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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Recently during the filming of a safety video project for a client I needed to capture some video footage looking straight down on a machine in operation. In order to film the required footage I used one of my existing tripods, which can be configured in a non-adjustable, lateral position. It occurred to me as I was fiddling around with this existing tripod that it would have been much easier to get the required video footage if I had a tripod with a range of lateral movement, rather than just one lateral position at 90-degrees. Since I’ve been pleased thus far with my other Oben tripod (CC-2491), I decided to give the Oben CC-2361L lateral tripod a try since it met my key shooting criteria for tripods.
A couple of weeks ago, I posted an article titled “Mystery Camera – Can You Guess What It is?“, where I posted some images without any embedded EXIF data. Along with the images, I provided a couple of clues about the camera to see if our readers would be able to figure it out. Although some of our readers did guess that the images were captured by a camera phone and some even correctly guessed the specific model, most answers varied greatly from the Canon 5DS to the newly announced Sony A7R II. It was a great exercise to showcase just how good modern smartphones have gotten and the fact that most people have a hard time differentiating images between small sensor cameras and expensive large sensor cameras when web-sized images are posted on the Internet. This again reiterates the point that one does not need a high-end camera if all they do is output to the web. But that’s not the subject of today’s review. Instead, I will be talking about the new LG G4 Android phone, which AT&T kindly sent me for a review.