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.
In this and a continuing series of articles in the coming months we’ll bring you the news and innovations from the recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES) held earlier this year in Las Vegas. While the show floor was dominated by “smart” this and that, from phones to TVs and tablets, we’ll concentrate on those items of most interest to photographers. This report is on the new and recently introduced D-SLRs and interchangeable lens mirrorless cameras.
The Samsung NX200 is a Compact System Camera (CSC) with an interchangeable lens system. It is based on an APS-C-sized sensor and Samsung’s NX-mount system, which currently comprises nine Samsung lenses. The range of lenses will be expanded this year, with the latest being the Samsung 85mm f/1.4 ED SSA, which is a fast portrait lens that supports Samsung’s i-Function technology. The lens ring—which is normally used for manual focusing—can be used for i-Function settings, a very handy feature that can be programmed by the photographer to change various settings right from the lens.
The compact Olympus E-PL3 has a retro body design and is available in different colors. The camera has a large swivel LCD on the back which allows the user to flip the monitor up and down. This is handy but is not as flexible as a swivel monitor that allows side-to-side movement. The LCD screen is a standard TFT screen instead of the OLED system used by the Olympus E-P3.
The X-S1 is Fujifilm’s newest bridge camera based on the same large EXR sensor (2/3 in) used in the company’s X-10 camera. The camera offers an extreme zoom lens (26x) for a (35mm equivalent) range of 24mm-624mm. An optical image stabilizer aids in preventing motion blur when using the extreme tele setting or shooting under low light conditions.
The new Canon G1 X quite an extraordinary camera. It has thecompact body of a high-end point and shoot camera with a large CMOS 18.7x14mm sensor delivering 14 MP. This sensor is larger than Micro Four Third sensors (17.3x13 mm) in Panasonic or Olympus CSC cameras.
The Aurora Orion light kit arrived on my doorstep at the busiest time of the year for me. At the end of the summer I take hundreds of high school seniors and thousands of “one shot” photos of the underclass students at high schools. So while it has taken me a while to get around to writing the report, I have used these lights to take thousands of pictures, and I was really glad to have a light kit that I could just pick up and walk out the door with and have all I needed in one really nice travel bag.
The new super wide angle Distagon T* f/2.8 15mm lens for Canon and Nikon mounts is neither lightweight nor inexpensive (1.6 lb for Nikon, 1.8 lb for Canon mount, $2950) but what you get from this manual focus lens is exceptional image quality and facility that is perhaps unmatched by any other lens in its focal length class. With a 95mm filter thread and integral and fully compatible lens shade, the lens offers an extraordinary 110-degree angle of view that is pleasure to work with on a wide variety of subjects. The fast f/2.8 aperture is matched on the narrow end by a minimum aperture of f/22, which at 15mm means there’s potential for extraordinary depth of field effects using the 10-inch closest focusing range. While decidedly not a portrait lens, the 15mm is ideal for landscape, street photography and creative advertising work, as well as architectural and urban photography, as I discovered in mybrief time working with it.
“Lighting is really common sense and personal observation. This is applied to a few rules of photography which cannot be broken and to others which I tend to bend a little.”—Paul Beeson
A monolight or monobloc to our European friends is a self-contained studio flash that is typically, but not always, powered by an AC power source and allows for different light modification devices, including reflectors, light banks, or umbrellas. The key phrase in that last sentence is self-contained. To my way of thinking the biggest advantage monolights possess is just that—if you’re shooting on location or for that matter anywhere and the power pack in a pack and head system stops working, so do you. If you have a couple of monolights and one of them fails, you can still shoot.
The diminutive Nikon 1 series of cameras, including the J1 reviewed here and the coming V1, introduces the new CX-format CMOS sensor to the interchangeable lens, mirrorless camera field, which we dub Compact System Cameras. The sensor is smaller than APS-C and Micro Four Thirds sensors, coming in at a 2.7x multiplication factor using standard 35mm focal length designations. The 10.1-megapixel sensor has a native speed of ISO 100, with speeds up to 3200, and 6400 with a 1 EV push.
The new Canon PIXMA PRO-1 is a 13x19” pigment-ink printer that makes fine quality prints in a price range that could be considered quite fair for what you get ($999). Aimed at avid photographers and enthusiast printmakers, as well as pros choosing to do their own mid-size prints, the PIXMA PRO-1 fills a void left by HP’s abandonment of the category and directly challenges Epson. The printer offers ease of use, solid performance, 12 ink cartridges, and all in all seems to improve upon 13” printers of the past. Our tests were aimed at determining if the PIXMA PRO-1 could be a solid contender in its class and if there were upgrades or new workflow techniques that would differentiate it from the competition.
The new Canon 5D Mark III has a large and handy grip on the right side. The body is a lot smaller than the new EOS-1D X because the 5D Mark III doesn’t use a “motor winder like” bottom for the rechargeable battery and therefore doesn’t offer a second shutter release button and setup dial, convenient for vertical shots. An additional battery grip is offered as an option, however.
The Canon EOS-1D X is a professional camera system that could be considered ideal for sports photography and photojournalism. It offers extremely high speed and is fully customizable to fit the needs of every photographer. It has a massive and robust body, with many functional elements available in a type of “dual version control” that allows for comfortable shooting in landscape or portrait orientation. Small joysticks and a lot of setup dials will help users navigate through the very comprehensive menus and to set up all parameters in a fast and intuitive manner.
Increasingly, manufacturers are coming out with cameras and speedlights that support wireless TTL flash operation. What this means for you is a simplified approach to using dedicated flash units off camera—especially multiple speedlights, alone or mixed with other light sources. With wireless TTL you’re free to move the off-camera flash a few inches or a few feet here or there, not to mention modifying the light in any desired fashion, and all without having to recalculate exposures, use a flash meter, and link everything together with wires. The camera’s metering system does the math for you. Beyond that, wireless TTL assures you that all speedlights on and off camera will fire in sync.
The Einstein monobloc strobe is listed at 640 watt seconds (ws) of power, has a bright 250-watt modeling light that can vary proportionally with the flash output, a 12 flash per second (fps) claimed capability, and a constant 5600˚K color temperature, no matter what the power level. Also, a claimed nine f/stop range, from 2.5 to 640 ws, and Paul C. Buff’s proprietary IGBT technology fill out the bill. It’s solidly built, using a Lexan housing instead of metal. It’s not very big, but is bigger and about a pound heavier than the company’s AlienBees units that many photographers, including myself, use.