Today is a big day in the photography world, because Sony has just unleashed a true monster, the Sony A7R II, something that will seriously impact the photography industry. This is the camera that I have been personally waiting for, this is the game changer. I know this sounds a bit over-hyped and potentially over-promising, but as I was reviewing the Sony A7R, I asked myself “what would be an ideal mirrorless system look like for landscape photography?”. Based on my experience shooting with the Sony A7 II and Sony A7R, the wishlist included: lower-noise shutter, vibration-free shutter mechanism with EFCS (electronic first-curtain shutter), electronic silent shutter, high-resolution sensor with superb dynamic range, in-camera body image stabilization (IBIS) and full 14-bit RAW support. Well, the Sony A7R II today not only includes most of the items from my wishlist (the 14-bit RAW support is unclear at this time), but it also comes with more – this camera will be the first to feature a full-frame 42.4 MP BSI CMOS sensor, which means better low-light performance. Sony claims an improvement of two stops, which is huge. Faster sensor readouts also allow the A7R II to capture 4K video at 30p/25p/24p (with Super 35 support), making this camera highly desirable for both digital photography and videography needs. On top of this, the A7R II will come with a much more advanced AF system with 399 AF points (based on on-sensor phase detection points) and will be able to autofocus with third party lenses. Its OLED electronic viewfinder has been refined with impressive 0.78x magnification. This is why I called this camera a “game changer”, as it has more to offer than anything else on the market today. It sets a new benchmark, setting a new challenge for not only Nikon and Canon, but also medium format camera manufacturers. After this announcement, Canon’s 5DS already sounds unattractive and the camera has not even hit the shelves yet (sorry Canon fans, but we weren’t that enthusiastic after finding out that Canon did nothing to improve the dynamic range on the 5DS). And with Zeiss backing up Sony with its amazing Loxia and Batis lines of lenses and Sony working hard on releasing high-quality lenses, the Sony mirrorless system is gaining traction quicker than anyone anticipated. The only drawback of this announcement is the price – the Sony A7R II will be Sony’s most expensive mirrorless camera to date, with its MSRP price of $3,200.
During the past few weeks, I have been working on a project that I have been planning for years – the Photo Spots Project. Basically, the idea is to open up the ability for our readers to share their favorite photo spots with the rest of the community. You name the spot, upload one or more images, describe how to get to the spot, add some information (such as the country, GPS location, etc) and your adventures to the post and submit it. We will review each submission one by one and if it meets our standards, we publish the photo spot for everyone to see (meanwhile, our team at PL will be posting our favorite spots from our photo adventures to encourage others to join and contribute).
F-Stop Gear holds a unique position in the world of backpacks. Whereas most other manufacturers produce either camera bags or hiking bags, F-Stop Gear aims to do both — they make hiking-style backpacks with swappable internal compartments for camera equipment. Just this morning, F-Stop Gear announced the addition of four new bags to their Mountain Series lineup: the Ajna, Tilopa, Sukha, and Shinn. These bags are sized at 40, 50, 70, and 80 liters, and they bring along some exciting changes from the old Mountain Series.
Just after Fuji announced its first weather-sealed wide angle lens, the XF 16mm f/1.4 R WR last month, the company has announced yet another killer lens to its arsenal, the Fujinon 90mm f/2 R LM WR. With its 135mm equivalent field of view in 35mm and a wide aperture of f/2, the lens is aimed primarily at portrait photographers who love being able to keep their subjects isolated from the background without introducing any kind of distortion to subjects’ faces. Thanks to a pretty complex optical formula comprised of 11 elements (3 of which are of extra-low dispersion / ED type) in 8 groups, a sturdy weather-sealed construction and the new Quad Linear Motor for faster autofocus, the lens will, without a doubt, be a solid performer. And at its $950 MSRP price tag, it will be a great addition for photographers who are already in love with lenses like the XF 56mm f/1.2.
Without a doubt, Fuji’s X-T1 has been a huge success for the company and for a good reason – the camera is outstanding in many ways, as I have pointed out in my in-depth review of the camera. I have been a proud owner of the X-T1 for over a year and the camera continues to amaze me, especially after Fuji’s constant firmware refreshes, which make it better each time (and it is supposed to get even better with the upcoming 4.0 firmware). But at its current MSRP price of $1300, the X-T1 is not a cheap camera to own. Which is why Fuji decided to release a smaller brother of the X-T1, the Fuji X-T10. With the same superb 16 MP APS-C X-Trans sensor, 3″ tilting LCD, 8 fps continuous shooting, 2.36 Million dot OLED electronic viewfinder, advanced autofocus system, built-in flash and similarly beautiful design, the X-T10 offers quite a bit for its $800 price tag.
Panasonic has released the Lumix DMC-G7 mid-range mirrorless camera with 4K video and stills recording capability (up to 30 fps). In addition to the improved autofocus performance when compared to its predecessor, the G7 now comes with a higher-resolution OLED viewfinder with 2,360k dots, up to 8 fps shooting speed, built-in WiFi, UHS-II SDXC/SDHC memory card support and a fully articulated high resolution 3″ LCD screen with 1,040k dots. At $799.99 MSRP, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G7 will be one of the most affordable 4K-capable cameras on the market when it is released in June of this year.
Olympus has announced another addition to its line of high-quality professional lenses. The Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 7-14mm f/2.8 Pro, which has a field of view equivalent to 14-28mm in 35mm format, sports a pretty complex optical formula, with 14 elements in 11 groups, 10 of which are comprised of special type of glass to reduce various optical aberrations. With its constant maximum aperture of f/2.8, the lens offers superb optical performance even at its widest aperture. In addition to having high-end optics, the lens is engineered to be both dustproof and splashproof. All this does not come cheap though – the Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 Pro will retail for $1,299.99 when it starts shipping in June of this year.
Canon has announced an update to its 50mm f/1.8 lens, the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM. Compared to its 50mm f/1.8 II predecessor, the new 50mm f/1.8 STM integrates a stepper motor for quieter autofocus operation, rounded 7-blade diaphragm, a minimum focus distance of 35cm and a metal mount. Best of all, these changes do not come with a significant price hike – the new 50mm f/1.8 STM is only $129, making it the most affordable Canon EF lens on the market. Due to the change in the mount, the 50mm f/1.8 STM gains 30 grams of weight. Performance-wise, it will be very similar to its predecessor.
Another big announcement from last week was Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 and 85mm f/1.8 lenses for the Sony FE mount. Compared to Zeiss Loxia lenses, the new Batis line offers autofocus capability and has a similar focus-by-wire motor as in native Sony/Zeiss lenses. The exterior look of the lenses appears to be similar to the high-end Zeiss Otus lenses, but there is one major difference – the focus scale on the lens is OLED, the first-ever lens to feature it. While I am personally not as excited about the 25mm f/2 lens due to the fact that Sony has already announced the Sony FE 28mm f/2 lens (which you can convert to either a 16mm or a 21mm lens with a conversion lens), the 85mm f/1.8 is something that I cannot wait to try out. Sony has had a major hole in its lens line with the lack of a fast 85mm prime, so the new AF-capable Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 will definitely satisfy many portrait photographers out there. With its $1,199 price tag and Zeiss quality, this will surely be a popular choice among Sony shooters (the 25mm f/2 will sell for $100 more). Let’s take a closer look at these lenses.
Having been out of town for a few weeks, I am just catching up with some major news, so I decided to post some announcements that I consider to be newsworthy. In this particular case, it is the announcement of the Pentax K-3 II, which I believe deserves a spotlight for the innovation it brings. Sporting in-body image stabilization, high-resolution sensor shift mode, star tracking, anti-aliasing filter simulator, built-in GPS and durable construction, the K-3 II brings some great innovative features which we have never seen on a DSLR before. Looking at this powerful APS-C camera, I am excited to see what Pentax will do with its upcoming full-frame camera. And I hope that both Nikon and Canon are taking notes from Pentax, because such innovation is much needed in the DSLR market to keep it healthy, now that the mirrorless market is steadily growing.