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Announcing the PDN Gift Guide 2016

Published on November 23, 2016 by in News

Our friends at Photo District News just published their annual Gift Guide, including gift ideas from the reviews team here at DPReview. Alongside our personal recommendations, you’ll find contributions from the team at PDN, and Rangefinder Magaz…

 
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Sigma 12-24mm F4 DG HSM Art Lens Review

Published on November 22, 2016 by in News

The Sigma 12-24mm F4 DG HSM Art was first announced September 16th, 2016. This is Sigma’s widest zoom lens offering to date and joins Sigma’s growing list of Art lenses. The lens is priced at just under $1600, which makes it a fierce competitor to Canon’s EF 11-24mm F4L USM lens which is priced at just under $3,000.

The Sigma is available in Canon, Nikon F (FX) and Sigma SA Bayonet mounts and will most likely appeal to landscape and architecture photographers that are looking for an extremely wide field-of-view (12mm gives around a 122° diagonal field of view).

The looming question is: does the extreme difference in price effect the build quality and performance of the Sigma? In this review we will be looking at the Sigma’s performance and just how it stacks up against the Canon 11-24mm F4L.

APS-C

If you’re an APS-C shooter, the Sigma can be utilized on that platform with an equivalent focal length of 19-38mm and an equivalent aperture of F6.4. It’s worth noting however that Sigma already offers a considerably less expensive 10-20mm F3.5 which would be a 16-32mm F5.6 equivalent, which would be a much better wide-angle option. For this reason we’re not going to consider this lens for use on APS-C in this review.

Sigma 12-24mm F4 DG HSM Art Headline Features

  • 12-24mm focal length
  • F4 maximum aperture
  • Ring-type Ultrasonic Focusing
  • Available in Canon EF, Nikon F (FX) and Sigma mounts

Specifications Compared

  Sigma 12-24mm F4 DG HSM Art Canon EF 11-24mm F4L USM
Price (MSRP) $1,599.00 $2,999.00
Lens Type Wide-Angle Zoom Wide-Angle Zoom 
Focal Length 12-24mm 11-24mm
Filter Thread  None None (rear insert-type)
Image Stabilization No No
Lens Mount Canon, Nikon F (FX), Sigma SA Bayonet Canon EF
Aperture Ring No No
Maximum Aperture F4  F4 
Minimum Aperture F22 F22
Minimum Focus 0.24 m (9.45″) 0.28m (11″)
Diaphragm Blades   9 (rounded) 9 (rounded)
Elements   16 16
Groups   11 11
Special Elements/Coatings Super Multi-Layer Coating, F-Low Dispersion and aspherical elements, including an 80mm large-diameter molded glass aspherical element

Super UD, UD, and 4 Aspherical Elements, SWC, Air Sphere, and Fluorine Coatings, Rear element fluorine coatings

Autofocus Yes Yes
Motor Type Ring-type Hypersonic Ultrasonic
Full Time Manual Yes Yes
Focus Method Internal Internal
Distance Scale  Yes Yes
DoF Scale No No
Weather Sealing  Dust and Splash Proof Construction with rear rubber gasket Full Weather Sealing
Zoom Method  Rotary (extending) Rotary (internal)
Weight 1151g (2.54 lb) 1180g (2.60 lb)
Dimensions 132mm (5.2″) x 102mm (4.0″) 132 mm (5.2″) x 108 mm (4.25″)
Hood Included Yes (built in) Yes (built in)

The Sigma and the Canon share a rather large number of the same features with respect to lens design. The main differences between the two lenses are highlighted in green. The Canon has a slight edge over the Sigma in terms of build quality with full weather sealing, where the Sigma offers a ‘moisture resistant’ rubber gasket on the lens mount and water-repellent coatings on the front and rear lens elements.

Both lenses are very heavy and are nearly identical in size and shape, and both feature built-in lens hoods. Neither lens accepts standard screw type filters, but the Canon has a slot to accept rear gel filters. The Sigma has that familiar Art build that feels very robust in hand but lacks the same ‘sealed’ feeling that the Canon lens provides due to its water resistant external construction.

The Canon has a slight advantage over the Sigma in terms of the zoom method as the Sigma has an external extending zoom whereas the Canon’s is internal. Being that the Sigma isn’t fully weather sealed this could be a weak point in the design in terms of moisture penetrating the lens during adverse or wet weather conditions. 

With these specifications in mind, we will now be looking at how well the Sigma performs to determine how it fairs in our head-to-head comparison with the Canon 11-24mm F4L. 

 
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Godox launches mini radio flash unit for Sony mirrorless cameras

Published on November 22, 2016 by in News

Flash and accessory manufacturer Godox has announced a new small flash unit that it says is designed to go with the Sony mirrorless range of cameras. The Godox TT350S features 2.4GHz radio control and TTL exposure metering, and offers a guide number of 36m@ISO 100. The company says that the unit is compatible with the Sony a7R II, a7R, as well as the a58 and a77ll SLT cameras. Some RX models are also able to pair with the unit.

The radio controlled system allows the TT350S to work alongside other Godox radio flash units and studio heads, and the flash can operate as a master or slave in multiple-head set-ups. Three groups are programmed into the control system along with 16 channels, while the maximum working range is said to be 30m. High speed sync is provided via an HSS mode that can work with shutter speeds of up to 1/8000 sec, and the unit can be switched from TTL to manual operation to make use of 22 output levels from 1/128th power. An automatically zooming head covers focal lengths of 24-105mm, and a hinge allows the head to tilt but not to swivel.

The TT350S is powered by two AA batteries which the company claims should be good for 210 full power bursts. There is no official pricing yet, but one UK ebay seller is offering pre-orders for £73 and says delivery is expected early January.

For more information about the TT350S visit the Godox website.

 
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Sony a7 II firmware version 3.30 now available

Published on November 22, 2016 by in News

Sony has released firmware version 3.30 for the Sony a7 II camera. The update is a very small one, improving the amount of light at the edge of images taken when using the flash.
The features and improvements added by the previous update, versio…

 
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Mentor Series: Tour De Fort

Published on November 22, 2016 by in News

Mentor Series

Photographer Richard Finn’s striking monochrome interior image.

Richard Finn encountered this exciting and “spooky” interior on a Mentor Series Trek in San Francisco.

 
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Apple’s Phil Schiller explains why the new MacBook Pro doesn’t have an SD card slot

Published on November 3, 2016 by in News

There’s a fair amount of controversy surrounding Apple’s newly unveiled MacBook Pro laptops, with one major criticism from photographers focusing on the removal of the SD card slot. Owners must use an SD-to-USB adapter to physically transfer files from a card to the laptop, otherwise wireless transfer is the only option. When asked about this design decision during an interview with The Independent, Apple’s Phil Schiller explained that SD card slots are ‘cumbersome.’

When asked why the new MacBook Pro laptops don’t have an SD card slot, Schiller explained:

“Because of a couple of things. One, it’s a bit of a cumbersome slot. You’ve got this thing sticking halfway out. Then there are very fine and fast USB card readers, and then you can use CompactFlash as well as SD. So we could never really resolve this – we picked SD because more consumer cameras have SD but you can only pick one. So, that was a bit of a trade-off. And then more and more cameras are starting to build wireless transfer into the camera. That’s proving very useful. So we think there’s a path forward where you can use a physical adaptor if you want, or do wireless transfer.”

During the end of the interview, Schiller admitted that the level of criticism around the new MacBook Pro ‘has been a bit of a surprise.’ He went on to say that he has ‘never seen a great new Apple product that didn’t have its share of early criticism and debate — and that’s cool. We took a bold risk, and of course with every step forward there is also some change to deal with.’

Via: Independent

 
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Huawei Mate 9 comes with next generation Leica dual-cam

Published on November 3, 2016 by in News

Huawei has today launched its latest top-end phablet, the Mate 9. The new device features a large 5.9″ LCD IPS display with 1080p resolution and 1500:1 contrast ratio. In the camera department the Mate 9 comes with a new dual-camera that, like its counterpart in the P9, was co-developed with camera manufacturer Leica.

The new version of the Huawei dual-cam boosts resolution of its monochrome sensor to 20MP (up from 12MP in the P9) with a 12MP color chip. Both lenses feature an F2.2 aperture. There is a new 6-axis optical image stabilization system and a 4-in-1 hybrid AF system that combines, contrast detection, phase detection, laser time-of-flight measurements and depth information. 

As before, image data from both sensors is combined to achieve better image results than conventional cameras. Like on the P9, the dual-camera can also simulate the bokeh of a fast lens on a DSLR, but Huawei says the effect has been improved and is now visible in the live-view image. 

In addition the camera features a new hybrid zoom system, which uses image information from the 20MP monochrome sensor for ‘lossless’ digital zooming of the 12MP standard image output. Huawei says that, thanks to improved compression methods, the camera’s 4K video mode creates smaller file sizes without a loss in image quality. The front camera features an 8MP sensor and F1.9 aperture. 

Android 7.0 and Huawei’s EMUI 5.0 launcher are powered by the in-house Kirin 960 CPU, which, according to Huawei, delivers 180% more performance than the predecessor Kirin 950. Huawei also claims the 4000mAh battery is good for 2.5 days of normal use per charge, or 1.7 days of intensive use. An improved version of Huawei’c quick charging system is on board as well. The Huawei Mate 9 with 4GB RAM, 64GB storage and microSD support will be available in mocha, black, white, gold, space grey and silver and cost €699 in Europe (approximately $775). 

Huawei also introduced a limited Porsche Design edition of the Mate 9. This luxury device comes with 6GB of RAM, 256GB of internal memory and features a 5.5″ curved 2K AMOLED display. Other specifications are identical to the standard Mate 9. The Porsche Edition will be sold exclusively through Porsche Design Stores and set you back a hefty €1395 ($1545).

Related: Huawei P9 Review

 
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Loupedeck Is a Lightroom Console for Tactile Photo Editing with Knobs and Buttons

Published on November 3, 2016 by in News

Gear

You’d be like a Lightroom DJ

The Loupedeck uses knobs, buttons, and dials to control Lightroom functions.

 
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500 Leagues: using the Nikon D500 underwater

Published on November 3, 2016 by in News

By Adam Hanlon – Editor, www.wetpixel.com

The arrival of Nikon’s new DX camera, the D500, created a stir among wildlife and underwater photographers.

At Wetpixel.com we set out to thoroughly review the camera and we’ve been shooting it for over a month continuously during the Wetpixel Raja Ampat Expedition on Damai 1, the Wetpixel/Alex Mustard Lembeh Macro workshop at Lembeh Resort and in the UK’s Farne Islands with Farne Islands Divers. In the course of the past few weeks we have produced just under 9,000 images in a wide variety of conditions and photographic genres.

 Nauticam NA-D500 housing, Zen 170mm dome port and Inon Z240 strobes

Underwater, the D500 produces very pleasing images straight out of the camera, with sharp details and vibrant colors.

The DX sensor delivers a 1.5 X crop factor which makes wide-angle lenses less wide and macro lenses more magnified. It also increases depth of field. The latter makes producing wide angle images with acceptable corner sharpness easier when behind a dome port and removes some of the need for shooting at high ISO sensitivities.

Traditionally, one of the advantages of FX cameras underwater has been their low light, high ISO performance. Light levels are significantly reduced underwater. This is further complicated by the need to maintain apertures of F11 or so (on FX cameras) in order to provide sufficient depth of field to ensure that the whole curved image produced by a dome port is in focus.

With a DX camera, the additional depth of field inherent in the smaller sensor size does reduce this problem somewhat, and as far as high ISO image quality is concerned, the D500 is competent to at least ISO 2000, with clean images possible beyond this point, especially after Raw post-processing. The D500’s low light performance, while not a par with the D810 or D5, is very impressive.

Autofocus

Nikon has introduced a new autofocus system in the D5 and D500 cameras, with a dedicated CPU that processes only AF data.

AF shooting modes are a matter of personal preference to some extent, and I tend to use Continuous AF (AF-C) in either 3D or 153 point Dynamic area focusing area mode. 3D Tracking uses color information from the camera’s Scene Recognition System to track the subject around the frame. It does take something of a leap of faith to trust it, but it is almost infallible, even in very low light.

Extreme low light focusing…. Bigfin reef squid, Lembeh Straits, Indonesia. D500, Nikon 60mm f2.8, 1/250 @ F6.3, ISO100.

My experience is that the D500’s AF performance is simply the best that I have ever used. With 3D tracking, following reef fish’s movements around the frame is almost too easy. It simply does not miss. Of the nearly 8,000 images shot for this review, there are no more than 20 that are are unusable due to missed focus. I should clarify though – that not all of those remaining 7920 images are focused exactly where I wanted them to be. However until the camera can read my mind, I’m confident that this is user error, not camera error!

I have found that newer AF systems are more accurate than my eye and in situations where they fail (the complete darkness inside a submerged wreck for example) locking off the autofocus at a known distance in the light zone prior to entering the darkness is a viable technique. With super macro wet lens attachments, the AF is racked in to its closest focus and then sharpness achieved by rocking the whole camera back and forth.

Ergonomically, the D500 is similar to previous Nikon DSLRs, but the ISO button has moved from the left hand side of the top-plate, over to the right near the shutter release. Although this makes perfect sense for shooting on land, it presents a challenge for housing manufacturers. It would be nice to see Nikon address this by allowing more customization of controls in a future firmware release.

Nauticam’s response to Nikon moving the ISO button is to add a lever that rests under the right thumb, just behind the shutter release.

For those coming from the D800 series, the D500’s battery life seems less. It is easy to get a day’s shooting out of a battery, which is all that is really needed, but not much more. For those used to the seemingly inexhaustible batteries of the FX models, this can seem limited. Practically, it is wise to have a few spare batteries around. 

The D500 takes the ubiquitous EN-EL15 Li-ion batteries, but older versions can cause issues. If you have a collection of EN-EL15 cells from previous-generation Nikon DSLRs, make sure that they’re marked ‘Li-ion20’ on the underside.

Whilst the touch screen is of limited value underwater, it does allow for quick and easy image reviews (you can even two finger pinch to zoom in), as well as efficient input of text into the camera’s copyright, image comments and IPTC settings. The latter is another new feature, previously only available on the newer single digit D series cameras. IPTC information can also be loaded from a PC using either Nikon’s app (which needs Silverlight) or the free IPTC Preset Editor

Speed

The D500 is capable of shooting at up to 10 frames per second, with a buffer of 200 frames. When paired with a fast XQD card, it can shoot almost indefinitely. I cannot seem to make the buffer fill. It is so much faster than the D810 that it makes the latter feel pretty stodgy.

Speed test showing the performance of a Lexar 64GB 2933X Professional XQD card using a Lexar Professional Workflow XR2 XQD 2.0 USB 3.0 card reader.

Of course, when shooting with strobes their recycle times will effect shooting speed far more than the camera. In this instance, the lack of a a pop up flash is actually an advantage. Using electrical connections or the excellent electro-optical converters like that in Nauticam’s D500 housing will allow some of this camera’s potential speed to be used.

For shooting big animals underwater and fast action without a strobe, this camera is blazingly fast. In conjunction with the speed and accuracy of the AF mentioned above, I expect that this camera will be responsible for some very impressive images during the course of its product lifespan. In a world where getting the shot is crucial, this camera sets new standards.

Summing up

To sum up, the D500 is, in my opinion, the best camera that Nikon currently make for underwater use. To be sure, there are some specific things that it does not do as well as some of the other models in Nikon’s product range, but if I had to select one camera to do it all, I’d pick the D500.

The level of detail that is possible to capture can be seen in this image of a mantis shrimp with its eggs. D500, Nikon 60mm f2.8, 1/250@f20, ISO100

It is perhaps unfair to compare the two in terms of pure image quality, but if I was planning to solely shoot large wide angle reef scenes, the D810 combined with big powerful strobes like the Seacam Seaflash 150s or Ikelite DS161 would still be my tool of choice. That said, the D810 needs to be paired with expensive lenses and large (and also expensive) ports to really deliver its potential. It is both simpler and significantly cheaper to shoot with the D500.

For macro use, the D800/D810 allows for more cropping while retaining acceptable resolution. For shy or skittish subjects, this can be an advantage. However, the D500 offers a 1.5 X crop factor, which gives macro lenses more reach by definition. The D500’s amazing AF performance will do a better job of keeping those subjects in focus too!

For those already shooting the D7200, the D500 offers significantly better AF, improved low light performance, a more rugged build quality and faster shooting. The downside, of course, is the cost of the camera and a new housing.

For underwater photographers still shooting with a Nikon D300 or D300s, now is the time to upgrade. The performance enhancements will allow you to capture images that your existing setup simply will not. The ability to properly use ISO as an aid to exposure, the improved image quality, the AF performance and its overall speed are all persuasive arguments for the D500 becoming your next camera.


Thanks to Phoebe Lu of Nauticam for supplying their NA-D500 housing and 45° magnified viewfinder to me for use with this review. Many thanks to the crew, staff and my fellow guests on all the trips. Visit www.wetpixel.com for the latest in underwater photography news and reviews.

 
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Throwback Thursday: Nikon D40

Published on November 3, 2016 by in News

Nikon’s first truly beginner-friendly DSLR turns 10 years old this month. The Nikon D40 was introduced in November of 2006, bringing with it for the first time on-screen tips for novice digital photographers. It was the company’s smallest and lightest DSLR at the time, paring down some of the more advanced features found on the likes of the D80 and the D50, and was the first Nikon DSLR to do away with a built-in AF motor. For $600 you got:

  • A 6MP CCD sensor
  • 3-point AF Multi-CAM530 sensor
  • 2.5 fps burst shooting
  • A ‘large’ 2.5″ 230k-dot LCD
  • ISO 200-1600 with 3200 expansion
  • A version II AF-S DX 18-55mm kit lens

Reviewer and site founder Phil Askey was careful to point out that the D40 wasn’t just a dumbed down D50 – it brought numerous improvements that happened to be targeted toward a first-time DSLR owner. D40 shoppers weren’t likely to care about the lack of support for older lenses, and the resolution was more than enough (who needs 8 megapixels?) for its target audience. Askey did lament the loss of a top-panel LCD (they still haven’t found their way back into Nikon’s entry level) and the fact that shooting Raw + JPEG recorded only basic-quality JPEGs. 

Overall though, the Nikon D40 went down as Highly Recommended, and an excellent value. Did you own the D40? Do you feel old now? Let us know your D40 memories in the comments below. 

Read our full Nikon D40 Review

 
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