong contrast can make for pleasant results. The device doesn’t manage video exposure very well in walking or panning videos, however, where serious exposure instabilities are a problem. Even if the lighting conditions remain the same, the K30 Pro Zoom tends to vary the exposure brightness quite significantly for no real reason as you move the camera.
Xiaomi Redmi K30 Pro Zoom Edition, video target exposure comparison
Color rendering in videos is good, with generally nice color saturation and excellent color uniformity. White balance is fairly neutral as well, with any serious or offensive color casts generally avoided, but that persistent issue of a pinkish tint to the blue channel is again evident in video, which you can see in the chart below.
Xiaomi Redmi K30 Pro Zoom Edition, video color analysis by lighting condition
Tested in 4K mode, the K30 Pro Zoom offers a good compromise between texture and noise in most conditions. Detail is especially good at around 90% acutance in outdoor and indoor videos, with results comparable to the OnePlus 8 Pro’s. Although texture preservation drops off a little as light levels decrease, the Xiaomi device manages to maintain excellent acutance of around 80% in very low light (5 lux), and it’s only in extremely dark conditions of around at 1 lux where detail starts to suffer badly.
Xiaomi Redmi K30 Pro Zoom Edition, video texture comparison
Noise in videos is well controlled in both outdoor and indoor lighting conditions. Although it’s true that noise is certainly noticeable in low-light videos, overall the compromise between detail and noise is well managed and the K30 Pro Zoom offers a better trade-off compared to many devices in a similar price bracket.
Xiaomi Redmi K30 Pro Zoom Edition, video spatial noise comparison
Autofocus is another strong point for video on the K30 Pro Zoom, thanks to fast reaction times and good tracking capabilities with smooth performance. It’s particularly good in bright light, where aside from some minor overshoots and focus breathing issues, it achieved a near-perfect score. Tracking isn’t quite as good in low light, where it occasionally lost focus on the subject, but even so, it was an improvement over devices such as the iPhone SE (2020) for low-light autofocus.
The K30 Pro Zoom’s adaptive frame rate in 4K mode is one of the key differentials for video performance, though. Automatically switching to 60fps in bright light offers a couple of significant benefits, such as the device being able to capture more fluid rendering on fast moving subjects, as well as reduced judder. When the device does have to shift to 30fps in lower light conditions, transitions are also smooth, with no obvious jerks or jumps as you keep recording. The Xiaomi device’s gyro-EIS system also effectively stabilizes static handheld videos, the sharpness of frames is consistent, and the jello effect is well controlled. It’s slightly less successful with walking or panning actions, where more global motion is evident, particularly in indoor videos; and frame shifts occur when the stabilization system gets to the edge of the frame and has to reset itself, which you can see at around 22 seconds in the clip below.
Redmi K30 Pro Zoom Edition, outdoor video
OnePlus 8 Pro, outdoor video
Apple iPhone SE (2020), outdoor video
A solid performance in all categories across both our photo and video tests ensures a top-ten ranking for Xiaomi’s latest device in its budget-friendly Redmi line. That’s an impressive result, and aside from some minor quibbles, the K30 Pro Zoom is capable of image quality very close to the best we’ve tested in many areas. The quality of zoom and bokeh shots is particularly impressive, and the main camera offers consistently good exposure and color in all lighting conditions.
The wide camera doesn’t quite reach the same heights, but it’s not bad. Similarly, although better night shots are possible on devices with a bigger sensor, and flash performance could be improved, the K30 Pro Zoom performs admirably for a device in this price bracket. The lack of HDR processing in bokeh shots, as well as some distracting ghosting and texture rendering artifacts, are also weaknesses, but all these issues dampen only slightly an otherwise excellent performance.
Shooting video, 4K 60fps capture in bright light is a real bonus, detail is good, and noise well controlled. It’s fair to say the K30 Pro Zoom performs better with static video, as issues with exposure, autofocus, and stabilization start to creep in when you move the camera, but for the most part video exposure and color are very satisfying. To sum up, if you’re after flagship photography performance at significantly less cost than a premium smartphone, Xiaomi’s Redmi K30 Pro Zoom has a lot to offer.
Accurate exposure outdoors
Fast and accurate autofocus
Well-preserved detail outdoors
>Good detail in outdoor zoom shots
Attractive bokeh spotlights
Neutral white balance and acceptable texture/noise trade-off using flash
White balance casts outdoors
Localized loss of texture
Color shifts in certain tones
Low detail in indoor zoom shots
Limited dynamic range, low detail and high noise in ultra-wide shots
Limited dynamic range, low detail and artifacts in night shots
Good texture/noise trade-off in most conditions
Accurate exposure, even in low light
Good color rendering
A red color cast usually visible
Limited dynamic range in some conditions
Slight focus instabilities
Color quantization, ghosting, color fringing, and aliasing artifacts visible
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