For Sale: Nikkor 500mm f/4G ED VR

One of the perks of being on the Photography Life team is all the new gear we get to test. One of the downsides is when a piece of new gear comes along and you fall in love with it and don’t want to give the review copy back. This can get expensive fast. The new Nikkor 500mm f/4E FL VR is that kind of product. My old 500mm, Edie, caught me and Flo in the act and you know how that goes – time for us to part ways.

Edie is one incredibly luscious hunk of well-cared for glass. How well cared for?

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Sony A7R II Uncompressed RAW with Adobe DNG Converter

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:

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Sony A7R II Firmware with Uncompressed RAW Now Available

Today is a good day in the Sony world, because the firmware 2.00 containing 14-bit Uncompressed RAW is available for download for the Sony A7R II! Finally, Sony added this option to the camera, which means you can now take a full advantage of the 42 MP Sony sensor in the A7R II, without damaging image quality. While the uncompressed RAW images will be much larger in size (roughly 2x the size), it is definitely worth using this option for critical shooting, particularly when shooting night scenes where sky posterization issues and artifacts around subjects are most pronounced. With the uncompressed option, you can enjoy seeing images that look like the ones from the Nikon D810 below:

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Don’t Be a Guinea Pig

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.

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A Transitional DSLR with EVF Capability?

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.

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Attitudes To Noise

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.

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Nikon 1 J5: A Bit of a Game Changer?

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.

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Is Nikon’s New 500mm FL Too Sharp?

And I guess the follow-up question would be “Could Verm come up with a more provocative title?” To put you at ease, these sample pics are all saved at web resolution so you needn’t don eye protection. This last weekend I had the pleasure of shooting with the new AF-S Nikkor 500mm f/4E FL ED VR. Here are some quickie sample pics and comments from the first few days of shooting. There’s more to come as I’ll be doing in-depth field tests and comparing results with the “old” Nikkor 500mm.

Is it sharp? I’ll let this spike answer.

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Super Telephoto Wildlife Photography – The Good and the Bad

If you have read any of my previous articles, then you would know I have two Nikkor super telephoto lenses and I often use them in wildlife photography. I also often mention that reach is important in wildlife photography and getting highly detailed and crisp images. Two of the super telephoto lenses I have are the 600mm f/4 prime and the 800mm f/5.6 prime and they are amazing lenses that give me amazing reach for wildlife, but this reach can also be a problem when multiple eyes are involved (ie: several animals in same frame).

Lets take a look at a nightmare photo to get with a 600mm lens at optimal distance requiring minimal cropping:

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