Nature often rewards us with incredible opportunities for photographing sunrises, sunsets and sun rays piercing through the clouds, creating stunning views. As a landscape photographer, I tend to wait for partly cloudy and stormy days, because clouds make photographs appear much more dramatic and vivid. Without clouds, sunrises and sunsets often look boring, forcing us to cut out the sky and focus on foreground elements instead. In contrast, if you get to witness a sunrise or a sunset with puffy, stormy clouds that are lit up from underneath with colorful sun rays, creating a fiery view, including the clouds in your photographs would make the scene appear much more colorful and alive. In fact, clouds can be so beautiful, that they could become the main element of composition in your photographs. In this article, I will not only talk about the process of photographing clouds, but also will focus on making clouds appear much more dynamic and dramatic in your photographs.
Big thanks to our readers in London that came to participate in our London Photo Walk on Wednesday, May 14. Although many could not make it due to work, conflicts and the fact that we did it during the week, we had 24 people join us for the photo walk! It was an amazing experience for me personally to get a chance to meet our readers and photograph the beautiful and the historic city of London. Although I ended up only taking a single picture at the end of the day (yes, the group did get a good laugh at that!), I absolutely loved getting to know each and every person from the group. Here is a group photo of us right before we started the photo walk:
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.
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.
While successful for perched birds, this set-up has been a different story for birds in flight. I’ve found that the auto focusing hunts a great deal at f/6.7 when trying to capture birds in flight, and the EFoV of 918mm makes it extremely difficult to keep a flying bird in the frame long enough to acquire focus. My skill set is such that other than getting the odd image of a cormorant flying in the distance at a 90-degree angle to me, I was unsuccessful in getting very many usable shots.
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.
In addition to saving weight, the minimum focusing distance of the new lens is approximately 12 inches less than the old version. There are 16 lens elements in 12 groups in the new lens, compared to 14 elements in 11 groups in the old lens. The front element diameter of the lens remains the same while the overall length of the lens is slightly shorter by 10 mm. Speaking of the front element, it is the first Nikkor lens to receive the fluorine coating, which Nikon claims will “effectively repel dust, water droplets, grease or dirt, ensuring easy removal even when they adhere to the lens surface“. This new fluorine coating will also be used in the new AF-S teleconverter TC-14E III which was also just announced.