How to Make Your Images Have Fall Vibes

The post How to Make Your Images Have Fall Vibes appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Anabel DFlux.

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With Fall fast approaching, we will soon be surrounded by beautifully warm-colored leaves and vegetation, filling the air with the sweet scent of Autumn. This is a photographer’s paradise, especially the ones who are also social media mavens following artistic trends. But what if you, like me, are not so lucky to live in a place that actually has seasons?! I live in Southern California, and finding trees that actually change color is…pretty uncommon, to say the least. So what are lonesome Californians to do?! Turn to post-processing, to make your images have fall vibes!

What defines a Fall or Autumn vibe in images?

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All there is to portraying specific ideas or ‘vibes’ are color. We associate colors with seasons, inspired by the colors that nature gives us during those times (in locations that actually have seasons. Is my bitterness over Southern California’s lack of seasons showing yet?!). Winter tends to be cold and blue, Spring is rainbow and vibrancy, Summer is warm greens, and Autumn is oranges, reds, and yellows.

Although you can sit there for several hours and recolor every leaf into a different Autumn color, for the most part, Fall vibes can be achieved by playing with and removing colors that are associated with the seasons we are not trying to mimic. Fall is warm and full of reds, oranges, yellows, and more rustic tones.

How to make your images have fall vibes in post-processing

Taken this summer, this is the base image we will be working with to show you how to make your images have fall vibes. I find that images with very shallow depth of field (like the one below) are a bit easier to work with when altering their colors.

How to Make Your Images Have Fall Vibes

For the sake of explanation, the edits shown below are quite extreme. Use your judgment and personal taste to determine how far you take them.

Also, the tutorials I am listing below use Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop. However, they can easily apply to other editing software too as many feature similar options and sliders. Even the free mobile version of Photoshop and Lightroom have these sliders.

Adobe Lightroom

I turn to Lightroom for these kinds of color adjustments because it’s quite quick and simple to do. You can also copy the settings and apply them to an entire batch of images rather than having to do each one by one. Our final image will look like this:

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The HSL Panel

The HSL panel is the first panel I go to when I want to create a summer vibe in my photographs. Conveniently, this is one of the first open panels in Lightroom.

HSL stands for “Hue, Saturation, and Luminance,” and is a panel box in Adobe Lightroom (with similar panels in other programs). I like to say that this is the panel that adjusts each of the colors individually. Each slider is divided by colors: red, orange, yellow, green, aqua, blue, purple, and magenta.

Hue is the color. On a technical term, the hue is the wavelength of the light reflected. This describes why an object that is a solid color appears different depending on the amount of light that hits it. On the HSL panel, the Hue slider can change how specific colors look. For example, the reds can be made to be more orange in color or more red.

Saturation determines how intense a color is. Pulling the slider to the left makes the color more gray, pulling the slider to the right makes it more true to pure tone.

Luminance lightens or darkens a specific color. Luminance refers to the reflective brightness of colors. I use this slider to make colors that are a bit too light, much darker in photographs so that they don’t stand out to the eye too much.

With the image above, our primary objective is to change the green to more fall colors. In this case, I will make the green more orange. I can achieve this by adjusting the Green color slider under ‘Hue’ and subsequently adjusting the colors surrounding the green. The awesome thing about sliders is that you have full control.

Next, I drop down to saturation and adjust how true to tone each color is and decreasing the color we want to remove altogether (for example, the green).

Finally, with the Luminance slider, I brighten up all of the warmth we have put into the photograph.

How to Make Your Images Have Fall Vibes

Split toning

If you find solely using the HSL sliders isn’t enough, you can add more of the color you want using the Split Toning menu. Split Toning is located right below HSL.

Split Toning is just toning applied to different areas of luminance. You can color your shadows with one color, and your highlights with another. In this case, I toned both the highlights and the shadows to bring even more warmth into the image.

When I do Split Toning, to make it easy to see what I am doing, I bring the Saturation up to its maximum 100 value point and then click on the little color rectangle next to Highlights and then next to Shadows. Clicking this rectangle brings up a color selection box. I then select the color I am interested in and proceed to significantly lower the sliders until I achieve the shadow or highlight coloration I desire.

The settings I used for the image above are these:

How to Make Your Images Have Fall Vibes

Masks

If you’re following along in your own editing program, you may find that making all of these color adjustments have now impaired parts of our image that you may not want to be colored like that. In my photo, the whites of the dog became far too yellow for my liking. You can use Masks to remedy this by selecting the parts of the image you do not want the effect applied to.

Locate Masks at the very top of the right-hand tabs when clicking “Develop.” I like to use the Adjustment Brush which is the long selectable line directly under “Histogram” in the screenshots below.  Then, you paint on the image and can make adjustments on the painted section independent from the overall image. In this case, I removed the warm effect from the dog and brightened the dog a bit. The red haze shows you where you applied the mask.

How to Make Your Images Have Fall Vibes how-to-make-your-images-have-fall-vibes

Adobe Photoshop

There are many, many, many different methods of achieving the same end result in Adobe Photoshop.

Photoshop is a large, and at times, complex program. To keep it simple, I’ll explain my favorite color adjustment methods similar to the adjustments in Adobe Lightroom. For another example of a Fall-vibe in a more muted tone than the edit above, we will replicate the image featured below:

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Before we even get started, in the Layers panel, duplicate the Background (main) layer and work on that. As a rule of thumb, never work on the original layer and make all adjustments on a new layer. This helps you remedy mistakes, give you the flexibility to change your mind, and use masks to remove the effect from the parts of the image it shouldn’t apply to!

Hue/Saturation

The term ‘saturation’ in general describes the level at which something is absorbed. For example, a sponge heavily saturated with water. In photography, saturation refers to how pure a color is. How red is red? How blue is blue? You can imagine a color  “absorbed” in the photograph like a sponge, with a higher saturation resulting in a more significant color.

Hue is a color attribute that explains how discernible a color is to its true color (for example, how green is the green?). Hue is based on color wavelength and is completely independent of a color’s lightness or darkness and intensity.

You can use the Hue/Saturation slider in the Image > Adjustments window!

How to Make Your Images Have Fall Vibes

Where it says “Master” (which will adjust everything simultaneously) you can select individual colors to adjust. This is great to use on images that don’t involve a lot of color variation.

How to Make Your Images Have Fall Vibes

Selective Color

The Selective Color in Photoshop (also located in Image -> Adjustments) is similar to the HSL sliders in Lightroom. Selective Color allows you to modify each color (located in the drop-down menu under “Color”) by either adding or decreasing CMYK colors (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black). CMYK is the color mode that a printer operates in.

I like using Selective Color with images that feature a lot of white because I don’t necessarily want my whites toned the same as the rest of my image. You can adjust the white itself in Selective Color, which is pretty cool. This allows me to keep the white dog more authentic to the original rather than making the Great Dane orange.

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Color Balance

Another way to adjust the colors in the image is by utilizing the Color Balance sliders. This can also be located under Image -> Adjustments. Color balance is the global adjustment of the intensity of the colors. This what I use the most when trying to create some fall vibes in my photographs.

I prefer this method because it’s the fastest slider set to use – but the end result does tend to look a lot like a filter. If that’s the look you’re going for; awesome! But if not, Selective Color may be of better use to you.

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Conclusion

Whatever method you implore to make your images more Autumn oriented, enjoy those warm fall vibes and glow up that Instagram feed!

Do you have other tips on giving your images fall vibes? Try these methods and share your images with us in the comments below!

The post How to Make Your Images Have Fall Vibes appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Anabel DFlux.

Review: Sony A7R IV Mirrorless Camera

The post Review: Sony A7R IV Mirrorless Camera appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Anabel DFlux.

Sony-A7r-IV-review

Having just purchased the Sony A7r III earlier this year, I didn’t expect to add another camera to my collection so quickly. Until… the Sony A7r IV announced it was on pre-order. Typically, I will not invest in yet another body unless something truly monumental comes about, and this was such a situation. The A7r IV is a piece of machinery unlike any other – and I don’t regret a single dime spent. This Sony A7r IV review will explain why.

Mirrorless versus Digital 

Review: Sony A7R IV Mirrorless Camera

By now, 2019, many photographers are well aware of mirrorless cameras invading the digital photography market. Just to refresh on some of the key differences in technology between DSLRs/SLRs and mirrorless cameras… 

Mirrorless cameras, as the name suggests, does not utilize a mirror to reflect the image to the viewfinder. The way that a digital camera works is that a mirror inside the camera reflects the light up to the optical viewfinder. This is also how you see the image before you take it.

In a mirrorless camera, the imaging sensor is exposed to light at all times. This gives you a digital preview of your image either on the rear LCD screen or an electronic viewfinder (EVF). This allows you to see exposure changes in real-time on a mirrorless camera. The lack of a mirror also aids in the camera’s size, allowing the mirrorless model to be smaller and lighter than a traditional DSLR.

DSLR aficionados don’t trust the digital viewfinder portrayal in mirrorless cameras as this is system-based, while the DSLR uses a practical application to show a true-to-life, through-the-lens optical viewfinder system. This uses a series of mirrors to reflect light to your eye. However, as a new mirrorless user, I can testify that the electronic viewfinder display is extremely accurate to the image I create when clicking the shutter button. 

In regards to quality, both can excel in optical quality, image sensors, technical aspects, and adeptness at shooting conditions. Both are equally spectacular, with each model having its own pros and cons (of course). It does come down a lot to personal choice.

Specifications

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Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s get back to the drool-worthy A7r IV. The specifications of this newest member to the Alpha line is what made me fall out of my seat and need to order this model.

And it has not disappointed.

A true feat of modern technology, it includes the following specs:

  • A whopping 61 MP, 35 mm full-frame Exmor R™ CMOS and enhanced processing system. This produces an image sized at 9504 x 6336. For landscape and commercial photographers, the a7r IV features a 240MP pixel-shift mode.
  • ISO 100–32000 (ISO numbers up from ISO 50 to ISO 102400 can be set as expanded ISO range.)
  • Fast Hybrid AF with Wide (567-points (phase-detection AF), 425-points (contrast-detection AF))/Zone/Center/Flexible Spot (S/M/L)/Expanded Flexible Spot/Tracking (Wide/Zone/Center/Flexible Spot (S/M/L)/Expanded Flexible Spot) The focus modes include AF-A (Automatic AF), AF-S (Single-shot AF), AF-C (Continuous AF), DMF (Direct Manual Focus), Manual Focus.
  • Eye-start AF, Lock-on AF [Still] Human (Right/Left Eye Select)/Animal, [Movie] Human (Right/Left Eye Select), AF micro adjustment, and predictive AF control. 
  • High-speed continuous shooting of up to 10fps12 with AF/AE tracking.
  • 5-axis image stabilization with 5.5-stop exposure advantage20.
  • 4K video in full-width and crop modes.
  • Dual card slots with simultaneous or consecutive recording.
  • Silent Shooting Mode.
  • You can operate the camera via newly supported wireless PC Remote functions via Wi-Fi.

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Much like the other models in the Alpha line, this camera is an E-mount that only accepts E-mount lenses (unless you use an adapter). The awesome thing about E-mount, though, is that many brands (alongside Sony) make lenses for it, including Zeiss, Sigma, and Tamron.

Build 

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I did not expect a redesign of the A7r IV body. Silly me! I expected a perfect replica of the A7r III with more advanced technology. In fact, the A7r IV has improved upon its predecessor’s body and ergonomics. They have changed the design, proving that Sony listened to photographer complaints and suggestions when redesigning this camera.

Firstly, the grip is different. Sony modified the contour, and the grip has deepened – for lack of a better term. I found it to be much more comfortable, and my hand cramped less during prolonged use (photographers, you know what I’m talking about here).

The camera grip reminded me of my large DSLRs rather than a mirrorless, and I liked that a lot. While I have small, feminine hands, I am sure this new grip design will work nicely with larger hands too.

Sony has also redesigned the buttons. They’re softer and “squishier” to the touch. There is also a redesigned joystick and an amended exposure compensation dial that now includes a lock button (thankfully!).

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A big change is the card slot door. The new card door no longer needs a lock lever. Just pull straight back like Canon and Nikon. This provides a much tighter seal as well. Oh, and speaking of cards…Slot 1 is now on the top, not backward like the A7r III (which constantly confused me).

The Sony A7r IV is sized at 5.07 x 3.8 x 3.05″/128.9 x 96.4 x 77.5 mm and 1.46 lb/665 g.

Ease of use 

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In my brain, Sony Alpha and ease-of-use are synonymous phrases. This camera is quick to set up, even simpler to use, and you can run off and play immediately when the battery is charged. The menu and settings are intended for professionals, but if you’ve been doing photography and understand how a camera works, figuring it out is quick.

I’ve heard complaints about the Sony menu, but I’ve personally not had any problems with it. I easily found everything I needed and do all of my adjustments within about 10 minutes.

This is coming from a Canon user that features an entirely different menu. 

I do wish the eye-tracking mode was an actual button on the camera as you can switch between Human subject or Animal subject. It would be convenient to have this as a button rather than having to dig into the menu to change this feature. I find myself continually changing it back and forth (being both a human and a pet photographer).

Autofocus, sharpness, and clarity 

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Just one word: phenomenal. 

I could end the review with just that one word and be satisfied. However, to go into detail…the autofocus is lightning sharp. Definitely the fastest autofocus of all of my cameras – and I have a lot of them! I find the autofocus to be even faster and more accurate than the A7r III – and that’s saying a lot, as the A7r III is very fast as well. 

I’ve captured dogs running – high speed – directly at my camera without even losing focus on their eyes for a second. That is how superb the eye-tracking mode is. I see a lot of use for this camera in sports photography if you have large enough cards to accommodate the 61-megapixels, of course! You can bring the camera down to 24-megapixels if needed, but that’s no fun.

Review: Sony A7R IV Mirrorless Camera

The predictive AI focus has truly revolutionized the way you can photograph subjects moving erratically or quickly, and I am living for it. This has made my job much easier with pets, or little humans that love to run away from mom!

In regards to sharpness and clarity, (while much of the final quality and look comes from the lens), in this case, the camera plays a big role. This is where the Sony mirrorless cameras begin to stand out significantly. The images are extremely sharp and clear. To some, maybe even artificially so. The look is very distinct. Professional photographers can quite easily pick out a Sony mirrorless photograph from the rest. The 61-megapixels show an immense amount of detail, excellent for commercial and detail work. 

Buffering

Review: Sony A7R IV Mirrorless Camera

Despite the enormous amount of megapixels, the A7R IV can still fire up to 10 frames-per-second with autofocus and autoexposure active. That’s impressive! The camera can keep at this for up to 68 compressed raw images.

Color rendering

Review: Sony A7R IV Mirrorless Camera

With vivid, vibrant, and deep colors, there is little editing I need to do with this camera. Even in low light, the colors tend to be quite true. The dynamic range is superb with 15-stops of dynamic range. I have been able to pull incredible details, colors, and information from darker images. 

Low light capability 

Review: Sony A7R IV Mirrorless Camera

The only gripe I have with this model is the low light capability is not improved over its preceding version. That doesn’t mean that the low light capability is bad – it’s just not better. For a camera that has improved in so many ways, I would have liked to see an even better low light sensor in this particular model.

However, the larger megapixel count does allow for significantly more manipulation, and it hasn’t phased me to take care of noise through a quick flick of the Noise slider in Lightroom. Ideally, it would have been nice not to need to do this.

With that said, I have not personally noticed worse noise at the same ISO levels, as some photographers have reported. The autofocus in low light is superb. It’s great for my concert photography endeavors, and even better than the firmware update on my A7r III.

Battery life 

Review: Sony A7R IV Mirrorless Camera

For battery life, my original frame of reference is my many Canon DSLR cameras. The 5D Mark IV, 5D Mark III, 7D Mark II, and 1Dx Mark II are the models I use. In my experience, Sony batteries are not nearly as powerful or long-lasting as Canon batteries. However, this makes sense, as the power necessary to operate a mirrorless tends to be more draining than the DSLRs due to the mirrorless cameras using a digital viewfinder and LCD display. 

When I purchased my first Sony camera, I went ahead and bought a second battery. The battery is the same as the one that the Sony A7r IV uses, so now I have two additional batteries for it. I am glad that I did because the battery does not last me all day like Canon cameras. I seldom end up switching to a second Canon battery. Even after shooting a dog agility trial for eight hours without turning the body off. On the Sony, I found myself switching the battery mid-day on all-day shoots.

It is key to note I am not using a battery grip. With a battery grip, the power lasts significantly longer. 

However, when comparing to Sony itself, the battery in the newer Alpha series cameras are significantly better and far more superb than previous models. The Sony NPFZ100 Z-Series Rechargeable Battery is no joke – far more powerful than the previous batteries used by the company. 

Final thoughts

Review: Sony A7R IV Mirrorless Camera

Do you need the power of the Sony A7r IV? Generally, probably not. For specialty work? Absolutely. The specifications are very much overkill for the average photographer, but for those that have found a use for its tremendous amount of megapixels or the ease in which the AI focuses, this is absolutely a worthy investment.

It’s likely great enough to sell prior pieces of equipment in order to buy the A7r IV.

I work a lot in commercial photography, and this camera allows me to better produce commercial imagery for my corporate clients – something I couldn’t pass up. 

Would you like to own this camera? Why? Or are you lucky enough to have you tried the Sony A7r IV? What are your thoughts? Share with us in the comments! 

The post Review: Sony A7R IV Mirrorless Camera appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Anabel DFlux.

Do Cheap Photographers Take Work Away From the Rest of Us?

The post Do Cheap Photographers Take Work Away From the Rest of Us? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Anabel DFlux.

Price tends to be one of the biggest points of contention with photographers. What is too low? What is too high? What’s just right? Running a profitable business is never easy. Whatever price you set, someone will likely have an opinion or two about it (solicited or not). Which leads to the biggest elephant in the room… do cheap photographers who price low take business away from those that price higher?

Do Cheap Photographers Take Work Away From the Rest of Us?

My answer?

No.

And here are 6 reasons why:

1. There is a client for everyone

Do Cheap Photographers Take Work Away From the Rest of Us?

This is business 101 that we often forget (and I am guilty of forgetting sometimes too!). Artists tend to be very emotionally tied to the work and the service provided, and photographers are certainly not exempt from this fact. As such, losing or not obtaining a client can feel like a personal jab even when it has nothing to do with us at all. You have to remember, there is a client for everyone!

This rings especially true in the tumultuous price debate. A client who is focusing on the price will not be looking for an expensive photographer. Likewise, a client who is focusing on high quality will often assume that cheap photographers cannot provide the quality that they seek. A Lamborghini is not concerned over the lower price of a Honda Civic because the Honda Civic buyers are not looking for a Lamborghini.

Alongside this, often price equates to years of experience. Photographers who are brand new may be absolutely fantastic and have beautiful quality images but aren’t able to charge the same as those that are seasoned professionals. Likewise, some clients do value quality work but simply cannot afford a seasoned professional. These two tend to find each other and work together well.

2. Client priorities are not always the same as yours

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As photographers, we naturally (and rightfully) value professional photographs highly. From capturing memories to creating beautiful new stories, photographs are essential. However, the priorities we hold as photographers may not always ring true for the subjects in front of our lenses.

Some clients would rather invest their money into something else – something that holds more importance to them. Whether you agree or not, that’s not your decision to make. Some clients look for less expensive photographers because their finances are tied into something that they find to hold more worth to them (and thus receive what they have paid for). And that’s okay – let them.

3. Some clients will eventually understand the price versus value point

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This is something that tends to happen to me often. A client will go to a very low-priced photographer, end up unsatisfied with the experience or the end result, and quickly learn the general value of the price. They then come to me and ask to shoot their concept once more. This does happen quite a bit. This is why staying firm on your policies and pricing is important (and tends to command respect).

Wait, wait.

This is assuming that the low-priced photographer has a quality that doesn’t match that of the higher-priced ones. What if a great quality photographer prices low? Doesn’t that cut into my jobs? 

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Some photographers have a different business model than the rest – known as the “low price and high turnover model.” This model works on the idea that you charge low, service many, and turn over a profit much like a photographer that charges high and services one.

However, what many don’t see behind the scenes, is the reason this model works is much of the process is automated or simplified. It allows the photographer to have a lower output of effort that matches their price. This service is not individualized, and generally not specifically tailored for the individual. It’s the difference that is similar to “ready-made” versus “custom-made” clothing. But this doesn’t work for all clients. The clients this does work for are likely not your clients if you have a traditional photographic business model.

Many major brands have a high-end and a low-end to their business. Take the car company Toyota, for example. Their high-end line is called Lexus – a luxury brand of car. Their consumer-grade line is just good ol’ Toyota. Both cars are great, hardy, and will get you where you need to go in comfort. A Toyota is not worse than a Lexus. The Lexus is just intended for a different kind of buyer.

Well, now that’s said…how do I justify my price? 

4. Express your value and stand by your worth

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First and foremost, confidence speaks volumes. If you set a price and are confident about it, stand by your worth and be firm.

That being said, every price needs something to justify it. Show the client what the value in investing in your work is versus someone else’s. Do you do something unique and different? Is your client experience above and beyond what the rest do? What do your years of experience or high-quality gear bring to the table? Do you have any awards or honorable mentions? These are all important topics to cover with your client when explaining what you offer and how much you charge for your offering.

5. Find your demographic and market to them!

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Marketing is what makes or breaks a business. If people don’t know about you, how can they book you? Marketing is extremely important, especially in the social media age. Marketing is the act of spreading awareness about your business, whether it be through digital advertising, partnering with local businesses, or launching billboards!

If you’re finding that the clients you are marketing to keep choosing a photographer that prices lower than you, that is a big sign that this client base is not the right demographic for you. Demographics are particular sectors of a population that are divided by factors. For marketing purposes, factors tend to be interest, age, location, income, and more.

As a business owner, you need to find the demographic that relates to the service you are offering. Look at income levels that tend to align with your price point, and for clients with interests that may be more aligned with your offering (e.g., pet photographers will look for clients with interest in animals), and age group can also be a big factor. If you’re a family photographer, look for moms and dads, or youth sports – keywords like that!

Remember, you must segment your population based on more than one factor to find the right demographic. Filling out location and interests in the minimum is a good starting point.

6. Stop worrying about what others are doing and charging

Do Cheap Photographers Take Work Away From the Rest of Us?

Everyone has a different ideology when it concerns their business. They use the business model that suits them, dependent on variables you likely do not know about. As such, the running of their service (and what they charge for it) does not apply to you. It’s best to stop concerning yourself with what others are doing and focus on what you are doing for you!

The industry is changing, and society has changed its view on the value of art.

Conclusion

Do Cheap Photographers Take Work Away From the Rest of Us?

You’re not losing jobs because your competitors are cheap photographers, you’re losing jobs because you either haven’t found your right client base or you need to get better at expressing your value.

Focus on your business and what you can improve in your work, and the right clients will come! The world is not as small as it seems; there are thousands of potential clients out there for you.

Do you agree with this or do you think cheap photographers do take work away from us? Or perhaps you have some other valuable points to share? Share them with us in the comments section.

 

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The post Do Cheap Photographers Take Work Away From the Rest of Us? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Anabel DFlux.

Lensbaby Omni Creative Filter System Review

The post Lensbaby Omni Creative Filter System Review appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Anabel DFlux.

Omni-Creative-Filter-System

I don’t know about you…but I like getting creative with my photography. Anything that helps make my work stand out against the myriad of photographers in the world (let alone in my very saturated city) is a must-have. However, what I enjoy the least is having to let my imagination soar solely in the editing room. If there is a practical way to do something unique, I’ll take that method.

Luckily, there is a company called Lensbaby that understands this on a deeper level. Home to some of the most unique lenses in the world (fondly called “art” lenses), Lensbaby pride themselves on developing equipment that gives you a slew of unusual in-camera effects.

Their lenses range from distortions like the ‘Burnside’ that swirls your bokeh and darkens the edges, to the more subtle ‘Velvet’ lens that simply softens the edge of the frame. Unfortunately, this comes at the price of relinquishing autofocus in their built-in-effects lens product arsenal.

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But now, instead of having to rely on purchasing new lenses, Lensbaby has launched a product to help you turn the glass that you currently own into an effects lens. Best part? No more dealing with manual focus! Say hello to the OMNI Creative Filter System.

So… What is the OMNI Creative Filter System really? 

Lensbaby Omni Creative Filter System Review

Shoot through crystals and other objects specifically engineered by Lensbaby to create professional and compelling in-camera effects. Designed to work with your existing lenses, OMNI offers control and repeatability without having to change your gear. The system comes with unique Effect Wands that attach magnetically and distort the light as it enters the lens – creating a myriad of magical in-camera effects.” writes Lensbaby. 

The Omni Creative Filter System is a ring that holds various effect wands in front of the glass to produce an effect. These effect wands come in the form of crystals, panels, and other doohickeys that open a world of possibility when used. The awesome thing about this product is that you can sort-of ‘make a Lensbaby’ out of any existing lens that you own.

The Pain Pack

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The main filter system comes with the filter ring and various step up and step down rings, three Effect Wands, a long arm to hold the Effect Wand, a short arm to hold the Effect Wand, two magnetic mounts (each mount holds up to two Effect Wands), and a small carrying case to tie it all together. OMNI is available in Small and Large versions and includes step-up and step-down rings to fit a range of filter thread sizes.

Lensbaby Omni Creative Filter System Review

The three effects wands are known as the “Crystal Seahorse,” “Stretch Glass,” and “Rainbow Film.”

Crystal Seahorse uses its edge scallops to aid in producing complex flares, light redirection, and radiant reflections.

The Stretch Glass can mimic a light flare by creating streaks and reflections.

The Rainbow Film, one of my personal favorites in the set, is a diffraction panel that creates beaming reflective rainbows offset from any bright light source.

The Expansion Pack

Lensbaby Omni Creative Filter System Review

If those three wands aren’t already enough, Lensbaby has an expansion pack that adds three more crystals to the mix. The new additions are titled “Crystal Spear,” “Triangular Prism,” and the “Scalloped Window.” 

Lensbaby Omni Creative Filter System Review

The Crystal Spear reminds me of a kaleidoscope and can create dream-like flares similar to such. The Triangular Prism mimics what some creative photographers are currently doing when holding up prisms to their glass (except, in this case, you don’t have to sacrifice a hand to hold it up!). The Scalloped Window is similar to the Seahorse of the main pack, but with a larger surface area that allows you to shoot directly through the center.

How to use the OMNI System 

Lensbaby Omni Creative Filter System Review

Whether or not you care to look at the instruction manual, the filter system is pretty self-explanatory in terms of use. There is a large-ringed, donut-shaped disc that holds the magnetic arms that in turn hold the effects wands. This disc, depending on your lens filter thread, can either be screwed on directly or use a step-down/step-up ring to attach to your lenses’ glass element.

It is key to note that when using the 82mm step-down ring, vignetting will occur at focal lengths wider than 50mm. I personally like vignetting, but some do not.

Lensbaby Omni Creative Filter System Review

I was actually able to attach the OMNI Creative Filter System on to both my variable ND filter from Tiffen (to see if I could) as well as any old regular glass filter you may have in place to protect the glass. So for the record, filter stacking is totally possible here (but as to whether or not it’s recommended…that’s at your discretion).

The OMNI Creative Filter System is designed to fit most prime and zoom lenses on the market. But in my usage experience, the wider view lenses bring about the most prominent effect. That said, my 85mm lens did some really cool stuff with a few of the wands.

Build quality? 

Sturdy, sturdy, sturdy – and did I mention sturdy? Nothing about this system feels flimsy. For the price point, it definitely needs to feel solid and inspire confidence. All of which it definitely does. 

How much weight and size does it add to the lens? 

Omni-Creative-Filter-System

My immediate first worry was how much weight and size the system would add to my equipment. I hold my gear for very significant amounts of time. Many of the types of shoots I do run well into the 6-hour range without much pause. As well as this, some of my shooting conditions tend to be tumultuous and take place in tight spaces. As such, the amount of bulk or discomfort something may add to my current kit is a pretty big deal.

Lucky for me (and for us all, I’d say), the OMNI isn’t such a nuisance. The system is lightweight, and I very seldom noticed a difference with the filter on my lens than with it off. The only lens I felt a difference on was my $100 cheap 50mm much-around-lens whose weight is equivalent to that of a feather (metaphorically speaking, of course), but on all of my L glass and G-Master lenses, a difference in weight was difficult to notice.

Lensbaby Omni Creative Filter System Review

The system does add minor bulk and thickness to the front lens element, as the disc does protrude a wee bit, but it wasn’t a big deal. It didn’t impede my workday or any of the photo sessions!

The effect wands do stick out. However, in situations where I needed a flatter system (such as a live concert setting), I simply pushed the wands down.

But is it comfortable? 

Drumroll, please…

YES! 

Omni-Creative-Filter-System

I found the system very comfortable to use. Depending on how dextrous your fingers are, I was actually able to consistently shift the effect wands and their magnetic arms into position without ever taking my hand off of the lens itself.

Once you get a grasp on the actual distance between the front of the lens and the filter, you can easily make necessary adjustments without needing to take your eyes off of the viewfinder.

Though the magnets are very sturdy and keep the wands from flying off, the metal balls are still easy to spin and maneuver around. So much so, that just the use of one finger was honestly fine for me.

Review in practical use

Lensbaby Omni Creative Filter System Review

“That looks a bit like a steampunk contraption,” said one of my clients when I first attached the OMNI to my 24-70mm f/2.8 lens. On the first impression, all those individuals that I began using the creative filter system on were very intrigued. Client intrigue can open fun and useful dialogue – an unintentional benefit.

Attaching the system is quick and simple, and takes very little time. I enjoyed the fact that it didn’t look like I was fumbling or struggling in front of a client. That’s always a good sign. If anything, the more wands I pulled out, the more interested I noticed my subjects were.

Omni-Creative-Filter-System

It did take me a few minutes of finagling and experimenting to get the most out of each wand. So I would suggest everyone who purchases the system take a day to become very familiar with each effect. Even then, I still find myself discovering new uses for each wand with every photoshoot I use them on! A very exciting thing, indeed.

There is a very significant difference between using the effect wands in a controlled indoor situation and using them outdoors. When paired with studio lighting inside, most of the wands brought out very bright and striking results. They often pulled colors I didn’t even know were present! When used outside in natural light, the effects became a bit more muted and more natural in nature.

This is a great difference depending on the look you are going for.

Omni-Creative-Filter-System

You should really experiment with this equipment to see what works best for you. However, I found that the trick to getting the most out of the system is to shoot at a wider millimeter lens and a wider aperture.

The wide frame allows the effect to really bleed into the image while the shallow depth of field produced by the wide aperture helps blend the effect.

I took my OMNI kit to both easy-peasy, no-fuss photoshoots and chaotic and intense situations. The simple sessions were flawless, as expected, but the spontaneous and more chaotic shoots were where the real test was.

When taking the system on tour with me working with a band, I did run into the issue of the system not being sturdy enough in a live concert setting. Granted, if the venue has a photo pit and the band does not encourage crowd-surfing, the system can work brilliantly. However, in my situation, I was shooting in dive bars with no photograph barricade, and the music definitely brought about more than one crowd surfer. Alas, this system was a no-go on that front.

However, this is a very specific and niche issue to have, so I don’t fault the system whatsoever on that front!

Lensbaby Omni Creative Filter System Review

The Omni is very much a “what you see, is what you get” product. In practical use, this is simple and easy. Just the way we like it.  

Pros: 

Omni-Creative-Filter-System

  • Turn any lens into a practical-effects system! Step-down rings are included.
  • Well-built and lightweight.
  • Very simple to customize.
  • Easy to use, ready right out of the box.
  • A good variety of effect wands to create all sorts of interesting looks.
  • The ability to create repeatable and consistent effects.
  • Comes with a carry case that helps keep everything very neatly organized.

Cons: 

Lensbaby Omni Creative Filter System Review

  • You need to disassemble and reassemble for most camera cases and packing situations.
  • There may be some vignetting with the step-down rings.

 

Conclusion

Omni-Creative-Filter-System

Yes, it is possible to achieve similar effects by simply holding up a prism or other such geometric crystal to your lens, but that can be a nuisance. Instead, why not have something that simply attaches and holds firm?

As such, the OMNI Creative Filter System is a worthwhile and lasting product. It helps give the equipment you currently have an extra edge (without any permanent modification).

Have you tried the OMNI Creative Filter System? Let me know your thoughts (or any questions) in the comments!

 

lensbaby-omni-creative-filter-system

The post Lensbaby Omni Creative Filter System Review appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Anabel DFlux.

Your Guide to Posing Bands in Photography

The post Your Guide to Posing Bands in Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Anabel DFlux.

Getting your favorite band into your photo studio might sound like a dream come true – but could quickly turn into a disaster if you don’t know what you’re doing! Not all bands know how to pose or position themselves for photographs, and it’s your job as a photographer to direct them. So before you find yourself having a crisis – unsure of how to properly get bands set up for their epic promotional shoot – check out your guide to posing bands in photography!

How is band photography different from other group photography?

I hear this question a lot in my line of work. How does band photography differ from, say, a group portrait at a sports game or a family reunion? Well, the short answer is – the intent is different. Though all types of photographs tell a story, band photography has to sell both the image and idea of the band. The poses, styling, arrangement, lighting, and everything in between is akin to the marketing of the music group itself. To make this even more complex, the audience members have to develop the right preconceived idea of what the music will sound like based on the picture! This is the same principle that is applied to album artwork.

Aimee Saturne

As well as this, the connection between all of the members in the band is different than that of family members or a sports team. Bands can be a complex series of relationships, some akin to kinship, others to sibling rivalry, and some can even be likened to business partners. Whichever is true for the band you are photographing, that unique relationship will come out in the photographs.

Does the genre of music affect the pose?

DIM7

In short, yes and no. The genre of music can impact every facet of the image, but not necessarily. Doubling back to the idea that a photograph of a band needs to sell their music, the genre portrayal can be a fundamental part of that goal. For example, metal music has a much darker, harder, and tougher edge to it than, say, a girl pop band.

Much of how I figure out how to pose bands has to do with three key factors:

  1. What is the stereotypical image for that genre? (This being said, the image does not have to be stereotypical – but there are some specific poses to include if you want to really push on the fact that the band plays a specific type of music).
  2. What image does the music evoke? (I find that closing my eyes and listening to some of the key songs pointed out by the band can provide a lot of inspiration. Music and imagery tie together, and whatever image is evoked by the sound is one that you should likely follow).
  3. What is the story the band wants to convey with their presence?

Aimee Saturne

Here is an example of how these three questions can drive a photo shoot.

Say that a five-piece, all-female symphonic metal band approaches you, with a melancholy and dark sound, whose story revolves around pagan rituals. With this in mind, the posing will likely be more rigid with the band members standing in a crescent formation due to the ritualistic nature. Their chins will likely be a bit lower down with a very slight hunch and legs tightly placed together, and eyes are looking directly towards the camera (whilst the face is slightly lower down).

Likewise, say an all-male pop duo approaches you with a very light-hearted, summer, beach feel to their music, with a tagline revolving around living every day in the moment. The posing will be very loose, fun, and expressive – likely a popular choice would be to place the two lads back to back with them looking over their shoulders at one another laughing and the arms placed in very relaxed positions.

As a photographer, much of our jobs revolve around bringing a static visual image to an ever-moving description.

Chasing Desolation

To express why genre doesn’t necessarily have to affect the pose, not all bands fall perfectly within a box.

That’s a good thing. Art shouldn’t always be easily categorized.

As such, some acts defy traditional rules and do not follow convention. Their images won’t follow convention either, and the posing may change drastically from the usual.

Common posing qualms

Of course, posing groups of people isn’t without its troubles.

Here are some of the most common posing “uh-ohs” you might encounter (with solutions, of course):

Not all of the band members are a similar height – someone might be very short or extremely tall

This is a very common situation you’ll encounter. Luckily, there are some clever solutions!

Firstly, if your band promotional image doesn’t include full body shots, simply place the member(s) on boxes (often called ‘apples’ in studios) that even-out their height.

If the band does want full body shots, play with perspective. Place the taller members further in the back and the shorter members closer to the front. A reverse V or U shape is an excellent idea!

Thirdly, get creative with levels and props. My go-to – which tends to receive favorable reviews – is to place one member sitting on a chair and pose the rest of the band around the chair. The taller members can crouch on the ground at the corners of the chair while the shorter members can stand around the chair. The frontman or frontwoman sits in the chair.

You can achieve a similar effect by posing on stairs, walls, rocks, or anything that allows one person to sit while the rest are crouched or standing.

Killin’ Candace

Everyone is wearing the same color clothing

I photograph primarily heavy metal and rock music, so this is something I deal with daily. Everyone wants to wear black in a black studio, against a black wall. The result, when done right, is super cool. However, when done wrong, the image suffers from “floating head” syndrome.

The real key here is to ensure that every article of clothing is a different texture from one another. Everyone can wear the same color, but try to encourage the band to wear different textures.

For example, a shiny top with matte pants works great. If a band member has both a matte top and matte pants, throw in a textured scarf or a tie to break it up. Jewelry is also a great idea. The point is, the colors can all be the same, but the way the clothing photographs must be different from one another. This can affect pose positioning as well, as you don’t want the same texture to cross one another and look flat in an image.

You can also use lighting to help separate the subject from the background. For example, shoot your studio lighting behind the band so that it creates a rim light, which pushes them off of the studio wall.

Our Dying World

Someone is dressed elaborately and someone is not

Sometimes, a band member overdresses while others underdress. If you can’t swap out wardrobes or add accessories, then get extremely creative with posing.

When I was pursuing my visual communications degree, I had a wonderful professor drill into my head that the key to an effective image is having the viewer’s eye move around the entire frame rather than settle on one central point.

A great way to get the viewer to take in the entire image rather than settle on one point is to place the elaborately dressed band members around the less-elaborately dressed members on opposite ends.

Another solution is to use the flashy wardrobe to create lines that the viewer can follow throughout the image. A good way to create a line is to have the overdressed band member stretch an arm out to the other band members to encourage the eye to travel.

Bullet Height

You are shooting a large piece band in a small, constricted space

If you do backstage photography, you’ll run head-on into this issue (especially in Los Angeles. Unless the band is in a major theater like The Hollywood Bowl, your backstage experience will be cramped. Trust me on this one). The most efficient way to utilize small spaces is posing the band in levels. Have some crouching and some standing, some leaning on walls and some stretched on the floor! Think of keeping everyone in a square image ratio format. You’ll be able to pose even 11-piece bands in a small space (I’ve done it!).

Trash Deity

How does the lighting affect the pose?

The lighting you are using will make a difference in how you pose the band. If you’re shooting outdoors and are at the mercy of natural lighting (but don’t have a reflector), you will need to adjust head, hand, arm, and leg positions in order to make the best of the conditions you are working with.

For example, if you ended up shooting at high noon, keep chins up to avoid unflattering shadows on the neck. Likewise, make sure hands aren’t hidden in shadows so that they do not appear too dark.

Jyrki 69

If you are in the studio with more controlled light, this becomes a bit easier – assuming you have enough lights! Work with what you have, and find creative ways to pose the musicians in order to illuminate them in the most flattering way. If you don’t have enough lighting units to capture certain poses, avoid them altogether (unless you are a whiz at post-processing!).

Karim Ortega

(Pssst: reflectors are your best friend! Both indoors and outdoors. In outdoor situations, these help control the light. In indoor situations, if you don’t have enough budget for additional studio lights, you can use reflectors to bounce light and help it stretch further. Reflectors are budget-friendly solutions, and can even be made at home if you are DIY-savvy).

Is hierarchy in a band a real thing?  

Athanasia

With some bands, it definitely is! Generally, you want the frontman or frontwoman as the center of attention with the rest of the band members posed around. Some bands have more than one vocalist, and often the vocalists tend to be the central figures (not to be confused with importance. All members are important. A band does not function without all of its contributing talents). Guitarists and bassists tend to find themselves beside the singers naturally, and other instruments such as percussion and keys even further off to the sides.

Bullet Height

Most of the bands that step into the studio are live performers; that is, they have experience playing on a stage together. As such, the first thing I do is have them stand in my studio the way that they would arrange themselves on stage. I use that as the basis of where I pose everyone in the lineup. Many bands organically step into the spots that they are meant to stand in.

Posing a solo musician

Brandon Rage

Posing a solo musician opens up a door of massive possibility. Very little is out of your control here. However, remember, because you are photographing only one person, try to give the image as much interest and life as possible. Images are static; we have to make them move. The more dynamic the pose, the better, and the benefit of music photography is that you can get super-quirky with it!

Grant Webb

Remember that traditional posing rules also apply here. Flattering angles and flattering poses. Try to avoid harsh shadows on parts of the face or body that may make someone appear different than they are.

Aimee Saturne

Mess around with props as well. Props are great ways to give a client something to do with their hands or legs. They can also make an uncomfortable or nervous client much more comfortable as they have something to which to focus. Don’t assume that because a client is a musician that they love getting photographed – not everyone does. It’s your job to give them the best experience possible and make them love being in front of the camera with you.

Aaron Lee

My technique is to shoot with a high shutter speed and have the musician constantly move and change poses, encouraging even the weirdest of ideas to come through. More often than not, the weirder it seems, the better it looks. Also, making the client move continuously keeps them from pausing and overthinking.

… with instruments

Alexx Calise

Including their instrument is a common request from musicians, especially solo artists. Band photography often steps into the realm of endorsement photography for the various instrument companies that may be sponsoring the project. With solo artists, it’s fairly easy to get them posed with their instruments as you don’t have to consider the spacing with other band members.

Alex Crescioni

The key with instruments, however, is to ensure that the instrument does not cover any important parts of the musician’s body such as their face! The instrument should fit in very organically and not feel forced or uncomfortable. It’s okay to have the band member pose with, say, a guitar hanging just a bit lower than they play it – as long as everything looks natural.

Ace Von Johnson

Commonly, I have the musician play the instrument to feel more comfortable with the lens being there. Often, those candid moments look amazing.

Arielle Silver

Posing an odd number of persons

Posing an odd number of people in a band is arguably the easiest (outside of a solo musician). This is because you can adhere to many of the traditional (and very effective) band poses, such as the “U” formation, the “V” formation, and anything else that pushes the lead member to the front. The lead member that stands in front of the rest is a great baseline to use to pose the remaining band members. Moreover, you tend to keep your composition more even on either side as a result.

Athanasia

However, don’t let this fact make you lazy. Just because you can do a traditional “crowding around the lead” shot, doesn’t mean you should make it boring! After all, you’re photographing bands – play with various facets of music photography and keep it interesting.

… with instruments

The addition of instruments might seem daunting, but this is a brilliant opportunity to use the lines of the instruments to have your viewer’s eyes move around the frame. As well as that, this allows you to use the instruments as a way to direct the attention to the lead of the band.

Posing an even number of persons

Zeistencroix

The most common even-number band is two. I love posing two-person bands. There is such a dynamic range of posing you can do. The connection between each member in a two-person band is also really cool and unique. There are lots to play off here. Honestly, get as quirky with this as possible!

Batfarm

An added benefit to two-people bands is that they don’t take up much space. Whether you’re in a studio or an outdoor location, two people take up less space than three or more. You can fit in a lot of wickedly cool shots in smaller spots.

Ascent

The main things to remember are that both members need an even amount of attention in the images. Don’t try to have one overpower the other. It doesn’t look right in an image.

Our Dying World

Now, the difficult even-number bands are those of four, six, or eight members. The primary difficulty is that you can no longer arrange them in “V” formations or have one member in front of the other because there isn’t an odd number! As such, try staircase poses or diagonal lines. You don’t want either side of the frame to feel too empty or too busy; you have to even it all out.

The addition of a prop is an excellent idea to even out the composition. I like to pose even-number bands in a more square-ratio (and this isn’t just because of the rise of Instagram). This gives you more options for dynamic posing and is a good baseline to help pose even-numbered bands.

… with instruments

Much like with just the band members themselves, use the addition of instruments to comply with a square posing ratio even further. If you pose everyone straight, make sure that you have enough room for the guitar and bass necks. You can play with levels here too, like in the example image below.

Our Dying World

Bonus tips:

  • Straight backs! Pay attention to your client’s back and shoulders. If they are arching, straighten them out unless you’re going way more vogue and odd. In that case, over-exaggerate the arch.

Alex Crescioni

  • Make sure there is nothing in anyone’s pockets. You will thank me for this one in the editing room.
  • Don’t allow someone’s pose to block out a key part of another person’s body.

Brandon Rage

  • For the “stretching arms towards camera” pose, have the band member cheat and keep the arm lower. It may feel counterintuitive, but if they stretch out towards you organically, their face will be blocked.
  • Pay attention to how poses cast shadows on oneself and the people around them.

Final takeaway

In conclusion, all great posing arrangements start with a deep understanding of what your client is wanting and needing. Don’t be afraid to have some fun with it, but keep everything cool, flattering, and most of all – epic. This is the music industry after all!

Do you have any other tips to add to this guide for posing bands in photography? If so, please share with us in the comments below (and your band photos)!

 

The post Your Guide to Posing Bands in Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Anabel DFlux.

Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 DG OS HSM Sport Review

The post Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 DG OS HSM Sport Review appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Anabel DFlux.

Sigma has made a significant name for itself via its famous ART line of lenses. But did you know Sigma also has a Sport line? Lesser known than the ART lenses, the Sport lenses are the incredible workhorses of the photography world (and deserve recognition). The Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 DG OS HSM Sport (Canon and Nikon Mount) is the newest addition to the Sport line, featuring a loved focal length. A big contender in the telephoto field, this lens may just be the top dog you didn’t see coming.

This lens focal length is so splendid, that the Digital Photography School even has an article on why you need a 70-200mm lens!

Lens build

Weight

I have tried many different 70-200mm F/2.8 lenses in the past, and currently own the newest one from Canon’s L line. This version of a favorite millimeter stands out. Before we even get into the construction, I can tell you that this lens is not the heaviest by far as compared to other brands like Tamron, and Rokinon, and older versions of the Canon and Nikon. As someone who tends to shoot sporting events for a good 12 hours at a time, my back is bowing in thanks at the decreased weight. Weighing in at a teeny bit less than 4 pounds, this is by far a more useable weight. The lens size is customary for this focal range at 3.7 inches in diameter by 8.0 inches in length.

Construction

The body is constructed out of a clever mixture of a very durable form of plastic, metal, and a new compound known as TSC (short for Thermally Stable Composite). The lens feels durable, and I found it to be more shock resistant than many of my other lenses. The glass itself is a high-grade glass mixture – 24 Elements in 22 Groups. I like the tactile feel of the focus and zoom rings, and it is very comfortable to use.

Weather sealing

This lens is built to work, and as such, its weather sealing is incredible. I feel very confident taking this lens out for a spin in whatever situation I find myself in. With the recent rains and odd weather in Southern California, I was still able to take this lens out in ease at a local outdoor sporting event. The weather sealing is a testament to a highly effective dust and splash proof structure with special sealing at the mount connection, manual focus ring, zoom ring, and cover connection.

That said, do use your best judgment to determine whether the weather is good enough to go out and shoot or not… weather sealing is not equivalent to weatherproof! As for the glass, the forefront and rear lenses incorporate water and oil-repellent coating that allows water to be wiped away easily. It prevents oil and fat from sticking to the surface, even in challenging shooting conditions, making lens maintenance easy.

The only downside I find with the lens construction is that you cannot remove the customary tripod foot (that many 70-200mm lenses have). This lens is also still technically heavier than the latest Canon or Nikon versions, but I’d argue this is a fair trade for how shock resistant and durable it is.

Lens features

As is customary for the Sigma lenses, the Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 DG OS HSM Sport features a slew of unique and useful features. Before we even get into them, it is worth mentioning that at this time, this lens is available only in Sigma, Canon, and Nikon mount. Sigma does offer a mount conversion service in case you want your lens to fit onto a different camera brand.

Sigma has gone the extra step to make sure that the mechanics of their lenses work as well as Canon and Nikon native lenses. The Canon mount version is compatible with Canon’s internal chromatic aberration control, and the Nikon version works with Nikon’s electromagnetic diaphragm.

Focus range limiter switch

A nice added feature for any telephoto lens is the focus range limiter switch, which restricts the range of distance your lens can focus. I use this feature myself when I photograph dog agility shows to make sure that the lens doesn’t focus on any obstacles near me but remains locked on a running dog that is far away.

Hyper Sonic AF Motor (HSM)

As the name suggests, this lens uses HSM (Hyper Sonic AF Motor) for its focusing. HSM uses ultrasonic vibrations to drive the focusing group. This motor benefits an internal focusing system.

You can easily override the HSM for manual control via a finger switch on the lens. A feature that goes along with this aspect is the Manual Override (MO). With MO, a photographer can continue using autofocus as usual, before making any final manual adjustments using the focusing ring around the lens. The lens can focus as close as 1.2m away from the subject unless restricted by the focus limiter.

The lens comes with a locking lens hood, which is superb considering the number of times the hood on my other lenses go flying off because they get bumped! The lock is sturdy, but still very easy to use when you need to get the hood off in a flash.

Focus

With a sport and action lens like this one, strong autofocus is the key to success. I photograph a slew of canine athletes, and you’d be surprised how incredibly fast those small champion papillons are! Additionally, to ensure the dogs are not distracted by the sound of my camera or lens, quiet autofocus is pretty high up on my list of needs too.

Lucky for me – and anyone else interested in this telephoto model – the Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 checks all of these boxes. The HSM motor keeps the autofocus noise to a minimum or nonexistent, which allows me to get a wee bit closer to the dogs as they make their impressive jumps and leaps.

The autofocus is rather accurate – even on small moving subjects like an Italian greyhound dog, through to bigger canines such as the border collie. The lens allowed me to capture the agility competition with ease. The focus was very smooth too, with little focus hunting, even when the clouds took over and the location became quite dim. No manic focusing movements either, like I’ve experienced with Tamron’s equivalent of this lens last year at a tradeshow.

In comparison to my Canon 70-200mm F/2.8 L IS USM III lens, this one performed just as good, and I would certainly consider it as an additional.

Sharpness

Although zoom lenses may never be quite the same level of sharpness as fixed focal lengths, this one still performs brilliantly despite this fact. Sharpness and contrast are excellent, even when shooting wide-open, throughout the entire zoom range. Centre sharpness at 70mm is excellent and just fine at all other focal lengths. Corner sharpness is high at 70mm, but at 100mm and beyond, corner sharpness takes a significant downturn at larger apertures. If you want to get the entire frame sharp, you’ll probably have to switch over to F/11 or so. That said, this isn’t unusual for zoom lenses. The contrast it produces is also excellent.

Depth of field

The F/2.8 wide aperture gives a nice subject separation and bokeh (the out of focus areas in an image). The depth of field is creamy and smooth, and very pleasing to the eye. The 11 diaphragm blades help to keep bokeh looking natural.

There is some vignetting on the edges. Some people like this, others don’t. I enjoy the natural vignetting that is contrary to popular opinion, but for those that find it a nuisance, keep this in mind.

Image Stabilization

The image stabilization system in this particular 70-200mm is superb. This lens incorporates Intelligent OS, which is the latest algorithm to deliver image stabilization. The intelligent OS works horizontally, vertically, or diagonally – whatever direction your lens is being held or used. The mode can be adjusted by a switch on the side of the lens and has two modes from which to choose.

The optical stabilizer was effective up to four stops – fantastic for a telephoto lens. The panning stabilizer was equally impressive, allowing me to track my subjects with ease while handheld. I took this lens out for a swing at a local concert as well. The F/2.8 aperture paired with stabilization, allowed me to expose my shots quite well.

Flare resistance & chromatic aberration

The glass coating on this lens does a fine job decreasing flaring and ghosting – an annoying issue that plagues photographers when the light hits the lens at a bad angle. The chromatic aberration control is quite good as well, with the optical array comprising of 24 elements spread across 22 groups. This includes nine FLD pieces of glass and a single SLD lens, all of which are used to help control chromatic aberration.

The Canon mount versions of this lens also benefit from compatibility with a full set of in-camera corrections for lens aberrations (a big yippee for me as a Canon user).

Pros and Cons of the Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 DG Sport

Pros:

  • Durable, comfortable, solid lens build.
  • Superb weather sealing, as well as dust and moisture resistance.
  • Water and oil repellent coating on the glass.
  • The Canon mount version is compatible with Canon’s internal chromatic aberration control and the Nikon version is able to work with Nikon’s electromagnetic diaphragm.
  • Various switches built into the lens for professional use such as the focus limiter, modes, and image stabilization.
  • On the topic of image stabilization, the IS is superb.
  • HSM for quite and reliable autofocus.
  • The addition of an Manual Override mode for focus.
  • Locking lens hood.
  • Good flare and ghosting resistance.
  • Excellent chromatic aberration control.
  • Good center sharpness.
  • Very nice, creamy, natural bokeh.

Cons:

  • Tripod foot cannot be removed.
  • Vignetting on the edges.
  • Sharpness suffers in the corners at 100mm and more.
  • Weight

Conclusion

At a price tag of US$1,500, while this may seem hefty to some, it’s actually much more affordable than equivalent lenses of this caliber. There is a lot of bang for your buck. Moreover, it’s a very worthwhile investment for those shooting outdoors or in questionable conditions, as this lens is built to be the perfect workhorse.

I genuinely loved this model. It was very easy to use for my athletic needs!

Have you used this lens? What are your thoughts? Please share in the comments below.

The post Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 DG OS HSM Sport Review appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Anabel DFlux.

Sony FE 135mm F/1.8 GM Lens Review

The post Sony FE 135mm F/1.8 GM Lens Review appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Anabel DFlux.

Sony is here to turn your photography world upside down with its absolutely incredible technology and equipment. A name that is now leading much of the industry, Sony’s G-Master series of lenses have become big contenders in the photography game. As such, Sony has released approximately 30 G-Master lenses for their full-frame cameras. The newest addition to the collection is the Sony FE 135mm F/1.8 GM lens, which is now arguably the sharpest lens in the collection! I had the pleasure of testing this lens out fully at the Wedding and Portrait Photographers International (WPPI) show in Las Vegas late last month before the lens is even released to the public.

1 - Sony FE 135mm F/1.8 GM Lens Review

Image courtesy of Sony

To get the basics out of the way, the Sony FE 135mm F/1.8 GM is intended for full-frame cameras and is only mountable on the E-mount cameras. This lens has similar specifications to the other lenses in the G-Master line such as the Sony patented XD linear motor, Super ED glass, and Sony Nano AR (all of which we will get into later).

My primary experience with this lens was taking it for a test run at the WPPI convention in Las Vegas at the end of February and it was a pleasure to try it out before the general public.

Lens build

Upon first glance, I was immediately smitten with the aesthetic of this lens. Clean, sharp, and a beautiful black – this lens looks phenomenal (as even noted by a few of my photography clients). This lens measures at about 3 5/8th inches long and 5 inches tall, and is a very decent and comfortable size for its focal length – even when held by someone like me (small hands, yikes). The lens isn’t very heavy either, clocking in at only 33 ounces (2 pounds).

For a master telephoto lens, this one is quite easy to take on travels! Comprised of magnesium alloy, the lens is lightweight yet durable. The build feels incredibly solid, and I would not hesitate to bring it to difficult or uncomfortable shooting situations such as live concerts or the beach on a windy day. The lens is rather wide, which may be a downside to some, however, you must keep physics in mind. The lens must be wide to accommodate the F/1.8 aperture.

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Image courtesy of Sony

The Sony FE 135mm F/1.8 GM features excellent weather sealing to help prevent wind, rain, dust, and dirt from entering important mechanical components. Alongside this, the lens is touted to be dust and moisture resistant. The lens glass has a pretty impressive build in its own right too. The glass has a fluorine coating on it to resist fingerprints, dust, water, oil, and other contaminants. If these do end up on the lens, cleaning is easy. That said, I do still suggest purchasing a glass filter – being resistant to fingerprints is not beneficial to dropping or a significant bump!

Aperture ring & additional lens features

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Image courtesy of Sony

All of the buttons on this lens made me a very happy photographer. Designed with professionals in mind, this lens features manual buttons and features such as the aperture ring, an aperture ring silencer, the focus range limiter switch, custom focus hold buttons, and an AF to MF finger switch.

As an avid Canon DSLR and EF lens user who had recently added a Sony mirrorless to the collection, the aperture ring was something a bit new to me. Intended to be beneficial during cinema work, instead of adjusting the aperture on the camera body, you have the option of adjusting its width on the lens. This ring can be adjusted to either be silent or make little clicks to indicate it is turning – very useful for silent shooting. For those that prefer to adjust the aperture on the camera body itself, you can set the dial ring to ‘A’ for automatic.

The focus ring features Linear Response MF, which gives you instantaneous and sensitive response (a big bonus if you’re brave enough to use manual focus to capture something that moves)!

A nice added feature to the Sony GM 135mm F/1.8 is the focus range limiter switch which restricts the range of distance your lens can focus. I use this feature myself when I photograph dog agility shows to ensure the lens doesn’t focus on any obstacles near me but remains locked on a running dog that is far away.

Alongside this, the lens also has customizable focus hold buttons on the side and top which let you control focus via buttons on the lens rather than just the camera. Extremely useful in low light situations where lenses tend to naturally ‘hunt’ for focus.

Focus

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Where the Sony line particularly shines in the mirrorless game (if not the camera game as a whole) is in its Autofocus. For many of their mirrorless cameras, advanced algorithms provide high AF precision, and infrared technology allows autofocus to be achieved even in extremely low or difficult lighting situations. As well, various autofocus features such as “Eye Tracking” makes these kits superb pieces of machinery. Pair this with the autofocus of the lens, and you have a masterpiece.

This lens has two unique actuators called Extreme Dynamic (XD) Linear motors. These motors not only silence the autofocus but also allow the lens to focus significantly faster than many other motors.

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The autofocus is speedy and constant. I can attest to this as a sports photographer. When continuous autofocus is enabled in the camera, the lens holds onto the subject of your choosing like its life depends on it. The lens won’t hunt very much (if at all) and can keep following even a spontaneously and erratically moving subject.

When I took this lens out for a spin at WPPI, I can attest that the focus was incredibly fast and sharp, and was able to follow a human subject throughout the entire range of movement, regardless of the obstacles in front or behind. Even when the subject walked into a crowd of people, the lens was able to figure out who I was photographing.

Sharpness

The sharpest lens in the G-Master lineup. Hands down. A bold statement, but I stand by it!

For most lenses, they are only very sharp in the center. Sony GM 135mm F/1.8 is sharp everywhere. From the corners to the center, allowing you the versatility of any composition under the sun.

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The sharpness is also very consistent from shot to shot. I have had many instances in which I capture a sequence in a portrait and only the first or second shot is very sharp and the rest drop off a bit. Of course, to most photo viewers, this discrepancy isn’t very noticeable. However, the photographer’s eye can see it glaringly.

Another big bonus is that this lens does not have a vignette, which can be a common problem with wide apertures.

There is absolutely no reason to add sharpening in post-processing either.

The clarity and colors this lens produces are impressive. I found the images required significantly less retouching too.

Depth of Field

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Image courtesy of Sony

“Wide aperture” is my favorite phrase to hear. Truly. My photographic aesthetic dwells heavily on shallow depth of field. With my work as a concert photographer, the low light capability brought forth by wide apertures is a must-have. The F/1.8 aperture of this lens is terrific (although my obsession with my Canon 50mm F/1.2 L lens makes me wish this lens was an F/1.2). Even if you’re not one to shoot shallow, my rule of thumb is to always invest in lenses with a lower aperture number, so you have the option to shoot at all ranges.

The bokeh produced by this model is right on par with Sony’s unique look to out of focus areas. This is thanks to the unique lens build. To start, the XA element in the glass is developed using an exclusive glass molding process which makes it smoother than conventional aspherical lenses. Conventional lenses are rougher, which can cause rings to appear on your shallow depth of field (a pain to Photoshop out, though Gaussian Blur can do the trick if you mask it right). Secondly, Sony’s camera system aids in creating effortless-looking subject isolation. Third and final, the 11 circular aperture blades inside of the lens create a circular bokeh that maintains its shape no matter what.

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Image courtesy of Sony

I find the depth of field (DOF) looks more dreamy and a bit artificial from other similar lenses, but it has an authenticity and liveliness to it. The shallow DOF has a subtle, calmer rotation that creates a very natural look to the images (or in the least, as natural as this shallow of a field can be).

Pair that with the fact that this lens has a focal length of 135mm and you have some great subject separation. There is a typically unmentioned benefit to telephotos used for portraits. Because of the length of this lens, there is a nice separation of subject from the background and foreground. This happens because of the compression inside the lens.

Flare resistance

As someone who photographs live concerts often, I find that flare resistance is an important factor in deciding whether to purchase a lens or not. Although some prefer the stylistic look, many of my music clients don’t want an image that is heavily washed out by colored light and lacks contrast. Flare resistance tends to stem from the glass coating of lenses, and some are better resistant than others.

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Lucky for all of us, Sony’s patented Nano AR Coating is applied to reduce flare. Most of the time you can just shoot directly into the sun and you will neither have problems with a huge loss of contrast nor ghosting. This is brilliant for natural light photographers, especially during the beloved golden hour.

As previously mentioned, my primary experience with this lens was at the WPPI convention. Despite the lighting conditions being very difficult in the convention center, this lens outperformed many of the other lenses that I had tested on the same week- notably the flare resistance and overall quality. There was no real issue with the glaring back lights on any subject I had photographed.

Chromatic aberration

Chromatic aberration, also known as ‘color fringing’ or ‘purple fringing,’ is a common optical problem that occurs when a lens is either unable to bring all wavelengths of color to the same focal plane, or when wavelengths of color are focused at different positions in the focal plane. This issue plagues fast lenses the most, as the shallow depth of field tends to bring the optical problem forth. With this lens being an F/1.8, many are concerned about fringing issues in backlit portraits (when the light source is behind the subject).

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Sony’s Super ED element reduces chromatic aberration. Some aberration does exist – it isn’t foolproof – but luckily this issue tends only to affect the off-center portions of the frame. They are very minor in comparison to similar lenses and is easy to remove in post-processing programs such as Lightroom or Photoshop.

In comparison to my other Sony lenses, this one has the least chromatic aberration (as I found my 85mm was plagued with it, unfortunately). However, the Canon L lenses I have seem to have significantly less chromatic aberration all around.

Pros and Cons of the Sony FE 135mm F/1.8 GM Lens

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Pros:

  • Wide aperture at F/1.8.
  • Professional lens build.
  • Lighter than most alternatives.
  • Very accurate autofocus, especially paired with the mirrorless autofocus system.
  • Sharp throughout the entire frame, not just the center.
  • Silent autofocus due to the XD linear motor.
  • Convenient features physically built into the lens, such as the aperture ring, an aperture ring silencer, the focus range limiter switch, custom focus hold buttons, and an AF to MF finger switch.
  • Weather sealing and dust resistance.
  • Flaring and ghosting resistance Sony Nano AR coating on the glass.
  • Reduced chromatic aberration due to Super ED element.

Cons:

  • Pricey investment.
  • The lens is quite wide in physical build. Understandable for the wide aperture.  

Conclusion

This lens is a bit of a hefty financial investment, clocking in at about $1,900. However, considering the build quality, features, and incredible final output, I’d consider the value of this lens to be worth its asking price. I am also predicting that the lens will not depreciate much overtime.

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In conclusion, this lens is a stunner in its own right. For those that find a use for the 135mm (like myself), I’d go as far as to say this may be a must-have on the mirrorless list.

We had a fun jest at the WPPI show stating that you can just purchase the 24mm G-Master, 85mm G-Master, and this 135mm G-Master lens and that’s all you need for your kit! Arguably the absolute sharpest lens in the lineup, the 135mm is worth every penny for the immense amount of features included in this great lens.

The post Sony FE 135mm F/1.8 GM Lens Review appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Anabel DFlux.

Gear Review: Canon EOS M50 Mirrorless Camera Kit

The post Gear Review: Canon EOS M50 Mirrorless Camera Kit appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Anabel DFlux.

1 - Gear Review Canon EOS M50 Mirrorless Camera Kit

The Canon EOS M50 is a compact interchangeable lens camera for aspiring photographers looking for an easy way to boost the quality of their photos and videos. Sporting 4k video capabilities to capture your favorite memories, 24-megapixel vibrant photographs, and Dual Pixel Autofocus system, the Canon EOS M50 is a masterful piece of technology.

Social media mavens can benefit from the camera’s Wifi function that allows users to connect to the Canon Camera Connect app to transfer images to their smart device. From there, you can share and upload from your device directly to various social media sites.

Canon’s newest addition is an excellent introduction to mirrorless cameras. Complete with a lens, its ready to go right out of the box – making it a fantastic holiday season gift for any photography enthusiast. Following is why this camera is so spectacular!

What is a Mirrorless Camera?

Before we get into it, let’s have a quick look at what a mirrorless camera is and how this new technology compares to digital Single Lens Reflex cameras (DSLRs).

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The way that a digital SLR camera works is that a mirror inside the camera reflects the light up to the optical viewfinder (which is also how you see the image before you take it). When you release the shutter, the mirror lifts, allowing the light to hit the sensor and capture the image.

In a mirrorless camera, there is no mirror or optical viewfinder. Instead, the imaging sensor gets exposed to light at all times. This method gives you a digital preview of your image either on the rear LCD screen or an electronic viewfinder (EVF).  As such, a mirrorless camera is one that doesn’t require a reflex mirror – a key component of DSLR cameras.

Due to the lack of mirror, the camera is significantly smaller and lighter weight than a DSLR, a very distinct difference between the two. However, DSLRs are well-trusted because of their true-to-life through-the-lens optical viewfinder system, which uses a series of mirrors to reflect light to your eye.

Mirrorless cameras, on the other hand, require an electronic viewfinder or LCD screen for image monitoring. Both are equally spectacular. Each model has their own pros and cons and it comes down to personal choice.

Canon EOS M50 features and specifications

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Features

The Canon EOS M50 mirrorless camera sports some very impressive features that would make even the smuggest photographer blush. The EOS M50 delivers improved Dual Pixel CMOS AF for fast, accurate autofocus that helps you get the photo you want right at the moment it happens.

The 24.1 Megapixel (APS-C) sensor is capable of capturing high-resolution image and video. The files grant the user images suitable for enlargements with sufficient resolution for significant cropping. The video capability of this hardy little camera is even more impressive. It has the ability to record in 4K UHD at 24 frames per second. The high-speed 120p mode is possible in HD.

According to the manufacturer, the built-in high-resolution electronic viewfinder features approximately 2,360,000 dots. So, you can see high amounts of detail in whatever you’re capturing.

The vari-angle Touchscreen LCD, which has a flexible tilt range. The tilt range is ideal for high-angle and low-angle shooting so you can get the composition you want without breaking your back. The Canon EOS M50 camera features the new DIGIC 8 Image Processor, which helps improve autofocus performance, enables you to shoot 4K UHD 24p video and aids with many other advanced features.

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Specifications

  • Improved Dual Pixel CMOS AF and Eye Detection AF.
  • 24.1 Megapixel (APS-C) CMOS Sensor with ISO 100-25600 (H: 51200).
  • 4K UHD* 24p and HD 120p** for Slow Motion.
  • Built-in OLED EVF*** with Touch and Drag AF.
  • Vari-angle Touchscreen LCD.
  • Built-in Wi-Fi, NFC, and Bluetooth Technology.
  • Automatic Image Transfer to Compatible Devices while Shooting.
  • New DIGIC 8 Image Processor with Improved Auto Lighting Optimizer.
  • Silent Mode for Quiet Operation.

This is only the second EOS M model to have a built-in Electronic View Finder (with the first being the EOS M5). It is also the first EOS M model to offer 4k video, which puts it one step ahead of the EOS M5. The camera also uses a DIGIC 8 processor, rather than the older DIGIC 7 processor.

Physical build

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This camera’s size is brilliant! It is smaller than my cell phone (Google Pixel). Easy to throw into any bag, purse, or pocket. The body construction consists of polycarbonate rather than a metal body shell, but it still feels robust enough in your hand. The camera features a very comfortable and well-designed grip containing  ‘hooks’ for your second finger and thumb. As a result, the M50 feels surprisingly secure, even when used with one hand.

Much like Canon’s pro-level DSLRs, the controls are well laid-out. The buttons are a decent size and easily located by touch while using the viewfinder. However, the size may be an issue for those with larger hands. My hands are petite, and I find the controls just fine (haha)!

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The tilt, vari-angle touch screen is brilliant. This nifty feature has infinite uses. Additionally, the screen can be stowed backward against the camera body to avoid any potential scratches (for those that don’t purchase screen protectors). The built-in viewfinder is very helpful when shooting during the noon sun or other bright conditions. There’s an auto activation when your eye approaches the viewfinder, ensuring that the LCD doesn’t blind you.

Canon has a knack for making its small models handle well and feel professional. The M50 is proof of this.

Autofocus

Canon’s autofocus is what has kept me loyal to the brand for over ten years now. Canon’s Dual Pixel CMOS sensor that the M50 sports mean every sensor pixel is capable of being used for phase detection. Allowing fast autofocus almost wherever the subject gets situated within the frame. The AF system is sensitive down to -2 EV, which means the camera continues to focus in extremely low light.

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A new autofocus feature of this model is the eye-detection autofocus. The camera can find eyes on your subject and lock focus on them with the push of a button. It is photographic witchcraft, and I love it. This feature is activated when face detection is turned on, to focus specifically on your subject’s eye.

Do make note that this fun feature is only available in single-AF mode, which means you can’t use it track focus during burst shooting. As can be seen above, the eyes of my dog are nicely in focus (and this was easy to achieve, even when she moved a bit).

I have always preferred the AI Servo | Continuous Focus mode due to the majority of my subjects moving around a lot. Thanks to the ability to use phase-detection anywhere in the frame, this feature is fast and reliable.

Low light capability

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As the years’ progress, so does low-light capability. In higher ISO levels, image quality stands up very well at ISO 800. It’s only at ISO 3200 noise, and noise reduction starts to blur away detail. However, the color gets retained well. The higher numbers are passable for smaller reproductions, but you’ll generally find yourself not wanting to move beyond 12,500 max! The autofocus continues to shine even at low-light levels.

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Battery life

I have always been a tremendous fan of Canon’s batteries. They always continue to impress me with their longevity. This camera is no exception, despite having an always-on LCD screen! As always, I do suggest purchasing more than one battery, but you can remain confident in this camera lasting you through your entire photo session and photography adventures.

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The lens: EF-M 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM

The M50 kit comes complete with the EF-M 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM, a compact and stylized zoom lens for the mirrorless camera. The lens is very compact and features a side switch to flatten the lens when stored. This feature makes traveling with the M50 kit an absolute breeze.

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With the 15-45mm kit lens with its STM focus motor, autofocus is great. It is super-fast, silent, accurate, and excellent for any photography style. The 35mm-equivalent 24-72mm range combines a wide-angle for landscapes and big group photos, with a telephoto zoom for close-ups and detailed headshots.

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I found the lens to be reliable, fast, and sharp – no complaints whatsoever!

Final thoughts

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The Canon EOS M50 is an excellent entry-level camera for aspiring, beginner, and hobbyist photographers alike. From its variety of features to its portable size and ease-of-use, unraveling this camera under the Christmas tree would excite even the most controlled picture-takers. Plus, having a kit that comes with a lens is just a brilliant bonus!

The post Gear Review: Canon EOS M50 Mirrorless Camera Kit appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Anabel DFlux.

The (Almost) Perfect Autofocus of the Sony a7R III: a Hands-On Review

The post The (Almost) Perfect Autofocus of the Sony a7R III: a Hands-On Review appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Anabel DFlux.

Focus is one of the most important concepts for a photographer. It can make or break an image. Whether you’re a pixel peeper like me who always looks for technical critical focus or an image maker who uses specific focus points to tell a story,  how the camera focuses is everything.

That’s why the newest addition to the Sony Alpha series is so conversation-worthy. With the 399 focus points on the Sony a7R III, and its ability to track focus like no other, the company touts it’s hard to get a shot that’s out of focus. This camera is like an artificially intelligent robot – it can predict and figure out exactly what you want in focus on.

With the thumb joystick on the back of the camera, you can quickly and easily change your focus point. And its AI Servo is out of this world. It could figure out the entire outline of a subject and hold on to it for dear life.

I take varying images – shooting animal action sports, live concerts, and everything in between. So I took all the boasting I’ve heard about this camera and put it to the ultimate test.

About the Sony a7R III

The a7R III is one of Sony’s newest and flashiest addition to its impressive mirrorless line of cameras. According to its website, the Sony a7R III sports the following drool-worthy perks:

  • 42.4 MP 35mm full-frame Exmor R™ CMOS and enhanced processing system
  • Standard ISO 100-32000 range (upper limit expandable to 1024005, with a lower limit of 50)
  • Fast Hybrid AF with 399-point focal-plane phase-detection AF and 425-point contrast-detection AF. The focus modes include:
    • AF-A (Automatic AF)
    • AF-S (Single-shot AF)
    • AF-C ( Continuous AF)
    • DMF (Direct Manual Focus)
    • Manual Focus
  • Face detection, with Modes:
    • Face Priority in AF (On/Off)
    • Face Priority in Multi Metering (On/Off)
    • Regist. Faces Priority (On/Off)
    • Face registration (max. number detectable: 8)
  • High-speed continuous shooting of up to 10fps (12fps with AF/AE tracking)
  • 5-axis image stabilization with 5.5-stop exposure advantage
  • 4K video recording
  • Dual card slots with simultaneous or consecutive recording
  • Silent Shooting Mode

The camera is compatible solely with Sony E-mount lenses, including G-Master and Zeiss lenses (sought after in the Sony world). The aspect ratio is 3:2, and the camera can record still images in JPEG, (DCF Ver. 2.0, Exif Ver.2.31, MPF Baseline compliant) and RAW (Sony ARW 2.3 format). The images are quite large: a 35mm full-frame image is 42MP (7,952 x 5,304 pixels), which in uncompressed RAW format takes up about 80MB of storage.

The camera also has built-in noise reduction software you can turn on or off as needed.

But what really set this camera apart (and why I fell in love with it) is the autofocus.

The Sony a7R III Autofocus Features

The a7R III allows for silent shooting at up to 10fps with AF/AE tracking – great for those who do wildlife photography. Shooting at 10 FPS yields up to 76 images at a time (when shooting JPEG).

Its phase-detect points cover around 47% of the sensor area. When you combine that with the contrast-detect sensor areas, the total AF coverage is nearly 68% of the frame.

Advanced algorithms provide high AF precision down to light levels as low as -3 EV for more reliable autofocus in dark scenes. The enhanced Fast Hybrid AF speeds up AF approximately two times faster under dim lighting conditions. The camera’s infrared technology allows it to autofocus even in extremely low or difficult lighting situations.

The camera also has an ‘eye autofocus’ setting. You read that right: it can find eyes on your subject and lock focus on them with the push of a button. This is photographic witchcraft and I love it. The a7R III’s Eye AF evolves with twice the effective eye detection and tracking, even when shooting a moving portrait subject. It’s touted by the company to work when:

  • the subject’s face is partially hidden
  • the subject is looking down or wearing glasses
  • the subject is backlit
  • the lighting is dim or low
  • the subject is far away.

The a7R III includes a touchscreen that provides touch AF, focus point dragging and focus racking features. The AF-C (continuous autofocus) option feature is extraordinary. The camera can keep tracking the subject even if it’s changing direction erratically or an object gets in the way.

Tip: The ‘Expand Flexible Spot’ mode is a good one to start from, and works well with the AF joystick for quick adjustments to the preferred focus area.

Real Life Use

This camera is fast and accurate. With my DSLRs, I usually have to refocus multiple times. But I didn’t have to do it once on the Sony a7R III. I think mirrorless cameras really outshine most DSLRs in the autofocus department.

Here’s how it did in various scenarios:

Action and Sports

I photograph a lot of action, and when I first bought this camera I took it to a Frisbee dog competition to test it out. I was absolutely blown away by the autofocus. The camera even recognized a dog’s face with its facial tracking autofocus and maintained focus on the dog’s face throughout its trick-induced performance. When the dog moved further away the focus changed to the animal’s entire body, which I appreciated.

Regardless of how spontaneously the dog moved, the focus remained locked.

I typically use my Canon 7D Mark II for animal sports photography due to its speed and the fact the body is intended for action. But I now prefer the a7R III due to its superb tracking. The 7D tends to get lost when there isn’t much contrast between the subject and the other objects in the frame, such as photographing in the fog. (Many of these dog sporting events happen around 7am when the fog rolls onto the field.)

The Sony mirrorless clearly identified the subject despite the lack of contrast. It can even refocus on dogs running at me without needing any prompting or additional technique.

Portraits

Portraits are an absolute breeze with this camera. From face tracking to eye tracking, it’s almost impossible to take an out-of-focus image unless you have your settings wrong. As I mentioned earlier, the eye tracking feature is said to work in problematic scenarios (the face is partially hidden, the subject is looking down, etc.)

Well, I can confirm that what Sony promises is true. It works in all of those scenarios. Even when I shot a model wearing unnatural contacts and bright glittery makeup, the camera had no issue.

Dimly-Lit and Golden Hour Portraits

Much like the camera’s success with well-lit portraits, the Sony a7R III can focus on portraits in dim light as if they were lit to perfection. I’m happy to say there was absolutely no difference between the two. Night portraits were a breeze.

The golden hour portraits were just as easy (not to mention exquisite). My other cameras have focusing issues when the sun is low and hitting the lens at an angle. But the a7R III breezed through and held focus on the subject no matter how the sun was hitting the lens glass.

Live Concerts

Dogs may wake me up in the mornings, but it’s the rock stars who keep me awake at night. In the evenings you’ll probably find me shooting a live concert with an arsenal of camera equipment to get me through the job.

Live concerts are extremely difficult focusing situations. In fact, they’re like a low-light sports situation. For the most part, you’ll have limited lighting, and have to deal with colored bulbs that can paint the subject with a very saturated color (such as the dreaded red hue).

Live concerts are also high-energy and filled with action as the guitarists swing their guitars and the drummer pounds away. You may not always have enough contrast to work with, and plenty of annoying obstacles to get in the way of whatever musicians you’re photographing.

Much like I found success in dog sports photography, the Sony a7R III does mighty well at maintaining focus on the subject despite erratic movement or instruments getting in the way. If the light is low but even, the camera does a splendid job of finding the subject thanks to its Advanced AF algorithms.


Unfortunately, live concerts are also where we hit a bit of a snag. As venue goers know, most music venues (especially small indie ones) don’t have consistent lighting on the stage. It can be uneven, sporadic, and wild. Some genres of music (e.g. metal and rock) really love using strobe lights on the stage as well.

And this is where the Sony a7R III flops terribly.

The moment strobes are used, the camera completely loses its ability to focus or find the subject. It’s a negative I haven’t seen covered in other reviews and one that keeps me from bringing this camera to a live concert (after having a particularly bad experience at a recent show).

When strobes were involved, none of the autofocus settings or adjustments worked. The camera began to hunt and then failed to focus at all. This happened with other native and non-native lenses. My guess is the infrared technology is affected by the strobing effects, but that’s just an assumption.

Non-Native Lens with an Adapter

As an avid 16-year Canon user with an army of L lenses, I have no plans on switching brands anytime soon. When I added the Sony a7R III to my kit, I immediately looked for ways to adapt my L glass to the Sony camera. (That way I’d need to buy only buy one native lens for the Sony and use the rest of my existing kit.)

After testing out several adapters I found that the Metabones Smart Adapter worked best.

Now it was time to test the autofocus on a non-native lens.

Although some of the autofocus features (e.g. eye-tracking) are disabled on non-native lenses, the facial recognition and AF-C (continuous autofocus) features worked like a charm. Once I’d calibrated the adapter to my lenses I didn’t experience any lag, searching or loss of focus. And despite certain features being unavailable, the camera was just as fast with non-native lenses as it was with native ones – even in low light. (I took this set up out for a spin during a club event.)

But the strobing issue was still there, which is why I’m convinced it’s a camera issue rather than a lens issue.

Final Thoughts

I have no regrets investing top dollar in this mirrorless camera. I find myself using it as much as my DSLRs, and I have three of them. I’ll often pick the mirrorless for more complex shoots simply because of its exquisite face tracking with autofocus.

Have I got you salivating? Think the Sony a7R III might be your next camera? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

The post The (Almost) Perfect Autofocus of the Sony a7R III: a Hands-On Review appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Anabel DFlux.

Gear Review: Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM Lens

Gear review: Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM Lens 1

 

Sony has very quickly risen to be a photography power horse in the professional world. With their collection of impressive mirrorless cameras and fantastic cinema products, Sony has carved a name for themselves among the photography legends such as Canon, Nikon, and Leica. As such, it is of no wonder that the company has released a version of their own of the famous 85mm f/1.4 lens (Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM Lens) – a fixed millimeter that features a beautifully creamy bokeh.

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I am a very versatile photographer. My work spans a variety of niches in the field, from live concerts to portraiture, action photography to animals. I have found a use for the Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM lens in all of these situations, and the wide aperture is a fantastic bonus for the work that I do.

I use this lens in low light situations, aiding in isolating the subject in busy locations, and creating a precise depth-of-field-look for my clients.

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Lens build

My frame of reference is the Canon L lenses of which this is meant to be an equivalent. I find the build of those lenses to be very high quality and durable. Upon opening the box to unveil the Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM lens, I was actually rather impressed at the build quality. The camera weighs about 825g – almost 2lbs – a significant weight.

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The outer casing of this lens is high-quality polycarbonate, and all markings are engraved and filled with paint. The physical feel of the lens in your hand is solid and sturdy. The rubberized focus ring was quite comfortable to the touch and was very smooth to turn.

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The lens features a rubberized focus ring, an aperture ring, an AF/MF switch, and on the left side of the lens, there is a programmable button that you can set to work as most anything. An excellent idea for a lens!

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The hood that comes with the camera is also high quality in build. The hood sports a rubberized front bumper and felt on the inside to counteract stray light. Furthermore, there is also a button which you have to press to remove the hood, which ensures the hood stays in place.

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Aperture ring

As an avid Canon DSLR and EF lens user who had recently added a Sony mirrorless to the collection, the aperture ring was something a bit new to me.

Intended to be very beneficial during cinema work, instead of adjusting the aperture on the camera body, you have the option of adjusting its width on the lens. This ring can be adjusted to either be silent or make little clicks to indicate it is turning – very useful for silent shooting.

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For those that prefer to adjust the aperture on the camera body itself, you can set the dial ring to ‘A’ for automatic. My one gripe would be the location of the ‘A’ option- it sits on the f/16 side rather than the f/1.4. It seems more logical to me to place this option on the side of the widest aperture. I found myself accidentally shifting the ring over to f/16 during shooting.

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Focus

The focus on this lens is very accurate if I do say so myself. Although in these types of camera combinations, much of the autofocus relies on the camera- but the speed is very much the lens. The close focusing distance is approximately 0.8m.

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I have read reviews of others who have had focus issues with this model, but I have not. I was able to record an entire sequence of a dog running directly at me from start to finish in perfect tack sharpness. The body I am pairing the lens with is the Sony a7r III, which can make a significant difference.

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Keep in mind that shooting at f/1.4 has its challenges- wide apertures tend to be difficult if you aren’t used to them. To quickly refresh you of the basics, when you focus your camera on a subject, it establishes a focal plane. To get your subject in focus, it has to be on the focal plane. Focal planes happen on an x (horizontal) and y (vertical) axis.

Anything along either of those axes will be in focus, and anything not on them will be out of focus. With wide apertures like f/1.4, your focal plane is quite narrow. Quick trick? Step further back to widen the plane!

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Sharpness

Talking about the focus naturally leads to sharpness. This lens is tremendously sharp. I was very impressed with the amount of detail that this lens can capture. There is absolutely no reason to add sharpening in post-processing.

One of the first sessions I did with the Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM lens was action portraits at the beach, and the final result managed to pick up all of the detail including specks of sand flying up.

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I was also very impressed with the clarity and colors when using this lens- the glass was superb. Though I still find a significant advantage in Canon L glass (reminding that I am an avid Canon user), in regards to raw-off-of-the-camera quality. This lens is a close second best.

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Depth of field

The bokeh produced from this lens is where the difference is quite noticeable to the trained eye. The depth of field (DOF) at f/1.4 looks somewhat different from that of its competitors, such as Canon’s equivalent.

I find the depth of field looks more dreamy and a bit artificial from other similar lenses, but it has an authenticity and liveliness to it. The shallow DOF has quite a bit of a subtle, calmer rotation that creates a very natural look to the images (or in the least, as natural as this shallow of a field can be).

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That said, there is a vignetting that occurs at f/1.4. Some people like this, others don’t. I enjoy the natural vignetting that is contrary to popular opinion, but for those that find it a nuisance, keep in mind that this issue does occur with this lens.

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Flare resistance

A big bonus that sets this lens apart from others is its impressive flare resistance. Most of the time you can just shoot directly into the sun and you will neither have problems with a huge loss of contrast nor ghosting. This is brilliant for natural light photographers, especially during the beloved golden hour.

For me, as a concert photographer, I found this to be a significant perk as the stage lights didn’t flare too badly.

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Chromatic aberration

Chromatic aberration, also known as ‘color fringing’ or ‘purple fringing,’ is a common optical problem that occurs when a lens is either unable to bring all wavelengths of color to the same focal plane, or when wavelengths of color are focused at different positions in the focal plane.

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Unfortunately, where I lose a bit of love for this lens is the chromatic aberration issue it suffers. Though I have read reviews in which others claim that the chromatic aberration is minimal, I have experienced the contrary and consider the chromatic aberration to be rather severe.

I have used several high-quality fast lenses that have little to no aberration, and this is not one of them. I have experienced a slew of colors coming out in quite contrasted images, ranging from the purple fringe to aqua or bright green fringing. Although this can be removed in post-processing (especially in a program such as Lightroom), that is an extra step.

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Pros and cons of the Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM Lens

Pros

  • Very fast lens – focusing is a breeze.
  • The build quality is quite solid and durable.
  • Very sharp and clear images.
  • The depth of field is more natural rather than dreamy, which I find to be positive.
  • This is a full-frame lens intended for full-frame cameras – always a massive perk.
  • Excellent flare resistance.

Cons

  • Very noticeable chromatic aberration in high contrast situations.
  • Visible vignetting at wide apertures.
  • The ‘A’ option on the aperture ring is located in an inconvenient spot (in my opinion).
  • The lens has a significant weight.
  • The price is a bit steep at around $1700 USD.

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Conclusion

For those rocking Sony E-mount cameras, this lens is dreamy. An excellent and high-quality choice as a native Sony mount. I find it to be rather worth it for those sporting this brand’s camera body.

Have you used the  Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM lens? What are your experiences with it? Let us know in the comments below.

 

The post Gear Review: Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM Lens appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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