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Posts Tagged ‘REVIEW’

Pentax KP Review

28 Mar

The Pentax KP is a 24MP APS-C DSLR with styling and controls lifted largely from the full-frame K-1. Sold as a body only at a price of $ 1099, it includes standard Pentax features like full weather-sealing and in-body five-axis Shake Reduction, and includes all the interesting features enabled by the aforementioned system, including ‘Pixel Shift Resolution’. It also offers interchangeable front grip system as part of its rather pretty design.

On the face of it, the Pentax KP is a confusing proposition. It launches at the same price as their APS-C flagship the K-3 II did over a year ago, while trading useful K3 features like GPS in favor of the extra control dial, swappable grips, and a built-in flash.

Key Features:

  • 24MP APS-C CMOS sensor with max ISO of 819,200
  • 27-point AF sensor with 25 central cross-type points
  • 86,000-pixel RGB metering sensor aids subject tracking and exposure
  • PRIME IV Processor
  • In-body ‘SR II’ 5-axis image stabilization
  • 7 fps continuous shooting
  • Interchangeable grips
  • Improved ‘Function Dial’ from the K-1
  • Electronic shutter up to 1/24,000 sec through the viewfinder
  • Wi-Fi communication

The surprisingly petite pentaprism-equipped camera borrows styling cues and controls from the full-frame K-1, and even shares some in common with Nikon’s retro-reborn Df. JPEG image quality has received some massaging courtesy of the new PRIME IV processor, expanding the KP’s high ISO capabilities all the way to the ludicrous value of 819,200.

  Pentax KP Pentax K-3 II Nikon D7200
Price $ 1099 (body only) $ 1099 (body only) $ 1199 (body only)
Resolution 24MP 24MP 24MP
ISO Auto, 100-819200 Auto, 100 – 51200 Auto, 100 – 25600
Image Stabilization Yes (in-body) Yes (in-body) In-lens only
Focus Points 27 (25 cross-type) 27 (25 cross-type) 51 (15 cross-type)
AF Point Selection Shared with direction pad Shared with direction pad Shared with direction pad
Viewfinder Magnification 0.95x 0.95x 0.94x
Continuous Drive 7 fps 8.3 fps 7 fps
Battery Life 390 720 1110
GPS Optional Built-in Optional

When compared to the outgoing K-3 II and long-in-the-tooth D7200, we see that with some features like burst rate and battery life the KP is a step backwards. On the other hand, we see a better control layout, higher ISO capabilities, and the new SR II system. It omits GPS, and takes a hit in areas like battery life and burst rate. The addition of the K-1’s Function Dial means the top plate LCD screen is lost from the K-3 II as well. 

These changes indicate that maybe the KP wasn’t designed solely with outdoing the competition, or even the K-3 II, in mind. It certainly doesn’t seem like an outright replacement, but instead a different lineup aimed at being a bit more portable for enthusiasts or casual shooters.

In some ways, the KP reminds us of the PEN-F: a combination of distinctive looks and improved image quality in a compact, premium body. While looks alone may not sell it for some, there are parts of the KP’s design that are excellent, possibly even market leading. Let’s take a closer look at what is right with the KP.

Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)

 
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Fujifilm X-T20 Review

21 Mar

The Fujifilm X-T20 is a midrange DSLR-style mirrorless camera that sits above the X-E2S and below the X-T2. The X-T20 replaces the X-T10 and offers a host of new features, including Fujifilm’s latest 24MP CMOS sensor and image processor, faster burst shooting, any improved autofocus system, 4K video capture and more. In many ways, it’s a smaller, less expensive ‘little brother’ to the X-T2, a camera that earned a Gold Award when we reviewed it last year.

The X-T20 finds itself in a competitive field of both ‘mirrored’ (DSLR) and mirrorless cameras. Buyers are likely to find themselves deciding between midrange DSLRs like the Nikon D5600 and Canon EOS 77D, as well as mirrorless models such as the Sony a6300, Panasonic GX850 and the Olympus E-M5 II.

Fujifilm X-T20 Key Features:

  • 24MP X-Trans CMOS III sensor
  • Up to 325 selectable AF points (169 of which offer phase detection)
  • 2.36M-dot OLED electronic viewfinder
  • 3″ 1.04M-dot tilting touchscreen LCD
  • 4K UHD video at up to 30 fps, with clean output over HDMI
  • 8 fps continuous shooting with AF, 5 fps with live view
  • 2.5mm jack for external microphone or wired remote control
  • Dials for exposure compensation, shutter speed and drive mode

The X-T20 is more about the overall package than one or two specs that standout. That said, the 24MP sensor has proven its worth on the X-Pro2 and X-T2, and the AF system has also been refined in a good way. The EVF is a pleasure to use, though the touch functions on the tilting LCD are limited. The burst rate hasn’t changed since the X-T10, but the buffer size has been dramatically increased. 4K video has also been added, helping to keep the X-T20 at an even level with the best of its peers.

And let’s not forget the design of the camera which has become a trademark of Fujifilm’s X-series models. The classic DSLR-style design isn’t getting old (at least for this reviewer) and the build quality is very good for a $ 900 body.

Compared to…

Below we’ll lay out the similarities and differences between the X-T20 and the Sony a6300 and OIympus E-M5 II mirrorless cameras, along with the Canon EOS 77D DSLR.

  Fujifilm X-T20 Sony a6300 Olympus E-M5 II Canon EOS 77D
MSRP (body) $ 899 $ 899 $ 1099 $ 899
Sensor 24MP APS-C 24MP APS-C 16MP Four Thirds 24MP APS-C
Color filter X-Trans Bayer Bayer Bayer
Lens mount Fujifilm X Sony E Micro Four Thirds Canon EF/EF-S
ISO range
(expanded)
100-51200 100-51200 100-25600 100-51200
Image stabilization Lens-based Lens-based In-body Lens-based
AF system Hybrid1 Hybrid1 Contrast-detect Phase Detect + Dual Pixel AF2
LCD type Tilting Tilting Fully articulating Fully articulating
Touchscreen Yes No Yes Yes
Viewfinder (magnification3) EVF (0.62x) EVF (0.7x) EVF (0.74x) OVF (0.51x)
Max shutter speed
(Electronic)
1/4000 sec (1/32,000) 1/4000 sec 1/8000 sec (1/16,000) 1/4000 sec
Built-in flash Yes Yes No
Clip-on, rotating/ bouncable included
Yes
Flash x-sync 1/180 sec 1/160 sec 1/250 sec 1/200 sec
Burst rate
(with AF)
8 fps 8 fps 5 fps 6 fps
Mic/headphone
jacks
Yes / No Yes / No Yes / No Yes / No
Video UHD 4K @ 30p UHD 4K @ 30p 1080/60p 1080/60p
Wireless Wi-Fi Wi-Fi w/NFC Wi-Fi Wi-Fi w/NFC
Weather-sealed No Yes Yes No
Battery life 350 shots 400 shots 310 shots 600 shots4
Dimensions 118 x 83 x 41mm 120 x 67 x 49mm 124 x 85 x 45mm 131 x 100 x 76mm
Weight 383 g 404 g 469 g 540 g

1. Hybrid denotes contrast and on-sensor phase detection.
2. Dual Pixel AF is a variation of on-sensor phase detection that has left/right-looking diodes on every pixel, rather than masked-out pixels on traditional PDAF systems.
3. 35mm equivalent
4. Live view battery life rated at 270 shots.

Lots to talk about before we really dive further into the X-T20. The X-T20 is remarkably competitive with its peers: sometimes an equal and other times surpassing the other cameras. The only area in which it falls a bit short is with regard to its electronic viewfinder, which is smaller than the other two mirrorless cameras (though it’s larger than what you’ll find on the EOS 77D). It’s not weather-sealed like the a6300 and E-M5 II, so if you want that on a Fujifilm you’ll need to step up to the X-T2, which is nearly double the price. 

Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)

 
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Review of the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art Lens

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

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

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

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

Review of the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art Lens

The Sigma 85mm F1.4 DG HSM A

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

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

Specs

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

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

Review of the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art Lens

The Sigma 85mm F1.4 DG HSM A

Fast glass

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

Accessories

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

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

In Practical Use

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

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

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

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

Other applications

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

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

Wildlife Example Using Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art

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

Pros

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

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

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

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

Cons

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

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

 

Summary

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

Review of the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art Lens

Portrait example using the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art

 

Review of the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art Lens

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

Review of the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art Lens

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

Review of the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art Lens

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

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


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Insta360 Air 360-degree camera for Android quick review

17 Mar

Insta360 Air
$ 129/£139 | www.insta360.com | Buy Now 

The Insta360 Air is a smartphone add-on that turns your Android device into a fully-fledged 360-degree VR camera. It’s capable of capturing still images and video, and comes with a live-streaming function. It only weighs 26.5 grams / ~1oz, comes with a protective rubber case and attaches to your phone either via the microUSB or USB Type-C port. We got our hands on the latter version and have tried it out on the Huawei P10 and Motorola Moto Z Force.

Key specifications:

  • Phone Compatibility Android phones
  • Dual-fisheye lenses
  • F2.4 aperture
  • 3008 x 1504 (3K) still image resolution
  • 2560 x 1280 video resolution (3008 x 1504 with some smartphones)
  • 30 frames per second
  • Real-time stitching
  • 37.6mm / 1.48in diameter
  • 26.5 grams
  • Available with microUSB or Type-C connector 
The Insta360 Air is small and lightweight enough to always be carried anywhere. A rubber case provides protection on the go.

Operation

The capture screen offers a good range of features, including filter effects. Optionally images and videos can be exported in ‘tiny planet’ format.

Using the Insta360 Air is very intuitive. Plugging the camera into your phone’s USB-port launches the Insta360 app which lets you capture images, record video or live-stream to YouTube or a web-address. When shooting images or video you can apply exposure compensation or Instagram filters, which are applied to the preview image. 

The integrated viewer allows you to create albums and see your recorded content in all its 360-degree glory. There is also a range of sharing options which let you choose between sharing full 360-degree photos/video or ‘tiny-planet’ style images or animations. Overall the app is nicely designed, works reliably on our test phones and reacts swiftly to user input. 

The Insta360 Air can also be used as a 360-degree webcam on Skype and other video-chat applications after connecting to a PC’s USB 2.0 or 3.0 port. 360-degree webcam support for Mac should be provided soon via a software update. 

 The Insta360 Air can also be used as a 360-degree webcam.

Stills

In still image mode the Insta360 Air captures photos with a size of 3008 x 1504 pixels. That’s less still image resolution than you’ll find on cameras like the Samsung Camera 360, the LG Cam 360 or the Ricoh Theta SC and when viewed in 360-degree mode on a large screen the levels of fine detail aren’t great. That said, images usually show good color and exposure, and the stitching algorithm that joins the two halves of the images does a very good job. Very occasionally, minor ghosting can be visible but otherwise images taken in good light are relatively free of artifacts.

To view this image in the Google Photos 360 degree viewer click here.

When sharing images, you get the option to export them in a ‘tiny planet’ style format which can, depending on the subject, make for interesting effects. The radius of your ‘planet’ can be adjusted by pinch-zooming. The image below is the ‘tiny planet’ version of the photo above.

This is another image in bright light. Up-close the images can look a little soft but still provides a very immersive experience when viewed in a 360-degree viewer. We also like the way the area right below the camera is slightly darkened to make it less intrusive in the image.

 To view this image in the Google Photos 360 degree viewer click here.

The Insta360 Air deals well with well-lit interior scenes like the one below. There is some luminance noise in shadow areas but given the relatively low image resolution it is not very intrusive.

  To view this image in the Google Photos 360 degree viewer click here.

The image below has captured a good impression of what’s going on in this busy scene at MWC 2017. The camera white balance deals very well with the many different sources of illumination and image detail is not significantly reduced from outdoor images. There is no EXIF-data reported but the shutter speeds are fast enough to avoid most motion blur in indoor scenes.  

  To view this image in the Google Photos 360 degree viewer click here.

Image filters can be applied at the point of capture, like I did for the image below, or in post-processing.  

 To view this image in the Google Photos 360 degree viewer click here.

Video

In video mode the Insta360 Air can record 2560 x 1280 video resolution, which is more or less in line with other entry-level 360-degree cameras. Insta360 says that with some phones a resolution of 3008 x 1504 pixels can be achieved but neither the Motorola Moto Z Force or the Huawei P10 which I used for this test offered this option, despite start-of-the-art chipsets. 

2560 pixels wide is more than Full-HD resolution but stretched across an entire 360-degree circle the it’s actually not that impressive and at screen size videos look a little soft. They are great at typical social media size though, with good exposure and color and smooth motion. As with the stills, occasionally some ghosting is visible. 

The 1280p low-light clip below is clean but again pretty soft. Nevertheless, the clip offers a good impression of the interior space it was recorded in. 

The camera also offers a 960p video option which saves you some space in your phone’s storage, but as you can see in the clip below, compared to the 1280p footage detail is noticeably reduced. If you’re not about to run out of space, 1280p is definitely the better option. Still, the clip below shows that, thanks to the super-wide angle lenses, Insta360 Air footage looks quite stable, even when captured hand-held from a fast-moving bike.

The 960p video below shows that the Insta360 Air is capable of capturing a usable exposure even at night but image quality is suffering quite a lot, making this clip only watchable at small output sizes.

Like in stills mode, you get the option to share videos in the ‘tiny planet’ format. It’s a great way of displaying your entire surroundings in a standard video format and can be a fun effect.

Conclusion

The Insta360 has a lot going for it. It is one of the most affordable 360-degree cameras we have seen, and perfectly integrates with your Android device. It’s ready to shoot a few seconds after plugging it into your phone and doesn’t require a microSD card as it is using your device’s built-in storage. The small dimensions mean you can always carry it with you and inside its rubber carrying case the camera is well protected.

The USB-connector means there is no need for a potentially flaky Wi-Fi connection to your mobile device but it does look a little fragile – disconnecting the camera when using your smartphone for other things is wise. In terms of still image resolution the Insta360 Air is not quite on the same level as some of its rivals in the entry-level segment, but images are well-exposed and mostly free of stitching artifacts. 

Overall, the Insta360 Air is a great introduction to the world of 360-degree imaging that offers a good variety of features and functions to play with. And at $ 129 it doesn’t break the bank either. More information is available at insta360.com.

What we like:

  • Compact dimensions
  • Intuitive app control 
  • Generally good stitching quality
  • Price

What we don’t like:

  • Still image resolution lower than some competitors
  • USB-connection to smartphone feels a little fragile
  • No tripod mount

Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)

 
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Fujifilm X100F Review

17 Mar

The X100F is the fourth iteration of Fujifilm’s well-respected X100 series. It still uses the same 35mm equivalent 23mm F2 lens, still has the ‘classic’ design cues, but almost everything has changed under the surface.

The biggest change between the X100F and its predecessors is the move to the use of the 24MP X-Trans sensor. We’ve been very impressed with this sensor when we’ve encountered it in the X-Pro2 and X-T2. We think it’s a much bigger step forward than the pixel count hike implies.

We looked in more depth at the difference between the two models in this article, but here are the key features of the X100F:

Key features

  • 24MP X-Trans CMOS sensor
  • Hybrid Optical/Electronic viewfinder
  • 35mm equivalent F2 lens
  • Joystick for setting AF point
  • ISO control via dial (lift and turn the shutter speed dial)
  • Twin push-in control dials, front and rear
  • Focus ring customizable when not in MF mode
  • Revised menus
  • Finer-grained image parameters
  • Higher voltage NP-W126S battery with percentage usage indication
  • Digital Teleconverter Mode (offers 50mm and 70mm equiv crops, resized to 24MP)

The X100 series, perhaps more than any other camera, has seen the results of the philosophy of continuous improvement. Whether it’s in the firmware updates that turned the original, fascinating but deeply flawed X100 into a likeable, usable camera, or the iterative approach that has seen across-the-board improvements with each successive model.

In its fourth incarnation, it’s increasingly likely that a lot of the people who might want an X100-type camera already own an X100 model of some sort. Which leads to the question: has Fujifilm done enough to make it worth upgrading, from the X100, from the X100S and from the X100T?

Generations of iteration

The X100 series has been the result of an iterative process of continuous development. This has prompted a thousand internet wags to snipe that ‘I’d rather wait until they make a finished camera.’ But, other than the original model running initial firmware, which fell heavily on the wrong end of the endearing/unusable end of the ‘quirk’ spectrum, each model has been an excellent camera in its own right.

The defining feature of the X100 series: its hybrid viewfinder. This, along with the small body, large sensor and fixed focal length lens, is core to its shooting experience and its appeal.

Technology improves and Fujifilm has, step-by-step, reworked, tweaked and refined most of the camera. The length of this table alone should point to how many changes have been made, and that’s without mentioning smaller details such as the more precise focus ring sensor, automatic detection of wide/tele conversion lenses (if used with the Mark II lenses) and revised user interface.

However, many of the core features have remained: variations on the original optical/electronic hybrid viewfinder and a leaf shutter in a 35mm-equivalent 23mm F2 lens. This allows shutter speeds (and flash sync) at up to 1/1000th of a second when wide-open, increasing to 1/4000th of a second by the time you stop down to F8.

  X100F  X100T X100S X100
Lens 23mm F2 23mm F2 23mm F2 23mm F2
Sensor 24MP X-Trans 16MP X-Trans 16MP X-Trans 12MP Bayer
Wi-Fi? Yes Yes No No
Autofocus Hybrid Phase and Contrast Detection Hybrid Phase and Contrast Detection Hybrid Phase and Contrast Detection Contrast detection 
Selectable AF points / PDAF points 325 / 169 91 / 49 91 / 49 49 / 0
AF Joystick? Yes No No No
Viewfinder Hybrid OVF/EVF Hybrid OVF/EVF Hybrid OVF/EVF Hybrid OVF/EVF
EVF resolution 2.36M-dot
LCD
2.36M-dot
LCD
2.36M-dot
LCD
1.44M-dot
LCD
Preview tab in OVF Yes Yes No No
Custom Fn buttons 7 (inc 3 posn. on 4-way controller) 7 (inc 4 posn. on 4-way controller) 2 2*

*with f/w 1.2

Dials Shutter Speed
Aperture
ISO
Exp comp
Front/Rear dials (Clickable)
Shutter Speed
Aperture
Exp comp
Rear dial (Clickable)
Shutter Speed
Aperture
Exp comp
Rear jog switch (Clickable)
Shutter Speed
Aperture
Exp comp
Rear jog switch (Clickable)
Exposure comp range +/– 3
+/– 5 in ‘C’ position
+/– 3   +/– 2  +/– 2
Apeture ring precision 1/3EV 1/3EV 1EV 1EV
Rear LCD 3.0″ (3:2)
1.04M dots

3.0″ (3:2)
1.04M dots
2.8″ (4:3)
0.46M-dot
2.8″ (4:3)
0.46M-dot 
Max ISO
(JPEG/Raw)
ISO 51,200/
ISO 51,200
ISO 51,200/
ISO 6400

ISO 25,600/
ISO 6400

ISO 12,800/
ISO 3200

Max shutter speed (mechanical/
electronic)

1/4000
1/32,000
1/4000
1/32,000
1/4000
n/a 
1/4000
n/a

Continuous shooting

8 fps
(60 JPEG)
6 fps
(25 JPEG)
6 fps
(31 JPEG)
5 fps
(10 JPEG)
Film simulations 8, including
Classic Chrome and Acros
7, including
Classic Chrome
6  6
Movie capability 1080/60p  1080/60p 1080/30p 720/30p 
Mic input Yes (2.5mm) Yes (2.5mm) Yes (vis USB) No
Battery
(Voltage)
NP-W126S
7.2V 
NP-95
3.6V 
NP-95
3.6V 
NP-95
3.6V 
Battery life (Viewfinder/CIPA) 390  330 330 300
USB charging? Yes Yes No No

Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)

 
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Review of the New Formatt Hitech Firecrest Filter Holder and Neutral Density Filters

16 Mar

This article is an overview of the Formatt Hitech Firecrest Filter Holder system and their neutral density filters.

Long exposure is one of those magical types of photography that once people start doing it, they nearly always fall in love with the technique. They then begin their quest for the right conditions to take those photos, along with the right gear. The filters you use are important and, so is the holder for them.

Overview of the Formatt Hitech Filter Holder and Neutral Density Filters

Sunset at St. Kilda Pier, this was taken with the Formatt Hitech Filter Holder and their 10-stop ND filter.

Long exposure photography is becoming so popular, but with it come lots of issues to deal with. The most important one is light and stopping any from getting into the camera that may ruin your images. Another one that you hear many complaining about is color casts caused by the filters they are using.

Have the right gear to get what you attempting is so important. Formatt Hitech has been listening to their users and has come up with a new holder system for their 100mm filters that addresses many of these problems.

Formatt Hitech Filter Holder

The new filter holder from Formatt Hitech is designed to completely enclose the filter so no light can get in around it once the filter is in place. It removes the need for the foam gasket on the back of the filter, as the holder has one on it to help seal the filter into place.

Formatt Hitech has put a great deal of thought into what you will need for long exposure photography, and along with the holder come some other surprises.

Overview of the Formatt Hitech Filter Holder and Neutral Density Filters

The Formatt Hitech filter holder in use at Docklands.

What’s in the box

This company does produce some of the loveliest packaging that I’ve seen. The boxes have a soft, almost suede feel. It is hard to throw them away, in fact, I haven’t been able to.

When the package arrives and you open the box you will see the holder, but you will also see an 82mm adaptor ring and a series of step-down rings. So often in the past when buying the adaptor rings you have had to make a choice about which lens you will fit it to and get the ring to fit that one. Formatt Hitech gives you the adaptor ring for the largest possible filter size and the step-down rings to fit other lenses.

Wrapped in paper, you will find a polarizer that fits into the adapter ring. This filter fits in the back of the holder system very neatly, and your neutral density filters then fit in front of it. There is a geared control wheel that allows you to turn the filter as needed.

The added benefit here is the ability to use the polarizer in the adapter ring on its own. You don’t have to attach the holder at all.

Formatt Hitech Filter holder and ND Filters

Everything that you get with the Formatt Hitech filter holder. Photo courtesy of Formatt Hitech

Using it for the first time

When you first open the box it can seem a bit overwhelming and when you try to use the system, it’s a little confusing. It feels like you will break it when you try to pull it apart, but it is designed for rough use.

If you still can’t work it out Formatt Hitech has a video which they recommend that you watch (see below). The brackets around the holder are often a little stiff to begin with, but they do get easier and loosen up with use. Watching the video will help you get past that.

Attaching the holder onto the adaptor ring can take some getting used to as well. It is bit fiddly, but with practice, you will get better at it, and faster. You can do it with one hand, it simply clicks onto the ring. It is quite durable and will take a lot of handling. The holder stays very firmly on the adaptor ring.

Formatt Hitech Filter holder and ND Filters

Using the filter to get a long exposure of Pyramid Rock.

Why is it good to have a filter holder like this?

If you looked at the old filter holder that was available, even with the foam gasket, you could see gaps where it was possible for light to get through. When you want to create a perfect long exposure you need to make sure that there are no leaks. The benefits of this particular filter holder system is that it removes the possibilities of those gaps and creates a more light tight cocoon around your filter.

Formatt Hitech Filter holder and ND Filters

City of Melbourne from across the river. Taken with the new Formatt Hitech Filter holder and their 16-stop ND filter.

Using it

Out in the field, the system does work well. But, having to remove both brackets around the holder just to the change filter, or add one, is a bit harder and takes more time. The benefits the brackets provide in other ways (light tightness) certainly make up for it, though.

There have been a couple of instances of vignetting, but it is very slight and only seems to happen when the lens is very wide, for example at 24mm.

When you first use the bracket it seems like you can’t use graduated filters in the holder. However, there are sections at the top and bottom that can be removed that will allow you to use 100x150mm filters. There are vented end caps that allow the filters to poke through, while at the same time helping to retain that light seal.

Formatt Hitech Filter holder and ND Filters

Wonky Pier at Sullivan Pier. Long exposure using the new holder and the Formatt Hitech Firecrest 13-stop ND Filter.

The Format Hitech filters

It is logical that if you are going to use the holder then you should also use the Formatt Hitech filters as well. Their Firecrest series are very neutral and have no color cast, even when underexposing.

They are made in the UK using high-quality optical glass that is bonded together, so the coating is sandwiched between them. This helps to protect the filters and also makes them much harder to scratch. If you do scratch them then you are just doing it to the outside and not the coating itself.

Formatt Hitech Filter holder and ND Filters

Tenby Point and tree with the tide coming in. Using the holder with the 10-stop ND filter.

Cost

Formatt Hitech filters aren’t cheap, with the filter holder retailing around $ 170 USD, but you do get quite a bit for your money. The filters are pricey, but if you love long exposure photography then it’s worth it. Plus, if you look after them, don’t drop them, you could have them forever.

They also sell kits, which can help you save money on the initial outlay. They all have the filter holder and various filters depending on what you are looking for.

Formatt Hitech Filter holder and ND Filters

Long exposure taken at Princes Pier using the new holder and the Formatt Hitech Firecrest 10-stop ND filter.

Conclusion

Long exposure photography is an addictive style and many who start can’t stop. If you love it and want to get the best possible photos, then you have to consider the new Firecrest Filter Holder from Formatt Hitech. A holder that stops light from entering through your lens is a great start. Combined with the filters, you are on your way to creating some magical images.

If you want to compare to other systems have a look at these as well:

  • Review of the Wine Country Camera Filter Holder System
  • Switching from LEE to NiSi Filters: Was it a Mistake?

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Cinetics Lynx motion control system review

07 Mar

As an astronomer and visual artist, I use the arts to communicate science. My main way of doing this is through a series of Science & Symphony films that get presented with orchestras in concerts around the world. Since 2008 I have been shooting time-lapse sequences of the night sky and incorporating them into many of these films. My stills and sequences of observatories in Chile, the U.S., and the South Pole have also been featured in many science documentaries.

One way of giving time-lapse sequences a more cinematic look is by using a motion control system. These programmable systems move your camera with high precision as you shoot your scene. I have used several of them since 2008, so I was quite happy to preview this brand new system introduced by Cinetics. 

The Cinetics Lynx is a light, portable and compact (yet sturdy) system that lets you program precise three-axis moves for video, stop motion, and time-lapse sequences. Its main components (slider, motors and motion controller) have their own soft cases for easy portability. You can even carry the slider preassembled in its own case to save time when working in the field. The standard length of the slider is 24 inches (61 cm), but the system comes with an additional set of carbon fiber rails, stored in their own carrying case compartment, for a total extended length of 48 inches (122 cm). The total weight of the system is under 13 lb (5.9 kg).

The Lynx motion control system at its standard 24-in (61 cm) length. (Photo courtesy of Cinetics)

It’s apparent that a lot of thought was put into designing a system that takes only minutes —and a single hex key— to assemble. Extending the slider with the second set of rails and replacing the belt with a longer one takes approximately 5 minutes. The slider comes with a set of built-in legs to rest it on the ground or against a wall (when inclining it). The legs spread out at a series of pre-determined positions, which avoids having an uneven slider.

The motor units are very compact and each one requires a single screw to install. The motion controller can be attached to the pan motor via an ingenious snap-on attachment and the system battery is conveniently housed inside the motion controller. These two features avoid the need for installing additional support accessories and contribute to the simplicity and compactness of Lynx. 

Motion controller snapped onto the pan motor. (Photos courtesy of Cinetics) Pan and tilt motors with motion controller. 
Slider and adjustable legs. Slider motor.

When assembled to the 24 inch length, the system can easily be installed on a single tripod without the unit tipping over, even when the camera is at either end of the slider. My first test in the  studio was to see how the system behaved using a single but sturdy tripod/head configuration. I used a Gitzo systematic tripod and ball head with hydraulic lock.

Despite the sturdiness of the system, images taken at either extreme of the slider – when mounted on a single tripod – may need to be rotated slightly in order to align them. For a load of 5.7 lb (2.6 kg) the images needed to be rotated ±0.6 degrees with respect to an image taken at the center of the slider. This can be corrected in post-processing by key framing image rotation and letting software interpolate the rotation angles.

I extended the Lynx slider to its 48in. length and took it to the Chicago Lakefront to shoot for a new film I’m producing. With two Gitzo carbon fiber tripods easily attached, I leveled the slider, and proceeded to program the system. Lynx includes an Arca-Swiss style camera plate to quickly set your camera and, on the Cinetics website, you can choose from a comprehensive list of cables to control the shutter.

The Lynx system extended to 48 inches (122 cm) in length and supported by two Gitzo carbon fiber tripods. The leveling tripod on the left has an adjustable center column while the other one has a ball head. These make leveling or inclining the slider fairly easy. Location: Sundial Plaza, Adler Planetarium, Chicago

Once set up, it’s easy to program the motion controller. You simply slide the camera to the first position, adjust the pan and tilt as desired, and save the position as your first keyframe. Then, you slide it to the second position, adjust the pan and tilt, if necessary, and set your next keyframe. Once the beginning and ending keyframes are established, you can program the parameters for your time-lapse sequence, including duration between keyframes (time), shutter speed, and the interval between shots.

The Lynx motion control system at its standard 24-in length (61 cm). From L to R on the slider: slider motor, tilt motor, pan motor with controller snapped on and a Nikon D5 with an Arca-Swiss style camera plate.

The controller’s display shows you the total number of resulting shots. One thing that impressed me about the Lynx motion controller is that it not only lets you set up at least 5 keyframes, but it lets you program a different set of sequence parameters between each pair of keyframes! For example, you could program sets of keyframes in order to progressively change the exposure and interval times throughout a time-lapse – useful if you know that the lighting conditions are going to change during the sequence.

There are two motion modes available: shoot-move-shoot (S-M-S) mode and continuous mode. In S-M-S mode the camera is moved only between shots. In continuous mode, however, photographs can be taken as the system moves. This is useful for taking video or time-lapse sequences that incorporate motion blur. You also have the option of ramping up and down the motion speed when shooting video and time-lapse in continuous mode. (The S-M-S time-lapse mode has a built-in ramp, but unfortunately, it is not adjustable at this point.) Each segment of the programmed motion can have its own kind of motion. For example, you can have an S-M-S segment followed by one with continuous motion. 

Once you have programmed a motion you have the ability to save it as a preset for later recall. When you’re ready to start the sequence simply choose Run, step back, and voilà!

Finally, you also have the ability of continuing a sequence by reversing the motion (called bounce) as many times as you want. This is a great feature, but I wish it were possible to bounce the motion after a sequence has started, since this is something you might decide to do once shooting is in progress. Other systems let you do this, and also give you the ability to tell the camera to continue shooting even after it has reached the last keyframe.

Another thing I would like to see in a future software update is the ability to quickly preview the entire run in continuous mode. Even when the intent is to take a time-lapse sequence one could quickly preview the motion by shooting video and tweaking the motion, if necessary.

501 one-second exposures (F4, ISO 100 at 18mm) with an interval of 2 seconds during a total shooting time period of 16.7 minutes. Since these scenes were shot during the changing illumination conditions of the blue hour, the white balance and exposure values were keyframed and interpolated using Lightroom and LRTimelapse. All sequence images were taken with a Nikon D5 and Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 and rendered as 24-fps videos. (ISO 100, F4, at 18mm)

I decided to use the Lynx to take a time-lapse sequence by centering the field of view on Henry Moore’s sundial in Chicago, moving my camera from the left all the way to the right end (over a period of 17 minutes), while panning my camera to the left so I could keep the sundial at the center of the frame. The combination of slide and pan resulted in the illusion of the camera moving along an arc around the sundial when the displacement motion was actually along a line.

I then set up a time-lapse of Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate (the reflective sculpture nicknamed The Bean) in Millennium Park. Have in mind that the farther your main subject is from the camera, the harder it will be to notice parallax (the displacement in the apparent position of an object viewed along two different lines of sight).

The Lynx system extended to 48 inches (122 cm) in length and supported by two Gitzo carbon fiber tripods. Location: Millennium Park, Chicago

Nevertheless, for the particular composition I had in mind, I avoided getting too close to the sculpture. I slid and panned the camera to the right while tilting it up (in order to end up with less ground and more blue-hour sky) over a period of 20 minutes. Taking advantage of the dark blue that remained in the sky, I also placed the system right in front of Cloud Gate and simply tilted the camera up over a period of 8.4 minutes.

For the first sequence of Cloud Gate at Millennium in Chicago, I combined 604 one-second exposures with an interval of 2 seconds over a period of 20 minutes. I programmed Lynx to slide, pan, and tilt.  (D5 and Nikkor 14-24mm F2.8; ISO 125, F4, at 16mm).

For the second Cloud Gate sequence, I took 254 one-second exposures with an interval of 2 seconds over a period of 8.5 minutes, and simply tilted the camera upward (D5 and Nikkor 14-24mm F2.8; ISO 400, F4.5, at 16mm).

Note that the Lynx system can be used vertically or inclined, though when inclined you can only point the camera along the direction of the slider if you want to avoid an unleveled horizon. If, for example, you wanted to shoot perpendicular to the direction of an inclined sliding motion then you would need a leveling wedge (not included) to compose your shot.

One has the option of programming the Lynx motion controller via Bluetooth with a smartphone app. Having two options for programming the unit is very welcome but, surprisingly, I thought that programming the controller using the app was less straightforward and somewhat confusing, but the app’s GUI was re-designed after I tested it. There’s definitely room for improvement in future versions of the Lynx app. Having said that, I like that on the app one can control the exposure values to a fraction of a second and use the smartphone’s IMU (a combination of accelerometers and gyroscopes) to slide the cart.

In conclusion, the Lynx is a light, portable, and sturdy three-axis motion control system that can be set up very quickly. Its relatively light weight and compact design lets you carry it around in the field very easily, and its smooth and precise motion can be programmed with multiple keyframes. I can definitely recommend this motion control system and I look forward to future firmware and app updates.

Pros:

  • Light and compact
  • Quick and easy set up
  • Lets you program at least 5 keyframes, each with independent set of parameter values and motion modes
  • Ability to save presets

Cons:

  • Leveling wedge is not included

Updates I’d like to see:

  • Ability to preview motion in continuous mode
  • Ability to edit parameters in saved presets
  • Ability to adjust ramping on S-M-S time-lapse mode
  • During a sequence in progress, ability to decide what to do once the camera has reached the last keyframe

José Francisco Salgado, PhD is an Emmy-nominated astronomer, science photographer, visual artist, and public speaker who creates multimedia works that communicate science in engaging ways. His Science & Symphony films have been presented in 175 concerts and lectures in 15 countries.

José Francisco is a seasoned night sky and aurora photographer and filmmaker. If you would like to view, photograph, and learn about the Northern Lights then you can inquire about his Borealis Science & Photo Tours in Yellowknife, Canada.

You can follow him on: Flickr, Instagram, 500px, Facebook,  and Twitter

Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)

 
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Nikon D5600 review: making connectivity a snap?

01 Mar

The D5600 is the company’s mid-range DSLR and it’s the smallest and best-connected, yet.

Nikon has been on something of a roll, making solid DSLRs with good ergonomics, dependable metering, some of the best image sensors, often very good (often industry-leading) autofocus and a JPEG engine that gives results that lots of people like.

However, falling camera sales and rivalry both from smaller mirrorless models and the convenient, perpetually available smartphone means that producing a really good little DSLR isn’t quite enough. The D5600 aims to address this by making it as painless as possible to get the images from the camera to your phone, meaning that you get the huge benefit of a large sensor camera but with as small an energy barrier as possible.

As such, the addition of SnapBridge is virtually the only change between this and the older D5500. It may sound like a minor change but, to us, we feel it’s likely to be the making or the downfall of this model and perhaps it makes more sense than adding an array of clever but bewildering additional features and modes, as many rival makers seem to do.

Key Features:

  • 24MP APC-S CMOS sensor
  • 39 point AF sensor with 9 central cross-type points
  • 2,016-pixel RGB sensor assists AF tracking and metering
  • Up to 5 fps continuous shooting
  • ‘SnapBridge’ Bluetooth/Wi-Fi communication
  • 1080/60p video capability
  • Time-lapse movie feature

SnapBridge

At its heart, SnapBridge is primarily a Bluetooth-based system which uses a low-energy connection to stay connected to your smart device (and sidestep the hurdles that mobile OSs might otherwise place in your way) and to transfer images. Although the camera is Wi-Fi capable, that capability is used solely for remote live view operation and video transfer.

We weren’t very impressed the first time we encountered SnapBridge: it seemed unfinished and not very well suited to the D500 where it first appeared. The high likelihood of the photographer wanting full resolution files and the camera’s propensity for generating lots of images made it a poor fit for that camera. However, on the mass-market D3400 it seemed much more likeable: you take the photos and 2MP versions appear on your phone shortly afterwards.

The needs of the D5600’s users are likely to lie somewhere between these two extremes, so we’ll see how well it does.

Review based on a camera running firmware v1.0. All SnapBridge commentary amended to reflect the behavior of firmware v1.1 and both iOS and Android app version V1.20

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Review of the Wine Country Camera Filter Holder System

28 Feb

In this article, I will go over why I switched to using the Wine Country Camera filter holder system from others I’d previously used. As well I’ll cover some of the system’s key features so you can decide if it’s right for you as well.

Since the late 60s and early 70s photographers have been using drop-in (slide-in) filters in front of their lenses. The holders which accept such products are usually used for neutral density filters, polarizers, color filters, and sometimes effect filters.

But there has been a problem with this type of holder, even since its inception.  They’re usually poorly made with cheap plastic or mixed aluminum materials. And that’s just the holder’s materials. Other problems are the placement of the polarizers which can cause vignetting, manufacturing errors, and much more.

Review of the Wine Country Camera Filter Holder System

The Wine Country Camera filter holder and vaults.

Although I inherited a Cokin filter kit from my grandfather, my first self-purchased kit was a Lee Filter Foundation Kit. The product is made of plastic, which makes it light weight. But it also makes it vulnerable to bending and breaking.

Eventually, Formatt Hitech released their newer aluminum filter kit, and I made the switch and used it for a couple of years… until now.

Wine Country Filter Holder Materials

Review of the Wine Country Camera Filter Holder System

One of the many tactile points of contact on the holder.

Wine Country Camera was born out of the need for quality filter systems and ongoing standards. Every aspect of the filter kit has been deeply considered and well thought-out from the bottom up, or backward to forward.

Instead of plastic or aluminum, premium materials are used, with purpose. For example, instead of a standard dial, a wooden dial is used, so your fingers don’t freeze in cold weather. That can also be said for the wooden grips on the front of the holder. Every part of the holder is tactile so you know when you’re turning, rotating, and pushing. It’s so tactile that you can even maneuver the holder and filters while wearing gloves.

How It’s Unique

By now you likely already recognize that the holder system from Wine Country Camera is unique. But to reiterate why I thought so, I wanted to point out some of the features that are unlike any other holder on the market.

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Coin locks

Many locations around the system carry the Wine Country Camera logo, a wine glass. At first, you might think it’s about branding. While that might be true, the more important reasoning is so that you know when items are right side up. For example, the filter vaults have this beautiful coin which is turned to lock or unlock the filter. When the wine glass is upside down, the vault is unlocked. When it’s standing on its stem, the vault is locked.

Review of the Wine Country Camera Filter Holder System

The coin which locks and unlocks filters from the vaults.

Vaults

Speaking of the vaults, these are a new concept, already mastered. The vaults are made of a polymer, similar to that found in a Glock. They’re extremely strong. No joke – they can’t be bent. The moment I filled one of my vaults with a filter, I dropped it (I got it on video too). To my surprise, there was no damage to the glass filter inside. The vault serves multiple purposes.

  • The vault seals the space between filters and the holder so that you do not need those annoying foam gaskets.
  • Makes it extremely easy to insert and remove filters from the holder with or without gloves.
  • Protects the filters from normal wear and tear and minor dings.

Vaults are available for 100mm square filters as well as graduated filters. Along with the vaults are two red buttons on the holder. The buttons are designed to remove the friction holding the two outer filters in place. That way you can safely move graduated filters up and down with ease, safely.

Review of the Wine Country Camera Filter Holder System

The red buttons which help adjust how the filters sit in the outer two slots.

Customer service above and beyond

It’s worth noting that due to the high-quality standards of Wine Country Camera, they have identified a flaw of other manufacturers. Although there are so-called standards among filters, they’re not always followed precisely while making the filters. Here is what they said:

Service Advisory: We are noticing that some Lee grads have been produced at a thickness outside of their specification. If you experience difficulty installing your grad, contact us immediately and we will resolve it for you.

As you can see, Wine Company Camera is replacing their filter vaults with new ones, for customers experiencing an issue of their filters not fitting. It’s not their fault, but they’re correcting the issue for their customers. Lots of thumbs up for that customer service decision!

Using the filter holder

The holder allows for three filters to be used at any given time. The reason for this is that the Wine Country Camera filter holder uses an internal polarizer. Because the holder keeps the polarizer in the back, instead of the front like most filter holders, it opens the doors for a third filter.

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Typically when a Circular Polarizer is placed in front of the Neutral Density filters, you lose a slot and have a giant 105mm ring to attach a Circular Polarizer (CPL) too. But with the Wine Country Camera system, the polarizer is easily removed with two red clips and turned using the beautiful wooden dial.

Review of the Wine Country Camera Filter Holder System

The wood dial which turns the internal polarizing filter.

Last, and not least is that because of the extremely low profile of the filter holder, and the polarizer being in the back, there is a reduced the risk of vignetting. The system has been tested as wide as 17mm without any vignetting. That’s a huge jump from the 24mm limit I had with the Formatt Hitech and Lee systems (even with the wide angle adapter rings). I photograph at 20mm quite often and have always experienced vignetting, although minor. Until now.

Is it worth the price?

I’ll be the first to admit when the Wine Country Camera filter holder system was initially announced I was shocked by the price. Especially when compared to systems from other manufacturers. But after getting my hands on it, I understand why.

The amount of pride, thought, and effort that went into every millimeter of the product is the highest possible quality. It’s not cheap plastic. It’s not cheap metal. But for the curious minded, I thought I would include a price comparison on my kit before and after. I will leave out my Neutral Density filters for right now I’m still using my Formatt Hitech Firecrest ones in the Wine Country Camera holder. (I’ll likely switch to WCC once they have their own ND filters)

Wine Country Camera System

  • Holder with internal polarizer, two vaults, and one Adapter Ring: $ 449
  • Two extra 100x100mm square vaults (I have four square filters): $ 75
  • One 150x100mm rectangular vault: $ 35
  • Three Adapter Rings: $ 150
  • Total: $ 704

Formatt Hitech

  • 100mm Aluminum Holder: $ 47.99
  • Four Wide-Angle Adapter Rings:
  • Polarizer Ring: $ 19.99
  • 105mm Firecrest Circular Polarizer SuperSlim: $ 229.99
  • Total: $ 481.92

As mentioned, the price for the Wine Country Camera system is more. But keeping in mind the advantages of the system, the materials used, and that you have the vault advantage, it’s worth the extra money up front. The $ 257.08 savings on a different system might save you up front but could cost you in the long term. Maybe on parts falling apart, lower quality materials breaking, light leaks on your photographs, and potentially more.

But I know that not everyone can afford the kit, so it may not be for you. But if you are like me and want the best of the best when it comes to your photography, then you’ll save up and take the plunge when it’s right for you.

Review of the Wine Country Camera Filter Holder System

Bonus for high megapixel cameras

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Something else to keep in mind, for anyone with a high megapixel camera, like a D810, A7RII or a medium format camera – is that many polarizers have an issue with reflections on higher resolution sensors. The one from Wine Country Camera does not have this issue. The polarizer fits inside the holder body, eliminating reflections and allowing geared rotation. Wine Country Camera worked with a high-end optics manufacturer to develop the highest possibly quality polarizer. Their polarizer uses 2.5mm thick Schott optical glass that is fire polished, and free of surface aberrations. Considering their CPL is less expensive (when purchased alone) than the previous one I was using, it’s nice to know my optics are protected.

Keeping it together

Before theWine Country Camera system, I was using the Mindshift Gear Filter Hive to hold everything in one place. The small bag is incredible, can be stored in a backpack, clipped to a belt, or hung from a tripod.

I was happy to find the Wine Country Camera system almost completely fits in the same bag. Everything but the holder itself fits inside. But fortunately, Wine Country Camera provided a very protective case for the holder and its attached polarizer.

Review of the Wine Country Camera Filter Holder System

Final thoughts

As I mentioned earlier, I was originally a skeptic for the Wine Country Camera system. But I have fallen in love with it. I am so gratefully that this company has now taken steps to improve the lens filter system, as the industry has needed this change for a long time.

I love that every adjustment possible on the holder can be done with the left hand.  That way the right hand can be kept on the camera. To me, the price is worth it, the features are worth it, the quality in craftsmanship is worth it. I hope you recognize the same.

Have you taken a look at the Wine Country Camera filter holder yet? What are your thoughts?

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Lenovo Moto G5 Plus camera first impressions review

27 Feb

Lenovo has launched the latest model of its Moto sub-brand at the Mobile World Congress. The Moto G5 Plus is the successor to last year’s Moto G4 Plus and, like its predecessor, an upper mid-range device that puts a lot of emphasis on camera performance. For the new model’s camera resolution has been reduced from 16MP to 12MP and, with a 1.4µm pixel size, on-sensor phase detection and very fast F1.7 aperture, the main camera specifications look very similar to the Samsung Galaxy S7’s minus the optical image stabilization.

On the video side of things the camera is capable of recording clips with 1080p Full-HD resolution and front camera specification remains unchanged with a 5MP sensor and F2.2 aperture. Compared to the predecessor the size of the IPS display has been reduced from 5.5″ to 5.2″, making the G5 Plus a little more compact, but the 1080p Full-HD resolution remains unchanged. The metal frame is a little more sturdy and gives the entire device more of a premium touch than its predecessor.

The fingerprint sensor at the front now also serves as a touchpad, replacing the Android function buttons. Android 7.0 is powered by a Snapdragon 625 chipset and 2GB of RAM. 32 or 64GB of onboard-storage can be expanded via a microSD slot. The non-removable Li-Ion 3000 mAh battery supports fast charging and, unlike Lenovo’s high-end Moto Z models, the G5 Plus still features a 3.5mm headphone-jack.

  • 12MP CMOS sensor with 1.4µm pixel size
  • F1.7 aperture
  • On-sensor phase detection
  • 1080p video
  • 5MP / F2.2 front camera
  • Manual control over shutter speed
  • 5.2″ 1080p IPS display
  • Android 7.0
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 chipset
  • 2GB RAM
  • 32/64GB storage
  • 3000 mAh battery with fast charging

We have had the chance to use the Moto 5G Plus for a few days before launch and were impressed by the speedy general operation and how solid the new model feels in the hand. We have also shot a good number of sample images with the camera in a variety of situations. 

Image Quality

In our brief test we found the Moto G5 Plus to capture good detail, especially in lower light, good exposures and pleasant colors across the ISO range. In the ISO 50 image below some slight smearing of fine detail is noticeable at a 100% view but overall fine textures are rendered nicely and luminance noise in the blue sky is very well under control. Some highlight clipping is visible in bright areas of the frame but it’s well within acceptable limits for this class of device.  

 ISO 50, 1/1622 sec

In sunlight colors are pleasant with a slightly warm touch. At close subject distance, like in the image below, the combination of a 1/2.5″ sensor with a very fast F1.7 aperture allows for some blurring of the background.  

 ISO 50, 1/2240 sec

Thanks to its fast aperture the Moto G5 Plus can keep the ISO low in indoor scenes like the one below. That said, in low light the camera is slightly more prone to camera shake than models equipped with optical image stabilization.

 ISO 160, 1/30 sec

The camera’s white balance system deals well with artificial indoor lighting. In the ISO 250 image below fine detail is starting to suffer a little bit but both luminance and chroma noise are very well under control. 

 ISO 250, 1/30 sec

The indoor portrait below shows good detail and natural skin tones. The 1/30 sec shutter speed usually still gets you shake-free images.

 ISO 400, 1/30 sec

For low-light shots like the one below, shutter speed is reduced to 1/15 sec and the camera engages a multi-frame night mode. There is now noticeably more noise in the image, especially the shadow areas, but the overall tonality is very pleasant and edge detail is still very well defined. The Moto G5 Plus is performing well in these light conditions.

 ISO 500, 1/15 sec

The night shot below shows very good exposure, color and detail, considering the low light levels. Edges are very well defined and fine textures are still visible as well. Noise is noticeable when the image is viewed at a 100% magnification but finely grained and overall very well controlled. 

 ISO 640, 1/15 sec

Special modes

Panorama mode remains a bit of a weakness in the Moto camera app. The images tend to show good exposure and color but, compared to some competitors, are pretty small. In scenes with several moving subjects ghosting artifacts are almost unavoidable.

Panorama 2704 x 920 pixels

As you can see in the samples below, HDR mode is capable of maintaining better highlight detail than standard exposures. It also slightly lifts the shadows, making for a more balanced overall exposure in high-contrast scenes.

 ISO 50, 1/3763 sec, HDR off
  ISO 50, 1/3618 sec, HDR on

First impressions

We are hoping to spend more time with the Moto G5 Plus soon, but after our first brief test the new model looks, like its predecessor, like a great option for mobile photographers who don’t want to spend iPhone or Galaxy S money. The Moto G5 Plus offers responsive operation in all situations and very decent image quality across the ISO range. We especially liked the textures and low noise levels in low light scenes. 

In terms of build quality the new model is a step up from last years G4 Plus as well and the touchpad-style fingerprint reader is an interesting touch. At its retail price point of $ 299 the Lenovo Moto G5 Plus looks like a great package for mobile photographers and general users alike. 

Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)

 
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