Fuji XF 16-55mm f/2.8 Review

Fuji XF 16-55mm f/2.8 R LM WR

Since Fujifilm kicked off its X-series mirrorless cameras in 2012, it has been releasing a number of superb prime and zoom lenses to attract both enthusiasts and professionals to its camera system. Although until recently the Fuji lens line-up included a number of great zoom lenses, there was no professional-grade 24-70mm equivalent (in full-frame) choice available. Fuji changed that by introducing the Fujinon XF 16-55mm f/2.8 R LM WR in early 2015 – a high-quality, weather resistant lens with superb optical characteristics and tough construction for the most demanding photographers. Combined with a weather-sealed camera like the Fuji X-T1, the new generation Fujinon lenses like the 16-55mm f/2.8 are the top choices for landscape and architecture photographers who often face challenging weather conditions. I had the pleasure of using the XF 16-55mm f/2.8 lens for several months after it was launched and I was able to take it with me on several projects and assignments, so this review is primarily based on my field experience. Let’s take a look at the lens in more detail.

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Nikon 400mm f/2.8E FL ED VR Review

Nikkor 400mm f/2.8E VR

During the past few years, Nikon has been slowly replacing its high-end super telephoto lenses with newer technology using lightweight fluorite lens elements, shredding off a lot of weight and making additional improvements to lens designs, making the already strong lenses even better. After the 800mm f/5.6E VR monster, it was time for Nikon to update its legendary 400mm f/2.8G VR with the newer version, so that’s how the Nikkor 400mm f/2.8E FL VR came to life. Although Nikon is planning to update every super telephoto lens in its line-up with lighter lenses featuring fluorite elements (which includes the 200mm f/2, 300mm f/2.8, 500mm f/4 and 600mm f/4 lenses), Nikon decided to start with the 400mm f/2.8, because it is one of the lenses that would get the most benefit from the fluorite lens design. Weighing in at a whopping 4.6 kg, the previous generation 400mm f/2.8G VR was a monster of a lens to handle and impractical to hand-hold (it was quite a bit front-heavy). Although it is quite a versatile lens and works remarkably well with all three Nikon teleconverters, its weight and size were its main disadvantages, making a lot of photographers opt for other super telephoto Nikkor lenses like the 500mm f/4 instead. The newly designed 400mm f/2.8E FL VR is a whole different lens in comparison – weighing 3.8 kg, the lens is now similar in weight as the 500mm f/4G VR, which is a great engineering achievement! Let’s take a closer look at this lens.

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Really Right Stuff BH-55 Ballhead Review

Really Right Stuff BH-55 Pro Ballhead

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.

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iPhone 6 Plus Camera Review

iPhone 6 Plus Camera Image Sample (12)

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.

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Really Right Stuff TQC-14 Tripod Review

RRS TQC-14

I used to have a wooden tripod. It was kind of cool, actually – other photographers were always fascinated by its design, and it was pretty sturdy. Unfortunately, despite weighing 4.2 pounds, it had a maximum height of just three feet. Plus, it was bulky. I brought this tripod along on a hiking trip, thinking that these problems wouldn’t be too bad. I was wrong. It was too big to sit well on my backpack, and its weight started to bother me on long hikes. I researched my other options, and carbon fiber tripods began to come up in my searches. I wanted the best possible weight-to-stability ratio, so I knew that I needed to save some money.

Through the course of my research, the tripod brand Really Right Stuff (RRS) began to emerge as the universally-acclaimed “best” manufacturer. I already had the BH-40 ballhead, which I was quite happy with, so I began to save up. I ultimately ordered the Really Right Stuff TQC-14, a top-of-the line travel tripod.

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Nikon 300mm f/4E PF ED VR Review

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 300mm f4E PF ED VR

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.

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Impact Soft and Natural 4 Socket 3 Light Kit Review

Verm-bald-w-lights-soft-n-nat-3027

The Impact Soft and Natural 4 Socket 3 Light Kit is a lightweight three-softbox continuous light source for studio shooting. MSRP is $604.90, but it seems to be perpetually discounted at B&H. As I write this it is priced at $348.95. The kit comes with stands, softboxes, heads and bulbs, everything you need to get started shooting portraits except the model and background (oh yeah, and camera and photographer, d’oh).

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Nikon 1 V3 Review

N1V3 review image 15

Ever since Nikon announced the introduction of the Nikon 1 V3 back in March of 2014 the camera has been met with mixed reactions. Some of the design choices made with this camera left many photographers scratching their heads wondering what the engineers at Nikon were thinking when they put the concept for the Nikon 1 V3 together. Specifically many people questioned the use of a microSD memory card, making the EVF and grip detachable, introducing yet another new battery, and coupling the Nikon 1 V3 with a new 10-30 PD zoom that does not accept filters. As a result many people simply dismissed the Nikon 1 V3 out-of-hand and did not give it a serious look. That is unfortunate since the Nikon 1 V3 actually is a very good camera that brings a lot of new features and capabilities to the Nikon 1 system. It’s too bad that the camera did it in a three-steps-forward two-steps-back kind of way. Had Nikon not made those rather quirky design choices I think the camera would have been met with a much stronger and more positive reaction from the marketplace.

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Rolleiflex 2.8 FX Medium Format Twin Lens Reflex Camera Review

Rollei Photography Life Review

This review is for the Rolleiflex 2.8 FX Medium Format Twin Lens Reflex Camera. The Rolleiflex is an intriguing camera – a long list of inspiring and master photographers considered this camera one of their favorites. Some famous Rolleiflex camera users include Richard Avedon, Robert Doisneau, Diane Arbus, and Vivian Maier, among others.

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