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.
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.
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!
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):