The Question of 18-300mm Lenses, Part Deux

This article is written in response to “The Question of 18-300mm Lenses” article written by Romanas Naryškin. I used to like my 18-300mm zoom – I called it my Guilty Pleasure Lens (GPL). It was hands-down the most fun lens I ever shot with. When I wanted to just go out on an adventure outside and had no idea what I’d run into, instead of grabbing my FX body, my 16-35mm zoom, 50mm prime, 105mm macro, 80-400mm zoom and of course a manservant to carry all that gear, I’d grab GPL and my D7000 and blast on down the trail. Sure GPL wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer, but neither am I. In our shared ignorance we’d shoot grand vistas or cool nature abstracts or maybe even crawl through the dirt for a close-up or two. What a fool I was thinking I’d found a partner that liked to do all the things I liked to do.

Well, I’ve seen the light and it was time to get even with GPL for deceiving me into thinking we had something special. Before tossing GPL into the dumpster I was going to show it how a real lens behaved. Enter the 10 lb 1 oz Baby Jesus, AKA the Nikkor 800mm, AKA BJ. Yep, the top stud in the Nikon stable. The lens that doesn’t have a MTF curve – it has a WTF curve. And GPL, well suffice it to say we know what gets shoveled up from the stable floor. I figured I’d go out on one last shoot with GPL, ostensibly for “old times sake”, but really to show GPL how a real lens like BJ would handle those situations.

Right off the bat I think GPL knew something was up. GPL insisted we shoot a selfie. This is what it looks like when an 18-300 owner takes a selfie:

Verm-selfie-100-Sunset-Crater-0622

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Leica M7 Review

This is a review of the Leica M7 TTL .72 rangefinder film camera that I used with the Leica 35mm f/2.0 Summicron M Aspherical Manual Focus Lens. I had the two for about a month and had a chance to shoot with the Leica gear in different conditions and shoots. Prior to the M7, I never had a chance to shoot with any Leica gear, but heard so much about them from other photographers and industry peers. So I decided to give Leica a try and see how it would fit my film photography needs. Below is a summary of my findings with the camera.

Leica M7

1) Initial Impressions

I was so excited when the Leica M7 came in the mail.  I put up a post on Instagram and Facebook with an image of the camera and most of my friends commented that they were jealous. I noticed that people regard Leica very highly. So, I was excited to see what all the hype was about.

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Pentax 645Z Announcement

Earlier this week, Ricoh Imaging introduced the Pentax 645Z, a high resolution 51.4 MP medium format DSLR camera. While Nikon has been relatively quiet on the resolution front with its now 2+ years old 36 MP D800/D800E models and Canon has not stepped up above 24 MP, Pentax is stepping in with a larger sensor that provides super high resolution 51.4 MP images. With its 43.8 x 32.8mm size sensor, the 645Z has a smaller version of the medium format (MF) sensor that is similar in size to the Leica S-System, although with a different aspect ratio of 4:3 vs 3:2. Compared to full-frame sensors, the physical size of the 645Z MF sensor is about 166% (or 1.66 times) larger, which is a huge difference. Enough of a difference to allow for relatively large pixel size of 5.3 microns – bigger than 4.8 microns on the Nikon D800/D800E. Why does this matter, you might ask? Well, that’s because the Pentax 645Z comes with a CMOS sensor, which is similar technology as we see on all modern DSLR cameras. Compared to traditional CCD sensors used on medium format cameras, a CMOS sensor is capable of yielding images with very little noise at high ISO sensitivity levels. As a result, the Pentax 645Z has an ISO sensitivity range of 100 to 204,800, which is a mind-boggling number for a medium format camera.

Pentax 645Z

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Thoughts on the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art

Sigma announced the new Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art lens back in January of this year, but we were left with a couple of big unknowns such as the price. I guess it has become the latest trend to announce early development efforts by a number of manufacturers now – Nikon did the same with their Nikkor 800mm f/5.6 lens and the D4s DSLR camera. A couple of days ago, Sigma finally announced the pricing and availability of the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM “Art” and I must say, after hearing rumors about Sigma challenging the Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 in optical quality, I was very surprised to find out that the lens is going to be retailed for $950. As you may already know, I am a big fan of the new revamped line of Sigma lenses. After reviewing the 35mm f/1.4 Art, I was blown away by its sharpness, focus speed / accuracy and color rendition. So when Sigma announced the 50mm f/1.4 Art series, I looked at the MTF charts and knew immediately that the lens will not disappoint.

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art

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Why You Should Only Buy from Authorized Dealers

There is a lesson here for all, especially when purchasing expensive gear. Expensive is a relative term with a value that varies per individual and can’t be generalized, the stuff being said here applies to all values of items. It comes down to how much value the item has to you and whether you are willing to risk that value versus the warranty programs being offered. Obviously the bigger the expense, the higher the risk.

Warning-Authorized-Dealer-Rob-A

I usually always buy my all of my camera gear right here in the US of A, because that is where I live and I like to go buy the expensive stuff in person at a Hunts Photo and Video store to make sure it arrives safely.

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Fuji X-T1 Preview and Image Samples

I have been shooting with the Fuji X-T1 for the past several weeks and I must say, I am just blown away by what this little camera can do. While I will be working my way to a review fairly soon, I wanted to provide a quick summary of my thoughts so far on the X-T1, along with some sample images using the 35mm f/1.4 and 56mm f/1.2 lenses. Ever since I received the X-T1, I just cannot stop myself from taking it every time when I go outside. Pretty much everything about the camera feels right to me – from the amazing controls and dials on the top, to the fast and responsive autofocus and the huge electronic viewfinder (EVF), making the camera a pure joy to use.

Fuji X-T1 Image Sample (13)

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The Question of 18-300mm Lenses

Today, Nikon has announced a new DX zoom lens for beginner photographers. Covering a vast focal length range of 18-300mm, it’s not the first Nikkor with such parameters – the similar 18-300mm f/3.5-5.6 VR lens has already been announced a while ago, not to mention all the third-party competition from Tamron and Sigma. However, the new lens is designed not to just deliver a very wide zoom range, but deliver it in a smaller, lighter package. To put it into perspective, the new lens weighs a whopping 280g less than the bigger version. Quite an achievement and will surely be tempting for those few who need such a lens, but it came at a bit of a price both literally and figuratively. And that raises a question – who is actually going to need such a lens?

Nikkor 18-300mm f3.5-5.6G VR DX

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Sony A7s Full-Frame Mirrorless Camera Announcement

Looks like Sony is doing all it can to push the growth of its full-frame compact camera system. On the 6th of April, 2014, the Japanese electronics giant has announced a new addition to its A7 camera line-up – the new A7s has joined the previously launched A7 and A7r. The difference between the original models was very straightforward – A7 was the cheaper one and had lower-resolution sensor (a still-plentiful 24 megapixels), whilst the A7r was the more expensive sibling (but not expensive per se when it comes to digital full-frame cameras) and featured a 36 megapixel sensor similar to that found in the Nikon D800. Both cameras, while very similar from the outside, are clearly distinctive enough on the inside. So what exactly makes the A7s stand out? Well, if the “r” in A7r’s name stood for “resolution”, the “s” in the latest camera’s title stands for “sensitivity”. The biggest party piece A7s has is its sensor and 4k video capability.

Sony A7s

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What is Ghosting and Flare?

When light rays coming from a bright source(s) of light (such as the sun or artificial light) directly reach the front element of a camera lens, they can reflect and bounce off different lens elements, diaphragm and even off the sensor, potentially degrading image quality and creating unwanted objects in images. Better known as lens “flare”, the effect can impact images in a number of ways: it can drastically reduce image contrast by introducing haze in different colors, it can add circular or semi-circular halos or “ghosts” and even odd-shaped semi-transparent objects of various color intensities. Flare is not always undesirable in photography though – sometimes in is used creatively to add artistic elements to images. In fact, lens flare is often deliberately added to movies and computer games to add a sense of realism and boost the visual experience of the viewer.

Dune Sunset Panorama

To help decide whether to use flare in images, it is a good idea to understand why it happens in the first place. Let’s go over the causes of flare in detail, then discuss ways to use, reduce or perhaps completely avoid it.

1) What is Lens Flare?

Lens flare occurs when a point of light source such as the sun is much brighter than the rest of the scene, and it either happens to be in the image (within lens angle of view), or simply hits the front element of a lens without being present in the image. Depending on the position of this bright light source, it can result in a lot of haze / lack of contrast, orbs and polygon artifacts scattered throughout the image, semi-round shapes with rainbow colors, or a combination of all of the above. This happens due to internal reflections that take place inside the lens and even between the imaging sensor and the lens (more on that below). Take a look at the below illustration:

Lens Flare

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Trade-in ANY camera for $300 towards a Sony A7/A7R

What happens when a manufacturer desperately wants rapid market share gain and mass adoption of its full-frame mirrorless cameras? You get a hard-to-refuse offer that instantly gives you cash for ANY camera in ANY condition. That’s right, Sony is giving away $300 if you trade-in your old camera. And when I say old, it could be a broken/non functional film camera that is not worth a penny, or a dead point and shoot that you have had in your drawer for years and never had a chance to dump it. With the already aggressively priced Sony A7 and A7R cameras, giving access to a full-frame A7 camera body at $1700, this $300 credit makes the A7 the cheapest full-frame camera we have seen to date, at under $1500 price tag. Clearly, Sony is not looking into making money from this rebate program and just wants rapid adoption of its brand new technology. When I originally shared my thoughts about the potential impact of the Sony full-frame mirrorless system on Nikon and Canon sales, a number of our readers criticized me for what I wrote and argued that there was no threat for the big two. Well, judging by what I hear so far in terms of sales and adoption, even among our readers, Sony is doing really well. And seeing how the Nikon D610 got a $100 off just after a month of its launch tells me that Nikon is definitely adjusting its pricing in response and Canon is pretty much doing the same with its 6D line. As Sony continues to expand its market share, I am sure we will be seeing price drops across the industry from all manufacturers. This is definitely good for us photographers, since healthy competition is always a good thing that drives innovation and decreases prices. With mirrorless having less components and bulk than a DSLR, it will be an interesting battle to watch for the next few years.

Sony Trade-In Program

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