Canon 1D X Mark II Announcement

Last night Canon unveiled its much anticipated top-of-the-line DSLR, the Canon EOS 1D X Mark II. Packing very powerful features aimed at sports and wildlife photographers, the Canon 1D X Mark II is a direct competitor to the recently announced Nikon D5 DSLR. Canon developed a brand new 20.2 MP CMOS sensor with Dual Pixel AF technology for improved low-light performance and phase detection focusing in live view mode (via the rear LCD touchscreen), dual DIGIC 6+ processors to provide more throughput for both 4K video and the insane 16 fps continuous frame rate, a revamped 61-point AF system with 41 cross-type sensors, a brand new 360k-pixel RGB+IR metering system, built-in GPS capability and a rugged, fully weather-sealed magnesium alloy body. Without a doubt, this will be one powerful speed demon, the best of the breed in the Canon world. And with its MSRP of $5,999, it is $500 less than what Nikon is asking for its flagship D5. Let’s take a look at the Canon 1D X II in more detail.

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Adobe Lightroom CC 2015.4 / 6.4 and ACR 9.4 Announcements

Today Adobe released a bunch of updates to its Creative Cloud suite, along with a new Lightroom 6.4 update. Aside from the regular bugfixes and new camera and lens profiles, Adobe introduced a new feature to its panorama stitching option within Lightroom called “Boundary Warp”, which is basically a tool that allows straightening the curves we usually see in panoramas. As we have seen before, while bugfixes and camera / lens profiles are available for all versions, new features are only available for Creative Cloud subscribers, so the Lightroom 6.4 standalone update won’t include the “Boundary Warp” feature. In addition, Adobe promises to double the speed of the panorama merging process, as well as much faster thumbnail updates when settings are copy pasted to multiple images at once. I have been running Lightroom CC 2015.4 for a few hours today and while I cannot yet state if it is more stable than the previous version, the panorama stitching process is indeed much faster in comparison. Let’s take a look at the new “Boundary Warp” update in more detail.

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Fuji X-Pro2 Announcement

A couple of days ago Fujifilm finally announced its long-awaited flagship camera, the Fuji X-Pro2. I have been personally waiting for this to happen for a while, because the X-Pro1 has been out for way too long – 4 years, which is a huge stretch of time if you consider how quickly the mirrorless market has been moving in the past few years. I have just gotten back from my 3 week trip to Death Valley and while I have a lot of catching up to do, I did not want to miss on this important announcement. Being a proud owner of the superb Fuji X-T1, I have been wondering what Fuji would do with the X-Pro1 successor. The X-Pro2 is finally out and it looks like it was well worth the wait. While the overall design of the camera has not changed much, Fuji has made a lot of improvements to the interiors of the X-Pro2. With its brand new 24.3 MP X-Trans CMOS III sensor (highest resolution X-Trans sensor we have seen to date), pushing native ISO sensitivity by a full stop from ISO 200-6400 to 200-12800, an improved focal plane shutter capable of handling 1/8000 sec shutter speed (electronic shutter up to 1/32000 sec), 1/250 flash sync (finally!), a brand new Hybrid AF system with a whopping 273 focus points (77 phase detection points covering 40% of the frame) that promises to be Fuji’s fastest AF system to date, a fully weather-sealed camera construction, dual memory card slots (finally!) and an amazing hybrid viewfinder, the X-Pro2 looks like a very serious tool for professionals. Although its pricing of $1,699 might not sound particularly attractive, Fuji has never been a cheap brand in the first place and it has been known to make attractive, functional and enjoyable cameras that many photographers are willing to pay a premium price for.

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Nikon D500 Announcement

Without a doubt, the biggest surprise today is the announcement of the Nikon D500. Just like Nikon did it back in the day with the D3 and the D300, Nikon decided to release both the top-of-the-line D5 and the smaller DX version, the Nikon D500 on the same day. While we have been waiting for the flagship DX camera to appear for too long now (remember those D400 rumors?), Nikon finally decided to unleash the beast. The long-awaited Nikon D500 is finally here and it is promising to be damn good. It is surely Nikon’s best DX camera created to date, thanks to its amazing 153-point AF system (same as on the Nikon D5), 10 fps continuous shooting speed, 200 shot RAW image buffer, 4K UHD video recording capability, Bluetooth connectivity, 100% viewfinder coverage and 1.0x viewfinder magnification (more on that below). Sports and wildlife shooters will surely be attracted to this camera, since it is priced way lower than the D5, at $1,999 MSRP and offers many similar features. Let’s take a look at the D500 in more detail.

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Nikon D5 Announcement

It is just the beginning of the year and we are already getting treated with some huge announcements, thanks to the CES show that is taking place in Las Vegas. One of the biggest and most anticipated announcements is surely Nikon’s flagship DSLR, the Nikon D5. Many sports and wildlife photographers have been waiting to see what kind of a beast Nikon would unveil in its new generation, top-of-the-line DSLR and it looks like the D5 is indeed a performance monster that sets a new benchmark in a number of ways. First, the AF system received a complete overhaul. While Nikon has been shipping a 51-point AF system since the original D3 series cameras (with tweaks in between), the new D5 literally triples that number to a staggering 153! That’s right, the brand new AF system will feature a total of 153 AF points, 99 of which will be cross-type. Compare that to the 15 cross type points we see on the current Nikon D4s and you will quickly realize just how huge that number really is. And for those who shoot with long lenses coupled with teleconverters, the number of focus points available to use at f/8 will be expanded from 11 to 15 AF points. That’s just the start – check out all the other impressive specifications of the new D5!

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Samsung Portable SSD T3 Announcement

Many of our readers know how much we at PL love Samsung’s tiny SSD external drives. We have written a review of the Samsung T1 SSD device and praised it for its incredible performance, tiny form factor and its ability to add plenty of fast storage to laptops and devices like Apple’s iMac (see our recommendations on choosing an iMac). Today, Samsung announced a new line of portable SSD drives that provide up to 2 TB of storage. The new Samsung Portable SSD T3 drives will measure only 74x58x10.5mm and weigh just 51 grams, which makes them extremely portable – a perfect travel companion. With up to 450 MB/sec read and write speeds via USB 3.1 Type C interface, these cards will deliver exceptional performance, even for the most demanding applications.

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Nikon’s Mirrorless Future: Samsung?

Just like many other Nikon shooters, you might be wondering what Nikon has got up its sleeve when it comes to mirrorless. With so many manufacturers now competing in the mirrorless market, it is sorely disappointing to see Nikon being stuck with its 1″ CX sensor mirrorless offering, which despite its many strengths, is far from gaining popularity among enthusiasts and professionals. Unfortunately, for some manufacturers like Samsung, jumping into the mirrorless bandwagon has been challenging to say the least. Despite very strong offerings like the Samsung NX1, the company has not been able to gain a solid market share to stay afloat and its “mirrorless experiment” seems to be coming to an end, with the company’s announcements to discontinue sales of its products in a number of countries. In fact, based on these events, the future of Samsung’s NX line does not look good at all. But there is hope – today’s rumors indicate that Nikon is doing something completely unexpected, which is buying the Samsung NX mirrorless technology. According to Mirrorless Rumors, Nikon has already acquired the technology and the official announcement will be revealed in January of 2016, at the CES.

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Adobe Lightroom CC 2015.3 and 6.3 Released

After a huge backlash from its user base when Adobe released a very buggy Lightroom update featuring its new Import tool, the company officially apologized and promised not only to address the bugs, but also to bring back the old Import tool and all the features it previously had. It took a bit of time, but the update is finally out! After testing the new CC 2015.3 release, I am pleased to see much better performance, particularly when using a dual monitor setup (the previous release was extremely buggy in a dual monitor setup). In addition to fixing a slew of bugs, Adobe also provided a rather big list of newly supported cameras and lenses.

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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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Sigma Strikes Again with a 20mm f/1.4 Art Lens

While the new Zeiss Otus 28mm f/1.4 seems like a wonderful chunk of glass for those who do not mind a 1.35 kg beast, Sigma has just released its new 20mm f/1.4 Art-series lens, which is a much wider lens, while being as fast as the Otus. In fact, Sigma claims this one to be another “world’s first” as far as the focal length and the aperture – the next fastest lens is the Nikkor 20mm f/1.8G. With its MSRP of $899, the Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art is only $100 more than Nikon’s excellent 20mm f/1.8G, so the big question is, is 2/3 of a stop worth the $100 premium Sigma is asking for? Well, the answer to that question is not so simple, because there is a lot more than just stops involved here. Sigma’s 20mm f/1.4 Art is completely different optically compared to the Nikon. First of all, we are dealing with a lens that has more superior optical glass inside, with 5 low-dispersion, two ultra low-dispersion and two aspherical lenses. One of those aspherical elements is particularly difficult to make, because it is a “double” aspherical lens with a large 59mm diameter. Essentially this element was the reason that Sigma was able to produce a 20mm f/1.4 – something no other manufacturer was able to achieve to date. So in a way, we can consider the Sigma 20mm f/1.4 to be in a different class of its own when compared to the Nikkor 20mm f/1.8G. However, there is one major pitfall – due to the large element on the front of the lens, it cannot take any regular screw-on filters!

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