Another new toy: Sony SLT-A77V

(February 6, 2012)

After six years, it was time for my good old Fujifilm FinePix S9500 bridge camera to be replaced by a more recent model. It served me well during all the years and still works perfectly. However, it’s only equipped with a 1/1.7-inch sensor, which limited its usefulness to the range of ISO 80 to 400. Even my second camera, the compact FinePix F200EXR, fares a bit better in this respect, but that’s just because it’s a little bit newer (2009), not because it has a larger sensor.

During the DSLR boom of the recent years, I occasionally felt tempted to upgrade to a APS-C or at least Four-Thirds model, but I was always kept back because of the miserable handling: Not having an electronic viewfinder means that adjusting any parameter except exposure compensation and ISO requires to move the camera away from my head, look at the rear screen and put it back. Somehow most people don’t seem to mind that this is extremely awkward, but I do.

In 2010, however, Sony fixed that problem with its SLT technology that premiered in the A55. I was close to buying that camera, but then I read about its heat issues, so I wanted to wait for the next generation of SLT cameras instead. This has been introduced in fall 2011, but there has been no direct replacement for the A55. So I decided to go »all in« and buy the top-of-the-line model – the SLT-A77V, especially after its very positive reviews. Here’s what I think is particularly good and bad about that camera.
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Video on the Canon EOS 550D

(June 2, 2010)

A few weeks ago, my father bought a shiny new Canon EOS 550D DSLR camera, not only for capturing photos, but for videos too. Why not – after all, the video functions are finally taken seriously by the camera manufacturers and video on a APS-C-sized sensor is a very cool thing – in theory. I had the chance to analyze a few 720p/50 sample videos made with the camera, and I have to say that I’m quite disappointed.
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Video encoder comparison

(February 25, 2010)

There has been some buzz about HTML5 web video lately. I won’t retell the story here, because it’s almost completely political and not technical, while I’m only interested in the technical side of things. One thing that struck me, though, is that many people believe that the two contenders, H.264 and Ogg Theora, are comparative in quality and performance. As someone who implements video codecs for a living, this struck me as quite odd: How can a refined version of an old and crippled MPEG-4 derivate come anywhere close to a format that incorporates (almost) all of the the latest and greatest of video compression research? I decided to give it a try and compare H.264, Theora and a few other codecs myself.
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My new (sort-of) home theater

(January 17, 2010)

Over the last few weeks, I upgraded my old TV set to a shiny new LCD TV, along with a 5.1-channel AVR and a Blu-ray player. This was done for two different reasons: First, I wanted a HDTV set for quite some time already, but I waited until it was safe that I could afford it. Second, the old TV set, which was the already repaired former set from my uncle, started to behave erratically again, so it was obvious that I needed a replacement anyway.
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Movies 2009

(January 2, 2010)

I love going to the cinema after work: The Tuesday afternoon showings at my local cinema are quite affordable, and for most movies except the biggest blockbusters, the auditorium is usually almost empty. This enables me to enjoy a movie without being disturbed by laughing kiddies and popcorn chewing noises :)
Here’s a list of all the movies I’ve seen this year, along with a short comment or rating: Read more …

My new toy: Fujifilm F200EXR

(April 9, 2009)

I’m a happy user of the Fujifilm S9500 bridge camera since 2005, but lately, I noticed that it would also be really nice to have a second, smaller camera that I can take with me (almost) everywhere. This isn’t a problem in itself – there are countless compact point-and-shoot cameras at around 200 € on the market. However, most (if not all) of these suffer from too high resolutions and too small (1/2.5″) sensors. The days of the legendary F30/F31 with its large 6-megapixel sensor and unrivalled low noise are also long gone, so my »new camera« project was on hold for a long time. That was until february, when Fujifilm announced the release of its new compact F-series model, the F200EXR, based on the highly anticipated SuperCCD EXR sensor. After reading the first beta reviews and seeing the first example images, I immediately ordered the camera and it arrived just in time for my Paris visit, where I had the perfect opportunity to test the camera. Here’s what I found out.
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H.264 Decoder Benchmark, Part 2

(February 26, 2009)

After the H.264 decoder benchmark I did when DivX 7 came out, I got some comments that I misrepresented CoreAVC by using an outdated version. Recently, I repeated the benchmarks using the newest version of CoreAVC fresh from their website. I also used more computers to test the decoders on, and the results were very interesting.
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Four generations of iPod nanos compared

(February 16, 2009)

Over the last few years, I bought one specimen of all four generations of Apple’s iPod nano media player, mainly to make rePear compatible with each new model. (In fact, rePear’s main development target are iPod nanos.) Here are my thoughts about the benefits and drawbacks of each generation.
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Compiler benchmark

(February 6, 2009)

I usually write my demos using Microsofts C Compiler for Win32 and GCC for Linux. But how good does Intel’s compiler optimize? And can the performance of MSVC and GCC be improved using a clever selection of compiler switches? That’s what I wanted to find out, and so I wrote my own little benchmark based on some code of my demos and let it run through all these compilers with different options. The results are a little bit different from what I expected …
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DivX, the new king

(January 6, 2009)

Today, DivX Inc. released the new version of its famous video codec. Usually, this is utterly uninteresting news, but not this time: Version 7 is actually not an MPEG-4 ASP codec like its predecessors, but a H.264 one, based on the implementation of MainConcept. This makes the codec a lot more interesting, especially since the decoder part is free (as in beer).

The H.264 software decoder situation on Windows was a bit complicated: There just was no perfect decoder. The InterVideo and CyberLink come only with their respective Blu-ray player applications, the one in QuickTime is complete crap, the Nero one doesn’t want to work in applications other than Nero’s own. So we only had ffdshow, which is open source, cool, but a little bit slow, and CoreAVC, which is blazing fast, but you need to pay for it.
As of today, this problem has been resolved once and for all: DivX 7 is the ultimate H.264 software decoder on Windows, period. I ran a little benchmark today and the results are very impressive: DivX 7 is always faster than CoreAVC, usually about 10% for CABAC sequences. ffdshow, on the other hand, is always slowest and makes the least use of multi-core CPUs.

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