I am finally back in Denver after a three week-long trip to the UK and I am trying to catch up with all the news and announcements that we’ve missed. The first news items are related to Canon lens announcements from last week. Canon announced the EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM image-stabilized full-frame lens for enthusiasts and professionals who want something cheaper than the EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM. Usually, f/4 lenses are lighter and smaller than their f/2.8 counterparts. However, the difference between the 16-35mm f/4L and 16-35mm f/2.8L is not as big – the former is just a tad thinner and weighs 20 grams lighter in comparison. The three biggest differences are obviously the smaller maximum aperture of f/4, $500 price difference and image stabilization. With a very similar optical design featuring the same number of elements and groups, 2 Ultra-low Dispersion (UD) and 3 Aspherical elements, the 16-35mm f/4L IS seems to challenge its big brother in a number of ways, even in optical performance.
Along with the 400mm f/2.8E VR lens, Nikon has also announced the TC-14E III 1.4x teleconverter. The older TC-14E II version has been out since 2001 and Nikon finally decided to update it, most likely to match the performance of the new generation super telephoto lenses like the new Nikon 400mm f/2.8E VR and Nikon 800mm f/5.6E VR. The now previous-generation TC-14E II has always been praised by our team at Photography Life, thanks to its superb performance and very little performance degradation that is almost unnoticeable to the eye when using with most super telephoto lenses (see our article on how teleconverters impact image quality). In fact, my copy of the TC-14E II stays glued to my wildlife travel companion, the Nikkor 300mm f/4D AF-S (see my in-depth review) and I only detach it when I need to use the teleconverter with the 70-200mm f/2.8G VR, 200-400mm f/4G VR or other telephoto lenses.
One of the biggest challenges that we photographers face when traveling is productivity – being able to import, access and back up captured photographs and sometimes even edit them to be posted online or provided to a client. While we have plenty of gadgets today to accomplish this task, the world seems to be divided between three camps – full-featured laptops that come with bulk, weight and very little battery life, highly mobile tablets that pack enough battery life to keep you busy, but don’t have the juice to run anything serious, or “ultrabooks” that fall in-between, being a compromise in terms of weight, bulk and performance.
Big thanks to everyone who expressed interest in meeting up for a photo walk in London. After going through all the requests and emails, the best day seems to be next Wednesday, May 14 2014. We will be meeting right next to Nelson’s Column on Trafalgar Square (click for Google Street View), facing south towards the street at 6 PM. Please arrive promptly. Bring your fully charged camera and a tripod. The plan is to walk around some prime spots, do some street / architecture photography and spend some great time together! If you need some help with critique / portfolio review, I would suggest to upload your photos to your phone or a tablet and we will go through it all during dinner. After dinner, we can do some night photography, which is why bringing a tripod would be a good idea!
If you have any suggestions for the Photo Walk, please post them below. Looking forward to meeting you guys soon!
Update: We are meeting on Wednesday, May 14 2014 for a Photo Walk. Please see this post for more details.
It has been a while since I had a chance to post on the website, so I wanted to provide a quick update and some news. First of all, I am currently in London with my family. We arrived here over a week ago and my first few days were quite rough, since I was pretty sick. When we landed in London, my splitting headache and the 8-hour long overnight flight, during which our little girl Jasmine had a hard time falling asleep, was just too much for me. As we were heading out, one of our readers approached me and said a few nice things about the site. I was so disoriented that I couldn’t talk and didn’t even get his name! So if you are that gentleman, please accept my apologies and do get in touch with me please!
Having been testing lenses extensively for the past few years, I have seen all kinds of optical defects on even the most expensive / exotic lenses that cost thousands of dollars. One of the most common issues I have seen so far is lens de-centering, where a single optical element or a group of elements are not properly aligned with others, resulting in uneven performance across the frame. Some lenses have very slight de-centering, which only software like Imatest can reveal, while others have very noticeable de-centering (particularly lower-end zoom lenses), where a portion of the frame would always appear less sharp in images. Then there are other optical issues that also impact the overall contrast and sharpness of lens. And testing lenses with all kinds of optical issues can often be a challenging task.
I have just added another section to the Camera Comparisons page of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 review, where I provided RAW performance comparisons between the OM-D E-M1 and the Fuji X-T1. Some of our readers requested this comparison, so here it is for those that just want to see this particular section of the review. Although the X-T1 has a similar resolution of 16.3 MP, it is physically larger in size (APS-C vs Micro Four Thirds) and hence has larger pixels than the OM-D E-M1. Let’s take a look at ISO 200 (Left: Olympus OM-D E-M1, Right: Fuji X-T1):
This is an in-depth review of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 mirrorless camera that was released on September 10, 2013. Standing above all other Olympus mirrorless cameras, the E-M1 is a flagship model with the most impressive list of features. Built on the success of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 (which we highly praised), the E-M1 reigns over the OM-D line on a number of features – from the design of the camera and its incredibly fast autofocus system to the advanced shutter mechanism, high-end electronic viewfinder, WiFi and amazing weather sealing options. In fact, the E-M1 is one of the very few freezeproof, splashproof and dustproof interchangeable lens cameras on the market today.
The subject of using or not using protective lenses can invoke heated debates among photographers, with both sides often fiercely defending their choices. I am not going to debate whether it is right or wrong to use protective filters – that’s certainly a personal choice. I have been using them for a number of years now to protect my higher-end lenses and make it easier to clean lenses with recessed front elements (such as on Nikon 50mm f/1.4G / f/1.8G). Having had bad experience with purchasing a low-quality no-name brand filter when I just started photography (it was sold to me as a “must-have” at a local photo store), I learned what such a filter can do to my photos the hard way. Since then, I have only been purchasing multi-coated B+W filters that use high-quality Schott glass. I have been very happy with these filters and have been telling our readers to either use the best they can find, or not use filters at all.
A couple of weeks ago, I received a bunch of filters from a new filter manufacturer in Europe. The company wanted me to test their filters and see what I think of them. I asked them if they would be comfortable with me comparing their filters to B+W and they told me that they did not mind. As I was testing a lens in my Imatest lab a couple of days ago, I first shot a test chart without filters at f/5.6, then stacked 4 of my 77mm B+W XS-Pro MRC filters and took another shot, then finally mounted 4 filters from the new manufacturer and took the last shot. Here are the numbers that were produced by Imatest:
One of the frequently asked questions by our readers when we post information on Zeiss lenses (which are often optically stellar), is why Zeiss does not make autofocus lenses for DSLR cameras from Nikon and Canon. As you may already known, Zeiss is currently making autofocus lenses only for two specific mounts – Sony E (for NEX / Alpha series mirrorless cameras) and Fuji X. This line of autofocus lenses labeled as “Touit” is limited to a few lenses at the moment, with full autofocus capability and compatibility with both Sony and Fuji mirrorless cameras. So one might naturally ask why Zeiss has finally started making autofocus lenses and wonder if it has plans to start developing autofocus lenses for Nikon and Canon mounts. Although I have known the reason behind this for a while now, I decided to ask the question again from the Zeiss team at the Photo Plus show in NY last year. Specifically, I wanted to find out if Zeiss is planning to change their strategy in the future in regards to DSLR lenses.