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Tuesday, 24 January 2012

SLR Magic HyperPrime LM 50mm T0.95 @ Steve Huff

Steve Huff has gotten his hands on a copy of the new SLR Magic 50mm T/0.95 Hyperprime and within hours of receiving it he has already updated his website such is his excitement with this lens! His initial impression is that it's superior to the leica Noctilux in terms of build quality and sharpness, that's astonishing news, if this lens costs any less than the leica (not difficult!) then it will automatically be good value! www.stevehuffphoto.com/2012/01/23/world-exclusive-1st-look-slr-magic-hyperprime-lm-50mm-t0-95-for-leica-m-mount/

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Olympus OM-D incoming!


Olympus has begun a teaser campaign for it's upcoming OM-D camera that will become the range topper for their mirrorless cameras. There was a time when Olympus themselves hailed the E-400 series of SLRs as the new OM so I think that speaks volumes about the future of that product line!

Details remain somewhat sketchy but it seems the high end camera will have a 16mp sensor, a high resolution EVF and a magnesium body. It's also certain to be weather sealed following the recent release of the new weather sealed zoom lens. I'm sure it will be a beautiful thing and I hope the sensor can do the rest of the body justice, I used to have an E-420 and while the sensor wasn't so great the camera was very well made and a joy to operate, the finish and perception of quality blew away equivalent Nikon and Canon bodies at the time.

There is a leaked image of the camera over at 43 Rumours which doesn't give away too much but you can see the camera will have a large amount of external controls and retro design touches.

Apparently the camera will be announced officially announced on the 8th of febuary.


Friday, 13 January 2012

Kenko (Tokina) display cool little 400mm mirror lens at CES - PLEASE be good!!

 

Kenko/Tokina displayed a new T-mount 400mm F/8 mirror lens at the 2012 international CES that looks very interesting! The aperture is pretty slow but this helps the lens to be very compact and from looking at photos of the lens attached to a camera it looks small even by mirror lens standards and could possibly be the smallest 400mm lens I've ever seen! Having a T-mount this lens will be adaptable to just about any camera you can think of but will it deliver anywhere like decent IQ?

It seems a lot of people relying on google translate have come to the incorrect conclusion that the T-mount to Micro 43 and T-mount to NEX adapters were the big story when obviously the lens is the big deal! Likewise the $200-250 price estimate applies to the lens and not just the adapter! There is no current release date although it looks like they are aiming to have it on the market some time this year.

I'm very interested by this lens so hopefully it will perform quite well optically but I wont get my hopes up, there are some great mirror lenses out there but not many!

 

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Photo from DC.Watch

Monday, 9 January 2012

Sigma to announce two new lenses for Micro Four Thirds AND Sony NEX!

 

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Tomorrow Sigma will announce two new lenses for the Micro Four Thirds system and the Sony NEX system, these will be the first third party autofocus lenses available to users of M43 cameras.

There's a 19mm F/2.8 and a 30mm F/2.8, neither of them are particularly exciting in terms of specs but we can forgive that considering how unique they are for the time being, no doubt they are designs that were relatively cheap and easy to make but there's nothing to say they won't give stunning IQ and at least Sigma haven't gone for a really safe bet with a superzoom like Tamron have done with their debut NEX offering.

Sigma make some really fantastic lenses so while I agree these don't look earth shatteringly impressive I have confidence they will combine good value with strong image quality so I'll be looking forward to some reviews and samples!
 

Canon unleash the PowerShot G1 X on the world, the world doesn't flinch.

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Canon has announced the PowerShot G1 X (what is the obsession with "X" at the moment?) and I'm not sure how I feel about it and it seems a lot of you aren't sure either.

It is based around a sensor that is between micro 43 and APS-C in size and the body is a larger version of the design utilized by the most recent G series cameras. It has a fixed lens with a 28-112mm equivalent range (why not 24mm??) and the maximum aperture range varies between a respectable F/2.8 at the wide end a somewhat slow F/5.8 at the long end.

The camera has a basic optical viewfinder, not and EVF or hybrid which is a bit of a disappointment. I have also noticed that the lens doesn't have a filter thread and that you have to fit an adapter before you can use filters, the PowerShot Pro1 used a similar system and it seems Canon haven't learned from past mistakes because just like with the Pro1 you cannot use the filter adapter and the lens hood at the same time because they both use the same fitting to attach to the lens, there must have been a way around this problem!

I think Canon really should have gone for an interchangeable lens model, I'm sure one is in the works but everyone knows they sell well by now so there's no need to test the water with a fixed lens model, it would help if the fixed lens allowed for a very compact camera but it's actually significantly larger than the Panasonic GX1 with the new pancake zoom attached so where's the benefit of having a fixed lens?

I am certain it is a very good camera but the competition is so hot at the moment that this camera seems a little underwhelming, it will be a very good photographic tool for sure but coming from Canon it should be the best of the best and I don't feel like it is.
 

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Bye Bye Number 5, Hello 5N

I sold my NEX-5 so that I can upgrade to the new 5N, I was considering the 7 strongly but the increase in resolution seems to be negated by higher noise levels and the sensor doesn't have offset microlenses like the 5N, I have no idea why they have omitted this feature on the more expensive camera by they have and as a result the camera is less suitable for using many manual lenses.

The touch screen on the 5N is also more useful than I realised, you can use it to pull focus during video recording and it actually does a pretty smooth job of it, certainly good enough for the type of videos I would be interested in making. Talking of videos there's the clicking issue some 5N owners have experienced but as Sony has offered a free fix this doesn't bother me at all because there is a Sony service centre in my town so I can even drop it in to be modified if I get one that doesn't have a factory applied mod!

At first I thought the benefits of upgrading to a 5N were almost non existent but there's more than I realised such as:

  1. The sensor is only slightly higher resolution but has significantly better noise performance and also somewhat better dynamic range. It is considered by some to be the best all round APS-C sensor made so far.
  2. The burst rate has increased from an already impressive 7FPS to 10FPS
  3. You can record 1080P video at 60FPS meaning you can convert it to 24FPS and get awesome slow motion video!
  4. The screen is a touch screen and helps to overcome the lack of external controls and also allows new features such as touch activated automatic focus pulling.
  5. The video mode uses a much better codec and is sharper with less compression artifacts.
  6. The video mode now offers full 1080p instead of 1080i
  7. The video mode can now be controlled manually.
  8. The 5N has a higher ISO limit at 25,600
  9. The battery life is supposedly improved significantly which is good news as this is a major issue with the NEX-5
  10. Shutter lag is reduced significantly thanks to an electronic first curtain.
  11. You can use the optional EVF which is the same as the one found in the NEX-7 and is probably the best EVF made so far.
  12. The ISO range begins at 100 vs 200 so you can use faster lenses in daylight without bumping into the shutter speed limit as easily.
  13. The sunset image profile gives the impression of 10bit colour gradation solving one of the biggest issues with video enabled still cameras.

 

Fuji X PRO 1 Leaked!

 

Fuji's new interchangeable lens camera has been leaked by a French magazine ahead of it's official announcement next Monday and it looks very nice!

It very much appears to be the "X100 with interchangeable lenses" that people wanted exhibiting the same high build quality and retro design. There's a hybrid viewfinder again too which changes according to the lens fitted, I have no idea if it will work with zoom lenses or not.

The sensor is supposedly some kind of new technology that utilizes organic materials and will offer image quality that will rival or surpass full frame sensors, I wont hold my breath but if it's true then it's very impressive! One glimmer of hope is that there will be no anti aliasing filter because the sensor design makes one redundant, this is at least proof that the sensor is using interesting technology, whether or not it will deliver in the real world is another matter!

There will be three lenses initially, an 18mm f/2.0, 35mm f/1.4 and 60mm f/2.4 all of which feature the same hi9gh quality metal construction as the camera body.

We'll have to wait for the reviews to see how it performs but it certainly looks fantastic!

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Sunday, 1 January 2012

Review: Canon EF-S 55-250mm F/4-5.6 IS


I purchased this lens based on hearing good things said about it, it seemed to offer a lot of ability for the price and was also very small and lightweight making it an ideal for travel or just when you don't want to be weighed down with a bag full of heavy lenses. On paper the lens offers a lot for the money but does it deliver in the real world?



Build quality, finish and operation:

It's not an L lens but it's better made than the kit lens and the 17-85mm lens and even the 17-55mm lens! It feels surprisingly solid with smooth actions and the finish has that mottled effect that Canon is using more often nowadays, it's a small touch but it goes a long way to making the lens look better and feel better in the hand. The zoom ring is nice and big and the lens actually has a decent focus ring too unlike the 18-55mm kit lens which is possibly the worst excuse for a focus ring ever! The lens has a plastic mount but it's a light lens so I have no reason to believe this will cause problems any time soon. For the price I cannot fault the build and finish at all.

The autofocus is pretty quiet for a non USM system and not particularly slow either but accuracy and consistency can be a major issue which I will go into later but I will point out right now that it is this lenses biggest Achilles heel.

The image stabilizer was a brand new design at the time this lens was released and was designed to be cheap to produce but also highly effective and it is certainly that! Canon claim a 4 stop advantage which I'm sure is quite possible if you have steady hands, I have very unsteady hands but I can certainly see a strong advantage with the system activated, another impressive quality for the price.



Image Quality:

Optically this lens is very impressive considering the price, it's unusual for cheap tele zooms to be sharp at the long end especially wide open but thanks to the inclusion a UD glass element this lens manages it and also adds an additional 50mm reach over comparable models, the lens is actually slightly sharper at 250mm than it is as 200mm! This lens is really commendably sharp at 250mm, the edges are somewhat softer at some focal lengths but not terrible, sometimes there appears to be uneven sharpness at the edges of the frame which could be down to the stabilizer rather than decentring but overall, considering the price of the lens the sharpness is nothing less than astounding, you'll struggle to find anything as sharp in this price range by any other manufacturer.

The colour this lens produces seems to be in line with most other Canon lenses and is vibrant and well saturated. Contrast is also pretty good although it fades very slightly towards the long end but it's easily restored with post processing.

The bokeh is another pleasant surprise with this lens, overall it's commendably smooth and when the lens is used wide open highlights tend to be rendered quite attractively. It's not perfect and the aperture is not rounded so out of focus highlights will look somewhat angular when the lens isn't wide open and if you encourage it you can get the lens to produce ugly bokeh but overall it's really quite decent all things considered.

The lens suffers from only very mild chromatic aberrations in the most extreme circumstances and for day to day use it's pretty much a non issue, how do they manage it all at such a cheap price? There has to be something bad right?

Well as it turns out there are a few negatives, which is reassuring because I need every justification I can get for owning the 70-300mm L!

Firstly the lens vignettes like a mofo! The corners are VERY dark indeed when the aperture is wide open which can be very noticeable in some shots, it's not always a big hindrance and at the longer focal lengths subjects tend to be somewhat centralized anyway so it can be a non issue but it's worth mentioning because it is very strong and very pronounced in unfavourable circumstances. Some people don't mind vignetting at all and think it adds to a photo, I tend to agree a lot of the time but I would prefer to just add the effect in photoshop and have a choice! With this lens you will have vignetting if you use it wide open whether you like it or not!

Another issue I have found is that sometimes the image doesn't have consistent sharpness on each side of the image and whilst this could be down to a centering issue it doesn't happen all the time and only seems to occur when the stabilizer is active which leads to my crazy theory! I think the image stabilizer may play a role here because at this price point especially it's entirely possible that the corrective element/s show somewhat higher resolution in their centres than their edges so the harder the stabilizer works the more of the non optimum area of glass will be in use which could result in lower resolution in some parts of the frame, this is more a crackpot theory than fact although edge sharpness does appear to be more consistent when the stabilizer is turned off and it is a fact that the true optical path is interfered with when the stabilizer is active so who knows!

Those two problems although notable are rarely serious enough to spoil what is generally a sharp and punchy lens, what really spoils the party is actually not an image quality issue but something that can prevent you accessing that image quality which is the autofocus!

This lens seems to have a mind of it's own when it comes to focusing, sometimes it's fine and other times I can struggle to get one sharp shot out of a burst of ten! It doesn't matter if you're using AI servo or single shot there just seems to be a lot of inconsistency, I've stood at Cardiff bay with the sun nearly down and achieved good focus lock on speedboats going flat out in both single shot and AI servo mode and then on other occasions something as slow paced as my wife walking towards me at the beach has resulted in the lens missing focus almost every time regardless of focus mode!

Obviously some of this is just down to price, when I failed to get good focus with fast jets at an airshow it was obvious that I was expecting too much from the lens but when you have to take two or three attempts to get a photo of a building locked on you know there's something amiss. It's a pity because the focusing is actually very quiet for non USM and isn't too slow either but in terms of accuracy it's just not very reliable.

It's doubly maddening because a lot of the time the lens will get it spot on and often I sit at the computer going through images and the consistency is great until you get to that one perfectly timed photo that you've been waiting to check out on the monitor since you took it and you realise that was exactly when the lens decided to miss focus! I suppose I may have a bad one but I have heard similar stories from others so who knows?

In overall IQ terms this lens is a fantastic performer for the price but be careful of the autofocus, digital memory is cheap so take a few attempts at each shot and your chances of one being in focus will rise sharply but sadly this doesn't help when you have only a brief opportunity to get the shot where you will just have to hope for the best! The lens gets it right a lot of the time but there's definitely a higher than average failure rate so watch out! I think a lot of the time people just write this lens off as being cheap and soft when they are just experiencing focusing issues.


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100% crop taken wide open at 250mm
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100% crop taken wide open at 180mm
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100% crop taken wide open at 250mm
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100% crop taken wide open at 250mm
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Conclusion?:

This lens has some flaws, it vignettes badly and the autofocus can be unreliable but overall the combination of image quality and build quality and overall performance is exceptional, the fact that the lens is sharp at 250mm wide open on an 18mp sensor is truly impressive, I can't think of any autofocus tele lens with image stabilization that comes close to performing as well as this for the price, it's genuinely unrivalled and represents value for money at it's most extreme!

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