Every once in a while, you will hear some photographers claim that lens filters are completely useless. Some will argue that only specific types of filters such as UV and protective filters are evil, while others will also include polarizing and ND filters into the mix, claiming that one could reproduce the effects of all those filters in post-processing software. Arguments for or against filters can spark a lot of heated debates in the photography community, similar to topics such as “Nikon vs Canon”, or “DSLR vs Mirrorless”. There are certainly some passionate individuals out there who are ready to stand their ground no matter what. And there is nothing wrong with that, as that’s what typically happens when there is truth on both side of the coin, depending on what angle you are looking at – there are certainly both pros and cons to using lens filters. Having been teaching photography for a number of years now, I have come across many different photographers of all skill levels in the field and I have come to realize that there is sadly quite a lot of misinformation out there regarding lens filters and their proper use. Many of us simply don’t know enough about not just filters themselves, but also their significant effect on our post-processing workflow. Although we have previously written many articles on lens filters, let’s explore filters once again and hopefully address some of the misconceptions about these important tools.
A couple of weeks back, AT&T sent me a ZTE Spro 2 Smart Projector to review and give away to one of our readers. I loved the idea of doing this, not only because it is a neat little smart device that you can use as a mobile hotspot and as a projector, but also because with the holiday spirit, why not gift one of these away to one of PL’s readers? After-all, our site is all about giving! Speaking of gifts, hope you’ll get what you need this holiday season, because it does not always happen. What do you do with those unwanted gifts then? I find regifting to work the best. For example, on my birthday earlier this year I received a gift card to a store I never shop from, so I decided to regift it to a friend who does. Worked out nicely and I did not even have to think much about buying a present! Now the question is, if you win this giveaway, will it be a keeper? Anyway, before I go into the giveaway details, let’s take a closer look at what the ZTE Spro 2 is capable of and what you can use it for.
We are excited to add another female contributor to our team and this time I am happy to introduce you to Elizabeth Gray, our previous Photo Spot contest winner! Elizabeth expressed interest in joining our team and writing some killer articles for our readers (have you seen her first article on choosing and preparing for a photo tour?), so I am really happy to make this announcement! Please give a warm welcome to Elizabeth Gray! Check out her intro post below, along with her beautiful and lively images.
Earlier this year, I wrote a detailed review of the Sony A7R, where I expressed a number of serious concerns with the camera, some of which were serious enough to be categorized as “deal breakers”. Soon after, Sony announced the much-anticipated A7R II mirrorless camera, a second iteration of the high-resolution line of A7-series cameras. Although many of us knew what to expect from the A7R II based on what we have previously seen on the Sony A7 II, there was new technology incorporated into the A7R II to make it a very appealing camera among both enthusiasts and professionals. Just like the A7 II, the A7R II gained five-axis in-body image stabilization (IBIS) and a different ergonomic design with a much more comfortable to hand-hold protruded grip. And those are relatively minor changes compared to the changes from the original A7R. Not only does the A7R II get a faster and much more reliable AF system with a whopping 399 focus points, but it also gains a brand new 42 MP back-illuminated (BSI) sensor. In addition, Sony addressed the serious shutter-shock issue by not only reducing the overall noise and vibration caused by the shutter mechanism, but also by introducing an electronic front-curtain shutter release option, which completely gets rid of shutter-related blur in images. And lastly, with the latest firmware upgrade, the Sony A7R II also gained the ability to shoot uncompressed RAW, giving the ability to take a full advantage of the sensor. I have been shooting with the Sony A7R II since it was announced, so let’s take a closer look at the Sony A7R II and see how it performed both in real world and lab environments.
Just like many other Nikon shooters, you might be wondering what Nikon has got up its sleeve when it comes to mirrorless. With so many manufacturers now competing in the mirrorless market, it is sorely disappointing to see Nikon being stuck with its 1″ CX sensor mirrorless offering, which despite its many strengths, is far from gaining popularity among enthusiasts and professionals. Unfortunately, for some manufacturers like Samsung, jumping into the mirrorless bandwagon has been challenging to say the least. Despite very strong offerings like the Samsung NX1, the company has not been able to gain a solid market share to stay afloat and its “mirrorless experiment” seems to be coming to an end, with the company’s announcements to discontinue sales of its products in a number of countries. In fact, based on these events, the future of Samsung’s NX line does not look good at all. But there is hope – today’s rumors indicate that Nikon is doing something completely unexpected, which is buying the Samsung NX mirrorless technology. According to Mirrorless Rumors, Nikon has already acquired the technology and the official announcement will be revealed in January of 2016, at the CES.
We have been asking folks at JPEGmini to give our readers a heavy discount and our request has been fulfilled! Today only, starting at around 9 PM Eastern Time, B&H will be hosting a mega sale on the Deal Zone for JPEGmini Pro. The software will be heavily discounted from its $149 price to only $59.99! That’s a killer price for this software package that will optimize your JPEG image library and compress it without losing quality. I have written extensively about JPEGmini at PL and you can see my original JPEGmini Pro Review, along with the last two posts on how JPEGmini can help in reducing your storage needs.
B&H has two killer deals available today for DxO OpticsPro 10 Elite Edition ($99.50) and X-Rite ColorChecker Passport ($49), which have been heavily discounted by 50% (both deals expire tonight). I have never seen these packages priced with such a heavy discount, so it is a good opportunity to grab both before the price goes back to normal.
A killer Black Friday-only deal from our friends at B&H Photo Video today only (ends in 6 hours!) – a brand new Apple 15.4″ MacBook Pro with Retina for $1,599 with free shipping. That’s a whopping $700 discount on a high-end laptop. This thing is a beast, because it comes with a 2.5 Ghz Core i7 CPU, 16 GB of RAM, 512 GB of PCIe-Based Flash Storage and NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M GPU. It will easily handle pretty much anything you throw at it and it will run both Lightroom and Photoshop smoothly. Definitely a great deal we highly recommend!
Starting from today until December 1, 2015, we have all the products on sale. The Sensor Gel Stick (both versions) is discounted by 10%, while the Sticky Paper is discounted to $9.99. The biggest sale is on our Level 1 Photography Basics – it has been discounted to $99 ($149 regular price) and the USB version is $20 more.
Although Tamron pioneered the release of the first 150-600mm lens, Sigma followed suit by releasing two versions of lenses with exactly the same focal length and aperture ranges. The smaller and lighter version, the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary (the one we are reviewing today), targets the same market as the Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD, while the much larger and heavier “Sport” version is something unique to Sigma, with no other equivalent competing offers from any other manufacturer. Being able to reach 600mm without spending a lot of money has been a big dream of many wildlife photographers on a budget, because anything close to the 600mm range typically translates to a very large expense – as much as $12K for the latest generation 600mm f/4 lenses. While the current 150-600mm lenses cannot offer the maximum aperture of f/4, they give a huge focal range to work with, which can be particularly useful when photographing subjects at varying distances. As many 600mm prime lens owners know, shooting with long glass is not an easy task due to both weight and atmospheric haze concerns. Such lenses can be quite limiting when the action is close, such as when photographing bears in Alaska, or taking pictures on an African safari. For such occasions, many pros love the 200-400mm f/4 lenses, because they give that flexibility to shoot action at both close and long distances. However, the high cost and the weight concerns are still there, making such lenses prohibitive for budget-conscious enthusiasts and pros who prefer shooting hand-held. And that’s when the 150-600mm lenses come to the rescue, offering great performance in a lightweight and relatively low-budget package. At just over $1K and a total weight of 1930 grams (4.25 pounds), the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary is a very attractive lens for sports and wildlife photographers. In this review, we will be taking a closer look at this lens and compare it to the Tamron 150-600mm lens that we previously reviewed and loved.