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Fujifilm X-H1 First Impressions Review

15 Feb

The Fujifilm X-H1 is the company’s range-topping APS-C camera and its most video-capable camera to date. It’s based around the same 24MP sensor as the X-T2 but adds in-body image stabilization as well as a more comprehensive set of video options.

The X-H1 looks like a fractionally larger X-T2 but with the sloped viewfinder ‘prism’ and top-panel LCD that hint at the styling of the GFX 50S. Fujifilm has also clearly been listening to critics of the X-T series and have made the camera’s grip and buttons significantly larger, particularly the AE-L and newly-added AF-On buttons.

Key specifications

  • 24MP X-Trans APS-C sensor
  • 5-axis in-body image stabilization (rated at 5EV)*
  • 3.69M-dot OLED viewfinder
  • Touch sensitive rear LCD with two-axis tilt
  • DCI and UHD 4K capture at up to 200 Mbps
  • Slow motion 1080 (from 120 and 100 fps)
  • Internal F-Log capture
  • 24-bit audio capture
  • Eterna/Cinema Film Simulation mode
  • Timecode
  • No-blackout continuous shooting
  • Twin UHS-II-compatible card slots
  • Anti-flicker shooting mode
  • Wi-Fi with Bluetooth for constant connection

The company says it’s made further improvements to its AF system and says the new camera will be able to focus in lower light and with smaller apertures.

Despite being based around the same sensor and processor, the X-H1 promises significantly improved video performance, with the range of shooting options extended to include DCI as well as UHD 4K shooting, bitrates up to 200 Mbps and the ability to record F-Log footage internally.

Other additions include the movie style ‘Eterna’ Film Simulation and an anti-flicker option for shooting under artificial lights.

Interestingly, although rated at 5EV, Fujifilm says the stabilization can hit 5.5EV of effectiveness if paired with non-IS lenses. The explanation for this is that the unstabilized lenses tend to be primes and are generally relatively wide focal lengths, both of which mean they’re more likely to project a larger image circle than the sensor requires. This gives the sensor more room to move around, providing greater stabilization.

Enhanced video

The X-T2 is already a very credible video performer: offering good levels of detail capture and Log output over HDMI if needed. The X-H1 takes this a step further. In addition to being able to shoot UHD 4K at up to 30p it can also shoot the wider aspect ratio DCI 4K format at 23.98 and 24p. Enhanced compression options allow capture at up to 200 Mbps and it can also capture F-Log footage internally.

Like the X-T2, the H1 uses a 1.17x crop region of its sensor to capture its UHD and DCI 4K video. This means using roughly 1.4x more pixels than necessary, in each dimension, to produce its UHD footage. This oversampling leads to higher levels of detail capture than would be possible by simply using a 3840 x 2160 region. If the X-T2 is anything to go by, it should look good and have pretty well-controlled rolling shutter.

It seems most of the camera’s additional size relates to the addition of the stabilization unit, since the X-H1 is still limited to 15 minutes of 4K shooting. However, as with the X-T2, there’s an optional battery grip that lets the camera cycle between drawing power from each of three batteries. Presumably this avoids too much heat building up in the same place, since it extends the camera’s 4K shooting duration out to the traditional 29 minutes, 59 seconds stipulated by import duty regulations.

On top of this comes the ability for the camera to retain a raft of settings separately for stills and video. This means you don’t have to significantly reconfigure the camera every time you switch from stills to video shooting or back.

Parameters treated independently for movie shooting
  • Film Simulation
  • Dynamic Range mode
  • White Balance
  • Highlight Tone
  • Shadow Tone
  • Color (saturation)
  • Sharpness (sharpening)
  • Noise reduction
  • Peripheral light correction (vignetting )
  • Focus area
  • Focus mode
  • AF-C Custom Settings
  • Pre-AF
  • Face/Eye Detection
  • MF Assist
  • Focus Check

The obvious things that can’t be set independently for stills and movie shooting are the exposure settings, since these are primarily defined by dedicated control dials. If you plan to swap back and forth between stills and video shooting, the camera’s new ‘Movie Silent Control’ mode is one way around this.

Movie Silent Control disables the aperture ring, shutter speed dial and ISO dial, passing control to a touchscreen, joystick and four-way controller-based interface. This means discrete stills and video settings can be maintained, since the dedicated control points no longer have any affect in video mode.

However you choose to control exposure in movie mode, you’ll quickly find that the X-H1 offers shutter speeds equivalent to 360, 180 and 90 degree shutter angles for 24, 30 and 60p video capture, with the options for 1/24th, 1/48th, 1/96th, 120th and 1/240th becoming available.

Like its sibling, the X-H1 offers a series of focus peaking options (color and intensity) but no zebra warnings for setting exposure, beyond the ‘Live View Highlight Warning’ option that indicates an unspecified and unspecifiable brightness.

The X-H1 also brings Fujifilm’s DR modes to movie capture for the first time, allowing you to capture more highlight information, if you can tolerate higher ISO settings. Meanwhile the ‘Eterna/Cinema’ Film simulation is designed to give ‘soft,’ low-saturation footage with low contrast but distinct shadows. Fujifilm says it can be used as an end-point in itself or to give yourself a degree of latitude for color grading.

Users of Fujifilm’s MK lenses (launched in X-mount alongside the X-H1) will appreciate the ability to view aperture as T-stops, rather than F-numbers. It’s unclear at this point whether this option will be available with adapted and third-party lenses identified this way.

Dynamic Range Priority

Fujifilm was one of the first brands to exploit the ISO-invariant properties of the sensors it uses through its Dynamic Range modes (The DR modes offer multiple ways of delivering ISO settings using different amounts of hardware amplification to capture additional highlight information).

The X-H1 takes this further with a ‘Dynamic Range Priority’ mode. This uses the existing DR modes in combination with the camera’s ability to adjust the Highlight and Shadow aspects of its tone curves. There are four settings: Weak, Strong, Auto and Off. The ‘Weak’ setting is DR200% mode with highlights and shadows softened by 1 step (since it’s baed on DR200%, is only available from ISO 400 upwards), while ‘Strong’ is DR400% with Highlights and Shadows set to -2. Strong is only available from ISO 800 or higher.

New shutter mechanism

Along with in-body stabilization, the X-H1 gains a new, quieter shutter mechanism. In addition to being quieter, it also allows the camera to offer Electronic First Curtain (EFC) shutter mode. In this mode the sensor being activated starts the exposure but a physical shutter is still used to end it, so that you avoid any risk of shutter shock but without any risk of rolling shutter.

Various combinations of EFC, mechanical and fully electronic shutter are available, to allow the use of each mode for the shutter speeds where it gives its greatest advantage.

Compared with its peers

The X-H1 is the latest high-end crop sensor camera to offer both stills and video shooting but each one provides a different set of features:

Fujifilm X-H1 Fujifilm X-T2 Sony a6500 Panasonic GH5
US MSRP
(body only)
$ 1900 $ 1600 $ 1400 $ 2000
Pixel count 24MP 24MP 24MP 20MP
Sensor size APS-C APS-C APS-C Four Thirds
Image Stablization 5-axis, 5.5EV Lens only 5-axis, 5EV 5-axis, 5EV
Maximum shooting rate 14 fps with e-shutter, 8 fps mechanical (11 with grip)

14 fps with e-shutter, 8 fps mechanical (11 with grip)

11 fps 9 fps (11 with S-AF)
AF Joystick? 8-way 8-way No 4-way
Touchscreen Yes No Yes Yes
Screen articulation Two-axis tilt Two-axis tilt Tilt Fully articulated
EVF 3.69M dots 2.36M dots 2.36M dots 3.69M dots
Viewfinder magnification 0.75x 0.77x 0.70x 0.76x
Video Bit depth 8 8 8 10
Max bitrate
(Mbps)
200 100 100 400 (150 in 8-bit mode
Mic / Headphone sockets? Yes / On VPB-XH1 accessory grip Yes / On VPB-XT2 accessory grip Yes / No Yes / Yes
Log capture? Yes HDMI out only Yes HLG (V-Log L Via paid upgrade)
HDMI Micro Micro Micro Full size
USB 3.0 Micro Type B 3.0 Micro Type B 2.0 Micro Type B 3.1 Type C
Shots per charge (CIPA rating) 310 340 310 410
Weight (with card and battery) 673g 507g 453g 725g

Pricing and availability

The X-H1 will be available from March 1st at an MSRP of $ 1899 body only and $ 2199 bundled with the VPB-XH1 vertical grip.


*Fujifilm says the camera will give up to 5.5EV of stabilization when paired with non-stabilized XF lenses.

Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)

 
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Panasonic Lumix DC-ZS200/TZ200: First Impressions Review

13 Feb

Meet the Panasonic Lumix DC-ZS200 / TZ200: the world’s furthest reaching pocketable 1″ -type camera. It sits beside the near-identical-looking ZS100 as the longer reaching model, providing a 24-360mm equiv. F3.3-6.4 zoom range compared to the 25-250mm equiv. F2.8-5.9 lens of the ZS100.

What’s cool about the ZS200 is its greater zoom range is achieved while barely increasing the size of the body (it’s 1mm thicker and 1mm taller than the ZS100), though the lens is nearly a half stop slower at the wide end, compared to its older sibling.

Both cameras use a 20.1MP 1″ -type sensor but the ZS200 gains a higher resolution 2.33M dot equiv. electronic viewfinder compared to the 1.7M dot LVF on the ZS100 (still field sequential, more on that later). Panasonic has also added low power Bluetooth connectivity, in addition to Wi-Fi. It also gains a 3cm macro mode (available on the wide end only), Panasonic’s L. Monochrome Photo Style, and a new highspeed 1080/120p video mode.

Key Features:

  • 20.1MP 1″-type BSI CMOS sensor
  • F3.3-6.4 24-360mm equiv. zoom lens
  • 2.33M dot LVF with 0.53x equiv. magnification
  • 10 fps burst (AF-S), 6 fps burst (AF-C)
  • 5-axis in-body stablization
  • UHD 4K/24/25/30p video
  • 3″ touch LCD
  • Depth from Defocus AF
  • Wi-Fi and low power Bluetooth
  • 4K Photo
  • USB charging

To put it simply the ZS200 seems to take the excellent pedigree of the ZS100 (one of our picks for best travel camera), makes some slight improvements and adds a longer, slightly slower lens. Combined, these two cameras fill a gap in the 1″ -type compact camera market, providing significant telephoto reach beyond that of other pocket friendly models, such as the Sony RX100 series.

Compared to its peers

Speaking of the RX100 series, here’s how the ZS200 stacks up in terms of specification to its peers.

Panasonic DC-ZS200 Panasonic DMC-ZS100 Sony DSC- RX100 V Sony DSC-RX100 IV Canon G7 X Mark II
MSRP $ 800 $ 700 $ 999 $ 899 $ 699
Lens range (equiv.) 24-360mm 25-350mm 24-70mm 24-70mm 24-100mm
Aperture range F3.3-6.4 F2.8-5.9 F1.8-2.8 F1.8-2.8 F1.8-2.8
Autofocus Contrast detection Contrast detection Phase detection Contrast detection Contrast detection
Viewfinder 2.3M-dot (field sequential) 1.7M-dot (field sequential) 2.36M-dot 2.36M-dot No
Rear screen Fixed Fixed Tilt up/down Tilt up/down Tilt up/down
Touch sensitive? Yes Yes No No Yes
Video capability

4K/30p
1080/120p

4K/30p
1080/60p
4K/30p
1080/120p
4K/30p
1080/120p
1080/60p
Burst Shooting 10 fps 10 fps 24 fps 16 fps 8 fps
Wifi, Bluetooth, NFC Yes, Yes, No Yes, No, No Yes, No, Yes Yes, No, Yes Yes, No, Yes
Battery life (CIPA) 370 300 220 280 265

As you can see, the ZS200 matches up or beats its peers in some areas, like offering touch sensitivity and ample video capture options. But it also gets beat in others areas like maximum aperture range and burst speed. Though one thing worth calling out is the ZS200 features the best battery life of the bunch, something we look forward to confirming in real world testing.

We’ll also include an equivalent aperture vs equivalent focal length graph, comparing the ZS200 to its peers, as soon as we get a final version of the camera back in our office.

Pricing and availability

Available mid-March, the ZS200 can be yours for $ 800 in either black, or silver/gunmetal, shown here.

Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)

 
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Panasonic Lumix DC-GX9 First Impressions Review and Sample Gallery

13 Feb

The Panasonic Lumix DC-GX9 is a rangefinder-style Micro Four Thirds camera whose most recognizable feature is its tilting electronic viewfinder. The GX9 provides a healthy serving of new features and performance improvements over its predecessor, the GX8.

The most notable changes include the removal of the low-pass filter on the GX9’s 20MP sensor, 5-axis in-body image stabilization (up from 4-axis), slightly faster burst shooting and Bluetooth connectivity. The shutter unit has also been redesigned, with Panasonic claiming a 90% reduction in ‘shutter shock’ compared to the GX8. There’s also a built-in flash – something the GX8 lacked – as well as some tweaks to image processing.

Panasonic appears to have rearranged their lineup a bit, with the GX9 serving more as a midrange model than its predecessors, sitting alongside the DSLR-style DMC-G85. The price has come down to $ 999 with a kit lens, compared to $ 1199 for the GX8’s body alone. Alongside the price drop, some features found on the GX8 are now gone, such as weather-sealing. The EVF is smaller and battery life has dropped by about 25%, as well.

The GX9’s closest peers are the Fujifilm X-E3 and Sony’s a6300, both of which have 24MP APS-C sensors, hybrid autofocus systems (which the GX9 lacks) and 4K video capture.

* The 12-32mm lens pictured above is not the kit lens, which is the Panasonic Lumix G 12-60mm F3.5-5.6 OIS.

Key Specifications

  • 20.3MP Four Thirds sensor with no low-pass filter
  • ‘Dual IS’ 5-axis in-body image stabilization
  • Depth from Defocus contrast-detect AF
  • Tilting 2.76M-dot electronic viewfinder
  • 3″ 1.24M-dot touchscreen display
  • 6 fps burst shooting with continuous AF
  • 4K UHD video capture at 30p
  • Built-in flash
  • Redesigned shutter mechanism with electromagnetic drive
  • New L. Monochrome D and Grain Effect color modes
  • Wi-Fi + Bluetooth

All-in-all that’s a pretty nice feature set, with the removal of the low-pass filter promising better resolution and the new shutter reducing the shutter shock which plagued its predecessor. Panasonic also added some new tricks to its 4K Photo mode that we’ll touch on later.

Compared to…

Now let’s take a look at how the GX9 not only compares to its predecessor but also how it stacks up against Fuji’s X-E3 and Sony’s a6300.

Panasonic GX9 Panasonic GX8 Fujifilm X-E3 Sony a6300
MSRP $ 999 (w/12-60mm lens) $ 1199 (body only) $ 1299 (w/18-55mm lens) $ 999 (w/16-50mm lens)
Sensor 20MP Four Thirds (no OLPF) 20MP Four Thirds 24MP X-Trans APS-C 24MP APS-C
Image stabilization 5-axis (Dual IS) 4-axis (Dual IS) Lens only Lens only
ISO range (full) 100-25600 100-51200
AF system Contrast-detect (DFD) Hybrid Hybrid
AF joystick No Yes No
Burst rate (C-AF) 6 fps 8 fps
LCD 1.24M-dot tilting 3″ touchscreen 1.04M-dot fully articulating 3″ touchscreen 1.04M-dot fixed 3″ touchscreen 921k-dot tilting 3″ touchscreen
Viewfinder 2.76M-dot LCoS (tilting) 2.36M-dot OLED (tilting) 2.36M-dot OLED (fixed)
Viewfinder magnification 0.7x equiv. 0.77x equiv. 0.62x equiv. 0.71x equiv.
Built-in flash Yes No Yes
Video 4K UHD @ 30p
Wi-Fi Yes, w/BT Yes Yes, w/BT Yes, w/NFC
Weather-sealed No Yes No Yes
Battery life 260 shots 340 shots 350 shots
Dimensions 124 x 72 x 47mm 133 x 78 x 63mm 121 x 74 x 43mm 120 x 67 x 49mm
Weight (CIPA) 450 g 487 g 337 g 404 g
The GX9 (left) is noticeably smaller than the GX8.

You can see that the differences between the GX9 and GX8 are a mixed bag. The GX9 loses the low-pass filter, get an extra axis (rotation) of image stabilization and adds Bluetooth and a flash. However, its viewfinder is smaller, body no longer weather-sealed and battery life has taken a turn for the worse. Speaking of viewfinders, Panasonic has gone back to a field sequential panel (a different technology than traditional LCD or OLED,) which some people may find distracting due to ‘color tearing’. The LCD is now tilting versus fully articulating, which some people may find as an upgrade, and others will not.

The 20MP Live MOS sensor on the GX8 is as high resolution as you’ll find on a Micro Four Thirds camera, though larger APS-C sensors perform a bit better at high sensitivities. Both the X-E3 and a6300 have hybrid (contrast + phase detect) autofocus systems, though Panasonic’s DFD system has performed quite well despite lacking phase-detection. The GX8 has higher resolution LCDs and an EVF that’s quite a bit bigger than the X-E3’s. Both the X-E3 and a6300 have faster burst rates and 35% higher battery life.

Accessories

Two accessories for the DC-GX9 really caught our eye, and would likely be placed in the shopping cart next to the camera if we bought one.

The GX9 shown with its optional DMW-HGR2 grip.

The GX9 doesn’t have a huge grip and we found ourselves really liking the available DMW-HGR2 grip. The grip protrudes quite a bit, so smaller hands might find it a bit too substantial, but those of us in the DPReview office who tried it had no complaints. The one downside is that it must be removed in order to access the battery and memory card compartment.

GX9 with optional DMW-EC5 eyecup.

If you find yourself shooting outdoors with the EVF then the DMC-EC5 eyecup is a must. Without the eyecup this reviewer found himself using his left hand to keep light out of the viewfinder, rather than bracing the camera for stability, and for $ 19, buying it is a no-brainer. Getting at the diopter correction knob can be a bit challenging with it attached, though.

Pricing and Availability

The DC-GX9 will begin shipping in early March at a price of $ 999 with the Panasonic Lumix G 12-60mm F3.5-5.6 OIS lens. (Keep in mind that the GX8 launched at $ 1199, body only.) Other regions will likely have other kits available.

Color choices include black or silver.

Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)

 
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Review: Google Pixel 2 is the best smartphone for stills photographers

12 Feb

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

The Pixel 2 and its larger sibling, the Pixel 2 XL represent Google’s latest flagship phones. Both offer a single 12.2MP F1.8 main camera and an 8MP F2.4 ‘selfie’ camera. From a photographer’s perspective that might not sound like anything special – after all, the iPhone X offers dual rear cameras – yet thanks to behind-the-scenes processing, the Pixel 2 is capable of some of the most detailed photos we’ve ever seen from a smartphone.

It also features a background blurring effect (portrait mode), DNG Raw capture (with use of a third party app), 4K/30p video and optical image stabilization. Plus, all Pixel 2 owners get free Google Photo storage for photos and videos shot on the device through the end of 2020. After that point users will still get free storage but files saved will be high-quality compressed versions (full-res storage will still be available for a price).

Priced at $ 650, the Pixel 2 is not cheap, but it is 2/3rds the price of the iPhone X.

The Pixel 2 offers excellent image quality thanks to a combination of hardware and software processing .
ISO 82 | 1/23000 sec| F1.8

As smartphone cameras progress, we’re seeing a cultural split from traditional camera companies, who rely mostly on hardware and optics to achieve good image quality, just as they did with their film cameras. Instead, smartphone manufacturers are relying more on computational photography and artificial intelligence to produce a photo that is detailed and well-toned, right ‘out of camera’. With just one button press – no need to set the exposure or dynamic range compensation or AF mode yourself.

Google’s secret sauce is in what the company calls ‘HDR+’, which judges exposure intelligently and uses multi-imaging techniques for every shot. So has computational photography, à la Pixel 2 come far enough to replace the pocket cam? How about the mirrorless camera or DSLR?

Aside from the excellent camera, the Pixel 2 is a fairly ordinary smartphone.

Key photographic / Video specs

  • 12.2MP rear camera (1/2.55″ | 1.40 ?m pixels)
  • F1.8 max aperture
  • 4K/30p video
  • 1080/120p, 720/240p slow motion video
  • Optical image stablization
  • Dual Pixel AF with phase detect
  • DNG Raw capture and manual control with 3rd party apps
  • 8MP front camera (F2.4 max ap.)

Other specs

  • Android 8.0 operating system (Oreo)
  • 5 in 1920×1080 AMOLED (441ppi) display (95% DCI-P3)
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor
  • 4GB Ram
  • 64 or 128GB internal storage
  • Unlimited cloud photo/video storage with Google Photos
  • 2750 mAh battery
  • $ 650

Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)

 
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Review of the Venus Laowa 15mm F/4 Wide Angle Lens for Landscape Photographers

07 Feb

The choice of camera lens always represents a crucial moment for every photographer. But it is not always easy to find the lens that fits our actual needs, as too often we get seduced by features that we don’t really need, and are therefore just useful in raising the price.

Have you chosen a stabilized lens and you always use the camera on a tripod? You exclusively take landscape photos in the daylight but have chosen to rely on a f/2.8 lens. Sound familiar?

Especially if you are at the beginning of your journey through the world of photography, your budget won’t likely be particularly high and you may want to maximize your investment by choosing something that can be really useful to you now.

Review of the Venus Laowa 15mm F/4 Wide Angle 1:1 Macro Lens for Landscape Photographers

This is why today I want to tell you about the Venus Laowa 15mm f/4 Lens (with macro), an entry-level lens that every landscape photographer should take into consideration.

Why? Let’s see it together.

Review of the Laowa 15mm F/4 Lens for Landscape Photographers

Construction features

The Venus Laowa 15mm f/4 Macro is a lens that has been on the market since 2015. Although it certainly does not stand out for its cosmetic appearance, it comes with features that really make this a unique lens in the world. So much so that it can simultaneously seduce landscape photographers, lovers of macro photography, and architectural photographers.

Here are its main features, that I’m going to examine with you:

  • Focal length: 15 mm
  • Angle of view: 110.4°
  • Maximum Magnification: 1:1
  • Maximum Aperture: f/4
  • Shift function: +/- 6 mm
  • Minimum Focusing Distance: 12.2 cm
  • Filter Thread: 77 mm
  • Mounts: Canon, Nikon, Sony A, Pentax K, Sony E

Exactly, you’ve read it right. The Venus Laowa 15mm f/4 is a Macro 1:1 lens with an angle of view of 110° and a shift function that allows a translation equal to +/- 6mm.

The optical scheme is composed of 12 elements in 9 groups, including 3 high refractive index elements and one low dispersion element, and on paper that holds great promise for excellent performances in terms of sharpness.

And in case that wasn’t enough, add the fact that this lens is compatible with most of the mounts currently available on the market.

One last point, and it’s absolutely not a negative one, is the price. While I’m writing, the list price of the Venus Laowa 15mm f/4 Wide Angle 1:1 Macro is only $ 499.

Review of the Venus Laowa 15mm F/4 Wide Angle 1:1 Macro Lens for Landscape Photographers

Using this lens for landscape photography

When evaluating a lens, we’re always going to start from the analysis of its MTF charts, and then we carry out an almost infinite series of laboratory tests so as to bench-test it, from a perspective that is more theoretical than practical.

Of course, these tests are absolutely fundamental and I encourage you to look at them. But I also think that you are likely more interested in the real-world behavior of the lens. Knowing that certain optical limits of the lens will be then invisible in the real world, and what you are more concerned about is understanding whether the lens has the features that are really essential to you or not.

Review of the Venus Laowa 15mm F/4 Wide Angle 1:1 Macro Lens for Landscape Photographers

While there are many online reviews available regarding the use of this lens for macro and architectural photography, I haven’t found much regarding its use for landscape photography. So, my purpose here is to examine this lens from the point of view of the landscape photographer, omitting other features that are not fundamental for us hunters of sunrises and sunsets.

So let’s start to analyze the features seen in the previous chapter, now with a more critical eye.

Features

The fact that this is a prime lens and not a zoom gives us great hope with regard to quality, as the optical scheme will be optimized for a single focal length.

Review of the Venus Laowa 15mm F/4 Wide Angle 1:1 Macro Lens for Landscape Photographers

We are not afraid at all of the maximum aperture available, which is f/4. As good landscape photographers, we’ll be normally working around f/11, where sharpness will also be clearly higher.

The lens does not have stabilization or autofocus. While this may make you turn your nose up at first sight, surely you will soon realize that you really don’t care about those things. As you likely use the camera on a tripod you should turn off stabilization anyway, and you may choose to adjust the focus based on hyperfocal distance, making use of the hyperfocal marks available on the lens body.

Review of the Venus Laowa 15mm F/4 Wide Angle 1:1 Macro Lens for Landscape Photographers

So, those are two fewer functions that you don’t need, and their absence has certainly had a positive impact on the market price of the lens.

Using Filters with the Laowa 15mm Lens

With regard to the focal length, this clearly is not the first 15mm lens available on the market. But it is the only one with a feature that has convinced me to test this lens in action – the 77 mm filter thread.

Review of the Venus Laowa 15mm F/4 Wide Angle 1:1 Macro Lens for Landscape Photographers - filter thread 77mm

The 77mm filter size is very handy!

Normally all wide-angle and ultra wide-angle lenses (usually 15mm is considered the boundary between those two worlds) have a front optical element that is particularly curved. They often come with a built-in lens hood that makes it impossible to mount filters, unless we resort to particular solutions. Ultra wide-angle lenses whose front lens is not so curved and without a built-in lens hood, usually come with a large diameter and it’s therefore impossible to find filter threads smaller than 95 mm.

Thanks to the absence of a built-in lens hood (it does have a bayonet one) and to the 77 mm filter thread, the Venus Laowa 15mm f/4 lens opens the door to using a tool that I deem absolutely essential for every landscape photographer – drop-in filters.

Review of the Venus Laowa 15mm F/4 Wide Angle 1:1 Macro Lens for Landscape Photographers

As I was saying above, with a lens that has a built-in lens hood or a 95 mm filter thread it is possible to use systems that can hold 150 mm filters. But with a 77 mm filter thread, you will be able to use the same system that you use on any other lens equipped with a filter thread up to 82 mm. In a word, it is priceless.

Shift Function

The last of the features coming with this multi-purpose lens is the shift function. Thanks to a lever mechanism positioned next to the lens mount, it is possible to shift the lens by +/- 6mm. Even if this function might not seem very interesting for landscape photography at first sight (after all a rock is always a rock), it turns out to be useful in case there are human artifacts, like buildings, within the frame.

Review of the Venus Laowa 15mm F/4 Wide Angle 1:1 Macro Lens for Landscape Photographers

Shift lever.

Review of the Venus Laowa 15mm F/4 Wide Angle 1:1 Macro Lens for Landscape Photographers

The lens in shifted position.

The lens in action

If this lens appears very promising on paper, despite a very moderate price, let’s see its actual real-world behavior.

I have tested the Venus Laowa 15mm f/4 lens with my trusty Nikon D810, a full-frame camera body.

Testing the filter mount

Since this is fundamentally the reason why I decided to try this lens, again thanks to the existing 77 mm filter thread, I quickly mounted my loyal Nisi V5 Filter Holder, which holds 100mm filters. Even if it is possible to mount the holder, the fear of vignetting is too high, considering that we’re talking about a 15mm lens after all.

Review of the Venus Laowa 15mm F/4 lens

Review of the Venus Laowa 15mm F/4 lens

 

Although the Nisi filter holder is guaranteed to be vignette-free up to a 16mm focal length, once mounted on the Venus Laowa 15mm the result was doubtlessly amazing. Vignetting was practically invisible, as you’re going to see below, and it’s possible to quickly remove it in post-production by activating the lens correction profile.

A little dream of mine was substantially coming true. The dream of using an ultra wide-angle lens, and adding up to three 100mm filters and a polarizer without vignetting!

Review of the Venus Laowa 15mm F/4 lens

Review of the Venus Laowa 15mm F/4 lens

Review of the Venus Laowa 15mm F/4 lens

Review of the Venus Laowa 15mm F/4 lens

The lens barrel

On the lens body (which is sturdy metal, not plastic) you find the focus and aperture rings, whose operations are smooth and precise.

On the aperture ring, I would have preferred a locking system or a snap selection so as to make sure that I never lose the desired aperture. But actually, I haven’t encountered any problems during real-world use of the lens.

The focusing ring is really precise, as well as the existing focusing marks, which allow you to focus using the hyperfocal distance in no time. Just for the sake of being fussy, I would have placed the metric indications of distance upside down, or a vertical line next to each distance, just to be really precise. But you simply have to check the photo you’ve just taken, so as to make sure you have got the desired focus.

Review of the Venus Laowa 15mm F/4 lens

Review of the Venus Laowa 15mm F/4 lens

Although the manufacturer does not formally advertise this lens as weather sealed, most of my tests have been carried out in the rain (just for a change!). I protected the lens using only an umbrella or makeshift means, and no problems were detected.

Results

When I examine the images, the results were really comforting.

Sharpness

Shooting at both f/8 and f/11, the image definition is really excellent in the center of the frame. Obviously, the image becomes softer the closer you get to the edges, but doubtlessly the result is much more than acceptable. If you try to use higher apertures, you can naturally start to see that optical phenomenon called diffraction. But, as good landscape photographers, we know that we can go past f/16 only for situations of extreme necessity.

Definition Center - Review of the Venus Laowa 15mm F/4 lens

Centre image sharpness.

Definition Center Low - Review of the Venus Laowa 15mm F/4 lens

Lower center of the image sharpness.

Definition Corner - Review of the Venus Laowa 15mm F/4 lens

Corner of the image sharpness.

Aberration and vignetting

There are no particular problems with regards to chromatic aberration with this lens. I mean, some chromatic aberration is there, but nothing that can’t easily be solved using the automatic chromatic aberration removal included in any post-production software.

Chromatic Aberration With - Review of the Venus Laowa 15mm F/4 Wide Angle lens

Chromatic aberration showing before correction.

Chromatic Aberration corrected - Review of the Venus Laowa 15mm F/4 Wide Angle lens

After the chromatic aberration has been corrected in post-production.

As for vignetting, as I said above, the problem is almost non-existent when using the 100mm Nisi filter holder. For me personally, this fact alone is worth the purchase price of this lens.

Distortion

It is worthwhile to talk a little about distortion. It is predictable that a 15 mm lens will have barrel distortion. To landscape photographers, this is not a great concern. As I said before, a little distortion on a rock will not invalidate your image, as an irregular rock will always remain an irregular rock. Unfortunately, though, barrel distortion will invalidate the only real line included in your landscape – the horizon.

Review of the Venus Laowa 15mm F/4 lens

The distortion caused by this lens to the horizon is of the “mustache” type, which doubtlessly is the most annoying kind. If when we take a first look at the live view this problem may give us some concern,

If this problem gives you some concern when you first notice it in Live View, as soon as you import the image into any post-production software the correction becomes really easy and immediate.

Unfortunately, at the present time, there is no automatic correction profile for this lens included in Adobe software (Lightroom and Photoshop). But the Venus Laowa technical support is very efficient and within a few hours, they emailed the correction profile that I needed. Once installed, one click was enough to do the job and the image automatically recovered from both distortion (completely removing the mustache horizon) and peripheral shading.

Distortion Original - Review of the Venus Laowa 15mm F/4 lens

Original

Distortion Corrected - Review of the Venus Laowa 15mm F/4 lens

Corrected

Conclusion

The Venus Laowa 15mm f/4 lens has really turned out to be a surprise, exceeding my expectations. Although it comes with a very moderate price, this lens really provides remarkable results in terms of image quality.

Once the lens distortion is corrected, the only thing that still needs attention is edge softness which is absolutely within acceptable values for an entry-level lens.

Construction quality is really remarkable and you can notice that as soon as you take the lens into your hands. Lastly, the possibility of using a 100mm filter holder makes this lens really priceless.

If you are a landscape photographer who is looking for an ultra wide-angle lens with a very advantageous quality to price ratio, then the Venus Laowa 15mm f/4 lens is undoubtedly what you are seeking.

Review of the Venus Laowa 15mm F/4 Wide Angle 1:1 Macro Lens for Landscape Photographers

 

PROS

  • Price
  • Ability to use a 100mm filter holder
  • Excellent sharpness in the center of the frame
  • Low chromatic aberration when not used at macro distances
  • Lens shift function
  • Lightweight and small

CONS

  • Manual focusing
  • Slight edge softness
  • Barrel distortion (but it can be solved in post-production without any problems)
  • Cosmetic appearance

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Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5S Review

06 Feb

The Panasonic GH5S is a video-focused Micro Four Thirds camera built around what the company markets as a 10.2MP sensor. It’s best understood as an even more video-centric variant of the GH5: it can shoot either DCI or UHD 4K footage natively (one capture pixel = one output pixel) at up to 60p.

Panasonic wasn’t the first company to introduce high quality video to what was otherwise a still camera, but with its GH series it has been constantly expanding the range of professional video features appearing in consumer stills/video cameras. The GH5S takes this logic one step further, by lowering the sensor resolution and omitting image stabilization to make a more single-minded video tool, rather than an hybrid intended to be similarly capable at both disciplines.

The ability to shoot DCI 4K at up to 60p with no crop is the most obvious distinction between this and the standard GH5, but the differences run deeper:

Key specifications

  • Oversized ‘Multi Aspect’ sensor with dual gain design
  • 10.2MP maximum usable area from at around 12.5MP total
  • DCI or UHD 4K at up to 60p
  • 10-bit 4:2:2 internal capture at up to 30p
  • 8-bit 4:2:0 internal 60p or 10-bit 4:2:2 output over HDMI
  • 1080 footage at up to 240p (with additional crop above 200p)
  • Hybrid Log Gamma mode
  • ISO 160 – 51,200 (80 – 204,800 extended)
  • AF rated down to –5EV (with F2 lens)
  • 3.68M-dot (1280 x 960 pixel) OLED viewfinder with 0.76x magnification
  • 1.62M-dot (900 x 600 pixel) fully articulated LCD
  • 14-bit Raw stills
  • 11 fps (7 with AFC) or 1 fps faster in 12-bit mode
  • USB 3.1 with Type C connector

As well as the ability to shoot DCI 4K at higher frame rates, Panasonic also claims the GH5S’s larger pixels and ‘Dual Native ISO’ sensor will mean it shoots significantly better footage in low light.

Differences vs GH5

  • “10.2” megapixel oversized sensor (vs 20.2MP Four Thirds sized sensor)
  • Dual-gain sensor design with two read-out circuits
  • Fixed sensor (no internal stabilization) for use with pro stabilization systems
  • DCI 4K available in 59.94, 50, 29.97 and 25p (GH5 is 23.98 / 24p only)
  • 1080 mode
  • AF rated to work in lower light (–5EV vs –4EV)
  • 14-bit Raw available in stills shooting
  • VLog-L enabled out-of-the-box
  • Time code in/out
  • ‘Like709’ and ‘V-LogL’ color profiles available in stills shooting
  • Mic socket offers Phantom Power and Line-level In options
  • LUT-corrected display available in playback as well as capture
  • 120fps viewfinder mode

Beyond these changes, the GH5S keeps the rest of the GH5’s capabilities, with matching codec options and the same support tools, such as vectorscopes, wave forms and preview modes for anamorphic, Log and Hybrid Log Gamma shooting, for instance.

As on the GH5, Panasonic recommends the use of V60 rated cards or faster for shooting 400Mbps video. However, the V60 standard itself seems to be vague enough that even some nominally V60-compliant cards are still not fast enough. The company says to use either its own brand V60 or V90 cards or to stick to well-known manufacturers with a proven history of producing fast cards (and, ideally, to buy from a source with a good return policy).

Multi-aspect sensor

The GH5S uses a chip that natively shoots DCI or UHD 4K, meaning one pixel on the sensor is used to produce each pixel in the final footage. The sensor, like that on the GH1 and GH2, is oversized. This means it can shoot different aspect ratios using the full extent of the imaging circle projected by the lens, rather than simply cropping down from the 4:3 region.

As well as using the maximum amount of pixels and silicon for each aspect ratio (with consequent image quality benefits), this also means that the diagonal angle of view is preserved, whether you shoot 4:3, 3:2, 16:9 or in DCI 4K’s roughly 17:9 aspect ratio.

It also means that the GH5S should offer a fractionally wider angle-of-view than the GH5 when shooting video, especially when capturing DCI footage.

The only downside is that the use of a larger region could limit the use of APS-C and Super35 lenses in conjunction with focal length reducing adaptors, such as SpeedBoosters. A 0.71x reducer needs to capture a roughly 30.5mm image circle to cover the GH5S’s larger video region, while a 0.64x reducer needs a 33.8mm image circle, both of which are larger than is guaranteed to be projected by an APS-C lens. You’ll almost certainly be OK with the 0.71x adaptor, since that’s been shown to work with the majority of APS-C lenses but with the 0.64x versions it’s likely you’ll have to check on a case-by-case basis.

Dual Gain

Panasonic describes the GH5S as having ‘Dual Native ISO,’ which is standard video terminology for a dual gain sensor design. Such chips have two read-out modes, one that maximises dynamic range at low sensitivity settings and a second designed to minimize noise but at the cost of dynamic range, at higher settings (the second mode changes the ‘conversion gain’: essentially increasing the pixel’s voltage output). It’s something we first encountered in Nikon’s 1 Series cameras but that’s become increasingly common over the past few years, resulting in visible improvements at high ISO settings.

The only difference we can see between the approach taken by Panasonic is that it lets you limit the camera to either one of the sensor’s modes, whereas other brands just change mode in the background, without the user ever knowing.

One of the only concepts fuzzier than ‘ISO’ sensitivity itself is the videography term
‘Native ISO’

From a stills point of view, the two circuits are used from ISO 160 – 640 and from ISO 800 and upwards, respectively. You’ll see talk of the camera having ‘Native ISO’s of 400 and 2500’ but this is perhaps best completely ignored.

One of the only concepts fuzzier than ‘ISO’ sensitivity itself is the videography term ‘Native ISO,’ which essentially appears to mean ‘setting at which the quality is good but that gives room to move either up or down from.’ This should not be confused with the idea of base ISO, which is the setting with the minimal amount of amplification, which usually results in the widest dynamic range.

Lower pixel count

The other thing Panasonic says contributes to giving the GH5S a performance boost in low light is the adoption of fewer and therefore larger pixels.

In general terms, there’s no significant advantage to large pixels over small ones: individually they have access to more light (which usually means less noise when viewed 1:1) but once you scale things to a common size, the noise and dynamic range levels tend to be similar. Instead, using more but smaller pixels can have a resolution benefit, even if you then downsize. This is because pixelated systems can only capture a certain percentage of their nominal resolution, but sampling at a higher resolution then downsizing (oversampling) can preserve some of the higher frequency detail it initially captures.

By concentrating on video capture, Panasonic is able to pick sides in this struggle

However, readout speed and processing/heat constraints mean very few cameras currently offer oversampled video, instead sub-sampling their sensors to find the ~8.5MP needed to capture 4K footage. This creates a tension between the needs of high-res stills photographer and lower-resolution of video capture. By concentrating on video capture, Panasonic is able to pick sides in this struggle.

The most obvious benefit is that it’s quicker to read out fewer pixels. So, while the latest processors are fast enough to generate oversampled footage from high pixel counts, the sensor read-out rate risks creating significant rolling shutter. Having fewer pixels means the GH5S should have less rolling shutter than the GH5.

Having a lower pixel count also means the GH5S is also able to include an anti-aliasing filter that reduces the risk of video moiré, without having to worry about limiting the stills resolution.

Just as we expect to see better pixel-level noise from larger pixels, logic would also lead you to expect greater pixel-level dynamic range (even though again, this advantage tends to disappear when you compare images at the same size). This additional pixel-level dynamic range is the reason the GH5S needs to offer 14-bit Raw files: because you need the extra bit-depth to provide room for that additional dynamic range.

No stabilization

From a photographic perspective it may seem odd to remove image stabilization from the camera but for high-end video shooting, Panasonic says it makes sense. Sensor-shift IS systems operate by ‘floating’ the sensor using a series of electromagnets. Even when they’re ‘off’ they’re not locked in place, they’re simply set so that the electromagnets aren’t attempting to correct for movement. This has the side-effect that, which mounted on a professional stabilization rig, there’s a risk of the sensor being shaken around.

For high-end video work, Panasonic says its users would prefer to use dedicated gimbals and dollies, rather than internal stabilization, and that means physically locking the sensor in place to avoid unwanted interactions between these systems and a floating sensor.

However, regardless of what Panasonic says, there’s also the limitation imposed by the oversized sensor: since the camera captures right out to the edge of the image circle there’s simply no room to shift the sensor without risking capturing footage of the inside of your lens barrel. This is highlighted in the one situation in which the GH5S does offer digital stabilization: when combined with a lens offering optical stabilization. When engaged, the video has to crop-in slightly to provide room to pan and scan around the sensor.

Review Publication History
January 8 Introduction, video specifications, video features, first impressions
January 29 Raw Dynamic Range & Log and DR in video sections added
February 5 Image Quality, Video Quality and Conclusion added

Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)

 
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Review of the Magilight LED Light Painting Wand

04 Feb

I’ve followed my friends Eric and Kim for some time, often marveled at their creativity and the tech side of things, too. Watching people that make art like they do, well, it makes you want to try it out! I can’t dance, and I don’t really have access to the locations those guys do, but I still wanted to try it out. Jump forward and I’m offered a review unit of a forthcoming tool called Magilight by Fotorgear.

Magilight is still available on IndieGoGo for $ 199 + Shipping as of the time of writing this review.

Review of the Magilight LED Light Painting Wand

What’s in the box

Breaking it down into basic terms, Magilight is an aluminum strip with a handle. The strip has 144 RGB LEDs along it, and the handle has batteries and the controls. The handle is plugged into the strip via a curly cable (attached and included). After you charge it up (charger included in the kit) and insert the two batteries (also included) into the handle, it’s a simple single press to turn the Magilight on, and then a case of selecting what you would like to do.

Review of the Magilight LED Light Painting Wand

You have multiple options for what sort of things you can do with the light, including images that you can “print”. Or you can just make a neat pattern surrounding a model or a subject of some kind. For example, using the Magilight behind a model as seen below, or lighting an object.

Review of the Magilight LED Light Painting Wand

First impressions

So, I’ve now taken delivery of the bright little aluminum beastie, and upon first inspection, it’s very well made. Although if you don’t pack it back in its bag with the included protection tube, and you treat it badly, you might bend it. But if you have any common sense, that’s easily avoidable!

I will admit, I didn’t charge my batteries right away, I was keen to see what it could do, so I put them in and took the light out in the backyard at night to try it out!

Review of the Magilight LED Light Painting Wand

I call this Strange Fruit.

Ease of use

I will admit that if the unit did come with instructions, I didn’t read them right away! These are a digital download and include a very good quick start guide. But it’s very easy to navigate the menu and find the different included light patterns (I’m not 100% sure what to call them…presets?). Switching between a line drawing and any of the included presets on the MicroSD card that came with the unit is very easy.

Review of the Magilight LED Light Painting Wand

Yes, this spooky thing is included along with so many more!

The two photos above are from the first night I had the unit and just flicked it on to see what I could do. Well, I’ve since used it for half a week and while it certainly does take a little while to get used to, it’s a great lighting tool.

The aluminum handle has a 1/4″ 20 thread in its base, so if you wanted to you could mount it to something. It also has a sleeve around the main handle that you can hold to spin the whole unit around and make those cool light circles. It works well, as long as you don’t get too excited and hit it against things while spinning (apologies to my 8-year-old, he wasn’t impressed haha!).

Getting the hang of it

It takes a little trial and error, getting to know how fast to move the light, what settings you should set your camera to etc. But it doesn’t take all that long to get the hang of it, and there are many tutorials on the web (you can start with the basics of Light Painting here on dPS). I was pleasantly surprised that within about 10 minutes I could get a really fun image out of the Magilight!

Review of the Magilight LED Light Painting Wand

Master 4 asked me to make his bike look cool!

After four or five evenings messing about with Magilight, the batteries were still going. But they are also easily recharged using the included charger, and the unit can be all packed away in the included, well-padded black nylon zip-up case.

Upon searching to see what info is out there about this light, I came across this page (remember I mentioned Eric and Kim up the top). Well, I had no idea… (but it makes perfect sense) and there’s a video of Eric and Kim using the light – great!

?

Minor issues

There were a couple of little minor things that bothered me. One was that I should have removed the batteries to transport the unit. I think all the moving around in the case had turned the unit on, and I traveled a few hours and then went to use Magilight and she was flat. Thankfully the included charger plugs into any USB power source!

The other minor issue being that the little memory card, I think, needs a little protective cover or door of some kind. I found that if I moved a certain way (I can’t actually pinpoint which way I was moving when it happened) that I could pop the MicroSD out of its slot. It didn’t come out fully, so it wasn’t lost, but it had to be put back in and then I had to re-select all the options.

The last thing is that when it beeps, it’s kinda loud. So when I turned “sounds” off, I sort of expected them to be off, but they come back on! I have heard that little things like this will be fixed by launch.

Conclusion

In summary, this Magilight is a really fun and innovative tool for light painters, the build quality is really good (though, naturally we’ll see how it goes after 6 months) and the functionality is very good.

I give this wannabe Lightsaber a brightly lit 4 out of 5 stars rating. (if the niggles are worked out for launch, you can call it a 5!) Great job.

Editor’s note: This product will be competing with the popular, but more expensive PixelStick. Let’s see how it does! 

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Apple iPhone X review

30 Jan

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

The iPhone X is the newest flagship phone from Apple. It comes with twin optically stabilized 12MP rear cameras, a 7MP front-facing camera with ‘TrueDepth’ technology, artificial background blur and specialized lighting effects, DNG Raw file capture, and of course is otherwise a highly capable and extremely speedy mobile device.

And it should be, given the asking price: at an MSRP of $ 999, the iPhone X (pronounced iPhone Ten, which I’ll admit I’m still getting used to) is priced comfortably higher than many of its current competitors that also come with an emphasis on photographic prowess.

Out-of-camera JPEG in HDR mode.
ISO 20 | 1/229 sec | F1.8
Photo by Carey Rose

As with just about every modern high-end smartphone, the results of the picture-taking process on the iPhone are as much about clever software tricks as they are about the hardware. With the software and hardware combined, does the iPhone X truly offer image quality comparable to so-called ‘real cameras?’ Is artificial background blur driving the final nails into the interchangeable-lens camera coffin?

Of course, the answer isn’t all that simple, and depends an awful lot on the preferences of the user behind the lens. But let’s dive in and take a look at what Apple’s latest smartphone shooter is capable of.

Key Photographic / Video Specifications

  • Dual 12MP sensors
  • 28/56mm equivalent focal lengths
  • F1.8/2.4 aperture
  • On-sensor phase detection
  • Quad-LED flash
  • DNG Raw capture and manual control with 3rd party apps
  • 4K video at 60 fps
  • 1080p 120/240fps slow-motion video
  • 7MP front-facing ‘TrueDepth’ camera with F2.2 aperture

Other Specifications

  • 5.8-inch, 2436×1125 OLED
  • Apple A11 Fusion chipset
  • 3GB RAM
  • 64/256GB storage
  • 2,716mAh battery
  • Wireless charging (Qi compatible)

Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)

 
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Review of the Nikon D850 DSLR

24 Jan

The latest addition to the Nikon line up has been a highly anticipated full frame camera. While many other cameras were being updated rumors started circulating 12 months ago that the D810 would be updated. Finally, the news came that the Nikon D850 was being released. It seemed like everyone in the photography industry was looking forward to it. So much speculation – what will it have, and how will it perform?

Review of the Nikon D850 DSLR

The Nikon D850 with the 14-24mm lens.

The Hype

There was similar hype around 5 years ago when Nikon released the D800. It was almost 12 months before I was able to get one, and when the talk started on this one I knew that I would be getting one. The D800 has been an amazing camera and by far the best I’ve ever owned. But it is showing its age and doing long exposures with it was becoming harder. The logical update was always going to be the replacement for the D810.

What I needed was a camera capable of taking long exposures without the problem of dead or hot pixels. I wanted a touchscreen as others I’ve used have been fantastic. I had hoped that with Live View it would be possible to see through ND Filters without having to remove them all the time. While it wasn’t necessary, being able to transfer photos from the camera to the phone would be handy as well.

Once the camera was released and I finally got my hands on one, there was nothing to be disappointed about. It lived up to my expectations, perhaps even more. It is a complicated camera, and the phrase being used, “A game changer” is true. It does a lot and it is going to take some time to learn all that my new camera can do.

Nikon D850 cityscape

An early morning image of the city with reflections.

First impressions of the D850

For most people, it will seem like a gigantic camera. However, those that have been using the D800 or D810 will not be surprised. It is slightly bigger, but not a lot. The weight is around the same as well. Overall it looks almost the same. As you start to study the D850 you can see how some functions have changed positions. I keep pressing the mode button now to change the ISO.

Nikon D850 long exposure

Doing a long exposure on the top of a cliff with the Nikon D850.

45.7 MP Sensor

The big thing to test was going to be the massive 45.7-megapixel sensor. In most of the other Nikon cameras Sony sensors have been used, however, Nikon has developed their own for the D850. It is said to be sharp and create very crisp images. That would appear to be true so far. There is a warning about using low-quality lenses on it, which can create a lot of chromatic aberration. So far, I have noticed that.

Touchscreen

Nikon has given the D850 a touch screen, and I am so happy. Touchscreens make navigating around the menu so much easier. You can flick through your photos very easily, or change a setting in the menu.

With the touchscreen activated, you can also focus the camera and take your photos, whether you are using a tripod or not. With the Bulb setting, you can now touch the screen to open the shutter, and then tap again to close it. This means that when you go out to take long exposures you don’t have to worry so much about a remote shutter release or intervalometer. It doesn’t have a timer or display how much time has elapsed, but there are always ways around that, like using your phone.

Nikon D850 night photography

Capturing a single light trail from a bicycle along Southbank at night.

The LCD Screen can be manipulated

Like other models, you can now manipulate the screen so you can move it to help you take photos in Live Mode, or when using the playback function. If you like taking photos close to the ground you can do that now without having to get on the ground yourself or having to guess at the composition. I’m getting too old to get down on the ground, getting back up isn’t so easy, so this function is one that I’ve been eagerly awaiting.

Nikon D850

The front of the D850, set up for a long exposure.

Using Live View for Long Exposures

One of the frustrating things about doing long exposures with the D800 was having to constantly remove the filters every time you wanted to recompose your image. They were too dark for the camera to see through. The Canon 5D Mark IV is capable of seeing through the filters in Live View, so I was really hoping the Nikon D850 would have that capability as well. I’m happy to report that it does.

It doesn’t quite work the same way, you do have to open the aperture up a bit, but you don’t have to remove the filters. If you can open it up to f/2.8 then it is like there are no filters there at all. It will also make it easier to use graduated filters and polarizers when doing long exposure photography.

Nikon D850 Seascape

The camera photographing the Dragon’s Head.

As someone who loves doing long exposures, this new feature is a very welcome addition to the camera. It is something that I will use a lot. My workflow when shooting has changed from never using Live View, to using it constantly.

One of the major advantages of shooting with Live View is that your mirror is up, so you don’t get those minute vibrations when you are taking an image.

ISO

One of the biggest problems with photography is low light. While in most situations you can use a tripod, there are some situations that mean it is just isn’t possible. With an ISO rating up to 25,600, you can take photos easily without a tripod.

Nikon D850 high ISO

Capturing Christmas windows using ISO 25600.

There will be noise in the images, that is one thing you can’t avoid. However, compared with what you got with the earlier models in the D800 series it’s a big improvement. You could comfortably go up to ISO 2000, perhaps even higher and get images that you would be happy with.

At the other end of the scale, you can go to ISO 64 when you want the best quality images in the right lighting conditions or when using your tripod. Most cameras only go to 100, so having that extra step means finer grain or almost no noise in your images.

Some of the controls are in different places

While the basic setup is very similar to all Nikon cameras, there are some things that have changed from previous models (for me, that is compared to the D800). The Mode button is on the left top buttons with the WB and QUAL. ISO is now over near the Shutter button. The Bracket feature is now set where the flash button used to be.

Overall, the camera is much the same. The menu system remains very similar to previous models and is easy to understand. It is one thing that has always been good with Nikon, you can go from one model to another and still be able to figure out how it works.

Late afternoon in the city of Melbourne.

No flash

One major change from the D800 and D810 is the removal of the built-in flash. For most users, it was not necessary and the flash popping up could create problems. You can still attach an external flash to it, so for most this isn’t going to be a problem as they would use that option anyway.

3 Different RAW sizes

One the main concerns with the camera was the 45.7-megapixel sensor. The more MPs it has the larger the images will be. Storage can become a problem, especially when shooting in RAW. The D850 now comes with three different sizes of RAW files. You can choose to shoot RAW images in Large, Medium or Small. The large will take images that are 8256 x 5504 pixels, while the small will take images that are 4128 x 2752 pixels, similar to a cropped sensor.

Having the choice of deciding how big your image will be is a good function to add. If you know you are going to take a photo for social media, with no intention of doing anything else, then using the small option makes sense. However, if you are going to be taking photos for a client or for printing on a big scale then the large size is the best choice.

Nikon D850 seascape

Doing a long exposure of the Dragon’s Head on the Rye back beach.

Fast frames per second burst mode

I went from a Nikon D300s, that could shoot 6-7 frames per second to the D800 which was capable of only four. It was a shock and possibly one of the biggest disappointments with that camera. It always seemed clunky when you were taking several images at once, especially for bracketing.

It’s good to see they have sped up the frame rate in the D850. It will take around 6 images a second, so it is reasonably fast. When you are bracketing there is less chance of a mistake when taking a series of images. It is great to hear how fast it shoots the frames.

Nikon D850 Bird photography.

Using the Nikon D850 at the zoo to capture birds.

The XQD card

With the release of the Nikon D850, we also see that it has two memory card slots; one for an SD card, and the other for an XQD card. As the file sizes are large, and you can take many images per second, you also need a card that can keep up. The XQD cards are good for writing your images quickly so you shouldn’t have moments where you can’t shoot because the camera is saving your images onto the card.

These cards are quite expensive. Not many manufacturers are making them, the one I got was made by Sony. You also need to get a memory card reader for these as well. I purchased mine from B&H, it was 128GB and cost almost $ 200.

Nikon D850 Waterfall

Capturing a waterfall with a long exposure.

Wifi and Snapbridge

Nikon cameras that have Snapbridge allow you to use your phone with the camera. You can download images to it, for easy loading to social media when you are out and about. There is also the option for your phone to capture GPS data for future reference.

When Snapbridge was first released there was a lot of negative publicity about it. People said it didn’t work properly, and if we are being honest, it wasn’t great. But it has improved a lot. It is now easier to connect your camera to your phone to look at photos. You can have it set up so it automatically transfers the images to your phone. They go into the cloud, so they don’t take up any room on your phone.

The only downside seems to be that to get your images to your phone you have to shoot in jpeg format. Considering the target market of who will be using the D850 (mostly pros), it is a bit disappointing. Most users will be taking their photos in RAW format and won’t be able to do that.

To overcome this, I decided to shoot in RAW and basic JPG. You don’t need high-quality JPGs to share, and basic is fine for social media. Once the files are all downloaded to my computer I select all the jpegs and delete them. It does mean that you will be using more memory on your cards, but I have 128GB cards, so it isn’t going to be an issue that often. I would also only use this selection if I knew that I wanted to capture an image to share, otherwise I would choose RAW only.

Snapbridge will keep the firmware on your camera up to date which is great, otherwise, it only happens if you get it serviced. One thing that is a definitely a plus for someone like me is that the app will also make sure the time and date are correct on your camera by syncing it with your phone. You don’t have to worry about daylight savings and changing the camera settings for it anymore (or when you travel and change time zones).

Nikon D850 macro

The D850 with the Lensbaby Velvet 56 photographing macro flowers.

Battery life

The experience of other cameras has shown that using Live View can drain your battery. Earlier this year I had an opportunity to try out the Canon 5D Mark IV and when using Live View for long exposures the battery did drain very quickly. You would get maybe three hours with it when using that mode. With the Nikon D850, using Live View it doesn’t drain the battery as quickly.

A fully charged battery for normal use will last a few days, with heavy use a day or so. The Nikon batteries are very good, and if you want spares, it is advisable to go for regular Nikon ones over third-party options.

Nikon D850 City image

An image taken at sunrise with the Nikon D850.

Conclusion

Without a doubt, those who described the Nikon D850 as a game changer were not lying. It’s one of the most sophisticated cameras on the market. While hailed as a great camera for landscape photographers, it is also suitable for many other genres of photography as well. One has to wonder what they will do to the next generation of the D5 to make it better than the D850.

For more information on the specifications, click here to go to Nikon. The camera retails on Amazon for $ 3,295.

I would give the camera a rating of 9.9 out of 10, maybe even a 10. I love the Nikon D850, it is the best camera I’ve ever used

The post Review of the Nikon D850 DSLR by Leanne Cole appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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Review of the Tenba BYOB Camera Insert

22 Jan

Is the perfect camera bag still eluding you? If so, Tenba has a great DIY option worth checking out. Dubbed the Tenba BYOB Camera Insert, it invites you to actually Bring Your Own Bag while still protecting your camera gear. Here’s more about what fits in the insert, plus pros and cons about using it as your new camera bag.

Review of the Tenba BYOB Camera Insert

What is it?

The Tenba BYOB Camera Insert is a padded shell meant to carry and protect camera gear while being carried inside another non-camera bag. It consists of a soft yet durable outer shell that easily molds to fit the shape of other bags, such as suitcases, handbags, and backpacks. Unzip the insert and you’ll find padded interior dividers that can easily be configured to hold gear of all shapes and sizes.

On the outside, there’s a handle for carrying the insert as-is if desired. Or you can purchase the BYOB Packlite Bundle, which includes a BYOB Camera Insert and an easily storable Packlite bag. The optional bag is rather thin, yet very durable and easily expands to hold the Camera Insert, or compresses to a size that will fit in your pocket.

There’s a range of sizes available for the BYOB Camera Insert, with the smallest being the BYOB 7 (best for inserting into a purse or handbag). The largest is the BYOB 13, which is big enough to hold a DSLR with a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens attached, plus 2-3 additional lenses. In this case, I’m testing out the BYOB 10 with the Packlite bag included.

Review of the Tenba BYOB Camera Insert

The Good

Solid Build

Even though Tenba doesn’t really refer to the BYOB Camera Insert as a camera bag, it really can function as one. This insert is very well built and feels very solid and durable. Pockets line the exterior of this bag, with two flexible mesh accessory pockets on the ends. There’s even a solid top handle to help with removing the Camera Insert from another bag or to carry the Camera Insert on its own.

Tenba BYOB Camera Insert

Lots of Space

I used the BYOB 10, which was advertised to carry a “DSLR or Mirrorless Camera with 2-4 lenses.” At first glance, it looked like a large DSLR, such as my Canon 5D Mark III, would be a challenge since the BYOB appears very slim and narrow. It turns out that the BYOB has quite a bit of depth, allowing it to carry its suggested load, and then some. I appreciated the inclusion of flexible padded dividers that made it easy to pad stacked lenses to take full advantage of available space.

With the Tenba BYOB 10, I was able to pack the following camera kits. In the case of the Canon kits, it was definitely a tight fit, but the zipper did close all the way in both cases. For the Sony kit, I still had room to spare.

Tenba BYOB Camera Insert

Canon Kit #1 (tight fit)

  • Canon 6D (with camera body cap, no lens attached)
  • Canon 24-70mm f/2.8
  • Canon 70-200mm f/2.8

Tenba BYOB Camera Insert

Canon Kit #2 (tight fit)

  • Canon 5D Mark III (with camera body cap, no lens attached)
  • Canon 24-70mm f/2.8
  • Canon 16-35mm f/2.8
  • Canon 580 EXII Speedlight

Sony Kit (with room to spare)

  • Sony a6300 with 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 attached
  • Sony 24-240mm f/3.5-6.3
  • Sony 20mm f/2.8
  • Rokinon 12mm f/2
  • Small bag of spare batteries

Tenba BYOB Camera Insert

Truly Flexible Bag Options

The Tenba BYOB is efficient at packing and protecting your gear while also maintaining a slim profile. This makes the camera insert truly flexible, as it snugly fits into a wide variety of bags. I appreciated this for several reasons.

First, it was nice to not be restricted to having to carry a typical camera bag. I could literally choose ANY large bag I had and convert it into a camera bag. This is especially handy if you want to fly under the radar with a bag that is not so obviously a camera bag.

Second, the BYOB addresses the constant problem of being limited by the amount of baggage you can typically take with you when traveling. Usually, the two-bag carry-on restriction for airline travel means that at least one bag needs to be your camera bag. With the BYOB Camera Insert, you can easily turn your dedicated camera bag into a more multi-purpose bag that can hold additional items.

Tenba BYOB Camera Insert

What the BYOB 10 Fits into

The list of what bags you can stuff the BYOB Camera Insert into will vary based on the specific size of your bag. During my tests, I was able to stick my BYOB 10 into the following bags, each with room to spare:

  • ThinkTank Airport Takeoff Rolling Camera Bag
  • InCase DSLR Pro Pack
  • Clark and Mayfield Stafford Leather Laptop Tote Bag
  • A medium-sized women’s handbag
  • A Poler drawstring backpack

Tenba BYOB Camera Insert

Tenba BYOB Camera Insert

What Could Be Improved

All in all, the BYOB Camera Insert is a very simple concept that is executed well. Thus, it’s hard to find too many points for improvement.

The one thing I’d say is that the optional Packlite bag could use some improvements in terms of aesthetics. It is made of a thin water-resistant fabric that packs down to an incredibly small size, but at the cost of the bag appearing very wrinkled when unfolded. As a result, this Packlite bag is great to use if you really need it, but it won’t earn you many compliments.

Tenba BYOB Camera Insert

Over to You

What do you think of Tenba’s BYOB concept? Would you try it out for yourself, or do you have another camera bag that you’re dedicated to? Let us know in the comments below.

The post Review of the Tenba BYOB Camera Insert by Suzi Pratt appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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