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All articles from Digital Photography Review
Updated: 51 min 5 sec ago

Adobe Lightroom CC 2015.5 / 6.5 update brings bug fixes, new camera support

Wed, 03/16/2016 - 2:47pm

Adobe has launched Lightroom CC 2015.5 and Lightroom 6.5, bringing numerous bug fixes alongside new camera support and dozens of new lens profiles. The update fixes a few issues with the Panorama Merge feature, including bugs affecting Boundary Warp, as well as 'a ton of sync errors' and a couple missing features.

The new version of Lightroom takes care of dust spots in a smart way – remove spots from the first image, and the rest will be removed automatically as other images are merged. Additionally, bugs have been fixed that affected Boundary Warp, a tool that helps straighten curved edges of stitched panoramas.

Bug fixes unrelated to Panorama Merge include numerous unspecified syncing errors. Adobe also claims that syncing with the Android and iOS Lightroom apps is now faster. Mouse scrolling has been restored in Loupe view, and it has also reinstated scroll bars in the Book module for faster browsing. Finally, slideshows once again display images in high-resolution, whereas before a bug caused them to display at a 'much lower res than expected.'

The following camera models are now supported:

  • Canon EOS-1D X Mark II
  • Canon EOS 80D
  • Canon EOS 1300D (Rebel T6, Kiss X80)
  • Nikon D5
  • Nikon D500
  • Olympus PEN-F
  • Olympus SH-3
  • Panasonic DMC-CM10
  • Panasonic DMC-GF8
  • Panasonic DMC-ZS100 (DMC-ZS110, DMC-TZ100, DMC-TZ101, DMC-TZ110, DMC-TX1)
  • Samsung NX3300
  • Sony Alpha a6300 (ILCE-6300)
  • Yuneec CGO4

Lastly, more than 70 lens profiles have been added for lenses from Canon, Fujifilm, Olympus, Panasonic, Pentax, Samsung, SIGMA, and Sony, and there's support for the lens used by the Huawei Nexus 6P and LG Nexus 5X smartphones. The full list of newly supported lens profile is available here.

Categories: Equipment

DxO extends camera support with OpticsPro, FilmPack and ViewPoint updates

Wed, 03/16/2016 - 2:25pm

DxO has introduced updates for its OpticsPro, FilmPack and ViewPoint software that adds support for six new cameras, as well as 50 additional camera/lens modules to the DxO Optics Module library.

The updates add support for the following cameras:

  • Canon Powershot G5 X
  • Canon Powershot G9 X
  • Leica Q (typ 116)
  • Sony DSC-RX1R II
  • Canon EOS M10
  • Leica SL

DxO OpticsPro v10.5.4, DxO FilmPack v5.5.4 and DxO ViewPoint v2.5.13 are available for download now from DxO. Through March 31, new users can purchase DxO's applications at a discount:

  • DxO OpticsPro 10 ESSENTIAL Edition: $64/£49 (instead of $129/£99)
  • DxO OpticsPro 10 ELITE Edition: $99/£79 (instead of $199/£159)
  • DxO FilmPack 5 ESSENTIAL Edition: $39/£29 (instead of $79/£59)
  • DxO FilmPack 5 ELITE Edition: $64/£49 (instead of $129/£99)
  • DxO ViewPoint 2: $39/£29 (instead of $79/£59)
Categories: Equipment

Interview with three-time Oscar winning cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki

Wed, 03/16/2016 - 8:00am

Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki films actor Forrest Goodluck in The Revenant, for which he won the 2016 Academy Award for Best Cinematography. Lubezki shot The Revenant entirely with natural light.

Photo: Kimberly French

On February 28 Emmanuel Lubezki won his third consecutive Oscar for Best Cinematography for The Revenant, starring Leonardo DiCaprio. That’s an impressive feat, but even more so when you consider that he also took home the Oscar in the same category in 2015 (for Birdman) and in 2014 (for Gravity), and has been nominated a total of eight times, making him the first cinematographer to win three Academy Awards in a row and establishing his place as one of the preeminent cinematographers of our day.

Lubezki is known for creating immersive, organic experiences that draw viewers into the story, often embracing wide angle lenses and long continuous shots to achieve this effect. His work has variously led audiences through sensory experiences that have evoked strong emotion, a sense of exploration and freedom, magic, beauty, authenticity and, at times, even discomfort.  Many will remember the twelve-minute opening scene in Gravity as well as the famous (and rather tense) uninterrupted four-minute car chase in Children of Men.

A few days before the Oscars, Lubezki, who also happens to be an enthusiastic photographer, joined DPReview editors Dale Baskin and Rishi Sanyal to share his thoughts on a variety of topics ranging from artistic to technical. Of particular interest to DPReview readers, he discusses the impact of digital technology on filmmaking, how he selects and tests his gear, and why he chose to shoot The Revenant entirely on digital cameras using only natural light. Additionally, he explains his excitement about InVisage QuantumFilm, a technology we’ve covered before, and why it excited him enough that in November of 2015 he joined InVisage’s Advisory Board to provide expert and artistic insight to help guide the company.

After our 2-page interview, be sure to visit page 3 for our Editor's Note that dives deep into some of the technical ground covered. And to get a more personal view of Lubezki’s work you can follow him on Instagram @chivexp.

DPReview: Hi, Emmanuel. Thanks for taking some time to meet with us. Everyone here at DPReview is really excited about the chance to talk with you!

Emmanuel Lubezki: Sure! I know DPReview. Every time I’m going to buy a camera I check you guys out! I’m a photographer and I’ve been shooting movies for close to thirty years. I love shooting movies and taking still photos.

DPR: You're an inspiration to many of us because of your artistic vision and your use of technology to achieve it. How do you choose the technology you use for your projects? 

EL: You know, one thing I can tell you is that I'm the worst geek in the world! Sometimes I don't even know how to turn on the camera. [Laughs, obviously joking] But from an instinctive, craftsman point of view, whenever I'm going to start a movie or buy a camera or start a project, I do a lot of tests. All these test help inform me of how I want to shoot the movie, which equipment I'm going to use, how I'm going to mix equipment and so on. Like how my Nikon D810 works. After testing it and comparing it to other cameras I know what that camera can do for me as opposed to other cameras.

DPR: You definitely picked the right camera with the D810. It has the most dynamic range of any camera we’ve tested. 

EL: That's exactly why I picked it. One of the most important characteristics for any equipment that I'm going to use is how well it can capture high dynamic range. I’m an old cinematographer, so I was used to the high dynamic range of film. If you consider the high dynamic range of Kodak [negative] film, especially in the latest years, to be like the 88 keys of a piano, that was what I needed to go out and capture the highlights, the sky, the shadows in the subject's hair, and so on. 

Then suddenly film started to collapse and disappear. It happened too early and it happened too fast. It was a result of the studios and the exhibitors going into digital exhibition, so suddenly there was no business for printing. That was the biggest businesses for the labs, so the labs started to close down. It became very hard to shoot film. 

Unfortunately, the transition happened too early and the cameras weren't ready. The digital cameras that came out in the beginning (around 15 years ago) were not even close to the high dynamic range of film. I worked with a few directors, including Michael Mann, to do tests with digital video imaging. For certain things, we liked and used it, but it was primitive and it wasn’t ready to take over and become the main technology for capturing images.

I think now we're in a very good place where the digital cameras are allowing us to do many things we couldn't do with film. But it's still the dynamic range - the high dynamic range - where digital cameras, as amazing as they are at capturing shadows and not having any noise, don’t allow you to capture those 88 keys of the piano I was used to. And movies get hurt by that.  

For example, the last movie I did [we were shooting] in the forest, and when looking at the sky I wasn't able to capture the little round ball of the sun and also capture the face of the actor. It's stressful for a cinematographer. So the idea of new sensor technology, like what InVisage has demonstrated in their QuantumFilm technology, that will allow us to go back to 88 keys of dynamic range or more is incredibly exciting.

Shooting The Revenant in all natural light pushed the limits of dynamic range on the digital cameras used for the production.

Photo: Kimberly French

DPR: You’ve worked with InVisage, the company behind QuantumFilm, and seem very enthusiastic about what that technology can do for filmmakers and photographers. Why?

When InVisage approached me and showed me their sensor technology I got very, very excited. As people would say, it's music to my ears. Actually, it’s music to my eyes what they are doing! What they’re attempting to do is everything I've been looking for, and that's why I'm so excited to work with them.

The first thing I'm excited about is the high dynamic range of QuantumFilm, but the other thing that's important is a camera that has a global shutter as opposed to a rolling shutter. That's something that we suffered with a bit during Gravity. When you're doing a lot of digital effects and stitching things together, not having global shutter can become a big issue, as you guys know.

DPR: You’ve mentioned the incredible dynamic range we’re starting to see with technologies like QuantumFilm and from cameras like the Nikon D810. How does digital fit into your workflow now? And have you found that you need to have a different method and philosophy for exposure when shooting with digital as compared to film?

EL: Absolutely. Very different. When I signed on to do The Revenant, I wanted to do all the day scenes on film, just because of the high dynamic range, and I wanted to do all the dusk and night scenes with a digital camera. That's because the digital cameras are more sensitive to light. They can see more in the shadows, and you can push them a bit. For example, let's say that Arri says their camera is ISO 800 native. You can shoot it at IS0 1600 and there's still no noise. You're able to shoot scenes at night with firelight, and you can capture the stars and the Aurora Borealis in the night sky - things that film couldn’t do.

I started doing a lot of tests while we were rehearsing the movie, and every time I went back to the lab to see the results, the images I was capturing with the digital cameras were more interesting to me because they had less noise or no noise at all. It was like opening a window for the audience to get them immersed in this world, whereas film still had that poetic or romantic look, and the grain and texture was making the world of The Revenant look more romanticized. It wasn't really allowing me to get immersed into the world of these trappers the way the digital cameras did.

Little by little I realized that I didn't want to shoot the movie on film. For a middle-aged cinematographer who’s been shooting for so many years - that's a very hard call. It's like suddenly saying to a musician “You know, forget about your incredible piano, you're going to play this concert with a Minimoog.” It's heart-breaking, but the images spoke for themselves. We sent all the film cameras and film back to Los Angeles and started shooting the rest of the tests with the digital cameras. What I learned really fast is that, as opposed to film, you expose differently. You can overexpose film, and for many years I overexposed film because I liked the way you could still see the highlights, and by overexposing I was able to bring up a little bit of information in the shadows.

DPR: Because the film rolls off in the highlights, you can give it that extra light?

EL: Yes, exactly, which would then give you a little bit of extra latitude in the shadows. You would add a little noise by doing this, or grain in the highlights, but it was just a little bit and it allowed me to capture the whole '88 keys’ [of the piano].

DPR: With digital it's a very different philosophy, right? Because digital clips highlights abruptly as a result of being a largely a linear capture medium, and there isn't that roll off. 

EL: Yes, it’s very different. You have to underexpose.

DPR: One of the things we discuss on our site a lot is that with digital you need to expose for the highlights and brighten the shadows afterward because they're so clean.

EL: That's exactly what you find when you start to test. And that testing tells you how much you can underexpose before you start to lose the shadows.

Unfortunately, as I was telling you before, we’re at a moment where the cameras and the chips are just not ready enough. Let's say they are ready, but they don't have the high dynamic range that we would like to have. This was a very good movie to do this test because I wasn’t using extra light or artificial light, so I sometimes had to make a call and say "OK, do I lose Leo's face or detail in his hair? Or do I lose a cloud that is front-lit and many, many stops brighter than what this camera could capture?"

So what I would do much of the time is go for Leo's face, because he's the star of the movie, and then I would do a second pass and capture the sky, hoping that later I could replace the sky in the scene. But obviously that’s very expensive and you can't do it over and over. The camera is handheld and it's moving, so tracking it [in post to overlay the two exposures] would become very hard. In still photography I do that a lot. You know, you take a portrait of somebody and if the background is way too overexposed you shoot a couple more shots.

Before filming The Revenant Lubezki did extensive tests with his cameras in order to understand the dynamic range they were capable of handling and taking advantage of clean shadow detail to expose for the highlights.

Photo: Kimberly French

DPR: Of course, when you underexpose, the shadows in the image become really dark in the the electronic viewfinder or LCD screen. Have you found Log gamma modes help you with digital capture as you underexpose? 

EL: Yes. Not in still photography, but what I do when shooting cinema is I create lookup tables [LUTs] that allow me to see how much information I still have in the shadows if I'm underexposed. They’re very easy to create if you shoot tests and then make 2D or 3D LUTs in order to see the shadows. I haven’t been able to do it in still photography because I would probably need to get into the camera and mess with the monitor.

DPR: Would it be a bit like your D810 when using the 'Flat' Picture Control that raises the shadows and rolls off the highlights?

EL: Exactly. That gives you a little bit of an impression, but I've had a couple of hiccups where I think I still have enough detail, and then you open up the images in Photoshop and the shadows in the hair are already so underexposed that you don't see detail. I take photos more like a hobbyist than a great professional that has an assistant with a laptop. I just have my camera and shoot.

DPR: It’s very interesting to hear all of this from someone who many people know as ‘a film guy’. 

EL: I was the 'film guy'. What I gained by shooting digital makes me much happier. That's why I sent the film cameras back to Los Angeles. The digital cameras were giving me something I could never have done on film - because of the sensitivity, because of the immediacy, and because Alejandro [Director Alejandro Iñárritu] was able to watch everything on large monitors. Sometimes when you have 400 extras you want to watch a playback and see what all those extras are doing and things like that. Things that film doesn’t give us.

On The Revenant I was shooting at high latitudes - we were in Canada, north of Calgary, in the winter. Shooting in that part of the world, the sun is very low to the horizon and goes behind the mountains very early. By shooting with digital cameras I was able to add one or two hours of shooting to our very short days. That's a lot of extra time for a big production. It's millions of dollars that you don't lose by not being able to shoot. It was also during the time of day that's very mysterious and magical [the 'golden' or 'magic' hour], and by having the digital cameras I was able to capture things I couldn't do on film. 

DPR: Hearing you say that you’re mostly experiencing advantages when shooting digital is compelling. Where does film fit into the picture at this point?

EL: I'm not trying to tell young filmmakers or any director to not shoot film. The ideal world would be a world where we have all these different tools - where you have film, where you have QuantumFilm sensors, where you have tiny digital cameras that have very little latitude - where you have all these paintbrushes that allow you to communicate and allow you to express different things. 

It will be very sad to see film go away because we have 100+ years of film history and it would be a big loss if we couldn't print these movies anymore. You know, movies like Carol, or a movie like the Coen Brothers movie that just came out that is an homage to filmmaking - it was a good call by the filmmakers to make these movies on film. So it would be great to still have film, and it’s fantastic to be able to combine things. But in general, I feel much more comfortable shooting digital.

At the start of production, Lubezki planned to shoot daylight scenes on film due to its high dynamic range, but after extensive testing sent all the film and film cameras back to Los Angeles and shot entirely on digital.

"It was like opening a window for the audience to get them immersed in this world, whereas film still had that poetic or romantic look... It wasn't really allowing me to get immersed into the world of these trappers the way the digital cameras did."

Photo: Kimberly French

DPR: Is that comfort partly because you've had this realization that the formats need to be exposed differently, using underexposure on digital and tone-mapping the footage later?

EL: Absolutely! 

DPR: Does everyone else in the industry understand that? 

EL: I think so. I think in general professional cinematographers working in the industry know that, and if not you learn it very fast. The first day of testing you realize that you're gaining a lot information by doing that.

DPR: Many stills photographers may not appreciate the different approaches to exposing digital and film, but you guys are doing your own tests so it makes sense that you can take advantage of the formats by using them optimally.

EL: Right now we're talking about professionals. But imagine - hopefully in the short future - if we had QuantumFilm in our phones, what amazing things we could do with them. How many millions or billions of photographs do we see everyday where the skies are clipped? Sometimes it doesn’t matter, but a lot of times it does because you're losing a great amount of information about the environment or the highlights in somebody’s face.

DPR: One of the first things that struck us while watching The Revenant was the realism of the image - not only due to the lack of noise, but also because you can see everything from the blues in the sky, to the warm tones in your flares and sunstars, while still clearly seeing the subject's face naturally, not artificially, lit. And the subject's face isn't noisy or a plugged shadow. It made for compelling imagery.

EL: I'm very happy to hear that because it's something that I really wanted to show to the audience! Although you're specialists and are able to see it like that, I think even people that don’t see it the way you're seeing it… their subconscious is telling them "This is different," and that it’s not artificially lit [to work around the capture medium's limitations], and that it's the real thing.

Using digital cameras allowed Lubezki, shooting in extreme northern latitudes in the winter, to add an hour or two of filming each day during the magic hours when the sun was low to the horizon.

Photo: Kimberly French

DPR: Is that why you choose to do long takes and wide angle perspectives? To enhance the realism and create an immersive experience?

EL: Yes. It's exactly those two things. We wanted the movie to be as naturalistic and immersive as possible. The long takes, the digital equipment, and the way it was exposed... all these things together worked really well.

DPR: All this technical discussion brings up an interesting question. In the digital age does a cinematographer need to be as much of an expert on the science and technology of their imaging equipment as they are an artist in order to achieve their vision?

EL: I think you have to know a little bit about your equipment, at least in the way I do, in an intuitive way. You need to be able to test it and you need to know what you can do with it. I don't know if you necessarily need to know that the chip is connected with 27 cables into… I don't know if that's imperative. I wish I could learn it. I haven't had the time and the passion to open up a camera and go through exactly how it works, but I didn't do that on film either. To me the results were more important. What was I getting and how was it connected to the story and mood, and what I was trying to tell the audience?

Categories: Equipment

Panasonic Lumix GH4 firmware 2.5 brings Post Focus and 4K Photo Mode

Wed, 03/16/2016 - 5:00am

Panasonic has announced a firmware update for the Lumix DMC-GH4, bringing Post Focus, 4K Photo Mode and burst shooting with flash to the video-centric mirrorless camera. The update will be available at the end of March, free of charge. 

Post Focus was first announced in July of last year. It captures a short clip of 4K footage while racking focus from one end to the other, allowing the user to select a frame in playback mode after capture with the desired focus point. The Lumix GX8, G7 and FZ300 were the first in line to get the feature via firmware update.

Also taking advantage of the GH4's video capabilities is the newly added 4K Photo feature, which enables 4K burst, 4K Burst (Start/Stop) and 4K pre-burst. These modes optimize 4K shooting for still photo extraction, and aim to help photographers catch hard-to-get moments, like the elusive group shot with all eyes open. Firmware 2.5 also enables consecutive shooting with compatible Panasonic external flash units.

In the past, Panasonic has used Photokina to launch its DSLR-style mirrorless cameras, so it would make sense if we see an update to the GH-series come September. However, a significant firmware update in the meantime indicates that it's still alive and kicking.

Check Panasonic's support website at the end of March to download the update.

Press release:

DMC-GH4 Firmware Update Version 2.5

Newark, NJ (March 16, 2016) – Panasonic has today announced the new firmware update Version 2.5 for the DMC-GH4 to further enhance its performance at no charge. The new firmware Version 2.5 includes following functional updates:

-Post Focus
Post Focus is a special function that enables users to select an in-focus point after shooting. It has already been integrated in new LUMIX cameras such as the GX8. With this function, users can enjoy changing the perspective for greater photographic expression or to choose the best in-focus shot for macro shooting.

-4K PHOTO (4K Burst / 4K Burst (Start/Stop) / 4K Pre-burst)
With 4K PHOTO mode there are three dedicated modes - 4K Burst / 4K Burst (Start/Stop) / 4K Pre-burst – are all now available on LUMIX GH4*. The addition of these modes further enhances the usability of 4K PHOTO to capture fleeting photo opportunities at 30p. 

-External Flash Burst
Consecutive shooting with flash burst is available with an external flash that is capable of continuous emission.  This includes the following Panasonic models: DMW-FL580L, DMW-FL360L, DMW-FL500, DMW-FL360 and DMW-FL220.

The new DMC-GH4 firmware Version 2.5 is scheduled to be released at the end of March 2016 at the LUMIX Customer Support website: http://panasonic.jp/support/global/cs/dsc/

Categories: Equipment

Hasselblad drops 15% on lens prices until the end of March

Tue, 03/15/2016 - 9:04pm

Swedish medium-format camera manufacturer Hasselblad has announced it is dropping the price of all its H series lenses until the 31st March. The discount applies to all HC and HCD lenses, and gives buyers 15% off the usual prices.

The HC and HCD ranges include fixed and zoom lenses designed to be used on the Hasselblad H cameras, including the current H5D 50c Wi-Fi but also going back to the H1 film body. The savings mean the 35-90mm F4-5.6 HCD Aspherical zoom, which is the most expensive of the range will cost $6936 instead of $8160 – a discount of $1224 – while the standard 80mm F2.8 HC lens drops by $445.50, from $2970 to $2524.50.

It is hard to tell whether the offer really will finish at the end of the month as Hasselblad has a habit of announcing short-term discounts that then become the standard price. The new CEO Perry Oosting said recently that price is definitely an issue for the company and that introducing lower costs to ownership, such as the Christmas discount on the H5D 50c Wi-Fi, brings new customers to the brand.

For more information about the company’s lenses and to find a retailer visit the Hasselblad website.

Categories: Equipment

Field Test: Canon PowerShot G5 X in the Olympic Peninsula

Tue, 03/15/2016 - 7:02pm

The Olympic Peninsula is a year-round destination, as its lakes, rivers and temperate rain forests attract hikers and wildlife enthusiasts even in the winter months. It's just the kind of place you'd expect to find someone like Kyle Johnson, a freelance photographer and avid fly fisherman. Hoping to give the local Steelhead population a run for its money and to try out the Canon PowerShot G5 X in the wild, DPR staffer Carey Rose joined Kyle at Lake Quinalt for our latest field test. 

This is sponsored content, created with the support of Canon. What does this mean?

Categories: Equipment

Affinity Photo coming to Windows

Tue, 03/15/2016 - 3:57pm
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Serif has announced its Affinity apps, previously available only to Mac users, will soon be available for Windows. Affinity Photo is an image editing program, first introduced in February 2015. It's considerably cheaper than Photoshop, but promises robust performance and many tools that will be familiar to those used to Adobe's programs.

Affinity Photo will debut as a free public beta early this summer, according to Serif. The company promises feature parity with its Mac version, and will offer it for the same one-time price of $50/£40. Windows users interested in becoming beta testers can sign up now at Serif's website.

 Press release:

Affinity applications are coming to Windows

NOTTINGHAM, UK – March 15, 2015 – Serif is delighted to announce that it will be bringing its highly regarded, multi award-winning Affinity creative apps to Windows.

The Affinity apps—which currently include Affinity Designer and Affinity Photo—have enjoyed tremendous success over the last 12 months with both apps regularly charting in the top 10 of the Mac App Store and gaining 1,000s of 5 star reviews from users. They have also received some serious recognition from Apple themselves having won a Design Award in July, and Affinity Photo being chosen as their best app of 2015 in December last year.

But the fact they have only been available on Mac has caused frustration for PC users, and the company has been inundated with requests to produce Windows versions.

"Pretty much any article, blog or social post about our Affinity apps now seems to attract a rush of comments from users asking why we don't make them available on Windows. Well, I'm really excited to finally reveal we are working on it and the development team are making incredibly rapid progress." said Ashley Hewson, Serif's Managing Director. "We already have an early build of Affinity Designer running on our PCs in the office here, and we will be making it available as a free public beta early in the summer".

Affinity apps for Windows will have exactly the same feature set as the Mac apps that have set the creative world alight, as well as sharing the same single file format that has become a core feature of the Affinity suite. Coming to Windows makes the Affinity range ideal for inter-agency collaborations, cross-platform creative workflows, and for a huge number of design studios, photographers and freelancers who have a PC based set-up.

As well as feature parity, Serif also promises to match the business model of the Mac versions with a purchase price of $49.99 / €49.99 / £39.99 with no subscription.

You can sign up for the free beta of Affinity for Windows here: affinity.serif.com/windows.

Categories: Equipment

Sony firmware update 3.10 for a7 cameras, a6000, a5100 now available

Tue, 03/15/2016 - 3:15pm

Sony has released firmware update 3.10 for the a7R II, a7R, a7S, a7 II, a7, a6000 and a5100 camera models. The update primarily brings new lens support and is available to download now from Sony's support website.

All updates bring the ability to use AF with the Sony FE 85mm F1.4 GM while recording movies. The changelogs for the a6000, a7, a7 II, a5100, and a7R II all mention 'Phase-detection AF is supported,' which we've asked Sony for some clarification on. Additionally, updates for all but the a7R II enable the correct lens data to be recorded in EXIF. 

Categories: Equipment

Sigma claims new firmware makes 150-600mm F5-6.3 up to 50% faster

Mon, 03/14/2016 - 6:06pm

Lens manufacturer Sigma has announced new firmware for its 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM | Sports and Contemporary lens that it says makes the autofocusing system up to 50% faster. The firmware applies to lenses fitted for Canon EOS and Nikon F cameras, and can be installed via the company’s USB dock and the Optimization Pro software program.

The company says that in normal conditions the improved HSM algorithm boosts the AF speed of the lens by between 20% and 50%. The Optimization Pro software needed to install the firmware can be downloaded from the Sigma website.

Press release:

SIGMA 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM | Sports / Contemporary
Firmware update for Canon and Nikon mount

We would like to announce the availability of a new firmware update for the SIGMA 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM | Sports in Canon and Nikon mount, and the SIGMA 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM | Contemporary in Canon and Nikon mount. This firmware update can be installed using SIGMA Optimization Pro, the dedicated software for the SIGMA USB DOCK.

Benefit of this firmware update
The latest firmware update improves the AF algorithm of 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM lenses and further enhances AF speed by optimizing HSM (Hyper Sonic Motor) drive control. Depending on shooting conditions, it is expected to increase autofocus speed by approximately 20%, to a maximum of 50%, during normal shooting as well as when using “Speed Priority” set through SIGMA Optimization Pro.

For customers who own the SIGMA USB DOCK and applicable products listed below, please update the firmware using SIGMA Optimization Pro. Please ensure SIGMA Optimization Pro is updated to Version 1.2 before updating the lens firmware.

For customers who do not own a SIGMA USB DOCK, please contact Sigma Imaging (UK) Ltd for details about updating the firmware free of charge.

SIGMA Optimization Pro Download page
http://www.sigma-global.com/download/en

We appreciate your continued support for our company and products.

Categories: Equipment

Nissin adds radio receiver unit to Air system for branded flash units

Mon, 03/14/2016 - 4:15pm

Flash manufacturer Nissin has announced it has produced a receiver unit for its NAS wireless flash communication system that allows flash units from Canon, Nikon and Sony to be used within its radio command structure. The new Air R units are designed to convert flashguns that usually rely on line-of-sight optical control when used off camera in a group to come under the company’s 2.4GHz radio network.

Once mounted into the hotshoe of the receiver flash units from Nissin and other brands compatible with Canon, Nikon or Sony systems can be controlled by either an Air transmitter from the hotshoe of the camera, or by a Nissin flash unit that features the Air commander mode – such as the new i60A.

The receiver is equipped with eight channels and can work in one of three groups. The system allows flash exposure compensation of +/-2EV and manual output from full to 1/128th power. The company says the NAS Air system has a range of 30m and supports high speed sync at shutter speeds of up to 1/8000sec. The Nissin Air R units will cost £59.94 or £109.98 with a Nissin Commander Air 1 transmitter.

For more information see the Nissin website or the Kenro website for an English version.

Nissin Air R Specifications:

Compatibility: For Nissin, Canon and Sony flashguns
Wireless system: Radio
Radio specifications: 2.4GHz ISM band
Channel: 8 channels. Auto or manual select
Flash groups: A, B, C (3 groups)
Power source: 2 AAA batteries (not included)
Guide number: Low GN mode / High GN mode (default)
Mode (set at NAS Commander): TTL, manual and manual zoom
EV Compensation on flash: (TTL) -2.0 - +2.0 in ½ EV increments (manual)
Each group can be adjusted independently or synchronised
Manual output: 8 steps of manual output 1/128, 1/64, 1/32, 1/16, 1/8, 1/4, 1/2, 1/1 – full power
Manual zoom: Manual adjustment 24 / 35 / 50 / 70 / 85 / 105 / 135 / 200mm
Continuous shooting speed: 10 shots per second
Number of flashes: Approx 5000
Transmission distance: Maximum 30 metres (dependent upon the environment)
High Speed Synchronisation: 1/8000 sec (controlled by NAS Commander)
External sync socket: Standard PC sync cable
Mode: TTL, N, M zoom, no setting is needed, all settings controlled from the NAS commander
Synchronisation modes: No setting is needed, controlled by NAS commander
Mounting: Built-in stand, cold shoe / 1/4” tripod bush
Dimensions: 60 (L) x 60 (W) x 50 (H) mm
Weight: 55g (excluding batteries)

Press release:

NISSIN LAUNCHES NEW RECEIVER AIR R RANGE 

Kenro Ltd, the specialist photographic and audio-visual equipment supplier, is delighted to announce the launch of a series of revolutionary new products from the Nissin Air System range.
 
Kenro is the exclusive UK distributor for Nissin, a market-leading producer of electronic flash units for photographers. Nissin has a history of developing innovative products with phenomenal quality standards, and the Nissin Receiver Air R is no exception.

The Receiver Air R is a game-changing new addition to the Nissin Air System (NAS) 2.4GHz radio transmission wireless flash system. Compared with the traditional optical wireless transmitters, 2.4GHz radio transmission is less susceptible to the usual issues caused by not having clear line of sight between transmitter and receiver, and provides coverage of up to 30 meters (98 feet). In addition, radio transmission ID technology gives each of the NAS-compatible devices a unique identity to prevent misfiring in the event of signal interference.

The Nissin Commander Air 1 was launched last year and has been very well-received by camera users all over the world – the Receiver Air R adds a new dimension of flexibility to this already popular product. Combined with the Nissin Commander Air 1, it allows a photographer to wirelessly control almost any kind of Nissin camera flash and original manufacturer’s flash in the current market with NAS and TTL & HSS support. Camera users who currently own a Canon, Sony or Nikon original flash will be able to make their existing flashes compatible with the Nissin Air System, utilising full TTL.

High Speed Sync up to 1/8000 seconds, zoom and manual power output can all be controlled wirelessly at a competitive price without giving up quality and reliability. What’s more, one Commander transmitter can control up to 21 separate Air R receivers, which can be programmed into three groups to give the camera user an almost limitless range of lighting options without having to spend precious time readjusting flashguns between shots.

Paul Kench, Managing Director, Kenro, says: “This is a great new addition to the Nissin Air System that will really open up the creative opportunities available to photographers and camera users and allow them to be much more flexible in their approach to lighting, without the need to replace all their existing kit. The Receiver Air R range expands the possibilities without breaking the bank.”

The Nissin Receiver Air R range is available now:
NFG014NR: Nissin Receiver Air R Nikon – SRP £59.94 inc. VAT
NFG014N/AP: Nissin Commander Air 1 + Receiver Air R Nikon – SRP £109.98 inc. VAT
NFG014SR: Nissin Receiver Air R Sony – SRP £59.94 inc. VAT
NFG014S/AP: Nissin Commander Air 1 + Receiver Air R Sony – SRP £109.98 inc. VAT
NFG014CR: Nissin Receiver Air R Canon – SRP £59.94 inc. VAT
NFG014C/AP: Nissin Commander Air 1 + Receiver Air R Canon – SRP £109.98 inc. VAT

Categories: Equipment

Retro through-and-through: Fujifilm X-Pro2 Review

Mon, 03/14/2016 - 12:58pm

The X-Pro2 is a high-end, rangefinder-esque mirrorless camera that directly succeeds the first X-mount camera: the X-Pro1. The Pro2 is based around a 24MP APS-C sensor and a host of feature improvements in a body that very closely resembles that of its predecessor.

Fujifilm X-Pro2 features

  • 24MP X-Trans CMOS III sensor (APS-C)
  • 273 Autofocus points (169 of which PDAF)
  • 2.36M-dot OLED/Optical hybrid viewfinder with pop-up picture-in-picture tab
  • ISO 200-12800, expandable to 100-51200 with Raw shooting at all settings
  • 1/8000 sec maximum shutter speed and 1/250 sec flash sync
  • Acros black and white film simulation
  • Grain Effect option for JPEGs
  • 1080/60p movies

The X-Pro2's higher resolution sensor also gains wider-spread on-sensor phase-detect AF coverage, which is another significant improvement. In addition it has a small, thumb-operated joystick that allows you to more easily select an AF point and, in turn, the camera lets you select from a any of the camera's AF points.

Other changes include allowing Auto ISO to extend up to 12800 and the ability to shoot Raw files at all the camera's ISO settings (extended settings have always been JPEG-only on previous X-series cameras), as well as the ability to apply lossless compression to Raw files. The X-Pro2's shutter has been improved, too, and can now shoot as fast as 1/8000 sec, with flash sync extended to 1/250 sec of a second.

But much of what else made the original X-Pro1 stand out remains. The genuinely rangefinder-styled body, rather than just being a rectangle with a band of faux leather around it, mimics most of the control points and design accents of a 1960s camera. It still has the all-metal construction but more attention has been made to provide environmental sealing, as you'd expect in a camera at this price.

And, although the body looks broadly the same, it's been significantly reworked to offer improved ergonomics as well as additional features. The hybrid viewfinder has been improved through the inclusion of an X100T-style pop-up tab in the corner, onto which an LCD image can be projected.

Here's a spec comparison between the X-Pro2 and its predecessor, as well as the X-T1:

 
Fujifilm X-Pro2
Fujifilm X-T1
Fujifilm X-Pro1
Pixel count 24MP 16MP 16MP
AF points 273 points (169 of which PDAF) hybrid system.
All directly selectable.
77 point (15 of which PDAF) hybrid system
49 directly selectable (9 of which PDAF)
49 point CDAF system
All directly selectable.
Viewfinder 2.36M-dot OLED/Optical Hybrid 2.36M-dot OLED 1.44M-dot LCD/Optical Hybrid
ISO Range 200-12800
(100-51200 Extended)
200-6400
(100-51200 JPEG-only)
200-6400
(100-25600 JPEG-only)
Auto ISO settings 3 1 1
Maximum frame rate
With AFC/With Live View
8 fps / 3 fps 8 fps / 3 fps 6 fps / 3 fps
Maximum shutter speed 1/8000 (Mechanical)
1/32000 (Electronic)
1/4000 (Mechanical)
1/32000 (Electronic)
1/4000 (Mechanical)
X-Sync Speed 1/250 sec 1/180 sec 1/180 sec
Movie shooting 1080/60p 1080/60p 1080/24p
Wi-FI Yes Yes No
Customizable Q Menu Yes Yes No
Custom 'My Menu' Yes No No
Direct controls Shutter Speed
Exposure Comp
AF Drive Mode
ISO
Shutter Speed
Exposure Comp
AF Drive Mode
ISO
Drive Mode
Metering Mode
Shutter Speed
Exposure Comp
AF Drive Mode
Direct AF point control Yes - Joystick Optional - At expense of custom buttons No
Custom buttons 6 6 (2 if direct AF select chosen) 2
Exposure Comp Dial ±3EV (±5EV using front dial) ±3EV ±2EV
Rear screen 3" Fixed (3:2)
1.62M-dot (900 x 600)
3" Tilting (3:2)
1.04M-dot (720 x 480)
3" Fixed (4:3)
1.23M-dot (640 x 480)
Command dials 2 (Push-button type) 2 1 (Push-button type)
Card slots 2 (1 of which UHS-II) 1 (UHS-II) 1 (UHS-I)
Film Simulations* 9 8 7
AF Tracking Yes Yes No
Eye-detection AF Yes Yes No
AF in MF mode AF-C or AF-S AF-C or AF-S AF-S
Panorama mode No Yes Yes
Compressed Raw? Optional (Lossless) No No
Battery life 350 OVF
250 EVF
350 EVF ~300 OVF
Battery percentage? Yes No No
Maintain zoom when changing image in playback Yes Yes No
Lens Modulation Opt Yes Yes No
Grain simulation Yes No No
Split prism focus guide Color/Mono Mono No
Brightline display Yes N/A No

*Not including color filter simulation variations

As you can see, compared to the X-Pro1, the Pro2 is significantly improved. Almost every aspect of the camera has been refreshed and these updates quickly add up to a much nicer-to-use, more capable camera.

However, in the four years that have passed since the launch of the X-Pro1, a lot has changed, with mirrorless cameras maturing dramatically and expectations for features such as continuous autofocus and movie shooting leaping forwards. However, neither of these two factors is likely to be a prime concern for would-be buyers, instead, the main thing likely to make life difficult for the X-Pro2 could be the existence of its own sister model: the X-T1.

The X-T1 was described at launch as a flagship model and offers a fully fleshed-out feature set for enthusiasts, semi-pros and perhaps even some professionals. It has sealed magnesium alloy construction, a huge electronic viewfinder, weather sealing and abundant external controls. So is there really still room for a new X-Pro alongside the DSLR-style model?

Scanning through the table above, there are certainly some areas in which the X-Pro2 is more advanced than the X-T1, but details such as shutter speed and pixel count are just generational improvements that would make just as much sense in a X-T2. So one of the main things we'll be looking to address in this review is: how does the hybrid viewfinder change the shooting experience and is it enough to allow the X-Pro and X-T lines to continue in parallel?

 Review History
15 Jan 2016 First Impression Review based on Pre-Production camera running Firmware 1.00
25 Jan 2016 Raw Dynamic Range, Studio Test Scene & Full-production Samples Gallery added.
8 Feb 2016 Movie page added.
14 Mar 2016 Autofocus and Conclusion published

If you're new to digital photography you may wish to read the Digital Photography Glossary before diving into this article (it may help you understand some of the terms used).

Conclusion / Recommendation / Ratings are based on the opinion of the reviewer, you should read the ENTIRE review before coming to your own conclusions.

We recommend to make the most of this review you should be able to see the difference (at least) between X, Y, and Z and ideally A, B, and C.

This article is Copyright 1998 - 2016 and may NOT in part or in whole be reproduced in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from the author.

Categories: Equipment

From another planet: Venus LAOWA 15mm F4 Wide Angle Macro quick review

Sun, 03/13/2016 - 8:00am

Venus LAOWA 15mm F4 Wide Angle Macro lens
£325 / $499 | www.venuslens.net

Chinese company Venus Optics (Anhui ChangGeng Optical Technology Company Ltd.) is a new lens and camera accessory manufacturer started by a group of macro photography enthusiasts who design and create their own macro photography lenses. They began with the Venus 60mm 2:1 macro (which enables twice life-size reproduction), and have followed this up with the LAOWA 15mm 1:1 wide macro of this review. In addition to these lenses, they also offer a twin head macro flash unit, which we think looks quite a bit like an alien on top of a camera.

Features and specifications

The LAOWA 15mm lens is one of the widest full-frame lenses to offer a full 1:1 magnification ratio (meaning that the object in focus is projected at actual-size onto the film or sensor). Admittedly, this magnification only occurs when the object is 0.2 inches (4.7mm) from the rather large front element of this lens, but that's the trade off between a wide angle of view and the desire for 'true' macro abilities.

In addition to the headline feature, this entirely manual lens (manual focus; manual aperture; no communication to the camera body) also includes a shift mechanism to physically move the optics up or down along the lens mount. This shift provides perspective correction for converging lines, as well as a way to create seamless panoramas (though the shift direction is fixed to the frame's vertical axis).

Focal length  15mm
Max. aperture  F4
Min. aperture  F32
Angle of view 110° (135 frame) / 85° (APS-C)
Shift distances + / - 6mm
Aperture blades 14
Min. focus (1:1) 4.7mm
Filter thread 77mm
Dimensions 83.8 x 64.7mm / 3.3 x 2.5in
Weight 410g / 14.5oz
Available mounts

Nikon F / Canon EF / Pentax K /
Sony A, E, FE / Fuji X / m43

The lens is designed around 12 elements in 9 groups, with three High Refractive elements, and one Extra-low Dispersion lens.

Multi-layer coatings minimize flare and ghosting, while the overall optical design strikes a balance between close focus abilities and wide angles.

Of note is the 77mm filter thread around the non-protruding front element. This allows for easy filter use without requiring the more expensive square filter systems (although for ND grads, those are recommended). Given the wide angle of view, slim filters are still required.

The body surrounding the glass elements is made from aluminum and brass, with engraved aperture and distance scales that are necessary for the all-manual operation.

The aperture ring is 'clickless' and located toward the front of the lens, while the focus ring near the back has a relatively short throw for a macro lens (90° of rotation).

The lens comes with a shifting lens mount, allowing for perspective correction by adjusting the center of the image circle on the film or sensor. The range of adjustment is 6mm from the center, either up or down.

The small lever to engage the shift mechanism is just behind the focus ring, at the rear of the lens. There are no scales or gears to finely control the amount of shift.

Shooting experience

1:1 macro at F11. The flare comes from the combination of back-lighting and inability to use the hood at such close working distances.

The LAOWA 15mm is an entirely manual lens, but still easy enough to adjust and work with. This was aided somewhat by testing a K-mount lens on a Pentax APS-C camera body and a Sony a7 II (w/ Novoflex adapter), both of which provide image stabilization (from a manually entered focal length), stop-down metering, and focus confirmation/peaking, despite the low-tech, 'slab of brass' lens mount.

When ordering this lens in Micro Four Thirds, Sony E, or Fuji X mount, the folks at Venus bundle an appropriate adapter with either a Nikon F or Canon EF mount lens. (For single-system Sony shooters, there is the option of a native FE mount, without adapter.) However, as our friends at Lensrentals point out, testing a wide-angle lens with an adapter (regardless of manufacturer) can introduce issues, so much of the more technical analysis in this article is based on experience of using this lens on a native Pentax (APS-C) body. 

Ergonomics

The absence of autofocus is not much of a detriment when using this lens for wide-angle macro photography, since adjusting the subject distance while looking at the LCD or viewfinder is typically a much faster way to focus at these minute working distances. Stop-down metering and looking through a dim viewfinder or noisy LCD at smaller apertures (due to the lack of automatic aperture control), on the other hand, is a bit harder to adapt to.

The focus throw is somewhat short for a macro lens, requiring only a bit more than 90 degrees of rotation to go from the closest focal distance (and 1:1 macro) to infinity. Further, the helical is biased toward the macro and close-focus end, so there is only a tiny amount of travel between 2 meters and infinity. This took some getting used to, and initially resulted in enough mis-focused shots to warrant bracketing.

The biggest ergonomic difficulty was getting used to using an aperture ring positioned in front of the focus ring. Adding to the confusion is the fact that both rings are 'clickless' and identically sized. Of course, the lack of hard stops on the aperture ring, along with the wide angle and availability in many different lens mounts, combine to make this an interesting option for video work, but that's beyond the scope of this article.

Macro

The image quality of this unique lens is excellent at closer focus distances, and shows the commitment of the macro photographers at Venus Optics for getting very close and very wide. There is a high degree of sharpness in the center of the frame, even at wider apertures, and the inevitable distortion and falloff along the edges doesn't interfere at closer focus distances. Being very well corrected for aberrations is another plus as a macro lens.

However, this lens is differentiated by its 1:1 macro focusing, which, unfortunately, comes with some inconveniences. To keep the price of the lens reasonable, the LAOWA relies on manual focus and a manual aperture without linkage (resulting in the dim viewfinder when stopped down, as mentioned above), while the wide angle optical design means a minuscule 4.7mm working distance (for true 1:1) coupled with a rather large front filter ring and hood.

The petal-shaped hood prevents many subjects from reaching the tiny minimum focus distance for 1:1 macros, and furthermore blocks out light that becomes necessary for macros with acceptable depth-of-focus (narrow aperture). After a few experiments with macro flash rigs, resulting in images that looked like 'flash party photos' due to the lack of beam spread across the very wide angle of view, natural light (and a tripod for static subjects) was the order of the day. Thomas Shahan, of course, could probably overcome this with aplomb.

Shift ability

Unshifted Shifted +6mm

The addition of a shifting lens mount is a great bonus for a wide angle lens like the LAOWA 15mm, however the optical characteristics of the lens tend to make this function most useful on APS-C or smaller format sensors. In images shot with a full frame body (the Sony a7 II w/ Novoflex adapter), the vignetting and distortion at the edge of the image circle eclipsed the value of shifting the lens (although it is unknown how much of this is due to it being an adapted lens).

One troublesome aspect of the lens shift is that it lacks the gearing and markings for fine control of the shift found on most other perspective control lenses. Press the shift release button and almost immediately the lens slides up (or down) to the maximum shift amount. There is a detent in the middle to reset the lens to an unshifted position, but getting a small or precise amount of shift requires patience and a steady hand.

15mm wide angle

Toronto skyline, as seen from the islands offshore. On the full-frame Sony, the 15mm shows significant degradation at the edges, as evident in the lights on the right side.

When using this lens as a 'normal' ultra-wide angle, the results are something of a mixed bag. At close focus distances, the center is quite sharp (where most macro subjects tend to be) at all apertures, while at infinity the corner details appear smeared until the lens is stopped down significantly. Some night shots on the full-frame Sony, and attempts at astrophotography with the Pentax O-GPS Astrotracer, both show significant degradation of the lights at the edges. These examples are perhaps not quite as comprehensive as LensRentals' OLAF system, but still illustrative. Check out the full resolution images in the gallery below.

Many macro lenses are designed to have a 'flat field' for the in-focus region. The LAOWA 15mm is not one of those lenses. Similar to other wide angle lenses, the field of focus curves radically, yet does not flatten out as focus is shifted toward infinity. Add in some edge distortion, and the resultant lack of corner sharpness at infinity is perhaps the biggest issue with the image quality from this lens on full-frame cameras. It requires some acceptance of the 'dual nature' of the lens (macro and ultra-wide) to work within this limit. Oddly enough, shifting the lens provides some relief for at least two of the corners, due to the curved field being off-center.

Distortion

Very few ultra wide angle lenses are free from distortion, and this 15mm is no exception. In most shots with the APS-C Pentax, curved lines were minimal (see the shift photos above) and could be corrected in processing if desired.

However, on the full-frame Sony, the barrel distortion along the edges reached a point where it was almost un-correctable. The image to the left shows doors that have very straight edges, but look organically curved in the (uncorrected) photo.

Chromatic aberrations

One area where the LAOWA 15mm is quite competitive is in the control of chromatic aberrations. While there definitely is some lateral CA, particularly visible at high contrast edges in the corners, it is fairly well controlled when stopped down, and quite consistent. A few clicks in most modern Raw processing software removes these distractions very easily. In addition, longitudinal CA (color fringing in the out of focus areas) is almost non-existent, which is excellent for a macro lens, even though many other wide angle lenses tend to be similarly devoid of this aberration.

(Note: none of the images in this article, or the samples, have had software lens corrections applied; whether for distortion, vignetting, chromatic aberrations, or fringing.)

Bokeh

Close focus at F4 Close focus at F16

It's a bit unusual to discuss the bokeh of an ultra-wide lens: considering the typical design for this kind of lens provides such wide depth-of-field, there is frequently little out of focus anyhow. However, the close focus and macro abilities of the LAOWA 15mm give quite a lot of room for shifting the focal plane, so bokeh is not only visible, it can be an integral part of the image.

With a 16-bladed aperture, the blur discs produced by this lens appear round at all stops, with a slight 'onion-ring' artifact when examined closely. More importantly, the falloff in the blur is smooth and gradual, as one would expect from a macro lens. This combines to make the exaggerated field curvature less bothersome at closer focal distances and wider apertures, and becomes another one of the strengths of this lens.

Summing up

The Venus LAOWA 15mm F4 Macro is an unusual lens, both in its pedigree (or lack thereof) and its unique features. With a relatively reasonable price and availability in many different lens mounts, there is now an ultra-wide option for anyone who likes to get really close to their subjects. The lack of autofocus and auto-aperture prevents this from being a 'snapshot' lens, and may make it frustrating to use on camera systems that do not support low-tech lenses very well.

There are some compromises in the optical design of this multipurpose lens, including wide field distortion, and some edge softness at infinity. However, wide-angle macro enthusiasts will definitely enjoy this lens, while anyone with patience and a desire to explore the options it provides will similarly find the Venus LAOWA 15mm to be a fun and rewarding addition to their system.

Things we like:

  • Very close focus (1:1 macro)
  • Sharp in the center, even wide open
  • Well built and smooth focusing
  • Shift option is useful for APS-C
  • Nice bokeh for a wide angle

Things we don't like:

  • Extremely short macro working distance
  • No mechanical aperture linkage (K and F mounts)
  • Significant distortion on full-frame
  • Edges smeared at infinity with wider apertures

Real-world samples

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Categories: Equipment

Quick Look: Parallelism in Landscape Photography

Sat, 03/12/2016 - 8:00am

Part of what can make an image both visually appealing and conceptually interesting is the connection between its different parts. An image is a whole made of differentiable elements, and these elements can either be separate or have a variety of relations between them. To make an image which is indeed a whole and not just different layers on top of each other, a photographer needs to make the layers (or elements) communicate with each other. But how? One way, which I will detail here, is parallelism.

A softly-lit iceberg resembles the contour of Mount Uummannaq, Greenland. An example of simple, low-level parallelism.

When pre-visualizing an image, especially its composition, one needs to take into account the possible similarities, or parallelisms, that the environment offers. For example, it’s very often that there is a lack of connection between the sky and the earth in a landscape shot. But a bold red-colored flower on the ground can parallel a setting sun in the sky, thus strengthening the connection between them and bonding heaven and earth in the image, which has clear philosophical and visual implications.

But it’s not only color – shapes, lines and textures can also parallel each other – light rays in the clouds with lines in the sand, lenticular clouds with rounded pools, the options are endless. The important thing to keep in mind is to make these parallelisms stand out, making the viewer realize our intention in including them in the image.

Parallelism can serve its goals even better if it is of a higher level: more than two parts of the image being parallel to each other in the same way or in different ways, or the same part being parallel in more than one way.

See for example the second image shown here. There are two parallelisms: firstly there’s the one made by the architects who chose to make the famous lighthouse of Kalfshamarsvik, Iceland resemble the basalt columns in the area it was built on. Secondly, the yellow patch in the midst of the dark: on the ground – the yellow vegetation. On top – the light coming out of the lighthouse. Both share color and both stand out of their dark, gloomy, lava-column-shaped surroundings. The choice of dark exposure made these elements stand out even more, strengthening the bond between them and the image’s integrity.

'Light in the Dark', Kalfshamarsvik, Iceland

Another good example can be seen in the third image. The parallelism between the shadow cast by the center tree and the flare caused by the sun bonds the ground and the sky, which are in turn both bonded to the main subject – the tree – in different ways: the flare touches and intersects the tree, while the shadow is caused by the tree. The three layers of the image are thus intimately connected, and the image is more interesting and appealing because of this connection.

'The Valley of the Shadow of Death', Deadvlei, Namibia

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:

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

Kodak Alaris launches revamped Moments app

Fri, 03/11/2016 - 2:00pm

Kodak Alaris has announced a major update to its Moments image sharing app, which allows for direct printing to Kodak Picture Kiosks and online ordering of print products. The company has added to the app what it calls visual storytelling capabilities. Read more

Categories: Equipment

Venus Optics launches Loawa 105mm F2 with apodization element

Fri, 03/11/2016 - 12:47pm
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Chinese lens manufacturer Venus Optics has announced a portrait lens that uses an apodization element and dual diaphragms to produce better looking out-of-focus highlights. The company says that the apodization element in the new Laowa 105mm F2 STF acts as a radial gradient filter that becomes darker towards its outer edge. This graduation of tone is said to help produce smooth tonal transitions in out-of-focus discs. The element works in conjunction with a 14-bladed diaphragm that Venus Optics says forms a constantly circular aperture directly before the light meets the main second aperture, which still determines the f-number and the depth of field.

This approach is very similar to the one used in the Minolta (and, more recently, Sony) 135mm STF F2.8 [T4.5] lens.

The lens uses 11 elements arranged in eight groups and includes a single forward element that has a high refractive index and three made from low dispersion glass. The company claims that this design is ‘proven to deliver images with extreme sharpness and limit the chromatic aberrations at its lowest.’

The all-metal lens will be available in mounts for Canon EF, Nikon F, Sony FE, Pentax K and Sony A cameras. The Loawa 105mm F2 STF will cost $699. For more information visit the Venus Optics website.

Press release:

Anhui China, Mar 10, 2016 – Venus Optics, the Chinese camera lenses manufacturer who had launched the world’s Widest 1:1 Macro lens last June, has just released another extraordinary lens, Laowa 105mm f/2 (t/3.2) Smooth Trans Focus Lens for DSLR cameras.

The new Laowa 105mm f/2 Smooth Trans Focus Lens incorporates an unique optical design with an apodization (APD) element next to the aperture. The APD element resembles the function of an ND filter which becomes thicker towards the perimeter, gradually reducing the amount of light transmission towards the periphery to produce a soft, natural and beautifully diffused out-of-focus rendition (or called bokeh).
The new Laowa 105mm f/2 Smooth Trans Focus Lens offers two separate diaphragms. The stepless 14-bladed perfectly circular aperture, in conjunction with the apodization element gives this lens the ability to produce smooth and pleasing bokeh. It is also useful for videographers to control the amount of light passes through the lens. The 8-bladed aperture is to determine the effective aperture opening (f-number) and the depth-of-field formed.

The lens houses with 11 elements in 8 groups with 1 piece of High Refractive elements, 3 pieces of Low Dispersion elements and 1pc of Apodisation element. This optical design is proven to deliver images with extreme sharpness and limit the chromatic abberations at its lowest. The enclosure of the lens is made of metal to strengthen its durability. Canon EF, Nikon F, Sony FE, Sony Alpha and Pentax K mounts are available.

Pricing and Availability
The Laowa 105mm f/2 Smooth Trans Focus lens will be available at authorized resellers and at the English official website (http://www.venuslens.net). The recommended retail price without tax is USD 699. Free shipping will be provided during the promotion period.

Pre-order starts from today and shipping for Canon EF / Nikon AI / Sony FE mounts will start from April. Delivery for Sony A / Pentax K mounts will start from May.

Categories: Equipment

On assignment: the Leica Q at a Portland wedding

Fri, 03/11/2016 - 8:00am

Introduction

The fixed 28mm focal length you get with the Leica Q can be versatile and creative, but it can also allow for basic images like this to help set the scene. Photo by Carey Rose, processed to taste from Raw. F8 | 1/125 | ISO 320

Between the timber industry and a reputation for organized crime and racketeering, early Portland, OR is a town that, like a number of other Pacific Northwest settlements, started off a little rough. But today, Portland has grown into and is known for being one of the most progressive cities in the country. This rise from rags to prominence is at least vaguely reminiscent of the rise of mirrorless technology in cameras, though the latter has happened much more rapidly. What were once laggy, poor-focusing and incredibly power-hungry devices have evolved into technological powerhouses, playing host to some of the latest and greatest innovations in camera technology. The Leica Q is, unarguably, one such mirrorless camera.

Portland has also been nicknamed 'Bridgetown,' for its many crisscrossing bridges slicing through the urban landscape. Rather appropriately, then, the Leica Q is a bridge of sorts for me. It is the first mirrorless camera I’ve brought with me to shoot a wedding alongside my usual full-frame DSLRs, and the first mirrorless camera I’ve used that performs very nearly at a level I expect from my well-worn and bulky workhorses.

Keep in mind: the Leica Q was used in conjunction with two additional cameras for this wedding, but all images in this post are from the Q. The 28mm focal length it offers can be versatile, but definitely has a 'look' and it can't replace a good normal or telephoto lens for some variety in the full final take.

Fitting in the kit

I will normally shoot an entire wedding on two full-frame DSLRs, and trade between 35mm, 50mm and 85mm lenses (with an 80-200mm F2.8 coming out for the ceremony only). Adding the Leica Q to the mix added a little extra bulk, sure, as I was now carrying three cameras instead of two. But it meant almost no lens swapping, as I could have the 35mm focal length covered more or less by the Q’s excellent 28mm F1.7 Summilux lens, and keep the 50mm and 85mm glued to the other cameras. The result was that I probably looked a little ridiculous to most of the guests, but having three F1.7-and-wider lenses at my disposal allowed me to make the most of any situation I found myself in.

The Q managed to nail focus on the subject's head despite dim backlighting and fairly low contrast. Why can't all CDAF systems work this well? Photo by Carey Rose, processed to taste from Raw. F1.7 | 1/125 | ISO 2500

I set up the Q to shoot in aperture priority with auto ISO, and a minimum shutter speed varying from 1/60 to 1/250 depending on the situation. I kept it in Single-AF and recorded RAW+JPEG for the whole shebang.

What worked, what didn't

The Q’s autofocus system is not only accurate, but it is close to phase-detect fast (even though it’s a contrast-detect system). I kept it in Single-AF for the day because it just worked so well. The four-way controller on the rear made it a breeze to quickly change the focus point position, and with the 28mm focal length, focus-and-recompose shooting didn't make too much of a difference in critical sharpness. The few times I wanted to use Face Detection (such as handing the camera off to somebody else to take a shot), I found it was a bit of a pain to dive into the menus to change it. This could be mitigated if you could assign something autofocus-related to either of the customizable function buttons on the rear, but you can’t. At least the menus are fairly well-sorted.

Though its DNG files may have less post-processing latitude than other camera systems, the Q can hold its own in low light as long as you pay careful attention to your exposure. F1.7 | 1/125 | ISO 5000

Speaking of buttons, the buttons, controls and dials are all easy to feel with your eye to the finder, and with enough positive action that there’s never any question of whether or not you hit something. So that’s a good start. However, for a camera focused so heavily on stills, it would be nice to at least have the option to reassign the 'Movie Record' button to something else. Also, when you are shooting in Auto-ISO, you can twiddle the shutter speed dial to override the minimum shutter speed you’ve selected, but then the rear control dial switches from controlling exposure compensation to controlling the shutter speed in 1/3 stops. You can mitigate this by assigning the 'FN' button on the back to 'exposure compensation,' but it would be nice if the control dial operation was more consistent or customizable. Also, the LCD and EVF will give you an accurate preview if you skew to under-exposure, but in low light, dialing in some intentional over-exposure would not adjust the preview at all, which was more a minor irritation than an impactful problem.

Skin tones (and color in general) are great on the Q in Raw mode, and the 28mm lens is well corrected to avoid tons of distortion at the edges. Even if it wasn't, these two gents would be too distracted by their matching suit jackets to notice wide angle distortion anyway. Photo by Carey Rose, processed to taste in Raw. F1.7 | 1/125 | ISO 2000

If you prefer not to use buttons, you can use the touchscreen for a good number of functions, including swiping and zooming in playback, and touch-to-focus and shoot options. However, touch-to-focus only focuses once, where you touched. Half-pressing the shutter does not refocus, and you can’t now use the four-way controller to move the point around if you then want to shoot from the EVF. You’ll have to go back into the menus and enable another focus mode. And if you just don’t want to mess with the touchscreen (I had more than a few accidental swipes trying to enter playback mode to show images to people), there is no menu option to completely disable it.

The lens may be fairly wide-angle, but the macro functionality allows you to get up close and personal with some detail shots and still get rid of most of a distracting background. Photo by Carey Rose, processed to taste from Raw. F2.8 | 1/500 | ISO 640

Now, it may sound like I’m being hard on the camera, but in the real world, these were fairly small problems (and all could conceivably be fixed with a firmware update - hint hint, Leica). In fact, there was only one real issue that seriously plagued my experience with the Q. Although the Q’s battery life is great for a mirrorless camera, it’s not so good that I felt like I could just leave the camera on constantly. But that wasn’t the real problem because the start-up time is so fast. No, the problem was that, after shooting a burst and moving on, I would instinctively twiddle the power dial to 'Off.' The camera screen and live view stays on until the buffer is cleared, and only then will the camera fully shut off.

Would AF tracking have worked better than Single-AF for this shot? Maybe, but I didn't want to dig into the menus to change it. Photo by Carey Rose, processed and cropped to taste from Raw. F2 | 1/125 | ISO 2500

However, if I wanted to resume taking photos, I would turn the switch back on, but the camera would be locked and ignore any and all inputs until it had finished the previous burst to the card. Then it would turn off, then turn itself back on. This process, despite using the fastest SD card money can buy, would take as long as 20-30 seconds.

None of this happens if you leave the camera on after you take a burst - you can resume taking photos or explore the menu system as the camera does its writing (but you can't immediately enter playback mode when the buffer fills, as you can on many DSLRs). In the end, it’s a strange behavior that can be avoided, but was still upsetting since I’d developed this 'switch off between shots' habit based on the battery life of other mirrorless cameras.

The results

Despite all the little issues I discovered above, the Leica Q is a fantastic camera. The only reason I experienced all those little issues to begin with is that I gave this camera no leeway. I used it just like an established full-frame DSLR system, and expected it to perform like one. For the most part, it did. Hell, if Leica made another Q with a fixed 50mm or 85mm lens, I’d have a hard time not selling off most of my DSLR gear and switching over. If only my DSLRs were worth their weight in gold. Or maybe little red dots.

It may not be an 'action camera' per se, but the burst modes on the Q give it some caught-moment chops. Photo by Carey Rose, processed and cropped to taste from Raw. F2.8 | 1/500 | ISO 500

There are numerous reports to the contrary, but I found the camera quite comfortable to hold (even without the optional grip). My hands didn’t get sweaty, and the camera didn’t get too slippery. The lens is stunningly sharp, and the out-of-focus renderings are gorgeous. The sensor may not be up to Sony standards of dynamic range, but noise performance is great if you don't mind a little grain (I don't) and you nail your exposure. I managed almost 900 shots on the equivalent of just over one battery (I did one battery swap after a bar disappeared, out of old habits). The camera is built incredibly well, and is dense but light enough that I didn’t have a neck cramp after hours of shooting. It may not be weather-sealed, but it feels like it can take a beating.

I should also call your attention to the fact that every single image in this write-up is processed from Raw. Of course, I always shoot Raw for paying gigs, but out of curiosity, I shot Raw + JPEG (and there's no option to shoot Raw only anyway) on the Q. I found the JPEG engine, particularly the colors and skin tones that resulted from it, to be pretty unpleasant (especially next to an adjusted Raw file). So if you're a JPEG shooter, be prepared to start a new Raw habit. Also, using the 'embedded' DNG profile versus the Adobe Standard profile in Adobe Camera Raw does something weird to your white balance settings - I had to boost mine about 1500-kelvin over normal when using the embedded profile.

Out-of-camera JPEG Processed to taste from Adobe Camera Raw

For the out-of-camera JPEG image above, the Q was set to sRGB color space, with contrast, saturation and sharpness all set to standard. That's the extent of JPEG adjustment parameters in-camera. For the processed image, I used Adobe Camera Raw with the Adobe Standard color profile, making fairly controlled adjustments to the white balance, highlights, shadows, whites, blacks, clarity and vibrance. The exposure was F1.7, 1/250, ISO 320.

As far as performance, with the exception of the strange buffer / power switch issue I highlighted above, I never found myself waiting for the camera. Whether I’m shooting weddings, events, street or environmental portraits, that responsiveness in and of itself is an absolutely paramount requirement. And if you consider the cost of a pro-level (not enthusiast) full-frame DSLR and accompanying fast-wide lens of a similar caliber to this 28mm F1.7 Summilux, the Q isn’t too terrible a value proposition, either.

Party on: if you like the focal length, the Q can handle just about anything you throw at it. Except maybe a bucket of water, or a beer. Photo by Carey Rose, processed and cropped to taste from Raw. F1.7 | 1/250 | ISO 400

In short, the Q is the fixed-lens digital camera I’ve been waiting for. If you work with this focal length and can look past some of its smaller issues, you owe it to yourself to give the Q a try. 

Categories: Equipment

Accessory Review: Tenba Cooper Messenger bag

Fri, 03/11/2016 - 7:59am

Tenba Cooper 13 Slim and Cooper 15
$229/299 | www.tenba.com | Buy Now

Over the past few years, Tenba has built a reputation for its solid line of messenger style shoulder bags. I have regularly used one of their Mini Messenger bags for my mirrorless or small DSLR kits. It has been a surprisingly solid performer that has traveled thousands of miles with me. For the price, it is near or at the top of my camera bag 'bargains' list. But if I’m being honest, it has always been a bit light on features, ungraceful to use/carry and looks very much like a padded camera bag. So when Tenba asked me if I would like to check out their new Cooper line of premium messenger-style bags, I jumped at the opportunity. 

Tenba released the Cooper line in late 2015 as unobtrusive photojournalist styled bags with luxury materials. Premium features include peach-cotton wax canvas, full grain leather accents, brushed tricot interior and hand riveted zipper pulls. There are four bags in the Cooper line, each designed to carry a specific camera kit. 

  • Cooper 8: A mirrorless camera with 2 to 3 lenses, accessories + a small tablet 
  • Cooper 13 Slim: A mirrorless camera with 3-5 lenses or a small DSLR with 2-3 prime lenses, accessories + a 13" or smaller laptop
  • Cooper 13 DSLR: A DSLR with 2 or 3 lenses or a mirrorless camera with 4 to 5 lenses, accessories + a 13" or smaller laptop
  • Cooper 15: Up to a pro-size DSLR with grip, 3 to 4 lenses, accessories + a 15" or smaller laptop.

This review focuses on the Cooper 13 Slim and the Cooper 15. They are, in my opinion, the standouts of this line. The Cooper 8 is nice, but is really suited for the smallest of mirrorless kits. The Cooper 13 DSLR is a great bag, but is just slightly bigger than the Cooper 13 Slim, with two inches of interior depth (5.5 in vs 3.5 in) being the only difference. So virtually all comments about the Cooper 13 Slim will apply to the 13 DSLR. If the 13 Slim sounds just a little tight for you, then the 13 DSLR is probably your bag.

Specifications 

All dimensions (W x H x D) 

Cooper 13 Slim:

  • Exterior: 37 x 27 x 14 cm / 14.5 x 10.5 x 5.5 in 
  • Interior: 34 x 24 x 9 cm / 13.5 x 9.5 x 3.5 in
  • Laptop Compartment: 33 x 23 x 3 cm / 13 x 9 x 1 in 
  • Weight: 1.2 kg / 2.6 lbs

Cooper 15:

  • Exterior: 41 x 29 x 20 cm / 16 x 11.5 x 8 in
  • Interior: 38 x 28 x 17 cm / 15 x 11 x 6.5 in
  • Laptop Compartment: 38 x 27 x 3 cm / 15 x 10.5 x 1 in
  • Weight: 1.6 kg / 3.6 lbs

Design/Construction

I’m not sure how peach-wax cotton canvas differs from standard waxed canvas, but the peach-wax-cotton canvas on the Cooper bags looks sleek and understated, as well as being quite soft to the touch. Some of that softness comes from the fact that the bags have water repellent applied to the backside of the fabric, rather than the front. This allows water to bead up, but keeps the front of the fabric soft and flexible.

I was wary of the leather accents, as they seem like they could be useless affectations on a camera bag that is meant to be used out in the field. Much to my surprise, they not only gave the bag a professional look well above its price tag, but felt good in the hands. My only concern about the fabric and general construction is, what will these bags look like in 5 years? Mundane as it may be, my Mini Messenger looks much the same as it did when I got it. Waxed canvas and leather can age beautifully (think about your grandfather’s Filson coat), so I’m going to be cautiously optimistic.

Overall, Tenba succeeded in making the Cooper line feel like a step up from the average bag. Comparing them to my Mini Messenger bag makes the old bag look pretty boring and shabby indeed. Perhaps more to the point, these bags don't scream 'camera inside!'.

In fact, despite the higher end design and materials, one of the best parts about the Cooper bags is how quickly they fade into the background. I’ve had many bags over the years and I have no trouble saying that these bags are at or near the top of my list as far as stylishness. It may be a minor thing when we’re talking about something that is essentially a tool. But given the choice between a well designed bag that looks good and one that doesn’t, most of us will take the looks as long as functionality is equal. 

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I’ll say this right now, the 'quiet' velcro on the Cooper bags is nothing short of amazing. It works just like regular velcro, but if you pull the flap down (as opposed to 'out'), the hooks release with 98% less noise. Instead of a huge RIIIIIPPPPPPPPPP, you might just hear 2-3 little loops pulling away. Not totally silent, but quiet enough for church, which is impressive. What’s more, by choosing velcro for the flap closure instead of buckles, there is no risk of a metal buckle dinging a piece of gear as the flap is opened. And because the Cooper bags have a handy top-access zipper, I didn’t find myself opening the flap as much as you might think. Particularly with the Cooper 13 Slim, I was able to quickly access bodies and lenses easily through the top-access zipper. 

While the leather bottom and other luxury touches get all the attention (and understandably so) there are any number of small features that are worth mentioning. Using YKK instead of generic zippers may seem like a small thing, but anyone who has been frustrated by a cheap zipper will appreciate the quality.

Speaking of zippers, I love the fact that the zippers to expand the side pockets don’t unzip all the way. There’s no fiddling when you want to zip it back up again. There are also a ton of pockets and slots to organize all the extras you carry in a camera bag. There are even nylon backed leather MOLLE compatible attachment loops. Not all is perfect, but the complaints are pretty darn minor.

One that comes to mind involves the rain cover. As nice as it is to have the raincover included, the fact that it is not built-in and takes up space in the bag is kind of a hassle. Particularly in the smaller bags, I’d opt to carry an extra prime lens than the cover. Another minor complaint? The side pockets on the smaller bags are also pretty, well, small. I’m glad they exist, but even expanded, you aren’t going to be sticking telephoto zooms or big water bottles in there. 

A final item worth mentioning can be considered both a feature and a drawback, depending on your point of view. These bags are not designed as bombproof protective cocoons for your gear, they are designed to be unobtrusive and functional. To that end, the padding inside is not as thick or heavy as in many other shoulder bags. I measure the padding and dividers in the Cooper bags to be around 1/4 inch. By way of comparison, the padding in my old Mini Messenger ranges from 3/8 to 1/2 inch. This cuts down significantly on the bulk and stiffness of the bags. In exchange, your gear is going to be less cushioned from bumps and bonks. This is a trade that I’m personally happy to make, but others may not feel the same.

In Use

Cooper 13 Slim 

While all four Cooper bags are solid, the 13 Slim might be the standout of the line. It is perfectly sized for a mirrorless kit. An Olympus OM-D E-M1 with a mix of 3-5 zoom/primes lenses fits beautifully. The gear comes in and out with ease and there is a place for everything.

If you are looking for a bag to carry a decent sized mirrorless kit, the Cooper 13 Slim deserves your attention. That said, perhaps what was more surprising to me is that my standard full-frame 'prime' kit (Canon 6D, 24mm F1.8, 35mm F2, 50mm F1.8 & 85mm F1.8) also fits. And it didn't just fit; I found that I love using the bag for that kit. There’s not a lot of extra room and the 24 & 85 are a bit less accessible, but even so the 6D hasn’t left the Cooper 13 for weeks. Now, I’m not sure that this would be practical for a DSLR with zoom lenses of any length or girth. If you want a small bag for your DSLR and plan to carry anything bigger than prime lenses, I’d encourage looking at the Cooper 13 DSLR. 

The 13 Slim is big enough to hold a substantial amount of gear, but is also so slim that it hardly sticks out from your body and doesn’t hinder your ability to move through a crowd. This is something that is huge for me. To be honest, I’m rarely concerned that someone knows I have a camera bag, after all, I typically have a camera in my hand. But if I’m banging into people or knocking drinks off tables in a crowded bar concert, well, that’s going to get people’s attention, and not in a good way.

Not only is the Cooper 13 Slim only 5.5 inches deep, but its lack of rigidity allows it to conform slightly to the shape of your body, allowing it to protrude even less. There is one drawback to the Cooper 13 Slim’s 'slim' nature, it doesn't tend to stand upright when set down. It will balance, but I wouldn’t leave the flap open and rely on it staying that way. 

Cooper 15

The Cooper 15 fits a full size DSLR with multiple F2.8 zoom lenses. I used a Canon 6D, 17-35mm F2.8, 24-70mm F2.8 and a 70-200/2.8 and had room for a speedlight and accessories without using any of the outside pockets. I will say that even a large mirrorless kit is absolutely swallowed in this bag. Unless you were using it as more of a briefcase that also happened to carry your mirrorless kit (not a bad idea actually), I might encourage you to look at one of smaller Cooper bags. 

Overall, the Cooper 15 performed the same as the its Slim/DSLR counterparts with a few small caveats. Due to the larger size of my F2.8 zooms, it wasn’t quite as easy to get them out/in through the top-access zipper. This isn’t something exclusive to the Cooper 15, some of it just comes with pro bodies and lenses.

This brings me to another small concern worth mentioning: the Cooper 15 is a pretty darn big bag. It’s sized to carry these big zooms and bodies. I tend to encourage photographers to look at a backpack or sling if they are carrying big gear. The only time I use a shoulder bag for my pro kit is when I’m on a job where I’ll be in and out of the bag a ton – setting it down, picking it up, rushing across the reception hall and grabbing a new lens so I don’t miss the first dance, that kind of thing. Otherwise, that’s a lot of weight on my shoulder just for a street photography session through town. If you are carrying a smaller DSLR kit, you should probably look into the Cooper 13 DSLR, as the Cooper 15 is going to be overkill. 

But I fully admit that some of that is my own personal preference as far as how I carry by gear. If you know that you like a shoulder bag for your big DSLR kit, the Cooper 15 is an outstanding choice as far as I’m concerned. While I was partially joking before, I do think there is a strong case to be made for using the Cooper 15 as a briefcase/schoolbag. It’s sized perfectly for that task, looks cooler than most anything else you’ll see at a powerpoint presentation and could still hold your 'everyday' camera kit. 

What’s the bottom line?

The Tenba Cooper bags are well designed, good looking and extremely functional. They are not particularly cheap, but I would consider them on the affordable end of the spectrum as far as high end bags are concerned. If sheer economics are your main concern, there are other cheaper bags out there. But the Cooper bags are an impressive mix of style, functionality and features. For what it's worth, the Cooper 13 Slim/DSLR has made my list of bags that I love to use and recommend to just about anyone.

Categories: Equipment

DxO ONE update enables framing assist via the camera's OLED monitor

Thu, 03/10/2016 - 3:20pm

A recent update for the DxO ONE has introduced framing assistance via the camera's built-in OLED when the device is used in standalone shooting mode. A monochrome live image preview is displayed on the camera's small, rear screen to improve the experience of using the camera without connection to an iPhone. The camera is also offered at a lower $499 price point, without software bundled. 

Firmware 1.3 also introduces a motion blur alert feature, as well as a modified interface for selecting white balance, metering and focus mode. When sharing photos, you'll now see a visual confirmation of a successful upload, and JPEG compression level can be specified. 

The app update is available now for free through the App Store, and camera firmware can be updated through the camera itself. The DxO ONE is available now for $499.

Press release:

DxO ONE now features a dramatically enhanced stand-alone experience

DxO unbundles desktop software to make the camera available at a new low price of just $499

Press release:

PARIS, March 2, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- DxO announced today the immediate availability of yet another ground-breaking update to the award-winning DxO ONE professional quality connected camera for iPhone® and iPad®. The version 1.3 update, available for free via the iTunes App Store, introduces several new features that further extend the use of the DxO ONE, including the ability to use the OLED display as a novel framing assistant to help quickly compose while operating the camera with one hand. Additionally, DxO has unbundled their desktop software from the package (DxO FilmPack and DxO OpticsPro now sold separately), enabling even more photographers to get their hands on the revolutionary DxO ONE camera at a new low price of just $499.

"That is one trippy amazing viewfinder — love it!" said award-winning photographer, John Stanmeyer. "Even more wonderful, in very low light, the ONE handled all the complexities of ISO, focus, etc., instantly. Amazing. Perfectly fine for those rapid moments when you want to make an image, a RAW high res file, in any lighting conditions we're placed in."

Version 1.3, the second major upgrade to date, enables the DxO ONE to be used as a miniaturized pro-quality camera that is smaller, easier, and faster to shoot than any other camera on the market. To quickly capture life's fleeting moments, simply pull the DxO ONE out of your pocket or purse, and in one movement, slide the lens cover open, compose the scene using the OLED display as a framing assistant, then depress the two-stage physical shutter button to lock focus and grab the shot. In stand-alone mode, the DxO ONE provides a fun, retro-style of photographing without "chimping," and makes browsing newly captured images a surprising and delightful experience.

Best of all, when using the DxO ONE in stand-alone mode, all of your preferred camera settings for aperture, shutter speed, ISO, metering, white balance, etc. are preserved, exactly as you set them in the iOS app. For example, if you prefer to capture portraits at f/1.8, the camera will always be ready at f/1.8 when you pull it out of your pocket. And because the DxO ONE has a physical shutter button, it works even if you're wearing gloves. So when you're on the slopes, set the camera to 1/4000s (or higher), then when you pull the camera out of your ski jacket the DxO ONE is immediately ready to freeze fast action.

"During an assignment for Rolls-Royce Motor Cars I had the misfortune of seriously injuring myself during a biking accident," said Robert Leslie, professional photographer and amateur cyclist. "Much to my client's surprise I was able to complete the studio session and capture some incredible images while using the DxO ONE in the new stand-alone mode. Now what other camera in the world lets you do a professional shoot whilst your arm is in a sling with a broken collar bone?"

Version 1.3 also introduces a host of other features including motion blur alert, and an elegant new way to dial in white balance, metering and focus modes, which can also be viewed as overlays in the viewfinder along with your iPhone battery level. Browsing photos is faster than ever, with the gallery now sorted in the same order as in iOS Photos. You can be sure your images were successfully shared thanks to a new visual confirmation message, and you can set a preferred JPEG compression level for photos, and bitrate for videos. Of note, an innovative Message Center now provides a direct connection to DxO, with in-app access to current information designed to help you get the most out of your DxO ONE.

DxO ONE owners are invited to download and install version 1.3, which is available as a free update via the iTunes App Store. New firmware, also immediately available, can be downloaded to the iPhone and installed on the DxO ONE with a simple tap.

Pricing & Availability

The DxO ONE Miniaturized Pro Quality Camera™ for iPhone® and iPad® is available for purchase at dxo.com, Amazon, Apple online and select Apple stores in the US, B&H and other respected photo retailers for the new low price of $499.

The DxO ONE iOS app and companion Apple Watch app are both available for free via the iTunes App Store. Every purchase of a DxO ONE camera also includes free access to simple, but powerful desktop processing software — DxO Connect for Mac and PC, and the new DxO OpticsPro for OS X Photos. DxO FilmPack and DxO OpticsPro are available for purchase separately.

Categories: Equipment

Seriously sharp: Sony FE 85mm F1.4 GM samples

Thu, 03/10/2016 - 12:00pm

We knew Sony's FE 85mm F1.4 G Master lens was sharp. After all, we had the chance to shoot with it briefly back in February at the Sony a6300 launch event in New York City. But last week we got better acquainted with the lens, putting it through its paces in different shooting scenarios throughout Miami. And simply put, this lens is seriously sharp. All of the samples in the gallery were shot using the Sony a7R II. Please note, we've included Raw files for download for a selection of the images.

Note: This sample gallery was shot while on a Sony-sponsored shooting event in Miami. Part of the excursion included photographing models in scenes that call back to famous Miami-based TV shows and movies including Scarface, Miami Vice and CSI Miami. No actual gangsters or cops were photographed during the making of this gallery.

Categories: Equipment

Crowd pleaser: Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM real world images

Thu, 03/10/2016 - 12:00pm

Sony's new FE 24-70mm F2.8 G Master is as pro-level a lens as come. Dust and moisture-sealed, it offers impressively fast AF speeds, especially when paired with the Sony a7R II (which we used to shoot this gallery). Though we only spent about 24 waking hours with it, images shot throughout the focal range show the lens is sharp with little noticeable chromatic aberration. Please note, we've included Raw files for download for a selection of the images.

Note: This sample gallery was shot while on a Sony-sponsored shooting event in Miami. Part of the excursion included photographing models in scenes that call back to famous Miami-based TV shows and movies including Scarface, Miami Vice and CSI Miami. No actual gangsters or cops were photographed during the making of this gallery.

Categories: Equipment

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