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:
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.
What an amazing month it has been – ever since we announced the Content Sharing Contest, we have received many submissions from our dear readers. In fact, we have been a bit overwhelmed by the response, which is why it took us some time to go through the submissions, pick out the ones we felt like were suitable for the site and get the articles published. On this note, I would like to thank everyone for participation. If your article did not get published, please do not feel disappointed, as it does not mean that your work is bad or not worthy of getting published. It just means that there was stronger content that we felt was more engaging and educational for our readers. I would also like to apologize for not being able to respond to every submission, as I have been swamped with travel and other work in March. We published a total of 20 articles and you can see all of them by clicking this link. Now that the contest is over, it is time to decide who gets the grand prize, the Sony A6000. I went through each post and discussed the submissions with some of our team members at PL and picked our favorite articles. Below is the list of our favorite five authors. Now we need your help in determining who provided the best content and deserves the grand prize. I know it will be no easy task to pick the winner, but your feedback is important, since the content was provided for you, our dear readers.
It has been a while since Apple announced the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus and although I have had my Plus model for about 6 months now, I have not had a chance to provide feedback on what I think about this phone when used as a camera for occasional snapshots. Although I initially could not understand the point of such a large phone that is now known as a “phablet“, it did not take long before I was convinced that I wanted the iPhone 6 Plus. My main reason was reading – I no longer had to pinch with my fingers to zoom in to be able to read small text on a website. The larger surface area gave a lot more room, making it possible to use the device for email and web surfing. This meant that I could ditch my iPad and only carry one additional device when I needed to work, for which the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 fit the task perfectly, being a real laptop and not a laptop wannabe like the iPad is. After getting the iPhone 6 Plus, I realized that the built-in camera is actually pretty decent for photographing in daylight and when I do not have a real camera with me. It is certainly no Nokia Lumia 1020 or Samsung Galaxy S6, but I was not in a quest to find a phone with the best camera anyway. I was moving up from an older beat up iPhone and did not feel like switching to another system, so the built-in camera was certainly not a priority. I will be honest, I am not an iPhoneographer and I am not planning to be one anytime soon, so please take this review with a grain of salt. I only used the basic, built-in tools for capturing images, although I am aware of the fact that one can use third party apps to do plenty of cool stuff with the camera on the iPhone 6.
It has been 15 years since Nikon produced the last iteration of its budget 300mm lens, so the new Nikkor 300mm f/4E PF ED VR was something many enthusiasts and professionals have been patiently waiting for. Although the previous generation Nikkor 300mm f/4D AF-S is an excellent lens optically, it lacks image stabilization, new generation coating and other new technologies that Nikon has been integrating into modern lenses. I have personally been a huge fan of the 300mm f/4D AF-S lens and have owned it for many years, loving the lens for its superb optical performance, fast autofocus, light weight and compact size, making it my ultimate travel lens for wildlife photography – a perfect companion for hand-held shooting. Because it was so good with the 1.4x teleconverter, I practically always kept the teleconverter attached to the lens, making it a very nice 420mm f/5.6 combination. When Nikon finally announced the new 300mm f/4E VR lens, I got very excited, because Nikon completely redesigned the lens. In fact, with close to a 50% reduction in weight and a 30% reduction in physical size, we are not dealing with another redesign or update – this is a completely different lens.
Please note that this is an active and ongoing review of the lens. I am planning to expand coverage and update the review with a lot more information within the next few weeks.
I am excited to introduce yet another great addition to our talented team at Photography Life and this time I would like to present Spencer Cox. Spencer grabbed the attention of many of our readers with his inspiring posts and I was thrilled when he agreed to join our team. Please give a warm welcome to Spencer!
A few days ago my buddies and I made it to the Death Valley National Park, after a long and uneventful drive from Colorado. I have previously been to the valley several times before, but neither my friends, nor I have ever had a chance to visit the magical Race Track playa. After deflating the tires of our SUVs, we headed out to the valley to camp overnight, shoot at sunset the same day and sunrise next day before heading back. We camped at the designated campground at the end of the road, which was about 10-15 minutes of drive time away from the playa. We spent a good part of the late afternoon scouting for some good rocks, realizing just how vast the territory of the playa really is – it is miles long!
While reviewing the Sony A7 II, I had a chance to test and play with every Sony FE lens made as of April of 2015. The list includes the following lenses: Sony FE 35mm f/2.8, Zeiss Loxia 35mm f/2, Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2, Sony FE 55mm f/1.8, Sony FE 16-35mm f/4 OSS, Sony FE 24-70mm f/4 OSS, Sony FE 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS and Sony FE 70-200mm f/4 OSS. Since I also simultaneously had the Sony A7R and A7S bodies (reviews to follow soon), I decided to measure MTF performance of each lens using Imatest and see how they perform individually. While I am planning to review all of these lenses in detail within the next few months, I thought putting together some data for our readers might be helpful, perhaps for those of our readers who either already own the A7 system, or those who are planning to invest in it. The below numbers are based on two different samples of each lens (I always do my best to test at least two due to sample variation) and the numbers I present are for the lens that showed the best results. Unfortunately, due to the shutter shock issue of the Sony A7R camera, I was not able to reliably test the Sony FE 70-200mm f/4 OSS lens, particularly at anything longer than 100mm. I will have to retest that lens when Sony adds electronic front curtain shutter feature to the A7R, or releases a newer 36 MP+ body with built-in EFCS (yes, the shutter shock on the A7R is pretty significant). I have not yet tested the newly announced Sony FE lenses, so I will test those separately as soon as I get my hands on them.
Our friends at B&H have just let us know that our readers will be getting an exclusive deal for DxO OpticsPro 10 Elite Edition for the next 3 days. Normally priced at $199, the software will be discounted to $129, so it is a pretty good deal saving you $70 on this DVD. Aside from the powerful RAW and JPEG processing engine for optical corrections built in OpticsPro, the Elite edition includes PRIME Denoising Technology, ClearView Haze Reduction, Anti-Moire tool, ICC Profile Management, Multiple Outputs, Presets and a total of 3 software activations.
As you know, Photography Life is all about sharing knowledge with our readers. Every day we work hard on bringing you the best content, whether it is in the forms of photography articles, tips, in-depth reviews or news. Because many of our readers are as passionate as we are in sharing their knowledge, they often share articles with us in the form of Guest Posts, the best of which we often feature on the site. While I was working on publishing yet another excellent guest post the other day, I came up with an idea to inspire more of our readers to write here at PL. We would like to invite our dear readers in participating in a knowledge sharing contest, in which we will reward every writer when their article is posted on the site. If your article is published, we will reward you with a $50 gift card from B&H, Adorama, Amazon or any other store of your choice as a token of appreciation, or if you prefer to be paid instead, we will transfer the sum to your PayPal account. This way, you are rewarded for your contribution even if you do not win the ultimate prize (see below for details). We will not limit your contributions, so you could submit as many articles as you would like and get paid for the work. Sounds exciting? Then read on!