Do you remember how it used to be with brand and third-party lens manufacturers? Brand lenses were always the high-performers, in all senses of the word. Well built, reliable and great from an optical standpoint. Third-party lenses lacked somewhat in those areas (unless you count such legendary manufacturers as Zeiss), but made up for it with very low price and niche lenses you could not find anywhere else. In recent years, however, the situation has been changing and quite drastically. Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 VC came out. Sigma 85mm f/1.4 HSM did, too. And the 35mm f/1.4 HSM. And the 18-35mm f/1.8 HSM zoom for APS-C cameras. Need I go on? All of these lenses proved to be well built and very good optically. There is no exaggeration in saying they gave some brand lenses a good beating. So if third-party lenses started doing the “brand” thing, how should Canon, Nikon and the like answer? Well, witness this – Canon has just announced a new lens. It is an ultra wide-angle zoom with focal length range of 11-24mm and maximum aperture of f/4 throughout the range. It is designed for full-frame DSLR cameras and there is nothing else quite like it on the market.
It has been exactly three years since Nikon debuted its high resolution 36.3 MP D800 and D800E cameras in February of 2012. At the time of announcement, Nikon’s highest resolution camera was the super expensive D3X with a 24.5 MP sensor, while the similar class D700 only had a 12.1 MP sensor. So for many, going from either 12.1 MP or 24.5 MP to 36.3 MP on full frame represented a huge jump in resolution. The cameras were truly groundbreaking, thanks to their superb performance, low noise levels and stunning dynamic range. Although Nikon faced a number of issues with quality control in the beginning, particularly when it came to calibrating the autofocus system for the new high resolution cameras, the Nikon D800 / D800E took the market by storm and quickly became Nikon’s best selling professional cameras. For three long years Canon failed to offer a true high resolution competitor, while Nikon already went through another iteration of the 36 MP line with the Nikon D810 camera. This angered many Canon shooters who wanted to get a high resolution camera that offered similar performance benefits and a much wider dynamic range than what Canon had on its existing cameras. The wait is now over, because Canon has just announced record breaking super high resolution 50.6 MP Canon EOS 5DS and EOS 5DS R full-frame DSLR cameras. Canon decided not to just bring out a competitor, but hit Nikon hard with something better in terms of resolution.
The introduction of the original Olympus OM-D E-M5 turned out to be a very successful move for the Japanese manufacturer. For the first time, it wasn’t just the compact dimensions or style that could lure potential customers towards m4/3 format mirrorless cameras (even though both aspects were taken care of by the slightly older PEN camera lineup), but some very impressive functionality along with all of that. Great EVF, speed (both AF and regular operation), great sensor (given its size), tons of customizable controls and impressively rugged build with dust and weather sealing turned a fashion object into a serious tool to tempt even DSLR owners. And it was still quite handsome with an obvious nod to those compact Olympus OM cameras of old. Why wouldn’t you? The OM-D E-M5 was a success. I am pretty certain the successor – version two – will be as well. At closer inspection you will notice the OM-D E-M5 II holds the same strengths at heart, but with everything slightly improved.
I’d be hard-pressed to call Samsung an inconspicuous company. After all, whenever you talk about electronics of any sort, there is a good chance Korean giant is leading that market or has the potential to. And yet when it comes to interchangeable lens cameras Samsung is very easy to overlook. Pay attention, though, and there is a lot to be impressed with – the recent NX1 looks genuinely capable on paper (with some specifications that are simply unheard of in its class) and puts a lot of well-received, high-end cameras to shame. It is also the reason why I am not surprised by their most recent impressive announcement, the new NX500 mirrorless camera. On paper, this is yet another strong move from a manufacturer that is not really known for its digital cameras, of all things. Yet.
Even though the new and upcoming full-frame Pentax DSLR camera will support existing brand lenses for APS-C sensor cameras, Ricoh realizes full and well that having a 35mm camera is only part of the package. Lenses are simply crucial to make such a system make any sense at all. That is why Ricoh-Pentax has announced two new lenses designed to cover the image circle of a full-frame sensor, the HD Pentax-D FA * 70-200mm f/2.8ED DC AW and HD Pentax-D FA 150-450mm f/4.5-5.6ED DC AW. It’s quite the mouthful, isn’t it? But I am focusing on the wrong things as both lenses, along with the upcoming full-frame camera, mark a new chapter in the history of the famous brand. Let’s take a closer look, then.
The ever-raging Canon vs Nikon debate might have you believing users of those particular systems are the most loyal to their brands. From what I’ve seen, though, neither Canon nor Nikon shooters have anything on those who shoot Pentax and swear by it. It’s a very niche system, that. No other DSLR manufacturer has such an array of competitive products priced so aggressively, that are also so compact and, when it comes to high-end models, so brilliantly rugged. No other DSLR manufacturer has such a great lineup of tiny, high quality autofocus prime lenses. And no other DSLR manufacturer has had so much trouble trying to find its identity. For a while now, Pentax has been experimenting with the narrowest of niches, launching boldly styled cameras, or boldly tiny interchangeable lens cameras with even smaller sensors. And yet those loyal to the brand always stuck by it. How happy they must be now that those who always ridiculed the brand will have their most valuable argument brushed away – “Pentax has no FF camera”. It’s true, there is no full-frame Pentax camera. But there will be, and rather soon. And for those who would rather avoid the pointless which-system-is-better debates, it means a new alternative to the best DSLR cameras on the market is soon to present itself.
Having spent quite a bit of time talking to many other photographers, one of the discussions that comes up every once in a while has to do with a “perfect camera”, one that does everything you need. I have been thinking about such camera for a while now and I think I have figured out what would be an ideal choice for me personally – it would be a modular camera. While the concept of a modular camera is certainly not new and we can see a living example of it in Red video cameras, those are largely not relevant to photography for high cost reasons alone. What I have in mind is a modular camera that is primarily aimed at capturing stills, but could also be potentially used for shooting videos, and not the other way around. The point of a modular camera is to be able to serve different needs, from consumer to professional, at varying costs depending on the requirements of the photographer. One should be able to afford the most basic modular camera with a smaller sensor at a comparable price to a modern DSLR or a mirrorless camera, while professional photographers should be able to customize their modular camera with say a medium format sensor, fast processor, high capacity battery and other tools / accessories they need. Like the idea? Let’s take a look at this concept in more detail.
Back in September last year, Tamron announced the development of a rather interesting wide-angle lens. Not only does it feature a very useful focal length range for landscapes, architecture and documentary style photography, but also allows a fairly wide aperture of f/2.8 and image stabilization. The lens has now been officially released in three mounts – Nikon, Canon and Sony (Vibration Correction is omitted for Sony variant). At a fairly reasonable price of $1200, it ever so slightly undercuts the Nikkor 16-35mm f/4 VR lens (which also happens to be slower), significantly undercuts Canon’s 16-35mm f/2.8L II lens and matches the cost of the 16-35mm f/4L IS.
Although I am planning to fully review the Sony A7 II, I decided to share some quick thoughts on this new mirrorless camera which I have been shooting with for the past few weeks and share a photo of the Bay Bridge that I captured at night. I am currently in San Francisco, testing the Sony A7 II with a few Sony / Zeiss lenses, along with the Canon 7D Mark II, which I am also planning to review when I get back (I know, I have been a bit late on that one).
We’ve known for a while that this lens was coming thanks to Fujifilm’s most recent lens roadmap. Some details were still under a question mark, though, and with the official announcement we finally know everything about the most recent – and one of the most expensive – Fujinon lens for X-mount mirrorless cameras, the XF 16-55mm f/2.8 R LM WR.