Lexar Professional 400x SDHC Card Review

This is a short review of the Lexar Professional 400x SDHC UHS-I Class 10 card, which I have been using for the past 6 months. I have owned 4 of these cards in 16GB capacity and decided to write a review after every single one of them failed. I have never had such problems with memory cards, especially those that have a “professional” label attached to them. So this is more of a warning to potential owners, rather than a full-blown review of a product.

Lexar Professional 400x SDHC Card

When it comes to memory cards, the market is simply overflowed by so many different brands and different types of cards, that it can get quite overwhelming for a first time buyer. Out of all those brands, the two most popular ones in the USA are SanDisk and Lexar. They put a lot of effort into marketing their products, particularly in the professional photography arena. For years I have been relying on SanDisk cards and have owned many Compact Flash and SD cards from them. Perhaps I have been lucky, but during the last 7 years, I have never had a single SanDisk card fail (I still own some pretty old 2 GB SanDisk cards). So last year when there was a good promotion on Lexar Professional cards and after I heard so many good things about the brand, I decided to give Lexar a try and purchased four of the professional 400x SDHC class 10 cards.

[Read more...]

Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 Review

« »

This is an in-depth review of the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art lens, world’s first constant f/1.8 zoom lens for DSLR cameras that was announced in April of 2013. Despite the recent trend of manufacturers to move their customer base to full-frame format, Sigma took a bold move and announced the professional-grade Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 Art for DX/APS-C format only. With a focal range equivalent to 27mm-52.5mm in 35mm format, the lens provides a good range to work with for a variety of different needs and applications. And with its fast constant aperture of f/1.8, the Sigma 18-35mm opens up opportunities to shoot in low-light situations, something that was previously only possible with fast aperture prime lenses. Lastly, Sigma’s pricing of $799 MSRP for the lens made it the top choice in terms of value when compared to pro-grade lenses such as the Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8G DX, which sells for almost twice as much and does not offer the same low-light advantages.

Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM

[Read more...]

Hejnar Photo 10% Discount Coupon

Chris Hejnar from Hejnar Photo Store is kindly giving a special 10% off discount coupon code for Photography Life readers. So if you want to buy his products at even a better price, please use the coupon code below. As I have pointed out in my Hejnar Photo Accessory Review, their Arca-Swiss compatible products are top notch in terms of quality, easily comparable to Really Right Stuff, Kirk and other top brands in the industry. Plus, Chris makes products right here in the US, so by purchasing from him we are supporting a growing small business (and at PL, we do care about US businesses competing with cheap foreign labor).

Manfrotto 405 Arca Swiss Hejnar Photo

To take advantage of this 10% offer, please use the 012ccfcfb1 discount coupon upon checkout. This coupon is good for a year and if we continue supporting Chris, he will be able to extend the offer even more going forward. Please note that Photography Life does not earn any revenue from this offer. We are purely doing this to support a local business.

Hejnar Photo Accessory Review

About 3 weeks ago, I decided to make some changes to my tripod setup in my lens testing lab, in order to make it easier, more consistent and fluid to test lenses. My decision was based on the fact that I found myself moving the tripod a bit too much when testing lenses, especially the de-centered ones (those that do not have a straight optical axis due to a slight dislocation of one or more lens elements). I decided to replace shorter macro focusing rails for much longer and bigger rails, so that I could have more room for side to side movement and more focus bracketing options for testing telephoto lenses. As I was configuring the setup, I realized that I needed to spend close to $2K in a more versatile tripod head and lots of Arca-Swiss rails, clamps and other accessories. The first task was to replace the standard quick release plate of the heavy duty Manfrotto 405 Pro Geared Head (to be reviewed later) with an Arca-Swiss quick release clamp. As usual, I started researching for a proper solution on Google, which pointed me to Hejnar Photo Store on the first page of search, with exactly the product that I was looking for. I then spent another 30-45 minutes researching the solution and read a number of posts on different forums, where people were raving about Hejnar Photo’s products, including the adapter that I needed. This was very important for me, because I needed a setup that would be extremely reliable and stable, especially for handling heavy super telephoto lenses.

Although I have never heard of the company before, I decided to give it a try and purchased the Arca-Swiss adapter and clamp for the Manfrotto 405 tripod head, along with a bunch of other accessories for my custom setup. The pricing was very good, so I wanted to see how Hejnar Photo’s products would compare to the most popular brands like Really Right Stuff. My order was processed on the same day and the package was shipped to me right away without any delays. After a few days, I received everything I ordered and started modifying the Manfrotto 405. After going through the instructions on Hejnar Photos’s website (which are nicely laid out with images), I was able to modify the head in less than 5 minutes. Once everything was put together, I was pleasantly surprised by how solid the setup was. I slid one of the long rails on Hejnar Photo’s tripod clamp and once secured, it was rock solid. No vibrations of any sort – and that’s exactly what I need for testing lenses! Here is the image of one of the configurations:

Manfrotto 405 Arca Swiss Hejnar Photo

[Read more...]

What is Arca-Swiss Quick Release System?

Many of our readers frequently ask us questions about tripod heads and accessories to support heavy camera and lens combinations. Those that are especially new to super telephoto lenses quickly discover that tripod feet supplied by all manufacturers on modern lenses are simply not suitable to be mounted on regular tripod heads. Unfortunately, whether it is Nikon, Canon, Sony or a third party lens manufacturer like Sigma, they all supply non-standard tripod feet with their lenses. For new lens owners it can be a rather frustrating experience trying to figure out which tripod head would fit their large and heavy lenses, because nobody wants a lens worth thousands of dollars to end up crashing on the ground. And since most tripod plates are only equipped with a single mounting point, it can be extremely unstable and even potentially dangerous to mount anything heavier than a few pounds on them. The solution, which has become somewhat of a standard nowadays, was developed by a company called Arca-Swiss back in 1990s and since then has been popularized as “Arca-Swiss Quick Release System”. The idea behind this quick release system is quite simple, but very effective. Almost all professional photographers that use super telephoto lenses have adopted the Arca-Swiss quick release system and more photographers are converting even their regular cameras to this format for ease of use, stability and compatibility reasons.

Arca Swiss Z1 with Plate

1) Arca-Swiss Quick Release

The Arca-Swiss quick release system is based on a two piece mechanism. The first piece, generally referred to as a “plate”, is attached to a camera or a lens (or any other device). It comes in a standard, “arca-style” 35mm wide form with a 45° dovetail and can vary in length (a sample plate is illustrated above to the right of the tripod head). The second piece is the mounting base, generally referred to as a “clamp”, where the plate gets attached and secured. The clamp can be fully opened, allowing the plate to be dropped in and secured, or can be partially opened to allow the plate to be slid into the position. The biggest advantage of the Arca-Swiss quick release system is this ability to slide the plate without having to worry about mounting or dismounting anything. The 45° dovetail on the plate, as pictured below, allows equipment to be moved across the clamp and secured in a specific location using a side knob or a locking release.

[Read more...]

Please welcome Charles Hildreth!

I am excited about presenting yet another addition to our Photography Life family – please welcome Charles Hildreth! Charles is an amazing portrait photographer, who is coming back to Denver after spending the last several years working in Hollywood, California. I found out about Charles through my wife Lola, who showed me some stunning work by Charles on his 500px account (which happens to be one of the top). We will be closely working with Charles on some projects in the future right here at PL, so please give him a warm welcome!

Charles Hildreth

[Read more...]

Camera Pollution

With the proliferation of all kinds of gadgetry not only for everyday needs, but also for needs we thought we would never have, the camera market sadly seems to be moving in the same direction. Actually, it is already half way there. New cameras, lenses and accessories keep popping up every few months and come in all shapes, forms and colors. The camera market seems to be experiencing the same over-saturation that other electronics companies are seeing today. People do not want to buy new TVs anymore, so manufacturers are trying to find new ways to sell more TVs by adding more features. The approach is built on typical consumerism – make something look shiny and more interesting than it was before and it might lure people into buying it every year. Camera companies are sadly following exactly the same practice. Announcements are becoming more important than the products themselves, so manufacturers are pushing more redundant choices year after year just to make headlines.

Nikon D3300 in 3 colors

[Read more...]

Nikon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G DX VR II Announcement

Along with the D3300 DSLR, Nikon has also introduced the new AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR II kit lens, another iteration of the lens with a completely new design. Compared to its predecessor, the new 18-55mm kit lens is now much more compact and lighter, because of its retracting design similar to some of the Nikon 1 lenses.

Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR II

[Read more...]

Nikon D3300 Announcement

Today Nikon announced the new Nikon D3300 DSLR camera – an update to the existing Nikon D3200 that was released in the spring of 2012. The D3300 is not a huge upgrade over its predecessor. Judging from its specifications, it is mostly a cosmetic release without major innovations, meant to keep Nikon’s entry-level line fresh. The image sensor is supposedly new that increases the native max ISO from 6400 to 12800, although its resolution stayed the same at 24.2 megapixels. The main difference in sensors is the removal of the optical low-pass / anti-aliasing filter, which has now become a trend even on entry-level DSLRs (the Nikon D5300 was also released without a low-pass filter). The D3300 comes with the new EXPEED 4 processor that we have seen earlier on the D5300, which allows the camera to record/process images and video at higher rates. For example, video recording at full 1080p is now possible at 60 frames per second. Continuous shooting frame rate has been increased from 4 to 5 fps and the viewfinder got a slight magnification boost from 0.78x to 0.85x.

Nikon D3300

[Read more...]

Nikon 35mm f/1.8G Announcement

The Consumer Electronics Show is taking place in Las Vegas this week, which means lots of announcements of all kinds of gadgets, including cameras and lenses. As usual, we will be picking and covering the most important announcements that are related to the photography industry. One of the biggest news today is the announcement of the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G full-frame lens. Ever since the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G DX lens came out back in 2009 (which got wildly popular for Nikon DX cameras thanks to its excellent performance and low price), many Nikon shooters have been asking for a budget version of the lens for full-frame cameras. Although the professional Nikon 35mm f/1.4G is an excellent chunk of glass (see our in-depth review), it is too expensive for many photo enthusiasts and hobbyists. And that’s exactly the gap that the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G is designed to fill. At an MSRP price of $599, the lens is over 2.5x less expensive than its big brother. It is also twice lighter!

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G ED

[Read more...]