This is an in-depth review of the new Nikkor 500mm f/4E FL ED VR lens that Nikon introduced on July 1, 2015. I wrote the initial preview of the lens in a post titled “Is Nikon’s new 500mm FL too sharp?“, where some of our readers got engaged in interesting discussions and even talked about anti-aliasing filters and Nyquist frequency. Stuff that can melt your brain for sure! Today, we will be taking a closer look at the Nikon 500mm f/4E VR and see what this beast is all about.
Without a doubt, the Fuji X-T1 has been a huge success for Fujifilm, being one of the most rugged, versatile and very capable interchangeable-lens mirrorless cameras on the market. It did not take long for me to fall in love with it – after writing my in-depth review of the Fuji X-T1, I ended up buying one for myself. The X-T1 took the market by storm and many photographers ended up buying that camera either as a primary tool, or as a secondary camera to a full-frame DSLR. Despite the many offerings from Fuji, including the X-A2, X-E2, X-M1 and the X-Pro1, the X-T1 is the camera that made the most impact overall. The success of the X-T1 was the reason why Fuji decided to create a stripped down version of the same camera at a lower price point and that’s how the Fuji X-T10 was born.
Just a quick report for those who are wondering about the Sony A7R II file sizes and storage options after upgrading to firmware 2.00 and enabling uncompressed RAW. First of all, file sizes in fact do look much bigger in comparison! Here is a short summary of Lossy / Compressed RAW vs Uncompressed: 43 MB vs 86 MB – the file size basically doubles! Ouch, that means not only slower write times to your memory card, but also twice less images to save on them too. And if you keep the original RAW file, it will also double your storage and backup requirements. If you do not like this, there is one workaround – to use Adobe’s DNG converter. If you import your images into Lightroom, you can convert uncompressed RAW files to DNG upon import, or you can use the free Adobe DNG converter software before you start the import. The good news is, this process will create a lossless compressed DNG file, which means that you will end up with a much smaller file. How much smaller? Take a look at this small table:
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.
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.
You may find this article to be useful in a practical way, not just as an isolated case of RAW data damage. Often, just a casual look into raw data provides arguments allowing one to persuade technical support that there is a problem with your camera body that needs to be addressed. The case started with this post at DPReview:
One of the biggest complaints we hear about from photographers today is lack of innovation by DSLR manufacturers. Given how far mirrorless cameras have gotten in the last few years with the electronic viewfinder (EVF) technology, it is a given that DSLRs are looking archaic in comparison, particularly when it comes to intelligent information overlays, manual focusing, focus peaking, EVF image playback and other important advancements that make mirrorless cameras not just joyful to use, but also very helpful in reducing focus issues. When using classic lenses such as the Noct 58mm f/1.2 on a DSLR, I personally find it quite frustrating that I have to switch to live view to try to nail focus with the camera at my arm’s length. Not only does that result in potential instability and undesired camera shake, but it takes me away from the optical viewfinder (OVF) and slows down the whole process. But what if there was a solution to the problem? What if DSLR manufacturers came up with a way to integrate an EVF into DSLRs and make both OVF and EVF possible? Sort of a “transitional DSLR” with both OVF and EVF capabilities. How cool would it be, if you could switch from an OVF to an EVF with just a single button? I have been thinking about this concept for a while and I think there is a way to implement this, if camera manufacturers are willing to be flexible and put some R&D resources towards such a project. It would certainly reduce the potential of mirrorless cameras taking a huge market share away from DSLR sales, which have only been declining in the past few years.
Let’s talk about noise. Not the lovely Swedish lullaby my friend hums at me down the phone but digital noise in our photographic images. Most of us profess a serious allergy to it such that noise control has become a major USP for many camera models. One of the many features prospective buyers look for is noise control at higher ISOs. Models like the Nikon D4S and Sony A7s market themselves specifically as clean imaging devices, having listened to (preyed on?) the market’s feverish insecurities about the dreaded grain.
When testing out the Nikon 58mm f/1.4G, I really wanted to get a hold of the legendary Noct-NIKKOR 58mm f/1.2 lens to see how the two lenses from different generations compare optically. Unfortunately, I could not obtain a good sample of the Noct-NIKKOR at the time, but after scouting eBay for a while, I finally found a pristine copy of the lens from a photographer in California. Being a collector item, the lens was barely used and had been sitting for years in a closet – exactly what I had been wanting to get. I really wanted to make sure that the lens performed as close to its original specifications as possible, because I was on the quest to measure its optical performance, particularly at its super wide f/1.2 aperture. Let’s take a look at the lens in more detail.
One of the most common knocks against the Nikon 1 product line has been its small CX sensor and its somewhat underwhelming dynamic range and colour depth performance. I wasn’t even mildly interested when I first read about the introduction of the Nikon 1 J5 as I initially assumed the camera would be using yet another Aptina sensor. Based on past experience this meant very little, if any, improvement in terms of sensor performance and image quality. After all, that had been the case with each successive S-series, J-series and V-series model that had been introduced. Since I don’t like using cameras without a viewfinder I just shrugged.