When testing lenses, I have to make sure that my setup is calibrated and the camera is perfectly aligned with the test chart. The process can take quite a bit of time, since I have to take a picture, make minute adjustments, then take another picture and retest again. In some cases I have to repeat the process many times over, which can be very painful. To simplify and speed-up the process, I have been connecting my laptop (which sits right under the tripod) directly to the Nikon D800E with a USB cable and have been using Nikon’s Camera Control Pro to dump files into a local folder, from which I pick up and process images using Imatest software. The problem with this approach has been speed – Imatest is pretty demanding when it comes to processing large RAW files from the D800E and my laptop just could not keep up. So I ended up moving the software to my powerful desktop machine, which created another problem. Every time I take a picture and need adjustments, I have to walk back and forth between the camera setup and the computer to analyze the results and make adjustments. USB 3 cables have length limitations and even with “active” USB 3 extension cables, the maximum length is typically under 10 meters. And that’s just not going to work for me, since I often test telephoto lenses and I have to be more than 10 meters away. To address these issues, I decided to try some wireless solutions that are available on the market. The first and the cheapest product to try was the Eye-Fi Pro X2 memory card. I got a 16 GB version and wanted to see just how well the card with its software could work for my setup. In this review, I will be focusing primarily on the transfer speed of the card and its usability with the Nikon D800 / D800E DSLR.
This is a short review of the Lexar Professional 400x SDHC UHS-I Class 10 card, which I have been using for the past 6 months. I have owned 4 of these cards in 16GB capacity and decided to write a review after every single one of them failed. I have never had such problems with memory cards, especially those that have a “professional” label attached to them. So this is more of a warning to potential owners, rather than a full-blown review of a product.
When it comes to memory cards, the market is simply overflowed by so many different brands and different types of cards, that it can get quite overwhelming for a first time buyer. Out of all those brands, the two most popular ones in the USA are SanDisk and Lexar. They put a lot of effort into marketing their products, particularly in the professional photography arena. For years I have been relying on SanDisk cards and have owned many Compact Flash and SD cards from them. Perhaps I have been lucky, but during the last 7 years, I have never had a single SanDisk card fail (I still own some pretty old 2 GB SanDisk cards). So last year when there was a good promotion on Lexar Professional cards and after I heard so many good things about the brand, I decided to give Lexar a try and purchased four of the professional 400x SDHC class 10 cards.
This is an in-depth review of the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art lens, world’s first constant f/1.8 zoom lens for DSLR cameras that was announced in April of 2013. Despite the recent trend of manufacturers to move their customer base to full-frame format, Sigma took a bold move and announced the professional-grade Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 Art for DX/APS-C format only. With a focal range equivalent to 27mm-52.5mm in 35mm format, the lens provides a good range to work with for a variety of different needs and applications. And with its fast constant aperture of f/1.8, the Sigma 18-35mm opens up opportunities to shoot in low-light situations, something that was previously only possible with fast aperture prime lenses. Lastly, Sigma’s pricing of $799 MSRP for the lens made it the top choice in terms of value when compared to pro-grade lenses such as the Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8G DX, which sells for almost twice as much and does not offer the same low-light advantages.
About 3 weeks ago, I decided to make some changes to my tripod setup in my lens testing lab, in order to make it easier, more consistent and fluid to test lenses. My decision was based on the fact that I found myself moving the tripod a bit too much when testing lenses, especially the de-centered ones (those that do not have a straight optical axis due to a slight dislocation of one or more lens elements). I decided to replace shorter macro focusing rails for much longer and bigger rails, so that I could have more room for side to side movement and more focus bracketing options for testing telephoto lenses. As I was configuring the setup, I realized that I needed to spend close to $2K in a more versatile tripod head and lots of Arca-Swiss rails, clamps and other accessories. The first task was to replace the standard quick release plate of the heavy duty Manfrotto 405 Pro Geared Head (to be reviewed later) with an Arca-Swiss quick release clamp. As usual, I started researching for a proper solution on Google, which pointed me to Hejnar Photo Store on the first page of search, with exactly the product that I was looking for. I then spent another 30-45 minutes researching the solution and read a number of posts on different forums, where people were raving about Hejnar Photo’s products, including the adapter that I needed. This was very important for me, because I needed a setup that would be extremely reliable and stable, especially for handling heavy super telephoto lenses.
Although I have never heard of the company before, I decided to give it a try and purchased the Arca-Swiss adapter and clamp for the Manfrotto 405 tripod head, along with a bunch of other accessories for my custom setup. The pricing was very good, so I wanted to see how Hejnar Photo’s products would compare to the most popular brands like Really Right Stuff. My order was processed on the same day and the package was shipped to me right away without any delays. After a few days, I received everything I ordered and started modifying the Manfrotto 405. After going through the instructions on Hejnar Photos’s website (which are nicely laid out with images), I was able to modify the head in less than 5 minutes. Once everything was put together, I was pleasantly surprised by how solid the setup was. I slid one of the long rails on Hejnar Photo’s tripod clamp and once secured, it was rock solid. No vibrations of any sort – and that’s exactly what I need for testing lenses! Here is the image of one of the configurations:
This is an in-depth review of the new, much anticipated Nikon 58mm f/1.4G professional prime lens that was announced on October 17, 2013 along with the Nikon D5300 DSLR. Similar to the legendary classic, the NOCT Nikkor 58mm f/1.2, the AF-S NIKKOR 58mm f/1.4G is a specialized lens for such needs as portraiture, street, event / wedding photography and astrophotography. Thanks to its fast aperture of f/1.4 and a complex optical formula using aspherical elements, nano crystal coat and super integrated coating, along with a fast silent wave autofocus motor, the lens is also ideal for low-light photography needs. Unlike many of the Nikkor lenses that are optimized for maximum sharpness, the Nikon 58mm f/1.4G is the first modern lens of its kind that focuses on producing aesthetically pleasing images, rather than purely focusing on sharpness. I had a pleasure of shooting with this lens for the last 3 months and I wanted to get a full understanding of its strengths and weaknesses, especially when compared to the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G and f/1.8G lenses that I have been relying on for my photography needs. In this review, I will not only provide an in-depth analysis of the lens, but will also compare it head to head against Nikon’s 50mm prime lenses and the Voigtlander 58mm f/1.4 lens that I have been testing in parallel.
This is not meant to be an in-depth review of the Fuji XQ1, because I normally do not like spending time evaluating point and shoot cameras. First, there are too many of them and they recycle every year, sometimes even several times a year. Second, with the rise of the cell phone market with pretty impressive cameras, I just do not see the future of the point and shoot market. And lastly, the XQ1 simply ended up in my hands in error and I did not want to send it back without writing a few words about it.
This is an in-depth review of the Fujifilm X-E2, a second generation mirrorless interchangeable-lens camera from Fuji that was released on October 18, 2013 before the 2013 Photo Plus Expo event in New York. After the success of the X-E1, which I ended up picking as my mirrorless camera of choice, as explained in my detailed review, Fuji decided to update the camera with more features to make it even more compelling. Considering that the X-E1 was only a little over a year old and the high-end X-Pro1 had not been updated since it was initially released back in March of 2012, the X-E2 was a good indication of Fuji’s future plans to keep the mid-range product line updated every 12 to 18 months, while the high-end line will probably be updated every 24+ months. In this Fuji X-E2 review (based on initial firmware 1.00), I will provide detailed information about the camera along with some image samples and compare it to the X-E1 and the Olympus OM-D E-M1.
Maybe you can teach an old dog new tricks. I hate camera straps, they seem to always be in the way and so more often than not, I end up ditching them. Instead, I end up carrying the camera by the body or by the tripod foot when using larger lenses. I should say, I used to hate straps, until I finally used a BlackRapid Sport and in this quick review we will discuss the advantages of this strap.
The reason I didn’t use straps was simple, I didn’t like them. I didn’t like them because they usually weren’t comfortable. When used straight around the neck, the strap tended to pull and give me a neck ache. Another reason for my disdain of straps was that If you placed the strap over your head and onto your opposite shoulder, it would be more comfortable but it was hard to bring the camera up to your eye to shoot.
I thought I was perfectly happy using the standard hard plastic Nikon screen protector that came with my D800. It does what it’s supposed to do, right? It protects the screen from getting scratched without getting in the way of actually seeing the screen. Why mess with a good thing? That’s what I thought until I was given the opportunity to try out an Expert Shield Screen Protector.
The Expert Shield Screen Protector is a flexible screen protector that is applied directly to your device’s screen. I’ve used screen protectors like this on cameras and phones in the past and always had issues with bubbles, scratches and peeling. Would this be the same or would I end up loving it and throw away the hard plastic screen protector that came with my camera? Only one way to find out.
This is an in-depth review of the Fuji XF 35mm f/1.4 prime lens, also known as “Fujinon XF 35mm f/1.4 R” that was released initially together with the Fuji X-Pro1 on September 21, 2011. Fuji specifically wanted to target professionals and enthusiasts with its X line, so it first introduced a professional-level mirrorless camera, the X-Pro1, along with three prime lenses: Fuji XF 18mm f/2, Fuji XF 35mm f/1.4 and Fuji XF 60mm f/2.4 Macro. And hence, being part of the Fuji X mirrorless interchangeable lens system launch, the Fuji 35mm f/1.4 played a big role in the success of the product line.