Equipment Reviews

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Jack Neubart Posted: Aug 24, 2012 Published: Jul 01, 2012 5 comments
You have lots of stuff ready for sale or that needs to be catalogued, such as jewelry, watches, pottery, tableware, glassware, figurines, coins, or maybe even an old camera. So how do you photograph these items quickly and affordably, while making them look their best?

For starters, we often need soft, largely even, and, for the most part, shadowless illumination to bring out all the salient features in the item. While a light tent or other diffusion enclosure can be used, getting lighting ratios just right can prove time-consuming. Using household lighting is often unsatisfactory if you want to make the item sparkle so that it beats out any competitive offerings online, and especially if you want the pictures to reflect an air of professionalism. Besides, color balance is often an issue, made even more difficult when available fluorescent lighting is used. And if you use flash, you’ll need more than one strobe, which becomes a costly and often time-consuming proposition.

Edited by George Schaub Posted: Aug 20, 2012 Published: Jul 01, 2012 14 comments
The Nikon 36MP D800 has a “full-format” sensor with a resolution normally associated with digital backs, making it a competitor with medium format cameras made by companies such as Hasselblad or Phase One. The camera will be available in two versions: a standard version, which was used for this test, and an additional version dubbed the D800E, which does not have a low-pass filter. The conventional thinking on use of a low-pass filter is that it avoids color moiré, although inclusion of the filter can create a certain amount of softening of image details. To avoid this soft look many medium format cameras or digital backs do not use it. In those cameras with the filter the effect is reduced via digital filtering in their Raw converter software. (We will do another resolution test on the D800E when it becomes available.)
Edited by George Schaub Posted: Aug 10, 2012 Published: Jul 01, 2012 15 comments
Like a standard compact camera, the Pentax Q system uses a very small sensor system, 1x2.33”. It offers an interchangeable lens system with the new Q mount. Pentax offers three lenses: a standard zoom (5-15mm f/2.8-4.5, equivalent to 27.5-83mm), a fisheye lens (3.2mm f/5.6, equivalent to 17.5mm), and a third, with which we did our tests, a fixed focal length of 8.5mm, equivalent to 47mm. Pentax brands this lens as the “Standard PRIME 8.5mm f/1.9 AL [IF].” Pentax also offers two additional “Toy” lenses with a fixed aperture size: the Toy Lens Wide 6.3mm f/7.1 and the Toy Lens Tele 18mm f/8.
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Steve Bedell Posted: Aug 09, 2012 Published: Jul 01, 2012 1 comments
The Sigma 85mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM lens (average price: $969 on various Internet sites) is designed for full-frame cameras; with an APS-C multiply by your usual factor. At about 25 oz, I’d describe the lens as substantial, but not hefty. One of the reasons for the weight is the build—11 elements in eight groups, including the use of SLD glass, Sigma speak for Special Low Dispersion. The big chunk of glass on the end requires a 77mm filter. As to handling, Sigma has gone from their black “crinkle” finish to a smooth black rubberized finish that feels great to the touch. It’s plastic, not metal, but based on my experience with previous Sigma lenses, I’ve found them to be built to professional standards and can take a lot of abuse.
Edited by George Schaub Posted: Jul 27, 2012 40 comments
The Sony HX200V is a compact bridge camera with an SLR-like design. It offers an extreme zoom lens that is able to cover wide angle shots with a focal length of 27 mm and tele photos with an extreme tele of 810mm (35 mm film equivalent). The camera offers an integrated image stabilizer (Sony’s “Steady Shot”) to allow shooting with this extreme zoom range. This stabilizer works fine, but can’t really help if you are using the digital zoom function, which allows a 60x zoom, an equivalent of 1620mm.
Edited by George Schaub Posted: Jul 20, 2012 Published: Jun 01, 2012 25 comments
The Panasonic FZ150 is a super-zoom bridge camera with a 12MP sensor and an integral 24x zoom lens. The design of the body is similar to classic SLR systems, but the camera has no interchangeable lens system. It offers a zoom lens that ranges from a wide-angle setting (25mm) to an extreme tele setting (600mm, 35mm film equivalent). The FZ150 utilizes Panasonic’s newest version of the O.I.S. (Optical Image Stabilizer), dubbed “Power O.I.S.” It works very well and allows users to shoot images with long shutter speed settings as slow as 1/20 sec when using the maximum tele setting of 600mm.
Edited by George Schaub Posted: Jul 11, 2012 5 comments
The D3200 is Nikon’s new entry level SLR with an outstanding nominal resolution of 24MP. The camera uses an APS-C sized CMOS sensor 23.2 x 15.4mm in size, Nikon’s DX format.

The camera offers a lot of help to beginners; just like the forerunner D3100, the D3200 offers a special “Guide” mode. When using this mode and starting the D3200, it will ask the user whether he or she wants to shoot, to review or to setup the camera menu. If the choice is to shoot the camera“asks” whether the user is an absolute beginner and needs “easy operation” or an advanced user who wants “advanced operation.” If an absolute beginner, the D3200 presents short descriptions of some typical photographic situations and sets up all parameters accroding to how the photographer responds.

Edited by George Schaub Posted: Jul 09, 2012 Published: Jun 01, 2012 0 comments
The Nikon V1 camera is designed and sized like a compact camera. It offers a new lens mount system for the new Nikon 1 lenses and offers two viewfinder systems—an EVF (electronic viewfinder) with very high resolution (1.44 million RGB dots), which delivers a very brilliant and crisp image. Alternatively, users can work via a large and bright LCD on the back, which also offers high resolution (921,000 RGB dots). The sensor will switch automatically between viewfinder systems when the photographer looks through the ocular. This differs from the camera’s sibling, the J1, which offers LCD viewing only.
Edited by George Schaub Posted: Jun 28, 2012 21 comments
The Panasonic GF5 is an extremely compact camera with interchangeable lenses and a large image sensor (Micro Four Thirds format). The sensor offers 12 MP resolution and is able to record Full HD videos. It also allows taking images with high ISO speed settings of 6400 (additional hi-mode up to ISO 12,800).
Edited by George Schaub Posted: Jun 22, 2012 Published: May 01, 2012 13 comments
The Sony A65 is a feature-reduced version of the company’s A77 model. It offers a nominal resolution of 24MP (just like the A77). The A65 uses Sony’s SLT system, which combines a semi-translucent mirror system and an electronic viewfinder. The semi-translucent mirror reflects a part of the light to the Phase Detection AF sensor, which is located in the penta-prism bulge on the top of the body and allows for very fast focusing. At the same time, the image sensor is able to generate a digital live preview for the LCD on the back or on the mini LCD screen of the ELV. Both monitor systems use high-resolution LCDs. The large monitor on the back offers 921,600 RGB dots; the AMOLED ELV offers 2.3 million dots for a brilliant and crisp image.
Edited by George Schaub Posted: Jun 13, 2012 Published: May 01, 2012 14 comments
The Fuji X10 offers a 4x zoom lens with manual zoom control. The zoom lens ring is also used as the On/Off switch. The photographer has to turn the zoom ring to unlock the lens and to start the camera, which we found to be a very handy feature. We also feel that manual zoom control allows for a more precise and fast adjustment of the focal length compared to the servo zooms of some other compact cameras.
Edited by George Schaub Posted: Jun 12, 2012 2 comments
The Nikon D800E contains a 36MP full-format FX sensor, a resolution normally associated with digital backs. This makes the D800E a competitor with medium format cameras made by Hasselblad or Phase One. The “E” version of this camera is contsructed without a low pass filter, used in many digital cameras to avoid color moiré but that can create a certain softening of image details. To avoid this soft look, many medium format cameras or digital backs do not utilize this filter. In cameras that use the filter, moiré effects are filtered in their raw converter software.
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Stan Trzoniec Posted: Jun 06, 2012 Published: May 01, 2012 2 comments
Out of all the telephoto focal lengths, the 400mm is my favorite, so I looked forward to Canon’s updated 400mm f/2.8L. At about $11,499 list price (slightly less on searched street prices) it’s for those who absolutely need a fast, fixed focal length lens in their still and/or video work, and that’s work that pays well.
Edited by George Schaub Posted: May 25, 2012 Published: Apr 01, 2012 29 comments
The Sony NEX-7 is a compact camera with an E-mount system and an extremely high resolution (24MP). The metal body is very robust and sports a stylish retro design, which offers new features like two additional setup dials to change image parameters. These setup dials, located on the camera back and accessed using the right-hand thumb, are integrated seamlessly into the body and nearly invisible when looking at the camera from the top.
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Stan Trzoniec Posted: May 16, 2012 Published: Apr 01, 2012 2 comments
There are two general classifications of lenses that define how you use them in the field—zooms and single focal length, the former being a variable focal length lens that has many convenient advantages, and the latter being a single focal length that, in the group we’re covering here, is what’s known as a “fast” lens. Fast doesn’t mean that it focuses quicker than its zoom cousins, though it might—it usually means that it offers a wide maximum aperture, anywhere from f/1.2 to f/2.8, and that aperture stays put, unlike some zooms where the aperture varies by going narrower as you zoom into longer focal lengths. And to help refine the group we’re covering here we’re also topping out the focal length at 50mm, which makes these lenses prime for street and low-light photography, candid and photojournalism work.

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