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All articles from Digital Photography Review
Updated: 23 min 22 sec ago

Fast and steady: Tamron 85mm F1.8 Di VC USD real-world samples

Thu, 05/19/2016 - 8:00am

The Tamron 85mm F1.8 claims the title of the world's first fast-aperture 85mm lens with stabilization. The focal length will certainly appeal to portrait photographers, and the combination of Tamron's vibration compensation with an F1.8 aperture might just give it an edge in low light situations. We've been shooting with it over the past couple of weeks, both on full-frame and crop sensor bodies, to get an idea of its performance.

Categories: Equipment

Weather-resistant Fujifilm 2x teleconverter brings 1219mm focal length to X-Series

Thu, 05/19/2016 - 1:00am
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Fujifilm X-Series users will soon be able to purchase a 2x teleconverter compatible with two of the company’s telephoto zoom lenses, delivering a maximum equivalent focal length of 1219mm for its interchangeable lens compact system. The XF2X TC WR teleconverter will be weather and dust-resistant when used with the X-T1 and X-Pro2 camera bodies combined with the XF50-140mm F2.8 R LM OIS WR and XF100-400mm F4.5-5.6R LM OIS WR lenses.

Fujifilm says that the teleconverter will deliver an angle of view equivalent to that of a 1219mm lens on a full frame camera when it is used with the 100-400mm lens, once the crop factor of the APS-C format is taken into account.

The converter consists of nine elements in five groups and adds 30.2mm to the physical length of the camera/lens set-up. With the 2-stop light loss, the AF system of the X-cameras will revert to contrast detection with the 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 lens, but phase detection will still work with the 50-140mm F2.8. Both lenses will need a firmware update in order to operate with the new teleconverter so that adjusted aperture and focal length values can be recorded in the EXIF data and displayed on-screen.

Fuji suggests that the converter will be compatible with other lenses in the X-Series range, and has set up a website on which it promises to post information about future lens compatibility.

The Fujifilm XF2X TC WR teleconverter will be available in June priced £349. For more information visit the Fujifilm website.

Press release:

Fujifilm announces the FUJINON XF2X TC WR Teleconverter

High-performance weather and dust resistant teleconverter with excellent optical design to be added to the X-Series interchangeable lens line-up in June

FUJIFILM Corporation (President: Shigehiro Nakajima) is proud to announce that the new FUJINON TELECONVERTER XF2X TC WR, a teleconverter extending the telephoto area of some X Mount lenses*1, will be added to the mirrorless digital camera X-Series interchangeable lens line-up in June 2016.

The FUJINON TELECONVERTER XF2X TC WR is a high-performance teleconverter, capable of multiplying the focal length of mounted lenses*1 by two. It features excellent optical design with a construction of 9 elements in 5 groups to maintain the optical performance of the original lens.

In addition, thanks to the unified design when mounted to a compatible lens*1, the teleconverter is weather and dust-resistant and operates at temperatures as low as -10°C. This makes it possible to be used with confidence outdoors when used with the weather and dust-resistant X-T1 and X-Pro2 camera bodies, and the XF50-140mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR and XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR lenses.

*1 Compatible lens (As of May 19, 2016)
XF50-140mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR = 100-280mmF5.6 with teleconverter mounted (Equivalent to 152-427mm on a 35mm format)
XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR = 200-800mmF9-11 with teleconverter mounted (Equivalent to 305-1,219mm on a 35mm format)

1. Main Features

(1) High image quality design which maintains the optical performance of the original lens

  • Construction of 9 elements in 5 groups maintains the optical performance of the original lens.
  • By using the optimal image quality parameters for the overall characteristics of the original lens and 2x teleconverter, excellent imaging performance with great aberration suppression is still achieved.
  • The aperture becomes two f-stops higher when the teleconverter is mounted, and the camera displays and records information reflecting the change in aperture and focal length.

(2) Autofocus performance

  • Phase detection AF is still available when using the XF50-140mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR with the 2x teleconverter mounted.
  • Contrast Detection AF is still available when using the XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR with the 2x teleconverter mounted.
  • Accurate focusing at super-telephoto focal lengths with shallow depth of field is possible thanks to the AF performed by the image sensor, thanks to the ‘Live View’ feature on the cameras.

(3) The optical image stabilization performance

  • The camera’s optical image stabilization performance*2 is unaffected by the addition of the teleconverter

*2CIPA guidelines, at telephoto end.

(4) Weather and dust-resistant and -10°C low-temperature operation

  • Using the teleconverter with a weather-resistant camera, such as the FUJIFILM X-T1 or X-Pro2 mirrorless digital camera and the FUJINON XF50-140mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR or FUJINON XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR lens does not affect the weather resistance of the system.

(5) High-grade subtle appearance

  • The teleconverter’s high grade metal exterior has been designed with the X system in mind. When attached to a compatible FUJINON lens, the two products appear as one single lens.

2. Main Specification

Type FUJINON LENS XF2X TC WR 
Lens construction 9 elements 5 groups
Focal length 2x that of original lens
Max. aperture 2 additional stop
Min. aperture 2 additional stop 
Focus range Approx. same as that of original lens
Max. magnification 2x that of original lens 

External dimensions: Diameter x Length (distance from camera lens mount flange)

 
Approx. ?58mm x 30.2mm
Weight
(excluding lens caps)
 
Approx.170g

4. Support Information

A firmware update is required for the FUJINON XF50-140mm F2.8 R LM OIS WR and FUJINON XF100-400mm F4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR lenses in order to provide full compatibility. This firmware is planned to be available at the beginning of June 2016. Please note that when updating firmware, make sure to update the latest camera firmware before updating the lens.

Please refer to the following website for information on how to confirm your firmware version and its update methods. http://www.fujifilm.com/support/digital_cameras/software/fw_table.html
Please be sure to check the following website as we will continue to update it with information regarding mountable lenses. http://fujifilm.com/products/digital_cameras/x/fujinon_lens_xf2x_tc_wr/

Categories: Equipment

Google Art Camera uses robotic system to take gigapixel photos of museum paintings

Wed, 05/18/2016 - 2:10pm

The Google Cultural Institute, an online virtual museum with high-quality digitizations of artifacts from across the globe, recently added more than 1,000 ultra-high-resolution images of classic paintings and other artwork by Monet, Van Gogh and many others. A new robotic camera system Google has developed called 'Art Camera' has made it possible for the organization to add digitizations faster than ever before.

Previously, Google's collection included only about 200 digitizations, accumulated over approximately five years. Art Camera, after being calibrated to the edges of a painting or document by its operator, automatically takes close-up photos of paintings one section at a time, using a laser and sonar to precisely adjust the focus. This process results in hundreds of images that are then sent to Google, where they're stitched together to produce a single gigapixel-resolution photo.

Instead of taking the better part of a day to photograph an item, as the old technology did, Art Camera can complete the process in less than an hour; speaking to The Verge, Cultural Institute’s Marzia Niccolai said a 1m x 1m painting can be processed in half an hour. Google has built 20 Art Cameras and is shipping them to museums around the world for free, enabling the organizations to digitize their artwork and documents. The resulting gigapixel images can be viewed here.

 
Categories: Equipment

VR / Action cameras forum just launched

Wed, 05/18/2016 - 1:20pm
Be like these guys.

Are you excited about VR but frustrated that we don't have a clearly demarcated area in our forums for you to talk about it? You're not alone, probably. But we're pleased to announce that your nightmare is over, with the launch of our dedicated VR and action cameras forum!

Moderated by DPR contributor and VR enthusiast Mark Banas, this is the place to discuss VR capture, action cameras and related technologies.

Categories: Equipment

Sony Xperia XA Ultra comes with 16MP OIS front cam

Wed, 05/18/2016 - 12:30pm

Sony first announced its new Xperia X line of smartphones at MWC earlier this year. Now the Japanese manufacturer has added another model to the line in the shape of the Xperia XA Ultra. As the 'Ultra' moniker suggests the new device is larger than the standard XA model. The XA Ultra display measures 6 inches instead of 5 but retains the 1080p resolution and overall design. 

That said, the XA Ultra's headline feature is its front camera. It comes with a 16MP Exmor R sensor, optical image stabilization and a front flash, making it a significant upgrade to the original XA's front camera, which at 8MP is no slouch either. The wide 88 degree viewing angle should allow for group self-portraits without selfie-sticks or similar contraptions.  The main camera has been upgraded as well and features a 21.5MP Exmor RS sensor with Hybrid-AF, which sounds similar to the camera specification of the Xperia Z3+.

The rest of the specification arguably puts the XA Ultra into the mid-range bracket of the market. The Android 6.0 operating system is powered by a MediaTek MT6755 chipset and 3GB of RAM. 16GB of storage can be expanded via a microSD slot and Sony says the 2700 mAh battery is good for two days of use. Given the large screen, we'd take that statement with a pinch of salt though. The Sony Xperia XA Ultra will be available from July but no detail on pricing and regional availability has been released yet.

Categories: Equipment

Fast machines: Shooting motocross with the Nikon D5 and Canon 1D X II

Wed, 05/18/2016 - 8:30am

Introduction

Big cameras. Big performance.

The Nikon D5 and Canon EOS-1D X Mark II are purpose-built machines. Firing at 12 and 14 frames per second respectively, they are designed for speed and durability to help you make sure you get the shot no matter what conditions you find yourself in. Conditions like those at the Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, Washington recently, where DPR staffers Dan Bracaglia and Carey Rose went to get some preliminary findings on the cameras' AF systems.

Bear in mind we're camera reviewers, and not pro sports photographers - we're actively working to get the Nikon and Canon cameras into the hands of working pros to get some real-world opinions on them. But for now, we thought there was some value in sending Dan out to get some early findings from the 1D X Mark II, which had arrived only recently into our offices, and Carey out with the D5, the review of which is fully under way. Since these cameras are likely to be shot alongside each other at many a major sporting event, we figured we'd try our best to do the same and compare our results.

The Nikon D5

by Carey Rose

Flyin' high. Photographed in Auto Area AF. Nikon 24-70 F2.8E VR @ 38mm | F11 | 1/250 sec | ISO 100

For someone as interested in motorcycles as I am, it’s almost embarrassing to admit that this was my first time watching motocross in person, much less photographing it. And even though we were shooting a Sunday 'practice' session, it proved a good test for Nikon’s flagship sports shooting machine. As riders brapped and blipped their engines, rocketing around the track at over 40 mph, I snapped and clacked the D5 away at 12 fps nearly the whole time. You just don’t realize how nice all those frames per second are until you really – truly – need them.

But before we get to the burst rate and the photos, let's dig into the D5's autofocus system a bit. The continuous autofocus modes I chose to try out were 3D Tracking, single-point, Group Area AF and Auto Area AF. Here's what all those modes mean, how they behave and some common use cases.

  • 3D Tracking utilizes the D5's phase-detection autofocus module for distance information and combines that with color readings from the RGB metering sensor to effectively track subjects around the frame with a single point. Put another way, place your chosen AF point over your subject, initiate autofocus, and the point should stick to that subject whether you or your subject move. Frankly, it's worked so well in my experience that I default to this mode almost all the time for general shooting.
  • Single-point AF utilizes depth tracking from the phase-detection module to effectively track an object that is moving towards or away from the camera, so long as you keep the point over that subject. Despite how good 3D Tracking performs, it can still sometimes be fooled. If you know your subject's trajectory and can comfortably follow that subject with the AF point over it, this mode also comes with a high degree of precision.
  • Group Area AF works very similarly to the single-point method, but uses a tight group of 5 AF points instead of one. With a larger 'zone' of focus coverage, it should be easier to follow unpredictable subjects in this mode, and it's commonly used for photographing birds in flight.
  • Auto Area AF works basically by letting the camera take over entirely. Like 3D Tracking, this mode uses the camera's PDAF module and metering sensor in tandem to intelligently discern what it should be focusing on. It will usually bias to objects closer to the camera, so watch your foregrounds, but it should also intelligently be able to read colors, and in Nikon's newest models, faces and eyes. This is a good mode for photographing people at events, or if you don't have time to react and just need to get a photograph, there's a chance Auto Area AF will get you what you need.

It goes without saying that all of these modes, despite how computationally intensive they may be for the D5, work perfectly well at its full burst rate (not mirror lock-up mode).  And as someone who is used to 5fps bodies, the higher frame rate is something to behold. 

12 fps

After some quick and informal testing, I soon started to take 12 fps for granted. Slowing down the D5 in ‘Continuous Low’ mode to 6 fps to simulate a less sports-oriented body was torturous. Predictably, instead of getting a solid six-to-eight shots of a rider flying past me with wide-ish framing, I’d get maybe two or three. I was often left wanting an additional shot in-between the few that I managed to get, and because of this, I ended up trying to get just a single shot at the right moment and hoping that my timing worked out. It often didn’t. Back to 12 fps mode for me.

A high frame rate gives you more compositional options in situations such as this, where two riders are constantly changing their positions relative to each other. Nikon 70-200 F2.8G VR II @ 200mm | F5.6 | 1/1250 sec | ISO 400
Following and focusing with single-point AF

But of course, 12 fps is useless if you can’t see what you’re shooting. The good news is that the viewfinder blackout is so short on the D5 even at 12 fps that I was able to pan and follow a fast-moving rider at a very close distance with ease. Nikon’s 3D Tracking worked well (more on that later), but because I could see so clearly in 'real time', using single-point continuous autofocus and just keeping a point over my subject was a completely viable option when panning and this approach netted a high number of ‘keepers.’ What’s more, the frame coverage of the D5's autofocus array is so generous that I rarely felt compositionally constrained by picking a single point to keep over my subject.

Of course, for the sake of some variety, sometimes it's best not to follow the action and just let it pass you by. Nikon 300m F4 PF | F5.6 | 1/500 sec | ISO 100
Group AF

Group AF on the D5 works similarly to single-point, but with the idea that a tight group of points will give you greater precision than just one point alone. The idea is great in principle and it usually worked well, but there were a handful of times where I let a part of the group stray off the rider, and the camera quickly readjusted to focus on the background. Part of this is probably due to to the fact that I had the AF system set up for ‘erratic’ subjects since 3D tracking and single-point worked so well in this mode, but in any case I tended to avoid Group AF for the rest of this shoot. 

Motorcycles in flight. Nikon AF-S 300mm F4 PF | F4 | 1/1600 sec | ISO 100
3D Tracking

One of the most exciting autofocus developments for DSLRs in recent years, Nikon’s 3D Tracking, worked as well as I have come to expect with only a single exception. When at wider focal lengths and attempting to initiate tracking on a rider at a distance, the D5 would usually just not be able to find my subject. The user manual reflects this though, saying that the camera collects color information from focus points surrounding the one you've chosen, storing that information and using it to initiate tracking.

So with a distant rider, the D5 was seeing mostly the dirt color, despite the bright colored clothing of my intended subject. In any case, if I let the subject get a little closer, or if I used longer lenses that produce inherently shallower depth-of-field, 3D Tracking proved itself to be pretty magical, constantly re-focusing and re-positioning the autofocus point in the viewfinder even when I was shooting at 12fps.  

Nikon's 3D Tracking did a great job of tracking this rider with a single AF point pegged to his riding suit. Nikon AF-S 300mm F4 PF | F4 | 1/1000 sec | ISO 100
Auto Area AF

The last mode I experimented with was Auto Area AF, which is usually a mode that I tell people to avoid using. The D5 might just change my mind on that one. The camera was able to find a moving subject and hit it with anywhere from one to nine AF points almost every single time.

1 2 3 4 5

In the above series of (unedited) images, Auto Area actually directed the camera to focus on the background first. But then in the middle of that 12 fps burst, focus snapped to the rider flying through the air in front of me within two frames. I generally prefer a higher degree of control than Auto offers, but I can see this mode being genuinely helpful if you have milliseconds to get a shot and you don’t have time to place an autofocus point manually.

All those buttons

One of the best parts of the new D5 (and its sister model, the D500) is the level of button customization regarding autofocus modes. I am a back-button AF shooter, as I do sometimes like to pre-focus and wait for a subject to enter the frame without having to switch into manual focus. But even with the shutter button decoupled from any autofocus functionality whatsoever, I can assign AF-ON to be 3D Tracking, then assign the FN1 button on the front of the camera (under my ring finger) to switch to single-point continuous autofocus, and then also assign a full press of the AF joystick to switch into Auto Area mode.

So without even shifting my grip, I’ve got three different autofocus modes at my fingertips. This is incredibly handy as I often found myself changing AF modes depending on my lens, my position and the riders' movement.

Having watched this rider come around this corner a number of times, I wanted to focus on just how much dirt he kicked up as he plowed through the scene. Having de-coupled autofocus and my shutter button, I pre-focused just behind where his rear tire is, shot a burst as he entered and exited the viewfinder with the tight framing I wanted and I didn't have to worry about the focus shifting or missing (an admittedly minor concern with the D5). Nikon 300mm F4 PF | F4 | 1/2000 sec | ISO 200

So, now that we've seen how the Nikon D5 performed, let's move on to Canon's EOS-1D X Mark II.

Categories: Equipment

Go wide or go home: Voigtlander 15mm Super-Wide-Heliar lens gallery

Wed, 05/18/2016 - 8:00am

Sony shooters took note in October when Voigtlander announced it would release three ultra-wide-angle primes for full-frame E-mount cameras. When we managed to borrow a 15mm F4.5 Super-Wide-Heliar for a few days, we handed it right over to DPR staffer and veteran landscape photographer Chris Williams. Read some quick impressions on the lens and take a look at a small selection of his images.

As a professional landscape photographer I’ve shot a number of wide-angle lenses and to say that I was impressed by the Voigtlander 15mm prime is a bit of an understatement. The lens excels in sharpness throughout the frame and maintains a high level of performance across nearly every aperture. Being that it is a super wide prime, it does suffer from barrel distortion (as most ultra and super wides do) but the amount of lens that you get for the money is impressive.

Chromatic aberration really only becomes apparent wide open where the corners also tend to soften up a bit. Overall the lens performed very well, so well in fact that I may pick one up for myself at some point.

The other really nice thing about the Voigtlander 15mm is that it accepts traditional screw on filters. The Tokina 16-28mm F2.8, Nikon 14-24mm F2.8 and the Canon 11-24mm F4L all require external filter systems like those designed by Fotodiox. The Voigtlander accepts standard 58mm threaded filters, which is rare for a prime (or even a zoom) this wide.

Categories: Equipment

Samsung offers NX1 and NX500 firmware updates

Tue, 05/17/2016 - 6:08pm

Samsung has released firmware updates for the NX1 and the NX500, bringing the NX1 up to firmware version 1.41 and the NX500 to firmware version 1.12. Both updates fix a Bluetooth issue that arises when pairing the cameras with smartphones running Android 6.0 Marshmallow. The NX500 update changelog advises users to update the camera firmware together with the Samsung Camera Manager App.

Samsung has all but backed out of the digital camera market. Its flagship NX1 was discontinued late last year, though the NX500 remains in stock for the time being. While a question mark remains over exactly what long term support for Samsung camera owners looks like, at least for now the manufacturer will continue to support the latest version of Android's OS.

The NX1 firmware update is available here, and the NX500 is available here.

Categories: Equipment

DxOMark Mobile Report: Lenovo Moto G Plus

Tue, 05/17/2016 - 12:56pm

DxOMark Mobile Report: Lenovo Moto G Plus

Summary

The Moto G Plus is the newest arrival in the Moto G series of mid-range smartphones. With a 1/2.4-inch Omnivsion OV16860 16MP sensor with a large pixel size of 1.34um, F2.0 aperture, on-sensor phase detection and laser-assisted AF the camera specification would look right at home on a high-end device. You can read our first impressions review of the Moto G Plus here.

In its DxOMark test the Moto G Plus scores 84 points, which puts it on the same level as current flagship phones, such as the Apple iPhone 6s Plus, Google Nexus 6P or Motorola/Lenovo's own Droid Turbo 2/Moto X Force. When shooting still images the testers liked the "very good detail preservation" in bright light, the "fast and accurate autofocus" and "good noise reduction in outdoor conditions". They also noted the colors, which are "vivid and pleasant" in daylight and the good white balance in low and artificial light. On the downside, outdoor images show "some loss of detail in the shadow areas", a "slightly bluish cast is sometimes visible in outdoor scenes" and "some irregularities in HDR activation and white balance are visible". Some outdoor images also showed a "cyan shift close to sky saturation".

In video mode the DxOMark team liked the "good stabilization both in bright light and indoor conditions, good color rendering and white balance, fast autofocus convergence and good noise reduction in outdoor conditions". However, they also found that "from macro to infinity, some steps during the autofocus convergence are visible" and saw "occasional autofocus inaccuracies in low light". "In low light some detail is lost and luminance noise is visible" and there are "visible steps in exposure adaptation".

Still Photography

Color, Exposure and Contrast

The DxOMark team found the Lenovo Moto G Plus images to show "vivid and pleasant color", with good white balance and without any color shading. Target exposure is generally good. However, in difficult light situations highlights are occasionally clipped, "some irregularities in HDR activation are visible" and a "slightly bluish cast" sometimes appears in daylight images. In low light "very slight color shading is visible."

Overall DxOMark awarded the Lenovo Moto G Plus scores of:

  • 4.4 out of 5 for Exposure
  • 4.5 out of 5 for White Balance accuracy
  • 3.9 out of 5 for Color shading in low light*
  • 4.5 out of 5 for Color shading in bright light*
  • 3.0 out of 5 for Color Rendering in low light
  • 4.5 out of 5 for Color Rendering in bright light

*Color Shading is the nasty habit cellphone cameras have of rendering different areas of the frame with different color shifts, resulting in pictures with, for example, pinkish centers and greenish corners.

Noise and Details

DxOMark's engineers reported that the Lenovo Moto G Plus images show "very good detail and good noise reduction in outdoor conditions". However, there is also "some luminance noise and some loss of detail in low light".

Texture Acutance

Texture acutance is a way of measuring the ability of a camera to capture images that preserve fine details, particularly the kind of low contrast detail (such as fine foliage, hair or fur) that can be blurred away by noise reduction or obliterated by excessive sharpening.

Sharpness is an important part of the quality of an image, but while it's easy to look at an image and decide visually whether it's sharp or not, the objective measurement of sharpness is less straightforward.

An image can be defined as 'sharp' if edges are sharp and if fine details are visible. In-camera processing means that it's possible to have one of these (sharp edges) but not the other (fine details). Conventional MTF measurements tell us how sharp an edge is, but have drawbacks when it comes to measuring fine detail preservation. Image processing algorithms can detect edges and enhance their sharpness, but they can also find homogeneous areas and smooth them out to reduce noise.

Texture acutance, on the other hand, can qualify sharpness in terms of preservation of fine details, without being fooled by edge enhancement algorithms.

A dead leaf pattern is designed to measure texture acutance. It's obtained by drawing random shapes that occlude each other in the plane, like dead leaves falling from a tree. The statistics of this model follow the distribution statistics in natural images.

In this example from a DSLR without edge enhancement, sharpness seems equal on edge and on texture. Many details are visible in the texture.

In this second example, edges have been digitally enhanced, and the edge looks over sharp, with visible processing halos ('ringing'). On the texture part, many details have disappeared.

At first sight, the images from these two cameras may appear equally sharp. A sharpness measurement on edges will indeed confirm this impression, and will even show that the second camera is sharper. But a closer examination of low contrasted textures shows that the first camera has better preservation of fine details than the second. The purpose of the texture acutance measurement is to qualify this difference.

Note: Acutance is a single value metric calculated from a MTF result. Acutance is used to assess the sharpness of an image as viewed by the human visual system, and is dependent on the viewing conditions (size of image, size of screen or print, viewing distance). Only the values of texture acutance are given here. The measurements are expressed as a percentage of the theoretical maximum for the chosen viewing condition. The higher the score, the more details can be seen in an image. 
 
For all DxOMark Mobile data presented on connect.dpreview.com we're only showing 8MP equivalent values, which gives us a level playing field for comparison between smartphone cameras with different megapixel values by normalizing all to 8MP (suitable for fairly large prints). DxOMark also offers this data for lower resolution use-cases (web and onscreen). For more information on DxOMark's testing methodology and acutance measurements please visit the website at www.dxomark.com.
 Texture acutance is a touch higher under daylight than tungsten light. 
In bright light the Moto G Plus is up with the best but drops off a little at lower light levels.

Edge Acutance

Edge acutance is a measure of edge sharpness in images captured by the phone's camera. Again we're only looking at the most demanding of the three viewing conditions that DxOMark reports on - the 8MP equivalent.
 In terms of edge acutance the Moto G Plus is performing on flagship level. 
 Edge acutance is very consistent across all light levels. 

Visual Noise

Visual noise is a value designed to assess the noise in an image as perceived by the human visual system, depending on the viewing condition (size of image, size of screen or print, viewing distance). The measurements have no units and can be simply viewed as the weighted average of noise standard deviation for each channel in the CIE L*a*b* color space. The lower the measurement, the less noise in the image.

 The Moto G Plus noise levels compare well to the competition at all light levels
 Measured noise levels only increase moderately in lower light.

Noise and Detail Perceptual scoring

DxOMark engineers don't just point camera phones at charts, they also take and analyze plenty of real-world shots and score them accordingly. Their findings for the Lenovo Moto G Plus are:

Natural scene

  • Texture (bright light): 4.8 out of 5
  • Texture (low light): 3.7 out of 5
  • Noise (bright light): 4.1 out of 5
  • Noise (low light) 3.9 out of 5
 Bright light sample shot
 100% crop: good noise reduction  100% crop: good detail preservation
 Low light (20 Lux) studio shot
100% crop: some luminance noise in areas of plain color 100% crop: some very fine detail is being lost

Artifacts

Phone cameras, like entry-level compact cameras, tend to suffer from artifacts such as sharpening halos, color fringing, vignetting (shading) and distortion, which can have an impact on the visual appeal of the end result. DxOMark engineers measure and analyze a range of artifacts. Their findings after testing the Lenovo Moto G Plus are shown below:

  • Cyan shift close to sky saturation visible in outdoor shots
  • Some color fringing noticeable in backlit scenes
  • Moiré is occasionally visible

Perceptual Scores

  • Sharpness 4.5 out of 5
  • Color fringing 3.6 out of 5

Measured findings

  • Ringing center 7.6%
  • Ringing corner 4.9%
  • Max geometric distortion -0.4%
  • Luminance shading 9.4%

Distortion and Chromatic Aberrations

The graph shows the magnification from center to edge (with the center normalized to 1). The Lenovo Moto G Plus shows a very slight pincushion distortion, which you are not going to notice in normal photography.
 Chromatic aberrations are well under control.

Autofocus

DxOMark also tests autofocus accuracy and reliability by measuring how much the acutance - or sharpness - varies with each shot over a series of 30 exposures (defocusing then using the autofocus for each one). As with other tests these results are dependent on the viewing conditions (a little bit out of focus matters a lot less with a small web image than a full 8MP shot viewed at 100%). Using the 8MP equivalent setting, the Lenovo Moto G Plus performs very well in all light conditions. The overall score is 95/100 in bright light and 87/100 in low light.

Pros: 
  • Accurate and repeatable autofocus in all conditions

Cons:
  • Strong instabilities and overshoots in preview mode, particularly in low light
  • Slow convergence, particularly in low light
Autofocus repeatability - average acutance difference with best focus: low light 3.26%, bright light 1.63%

Flash

The Lenovo Moto G Plus offers a dual-LED flash for illumination in very low light. DxOMark scored the camera a 77/100 overall for its flash performance. 

Pros: 
  • Good exposure and vivid colors
  • Pleasant colors when flash is mixed with tungsten light
Cons:
  • Some focus and exposure irregularities
  • Noticeable hue non-uniformity in the field
  • Noise and attenuation visible in the corners

Overall DxOMark Mobile Score for Photo: 84 / 100

Video Capture

DxOMark engineers put phone cameras through a similarly grueling set of video tests, and you can read their full findings on the DxOMark website here. Overall, DxOMark found the Lenovo Moto G Plus video mode to perform very well, with fast autofocus, good stabilization and good color. On the downside, some stepping can be visible when the AF is adjusting and luminance noise is visible in low light footage.

Pros: 

  • Good stabilization
  • Good color rendering and white balance
  • Fast autofocus convergence
  • Good noise reduction in outdoor conditions

Cons: 

  • Some steps are visible during autofocus convergence in bright light
  • Occasional autofocus inaccuracies in low light
  • In low light some detail is lost and luminance noise is visible
  • Visible steps in exposure adaptation

Overall DxOMark Mobile Score for Video: 81 / 100

DXOMark Mobile Score
84

DXOMark Image Quality Assessment

With a DxOMark Mobile score of 84 the Lenovo Moto G Plus performs on the same level as flagship models, such as the Apple iPhone 6s Plus, Google Nexus 6P or Motorola's own Moto X Force / Droid Turbo 2, in the DxOMark smartphone rankings The test team liked the good detail in bright light, good color, low noise levels and reliable AF in bright light. However, they also found some loss of detail in the shadows and an occasional slightly cool color cast.  

In video mode the Moto G Plus has efficient stabilization, good color and very decent noise reduction in bright light. However, testers also found some AF inaccuracies and luminance noise in low light. For a more detailed analysis, visit www.dxomark.com.

Photo Mobile Score 85   Video Mobile Score 81
Exposure and Contrast 84   Exposure and Contrast 84
Color 85   Color 81
Autofocus 91   Autofocus 75
Texture 85   Texture 83
Noise 86   Noise 85
Photo Artifacts 85   Video Artifacts 80
Flash 77   Stabilization 81
Categories: Equipment

Primer: What is VR, and why should photographers care?

Tue, 05/17/2016 - 12:00pm
VR was everywhere at NAB, and at CES this year.

Virtual reality is an immersive experience that involves multiple senses, and, most importantly, responds to the intentional interaction of the viewer. From the earliest days of synchronized film and sound playback, the illusion of being in a different place or time, and generating an emotional response to the experience, has been the goal of most modern communication and entertainment mediums.

In VR, this illusion is referred to as 'presence,' where not only the sights and sounds (and other sensory input) are believable, but the ‘show' itself reacts to the participant's actions in a plausible way.

It isn't hard to imagine how different the experience of browsing through a gallery of images can be when they are not just thumbnails on a tight grid, but rather 'virtually' hung by the artist in a spacious VR room that mimics a physical gallery space. VR video adds the active immersion of being in the middle of a busy plaza, or riding inside a rally car during a nighttime ice race. The opportunities to share even simple, daily events become less about what was in the frame at the time, and more about what the whole location felt like.

VR differs from flat, 2D photos by requiring at least a seamless 360-degree view, and eventually full freedom of 3D motion.

Semantics

First, let's get some semantics out of the way. 'Virtual reality,' or VR, has generally been applied to 3D computer-generated graphics. There are some who say that anything that starts with a camera pointed at the real world is not VR. This ignores some of the history of VR (see below), as well as the coincidence that interactive panoramic images and videos on the web are displayed as textures on the inside of a 3D cube (or sphere, in some cases). There are also ways to create realistic 3D data from photographs, and from spherical panoramas in particular, both of which currently offer greater realism than 3D graphics created without the aid of photography.

While we could separate photography from 3D graphics by dogmatically referring to 360 x 180-degree images as 'spherical panoramas,' and try to demarcate 2D/3D hybrid technologies as 'not photography,' this would be unfair. Therefore, this article will still refer to VR as both an immersive experience, and something that a camera can capture. 

This primer will touch on the various technologies and companies involved in VR, but the underlying theme is on how conventional photography and cinematography influence VR, and how VR will influenced them in return. 

History of VR

(Clockwise from upper left) Sensorama, Battlezone, Virtuality arcade, USAF virtual cockpit, UIC CAVE, Telepresence HMD.

The term 'virtual reality' was originally coined (in French) by Antonin Artaud in his 1938 essays on the nature of theatrical performances, so it's rather fitting that the first functional VR experience, Sensorama, was conceived and patented (in 1957) by cinematographer Morton Heilig. In 1961, Heilig also patented a head-mounted, stereoscopic display system. While these inventions relied on pre-recorded films with very limited interaction, they introduced the concept of a viewer being immersed in a different environment; including the sights, sounds, smells and even windspeed of the environment being represented.

Though the entirely analog Sensorama never really took off, the concept of immersion was a core aim for early computer-generated 3D graphics. Most pioneering modern VR development was focused on military and aerospace training, where it is much safer, easier, and ultimately cheaper, to teach someone how to react to difficult situations in a virtual environment. The first 3D VR displays showed only glowing wireframes against a black screen (a la Battlezone), while the physical surroundings mimicked a real cockpit or driver's seat, complete with hydraulics to pitch the cabin during the experience.

In the 1980's and early 90's, the increasing visual fidelity of real-time computer graphics (driven both by industrial and entertainment uses) promised more realistic virtual environments, and the first wave of hype for consumer VR built up, entering popular culture with arcade entertainment like the Virtuality systems, and creative works like Neuromancer and The Lawnmower Man.

Recent times

Once this wave of hype broke on the shores of limited computing power, minimal content, and vaporware consumer displays (anyone remember SegaVR?), the relevant technology continued to advance in a consistent, but much quieter, fashion. Real-time 3D computer graphics progressed from plasticky representations on expensive workstations, to the increasing visual realism of PC and console games. In 1994, Apple introduced QuickTime VR as a very simple, portable way to display panoramic content with the freedom to look around, and this extension of QuickTime quickly became known for real estate 'virtual tours' and other early forms of photography-based VR on a computer.


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HTML5 static 360 VR sample - click this link for the VR headset version. (Made with Pano2VR)

In 2003, Linden Labs created Second Life, an entirely virtual 'social world' in which users could interact using human-looking avatars within an entirely synthetic, and user expandable, 3D world. Connecting people via the internet was not new, nor did Second Life initially support VR headsets with stereoscopic rendering, but this remains a good example of a successful shared 'virtual reality', in the original theatrical sense.

The 2007 introduction of Google Street View democratized the idea of spherical panoramic imagery (360 x 180 degrees of coverage) to immerse a viewer in various locations in the real world. This blending of photographic content with geographic data has broadened consumer acceptance of photographic VR, while the 2014 introduction of Google Cardboard (an inexpensive way to turn a modern smartphone into a VR headset) allows this vast amount of panoramic data to be viewed in a more natural, immersive way. 

The new hype of modern VR

Recent advancements in consumer electronics have reinvigorated virtual reality and given it new vigor, as well as inspiring new generations of researchers, entrepreneurs, and content creators. The ever-increasing computing power and screen resolutions of smartphones, combined with their built-in gyroscopes and accelerometers (useful for head tracking), have made these ubiquitous devices almost ideal for repurposing as a viewer for VR games, images, and video. 

Combining a phone with the simple mechanics of a Google Cardboard-type viewer, VR photos, apps and games (as well as New York Times articles)  means that VR content can be appreciated by a wider audience.

Google Cardboard - a $15 immersive display for anyone to try out.

Prior to Cardboard, most attempts at making a smartphone into a viewing platform were limited to stereographic toys, without enough software and hardware polish to make it a good experience. Samsung changed this by partnering with Oculus to produce the (currently $99) Gear VR headset, which is more than just a pair of lenses and a phone holder. Gear VR has its own accelerometers and gyroscope, as well as a USB connected control-pad, while Oculus provides a content store and software to enhance the experience. All of this pushes accessibility up from the bottom.

The same technology from smartphones has driven down the component cost of higher-end systems for virtual reality and augmented reality (AR), leading to consumer-level, dedicated, head-mounted displays like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, and extensions to game consoles like Playstation VR. While the initial adoption of these systems may be mainly with hard-core gamers and technophiles, the experiences and content being developed for these systems can be more ambitious and immersive, which in turn will draw more users to the hardware. The VR ecosystem is spreading rapidly, and spherical VR photos and videos are frequently the first experience most consumers will have.

Follow the money

Recent years have seen explosive growth in terms of business investments into VR, from the display systems (Facebook buying Oculus for $2 billion in 2014), to content creation (Nikon and Samsung have recently announced consumer 360 cameras, and Ricoh is on v.3 of theirs), while various VR startups raised over $658 million in funding just in the past year. The established games industry has already spent millions of dollars preparing for the 3D VR gaming revolution, which many analysts now say is no longer an 'if' proposition, but rather a 'when.'

Consulting and auditing firm Deloitte has predicted that the VR market (for content and devices) will hit $1 billion in sales during 2016 alone. Meanwhile, the games and VR consulting firm Digi-Capital goes even further to say that by 2020, the virtual reality and augmented reality markets will be worth around $120 billion. These market predictions are not based on advances in research labs and high-end applications, but rather from the groundswell of video game and mobile technology, along with increasingly diverse content.

As Alexandre Jenny, the Senior Director of Immersive Media at GoPro, puts it; "We are no longer wondering 'will VR change the world,' we are in the stage of 'how will VR change the world?' VR is certainly the best way to give someone an immersive experience, and that fact is really disruptive in many industries."

Commercial applications

Aside from research and purely artistic uses of VR (both of which have a long and fruitful history), there are numerous commercial applications for virtual reality, and many more are being developed as the tech progresses. Below are just a few examples.

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Categories: Equipment

Above and beyond: Lenovo Moto G Plus first impressions review

Tue, 05/17/2016 - 9:00am

The Moto G Plus is a brand new model in Motorola's Moto G mid-range series, but its camera specification looks pretty much top-notch. A 1/2.4-inch Omnivsion OV16860 16MP sensor with a large pixel size of 1.34um is paired with a fast F2.0 aperture. Its contrast detect autofocus is supported by on-sensor phase detection and a laser to measure subject distance. A dual-LED flash is on board for shooting in very dark conditions, and in the camera app a new Professional mode allows for manual control over the most important shooting parameters like shutter speed and ISO.

The new Professional mode allows for manual control over shutter speed and other shooting parameters via a range of virtual dials. It's also possible to display just one dial at a time.

We have had the chance to use the Moto G Plus for a couple of days before launch and shot a good number of samples in a variety of situations. Read on for our first impressions of the new smartphone and its camera. 

Image Quality

In bright light the Moto G Plus 16MP camera module does a very good job at resolving detail. Thanks to very well balanced sharpening and noise reduction, fine textures and low contrast detail, such as the trees in the distance in the left sample below, are rendered very nicely. The lens in our test unit is sharp,  with only some minor softness toward the edges. Skin tones look natural and color is overall pleasantly neutral, without any white balance issues in natural light. 

 ISO 64, 1/1236 sec  ISO 64, 1/137 sec
 100% crop  100% crop

Some luminance noise is visible in blue skies but it is finely grained and not too intrusive. In the shadow areas some smearing of detail is noticeable, but again this is well within acceptable limits. Shadow noise is very well controlled as well.

 ISO 64, 1/2836 sec  ISO 64, 1/450 sec
 100% crop  100% crop

The well-balanced approach toward noise reduction is maintained throughout the ISO range and while noise and the effects of noise reduction inevitably become more evident in lower light the Moto G Plus performs very well in dimmer conditions. 

 ISO 160, 1/33 sec  ISO 400, 1/30 sec
 100% crop  100% crop

In lower light shutter speeds are reduced down to 1/15 sec which, without optical image stabilization, can result in the occasional shaky image. However, as long as you keep your hands steady the Moto captures very good detail, color and exposures in lower light. Both images below were shot in fairly dim conditions. In the one on the right the camera deals particularly well with the mix of artificial and very low natural light.

 ISO 640, 1/20 sec  ISO 800, 1/15 sec
 100% crop  100% crop

Like on the higher-end Moto models, the Moto G Plus offers a multi-frame Night Mode that kicks in when things get too dark. This allows for decent exposures of even very dark scenes, such as the image on the left below which was captured in a museum in very low light. We also liked the Moto G Plus flash performance which delivered well-exposed images with good color and detail during our brief test. 

 ISO 1250 1/15 sec  ISO 2000, 1/15 sec, flash on
 100% crop  100% crop

Special modes

The Moto G Plus comes with the same panorama mode as previous Moto devices and image output is very similar. Stitching is generally very good but panorama mode does not deal well with moving subjects in the scene. At under 3000 pixels the output size is very small. 

 Vertical panorama, 2472 x 704 pixels

HDR mode works in the conventional way and combines several exposures into one. On the Moto G Plus the effect is much more pronounced in shadow areas, which are noticeably lifted while highlights are only recovered minimally. 

ISO 64, 1/1196 sec,  HDR off  ISO 64, 1/1158 sec, HDR on

In video mode the Moto G Plus can capture 1080p footage at 30 frames per second that is digitally stabilized. Detail is good, the autofocus tends to be stable and the stabilization works efficiently, making for smooth panning and stable hand-held recording.

First impressions

During our testing we were impressed with the image output produced by the Moto G Plus. The large pixels in combination with very well-balanced image processing result in image quality that we would typically expect from devices in a higher price category. Images show good detail and well-controlled noise levels across the ISO range. Colors are pleasantly natural, even in difficult light situations, and thanks to its night mode the Moto is capable of capturing decent exposures even at very low light levels. On the downside, in dim conditions camera shake can lead to some image blur, though it is typically only noticeable at a 100% view.

The new Professional mode is good news for those mobile photographers who want maximum control over the capture process, and the large 1080p display is nice for viewing and composing images. The fingerprint sensor performs very swiftly and increases the security of your image and video files that are stored on the device. The plastic back is in line with a mid-ranger but overall the Moto G Plus looks like a great option for consumers who want excellent camera performance without spending money on a flagship device.

Categories: Equipment

Lenovo's Moto G Plus comes with 1/2.4-inch sensor and fingerprint reader

Tue, 05/17/2016 - 9:00am
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Motorola's Moto G series has always been one of the best options for smartphone users looking for top performance at mid-range pricing. Now, the first new G model has been launched since Motorola became a Lenovo company. True to form, the Moto G Plus offers several features we are used to seeing on high-end devices and a promising-looking camera specification.

An Omnivsion OV16860 1/2.4-inch 16MP sensor with a large pixel size of 1.34um is paired with a fast F2.0 aperture, on-sensor phase detection and laser-assisted AF. There is also a dual-LED flash and a 5MP front camera with F2.2 aperture. On the software side of things a new Pro mode allows for manual control over shutter speed and other essential shooting parameters.

Like all recent Moto devices, the Moto G Plus comes with a 'pure' version of Android 6.0, without any manufacturer-specific add-ons, to keep things as responsive and smooth as possible. Google Photos is the default photos app and includes two years of free storage at original image quality for Moto G buyers.

The OS and other software is powered by a 1.5 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 chipset with octa-core CPU and 550 MHz Adreno 405 GPU. There are 2GB of RAM and microSD-expandable storage options ranging from 16 to 64GB. Images can be viewed and composed on a 5.5-inch 1080p display that is covered with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 for protection. 

The 3000 mAh battery features Motorola's TurboPower charging which can provide approximately 6 hours worth of power in 15 minutes of charging. A fingerprint reader at the front increases security and provides a convenient way of unlocking the device. The Lenovo Moto G Plus has first been launched in India where it will be exclusive to Amazon.in and start at approximately $200 for the base 16GB version. Pricing for other regions has not been revealed yet. With the Moto G Plus Lenovo has also launched the 4th generation of the standard Moto G model which comes with identical processor specifications but has to make do without the fingerprint reader and, with a 13MP Sony IMX214 image sensor, offers a very similar camera specification to last year's Moto G

Key specifications:

  • Omnivsion OV16860 1/2.4-inch 16MP sensor
  • F2.0 aperture
  • On-sensor phase detection and laser-assisted AF
  • 1080p video
  • 520p slow-motion video
  • Dual-LED flash
  • Manual control over shutter speed
  • 5MP / F2.2 front camera
  • Android 6.0
  • 5.5-inch 1080p display (401 ppi)
  • 1.5 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 chipset with octa-core CPU 
  • 2GB RAM / 16, 32 or 64GB storage
  • MicroSD support up to 128GB
  • 3000 mAh battery with quick charging
  • Fingerprint reader
Categories: Equipment

Broncolor launches battery-powered Siros studio heads for location photographers

Tue, 05/17/2016 - 4:00am
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Swiss lighting manufacturer bronocolor has announced the Siros 400 L and 800 L, a pair of battery-powered studio heads. Both models use an interchangeable lithium-ion cell that the company says is powerful enough to provide 440 full-power bursts from a single charge in the 400L, and 200 in the 800L. The cells recharge from flat in 75 minutes.

The new heads use the same modifiers as the current Siros range, and the 25-watt LED modeling light matches the color temperature of the bulbs used in the company’s mains-powered heads. The Siros 800 L has a maximum output of 800 joules, while the smaller 400 L head manages half of that. Both can produce flash durations as short as 1/19,000sec, and both can be controlled via Wi-Fi and the broncolor bronControl app for iOS and Android devices. To help the user identify which light is being adjusted from the app, it is possible to color code each head using the LEDs built into the body of the head’s housing.

These new Siros L heads can only be powered via their batteries, which fit inside the head rather than acting as external packs connected by a cable. Spare batteries will cost £215 plus tax. The heads will be available sooner than the press release states.

  • Siros 400 L Head - £1,515 + VAT
  • Siros 800 L Head - £1,755 + VAT
  • Siros 400 Outdoor Kit 2 (Two head kit) - £2,995 + VAT
  • Siros 800 Outdoor Kit 2 (Two head kit) - £3,495 + VAT

For more information visit the broncolor website.

Press release:

broncolor presents its new compact device – battery-powered studio quality

With the Siros 800 L, we have succeeded in producing one of the most powerful compact devices currently available on the market. The Siros 800 L is, like the somewhat smaller version, the Siros 400 L, a true genius in offering discerning photographers optimum lighting both indoors and outdoors.

Siros L – optimum lighting, compact and mobile
The Siros L is broncolor’s new battery-powered compact device, which provides ambitious professional photographers with the opportunity to enjoy the perfect lighting, be this in a mobile form in the studio, or for external shots – offering both very fast, and also long, flash durations.

The device has the most up-to-date lithium ion batteries – thanks to this, the device can achieve 440 flashes at full power; and the lower the power, even more flashes are available. The battery-pack can be used over a very wide temperature range from -10° to 60°C (14° to 140°F). Once its power has been used up, it can be completely recharged in only 75 minutes, allowing just two batteries to be switched and recharged during a shoot if there is a power supply available.

The Siros L uses the Swiss manufacturer’s ECTC technology, which has already been used in the well-known Scoro and Move generators – thus, Siros L has flash durations of up to 1/19'000 s (t0.5) and, of course, a guaranteed constant colour temperature over the entire control range.

All the Siros L’s functions are easily and remotely controlled by the “bronControl” app, which establishes its own WiFi network; this then allows the control of several devices by means of a smartphone or tablet. In order to ensure that the photographer knows which device he is currently addressing, the devices all have different LED colour codes – this ensures that the Siros L is easy to use, both indoors and outdoors.

Thanks to its compact size and battery-operation, the Siros L is absolutely ideal for outdoor use. It can, of course, also be used in the studio where it can be easily integrated into existing broncolor studio equipment.

The 25-watt LED modules offer a bright modelling light with a colour temperature of 3000 K, matching the colour temperature of the halogen modelling lamps of the Siros mains powered units.

In addition to the 800 J version for photographers who refuse to compromise in respect of power, there is the Siros 400 L version which is somewhat smaller and lighter and thus offers about 50% of the energy of its bigger brother.

The Siros L can be used with the entire broncolor light-shaper range. Many light-shapers, such as softboxes, open reflectors and especially Paras, are parabolic and can only guarantee an optimum light output and quality if the light source is placed as close as possible to the focal point in the interior of the reflector. This is why, with the Siros L, broncolor has deliberately opted for an external flash tube, providing perfect lighting.

The Siros L will be available in shops from 1st July 2016.
Would you like to know more? Please visit broncolor’s website at www.broncolor.com

Categories: Equipment

Day at the track: Canon EOS-1D X Mark II samples

Mon, 05/16/2016 - 8:35pm

The EOS-1D X Mark II is the latest flagship body from Canon, boasting a 20.2MP CMOS sensor, 12 fps continuous viewfinder shooting and a new 61-point autofocus system. Built like a tank, the 1DX II is as pro-level as pro-level bodies come.

To get some basic impressions of its AF performance and image quality we brought it out to Evergreen Motocross Park in Monroe, Washington to photograph an all-day practice. While this gallery represents only our initial samples with the camera, we will be adding to it frequently in the coming days and weeks. Also, check back later in the week for an in-depth article about the experience of shooting these samples alongside the Nikon D5.

Note: All of the images in the gallery were processed using Adobe Photoshop CC with adjustments made mainly to exposure parameters and saturation only.  All images were edited using the Camera Standard profile.

Categories: Equipment

Xiaomi Yi II action camera updates original with 4K video

Mon, 05/16/2016 - 3:48pm

Chinese company Xiaomi has updated its Yi action camera with a Sony IMX377 12MP 1/2.3" sensor, improving its top resolution to 4K compared to the original model's 1080p maximum. The Yi II Action Camera also features an Ambarella A9SE75 chipset, a 155-degree wide-angle 7-layer optical glass lens and a 2.19" LCD rear touchscreen display.

According to Xiaomi, the internal 1400mAh battery allows for up to 120 minutes of video recording in 4K. Content is stored on a removable media card, with capacities of up to 64GB supported. Other features include a built-in speaker and microphone, dual-band Wi-Fi, and three color options: Rose Gold, White, and Black.

The international version of the Yi II Action Camera offers the following recording options:

  • WVGA/240fps
  • 720p/240fps
  • 960p/120fps
  • 1080p/120fps
  • 1440p/60fps
  • 2.5K/30fps
  • 4K/30fps

The camera can be pre-ordered from GearBest for $249.99.

Categories: Equipment

Sony expects to restart image sensor production by end of month

Mon, 05/16/2016 - 3:01pm

Sony, one of the biggest image sensor manufacturers for the photographic industry, has announced its sensor plant in the earthquake-hit Kumamoto region will be ready to begin production again by the end of this month.

The company says it has been able to begin testing sensors and camera modules that were already made at the time of the April 14th earthquake, and that assembly lines for new units should begin working again any day now. Wafer manufacture, it says, should begin on 21st May, though not all lines will start on that date. 

Damage caused by the earthquake forced the Sony Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporation to halt production at the Kumamoto Technology Center where it produces imaging sensors for digital cameras. According to a report from the Nikkei Asian Review, the damage and lost business caused by the series of earthquakes and aftershocks has cost the Japanese economy $4.6 billion. Sony itself says it is still evaluating the cost of the disaster, and it is due to publish forecast figures for the current financial year on 24 May.

For reports on Sony’s recovery process see the company’s investor relations website.

Press release:

Status of Sony Group Business Operations Affected by 2016 Kumamoto Earthquakes
(Fourth Update)

The status of Sony Group business operations affected by the earthquake of April 14, 2016 and subsequent earthquakes in the Kumamoto region, as of today, is as follows:

Operations at Sony Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporation's Kumamoto Technology Center (located in Kikuchi Gun, Kumamoto Prefecture), which is the primary manufacturing site of image sensors for digital cameras and security cameras as well as micro-display devices, had been suspended due to the impact of the earthquakes. However, as of May 9, 2016, testing operations, which are one of the back-end processes carried out on the upper layer of the building, have resumed and other back-end processes, such as assembly, are also expected to restart sequentially beginning May 17, 2016.

Wafer processing operations located on the lower layer of the building are expected to restart sequentially beginning May 21, 2016.

Although there was a delay in the supply of components to Sony from certain third-party suppliers that also have manufacturing facilities in the Kumamoto region, inventory adjustments have been made and a timeframe for regaining supply levels is now in place, so no material impact is anticipated on Sony’s business operations.

Based on the above, the effect of the Kumamoto earthquakes on business operations within the Mobile Communications, Game & Network Services and Home Entertainment & Sound segments is not anticipated to have a material impact on Sony’s consolidated results.

On the other hand, regarding the Devices and Imaging Products & Solutions segments, the impact on Sony’s consolidated results due to the effect of the earthquakes, including from opportunity losses, as well as expenses for recovery and reinforcement work, continues to be evaluated. Sony is scheduled to announce on May 24, 2016 its consolidated results forecast for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2017, as well as its forecasts for the Mobile Communications, Game & Network Services, Imaging Products & Solutions, Home Entertainment & Sound and Devices segments for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2017.

Categories: Equipment

Nikon D500: First-impressions review

Mon, 05/16/2016 - 12:08pm

The Nikon D500 is a 20MP APS-C DSLR capable of shooting at up to 10 frames per second and featuring an autofocus system derived from the one in the D5. In other words, it’s exactly the kind of high-end DX format body that appeared to have become extinct with the D300S.

The six-and-a-half years that have passed since the D300S’ launch have seen the camera market move on considerably but the D500 does much to reclaim the position as one of the pre-eminent APS-C camera on the market.

As you might expect, much of the improved capability of the camera centers around sports and high-speed shooting, with significant upgrades to the shooting rate and autofocus system, but there are also major upgrades to the viewfinder, video capabilities and connectivity options which expand its utility beyond one particular niche.

Key Features

  • 20MP APS-C (DX Format) sensor
  • 153 point AF module with 99 cross-type points
  • 180,000 pixel RGB sensor for metering and subject recognition
  • AF point joystick
  • 10 fps shooting for up to 200 shots (lossless compressed 14-bit Raw to XQD card)
  • 4K (UHD) video from 1.5x crop of sensor
  • 100x coverage viewfinder with 1.0x magnification
  • 2.36m dot tilt up/down touchscreen
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity with NFC for setup
  • Mic and headphone sockets
  • USB 3.0 connector
  • Anti-flicker option for working under artificial lighting

A good sport

Much of the D500’s capability is built around the ability to focus and shoot very quickly. Its 153-point AF module offers near full-width coverage and is linked to a 180,000 pixel RGB metering sensor to further improve its AF tracking capabilities. Interestingly, and like the D5, the D500’s AF system now offers two parameters for fine-tuning the autofocus tracking behavior, letting the user specify the type of subject movement and the correct response to another object blocking the targeted subject. Existing Nikons only let you specify duration, suggesting Nikon is trying to expand the range of shooting situations for which the AF system can be optimized.

Only 55 of the camera’s AF points can be directly selected and the D500 gains both a joystick and a touchscreen to make it as fast as possible to select the point you want to use. Add to this the ability to shoot up to 200 Raw frames before slowing down (if you use an XQD card), and it becomes obvious that the D500 is intended as a high-speed pro/semi-pro camera in a way the D7000 series never was.

The D500 also gains an anti-flicker option designed to ensure the camera shoots in-sync with the brightest point in the flickering cycle of artificial lights. It's a feature we first saw on the Canon EOS 7D Mark II and we'd expect it to be particularly valuable for shooting indoor sports such as basketball.

Another sign that this is a true high-end camera is the inclusion of a larger viewfinder. Like previous DX00 class cameras it has 100% coverage but it also offers 1.0x magnification, which is the largest optical viewfinder we can remember seeing in an APS-C camera (electronic viewfinders are a different matter, since size and brightness isn't constrained by sensor/mirror size).

The D500 can also shoot 4K video and includes both an input for using an external mic and a headphone socket for audio monitoring. The camera also offers a flat picture profile to provide more post-processing flexibility, on-screen highlight warnings and power aperture control that allows you to select and change the aperture when in movie mode. There’s no focus peaking option, though, and you can’t zoom-in while you record to confirm or adjust focus as you record.

Connectivity

One of the other big features Nikon is touting is its Snapbridge system that uses Bluetooth LE (a low-power variant of Bluetooth also known as Bluetooth Smart), and Wi-Fi to maintain a connection between the camera and a smart device. This includes the ability to auto-transfer images from the camera, as well as initiating the Wi-Fi connection for remote shooting or manual image transfer.

Context

To show where the D500 sits in the lineup, here are the major feature differences between it and the less expensive D7200, along with a comparison back to the D300S – not because we expect anyone to be choosing between them, but to show how much of a step forward the camera represents.

   Nikon D500 Nikon D7200 Nikon D300S
Sensor Resolution 20MP 24MP 12MP
AF points 153 (99 cross type) 51 (15 cross-type) 51 (15 cross-type)
Max frame rate 10 fps
  • 6 fps
  • 7 fps in 1.3x crop mode
  • 7 fps
  • 8 fps with battery grip
Buffer depths 200 lossless compressed 14-bit Raw

~17 14-bit Raw
~28 12-bit Raw

30 lossless compressed 14-bit Raw
Shutter durability rating 200,000  150,000  150,000
Viewfinder
  • 1.0x magnification
  • 100% coverage
  • 0.94x mag
  • 100% coverage
  • 0.94x mag
  • 100% coverage
Rear screen
  • 2.36m dots 3.2"
  • Tilting
  • Touch sensitive
  • 1.23m dots 3.2"
  • Fixed
  • 920k dots 3.0"
  • Fixed
Video Resolution
  • UHD/30p
  • 1080/60p
  • 1080/60p
  •  720/24p
Mic/Headphone? Yes/Yes Yes/Yes Yes/No
Wi-Fi? Yes (and Bluetooth) Yes No
Built-in flash? No Yes Yes
AF-On Button? Yes No Yes
Body construction Magnesium Alloy + Carbon fiber composite Carbon fibre composite Magnesium Alloy
Battery Life (CIPA) 1240 shots/charge 1100 shots/charge 950 shots/charge
Weight (Body Only) 760g 675g

840g

Review History

Review History
26 April 2016 Studio scene and Raw dynamic range published.
16 May 2016 Introduction, Body and Handling, Operation and Controls, Wi-Fi and Connectivity and Video pages published
Categories: Equipment

2016 Roundup: Interchangeable Lens Cameras $800-1200

Mon, 05/16/2016 - 7:00am

These days, many (if not most) consumers are likely to shop based on price and capability, rather than according to whether a certain model contains a mirror, or not. We think this is a good thing; with all the increased competition, cameras are improving more and at a faster rate than ever before. From the gear perspective, it's certainly an exciting time to be a photographer.

In this category, you'll find both mirrorless and DSLR cameras that are highly capable under a variety of shooting situations, offer built-in high-spec viewfinders - either optical and electronic - and an extensive array of external controls. The biggest differences in performance tend to come down to autofocus sophistication and video capability, but neither of those is dictated by the presence or lack of mirror.

The contenders are:

Most of the camera in this roundup are built around either Four Thirds or APS-C sensors. Sensor size plays a large part in determining the image quality a camera is ultimately capable of and, in general, the larger a camera's sensor, the better the image quality and the more control you have over depth-of-field. APS-C sensors are larger than Four Thirds chips, but the differences are rarely huge. 

Of course, the sensor sizes and image quality of these cameras are not the only thing that varies; the feature sets and performance of each camera are also quite different across the board. Within this category you'll find weather-sealed cameras, cameras that can capture 4K video, cameras that can shoot bursts at incredibly high speeds with autofocus, and cameras that are simply well-balanced all-rounders. Which one should you buy? Read on to find out...

Categories: Equipment

Readers' Showcase: Arek Halusko

Sun, 05/15/2016 - 8:00am

Readers' Showcase: Arek Halusko

Roxy and Chili taking a break in the sun. Surrey BC, June 2007. Photo by Arek Halusko

For DPR reader Arek Halusko, photography is a form of stress relief. Based in BC, Canada, he runs his own business and finds himself drawn to photographing urban scenes, where there's always something to shoot around the corner. Take a look at some of his work.

Interested in having your work featured in an upcoming Readers' Showcase? Let us know! Include your DPR user name a link to your online portfolio.

Readers' Showcase: Arek Halusko

Staircase downtown Vancouver BC. May 2005. Photo by Arek Halusko

Where are you from, and how did you get into photography?

Originally I'm from Poland and my family emigrated to Canada in 1984. We ended up in Kamloops BC and then I moved to the Lower Main Land of BC in 1995. I took up photography in 2001 as a way to relieve stress while working at a very fast growing local ISP. After 15 years it's still the best way to clear my mind from stress, although this time it's from running my own business.

Readers' Showcase: Arek Halusko

Tin Solder New Westminster Quay, May 2005. Photo by Arek Halusko

What was your first camera?

I was given a camera when I was about 9 years old until I bent the shutter blades trying to see what was inside this mechanical wonder. It wasn't until about 20 years later when I got a Pentax Spotmatic, although don't remember which model/year.

Readers' Showcase: Arek Halusko

Little house on a foggy morning in Glen Valley BC. Jan 2010. Photo by Arek Halusko

What cameras and lenses do you use now?

99% of the time I use an Olympus E5 and once in a while Olympus E1. The E1 for me has the ultimate in ergonomics. Lens-wise I mostly use the Zuiko 12-60mm and own Zuiko 4:3 8mm FE, Zuiko 4:3 50-200mm. 

Readers' Showcase: Arek Halusko

New Westminster BC parkade on Columbia St. Sept 2004 . Photo by Arek Halusko

Do you have a favorite focal length, or are there a few that you tend to prefer?

Wide-angle is my preference. I really got hooked on wide-angle when I got a Kiron 24mm for my Pentax MZ3 in the early 2000's and then the Zuiko 4:3 11-22mm for my Olympus E1.

Readers' Showcase: Arek Halusko

Fishing on a foggy morning in front of Pattullo Bridge in Surrey BC. Feb 2007. Photo by Arek Halusko

Most of your photos seem to be taken not too far from your home in BC. Do you ever travel to take photos or do you tend to stay close to home?

Unfortunately I haven't had a chance to travel outside of Canada so all of my images are either from BC or Alberta. I'm planning on taking cross Canada trips starting next year when me and my wife plan to drive from Vancouver area to Inuvik and if the Dempster highway extension is finished then on to Tuktoyaktuk. I always stick to urban/city scenes as I'm drawn to the structural patterns and cityscapes, and there's always something to shoot around the corner.

Readers' Showcase: Arek Halusko

Sky Strain bridge leading from New Westminster BC over the Fraser River To Surrey BC. Jan 2005. Photo by Arek Halusko

What are some of your favorite locations to shoot?

Vancouver city, and the interior of BC – especially the Cache Creek/Ashcroft/Fraser Canyon area. Last summer I did a lot of day/weekend trips to the interior of BC so have lots of locations marked to come back to and shoot this summer. For me this is a bit of a shooting style/subject change as I haven't had a chance to get out to downtown Vancouver much in the last few years.

Readers' Showcase: Arek Halusko

Golden Ears bridge in Surrey/Maple Ridge BC. Jan 2010. Photo by Arek Halusko

Do you set goals or create projects for yourself as a photographer, or is it more free-form?

It's 99% free-from although did a lot of experiments when I was still in the early stages of photography, from product shots to night club photography. The last project I did was to see what I could do in dreary/foggy weather since the West Coast of Canada is like that from October to May. It turned out better than I expected.

Readers' Showcase: Arek Halusko

Sky Strain and Pattullo Bridge in Surrey BC. Sept 2009. Photo by Arek Halusko

In your opinion, what’s been the most important technological advancement in photography since you started shooting?

Without a doubt, the introduction of the affordable Canon D30. For me, going from a film Pentax MZ3 to a D30 was a 180 degree change in what I could accomplish in one day of shooting. Also, the CPU race between AMD and Intel at around the same time, which brought huge computing power to allow cheap and powerful digital darkrooms for every photographer.

Readers' Showcase: Arek Halusko

Old car doors in Spences Bridge BC. July 2015. Photo by Arek Halusko

What’s the best advice you’ve been given as a photographer?

When you are looking for/at the scene/subject visualize it like you would see it in the viewfinder, it takes some time but eventually it'll click in like your first balanced bike ride.

Categories: Equipment

Rice Hill: Shooting in Riisitunturi National Park

Sat, 05/14/2016 - 6:23pm
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Riisitunturi is a national park in the Posio municipality in Finnish Lapland. It is situated in the south of Lapland and sports a sub-Arctic climate, but due to its inland location it can get extremely cold. I spent a few weeks scouting the area in early 2015 and 2016 to prepare for my workshop there, and I have to admit I fell in love with it.

Covering an area of 77 square kilometers, the park is in a mountainous area and lies almost entirely at an altitude of over 300 meters above sea level. It is most known for its twin hills (Riisitunturi means 'Rice Hill' in Finnish), home to a forest of spruce trees, the main (winter) photographic attraction in the area. There are also multiple swamps in the park.

'The one-hour, mildly-strenuous hike to the top
is very rewarding'

In winter, due to heavy precipitation and a very humid climate, the spruce trees are covered in a thick white blanket of frost-snow. When climbing up the trails to the hilltop, the snow gets deeper and the trees shorter and more sparse. And that is exactly the point: while the trees at the bottom are full-sized and usually too big to capture, the hilltop trees are more manageable and beautifully isolated, and retain their white cover even when the lower trees are stripped bare on a windy or warm day. The one-hour, mildly-strenuous hike to the top is very rewarding.

The spruce trees typical to Lapland's forests are tall and close together, making them impossible to isolate and hard to photograph.

Due to the unending variety of both the trees and the weather conditions one can witness on the hilltop, I'd definitely recommend spending multiple days exploring the park. The snow-laden trees assume a myriad of shapes and forms, often imitating worldly scenes incredibly accurately.

A completely different atmosphere on a gloomy day. The snow-laden spruces barely stand out from the similarly-colored background, contributing to the magical feel of the image.

The trees look very different during a clear sunrise compared to a foggy day, changing their appearance once more under a cloudy gloom. And once the sun comes out, it's a whole new ballgame. The colors change – no longer pink and red, but a new element enters the equation and your images can benefit from it.

The star-burst works best when located in small openings - and the snow-laden trees have plenty of those.

I hope you agree the park is amazingly beautiful and photogenic. But what do you need to know and be prepared for in order to shoot there? First of all, be ready for extreme cold. It may not be the case (global warming takes its toll on Lapland, with weather conditions ever more volatile), but early in winter temperatures can sometimes plummet to -30 degrees Centigrade or so.

'Several thermal layers and
a heavy down jacket are essential'

It is indeed very, very cold, so make sure you're well dressed. Several thermal layers and a heavy down jacket are essential. Warm gloves and good thermal boots are also needed if you're to spend several hours shooting the trees.

Secondly, you have to have either snow-shoes or skis. The snow might be packed at the bottom, but the higher up you venture up the hill, the deeper and fluffier it is. Without a way of spreading your weight, you'll simply sink down to your waist, which makes walking utterly impossible.

Yours truly struggling up the hill. If you look carefully, you can see snow stuck throughout the length of my trousers, remnants of sitting (and occasional sinking) in the snow. Image courtesy of Tiina Törmänen.

While I tend to shoot ultra-wide most often, in Riisitunturi I found myself mostly shooting with a 24-70mm lens, for several reasons.

Firstly, the sheer effort of moving. Snow-shoeing is physically demanding, and sometimes good conditions come and you simply don't have the time to move to the right location - a task which would require long minutes. A longer focal length gives you a bit more flexibility and the opportunity to get closer without wasting precious time. Please note that I'm not saying that a 24-70 can replace an ultra wide lens - just that it can sometimes be more practical when time is of the essence and movement is problematic. I do use my 16-35mm in Riisitunturi, more and more as time passes.

'Shooting from farther away gives you the ability to better balance the image'

Secondly, while the spruces on top of the hill are much shorter than the ones below, they are still often higher than a human. This means a lot of perspective issues if you shoot them up close, and potentially having a large part of your image as empty space. Shooting from farther away gives you the ability to better balance the image, and produce more realistic, less contorted shots.

Regarding technique - Riisitunturi has a very special trait which makes shooting with a tripod hard, sometimes impossible. The snow, in some places, is just too darn deep, and tripod legs sink in and can't be stabilized. The simple solution is to shoot hand-held (or use a monopod), which works pretty well most of the time, especially if you have a stabilized lens. It's not the end of the world if you need to use higher ISO and a wider aperture to get the shot. It obviously doesn't work at night or at other low-light scenes, so sometimes you'll have to fight with the tripod.

All in all, Riisitunturi is a wonderful location for winter photography. It's not too hard to access, there are decent accommodation options in the area and you can easily spend a few days exploring it, either alone or with a group. I hope this article gives you the needed motivation and knowledge to do so. Enjoy!

Erez Marom is a professional nature photographer, photography guide and traveler based in Israel. You can follow Erez's work on InstagramFacebook and 500px, and subscribe to his mailing list for updates.

If you'd like to experience and shoot some of the most fascinating landscapes on earth with Erez as your guide, you're welcome to take a look at his unique photography workshops around the world:

White Wonderland - Lapland
Land of Ice
 - Southern Iceland
Winter Paradise - Northern Iceland
Northern Spirits - The Lofoten Islands
Giants of the Andes and Fitz Roy Hiking Annex - Patagonia
Tales of Arctic Nights - Greenland
Earth, Wind and Fire - Ethiopia

Selected articles by Erez Marom:

Categories: Equipment

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