Debunking The Mirrorless Hype

The Mirrorless Weight Advantage?

It is hard to visit any photography website without noticing extensive fanfare being paid to the mirrorless camera niche. Some tout it as the savior of the mid-to-high end camera market. Others have dubbed it the “DSLR killer.” A number of prominent photographers have created videos and articles articulating how mirrorless innovations caused them to shed pounds from their bag and reintroduce them to the joy of photography. And why shouldn’t they? The market for traditional point-and-shoot cameras is in a free fall as smartphones increase in usage, quality, and capabilities. Traditional DSLR sales continue to fall as well. The industry certainly needs something to cheer about. And of course, photography websites need something to write about.

[Read more…]

3D Robotics X8+ Drone Review

3DR X8+ Drone

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.

[Read more…]

Tokina 16-28mm f/2.8 Review

Tokina 16-28mm f/2.8 Pro FX

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.

[Read more…]

Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Review

Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 VC

This is an in-depth review of the Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD, world’s first f/2.8 image stabilized ultra-wide angle zoom lens for full frame cameras, the development of which was announced in September of 2014, with the lens officially released in January of 2015. It is a very unique lens not just because of its very useful focal length range with a constant aperture of f/2.8 throughout the zoom range, but because it features image stabilization – something you practically never find on ultra-wide angle lenses. For many years now, I have been shooting with the Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G lens, which is a monster of a lens when it comes to size, weight and performance – it truly is a legendary lens optically. But with its $2K price it is far from being an affordable choice, so Tamron decided to challenge the 14-24mm with the 15-30mm f/2.8 VC in a number of ways: longer focal length coverage extending to 30mm, built-in image stabilization and a more affordable price point of $1,200.

[Read more…]

Polsen ULW-16 Wireless Microphone System Review

1007208

If you’re an enthusiastic still photographer who’s started to dabble with video a bit, you’ve likely run into issues with fine visual footage, but substandard audio. Crappy audio can ruin the viewer’s experience every bit as quick as lousy visuals. It soon becomes apparent that your camera’s built-in microphone records not just your subject, but also the camera’s noises (focus motors, VR, heavy-breathing operator) as well as the nearby highway, airport, dragstrip, playground or pig farm. The first step taken usually involves buying a hot shoe-mounted directional mike, AKA shotgun mike. This is great for emphasizing the sound coming from the direction the camera is pointed, but it gets not just the subject speaking or softly purring, but also the jackhammers in the construction site across the street behind your subject. It is a poor choice if you want to record dialogue. For recording talking subjects, the next step is to add a lavalier microphone system. A lavalier microphone, AKA lav, AKA lapel mic, is a tiny microphone that clips to the user’s lapel, collar, or ZZ Top beard. It is very sensitive to sound coming from very close to the microphone and not to sounds further away. Therefore it is ideal for recording the wearer’s words without too much interference from background noise.

[Read more…]

Nikon 400mm f/2.8E FL ED VR Review

Nikkor 400mm f/2.8E VR

During the past few years, Nikon has been slowly replacing its high-end super telephoto lenses with newer technology using lightweight fluorite lens elements, shredding off a lot of weight and making additional improvements to lens designs, making the already strong lenses even better. After the 800mm f/5.6E VR monster, it was time for Nikon to update its legendary 400mm f/2.8G VR with the newer version, so that’s how the Nikkor 400mm f/2.8E FL VR came to life. Although Nikon is planning to update every super telephoto lens in its line-up with lighter lenses featuring fluorite elements (which includes the 200mm f/2, 300mm f/2.8, 500mm f/4 and 600mm f/4 lenses), Nikon decided to start with the 400mm f/2.8, because it is one of the lenses that would get the most benefit from the fluorite lens design. Weighing in at a whopping 4.6 kg, the previous generation 400mm f/2.8G VR was a monster of a lens to handle and impractical to hand-hold (it was quite a bit front-heavy). Although it is quite a versatile lens and works remarkably well with all three Nikon teleconverters, its weight and size were its main disadvantages, making a lot of photographers opt for other super telephoto Nikkor lenses like the 500mm f/4 instead. The newly designed 400mm f/2.8E FL VR is a whole different lens in comparison – weighing 3.8 kg, the lens is now similar in weight as the 500mm f/4G VR, which is a great engineering achievement! Let’s take a closer look at this lens.

[Read more…]

Really Right Stuff TQC-14 Tripod Review

RRS TQC-14

I used to have a wooden tripod. It was kind of cool, actually – other photographers were always fascinated by its design, and it was pretty sturdy. Unfortunately, despite weighing 4.2 pounds, it had a maximum height of just three feet. Plus, it was bulky. I brought this tripod along on a hiking trip, thinking that these problems wouldn’t be too bad. I was wrong. It was too big to sit well on my backpack, and its weight started to bother me on long hikes. I researched my other options, and carbon fiber tripods began to come up in my searches. I wanted the best possible weight-to-stability ratio, so I knew that I needed to save some money.

Through the course of my research, the tripod brand Really Right Stuff (RRS) began to emerge as the universally-acclaimed “best” manufacturer. I already had the BH-40 ballhead, which I was quite happy with, so I began to save up. I ultimately ordered the Really Right Stuff TQC-14, a top-of-the line travel tripod.

[Read more…]

Nikon 300mm f/4E PF ED VR Review

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 300mm f4E PF ED VR

It has been 15 years since Nikon produced the last iteration of its budget 300mm lens, so the new Nikkor 300mm f/4E PF ED VR was something many enthusiasts and professionals have been patiently waiting for. Although the previous generation Nikkor 300mm f/4D AF-S is an excellent lens optically, it lacks image stabilization, new generation coating and other new technologies that Nikon has been integrating into modern lenses. I have personally been a huge fan of the 300mm f/4D AF-S lens and have owned it for many years, loving the lens for its superb optical performance, fast autofocus, light weight and compact size, making it my ultimate travel lens for wildlife photography – a perfect companion for hand-held shooting. Because it was so good with the 1.4x teleconverter, I practically always kept the teleconverter attached to the lens, making it a very nice 420mm f/5.6 combination. When Nikon finally announced the new 300mm f/4E VR lens, I got very excited, because Nikon completely redesigned the lens. In fact, with close to a 50% reduction in weight and a 30% reduction in physical size, we are not dealing with another redesign or update – this is a completely different lens.

Please note that this is an active and ongoing review of the lens. I am planning to expand coverage and update the review with a lot more information within the next few weeks.

[Read more…]

Think Tank Retrospective 7 Review

Think Tank Retrospective 7_5

My experience with shoulder bags has not exactly been great up to this point. As much as I liked the idea of carrying equipment in a shoulder bag, that convenience of quick access, I’ve not found one that would serve the part flawlessly before. There was always something not quite right – it’s either too square or too wide, the strap – too narrow or likes to play heart-stopping jokes on you.

You probably saw the next bit coming. You may even think it to be a cliché of sorts. But, yes, I found the shoulder bag I was looking for. I absolutely adore the Seven. Whenever I use it, I am constantly fascinated by all the things it does just right. Almost as if people who actually do photography came up with the design! So I will go on and say the following: if you need a medium-sized shoulder bag for daily use, just go and buy this. Need a smaller one? Get the Retrospective 5. Need a larger one? Get the Ten or Twenty. It’s great, and I can’t see someone not liking it for all the things it does well.

[Read more…]

Impact Muslin Background and Background Support System Review

Background Support System - 12' Wide

This review is for three Impact Muslin Backgrounds and an Impact Background Support System. I have always loved backdrops and how they can convert any space into a studio. By setting up a studio backdrop, you can create a whole new feel for a shoot and they are versatile and easy to use. I chose to set these up in my living room and home office space, but if you are tight for space in your home, a garage makes a perfect studio as well.

[Read more…]