A couple of weeks back, AT&T sent me a ZTE Spro 2 Smart Projector to review and give away to one of our readers. I loved the idea of doing this, not only because it is a neat little smart device that you can use as a mobile hotspot and as a projector, but also because with the holiday spirit, why not gift one of these away to one of PL’s readers? After-all, our site is all about giving! Speaking of gifts, hope you’ll get what you need this holiday season, because it does not always happen. What do you do with those unwanted gifts then? I find regifting to work the best. For example, on my birthday earlier this year I received a gift card to a store I never shop from, so I decided to regift it to a friend who does. Worked out nicely and I did not even have to think much about buying a present! Now the question is, if you win this giveaway, will it be a keeper? Anyway, before I go into the giveaway details, let’s take a closer look at what the ZTE Spro 2 is capable of and what you can use it for.
Earlier this year, I wrote a detailed review of the Sony A7R, where I expressed a number of serious concerns with the camera, some of which were serious enough to be categorized as “deal breakers”. Soon after, Sony announced the much-anticipated A7R II mirrorless camera, a second iteration of the high-resolution line of A7-series cameras. Although many of us knew what to expect from the A7R II based on what we have previously seen on the Sony A7 II, there was new technology incorporated into the A7R II to make it a very appealing camera among both enthusiasts and professionals. Just like the A7 II, the A7R II gained five-axis in-body image stabilization (IBIS) and a different ergonomic design with a much more comfortable to hand-hold protruded grip. And those are relatively minor changes compared to the changes from the original A7R. Not only does the A7R II get a faster and much more reliable AF system with a whopping 399 focus points, but it also gains a brand new 42 MP back-illuminated (BSI) sensor. In addition, Sony addressed the serious shutter-shock issue by not only reducing the overall noise and vibration caused by the shutter mechanism, but also by introducing an electronic front-curtain shutter release option, which completely gets rid of shutter-related blur in images. And lastly, with the latest firmware upgrade, the Sony A7R II also gained the ability to shoot uncompressed RAW, giving the ability to take a full advantage of the sensor. I have been shooting with the Sony A7R II since it was announced, so let’s take a closer look at the Sony A7R II and see how it performed both in real world and lab environments.
Although Tamron pioneered the release of the first 150-600mm lens, Sigma followed suit by releasing two versions of lenses with exactly the same focal length and aperture ranges. The smaller and lighter version, the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary (the one we are reviewing today), targets the same market as the Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD, while the much larger and heavier “Sport” version is something unique to Sigma, with no other equivalent competing offers from any other manufacturer. Being able to reach 600mm without spending a lot of money has been a big dream of many wildlife photographers on a budget, because anything close to the 600mm range typically translates to a very large expense – as much as $12K for the latest generation 600mm f/4 lenses. While the current 150-600mm lenses cannot offer the maximum aperture of f/4, they give a huge focal range to work with, which can be particularly useful when photographing subjects at varying distances. As many 600mm prime lens owners know, shooting with long glass is not an easy task due to both weight and atmospheric haze concerns. Such lenses can be quite limiting when the action is close, such as when photographing bears in Alaska, or taking pictures on an African safari. For such occasions, many pros love the 200-400mm f/4 lenses, because they give that flexibility to shoot action at both close and long distances. However, the high cost and the weight concerns are still there, making such lenses prohibitive for budget-conscious enthusiasts and pros who prefer shooting hand-held. And that’s when the 150-600mm lenses come to the rescue, offering great performance in a lightweight and relatively low-budget package. At just over $1K and a total weight of 1930 grams (4.25 pounds), the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary is a very attractive lens for sports and wildlife photographers. In this review, we will be taking a closer look at this lens and compare it to the Tamron 150-600mm lens that we previously reviewed and loved.
This is an in-depth review of the new Nikkor 500mm f/4E FL ED VR lens that Nikon introduced on July 1, 2015. I wrote the initial preview of the lens in a post titled “Is Nikon’s new 500mm FL too sharp?“, where some of our readers got engaged in interesting discussions and even talked about anti-aliasing filters and Nyquist frequency. Stuff that can melt your brain for sure! Today, we will be taking a closer look at the Nikon 500mm f/4E VR and see what this beast is all about.
Without a doubt, the Fuji X-T1 has been a huge success for Fujifilm, being one of the most rugged, versatile and very capable interchangeable-lens mirrorless cameras on the market. It did not take long for me to fall in love with it – after writing my in-depth review of the Fuji X-T1, I ended up buying one for myself. The X-T1 took the market by storm and many photographers ended up buying that camera either as a primary tool, or as a secondary camera to a full-frame DSLR. Despite the many offerings from Fuji, including the X-A2, X-E2, X-M1 and the X-Pro1, the X-T1 is the camera that made the most impact overall. The success of the X-T1 was the reason why Fuji decided to create a stripped down version of the same camera at a lower price point and that’s how the Fuji X-T10 was born.
Photographers have an interesting dilemma when choosing a bag for long hikes. Camera backpacks are great at holding cameras, but they tend to be poor choices for comfort on long hikes. For some people – those who rarely need to trek with their camera equipment – a traditional camera backpack may be more than enough. For landscape and travel photographers, however, or those who need to carry their equipment longer distances, technical hiking bags tend to be the only option. The issue with these bags is that they aren’t made with photographers in mind, meaning that gear access and tripod attachment is quite difficult. One of the companies trying to fix this problem is F-Stop Gear, who makes trekking-style backpacks with separate compartments for camera equipment. I have owned the F-Stop Loka UL since it was first released, and it has never disappointed me. So, when F-Stop announced their newest line of Mountain Series backpacks, I was excited to see some of the improvements that had been made. In this review, I will take a look at the brand new Sukha bag – at 70 liters, F-Stop Gear’s second-largest backpack.
Ever since Sigma announced their new direction with reorganizing new lenses into three different “Contemporary”, “Art” and “Sports” product lines, the company has been successfully rolling out a number of truly groundbreaking lenses. We were blown away by the optical quality of the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art lens, which topped our lens charts as one of the sharpest lenses we have seen to date. Then we welcomed the updated Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art and were quite inspired by world’s first f/1.8 constant aperture zoom lens, the 18-35mm f/1.8 Art. Earlier this year, Sigma announced yet another addition to the “Art” line of lenses, again in the “world’s first” category, the Sigma 24-35mm f/2 DG HSM Art. Built on the concept of the 18-35mm f/1.8 Art, the 24-35mm f/2 was redesigned to cover the full-frame image circle, while maintaining the superb optical performance. The result was a larger and heavier lens, but one that was to challenge primes from 24mm to 35mm focal lengths. Set on to go head to head with such primes specifically, the biggest question I had was – could this lens actually optically challenge prime lenses? If it performed well optically, that’s a single lens which could potentially replace such lenses as the Nikkor 24mm f/1.8G, 28mm f/1.8G and 35mm f/1.8G in a single package – a rather tough challenge, as those lenses are quite strong performers on their own.
With the proliferation of SSD storage on the market, today we see a huge increase in all kinds of small, yet insanely fast gadgets that help us increase our productivity. One of such gadgets has been brought to us by Samsung in the form of the portable SSD T1 – the smallest and the fastest external drive available today. Based on Samsung’s 850 EVO SSD (mSATA version), this little SSD drive only measures 2.8″ x 0.36″ x 2.09″ (64 x 9 x 53mm) and weighs a total of 0.9 oz (25 grams), making it look like a large thumb drive. But there is a major difference – unlike the slow thumb drives we see today, the Samsung SSD T1 has the same amazing speed of SSD drives, capable of up to 450 MB/sec transfer speeds. I have been testing out the SSD T1 pretty much since it came out and I have been amazed by its performance and rock solid reliability. My last external hard drive died on me a year ago and although I had been backing up my data regularly at the time, it certainly did not leave a pleasant feeling when I wanted to buy another external device for travel and remote jobs, as it was not the first one that failed. Sadly, hard drives have a tendency to fail faster when they are constantly carried around and frequently plugged and unplugged. Drop them and the chance of losing the drive and its data are extremely high. In contrast, SSD drives are much more reliable and they have no issues with extreme shock and vibration.
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.
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.