Posts Tagged ‘REVIEW’

Review of K&F Concept KF-885 Speedlight

11 Dec

A few weeks back I received the K&F Concept KF-885 Speedlight to test out and review. Now before I get into the review for this flash, I have to say that I have been a Canon photographer ever since I started my business in 2010. Even before I was photographing for clients, I always gravitated towards Canon gear just because I have consistently had great results with this brand. My very first film camera Canon AE-1 is still in my gear bag and continues to give me stellar results!

I completely understand and acknowledge that branded gear does tend to be expensive and is not in everyone’s budget, especially for those just starting out on their photographic journey. Having said that, there are some great companies with comparable gear in terms of quality and performance. In fact, sometimes, the quality and results are even better than their branded counterparts. This just goes to show that the skill and experience of the user makes a good photograph and not necessarily the gear you use.

Review of K&F Concept KF-885 Speedlight

For this review, I used the K&F Concept KF-885 Speedlight on a couple of different assignments – for wedding reception photos and an outdoor portrait session. I have to say that I was very happy with the results from this flash.

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I have used my Canon external flash for the past four years and found the K&F Concept flash very comparable to the Canon 600 EX-RT version in terms of performance, look, and feel. Definitely worth looking into if you are in the market for an external flash for your photography needs.

#1 – Specs, Look and Feel of the KF-885

the K&F Concept KF-885 Speedlight looks very similar to the Canon 600EX-RT external flash. In fact, when I compared the two side by side, they looked almost identical in terms of size, weight, and the accessories that were included in the package.

The KF-885 flash has a slightly bigger monitor display compared to the Canon but having used the Canon brand, I had no trouble figuring out the menu options. In fact, I almost felt that the K&F Concept flash menu options were simpler and easier to figure out. The flash also comes with a built-in reflect board and a built-in wide diffuser to enlarge the shooting range.

K&F Concept KF-885 Speedlight

The flash on the left is from K&C Concept and the flash on the right is from Canon. They both come with a flash case, a base stand, and a plain white diffuser cap.

K&F Concept KF-885 Speedlight

The flash on the left is from K&C Concept and the flash on the right is from Canon. As you can see, they are almost identical in size and weight.

K&F Concept KF-885 Speedlight

The flash on the left is from K&C Concept and the flash on the right is from Canon. The two flashes look almost identical to each other.

K&F Concept KF-885 Speedlight

The flash on the left is from K&C Concept and the flash on the right is from Canon. The cosmetic difference is in the shoe mount for the flash. The K&C Concept one has a circular dial to tighten the flash to the camera shoe mount whereas the Canon one has a lever that is moved from left to right to lock in the flash to the camera body.

#2 Display Screen and Menu Options

The K&F Concept KF-885 speedlight has similar menu options to the Canon external flash. The On/Off button turns the flash on and off. The Mode button is to select auto and manual controls, multi-modes, and wireless modes (master/slave mode operation).

The circular set of five buttons is used to adjust the power of the flash when used in manual mode. The flash head also has a vertical rotation angle of 7-90 degrees and horizontal rotation angle of 0-180 degrees.

K&F Concept KF-885 Speedlight

#3 Usage

Being used to my Canon 600 EX-RT flash in manual and ETTL mode, I was able to quickly adjust to the K&C Concept KF-885. I also used both flashes for a couple of photos by setting the Canon flash as the master and the K&C Concept flash as the slave. The two flashes communicated with each other and I was able to use setups of both on-camera and off-camera flashes seamlessly.

K&F Concept KF-885 Speedlight

An indoor wedding portrait session made easy with the K&C Concept KF-885 External Flash

K&F Concept KF-885 Speedlight

The K&C Concept Flash handled poorly lit wedding reception areas quite beautifully.

K&F Concept KF-885 Speedlight


Overall, I was very impressed with the K&F Concept KF-885 Speedlight. At a price point of $ 86, that is significantly less than its branded counterpart. This is a great option for someone who is looking to add an external flash to their gear kit but doesn’t want to spend a lot of money.

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Review of the Lensbaby Velvet 85

04 Dec

Lensbaby has been producing lenses that create interesting effects since 2004. During that time people have been experimenting and trying out different ways of using them. In the spring of 2015, they introduced the Velvet 56 to the joy of many photographers, especially those doing macro. This year, their newest lens in the line-up was released, the Lensbaby Velvet 85.


The Lensbaby Velvet 85

The Velvet 85 promises to be a great lens for portraiture creating impressionist-like portraits of people. It does indeed do that, but you can use it for so much more. It is a great lens for photographers who like images with mood and which concentrate more on the subject with a lot of bokeh.

First Impressions

The lens is very well made and when you hold it in your hand you can feel the coolness of the metal it is made from. It is not an overly heavy lens, but it’s also not light. It is bigger than the Velvet 56, which is to be expected, though not a lot heavier. They are both very well made, high-quality lenses.

Using the Lensbaby Velvet 85

Like most lenses that are available on the market today, the Velvet 85 can be used for many different types of photography. I use it mainly for macro photography and find it really good. However, you can also use it for portraiture, city photography, and landscapes. It doesn’t work the same as other lenses as you get a really soft-focus effect with it, but for most people, that is exactly why they buy it.

Review of the Lensbaby Velvet 85

A macro image that was taken with the Lensbaby Velvet 85.

Manual Lens

The lens is completely manual and you cannot use your camera to control it, as you can with other lenses. You need to change the aperture and focus it yourself. You will not be able to see what aperture you used when you download the images to your computer either.

Manual Focus

Focusing is also manual and you need to adjust it as you take your photos. It does turn a long way and you have to twist the focusing ring a lot. Some cameras can tell you when the image is in focus, for example, Nikon does. When you are at that spot of good clarification, then the round dot in the viewfinder appears. However, as you get used to the lens you will need to rely on that less.

Review of the Lensbaby Velvet 85

Opening up the aperture gives you images with a lot of soft-focus.

For macro photography, most people tend to use manual focus anyway and it is easier with this lens. You can focus where you want and then move yourself and the camera to a spot where the image will be in focus.

For landscape photography, you can set it to infinity and you should get images that are sharp, depending on your aperture. For objects in between macro and infinity, you will have to practice and see it goes. That is probably the area I found the hardest, though as I did it more, it became easier.

Controlling the Lens

With many lenses now you can change the aperture with the camera, however, the Velvet 85 is more like a vintage lens from older style cameras. It does not communicate with your camera and you need to control the aperture yourself. To change it there is an aperture ring on the lens which you turn to adjust it to the setting you want.


Unlike other sorts of dedicated macro lenses, the Velvet 85 doesn’t use aperture in the same way. You can take photos of flowers at f/2.8 and get a fairly decent image. If you tried doing that with, say a Nikon macro lens, you will find the photo would almost be an abstract version of the flower with very little in focus.

The aperture starts at f/1.8 on the Velvet 85 and goes up to f/16. At the latter, you will get the greatest depth of field and if using the lens for landscape photography it is a good one to choose. If you are taking macro images of flowers then the wider end is much better.

Review of the Lensbaby Velvet 85

Using a smaller aperture such as f/11 gives less soft-focus and you get more of a natural looking image.

One thing the lens is really good for is the soft-focus effect that is possible. You can control how much of it you want by using different apertures. The wider it is the more of the effect appears, and the opposite happens as you close it down.

Interesting effects

If you like to get different effects with your lens then the Velvet 85 will be fantastic for you. You can get interesting results for portraits, though I don’t do them if you go to the Lensbaby website you can see some good examples. If you want to give your clients images that are not the same as what others are doing then you should consider adding this lens to your kit. Click here for images.

Bokeh Effect

Without a doubt one of the most special and addictive aspects of the Velvet lenses, and perhaps more so with the 85, is the blurring you can do with it. You won’t find any other lenses available that will give you the same effects. You can play around with the aperture to change how much blur you achieve in your images.

Review of the Lensbaby Velvet 85

Creating a bokeh effect with a poppy flower and bee.

Whether you are photographing a landscape or a macro image you can use the aperture and blurring effect to highlight your subject. The Velvet 85 is fantastic for this. You can change the aperture to different widths and that will determine how much blur you will get. From that, you can decide what level of blurring you want in your image.

Tilt-Shift Effect

This was a popular effect a few years ago, though, there is no reason it can’t be again. This is where you use blurring effects to make objects in your image look like they are miniature or toy-like. By controlling the aperture and giving the images a lot more of the blur you can get images that look as though your subject is miniature. The lens does not do it all, but it gives you a good starting point.

Review of the Lensbaby Velvet 85

The soft-focus is a good start to creating tilt-shift images.

Moody Images

Using blurring effects is a great tool for giving your images a moody feel. You can apply it to most types of photography and get those sorts of images that people love. You can use it for most types of photography, try it out if you can.

Review of the Lensbaby Velvet 85

Playing with the aperture you can create a mood in your image.

Comparing the Velvet 85 with the Velvet 56

There is an obvious difference between the size of the two lenses, which you can see in the image below. However, you will find the same with most fixed or prime lenses.

Review of the Lensbaby Velvet 85

The Lensbaby Velvet 85 next to the Velvet 56.

If you change the focus to point so that you can get as close as you can to what you are photographing, they both seem to capture the same image.

Review of the Lensbaby Velvet 85

How close you can get with each lens, the Velvet 85 on the left and the Velvet 56 on the right.

However, if you are trying to photograph something from a fixed point, then the Velvet 85 will allow you to get closer images. This is great if you are taking photos in a location like a garden, you can photograph those flowers that are at the back and harder to get to.

Review of the Lensbaby Velvet 85

Standing in the same place, the difference can be seen with the Velvet 85 on the left, and the Velvet 56 on the right.

If I had to choose between the two lenses, I think I would want the Velvet 85. The longer reach is appealing, and the soft-focus effect is really interesting. There isn’t a great deal of difference in the price, so it would be my choice.

Adding the lens to your kit

It is not an overly expensive lens, Lensbaby sells the Velvet 85 for $ 499. It is available for most cameras on the market today. You can get a full list on the website.

If you are looking for a lens that is capable of macro photography, then this is a good alternative to the more expensive macro lenses that many companies make. It would also suit a portrait photographer, however, don’t forget street photography and landscape. It is a versatile lens which you will enjoy, but don’t expect to get the same results that you’d achieve with normal lenses.


The post Review of the Lensbaby Velvet 85 by Leanne Cole appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Review: Interfit Honey Badger Studio Strobe and Universal Remote

29 Nov

Right now is a great time to be a studio photographer. Never before has there been such a multitude of options available to you in terms of photographic lighting. It seems that the recent surge in new photographers has lit a fire in the industries that create photographic gear. Lighting is a sector that has seen a huge influx of new options and new innovations.

Interfit has been one of those companies that constantly add to the mix for a while now. Not only do they make affordable studio strobes and continuous lights, they also make a ton of lighting modifiers and an indescribable amount of other studio accessories. If you need something for your studio, chances are that Interfit makes it.

Review: Interfit Honey Badger and Interfit Universal Remote

Stylish design is usually absent from studio lighting, but the Interfit Honey Badger aims to remedy that.

The newest light in Interfit’s range is the Honey Badger. A small, mid-powered studio strobe that fits into the low-middle pricing range. the light itself is in a stylish, bright yellow casing which adds a bit of a flourish to the monolight (the sort of product which is usually lacking in any sort of aesthetic design). I had chance to spend some time with and review the Honey Badger as well as the Interfit Universal Remote. Here are my thoughts.

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What Exactly is a Honey Badger?

If you’re not familiar with the light’s namesake, a honey badger is a medium-sized mammal found in Africa and Asia. At first glance, they’re adorable. However, honey badgers are infamous for being unstoppable murder machines that maim, mutilate and maul everything in their path. You’ll often find them near the top of lists of the world’s most dangerous animals.

Knowing that you can probably figure out what Interfit are going for with their branding. You have a small, stylish light that’s cute to look at, but packs a punch when set loose in the studio.

So did they achieve that? The short answer is – yes, quite well.

The Strobe

As per the Interfit website, the specifications for the Honey Badger are as follows:

Review: Interfit Honey Badger and Interfit Universal Remote

The biggest takeaways here are the seven stops of power range up to 320ws (which is pretty decent for a strobe in this price range), the S-mount, and the built-in receiver.


Before I get into anything else, let’s address the elephant in the room. Announcements of new studio strobes these days always seem to include the wonderful features of High-Speed Sync (HSS) and Through the Lens metering (TTL), both relatively new features in the world of studio strobes as they have been previously limited to flashguns (speedlights). The Honey Badger does not have these features. Then again, its price point reflects their absence.


The Honey Badger sells in the US for $ 299.99 and the UK for £259.99, putting it squarely in the low-middle range of the market. For this price range, it packs a decent punch and pulls its weight easily.

The Interfit Universal Remote is sold separately at a more than reasonable $ 79.99 USD and £39.99 UK.

Built-in Receiver

What the Honey Badger does include, which surprised me a little, is a built-in receiver. This means that you can fire the strobe with a transmitter on your camera without having to worry about extra receivers, errant sync cables, and dead batteries. Interfit sells a Universal Manual Remote (covered by this review) that works with the Honey Badger and a selection of other Interfit lights.


Review: Interfit Honey Badger and Interfit Universal Remote

While 320ws is a long way from the power output you can get from some strobes, it is more than enough in most everyday situations. As long as you bring your lights in close to your subject like I do, you should have no problem obtaining apertures of f/8 and f/11 for portraits and f/16 and beyond for tabletop set-ups.

If you’re working out of a home studio or another small space, the power output of the Honey Badger is likely going to be enough for you.


Review: Interfit Honey Badger and Interfit Universal Remote

As far as strobes go, the Honey Badger is quite small and highly portable.

The size of the Honey Badger was far more noticeable than the color when I first took it out of the box. This light is small. For comparison, above is a photo of it next to a Bowens light with similar specifications and a Canon 580 EX II Speedlite.

I can speculate on both the advantages and the disadvantages of the size of the Honey Badger.

I have no way of testing it, but I imagine that fitting three or four of these lights into a carry-on sized Pelican case would be pretty easy. If you’re a traveling photographer, being able to easily transport that many studio strobes might be a huge bonus.

When I attached one of my own modifiers, a large Interfit Strip-box, the small size of the strobe and the narrowness of the strip-box allowed me to point the light straight down. This isn’t usually possible without a boom arm and it got me pretty excited about the possibilities. (That said, one of the kits that Interfit offer with the Honey Badger includes a stand with a boom arm.)

Review: Interfit Honey Badger and Interfit Universal Remote

The shape of the Honey Badger may allow you more configurations with some modifiers.

On the other hand, we live in a world where appearances matter. Between the size and the color, the Honey Badger does look a little bit like a toy. Throughout the rest of this review, I will try to assure you that the Honey Badger does perform well, but if you have clients that like to see big productions with big lights everywhere, they may be less than impressed.

The Softbox

Review: Interfit Honey Badger and Interfit Universal Remote

The Honey Badger kit I tested included a 24” popup softbox. It’s a small softbox; I can’t say much more than that about it. In fact, it’s identical to a Neewer branded one that I bought a few months ago for use with my speedlights. The only difference is the Interfit branding. It is of good quality, fits snugly on the Honey Badger and has no apparent effect on the color temperature of the light that passes through it.

If your intent is to shoot portraits, especially in a fixed studio environment, you’re going to want a bigger light modifier. The softbox is useful and you will be able to get results from it, but you will want to find something much larger.

If you purchase this kit, be forewarned. The softbox comes in a pouch much smaller than its actual size. When it comes out of that bag, it opens itself with quite a lot of force. Don’t do what I did and please, please hold it away from your face.


Review: Interfit Honey Badger and Interfit Universal Remote

With a Bowens S-mount, the Honey Badger gives you access to a vast range of modifiers.

The fact that the Honey Badger has a Bowens S-Mount on it is a major advantage in my opinion. There is a vast range of modifiers available that fit the S-mount, ranging from cheap imports to high quality, but far more pricey, proprietary modifiers from brands like Interfit and Bowens. I may be a bit biased as I am a Bowens user, but if I were to invest in the Honey Badger system, that S-mount would make my life so much easier.

As an aside, Bowens has gone out of business. That doesn’t mean you should forsake the S-mount. As mentioned, there are hundreds of products and dozens of other lighting systems that use the S-mount. Bowens might be going, but modifiers that fit the S-mount are going to be around for a long while yet.

White Balance

The Honey Badger has a color temperature of 5600k. This means it’s a touch warmer than the flash White Balance setting in Lightroom. If you like warmer tones in your images, this is not a problem. However, if you would prefer a more neutral look, remember that you will need to dial your White Balance back a hundred degrees. Bear in mind, if you’re using cheaper modifiers, they tend to have a significant effect on your color temperature which renders this point moot anyway.

Diffusion Dome

Review: Interfit Honey Badger and Interfit Universal Remote

The frosted diffusion dome covering the flashbulb gives an extra layer of diffusion behind your modifier.

Unlike most strobes, the Honey Badger has a frosted dome over the flashbulb. This adds a tiny amount of diffusion to the bare bulb. In most cases, you’re never going to want to shoot with a bare strobe, but I tried it anyway. The light is as hard as you would expect, but it is possible to use it to creative effect.

Modeling light

When I first turned the Honey Badger on, I didn’t expect an LED modeling light. This is a plus as it means that your subjects aren’t going to boil under hot lights. In fact, I used the Honey Badger nearly constantly in four studio sessions and it never even got warm, never mind overheating.

The Interfit Universal Remote

Review: Interfit Honey Badger and Interfit Universal Remote

The Interfit Universal Remote allows you to control the Honey Badger (and other Interfit strobes) from the top of your camera.

I will admit that using the Universal Remote to control the Honey Badger from the top of the camera is an absolute pleasure. I tend to work in confined spaces anyway, but not having to actually walk to the light to change the power output was fantastic. The remote is easy to use as well, and all the functions are labelled clearly. When I’m next in the market for new strobes, this remote may very well play into my considerations. I imagine a scenario where I don’t have to dodge behind a subject to the back of a studio to change the power output on a pair of rim lights. I can dream right?!

That said, the remote was the only problem I had while testing the Honey Badger. For the first 20 minutes or so, I couldn’t figure out why the modeling light was turning itself off. I was convinced there was a problem with the light itself, but it turns out that for whatever reason, on the unit I tested, the modeling light shuts off any time you change the power output via the Universal Remote. I don’t know why this would be and I am unaware if it was a problem isolated to the unit I used, but it did not do the same when you change the power output on the actual strobe.

With a price tag of $ 79.99 USD (£39.99), if you are interested in the Honey Badger, or other Interfit lights, this remote is a no brainer.

The Test

For the first test, I set up the Honey Badger straight out of the box with everything included (24” softbox and the Universal Remote). I had the whole thing set up in no time and once the batteries went into the remote, all the channel settings were sorted out in seconds. (It really is that easy.)

Pop-up Softbox

Review: Interfit Honey Badger and Interfit Universal Remote

To start with, I placed the light at 45 degrees in a basic Rembrandt setup. Because the softbox is so small, I brought it in really close to the subject (about a foot away).

Review: Interfit Honey Badger and Interfit Universal Remote

Review: Interfit Honey Badger and Interfit Universal Remote

From here, I moved the soft box away a short and distance and further to the subject’s left. I wanted to take advantage of the harder light from the smaller softbox and try to create some images with deep, defined shadows.

Review: Interfit Honey Badger and Interfit Universal Remote


Review: Interfit Honey Badger and Interfit Universal Remote

I happen to own a large Interfit strip softbox (which I adore), so that was the next modifier to go on the Honey Badger. At first, I was overcome with glee as I realized I could point it straight down thanks to the Honey Badger’s small size; however, I chose not to keep it that way as it’s not the most flattering light for human subjects.

Instead, I put it straight in front of my subject, slightly above and pointed straight at her nose for a basic butterfly lighting set-up.

Review: Interfit Honey Badger and Interfit Universal Remote

Review: Interfit Honey Badger and Interfit Universal Remote


Review: Interfit Honey Badger and Interfit Universal Remote

As mentioned, I felt inclined to see what the light from Honey Badger looked like as a bare bulb. The diffusion dome got the better of my curiosity. In my opinion, it’s perfectly usable. You won’t want to use it a lot, however, but the hard light might suit some high fashion portraits quite well.

Review: Interfit Honey Badger and Interfit Universal Remote



7’ Parabolic Umbrella with Diffusion

Review: Interfit Honey Badger and Interfit Universal Remote

This is where I started to see some possible limitations with the Honey Badger. I wanted to see if the Honey Badger could cope with a giant parabolic umbrella. The answer is yes, but not without extra pieces of equipment. The light itself does have a hole for an umbrella, but I wasn’t willing to see if it would hold that much weight. Instead, I placed a Bowens umbrella reflector on it and attached the modifier.

Because the light is so small, I had to bring the umbrella really close to the light before it would support the umbrella’s weight. With the light so close to the umbrella, it was not able to use the full surface area of the modifier. The 7’ umbrella effectively became a 4.5’ umbrella. This is not the end of the world, but it was annoying. There are plenty of options for umbrella holders and mounts on the market that would solve this problem, I just don’t happen to own any of them.

Review: Interfit Honey Badger and Interfit Universal Remote

Beauty Dish with Grid & Diffusion Sock

The final variation I tried was using a 24″ beauty dish with both a grid and a diffusion sock. For this setup, the light was placed about 10 feet in front of the subject for a harder light and to reduce the speed of the light fall off so that more light hit the background.

Extra images

Below are other photos taken using the Interfit Honey Badger and the included pop-up softbox.



Pros and Cons

Having used it for a while, I can tell you that the Honey Badger has more pros than it does cons (and a few of the cons are hyperbolic).

Pros of the Honey Badger

  • Reasonably priced
  • Small
  • Reasonably powered
  • Bright LED modeling light
  • Bowens S-mount
  • Fast recycling times (I never had to wait for it)
  • Built-in receiver
  • The Universal Remote works like a charm
  • Doesn’t overheat easily
  • Good build quality
  • Stylish in appearance


  • The light might be too small in some situations
  • 24” softbox is too small for many studio situations, albeit perfectly functional
  • Modeling light turns itself off (on the unit I tested) when the power is adjusted via the Universal Remote
  • No HSS or TTL
  • May have issues supporting the weight of large modifiers like an 8’ Octabox


In the end, I enjoyed using the Honey Badger. It is a good quality, competent light that would suit any photographer working a studio environment, especially for those setting up a home studio. The Universal Remote really adds to the experience as well, making power adjustments from the top of the camera a breeze.

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If you’re looking for HSS or TTL functionality, or a light with a self-contained battery, no, the Honey Badger is not for you. For anything else, the Honey Badger is absolutely worth your consideration.

Disclaimer: Interfit provided the product on loan to our dPS author so he could test and do this review. However, all reviews on dPS are 100% the author’s unbiased opinion. 

The post Review: Interfit Honey Badger Studio Strobe and Universal Remote by John McIntire appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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OnePlus 5T first impressions review

28 Nov

The brand new OnePlus 5T is the Chinese manufacturer’s latest flagship model. Like its predecessors, offers high-end specifications, materials and design at a price point that is noticeably lower than the more established competition.

The 5T is in most respects pretty much identical to its predecessor, the OnePlus 5. However, there are two important changes: the AMOLED display now comes with an 18:9 aspect ratio, covering the entire front of the device, and the dual-camera has done away with the tele-module and replaced it with a secondary sensor that has been optimized for low light performance.

The camera switches to this sensor when light levels drop below 10 Lux and merges four pixels into one for improved image quality. Despite the lack of a tele lens, OnePlus says the new dual-camera setup offers a similar zoom performance to the OnePlus.

We’ve had the OnePlus 5T in our hands for a few days now and used its camera in a wide range of light conditions. Here are our first impressions.

Key specifications:

  • Dual-camera
  • Main camera: Sony IMX 398 1/2.8″ 16MP sensor, F1.7,
  • Secondary camera: Sony IMX 376K 1/2.78″ 20MP sensor, F1.7
  • 27.22mm equivalent focal length
  • Dual-LED flash
  • 4K video at 30 fps
  • 720p slow-motion at 120 fps
  • Manual mode and Raw capture
  • 16MP / F2.0 front camera
  • 6″ 1080p AMOLED display, 18:9 aspect ratio
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chipset
  • 64/128GB storage, 6/8GB RAM
  • 3,300 mAh battery

Image quality

In bright light the 5T captures images with pleasant colors. Auto HDR kicks in for high-contrast scenes, ensuring decent dynamic range and good highlight detail. Lens sharpness is good across the frame but if you zoom in to a 100% view, low-contrast detail, such as distant foliage or other fine textures, can look a little mushy. There’s also more luminance noise in the sky than we would like at base ISO.

ISO 125, 1/490 sec

When shooting against the light the 5T occasionally captures slightly too dark exposures to protect the highlights, but despite some shadow noise the shot below looks quite pleasant. Occasionally low-contrast detail in the shadows can be very mushy, though.

ISO 250, 1/1525 sec

The 5T camera deals much better with higher-contrast scenes, even when overall light levels are lower. The shot below was captured at ISO 640 indoors and shows very good edge definition. There is some luminance noise but it is very finely grained and not too intrusive. Overall detail is still good, despite shooting in low light.

ISO 640, 1/50 sec

Noise reduction and smearing of fine detail are more noticeable in this ISO 1000 shot but overall detail is still good considering the light conditions. However, skin tones on the subject are a little warm and just a touch underexposed. It appears the camera was aiming to protect highlights in the brighter background. Overall, the 5T does pretty well in this scene, though.

ISO 1000, 1/33 sec

Detail becomes noticeably softer in night shots, as the one below, but exposure is very good and noise well controlled. The OnePlus 5T tends to do a good job in static night scenes.

ISO 3200, 1/17 sec

The camera app doesn’t tell you when it switches to the more low-light efficient secondary sensor with its ‘Intelligent Pixel Technology’. But a look at the EXIF data reveals that images taken in very low light have a 20MP resolution, as opposed to the 16MP of the main camera. This also indicates that, if there is some pixel-binning going on, the images are then upscaled to full sensor resolution again.

Looking at the two samples below, the mode is capable of achieving good exposure and color in low light situations. However, level of detail is very low and images have an almost pixelated appearance when viewed at a 100% magnification.

We have also noticed that two images taken in quick succession can look quite different in terms of both exposure and detail rendition. If you click through to the full-size versions of the samples below you’ll see that the image on the left is pretty grainy, while the one on the right has an almost water-color like smeared look. The levels of detail are equally low on both images, though.

ISO 2000, 1/20 sec ISO 5000, 1/17 sec


OnePlus says that, despite the omission of a dedicated tele camera, the 5T’s 2x zoom produces similar image quality to the OnePlus 5. Looking at the sample scene below, this is true. Viewed at a 100% magnification the 2x zoom image shows noticeably lower levels of detail than the standard image, but the tele-lens on the OnePlus 5 did not produce much better results. Zoom images are not ideal for display at larger sizes but look nice at typical social media or web use resolution.

ISO 250, 1/553 sec
ISO 160, 1/504 sec

The same is true for zoom images captured in low light. The 2x zoom image below was taken in a dimly lit club. Fine detail is not great but the shot is perfectly usable at web size and the zoom function allowed me to get the framing I wanted, even when shooting from the back of the crowd.

ISO 1600, 1/20 sec


OnePlus says the 5T’s bokeh mode has been improved over the version used by its predecessor and our initial tests confirm that. There are still some minor artifacts around foreground subjects but overall subject separation from the background is pretty good, even in lower light and with human subjects.

In addition, the amount blur applied to the background is not too strong, resulting in a fairly natural bokeh rendition.

ISO 320, 1/464 sec, Depth mode


We also shot a few videos with the OnePlus 5T and the results are pretty good, with decent detail, nice color and good exposure. Stabilization is pretty good when hand-holding the camera, but things get a little shaky while panning, as you can see in the clip below.

The video mode delivers decent image quality in this artificially lit indoor shot. Video stabilization keeps things nice and steady during handheld recording.

You can also record video using the 2x zoom settings. The results in the low light clip below aren’t quite broadcast quality but definitely usable, with good stabilization.


With its new 18:9 display and powerful processing components the OnePlus 5T is a great smartphone in general use. However, there’s a lot to like about its camera as well. Images show good exposure and color across all light levels, the bokeh mode captures images that look more natural than on many competitors and the zoom function produces usable results, even in very low light.

Like on the 5T’s predecessor, pixel level image quality is a bit of a weakness, though. The Auto HDR function produces some ghosting artifacts and mushy textures, and we also found more luminance noise in base ISO images than we’d like to see.

Low light image quality is decent but not up with the very best, and with the current software version OnePlus’ ‘Intelligent Pixel Technology’ doesn’t really offer any noticeable low light benefits over a fine-tuned conventional camera.

That said, OnePlus is known as a manufacturer that is frequently pushing software updates and improving the performance of its products. If the engineers are able to fine-tune image processing and video stabilization a touch more, the OnePlus could easily jump up a few spots in the smartphone image quality rankings.

Sample Gallery

There are 10 images in our OnePlus 5T samples gallery. Please do not reproduce any of these images on a website or any newsletter / magazine without prior permission (see our copyright page). We make the originals available for private users to download to their own machines for personal examination or printing (in conjunction with this review), we do so in good faith, please don’t abuse it.

Unless otherwise noted images taken with no particular settings at full resolution.

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You can also still have a look at our OnePlus 5 review gallery from June.

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Review of the Aputure Light Storm COB 120D Studio LED

28 Nov

The team at Aputure via Kayell Australia (thanks) sent me the Aputure Light Storm COB 120D LED studio light to try out and that’s exactly what I’ve been doing! I had planned a day’s worth of food shooting, but that wasn’t to be after the client delayed the session. So I went about doing what I like to do and photographed myself holding a coffee in preparation for a portrait series I’m working on called “In My Shed” which is literally just that, but more on that later… Back to the light, and what a light it is!

Review of the Aputure Light Storm COB 120D Studio LED

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What’s in the box of the Aputure Light Storm

The Aputure Light Storm is an LED light with only one light source, as opposed to a panel with lots of little LEDs on it. The COB stands for “chip on board” which is basically multiple little versions of those LED’s you’re used to seeing, but all mounted on a board with a blob of phosphor flowed on top of them.

The phosphor is the bit that gives the LED light its color temperature (The D or the T) The version I have is called the 120D, the D is for Daylight. This means it’s closely daylight balanced, as opposed to the other model, the 120T which is more closely tungsten balanced. If you’re super interested in how they’re made, search on YouTube, it’s pretty interesting. Anyways…

Review of the Aputure Light Storm COB 120D Studio LED

I must admit, when I first started talking about the C120D with some industry peers, the initial feedback I got was, “It isn’t built very well.” and, “It won’t be bright enough for what you need to do!” but I pressed ahead despite those second-hand reservations and I’m very glad I did.

The unboxing part is always exciting for me, new gear and all that, and this little fellow was no different. The Aputure Light Storm COB 120D kit comes with its own semi-rigid case complete with a small reflector, power supply, cables and a remote control with a working distance of 100 meters. Everything you need to be up and running with some stunning light in less than five minutes is included.

Review of the Aputure Light Storm COB 120D Studio LED

Stunning light

So, I say stunning light, and I guess, like almost everything in photography, that’s a subjective statement. But I really love the light this unit produces, in the situations I’ve used it. I held off working on this article as I wanted to get some good use in with the light as I’d originally planned for this review.  That was to use it as my key light for food photography.

I prefer to use a big soft window for food photography, but sometimes you don’t have that option, so you need to create your light. I typically use a Jinbei HD600 which is a portable studio flash. It’s a great unit, but I wanted to try out a constant light source and see how that worked for what I was shooting.

Let’s kick it off with your dinner and dessert. Thanks to Trackside Noodle Bar for letting me use these images! There are images that they’re going to use in their marketing and menus. Entree and dessert for you, mains we’ll have a little bit later

Review of the Aputure Light Storm COB 120D Studio LED

Review of the Aputure Light Storm COB 120D Studio LED

No surprises with continuous lighting

I think the best bit, given I’m not a full-time photographer and I don’t shoot as often as some of you, is that using LED lights means that I see exactly what I’m going to get.

So you light your scene and adjust it, and you can see the adjustments immediately as the light source is always on. You can do the same when you use strobes or flash, but you need to make an exposure to check (I’m shooting a Sony a7rmk2 and so I see what I get on the screen at the back).

I find it super easy to set up my plate of food, use the light’s remote to back off the power if I need to do so, and click – job done.

Review of the Aputure Light Storm COB 120D Studio LED

When I came to the main course, I wanted a bit of light coming back in from the left of the plate. So a really simple bounce card (aka white square of card that can stand on its own) sitting out of shot on the left and I was good to go. You can see my hand-drawn “artist’s” impression of my setup, below.

Review of the Aputure Light Storm COB 120D Studio LED

Or, as a real photo, without my awesome drawing skills!

Review of the Aputure Light Storm COB 120D Studio LED

Self-portrait time

A funny thing happened on this journey. As I mentioned at the start, I did a little self-portraiture in my shed for a project I’m working on. I shared the image with Aputure and it’s now in their catalog! So, that was kind of cool…

For this portrait, I had the light set up outside the shed window, the camera on a tripod being controlled via my iPhone which if you look really closely, you might spot on the window ledge (Sony’s Playmemories app). I could adjust the light power from inside the shed using the controller. The light was running on a vLock battery, I used the Core SWX Slim which meant I could take the light anywhere, I also used a Bowens S Mounted 90cm deep para reflector.

Review of the Aputure Light Storm COB 120D Studio LED

Review of the Aputure Light Storm COB 120D Studio LED


The summary, after working with this light for a couple of months is that it’s a great unit! Well built, plenty bright, easy to transport. I only have one minor negative point, and it’s that the controls have to be so big, but then the light itself is quite compact, so I guess all the controls and battery mount have to go somewhere! Like I said, minor.

The Aputure Light Storm COB 120D LED studio light is a fantastic addition to my regular portrait and food photography kit. This is a five-star review of a well deserving product! Let there be light.

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Disclaimer: this product was provided to the author for review, but all reviews on dPS are 100% unbiased opinions of the author. 

The post Review of the Aputure Light Storm COB 120D Studio LED by Sime appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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LG V30 camera review

24 Nov

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The LG V30 is the Korean manufacturer’s latest flagship smartphone and offers a dual-camera setup that combines a main camera with a 71-degree angle of view with a secondary 120-degree super-wide angle lens. On the main camera, a Sony IMX 351 1/3.1″ sensor is coupled with a very fast F1.6 lens.

The super-wide-angle lens, by contrast, comes with a smaller Samsung sensor that features a 13MP resolution and 1.0um pixel size. There is an F1.9 aperture but no OIS, which is easier to live without on a super-wide-angle anyhow.

The V30 sets itself apart from the competition with a comprehensive video mode that provides manual control over shutter speed and sound recording levels, among many other parameters. You can also choose from 15 new Cine Effect color presets that are based on film genres and the Point Zoom mode allows for stable zooming into a target in the frame rather than the center.

Images and videos can be viewed on the phone’s 6″ QHD+ OLED HDR FullVision display with a 18:9 aspect ratio that occupies almost the entire front of the device’s dust and water sealed metal body. Read on to find out how the V30’s impressive specs translate into real-life camera performance.

Key Photographic / Video Specifications

  • Dual-camera with 70 degree main camera and 120 degree super wide angle
  • Main camera: 16MP 1/3.1″ Sony IMX351 CMOS sensor, F1.6 aperture, OIS
  • Super-wide-angle: 13MP Samsung sensor with 1.0um pixel size, F1.9 aperture
  • 4K video
  • 720p slow-motion at 120 fps
  • Manual photo and video control
  • 5MP F2.2 front camera

Other Specifications

  • 6″ QHD+ (1440 x 2880) OLED FullVision display
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chipset
  • 64/128GB storage, 4GB RAM
  • microSD card slot
  • 3,300mAh battery with quick charging

DPReview smartphone reviews are written with the needs of photographers in mind. We focus on camera features, performance, and image quality.

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Sony a7R Mark III review

23 Nov


The Sony a7R Mark III is the company’s latest high-resolution full frame mirrorless camera. Much like Nikon’s recent D850, it’s one that combines this resolution with high speed and fast autofocus capabilities to a degree we’ve not previously seen.

Like its predecessor, the Mark III is built around a 42MP BSI CMOS sensor, but unlike the a7R II, it can shoot at ten frames per second.

Essentially it can be seen as an a7R II that inherits many of the lessons learned from the company’s pro-sports model, the a9. This means faster processing, improved autofocus, improved handling and ergonomics, as well as the adoption of a much larger battery. While some of the individual changes are subtle, they very quickly combine to produce a hugely capable and highly useable camera.

Key Features

  • 42MP BSI CMOS sensor
  • Faster, lower-noise image processing
  • 10 fps shooting with full AF, 8 fps with ‘live’ updates between shots
  • 3.69M dot (1280 x 960 pixel) OLED viewfinder
  • Improved autofocus, including more tenacious Eye AF mode
  • 5-axis image stabilization, rated at 5.5 stops (CIPA) with 50mm lens
  • 4K footage from ‘Super 35’ crop region oversampled from 5K capture
  • Video AF less inclined to refocus to background
  • ‘Picture Profile’ video gamma/gamut modes including S-Log2 and 3
  • Twin SD Card slots (one UHS-I and one UHS-II compatible)
  • Bayer-cancelling multi-shot mode for improved resolution
  • True 14 bit uncompressed Raw, even in continuous drive mode
  • Use of phase detection (including Eye AF) at 3 fps with adapted lenses

Sony says the a7R III is based around the same 42MP back side illuminated CMOS sensor as its immediate predecessor, so doesn’t gain the full speed advantages of the a9’s Stacked CMOS chip (in terms of AF performance, continuous shooting rate or reduced rolling shutter in video and electronic shutter mode). However, the adoption of the processing systems, algorithms and refinements introduced on the a9 all have their benefits.

This means a camera with a touchscreen and dedicated joystick for AF point positioning, a camera with a deeper grip and improved customization, with better laid-out menus and much improved battery life.

Video capabilities

Sony also says the improved processing will benefit video shooting. The oversampled footage taken from a Super 35 (~APS-C) region of the sensor is still expected to look better than the subsampled capture from the full sensor width but both are supposedly improved by the new processing chain. We’ll delve into this later in the review.

To take advantage of the camera’s dynamic range, the Picture Profile system of color and tonal response borrowed from Sony’s professional video line now includes the even flatter S-Log3 gamma curve. That said, there is no 10-bit capture possible; the camera can still only capture 8-bit 4:2:0 footage internally or output 8-bit 4:2:2, which may limit the usefulness of S-Log3 if it makes posterization more likely when the footage is graded.

For users wanting to use the camera’s video dynamic range with a high dynamic range display but without the extra hassle of color grading, the a7R III joins the Panasonic GH5 in offering Hybrid Log Gamma recording: essentially Log capture with tags to tell displays how to correctly render it.


The a7R III’s most obvious peer is the D850, since it’s the other high-speed, high resolution full frame camera. We’ll also note the changes relative to its predecessor and its other, less rapid high-res rivals.

Nikon D850 Sony
a7R II
Canon EOS 5DS R Pentax K-1
(Body only)
$ 3200 $ 3300 $ 3200 $ 3900 $ 1800
Pixel Count (MP) 42.4 45.7 42.4 50 36
ISO Range 100-32,000 64-25,600 100-25,600 100-6,400 100-204,800
Stabilization In-body
(5.5 stops)
Lens-only In-body
(4.5 stops)
Lens-only In-body
(5 stops)
AF working range –3EV (@F2) –4EV –2EV (@F2) –2EV –3EV
Viewfinder magnification & eyepoint 0.78x
Connectivity options Wi-Fi, BT
Wi-Fi, BT Wi-Fi
Optional SD Card Wi-Fi
Video 4K/30p
4K/30p 4K/30p
1080/60p 1080/30p
Yes / Yes Yes / Yes Yes / Yes Yes / No Yes / Yes
Flash sync speed 1/250th 1/250th 1/250th 1/200th 1/200th
Flash Sync socket Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Continuous shooting 10fps 7fps* 5fps 5.0fps 4.4fps
Intervalometer No Yes Via app Yes Yes
Memory format SD (UHS-II)
2x SD
USB (Connector) 3.1 (C)
2.0 (micro B)
3.0 (micro B) 2.0 (micro B) 3.0 (micro B) 2.0 (micro B)
Battery life (CIPA)
530/650 1,840/ – 290/340 700/200 760/ –
Weight 657g
*D850 can shoot 9fps when combined with a battery grip and D5-style battery.

As should be apparent, the Sony offers a combination of resolution, speed and video capabilities not easily matched by its peers. And, with the new battery, is able to offer much more similar endurance, if you’re not in a situation in which you can plug the camera in to an external power source.

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Review of the Tamron 18-400mm F/3.5-6.3 DI-II VC HLD Zoom Lens

22 Nov

Tamron has been specializing in super-zoom lenses for the last few years. You may be familiar with their 16-300mm, 18-270mm or 150-600mm lenses. Their newest super-zoom is an even more astonishing focal length, the Tamron 18-400mm. I recently had a chance to review this lens for a few weeks so I thought I’d give you an idea of who this lens is for, the good, the not-so-good, and my overall recommendation.

Review of Tamron 18-400mm F/3.5-6.3 DI-II VC HLD Zoom Lens - Hibiscus

Hot pink hardy hibiscus bloom. Canon 7D Mark II, Tamron 18-400mm lens @ 400mm, f/9, 1/160th, ISO 100, handheld.

About this review

I know you already know this (because you read ALL my pieces for dPS, right? Right?!) but my lens reviews are pretty real world. I don’t sit in a lab or use techy gizmos to measure sharpness. I actually hold a lens in my hands and shoot with it. This lens was tucked in my favorite bag for most of August.

That said, my intention was to see how a lens holds up for an actual shoot. I used this lens to photograph Lipizzan horses at a dressage performance as well as at the racetrack. Then I used it on a mission to photograph old barns and finally to make some macro flower images.

Tamron 18-400mm lens -  Lipizzan Foal

Lipizzan foal at Tempel Farms, Old Mill Creek IL. Canon 7D Mark II, Tamron 18-400mm lens @ 300mm, f/6.3, 1/640th, ISO 500, handheld. 

The goal was to make images at most focal lengths with a variety of apertures, but a few might have been skipped because I was really out there shooting. I shoot at the focal length, shutter speed, ISO and aperture that each situation calls for. So let’s just say I apologize in advance if I’ve skipped something important to you. Give me a shout in the comments if that’s the case. I’ll dig through my notes and image archives to see if I can answer your question.

Lens specs

Let’s start off with a quick overview of the lens specs. This lens is for Nikon and Canon APS-C (crop sensor) cameras only. I tested the lens on a Canon 7D Mark II.

The Tamron 18-400mm super-zoom is a variable aperture lens. Meaning that at 18mm, the maximum aperture (largest opening) is f/3.5. But when you zoom into 400mm, the maximum aperture is f/6.3. The minimum aperture (smallest opening) is f/22 at all focal lengths.

Tamron 18-400mm - Red barn

Dilapidated red barn, McHenry County IL. Canon 7D Mark II, Tamron 18-400mm lens @ 71mm, f/9, 1/250th, ISO 200, handheld.

The lens has an HLD Autofocus Motor that is quick and quiet for a consumer lens at this price. It also has Tamron’s standard VC Image Stabilization. This feature enables you to get sharper shots while hand-holding at longer focal lengths. The lens also has what Tamron calls Moisture-Resistant Construction. I’m relieved to tell you I didn’t get to test this feature.

The minimum focusing distance – important especially if you want to try your hand at making macro images – is 17.72″ (45 cm). Macro is usually a 1:1 ratio and this lens only produces 1:2.9, but I was pleasantly surprised with my macro results.

Tamron 18-400mm - White bud

White hardy hibiscus bud. Canon 7D Mark II, Tamron 18-400mm lens @ 400mm, f/13, 1/320th, ISO 320, handheld.

If you use screw on filters, like a circular polarizer, the front thread is 72mm. The lens is 1.56 pounds (710 g) and approximately 3.11” in diameter by 4.88″ in length (79 x 123.9 mm). It’s an incredibly compact lens for this focal length range.

The price, at the time of publication of this article, is $ 649.00 USD.

Who is this lens for?

I would describe the ideal user of this lens as an amateur or enthusiast. If you’re an amateur photographer who travels but doesn’t want to carry more than one or two lenses, this is the perfect choice for you.

With an 18-400mm focal length, you might not need to ever change the lens, except in a dark indoor situation, when you need either flash or perhaps the fast f/1.8 maximum aperture of a nifty fifty.

Tamron 18-400mm - racehorse portrait

Low-key portrait of a racehorse, Arlington Park IL. Canon 7D Mark II, Tamron 18-400mm lens @ 400mm, f/6.3, 1/250th, ISO 250, handheld.

This lens would also be great for a busy parent who needs more than a smart phone to capture pictures of soccer matches and dance recitals but who doesn’t have a ton of extra room in her carryall bag. The compact size and weight of the Tamron 18-400mm make it an easy addition to any parent’s standard kit.

What’s good about this lens

The size of this lens just can’t be beat. At only a pound and a half and less than 5 inches long, it’s a lot of focal length in a very small package. I was really taken with how small it was since I normally shoot with such large neck-and-shoulder-busting glass.

Hand-holding this lens for an afternoon at the race track wasn’t even remotely painful. With the insane focal length capabilities, I didn’t even bother to carry a second lens with me (or even my camera bag!) and that made for a really care-free afternoon.

Tamron 18-400mm - size comparison

The Tamron 18-400mm lens, attached to the Canon 7D Mark II, with the Canon 100-400 lens alongside for size comparison.

Tamron 18-400mm lens comparison - extended

The extended Tamron 18-400 lens, attached to the Canon 7D Mark II, with the extended Canon 100-400 lens alongside for size comparison. Clearly you can see what a compact size this lens is and how beneficial that could be when you travel.

Great for landscape images

It’s also a pleasure to catch a pretty landscape out of the corner of your eye and to simply zoom out to 18mm to capture it. Typically if you’re shooting with a long lens, you have to take the time to switch over to your wide-angle lens, take the shot and then switch back to your longer focal length lens again. Well, actually, if you’re me, you see that landscape and think ooh, pretty and then walk away without taking the shot.

Tamron 18-400 - at the track

Arlington Park Racetrack IL. Canon 7D Mark II, Tamron 18-400 @ 18mm, f/13, 1/100th, ISO 320, handheld. Processed in Lightroom.

I’m lazy that way so this was the first time I’ve actually made images of the racetrack itself. The lens performed really well in the 18-50mm focal range. It was both sharp and relatively distortion free. Lightroom’s Lens Correction easily managed the slight distortion there was too.

Things to be careful of

Remember I said we’d talk about the not-so-good too? It is a touch tricky to twist the lens in order to zoom in past 200mm to get to the 400mm focal length. First, your hand gets a bit “stuck” since anatomically, your wrist only twists so far before you have to reposition in order to continue the twisting motion.

Tamron 18-400mm lens - racetrack

Headed to the gate, Arlington Park IL. Canon 7D Mark II, Tamron 18-400mm lens @ 209mm, f/6.3, 1/1000th, ISO 250, handheld. 

Second, the lens has what I call a “hiccup” where you need to exert more pressure to push it past this point. I missed a few shots because the twisting motion wasn’t smooth enough and I jerked the lens a bit as I zoomed in from 200mm to 400mm.

Tamron 18-400mm lens - white hibiscus

White hardy hibiscus bloom. Canon 7D Mark II, Tamron 18-400mm lens @ 227mm, f/13, 1/400th, ISO 320, handheld.

Softness around the edges

There is a definite softness (or loss of sharpness) at the longer end of the lens, especially when your aperture is wide open, e.g., 400mm at f/6.3. If you crop in too much during post-processing or print too large, you’ll start to see the loss of fine details in your image since they weren’t tack sharp to start. You won’t see this loss of detail in a small 5×7″ print, or if you post to social media – so for many people, this actually won’t be a big issue.

Tamron 18-400mm lens Review - Riders up

Riders up at the paddock, Arlington Park IL. Canon 7D Mark II, Tamron 18-400mm lens @ 18mm, f/5, 1/500th, ISO 640, handheld.

Use the center focus point

The lens tends to be softest in the corners so sharpness improves if you use your camera’s center focus point. It also improves if you close down your aperture to f/8, f/9, or smaller. Because the lens is not tack sharp all the way through the focal length spectrum, I’m not recommending this lens for super serious wildlife shooters or anyone who likes to print really large. For you guys, I’m going to suggest sticking with a more standard zoom lens like a 100-400mm or 200-400mm. (I apologize in advance for the wear and tear this recommendation will cause your shoulders.)

If you predominantly shoot wide-angle images, like landscapes, and only occasionally shoot long, this lens will be a good fit for you when you don’t want to carry a ton of gear.

Final thoughts

Ultimately there were a number of things I really liked about this lens. The small size and super-zoom focal length make it a very practical tool to have in your bag. At $ 649.00 USD, it’s also a great value.

However, the softness at the long end of that focal length can become a real issue if you’re not careful. Because of that, I’m cautiously going to rate this lens 3.5 stars out of 5.

Tamron 18-400mm lens running foal

Running Lipizzan foal at Tempel Farms, Old Mill Creek IL. Canon 7D Mark II, Tamron 18-400mm lens @ 400mm, f/6.3, 1/640th, ISO 100, handheld. 

I’d love to hear your opinions too. Have you tried super-zooms lenses? Do they work for your type of photography? Which is your favorite one and how does it compare to the Tamron 100-400mm lens? Please share your thoughts with the dPS community in the comments below.

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Surface Beast: A photographer’s review of the Microsoft Surface Book 2

17 Nov

This review was originally published on Blair Bunting’s blog, and is being republished in full on DPReview with express permission from the author.

Over the last year I have been slowly migrating from Apple to Windows, and to be honest, breaking out of the walled gardens that I lived within (some known, some unknown) has not been easy, but it has been freeing.

I have to hand it to Apple, they made a system, an environment, that has been comfortable and creatively useful for many years; however, slowly the sparkle that was once held in such high regards by artists, has begun to dull. For me, there was one piece of hardware that remained from my Apple past, one that traveled with me to all my photoshoots and pre-production meetings, coffee shops and airport bars, studios and locations alike… my MacBook Pro.

When I began transitioning to Windows, I had made concessions. I thought at the time, that one of the few pieces of Apple hardware that would stay in my repertoire was the MBP. I had even decided to upgrade it to the newest one before the announcement, for I knew it would be cutting edge in the ways that other Apple products of the past had been. Then, to the horror of myself and many around, we watched as Apple gave us the new MacBook Pro, complete with… wait for it… the scroll bar (ready to suit all of my emoji needs).

That very day I bought a Microsoft Surface Book (the very one that I am typing this blog on) and never looked back. To be honest, I had intended to write a review of it for quite some time, however, that blog had been put on the backburner. What was striking about the original Surface Book was something I had a very hard time quantifying. While there were many things I fell in love with on it, such as the keyboard, and the detachable screen, the thing that won me over more than anything was how much it just worked.

Almost overnight I started to see my productivity rise as I was able to re-focus on the business side of advertising photography.

I was transporting my RAWs from set on the original Surface Book and would occasionally do minor edits on it in airports; however, the 100-megapixel files from the Hasselblad H6D-100cwere taxing on it once layers were added in Photoshop and file sizes surpassed the 5GB mark. Now I know that 5GB files are rarely opened on a laptop, but I had to test it out and did notice that the large files sizes were tough on the processor.

Then, about a month ago, the phone rang and it was Microsoft, wondering if I would like to hear about a new piece of equipment… the Surface Book 2. Previously they had let me try out their Surface Pro, which I liked, but still found myself using the Surface Book more. It was a no brainer and I quickly signed to have a loaner unit sent over immediately.

The Surface Book 2 arrived only days before I was to fly out for a campaign I was shooting in New York and New Jersey. I have always had a rule that any gear headed to set has to have a backup. No matter how different the backup is, there needs to be a safety net in case something unforeseen happens.

For the past year, I was traveling with the Surface Book in my carry on while the MacBook Pro was in my checked baggage. Perhaps there was part of me that was nervous about letting go of that laptop. However, the campaign on the East Coast would be the first one completely void of an Apple product, backups included.

All this had been planned before the Surface Book 2 arrived.

Then the FedEx delivery man arrived with the package that I had been sitting next to the door waiting for all day (on a side note, does FedEx know when I am anxiously awaiting a package and then decide to be late as hell delivering it?).

In the box was the clean white box containing a new Surface Book 2, and to my surprise… IT WAS THE 15” MODEL. While I knew it existed, I had told the gentleman on the phone to send out whatever was easiest and I didn’t want to hassle them with demands. To be honest, I had grown quite comfortable with the 13-inch model that I bought and didn’t think there was a need for the extra two inches… I was wrong.

As it turns out, the new model was completely rebuilt from the ground up, and I could tell it within the first hour of using it. The details were even more refined and it was even MORE comfortable to type on. A funny little side note… with the screen being completely detachable, you can pop it off and walk around set with a tablet bigger than any other on the market and, as it turns out, the only thing my clients talked about for hours.

Now at this point you are probably asking, “but Blair, how does it perform?” … please refer to the title of this blog.

I have NEVER used a laptop that felt as powerful as the Surface Book 2. The thing ate 100 megapixel files for lunch and came back for more. In a way, it felt as though my laptop had hooked up with my desktop and the resulting baby was the Beast. Credit where it is due, the phrase “Surface Beast” was actually coined by one of the art directors on the photoshoot when he compared it to his MacBook Pro (scroll bar and all) and decided we would preview the shoot on the Surface from there on out.

One area where there isn’t even a comparison to my previous Apple MBP life is when it comes to retouching. More specifically: while traveling. Even more specifically: sitting at the airport bar while the airline tells you the delay is because the plane can’t fly (FML).

The Surface Book 2 has an option to have a secondary processor in the keyboard base of the computer. What this means is that you can detach the screen, flip it around and fold it backwards and have a drawing tablet with near desktop power—it is completely insane. This feature, combined with the increasing inebriation, led to me laughing/near-cheering with the announcement that my flight was further delayed.

In three hours of sitting at the airport bar, I had finished key art retouching on one of the images from the campaign (this is huge) and rung up a healthy bar tab of Hendricks.

For me, the Surface Book 2 was the MacBook Pro that we had all wanted/expected from Apple—it just wears a different logo.

While other reviews will read off the spec sheets and talk about the 17 hour battery life and GX yadda yadda yadda processor, they sometimes forget that we (the creative professionals) use these as tools. What Microsoft has done with the Surface Book 2 is make a system void of gimmicks, because gimmicks don’t hold up in the working world. Our jobs will not benefit from being able to tap an emoji on a scroll bar… they will benefit from the ability to get work done.

As a photographer, it feels extremely odd to say this, but I sincerely feel that the Surface Book 2 is not only a strong contender for the laptop to own, but actually the clear cut choice of the computer to have on set.

These weeks with the Surface Beast have won my allegiances completely, and probably resulted in me making a third computer purchase for the year. However, it has also given me the confidence and comfort to say that the transition away from Apple will soon be complete.

Blair Bunting is an advertising photographer and Hasselblad ambassador who has shot campaigns around the globe for a diversified list of clients that range from television shows shot for The Discovery Channel to athletes photographed for Muscle Milk.

To see more of his work, visit his website, check out his blog, or follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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DJI Spark Review: Small but mighty

15 Nov

The DJI spark is a diminutive drone that just screams to be put in your bag and taken everywhere you go. It’s likely to appeal to all levels of users thanks to its extremely compact size and strong feature set, but this miniaturization does come at a cost. Compared to most larger models it has shorter battery life, lacks a 3-axis gimbal and, notably, does not support 4K video capture. But, did we mention that it’s really small?

With an MSRP of $ 499, the Spark doesn’t have a lot of direct competition from models of comparable size and feature sets, though the closest alternative is probably the Yuneec Breeze 4K. If size isn’t a critical factor there are models with more impressive specs, such as DJI’s own Phantom 3 Standard and Phantom 3 SE, in the same price range.

The Spark is also available in a ‘Fly More’ combo that adds a remote controller, charging hub, spare props, propeller guards, and extra battery for $ 699.

Key Features

  • 12MP 1/2.3″ CMOS sensor
  • 2-axis mechanical gimbal
  • 1080/30p video
  • Vision system for accurate positioning
  • Gesture control
  • 16-minute flight time
  • Compact size

Before we get into the nitty-gritty, let’s qualify this review (and really, any drone review). A drone is not a flying camera. Rather, a drone is an aircraft with a camera attached to it. Therefore, the true value of a drone is a balance between the aircraft and camera.

Since we’re looking at two distinct pieces of hardware merged together, let’s look at each one individually, beginning with the aircraft. We’ve included the Yuneec Breeze and DJI Phantom 3 SE for comparison.

DJI Spark Yuneec Breeze 4K DJI Phantom 3 SE
Take-off weight 300g 385g 1236g
Dimensions 143x143x55mm 196x196x65mm 247x247x193mm
Maximum flight time 16 minutes 12 minutes 25 minutes
Maximum speed

50km/h (31mph) [with controller]

18km/h (11mph) 58km/h (36mph)
Obstacle avoidance Yes Yes No
Maximum operating range

100m [2km with controller]

100m 4km


Optional Yes
Price $ 499 $ 399 $ 599

The thing that’s obvious right away is how much smaller the Spark and Breeze are compared to a full-sized Phantom, though the Phantom will stay in the air quite a bit longer. The Spark has some notable advantages over the Breeze, including a much higher maximum speed (when used with the optional controller) and a mechanical gimbal. Both have a limited operating range of 100m, but if you pair the Spark with the optional controller the range extends significantly. Chances are good you’ll want the controller.

Now let’s take a look at the camera and gimbal.

DJI Spark Yuneec Breeze DJI Phantom 3 SE
Sensor size 1/2.3″ CMOS 1/3.06″ CMOS 1/2.3″ CMOS
Resolution 12MP 13MP 12MP
Lens (equiv.) 25mm F2.6 Not specified 20mm F2.8
Lens FOV 81.9º 117º 94º
Max photo resolution 3968×2976 4160×3120 4000×3000
Image formats Jpeg Jpeg Jpeg, Raw
Max video resolution 1080/30p UHD 4K/30p

DCI 4K/24p/25p

UHD 4K/30p

Bit rate 24 Mbps (H.264) Not specified 60 Mbps (H.264)
Gimbal type 2-axis mechanical None 3-axis mechanical

The cameras in all three models are similar in size to the ones found in many smartphones. They’re not going to be low light champs, but they’re still capable of producing good photos and video. What really jumps out here is the Spark’s lack of a 4K video option. Of course, HD is usually fine for web streaming, which we suspect will be a pretty common use case for this model.

What’s all this mean? The Spark is an extremely small, lightweight drone that seems perfect for throwing into a backpack, tossing into carry-on luggage, or just having with you all the time.

OK – let’s talk about what it’s like to actually fly this tiny beast.

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