Equipment Reviews

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Edited by George Schaub Posted: Jan 18, 2013 Published: Dec 01, 2012 19 comments
The Sony (alpha) A57 is based on Sony’s SLT viewfinder system that uses a fixed and semi-translucent mirror. This enables viewing via a live preview on the LCD screen on the back or through the electronic viewfinder. In addition, the mirror reflects the image onto an AF sensor based on the classic phase detection system used by “normal” SLR cameras. The AF sensor works continuously because there is no moving mirror system to cover the sensor when the picture is taken. This aids in continuous shooting speed and when recording videos.
Edited by George Schaub Posted: Jan 17, 2013 Published: Dec 01, 2012 21 comments
The Olympus OM-D is a retro-style camera that harkens back to the OM System of the 1970s and 1980s. In the current Olympus lineup, this Micro Four Thirds system camera sits somewhere between the PEN cameras and the E-System cameras. Like the PEN, it offers a very compact design and many helpful features for beginners, yet the design is oriented toward a classic SLR.
Steve Bedell Posted: Jan 14, 2013 Published: Dec 01, 2012 0 comments
We all know what softboxes look like. They’re big, small, square, rectangular, sometimes round or shaped like octagons—we’ve seen them all. But there is nothing quite like the 16x60 Light Bender from Larson. It is long (48”), narrow (12”), and looks like a strip light that someone grabbed by the ends and yanked toward the middle. In this test I’ll take a look at just what this oddly-shaped light can do and why a photographer may consider adding it to his or her arsenal of light modifiers.

The Light Bender was designed by well-known photographer Larry Peters from Ohio and is produced and sold by Larson Enterprises.

After unpacking, I mounted the box to the backplate, a really snug fit, and then added the speed ring that allows me to mount and swivel the box on my light. After assembly, I mounted it on my Paul C. Buff Einstein unit. The light mounts dead center and the “wings” fly out to the side. There is no interior baffle in the design so the light is much stronger in the center and drops off rather dramatically as you move toward the edges.

Joe Farace Posted: Jan 11, 2013 Published: Dec 01, 2012 4 comments
Just when you thought the megapixel wars were over—or at least subsided—along comes the Nikon D800 with a whopping 36.3-megapixel (7360x4912) full-frame CMOS sensor. It’s wrapped up in a pro-quality magnesium alloy body that’s sealed and gasketed for dirt and moisture resistance. That rugged body weighs almost 2 lbs and when attached to the 24-120mm f/4G ED-IF AF-S VR II Nikkor lens (23.6 oz) that I tested, the package tips the scales at 3.46 lbs. It’s big.
Edited by George Schaub Posted: Jan 09, 2013 Published: Dec 01, 2012 3 comments
The Canon EOS Rebel T4i offers the same sensor resolution of 18MP as its forerunner EOS T3i, but shows a lot of improvements in handling and functionality due to a new image sensor and a new image processor. The camera is Canon’s first D-SLR with a touchscreen. This screen is very large (3”) and has a very high resolution of 1,040,000 RGB dots. It is a swivel monitor that can be flipped up- and downward and tilted to the front (for self-portraits). Even though it is a touchscreen, the whole handling of the camera (menu structure, parameter setup) is still oriented on Canon’s SLR handling scenario. In contrast to many compact cameras with touchscreen-oriented operation, the touchscreen isn’t mandatory, but it’s still helpful.
Edited by George Schaub Posted: Nov 07, 2012 Published: Oct 01, 2012 21 comments
The Canon SX40 HS is a compact bridge camera with an extreme zoom lens. It offers focal length settings between 24mm and 840mm (35mm film camera equivalent), which allows users to shoot nice wide-angle shots to extreme telephoto images. Adjusting the zoom lens between 24mm and 300mm is easy and allows a nearly continuous setup of the desired field of view. However, zooming between 500mm and 840mm requires more work.
Steve Bedell Posted: Oct 18, 2012 Published: Sep 01, 2012 3 comments
Recently I had an opportunity to test Profoto’s D1 monolight and their HR Softbox 1.5x3. To check out the combo the company sent along a Profoto D1 Air Kit that includes two D1 monolights, stands, umbrellas, and a case. I did not have the Air Remote to control the units from camera position.
Edited by George Schaub Posted: Oct 09, 2012 Published: Sep 01, 2012 21 comments
The new Fujifilm X-Pro1 has a stylish, retro design with many interesting features. It is Fujifilm’s first compact system camera with Fujifilm’s new lens mount system. Fujifilm currently offers three lenses for the “X mount”: the XF18mm f/2 R, the XF35mm f/1.4 R, and the XF60mm f/2.4 R Macro. We used the 35mm lens for all our test images and the 60mm lens for the portrait test shot.
Jack Neubart Posted: Sep 20, 2012 Published: Aug 01, 2012 4 comments
Slik introduced the first pistol grip over 25 years ago, heralding an innovative adaptation of the ball socket head. Still in production, that head has not changed, but today there are numerous variations on this basic design. Several are fashioned along the lines of a video game joystick. Two other types included here are the collar lock ball head and what I call the “vice grip” head.
Edited by George Schaub Posted: Sep 13, 2012 Published: Aug 01, 2012 32 comments
The Panasonic GX1 is a very compact system, smaller than their G3 model, but slightly larger than the Panasonic GF3. It could be thought of as Panasonic’s competitor model to Olympus’s PEN cameras and to Fujifilm’s X100. The camera is based on the Micro Four Thirds system and has an MFT sensor with the highest resolution available today (16MP). We tested the kit version, which is bundled with the X Vario 14-42mm lens, a new pancake version of the standard zoom lens. It is a motorized zoom system that provides smooth zooming when recording videos. The camera is able to record Full HD video in AVCHD mode and uses a stereo microphone on the top to record sound.
Edited by George Schaub Posted: Sep 07, 2012 Published: Aug 01, 2012 29 comments
The HS30EXR has a surprisingly heavy and massive body and is nearly the size of an entry-level SLR system combined with a superzoom lens. The grip on the right-hand side fits perfectly into the photographer’s hand, while the left hand supports the lens system and is used to change focus and focal length manually with two large lens rings. The focal length ring has a nice rubber coating and is easy to handle, while the focus ring is very thin and is located near the body of the camera, which makes it a bit less easy to handle. Focal length adjustment is done via a mechanical regulation of the lens system, while the focusing ring adjusts via a servo system.
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 12 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.

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