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.

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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.

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Nikon 20mm f/1.8G ED Review

Nikon 20mm f/1.8G ED

It has been 30 years since Nikon first introduced the original Nikkor 20mm f/2.8 Ai-S lens and long 20 years since the autofocus version, the Nikkor 20mm f/2.8D was released to the market. Since then, the 20mm prime sadly did not receive much attention, so it was about time for Nikon to refresh the line with a modern version. Nikon finally revealed a replacement on September 12, 2014 and the new lens came with a nice surprise – the Nikkor 20mm f/1.8G ED is not only completely revamped in terms of optical design, but it is also 1.3 stops faster than its predecessors. Personally, I have been very interested in checking out the new 20mm f/1.8G lens, because I found the 28mm f/1.8G to be a bit too long for my taste. And although I love my 24mm f/1.4G (see my detailed review here), it is pretty expensive and often quite heavy to carry around. Thus, a wider, lighter and much less expensive lens sounded very appealing to me. I have had the joy of shooting with the Nikkor 20mm f/1.8G for the past three months and as you will see in this review, the lens deserves high praises for its superb optical performance. Without giving any more spoilers, let’s jump into the review and see where and how it shines.

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Nikon SB-500 Review

Nikon SB-500

The Nikon SB-500 speedlight was announced in September of 2014 together with the Nikon D750 and Nikkor 20mm f/1.8G lens. Sitting above the compact SB-300 and below the larger and more powerful SB-700, the SB-500 is targeted at beginners and enthusiasts, who want something more capable than a built-in flash or a basic speedlight. The SB-500 comes with an interesting list of features, one of which we have never previously seen on Nikon speedlights before – built-in LED lights. Although I personally had very little interest in using the SB-500, as I heavily rely on SB-800 and SB-900 speedlights for my work, ability to run LED lights continuously seemed like an interesting idea. In addition, with the SB-500 abilities of being both a commander and a remote flash unit with full compatibility with Nikon’s CLS system, I thought that perhaps I could use it in combination with my other speedlights. So I decided to check out and do a quick review of the SB-500, to see if it would potentially be a suitable tool for my photography needs.

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Nikon 35mm f/1.8G ED Review

Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G ED

After Nikon introduced the super lightweight and inexpensive Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G lens for DX cameras, many Nikon shooters started requesting a similar lens for full-frame cameras. Those who did not want to spend over $1500 on the professional Nikkor 35mm f/1.4G did not have a lot of options from Nikon aside from either using the 35mm f/1.8G DX lens on full-frame, or using the older Nikkor 35mm f/2D lens. Sigma’s timing on the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art was spot on for a number of people with its lower price point and superb optical performance, but it also came with both size and bulk considerations. On January 6 2014, Nikon finally announced the Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G ED lens to fill that gap. At $599 MSRP, the lens is not only significantly cheaper than the f/1.4 version, but it is also twice lighter and more compact. I had a chance to use this lens for a few months this year and although I could not work on a full review earlier due to time constraints and other commitments, I was very pleased with its optical performance.

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FastRawViewer Review: Best RAW Viewer for Your Workflow

FastRawViewer

No matter what software one uses for post-processing photographs, the process of selecting what images to keep and work on, also known as “culling”, can be quite painful when dealing with thousands of images. And this gets even more painful when working with RAW images, because operating systems usually have no built-in capabilities to view and properly render RAW files. Many photographers end up keeping all RAW images on their computers, because they do not want to go through the hassle of deleting bad images they will never use, only to realize overtime that their hard drives get filled up quickly and their post-processing time takes much longer. Those who try to cull images in Lightroom know that if a full size image preview is not generated at the time of import, it can take a long time to render each image. Sadly, Lightroom is quite weak at quickly previewing images, so working pros and enthusiasts usually end up complementing the culling part of their workflow with additional software like Photo Mechanic. At $150, however, Photo Mechanic costs as much as a retail version of Lightroom, becoming a cost barrier for many. Enter FastRawViewer, an amazingly fast and truly inexpensive RAW file viewer that has become my personal choice for culling images. It was developed by the same folks that created RawDigger – one of the best scientific tools for analyzing RAW images. In this review, I will take a closer look at FastRawViewer, go through some of its features and hopefully help you in simplifying both your workflow and your photo backup / storage needs.

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Microsoft Surface Pro 3 Review: Photography and Writing

Microsoft Surface Pro 3_1

Here I am, sitting at a cozy coffee house. Not just some coffee house, too, but a place where a lot of young people hang out – students, mostly. They come here for a cup of coffee much like people do at Starbucks overseas. Like me, they also come here to work – I’ve seen more MacBooks here than I did in iDeal (official Apple product distributor in Lithuania, similar to iStore / Apple Store). But I don’t have a MacBook. Perhaps that is why through the corner of my eye I notice a young girl looking my way. Now, my Julie has no reason to worry. The girl is not interested in me whatsoever. What caught her eye is the computer on my lap. She notices me noticing her and immediately says – “What sort of computer is that? It’s pretty.” Right. So this might not help my self esteem, but the girl is indeed correct. I appreciate a good design and, well, this thing looks the part. Coupled with the bright blue keyboard, certainly good enough to attract attention.

Whether you want it to attract attention or not is a different matter. More importantly, though, it’s not all looks and no substance. Quite the contrary, in fact – Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3 is ready to give someone a bloody nose.

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Think Tank Airport Roller Derby Review

Think Tank Airport Roller Derby Camera Bag-10

This is a review of the Think Tank Airport Roller Derby rolling camera bag. When I first saw that Think Tank had released a new 4 wheel camera bag, I was immediately curious. I had been using the Airport 4-Sight since it first came out and was very happy with it, but had filled it with as much gear as could fit in it and simply needed more room. The Roller Derby is a larger bag that looks like it has a few improvements over the 4-Sight. Could it become my new camera bag?

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Outex vs Shape Wave Waterproof DSLR Housings

D_KISH_Clint_Silver-Grotto_Grand-Canyon_DSC_9600

We’re pleased to have one of Arizona’s top professional photographers, Dawn Kish, share her experience field testing two waterproof DSLR housings on a Grand Canyon raft adventure. Dawn is not only a regular shooter for magazines such as National Geographic Adventure and Arizona Highways, but a former river guide as well. For a quick one-minute video review of these two housings in action, scroll to the bottom of this post. For the more detailed analysis, read on.

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