San Francisco Photo Walk this Sunday!

Bay Bridge at Night

I am in the beautiful city of San Francisco again and this time I would like to give advanced notice for our upcoming Photo Walk this Sunday, April 26 2015! Although the weather has been pretty miserable so far with cold, foggy days, hopefully things will look better on Sunday weather-wise and we should be able to enjoy a nice evening of shooting. Please note that all Photo Walks we host are free and you are welcome to come and join us for some photography, getting to know each other and talking about all things photography in a restaurant after the walk. As in our previous Photo Walks, you are also welcome to bring your portfolio with you and I can spend some one-on-one time after dinner to do a critique session and discuss your work, which will hopefully help you out in deciding how to take your photography to the next level. I will have a special guest with me, our very own John Bosley, who graciously agreed to help out in doing these one-on-one critique session. So we will not only have a great time together shooting, but it will be also a great opportunity to hopefully improve and advance your photography skills. Bring all the questions you have for us!

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Lightroom 6 Announcement and Preview

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 6 and CC

Today adobe rolled out the much anticipated update to its Lightroom photo management and editing software. Two new versions of Lightroom are immediately available for both standalone and Creative Cloud subscribers. Lightroom 6 will be offered as an update to Lightroom 5 for perpetual users (both regular and upgrade licenses are already available) and those who subscribe to the Creative Cloud will get a cloud-specific version called Lightroom CC (which in its core is the same as Lightroom 6). This update is a rather significant one, because it brings very important and much-needed performance improvements, new camera / lens support and a few new notable features. Let’s discuss those in more detail now.

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Content Sharing Contest Winner and Prizes

Content Sharing Contest

Big thanks to everyone who took part in our Content Sharing Contest poll to pick the winner of the Sony A6000. It was a close race, with both Aaron Priest and Spencer Cox dominating the poll for a while. But looks like Aaron still came out first, with 80 votes on his side, only 4 votes higher than Spencer. Congratulations to Aaron for winning the Sony A6000 and big thanks to everyone who participated – your articles generated a lot of great interest and discussions among our readers. As promised, we will be emailing each participant with request to pick their smaller prizes as well.

If you have enjoyed our contest and would like to see more future activities like that, please let us know – your feedback is always appreciated.

Fujinon XF 16mm f/1.4 R WR Announcement

Fujinon XF 16mm f/1.4 R WR

Today is a big day for Fuji, because the company has just announced its first wide angle weather resistant prime lens, the Fujinon XF 16mm f/1.4 R WR. This is a pretty significant milestone for Fuji, because the lens is equivalent to a 24mm lens in terms of field of view on full-frame, which is a very popular focal length for many different types of photography such as landscapes, architecture and environmental portraiture. Being a fast f/1.4 lens, it is also a great candidate for low-light photography. On top of that, Fuji made this lens weather resistant to withstand both dust and moisture, so it will couple greatly with the Fuji X-T1 and future weather-sealed cameras.

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Nikon D750 – Additional $300 Instant Rebate

Nikon D750

Big news for our US readers – Nikon has just cut the price of the D750 by an additional $300 instant rebate, bringing the price down to $1,999! And if you need a camera with the 24-120mm f/4G VR lens, you can get the combo for $2,700. If you want to get some additional savings on other lenses, Nikon’s Buy Together and Save program is still on. That’s a pretty sweet deal for what I consider to be the best all around Nikon full-frame DSLR. You can read my detailed Nikon D750 review to learn more about the capabilities of the camera.

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Zeiss Loxia 35mm and 50mm – Superb Performers

Zeiss Loxia 35mm f/2

One of the biggest complaints the Sony full-frame mirrorless system has been receiving, is lack of good lens choices. With the launch of the Sony FE mount, Sony introduced only two high quality prime lenses in collaboration with Zeiss, the FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA and the FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA, both of which have been designed specifically for the short flange distance of the Sony A7 series cameras and have stellar optical characteristics. In September of 2014, Zeiss introduced two additional high quality primes for the Sony FE mount. Dubbed “Loxia”, these lenses are quite different from the Sony versions in a number of ways. First, they are both engineered and made by Zeiss, which means higher quality build and construction. Second, similar to many other Zeiss lenses, the Loxia line is manual focus only – and it is designed to be so. Third, they are also optimized for videographers, with a “DeClick” feature, which allows for smooth adjustment of aperture right on the lens. A number of our readers expressed interest in the Loxia lenses, so after having an opportunity to shoot with these gems, I was able to measure their optical performance in my lab. In this article, I would like to provide some information on the optical characteristics of the two Loxia lenses. Let’s start with the Loxia 35mm f/2:

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Does Fuji Cheat with its Sensors?

Fuji X-T1 ISO 3200 +0.85 EV

When testing cameras, it is not unusual to see a situation when one camera can produce results a bit darker or brighter than another. In some cases, lenses are to blame for this variance, since most lenses cannot ideally transmit all of the incoming light. What this means, is that a lens with a maximum aperture of f/2.8 could potentially transmit less light, which could be equivalent to say f/3.5 in terms of brightness. The latter number is what is often referred to as a “T-stop”, or Transmission-stop, which is basically an adjusted f-stop that takes into account this light loss. In other cases, the camera itself can be the source of brightness variance. Although manufacturers are supposed to adhere to an ISO standard that guides the process of determining the right brightness level for each ISO, there is usually still some variance between not only brands, but also between specific camera models. We won’t get into the question of why there are such variances. Instead, we will concentrate on implications of such variances to camera sensor comparisons and ratings. Particularly, we will be looking at exposure variances in Fuji cameras, such as the Fuji X-T1. Many photographers, including myself, have been fond of the way Fuji sensors render images, outputting very clean and pleasant-looking images, even at high ISOs. But are those ISOs real? And is Fuji doing something shady to make its images look better? Let’s take a closer look…

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Nikon 400mm f/2.8E FL ED VR Review

Nikkor 400mm f/2.8E VR

During the past few years, Nikon has been slowly replacing its high-end super telephoto lenses with newer technology using lightweight fluorite lens elements, shredding off a lot of weight and making additional improvements to lens designs, making the already strong lenses even better. After the 800mm f/5.6E VR monster, it was time for Nikon to update its legendary 400mm f/2.8G VR with the newer version, so that’s how the Nikkor 400mm f/2.8E FL VR came to life. Although Nikon is planning to update every super telephoto lens in its line-up with lighter lenses featuring fluorite elements (which includes the 200mm f/2, 300mm f/2.8, 500mm f/4 and 600mm f/4 lenses), Nikon decided to start with the 400mm f/2.8, because it is one of the lenses that would get the most benefit from the fluorite lens design. Weighing in at a whopping 4.6 kg, the previous generation 400mm f/2.8G VR was a monster of a lens to handle and impractical to hand-hold (it was quite a bit front-heavy). Although it is quite a versatile lens and works remarkably well with all three Nikon teleconverters, its weight and size were its main disadvantages, making a lot of photographers opt for other super telephoto Nikkor lenses like the 500mm f/4 instead. The newly designed 400mm f/2.8E FL VR is a whole different lens in comparison – weighing 3.8 kg, the lens is now similar in weight as the 500mm f/4G VR, which is a great engineering achievement! Let’s take a closer look at this lens.

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Upcoming Reviews

Nikon D5500

I will be traveling out of country in April and before I leave, I have a few days to try to work on some reviews. Whether I will manage to produce a lot of content before my departure or not, I am planning to finish up the task upon my return. Lots of gear came out during the last year and having started my Sony mirrorless camera reviews, I intend to complete a few of those as well. Below is the list of gear that I currently have, which I am planning to review as soon as possible:

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Really Right Stuff BH-55 Ballhead Review

Really Right Stuff BH-55 Pro Ballhead

Every once in a while I like going back and taking a fresh look at the tools that I have been relying on for years. During my last trip to Death Valley and the California mountains, I met a few photographers who I spent some time with, talking about what photographers generally chat about – camera gear and our favorite photography spots. One photographer had a very similar setup as mine, using a Gitzo Systematic tripod and a Really Right Stuff BH-55 ballhead. His ballhead had a different quick release plate than mine, so we started chatting about the differences in the setup and what we both like and dislike about the BH-55. After this discussion, I realized that I have never written about the BH-55 at Photography Life, although I have continuously relied on it for years and take it with me everywhere I go. In a way, I have gotten emotionally attached to this remarkable ballhead and it has become an indispensable tool for my photography work.

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