Oru Origami-Inspired Folding Kayak is Back with an Updated Design

15 Aug

[ By SA Rogers in Design & Products & Packaging. ]

City dwellers with small apartments and limited storage can now own a kayak that folds up into a suitcase-sized package perfect for toting on your bike or public transit. The Oru Kayak originally debuted on Kickstarter in 2012, and every few years since then, they’ve released an updated model, with their lineup including the casual Beach LT for day trips, the Bay ST for longer days and the Coast XT for rugged conditions in surf and wind.

Earlier this year, they returned to Kickstarter to raise funds for a limited edition design in collaboration with 1% for the Planet with a custom green tree print, and now, they’re offering another limited edition: the United by Blue style.

The Oru Beach LT Kayak: United by Blue edition has all the same features as the standard Beach LT, but with the addition of a seamless graphic print in either orange or navy blue. The collaboration is a natural fit considering that United by Blue has spent the last few years organizing volunteer ocean and river cleanups using Oru kayaks, and lots of urban kayakers donate their time on the water in a similar manner.

The origami-inspired folding design of Oru’s Beach LT folds from flat and compact into a standard-sized kayak in under five minutes, while the more complex models take 10 or 15 minutes to assemble. As anyone who’s ever owned and transported a kayak can imagine, the ability to fold such an unwieldy object is a welcome innovation, especially if you don’t have a garage or basement to store it in, or a vehicle of your own. But the design isn’t just for newbies – it was made for everyone from the weekender to the fisherman in mind, for short trips or multi-day excursions.

Get your exclusive UBB x Our Kayak Undercurrent Pack at the United By Blue website, or check out the other offerings at

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Video: Meet the ‘camera whisperer’ who fixes cameras nobody else can

15 Aug

If your camera or lens goes for a swim in salt water, most service centers will just write it off as unfixable. But one man in Singapore, known locally as the ‘Camera Whisperer,’ won’t give up on you. In fact, he’s made a name for himself by fixing cameras nobody else wants to or can.

David Hilos, 49, is a fixture in the Singapore hobbyist photography community. So much so, that Channel NewsAsia recently filmed a profile on him titled The Camera Fixer.

Tinkering at a workbench in his small public housing apartment in Singapore, he charges a fraction of what the service centers charge and takes ‘lost causes’ like the water damaged Nikon D750 you see in the video above. Or this Canon 50mm F1.2 he saved after a dip in some salt water:

Check out the short documentary above to meet Mr. Hilos and watch him work. And the next time your camera takes a swim or sustains some damage that a service center tells you is beyond them, don’t just give up. Try and find your own David Hilos instead.

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Google’s Camera app has been unofficially ported to other Android phones

15 Aug

A developer going by the handle B-S-G has created an unofficial port of Google’s Camera app, allowing a larger number of Android users to utilize the software with much-loved features like HDR+. Though the app is only officially available on the Pixel smartphones, this port makes it available to any Android smartphone running a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820, 821 or 835 processor.

Phones that can now run the Google Camera app include the Galaxy S8, LG G6, and OnePlus 5.

Google’s Camera app (in conjunction with the Pixel camera hardware) has been praised for both the quality of the photos it takes and its wide range of features, including HDR+. However, the app’s limitation to the Pixel smartphones meant most Android users couldn’t use it. B-S-G has changed that, and though the ported app can’t be downloaded from the Play Store (given that it is an unofficial port), the APK is available online.

The folks at XDA Developers both tested and analyzed the app, and concluded that it doesn’t contain any malicious code and is safe to install. However, it is important to exercise caution with any non-official APK and understand that there is an implicit risk whenever an APK is sideloaded onto a device… proceed with caution.

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Sony ‘trade up’ program gets you $500 plus trade-in value towards a new a9

15 Aug

Switching brands is a painful and expensive process, but a new “trade up” promotion from Sony is trying to take a little bit of the sting away. For a limited time, people interested in stepping up to a Sony a7 II, Sony a7S II, Sony a7R II, or Sony a9 can get several hundreds of dollars in credit + trade-in value when they hand over their working DSLR or mirrorless camera.

These kinds of trade-in programs are not uncommon in the photo world, but we’re more accustomed to seeing them from brands like Hasselblad and Leica, where the price tag for upgrading from one model to the next is so high that a significant discount for trading in your older camera is a serious boon.

Sony’s promotion isn’t quite as intense, but trading in an eligible DSLR or mirrorless will snag you $ 500 + trade-in value towards a new a9, $ 300 + trade-in value towards an a7R II and a7S II, and $ 100 + trade-in value towards a new a7 II. What’s more, these discounts are being offered in parallel with instant-rebates of up to $ 200 on the same cameras.

If you’re looking for an a9, there is a (long) list of eligible cameras that will earn you that $ 500 bonus; however, if you’re interested in an a7 II, a7S II, or a7R II, “any working digital interchangeable lens camera” is acceptable. To learn more or take advantage of the program, read the press release below or head over to the trade up website at this link.

The ‘trade up’ promotion runs from August 13th through September 30th.

Press Release

Sony Rolls Out Exciting New Nationwide “? TRADE UP” Retail Event

Program offers up to $ 500 bonus offer on trade-in DSLR or mirrorless cameras toward purchase of Sony full-frame cameras, lenses and accessories

San Diego, August 14, 2017, Sony Electronics, a worldwide leader in digital imaging, today announced a new nationwide “? Trade Up” retail event with up to $ 500 bonus offer on top of the trade-in value of a working DSLR or mirrorless camera. The bonus offer can be applied to the purchase of several full-frame Sony cameras including the flagship ?9 as well as the ?7R II, ?7S II and ?7 II models. A variety of ? full-frame lenses and ? accessories are also eligible.

The trade-in and trade-up summertime bonus deal runs now through September 30, 2017, and runs in parallel with instant rebates of up to $ 200 on the same eligible products. Sony is also offering limited time 24-month interest free financing at participating retailers on select Sony imaging products. Combine all offers to maximum savings.

All eligible trade-in products must be in working condition. See below for a list of eligible trade-in products and requirements for eligibility. Customers are restricted to one bonus offer per item they trade-in at participating Sony Authorized Dealers.

Sony ?9 bonus offer of $ 500 on eligible trade-in products

  • Eligible products include the Canon 6D, Canon 6D II, Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 5Ds, Canon 5Ds R, Canon 5D Mark IV, Canon 1D Mark IV, Canon 1DX, Canon 1DX II, Nikon D600, Nikon D610, Nikon D800, Nikon D800E, Nikon D810, Nikon D810A, Nikon D750, Nikon D3, Nikon D3s, Nikon D4, Nikon D4s, Nikon D5, Leica M9, Leica M9P, Leica Monochrom, Leica M246, Leica M240, Leica M10, Leica SL, Leica M262, Sony ?7, Sony ?7R, Sony ?7S, Sony ?7 II, Sony ?7S II, Sony ?7R II, Sony?900, Sony ?850, Sony ?99, and Sony ?99 II

Sony ?7 series bonus offers and eligible trade-in products:

  • Sony ?7R ll Full-Frame Mirrorless Camera: Bonus offer of $ 300 on any working digital interchangeable-lens camera
  • Sony ?7S ll Full-Frame Mirrorless Camera: Bonus offer of $ 300 on any working digital interchangeable-lens camera
  • Sony ?7 ll Full-Frame Mirrorless Camera: Bonus offer of $ 100 on any working digital interchangeable-lens camera

FOR MORE INFORMATION: For more information on this promotion, please visit

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A forgotten solution: Why this strange 1975 zoom lens is so sharp

15 Aug

For a few years now, I’ve had in my collection one very strange lens. I bought it primarily for it’s value as a collectible so, up until now, I haven’t really spent much time playing with it.

Made in 1975, this manual focus Minolta MC Rokkor-X 40-80mm F2.8 lens is one strange puppy. When it was first introduced, no other zoom lens could top its image quality and it really didn’t have much competition until more recent years. This is largely due to its very unique Gearbox design that sought to overcome the problem with zoom lenses that we still face today.

Way back in 1959, the first commercially-available 35mm still camera zoom lens, the Bessematic-mount Zoomar 36-82mm F2.8, was released by Voightlander. It’s mechanical design would not be unfamiliar to you since the focus and focal length were adjusted via a few round-turns of the lens barrel.

This simple helicoid design remains the only common method manufacturers use to make our lenses zoom in and out and focus. When you twist the zoom/focus ring(s) of a lens, the optics are carried forward or backward through a threaded barrel. This design results in a fixed movement ratio of the optical groups mounted inside that helicoid. The problem with this is every focal length requires a slightly different adjustment of the lens element/group spacing to properly correct aberrations and the fixed ratio of a helicoid cannot provide that kind of variance.

The helicoid is relatively simple, easy to make, and its shape tailors to a fitting physical design of a lens. If a lens were designed to have as few compromises as possible, it might look vastly different from what we see sitting on store shelves. For simplicity though, manufacturers have stuck with the helicoid and instead invested in overcoming its mechanical shortfalls with optical solutions.

Over the years, lens designers, aided by computers, have learned how to improve the optical designs of the zoom lens to work around most of the limitations of the locked-ratio helicoid. Modern zooms still aren’t quite as good as a prime lens but, with aspherical lens elements and fancy coatings to help out, they’re getting pretty darn close.

Back in the early 1970’s, Minolta’s engineers, armed with their slide rules and cigarettes, had a go at thinking outside the box to come up with a lens design that would allow for precise positioning of the optical groups in a zoom lens. What they came up with was so clever that it required they put it inside a box—a gearbox, to be precise.

Rather than work with the limitations of a helicoid design, this clever bunch decided to abandon that whole concept and create a new one where lens groups would be blessed with the freedom to move independent of each other. They came up with this unorthodox gearbox design that drives 12 optical elements in 12 separate groups along linear, gear-operated rails. With the chains of fixed-ratio movement cast from them, the entire lens design could be “geared” for precise positioning of the optics to best correct for aberrations throughout the range of focal lengths.

What they did was figure out how to make a hand held zoom lens that is as well corrected across its range of focal lengths as a fixed focal length lens would be at its one—that’s the theory anyway. In spite of the weird and wart-like appearance of their solution, Minolta’s engineers achieved with this lens something that is truly unique and special. There is no mistaking this lens for any other, that’s for sure.

Weighing in at 19.75 ounces (560 g), it isn’t particularly big or heavy. In fact, even with all the metal machinery inside this lens, it’s almost exactly half the weight of Nikon’s current 24-70mm f/2.8 VR.

Focus is adjusted by turning the big wheel while focal length is controlled by moving the lever arm. Both controls are very smooth and easy to move across their fairly short range of motion. The focus wheel features a precise distance scale with Infrared Index.

The lens has a 55mm diameter coated front element. Here you can see the profile of the gearbox which is fixed to the left-hand side of the lens body.

Did I mention it has a macro mode? The lens has a metal stem poking out of the gearbox which, when twisted anti-clockwise and pushed in, shifts everything inside the lens out toward the front, essentially putting more space between the film/sensor plane and the rear element (same thing an extension tube does). The result of this forward-shift is a reduction in the Minimum Focal Distance from 3.3 ft (1.01 m) to 1.2 ft (.37 m) @40mm.

Here, the stem is shown in the Macro position. When pushing in this stem, the focal length lever shifts forward with the internal glass. What a cool, whacky design!

Let’s see how well all of the engineering effort translates into actually making images with this lens.

My sister told me about this row of old silos that sit alongside a two-lane road not too far from where I live. Yesterday, I had to go by it while I was on errands. On the return trip I pulled over for this shot.

I had the lens set to 40mm and the aperture was wide-open at F2.8. This was the first shot I took and I kind of hurriedly grabbed it because of the unique lighting. That isn’t vignetting in the grass. Passing over head was a thick, dark cloud that cast the strangest light over this scene. No sooner I had shot this and the sun was back out in the open.

On the same errand run, I came across this old Chevrolet police car. Focal length was 80mm @ F8.

I was very interested to see how well the lens would control chromatic aberrations when shooting this brightly lit chrome.

I’ve not used a pre-1980’s zoom lens that didn’t produce some purple-fringing in a shot like this. Kudos to Minoltas engineers because there was none. Zoomed 400% in the 42 megapixel RAW file I could see nothing but bright chrome and colorful rust. 80mm @ F4

The Jelly Palm in our front yard is full of fruit this time of year. I shot this with the lens’ Macro mode enabled. 40mm @ F2.8

Just a bowl of bananas on the dinner table. Shot somewhere around 50mm @ F5.6

The Magnolia tree in the yard is sprouting new buds. Macro mode, 40mm @ F2.8. In the shade and backlit, color and contrast is good and the out-of-focus background is pleasantly smooth and non-distracting.

My second oldest daughter was kind enough to pause a moment for this final shot. 80mm @ F2.8

What can I say? The lens is awesome. All the effort put into designing this strange Gearbox-driven lens seems to have resulted in an excellent mid-range zoom lens. When I first started shooting with it, I did find it a little fiddly using a lever and wheel to make adjusts but after awhile I grew fond of it; it’s actually really fun to handle.

You don’t hold this lens like you would a traditional zoom, with your hands wrapped around the barrel. I keep it propped with the gearbox resting on the up-turned palm of my left hand and use my thumb to move the focal length lever and index finger to turn the focus wheel. The travel distance of both is just right so that you aren’t moving your fingers outside their natural range or having to make repetitious movements.

I can highly recommend this lens to anyone wanting to own a piece of history and/or turn some heads on their next photo walk. Comparing this to my favorite zoom lens, the incredible Minolta MD 35-70mm f/3.5, I would say it at least equals it. They’re both around the same size and weight and have a similar range of focal lengths. In fact, this Minolta 40-80mm f/2.8 lens is the antecedent to the 35-70mm f/3.5 (thus, for giggles, I used it to shoot the lens photos).

Minolta likely found that the unusual design and complexity of making this Gearbox lens was cost prohibitive and went back to the drawing board to come up with a balanced compromise. They only made two versions of it before canning the whole idea. The lens I have is the 1st Gen ‘MC’ version. An ‘MD’ version was made in 1977 and after that they called it quits.

Both versions can still be found for sale online, but I’ll warn you, this lens is priced for the committed collector.

Tom Leonard is an engineer, amateur photographer, and gear collector who travels around the world for work 30 days at a time. You can read more about Leonard’s travels and see his photography on his website.

This article was originally published on Tom’s blog, and is being republished on DPReview with express permission.

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f11 Magazine is suspending publication due to financial troubles

15 Aug

Photography publication f11 Magazine is being suspended, perhaps permanently, due to trouble funding the endeavor using its current advertising strategies. Subscribers have been alerted to the pending closure via an email, which explains that, “the concept of a magazine free to readers and funded entirely by advertising support proved much more difficult to sustain as a business proposition.” The publication hopes to return in the future if an adequate solution is found.

f11 Magazine was founded in 2011 as a publication that focuses on photos rather than gear; a magazine that was free to download with all revenue coming from advertising. As spelled out in the email, however, this business model simply hasn’t been sustainable for the magazine. Until such a time when an alternative is found—if one is found—the magazine will not produce any new issues. If the magazine does return, it may differ from its current presentation.

You can read the full email text below:

An update for our subscribers…

After six years and 66 issues of publishing f11 Magazine, I have made the incredibly difficult decision to place the magazine in suspension. There are no new issues planned at this stage.

The idea of a magazine about photography and photographers – rather than cameras and accessories – found a loyal and appreciative audience around the world. I like to think that our approach was more cerebral than many other titles, and that we were able to rise above the perils of pixel peeping, equipment worship, and the banal. Our mission was to expose the work of photographers, display their collections, and describe their personal journeys. We were never short of content as we made the world our home.

Unfortunately, the concept of a magazine free to readers and funded entirely by advertising support proved much more difficult to sustain as a business proposition. I’m investigating other options to keep the title alive in some form, but this will take time and dialogue with others – hence the decision to suspend publication at this point. It’s my hope that a successful outcome from one of these conversations will expose the magazine to a much larger potential audience, while at the same time ensuring its financial viability with a new business model.

If you have been a reader, a commercial supporter, or simply a believer in our approach to content and community I thank you sincerely for your encouragement and participation. I know not what the future holds for f11 Magazine, for photographers and aficionados, but I’m personally proud of the content and quality that a small team has been able to produce consistently. We’ve been on time, on topic, and appreciated for 66 consecutive issues – and that’s no small achievement.

Once we have a meaningful update to share, I’ll be sure to let you know. Equally, if you have any thoughts that you’d like to share with me, please feel free to get in touch:

Kind regards, Tim

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Bold Bamboo: 8 Dramatic Organic Structures by Chiangmai Life Architects

14 Aug

[ By SA Rogers in Architecture & Public & Institutional. ]

With the completion of their latest project, a spectacular sports hall made of prefabricated bamboo trusses, Thai firm Chiangmai Life Construction (CLC) shows off the stunning architectural possibilities of this natural, inexpensive and sustainable material. But it’s far from the only incredible bamboo structure they’ve designed and built, and they’re here to prove that bamboo blends beautifully with modern technology and lifestyles. Each of their projects centers on the concept of ‘life construction,’ in which the design of a building is carefully customized to its environment, including weather, to control how bamboo interacts with the elements.

Bamboo Sports Hall for Panyaden International School

Each of the prefabricated bamboo trusses used to build this sports hall for a school in Thailand spans more than 55 feet without steel reinforcements or connectors, lifted into position on-site with help from a crane. The structure is designed to withstand earthquakes, torrential rain and high velocity winds, and to host basketball, futsal (a variation of football played on a small hard court), volleyball and badminton. The building shape is based on that of a lotus flower, and like all of CLC’s projects, this one is open to the air to encourage ventilation for cooling in Thailand’s temperate climate, where cold weather is not a problem. The space can host 300 students at a time and includes a storage area behind the stage.

Erber Research Center

At Kasetsart University, Thailand’s largest agricultural learning institution, CLC created a facility that allows students and visitors to study chicken rearing through the windows of an adjacent pre-existing broiler hall (where the chickens are raised) as well as offering space for lectures. Based on the layout of a traditional farmhouse with a square courtyard, the facility includes a covered observation platform with windows spray-painted to look like the eyes of a chicken, with a meeting room, office, lecture hall, kitchen and bathrooms nearby. Says CLC, “This design brings traditional architecture to today’s students who grow up in concrete bunkers.”

Trika Villa

Trika Villa is a residence aiming to illustrate CLC’s core goal of bringing natural materials into the 21st century, maintaining a balance of beauty, affordability and quality. The luxury residence includes 5 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms and a spacious living and dining room arranged around a swimming pool in the courtyard. The adobe walls don’t quite meet the curving, overhanging roof, allowing heat to escape and breezes to penetrate the structure.

Bamboo Reception Hall

Welcoming parents and visitors at the entrance of Panyaprateep School in Thailand is this bamboo reception hall with a rolling bamboo roof inspired by snakeskin. Half open and half closed, the structure offers earthen and stone benches for sitting together in small groups as well as an area full of shelves for the display of items made by the students.

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Bold Bamboo 8 Dramatic Organic Structures By Chiangmai Life Architects

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Smartphones killed the compact and now they’re coming for entry-level ILCs

14 Aug

When friends ask me to recommend a camera, more often than not they say they’re looking to take better pictures than what they get from their phone. But what does “better than my phone” actually mean?

One of those key differentiating factors has been the “pretty blurry background” effect that an interchangeable lens camera is capable of producing. Whether you know the word ‘bokeh’ or not, you know what a nice portrait looks like: sharp focus on the subject, a soft blurry background. And you know that your phone can’t do it (until now – more on that in a second). In my experience, that’s often part of what people mean when they say “better than my phone.” But those days are quickly coming to an end, and it’s the iPhone 7 Plus leading the way.

It’s not even a question of if the $ 500 ILC becomes obsolete, it’s a matter of when

The iPhone 7 Plus offers Portrait Mode, which uses depth information from the device’s two rear-facing cameras to mimic shallow depth of field. Apple sure didn’t invent it, and it’s far from perfect, but that doesn’t matter: they’ve made the effect very convincing and put it in the hands of millions of users.

The entry-level ILC is dead, long live the entry-level ILC

It’s not even a question of if the $ 500 ILC becomes obsolete, it’s a matter of when. And when may actually be right now. Ex-Google SVP Vic Gundotra spelled it out in a recent Facebook post.

He pretty much hits the nail on the head right there. As it functions now the effect isn’t perfect, but it’s likely already good enough for most people, and it’s only going to keep getting better. And that phrase, “good enough for most people” is exactly how we talked about smartphone cameras just as the compact camera was dealt its final blow.

Computational photography killed the $ 500 DSLR

I know what you’re thinking. “But zoom! Pixel-level resolution! Low light image quality!” I’m here to tell you that smartphones are already well on their way to solving those problems, if they haven’t already. And here’s the key: they don’t have to get it perfect, it just has to be convincing enough to most people. Also, there are approximately zero people outside of the photography community who care how their photos look at 100% magnification.

Smartphone cameras can’t get any bigger than they already are, but they can get smarter. With more cameras, sophisticated algorithms and computational techniques, that’s exactly what they’re doing. It won’t be long before your smartphone camera’s auto mode will be able to retouch images in real-time. Or change apparent focal length after-the-fact.

Lots of people who do want the image quality benefits traditionally associated with a DSLR actually want nothing to do with a DSLR

Autofocus may be the piece of the puzzle that’s hardest to solve. Smartphones are slow to focus in low light, but $ 500 ILCs don’t do a whole lot better. And neither smartphone nor entry-level DSLR is particularly good at tracking a moving toddler, for example. It’s always been necessary to go farther up the product chain to get appreciably better autofocus.

Then there’s just plain old inertia: lots of people who do want the image quality benefits traditionally associated with a DSLR actually want nothing to do with a DSLR. They’re big, confusing and come with a significant learning curve. Camera manufacturers have been able to sell cameras to somewhat unwilling customers because they alone held the keys to better images. So once the device that’s already in your pocket does just about everything a Canon T6 does, why on earth would you be bothered to buy a Rebel?

More than just image capture

Also consider that phones aren’t just capture devices – they’re an interface for your image storage and management. Sure, most entry-level ILCs will connect to your phone via Wi-Fi, but even when it works well, it’s never as easy as just capturing the images on your smartphone in the first place.

Once smartphones can do a reasonably good imitation of things like bokeh and optical zoom, those who never wanted to pick up a dedicated camera won’t have to

There are many ‘set it and forget it’ image management services that will automatically back up your photos, and they don’t stop there – they’ll automatically identify subjects, allow you to search by keyword and date, and organize them into a reasonably-priced photo book for you. Sure beats the pants off spending hours importing and cataloging photos on your hard drive.

There will always be lower-cost, accessible ILCs for people who want to venture outside of ‘green square mode.’ But once smartphones can do a reasonably good imitation of things like bokeh and optical zoom, those who never wanted to pick up a dedicated camera won’t have to.

You’re reading an article on a photography website, so I feel safe saying that you and I care about photography. We want to make pictures, and we take joy in the process. But many people don’t, and they are happy to turn the job over to their smartphone. The day when that segment of the photo-taking population can do that and see results that are good enough in their eyes is right around the corner – if it isn’t already here.

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Sony Kumamoto sensor factory earthquake: first public footage

14 Aug

Sony Kumamoto sensor factory: first public footage of the 2016 earthquake

On April 16, 2016, disaster struck in Kumamoto in the Kyushu region of Japan. A series of earthquakes, including an unprecedented 7.0 mainshock struck beneath Kumamoto City where Sony’s sensor factory resides. The factory itself was a mere 20 kilometers from the earthquake’s epicenter. A foreshock (warning) of magnitude 6.2 came approximately two days earlier, which gave the factory time to evacuate; however, the damage to the carefully built, precision controlled and automated factory with clean rooms was devastating. Not to mention the impact on the lives of those in the region…

During a recent trip to the repaired Kumamoto factory, DPReview was afforded an inside look at the facility and a chance to meet the very people that keep one of the world’s largest sources of imaging sensors operational. We watched a video that showed the extent of the damages and repair efforts. Combined with a better of understanding of how the facility operates, we were able to appreciate just how extensive the destruction and repair processes were. We’ll get to that in the following slides, but have a look above at the public’s first look of footage from the facility during the earthquake, and the massive repair efforts that followed.

Massive impact

Before we dive more into the impact on Sony’s sensor factory itself, we’d be remiss to not mention the impact on the region. The foreshock and mainshock together claimed more than 50 lives, injured 3,000 others, forced more than 44,000 people to evacuate from their homes and left over 180,000 people seeking shelter in the days after the earthquake. The entire city of Kumamoto was left without water, flights were grounded, as was rail service due to a derailed train. A thousand buildings had been seriously damaged either directly by the earthquake or due to the resulting fires and landslides, and an entire hospital had to be evacuated due to the building being knocked off its foundation.

More than 140 aftershocks were registered within just two days. The estimated economic costs due to the earthquake are estimated to be up to $ 7.5 billion USD. Although you can’t quite appreciate it in this image, the sensor factory is surrounded by mountainous hills resulting from a tectonic line housing many active faults. Earthquakes of some magnitude or another are common to the area. In the following days we’ll have more pictures of the area, as we traveled extensively within the Kyushu region.

Source of statistics: Wikipedia

‘The outside was visible from inside the clean-room’

Many sections of the 40,000 square meter facility were severely damaged. There were continued aftershocks for many days that made it difficult to even re-enter and start repairs. In fact, the region is used to After it was deemed safe to enter, the damage was assessed. It was extensive. Heavy duty H-beams for structural support buckled, causing walls and ceilings to collapse. Here is an image showing the ceiling of the clean room ripped open, exposing the sky above. ‘Now we were speechless’ said the camera crew filming the damage.

And those ceilings aren’t your typical roofs over your head: they house tracks that carry many of the parts from machine to machine in the automated processes of taking a silicon wafer and generating active sensors from them. Essentially, many parts of the sensor development process were disrupted.

Delicate, precision machinery: shattered

The extensive damage to the clean room meant that many of the machines automatically processing silicon wafers to generate sensors* were destroyed, including the many wafers each machine contained. Throughout the video you’ll see shattered silicon – at various stages of the silicon-to-sensor process – scattered everywhere. Ultimately many functional machines were salvaged, removed, and brought back after the clean room was reconstructed, but many were deemed too damaged to ever function again.

* Stay tuned for an in-depth look at the actual sensor manufacturing process, which we learned about during a recent trip to the factory.

All hands on deck

The sensor factory in Kumamoto produces most sensors Sony manufactures not just for their own cameras, but for other manufacturers as well, including those in the smartphone, security camera, webcam, automotive, medical and other imaging-related industries. The disruption of this facility had no small impact: consider that by July 2017, Sony has sold 7.2 billion sensors worldwide.

Therefore, it was imperative to restore operations to normal as soon as possible. And that’s why Sony factory members themselves, including executive ones, went to work right away restoring the factory. There are nearly 2700 employees at this factor, and it was all hands on deck.

A spirit of personal responsibility and dedication

Imagine an earthquake at your corporate office that ruined much of your workspace. Would you expect to return to clean up and help repair the damage yourself? That’s what the Kumamoto employees did. The spirit is really remarkable when you stop to consider that most of us here in the States would expect our companies to simply ‘deal with it’. Here is a factory employee vacuuming up thousands of fragments of broken silicon wafers.

Operations resumed ahead of schedule

The factories worked with such diligence and dedication that they restored operations ahead of schedule. They did this whilst putting in place precautions that would lower the lead time from 3.5 months to 2 months were this sort of disaster to happen in the future. These measures included stronger piping as well as the engineering of self-stop systems that halt precision processes when shake is detected. These systems respond in particular to P-waves, the first of two major elastic seismic waves to arrive at a seismograph during an earthquake.

A human story of courage, dedication and ultimate success

And so the story ends on a happy note. Here is an image of the team of employees that worked countless hours to restore the Kumamoto facility to normal operations. We can only imagine the dedication involved, and how heartening it was to work together to bring back to life such an important part of the company. It’s a story of not just company dedication and culture, but a human one of working together to achieve an honorable goal.

We were obviously touched watching the video and seeing the spirit of the employees. Were you? Let us know in the comments below.

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Canon EOS 80D to EOS 6D Mark II: in the light of the review, should I upgrade?

14 Aug

Is it worth upgrading my EOS 80D to the EOS 6D Mark II?

We already had a simple look at how good an upgrade the EOS 6D II makes for 80D owners, based on our early impressions of the camera. Now we’ve had a chance to spend more time with it (and to go back and shoot with the 80D again), we thought we’d look at the differences and benefits in more detail.

We’re going to try not to make too many assumptions about what you shoot with your 80D and what you value in a camera, beyond assuming that you kinda like your current camera, that you enjoy using a camera that works broadly as well in live view mode as it does through the viewfinder and that you’d like something fairly similar but, you know, better. Will the 6D II do that for you?

Image quality improvements

The 6D II’s larger sensor means it receives more total light than the 80D, when shot with the same exposure settings (the same light per unit area, but with more capture area). This generally means the 6D II will offer better image quality than the 80D. As much as anything else, this tends to be what prompts most people to move to larger sensor formats.

However, you don’t get the full advantage that you’d get if the 6D II simply used a scaled-up version of the 80D’s sensor, so how much of a step up does the 6D end up being?

The sensor size difference means you can get shallower depth-of-field more readily than you could on the 80D. Indeed, shoot the same scene from the same position and at the same f-number and you’ll get shallower depth of field. For certain types of photos, shallow depth of field is interpreted as better.

The 6D II’s larger sensor also means you get better performance in low light. If you regularly shoot above about ISO 1600, the 6D II will give you an immediate improvement in image quality, simply because it gets more light.

Image quality concerns

The more sophisticated design of the 80D’s sensor means it adds less noise to its images than its big brother. This means that, at low ISO settings, the 80D will produce more flexible Raw files, that make it easier to represent the detail in high-contrast scenes, before you hit the noise floor. If you’ve become used to exploiting the 80D’s pretty impressive dynamic range, it may be a bit of a shock to find you end up with more prominent noise if you try to manipulate an image shot in high-DR circumstances, such as sunsets or backlit subjects.

That said, we’re aware that a great many people primarily shoot JPEG. Since the differences in performance between the two cameras’ sensors tends to occur in very dark tones within the image, so may well be either too dark to perceive or clipped entirely to black if you’re only looking at JPEG images. Even engaging Auto Lighting Optimizer or Highlight Tone Priority – the camera’s two DR compression modes that risk pulling noise into the image – isn’t a problem (though it’s interesting you can’t use the two in conjunction). However, you don’t get the noise improvement at low ISO you might reasonably expect from the move to full-frame.

Viewfinder differences

The 6D II has a viewfinder with 98% coverage and 0.71x magnification, while the 80D has 100% coverage and 0.94x magnification. Yet that’s not the clear win to the 80D that it might seem.

Since both magnification figures are measured using a 50mm lens, the 80D’s figure benefits from its 1.6x crop factor. Compare them on a normalized basis and the 6D II’s 0.71x magnification looks pretty good compared with 0.59x. And, sure enough, in use the 6D II’s viewfinder is appreciably bigger. It’s one of the benefits that a full frame DSLR offers over a cropped sensor that is often overlooked, especially by anyone too young to have regularly shot film and become accustomed to a large finder. It’s lovely to shoot through a nice, big viewfinder and the 6D II’s is a significant step up from the 80D’s.

It’s not all good news, though. The 80D’s 100% finder means its easier to construct precise compositions. Knowing exactly where the corners are is hugely valuable for ensuring lead-in lines run directly from the corner of the frame, for instance (the 6D II’s 98% coverage should be enough that you don’t have to worry too much about stray objects intruding in your shots).


The camera uses essentially the same AF module as the 80D. This means the spread of AF points is considerably less extensive on the larger camera. This means that, unlike the 80D, you don’t get AF points on the ‘thirds’ lines of your image: the outer columns of points reach a little beyond the thirds horizontally, but they don’t quite reach the vertical thirds lines. This isn’t an unworkable situation, of course: the parallax error of focus-and-recompose isn’t going to be significant over such a small distance, but it’ll take some getting used to, after the 80D’s wider spread.

In terms of autofocus performance, we doubt you’ll notice any great difference. Both cameras performed fairly similarly in our testing. The EOS 6D II isn’t terrible at tracking a subject but it’s not great, either. If you’ve found settings or a way of working that suits the kind of shooting you like to do, you can carry this over to the 6D II.

Like the 80D, the 6D II’s tracking in live view mode is pretty good, especially if you’re shooting single images at a time. It’s in continuous (servo) mode that the performance drops significantly compared with the 80D, in terms of accuracy (in Continuous H mode) or a much slower frame rate (in Continuous L). So not really an upgrade, but broadly consistent with the system you’ve already learned and adapted to.

Difference in features

The EOS 6D II has Canon’s latest, Digic 7 processor, but the differences between this and the older chip used in the 80D are subtle. There don’t appear to be any additional functions associated with the newer processor but Canon has talked about using the additional processing power to run more sophisticated algorithms that prevent the camera’s AF tracking from being distracted by other potential targets.

Another underlying hardware difference is in the two camera’s Wi-Fi connectivity. The 80D has a fairly conventional Wi-Fi setup, with the option to use NFC to speed-up pairing to your smartphone, if its manufacturer allows such frivolity. The updated implementation in the 6D II is a step forward, in that it allows a constant Bluetooth connection to be maintained between your phone and the camera. Again, the degree to which this simplifies life depends at least in part on what brand of phone you’re using, but it does make image transfer very straightforward.

The EOS 6D II also offers GPS, which the 80D doesn’t. This may not sound like something you’ll need but, even if you’re not an especially frequent traveler but, if you switch it on, it means every one of your images gains a useful additional piece of metadata that can be valuable in terms of organizing and retrieving your files, after you’ve shot them. Battery life does take a hit when using the GPS, however.

Other feature aspects

While the similarity of body shape and button layouts make it clear they’re aimed at similar photographers, there are a few differences that reflect the 80D’s position higher up the APS-C lineup than the 6D II’s position, relative to Canon’s other full-frame options.

The 80D gets a shutter mechanism that can fire as fast as 1/8000th of a second and can sync with flashes as fast as 1/250th of a second. With a larger distance to travel and perhaps some money being saved, the 6D II can only shoot at up to 1/4000th of a second and flash sync at 1/180th. These may sound like small differences but you may well notice them if you use fill flash or wide aperture lenses outdoors.

Other differences include the 80D having a headphone socket for audio monitoring during video shooting: something 6D II users will have to live without. It’s not quite clear why Canon chose not to include it or the less-compressed ‘All-I’ video option, both of which might be a frustration if you’ve been enjoying the 80D’s easy-to-shoot video.

But what about lenses?

The usefulness of lenses, vs simple compatibility is a subject I can be something of a stuck record about, but I do believe it’s something worth thinking about very hard before you upgrade. Don’t think about how many of your existing lenses will be usable, think about how many of them will perform roles that you actually need. At least take stock of how committed you really are to a system before concluding that you can only look within your current system.

Before I started at DPReview, I owned an APS-C DSLR, a mid-level kit zoom, a 50mm F1.8, and a third-party 70-200mm F2.8 (bought secondhand from a DPR forum member). How committed to ‘my’ brand was I?

The kit zoom is a write-off straight away, so I may as well try to sell that along with my old APS-C body. Having got used to using it as a 75mm equiv lens, do I suddenly need the 50mm field-of-view? Maybe, but it’s a cheap-enough lens that it’s not a deciding factor. The 70-200mm F2.8 was secondhand anyway, so I can probably recoup much of what I’ve paid for it if I sold it.

If it’d come down to it, it was a couple of spare batteries and the time I’d spent learning the quirks of my camera’s interface and behavior that was really holding me to that brand, not my ‘investment’ in lenses.

Should I upgrade?

Ultimately, that’s something only you can decide, we’re just trying to lay out what we see as the key factors you might want to consider.

We should be clear: the EOD 6D II isn’t a bad camera. In many respects, it’s a perfectly good one: certainly one that’s pretty enjoyable to shoot with. Although Dual Pixel AF really shines when shooting video, it’s still useful for stills shooters, providing what’s still the best and most usable live view experience of any of the DSLR makers.

If you enjoy your 80D, then you’ll probably like the 6D II for many of the same reasons (with the added bonus of more control over depth of field, better low light image quality and a bigger viewfinder).

The only real reason we’ve devoted so much space to addressing the question is because, with the 6D II, Canon has made the decision slightly less clear-cut than it’d normally be. You don’t get a significant improvement in AF performance, nor do you get the all-round improvement in image quality that the cost of moving to full-frame usually brings. But there certainly are advantages, and ones that you might find beneficial.

If you’re and 80D owner who’s decided to move to the 6D II or have decided not to, let us know what swung the decision for you.

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