Equipment Reviews

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Frances E. Schultz Posted: Mar 08, 2013 Published: Feb 01, 2013 2 comments

“Not your father’s camera bag” was how Tenba described the prototypes of their new Vector line at photokina 2010. Now, in 2012, the new line is in production, and they were absolutely right. What are the differences? Color, style, and function. A report like this is no place for detail: that’s what manufacturers’ websites are for, and besides, a full, detailed list of new camera bags could more than fill the whole magazine. What I want to do is to give you some idea of the way that bags are heading.

Steve Sint Posted: Feb 07, 2013 Published: Jan 01, 2013 1 comments

The Nikon D4 is a large sized, 16MP, lightning fast D-SLR, with high-definition video capability good enough to satisfy an independent film producer. At first, my thought was to see how the D4 worked when used for the more mundane subjects I shoot than what it was designed for, and to see how it compared to the APS-C sized cameras I prefer. But, by the time my experience with the camera ended, I had shot a tutorial video with it (www.setshoptutorials.com and then click on “Anatomy of a Still Life”), found its fast framing rate more helpful than I expected, and decided I especially liked Nikon’s D4, an FX camera, when shot in the DX (APS-C) mode. Although the primary difference between the D4 and the D3 is the D4’s increased resolution and its advanced video capability, I found the whole package that represents the D4’s feature set just as important, so let’s look at those.

George Schaub Posted: Feb 07, 2013 Published: Jan 01, 2013 1 comments

There are those who make prints often, and there are those who make prints occasionally. The split, you might think, is between amateur and pro, but that’s not always the case. Some “amateurs” print as much if not more than some pros, and some pros make their own prints only when they have time, usually for their personal portfolio, but certainly not on every job. That’s why pigeonholing the Epson R3000 in terms of intended audience, amateur or pro, is not so easy. It certainly delivers the quality you might expect from a higher-end Epson model, given its attributes, ink set, fine nozzles, and highly evolved print head, etc., but it’s by no means a volume/production printer, given its single sheet feed for “art” paper, albeit with larger capacity ink carts than some past 13x19” printers, and roll feed capability.

Jack Neubart Posted: Feb 07, 2013 Published: Jan 01, 2013 1 comments

The Nissin Di622 Mark II offered some notable improvements over the original Di622, but that flash didn’t offer the firepower of the Nissin flagship Di866 Professional. So I was curious and eager to see what the new Di866 Mark II Professional had in store.

Joe Farace Posted: Jan 24, 2013 Published: Dec 01, 2012 1 comments

The Pentax K-01 belongs to a class of cameras generally known as “mirrorless”—Pentax calls it a hybrid—that combine large LCD screens with interchangeable lenses and more often than not a retro look. Marc Newson, the Australian industrial designer who crafted the Pentax K-01, works in a style called biomorphism that uses smooth flowing lines, translucency, and an absence of sharp edges. The camera is available in black, white, or Newson’s signature yellow with the designer’s logo on the bottom.

Joe Farace Posted: Jan 11, 2013 Published: Dec 01, 2012 3 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.

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.

Steve Bedell Posted: Oct 18, 2012 Published: Sep 01, 2012 2 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.

Jack Neubart Posted: Sep 20, 2012 Published: Aug 01, 2012 0 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.

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.

Jack Neubart Posted: Aug 24, 2012 Published: Jul 01, 2012 0 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.

Stan Trzoniec Posted: Jun 06, 2012 Published: May 01, 2012 1 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.

George Schaub Posted: Apr 11, 2012 71 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.

Stan Trzoniec Posted: May 16, 2012 Published: Apr 01, 2012 1 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.

George Schaub Posted: Apr 06, 2012 Published: Mar 01, 2012 1 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.

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