Bolt VM-110 LED Macro Ring Light Review

Bolt VM-110 LED Macro Ring Light

It’s been bugging me that I only have a handful of decent insect photos, despite owning a macro lens primarily for that purpose. When they weren’t flying or running away from me, they were biting me, and when I tried the pop-them-in-the-fridge-to-cool-them-down trick – well, let’s just say Mr. Tarantula is still napping. I felt awful about that and vowed never to ice down a critter again unless it was a penguin with heat stroke. Still I’ve been seeing tons of great bug photos lately and it rekindled my interest. If I could just dial in the lighting, maybe I could start nailing some great macro wildlife shots.

[Read more…]

Sony A7 II Review

Sony A7 II

October 16 of 2013 marks an important milestone in the history of photography, because it is the date when Sony announced world’s first full-frame mirrorless cameras, the Sony A7 and A7R. The Sony A7, being the cheaper model aimed for general use, sports a 24 MP sensor and offers hybrid autofocus, while the A7R with its high resolution 36 MP sensor is targeted at more specific types of photography including landscape, architecture, studio and product photography. Since the official release of these cameras, I had a chance to test both in 2014 as soon as they were available. However, I did not write detailed reviews for a number of reasons including native lens shortage and availability, all kinds of initial firmware bugs and lags, shutter vibrations (A7R), slow start up time, compressed RAW, terrible menu system, poor battery life and a number of other annoying issues. On top of that, 2014 was also a year of personal transformation for me, so I was incredibly busy trying to shuffle a lot of things at the same time. To put it short, my lack of time and my negative experience with these cameras contributed to reviews being put off for a later date. When Sony released the A7S a bit later, I did not see drastic changes aside from the camera sensor, so I put off reviewing that camera for a while as well. However, when Sony announced the second iteration of the A7-series, the A7 II, I immediately requested a review unit for evaluation. By then, Sony already had a few more native lenses to choose from and I had high hopes that Sony perhaps addressed many of the concerns from the original A7 in this new camera. In addition, the Sony A7 II came with in-body image stabilization (IBIS), which interested me a lot – with so many different adapters available for other lens mounts, the A7 II looked rather promising as a versatile tool that could stabilize pretty much any lens on the market. And that in itself sounded really good, so off I went with my journey to assess the new Sony A7 II.

[Read more…]

Impact Muslin Background and Background Support System Review

Background Support System - 12' Wide

This review is for three Impact Muslin Backgrounds and an Impact Background Support System. I have always loved backdrops and how they can convert any space into a studio. By setting up a studio backdrop, you can create a whole new feel for a shoot and they are versatile and easy to use. I chose to set these up in my living room and home office space, but if you are tight for space in your home, a garage makes a perfect studio as well.

[Read more…]

Gariz Leather Half-Case for Fujifilm X-E1/X-E2 Review

Gariz Leather Half-Case for Fujifilm X-E1-1

Let’s be completely honest – other than style, leather half-cases for mirrorless cameras serve just about no purpose. It really is all about style – not protection, not ergonomic improvement, none of that. Any change in those areas is, more often than not, unintentional. A side effect. So, when talking about such an accessory, what matters most is design and quality of the product. One is only ever going to pay good money for an accessory that’s not actually that practical or sensible to own if it looks great and is made with utmost precision. Gariz, a small Korean camera accessory manufacturer few have even heard of, has its hands full, so to speak.

[Read more…]

ioSafe 214 Review

ioSafe 214+

Last year I had a chance to test and review the ioSafe 1513+ storage unit, which I found to be an amazing device that not only provides data protection against fire, flood and other potential disasters, but also does it with superb performance, thanks to the Synology DSM architecture. With its relatively steep price, hefty size and heavy weight, the ioSafe 1513+ might not be an ideal choice for everyday backup needs though. For smaller environments with lower storage and performance needs, ioSafe also offers a much more budget-friendly option, the ioSafe 214. I have been using the ioSafe 214 for the past 4 months for my personal and business needs and I decided to review the unit and share it with our readers, based on my overall experience so far.

[Read more…]

ACDSee Pro 8 Review: Searching for Alternatives

ACDSee Pro 8

It seems so long ago I opened an image on a computer for the first time. It was last century, in fact. And, as strange a thing this may be to remember, it is because opening that first image was the first thing I ever did with a computer (an old four-eight-six running Windows 95 for those who know what that means). Strangely enough, I don’t remember the image itself, not even vaguely. What I do remember is the software that was used to do it – it was ACDSee. I remember it from eighteen years ago – this lightweight, snappy, simple, functional image viewer with some mild editing capability.

Oh, how things have changed. ACDSee Pro 8 is not an image viewer, you see. And the editing capability is anything but mild, even by today’s standards. With a few caveats, the Pro 8 is a full-on Lightroom alternative, and that fact puts a lot of pressure on it. Let’s see if it can stand its ground, shall we?

[Read more…]

Canon 7D Mark II Review

Canon 7D Mark II

When Canon announced the 7D Mark II in September of 2014, I got quite intrigued by the camera and really wanted to try it out. Like many others, I have been getting pretty tired of waiting for Nikon’s “Pro DX” refresh to replace the D300S, which came out back in 2009 (almost 6 years ago!), so I wanted to see whether such a tool would still make sense for Nikon to release based on specifications, performance and price. Sporting a high-end autofocus system with 65 cross-type focus points, insanely fast 10 fps continuous shooting speed, dual image processors, -3 EV light sensitivity, magnesium alloy construction and weather sealing, the Canon 7D Mark II is specifically tailored at sports and wildlife photographers. And with its price tag of $1799 MSRP, the 7D Mark II sounds much more appealing to budget-conscious photographers who do not want to pay close to 4x more for the much heavier and bulkier EOS-1D X.

[Read more…]

Oben CT-3481 Tripod Kit Review

Oben CT-3481 Kit

Face it – tripods aren’t as sexy as lenses or camera bodies and shelling out a bunch of dough on a tripod just isn’t that satisfying. After selling my left kidney to pay for my Really Right Stuff tripod to support my super-telephoto wildlife lenses, I wasn’t real eager to cough up ~$900 to get a Gitzo Traveler for my landscape work. But I wanted a lightweight compact tripod I could take on hikes. A tripod that would fit inside my daypack, weighed under 4 pounds and had a working height that on level ground would let me (6’2”) work at eye level when I wanted. Enter the Oben CT-3481 4-section Carbon fiber Folding Tripod and BE-126T ball head. It’s a 3.9 pound, full-featured tripod that folds to 19 inches long and has a working height of 68 inches. As well, it has plenty of adjustments to allow you to work low to the ground or on uneven terrain.

[Read more…]

Zeiss Distagon T* 35mm f/2.0 ZF.2 Review

Zeiss Distagon T* 35mm f/2.0 ZF.2

This is an in-depth review of the manual focus Zeiss Distagon T* 35mm f/2.0 ZF.2, a second generation 35mm f/2 prime lens from Zeiss for Nikon and Canon mounts. The lens samples I tested were for the Nikon F mount, although you can get the same lens for the Canon EF mount. The Zeiss 35mm f/2.0 ZF.2 is a professional-grade fixed wide-angle lens targeted at enthusiasts and professionals that need high quality optics for different types of photography, including landscape, architecture, portrait and astrophotography. Similar to other Zeiss prime lenses, the lens is designed to work on both FX and DX sensor cameras (equivalent field of view of approx 52.5mm on DX) and yields amazing clarity and contrast throughout the frame.

[Read more…]