A New Megapixel Winner from Agfa
by John Henshall
Agfa's latest camera shares the same lovely industrial design as its year-old brother, the ePhoto1280, except that the 1680 is a beautiful silver colour. There may be little difference externally but, inside, the 1680 brings many advances.
The 1680 is a true megapixel (1,228,800 pixels to be precise) camera with a 1280 x 960 CCD, compared to the 1280's 1024 x 768 (786,432) pixels. Software can still be used to interpolate upwards, now to 1600 x 1200, using PhotoGenie to remove artifacts such as those which come from JPEG compression. The 1680 is also much faster at capturing and storing images. Although the 1280 was painfully slow between images it nonetheless won many accolades, including Best Buy from 'Which?' in August 1998. Thanks to its swivel zoom lens, both the ePhoto1280 and 1680 may be used to shoot above the head (without ladders), or right down to ground level (without dry-cleaning bills).
But the 1680 is still difficult to use in bright daylight, when the LCD can be washed out by the sun. And there isn't an optical viewfinder to use in such conditions. I took it to the Fairford air show, where I managed to catch only the back end of Concorde and to miss the Red Arrows completely. After that I made a tube of black cardboard to shield the unwanted rays. Agfa should provide this as an accessory - and add a magnifier.
One of the lesser known features of both the 1280 and 1680 is the manual setting of exposure when using flash. Keen to explore the usefulness of this in a studio setup, I fashioned a reflector out of kitchen foil and taped it in front of the flash, to reflect the built-in flash away from the subject but towards the slave on my Elinchrom studio flash. This completely defeated the object of Agfa's FlashTrack, which is designed to keep the on-camera flash in line with the lens while the camera body is rotated, but it was sufficient to test the 1680 as a studio camera. To make things more difficult I shot a low-key portrait, using just one softbox.
The Agfa ePhoto1680 is to be launched at Photokina this month and I can now reveal that this was the camera I used to photograph all the product shots in last month's Chip Shop. Check back on those pictures of the Epson PhotoEX, Apple G3 Laptop and Kodak DCS315. At this stage I have no idea what price Agfa will set but I guess it will be in the region of £595 - £795.
The ePhoto1280 was an excellent camera, the ePhoto1680 is even better. You'll enjoy it.
This article first appeared in "John Henshall's Chip Shop", September 1998.