Canon has announced an update to its 50mm f/1.8 lens, the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM. Compared to its 50mm f/1.8 II predecessor, the new 50mm f/1.8 STM integrates a stepper motor for quieter autofocus operation, rounded 7-blade diaphragm, a minimum focus distance of 35cm and a metal mount. Best of all, these changes do not come with a significant price hike – the new 50mm f/1.8 STM is only $129, making it the most affordable Canon EF lens on the market. Due to the change in the mount, the 50mm f/1.8 STM gains 30 grams of weight. Performance-wise, it will be very similar to its predecessor.
Sony unleashed the Sony A7 and the A7R in October of 2013. With the Sony A7 aimed for general use sporting a 24 MP sensor and hybrid autofocus, the A7R differs primarily with its 36 MP sensor, therefore making the A7R more suitable for specific types of photography that need high resolution such as landscape, architecture, studio and product photography. I had an opportunity to test both cameras in 2014, however, I did not have a chance to write detailed reviews for a number of different reasons. Hence, this is more of a catch-up type of a review showcasing some images from my recent trips, along with the usual analysis.
Zeiss has been pretty active lately, releasing a number of solid and much needed prime lenses for the Sony FE mount. The first Loxia line is comprised of two manual focus lenses, the Zeiss Loxia 35mm f/2 and Loxia 50mm f/2 and the second Batis line is even more exciting, with the Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 and Batis 85mm f/1.8 lenses, with full autofocus capabilities. While both lines of lenses are superb in quality and build, the Loxia line is designed to be similar to other traditional Zeiss lenses, with manual aperture control and compact size. I had the pleasure of shooting with both Loxia lenses for the past few months using a number of different Sony A7 cameras and I decided to start off my reviews with the 35mm f/2 lens, which I happened to use a bit more than the 50mm f/2 due to the type of photography I have been primarily engaged in.
Now that I have my Nikon D800E converted to infrared (big thanks to Ilija at Kolari Vision for an amazing conversion job and Bob Vishneski for inspiration and tips), I am experimenting with some infrared photography when I have a chance. During my last trip to Death Valley, I armed my D800E with a couple of lenses like the Tokina 16-28 f/2.8 and the Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G and decided to give IR a try by shooting in various conditions. Along the way, I learned a lot of lessons, some of which were quite painful to deal with during the capture, while others were a shocker after I imported images into Lightroom and tried to post-process them with Photoshop.
I am on my way to the airport to head to Jordan and I wanted to let our readers know that I might not be able to post frequently while being there. I want to take a good time off with my family, explore some places in Amman and other cities in Jordan. As always, I am taking plenty of gear to play with with, so when I do have time in between my travel schedule, I will do my best to post some updates and maybe even some reviews! Definitely planning on visiting the beautiful Petra (hopefully at night) and this time I want to see more than just the main attraction. Here is my shot from a very short trip last year:
Just wanted to let our readers know that today is the last day when you can order the Sensor Gel Stick, since I am leaving out of country for a month. We will be shipping units later today and tomorrow morning at the latest and we have limited availability of the product – around 24 units total of the Sensor Gel Stick and about 215 units of the Sony version. If you would like to get yours as soon as possible, please do it before we run out. I expect to receive more shipments in June and we definitely will not be shipping any until I get back in early June.
As many of our readers already know, I love FastRawViewer and I have now made it my default software for culling images before importing them into Lightroom. This not only saves me a lot of time and space, but also streamlines the import process and only leaves images that I want to work on. I have already written a detailed review of FastRawViewer, but since publishing the review, the developers of the software have already addressed all of my personal requests in version 1.1, most notably a proper folder view where I can click on different folders and see thumbnails of RAW files that I am about to view. In addition, OpenGL and DirectX support have also been added, so the software can now properly take advantage of GPU acceleration, which is great! On top of all this, I have just been notified that FastRawViewer is currently on sale for $14.99 (regular price is $19.99), which is a great price for this killer software. After upgrading today and running through a number of images from my recent trip to California, I am happy to say that it seems rock solid and very fast – something I have previously praised a number of times before.
Olympus definitely deserves high praises for its in-body image stabilization (IBIS) system in its OM-D E-M5 II mirrorless camera to shift its sensor in order to create multiple images, then merge them together to create one super high-resolution image. Thanks to this technology, the OM-D E-M5 II, which has a native resolution of 16 MP can shoot large 40 MP images. At first, this may sound like a marketing gimmick, but if you take a close look at how Olympus accomplishes this, you will be amazed by the technology. Being able to shift the sensor opens up a lot of opportunities, and if DSLR manufacturers implement this technology (which Pentax already has, with its K-3 II) and find ways to do it quickly and smoothly, it can seriously change the way we look at resolution. Let’s take a look at this technology in a little more detail and see its advantages and disadvantages.
Another big announcement from last week was Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 and 85mm f/1.8 lenses for the Sony FE mount. Compared to Zeiss Loxia lenses, the new Batis line offers autofocus capability and has a similar focus-by-wire motor as in native Sony/Zeiss lenses. The exterior look of the lenses appears to be similar to the high-end Zeiss Otus lenses, but there is one major difference – the focus scale on the lens is OLED, the first-ever lens to feature it. While I am personally not as excited about the 25mm f/2 lens due to the fact that Sony has already announced the Sony FE 28mm f/2 lens (which you can convert to either a 16mm or a 21mm lens with a conversion lens), the 85mm f/1.8 is something that I cannot wait to try out. Sony has had a major hole in its lens line with the lack of a fast 85mm prime, so the new AF-capable Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 will definitely satisfy many portrait photographers out there. With its $1,199 price tag and Zeiss quality, this will surely be a popular choice among Sony shooters (the 25mm f/2 will sell for $100 more). Let’s take a closer look at these lenses.
Having been out of town for a few weeks, I am just catching up with some major news, so I decided to post some announcements that I consider to be newsworthy. In this particular case, it is the announcement of the Pentax K-3 II, which I believe deserves a spotlight for the innovation it brings. Sporting in-body image stabilization, high-resolution sensor shift mode, star tracking, anti-aliasing filter simulator, built-in GPS and durable construction, the K-3 II brings some great innovative features which we have never seen on a DSLR before. Looking at this powerful APS-C camera, I am excited to see what Pentax will do with its upcoming full-frame camera. And I hope that both Nikon and Canon are taking notes from Pentax, because such innovation is much needed in the DSLR market to keep it healthy, now that the mirrorless market is steadily growing.