I never thought that I would be reviewing an Apple Mac Pro, since I have never owned a Mac and was always a PC user. In fact, the last time I really handled a Mac was about 14 years ago, when I worked as an IT tech at the University of Colorado, servicing campus computers. Since then, aside from occasional encounters at local stores or friend’s houses, I have been keeping myself away from Macs. Although I have nothing against Apple in general, there were a number of reasons why I kept myself on the PC platform. The first and the biggest reason was personal preference – having been “PC-savvy” for many years, building computers and providing support for them (whether it was for my family, friends or work), I was pretty content with what I had and never really had much interest in Macs. Second, having spent the majority of my adult life working for various companies and organizations, I took part in building PC and server networks based on the Microsoft OS platform, as Macs have just not been very popular in the corporate world. Lastly, cost was also an issue – for the price of a Mac, I could easily build a PC or buy one at half the cost.
This is an in-depth review of the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art prime lens that was announced on January 6, 2014 for Sigma SA, Canon EF, Nikon F and Sony A mounts. Ever since Sigma announced its new “Art” lens line, it has been releasing superb new lenses and updates. The Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art received the highest praise from us at Photography Life, especially after we compared it to the Nikon 35mm f/1.4G and other 35mm lenses in our extensive review. So when I first found out that Sigma had plans to update its existing Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM, I got really excited, since I knew that the new Art-series lens would not disappoint. It has been too long since both Nikon and Canon updated their 50mm f/1.4 primes. In the case with Nikon, its newer 50mm f/1.8G yields better sharpness than the bigger and heavier 50mm f/1.4G. In short, the Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G is just not good enough for modern high resolution sensors and its performance at maximum aperture is rather disappointing (and the Canon 50mm f/1.4 is quite similar in that regard). The Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art announcement was very timely, because it hits a sweet spot between the sub-par 50mm f/1.4 Nikon and Canon lenses, and the exotic manual focus Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4.
Rainbows are rare in nature, because a number of events have to happen at the same time. First, there has to be moisture in the sky, so a rainy day or a quick rainstorm is the first pre-requisite. Second, the sun must be positioned on the horizon at a low angle, around 42 degrees relative to the viewer. Third, the part of the sky where the sun is must be clear from clouds and obstructions, while the part of the sky where the rainbow will appear must have continuous rain / moisture. When all of these conditions are met, the sun rays will refract and reflect off the water droplets in the sky, creating the optical illusion that we refer to as “rainbow”. When you see a rainbow, it is only natural to want to capture it on your camera. Who wouldn’t want to capture such beauty that contains the full color spectrum visible to our eyes? And if you happen to be at the right place, rainbows could make an ordinary subject appear truly extraordinary. Even a boring scene could be turned into something completely different with a full arc of a rainbow.
Nature often rewards us with incredible opportunities for photographing sunrises, sunsets and sun rays piercing through the clouds, creating stunning views. As a landscape photographer, I tend to wait for partly cloudy and stormy days, because clouds make photographs appear much more dramatic and vivid. Without clouds, sunrises and sunsets often look boring, forcing us to cut out the sky and focus on foreground elements instead. In contrast, if you get to witness a sunrise or a sunset with puffy, stormy clouds that are lit up from underneath with colorful sun rays, creating a fiery view, including the clouds in your photographs would make the scene appear much more colorful and alive. In fact, clouds can be so beautiful, that they could become the main element of composition in your photographs. In this article, I will not only talk about the process of photographing clouds, but also will focus on making clouds appear much more dynamic and dramatic in your photographs.
Big thanks to our readers in London that came to participate in our London Photo Walk on Wednesday, May 14. Although many could not make it due to work, conflicts and the fact that we did it during the week, we had 24 people join us for the photo walk! It was an amazing experience for me personally to get a chance to meet our readers and photograph the beautiful and the historic city of London. Although I ended up only taking a single picture at the end of the day (yes, the group did get a good laugh at that!), I absolutely loved getting to know each and every person from the group. Here is a group photo of us right before we started the photo walk:
Sony has also had a couple of important announcements last week. The pricing and availability for the previously announced Sony A7s mirrorless camera was finally revealed. The 12 MP Sony A7s with 4K video recording capability will be available on July 8, 2014 for a retail price of $2,498 (pre-order yours at B&H Photo Video). Along with this news, Sony also announced its third iteration of the Sony RX100 point and shoot camera with a large 1″ sensor (same size sensor as on the Nikon 1 cameras). The Sony RX100 III packs great features compared to its predecessors and now comes with a high resolution pop-up electronic viewfinder. The new 8.8-25.7mm (24-70mm equivalent) Zeiss lens is now also better and faster, with a maximum aperture range of f/1.8-2.8, compared to the 10.1-37.4mm (28-100mm equivalent) f/1.8-4.9 lens on older models. More features such as a 180° flip-up LCD screen, better movie recording features and a faster processor make the RX100 III a very attractive compact camera. It will be priced at $798 and is expected to be available at the end of June, 2014.
One of the interesting announcements from last week was Tokina’s AT-X 70-200mm f/4 Pro FX VCM-S. Being the first Tokina lens to incorporate optical image stabilization, the 70-200mm f/4 Pro is a direct competitor to the excellent Nikkor 70-200mm f/4G VR lens. The Tokina 70-200mm f/4 seems to be similar to the Nikkor 70-200mm f/4G in a number of ways. Its optical design incorporates 19 elements in 14 groups, with 3 ultra-low dispersion lens elements (vs 20 elements in 14 groups and 3 ED elements) and the lens does not come with a tripod collar either (available to be purchased separately). It has the same filter thread size of 67mm and has a slightly shorter barrel. Unfortunately, at 980 grams, it is a 130 grams heavier than the Nikkor, which is a pretty noticeable difference.
If you shoot with the Nikon D800 or the D800E DSLR cameras, you might want to check what firmware you are currently running in order to make sure that you are running the most recent version of the firmware v1.10. A couple of weeks ago Nikon released the firmware update that deals with the most annoying bug that has existed since both cameras were announced, where the camera will occasionally freeze, keeping the memory card access light lit for a very long time. The only workaround was to either wait it out or remove and re-insert the battery. To be honest, I am surprised that it took Nikon so long to fix this issue, as it was one of my personal pains with using my D800E. With the new firmware v1.10, Nikon has made a number of changes to the camera and its menu system, and has added support for larger than 128 GB CompactFlash cards.
Along with the 16-35mm f/4L IS USM lens, Canon has also introduced a budget wide-angle lens for its EF-S mount, the Canon 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM. At a very compact size, image stabilization and just 240 grams of weight, the Canon 10-18mm will be an interesting choice for Canon’s APS-C line of cameras like 7D, 70D and Digital Rebel series. With an equivalent field of view of 16–28.8mm relative to full-frame, the lens will offer great ultra wide angle coverage. And with its MSRP price of just $299, it will be a great choice for beginners and enthusiasts interested in landscape, travel, architecture and everyday photography.
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.