Gear

Video: Canal Bank Walk - Another Sony A6000 with XAVCs Test

Video: Canal Bank Walk - Another Sony A6000 with XAVCs Test

After my first rather unprofessional test of the A6000 with the new XAVC codec last week, I set out to create a better video on Friday. This time I used my good Nikon 24-120 lens and a tripod. Unfortunately I still had a few issues, but they were entirely my own fault. Still, I think it's a nice result, and I was lucky as some interesting things happened while I was filming.

Sony Releases New Firmware for the A6000. Adds XAVC-S support

Sony Releases New Firmware for the A6000. Adds XAVC-S support

There was a nice little surprise for Sony A6000 owners yesterday when Sony announced a new firmware for the camera. Version 2 added one big new feature, and that is the XAVC-S codec. Up till now, if you were recording video on the A6000 you were stuck with the rather awful AVC-HD codec and a low bit rate, and frankly the quality wasn't the best. You could record uncompressed HD from the HDMI port on the camera, and having tried that in the past, the difference is remarkable. But adding an external recorder defeats the purpose of having a small camera. With the new firmware, Sony is adding a much better codec and the results are pretty great.

Opinion: Sony Knocks it Out of the Park with the A7RII

Opinion: Sony Knocks it Out of the Park with the A7RII

I'm a big fan of Sony Products, and anyone who follows this blog knows that I've a soft spot for their cameras. I currently have an A6000 and I've previously shot with a Nex 7. I've also been eagerly following the developments of the A7 line with great interest. I've said it before, but Sony are one of the few companies really innovating in the imaging space. Not only are their sensors used by pretty much every other major company now, but they're constantly pushing the envelope in the camera market. From the RX1 which brought a superb full frame sensor to the compact camera form factor, to the A7 Line which made full frame really affordable and small. The A7 line certainly isn't perfect, but with the recently announced A7 R Mark II Sony are getting pretty close to it.

Happy Birthday! The Canon 5D Turns 10

Happy Birthday! The Canon 5D Turns 10

It’s hard to believe it, but a few days ago Canon announced the official 10th anniversary of its game changing 5D Camera. The Canon 5D was the first digital camera to make full frame affordable and to it to the masses. It was the first enthusiast camera to have a full frame sensor, and it brought with it a huge step up in terms of image quality when it was first released back in May 2005. I was one of those who bought one of the 5Ds in the first year of its release, and it was a game changer for me too, in terms of my photography.

iPhone 6 Plus Camera first Impressions

iPhone 6 Plus Camera first Impressions

I recently upgraded my phone to an iPhone 6 plus (from an iPhone 5) and I was curious to see what the camera was like, especially with Apple's recent publicity on the matter. I was out in the city today for a little while so I decided to try it out. I didn't spend too much time with it, so I don't really have any major opinions as to the quality yet, but instead here are some images that I shot, and some observations on using it.

Trying out a Friend’s Nikon D800

Trying out a Friend’s Nikon D800

Recently I had an opportunity to try out a friends Nikon D800 and I’ve been wanting to write about the experience ever since. I realise that the D800 is a few years old now and has been superseded by the D810, but as the camera is selling for quite a reasonable rate second hand now, I thought some people may still be interested. This isn’t going to be a review as such, but rather a personal take on what it was like to use it. 

Apple's Retina iMac and Photography

Apple's Retina iMac and Photography

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a piece about what the then rumoured 5K iMac would mean that for photographers, and how you would now be pixel peeping on such a display even just looking at images. It was sort of a tongue in cheek piece, but now that the Retina iMac is real, I thought it would be important to have another look at the implications of a 5k display for photographers. If you're considering one of these new iMacs (I know I am !) then there are a few things you may want to ponder first!

The Large Sensor Compact Market Gets Interesting

New Offerings from Panasonic and Canon at Photokina

This year's Photokina exhibit in Germany is shaping up to be very interesting, especially if you are into the high end compact camera market. With smart phones obliterating the low end of the compact camera market, manufacturers have been looking at the high end as an alternative way to keep the segment alive. So far the leaders in this space have been Sony with the RX100 line and Fuji with it's X30 (and previously X20, and X10). There have been other high end compacts of course, but the it was the RX100 in particular that generated the most interest with its large 1 inch sensor. Well, it now has some interesting competition.

Panasonic LX100

The first is Panasonic with its gorgeous looking new and cryptically named LX100. This is a new high end iteration of Panasonic's LX series of premium compacts. The design is reminiscent of the company's 10 year old, but still a classic LC1 four thirds camera (before it went to micro four thirds) The new camera has a 4:3 sized sensor with 16megapixels, although it uses Panasonic's multi aspect ratio sensor technology, so it's really only 12mp. It also has retro-styled physical controls, a very high quality EVF and a superbly specced zoom lens. The lens has a 35mm equivalent focal length of 24-75mm at an amazing F1.7 - F2.8. This is really impressive for a small camera. The real killer feature though can be found in the video specification. The diminutive panasonic shoots 4K Video. Yep, you read that right. And the quality seems to be pretty good too, although I can't find any details of the bit rate used when recording 4K.

A cinematographer Benjaminn Todd captured the city of Berlin in 4K with the new LUMIX LX100. 

I actually have a history with Panasonic cameras. In fact have three of them. My first was one of the early cameras in the LX line, the LX-2 which is still considered a classic. At the time it's claim to fame was a high quality lens, which it certainly had, and a larger than average sensor (again, at the time). It was a good little camera for it's day, and was highly regarded, although it doesn't really stand up to today's cameras.

Check out DP Review's in depth hands on preview for more details.

Canon G7 X

Canon has also come out with a large sensor high end compact camera, and it too is looking pretty impressive spec wise. It features a 20mp 1 inch sensor, whose specifications are eerily similar to the sensor in Sony's RX100 line.

Canon's compact offering is in a smaller body than Panasonic's (at least it looks that way from the photos) and offers a longer range zoom lens, and a tilting screen. The lens is a 24-100mm equivalent, at f/1.8-2.8. The camera has less physical controls than the panasonic and lacks an EVF but it does have a very useful built in ND filter. Canon have posted a nice little video showcasing the new camera's capabilities.

Time Lapse and Hyperlapse photographer Matthew Vandeputte goes to Queenstown, NZ to explore the creative potential of the PowerShot G7X - a new generation of Canon compact cameras.

Funnily enough, I have a history with Canon compact cameras too. My very first compact camera was a Canon Ixus. I bought it while on holidays in France one year. (A long time ago) and I still have some of the images I took with it. Again, not great by today's standards, but it was a lovely little camera for its day. I've always liked Canon's compacts thought. The newer ones have really nice colour rendition, so I'm curious to see this once it gets into the hands of real world photographers.

Once again, DP Review has a good article looking at the camera.

The Wildcard

The real wildcard of the recently announced cameras was from panasonic, and it wasn't technically a camera, it's a phone. Panasonic announced the Lumix DMC-CM1 smartphone with a 1 inch sensor and an f/2.8 Leica 28mm equivalent lens. Once again, it seems to be another use of the magical 1 inch 20mp sensor that everyone seems to be using. All this is crammed into a very slim package. It's android powered and has a 4.7 inch 1080p screen (impressive for a camera, and a phone)

It will be interesting to see how this fares in the real world. Spec wise it's impressive, but things like battery life and usability will play a big factor. Still, a smartphone with a 1 inch sensor !!!!

See this story on Tech Crunch for more details.


Please Help Support the Blog

I am a fine art Photographer and do not shoot commercial projects. I do my best to keep this site regularly updated with lots of tips, reviews, news and photography advice, all for free. If you like what you read here and want more, then sign up for our newsletter to get regular site updates and occasional special offers. You can also follow my photographic exploits on Facebook and Twitter

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Nikon Releases the D750, Some thoughts

Nikon's Latest Full Frame DSLR adds Wifi and Tiltable Screen

After many rumours predicting its existence, Nikon has officially released the D750. The camera, as expected sits between the D610 and the D810 in Nikon's lineup, but is aimed more towards the higher end than the lower end. As DpReview points out, this is Nikon's third full frame camera release this year. The camera features many of the features of the D810, but in a smaller (d610 sized) and Lighter body. It retains the D810's autofocus and video options but adds built in wifi and a tilt-able screen.

When I first heard the rumours about the D750 I was excited as it seemed like it could finally be a possible replacement for my much loved D700. So now that it's been released do I think it can fill the legendary D700's preverbal shoes? I think for the most part, yes. In typical fashion though, there seems to be a few odd omissions, that may or may not put you off. These are all small things, but for some people they could be an issue. There's lots to like though.

First of all, it adds the option to set the centre button of the control dial to zoom to 1:1 on playback, which for me is a huge timesaver that I've grown so used to. I'm still at a loss as to why Nikon uses such an arbitrary function to differentiate its "pro" cameras from its "consumer" models. The D610 for example doesn't have this, yet clearly it's just a software function.

One odd omission on the D750 seems to be the lack of an AF-ON button, which was present on the D700, and is also on the D810. For me this isn't a deal breaker, but for photographers who use the rear button focusing method, this could be a big issue. The AF-L button can be re-assigned for focus on, but it's odd that they choose to leave this feature off what they're calling a "pro" body. I thought that maybe it was a space issue, but then it's on the much smaller Nikon Df. Personally, I don't think I've ever pressed that button once on my D700.

The camera get's the D810's video specifications, which are all good on paper, but until it gets into the hands of experienced film makers, it will be hard to tell how good it is. It all comes down to the level of aliasing and moire that are inherent on the new (maybe) sensor. As usual though, Nikon's video options, while improved over previous generations, are still crippled by a low bit rate. At least you can record uncompressed 4:2:2 out of the HDMI, but many people would prefer a higher quality in-camera codec and bit rate. Compared to Sony's recently released A7S for video, well, there's just no comparison. Bet then the is more than just a video camera.

Body wise, I'm not a huge fan of the D7000 style control layout that the D600 series and now the D750 is using. According to DPReview the body is made of a magnesium alloy and is much stronger feeling and lighter than the D610 so that's a good step. To me, the D700's control layout was the pinnacle of ergonomic design, and it's a real shame that Nikon has moved away from that. Even the high end D810 doesn't have as nice a control layout as the D700/D300. Of course, I'm splitting hairs here and at the end of the day, you'll get used to a new control layout quickly enough.

The flip up screen is a real boon, especially if you are using the camera for video, and even if you just want to take low down shots without having to contort yourself into odd angles to see the viewfinder. The wifi is another nice feature to have, especially if you want to post an image to a social network or sharing site while you're on the road, or even send a quick proof to a client when all you have is your iPhone (or Android, although apparently if you're a windows phone user you're out of Luck.) The Dual SD card slots is another handy feature to have.

So would I upgrade? I'm tempted, I have to say. While I love mirrorless, I do like the look that full frame gives you. (And yes, there is a difference despite what some would try to have you believe). I also love a good optical view finder. I'm torn however, between sticking with a DSLR as my main camera or going all in and switching to the Sony A7 series. I was closer to a decision until my Nex-7 died recently, which makes me question Sony's longevity.

Overall the D750 is a good solid release, but part of me can't help but feel that Nikon has been playing lego with its camera parts lately. It's like it lays all its components out on a table and then picks ones from each line to make a new model. I know that's cynical comment to make, and certainly, they aren't the only ones that can be accused of that. At least they're coming out with new models unlike some other manufacturers. At the end of the day, as with all cameras, you can't judge it by just the specs. You need to get a feel for it, see it and use it in real life. The D750 certainly has the specs, so the rest will have to wait until the camera is out in the real world.


Help Support This Site

I am a fine art Photographer and do not shoot commercial projects. I do my best to keep this site regularly updated with lots of tips, reviews, news and photography advice, all for free. If you like what you read here and want more, then sign up for our newsletter to get regular site updates and occasional special offers. You can also follow my photographic exploits on Facebook and Twitter

If you're a Lightroom user check out my original Lightroom Presets


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2 Quick Tips That May Help You Get Sharper Images on the Fuji X-E1

Over the months of shooting with my little Fuji I’ve discovered two things that can really help you get sharper pictures. While Fuji’s x-trans sensor and the excellent x-series of lenses generally produce sharp images, there are times when there are circumstances that may make for soft images, that aren’t necessarily bad technique on the part of the photographer. These tips may work for other cameras too, although the first one is specific to Fuji’s cameras.

Change the focus point size

I’ve found that occasionally when I take a shot, the focus can be ever so slightly out. At first I thought that I was either doing something wrong or I was going mad. However, putting the focus point over a clearly defined area of an image and focussing, would often result in an image that was slightly soft. At first I thought that this was just the way the camera rendered, until I was looking back at some photos from my older X-Pro1 and realised that they didn’t have this softness, so I figured something was wrong. I put the camera on a tripod and focussed on an easy to define point, then switched to manual focus and zoomed in on the LCD. Sure enough, it was slightly out and could be fixed by manually tweaking the focus.

There’s there’s no micro adjustments available in the camera that I’m aware of, (and also, contrast detect auto focus is generally devoid of alignment errors) I’m not talking a huge amount either, it’s only very slight, but it can result in a slightly soft image. There is a very simple solution however. All I did was shrink the focus point size and hey presto, the focus is now properly aligned.

If you’re unsure how to do this, the process is really simple. Just press the AF button on the bottom left of the rear of the camera and turn the control wheel on the back near the top right. This will enlarge and shrink the size of the focus point. In my experience, a smaller point works best. Here’s a short little video showing you how to do it. (Apologies for the audio quality)

The other thing this is useful for is for shooting in low light. If you’re having trouble locking focus, increasing the sample size seems to help a great deal.

I don’t know if this is just my specific camera or if this affects all models. I don’t think it’s necessarily a fault, but more of a function of the way it works. The newer Fuji’s have phase detection points on the sensor, so they may not have any similar focus alignment idiosyncrasies. Still, if you think your images are soft, you might want to try this trick.

Reducing Vibration

The other factor that can effect image sharpness has to do with the small size of the body, and can be a potential issue on any small camera . I noticed that in some cases, when shooting hand held, my photos would exhibit camera shake, even when my selected settings should avoid it. This was occurring even when the shutter speed was high, certainly high enough to avoid camera shake, but I was still occasionally getting slight motion blur on the images. I put this down to the fact that the body on the X-E1 is incredibly light. I find that for me it can feel unbalanced, especially with larger lenses on. To be fair, this isn’t just a fuji problem, it’s a potential issue with any mirrorless or small camera, especially the lighter ones.

I think because the body is so light and the lens unbalances the camera away from a natural centre of gravity, that this causes minor vibration when the shutter fires. I could of course be completely wrong, which I’m sure people will let me know once I post this (that and how this is entirely my own fault.) Luckily the solution was really easy. I was planning on getting a third party grip or case to add weight, but I found that if I left the quick release plate from my (manfrotto) tripod on the bottom of the camera this little bit of extra weight was enough to help with the balance and stop the vibration. Now, I’m no longer getting motion blur on images taken at a reasonable shutter speed.

I hope these little tips have been useful. The Fuji X-E1 s a great camera, and so I hope it is understood that I’m only posting these tips to help anyone who may be having similar issues, and they’re not intended as a criticism.

Incidentally, speaking of the X-E1, the camera is selling amazingly cheaply on the second hand market right now. I found one at a local camera store for €499, with the kit lens. If you’re looking for a good inexpensive way to dip your toe into Fuji’s X-System, keep an eye out for bargins.