This week I have been heavily working on keeping our lens database up to date. With so many lens announcements coming out from different manufacturers, keeping the database current has been a challenge, since it takes quite a bit of time to add all the relevant information. Big thanks to everyone who has been sending feedback, requests and recommendations to improve our lens database. We want to make it the best and the most complete database in the world and everything we build today will be hugely beneficial for current and future readers of the site. This is why we need your help today! By letting us know about the missing lenses, errors and inconsistencies, you will be joining our efforts in compiling a great source of public information. But before that, let me first shed some light on some of the changes that we have made to the database.
Courtesy of Dell, I received the latest version of the Dell XPS 13 Notebook a couple of days ago. Although I have not spent much time with the machine yet to be able to write my initial thoughts, I have already installed the latest versions of both Lightroom and Photoshop. Both ran just fine together, something I have not been able to do very successfully with my Surface Pro 3. The main reason is RAM – my Surface Pro 3 only has 8 GB of RAM, whereas the XPS 13 has 16 GB. In addition, the XPS 13 has the latest generation Skylake CPU (mine came with a powerful Intel Core i7 CPU), which also sports a faster Intel GPU, so I expect it to be faster at doing everything. Lastly, the machine has a whopping 1 TB of fast PCIe storage, which means that I don’t have to constantly carry an external hard drive with me, since its local storage is sufficient for most of my needs when traveling. Hence, I expect the XPS 13 to be a much superior machine for post-processing work when working in the field.
The first issue I have noticed so far is the power plug – unfortunately, Dell has not changed it for a while now, so it is still the same old power plug that goes on the side of the machine. I wish Dell engineers came up with a better designed power plug, so that it could attach to the machine simpler, perhaps with a magnetic connection like on the Surface Pro. This way, if one were to unintentionally stomp on the cable, it does not bring the machine down with it. In fact, it would be even sweeter if someone came up with a way to charge laptops from each side! How many times do you catch yourself moving around just to accommodate the direction of the power cable? I know such a design would take more space, but it would be really convenient. Another potential issue is lack of an HDMI output. Looks like Dell wants its XPS 13 users to purchase an optional accessory to be able to output HDMI from the laptop, which is not that big of a deal, as long as the accessory works well. Still, some people might not like the idea of carrying another accessory and cables in their bags.
A definite plus I see is the availability of two USB ports and a Thunderbolt port. Yes, you heard that right – this little puppy has a Thunderbolt port on its side! I have not seen many PCs with it, which is definitely new, but welcome, since the number of Thunderbolt devices on the market is increasing dramatically. With the ability to transfer up to 40 Gbps, Thunderbolt is a pretty sweet option to put on any machine, let alone a compact travel laptop. And by the way, if you have a monitor with a Thunderbolt port, you should be able to output video without the third party accessory. I cannot verify this 100% yet, but hoping to be able to find out by the time I do the review.
I am planning to travel with the XPS 13 extensively in the next 3-4 months, so expect a review fairly soon. As before, I will be providing benchmark data and comparisons with a number of Microsoft Surface Pro alternatives, as requested by our readers.
One of the most exciting news from today is Sigma’s announcement of the 50-100mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art lens designed for APS-C sensor cameras like the Nikon D500. That’s another f/1.8 constant aperture zoom lens from Sigma with a groundbreaking design! With an equivalent field of view of 75-150mm, this lens will surely be a popular choice among sports and portrait photographers, especially when working in low-light situations. Thanks to the complex optical design that incorporates 21 elements in 15 groups, the Sigma 50-100mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art is optimized to yield excellent sharpness at its widest aperture throughout its zoom range. And with its MSRP of $1,099, this looks like a killer offering for cropped sensor cameras. The only downside is its weight – at 1,490 g (3.28 lb), the lens is almost as heavy as the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G VR II! But what did you expect from a constant aperture f/1.8 telephoto zoom lens?
Thanks to the CP+ Camera & Photo Imaging Show 2016 that is taking place in Japan this week, we have a slew of exciting announcements from different camera manufacturers. Tamron was the first to make a big announcement last night, presenting two brand new lenses designed for full-frame cameras. The first one is a significant release, because it is world’s first image stabilized 85mm f/1.8 lens for full-frame DSLRs, the Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD. This is an important release, because Tamron is now upping its game like Sigma has done with its latest-generation lenses, allowing both lens firmware and AF fine tuning to be performed using an external USB dock.
Having been using the Microsoft Surface Pro for several years now, I was psyched to see the launch of the Surface Book, along with the Surface Pro 4. When I first heard about the Surface Book, I thought “here goes another laptop again”…until I saw the screen detach from the keyboard, revealing that it was a two-in-one hybrid machine. That was certainly unexpected. A laptop and a touchscreen tablet hybrid with a powerful 6th generation dual core Intel CPU, dedicated NVIDIA GPU, up to 1 TB of SSD memory and up to 16 GB of RAM. A true powerhouse in a very compact form factor, ideal for traveling and photo editing on the go. I knew it was something I had to test and review.
Every once in a while, I come across gadgets that sound promising, because they serve a specific purpose that I have needs for. When browsing the web last July, I came across a post on a popular site that praised a smart tracker called ANKR. The post started out by talking about stolen gear and how unfortunate the incidents were. Then it went on to introduce ANKR and how amazing of a find it was to be able to “geolocate” (those were the words used) items such as the camera bag in case it got stolen. It all sounded really good, because it seemed to address my particular fear of getting my gear stolen, especially when traveling overseas.
Canon has just announced its long-awaited update for the existing EOS 70D, the Canon EOS 80D. With a brand new 24.2 MP APS-C sensor, 45-point AF system, built-in Wi-Fi, updated Dual Pixel AF for live view shooting and improved HD video recording features, the 80D seems like a fairly solid incremental update to the popular camera line. While it is not by any means a significant upgrade, there are some important updates that might be worth moving up to, especially for sports and wildlife photographers. The new 45-point AF system with all cross-type focus points is a huge upgrade from the previous-generation AF system on the 70D (which only had 19 AF points), not only because of the bigger number of focus points, but also because of the much larger spread of those focus points in the viewfinder. Additionally, the center focus point on the 80D is now of dual cross-type and sensitive down to -3 EV, which should allow the camera to focus in very low-light environments. The camera will be available sometime in March for an MSRP of $1,199 for the body-only version.
Today is a big day for Pentax fans, because the company has finally announced its much anticipated full-frame DSLR, the Pentax K-1. Featuring a 36.4 MP CMOS sensor with a native ISO range of 100-204,800, PRIME IV Image Processor, 5-axis in-body image stabilization (IBIS), 33-point AF system, 3.2″ Cross-Tilt LCD, 4.5 fps continuous shooting, built-in Wi-Fi, built-in GPS, dual SD card slots, a fully weather sealed magnesium alloy body, full HD video recording and a few other extra features like AstroTracer, the K-1 looks like a tool that packs practically every feature a DSLR shooter could think of. And the best part isn’t even the list of features – it is the price! At $1,799, the Pentax K-1 is the cheapest professional-grade DSLR ever made; even Nikon’s entry-level full-frame DSLR, the Nikon D610, had an MSRP of $1,999 when it was launched. Pentax users have every reason to rejoice, because the K-1 is without a doubt, the most feature-rich and value-driven DSLR we have seen to date…
Having been to Jordan several times, I have absolutely fallen in love with this country – not only for its limitless photographic opportunities, but also because of its rich history and culture, its warm and welcoming people and its amazing food. After my last trip to Jordan, I really thought about not only sharing images from my trip, but also about organizing a photography workshop with some of our readers to tour, photograph and explore this stunning country. I am happy to announce that I was able to come up with an amazing workshop package: a 10-day photography-only workshop to showcase some of the most scenic places in Jordan and to teach everything I know about travel and landscape photography. In short, it will be an intensive, yet fun workshop that will leave you with the most amazing memories, experience and pictures. The only issue is timing – the workshop will take place from May 10 to May 20 of this year, so I need to know exactly how many people are going within the next 10 days in order to be able to book everything in advance.
Note: Please note that PL workshops typically sell out within 24 hours, so make sure to reserve your spot as soon as possible!