I am currently in the beautiful San Juan Mountains of Colorado, getting ready to conduct my annual Colorado Fall Workshops. Although some of the areas have not turned in their full fall color glory yet, it is just a matter of days at this point to witness the stunning transformation of the scenery before winter rolls its cold in. A breathtaking visual spectacle; something I love indulging myself in, together with some of the most amazing people from all over the world – our readers who will be arriving later this week to join the workshops. As I was trying to catch up with work earlier today, I realized that I was about 30 minutes away from sunset. I looked outside and was disappointed to see a bunch of thick clouds covering the sky. At first, I thought I would just stay and work, but then the thought of potentially losing a sunset opportunity crossed my mind, so I grabbed the Sony A7R II (which I am currently testing) and off I went to quickly get to the first overlook of the glorious Mt Sneffels.
After almost a year of hard work, John and I are excited to finally release our first photography course “Level 1: Photography Basics“. It has been an awesome experience creating this video and I can proudly say that we have done our best to produce truly educational material for our readers to learn from. Compressing years of photography knowledge and experience into a 5 hour course was not easy, but we managed to do it! Although this is our first commercial product, we have huge plans for making more of such videos in the future, as detailed below. And as part of the launch special for our readers and fans, we are discounting the price of the course from $149 to $99 for a limited time!
While I am getting ready to leave for the upcoming PL fall workshops this week, it was exciting to hear today that Sony is finally going to address the Lossy 11+7 bit RAW issue we have seen on all Sony A7-series cameras (you can read about the Lossy RAW issue in my Sony A7R review). Although the press release below states that Sony will feature uncompressed 14-bit RAW beginning with the A7R II and the newly announced A7S II, I really hope that the company adds this must-have feature to its older A7-series cameras as well, since landscape photographers could really benefit from shooting true 14-bit RAW, without worrying about seeing artifacts in images. This is great news and I am glad that Sony responded to our complaints – it is great to see such a large company listen to customer and expert feedback.
I have been using ACDSee Pro for many years, because I found it to be pretty convenient to use for viewing different image formats. It has great built-in tools for viewing EXIF / exposure data and customizing exactly what I want to view, which is great. Although I have switched to FastRawViewer for fast viewing of RAW files and culling images, ACDSee can be a great tool for reviewing other images and graphics – it can literally open any image format out there. We have previously published a detailed review of ACDSee Pro 8 and although we found it to be quite messy and cumbersome for photo editing when compared to Lightroom, ACDSee still worked out great as a general purpose image viewer. However, since we published the review, I have been very annoyed by all the pop-ups and ACDSee’s attempts to lure me into upgrading to their Ultimate version (which started out at around $70+, then eventually came down to $40), showing up way too often, sometimes several times a day! And now I am getting pop-ups for the new upcoming version 9 of the software, as seen below:
Just wanted to let our readers know, that our favorite RAW viewer and RAW image culling software is currently on 25% sale as part of the Labor Day sale. FastRawViewer, which we have previously reviewed in detail is the fastest RAW viewer software available and it keeps getting better and better (both PC and Mac compatible). Ever since I mentioned lack of being able to see thumbnail previews of images, folks at LibRaw, LLC added that feature into the software pretty much right away! Now I can navigate through folders with ease and have a quick preview of images before I click on them, which saves even more time during the image culling process:
With the proliferation of SSD storage on the market, today we see a huge increase in all kinds of small, yet insanely fast gadgets that help us increase our productivity. One of such gadgets has been brought to us by Samsung in the form of the portable SSD T1 – the smallest and the fastest external drive available today. Based on Samsung’s 850 EVO SSD (mSATA version), this little SSD drive only measures 2.8″ x 0.36″ x 2.09″ (64 x 9 x 53mm) and weighs a total of 0.9 oz (25 grams), making it look like a large thumb drive. But there is a major difference – unlike the slow thumb drives we see today, the Samsung SSD T1 has the same amazing speed of SSD drives, capable of up to 450 MB/sec transfer speeds. I have been testing out the SSD T1 pretty much since it came out and I have been amazed by its performance and rock solid reliability. My last external hard drive died on me a year ago and although I had been backing up my data regularly at the time, it certainly did not leave a pleasant feeling when I wanted to buy another external device for travel and remote jobs, as it was not the first one that failed. Sadly, hard drives have a tendency to fail faster when they are constantly carried around and frequently plugged and unplugged. Drop them and the chance of losing the drive and its data are extremely high. In contrast, SSD drives are much more reliable and they have no issues with extreme shock and vibration.
One of the biggest complaints we hear about from photographers today is lack of innovation by DSLR manufacturers. Given how far mirrorless cameras have gotten in the last few years with the electronic viewfinder (EVF) technology, it is a given that DSLRs are looking archaic in comparison, particularly when it comes to intelligent information overlays, manual focusing, focus peaking, EVF image playback and other important advancements that make mirrorless cameras not just joyful to use, but also very helpful in reducing focus issues. When using classic lenses such as the Noct 58mm f/1.2 on a DSLR, I personally find it quite frustrating that I have to switch to live view to try to nail focus with the camera at my arm’s length. Not only does that result in potential instability and undesired camera shake, but it takes me away from the optical viewfinder (OVF) and slows down the whole process. But what if there was a solution to the problem? What if DSLR manufacturers came up with a way to integrate an EVF into DSLRs and make both OVF and EVF possible? Sort of a “transitional DSLR” with both OVF and EVF capabilities. How cool would it be, if you could switch from an OVF to an EVF with just a single button? I have been thinking about this concept for a while and I think there is a way to implement this, if camera manufacturers are willing to be flexible and put some R&D resources towards such a project. It would certainly reduce the potential of mirrorless cameras taking a huge market share away from DSLR sales, which have only been declining in the past few years.
One of the common misunderstandings in photography has to do with the focal length of a lens, or its optical distortion properties. Many photographers claim that a wider angle lens will distort facial features either because of the lens distortion, or the focal length of the lens being too short. In this article and the accompanying video (which is extracted from our upcoming Photography Life Basics Video), we will prove that focal length has nothing to do with distorting a subject’s face and the additional information on lens distortion will explain in detail exactly what gets impacted by lens distortion.
Today Canon announced the updated Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM lens, which promises remarkable performance for a 35mm prime, thanks to its updated optical formula and the new “Blue Spectrum Refractive Optics”, which is designed to further reduce chromatic aberration to new levels. With a total of 14 elements (2 of which are aspherical), 9 diaphragm blades for beautiful bokeh, fluorine coating and a dust / water-resistant construction, the Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM will surely be a popular choice among Canon enthusiasts and professionals. The only issue might be the added weight – at 760 grams, it is 180 grams heavier than its predecessor. It will retail for $1,799 in October of 2015.
When testing out the Nikon 58mm f/1.4G, I really wanted to get a hold of the legendary Noct-NIKKOR 58mm f/1.2 lens to see how the two lenses from different generations compare optically. Unfortunately, I could not obtain a good sample of the Noct-NIKKOR at the time, but after scouting eBay for a while, I finally found a pristine copy of the lens from a photographer in California. Being a collector item, the lens was barely used and had been sitting for years in a closet – exactly what I had been wanting to get. I really wanted to make sure that the lens performed as close to its original specifications as possible, because I was on the quest to measure its optical performance, particularly at its super wide f/1.2 aperture. Let’s take a look at the lens in more detail.