Nikon D4s and Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4

What do you do when you have two low-light kings, the Nikon D4s and the Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4? You take them for a night shoot of course! After receiving both for some testing / reviews, I took off to photograph Denver downtown at night. It was way past the sunset time, so I knew that I would only have street lights to illuminate my subjects. Since the Zeiss Otus is an insanely sharp lens wide open, I set its aperture to f/1.4 and only changed it a couple of times during the night in order to increase depth of field and ISO. Interestingly, at such a large aperture, I found myself often shooting at pretty low ISO levels – generally under ISO 3200. So it was nice to be able to push my shutter speeds as high as 1/400 for freezing motion:

Nikon D4s and Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 Image Samples (4)

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Sensor Gel Stick and Sticky Paper in Stock!

It has been an incredibly busy week for us here at Photography Life – we shipped out over 1000 orders of the Sensor Gel Stick! I am happy to inform that we finally have some stock left for those that have not had a chance to order due to the previous back-order situation. We have been in short supply for over a month and although we did our best to inform our customers, some were quite unhappy about waiting so long for their order to ship. We sincerely apologize for this situation and we thank everyone for being very patient with us while we were doing everything we can to get the orders fulfilled as soon as possible. Going forward, we will do our best to manage the stock better.

Sensor Gel Stick

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High-End Mirrorless Camera Comparison

In this follow-up article to the mirrorless camera comparison, I will be comparing high-end options available on the market today from different manufacturers. While the mirrorless market has not shown healthy growth in the US and Europe lately, it is just a matter of time before the new technology makes its way into our daily lives and starts replacing lower-end/small sensor DSLRs. High cost is still an issue for now, but considering that mirrorless cameras use far less components than DSLRs, we will soon start seeing them at very attractive prices. In fact, many mirrorless camera models already have seen significant price decreases (remember the ridiculous Nikon 1 V1 $299 price drop?) and we will be seeing a lot more of that in the next few years. In this particular article, I would like to start off by comparing the top of the line mirrorless cameras on the market, specifically designed for professionals and photo enthusiasts that look for the best image quality, features, autofocus performance and a solid lens selection. Please note that the below comparisons are only for mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras. Also, please keep in mind that some of the benchmarks presented in this article are very subjective, based on our prior experience using the cameras and their published specifications.

High-End Mirrorless Cameras #1Fujifilm X-T1Nikon 1 V2Olympus OM-D E-M1Panasonic Lumix GH4
* Denotes PL Subjective Rating
Lens MountFuji XNikon 1Micro 4/3Micro 4/3
Announcement DateJan 2014Oct 2012Sep 2013Feb 2014
Sensor Size (Diagonal)28.3mm15.9mm21.7mm21.7mm
Megapixels16.3 MP14.2 MP16.3 MP16.05 MP
Image StabilizationLensLensBodyLens
Autofocus SystemHybridHybridHybridContrast
Movie Recording1920×1080 @ 60p1920×1080 @ 60i1920×1080 @ 30p4096×2160 @ 24p
Native Lenses Available12111619
Third Party Lenses803330
Weight440g337g497g560g
Weather SealingYesNoYesYes
Image Quality (10)*8566
Autofocus Speed (5)*5555
Image Stabilization (5)*4454
Manual Focus (5)*5355
System Compactness (5)*4455
EVF Mil Dots / Quality (5)*2.36 / 51.44 / 42.36 / 52.36 / 5
Build Quality (5)*5555
Design and UI (5)*5454
TOTAL POINTS*41344139
Manufacturer LinkFujifilm X-T1Nikon 1 V2OM-D E-M1Lumix GH4
Price (B&H)$1,299$796$1,399$1,698

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Arca-Swiss C1 Cube Review

In this review, I will talk about my experience and impressions with using perhaps the finest tripod head I have seen to date, the Arca-Swiss C1 Cube. Targeted specifically at macro, architecture and landscape photographers that need ultra high precision, with the ability to handle large and heavy cameras, the “Cube” is a very specialized, high-end tool. It has been on the market for a few years and went through several changes. The version I tested is the most current model and this particular review is for the Flip-Lock quick release type head – the one that had the most problems (more on this below). As of today, Arca-Swiss manufactures two types of the Cube: one with the the “Flip-Lock” clamp and one with a “Classic” screw-knob clamp, both of which are capable of securely attaching Arca-Swiss compatible plates, rails and other accessories.

Arca-Swiss C1 Cube

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Nikon D4s High ISO Image Samples

While Tom Redd and I are still waiting for the Nikon D4s sample to arrive next week, our wildlife guru Robert Anderson has already gotten a hold of the D4s and has been testing out his new favorite toy today. Rob was kind enough to send me some image samples from the camera at high ISO settings: 6400, 12800 and 25600. As you may already know, the Nikon D4s pushed the maximum “native” sensitivity level by a full stop from 12800 on the D4 to 25600. While some image samples and comparisons for the D4s have been available on the Internet, many of them lacked consistency to be able to do a more thorough comparison. Therefore, I asked Rob to take pictures of a real scene after sunset, shooting on a tripod at different ISO levels. Below you will find two different scenes that Rob graciously provided for our readers to enjoy. While we do not yet have comparisons of the Nikon D4s to the D4, we will post those comparisons as soon as we get a hold of the D4s next week!

Take a look at the below images from the first scene:

Nikon D4s Scene #1 ISO 6400

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Photography Life Forums are now Open!

For the past couple of months, we have been working hard on creating a community-based site, where our readers could share their work, engage with others and advance their photography skills. We are happy to announce our first milestone – our community forums! For now we created sections related to Nature and Wildlife, Landscape, Portrait, Wedding, Street and Architecture, Macro and Sports Photography and going forward as we grow, we will be expanding to even more sections and sub-sections, work on creating interest groups, etc. For those that want to Buy and Sell their gear, there is now a dedicated section where our readers could create “want to buy”, “for sale” and “for exchange” threads to trade photography gear.

Photography Life Forums

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Nikon and Canon Rebates

Thanks to the tax season in the USA, manufacturers like Nikon, Canon, Fuji, Olympus and Panasonic have been aggressively pushing their sales, offering great rebates for cameras, lenses and accessories. So if you are looking for a good deal, now is a good opportunity to save some money (I do not expect to see good rebates / savings until the end of the year). Let’s start with Nikon. The good news is, Nikon has extended its lens savings program until March 29, 2014 and is now offering more rebates for those that are looking for camera + lens combo savings. These combo savings include such cameras as Nikon D3100, D3200, D5200, D5300, D7000, D7100. D610, D800/D800E and Df. Most of these cameras currently already have instant rebates and if you combine them with some lenses, you can save up to $680 off. Unfortunately, the lens selection is pretty small and mostly includes DX lenses. There is only one FX lens offered (70-300mm VR), from which you can slice off another $200, bringing the price down to under $400. You can access the rebates through the “Buy together and Save” link.

Nikon Lens Rebates

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Linhof 3D Micro Review

This is an in-depth review of the Linhof 3D Micro Leveling Head with dovetail track, a high-end precision geared tripod head specifically designed for handling medium to large format cameras and other specialized rails for macro and architectural photography. Fitted with an Arca-Swiss compatible screw-knob clamp, this specific version is designed to fit any kind of Arca-Swiss plate or rail (there is also another version of the same head, but with a quick-release “Quickfix” adapter that can be mounted directly to a camera).

After testing out the Manfrotto 405 Pro geared head, I realized that I needed something more precise and stable with no “play” whatsoever. Unfortunately, when it comes to professional gear heads, there are not that many options on the market today. Once you get into the high-end geared head territory, there are only three products on the market – the Arca-Swiss C1 Cube, the Photo Clam Multiflex (which is basically a Korean copy of the Cube) and the Linhof 3D Micro. When I pointed out that I was planning to review the Arca-Swiss C1 Cube and see if it would be suitable for my needs, one of our readers sent me some information about the Linhof 3D Micro and pointed out the fact that it uses an Arca-Swiss compatible screw-knob clamp. This immediately caught my attention, because the C1 Cube has been known to have an odd quick-release clamp that went through several revisions. I always prefer to use screw-knob clamps instead of quick-release versions, because some manufacturers like Really Right Stuff deviate from the original standard, which can create problems. As a result, I decided to test out both the C1 Cube and the Linhof 3D Micro to see which one would best suit my needs.

In this review, I will summarize my findings from about a month of use of both heads and discuss pros and cons of the Linhof 3D Micro, particularly when compared to the Arca-Swiss C1 Cube.

Linhof 3D Micro

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Recommended Nikon D800 / D800E Settings

After I published the article on the recommended settings for the Nikon D600 / D610, I received plenty of requests from our readers that asked me to write a similar article for the Nikon D800 and D800E cameras. Since I own and use both frequently, I decided to expand the series to other cameras (and I do have plans to publish similar articles for Canon DSLRs as well). In this article, I want to provide some information on what settings I use and shortly explain what some of the important settings do. Please do keep in mind that while these work for me, it does not mean that everyone else should be shooting with exactly the same settings. The below information is provided as a guide for those that struggle and just want to get started with a basic understanding of menu settings.

Nikon D800

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Recommended Nikon D600 / D610 Settings

One of our readers recently asked me to provide my settings from the Nikon D600 / D610 cameras that I use for my photography needs. While at first I thought that it was an odd request, it got me into thinking that many photographers probably get lost trying to dig through the many menu options. Since I have been shooting with Nikon for a number of years now, those settings are very easy for me to understand and I apply them over and over again for each camera that I work with. In this article, I want to provide some information on what settings I use and shortly explain what some of the important settings do. Please do keep in mind that while these work for me, it does not mean that everyone else should be shooting with exactly the same settings. The below information is provided as a guide for those that struggle and just want to get started with a basic understanding of menu settings.

Nikon D600

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