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Mirrorless tech powers photography forward

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Nearly 200 years after the birth of photography, the art form is experiencing a technological revolution.

Smartphones are using multiple cameras and software-based smarts to deliver images that seemingly transcend the limits of their small lenses and sensors.

And while handsets have devastated sales of point-and-shoot cameras, the prospects for more advanced models are seemingly bright thanks to an innovation of their own.

In recent weeks, the industry’s biggest two manufacturers – Canon and Nikon – have both unveiled their first full-frame mirrorless cameras, having already seen Sony have great success with the format.

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Getting rid of the mirrors traditionally placed inside high-end cameras gets the lens closer to the sensor and paves the way to several innovations.

Getting rid of the mirrors traditionally placed inside high-end cameras gets the lens closer to the sensor and paves the way to several innovations.

Sony A7R camera
Sony announced its first full-frame mirrorless cameras in 2013, and has dominated the format until now: SONY

And on the eve of Photokina – the industry’s giant trade fair in Cologne – Panasonic has just unveiled a body that could prove the most disruptive of all.

Dedicated digital camera sales grew by 5% in 2017 to $9.9bn (£7.5bn), according to market research firm Futuresource, the industry’s first gain since 2010.

Digital camera sales

It was driven in large part by demand from enthusiasts and professionals for existing mirrorless models costing upwards of £1,000.

With a rush of new models – and their accompanying native lenses – manufacturers have an opportunity to prosper if they can convince consumers that the technology is worth the investment.

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What does mirrorless and full-frame mean?

Mirrorless refers to the fact that the device does not include the flippable mirror found in digital single-lens reflex cameras (DSLRs) to show what the lens sees through the viewfinder.

Instead, a small digital display is used to preview the image.

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In the past, using such a display involved lag – meaning the image was slightly delayed – and appreciably lower resolution than an optical viewfinder.

But modern viewfinder displays have mostly addressed these issues, while also offering the benefits of being able to preview the effects that changes to camera settings make, as well as showing 100% coverage of the scene rather than the partial view shown by many DSLRs.

The downside is that using an electronic display eats into battery life – reducing the number of shots possible on a charge.

There are other benefits to mirrorless.

  • Camera bodies are typically smaller and lighter than DSLRs
  • There is scope for manufacturers to offer higher-speed burst modes, in which images are quickly taken one after another
  • DSLR lenses can be adapted for use on mirrorless bodies – but the reverse is impractical
  • Cameras can be operated more quietly than most DLSRs, which can be useful at weddings
  • The viewfinder can be used in video mode

Full-frame refers to the fact that the imaging sensor is about the same size as a frame of 35mm format film.

For comparison’s sake, the full-frame Sony A7 III’s sensor is more than 18 times the size of that of the rear camera on the Galaxy S9 handset.

Camera sensor sizes

The principle benefit of making a sensor larger is that it captures more light.

This can be used to

  • produce higher-resolution images
  • offer better low-light capabilities
  • deliver shallower depth-of-field pictures – where the background has a pleasing-looking blur – without having to simulate the effect via software

The downsides include cost and the fact a larger sensor means a bulkier camera.

Fuji shows off GFX 100S
Fuji has a new medium-format 100-megapixel camera for those looking beyond full-frame capabilities: REUTERS
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So, what’s the appeal of dropping thousands of pounds on a mirrorless camera and associated gear when a smartphone can capture perfectly decent snaps and auto-enhance them?

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There are clear advantages for professionals – sports photographers need high-quality zoom lenses, for example.

Commercial photographers depend on the extra resolution required for large ad printouts.

Fashion specialists rely on the cameras’ superior colour science.

And architectural specialists appreciate the extra dynamic range – which helps avoid details being lost in the shadows and brightest parts.

Kaiman Wong with Canon EOS R
YouTuber Kaiman Wong was one of the first to test Canon’s forthcoming EOS R camera

“Pros will use whatever is the best tool,” said Kaiman Wong, a self-declared photography nerd and YouTube reviewer.

“They don’t seem to care about brands, so long as it gets them the shot, and some I know have already gone mirrorless.”

No-compromise Instagram

But for manufacturers to justify the R&D costs required to drive mirrorless cameras forward, they also need to attract a lots of hobbyists.

Kim Stone is one early adopter.

Two years ago, the North Devon-based resident bought a Canon EOS M3 – a mirrorless camera but one with a smaller sensor than the forthcoming EOS R.

She uses it to take landscape photographs for her Instagram account despite the extra steps involved in getting them online.

Kim Stone photographs taken with Canon EOS M3
These are among the images Ms Stone has taken with her mirrorless camera: @KISTOGRAPHY

“It’s the ability to be able to adjust the precise settings in the picture set-up,” she explained.

“Phones on the market don’t offer you as much ease of control over the ISO [light sensitivity], white balance, shutter speed, and aperture. Smartphone lenses are also more restricted.

“Ultimately, you can still only get such good results from a dedicated camera.”

Competing cameras

Photokina offers the chance to compare the latest full-frame mirrorless models, several of which have yet to go on sale.

Nikon’s Z7 offers a class-leading 45.7 megapixels – useful for delivering huge prints or to tightly crop into an image after it is taken.

When it comes to autofocus, Canon’s EOS R may have the upper hand, thanks to its 5,655 manually selectable focus points.

Both firms, however, have been criticised for providing only a single card storage slot. That prevents owners being able to create back-up copies of their photos and videos on the fly, which could be a problem if the data gets corrupted or lost.

Panasonic, however, is teasing a model that promises to combine several cutting-edge features.

Panasonic S1R
Panasonic S1R includes several features not found on other cameras of its class: PANASONIC

The S1R’s specs include

  • 47MP resolution
  • two storage slots – one for SD cards, the other XQD
  • in-body image stabilisation that works in combination with lens stabilisation
  • 4K video at 60 frames per second
  • an LCD screen that can be tilted across thee axes, helping owners compose portraits as well as landscapes

“Panasonic’s move into the full-frame mirrorless segment is particularly interesting because of its collaboration with Leica and Sigma – both companies with a strong photographic heritage,” Futursource analyst Arun Gill told the BBC.

“By adopting Leica’s L-Mount, Panasonic’s cameras will have an immediate advantage of being compatible with several existing high-quality lenses.”

However, the firm has yet to say how much it will cost and the product will not go on sale until “early 2019”.

That leaves Sony.

Its A7 III has been a runaway success, managing to hit a feature-price sweet spot. Indeed, the biggest complaint has been a lack of stock.

Many thought the Japanese firm might unveil a video-centric A7S III at Photokina, but the highlight of its press conference was instead the promise of automatically focusing on animals’ eyes in the future,

Rumour sites, however, suggest Sony is biding its time ahead of an October event.

Video and stills

But while there’s much to be excited about with mirrorless now, the format may take some time to deliver on its true potential.

Sony autofocusSONY: Sony’s eye autofocus mode is currently limited to humans, but it plans to change that

One tantalising possibility is that it will eventually become possible to take photos in much quicker succession for longer periods of time, without having to sacrifice autofocus or picture quality.

“If you can get 25 to 30 frames per second in full resolution, that’s basically video,” Mr Wong explained.

“There will probably come a point when we are just taking video.

“You’ll take a frame out of that, and that will be the photo.”



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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

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Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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