Warm greetings to my fellow Photography Life readers! My name is Sharif and I am the photographer behind Alpha Whiskey Photography. I have been very kindly asked by Nasim to write an article for Photography Life, which has proved to be an excellent resource for photographers all over our planet. Nasim specifically invited me to write about my experience with my Olympus Micro Four Thirds mirrorless camera, the lenses I choose to use with it, and why I prefer it to my DSLR system, along with some examples of images I have produced with it.
For whatever reason most of the wildlife photography I do ends up being in less than desirable conditions. Its rare that I get that perfect light, with the animal perfectly posed and the weather just right and me in the right place and time to capture it. A lot of times I am in the right place, but all the other elements needed seem like they are on the extreme limits of what is needed for quality photography. I recently had the opportunity to photograph black bears here in New Hampshire and one thing that a person not from NH must understand is that this is not like going to Yellowstone or some similar place where the bears are more receptive to humans. Here in NH they are the ghosts of the woods, the animal you never hear while hiking or rarely see unless its by accident and then its for seconds before they disappear. I was able to use both the D800 and D4s during this time and I found out some disappointing things about the D800 which has me regretting purchasing it.
Since buying my first Nikon 1 V2 in August of last year I’ve been having some fun trying to push the limits of this little, mirrorless camera and its small CX sensor to see what it is capable of producing. On the surface doing a macro image comparison between a Nikon D800 and a Nikon 1 V2 may seem like a David and Goliath match-up.
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.
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.
For the past 8 months or so I have been shooting a lot of static and perched birds with a Nikon 1 V2, FT-1 adapter, my Nikkor 70-200 f/4 VR lens and TC-17E II teleconverter. This set-up gives me an equivalent field-of-view of 918mm @ a rather slow f/6.7. Even though the teleconverter does cause some loss of sharpness I’ve been happy with the results as you can see from the sample below.
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.
Nikon has announced a new Nikkor 400mm f/2.8E FL ED VR lens which will be loved by wildlife and sports photographers. As you know from Nasim’s review of the previous version of the Nikkor 400mm f/2.8G lens, this is one sharp lens but weight was a big drawback. Nikon has taken action to reduce the weight by almost 2 pounds and is now actually 3 ounces lighter than the 500mm f/4G, making it hand-holdable for many of us! Some of the weight savings is from using 2 Flourite lens elements. The new 400mm f/2.8E is also lighter than the legendary Canon 400mm f/2.8L IS II.