As promised, I have performed some additional dynamic range tests on the mirrorless cameras I am testing (Nikon 1 J2, Canon EOS-M, Sony NEX-F3, Sony NEX-5R, Sony NEX-6, Sony NEX-7 and Olympus OM-D EM-5) and I have the data ready for your viewing pleasure. As expected, the Sony APS-C sensors performed the best, with the Sony NEX-5R and NEX-6 leading the game (although other NEX series are extremely close) followed by the Olympus OM-D EM-5, then Canon EOS M and then finally the Nikon 1 J2. Here is a comparison chart that shows performance of the various mirrorless cameras:
I have spent a considerable amount of time working with 7 different mirrorless cameras from Sony, Canon, Nikon and Olympus. I apologize for not being able to provide periodic updates on these cameras. I have come up with new ways to measure digital camera sensor performance, so it took me a long time to do it in a way that I believe will be more accurate and objective compared to my previous methods. Not only will you be seeing crops of sensor performance in a controlled environment, but I will also provide some numbers to quantify performance in colors and dynamic range. As I have already mentioned before, I will be measuring dynamic range myself going forward without having to rely on other websites for the data. It will be interesting to see how my data compares to other sites like DxOMark. I am not planning to do anything super intensive and I bet my measurements will not be without issues and errors, but I believe it is something worth trying. Hopefully it will give a different perspective to testing sensors.
Here is the first test that shows the low light performance of the following mirrorless cameras: Nikon 1 J2, Canon EOS-M, Sony NEX-F3, Sony NEX-5R/NEX-6, Sony NEX-7 and Olympus OM-D EM-5. Since these cameras all look excellent at ISO levels between 100 and 800, I decided to only show ISO performance at 1600 and above. Take a look!
Nikon 1 J2
If you thought that Black Friday was a good day to buy cameras and lenses, think again – as of midnight tonight, Nikon is giving an instant rebate of $200 on the superb Nikon D800 and D800E DSLRs (see my D800 review). And it does not stop there. You can save even more by buying Nikon lenses (up to $750!). The real icing on the cake, however, comes with the Nikon D600 + 24-85mm VR kit, which is getting a crazy $700 instant rebate! This means that the kit will have the same price as the body-only version of the D600 at $1,996. Dang it, should have waited with my D600 purchase!
If you are subscribed to us, you already know about the D800 deal, but the $700 instant rebate on the D600 is something I found out about today. Remember the initial D600 rumors, where people were speculating if the D600 would be priced at $1,500? Well, that’s exactly the price of the camera if you factor in the cost of the lens! Take that Canon and Sony, a full-frame DSLR for $1,500 – who would have thought this day would come? Just three months after the announcement! If you have not read my D600 Review along with the 24-85mm VR Review, check them out and you will see why I am excited about this.
Bad product? Bad marketing? Predatory pricing? A simple act of desperation? Or all of the above? Nikon has just slashed the price of the Nikon 1 V1 kit (with the 10-30mm VR lens) again, down to $299. A product that sold for $899 exactly one year ago when I reviewed it. Wait, there is more – the Nikon 1 J1 camera, which has far less impressive specifications sells for $100 more. Doesn’t make sense, does it?
How can a product get 3 times cheaper in less than a year? Usually, you don’t see a 66% discount on an electronics product in a 12 month period after its launch. That just doesn’t happen…typically. And when it does happen, there is usually something wrong with the product, or the product fails to sell due to lack of mass adoption. Like Betamax versus VHS or HD-DVD vs Blu-Ray wars. Or many other similar stories. Nikon came a little late to the mirrorless market with its Nikon 1 system. The Micro 4/3 alliance already matured by then, with excellent lens choices, bigger sensor and lots of built-in features. Sony also gathered a big fanbase around its tiny cameras with big APS-C size sensors. Others were pushing hard with innovative designs, great lens choices and more. While Nikon wanted to capture the hearts and minds of many photographers, the product did not get the stamp of approval from the mirrorless community, mostly due to its high price tag. Many reviewers praised the Nikon 1 V1 camera, but could not justify its high price when compared to the competition. Not when Sony was selling its excellent mirrorless cameras like Sony NEX-5N for several hundred dollars less. And with Canon also adopting APS-C sensor size for its new EOS M mirrorless system, it was getting clear that Nikon would have a hard time competing in the mirrorless market. And now here we are – the Nikon 1 V1 is the cheapest of them all (in the high-end mirrorless category).
The Nikon 18-300mm DX is a variable aperture lens with a 16.7x zoom range for enthusiasts that need a single, “all-in-one” lens for everyday and travel photography. The variable aperture of f/3.5-5.6 (which changes from f/3.5 on the widest end at 18mm to f/5.6 when zoomed in), along with the lack of the gold ring on the front of the lens indicate that the lens is not on the same level as professional-grade constant aperture lenses in terms of optics, which is quite understandable, considering what it can offer in terms of zoom range.
Buying a DSLR often means having several accessories to go with it, among which are lenses. But choosing your first lens isn’t easy – there are so many choices available at so many different price points, which can make it quite confusing for a beginner to find a lens for a particular need. In this article, I will discuss several budget Nikon fast prime lenses most suitable as a first step into the fixed focal length world. Which Nikon prime should you buy first? Which one would make the most sense? You need a lens to stay on your camera for years to come, you need it to be good for family portraits and some occasional snaps. Or maybe even for your future photography business – who knows?
Well, read on as I highlight the strengths of each affordable fast prime Nikon has to offer. I hope this article will help you with this tough choice most of us had to make at one point or another.
1) Why Buy a New Lens?
So you bought yourself a brand spanking new DSLR and now you want better pictures. Where do you start? When our images do not turn out good, we usually blame the camera, without even having the patience and time to learn how to use it. Do you find yourself using the camera in Auto mode all the time? If yes, then why don’t you first educate yourself and learn what those other “PASM” modes are for? We have plenty of beginner tutorials on this website and our photography tips for beginners page is a good place to start.
In recent years, zoom lenses have been taking over the hearts of many working professional photographers as the more obvious, versatile choice. With the latest image sensors producing amazing quality, even at extremely high ISOs, it makes sense why more people have been leaning towards the convenience of zoom lenses. Zoom lenses have also gotten impressively sharp – most, even some cheap kit lenses, are sharp enough for day-to-day needs and also boast effective image stabilization systems. Some of the modern pro-grade lenses offer image quality that matches or even surpasses primes lenses in the same focal range. Despite all this, prime lenses haven’t really lost their desirability. Lens manufacturers such as Nikon and Canon have been rapidly updating and expanding their lens arsenal with new and better choices. Third-party manufacturers like Sigma are stepping into the game with confidence. Thanks to this, choosing between a zoom and a prime lens is now harder than ever. In this beginner guide, I talk about prime vs zoom lenses in detail, explaining their differences, along with some image samples.
1) What is a Prime Lens?
A prime lens is a lens with a fixed focal length (also commonly referred to as a “fixed lens”). What this means is that such a lens has a set angle of view which can not be changed – unless you move, you can not make the image appear larger or smaller within the frame. The only way of enlarging your subject and making it fill more of the frame is by physically getting closer to it. In turn, the only way to fit more into the frame is to step back.
It is no secret that the mirrorless camera market has been growing rapidly during the last several years. With all the major camera manufacturers in the game, the competition has been fierce, especially during the last year. Each player wants a reputable position in the market, so they are developing lots of near cameras, lenses and accessories to complement their unique systems. Personally, I have been patiently waiting for a good mirrorless system that I can invest in and stay with. Exactly one year after my first evaluation of mirrorless cameras, I decided to give another try and see if I can find something I really like, something that I can take with me anywhere I go. I am extremely happy with my high-end Nikon DSLR system, but I have been craving for something smaller and lighter that I can take with me everywhere I go. And while waiting for my right hand to recover from a recent carpal tunnel release surgery, I thought that this would be a great time to re-evaluate small cameras.
Here is what I will be playing with for the next few months:
- Olympus OM-D E-M5 with 12-50mm kit lens
- Olympus 45mm f/1.8
- Olympus 12mm f/2
- Panasonic 25mm f/1.4
- Canon EOS M with 22mm f/2 + 90EX Speedlite
- Nikon 1 V2 with 10-30mm & 30-110mm
- Sony NEX-7 with 18-55mm
- Sony NEX-6 with 16-50mm
- Sony NEX-5R
- Sony NEX-F3
- Sony 50mm f/1.8
- Sony 24mm f/1.4
Lifepixel, perhaps best known for its high quality infrared digital camera conversions, recently added a new service to its list – removing your DSLR’s anti-aliasing filter. The price varies between $400-500 depending on your specific camera model. The notion of removing a DSLR’s anti-aliasing feature is not new. Maxmax.com has been doing this for years. Anti-alias filter removal, in the digital camera arena, has been thought of in a similar manner to overclocking your PC (before some manufacturers eliminated this capability) or perhaps souping up your car’s engine via a special engine conversion kit – a bit risky but capable of producing good effects. Why is this “risky” with respect to your DSLR? Voiding the warranty for one. Benefits? A sharper image.
With the non-stop onslaught of higher megapixel sensors and technology price reductions, I suspect many people lost interest in the idea of removing their DSLR’s anti-aliasing filter, if they ever contemplated it to begin with. As you may recall from some of the D800 articles on Photography Life, the anti-aliasing filter was introduced to reduce the effects of moire created when photographing subjects with fine, repeating patterns. The anti-aliasing filter accomplished this by slightly diffusing the image, which also slightly reduced sharpness. With the introduction of the Nikon D800E, however, Nikon once again raised this issue to the forefront by offering a camera model with the anti-aliasing filter removed as a product – not as a after-market service. Lifepixel, being one of the premier camera modification service providers, saw an opportunity to capitalize on the new-found interest and market for an anti-aliasing filter removal service. So for a mere $400-$500, you can have your DSLR’s anti-aliasing filter removed and be assured of maximizing your sensor’s resolution. Below is an example discussed by Nasim in his review of the D800 and D800E.
I know what some of you may be thinking, “Gee, that seems like a lot of money to gain a bit of sharpness.” Perhaps. But if life has taught me one lesson, it is this – never, ever underestimate people’s willingness to spend money to get a bit of an edge, however slight. That is not a criticism of my fellow man, but merely an observation regarding human nature. I recall when some of us found out about the ability to overclock our PCs. Despite the warnings about “frying” our machines, many of us marched ahead anyway. We were determined to soak up every speed advantage we could find. And while I never ended up turning my PC into a smoldering hunk of silicon and metal, quite a few of my DIY colleagues that were not so lucky!
In one of my recent articles I talked about the beginning of the digital age and the consequences it brought to our understanding of photography. With all its greatness, with all the speed and quality and versatility, it became irreplaceable in our everyday lives and businesses. Along with that, however, digital photography also brought up a few problems, likely the biggest of which was the growing interest in new technologies rather than photography itself. This problem seemed to push the very goal of having a camera and a lens completely out of our minds. New gear was the thrilling, fun part. Comparing one to another has become our everyday activity. And yet, if we manage to get past that, if we manage to actually get out there and shoot rather than just read and read and read about new lenses and cameras day after day, we get the point of digital. We get to enjoy it as we should. We get to see digital, in a way, how we see the 18-200 or 28-300 class lenses – the do-everything, good enough for anything, the daily choice. But here lies another potential problem – with all the great all-round lenses, why do we love those boring 50mm f1.4 primes so much? I find myself shooting, and shooting, and shooting again. I find myself having hundreds, if not thousands, of photographs, and I like them. But a super-zoom is no prime lens. There’s always something vital missing. I may have just found out what it was for me. Before we dive into my very personal and subjective Mamiya RZ67 Pro review, lets talk film for a minute.
1) A Couple of Thoughts on Film
Where digital is about speed, you had to take it slow, sometimes even painfully so, with film. Where you had the shot with digital the second you pressed that shutter, you had to carefully store, develop and enlarge the photograph back in the day. Fiddle with the chemistry and red light in complete darkness. And you had, at best, 36 shots before you take a break and change film, whereas with digital, you have hundreds and hundreds before you swap that SD/CF/XQD card and shoot away again, ten frames per second. And every shot had to count. For every exposure, you pay money. You had manual focusing and manual exposure (I’m not talking about automated SLRs – I find them a little too boring, and we’ll talk about it further on) and you never knew if you’d screwed something up in the process. With digital, you can just shoot, adjust, and shoot again. I’m not even going to start on dust and scratches and archiving and having copies and making sure you don’t expose that precious roll to light before you had the chance to develop it.