The announcement of the new 24mm f/1.4 Art lens by Sigma comes as no surprise. It is a very obvious, and a very delightful move by the lens manufacturer, and is certainly a fitting addition to the renewed lens lineup. Featuring a wide-angle focal length of 24mm and a very wide aperture of f/1.4, this lens sits comfortably next to such highly-regarded siblings as the 35mm f/1.4 and 50mm f/1.4 Art lenses. It will also directly compete against such brand lenses as the Nikkor 24mm f/1.4G and the Canon 24mm f/1.4L II, both of which are renowned for their optical performance as well as build quality. Quite the competition, then, but if previous Sigma Art lenses are anything to go by, the new tool should be remarkable.
It has only been 8 months since Nikon announced the D810 and today the company announced a very specialized camera for astrophotographers, the Nikon D810A. In essence, the D810A is pretty much identical to the existing D810 – the camera has exactly the same body build, ergonomics, sensor, etc. What has changed is the filter stack in front of the sensor, which contains a modified infrared filter that is more sensitive to super low light emitted by the stars and nebulas (specifically, the hydrogen alpha wavelength). In addition, Nikon implemented additional shutter speeds (4, 5, 8, 10, 15, 20, 30, 60, 120, 180, 240, 300, 600 and 900 seconds) to give more flexibility for astrophotography needs. While the announcement is certainly big for astrophotographers, because it is world’s first full-frame astrophotography DSLR camera, I do have a few concerns about this particular release. Having done a bit of research in astrophotography last year (my primary interest was in deep space object photography using specialized mounts and CCD sensors), I learned a little bit about the tools and what’s needed.
Adobe has been enjoying their place in the software industry for a very long time now. It’s a monopoly, isn’t it? Despite the effort made by Corel, DxO, PhaseOne and others, the benchmark is still Photoshop and Lightroom (even if the latter does not actually lead in every area). In fact, Photoshop has actually become a synonym to the word “post-process” or “edit”. “To photoshop something”, how many times have you heard someone say it? Exactly. And all of this is well deserved, because there simply isn’t any better alternatives. But for us, the users, monopoly is not such a good thing. Lack of proper competition puts the developer in a rather lazy state. Fortunately, an alternative might be in the works, called Affinity Photo (currently in Beta stage). Unfortunately, it is only available for Mac at this time.
Do you remember how it used to be with brand and third-party lens manufacturers? Brand lenses were always the high-performers, in all senses of the word. Well built, reliable and great from an optical standpoint. Third-party lenses lacked somewhat in those areas (unless you count such legendary manufacturers as Zeiss), but made up for it with very low price and niche lenses you could not find anywhere else. In recent years, however, the situation has been changing and quite drastically. Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 VC came out. Sigma 85mm f/1.4 HSM did, too. And the 35mm f/1.4 HSM. And the 18-35mm f/1.8 HSM zoom for APS-C cameras. Need I go on? All of these lenses proved to be well built and very good optically. There is no exaggeration in saying they gave some brand lenses a good beating. So if third-party lenses started doing the “brand” thing, how should Canon, Nikon and the like answer? Well, witness this – Canon has just announced a new lens. It is an ultra wide-angle zoom with focal length range of 11-24mm and maximum aperture of f/4 throughout the range. It is designed for full-frame DSLR cameras and there is nothing else quite like it on the market.
It has been exactly three years since Nikon debuted its high resolution 36.3 MP D800 and D800E cameras in February of 2012. At the time of announcement, Nikon’s highest resolution camera was the super expensive D3X with a 24.5 MP sensor, while the similar class D700 only had a 12.1 MP sensor. So for many, going from either 12.1 MP or 24.5 MP to 36.3 MP on full frame represented a huge jump in resolution. The cameras were truly groundbreaking, thanks to their superb performance, low noise levels and stunning dynamic range. Although Nikon faced a number of issues with quality control in the beginning, particularly when it came to calibrating the autofocus system for the new high resolution cameras, the Nikon D800 / D800E took the market by storm and quickly became Nikon’s best selling professional cameras. For three long years Canon failed to offer a true high resolution competitor, while Nikon already went through another iteration of the 36 MP line with the Nikon D810 camera. This angered many Canon shooters who wanted to get a high resolution camera that offered similar performance benefits and a much wider dynamic range than what Canon had on its existing cameras. The wait is now over, because Canon has just announced record breaking super high resolution 50.6 MP Canon EOS 5DS and EOS 5DS R full-frame DSLR cameras. Canon decided not to just bring out a competitor, but hit Nikon hard with something better in terms of resolution.
The introduction of the original Olympus OM-D E-M5 turned out to be a very successful move for the Japanese manufacturer. For the first time, it wasn’t just the compact dimensions or style that could lure potential customers towards m4/3 format mirrorless cameras (even though both aspects were taken care of by the slightly older PEN camera lineup), but some very impressive functionality along with all of that. Great EVF, speed (both AF and regular operation), great sensor (given its size), tons of customizable controls and impressively rugged build with dust and weather sealing turned a fashion object into a serious tool to tempt even DSLR owners. And it was still quite handsome with an obvious nod to those compact Olympus OM cameras of old. Why wouldn’t you? The OM-D E-M5 was a success. I am pretty certain the successor – version two – will be as well. At closer inspection you will notice the OM-D E-M5 II holds the same strengths at heart, but with everything slightly improved.
I’d be hard-pressed to call Samsung an inconspicuous company. After all, whenever you talk about electronics of any sort, there is a good chance Korean giant is leading that market or has the potential to. And yet when it comes to interchangeable lens cameras Samsung is very easy to overlook. Pay attention, though, and there is a lot to be impressed with – the recent NX1 looks genuinely capable on paper (with some specifications that are simply unheard of in its class) and puts a lot of well-received, high-end cameras to shame. It is also the reason why I am not surprised by their most recent impressive announcement, the new NX500 mirrorless camera. On paper, this is yet another strong move from a manufacturer that is not really known for its digital cameras, of all things. Yet.
Even though the new and upcoming full-frame Pentax DSLR camera will support existing brand lenses for APS-C sensor cameras, Ricoh realizes full and well that having a 35mm camera is only part of the package. Lenses are simply crucial to make such a system make any sense at all. That is why Ricoh-Pentax has announced two new lenses designed to cover the image circle of a full-frame sensor, the HD Pentax-D FA * 70-200mm f/2.8ED DC AW and HD Pentax-D FA 150-450mm f/4.5-5.6ED DC AW. It’s quite the mouthful, isn’t it? But I am focusing on the wrong things as both lenses, along with the upcoming full-frame camera, mark a new chapter in the history of the famous brand. Let’s take a closer look, then.
The ever-raging Canon vs Nikon debate might have you believing users of those particular systems are the most loyal to their brands. From what I’ve seen, though, neither Canon nor Nikon shooters have anything on those who shoot Pentax and swear by it. It’s a very niche system, that. No other DSLR manufacturer has such an array of competitive products priced so aggressively, that are also so compact and, when it comes to high-end models, so brilliantly rugged. No other DSLR manufacturer has such a great lineup of tiny, high quality autofocus prime lenses. And no other DSLR manufacturer has had so much trouble trying to find its identity. For a while now, Pentax has been experimenting with the narrowest of niches, launching boldly styled cameras, or boldly tiny interchangeable lens cameras with even smaller sensors. And yet those loyal to the brand always stuck by it. How happy they must be now that those who always ridiculed the brand will have their most valuable argument brushed away – “Pentax has no FF camera”. It’s true, there is no full-frame Pentax camera. But there will be, and rather soon. And for those who would rather avoid the pointless which-system-is-better debates, it means a new alternative to the best DSLR cameras on the market is soon to present itself.
Back in September last year, Tamron announced the development of a rather interesting wide-angle lens. Not only does it feature a very useful focal length range for landscapes, architecture and documentary style photography, but also allows a fairly wide aperture of f/2.8 and image stabilization. The lens has now been officially released in three mounts – Nikon, Canon and Sony (Vibration Correction is omitted for Sony variant). At a fairly reasonable price of $1200, it ever so slightly undercuts the Nikkor 16-35mm f/4 VR lens (which also happens to be slower), significantly undercuts Canon’s 16-35mm f/2.8L II lens and matches the cost of the 16-35mm f/4L IS.