Hands-On with the new Sony RX100 VI Compact Camera

Sony continues to innovate and release new versions of their popular line of mirrorless and compact cameras. Just release is the newest Sony RX100 VI, the sixth version in just six years. But at just under $1200 USD is it worth the price? Let’s see.

There are quite a few new things and upgrades from the Mark V. Let’s see what a few different testers had to say about it in Venice recently where Sony handed out some cameras to put through the paces. Here’s a small list of features:

Image courtesy of Sony.

  • New 24-200mm lens (with the 2.73 crop factor) but with an f/2.8 maximum aperture.
  • 24 frames per second burst mode.
  • Buffer 233 JPEGs standard.
  • 315 phase detection autofocus points.
  • 90-degree tilting LCD screen.
  • New touchscreen capabilities.
  • Easier popup electronic viewfinder.
  • Does 4K video.
  • New Vlogging stick available for easier video creation.

Photo Gear News

Richard Sibley from Photo Gear News gives the Sony RX100 VI some good tests as he walks around Venice. See what he has to say about shooting video, slow-motion, and other things. He talks about the aperture range limitations and the menu system.

Camera Labs

See what Gordon Laing, prolific camera reviewer, had to say about the Sony RX100 VI. His test of the tracking autofocus shows impressive results on moving subjects with the phase detect autofocus of this camera.

So what does he like, and what does he miss from the Mark V? Watch to find out.

Things missing on the RX100M6 he’s noted are:

  • No microphone jack or Bluetooth audio connection
  • The wider aperture of f/1.8 that was available on the Mark V
  • No built-in Neutral Density filter that was on earlier models

For a little humor

Finally, to inject a little humor into things is Kai (former of DigitalRevTV). His point of view and way of approaching things is unique and adds a bit of spice to reviews that can otherwise get a little dull.

The official word from Sony

Lastly, here is Michael Bubolo from Sony to give us the low-down on some of the official specs and features of this new camera.

Is this camera for you?

I have to admit when I heard about the 24-200 equivalent zoom lens I was a bit jealous as compared to my Fuji X100F with a fixed 23mm (35mm equivalent) lens. But the 1″ sensor (2.73x crop factor) on the Sony is a lot smaller, so I’ll stick with my Fuji!

So who is this camera for? At the price of around $1200, it’s not for everyone. Perhaps it’s good as a backup to their DSLR for pros, or for bloggers (and vloggers) who do video and want something portable. The zoom range certainly is attractive and it does a nice job on video for sure. But would you spend this much on a compact camera?

Note: currently the Sony RX100 VI is only available for pre-order from Amazon and other retailers.

Let’s discuss in the comments section below.

The post Hands-On with the new Sony RX100 VI Compact Camera appeared first on Digital Photography School.

How to Choose a Lens for Night Sky Photography

There is a big distinction to be made when it comes to night sky photography, which is whether or not you plan on photographing the stars in the night sky. If you do not plan on including stars in your shots, things are a lot simpler for you. That is true in a lot of ways, in that you don’t need to worry as much about the clouds and weather, the impact of the moon, or light pollution.

When it comes to lens selection, it means that you can pretty much use whatever lens you want. Therefore, if that is the type of night photography you plan to do, continue using whatever is your favorite lens at present.

Photo of the Milky Way at night - How to Choose a Lens for Night Sky Photography

Issues doing Night Sky Photography

On the other hand, if you plan on shooting the night sky and capturing the stars, things get trickier. This stems from two facts. The first is that starlight is extremely dim. It is only a tiny, tiny fraction of what you have at sunset (let alone the middle of the day). Even moonlight is many times more powerful.

The second issue is that the stars are moving across the sky (or, rather, that the earth is spinning, but it appears as though the stars are moving to your camera). This is happening more quickly than you might realize.

As a result, you need to do everything possible to maximize exposure, and you need for that to happen quickly. In other words, the dim light means that you need a lot of exposure. Exposure stems from a combination of three things: shutter speed, aperture, and ISO.

In other types of photography, you might simply open up the shutter for a long time. In night sky photography, however, you don’t have that luxury since the stars are moving. That means your shutter speed is going to be capped somewhere between 15 and 30 seconds. If you expose any longer, the camera will pick up that movement and it will show up as tails or blur in your pictures. That won’t work.

How to Choose a Lens for Night Sky Photography - night shot with cliffs and stars

That means you’ll have to look at the other two exposure options – ISO and aperture. To deal with the dim light, you will have to crank up your ISO to at least 3200 and in many cases 6400. At present, that’s about as high as you should go. Even if your camera goes up to something like ISO 25,600, as many cameras do these days if you use an ISO that high you risk noise completely taking over your picture.

Use a Fast Lens

Because of these caps on shutter speed and ISO, the only remaining exposure control is aperture. To maximize exposure and still successfully capture the night sky, you will need a fast lens. How fast?

A lens that opens up to f/2.8 or wider is ideal. A lens with a maximum aperture of f/4.0 is acceptable. Anything less than that (meaning a higher f-number) probably won’t work. This is one situation where your kit lens might serve you well. Most kit lenses open up to f/3.5 at their widest focal length, which is actually 1/3 stop brighter than your typical f/4.0 lens.

As a side-note, you might be worried about depth of field when using these large apertures. You need not worry about that though. You will always set your focus at infinity and everything in your scene will be on that plane of focus. Even if there are objects in the foreground, at wide angles things quickly go to infinity on your lens. Unless something is very close to you (say, within 10 feet or so), it will be on the same plane of focus and depth of field will not be an issue. If you want to include anything closer than that, you’ll likely need to focus stack.

desert trees and Milky Way - How to Choose a Lens for Night Sky Photography

Shoot with a Wide-Angle Lens

You may be familiar with something called the Reciprocal Rule. It will help you make sense of why you need a wide angle lens for night sky photography. That rule states that the slowest shutter speed (exposure time) you can use when shooting handheld and still avoid blur in your pictures is the reciprocal of your focal length. So, for example, if you are using a 100mm lens, your minimum shutter speed should be 1/100th of a second.

This rule shows that there is always a direct correlation between focal length and the longest shutter speed you can use to avoid blur. That also holds true when it comes to photographing the stars. When you photograph the night sky, the wider the lens you use, the longer you can open up the shutter.

How wide of a lens do you need? There is no clear answer. If you are familiar with photographing the stars or the Milky Way, you may have heard of certain rules of thumb where you divide a number by the focal length of your lens to get a maximum exposure time (such as the Rule of 600, 500, or even 400) before the stars start to arch and blur.

For example, using the Rule of 500, a 24mm lens would allow you to use a shutter speed up to 20 seconds (500 divided by 24 mm is 20.8 seconds). But if you use a 16mm lens instead, you can expose up to 30 seconds (500 divided by 16 is 31.25). As you can see, wider is better. Here is how it works out for the widest focal lengths.

Rule of 500 chart - How to Choose a Lens for Night Sky Photography

Before moving on, let me point out two things about this standard. First of all, it is not absolute, and there are those who advocate for a stricter standard (meaning that you should use even shorter shutter speeds for these focal lengths). Be sure to test out different speeds and see what works best for you.

Second, if you use a crop factor camera, be sure to adjust these numbers to the Effective Focal Length, which is based on a full-frame or 35mm format (i.e. 20mm on a 1.5x crop factor camera is effectively a 30mm, so the maximum exposure then is only 16.7 seconds before the stars arch).

Measuring Sharpness

It goes without saying that you want a sharp lens. But how do you determine what is a sharp lens and what isn’t? The best way, of course, is to try them out for yourself. It may not be practical to test out a whole series of lenses though.

We all rely on lens reviews. I’m certainly no expert on optics, so I definitely do. These are usually extremely helpful, but sometimes it is difficult to get an apples to apples comparison of different lenses. To do that, there is an extremely helpful resource called DXO Mark.

The reason DXO Mark is so helpful is that they score all lenses in the exact same manner. For example, they give scores for sharpness, distortion, and vignetting (as well as other criteria, and an overall score) and grade each lens the same way. That lets you look at numbers very quickly, rather than comparing images from different lenses and attempting to quantify the differences. If nothing else, it gives you a good place to start.

DXO lens comparison chart - How to Choose a Lens for Night Sky Photography

Of course, sharpness isn’t the only thing you need to consider. Lenses all have different amounts of distortion as well. One type of distortion that is important in night photography is called coma distortion. It adds little wings to points of light, which in the case of photographing stars is not ideal. Unfortunately, this is not something that is often included in lens tests, so you’ll have to check for this with whatever lens you are considering.

Narrowing Your Choices Down

We have now established the three most important criteria for picking a lens for your night sky photography. Your lens needs to be wide, fast, and sharp. In terms of how wide, how fast, and how sharp, that is up to you. But you can use your own criteria to create a list of available lenses.

For example, you might decide to only consider lenses that are 20mm or wider, open up to f/2.8, and are at least moderately sharp.

lens comparison chart - How to Choose a Lens for Night Sky Photography

Once you narrow the list down to your particular brand of camera, you will probably find that the list is not very long. There may actually only be a few models from which to choose.

The Top Picks

Once you start looking at the widest, fastest lenses made, the list quickly gets pretty short. Once you add in the reviews and ratings, some pretty clear choices emerge. Of the Big Three manufacturers, I think you would have to strongly consider the following lenses (if you can afford them, as they are quite pricey):

three good lens choices - How to Choose a Lens for Night Sky Photography

  1. Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8 III
  2. Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED
  3. Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 GM

That’s not to say you necessarily need to rush out and purchase one of these lenses. The point of this article is really to help you establish the criteria for picking your own lenses. At the same time, I don’t want to be coy about these obviously great lenses, as they fit the criteria for night sky photography very well.

A Sleeper

When you start putting price limitations on lenses, the list gets short real quick! Most lenses in this range cost well over $1000, and many approach $2000. You may be looking for something more affordable, as I was. Once I looked at the list further, the Tokina 16-28 mm f/2.8 jumped out at me.

It is under $700 in most places and meets all three criteria of being wide (16 mm), fast (f/2.8), and sharp (scoring a 22 on my camera per DXO Mark). I picked one up and like the results. It works great, although there is definitely some coma distortion going on. Still, for the price, it is a great option. This lens is available for both Canon and Nikon cameras.

How to Choose a Lens for Night Sky Photography - Milky Way and spooky trees

A Wildcard

There is another affordable option if you don’t mind manual controls – Rokinon lenses. They have several wide angle options to choose from, ranging from 12-24mm. They are prime lenses and are very fast. All have maximum apertures of at least f/2.8. These are all manual lenses though, which means that you will need to focus manually. It also means that you will set the aperture with a ring on the lens, rather than with your camera.

Still, that should not be a problem with night sky photography. You just set the lens at its widest aperture and set the focus at infinity. You might never change it. Because of these manual controls, you can often pick up these lenses for well under $400 (check out the Rokinon 14mm). Again, this is just another good option if you don’t mind manual control lenses.

Note: Rokinon also has 12mm and 8mm fish-eye lenses available with mounts for Canon, Nikon, Sony, Fuji, and Micro 4/3 cameras if you want to go really wide. 

How to Choose a Lens for Night Sky Photography

The Lens for You

Just remember that if you are considering a lens for night sky photography, you’ll want to limit the lens selection to wide-angle lenses (generally 24mm or wider). You can get away with longer focal lengths, but you’ll need them to be extremely fast (probably f/2.0 or greater).

Once you have narrowed down your selection in this fashion, look at fast lenses. Try to get one that opens up to f/2.8 or better. That usually means you are looking at fairly expensive lenses, but as mentioned above there are some affordable options that will get the job done. After that, be sure to check the DXO Mark ratings. But don’t stop there – a simple Google search for the lens(es) you are considering will likely yield a lot of reviews. I am partial to The Digital Picture and DP Review as well.

Hopefully, this article has gotten you familiar with the criteria you need from a lens for night sky photography and has spurred a few ideas. It isn’t meant to limit your alternatives, so if there are other lens options I’ve missed, please let me know in the comment area below.

The post How to Choose a Lens for Night Sky Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School.

How to Choose a Lens for Night Sky Photography

There is a big distinction to be made when it comes to night sky photography, which is whether or not you plan on photographing the stars in the night sky. If you do not plan on including stars in your shots, things are a lot simpler for you. That is true in a lot of ways, in that you don’t need to worry as much about the clouds and weather, the impact of the moon, or light pollution.

When it comes to lens selection, it means that you can pretty much use whatever lens you want. Therefore, if that is the type of night photography you plan to do, continue using whatever is your favorite lens at present.

Photo of the Milky Way at night - How to Choose a Lens for Night Sky Photography

Issues doing Night Sky Photography

On the other hand, if you plan on shooting the night sky and capturing the stars, things get trickier. This stems from two facts. The first is that starlight is extremely dim. It is only a tiny, tiny fraction of what you have at sunset (let alone the middle of the day). Even moonlight is many times more powerful.

The second issue is that the stars are moving across the sky (or, rather, that the earth is spinning, but it appears as though the stars are moving to your camera). This is happening more quickly than you might realize.

As a result, you need to do everything possible to maximize exposure, and you need for that to happen quickly. In other words, the dim light means that you need a lot of exposure. Exposure stems from a combination of three things: shutter speed, aperture, and ISO.

In other types of photography, you might simply open up the shutter for a long time. In night sky photography, however, you don’t have that luxury since the stars are moving. That means your shutter speed is going to be capped somewhere between 15 and 30 seconds. If you expose any longer, the camera will pick up that movement and it will show up as tails or blur in your pictures. That won’t work.

How to Choose a Lens for Night Sky Photography - night shot with cliffs and stars

That means you’ll have to look at the other two exposure options – ISO and aperture. To deal with the dim light, you will have to crank up your ISO to at least 3200 and in many cases 6400. At present, that’s about as high as you should go. Even if your camera goes up to something like ISO 25,600, as many cameras do these days if you use an ISO that high you risk noise completely taking over your picture.

Use a Fast Lens

Because of these caps on shutter speed and ISO, the only remaining exposure control is aperture. To maximize exposure and still successfully capture the night sky, you will need a fast lens. How fast?

A lens that opens up to f/2.8 or wider is ideal. A lens with a maximum aperture of f/4.0 is acceptable. Anything less than that (meaning a higher f-number) probably won’t work. This is one situation where your kit lens might serve you well. Most kit lenses open up to f/3.5 at their widest focal length, which is actually 1/3 stop brighter than your typical f/4.0 lens.

As a side-note, you might be worried about depth of field when using these large apertures. You need not worry about that though. You will always set your focus at infinity and everything in your scene will be on that plane of focus. Even if there are objects in the foreground, at wide angles things quickly go to infinity on your lens. Unless something is very close to you (say, within 10 feet or so), it will be on the same plane of focus and depth of field will not be an issue. If you want to include anything closer than that, you’ll likely need to focus stack.

desert trees and Milky Way - How to Choose a Lens for Night Sky Photography

Shoot with a Wide-Angle Lens

You may be familiar with something called the Reciprocal Rule. It will help you make sense of why you need a wide angle lens for night sky photography. That rule states that the slowest shutter speed (exposure time) you can use when shooting handheld and still avoid blur in your pictures is the reciprocal of your focal length. So, for example, if you are using a 100mm lens, your minimum shutter speed should be 1/100th of a second.

This rule shows that there is always a direct correlation between focal length and the longest shutter speed you can use to avoid blur. That also holds true when it comes to photographing the stars. When you photograph the night sky, the wider the lens you use, the longer you can open up the shutter.

How wide of a lens do you need? There is no clear answer. If you are familiar with photographing the stars or the Milky Way, you may have heard of certain rules of thumb where you divide a number by the focal length of your lens to get a maximum exposure time (such as the Rule of 600, 500, or even 400) before the stars start to arch and blur.

For example, using the Rule of 500, a 24mm lens would allow you to use a shutter speed up to 20 seconds (500 divided by 24 mm is 20.8 seconds). But if you use a 16mm lens instead, you can expose up to 30 seconds (500 divided by 16 is 31.25). As you can see, wider is better. Here is how it works out for the widest focal lengths.

Rule of 500 chart - How to Choose a Lens for Night Sky Photography

Before moving on, let me point out two things about this standard. First of all, it is not absolute, and there are those who advocate for a stricter standard (meaning that you should use even shorter shutter speeds for these focal lengths). Be sure to test out different speeds and see what works best for you.

Second, if you use a crop factor camera, be sure to adjust these numbers to the Effective Focal Length, which is based on a full-frame or 35mm format (i.e. 20mm on a 1.5x crop factor camera is effectively a 30mm, so the maximum exposure then is only 16.7 seconds before the stars arch).

Measuring Sharpness

It goes without saying that you want a sharp lens. But how do you determine what is a sharp lens and what isn’t? The best way, of course, is to try them out for yourself. It may not be practical to test out a whole series of lenses though.

We all rely on lens reviews. I’m certainly no expert on optics, so I definitely do. These are usually extremely helpful, but sometimes it is difficult to get an apples to apples comparison of different lenses. To do that, there is an extremely helpful resource called DXO Mark.

The reason DXO Mark is so helpful is that they score all lenses in the exact same manner. For example, they give scores for sharpness, distortion, and vignetting (as well as other criteria, and an overall score) and grade each lens the same way. That lets you look at numbers very quickly, rather than comparing images from different lenses and attempting to quantify the differences. If nothing else, it gives you a good place to start.

DXO lens comparison chart - How to Choose a Lens for Night Sky Photography

Of course, sharpness isn’t the only thing you need to consider. Lenses all have different amounts of distortion as well. One type of distortion that is important in night photography is called coma distortion. It adds little wings to points of light, which in the case of photographing stars is not ideal. Unfortunately, this is not something that is often included in lens tests, so you’ll have to check for this with whatever lens you are considering.

Narrowing Your Choices Down

We have now established the three most important criteria for picking a lens for your night sky photography. Your lens needs to be wide, fast, and sharp. In terms of how wide, how fast, and how sharp, that is up to you. But you can use your own criteria to create a list of available lenses.

For example, you might decide to only consider lenses that are 20mm or wider, open up to f/2.8, and are at least moderately sharp.

lens comparison chart - How to Choose a Lens for Night Sky Photography

Once you narrow the list down to your particular brand of camera, you will probably find that the list is not very long. There may actually only be a few models from which to choose.

The Top Picks

Once you start looking at the widest, fastest lenses made, the list quickly gets pretty short. Once you add in the reviews and ratings, some pretty clear choices emerge. Of the Big Three manufacturers, I think you would have to strongly consider the following lenses (if you can afford them, as they are quite pricey):

three good lens choices - How to Choose a Lens for Night Sky Photography

  1. Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8 III
  2. Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED
  3. Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 GM

That’s not to say you necessarily need to rush out and purchase one of these lenses. The point of this article is really to help you establish the criteria for picking your own lenses. At the same time, I don’t want to be coy about these obviously great lenses, as they fit the criteria for night sky photography very well.

A Sleeper

When you start putting price limitations on lenses, the list gets short real quick! Most lenses in this range cost well over $1000, and many approach $2000. You may be looking for something more affordable, as I was. Once I looked at the list further, the Tokina 16-28 mm f/2.8 jumped out at me.

It is under $700 in most places and meets all three criteria of being wide (16 mm), fast (f/2.8), and sharp (scoring a 22 on my camera per DXO Mark). I picked one up and like the results. It works great, although there is definitely some coma distortion going on. Still, for the price, it is a great option. This lens is available for both Canon and Nikon cameras.

How to Choose a Lens for Night Sky Photography - Milky Way and spooky trees

A Wildcard

There is another affordable option if you don’t mind manual controls – Rokinon lenses. They have several wide angle options to choose from, ranging from 12-24mm. They are prime lenses and are very fast. All have maximum apertures of at least f/2.8. These are all manual lenses though, which means that you will need to focus manually. It also means that you will set the aperture with a ring on the lens, rather than with your camera.

Still, that should not be a problem with night sky photography. You just set the lens at its widest aperture and set the focus at infinity. You might never change it. Because of these manual controls, you can often pick up these lenses for well under $400 (check out the Rokinon 14mm). Again, this is just another good option if you don’t mind manual control lenses.

Note: Rokinon also has 12mm and 8mm fish-eye lenses available with mounts for Canon, Nikon, Sony, Fuji, and Micro 4/3 cameras if you want to go really wide. 

How to Choose a Lens for Night Sky Photography

The Lens for You

Just remember that if you are considering a lens for night sky photography, you’ll want to limit the lens selection to wide-angle lenses (generally 24mm or wider). You can get away with longer focal lengths, but you’ll need them to be extremely fast (probably f/2.0 or greater).

Once you have narrowed down your selection in this fashion, look at fast lenses. Try to get one that opens up to f/2.8 or better. That usually means you are looking at fairly expensive lenses, but as mentioned above there are some affordable options that will get the job done. After that, be sure to check the DXO Mark ratings. But don’t stop there – a simple Google search for the lens(es) you are considering will likely yield a lot of reviews. I am partial to The Digital Picture and DP Review as well.

Hopefully, this article has gotten you familiar with the criteria you need from a lens for night sky photography and has spurred a few ideas. It isn’t meant to limit your alternatives, so if there are other lens options I’ve missed, please let me know in the comment area below.

The post How to Choose a Lens for Night Sky Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Review of the Sigma 14-24mm F2.8 Art Lens

Every photographer’s kit needs to include both a wide and ultra-wide lens. These lenses provide the flexibility to shoot a variety of subjects such as portraits, landscapes, astrophotography, and food. Wide lenses provide a unique and fresh way to portray subjects and are a great way to shoot contextual scenes that emphasize foreground elements. New to the market in 2018 is the Sigma 14-24mm f2.8 DG Art Series Lens.

It provides a constant fast f/2.8 aperture and a zoom that transforms your field of view from wide (84.1 degrees) to ultra-wide (114.2 degrees).  I took this lens for a test-drive to give you a glimpse of its performance.

I will save my very positive overall numerical rating for the end. So let’s get into some of the nitty-gritty findings of this functional and flexible piece of glass.

Review of the Sigma 14-24mm F2.8 Art Lens

Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG Art lens on a Nikon D800.

First Impressions

There’s always a thrill the first time you unroll a lens from its packaging and lift it from the box. I immediately noticed the weight of the lens (officially ~40oz; 1,150g) giving it a quality feel. The metal construction of this lens is on display and the only plastic parts are the lens cover and lens hood.

I was struck by the large size of the lens – it is much larger than my Sigma 24mm f/1.4. However, this makes sense as the extra size is necessary to accommodate the zoom from 14-24 mm. Overall my first impressions on the look and feel of this lens were excellent.

Sigma 14-24, Nikon D800 - Review of the Sigma 14-24mm F2.8 Art Lens

I tested the Sigma 14-24mm f2.8 on a Nikon D800 and Nikon 810 body. It fit that body well and has a good feel on the full frame body.

Build Quality

Sigma did not cut any corners when constructing this lens. The all-metal build gives it a sturdy feel and results in the weight I eluded to in my first impressions.

The metal construction includes the rear mount to give the lens longevity and life. The zoom ring and focus ring are textured for a solid grip and operate very smoothly. I was happy to note that the construction of this lens is dust and splash resistant which are valuable traits to me as a landscape and nature photographer.

The lens cap has a snug fit and amply covers the aspherical lens.

Review of the Sigma 14-24mm F2.8 Art Lens

The outer element of the Sigma 14-24mm f2.8 lens has a aspherical, dome-shaped glass.

Review of the Sigma 14-24mm F2.8 Art Lens

The lens is large (5.3 inches long) and well built. Texturing on the focus and zoom rings provide a good grip.

Review of the Sigma 14-24mm F2.8 Art Lens - rear element

Metal mounts will provide longevity for this lens. A large rear element helps with light collection .

Image Quality

In the Lab

To conduct sharpness tests, I took the lens into a variety of conditions both indoors and outdoors.

Let’s first take a look at the results of a traditional test using the pages of a book to determine sharpness and chromatic aberration. For that test, I adjusted the camera to Aperture priority mode and adjusted the aperture throughout its range (f/2.8 – f/22). All images were shot with a tripod with the exact same lighting in a lightbox.

Individual results for each setting are available below showing a 1:1 ratio crop of the same numbers at the edge of the lens. I found the lens too soft when wide open at f/2.8. That is an expected result, but the softness was very noticeable. It was very sharp all the way to the edge of the image at f/8 and f/16. Sharpness declined at f/22. Image sharpness was maintained to the edge of the lens – impressive for an ultra-wide lens.

I found there to be a limited chromatic aberration that is easily correctable in Lightroom. Particularly in the corners of the image there was distortion at 14mm, but that is a common result in ultra-wide lenses.

Review of the Sigma 14-24mm F2.8 Art Lens

Here is a test of the lens for sharpness at f/2.8 at the edge of the image. You can see blurring along the edges of the numbers which is expected at the edge of an ultra-wide lens when shot wide open.

Review of the Sigma 14-24mm F2.8 Art Lens

The lens became much sharper at f/8. You can see clear, crisp lines out to the edge of the image.

Review of the Sigma 14-24mm F2.8 Art Lens

At f/16 I found this lens to be even sharper than f/8. Very crisp lines out to the edge of the image.

Review of the Sigma 14-24mm F2.8 Art Lens

At f/22 the lens lost some of its sharpness. This is not unexpected with a lens fully stopped down.

In the Field

Similar to the lab test results above, I cropped images at 1:1 taken in natural lighting conditions to look at the sharpness of this lens. The results showcase sharp images even when taking hand-held photographs.

In particular, you can see the lens is extremely sharp in the middle and how the stars become distorted at the edge of a crop after a long exposure.

Review of the Sigma 14-24mm F2.8 Art Lens

Stars shot with the Sigma 14-24mm. This is a crop at the edge of the lens and you can see due to the long exposure that some star trails are seen. This is due to the distortion that occurs to the image’s edge at 14mm

Review of the Sigma 14-24mm F2.8 Art Lens - sharpness test

This 1:1 crop is at the center of the lens and shows off how sharp this lens is in the middle.

Review of the Sigma 14-24mm F2.8 Art Lens - zoom showing image sharpness

This 1:1 crop of an eagle passing overhead shows good sharpness in the wing edges – even at the edge of the image.

Focus, Accuracy and Speed

As is my experience with other Sigma Art Series lenses, the autofocus is fast, accurate, and does not produce much (if any) noise. This lens integrates a hyper sonic motor (HSM) to pull off the noiseless focus.

A huge benefit of the lens is the small minimum focusing distance of 10 inches. That gives you, the photographer, unlimited options on what foreground element to leave in focus. In low-contrast situations such as a cloudy day the autofocus did not hunt for the subject, and focusing from 10 inches to infinity was very fast.

Shots from the Field

The images below are meant to show off the flexibility of this lens ranging from 14-24mm, the shallow depth of field you can achieve with an open aperture, and its usefulness for different subjects. I’ve featured some landscapes, people, and food that I was able to photograph.

Review of the Sigma 14-24mm F2.8 Art Lens - sun burst between wooden pier

I was really happy to have the maximum f/22 aperture to create brilliant starbursts. This is a nice creative technique for landscapes, and the ability to stop down to f/22 gives flexibility for shooting flowing water as well.

Review of the Sigma 14-24mm F2.8 Art Lens - sunset through a metal ring

The ultra-wide angle and close minimum focusing distance allow you to put foreground elements in perspective.

Review of the Sigma 14-24mm F2.8 Art Lens - b/w photo of a tree

This tree is nearly 50 feet (15m) tall and I needed a wide angle to capture the whole thing. The ultra-wide lens tilted the tree creating a slight distortion which is characteristic of ultra-wide lenses.

Review of the Sigma 14-24mm F2.8 Art Lens - logs near the water

Using the wide-angle to capture a whole scene along the beach. I took this image at 14mm and stopped down to give sharpness to the logs and distant mountains.

sunset over a hill and wooden walkway view - Review of the Sigma 14-24mm F2.8 Art Lens

A ship, sunset, eagle, and beach house captured in a single frame thanks to the wide-angle lens.

Review of the Sigma 14-24mm F2.8 Art Lens - low light photo at a dance

The wide aperture helped me shoot this shot in low light during a local dance.

Review of the Sigma 14-24mm F2.8 Art Lens - food photo

The minimum focusing distance is helpful for food photography and the shallow depth of field can draw your eye to foreground elements.

food shot with beer - Review of the Sigma 14-24mm F2.8 Art Lens

Increasing the f-stop can capture the depth of an entire scene. I found this useful in this food scene to emphasize the food and show off some Alaskan Brewery products, too.

Review of the Sigma 14-24mm F2.8 Art Lens - blue hour

This image was captured at 14mm. The next image was captured at 24mm with the camera mounted in the same position. These images give you insight into the field of view at a wide and ultra-wide focal length.

Review of the Sigma 14-24mm F2.8 Art Lens - blue hour 24mm

This image was captured at 24mm to compare to the 14mm image above.

Pros and Cons of the Sigma 14-24mm F2.8 Lens

Pros:

  1. Close minimum focal distance – I found the 10″ focus distance to be very helpful in creating interesting landscapes and in scenes where a foreground element needed to be emphasized and placed in context with its surroundings.
  2. Fast and accurate autofocus – A solid autofocus system can be a photographer’s best friend!
  3. Flexibility – The 14-24mm zoom range gives you the flexibility to transition between a wide and ultra-wide lens. Effectively replacing two lenses is a huge benefit.

Cons:

  1. Large size – I was pretty surprised at how big the lens is, and it’s worth noting that it will take up quite a bit of space in your kit as well. Fortunately, it can replace an ultrawide and wide lens perhaps saving you space in the longrun.
  2. Lack of sharpness at wide open apertures – The weakest part of this lens is the softness at open apertures. Fortunately, it is a very sharp lens when stopped down.
  3. Aspherical glass – As a landscape photographer I like to use neutral density filters and polarizers to make the most of a scene. The aspherical dome of glass requires carrying a separate filter set.

Final Rating and Product Value

Sigma 14-24m, Review

Overall Rating : 9 out of 10 – this lens provides some excellent features, great build, and overall quality. Sharpness in the center of the image is excellent and the edges maintain sharpness as well.

My main reason for pulling this lens down to a 9 is the size of it. Those looking for a concise and smaller kit may benefit from a prime ultra-wide to decrease the lens bulk in their kit.

The value of this lens on Sigma’s website is $1,199 USD (check here for pricing on Amazon). Although that figure seems a bit high, the build quality warrants the price. You also have peace of mind knowing that the lens is effectively replacing the value of two other lenses in your kit.

The post Review of the Sigma 14-24mm F2.8 Art Lens appeared first on Digital Photography School.

7 Reasons Why a Tripod is Must for Outdoor Photographers

Ask any photographer what their favorite accessory is, and most will be quick to reply with “tripod”. It’s with good reason that a tripod is considered such a must-have accessory by photographers. Even if they are inconvenient, heavy to carry, and they tend to draw attention to you as a photographer, it is a price that is worth paying considering the benefits it can bring to your photos. Here are 7 reasons why a tripod is a must for all outdoor photographers.

7 Reasons Why a Tripod is Must for Outdoor Photographers - sunset shot, camera on a tripod

1. Low Light Saviour

One of the best bits of advice I was ever given when I was starting out was this “The majority of the time, if I want to capture the best possible photo at the best possible time, then a tripod is an absolute must”. This is, of course, referring to the time of the day when the light is softer and there is less of it, in other words, the golden and blue hours.

Low light conditions mean that you have two options for being able to capture a photograph at these times. Set a high ISO on your camera – which comes with the downside of noise in the photo and as a result less sharpness. Or use a tripod. You simply will not be able to handhold a camera steady enough for anything slower than 1/60th of a second where even the slightest movement can mean camera shake.

So if you are planning to photograph in low light conditions and a tripod is allowed, make sure you use one.

evening scene on the camera LCD - 7 Reasons Why a Tripod is Must for Outdoor Photographers

2. To Show Movement

One of the biggest advantages that a tripod can give you is that it allows you the flexibility to control the amount of movement that you want to show in your photos. That might be moving water like a waterfall, or it might be clouds in the sky. It can even be objects and people.

To be able to show movement in a photo you require some parts of the image to be sharp so that there is a contrast to the moving parts of the image. If the whole image is slightly blurred through camera shake, then the image will fail to show that movement. So, if you want to capture movement in your photos, then make sure that you are using a tripod.

7 Reasons Why a Tripod is Must for Outdoor Photographers - image of water flowing in a river or stream

3. Put Yourself in the Shot

On some occasions, you will arrive at a scene and after examining and framing your shot, you will quickly come to realize that there is something missing. This usually points towards a point of interest in your composition that will help capture the viewer’s attention.

You might be lucky enough to have other people around that can be your models. But sometimes you are all by yourself and there is no other way than to put yourself in the photo.

This is where the tripod can act as your photographer. Simply set your camera up, frame your shot and set the self-timer for the length of time you need to get into position. Not only does this help you capture photos that can tell a story or show an experience, but it also means you have a photo that is model released.

7 Reasons Why a Tripod is Must for Outdoor Photographers - self portrait of the photographer and landscape scene

4. Different Angles

Most photographers are guilty of capturing too many photos at the usual eye level view. But let’s be honest, how many people want to be on the ground in the cold and wet? A tripod is a great way to capture photos at slightly different elevations whether that is higher up or even close to the ground.

There are also times when a tripod can be put in places that people can’t go like over a fence, on a precarious ledge on a mountain or even in the water where you wouldn’t want to get your shoes and clothes wet.

For example, for the photo below, I was faced with a high wall with no ledge to allow me to stand on to capture this photo. As this was an old stone wall standing on it wasn’t an option as I would have probably damaged it. But I was able to position my tripod on the wall to capture this shot.

7 Reasons Why a Tripod is Must for Outdoor Photographers - sunset on the coast

5. Light Stand

Even if you are not going to be using your tripod for your camera, there might be occasions where a tripod becomes a handy light stand where you can mount your flash. This is especially useful when you are outdoors by yourself and need to light something from a different position than where you are standing.

Unless you have someone there to hold the flash, the only way to light the subject the way you want is to use a tripod.

7 Reasons Why a Tripod is Must for Outdoor Photographers - diagram

I needed to light up this woman’s face so that it wasn’t too dark. I was able to place my tripod behind the pillar on the left to light up her face slightly.

6. Better Composition

Sometimes one of the main benefits of using a tripod is that it makes you slow down and become more analytical in your approach to taking a photo.

By being able to put your camera down and take a step back you sometimes end up slowing down and that usually means an improvement in the photo. Once you have taken a shot you can evaluate and make the necessary adjustments to make any improvements to your composition.

7 Reasons Why a Tripod is Must for Outdoor Photographers - camera shooting a vertical composition

7. Take the Weight

You’ve just reached your chosen location after several hours of walking. The last thing you want to do now is to have to spend the next few hours also holding up a heavy camera and telephoto lens.

A tripod not only helps you capture great photos, but it can also sometimes give you respite from having to actually hold the camera. It is a welcome relief and will mean you can actually focus on capturing a great photo instead.

7 Reasons Why a Tripod is Must for Outdoor Photographers - full camera bag

Conclusion

A tripod can truly be a photographer’s best friend and will give you so much more flexibility when photographing something. You can control your shutter speed, depth of field, and even the way you frame your shot in a much more considered approach.

Most people forego using a tripod for the simple reason that it is cumbersome to carry around. But ask yourself if that little bit of inconvenience outweighs the improvement you will have in your photos? There will usually only be one answer.

The post 7 Reasons Why a Tripod is Must for Outdoor Photographers appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Why I’m Downsizing from a Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 Lens to the f/4 Version

The Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 lens has been one of my most used since purchasing it several years ago. It’s a perfect lens for photographing either abstract, intimate or obviously, zoomed in landscapes. However, after borrowing the f/4 version from a local camera store during a trip to the Faroe Islands, I’ve decided to sell my current lens and replace it with the smaller and less expensive (almost $1000 less) f/4 version.

Before we get into why I’m replacing it, let’s look at why I went for the f/2.8 lens, to begin with:

Why I Purchased the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8

When I purchased my first full-frame camera several years ago (the Nikon D800), I started out with only one lens: the 16-35mm f/4. At the time, that was all I could afford and it was my main setup for close to a year.

By that time I had saved enough money to add another lens to my backpack (only having the 16-35mm was quite limiting so I wanted to add more range before heading out on a two-week journey to the US).

Why I'm Replacing my Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 Lens with the f/4 Version

Though there are several other brands to choose between, I had already made up my mind that I’d go for Nikon’s 70-200mm. The harder choice, however, was whether I should go for the f/2.8 or f/4.

After much back and forth, and long discussions with other photographers, I ended up with the f/2.8. Despite it being heavier and more expensive, it seemed like the right choice as it has a wider maximum aperture. Even though I’m a landscape photographer (I don’t do much wildlife or portraits, etc), I figured the wider aperture might come in handy and be more important than the weight.

I’d say this is the perfect lens if you’re photographing:

  • Wildlife
  • Portraits
  • Macro
  • Concerts/events
  • Under low light
Why I'm Replacing my Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 Lens with the f/4 Version

Captured with my 70-200mm f/2.8 lens.

Why I’m Changing to the f/4

When looking through the images I’ve shot with my 70-200mm, only a fraction of them were captured at f/2.8. In fact, the majority of those are images I captured at concerts or other events for a local magazine, which I very rarely do anymore.

The fact that I rarely use an aperture of f/2.8 on this lens, combined with the fact that I’m spending more time hiking and need a lighter backpack, made it an easy decision to replace my current lens with the lighter 70-200mm f/4 lens.

Why I'm Replacing my Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 Lens with the f/4 Version

Captured with the 70-200mm f/4 lens.

As a landscape photographer, it’s rare that you need f/2.8, especially for the type of images I tend to capture.  It’s more important for me to save weight (1540 gm/3.2 lbs versus 850 gm/1.9 lbs) since my backpack gets quite heavy when carrying all my lenses and cameras, a tripod, and other accessories.

Though I only tested the lens for 10 days, I found it’s not a sacrifice of much image quality by choosing the f/4 over the f/2.8. Both the sharpness and autofocus are just as good in the former.

These are the main benefits I’ve found with the 70-200mm f/4 lens:

  • It’s almost half the weight of the f/2.8.
  • It’s smaller in size and takes less space in the camera bag.
  • Autofocus is just as good (in fact it’s better than on my old f/2.8).
  • Sharpness is just as good.
  • It’s nearly half the price of the f/2.8 ($2800 versus $1400 roughly).

The Consequences of Changing

Of course, sacrificing one stop of light is something worth mentioning, as this does come with a few consequences. While it might not be a big difference between f/4 and f/5.6, there is a significant difference between f/2.8 and f/4, especially in low light situations.

Why I'm Replacing my Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 Lens with the f/4 Version

If you use a tripod for all of your photography and you avoid photographing wildlife and other scenarios with a shallow depth of field, the sacrifice is minimal and most likely not even notable. However, if you tend to photograph handheld in low light situations and enjoy photographing with a shallow DoF, you might want to reconsider replacing the f/2.8.

Here are some of the sacrifices you’ll make when changing from f/2.8 to f/4:

  • You won’t get as good of a “bokeh” effect nor achieve as much of a shallow depth of field.
  • You’ll need to increase the ISO instead of opening the aperture in low light situations.
  • You will be more dependant on a tripod in low light situations.

That being said,  this was an easy decision and one that I wish I’d made many years ago. Do you have a 70-200mm lens? Which version do you have and why?

The post Why I’m Downsizing from a Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 Lens to the f/4 Version appeared first on Digital Photography School.

REVIEW and Thoughts on the Sony RX100 V Compact Camera

Sony’s RX100 is a storied line of compact cameras that have always packed a powerhouse of features into small but sturdy frames. This fifth iteration (the Sony RX100 V also know as the DSC-RX100M5) builds on that history with a wealth of features for a modern photographer’s needs.

REVIEW: Sony RX100 V Compact Camera

Who the Sony RX100V is for

The RX100 Mark 5 is, in my mind, the perfect camera for family travel, street shooting, and as a secondary landscape camera when your main camera is occupied. The 24-70mm equivalent zoom lens lends enough useful range while the 24mm end of the lens works well for landscapes, group shots, and even the occasional selfie.

I bought the RX100 V specifically for its high frame rate for video but have grown to love the high-quality 4K video in such a compact body. With a frame rate up to 1000 frames per second (fps), it is amazing what can be captured with this small package. The 20MP sensor makes for excellent image quality with some room to crop to your liking.

This camera will appeal to landscape photographers who might want some freedom for unique compositions while their heavy DSLR is stuck to a tripod. Street photographers will love its compactness and flip out screen. I don’t see it getting a lot of use as a portrait camera, although it does have a nice f/1.8 – f/2.8 starting aperture range.

Small Package – Big Stats

Let’s take a look at some key stats from Sony’s website:

  • 20.1MP 1″ sensor
  • 2.9X optical zoom – 24-70mm equivalent
  • 11 – 44x at digital zoom
  • 2.95″ 1.2MP rear screen with 100% coverage
  • Active Optical SteadyShot
  • Four focus modes including Manual
  • 315 point wide phase detection autofocus, 25 point contrast detection plus four other modes
  • Exposure Compensation from -3EV to +3 EV in 1/3 stop increments
  • Full expanded ISO range from 80-25,600 for stills and 125-12,800 for video
  • Shutter Speeds from Bulb/30 seconds to 1/2000th maximum
  • Auto High Dynamic Range and ND Filter capabilities
  • Exposure and White Balance Auto Bracketing feature
  • 4 x 2 3/8 × 1 5/8 inch (101.6 x 58.1 x 41.0 mm) physical size
  • Approximate weight of 10.5 oz (299 g)
  • All kinds of picture effects, creative styles, and picture profiles
  • US $999 suggested retail price

Camera Controls

The controls are a mixed bag. On the one hand, there are few of them and most photographers will be familiar with how to change ISO, adjust the Exposure Compensation and zoom the lens. On the other hand, after a year of testing, I have found the main rotating dial for mode selection is getting a little sticky. It’s not as smooth as it was when new.

REVIEW: Sony RX100 V Compact Camera

I do like the ease with which you can shoot 4K video (see 4K video section later in this article for my impressions on that). The video button is right by your thumb when holding the camera and makes for ease of use. I would say it’s even easier to use than most smartphones. You use your pointer finger for shooting still images and your thumb for shooting video.

As is typical with Sony cameras, the menu screens are arranged over and then down and there are a lot of them. As I mention later in the Apps section below, this can make things a little cumbersome, but with all the features manufacturers pack into their software these days, it’s to be expected.

The flash is activated with a manual catch release and must be manually pushed down, leaving it a bit exposed for possible damage.

Flip Screen

The flip screen is a handy feature which I love. If you take anything off-angle, especially low shots, this feature will save your back and help you better compose your images. It flips both up and down as well as options in between.

REVIEW: Sony RX100 V Compact Camera - flip screen

It’s not a touchscreen, which is a little disappointing, and it doesn’t rotate to the side and front like some screens. But the simple versatility of flipping up and down is a bonus. Those looking for help composing selfies need only flip the screen all the way up and the image will correct for front viewing and composition.

Focus/Aperture Ring

For those of us who learned manual focus and are familiar with the use of a manual aperture ring, this feature is a great throwback which feels natural to me. Using the big ring around the lens feels like a natural way to change the aperture and it is a lot smoother than lenses from the 80s and earlier.

REVIEW: Sony RX100 V Compact Camera - aperture and focus ring

It’s also a great way to tighten focus when getting in close or shooting video. While not perfect, it can be used to rack and control focus on video shoots to a finer, smoother degree than with buttons or knobs. I find myself using this feature often.

ISO Performance

DXOMark gave the sensor a rating of 70 on its 0-100 (or 102 if you count the Hasselblad X1D-50c) scale. This puts the Sony RX100 V in the middle of the pack for its peer group and I tend to agree. You can comfortably shoot up to ISO 1000 without much noise encroaching on image quality, but after that, you’ll start to notice a difference.

The ability to shoot as low as ISO 80 is a nice touch for landscape photographers. While it is an expanded option (meaning it is not true ISO 80 according to the standard) the smoothness is a delight.

REVIEW: Sony RX100 V Compact Camera - Landscape ISO 80

100% crop - REVIEW: Sony RX100 V Compact Camera

A 100% crop of the ISO 80 image above.

Going to the other extreme, ISO 6400 will show a lot of noise but can be cleaned to an acceptable degree in post-processing. Below are images with no noise reduction applied, shot at ISO 6400.

REVIEW: Sony RX100 V Compact Camera - ISO 6400

Viewfinder

I’m not too sure why the Sony RX100 V has a viewfinder. Maybe I’m an old curmudgeon, but looking through a viewfinder only to find a smaller screen always seems weird to me. Also, accssing it requires the flick of a small catch on the side of the camera and then you have to manually pull out the viewfinder.

REVIEW: Sony RX100 V Compact Camera

This is clunky and more than once I have pulled that eyepiece all the way off.

REVIEW: Sony RX100 V Compact Camera

Oops!

It does have a diopter for those who need that. But the viewfinder requires manual pushing to put it back in place. It seems antiquated.

Autofocus Speed

Sony’s hybrid phase/contrast-detection autofocus system will delight most parents. It’s not DLSR super-fast, but with 315 focus points and quality action tracking, the camera can keep up with most children. What does that mean for people without kids?

REVIEW: Sony RX100 V Compact Camera

While the maximum focal length of 70mm won’t make this camera a secondary in sports photographers’ camera bags, the autofocus speed and lock-on capabilities make it no slouch for everyday action. I found the camera quick to latch on to main subjects and tracking was accurate while following things like swinging pocket watches that were on fire.

One downside I found was having to use the four-way directional controller (via your thumb) to slowly move the focus point while in Flexible Spot mode. It’s slow, but there isn’t another option. Having the flexibility is great, but don’t expect to use it for fast moving subjects.

REVIEW: Sony RX100 V Compact Camera

One note on manual focus: Having the zoom assist for manual focus is awesome when shooting the small things in life and for checking to ensure what you want really is in focus.

Burst Mode – High-Speed Stills

The high-speed continuous shooting mode is awesome. It shoots up to 24fps while autofocusing and can shoot in either JPEG or RAW, which is impressive. It takes a while for the memory to dump to your card but this feature is superior to most DSLRs.

The burst mode is great for any kind of close (remember the 70mm limit) action. It is especially useful when the camera is coupled with an underwater housing and you are trying to snap photos of turtles or fish that are much agiler than you.

REVIEW: Sony RX100 V Compact Camera - seat turtle

REVIEW: Sony RX100 V Compact Camera - b/w sea turtle

It does, however, mean you will have a lot more images to delete. 30 minutes of shooting various subjects at 24fps can easily lead to over 1000 images to cull.

Flash Performance

Average. Let’s just put that out there.

A flash this big, with an index rating of 1.31 ft to 33.46 ft (0.4 m to 10.2 m) in Auto shouldn’t be expected to outperform a dedicated strobe with its own battery pack. It’s good up to about 10 feet in/3m in real-world use and does the job.

But you don’t buy this camera to use the flash all the time. The is no dedicated hotshoe either, so adding a speedlight isn’t an option.

REVIEW: Sony RX100 V Compact Camera

High-Speed Video

This is one area I find the RX-100 V stands above its competition. I love the high frame rate shooting, with speeds up to 1000 frames per second (FPS). The video is shot in a maximum size of 1040p, or standard HD, so don’t expect 4K at 1000 fps (that will run you maybe $50,000).

The clips are at a maximum of 2 seconds long, but with NTSC rate of 960 fps, that’s 80 seconds of video when played at 24 fps. Using the high-frame-rate is fairly easy and you can choose to activate recording either before or after pressing the record button. Meaning, it will buffer video once activated so you can move through the action and then stop recording when finished. Or, hit record and then move through the action.

For instance, I shot some burning hourglasses for Andy Suzuki and the Method for a music video of theirs called Overtime. Not knowing how long it would actually take to (quickly) move with and through the flames and capture the hourglass on fire, I chose to freely buffer and stop recording after I knew I tracked through the shot. It worked quite well as you can see below.

4K Video

To be sure, not all 4K videos are equal. Comparing the Sony RX100 V to a $5000 video camera would not be fair, so I chose to grade the Sony against expectations for a dual-purpose camera. Most importantly, I wanted to see good video quality (great was not required at this price point and form factor) and decent audio.

With those parameters, the Sony did not disappoint and did better than expected. I would label it a quality 4K video that fits into the middle ground between consumer grade and semi-pro grade. It’s already blissfully far ahead of my other Canon gear (which sadly lack 4K in cameras that cost five times the Sony).

The SteadyShot capabilities should be taken with a grain of salt, in my opinion. While it does help, the camera’s small size makes it difficult to get truly steady shots while shooting handheld at 4K.

Panorama Mode

I was first introduced to Sony’s panoramic mode while teaching a student. It was intriguing then and still works today. It’s a lot like most smartphones now, in that you pan the camera over a limited range (about 180 degrees) and the camera will work its magic for you.

panoramic shot - REVIEW: Sony RX100 V Compact Camera

pano shot - REVIEW: Sony RX100 V Compact Camera

REVIEW: Sony RX100 V Compact Camera

REVIEW: Sony RX100 V Compact Camera

I had some trouble recently after not using the camera for a while.

My family was visiting Grand Canyon National Park, which just begs for panoramas. It had been about 5 months since I used the feature and it took me five tries before I was successful. When you fail, the camera usually doesn’t tell you what you did wrong, just that things didn’t work (sometimes it will tell you to move faster or slower, but other than that, you’re in the dark).

This frustration took away from the enjoyment of the scene in front of me.

I’ve been shooting panoramas since the days of masking 35mm film and feel I understand how it works in smartphones and other digital devices. Why the camera was not cooperating with me that day is still unknown to me. My advice is to practice before you need to use it.

Apps

I’m not used to a camera that has additional apps available and it looked like a cool idea at first. Then I realized I needed to pay to upgrade the camera to do things others already do, like time-lapse shooting.

REVIEW: Sony RX100 V Compact Camera

The apps are a little clunky to get into, requiring navigation through the directory of menus just to switch mode, essentially. I wish there was an easier way to access them.

That being said, the time-lapse app is very useful and has some pre-baked settings to help with sunrise, sunset, passing clouds and other common situations. That helps a lot.

REVIEW: Sony RX100 V Compact Camera

Connectivity

This camera comes packed with the modern convenience of wifi. It can connect to your phone if you have the Sony PlayMemories Mobile app. For those that love the instantness of transferring images to their phone, you’ll enjoy it. It’s not the simplest setup, but once activated, transfers are pretty easy (but buried in the menus).

REVIEW: Sony RX100 V Compact Camera - Sony PlayMemories app

REVIEW: Sony RX100 V Compact Camera

After a year of use, I eventually removed the app from my phone. I wasn’t using it that often as I found it just as easy to wait and plop the SD card into my laptop when back at home. The zoom on the camera wasn’t much more than simple zooms with my phone and considering my viewer would see the image on a phone, most likely, the 20MP were wasted for this.

In the Field

I remember buying the Canon Powershot G-1 back when it first came out in 2001, just before my daughter was born. I was frustrated then with the startup speed and those memories came flashing back when I start the RX100 M5. It’s just not quick to come into play. I ran some tests to find that it takes 2-3 seconds realistically to start up. It seems like an odd slowness and I had to adjust or be disappointed about missing quick shots.

The weight of the camera is just right in the hand. It feels solid, even though I worry about breaking the flash and viewfinder because they are a little less robust.

It’s not truly compact enough to fit in your pocket comfortably unless you have tight pants, but it’s also comfortable enough to carry in your hand most of the time when exploring a new city. It also fits perfectly in a coat pocket or purse.

Westminster Abby – Great Britain ISO 125, f/5.6, 1/50th.

What Could Be Improved

First, it seems everyone expects a touchscreen on a camera of this size these days. They even want them on DLSRs. It’s helpful when focusing and choosing exposure settings and it would be a huge help the Sony RX100 series.

Second, battery life is not that great. Sony says it’s good for 220 shots or 110 minutes of video. While shooting 4K video out the plane window from LA to Seattle, I changed the battery three times during a two-hour flight. No flash, not a lot of focus adjusting, just video shots out the window and about 40 stills. It seemed subpar.

Lastly, they need to add or assign some programmable hot-keys so photographers can pick and choose the features to have at hand. Having to go into and out of an app to shoot time-lapse is cumbersome (after I paid $9.99 for it as well). Maybe they could make it assignable to one of the Scene modes available from the top dial.

Wait! One more pet peeve about cameras of this size – no external charger. Charging is in-camera via micro-USB, which is easy enough, but shipping the unit with a charger would be much appreciated considering how quickly it can go through batteries while shooting video.

Two Great Accessories

REVIEW: Sony RX100 V Compact Camera

This camera is thankfully small enough to hide in most coat pockets (not so much with jeans, unless you have fairly loose ones) but I eventually wanted to take the camera backpacking. Worried about the danger of scratches and dents (or worse), I looked around and found that Lowepro makes a perfectly sized case for it.

It’s called the Tahoe 25 II and has room for the camera plus a memory card or two in the zippered pouch in front. A belt loop makes it ideal for hiking and I used it often during an attempted climb of Mt. Whitney.

The second accessory is an underwater case from Ikelite. There is a more expensive version of this case and it offers full control of the camera. But I found the action case to cover what I needed without shelling out too much (it retails for about $300 US).

Conclusion

My conclusion is the Sony RX100 V is a winner of a compact camera. It’s packed full of feature and has the ability, with apps, to expand as new software is created. The 4K video is excellent and the high-speed video is a lot of fun.

This camera is perfect for family trips (while reviewing images for this article, I noted I had previously rented the Sony RX100 IV for a family trip to Europe and enjoyed that version as well). It can fit the family in for a group selfie while not breaking your shoulder carrying it around all day. Compact enough for a purse or coat pocket, it is always at hand when your phone just won’t give you a quality image.

With a dynamic range around 12 stops, it can already deliver a wide range exposure latitude. Couple that with the user-adjustable bracketing and there is almost no scene you can’t capture.

Lastly, this camera is slowly but surely turning me into a Sony convert.

Sample Photos

Skógafoss – Iceland ISO 80, f/6.3, 1/80th.

Seljalandsfoss – Iceland ISO 125, f/8, 1/200th.

Underwater sea urchin – Costa Rica ISO 125, f/4, 1/60th high-speed burst mode was used

Panama canal locomotive and the moon – Panama ISO 6400, f/4, 1/13th.

Ground cover – Costa Rica ISO 80, f/5.6, 1/40th.

Mt. Whitney and The Milky Way – California, USA ISO 1000, f/2.2, 25 seconds.

Mt. Whitney – USA ISO 80, f/2.2, 1/1000th.

Mt. Dickerman – Washington, USA ISO 80, f/3.5, 1/400th.

San Gabriel Mountains – California, USA ISO 80, f/5, 1/800th.

Downtown Juneau – Alaska, USA ISO 12,5 f/6.3, 1/250th.

Ducati ISO 640, f/1.8, 1/1000th.

Seattle and Elliot Bay – USA ISO 80, f/5, 1/320th.

Tide Flats – Alaska, USA ISO 125, f/18, 1/400th.

The post REVIEW and Thoughts on the Sony RX100 V Compact Camera appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Review: Manfrotto 055 Carbon Fiber Tripod and XPRO Ball Head

Shopping for a tripod may be one of the most complicated endeavors a photographer can take on. Lights, lenses and other accessories are pretty easy. Most things on the market in these instances are relatively similar and the differences can be negligible. With tripods, that is not the case.

There are so many options at every price point on the market that it’s hard to choose. In my case, I went through various models at the cheaper and middle-grade ends of the market with varying results. At first, the cheaper models were fine. All that I used them for was tabletop work, where if I didn’t knock it by accident, there was little chance of movement.

But as I started to get outside more for landscape photography, the downfalls of using a cheap tripod became apparent immediately. Upgrading to middle-grade models did little to solve the problem. Still fine in a studio environment, they always underperformed on location.

Finding the Right Tripod

Review: Manfrotto 055 Carbon Fiber Tripod and XPRO Ball Head

This all changed when I visited the Manfrotto stall at a trade show in the UK. At first, I thought it was going to be another case of being overwhelmed by choice with no apparent differences in the various models. That was more or less exactly what happened. That is until I spotted the Manfrotto XPRO Ball Head. Within two minutes of fiddling about with it, I knew that it was exactly what I had wanted for the past few years.

With a tripod head chosen, I just needed to find a set of legs. Going through the selection of tripod legs, none of them felt right. They were all either too heavy, too short, or the controls were too awkward. Just as I was about to give up, I spotted the Manfrotto 055 Carbon Fiber Tripod. It was perfect. Lightweight, a maximum height just above my eye level, sturdy carbon fiber construction and easy, but firm controls added up to everything I had given up on finding.

The Legs

The Manfrotto 055 Carbon Fibre Tripod has a few relevant features.

Carbon Fiber Construction

This is pretty self-explanatory, but the carbon fiber build on this tripod is excellent. Despite being quite lightweight at 4.6 pounds (2kg), it’s still tough as nails.

I once gave up on a landscape location after 15 minutes because of gale force winds. When I got home, I realized the frames were all sharp with no signs of camera movement.

This thing is sturdy. Any of the other half dozen tripods I’ve used in the past decade or so probably would have snapped in half on that occasion. (An exaggeration of course, but it doesn’t feel like one.)

landscape scene - Review: Manfrotto 055 Carbon Fiber Tripod and XPRO Ball Head

I gave up on this location after 15 minutes because of really strong winds. When I got home, I realized the tripod held its own and there was no sign of camera shake despite the weather.

Here’s a little bonus:

All of my previous tripods have been aluminum. As it’s difficult to operate tripods with thick gloves on cold winter days, they were quick to become painful when used or carried for any amount of time. One of the first things I noticed about this tripod is that the legs never got truly cold, even in the worst weather.

At first, I thought I was making this up and it was psychosomatic, but when you have poor circulation as I do, these things are really noticeable. A bit of research showed that heat conduction with carbon fiber is vastly lower than it is with aluminum. If you have poor circulation and carrying cold metal in the winter is painful to you, even with gloves, try carbon fiber. It may give you a bit of relief that you weren’t expecting.

Controls

All of the clasps, knobs, and levels on the Manfrotto 055 Carbon Fiber Tripod work beyond well. All of the knobs can be tightened with small movements and loosened just as easily. Gone are the days where I would have to spend ages tightening down a knob with all my strength only for it to still not be tight enough. In this case, Manfrotto’s engineers have outdone themselves. Twist and go.

The clasps that hold the legs in place are strong, but they’re designed so they are easy to use, even while wearing thick gloves. At first, it seemed like getting the clasps open was a bit tough. But once you get used to the amount of pressure you have to apply to get them to open and close, you begin to appreciate how much force is keeping the legs in position.

Just don’t close your fingers in them. That would hurt a lot.

leg clasps on the Manfrotto 055 Carbon Fiber Tripod and XPRO Ball Head

The clasps on the legs are strong and require a bit of effort to open and close, but they do their job really well.

Height

Without the head, the Manfrotto 055 Carbon Fiber Tripod has a maximum height of 66.9” (170cm). This stat alone could have caused me to not give this tripod a second glance had it been any shorter. There have been too many occasions, when on location, that I couldn’t get the shot because I couldn’t get the tripod positioned over a normal size barrier like a fence or railing.

It was frustrating, which is why height was a major consideration in choosing my next tripod. The problem is, every single tripod I looked at that had a similar height and the taller ones were significantly more expensive. This tripod, however, sits at exactly the height I was after and was just inside the budget I was willing to spend.

Review: Manfrotto 055 Carbon Fiber Tripod and XPRO Ball Head - tripod height

Fully extended, the Manfrotto 055 comes to (just about) my eye level, making it the perfect height for me.

Spirit Level

tripod spirit level - Review: Manfrotto 055 Carbon Fiber Tripod and XPRO Ball Head

The body of the Manfrotto 055 features a spirit level that moves independently from the rest of the tripod and the head. You can put it in any position around the center column. Although the XPRO ball head features two spirit levels already, this third one makes sure that you have visual access to a level at all times.

Size

Review: Manfrotto 055 Carbon Fiber Tripod and XPRO Ball Head

When folded up, the Manfrotto 055 is small and easy to carry around.

Despite being just shy of six feet when fully extended, when it’s compacted the Manfrotto 055 Carbon Fiber Tripod folds up quite small. With the head detached, it fits neatly into the small carry-on suitcase that I fly with. On location, I can slip one of the legs through the straps on the side of my camera bag and it only sticks out a few extra inches.

Tripod Design

detail of tripod leg - Review: Manfrotto 055 Carbon Fiber Tripod and XPRO Ball Head

It may be a weird thing to say about a tripod, but this one sure is pretty.

As an aside, it’s worth mentioning the design aesthetics of both the Manfrotto 055 Carbon Fibre Tripod and the XPRO Ball Head. Considering that we’re talking about a tripod, they both look really good.

The carbon fiber legs feature a pleasing pattern and the whole thing has a generous dose of metallic red that looks good to the eye. Now, aesthetic design is the last thing that you should ever consider when choosing a tripod, but as it exists here, it’s worth a mention.

Perhaps it’s a symptom of that fabled Italian design, or perhaps it just reflects the price point. Either way, don’t buy a tripod because it looks good, but this one does all the same.

The Ball Head

In short, the Manfrotto XPRO Ball Head is a dream. As mentioned, it’s exactly what I have always wanted in a tripod head.

tripod ball head - Review: Manfrotto 055 Carbon Fiber Tripod and XPRO Ball Head

If you don’t know what a ball head is, imagine an old trackball mouse (if you can). The tripod plate is mounted on the ball which in turn moves freely in its mount until you clamp it down. This allows you to move the camera freely to any position within the head’s range of movement, and clamp it into position with the twist of a knob or two.

Ball heads are ridiculously convenient and easy to use.

Dedicated landscape photographers whom may balk at the thought of jaunty angles may choose other options, such as pan and tilt heads, but I shoot landscapes for fun when I can. The versatility and ease of use of a ball head in the studio or for a portrait session make it ideal for multiple disciplined photographers.

Ball Head Controls

ball head controls - Review: Manfrotto 055 Carbon Fiber Tripod and XPRO Ball Head

Both knobs that hold the ball in place (yes, there are two) are strong and tighten with short, effortless movements.

Like the Manfrotto 055 Carbon Fiber Tripod, the controls of the XPRO Ball Head are very well designed and easy to use. Movements of the knobs that hold the head in your desired position are slight, yet they hold fast without any slippage.

On top of that, there are two knobs to hold the ball in place, creating a layer of redundancy when it really counts. The same applies to the other mechanisms and controls. They all work perfectly and in the time I’ve been using the tripod, nothing has slipped yet.

Spirit Levels

levels on the tripod ball head - Review: Manfrotto 055 Carbon Fiber Tripod and XPRO Ball Head

The Manfrotto XPRO Ball head features two spirit levels in perpendicular orientations that make it easy to ensure that your shots are level.

Price

You may be thinking that I’m waxing a bit too lyrical about the virtues of this tripod and head. I promise, it really is that good, but there is a significant downside. All that greatness comes at a cost.

At $379 for the legs and $139.95 for the head, this is not a cheap piece of equipment. If you’re using it a lot, that price is fine, but if you’re looking for a tripod for the occasional landscape foray, this tripod is probably not for you. Likewise, if you’re only using it in a studio for static subjects, you can easily get away with a less expensive model.

Conclusion

As you can gather from the write-up, this tripod works very well when in use. It’s sturdy, with easy controls that work quickly and fluidly. It’s lightweight and does what it says on the box.

If you’re looking for a quality tripod and head combo that’s a workhorse, do consider the Manfrotto 055 Carbon Fiber Tripod and the XPRO Ball Head combo. It does exactly the job it’s meant to with finesse. Yes, it’s an expensive bit of kit, but the price point reflects the quality.

A good tripod is a great investment, one you will not have to repeat if you choose wisely.

The post Review: Manfrotto 055 Carbon Fiber Tripod and XPRO Ball Head appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Review: Manfrotto 055 Carbon Fiber Tripod and XPRO Ball Head

Shopping for a tripod may be one of the most complicated endeavors a photographer can take on. Lights, lenses and other accessories are pretty easy. Most things on the market in these instances are relatively similar and the differences can be negligible. With tripods, that is not the case.

There are so many options at every price point on the market that it’s hard to choose. In my case, I went through various models at the cheaper and middle-grade ends of the market with varying results. At first, the cheaper models were fine. All that I used them for was tabletop work, where if I didn’t knock it by accident, there was little chance of movement.

But as I started to get outside more for landscape photography, the downfalls of using a cheap tripod became apparent immediately. Upgrading to middle-grade models did little to solve the problem. Still fine in a studio environment, they always underperformed on location.

Finding the Right Tripod

Review: Manfrotto 055 Carbon Fiber Tripod and XPRO Ball Head

This all changed when I visited the Manfrotto stall at a trade show in the UK. At first, I thought it was going to be another case of being overwhelmed by choice with no apparent differences in the various models. That was more or less exactly what happened. That is until I spotted the Manfrotto XPRO Ball Head. Within two minutes of fiddling about with it, I knew that it was exactly what I had wanted for the past few years.

With a tripod head chosen, I just needed to find a set of legs. Going through the selection of tripod legs, none of them felt right. They were all either too heavy, too short, or the controls were too awkward. Just as I was about to give up, I spotted the Manfrotto 055 Carbon Fiber Tripod. It was perfect. Lightweight, a maximum height just above my eye level, sturdy carbon fiber construction and easy, but firm controls added up to everything I had given up on finding.

The Legs

The Manfrotto 055 Carbon Fibre Tripod has a few relevant features.

Carbon Fiber Construction

This is pretty self-explanatory, but the carbon fiber build on this tripod is excellent. Despite being quite lightweight at 4.6 pounds (2kg), it’s still tough as nails.

I once gave up on a landscape location after 15 minutes because of gale force winds. When I got home, I realized the frames were all sharp with no signs of camera movement.

This thing is sturdy. Any of the other half dozen tripods I’ve used in the past decade or so probably would have snapped in half on that occasion. (An exaggeration of course, but it doesn’t feel like one.)

landscape scene - Review: Manfrotto 055 Carbon Fiber Tripod and XPRO Ball Head

I gave up on this location after 15 minutes because of really strong winds. When I got home, I realized the tripod held its own and there was no sign of camera shake despite the weather.

Here’s a little bonus:

All of my previous tripods have been aluminum. As it’s difficult to operate tripods with thick gloves on cold winter days, they were quick to become painful when used or carried for any amount of time. One of the first things I noticed about this tripod is that the legs never got truly cold, even in the worst weather.

At first, I thought I was making this up and it was psychosomatic, but when you have poor circulation as I do, these things are really noticeable. A bit of research showed that heat conduction with carbon fiber is vastly lower than it is with aluminum. If you have poor circulation and carrying cold metal in the winter is painful to you, even with gloves, try carbon fiber. It may give you a bit of relief that you weren’t expecting.

Controls

All of the clasps, knobs, and levels on the Manfrotto 055 Carbon Fiber Tripod work beyond well. All of the knobs can be tightened with small movements and loosened just as easily. Gone are the days where I would have to spend ages tightening down a knob with all my strength only for it to still not be tight enough. In this case, Manfrotto’s engineers have outdone themselves. Twist and go.

The clasps that hold the legs in place are strong, but they’re designed so they are easy to use, even while wearing thick gloves. At first, it seemed like getting the clasps open was a bit tough. But once you get used to the amount of pressure you have to apply to get them to open and close, you begin to appreciate how much force is keeping the legs in position.

Just don’t close your fingers in them. That would hurt a lot.

leg clasps on the Manfrotto 055 Carbon Fiber Tripod and XPRO Ball Head

The clasps on the legs are strong and require a bit of effort to open and close, but they do their job really well.

Height

Without the head, the Manfrotto 055 Carbon Fiber Tripod has a maximum height of 66.9” (170cm). This stat alone could have caused me to not give this tripod a second glance had it been any shorter. There have been too many occasions, when on location, that I couldn’t get the shot because I couldn’t get the tripod positioned over a normal size barrier like a fence or railing.

It was frustrating, which is why height was a major consideration in choosing my next tripod. The problem is, every single tripod I looked at that had a similar height and the taller ones were significantly more expensive. This tripod, however, sits at exactly the height I was after and was just inside the budget I was willing to spend.

Review: Manfrotto 055 Carbon Fiber Tripod and XPRO Ball Head - tripod height

Fully extended, the Manfrotto 055 comes to (just about) my eye level, making it the perfect height for me.

Spirit Level

tripod spirit level - Review: Manfrotto 055 Carbon Fiber Tripod and XPRO Ball Head

The body of the Manfrotto 055 features a spirit level that moves independently from the rest of the tripod and the head. You can put it in any position around the center column. Although the XPRO ball head features two spirit levels already, this third one makes sure that you have visual access to a level at all times.

Size

Review: Manfrotto 055 Carbon Fiber Tripod and XPRO Ball Head

When folded up, the Manfrotto 055 is small and easy to carry around.

Despite being just shy of six feet when fully extended, when it’s compacted the Manfrotto 055 Carbon Fiber Tripod folds up quite small. With the head detached, it fits neatly into the small carry-on suitcase that I fly with. On location, I can slip one of the legs through the straps on the side of my camera bag and it only sticks out a few extra inches.

Tripod Design

detail of tripod leg - Review: Manfrotto 055 Carbon Fiber Tripod and XPRO Ball Head

It may be a weird thing to say about a tripod, but this one sure is pretty.

As an aside, it’s worth mentioning the design aesthetics of both the Manfrotto 055 Carbon Fibre Tripod and the XPRO Ball Head. Considering that we’re talking about a tripod, they both look really good.

The carbon fiber legs feature a pleasing pattern and the whole thing has a generous dose of metallic red that looks good to the eye. Now, aesthetic design is the last thing that you should ever consider when choosing a tripod, but as it exists here, it’s worth a mention.

Perhaps it’s a symptom of that fabled Italian design, or perhaps it just reflects the price point. Either way, don’t buy a tripod because it looks good, but this one does all the same.

The Ball Head

In short, the Manfrotto XPRO Ball Head is a dream. As mentioned, it’s exactly what I have always wanted in a tripod head.

tripod ball head - Review: Manfrotto 055 Carbon Fiber Tripod and XPRO Ball Head

If you don’t know what a ball head is, imagine an old trackball mouse (if you can). The tripod plate is mounted on the ball which in turn moves freely in its mount until you clamp it down. This allows you to move the camera freely to any position within the head’s range of movement, and clamp it into position with the twist of a knob or two.

Ball heads are ridiculously convenient and easy to use.

Dedicated landscape photographers whom may balk at the thought of jaunty angles may choose other options, such as pan and tilt heads, but I shoot landscapes for fun when I can. The versatility and ease of use of a ball head in the studio or for a portrait session make it ideal for multiple disciplined photographers.

Ball Head Controls

ball head controls - Review: Manfrotto 055 Carbon Fiber Tripod and XPRO Ball Head

Both knobs that hold the ball in place (yes, there are two) are strong and tighten with short, effortless movements.

Like the Manfrotto 055 Carbon Fiber Tripod, the controls of the XPRO Ball Head are very well designed and easy to use. Movements of the knobs that hold the head in your desired position are slight, yet they hold fast without any slippage.

On top of that, there are two knobs to hold the ball in place, creating a layer of redundancy when it really counts. The same applies to the other mechanisms and controls. They all work perfectly and in the time I’ve been using the tripod, nothing has slipped yet.

Spirit Levels

levels on the tripod ball head - Review: Manfrotto 055 Carbon Fiber Tripod and XPRO Ball Head

The Manfrotto XPRO Ball head features two spirit levels in perpendicular orientations that make it easy to ensure that your shots are level.

Price

You may be thinking that I’m waxing a bit too lyrical about the virtues of this tripod and head. I promise, it really is that good, but there is a significant downside. All that greatness comes at a cost.

At $379 for the legs and $139.95 for the head, this is not a cheap piece of equipment. If you’re using it a lot, that price is fine, but if you’re looking for a tripod for the occasional landscape foray, this tripod is probably not for you. Likewise, if you’re only using it in a studio for static subjects, you can easily get away with a less expensive model.

Conclusion

As you can gather from the write-up, this tripod works very well when in use. It’s sturdy, with easy controls that work quickly and fluidly. It’s lightweight and does what it says on the box.

If you’re looking for a quality tripod and head combo that’s a workhorse, do consider the Manfrotto 055 Carbon Fiber Tripod and the XPRO Ball Head combo. It does exactly the job it’s meant to with finesse. Yes, it’s an expensive bit of kit, but the price point reflects the quality.

A good tripod is a great investment, one you will not have to repeat if you choose wisely.

The post Review: Manfrotto 055 Carbon Fiber Tripod and XPRO Ball Head appeared first on Digital Photography School.

DIY Camera Bag Modifications for DSLR Storage and an Active Lifestyle

In today’s world, digital camera technology continues to improve and get lighter. A plethora of systems offer lighter camera bodies with more technology bundled into them. There are many photographers transitioning to these systems to lighten their gear and are selling off their old equipment. However, I cannot help but be attached to the reliability and familiarity of my full frame DSLR bodies.

I do not like to compromise on image quality and feel most confident making quality images in spur-of-the-moment wildlife activity or in difficult lighting with my full-frame camera. Are you the same as me? If so, does that make us a little crazy?

Pelican case - DIY Camera Bag Modifications for DSLR Storage and an Active Lifestyle

The Pelican case gives me space for a couple of bodies, a 200-500 mm telephoto lens, and two shorter ones. Lots of space to pack a full kit!

Well, in truth, it is a bit crazier than that, I am most comfortable when I have two camera bodies with me at all times. I also carry a telephoto lens, 50mm, and wide-angle lens with me along with cleaning equipment and filters, and I like to do so at all times. In other words, I carry a full kit. I do my best to carry a full kit when hiking 10 miles into the backcountry, floating a 5-mile river trip, or walking to a local beach to watch a sunset.

If you are like me you are constantly looking for ways to safely haul your gear from Point A to Point B while also protecting your investment during your adventures. Through experimenting and modifying a Pelican 1510 case I have found a solution that works for me. In this article, I will demonstrate that system for you. I hope my DIY camera bag for DSLR storage and transportation works for you and inspires you to get more creative in hauling your gear!

DIY Camera Bag Modifications for DSLR Storage and an Active Lifestyle

I customized this Pelican 1510 case to provide waterproof and shockproof protection for my DSLR bodies and kit. Thanks to the modifications I have made, I now transport this kit everywhere.

What you’ll need

  1. A hard case – I use a Pelican 1510. The case is TSA approved as a carry-on size, meaning you’ll never have to check your camera gear to baggage claim. I pack non-critical, lower-cost items in the modular pack (see below in #4) and check those in my bag. Then I carry on the rest of my kit.
  2. A drill, 3/32 drill bit, and 3/8 drill bit – You’ll need a high-speed drill and a sharp bit to do some customization of the Pelican case. Make sure the 3/32 bit is wide enough diameter to put the eyebolt through.
  3. Eyebolts (2x) with nylon locking nuts (2x) – These will be used to secure the luggage straps to the Pelican case in the front.
  4. A secondary “modular” case for the outside – You can choose any case that is the same size or smaller than the Pelican case. Think about the gear you are using and tailor it to fit your needs. I make sure my modular case can hold my filter set, cleaning equipment, batteries, and other photography knick-knacks.
  5. Velcro – This will be used to secure the secondary modular case to the outside of the Pelican case. Get Velcro strapping that has sticky sides.
  6. Adjustable luggage straps (2x) – make sure the straps have good clips. I prefer a 1” wide webbing for the strap.
  7. Carabiner clips (2x) – These will be used to secure the luggage straps to the Pelican case in the back.
  8. Backpack straps – I use the Pelican 1510 backpack conversion straps offered by RUCPAC. I have been using their system for about two years now and find it durable and comfortable. If you are a true DIY-er you could modify the straps of an old backpack.

Modifying the Pelican 1510 Case

Pelican 1510, DSLR Storage, Camera, Modification

Step #1 – Drill holes near the latches

Close the lid and use the 3/32 bit to drill through the plastic to the inside of each latch. You’ll need to go through both layers so the extra length of eyebolt has a hole to pass into. Once you have drilled the hole, open the case and use the 3/8 bit to bore into the plastic so that the nylon nut recesses into the case and allows it to close. Repeat on both sides of the case.

drill holes - DIY Camera Bag Modifications for DSLR Storage and an Active Lifestyle

You can see here that I bored through both sides of the Pelican case with the 3/32 bit to allow the eyebolt to pass through. I bored with the 3/8 bit into the top layer to allow the nut to recess so that the top can close

Step #2 – Drill holes through the fins (back hinge)

Use the 3/32 bit to drill through the “fin” on the backside and pass a carabiner through the hole. The fins are the rigid plastic ribs that stick out to hinge the lid and bottom of the Pelican case together.

Repeat on the other side.

DIY Camera Bag Modifications for DSLR Storage and an Active Lifestyle

I drilled through the “fin” of the back with the 3/32 bit and threaded the carabiner through. I did the same thing to the other side of the pack.

Pelican 1510, DSLR Storage, Camera, Modification

Step #3 – Apply the Velcro

Apply the Velcro to the back of the modular case and then line it up accordingly on the front of the Pelican case.

Tip: Stick the hook side and the fuzzy side of the Velcro together on your modular case, peel the paper off to expose the sticky surface and then press the modular case onto the Pelican case to get a perfect alignment of your Velcro.

Pelican 1510, DSLR Storage, Camera, Modification

DIY Camera Bag Modifications for DSLR Storage and an Active Lifestyle

Attach Velcro to the top of the Pelican case and make sure that it aligns with the modular case. It is easies to make sure that the Velcro is aligned by sticking it together, applying it to the Pelican case, and then pressing the secondary modular case onto it.

DIY Camera Bag Modifications for DSLR Storage and an Active Lifestyle

Attach the Velcro.

Pelican 1510, DSLR Storage, Camera, Modification

With the Velcro attached to the Pelican case and the modular case, you’ll be able to open and access the case without it falling off the larger Pelican case. That’s a huge perk!

Step #4 – Thread the luggage straps onto the system

Thread the luggage straps through the eyebolt and the carabiner. Adjust it to a length that fits around the modular case, and then tie a good knot – I prefer two half-hitches.

DIY Camera Bag Modifications for DSLR Storage and an Active Lifestyle

Make sure the luggage straps are long enough to wrap around the modular case. Tie the ends securely to the carabiner and eyebolts.

Step #5 – Install the backpack straps to the Pelican case

Next, install the RUCPAC straps to the Pelican case. This is very simple – you’ll attach it to the top handle and thread the straps through the bottom wheels. Instructions to install the RUCPAC come with the product.

DIY Camera Bag Modifications for DSLR Storage and an Active Lifestyle

RUCPAC straps attached to the Pelican 1510 case.

There you have it!

This DIY camera bag solution has grown with me and my kit and worked for me the last two years. I find this pack very comfortable to use and wear. I am 6’3” and would be interested to hear if it fits shorter torsos as well.

The luggage straps give you the flexibility to attach a tripod or any other gear on to the outside. You can choose the size of modular case you that use to accommodate the gear you have.

This pack also provides a portable chair for those long days or nights shooting photography and can act as a tripod in a pinch. In fact, having the pack available has saved my shoot on several occasions when I needed stabilization but did not have a tripod.

DIY Camera Bag Modifications for DSLR Storage and an Active Lifestyle

The DIY camera bag case can function as a spur-of-the-moment tripod. I’ve used it for shooting the Northern Lights and time-lapses.

DIY Camera Bag Modifications for DSLR Storage and an Active Lifestyle - northern lights

I took this image of the Aurora Borealis with my camera stabilized on my Pelican case. It saved the night since I did not have a tripod along with me!

Conclusion

What I’ve shown you here could be just a jumping off point for you. Use this concept to expand and create your own DIY storage solution that works for the gear and kit you have, and your needs.

Once you are done get out there and shoot lots of images. As I like to say, “pixels are cheap”, so go make a lot of them!

The post DIY Camera Bag Modifications for DSLR Storage and an Active Lifestyle appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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