Posts Tagged ‘Lens’

Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 launches with selfie mirror and close-up lens attachment

29 Mar

Fujifilm has announced the Instax Mini 9, a new instant camera that has launched in five colors: Lime Green, Flamingo Pink, Smoky White, Ice Blue, and Cobalt Blue. The Instax Mini 9 builds upon the company’s Instax Mini 8, bringing with it a selfie mirror as well as a new close-up lens attachment enabling photographers to snap photos as close as 35cm / 14in.

Fujifilm says the ‘popular’ features from the previous model are rolled over into the Instax Mini 9, including auto exposure. The camera chooses the optimal brightness setting for any given snapshot, highlighting the chosen setting by illuminating one of four lights corresponding the following settings: Indoors, Cloudy, Sunny (overcast), and Sunny (bright). The user then manually switches the dial to that setting.

Other features include a 0.37x viewfinder with target spot, an automatic film feeding system, flash with an effective range from 0.6m to 2.7m, and support for two ordinary AA batteries. A pair of AA batteries can power the camera through approximately 10 Instax Mini film packs before needing replaced.

The Instax Mini 9 will launch in the U.S. and Canada next month for $ 69.95 USD and $ 99.99 CAD, and then in the U.K. in May for £77.99.

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Ask the staff: Pick one focal length or lens to rule them all

27 Mar
Can you guess the focal length? Photo by Wenmei Hill

We handle a lot of glass in the DPReview office, but there always seems to be a handful of lenses or fixed lens cameras that everyone is extra eager to lay some paws on. Which got us thinking of a fun hypothetical: If we could only choose one lens to use for the rest of time, what would it be?

To keep things interesting, and to vary the answers, we opened the question up to include one lens in particular or one focal length. The photograph that accompanies each answer was shot with that staff member’s chosen lens or focal length. We purposely didn’t list the gear used. See if you can guess!

Carey Rose

Any guesses what focal length Carey gravitates toward?

Before I worked at DPReview, I would have immediately chosen the 35mm focal length. Now that I’ve worked at DPReview for some time, I have to say… I haven’t really changed my mind.

Splurging on a battered old D700 after college left me without enough money to pick up anything approaching a fast zoom, so I started building up a collection of affordable Nikon AF-D primes: a 50mm F1.8, a 35mm F2, an 85mm F1.8. I quickly realized that I just wasn’t a zoom guy, and the 35mm F2 was glued to my camera most of the time. A used X100 was a natural next step for a more portable setup when I scored a good deal on one.

Even today, after using lens after lens and camera after camera for review after review, the 35mm focal length remains my go-to. It doesn’t matter whether I’m headed to shoot an event, a wedding, an environmental portrait, or just strolling around when some nice light hits, it’s more likely I’ll have a 35mm lens with me than any other.

Wenmei Hill

Wenmei likes versatility. Did she choose a zoom or a prime?

I’m going to take the easy way out and pick a zoom lens rather than a single focal length. My choice is the Nikon AF-S 24-120mm F4G ED VR, and my excuse is that the majority of shooting I do (documentary lifestyle and candid portraiture) requires a flexibility that is difficult to get with a single focal length.

I’m choosing the 24-120mm even though it’s not one of my ‘favorite’ lenses because it is relatively small, lightweight and versatile enough to get the variety of shots I look for when photographing. I am able to immerse myself in a scene at 24mm but also step back for a portrait at 120mm, using the longer focal length to get pleasing bokeh and separation from the background.

Shooting it on a DX-format body gives me even more reach at the long end (180mm equivalent) for portraits. I already use this lens as my everyday lens when I don’t have a particular creative plan and want to be prepared for anything, so it’s the one I’d choose if I had to pick just one.

Dale Baskin

Dale chose a specific focal length that he didn’t always love. Can you guess what it is?

This will probably seem like I’m going for the low hanging fruit, but I would choose 35mm. I used to be a solid 50mm guy, and if I wanted to go a bit wider I switched to 28mm, skipping 35mm entirely. My shift to 35mm began in earnest when I started shooting Fujifilm’s X100 series of cameras, which have a 35mm equivalent lens.

Now, one could argue that I’m choosing 35mm because I really enjoy the camera to which it’s attached, but that’s not the case. In fact, when I first started shooting the X100 I enjoyed it despite the focal length. It was actually the one thing I didn’t care for about the camera. However, as I continued to use it, I learned to adjust my style to take advantage of the 35mm field of view. After a few months, I found myself really enjoying it, so I decided to do a little experiment: I was about to embark on a trip to Brazil and decided to shoot my entire adventure at 35mm. The idea was both exciting and scary; I knew from experience that I would be giving up some shots by not having the right lens. However, I like to travel light, and I hate carrying camera gear, so I threw down the gauntlet and accepted my own challenge.

The upshot? I had a great trip and captured a lot of memorable images. Did I miss a few shots along the way? Sure, I did. But on the flip side, I got some great photos I would have otherwise missed because I forced myself to visualize every scene at 35mm instead of mentally switching to a different focal length. Now, no matter what camera I happen to be testing, one of the first lenses I always put on the front is a 35mm (or equivalent).

Sam Spencer

Sam chose a specialty lens. This image was shot using a similar lens, albeit with a different focal length. Do you know what it is?

Forever? Forever ever? I’m sure I could do the practical thing and say ’24-70’, or be a motorsports spectator the rest of my life and say ’70-200’, but I’m weirder than that. If it was a lens for me to shoot what makes me happy for the rest of my days, it’d be the Nikon PC-E 85mm F2.8 for product, portrait, and automotive photography. The maximum magnification of 1:2 means I can get close for product, and use the tilt to either get more of the product in focus, or isolate the focal point. I like medium telephoto lenses for the narrower field of view that makes selecting a background out of a busy environment much easier, and even F2.8 can be bright enough to blur the background at 85mm. I’m a control freak, not a speed demon, so I’ll be watching eBay for a copy…

Dan Bracaglia

Dan’s image was shot with the equivalent of his favorite focal length. The image was cropped in slightly, still any ideas what he chose?

The first and only lens I’d owned for many years was a 50mm. But as my interest in photography (and other activities) grew I found myself yearning for other lenses. If you’d asked me this question when I was 16 years old and shooting a lot of skateboarding, I probably would have said a fisheye is my favorite lens. If you’d asked me again when I was 18 or 19 years old and starting to get into photojournalism, I’d probably have said 24mm. If you’d ask me when I was 24-28 years-old, and reviewing cameras for a living, all why exploring the streets of NYC/Seattle, I most likely would have said 35mm. But these days, I’ve come full circle and 50mm is my focal length of choice if I could only shoot one lens for the rest of my life.

Sometimes overlooked or seen as pedestrian, there are plenty of reasons why a normal 50mm lens is number one in my heart and bag: For starters the nifty fifty is as practical as they come. Most manufacturers make a reasonably fast, yet inexpensive 50mm equiv. Moreover, I’d argue its the most versatile focal length of them all: in a pinch it can be used for portraiture or detail shots, in the same way a tele can. And it can also be used in some capacity as a wide-angle, if you have the room to move (I’ve shot many concerts with just a 50mm, without feeling a need for something wider). And if you get a reversal ring, you can mount a nifty fifty backward and use it for macro shooting!

For years I’ve carried a Nikon 50mm F1.8 in my bag as the ultimate backup for just about anything I’m shooting: weddings, concerts, portrait sessions, travel. It’s light cheap and versatile. But these days, the lens spends as much time mounted on my camera as glass I own costing 6x as much.

Jeff Keller

Jeff chose a workhorse zoom. Can you guess which one?

Since I’m always shooting with something work-related, I don’t get to use my EOS 5D III very often. But when I do, my daily driver is the Canon EF 24-105mm F4L IS USM. Not the most exciting choice of lens, I admit, but for land- and cityscapes that I enjoy taking, it definitely fits the bill. The image stabilization works well, it focuses silently and the weatherproofing is helpful when you’re out at Snoqualmie Falls and it’s throwing mist. Naturally, not long after I bought the 24-105, the Mark II arrived, with new optics, better autofocus and new coatings to reduce lens flare and ghosting. The lens is larger and heavier than my Mark I model, which I consider a good size for its focal length and aperture.

It’s nice to see that Canon isn’t the only one offering a lens with this focal range. Sigma’s 24-105mm F4 DG OS HSM Art lens is even bigger and heavier than Canon’s Mark II version, but the build quality is excellent. And, according to DxO, it’s also a sharper lens. And did I mention that it’s a bit cheaper?

Thus, if I was stranded in a world with wonderful landscapes and cool architecture, the Sigma 24-105mm F4 Art would be permanently mounted on my 5D III.

Vladimir Bobov

Vladimir is our newest DPR team member. He makes sure the site works properly. Any guesses what focal length he chose?

I wasn’t sure whether to bother praising the 50mm focal length. I figured that it’s so common, that talking about it would be either redundant at best or boring at worst. However, sorting my photo collection by focal length showed that I took more photos with a 50mm (on a 35mm full frame camera) than with any other lens, including the more versatile zooms.

So why pick the “normal” prime for the rest of my life? Versatility and portability. It’s the perfect lens for candid portraits in a casual setting – fast enough to use in low light, and small enough to not intimidate the subject. Wide enough for full-body and group portraits, and good enough for head-and-shoulders (especially when paired with an APS-C camera). I’ve also been able to use it effectively for landscapes, close-ups, product, and food photography. So although I’d certainly miss the other focal lengths, with enough creativity and trickery, the 50 and I could live happily ever after.

Richard Butler

Richard chose a favorite lens that doesn’t yet exist. This image falls toward the tele-end of his made-up range. Can you guess what it is?

If I have to live within the constraints of reality, then I’d be tempted to say a 35mm just for its Goldilocks-like flexibility. But, it seems only fair that if I agree to be bound by an arbitrary restriction, I’m should get to relax the need to limit myself to lenses that actually exist. The problem is that I really like 35-40mm equivalent lenses but also love something around 90mm equiv. for portraiture and a lifetime seems like a long time to have to go without.

Equally, if I have a 24 or 28mm equivalent lens, I get back into the habit of ‘seeing’ wide-angle scenes and I’m sure there’s some aphorism about making one’s life spicy. This is why I’m pushing back against reality: the need for a 90mm equiv, rules out the use of a 24-70mm equiv and, over time, the limiting equivalent aperture of an 18-55mm F2.8 on APS-C would leave me frustrated. Sigma’s 18-35mm F1.8 is a work of genius that I wish were available on mirrorless systems, so I’m going to put my faith in the men and women of Aizu and trust that they’ll make me a 16-60mm F2 for APS-C mirrorless. I mean, how hard could it be?

Allison Johnson

Allison chose a specific zoom lens, can you guess which one?

Maybe a truly bold person picks a prime to shoot with for the rest of their life, but I’m going to play it safe and pick a zoom, whatever that says about me. The Olympus 12-40mm F2.8 is not the very best lens I’ve ever shot with, but it’s fairly versatile, sturdy and relatively small. It’s the right size (along with the OM-D cameras I’ve used it with) so that it’s doable to carry around all day in my purse, and I like having a fairly wide 24mm equiv. out to 80mm for a little more reach when I want it.

Really, it’s not special in any way except that it’s a solid standard zoom for a system I like. I’ve had many happy days shooting with it, including one wonderful afternoon at a defunct nuclear power plant (seriously, it was awesome). If picking a zoom makes me basic, then so be it.

Barney Britton

Any guesses what lens Barney chose?

If I was trying to impress you, and if I wasn’t such a died-in-the-wool contrarian, my choice for ‘go-to’ camera and lens would be a Nikon D810 and a 35mm lens – something good, like the Nikon 35mm F1.4 or Sigma Art 35mm F1.4, or perhaps an old ’sleeper’ favorite, like the Nikon AF-D 35mm F2, for the hipsters. If you were to ask me what focal length I use most, I’d say that probably around 90% of my photography could be achieved with a 35mm lens. If you were to ask some of my comment-thread critics on the other hand, they’d tell you that 90% of my photography could be achieved with an iPhone, or their 5-year old daughter, or their blind grandmother, or their blind grandmother’s 5 year-old iPhone, but that’s beside the point.

But I’m not trying to impress you. Which is why I’m going to cheat a little, and make a case for a zoom lens, and one that doesn’t get a lot of love in these parts – the Nikon AF-S 24-120mm F4. The current version of Nikon’s ‘street-sweeper’ do-everything zoom, it’s true that the 24-120mm isn’t the sharpest lens in Nikon’s stable, or the best-controlled when it comes to distortion, or the toughest, and all the rest. It’s a kit zoom. A pretty good kit zoom, in my opinion, but still. So why – if I had to choose only one lens – would I pick the 24-120mm? Because it just works. I know that if I go out shooting with the D810 and 24-120mm, come rain or shine (or snow, or hail, or desert dust, or any of the other nasties I’ve thrown at it) I can capture pretty much anything I might want or need to. It’s almost boring. I wish I had more of an excuse to attach other lenses, but to be honest, most of the time I just don’t. I actually sold a bunch of my Nikon glass recently, because it wasn’t getting used.

The image above was taken just after a torrential downpour last December which turned into a hail storm. The camera and lens were – like me – soaked. Could I have taken it on something better? Maybe, but I wouldn’t have wanted to risk damaging a more expensive lens in those conditions. And would it be a better picture had I done so? Or a happier memory? No.

What would you choose?

If you could only shoot with one lens, or one focal length for the rest of your life, what would you choose? Feel free to share your answer in the comments! 

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We asked three Canon lens masters to name their first and favorite lens designs

22 Mar

What is your first and your favorite Canon lens?

It’s not everyday you get to sit down with three master lens designers, but it’s also not every day you tour Canon’s Utsunomiya lens factory (read the interview and take the tour). Each of the three gentlemen we posed our two questions to – what was the first lens you designed and what is your favorite lens – has decades of experience designing Canon glass.

Masato Okada (center), the Deputy Chief Executive of Image Communication Products and Operations, first began designing lenses for Canon back in 1982. Meanwhile, Kenichi Izuki (right), the Plant Manager and Masato Okada (left), the Deputy Chief Executive of Image Communication and Products Operations, have each been designing Canon lenses since the late 80’s/early 90’s.

It takes decades of experience to design a lens like the Canon EF 16-35mm F2.8L III USM.

What was the first lens design you worked on at Canon?

Masato Okada: “It would go back many years, maybe you weren’t even born yet (Editor’s note: I was not), but the first lens I worked on was the FD 150-600mm F5.6L. It was one of those lenses where it was on a box and you actually had a one-touch action to do the zoom and one-touch action to do the focus. That was a big revelation.”

Masato Okada is the Deputy Chief Executive of Image Communication and Products Operations at Canon’s Utsunomiya lens factory. 

What was the first lens design you worked on at Canon?

Shingo Hayakawa: “It launched in 1991, the 75-300mm F4-5.6 USM, was the first lens I worked on and also the very first lens in that series. At the time, we actually launched the product at a lower price than the third party manufacturers, which was big news. The version “III” of that lens is still on the market.”

Shingo Hayakawa is the Deputy Group Executive of Image Communication and Products Operations at Canon’s Utsunomiya lens factory.

What was the first lens design you worked on at Canon?

Kenichi Izuki: “Because I joined Canon as a technical engineer I have so many memories of all the products I’ve worked on. Initially, I handled maybe 10 products over the course of a year. But the very first one that I worked on, which is now discontinued, is the EF 100-300mm F4.5-5.6 USM. It’s also one of my favorites.”

Kenichi Izuki is the Plant Manager at Canon’s Utsunomiya lens factory.

What is your favorite Canon lens design?

Masato Okada: “For me I’d have to say the 11-24mm F4L USM, because when launched, it allowed the widest angle possible on a full frame with no distortion. And I was torn at the time of production because we could have gone for the 12-24mm F2.8, which I thought would be more customer-prone. But I was developing the lens more in terms of particular users: a videographer for example, needing that extra field of view, even if they can’t physically back out. Other manufacturers were doing the 12-24mm, but only Canon was doing 11-24mm. We thought it was something we should go for. And it was really difficult in terms of the design for mass production. So because of those challenges, I’d say this would be my pick.”

Masato Okada is the Deputy Chief Executive of Image Communication and Products Operations at Canon’s Utsunomiya lens factory.

What is your favorite Canon lens design?

Shingo Hayakawa: “I can say that in terms of the lenses we’ve been launching over the years, we’re proud of them all. But the ones that came out last year in 2016, the 16-35mm F2.8L III USM in particular, was very highly spec’d at the time of its release. I’m proud of it because it has amazing performance and resolution. But if I were to narrow it down, my choice would be a lens that came out in 2012: the Canon 24-70mm F2.8L II USM. And if I were to choose a telephoto, I’d say the 200-400mm F4L IS USM with the 1.4x internal extender. But the 24-70mm II is my overall pick.”

Shingo Hayakawa is the Deputy Group Executive of Image Communication and Products Operations at Canon’s Utsunomiya lens factory.

What is your favorite Canon lens design?

Kenichi Izuki: “My favorite, which I truly remember because it was so hard to design, was the original Canon 70-200 F2.8 L USM non-IS. I actually worked on the 70-200mm F2.8L USM version II with IS when I became a manager of the division. That posed a challenge because we had to exceed the requirements of the previous version.”

Kenichi Izuki is the Plant Manager at Canon’s Utsunomiya lens factory.

Have your say, what’s your favorite Canon lens?

So what do you think of the responses we received – were there any surprises? And what is your all time favorite Canon lens? Let us know in the comments!

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Behind the scenes: An interview with the heads of Canon’s L lens factory

22 Mar
From left to right, Mr Hayakawa, Mr Okada and Mr Izuki, the three men in charge of development and keeping things running smoothly at Canon’s Utsunomiya lens plant. 

Following the CP+ 2017 show in Japan, we headed to Canon’s Utsunomiya lens factory to take a tour (see what we found) and interview the gentlemen who oversee all operations and development. This included Kenichi Izuki, the Plant Manager, Masato Okada, Deputy Chief Executive of Image Communication and Products Operations and Shingo Hayakawa, Deputy Group Executive of Image Communication and Products Operations.

The Utsunomiya plant is where all Canon’s L series, cinema, and broadcast lenses are produced. It’s also where all Canon lenses are designed. Many of those designs can be attributed to the three men pictured above. In fact just before we started the interview Mr Izuki informed us that he had been lead designer of the EF 35mm F2 IS lens we’d chosen to document the factory tour. So there’s also a pretty good chance you have one of them to thank for your favorite Canon glass!

Please note that this interview was conducted through an interpreter, and has been edited slightly for clarity and flow.

The magic place where all Canon L lenses are born.

What percentage of L lenses are manufactured in the Utsunomiya lens plant?

Because this is the ‘mother’ factory, 100% of L lenses are made here.

How many different lenses can be manufactured simultaneously in this plant?

Basically, we create all lenses every day [including L-series EF, Cinema EOS and broadcast]. The only exception is some of the broadcast lenses.

Which lenses in particular are the most difficult to manufacture and why?

Any large super telephoto lenses because of the size of the glass elements. In terms of skill required for lens assembly: the TV broadcast lenses are most difficult.

How many lenses are produced at this lens plant every year, both in terms of types of lenses and total units?

We do not disclose total production for this plant. That said, Canon has produced a total of 120 million lenses over the years. Of course, many of those are kit lenses, which are not produced here, but in our facility in Taiwan.

Mr Izuki, the plant manager, teaching us about the lens production process. 

Tell us a little bit about the history of the plant.

The facility as a whole has been here for forty years, however prior to 2005, we were located in an older building on the other side of the property. And the land where the current plant sits was initially owned by the Du Pont family. When they returned it to the prefecture, we bought it.

The current lens facility opened in 2005. When we moved in we completely revamped our lens-making machines and devices. Not all, but the majority. This helped to push [us] to a higher standard of quality.

Over the past 40 years, lenses have changed a lot, with autofocus introduced, aspherics, etc., what was the largest paradigm shift in lens technology?

We are reaching the 30th anniversary of the introduction of the EOS line. It was at that time, in 1987, that we moved into autofocus. When we did that, I believe we were the first ones to go fully-electronic mount autofocus. Because the motors were built into the lens we had a significant competitive edge.

As DSLR resolution increases, it can be a challenge to achieve precise focus because AF errors are more noticeable. How do you reduce this risk in the manufacturing and quality control process?

Overall precision is something customers are increasingly requiring. In this factory, we have increased the level of precision of our machines so that lenses have more accurate autofocus.

A lens going through QC testing. Information from the test will be saved on a chip in the lens.

During the tour it was mentioned that Canon lenses now store their quality control test data using on-board memory. Can that data be used to improve autofocus reliability?

We do store data from final lens testing on each unit. I won’t be able to speak in greater detail other than saying, yes, in theory, that data could be used to achieve higher autofocus performance [better AF precision] with a DSLR.

How long does it take a lens like the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM to make its way from start to finish in the assembly line?

From raw material being polished, to the final tested product being boxed: about 24 hours of work, in theory. But the physical production would actually take longer. This is because we are producing parts in batches and there are machines that need to be fitted. These variables aside, if you take the actual time of labor, assembly and packaging, it is about 24 hours.

You mentioned you were looking to hit an 80% automation rate in this facility. What kind of efficiency gain does that represent?

It’s difficult to say in terms of time, but I can say it use to take about 70 people to make a lens like that prior to automation, now we need about 6 or 7.

As production becomes more automated will you require fewer skilled manual workers?

In one sense yes. But it’s not about firing the rest of these people, it’s about allowing them the time to build up their skills. This way they can face challenges and difficulties like increasing precision and performance. So we’ve essentially been able to allocate these workers to a different environment.

A lens in the final assembly process. It can take 25-30 years to become an Assembly Meister at Canon’s Utsunomiya plant. 

Typically how long does someone train before they attain the title of ‘Meister’?

In terms of the level of ‘Lens Meister,’ it would take 30-35 years. For ‘Assembly Meisters”, 25-30 years.

Now that the process for assembly, element polishing and quality control is so automated, we’re curious how many lenses pass QC the first time vs those that have to go back for re-calibration.

In terms of maintaining a level of quality before going into mass production, we do a lot of checking and scenario building [using a super computer] to make sure everything will go right. Once a lens goes into mass production we can safely say that we have seen no lenses returned for further calibration.

What impact did the 2011 have on this facility and how long did it take to recover?

A lot of the ceilings came down. We took a big hit in that regard. But, we were able to come back into operation within about 2 to 3 months.

While not the most exciting photo, if you look very carefully, you might see some minor impressions on the linoleum. This is (subtle) evidence of the 2011 earthquake, which caused some ceilings to collapse. The yellow tape line is used by computerized robots in the factory.

Did you implement any changes as a result of the earthquake?

We have fortified the building, so that it is more earthquake-proof. And the assembly tools we use are put together in such as way that they are shake-proof.

Are there major differences in how you QC test broadcast and cinema lenses vs EF lenses?

The concept for testing is basically the same. But, in terms of broadcast/cinema lenses there are some unique customizations that we offer depending on the particular cameraman or filmmaker. If they want to zoom by hand, for instance, we can accommodate the pressure of the mechanism to their requirements.

A lot of your users use EF lenses for video creation. Has that changed the way you design some EF lenses?

In terms of stills shooter, when it comes to autofocus, the faster the better. On the other hand, videographers tend to require a variance in autofocus speed. Sometimes they want a slow effect. So we had to create a motor that could actually do both fast and slow focus. This is why we introduced Nano-USM. It’s in both the 18-135mm F3.5-5.6 IS USM and the 70-300mm F4-5.6 IS II USM.

Will that kind of autofocus be used more in the future as video becomes more of a requirement for users?


At any given time, how many new lenses are in development at this facility?

I can not give you a number, unfortunately. But I can say that new lenses are in development as we speak. So I hope you look forward to them.

Results of a QC test.

Editors note (by Dan Bracaglia):

Let me begin by saying how grateful I was to be given access to Canon’s lens factory and what an honor and privilege it was to sit down and interview the creators of some of Canon’s most legendary glass. In my six and a half years writing about photography, this was one of my most memorable and rewarding experiences. 

As you might expect, there were nearly endless points of fascination. Some of which are covered in this interview, others in our factory tour slideshow. Something that particularly interested me is the fact that all the information from a lens’ final calibration and quality control check is saved on a chip within the lens itself. The idea here is this information can been used, in theory, when a lens comes back in for cleaning or recalibration. It also means that at some point, perhaps camera bodies will be able to access this information, which could lead to better AF precision. This is solid forward thinking on Canon’s part. 

I was also intrigued to find that Canon manufactures every L lens in the same factory. Not only that but every current lens in the L series is being made every day. As you might imagine, security at the facility is very tight. 

“Canon, it seems, recognizes just how important pushing lens development is”

Also hearing Canon put a concrete number on their automation goals (80%) was interesting. Of course you could read that as Canon displacing workers with machines, but throughout the tour and the interview, our guides made it clear that automation wasn’t about replacing workers, rather dedicating more workers to research and development. Canon, it seems, recognizes just how important pushing lens development is, all while maintaining a high level of quality control. Automation offers just this. 

And I’m not ordinarily one to be starstruck, but when Mr. Izuki told me he designed the Canon EF 35mm F2 IS, my jaw dropped a little. There’s nothing quite like standing of front of the creator of one of your favorite lenses. Speaking of favorites, we also asked Mr. Hayakawa, Mr Okada and Mr Izuki which Canon lens they’ve designed/worked on over the years they are most proud of. We got some great answers. We’ll be posting those in a separate article soon, so stay tuned!

Barney, just prior to entering the factory floor. We also went through a room that blasted us with air. Dust is the enemy in a lens factory. 


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Meyer Optik Trioplan 35+ Kickstarter unlocks colorful lens trio reward

22 Mar

Meyer Optik has an active Kickstarter campaign seeking funding for its new Trioplan 35+ Fine Art Lens, and though 22 days remain in that campaign, backers have already well exceeded the company’s $ 50,000 base funding goal. As a reward for the high amount pledged (about $ 480,000 total at the moment), Meyer Optik has announced the launch of a new limited edition reward: green, red, blue and titanium versions of the Trioplan lens.

According to Meyer Optik, it took a total of six minutes post-launch for the Kickstarter campaign to reach its $ 50,000 funding goal. Over the following week, the Kickstarter went on to raise in excess of $ 420,000, and the company has launched the special Kickstarter stretch reward as a result. Says company CEO Dr. Stefan Immes, ‘The new colors are strictly limited in quantity and, therefore, [are] a real collector’s item.’

The crowdfunding campaign now includes pledge options for the new colors, of which 50 units are available per color. All four special ‘super limited color edition’ Trioplan lenses are priced at $ 799 and are estimated to ship to backers this upcoming November.

Via: Photography Blog

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Oberwerth launches Donau line of leather lens pouches

21 Mar

German manufacturer Oberwerth, best known for its high-end leather camera accessories and bags, has launched its new Donau line of leather lens pouches. Like other Oberwerth products, the pouches are handmade in Germany from soft cowhide leather. A surface finish provides stain protection and should preserve the natural material’s shine for a long time to come. In the interior the pouches are lined with non-pilling wool felt to keep your valuable glass scratch-free. 

The Donau pouches come in sizes S, M, L and XL to accommodate lenses of various dimensions but at a width of 9.5 cm/3.74 in and a diameter of 9 cm/3.54 in even the biggest XL version seems more suitable for a large prime rather than fast tele-zooms lenses. The pouches are available now, starting at $ 150/€139 for the small size. The XL variant will set you back $ 214/€199. More information is available on the Oberwerth website.  

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Lomo’Instant Automat Glass Magellan has a wide-angle glass lens

21 Mar

Lomography has introduced what it says is the first instant camera featuring a glass wide-angle lens: the Lomo’Instant Automat Glass Magellan. That lens uses a multi-coated surface to reduce glare, as well as an F4.5 aperture and three zone focusing settings: 0.3m, 0.6m and 1m to infinite. Those who pre-order will also get four color filter gels.

This is the latest version of the camera Lomography first launched on Kickstarter back in August. The Lomo’Instant Automat automatically adjusts the aperture, shutter speed and flash, and offers other high-tech features such as a lens cap that doubles as a remote shutter release and an LED film counter. The model uses Fujifilm Instax Mini film and is powered by a pair of CR2 batteries.

Lomography is currently offering the Glass Magellan model on its website for pre-order at $ 189. Deliveries to those who pre-order is estimated to start in the middle of April.

Via: Lomography

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Review of the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art Lens

20 Mar
Review of the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art Lens

Portrait sample using the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art lens.

Last summer I had the opportunity to test out the Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art lens and review it for dPS. I absolutely loved the lens, so when the opportunity arose to try Sigma’s 85mm f/1.4 Art lens, I jumped at the chance.

I continue to be excited by Sigma’s lineup of Art lenses, as they offer incredible image quality for a great price. Several of my photographer friends were singing this lens’s praises since it began shipping, so I was eager to see if it lived up to its reputation.

Review of the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art Lens

The Sigma 85mm F1.4 DG HSM A

First Impressions of the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art Lens

As a Nikon shooter, I tested the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art lens in a Nikon mount. The first thing I noticed about this lens is that it is an absolute beast. The lens is 3.7 inches wide by 5 inches long (94.7mm x 126.2mm), and weighs in at a whopping two and a half pounds (1113 g / 39.3 oz.)!  Compare this to Canon’s 85mm f/1.2L II lens, which weighs in at four ounces lighter and is more than an inch and a half shorter. The filter thread is 86mm, compared to 72mm for the Canon one. For another comparison, Nikon’s 85mm f/1.4G is also more than an inch and a half shorter and 2/10 of an inch slimmer, weighs more than a pound less than the Sigma at 595 g / 21oz.), and accepts a 77mm filter.


The Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art lens consists of 14 elements in 12 groups, featuring two low dispersion SLD elements and an aspherical element to help reduce chromatic aberration. The construction of the lens feels as solid as other Sigma Art lenses I’ve used. The metal barrel has a nice finished look, the switches and focusing ring have a high quality feel to them and they are easily located when looking through the viewfinder. The ribbed rubber focusing ring takes up a large portion of the lens barrel and provides a long, smooth throw, perfect for manually focusing if you desire.

There is rubber sealing around the lens mount to protect against dust and moisture, as well as oil repellent coatings on the front and rear elements. Sigma also states that the lens’s hypersonic motor (HSM) has 1.3x more torque than its predecessor, allowing the lens to focus faster. Minimum focus distance is 33.3 inches, similar to competitors’ lenses.

Review of the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art Lens

The Sigma 85mm F1.4 DG HSM A

Fast glass

The fast maximum aperture of the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art makes this lens a workhorse for many applications. At f/1.4, you’re getting a lot of light through the lens and onto the imaging sensor, making it ideal for low light situations. In addition, that fast aperture allows for use of lower ISOs, helping to minimize noise. Finally, working at wider apertures such as f/1.4 mean you can force your viewer to look exactly where you want by creating images with extremely shallow depth of field.


The lens ships with a high quality padded soft case, ideal for transporting the lens. Sigma also provides a sizable plastic hood, ideal for helping to eliminate lens flare off the sizable front element. The hood locks into place securely and offers good protection from impact as well.

The Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art lens is compatible with Sigma’s USB dock, which helps facilitate the updating of firmware, lens calibration, or other customizations such as focus parameters. Unfortunately, I was not provided with the USB dock for this review. My first time shooting with the lens I found it to front focus quite a bit. This was corrected by using my Nikon D810’s AF Fine Tune feature, but in my 25 years in photography, that’s a feature I’ve never had to use before, so I was a little put off by the need to do so.

In Practical Use

Once the AF issues were corrected, the lens was awesome to use. The autofocus was fast and quiet and the lens was tack sharp. The beauty of a portrait lens at f/1.4 is the ability to blur the background way out of focus and have the sharp areas of the image really jump out at you. This made the initial front-focusing issues all the more of a problem because when you photograph using such shallow depth of field if you miss your focus, you really miss it! It’s imperative that you’re precise and that the lens can be counted on to focus where you tell it to.  See this article I wrote: Fast Glass: Tips for Working With Wide Aperture Lenses for more that.

The Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art is an excellent portrait lens. The bokeh is buttery smooth and the contrast and sharpness make for a beautiful look to the image straight out of the camera. Repeatability of focus was a bit of an issue at times, and I occasionally had to refocus the lens when taking multiple shots at the same distance.  While for me it wasn’t a major problem, it’s worth noting when you may need to work under greater pressure than what I was facing in my test shoots.

Portrait sample with the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 art lens.

Portrait sample with the Sigma 85mm F1.4 Art lens.

Other applications

The lens does exhibit some focus breathing when changing focus from one distance to another. Focus breathing is where objects in the image become more or less magnified as the focus is changed. This won’t be a major problem for still shooters unless you are focus stacking, but for video shooters, this may be a slight cause for concern, especially when doing drastic focus pulls.

While I did not have a chance to use the lens under these circumstances, I was struck by how quickly the lens focused and thought it would have made an excellent lens for photographing sports such as basketball, back in my sports photography days. In addition, the excellent image quality and wide aperture mean the lens can be used in many other situations. Those include; landscape photography, when either a moderate telephoto focal length is needed, or when photographing a flower, tree, or another object when you want a shallow depth of field to blur the background or foreground.

Wildlife Example Using Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art

Wildlife example shot with the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art lens. Photo courtesy Dennis Clark /


When properly calibrated, the lens is tack sharp and provides stellar image quality. Build quality is outstanding, and the lens felt good in my hands. The autofocus was fast and smooth, as well as quiet. Image quality was outstanding.

Price-wise, the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art lens is a bargain, comparatively speaking. The Nikon 85mm f/1.4G retails for $ 1599, while Canon’s 85mm f/1.2L lists for $ 1899 (at the time of writing this review). At $ 1199, the Sigma provides outstanding image quality at quite a bit less than its competitors. The lens is available in Nikon, Canon, or Sigma mounts.

Portrait sample using the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art lens

Portrait sample using the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art lens.


This lens is heavy. Combined with a pro body, you could be lifting almost 6 pounds every time you take a shot. For wedding and portrait photographers who might want to use this lens a good portion of their workday, that means a lot of heavy lifting and arm fatigue after a while.

Also, there is no image stabilization on the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art. While neither Nikon nor Canon offers image stabilization on their fast 85mm offerings, it should be noted that Tamron’s SP 85mm f/1.8 lens, while a stop slower, does have that feature. That allows the lens to be handheld at shutter speeds slower than could be achieved with the Sigma at 85mm f/1.4.



The Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art lens is an outstanding value that provides incredible image quality at a good price. While I would prefer it to be a bit small and lighter, there’s no denying that the bottom line for image makers is image quality and the Sigma delivers that. Four stars.

Review of the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art Lens

Portrait example using the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art


Review of the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art Lens

Another portrait example using the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art

Review of the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art Lens

Portrait example using the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art lens.

Review of the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art Lens

Nature example using the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art. Photo courtesy Dennis Clark /

The post Review of the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art Lens by Rick Berk appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Meyer Optik launches Kickstarter campaign to fund third Trioplan lens – the 35+

10 Mar

German lens manufacturer Meyer Optik Gorlitz intends to produce the ‘last chapter’ of its ‘Trioplan Trilogy’ if it gets enough funding from its latest Kickstarter campaign to build the Trioplan 35+. The new lens will sit alongside the company’s 100mm F2.8 and 50mm F2.9 Trioplan ‘Soap Bubble’ lenses and will have a maximum aperture of F2.8.

As with the 100mm and 50mm models, the 35mm lens will be based on a historic optical design but will use modern coated glass from Schott and Ohara. This time though, the construction will shift away from the traditional three-elements-in-three-groups of the standard Cooke triplet and will have an additional pair of elements at the front to adapt the design for full frame sensors. The original Trioplan 1.8in lens this one is based on was designed for 8mm film and was telephoto for the format, according to the company, so some changes had to be made to alter it to be a moderate wide for 35mm-style sensors. The extra two elements account for the + in the 35+ name.

The new lens will focus to 0.3m and its 12-bladed iris will provide a minimum aperture of F22. Meyer says it intends to make the lens in a range of mounts:

  • Canon EF
  • Nikon F
  • Sony E
  • FujiX
  • Micro Four Thirds
  • M42
  • Pentax-K
  • Leica M (rangefinder not supported/focusing via live view)
  • Leica L , suitable for SL & T mirrorless cameras (strictly manual, rangefinder not supported/focusing via live view) 

The ‘soap bubble’ name comes from a characteristic of the design that renders out-of-focus highlights in dramatic style when the lens is used wide open.
At the time of writing the campaign had already passed its goal three times over, but lenses could still be ordered for $ 649 against an expected full retail price of $ 1599. For more information visit the Meyer Optik Gorlitz website or the company’s Kickstarter page.

Technical data:
Focal length: 35 mm
Aperture: 1:2,8, – 1:22
Angle: +/- 31,5°
Focussing Distance: Infinity to 0,3 m
Clip on diameter: 41 mm
Filter Diameter: M 39 x 0,75
Size: Ø 61,5 mm x 50 mm
Weight: ca. 220g
Aperture blades: 12

Manufacturer’s information:

The Trioplan 35mm is now on Kickstarter

Our new Kickstarter just launched and the mystery lens that you´ve been waiting for is the Trioplan 35mm f2.8, or as we´ve dubbed it, the Trioplan 35+.

The Trioplan 35+ is the final piece of our Trioplan Trilogy, which includes the Trioplan 100mm f2.8 and the 50mm f2.9.

Kickstarter backers will be the first in line to get this incredible addition to the Meyer-Optik lineup of hand-crafted, manual focus art lenses. The Trioplan 35+ is expected to be available at the retail price of $ 1,599 later this year but Kickstarter backers can secure the lens for a much lower investment. What backers will get is a groundbreaking lens.

Previously, it was thought too difficult to achieve the soap bubble effect in a wide angle lens. But Meyer-Optik engineers designed the new lens according to the historic Cook Triplet design but added two elements to boost the lens. The extra two lens elements is why Meyer-Optik decided to add the “+” to the name of the lens.

The Trioplan 35+ will be unrivaled in its ability to capture the spirit and emotion of the moment. Photography is not just about squeezing the most pixels into a square inch – it´s about creating art.

The Trioplan 35+ is a full-frame lens and will be available in all major mounts. Early backers will profit from a Super Early Bird pricing.

Don´t miss your chance to be one of the first in line to get this new Trioplan lens, which will join the Trioplan 100mm f2.8 and Trioplan 50mm f2.9 in the Meyer-Optik lineup of premier, hand-crafted art lenses. Of course Kickstarter backers will benefit from a groundbreaking price.

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