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Updated: 54 min 47 sec ago

Gear of the Year: Allison's choice - Olympus Tough TG-4

Mon, 12/28/2015 - 1:04pm

Over the summer I took part in a great American tradition called 'tubing' with some friends. Don’t be fooled by the semi-rugged sounding name of this activity. It's basically an opportunity to sit outside surrounded by nature and friends, consuming alcoholic beverages (in a responsible manner) while floating lazily down a river. In short, it's everything summer should be.

In our pre-float preparations my companions were busy stuffing their smartphones into complicated plastic pouches to be hung around their necks, or into ziplock bags, which seemed risky. I left my phone on dry land and headed into the water with the Olympus Tough TG-4, no waterproof pouch required.

A great American tradition. ISO 100, f/8.0 1/400sec @ 25mm equiv. processed to taste in ACR.

What I love:

  • Waterproof, crushproof, dustproof and freezeproof
  • Raw shooting for better image fine-tuning
  • Compact enough to carry in my bag without noticing
  • Decent wide to moderate zoom

There’s something incredibly liberating, even rebellious-feeling, about dunking a piece of technology underwater. The TG-4 was a great little sidekick on the water. Its operation is simple enough that I could pass it around among my friends, some of whom wanted to take underwater selfies. To each her own. Shooting Raw, I knew I would have some decent flexibility with my images later. It was pure fun, and I got some nice mementos from the trip out of it.

Tough cams can go places that would be too risky for mere smartphones. ISO 100, f/8.0, 1/500sec @ 25mm equiv.

Later in the year, the TG-4 accompanied me on another trip. Florida is a strange place. Like the Pacific Northwest, it seems to rain pretty much every day, but unlike my home of over two years the rain is heavy, sudden, and often happens at the same time as sunshine. It generally stops raining after twenty minutes, at which point the sun comes out and transforms the place back into the wild swamp it once was.

Florida is also, of course, the theme park capital of the world, and that’s what took me there in late November. The point of the trip was to spend time with my boyfriend and his family drinking butter beer (responsibly) at Universal’s ‘Wizarding World of Harry Potter.’ Naturally, I’d want photos, but I didn’t want to have to worry about a camera getting wet or smashed in a storage locker.

This dragon breathes fire every so often, but apparently had the day off when this photo was taken. ISO 100, f/2.8, 1/2000sec @ 25mm equiv.

The TG-4’s modest zoom range was still enough to help achieve framing that I couldn’t quite get with my smartphone. Raw capture came in handy again, with lots of high contrast scenes that could be rescued in post-processing. And what good is it taking a vacation to a fictional English village if you can’t share photos with all of your friends instantly? Wi-Fi was key in making sure I shared important moments with all of my BFFs just moments after I'd captured them.

To be totally honest the TG-4 isn’t that special outside of its rugged properties. Its sensor is small, controls are limited, zoom range is minimal and its metering keeps you guessing. But bringing it on a raft or to a theme park and knowing that I won't have to coddle it is worth a lot to me. I can take pictures, or throw it in my bag and just enjoy my butter beer and hardly know the difference.

Categories: Equipment

Phabulous: Samsung Galaxy Note 5 - DxOMark Mobile Report

Mon, 12/28/2015 - 10:44am

The Galaxy Note 5 is the latest model in Samsung's line of Note large-format smartphones. In terms of camera specifications the Note 5 offers very similar hardware to what we've seen on the Galaxy S6, S6 Edge and S6 Edge+. A 1/2.6-inch 16MP CMOS sensor is combined with a fast F1.9 aperture and an optical image stabilization system. DxOMark has just completed its Mobile report on the Note 5's camera, and we've published the findings over at connect.dpreview.com.

Categories: Equipment

DxOMark Mobile report: Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+

Sun, 12/27/2015 - 11:00pm

DxOMark has completed its full mobile report into the Samsung Galaxy S6 smartphone's camera. With a DxOMark Mobile score of 87 the Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+ just snatches the smartphone camera crown from the Sony Xperia Z5 and places itself on top of the DxOMark smartphone rankings.

Categories: Equipment

Adapted Lens Talk: Readers' Showcase and new forum!

Sun, 12/27/2015 - 12:21pm

Adapted Lens Talk

With the ever-growing popularity of using mirrorless cameras with lens adapters, we are pleased to announce the opening of a new forum: Adapted Lens Talk. Thanks to the proposal and volunteer work of its moderator, Tom Caldwell, the forum has taken off dramatically and is full of vintage lens deliciousness.

The forum also features discussions on experiences with different adaptors, focal reducers, strange mounts, and anything else one might run in to when trying to make a non-native piece of glass play nice with their shiny new mirrorless. Enjoy this slideshow of images and commentary generously provided by members of the Adapted Lens Talk forum, all taken with adapted glass. Check it out, and if you've fit grandpa's old lens to your digital camera, be sure to share your shots and experiences!

Adapted Lens Talk

 

Jupiter 37A (135mm f/3.5), with generic M42 to EF adapter plus Mitakon Lens Turbo II EF-FX focal reducer. Shot with Fujifilm X-E1. 1/250 sec., f/5.6, ISO 1000.

Photographed by Helga Birkenstock:

'The lens used for this particular image is the Jupiter-37A. It's a 135mm f/3.5 lens built in the Soviet Union during the Cold War era. My copy was built in 1982 but I've only had it for two months; I purchased it on eBay for $61 including postage. I usually use it with a focal reducer on an APS-C camera (Fuji XE-1) to get the full image circle projected onto the sensor. This effectively changes the lens properties to 98mm f/2.5. The advantages of this lens is that it's all metal construction is still very light (362g) and balances well with my small mirrorless camera. Best of all, it has 12 aperture blades so you have beautifully round bokeh at any aperture. My (limited) experience is that it's not as sharp and has poorer contrast compared to modern lenses so images need more work in post production. Images convert to black and white quite well and have an old world image feel.

This image was taken as part of a "monochrome garden" project that I'm doing. I chose this lens because I could stop down the lens and still get round "bokeh balls". However, focus becomes more difficult when stopped down because focus peaking works best when the lens is wide open, but I use the distance scale on the lens and the wider depth of field to mitigate these challenges.

I love the sharpness and autofocus of modern lenses but there is something to be said about slowing down the process through manual focus and the unique character in the images from adapting old lenses.'

Adapted Lens Talk

 

Contax G 90mm, with Kipon Contax G to Sony E adaptor. Shot with Sony NEX 5N. 1/1000 sec., f/8, ISO 400.

Photographed by Tim Zhou:

'I took my little Sony mirrorless camera and the longest lens I had - 20 years old Contax G 90mm f2.8 hoping to take some shots during an air show in Swansea, UK this Summer. After having found a vintage point, I set the camera on aperture priority mode, the aperture to f8 and focused to infinity. As Contax G lenses do not have own focusing rings (they require a helicoid adaptor to focus), so I used camera's magnify focus to make sure the focus was spot on. The rest of job was just press the shutter button.

My mirrorless camera has a little longer shutter lag compared to my previous DSLR, so I did need to anticipate and press a little early. Generally speaking, I find using adapted lenses far more rewarding, not only do I now have access to a large number of excellent legacy lenses, such as my Contax G, but also I have learnt to have more control over the process of capturing images.'

Adapted Lens Talk

 

SMC Pentax 28mm f/3.5K, with Fotodiox Pentax K to Sony E adapter. Shot with Sony a7R. 1/60s, f/16, ISO 100.

Photographed by Timothy S. Devine:

'This photograph was taken with a SMC Pentax 28mm f/3.5 K mount lens, not the Takumar that came before it, or the Pentax M version that came after (both are of different designs.) It was only produced for two years (1976-1977), and is my favorite 28mm lens for landscape shooting. I’ve tried quite a few other 28mm primes over the past couple, but I find the Pentax has the best mix of qualities that I look for. From great color and contrast, to low CA and an amazing ability to fight off diffraction when stopping down, it holds up amazingly well on today’s modern digital sensors. I’ve tried a few copies of this lens, and while they were all sharp, some of them exhibited increased depth of field in the foreground, I assume due to towards the camera field curvature. This particular copy exhibits this behavior, and I often take advantage of this behavior in my shooting.

For this particular photograph I chose a perspective of Pemaquid Point Light that I had shot many times over the years. But I have to say that on this trip everything really came together. The sky was absolutely incredible, and I used a circular polarizer to help accentuate it. The Pentax was very much up to the task, and I think it showcases the strengths I mentioned above. For those that have handled true manual focus lenses, the Pentax doesn’t disappoint. As with many older lenses, it is built like a tank and the focus ring is very well dampened. Many landscape shooters use live view and focus manually with autofocus lenses anyway, so manual focus with this lens doesn’t bother me… In fact I have to say I probably prefer it.'

Adapted Lens Talk

 

Porst 50mm f/1.2 with Raynox DCR 150 macro conversion lens, with Fuji X to Sony E mount adapter. Shot with Sony a6000. 1/800 sec., f/1.2, ISO 2000.

Photographed by Scott Hills:

'This is my first 50mm f/1.2, and a bargain too. This is actually the same as the Fuji 50mm f/1.2 EBC, just a rebranded porst. The quality is excellent, and this shot was one of the first I'd taken with it. It's not easy to work with the tiny DOF an f/1.2 gives you, but it does open up interesting possibilities since it just dissolves backgrounds.

I added a raynox DCR 150 for this shot to get a bit closer and really allowed me to interrogate the flower and fill the frame with it. The colour rendering from this lens is stunning, I've been very impressed with it and for £130 including an adapter you can't go wrong, I mean where else will you find a 50mm f1.2 for that price!?!'

Adapted Lens Talk

 

Nikon 24mm f/2.8 AIS with Fotasy Nikon G to Sony E adapter. Shot with Sony a7. 30 sec., f/16, ISO 100.

Photographed by Matt Parvin Photography:

'Oak Island NC, October 2015. I'm fortunate that this pier and beach are about 5 blocks from my office. I've shot it plenty over the past couple of years and this is one of my two or three favorites. This was shot with a 10 Stop ND Filter. Having a proper aperture ring is great with these filters, at f/2.8 you get enough light to focus even with the filter mounted. Stop it down to f/16 and you get a 30 second exposure at sunset.

I really started in photography with Nikon Series E 50mm & 100mm lenses on a D40. Manually focusing is much, much easier on mirrorless bodies, and using these old primes is even more enjoyable. I really think it makes you a better photographer as well, since it forces you to slow down and see what you can create an image out of, rather than just snapping away with an AF zoom.'

Adapted Lens Talk

 

Pentax Super-Takumar 85mm f/1.9 with Fotodiox M42 to Micro Four-Thirds adapter. Shot with Panasonic G3. 1/160 sec., f/1.9, ISO 1600.

Photographed by K. A. Rodriguez:

'The Super-Takumar 85mm f/1.9, not being one of the Super-Multi-Coated (SMC) lenses, doesn’t always get its due, but it can produce rich imagery as seen here. With five elements in four groups, six aperture diaphragm blades, a 58mm filter diameter, and weighing in at 12 oz (340g), it weighs as much as or more than current pro level m43 lenses, and that doesn’t include the metal adapter! Nonetheless this solid metal lens fits nicely on the Panasonic G3 and does not feel out of balance.

The lens focuses down to 2.75 feet, however the throw from infinity to closest focus is very long, almost an entire revolution of the focus ring! Using it with the large magnified EVF on the G3 is a dream. With the lens wide open and the magnifier turned on, it is very easy to focus, once the ring has been turned enough! (I probably should estimate the distance first, then pre-focus using the distance scale before putting it up to my eye…) The aperture dial has settings from f/1.9 to f/22, even one for f/2 which is at a surprising distance from 1.9.

I normally like to stop down for greater sharpness but the problem of poor lighting on stage and the limits of pushing the ISO in a m43 camera made me keep the lens open, probably at f/1.9. With m43 in particular, it is essential to shoot the full frame and not rely on cropping later. The 85mm length (in effect 170mm on m43) is a good length for shooting from onstage without being right on top of the performers, while still being able to fill the frame. Surprisingly, currently there are no native m43 lenses made in this length (Samyang/Rokinon 85s are much larger FF lenses modified to fit m43), and none of the available zooms are this fast, so adaption is the only way to go. Fortunately this lens, which I originally bought sometime in the 70s, sold to my dad in the 80s, and after his death had boomerang back to me in the 10s, has found purpose again.'

Adapted Lens Talk

 

Canon FD 500mm f/4.5L, with generic Canon EF to Micro Four-Thirds adapter. Shot with Olympus OM-D E-M10. 1/2500 sec., ISO 320. Photgraphed by Danny Young:

'This is the "Sacred Kingfisher" taken in New Zealand doing a small crab toss. The staple diet at the main estuary I like to shoot Kingfisher in is small crabs and there are plenty of them. Beautiful little bird I've spent nearly 3 years getting closer to. They are fast and deadly accurate on a dive into water or sand for a small meal.

Lens used is the 30 year old manual focus Canon FD 500 F/4.5L which is the favorite lens mounted on my Olympus E-M10. The 500 F/4.5L is always hand held and shot wide open at F/4.5. It has smooth internal focus that only needs a slight shift to focus. The 800 F/5.6L is my only lens that goes on a tripod.

Mirrorless was picked to use the MF lenses so I can use the magnifying function in the EVF on a static bird. For birds in flight I use the old technique of focusing backward or forward slightly when you find the bird in the EVF. It's an old technique that has always been used and still works for me.

Personally manual focus just simply feels right and somehow it makes me feel more connected to the image in a way. With the right lenses with internal focus it may be easier than some people think.'

Adapted Lens Talk

 

Contax/Yashica Carl Zeiss Disatgon 18mm f/4, with Contax/Yashica to Sony E adaptor. Shot with Sony a7. 1/1000 sec., f/8, ISO 200.

Photographed by Timur Haracic:

'This lens, the Contax/Yashica CZ Distagon 4/18 is my favourite wide angle lens for its very low distortion, classic/painterly rendition, and because it is great for architecture; cityscapes and dramatic low angle shots like this one. I'm mostly taking pictures low from the ground or so called 'frog perspective.' It's optical design I believe goes back to 60's. It's been used for Contarex cameras. Old adapted lenses are great when perfection is not needed, you want to achieve some special look or when you have no other options.'

Adapted Lens Talk

 

Reverse mounted Canon FD 50mm f/1.8 with Canon FD Autobellows and Fotodiox Canon FD to Canon EOS adapter. Shot with Canon EOS 5D Mark II. 90 sec., f/8, ISO 100.

Photographed by Alexander Olshansky:

'In this image, as is the case with all of my photographs, I try to touch the viewer emotionally without using any visually recognizable anchors. I have discovered a while ago that macro photography allows me to easily abstract and to remove all of the visually recognizable elements from my photographs.

A lens is a means to that end. I've adapted my Canon FD Autobellows along with the FD 50mm f1.8 lens to my Canon EOS 5D MkII because this combination allows me the versatility I need and the quality I demand.

I am able to achieve magnifications far beyond anything that's available to me in the Canon EOS native format by switching lenses as needed. Greater magnification means greater flexibility and greater abstraction. I am able to preset my aperture and then focus with the aperture wide open and close it right before taking a shot with the help of the Canon Macro Auto Ring and a cable release. This set up also allows me to easily perform stopped down metering for ambient light and then take a flash reading and calculate the flash exposure compensation based on my magnification.

As time and technology march forward, sometimes it's the old tools that make things possible.'

Adapted Lens Talk

 

Voigtlander 75mm f/2.5 Color-Heliar (LTM) with 39 to M and Novoflex M to Sony E adapter. Shot with Sony a7II. 1/160 sec., f/2.5, ISO 500.

Photographed by Tom aka. tommiejeep:

'I started in photography in late 60's with a Nikkormat while I was in Vietnam (68-72). Shot mostly documentary in B&W. Shot various Nikons through '79 (also a Pentax Spotmatic and Olympus OM-1). Left SLRs and used a number of P&S film cameras until 2007. Decided to get back into photography in 2007 and used the DPR forums to decide where to go. I went with a D200. I have been shooting mostly Nikon. Primarily sports, birds, documentary and street. Bought an Olympus EM5 when it came out then EM1 and a second EM1. I recently bought the Sony a7II primarily to use adapted lenses. I use old Nikkors on the Df and started to re-learn manual focus. Fun.

The image was shot in the crowded Friday Market in Goa. Very hot and crowded. I only took 2 shots for this one and had to wait for the guy on the left to clear before I could get the two women.

The Silver CV 75 f2.5 Color-Heliar (LTM) is a joy to use. Very quick to MF, more than sharp enough and good colours. A very small, light lens. I have not noticed any weakness but have not really tried to use flare (or noticed Flare to be a problem). I paid approx. $375 for it with 39-M adapter. I use the Voigtlander M-NEX adapter.

I tend to take Candids at a bit of distance so that they are candid. I shoot many events and prefer not to be part of the image. Too many people see a camera (any camera) and start posing. There are times when interaction with the subjects is fun and desirable. Then I will shoot a 25mm, 35mm up to a 105mm.'

Adapted Lens Talk

 

Minolta 50mm Macro with Fotasy Minolta to Micro Four Thirds adapter. Shot with Olympus OM-D E-M10. 1/640 sec., ISO 200.

Photographed by Bruce Reiger:

'This is a picture of a mimosa tree in bloom taken with a Minolta MC Macro 50mm f/3.5 lens adapted to an Olympus E-M10 camera. As I've practiced, I've come to enjoy manual focusing and this is my go to lens for anything up close. I've found that manual focusing isn't that difficult to do with the tools that the camera provides: focus peaking and/or magnification and image stabilization. It comes with a matching extension tube (not used with this image) for very small subjects.'

Adapted Lens Talk

 

Yashica ML 50mm f/1.4 with Contax/Yashica to Sony E mount adapter. Shot with Sony NEX 5R. 1/2500 sec., f/2.8, ISO 100.

Photographed by Scott Hills:

'The Yashica ML f1.4 was my first f1.4 lens, I found it attached to an old Yashica SLR in a junk shop, it was in immaculate condition and only £25. It's on another level in terms of IQ to any of my native E mount lenses and I always carried it in my camera bag. I often look for this sort of shot and like to play with shadows from above, I spied this guy from a multi story Car park and the sun was at the perfect angle to give his shadow a good shape, I'm glad I had the Yashica for this shot as it resolved so much detail.'

Adapted Lens Talk

 

Minolta M-Rokkor 40mm f/2 (pictured in headline image) with Vello M to Sony E adapter. Shot on Sony a7II. 1/400 sec., f/8, ISO 640. Photographed by DPReview staff writer Dan Bracaglia.

Categories: Equipment

Happy Holidays from dpreview!

Thu, 12/24/2015 - 7:01pm

As we celebrate our seventeenth anniversary (the site officially launched December 25th, 1998, when some of our staff were still in elementary school) I'd like to wish each and every one of our visitors a very Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays/Season's Greetings/Merry Festivus* (*delete as required). It's been a busy year here at DPReview, with our first live event, PIX 2015, which brought an amazing collection of photographers together in Seattle for two days of inspiring talks and demos, whilst also giving us a new appreciation for the sheer amount of work that goes into putting on an expo. You watch all the videos from the show - onstage and off - at the PIX2015.com/videos.

I'm incredibly proud of the work the team did this year. 2015 was the year we went big on video content, sending Barney off on adventures that took him from the Arctic Circle to Mexico for our new field tests (which he assures me was nowhere near as glamorous as it sounds). If you've not had chance to watch them I'd definitely recommend you head over to our YouTube channel to check them out. It's not like there's much else to do over the next few days, right?

Behind the scenes we've been working hard to update the aging content management system that runs dpreview, something that will finally allow us to start work on the site redesign that's been sort-of-planned now for about 5 years. We hope to be able to share some of the changes with you early in the year (and get your feedback), and to start rolling out the new design towards the end of 2016. And don't worry - if you like your DPReview just the way it is, you'll be able to keep it (right now the most common complaint from new users is the black background / white text, but we know there's enough of you who like it fine the way it is that we'll offer the option to switch back to the old style). We plan to overhaul user galleries and Challenges too, but that probably won't happen until 2017. Or 2018. Certainly before we hit our 20th anniversary. 

Our other big priority for 2016 is to improve our reviewing processes so we can produce more camera, lens and accessory reviews. The camera market has seen significant changes over the last couple of years, with the death of the point and shoot market forcing manufacturers to concentrate on their high-end enthusiast products. This is great news for photographers, but has resulted in our in-depth reviews taking longer and longer as we devise new tests and dive even deeper to fully assess the performance of what can only be described as the most advanced and capable photographic tools ever developed for the enthusiast and professional.

I'm convinced we're doing the best, most comprehensive, most photographically relevant camera reviews we've ever done, but we hear your feedback - you want more reviews, more quickly. And that means we need to fundamentally overhaul the process. We've already started, and I sincerely hope you'll notice a significant increase in the volume of reviews we publish once we've implemented all our plans. Who knows, maybe we'll beat 2015's record three positive feedback messages (vs several thousand telling us exactly where we should stick our website/review/forum ban)...

And so, since my family is getting tired of waiting for me to stop working and drink some egg-nog I will leave you to enjoy the holidays, take some great pictures and maybe take a break between courses to visit our comments section and tell us how wrong we are about everything :)

Merry Christmas!

Simon

Categories: Equipment

PIX 2015: An interview with Joe McNally

Wed, 12/23/2015 - 8:00am

Joe McNally took a photography course as a requirement for his journalism program at Syracuse University. Though his intent at the time was to become a writer, when he picked up a camera he knew immediately things were about to change for him. Find out more about more about how his career and the industry have evolved, and how being at the right place at the right time (with Peter Jennings) kickstarted his work as a freelancer.

Categories: Equipment

DPReview Gear of the Year Part 6: Richard's choice - Fujinon 56mm F1.2R APD

Tue, 12/22/2015 - 8:00pm

My Gear of the Year isn’t a product launched in 2015. Nor is it necessarily the absolute best option available. However, it is the product that I’ve grabbed whenever I wasn’t committed to something else we’ve been testing, and it’s a product I’ve really enjoyed.

What I love

  • Classic portrait focal length 85mm equivalent field-of-view
  • Bright maximum aperture for shallow depth-of-field or low light work
  • Apodization filter to ensure smoother bokeh
  • Well built solid-feeling without being too heavy

I’ve always liked the idea of classic 85-135mm equivalent portrait lenses but they’ve tended to be somewhat thin on the ground for the APS-C cameras I seem to end up testing. So I’m delighted to see Fujifilm go the extra mile and create a fast 85mm equivalent.

Better still, the APD version of the lens is specifically designed to offer pleasant bokeh. None of this ‘X rounded blades to give pleasing bokeh’ nonsense, the APD version actually has a radial gradient neutral density filter to smooth off the bright edges of the out-of-focus rendering. I’ve taken the availability of this very specialized tool as encouragement to practice and improve my portraiture.

A quick re-process in camera and there's a JPEG ready to send to my patient volunteer.

Fujinon 56mm F1.2R APD
F1.2, 1/35sec, ISO 800 

The Fujifilm 56 isn’t the only tool I could have used: the Zeiss Batis 85mm F1.8 would give very similar depth of field and, mounted on a Sony a7 series camera, would result in a fairly similarly sized package. However, although both have been present in the DPReview offices, it’s been hard to justify taking them out of the hands of the people reviewing and testing them, just to experiment. So it just happens to have ended up that I've spent more time enjoying the Fujinon.

Beyond the lens’s inherent properties, there’s another reason I’ve tended to grab the 56 and it relates to winning my subjects over and helping them feel comfortable with being photographed. 

While shooting, I’ve been using Fujifilm’s Wi-Fi system to send my favorite shot along to my subjects’ phones, letting them see the results and ensuring they have an image to walk away with. Lots of modern cameras have Wi-Fi of course, but it’s the combination of in-camera Raw processing and one of my favorite JPEG engines that makes it particularly useful. It’s relatively easy to choose the most appropriate Film Simulation mode, fine-tune the white balance and tone curve and arrive at a file I can comfortably share before I get a home to Lightroom. That ability to put the images quickly into the hands of my subjects has helped maintain their enthusiasm for standing around and being photographed.

The 56mm F1.2 APD is sharp where you want it and pleasantly smooth where you don't. The X series cameras can place the focus with a good degree of accuracy, too.

Fujinon 56mm F1.2 APD
F1.2, 1/550sec, ISO 400

Furthermore, the relatively small size of an X-T10 with the 56mm mounted to it isn’t quite so intimidating as a full frame DSLR and has the advantage that I can continue to shoot when I’ve taken the camera away from my eye, to talk to my subject.

It’s not all dreamy bokeh and pretending to be David Hemmings*, of course.

The 56mm F1.2 APD is an expensive lens. For a start, it’s a rather specialized lens, meaning fewer buyers to share the development costs across. But equally, it’s likely that Fujifilm understands the mystique conveyed by the idea of a bokeh-smoothing filter and being able to etch the numbers 1:1.2 into the front of the lens, allowing them to charge a substantial premium.

Autofocus is also rather slow. The design appears to have a lot of glass to shift around when focusing, which slows things down, as does the loss of on-sensor phase detection, which would be confused by the lens’s internal filter. However, so long as the subject doesn’t move too fast or unpredictably (which is a reasonable expectation in semi-posed portraits), this isn’t a fatal drawback and is at least partially made up for by the accuracy and consistency of the focus.

It's not just for close-up head shots, of course.

Fujinon 56mm F1.2 APD
F1.8, 1/1000sec, ISO 200

So why, when I know the 56mm is far from perfect, is it my Gear of the Year? On a technical level, it’s very good: it’s impressively sharp where it’s in focus and pleasantly smooth where it’s not, but the reason it’s my Gear of the Year is because I’ve enjoyed shooting with it and it’s encouraged me to go out and take photos.

I’m certainly not even going to claim the 56mm F1.2 APD has magically made me a great portrait photographer, but it's certainly increased the number of my friends using my images to represent them on social media. And knowing the lens will take lovely images has left me able to concentrate on developing the soft skills for relaxing and posing the people I’m shooting. Now, where’s my reflector?

*I very seldom pretend to be David Hemmings.

Categories: Equipment

DxO brings OpticsPro extensions to Apple's Photos software for OSX

Tue, 12/22/2015 - 1:44pm

DxO is bringing its OpticsPro software to Apple's consumer-friendly Photos software for OSX. This $10 extension for Apple's Photos app gives users full access to all of DxO's Optics Modules, which can correct optical distortion and aberrations as well as improving dynamic range and removing haze from landscapes.

Also introduced is a free Photos extension for users of DxO's ONE camera, which offers the same features mentioned above and supports the camera's SuperRAW files.

Both extensions are available for download now from the Mac App Store. Mac OS X 10.11 (El Capitan) or later is required in order to use Photos.

Press release:

DxO OpticsPro for OS X Photos extensions add powerful one-click corrections to Apple’s OS X El Capitan

DxO’s renowned RAW image processing now available to Mac users as an extension to Apple’s Photos app.

PARIS and SAN FRANCISCO—December 22, 2015—DxO announced today the immediate availability of two new extensions for OS X El Capitan, DxO OpticsPro for OS X Photos and DxO OpticsPro for OS X Photos - DxO ONE Camera Only, that provide DxO’s advanced image processing within Apple Photos. DxO OpticsPro for OS X Photos adds seamless access to tens of thousands of DxO Optics Modules that enable DxO’s unrivaled automatic optical corrections for distortion, vignetting, chromatic aberration and lens softness for virtually all popular cameras and lenses. The extension is also available as a free download, designed exclusively to support RAW and SuperRAWTM images captured by the award-winning DxO ONE connected camera for iPhone and iPad. Both versions also feature simple, yet powerful one-click corrections that automatically improve white balance, dynamic range, reduce noise, and remove landscape haze to make your best photos look even better.

“By leveraging the new extensions in OS X El Capitan, we were able to provide Mac users with a streamlined workflow for their RAW images,” said Frédéric Guichard, co-founder and chief image scientist at DxO. “Photographers can now apply world renowned DxO OpticsPro technologies, such as Smart Lighting, ClearView, and PRIME to enhance their favorite images with no more than a click or two, and without ever leaving the Apple Photos app.”

DxO OpticsPro for OS X Photos is a paid download from the Mac App Store, which when installed automatically appears as an extension that can be accessed via the editing tools in Apple Photos. Launching the extension displays a deceptively simple, yet incredibly powerful user interface and includes access to all DxO Optics Modules currently supported by DxO’s advanced image processing software. The DxO Optics Modules automatically identify the camera and lens used to capture each photo, then use this information to instantly correct for a variety of optical flaws, such as distortion, chromatic aberration, vignetting, and lens softness.

Other corrections include: Smart Lighting (improves overall dynamic range), ClearView (instantly removes haze and smog from distant landscapes), and white balance. Users can modify the intensity of each correction in three simple levels. The extension also provides access to PRIME, the industry-leading denoising technology that analyzes thousands of neighboring pixels to remove noise while leaving important details untouched.

DxO ONE owners are invited to freely download and install the D xO OpticsPro for OS X Photos - DxO ONE Camera Only version that automatically applies these same advanced corrections to DxO ONE photos. When applied to a DxO ONE SuperRAWTM image, PRIME employs additional temporal noise reduction to render an amazingly clean, high-resolution photograph from the four RAW images embedded in each SuperRAW file.

Pricing & Availability

The DxO OpticsPro for OS X Photos extension, with support for tens of thousands of camera and lens combinations is available today at a special introductory price of $9.99/£7.99 via the Mac App Store.

The DxO OpticsPro for OS X Photos - DxO ONE Camera Only extension is available today as a free download via the Mac App Store for the DxO ONE.

Categories: Equipment

Field Test: Brad Puet and the Fujifilm X-T10

Tue, 12/22/2015 - 4:00am
In our most recent Field Test, we took Fujifilm's X-T10 out onto the streets of Seattle with local photographer Brad Puet. After capturing our street portraits we went about making some prints, first with Fujifilm's lovely SP-1 Instax printer, and then something a little bigger. See for yourself how the X-T10's images stand up to exhibition-quality printing.
Categories: Equipment

DxOMark Mobile Report added to our iPhone 6s Plus review

Mon, 12/21/2015 - 9:09pm

DxOMark has just released its full report into the technical ins and outs and real-world performance of the iPhone 6s Plus's 12MP camera. We've added DxO's findings into our previously-published in-depth review of the iPhone 6s Plus and you can read the whole thing over at connect.dpreview.com

Categories: Equipment

DxOMark Mobile Report added to our iPhone 6s Plus review

Mon, 12/21/2015 - 9:09pm

DxOMark has just released its full report into the technical ins and outs and real-world performance of the iPhone 6s Plus's 12MP camera. We've added DxO's findings into our previously-published in-depth review of the iPhone 6s Plus and you can read the whole thing over at connect.dpreview.com

Categories: Equipment

Ricoh launches Theta+ Video app for iPhone

Mon, 12/21/2015 - 6:01pm

Ricoh Imaging has announced THETA+ Video for Apple's iPhone. The app allows for editing of 360° footage and time-lapse videos that have been captured with one of Ricoh's THETA cameras. You can trim video clips, choosing from four viewing formats including Little Planet, which "projects" the video on a small planet floating in space, and apply 10 different filters. Read more on connect.dpreview.com

Categories: Equipment

Hasselblad drops price of H5D-50c by 40% for holiday period

Mon, 12/21/2015 - 3:32pm

Hasselblad has introduced a seasonal offer that sees the price of its flagship H5D-50c and H5D-50c Wi-Fi cameras reduced by over 40% for what it describes as a 'limited time only'. The offer means the camera is available for €12,500/£11,750 for the standard model, and €12,900/$14,500/£12,100 for the Wi-Fi model. The Hasselblad H5D 50c Wi-Fi usually retails for €28,500/£18,350. The offer varies slightly from region to region, as do the models that are included in the deal, but all the deals are for body + back combinations, so lenses will have to be purchased separately. 

While the Hasselblads are still a good deal more expensive than Pentax’s 645Z model, the offer makes the H5D-50c much more accessible to professional photographers, and indeed slightly cheaper than Leica’s S Typ 007 and much cheaper than the Phase One XF with the IQ350 back that contains the same sensor. 

Hasselblad has made a habit of dramatic price reductions in recent years, including similar offers at the same time in 2014 and also in May 2012. The Swedish maker could be reacting to pressure from growing pixel counts in the full frame sector as well as trying to stimulate competition with its main rival Phase One. Either way, if you were mulling over a H5D-50c now might be a good time. 

For more information see the Hasselblad website.

Press release: 

The festive season has come early for image quality obsessed photographers looking to step up to the ultimate in medium format capture.

In what is being described as ‘the camera promotion offer of the decade’ we have a new price tag for the award-winning H5D-50c camera. It is now available at just €12,500 (and with Wi-Fi at €12,900) – a discount of more than 40% on recommended retail prices.

This offer provides a unique window of opportunity for high-end professional photographers looking to build their businesses and provide their clients with imagery of the very highest order – at an utterly compelling purchase price. We have always said that bigger pixels are better. Now there has never been a better time to invest in world-beating Hasselblad medium format technology.

The ‘absolutely no compromise’ H5D-50c, which has just walked away with the ‘Best technical achievement in a medium format camera’ accolade at the prestigious Lucie Technical Awards in New York City, was the world’s first integrated 50MP medium format camera to use the groundbreaking CMOS sensor technology – enabling astonishing image clarity even in very low-light conditions.

This pioneering camera provides file sizes up to 154MB; ISO up to 6400, plus the widest range of shutter speeds from 34 minutes to 1/800 second.

The superbly engineered H5D-50c can handle even the highest contrast shooting situations thanks to its increased dynamic range of 14 f-stops – providing users with matchless detail and tonality in shadows and highlight areas.

The promotion is available for a limited time only so please contact your nearest dealer as soon as you can.

Please note that trade-in’s are not accepted with this promotion.

Prices exclude VAT.

Categories: Equipment

DPReview Gear of the Year part 5: Barney's choice - Sony RX1R II

Mon, 12/21/2015 - 8:00am
The Sony Cyber-shot RX1R II is a 42MP full-frame compact camera, with one of the best AF systems of any non-DSLR camera on the market. And I want one. 

Photo: Sam Spencer.

I'm a sucker for 35mm. I reckon that 90% of the pictures I like to take could be (or are) taken at this focal length. That's why I have a Sigma 35mm F1.4 Art almost permanently attached to my DSLR, and why when I'm not shooting with that, I can probably be seen out and about using my old Fujifilm X100S. In fact it was the X100S that I wrote about for my last 'Gear of the Year' article, way back in 2013 (no offense, noble cameras of 2014. I guess I was just really busy this time last year. I'll call you). 

It's because I love 35mm that I really wanted to love the original Sony Cyber-shot RX1 and R. On paper they were perfect: a high-quality 24MP full-frame sensor (without an AA filter, in the case of the RX1R), 35mm F2 lens, with full manual control and the option to add a high resolution external EVF, in a compact body. What's not to like?

I had a love / hate relationship when shooting with the original RX1R. In low-ish light, the camera's AF system would routinely fail to accurately acquire focus. Both this image (and the one below) were shot in manual focus mode.  

Sony RX1R, ISO 640, F2.5, 1/80sec 

Quite a lot, as it turns out. Despite high hopes (and to be fair - after taking some pictures that I quite liked) I just didn't get on with those cameras at all. The external viewfinder was almost essential, but clunky, and made a compact camera into a not-at-all-compact camera the minute it was attached. Battery life was fairly pitiful, and autofocus - dear God the autofocus... Fussy in bright light, unreliable in moderate light and downright unavailable in low light.

Until I tried to take nighttime shots with the RX1R I didn't believe it was possible for an inanimate object to shrug, but I swear that's what the damned thing did whenever I half-pressed the shutter button.

Taken by the light of a campfire, this image shows the strength of the original RX1R's 24MP sensor, but like the previous image I had to resort to manual focus to get a sharp result (focused on the little girl's face). 

Sony RX1R, ISO 6400, F2, 1/80sec

The original RX1 and RX1R were on the market for a long time, and just when I was beginning to give up hope of ever seeing an improved replacement, along came the RX1R II. 

Compared to the original RX1R, the Mark II version is a breath of fresh air. Inheriting the same 42MP BSI-CMOS full frame sensor (but with an all-new switchable anti-aliasing filter) and 399 phase-detection AF system from the Sony a7R II, the RX1R II is a significant step up.

What I love

  • Excellent resolution
  • High-resolution built-in EVF
  • Very accurate, flexible AF system
  • Compact, relatively lightweight form-factor
  • Large manual controls

Gone is the clumsy add-on FDA-EVM1K, replaced by a built-in, retractable 2.3 million dot OLED finder. I shoot with my eye to the viewfinder almost exclusively, so when Sony representatives first showed us the camera, I nabbed one of the new lockable rubber viewfinder hoods they brought along. The hood prevents the finder from being retracted, but after resorting - twice - to using needle-nosed pliers to loosen the locking screw* I decided just to leave it permanently attached.

With 42MP and a new BSI design, the sensor in the RX1R II is significantly more advanced than the already very good 24MP sensor in the older RX1R. Like all current Sony full-frame sensors it offers extraordinary dynamic range, allowing me to expose just shy of highlight clipping for this ISO 100 shot, and pull up the shadows very significantly in Photoshop. The final result shows a very wide dynamic range from bright to dark without feeling too 'HDR'. 

Sony RX1R II, ISO 100, F6.3, 1/400sec

Just aesthetically, I really like the RX1R II, and it's a camera that tends to attract admiring glances when I'm out shooting. Like the Fujifilm X100S, more than a few people have commented to me that it looks like a film camera, but the semi-retro styling doesn't come at the expense of usability (keep walking, Nikon Df...). 

Cosmetics aside, the RX1R II also produces great images, exactly as we'd expect from a camera using such a high-quality sensor. Like recent a7-series cameras, Sony has included an uncompressed Raw option in the RX1R II.This gives maximum quality but at the expense of very large file sizes - roughly 80MB each, to be precise, compared to JPEGs which are typically less than ten. This slows the camera down, and eats through memory cards with frightening rapidity. 

While I didn't much care for the original RX1/R overall but I did enjoy that 35mm F2 Zeiss lens. And although it was designed for a 24MP resolution it successfully keeps up with the much higher pixel density of the new sensor in the RX1R II. Sadly though, neither the sensor nor the lens is stabilized so with 42MP in play, even though sometimes I've gotten away with 1/30sec, I'm in the habit of treating 1/125sec as my safe 'slowest' shutter speed when hand-holding.

After dark, the RX1R II's focus system is far superior to that of its predecessor. This shot was hand-held after dark, and shot wide open at F2.

Sony RX1R II, ISO 400, F2, 1/50sec

Alright, so the sensor is great, the AF system is transformed, and the built-in viewfinder is lovely. What about my one remaining major criticism of the original RX1R? - Battery life. 

Sadly, the RX1R II’s battery is the same NP-BX1 found in the first generation RX1R and all of Sony’s RX100 series compacts. Even just physically, the BX1 is comically small. Like, lose-it-in-your-pocket small. And while it's rated for a modest 200 shots, in cold weather I've come to expect far less. 

In temperatures around freezing, I quickly fell into the habit of holding the battery slipped into a glove, and placing it in the camera only when needed. You know - like we had to do in the 1990s. Fortunately, Sony is shipping the RX1R II with a handy USB-powered charger, which means you don’t need to plug the camera in to charge the battery, as with other RX-series Sony compacts. So that's one step forward, at least. 

Face detection worked well for this shot in one sense - it resulted in a nicely-balanced exposure, in a situation where my subject could easily be backlit. I should have activated Eye-AF though, because focus has fallen slightly short of my subject's eyes.

Sony RX1R II, ISO 100, F4, 1/125sec

I've been using the RX1R II for a while now and I keep on having to remind myself that despite its high price-tag it is still a Cyber-shot camera, with a lot of the same quirks of much cheaper compact cameras in Sony’s lineup. In fact, it's impossible to ignore. There’s the same lengthy startup time, the same lag - before - you - can - zoom - in to the images you’ve captured, the same confusing, rather passive aggressive error messages when you try to do something before the camera is ready or when it's in the wrong mode, and the same somewhat confusingly-named array of AF modes.

Exposed to retain the very delicate warmth in the sky just above the horizon, this ISO 320 shot was converted from a Raw file, and the shadows lifted in Adobe Camera Raw. I performed some very slight noise reduction, but could still smooth out the midtones a lot more if I wanted to. 

Sony RX1R II, ISO 320, F2, 1/60sec

There are a couple of outright bugs, too. For example, despite not offering any form of SteadyShot image stabilization in still capture, the RX1R II will still blink a reminder at slow shutter speeds that this non-existent feature is turned off.

After shooting thousands of frames with the RX1R II, I've learned to live with these minor annoyances but I do with Sony had sprung for a couple of extra components. A more powerful processor would make a huge difference to the overall handling experience (especially in uncompressed Raw mode) and I wish it had a touchscreen. I've come to really value touch-sensitive screens over the past couple of years, mostly for AF placement when shooting from low angles.

This grabshot was taken on a tabletop, using live view. The RX1R II's flip-out screen is very handy for pictures like this, but even handier would be a touch-sensitive screen, which would have allowed me to position the autofocus point precisely, by touch. 

Sony RX1R II, ISO 12800, F2, 1/60

All this being said, after a lot of thought, I picked the RX1R II as my personal choice for gear of the year. And I did that because it's one of those cameras - like my Fujifilm X100S - that is capable of such good results that I am prepared to work around its quirks and largely forgive its faults. I should give an honorary mention to the Leica Q, though. In some ways the Q is a more pleasant camera to use but its sensor isn't as advanced, I don't love 28mm as much as 35mm, and my Christmas bonus** wasn't generous enough to justify its higher cost.

Not that the RX1R II is cheap, of course. But if I have to move into a tent for a couple of months to save up enough to buy one, I'm willing to consider it. Once it's stopped raining.

* Pliers were resorted to only after I broke a nail trying to do it with my fingers. Yeah, I know. Shut up.  
** Ha ha ha ha ha. 

Categories: Equipment

DPReview Gear of the Year part 4: Barney's choice - Sony RX1R II

Mon, 12/21/2015 - 8:00am
The Sony Cyber-shot RX1R II is a 42MP full-frame compact camera, with one of the best AF systems of any non-DSLR camera on the market. And I want one. 

Photo: Sam Spencer.

I'm a sucker for 35mm. I reckon that 90% of the pictures I like to take could be (or are) taken at this focal length. That's why I have a Sigma 35mm F1.4 Art almost permanently attached to my DSLR, and why when I'm not shooting with that, I can probably be seen out and about using my old Fujifilm X100S. In fact it was the X100S that I wrote about for my last 'Gear of the Year' article, way back in 2013 (no offense, noble cameras of 2014. I guess I was just really busy this time last year. I'll call you). 

It's because I love 35mm that I really wanted to love the original Sony Cyber-shot RX1 and R. On paper they were perfect: a high-quality 24MP full-frame sensor (without an AA filter, in the case of the RX1R), 35mm F2 lens, with full manual control and the option to add a high resolution external EVF, in a compact body. What's not to like?

I had a love / hate relationship when shooting with the original RX1R. In low-ish light, the camera's AF system would routinely fail to accurately acquire focus. Both this image (and the one below) were shot in manual focus mode.  

Sony RX1R, ISO 640, F2.5, 1/80sec 

Quite a lot, as it turns out. Despite high hopes (and to be fair - after taking some pictures that I quite liked) I just didn't get on with those cameras at all. The external viewfinder was almost essential, but clunky, and made a compact camera into a not-at-all-compact camera the minute it was attached. Battery life was fairly pitiful, and autofocus - dear God the autofocus... Fussy in bright light, unreliable in moderate light and downright unavailable in low light.

Until I tried to take nighttime shots with the RX1R I didn't believe it was possible for an inanimate object to shrug, but I swear that's what the damned thing did whenever I half-pressed the shutter button.

Taken by the light of a campfire, this image shows the strength of the original RX1R's 24MP sensor, but like the previous image I had to resort to manual focus to get a sharp result (focused on the little girl's face). 

Sony RX1R, ISO 6400, F2, 1/80sec

The original RX1 and RX1R were on the market for a long time, and just when I was beginning to give up hope of ever seeing an improved replacement, along came the RX1R II. 

Compared to the original RX1R, the Mark II version is a breath of fresh air. Inheriting the same 42MP BSI-CMOS full frame sensor (but with an all-new switchable anti-aliasing filter) and 399 phase-detection AF system from the Sony a7R II, the RX1R II is a significant step up.

What I love

  • Excellent resolution
  • High-resolution built-in EVF
  • Very accurate, flexible AF system
  • Compact, relatively lightweight form-factor
  • Large manual controls

Gone is the clumsy add-on FDA-EVM1K, replaced by a built-in, retractable 2.3 million dot OLED finder. I shoot with my eye to the viewfinder almost exclusively, so when Sony representatives first showed us the camera, I nabbed one of the new lockable rubber viewfinder hoods they brought along. The hood prevents the finder from being retracted, but after resorting - twice - to using needle-nosed pliers to loosen the locking screw* I decided just to leave it permanently attached.

With 42MP and a new BSI design, the sensor in the RX1R II is significantly more advanced than the already very good 24MP sensor in the older RX1R. Like all current Sony full-frame sensors it offers extraordinary dynamic range, allowing me to expose just shy of highlight clipping for this ISO 100 shot, and pull up the shadows very significantly in Photoshop. The final result shows a very wide dynamic range from bright to dark without feeling too 'HDR'. 

Sony RX1R II, ISO 100, F6.3, 1/400sec

Just aesthetically, I really like the RX1R II, and it's a camera that tends to attract admiring glances when I'm out shooting. Like the Fujifilm X100S, more than a few people have commented to me that it looks like a film camera, but the semi-retro styling doesn't come at the expense of usability (keep walking, Nikon Df...). 

Cosmetics aside, the RX1R II also produces great images, exactly as we'd expect from a camera using such a high-quality sensor. Like recent a7-series cameras, Sony has included an uncompressed Raw option in the RX1R II.This gives maximum quality but at the expense of very large file sizes - roughly 80MB each, to be precise, compared to JPEGs which are typically less than ten. This slows the camera down, and eats through memory cards with frightening rapidity. 

While I didn't much care for the original RX1/R overall but I did enjoy that 35mm F2 Zeiss lens. And although it was designed for a 24MP resolution it successfully keeps up with the much higher pixel density of the new sensor in the RX1R II. Sadly though, neither the sensor nor the lens is stabilized so with 42MP in play, even though sometimes I've gotten away with 1/30sec, I'm in the habit of treating 1/125sec as my safe 'slowest' shutter speed when hand-holding.

After dark, the RX1R II's focus system is far superior to that of its predecessor. This shot was hand-held after dark, and shot wide open at F2.

Sony RX1R II, ISO 400, F2, 1/50sec

Alright, so the sensor is great, the AF system is transformed, and the built-in viewfinder is lovely. What about my one remaining major criticism of the original RX1R? - Battery life. 

Sadly, the RX1R II’s battery is the same NP-BX1 found in the first generation RX1R and all of Sony’s RX100 series compacts. Even just physically, the BX1 is comically small. Like, lose-it-in-your-pocket small. And while it's rated for a modest 200 shots, in cold weather I've come to expect far less. 

In temperatures around freezing, I quickly fell into the habit of holding the battery slipped into a glove, and placing it in the camera only when needed. You know - like we had to do in the 1990s. Fortunately, Sony is shipping the RX1R II with a handy USB-powered charger, which means you don’t need to plug the camera in to charge the battery, as with other RX-series Sony compacts. So that's one step forward, at least. 

Face detection worked well for this shot in one sense - it resulted in a nicely-balanced exposure, in a situation where my subject could easily be backlit. I should have activated Eye-AF though, because focus has fallen slightly short of my subject's eyes.

Sony RX1R II, ISO 100, F4, 1/125sec

I've been using the RX1R II for a while now and I keep on having to remind myself that despite its high price-tag it is still a Cyber-shot camera, with a lot of the same quirks of much cheaper compact cameras in Sony’s lineup. In fact, it's impossible to ignore. There’s the same lengthy startup time, the same lag - before - you - can - zoom - in to the images you’ve captured, the same confusing, rather passive aggressive error messages when you try to do something before the camera is ready or when it's in the wrong mode, and the same somewhat confusingly-named array of AF modes.

Exposed to retain the very delicate warmth in the sky just above the horizon, this ISO 320 shot was converted from a Raw file, and the shadows lifted in Adobe Camera Raw. I performed some very slight noise reduction, but could still smooth out the midtones a lot more if I wanted to. 

Sony RX1R II, ISO 320, F2, 1/60sec

There are a couple of outright bugs, too. For example, despite not offering any form of SteadyShot image stabilization in still capture, the RX1R II will still blink a reminder at slow shutter speeds that this non-existent feature is turned off.

After shooting thousands of frames with the RX1R II, I've learned to live with these minor annoyances but I do with Sony had sprung for a couple of extra components. A more powerful processor would make a huge difference to the overall handling experience (especially in uncompressed Raw mode) and I wish it had a touchscreen. I've come to really value touch-sensitive screens over the past couple of years, mostly for AF placement when shooting from low angles.

This grabshot was taken on a tabletop, using live view. The RX1R II's flip-out screen is very handy for pictures like this, but even handier would be a touch-sensitive screen, which would have allowed me to position the autofocus point precisely, by touch. 

Sony RX1R II, ISO 12800, F2, 1/60

All this being said, after a lot of thought, I picked the RX1R II as my personal choice for gear of the year. And I did that because it's one of those cameras - like my Fujifilm X100S - that is capable of such good results that I am prepared to work around its quirks and largely forgive its faults. I should give an honorary mention to the Leica Q, though. In some ways the Q is a more pleasant camera to use but its sensor isn't as advanced, I don't love 28mm as much as 35mm, and my Christmas bonus* wasn't generous enough to justify its higher cost.

Not that the RX1R II is cheap, of course. But if I have to move into a tent for a couple of months to save up enough to buy one, I'm willing to consider it. Once it's stopped raining.

* Pliers were resorted to only after I broke a nail trying to do it with my fingers. Yeah, I know. Shut up.  
** Ha ha ha ha ha. 

Categories: Equipment

PIX 2015: C.C. Chapman on using photography to drive change

Sun, 12/20/2015 - 8:00am

Writer and photographer C.C. Chapman is a savvy businessman and creative thinker. He is the author of the bestsellers Content Rules and Amazing Things Will Happen, and his work has appeared on the pages of Rolling Stone and The Wall Street Journal. But when you meet C.C. you quickly realize that his real passion is helping other people use their creative abilities to drive positive change in the world. In this presentation from PIX 2015, C.C. shares his thoughts on how to use photography to influence social change, even if it's only in your own backyard.

Categories: Equipment

Merry Christmas II you: RX1R II sample gallery updated

Sat, 12/19/2015 - 8:00am

The holiday season is upon us, which means it's the season for all manner of Christmas spectacle, including the hoard of revelers all dressed as Old Saint Nick who recently took over the streets of downtown Seattle. 

The festivities provided an excellent opportunity to get out and shoot, which is exactly what we did with the Sony Cyber-shot RX1R II. Check out our updated sample gallery to see what this pocketable full-frame compact camera can do.

Categories: Equipment

Sony's new Sky HDR app mimics the effect of a graduated ND filter

Fri, 12/18/2015 - 2:55pm

Sony has released Sky HDR, a new PlayMemories app for capturing landscape scenes that have wide ranging levels of brightness. Sky HDR aims to replace a graduated ND filter, with various adjustment 'themes' along with control over exposure and white balance of sky and landscape areas separately.

Sky HDR works by capturing two different exposures of the same scene and combing them into a single image. The interface, demonstrated in the video above, is tailored to landscape photography, and resulting photos can be saved as JPEG or Raw files. The app is available for $10, and is compatible with the following cameras:

  • Sony NEX-5R
  • Sony NEX-6
  • Sony NEX-5T
  • Sony a7
  • Sony a7R
  • Sony a6000
  • Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 III 
  • Sony a7S
  • Sony a5100
  • Sony a7 II
  • Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 IV
  • Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 II
  • Sony a7R II
  • Sony a7S II
  • Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1R II.

Sky HDR can be purchased from Sony's PlayMemories website.

Categories: Equipment

Gear of the Year Part 4: Dale's pick - Samsung NX1

Fri, 12/18/2015 - 8:00am

Before anything else, let’s address the elephant in the room: for my Gear of the Year I’ve just selected a camera whose future appears a bit dark. As in 'Luke, I am your father' kind of dark. The Samsung NX1 was the camera that some photographers saw as A New Hope for the future, but there’s a disturbance in The Force with signs that the Dark Side might prevail when it comes to Samsung’s camera business. 

Some might find my lack of faith disturbing, but I have a bad feeling about this...

It wasn’t an easy choice. On the one hand, how could I choose a product that has more clouds hanging over it than the DPReview offices on a December day in Seattle? On the other, there’s a bunch of engineers somewhere who built a serious kick-ass camera that continues to impress us with its features, quality, and performance. So, yeah… I’m going with the Samsung NX1.

What I love:

  • Best in class image and video quality
  • Excellent design and handling
  • My favorite EVF of any still camera
  • Outstanding AF performance
  • Continuous improvement through firmware updates

“You must unlearn what you have learned…”

To provide a bit of context, I’m historically an SLR shooter, though I’ve gone through my share of rangefinders, compact cameras, and other random stuff that converts light into images. For the past several years I’ve relied on a system built mostly around one manufacturer’s products that I could trust day-in and day-out to work reliably and predictably when I had to get it right the first time (in my case Canon). 

But in recent years I’ve also been using a lot of mirrorless cameras, particularly Panasonic’s GH series, for video work. I love the idea of what mirrorless cameras can do, and in particular I love the flexibility they provide for shooting video. However, mirrorless cameras never provided the level of performance that I needed for some projects.

Cloud City: the Space Needle rises from a foggy Seattle sunset.

Samsung 50-150mm F2.8 S lens, ISO 100, 1/1250 sec. at F5.6

Enter the Samsung NX1. I’ll freely admit that little more than a year ago Samsung was barely on my radar as a camera manufacturer. I knew Samsung made cameras, but like that guy who shows up to every party but never gets noticed, Samsung’s products lurked in the shadows where I conveniently looked past them. Then Barney asked me to review the NX1 as one of my first assignments at DPReview.

I was blown away. The NX1 was the first mirrorless camera that made me forget that I wasn’t shooting a DSLR. And that was using a camera with pre-production firmware.

Don’t misunderstand - I’m not implying that the pre-production NX1 was perfect. The camera had a nasty habit of crashing and re-booting into German, menu items occasionally went walkabout, and a couple of lenses sometimes decided that they would no longer autofocus. But despite its flaws it was fun to use and hinted at great things to come.

Samsung fixed most of those annoyances with a firmware update, and I spent the next month shooting the NX1 almost every day, sleeping with it under my pillow to absorb its goodness, and pushing the video to its limits.

All was good in the world. Several weeks later I was ready to publish my review, but three days before it was scheduled to go live on our site Samsung released another major firmware update. That changed everything.

Samsung 16-50mm F2-2.8 S lens, ISO 4000, 1/125 sec. at F2.8 

With the updated firmware the NX1 was practically a new camera. It added numerous video features including additional frame rates, gamma curves, and other custom settings. Autofocus improved significantly for both stills and video, and new customization options gave users an additional level of control over the camera. 

My review was toast. A couple months later, after re-testing the entire camera again and writing a new review, we were ready to go to press one more time when… wait for it… Samsung released another firmware update. Fortunately, this update wasn't as dramatic as the previous one, so we made an editorial decision to go ahead and publish anyway lest we repeat the process in perpetuity, but you get the idea.

I share this backstory because it highlights one of my favorite things about the NX1: Samsung seems (seemed?) intent on not just innovating a great product, but on a program of continued improvement. These weren’t just minor firmware updates, but things that significantly impacted the performance and value of the camera.

“Aren’t you a little short for a stormtrooper?”

But as we all know, a camera is not just about electronics and firmware. It’s also about hardware. It needs to be well designed, solidly built, and most importantly it needs to feel right in your hand.

That last item is a bit nebulous and hard to define, but anyone who’s been shooting for more than a few years knows the feeling of picking up a camera that just feels right. I’m convinced that Samsung did the unthinkable and actually involved photographers in the design of this camera, something I can’t say about every model that comes through the DPReview offices. (And you will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy, I assure you.)

Not only does the NX1 feel great in your hand, but it’s solid. Maybe not solid in a 'I can use my Nikon F3 to pound nails into a board' type of way (and really, what is anymore?), but it’s certainly tough enough to stand up to typical professional use.

At one point I took the NX1 on a winter shoot where the temperature hovered in the range of 0 to 5 degrees F (-18 to -15 C). Based on previous experience with mirrorless cameras I fully expected to run into trouble at some point. I didn’t. Like the Energizer Bunny the NX1 kept going, and going and going… Everything just worked, including the EVF and touch screen, for several hours in sub-freezing temperatures. I gave in before the camera did.

Some like it Hoth: Even after a couple hours outdoors working at 0˚ F (-18˚ C) temperatures, the NX1 continued to operate normally. In this case, the camera outlasted me.

Samsung 50-150mm F2.8 S lens, ISO 160, 1/500 sec. at F2.8

Speaking of the EVF, it’s one of the standout things I love about this camera. It’s clear, bright, and has essentially zero lag. You won’t mistake it for a true optical viewfinder, but it works so well that 1) I don’t care, and 2) after a short period of time I simply forget about it and just get on with shooting. I know other cameras have EVFs with similar specs for resolution and lag, but somehow Samsung has managed to make the EVF experience on the NX1 exceed the sum of its parts.

“She may not look like much, but she’s got it where it counts, kid.”

The other thing that almost makes me forget I’m using a mirrorless camera when shooting the NX1 is it’s performance. I’ve shot cameras with 10 fps shooting speeds before, but even so the NX1’s 15 fps is scary fast. As in ‘you could easily tell if Greedo shot first’ fast. (Did he? Share your opinion in the comments!) And with 28MP of resolution to play with you would have plenty of detail to examine closeups of those blaster shots. Combine that speed with an AF system that, somewhat incredibly, is able to keep pace and it’s a blast to shoot with.

I say almost because high speed shooting isn’t quite perfected yet. The screen briefly freezes on each exposure, making it a tad difficult to shoot continuously while panning with a subject, and the best part of the AF system - ‘Tracking AF’ - can only be invoked from the touch screen, but overall it’s as good as almost every DSLR I’ve used, and better than most.

Samsung’s 28MP sensor doesn’t really provide any additional detail beyond the standard 24MP found on most APS-C cameras, but in terms of quality it’s right up there with the best of them, including the very impressive Nikon D7200. I also love the fact that I can push exposure in post several stops with almost no penalty to image quality, a feature I’ve leveraged to underexpose in order to preserve highlights.

This photo from Channel Islands National Park in California is actually a single frame of 4K video from the NX1. (Samsung 50-150mm F2.8 lens, exposure unrecorded)

I mentioned above that I do a lot of video work, something that has pushed me into using two parallel camera systems in recent years. In principle, the NX1 could replace both systems. Its video is as good as my go-to workhorse, the Panasonic GH4, but in a package that provides the performance of a high-end DSLR.

In fact, in my perfect world where I can use one system for everything, the NX1 comes remarkably close to meeting almost all my needs.

If we can momentarily ignore that whole ‘Will Samsung even be in the camera business in a few months?’ thing, I’m still not completely convinced that I could make a wholesale switch to the NX system as it stands today. Samsung still doesn’t have as many lens options as competing systems - though some of their lenses are outstanding - and the company hasn’t managed to foster a strong third party ecosystem of tools and adapters similar to what we've seen for mirrorless systems from Panasonic and Sony. As much as I like the NX1 these are real limitations.

Laugh it up, fuzzball! Samsung 50-150mm F2.8 S lens, ISO 640, 1/500 sec. at F2.8 

“Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future.”

There are no shortage of rumors about the future of Samsung’s camera business, and believe it or not we here at DPReview don’t know any more than you. But I think I speak for the whole team when I say that we would be disappointed if Samsung didn’t continue to pursue this market, especially since the company has been one of the most innovative in the business of late. Notably, the NX1 won DPReview’s 2015 Innovation Award amid some very credible competition.

Some people have suggested to that Samsung tried its luck in the camera market but never completely committed to it. I'm not convinced that's the case, but my advice to Samsung is to be bold and heed the words a great philosopher who said 'Do or do not. There is no try,' and stick with it. However, in the event that the NX1’s future is not long for this galaxy, my hope is that it doesn’t go quietly into the starry night, but instead continues to live on in some form or inspires other manufacturers to make products that push the limits of what's possible.

Categories: Equipment

DPReview Recommends: Best compact cameras for travel 2015

Thu, 12/17/2015 - 7:00pm

Whether you're traveling the world or the next town over, having the right camera at your side makes all the difference. We've picked out our best picks for the photographer who wants to keep things simple by carrying a compact camera rather than one with interchangeable lenses. If you fall into that category, we've got great news for you - there are more high quality cameras with attached lenses than ever before, brimming with features tailored to your needs. 

Fujifilm X100T

$1099 | 16MP APS-C sensor | 35mm equiv F2 lens | Hybrid electronic / optical viewfinder | 3" LCD

Few cameras in recent history have attracted as much of a cult following as Fujifilm's X100 series. They're the photographer's darling - not just a good-looking camera, but a beautifully effective machine. The X100T is small and light, and won’t burden a weary traveler, and its low-profile lends itself to street shooting. If you don't mind zooming with your feet, its 35mm F2 equivalent lens and 16MP X-Trans APS-C sensor will serve you well.

In addition to its travel-friendly size, the X100T offers a hybrid viewfinder with optical and digital views. That's especially handy when the sun is high in the sky and the 1.04M-dot 3" LCD becomes harder to see. Having been on the market over a year (at time of publication), its 16 megapixels are starting to feel quite low in comparison to some of its peers, but it also means that the price has dropped slightly since its launch. It is worth noting though that its movie mode, which was far from class-leading at launch, is now well behind the competition in terms of quality and 4K support.

With obviously classic design cues, the X100T's controls and handling are timeless. Though it doesn't offer the cutting-edge modern features of its newer peers, it won't go out of style anytime soon. 

Also consider...

Ricoh GR II
Not a revolutionary update to the original by any means, but the Ricoh GR II's 16MP APS-C sensor and 28mm F2.8 make the camera one of the best bargains on the market for under $600.

Panasonic Lumix FZ1000

$750 | 20MP 1"-type sensor | 4K video | 25-400mm equiv. focal range | XGA OLED viewfinder

You can zoom with your feet all day long, but some situations and shooting styles call for real zoom. The Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 doesn't top its class in terms of massive zoom reach, but its 25-400mm equivalent zoom opens up plenty of options, and an F2.8-4.0 aperture is brighter than most of its peers. With a 1"-type 20.1MP CMOS sensor, it borrows some tech from the GH4 including 4K video recording at 30 fps. Its DSLR-style build includes a fully articulated 921k-dot 3" LCD and a 2.4M-dot OLED viewfinder.

Also consider... 

Nikon Coolpix P900 
On the seventh day, the Nikon Coolpix P900 was created. And there was much zoom. An incredible 24-2000mm equivalent range, in fact. The P900 uses a considerably smaller 16MP sensor than the FZ1000, but its lens is impressive considering what it has to do, the image stabilization is amazing, and the built-in GPS won't let you forget where you've been.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 IV

$950 | 20MP 1"-type sensor | F1.8-2.8 24-70mm equiv. lens | Pop-up EVF | 4K video

It's hard not to recommend the Sony RX100 IV to anyone buying a compact. It's by no means a budget-friendly option, but it's among the most capable pocket-sized cameras we've ever tested. Sony's excellent 20MP 1"-type sensor is bigger than your garden-variety compact camera sensor with lots of dynamic range, and a 24-70mm equiv. F1.8-2.8 lens is much brighter than most of its competition. The camera's tiny pop-up EVF is higher resolution than that of it predecessor and comes in very handy in bright outdoor light.

The RX100 IV really shines when you set the mode dial to movie mode. 4K/UHD recording is available, and at lower resolutions (upscaled to 1080p) high frame rates of 240, 480 and 960 fps can be used. Slow motion video is an awful lot of fun.

If you want to take control over your settings, shoot high quality video and make the most of your vacation Raw files, the RX100 IV is a solid choice. Of course, if you can live without 4K and high frame rates, the RX100 III will save you a couple hundred dollars and get you much of the same excellent image quality. Neither will get you a lot of zoom if that's what you're after, but their image quality is at the top of their class.

Also consider...

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS50 
Before there were fancy Sony point-and-shoots with 1" sensors, Panasonic had the market cornered on premium zoom compacts for travelers. While its 12MP 1/2.3" sensor looks a bit pedestrian in comparison, there's something to be said for a 24-720mm equiv. zoom that just about fits in your pocket. And for under $300, it's pretty much a steal for full manual controls, Raw support and Wi-Fi with NFC.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100

$700 | 13MP Four Thirds sensor | 24-75mm equiv. F1.7-2.8 lens | Electronic viewfinder | 4K video

Why stop at a 1"-type sensor? That's the question Panasonic engineers must have asked themselves, and lo and behold, the Lumix LX100 was born. It uses a cropped 13MP Four Thirds sensor coupled with a very fast 24-75mm equiv. F1.7-2.8 lens and offers great ergonomics and handling for the kind of photographer who wants quick access to exposure settings. It's not as pocket-friendly as the RX100 IV, but its solid handgrip gives it a steady feel and its responsive user experience is one of the best we've encountered in a compact.

In addition to recording 4K video, the LX100 also offers a useful 4K Photo Mode, which lets you extract a high quality 8MB still from your clip. Its time-lapse and stop motion animation modes are also a lot of fun. Its zoom is certainly on the shorter side, and for someone who plans to stay in Auto mode the camera's controls and customization will verge on overkill. But for the seasoned photographer wanting to give her shoulders a break from the big camera, the LX100 is a joy to carry and shoot with.

Also consider...

Canon PowerShot G5 X 
If you want just a bit more zoom (100mm at the top end) and a more traditional SLR-style body you may want to consider the Canon PowerShot G5 X. It sports a 20MP 1"-type BSI CMOS sensor (likely the same as in the RX100 III) and a 24-100mm equiv. F1.8-2.8 lens, along with a fully articulating LCD, high resolution EVF, and full set of manual controls. It's not great for action shooting and it lacks 4K video, but the G5 X is still worth a look.

Olympus Tough TG-4

$350 | 16MP 1/2.3" BSI CMOS sensor | 25-100mm equiv. F2.0-4.9 lens | Everything-proof

Nothing spoils a vacation like spilling a Mai Tai on your fancy new camera. The Olympus TG-4 isn't just sealed against spills, its fully waterproof to 15m/50ft, as well as shockproof from 2.1m/7ft, crushproof to 100kg/220lbf and freezeproof to -10C/14F. Wherever your travels may take you, the TG-4 is up to the challenge.

Outside of its rugged specs, we like the TG-4's ability to shoot Raw, making it possible to get very nice image quality with a little time invested in post-processing. Its moderate 25-100mm equiv. zoom, which is fast at its wide end, will get you a little closer to the action, and optional accessories like a macro LED ring light and waterproof fisheye lens open up more possibilities. It also provides the peace of mind of knowing your camera will survive just about anything your vacation throws at it.

Also consider...

Olympus Tough TG-860
The Stylus TG-860 is the TG-4's more casual sibling, lacking buttoned-up features like Raw capture and Aperture priority mode, but provides identical rugged specifications with a flip-up selfie-friendly LCD. If you don't anticipate doing extensive editing to your snapshots, the TG-860 is good, clean fun for a significantly cheaper price.

Categories: Equipment

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