It is the first day of the new 2016 year and I would like to wish a very happy New Year to our dear readers and our amazing team of writers at PL! May 2016 be a very prosperous, healthy, joyful and successful year for you and your family. I hope you realize your dreams and discover new goals worth pursuing in the New Year!
After a huge backlash from its user base when Adobe released a very buggy Lightroom update featuring its new Import tool, the company officially apologized and promised not only to address the bugs, but also to bring back the old Import tool and all the features it previously had. It took a bit of time, but the update is finally out! After testing the new CC 2015.3 release, I am pleased to see much better performance, particularly when using a dual monitor setup (the previous release was extremely buggy in a dual monitor setup). In addition to fixing a slew of bugs, Adobe also provided a rather big list of newly supported cameras and lenses.
Please join us in giving a warm welcome to Rick Keller, who is joining our team of talented writers. If you have not yet seen Rick’s work, I highly recommend that you check out his phenomenal articles on Visualization and Film photography. So far he has published three parts to the series, but his very first article on the process of visualization, along with the article on hunting for the light will surely leave you inspired! Although I have only ventured into film photography once and have not had much time to dig in further, reading Rick’s articles makes me want to buy a medium format film camera and experiment with it, as I have so much to learn from him. Rick, along with our respected contributor Vaibhav Tripathi and our team members John Bosley and Laura Murray are my other inspirations for getting into film photography.
While the new Zeiss Otus 28mm f/1.4 seems like a wonderful chunk of glass for those who do not mind a 1.35 kg beast, Sigma has just released its new 20mm f/1.4 Art-series lens, which is a much wider lens, while being as fast as the Otus. In fact, Sigma claims this one to be another “world’s first” as far as the focal length and the aperture – the next fastest lens is the Nikkor 20mm f/1.8G. With its MSRP of $899, the Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art is only $100 more than Nikon’s excellent 20mm f/1.8G, so the big question is, is 2/3 of a stop worth the $100 premium Sigma is asking for? Well, the answer to that question is not so simple, because there is a lot more than just stops involved here. Sigma’s 20mm f/1.4 Art is completely different optically compared to the Nikon. First of all, we are dealing with a lens that has more superior optical glass inside, with 5 low-dispersion, two ultra low-dispersion and two aspherical lenses. One of those aspherical elements is particularly difficult to make, because it is a “double” aspherical lens with a large 59mm diameter. Essentially this element was the reason that Sigma was able to produce a 20mm f/1.4 – something no other manufacturer was able to achieve to date. So in a way, we can consider the Sigma 20mm f/1.4 to be in a different class of its own when compared to the Nikkor 20mm f/1.8G. However, there is one major pitfall – due to the large element on the front of the lens, it cannot take any regular screw-on filters!
Along with the new Surface Book, Microsoft also revealed a highly anticipated update to the Surface Pro line – the Surface Pro 4. Being a huge fan of the SP 3, I have been patiently waiting to see what Microsoft would bring in the SP 4. Although the Surface Book sounds like a dream come true for serious work, it is both heavier and larger than the Surface Pro 3 once you add up the keyboard shell (which is what hosts an additional battery, external connectors and an optional GPU). My Surface Pro 3 is always with me and it fits nicely in the front compartment of my Think Tank Airport Commuter backpack (the best camera backpack I have used to date), so I will have to evaluate the size differences between the two to decide which one would suit my needs the best. Thankfully, Microsoft kept the Surface Pro 4 nice and compact. In fact, compared to its predecessor, the SP 4 is both thinner and slightly lighter at 8.45mm and 1.73 pounds (high-end models), vs 9.14mm and 1.76 pounds on the SP 3.
Today is a big day at Microsoft, because the company revealed the Surface Book, Microsoft’s first ever laptop. With its 13.5 inch display packing 3,000 x 2,000 pixels (3:2 aspect ratio, which is great for photography) the screen is very impressive with 267 pixels per inch. And since this machine just like the Surface Pro and Surface 3 can run the full version of Windows 10, you can run any calibration software to get the color precision you need. The cool thing about the Surface Book is that you can use it both as a tablet and a laptop – something Apple MacBook Pro cannot compete with. That’s a neat feature, because some tasks, like online browsing do not require a keyboard, so the ability to disconnect the screen from the keyboard is amazing. The keyboard module is not just a keyboard – it is actually another shell that hosts another battery and an optional NVIDIA graphics card (GPU), which is something I did not expect to see. This means that the Surface Book will be perfectly usable not only for gaming, but also for many challenging tasks, including 3D modeling. GPU speed was the weakness of the Surface Pro line and a lot of people have been asking for a way to hook up an external GPU. Looks like Microsoft listened and delivered. There is, however, a caveat with the tablet vs full laptop mode: since the larger capacity battery sits in the keyboard shell, the battery life is greatly diminished, with the tablet only being able to run for up to 3 hours. Still, that’s pretty darn impressive for such a small powerhouse. And speaking of battery life, once you hook up the keyboard, you will be able to get up to 12 hours of battery life!
Today Canon announced the updated Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM lens, which promises remarkable performance for a 35mm prime, thanks to its updated optical formula and the new “Blue Spectrum Refractive Optics”, which is designed to further reduce chromatic aberration to new levels. With a total of 14 elements (2 of which are aspherical), 9 diaphragm blades for beautiful bokeh, fluorine coating and a dust / water-resistant construction, the Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM will surely be a popular choice among Canon enthusiasts and professionals. The only issue might be the added weight – at 760 grams, it is 180 grams heavier than its predecessor. It will retail for $1,799 in October of 2015.
As much as I have been trying to avoid traditional spinning HDDs (hard disk drives), replacing them with SSDs (solid state drives) when possible in my computer builds, HDDs still have no equivalents in terms of storage capacity and low cost per TB. The largest consumer-grade SSDs that we have seen so far are limited to 2 TB and those drives don’t come cheap – $800 a pop for a lower-end model. Well, it looks like this is about to change, because Samsung has just announced the successful development of the world’s largest hard drive, at a whopping 16 TB of storage capacity in a small 2.5 inch form factor. This 16 TB SSD drive, which is code-named “PM1633a” at the moment, uses Samsung’s new 256 Gb NAND flash as the basis for the storage, which basically stacks transistors vertically and allows squeezing much more storage into limited space. And to showcase this technology and its potential, Samsung mentioned a reference design for a server with 48 of these SSD drives installed for a total capacity of 768 TB. Now that’s mind-boggling, because we are talking about a true game-changer in storage technology. What does this mean for us photographers?
Nikon’s last announcement today is the new Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR, a super telephoto zoom lens designed for sports and wildlife enthusiasts. This lens is a very interesting announcement, because it is very different from all other super telephoto Nikon lenses we have seen in the past – it is Nikon’s first zoom lens with a fixed aperture that covers such a long range. Many enthusiasts have been asking for a 400mm f/5.6 lens and one wonders if this lens could address such needs. The 200-500mm f/5.6E VR supposedly can work with all three teleconverters and if it proves to be as versatile as it sounds, this might be something many wildlife photographers have been waiting for. The best part is the price – at $1,399.95 MSRP, it certainly falls into the “affordable” category when compared to other super telephoto lenses. Let’s take a look at this lens in more detail.
Update: We have already published our detailed Nikon 200-500mm VR Review. Please see the review for up-to-date information, image samples and comparisons!
Being a huge fan of the 24-70mm f/2.8G for many years now, I am well aware of its strengths and weaknesses. It is a superb lens for landscape and many other photography needs, but its rather weak wide open performance in the corners, heavy weight and lack of image stabilization have been leaving me wondering if there would be a replacement coming out soon from Nikon. Today, Nikon finally revealed such a replacement – the Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR is finally out and it is a monster of a lens! Looks like Nikon has completely changed the optical design of the new 24-70mm f/2.8E compared to its predecessor. Not only does it look a lot more beefed up, with its huge 88 x 155mm barrel and 1,070 grams of total weight (compare that to 83 x 133mm and 900 grams on the 24-70mm f/2.8G), but it also comes with a large 82mm filter thread diameter, which might present additional expenses for working pros for purchasing new filter holders and filters. Speaking of expenses, the updated 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR will leave a lot of people scratching their heads, since it is one of the most expensive zoom lenses made by Nikon, at $2,399.95 MSRP. Let’s take a closer look at this lens and see what Nikon has changed and why there is such a high price tag attached to this 24-70mm f/2.8E VR.