I am finally back from my three week departure to the San Juan mountains of Colorado! This time was a wonderful and very memorable journey, because I got to see our PL team members (more to come) and I met wonderful people in our fall workshops. Although we did not see any snow this year and we were greeted by pretty warm temperatures, the fall colors looked great and I was able to take some great shots of sunrises and sunsets in the area. Here is a grand view of Wilson Peak and the surrounding area at sunset:
Along with the new Surface Book, Microsoft also revealed a highly anticipated update to the Surface Pro line – the Surface Pro 4. Being a huge fan of the SP 3, I have been patiently waiting to see what Microsoft would bring in the SP 4. Although the Surface Book sounds like a dream come true for serious work, it is both heavier and larger than the Surface Pro 3 once you add up the keyboard shell (which is what hosts an additional battery, external connectors and an optional GPU). My Surface Pro 3 is always with me and it fits nicely in the front compartment of my Think Tank Airport Commuter backpack (the best camera backpack I have used to date), so I will have to evaluate the size differences between the two to decide which one would suit my needs the best. Thankfully, Microsoft kept the Surface Pro 4 nice and compact. In fact, compared to its predecessor, the SP 4 is both thinner and slightly lighter at 8.45mm and 1.73 pounds (high-end models), vs 9.14mm and 1.76 pounds on the SP 3.
Today is a big day at Microsoft, because the company revealed the Surface Book, Microsoft’s first ever laptop. With its 13.5 inch display packing 3,000 x 2,000 pixels (3:2 aspect ratio, which is great for photography) the screen is very impressive with 267 pixels per inch. And since this machine just like the Surface Pro and Surface 3 can run the full version of Windows 10, you can run any calibration software to get the color precision you need. The cool thing about the Surface Book is that you can use it both as a tablet and a laptop – something Apple MacBook Pro cannot compete with. That’s a neat feature, because some tasks, like online browsing do not require a keyboard, so the ability to disconnect the screen from the keyboard is amazing. The keyboard module is not just a keyboard – it is actually another shell that hosts another battery and an optional NVIDIA graphics card (GPU), which is something I did not expect to see. This means that the Surface Book will be perfectly usable not only for gaming, but also for many challenging tasks, including 3D modeling. GPU speed was the weakness of the Surface Pro line and a lot of people have been asking for a way to hook up an external GPU. Looks like Microsoft listened and delivered. There is, however, a caveat with the tablet vs full laptop mode: since the larger capacity battery sits in the keyboard shell, the battery life is greatly diminished, with the tablet only being able to run for up to 3 hours. Still, that’s pretty darn impressive for such a small powerhouse. And speaking of battery life, once you hook up the keyboard, you will be able to get up to 12 hours of battery life!
It seems like releasing a product without proper testing has become a norm for some camera manufacturers like Nikon. You would think that after all the recalls, service advisories and lawsuits, manufacturers should be thoroughly testing equipment, preferably giving the equipment to real photographers who use and abuse their gear for a living, before trying to market and sell it. Nikon specifically has gone through so much bad press, that one would think it is time for the company to think about its long term strategy with releasing products. Looking at the past few years, it seems like almost every major product announcement has been followed by a plague of service advisories. The Nikon D800 / D800E cameras were definitely the spotlight of the industry, except almost every camera was impacted by the infamous Asymmetric Focus Issue. Nikon went quiet on that one for a while and never truly confirmed the issue.
We are in the process of reviewing the Sony A7R II mirrorless camera and we thought it would be a good idea to provide our recommended settings for this camera, since many of our readers have been asking for it. With a powerful 42 MP sensor and a pretty long list of features including native 4K video recording capability, the Sony A7R II is a high-end interchangeable lens mirrorless camera designed for serious enthusiasts and professionals. In this article, we will provide some information on what settings we use and shortly explain what some of the important ones do. The Sony A7-series cameras have a myriad of different settings and buttons, which can be confusing to understand, so the below information is provided as a guide for those who struggle with the cameras.
This is our second iteration of the “How was this picture taken?” series of articles and this time we have a fun picture to dissect – the Total Lunar Eclipse, a.k.a. the “Blood Moon”, which took place on the 27th of September. I had the chance to photograph the Blood Moon along with a few other Colorado Fall Color workshop participants last week, so after I put together the image below, I thought it would be fun to ask our readers about this one to see if they can figure out exactly how the below image was captured:
It seems like many of our readers really loved our new idea (big thanks to John Bosley for suggesting it!) with the “how was this picture taken” series, since we had huge feedback and lots of interesting discussions. I must apologize for not being able to provide the answer to our first exercise sooner, as I have been swamped with the workshops I am conducting in the mountains. We will try to post answers sooner to such series in the future! Let’s take another look at the image in question and this time I will start off by revealing some useful EXIF data on the same image to kick off the answer:
Within the next few weeks, Microsoft will be releasing the new generation model of its successful laptop for professionals, the Surface Pro 4. Having been using the Surface Pro 3 since it came out, I have taken it all over – from the dusty Race Track playa of Death Valley to the red sands of Wadi Rum in Jordan. Being light and portable, it has been in my camera bag pretty much everywhere I go. I have always been a PC guy (although I recently bought an iMac), so I have had quite a bit of experience using all kinds of PCs for my needs. And although I have never had issues with PCs, my biggest struggle has always been laptops. Having tried everything from expensive Dell Precision models to lightweight ultrabooks, I pretty much hated them all for one reason – the amount of heat they generate, particularly when using them on my lap.
Ever since Sigma announced their new direction with reorganizing new lenses into three different “Contemporary”, “Art” and “Sports” product lines, the company has been successfully rolling out a number of truly groundbreaking lenses. We were blown away by the optical quality of the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art lens, which topped our lens charts as one of the sharpest lenses we have seen to date. Then we welcomed the updated Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art and were quite inspired by world’s first f/1.8 constant aperture zoom lens, the 18-35mm f/1.8 Art. Earlier this year, Sigma announced yet another addition to the “Art” line of lenses, again in the “world’s first” category, the Sigma 24-35mm f/2 DG HSM Art. Built on the concept of the 18-35mm f/1.8 Art, the 24-35mm f/2 was redesigned to cover the full-frame image circle, while maintaining the superb optical performance. The result was a larger and heavier lens, but one that was to challenge primes from 24mm to 35mm focal lengths. Set on to go head to head with such primes specifically, the biggest question I had was – could this lens actually optically challenge prime lenses? If it performed well optically, that’s a single lens which could potentially replace such lenses as the Nikkor 24mm f/1.8G, 28mm f/1.8G and 35mm f/1.8G in a single package – a rather tough challenge, as those lenses are quite strong performers on their own.
Going forward, we will be featuring the new “how was this picture taken” series articles, asking our readers to look at an image, analyze it and provide information on how they think the image was captured. When guessing, information could include such data as: approximate exposure variables (shutter speed, aperture and ISO), focal length, camera to subject distance, camera and lens used, what the gear was mounted on, post-processing techniques, composition, cropping, etc. This could be a fun exercise for our readers to practice with and we see it leading to all kinds of fun discussions.
P.S. The answer has been posted here.