Equipment Reviews

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George Schaub Posted: Apr 11, 2012 105 comments
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.
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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.
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.
George Schaub Posted: May 09, 2012 Published: Apr 01, 2012 9 comments
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.
George Schaub Posted: May 11, 2012 Published: Apr 01, 2012 1 comments
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.
George Schaub Posted: Mar 27, 2012 13 comments
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.
George Schaub Posted: Mar 21, 2012 1 comments
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.
George Schaub Posted: May 03, 2012 Published: Mar 01, 2012 1 comments
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.
Steve Bedell Posted: Apr 18, 2012 Published: Mar 01, 2012 0 comments
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.
George Schaub Posted: Apr 09, 2012 Published: Mar 01, 2012 6 comments
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.
Joe Farace Posted: Apr 10, 2012 Published: Mar 01, 2012 0 comments
“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.

George Schaub Posted: Apr 06, 2012 Published: Mar 01, 2012 27 comments
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.
George Schaub Posted: Dec 07, 2011 2 comments
The Leica X1 ($1,995) is a fixed focal length, non-interchangeable lens compact with a fast f/2.8 lens and 12.9MP CMOS APS-C sensor. Introduced over a year ago in silver and recently in black, it keeps apace with firmware upgrades, the most recent of which is claimed improvement of JPEG quality and enhanced AF speed in low light.
George Schaub Posted: Nov 16, 2011 3 comments
On-board image processors have become more powerful and diverse in their functions, and cameras like the Ricoh GR Digital IV ($649) offer more than just point and shoot still and video recording. Indeed, the Ricoh seems designed to appeal to those who would rather have their special effects in hand than take the time to apply them later. But the camera offers more than just tricks, though there are plenty of those, and its portability, ease of use and flexibility might appeal to those who want to go beyond cell phone snapshots and effects. Its fast, fixed focus lens, aperture- and shutter-priority exposure modes and a host of Scene modes that go beyond the norm make it a fascinating study in the state of photography today.
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Jack Neubart Posted: Dec 27, 2011 Published: Nov 01, 2011 0 comments
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.

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