Today I am comparing two “premium” third-party standard zoom lenses: the Tamron 17-50mm F2.8 VC ($650, B&H), and Sigma 17-50mm F2.8 OS ($594, B&H). Both offer a useful 17-50mm with fast F2.8 max aperture (at all focal lengths). Both feature optical stabilization. Both are available for multiple camera mounts (including Canon, Nikon and Sony).
Interestingly the price difference in The Netherlands (where I live) used to be reversed, although recently the Tamron got more expensive and the Sigma much cheaper, so that they currently retail for €419 and
€389 respectively (28 December 2013).
In addition to their similar specifications, these two have very similar size and weight, and compete in the same price range. Direct competitors, therefore. But which one is best?
I got my hands on both of them (Nikon mount), and put them to the test.Read More»
Photozone.de just published their review of Sony’s new stabilized 50mm f/1.8 lens, available for their NEX mirrorless system. The thing that makes this lens special is the fact that it combines a big aperture with optical stabilization. In fact, to my knowledge this is the fastest (lowest f-number) stabilized system lens (of any focal length) ever built!
Large apertures are great in low light situations. It enables you to gather more light, thereby letting you use a lower ISO value or faster shutter speed. Lower ISO means less image noise and better colours.
The “problem” with traditional 50mm primes (like those of Canon, Nikon) is that when you’re shooting hand-held you have to use a fast shutter speed (e.g. < 1/80) because they lack stabilization. If you had stabilization and were shooting a static subject you could probably have gone down to 1/10 and have used an ISO value 8 times lower.
The large f/1.8 aperture gives about 3 stops extra light compared to a 18-55 f/3.5-5.6 “kit zoom”, but you lose the 3-stop advantage you would have gotten with the kit zoom’s image stabilization. Since the advantages cancel out you instead have to use the same ISO value for either lens at its minimum usable hand-held shutter speed. But with the new Sony you can choose to apply that large aperture either for low ISO (useful for static subjects) or for fast shutter speeds (useful for moving subjects). In one word: versatility!
The advantages of a “nifty fifty” go further than being able to use fast shutter speeds. These lenses are almost always sharp (at smaller apertures), small, light, and can render backgrounds with beautiful shallow depth of field blurring, known as “bokeh”. By also being affordable (often < $300) you will find one in the bag, or on the camera, of every serious photographer.
For the reasons stated above a “nifty fifty” works nicely as a portrait lens on cropped sensor DSLRs. For a great example, see this photo by Ana Santos :
Reading the review we see that this new Sony lens has nothing to be ashamed of, and at $300 (available for pre-order at B&H) it is good value for money, too! It is not the sharpest lens at large apertures, but renders beautiful out-of-focus background “bokeh”. If you want sharpness you just have to stop it down. And, it is stabilized!
Conclusion: a very harmonious offering. The unique double advantages of a classical fast 50mm prime and image stabilization. Sony NEX users can count themselves privileged.
This tuesday, Nikon officially released the Nikon D800 (and its twin sibling, the D800E). The D800 is an important model and will certainly find its way into the camera bag of many (if not most) pro Nikon “FX” shooters. It is already available for pre-order (B&H) so if you know you need it just go ahead and order – you are buying into the new Nikon semi-professional full-frame standard.
I have a lot I want to say about this camera, but I will have to take the time for that in future posts (hopefully in the near future). But it boils down to this:
The D800 offers two class-leading things:
- extremely high resolution. The highest of any current main-stream DSLR.
- advanced/pro video features (“Full frame” 35mm 1080p, uncompressed HDMI out, live audio monitoring via headphone jack)
The rest of the spec sheet pretty much consists of evolutionary tweaks and refinements.
In future posts I will talk about what all this means. Is 36MP better than the Canon 5D Mk II’s 21MP, or the Nikon D700’s 12MP? Is it worth it to buy this camera instead of the much cheaper Nikon D7000? What kind of person should consider this camera? What is the difference between the D800E and the D800? Stay tuned.
Oh, and before I sign off – here is the official “made by a Nikon D800” teaser video. As you can see this camera just loves video:
Being a South African myself, I am proud of the waves Die Antwoord is making – there are few (if any) other South African bands that are on the bleeding edge like this duo is.
In the video “I Fink U Freeky” for their new album Ten$ion, Die Antwoord worked together with famed US / South African photographer Roger Ballen to create something exotic. Love it or or hate it, you just have to admire the way the result captures Ballen’s photographic style and transforms it into a powerful audiovisual tour de force. (warning: NSFW / video contains mature content)
Music videos inspired by photographs and paintings are of course no new thing. Examples include Live – Turn My Head (inspired by John Register paintings) and more infamously, Rihanna’s S&M video that effectively plagiarized the work by photographer David LaChapelle.
In this case it is great to see an established pro photographer (a veteran with 50 years’ experience) collaboratively creating something beautifully Freeky on youtube.
And here it is! The new flagship of Nikon’s camera range, the D4 (posed next to its upcoming nemises, the Canon 1D X).
When Canon announced their EOS-1D X in October, I made a quick side-by-side comparison with Nikon’s flagship at the time, the D3S. The new Canon featured a range of major improvements and was poised to make a grab at being the best 35mm professional DSLR money can buy. Notable was that the new Canon would only be available in March 2012, making the announcement a marketing move (for the time being). The question was what Nikon’s answer would be, since the D3S was still excellent, but already a few years old.
And now we know – on paper. The Nikon D4 narrows all of the gaps that existed between the D3S and the Canon 1DX, but the Canon still holds the specification crown. These numerical differences will probably be less important than how the features are implemented, and without a hands-on comparison we will still have to wait at bit. Notably, the new Nikon excels in its video features, for the first time surpassing Canon.
The significant stuff, in table form:
|(Max native ISO)
|# AF points
H.264 + RAW out
with face detection
with face detection
||3.2″, 921k dots||3.2″, 1040k dots|
|Memory card slots
||CF + XQD||CF + CF|
|Price (body)||$5999 (B&H)||$6800 (B&H)|
|Announcement date||Jan 2012
(available for pre-order)
(available March 2012)
DPReview covered the D4’s announcement in more detail, but I’ll just focus on the most important headline upgrades:
- Multimedia! The D4 supports high resolution video: H.264 1080p @ 30fps, 720p @ 60 fps + uncompressed HDMI video out
- Second card slot for the brand new industry-standard XQD card format
- A new 91,000-pixel RGB metering sensor with face detection
Actually that is quite a short list. All the other improvements are incremental. Slightly larger LCD, improved AF sensor (with same number of points), higher resolution, improved processing power, and tweaked ergonomics. Not a bad thing since these were already excellent on the D3S. But not head-turners either.
The D3S was absolutely the best low-light performer of any full-frame DSLR, so if the D4 equals this it will still be great. One just can’t help noticing that Canon massively upped their game with the 1DX, and it seems that they might now have taken the lead – with a native ISO limit that is almost 4x that of the Nikon. One can’t help thinking that the D4’s boost range was doubled only so that the it could match the Canon’s 1D X impressive maximum ISO. What it will mean for noise I don’t yet know – we will have to wait for tests.
Interestingly the D4’s biggest selling-point now seems to be its video features. Ironic, since only a year ago the situation was reversed, with Canon being the DSLR videographer’s choice, and Nikon leading in still photography performance. But progress benefits us all, and professional video shooters will be ecstatic with the Nikon D4’s uncompressed HDMI out – up to now only available on expensive dedicated video equipment, and notably lacking on any Canon DSLR. And the XQD card slot will prove a huge advantage for storing all those massive video files.
Of course if you are already heavily invested in either manufacturer’s equipment, especially their expensive pro lenses, it might make little sense to consider a switch. But if you want to move into pro photography and have little or no existing commitment, this might be a moment to choose carefully.
And so we see the giants fall. CNN just announced that Eastman Kodak (NYSE:EK) has begun preparations for a possible bankruptcy filing. For people who have been following (or worse: using) the sub-par digital cameras they produced over the past years this may seem logical. The only thing that may still save them is the value of the patents that they hold. But will it be enough? Probably not.
This is a historically significant moment. Kodak was founded in 1880 – it has been around for more than 131 years – from the early days of photography. In 1884, George Eastman developed the technology of film to replace photographic plates, leading to the technology used by film cameras up to this day.
In the 20th century it dominated the photography and imaging industry, using a business model of selling affordable cameras and making most of its money on consumables — film, chemicals and paper. My own first camera was a Kodak Retina II (see picture below). It was exquisitely made, and lit in me the love of cameras and photography.
Then the digital era came. In the 1990s, Kodak had (wisely) planned a decade-long journey to move to digital technology. Fatally, this planning was never fully implemented. Kodak’s core business faced no pressure from competing technologies, and Kodak’s executives failed to foresee a world without traditional film. After 2001 the digital photography revolution gained full momentum, and Kodak was in trouble. It tried to regain lost ground by selling cheap easy-to-use “Easyshare” cameras.
Unfortunately for Kodak, the low-end compact camera market is a crowded one, and competition with Eastern companies undercut profitability. And despite their ease of use their cameras lacked two very important things – image quality and personality. In my opinion, quality and personality is what made Apple such a success, and Kodak a failure.
In recent years Kodak was losing money fast, and needed to find a new core business. Too late, they shifted focus to photo printers and printer ink, but this came too expensive, and too late.
R.I.P Kodak. You made your mark in history, but you will not live to see the future.
Yesterday, Nikon has released new firmware for their D5100 and D7000 DSLRs. Since they were launched this is the first update for the D5100 and the third update for the D7000, and correct a couple of very minor issues.
If you own any of these and are happy with the way your camera works you may safely ignore the update.
Not sure whether you should upgrade or don’t know what firmware is? Then read this. Personally I own a D7000 and yes, I will upgrade mine. If you also wish to stay at the cutting edge and upgrade you can
Don’t know how to upgrade the firmware? You can read the official instructions on Nikon’s site (see download links above), or just watch Jared Polin’s informal and verbose video – see below.
To be honest Jared can really benefit by ranting less and keeping it shorter. But at least you now know how this works!
Interested in any of these cameras? Support this site by ordering from B&H photo.
Update: Since the Nikon D4 has been announced on 2012-01-06, I have also written a concise post about the Nikon D4 vs Canon 1D X.
Canon has thrown down the gauntlet with the announcement of its brand new flagship DSLR, the Canon EOS-1D X. This new camera is an extremely important new model for Canon, make no mistake about it.
The significant stuff, in table form:
|# AF points
||1005-pixel RGB||100,000-pixel RGB|
||3″, 921k dots||3.2″, 1040k dots|
|Price (body)||$5200||$6800 (est)|
|Announcement date||Oct 2009||Oct 2011|
You know that to get the most of your DSLR you should be shooting in RAW, right? But these days Nikon cameras gives you even more options: 12-bit or 14-bit, and compressed or uncompressed RAW (NEF) files. Which should you choose?
Short question: Does it matter? Will you see any difference between compressed (lossy) and uncompressed (lossless) RAW? And between 12 and 14 bits?
Short answer: No it does not matter. Choose 12-bit compressed (because they take up less space) and forget about this topic. Or choose 14-bit uncompressed because theoretically you’re getting the “most” from your camera – you just have to live with the file sizes.
| Approximate RAW file
size on a Nikon D7000
|12 bit||14 bit|
|compressed||12.6 MB||15.7 MB|
|uncompressed||14.9 MB||18.8 MB|
Not happy with the short answer? Then read on…Read More»
The news is out! Nikon indeed came with a big announcement at midnight yesterday, and it is indeed a whole new system.
- 2.7 crop factor called “Nikon CX” (a 10mm lens is equivalent to 27mm in traditional full-frame/film)
- Very fast shooting rates – up to 60 fps full-resolution photographs
- Advanced video capability
- Lots of accessories, already including 4 lenses, speedlight flash, GPS, external microphone and F-mount adapter.
To give you a sense of scale, this is the new V1 in hand: