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.
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.
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:
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.
Just wanted to post a quick reminder that the Nikon and Canon Lens and Speedlight rebates will be expiring in just two days and will not come back, probably till the holiday season at the end of the year. Nikon has already extended its rebate program until the end of March and with the end of the tax season, it will also end the rebates. As you may already know, there are two types of rebates taking place right now – lens-only rebates and camera combo rebates. I won’t go over these rebates in detail and provide my recommendations, because I have already done that in the previous article.
If you are a Canon shooter, you can still take advantage of the killer promotions for the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM and Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM, both of which get double promotions. Basically, the 24-70mm f/2.8L gets an instant $300 rebate and you can shave another $200 off the price with a mail-in rebate, bringing it down to $1799 (total $500 off). The 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II gets a $140 instantly off and you will also get a $200 mail-in rebate, so you pay $2159 for it.
After I posted my last article comparing the high ISO performance of the Nikon D4s vs D4, a number of our readers requested that I provide a similar comparison with other cameras such as the Nikon D600/D610, D800 and Df. Instead of posting multiple articles that show these comparisons, I decided to put it all into a single article, so that our readers could look at the side by side comparisons, or download the files to their computers for closer examination. Before you start comparing the below images, however, I would like to point out that the images are just provided as a reference, and only represent one side of the camera performance – high ISO in low-light, indoor conditions. Each camera comes with its own set of features, strengths and weaknesses, so please do not draw conclusions from these shots. Please note that ISO performance might vary in different lighting conditions. My recommendation would be to read the comment exchange I had with Brad Hill of Natural Art Images in the previous Nikon D4s vs D4 comparison article, where we discuss the topic of comparing sensor performance in detail.
One of our readers, Rudiger Wolf, has done some pretty extensive research to decide on what camera system he wanted to settle on. In this article, he wanted to share his findings with our readers and hopefully make it easier for others to select the system based on their particular needs. When Rudiger sent me an email earlier last week and asked if it would be helpful to share his findings, I responded to him that it would surely be beneficial. Photography Life is all about sharing knowledge and helping others to make healthy choices, so I was thrilled to have the opportunity. Enjoy!
I have been working on testing the performance of the new Nikon D4s to compare it to the D4 and see what advancements in sensor technology and image processing pipeline Nikon delivered in the latest revision of the top-of-the-line camera. Designed for sports, news and wildlife photographers that often have challenging light conditions and demanding environments, the high-end camera line is supposed to feed the never-ending thirst for more pixels and better low-light performance. Does the Nikon D4s deliver better image quality than its predecessor? While we know that the resolution of both cameras stayed the same, the big question is whether Nikon was able to enhance the existing 16.2 MP sensor and perhaps use better software algorithms to decrease noise – and that’s what we are here to find out today.
A number of our readers have been asking us for some information regarding the new Nikon 35mm f/1.8G FX lens, requesting a review and a comparison with the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 lens (see my in-depth review). While the review is definitely in the pipeline, I thought it would be nice to provide a preview of my observations so far, along with some image samples from my recent trips. At $600, the full-frame Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G is another “value” lens from Nikon when compared to its super expensive brother, the Nikon 35mm f/1.4G. It is $300 cheaper than the Sigma 35mm f/1.4, and both significantly smaller and lighter in comparison. So for those that are looking for a lightweight alternative to the Sigma 35mm f/1.4, the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G FX might be a great lens to buy. Let’s take a look at the lens in a little more detail.
My D7000, Nikkor 500mm and I have had some wonderful times together – the shots of a Peregrine chick jumping off the ledge for the first time, the yoga-stretching Osprey that made Audubon’s Top 100, and who can forget the Night Heron flying past with a baby alligator in it’s mouth. But like all relationships, it seemed the initial pizazz was fading. I began to notice how she had trouble staying focused and got noisy when I pushed an issue. Furthermore, with 190,000 clicks under her belt, well, let’s just say her shutter curtains were starting to droop a bit. It was time to move on, but don’t get me wrong, we’ll always be friends. Now I hate to admit it, but I’d been having an online affair with the new Nikkor 800mm for almost a year – I’d link over to her B&H page and run my finger gently around her buy now button. Oh how we teased each other… Then one day we went all the way.
Next week she was there in front of me, the ten pound, one ounce Nikkor 800mm f/5.6E FL ED VR OMG BFF. However, when I unpacked my new lens, it was obviously lacking a proper rear lens cap. How inconsiderate of Nikon not to include a D4s to keep the rear element clean. Nothing a few years of crippling debt couldn’t solve. I dusted off my backup credit card and a few days later the D4$ showed up. So without further ado, my first 29 hours testing the 800mm/D4$ combo for reach, handholding, buffer, burst rate, high ISO ability and general BIFiness.
Let’s start at the end of the day and half of testing – 800mm of reach allowed me to maintain a non-threatening distance from this Common Black-hawk posing in front of the moon sneaking through the clouds. 1/1250, f/6.3, ISO 2500, 800mm, D4s. I cut loose with some artistic experimentation with this – embrace the post-processing noise – it’s pretty much the last you’ll see in the article:
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: