This is an in-depth review of the Nikon Df, a retro-style digital SLR camera that was announced in November of 2013. The Df is a very controversial release, I would say perhaps the most controversial one in Nikon’s DSLR history. After Nikon teased the public with its short videos that slowly revealed parts of the camera, many were excited to see something completely different than a traditional DSLR. Videos titled “it is in my hands again” and “no clutter, no distractions”, with constant repetition of “Pure Photography”, hinted at a camera that combines old style Nikon film cameras with a modern digital sensor. Nikon “Df”, a “Digital Fusion” of retro style and modern technology, became an instant hit on the Internet and one of the hottest topics of discussion and speculation on photography sites and forums. As we got closer and closer to the release date, enthusiasts from all over the world started speculating on the features of the yet to be released Nikon Df and pointed at possibilities of seeing a mirrorless camera, electronic viewfinder and a myriad of other technologies we now come to expect from modern mirrorless cameras. Film shooters had their own list of must-have features, including a large bright viewfinder with a split focusing screen for easy focusing with old manual focus lenses. In a very short period of time, the Nikon Df, a fusion of technologies, became an over-hyped camera with very high expectations…
We recently reviewed the Sport Strap from BlackRapid which we really liked, but for some people straps are still too bothersome. There are alternatives that allow the photographer to clip their cameras to a belt and avoid the strap altogether if they so desire. The Capture Clip Pro from Peak Design and the SpiderPro Camera Holster from Shai Gear are both strapless camera carrying systems that give you the feeling of stepping back in time to the days of the wild west but instead of gunslinging, you’re a camera toting cowboy. In this head-to-head review, we will examine the Capture Clip Pro vs the SpiderPro Camera Holster and try to help you know which system might be best for you.
During the last few weeks, I have been trying to come up with a good solution for testing lenses that did not require constant movement when dealing with slightly de-centered lenses. The idea was to build a setup similar to macro rails, but one that is bigger in size and very stable at the same time. Stability is extremely important, because even a slight vibration can negatively affect lab results. Using an Arca-Swiss quick release setup was a no-brainer, because it allows moving the setup without having to deal with mounting and dismounting anything, while being rock solid when tightly secured. While my BH-55 Pro tripod head from Really Right Stuff has been serving me well for a while now, it was hard to use for minute adjustments that are often necessary when testing lenses. Therefore, I decided to replace it with a geared head that would allow very precise vertical and horizontal tilt adjustments, along with the ability to pan, when needed. My quick search revealed that unlike the army of pan/tilt heads and ballheads, which are made by a myriad of companies, there are only a few options available for geared heads today. One of them is the Manfrotto 405 Pro Geared head, which I am reviewing today.
When testing lenses, I have to make sure that my setup is calibrated and the camera is perfectly aligned with the test chart. The process can take quite a bit of time, since I have to take a picture, make minute adjustments, then take another picture and retest again. In some cases I have to repeat the process many times over, which can be very painful. To simplify and speed-up the process, I have been connecting my laptop (which sits right under the tripod) directly to the Nikon D800E with a USB cable and have been using Nikon’s Camera Control Pro to dump files into a local folder, from which I pick up and process images using Imatest software. The problem with this approach has been speed – Imatest is pretty demanding when it comes to processing large RAW files from the D800E and my laptop just could not keep up. So I ended up moving the software to my powerful desktop machine, which created another problem. Every time I take a picture and need adjustments, I have to walk back and forth between the camera setup and the computer to analyze the results and make adjustments. USB 3 cables have length limitations and even with “active” USB 3 extension cables, the maximum length is typically under 10 meters. And that’s just not going to work for me, since I often test telephoto lenses and I have to be more than 10 meters away. To address these issues, I decided to try some wireless solutions that are available on the market. The first and the cheapest product to try was the Eye-Fi Pro X2 memory card. I got a 16 GB version and wanted to see just how well the card with its software could work for my setup. In this review, I will be focusing primarily on the transfer speed of the card and its usability with the Nikon D800 / D800E DSLR.
This is a short review of the Lexar Professional 400x SDHC UHS-I Class 10 card, which I have been using for the past 6 months. I have owned 4 of these cards in 16GB capacity and decided to write a review after every single one of them failed. I have never had such problems with memory cards, especially those that have a “professional” label attached to them. So this is more of a warning to potential owners, rather than a full-blown review of a product.
This is an in-depth review of the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art lens, world’s first constant f/1.8 zoom lens for DSLR cameras that was announced in April of 2013. Despite the recent trend of manufacturers to move their customer base to full-frame format, Sigma took a bold move and announced the professional-grade Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 Art for DX/APS-C format only. With a focal range equivalent to 27mm-52.5mm in 35mm format, the lens provides a good range to work with for a variety of different needs and applications. And with its fast constant aperture of f/1.8, the Sigma 18-35mm opens up opportunities to shoot in low-light situations, something that was previously only possible with fast aperture prime lenses. Lastly, Sigma’s pricing of $799 MSRP for the lens made it the top choice in terms of value when compared to pro-grade lenses such as the Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8G DX, which sells for almost twice as much and does not offer the same low-light advantages.
About 3 weeks ago, I decided to make some changes to my tripod setup in my lens testing lab, in order to make it easier, more consistent and fluid to test lenses. My decision was based on the fact that I found myself moving the tripod a bit too much when testing lenses, especially the de-centered ones (those that do not have a straight optical axis due to a slight dislocation of one or more lens elements). I decided to replace shorter macro focusing rails for much longer and bigger rails, so that I could have more room for side to side movement and more focus bracketing options for testing telephoto lenses. As I was configuring the setup, I realized that I needed to spend close to $2K in a more versatile tripod head and lots of Arca-Swiss rails, clamps and other accessories. The first task was to replace the standard quick release plate of the heavy duty Manfrotto 405 Pro Geared Head (to be reviewed later) with an Arca-Swiss quick release clamp. As usual, I started researching for a proper solution on Google, which pointed me to Hejnar Photo Store on the first page of search, with exactly the product that I was looking for. I then spent another 30-45 minutes researching the solution and read a number of posts on different forums, where people were raving about Hejnar Photo’s products, including the adapter that I needed. This was very important for me, because I needed a setup that would be extremely reliable and stable, especially for handling heavy super telephoto lenses.
This is an in-depth review of the new, much anticipated Nikon 58mm f/1.4G professional prime lens that was announced on October 17, 2013 along with the Nikon D5300 DSLR. Similar to the legendary classic, the NOCT Nikkor 58mm f/1.2, the AF-S NIKKOR 58mm f/1.4G is a specialized lens for such needs as portraiture, street, event / wedding photography and astrophotography. Thanks to its fast aperture of f/1.4 and a complex optical formula using aspherical elements, nano crystal coat and super integrated coating, along with a fast silent wave autofocus motor, the lens is also ideal for low-light photography needs. Unlike many of the Nikkor lenses that are optimized for maximum sharpness, the Nikon 58mm f/1.4G is the first modern lens of its kind that focuses on producing aesthetically pleasing images, rather than purely focusing on sharpness. I had a pleasure of shooting with this lens for the last 3 months and I wanted to get a full understanding of its strengths and weaknesses, especially when compared to the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G and f/1.8G lenses that I have been relying on for my photography needs. In this review, I will not only provide an in-depth analysis of the lens, but will also compare it head to head against Nikon’s 50mm prime lenses and the Voigtlander 58mm f/1.4 lens that I have been testing in parallel.
This is not meant to be an in-depth review of the Fuji XQ1, because I normally do not like spending time evaluating point and shoot cameras. First, there are too many of them and they recycle every year, sometimes even several times a year. Second, with the rise of the cell phone market with pretty impressive cameras, I just do not see the future of the point and shoot market. And lastly, the XQ1 simply ended up in my hands in error and I did not want to send it back without writing a few words about it.
This is an in-depth review of the Fujifilm X-E2, a second generation mirrorless interchangeable-lens camera from Fuji that was released on October 18, 2013 before the 2013 Photo Plus Expo event in New York. After the success of the X-E1, which I ended up picking as my mirrorless camera of choice, as explained in my detailed review, Fuji decided to update the camera with more features to make it even more compelling. Considering that the X-E1 was only a little over a year old and the high-end X-Pro1 had not been updated since it was initially released back in March of 2012, the X-E2 was a good indication of Fuji’s future plans to keep the mid-range product line updated every 12 to 18 months, while the high-end line will probably be updated every 24+ months. In this Fuji X-E2 review (based on initial firmware 1.00), I will provide detailed information about the camera along with some image samples and compare it to the X-E1 and the Olympus OM-D E-M1.