Nikon Noct-NIKKOR 58mm f/1.2 Review

NOCT-NIKKOR 58mm f1.2 AiS

When testing out the Nikon 58mm f/1.4G, I really wanted to get a hold of the legendary Noct-NIKKOR 58mm f/1.2 lens to see how the two lenses from different generations compare optically. Unfortunately, I could not obtain a good sample of the Noct-NIKKOR at the time, but after scouting eBay for a while, I finally found a pristine copy of the lens from a photographer in California. Being a collector item, the lens was barely used and had been sitting for years in a closet – exactly what I had been wanting to get. I really wanted to make sure that the lens performed as close to its original specifications as possible, because I was on the quest to measure its optical performance, particularly at its super wide f/1.2 aperture. Let’s take a look at the lens in more detail.

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Synology DS1815+ Review

Synology DS1815+

Choosing the right storage option can be a rather challenging process due to the sheer number of options available on the market today. The good news is, there is a solution for practically every need out there – from a simple low-cost backup solution to high-end and versatile storage arrays for multi-user environments, all depending on one’s needs. The bad news is, even when you know exactly what you need in terms of storage space, you might find yourself lost fairly quickly, particularly if you are not well-versed in storage solutions. The process of selecting the best solution is often frustrating for many photographers for this particular reason. Last year, a good friend of mine, who has been doing both photography and videography professionally for a number of years now, asked me for a suggestion on a solid and robust storage solution that could be used in a workgroup environment, with more than 2 people accessing the same data simultaneously. He told me about the challenges his team was experiencing when needing to share photos and videos in a network environment, often resorting to very slow and ineffective methods that only created frustration. Having been working with storage solutions for many years, my proposal was to use the Synology DS1815+ network attached storage (NAS) in a Gigabit network environment. I have personally used a number of Synology NAS devices in the past both on personal and professional levels and I have always loved the architecture, the simple to use software, the reliability and the performance of Synology storage solutions. Since implementation, my friend and his co-workers have been very happy, praising Synology and recommending the company to others. In this review, I will be taking a closer look at the Synology DS1815+ and talk about my experience using the unit for my work during the past 6 months.

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Bolt VM-110 Ring Light Review

Bolt VM-110 Review 3

When I wrote my Macro Photography Lighting Tutorial, I had the opportunity to test a fairly popular product for my section on ring lights: the Bolt VM-110. I was happy with the quality of light from the VM-110 ring light, but I was unimpressed with its low strength. Since ring lights are so commonly-used for macro photography, I decided that it would be worthwhile to review the VM-110 and share some of my thoughts about how well it works for macro photography.

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Lexar Professional Workflow Review

Lexar Professional Workflow (2)

Lexar has been long known for making different type of memory cards for hobbyists, enthusiasts and professionals. Whether you need microSD, SD, CF or the newer memory card technologies like CFast and XQD, Lexar makes lines of products with different quality levels and speeds to satisfy pretty much every still camera or video storage needs. One area you might not be very familiar is Lexar’s excellent line of memory card readers. I have been personally using the Lexar Professional USB 3.0 Dual-Slot Reader for years and I find it to be the best solution when working in the field and need to access or back up my data, as stated in my earlier review. But what about a professional memory card reader for a desktop? Since I have always built my own computers, I have had a strong preference for internal readers that I can install in one of the 5.25″ bays, with the AFT PRO-77U being my top choice. And although I am pretty happy with this reader, it does have a couple of disadvantages. First, it only comes with the most common media formats like CF, SD and microSD. If I wanted to attach the newer XQD or CFast cards, I would have to get a separate reader for each one of those. Second, there is only one reader per card type – if I wanted to transfer from two cards simultaneously (and yes, you can do that in Lightroom), then I am left out without options. Luckily, Lexar makes a superb product to address such particular needs (and more) in the form of the Lexar Professional Workflow readers. Today, I am reviewing the HR1 version, which has a USB 3.0 interface. If you are a Mac user and prefer Thunderbolt, there is an HR2 version of the same reader, which has support for both Thunderbolt and USB 3.0.

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AFT PRO-77U Internal Card Reader Review

AFT PRO-77U Internal Memory Card Reader

We are continuing our coverage of memory card readers this week and this time I want to talk about my personal preference for internal memory card readers, or the ones one would have to install in an empty / available bay in a computer. Since I have always been building my own PCs, picking the best components for the fastest performance, I am comfortable with installing internal devices without resorting to external help. Having a memory card reader always integrated into a PC means that I don’t have to fiddle with external devices and wires dangling off my PC, which helps in keeping my work area nice and clean. In addition, it allows me to choose an all-in-one memory card reader that can read pretty much any format out there and potentially offer additional USB slots that I can use for other devices. The Atech Flash Technology PRO-77U gives me exactly that. For years I have been using the previous-generation PRO-57U model and I have recently moved up to the PRO-77U in my latest PC build and I have been happy with my decision.

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Lexar Professional USB 3.0 Dual-Slot Reader Review

Lexar USB 3.0 Reader

One question I get asked a lot by other photographers or workshop participants, is the type of reader I prefer to use when traveling or when using a laptop. Over the years, I have tried many different types of readers and I have had my share of dead readers, bent pins, unreadable cards and other problems. After trying out the Lexar Professional USB 3.0 Dual-Slot Reader when it just came out, I have been very pleased with its performance. It turned out to be the best memory card reader I have had to date not just because of its amazing performance, but also because it has a solid build and the cable easily detaches from the back of the reader, making it an amazing travel companion.

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3D Robotics X8+ Drone Review

3DR X8+ Drone

Drone photography is an exploding market, and with good reason — an aerial perspective opens opportunities in nearly every field of photography. Despite the amazing potential of drone photography, though, it is surprisingly hard to find a kit that works well for high-quality stills. Drones built for larger mirrorless cameras or DSLRs are often unreasonably expensive and frustratingly large, forcing many photographers to compromise on image quality. With this problem in mind, 3D Robotics designed the X8+ drone, a customizable and affordable platform that is capable of carrying a large-sensor camera with ease.

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Third Party Battery Review – Watson and Wasabi Batteries

Watson EN-EL18 Battery

For ages I’ve heeded the warnings from camera manufacturers that inserting non-OEM batteries into my camera could make the camera explode or at the very least give it a nasty case of shingles. But a year ago I purchased a Nikon D4s and wanted a spare EN-EL18 battery. The Nikon battery was 150 bucks – why I could get a fifth of 25-year old Glenfarclas for that much. I saw positive reviews of the Wasabi batteries and decided to try one of those at a third of the price of the OEM battery. It worked just fine so I got more batteries, both the Wasabi and the Watson brands, for my D4s and my D7000 and D810 bodies. I’ve been using the Wasabis for a year and the Watsons for 7 months. For the first few months, they worked so well I never give a second thought as to whether I’d grabbed the Nikon batteries or the third party batteries when I went out on a shoot.

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Tokina 16-28mm f/2.8 Review

Tokina 16-28mm f/2.8 Pro FX

When I first got access to the Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 VC lens (which we recently reviewed), I got curious about other potential lens options already available with the similar focal length range, build and fast aperture of f/2.8. After a quick search through our lens database, I found the Tokina AT-X 16-28mm f/2.8 Pro FX. This little gem has been available for a while now and although I have heard a lot of good things about it, I never had a chance to actually try it out. After receiving the lens along with a few other lenses like the Tokina AT-X 11-16mm f/2.8 Pro DX-II (which I will be also reviewing very soon), I headed off to Death Valley National Park. Although I primarily used the lens with my infrared-converted Nikon D800E, which as I painfully found out later turned out to be a bad choice for IR as explained further down in the review, I was really curious to see how it would do, given its extremely attractive price of $629. At this price, I was expecting the Tokina 16-28mm f/2.8 to be a poor performer, because the price just did not seem to be right for such a fast zoom lens with a “pro” label on it. After using the lens and testing it out in my lab, I realized that I was wrong – it turned out to be a hidden gem.

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Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2 Review

Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2

Zeiss created the new Loxia line specifically for Sony, adding high-quality manual focus primes to the growing list of native lenses for the Sony FE mount. With the Zeiss Loxia 35mm f/2 targeted for everyday use, the Loxia 50mm f/2 is a bit more specialized for such needs as portraiture, street, travel and landscape photography. Although Sony already had the excellent Sonnar T* FE 55mm f/1.8 from the beginning, the Loxia 50mm f/2 nicely fills the 50mm gap. And just like its 35mm f/2 counterpart, the Loxia 50mm f/2 is superb in its quality and build, designed to be similar to other traditional Zeiss lenses, with manual aperture control and a very compact size. This review is based on my 3 month shooting experience with both Loxia lenses on a variety of different Sony A7-series cameras.

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