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Review of the Breakthrough Photography X4 CPL Circular Polarizing Filter

Filed Under Cameras and Equipment, Digital Photography School

Make no mistake, this is, in fact, a review of the X4 Circular Polarizer from Breakthrough Photography. That being said, the entire subject requires a little bit of photographic geekiness in order to grasp the full understanding of the product being reviewed. So, if you absolutely don’t want to add any more brain wrinkles feel free to skip the next couple of paragraphs. If you do skip…shame on you.

Geeky stuff about polarizers

Polarizers – we’ve all heard of them and the majority of us photographers have used them extensively from one time or another. How do they work? And more importantly, how do you know when you’ve found a good one?

These are all great questions and oddly enough these things aren’t always well known by even some experienced shooters. Polarizers are just filters. These filters work to sift out polarized light which commonly occurs in our photographs from reflections and glare. The noticeable byproduct of this filtration is the reduction of said reflections and glare as well as the deepening of colors and most noticeably, the darkening of the sky.

Review of the Breakthrough Photography X4 CPL Circular Polarizing Filter

Polarizers come in two flavors: linear and circular. It’s somewhat of a weird concept as all polarizers are in fact linear…but not all linear polarizers are circular. That might sound slightly cryptic but that is not the intention.

At their most basic definition, the way polarizers work is to filter our non-linear rays of light. Circular polarizers further enhance this effect by adding what’s called a quarter-wave plate to the camera side of the linear polarizer. The quarter wave plate serves to essentially convert the incoming light into a helix and the polarization effect can then be dialed-in to whatever degree is needed. This is of great benefit because the majority of SLR and DSLR cameras are sensitive to polarization and linear polarized light can cause internal camera metering to malfunction.

The X4 CPL Circular Polarizing Filter

Now that you’ve had a crash course in how circular polarizers work, it’s time to talk about the X4 CPL Circular Polarizing Filter by Breakthrough Photography. This will be my fourth time evaluating filters by the folks at Breakthrough. With each piece of gear I have been consistently impressed with the build and optical quality to such an extent to where I find it difficult to list any faults. The X4 CPL is no different.

Breakthrough Photography currently markets this polarizer as being the “world’s most advanced circular polarizer” so I put the X4 CPL Circular Polarizing Filter to the test to see just how this claim holds up in real-world shooting.

Build Quality

The construction of theX4 CPL Circular Polarizing Filter is blackened brass, much like their line of X4 ND filters. The filter housing is robust and feels extremely sturdy. Deep traction grooves are cut around the bezel and provide for a solid grip even with gloved or wet hands.

Review of the Breakthrough Photography X4 CPL Circular Polarizing Filter

An interesting property of brass is that unlike other metals such as aluminum it is non-galling. This means that it is less likely to bind and become stuck when stacking multiple filters. The filter bezel turns quite smoothly when engaging or disengaging the polarization effect.

The optical element is made from SCHOTT Superwhite B270® optical glass. Each side of the glass is then treated with eight layers of Breakthrough Photography’s proprietary nanotec® and MRC (multi-resistant coatings) optical coatings which cause dirt and moisture to essentially slide right off of the glass itself.

X4 CPL Circular Polarizing Filter

Overall, the build quality of theX4 CPL Circular Polarizing Filter is exceptional and it looks great to boot. The company also backs the filter with a 25-year guarantee.

Optical Performance

Of course, the real question about the X4 CPL concerns its optical quality, which in turn will greatly impact the final quality of your finished photographs. When it comes to photography filters, the sharpness, vignetting, and color cast, are the three main points of interest for most photographers.

While it’s great to talk about all these points actual test images speak louder than words. So have a look at the sample images as you read my thoughts on the results and judge for yourself.


In terms of sharpness, the X4 CPL exceeds all expectations. No image degradation was observed even at the maximum strength filtration.

X4 CPL Circular Polarizing Filter

To left is the image without the X4 CPL applied. The image at the right is with the X4 CPL. Both zoomed to 1:1 for comparison.

Images remained crisp and detail was not lost due to the addition of the filter.

Color Cast and Vignetting

A common problem seen with polarizers and most filters, in general, is the unwanted color casting sometimes encountered. The color cast happens due to the coloration of the optical glass and often worsens in lower quality filter systems.

X4 CPL Circular Polarizing Filter

An image with a high color cast from an ND filter. Low-quality polarizers can carry the same effects.

The images produced by the X4 CPL seem to be completely free of this discoloration just as they are advertised. No discernible color cast was observed in any of the test images I made using the filter.

X4 CPL Circular Polarizing Filter

The same is true for vignetting. Darkening of the corners of the photos was not observed even at the strongest filtration setting.

X4 CPL Circular Polarizing Filter

Final Thoughts on the X4 CPL

There’s a certain feeling of uneasy optimism which begins to surface whenever I come across gear which does not seem to have any obvious weak points.”Have I missed something? Is this really that good?”

Having reviewed multiple pieces of kit from Breakthrough Photography I can say that they have consistently produced insanely high-quality photographic gear that is innovative, sturdy, and relatively cost-effective. I use quite a few of their filters in my own personal photography work and have put them into environments from Death Valley to the coast of the Atlantic Ocean and everywhere in between (or least it seems).

The X4 CPL has thus far given no reason for me to believe that its quality would not serve any serious photographer’s needs for years to come. The build quality is heavy-duty and the image quality, especially sharpness, is outstanding. It retails for $129-159 USD (depending on filter size) at the time of this review. Find out more details about the X4 CPL here, or shop Amazon for the size you need here.

Rating 5/5 stars – my first ever! 

The post Review of the Breakthrough Photography X4 CPL Circular Polarizing Filter by Adam Welch appeared first on Digital Photography School.


Review of K&F Concept KF-885 Speedlight

Filed Under Cameras and Equipment, Digital Photography School

A few weeks back I received the K&F Concept KF-885 Speedlight to test out and review. Now before I get into the review for this flash, I have to say that I have been a Canon photographer ever since I started my business in 2010. Even before I was photographing for clients, I always gravitated towards Canon gear just because I have consistently had great results with this brand. My very first film camera Canon AE-1 is still in my gear bag and continues to give me stellar results!

I completely understand and acknowledge that branded gear does tend to be expensive and is not in everyone’s budget, especially for those just starting out on their photographic journey. Having said that, there are some great companies with comparable gear in terms of quality and performance. In fact, sometimes, the quality and results are even better than their branded counterparts. This just goes to show that the skill and experience of the user makes a good photograph and not necessarily the gear you use.

Review of K&F Concept KF-885 Speedlight

For this review, I used the K&F Concept KF-885 Speedlight on a couple of different assignments – for wedding reception photos and an outdoor portrait session. I have to say that I was very happy with the results from this flash.

I have used my Canon external flash for the past four years and found the K&F Concept flash very comparable to the Canon 600 EX-RT version in terms of performance, look, and feel. Definitely worth looking into if you are in the market for an external flash for your photography needs.

#1 – Specs, Look and Feel of the KF-885

the K&F Concept KF-885 Speedlight looks very similar to the Canon 600EX-RT external flash. In fact, when I compared the two side by side, they looked almost identical in terms of size, weight, and the accessories that were included in the package.

The KF-885 flash has a slightly bigger monitor display compared to the Canon but having used the Canon brand, I had no trouble figuring out the menu options. In fact, I almost felt that the K&F Concept flash menu options were simpler and easier to figure out. The flash also comes with a built-in reflect board and a built-in wide diffuser to enlarge the shooting range.

K&F Concept KF-885 Speedlight

The flash on the left is from K&C Concept and the flash on the right is from Canon. They both come with a flash case, a base stand, and a plain white diffuser cap.

K&F Concept KF-885 Speedlight

The flash on the left is from K&C Concept and the flash on the right is from Canon. As you can see, they are almost identical in size and weight.

K&F Concept KF-885 Speedlight

The flash on the left is from K&C Concept and the flash on the right is from Canon. The two flashes look almost identical to each other.

K&F Concept KF-885 Speedlight

The flash on the left is from K&C Concept and the flash on the right is from Canon. The cosmetic difference is in the shoe mount for the flash. The K&C Concept one has a circular dial to tighten the flash to the camera shoe mount whereas the Canon one has a lever that is moved from left to right to lock in the flash to the camera body.

#2 Display Screen and Menu Options

The K&F Concept KF-885 speedlight has similar menu options to the Canon external flash. The On/Off button turns the flash on and off. The Mode button is to select auto and manual controls, multi-modes, and wireless modes (master/slave mode operation).

The circular set of five buttons is used to adjust the power of the flash when used in manual mode. The flash head also has a vertical rotation angle of 7-90 degrees and horizontal rotation angle of 0-180 degrees.

K&F Concept KF-885 Speedlight

#3 Usage

Being used to my Canon 600 EX-RT flash in manual and ETTL mode, I was able to quickly adjust to the K&C Concept KF-885. I also used both flashes for a couple of photos by setting the Canon flash as the master and the K&C Concept flash as the slave. The two flashes communicated with each other and I was able to use setups of both on-camera and off-camera flashes seamlessly.

K&F Concept KF-885 Speedlight

An indoor wedding portrait session made easy with the K&C Concept KF-885 External Flash

K&F Concept KF-885 Speedlight

The K&C Concept Flash handled poorly lit wedding reception areas quite beautifully.

K&F Concept KF-885 Speedlight


Overall, I was very impressed with the K&F Concept KF-885 Speedlight. At a price point of $86, that is significantly less than its branded counterpart. This is a great option for someone who is looking to add an external flash to their gear kit but doesn’t want to spend a lot of money.

The post Review of K&F Concept KF-885 Speedlight by Karthika Gupta appeared first on Digital Photography School.


How to Choose Your First Camera Drone and Skyrocket Your Photography

Filed Under Cameras and Equipment, Digital Photography School

Maybe you are in love with photography and in the process of turning it into a passion. You might be a professional photographer who’s always searching to improve, or you might just like capturing those beautiful trips like no other. If you’re in any of these categories, you might want to consider buying yourself a drone.

How to pick your first camera drone

This guide is all you need to help you make a choice. I have experimented with most of the drones on the market so you don’t have to.

How useful is a drone for photography?

I think you already imagine how cool it could be to reach those places you always wanted. No more climbing trees for great panoramas. And best of all, you can literally fly your camera wherever you like (within the law, of course).

Drone picture through the wood

Bonus: You’ll be able to take unbelievable videos as well.

Maybe, you always thought taking pictures is where you’ll stop, but don’t tell me you’ve never been fascinated by one of those cool drone videos on YouTube.

The great thing about a drone is that most of the time, it comes with an included gimbal that stabilizes the image perfectly. That feat alone makes both video and photography easy to do and cinematic almost straight away.

Will you be able to afford it?


Gone are the days where only blockbuster movies had the budget to record and shoot photos from the air. Today, thanks to less expensive technology and increasing popularity of quad-copters, almost everyone can afford a drone. And the results are absolutely fascinating.

These are my general recommendations when it comes to pricing for a good camera drone:

  • If it’s a drone that comes with a camera, you will need to spend over $400 if you want to have image stabilization.
  • You can also pick a cheaper drone with GPS and stabilization that comes with no camera. That might be a good option if you already have a GoPro or action-camera and a tight budget.
  • If you want a beginner drone just to learn how to fly, don’t spend more than $50.

How to pick your first camera drone

So you decided to get into drones and skyrocket your photography/videography. I have created an infographic explaining the main things you should look for in a camera drone. Now you have two paths you can choose from:

  1. Get a small beginner drone (under $50) to learn the basics of piloting it, and only after that buy a more expensive one.
  2. Get a more expensive drone with GPS, which is stable enough when flying and can return to home automatically if you mess up.

What are the best inexpensive beginner drones?

Beginner drone

Ways you can go about buying your first beginner drone:

  • Get two or more VERY cheap drones (at $15 each) and simply learn the basics of flying in the house, while having a backup.
  • Get one cheap beginner drone (around $50), that usually comes with a low-quality camera (I don’t recommend this because it’s nothing like the more expensive ones).
  • Choose a cheap beginner drone and the more expensive one at the same time, if you want to just try it a few times and then jump into the action.

Here are my top beginner drones you can start with:

  • JJRC H36 – A super resilient drone that works great inside. This is what I would recommend any friend. About $18.99 on Amazon
  • Cheerson CX-10 – A very small drone that’s around $20 and can do flips. About $18.99 on Amazon.
  • Hubsan x4 – A very sturdy and well-made drone with a camera. About $32 on Amazon.

What are my top choices for a camera drone?

This is my top three list of recommendations I have for different types of consumers, ranging from $500 to $1500 USD.

Top 3 camera drones

I’ll underline the main features you should look for in each drone, while also spotting the drawbacks of each.

#1 – DJI Mavic Pro Platinum – My overall winner

This quad-copter is one of the most popular right now, for some really good reasons. The DJI Mavic Pro Platinum is the newer version of the Mavic, but it is quieter and has a longer battery life. This is why I would recommend it.

Dji mavic

I’d recommend it to anyone from travel enthusiast to the professional photographer and so on. It has its limitations, but for the price of about $1000, here’s why it rocks:

  • It comes with a stellar gimbal (a motorized system that stabilizes the camera while in the air).
  • Has a 4K camera with a fixed aperture of f/2.2 – This makes it pretty good even in low light conditions.
  • You can take amazing photos in 12mp resolution.
  • It’s foldable – This makes it the most portable high-quality camera on my list, and pretty much on the market. You can simply take it in a small bag and go on your vacation, no problem.
  • Long range – it can go up to 7 km in perfect conditions, which is more than enough for anyone.
  • Long battery life – it promises about 30 minutes of flight time, but in real life conditions, 26 minutes is more likely.
  • Has great GPS and return to home features.
  • Has front sensors for detecting obstacles and stopping in time.

Dji mavic folded front sensors

Disadvantages: Can’t really think of anything. It’s amazing for the price.

#2 – Xiaomi MI 4K drone – The cheapest, yet still amazing

Xiaomi drone

The Xiaomi MI 4K drone costs about $500 and comes with all you need for great photo/video results.

  • Just as the Mavic before, it comes with an amazing gimbal and camera attached to it, in order to keep the image steady in the air.
  • Again, you can shoot 4K photos (12.4 mp) and video or go lower in resolution so you can record in more frames, and do slow-motion.
  • The range is over 3 km, which is absolutely fantastic.
  • Battery life is said to be 27 minutes, but in real life, I got a maximum of 24.
  • It comes with very good GPS and returns to home when the battery is low and also when the signal is lost (just like the Mavic)

Xiaomi drone camera

Disadvantages of the Xiaomi 4k drone

  • It’s not nearly as portable as the Mavic.
  • It is louder.
  • It doesn’t have the front facing sensors to stop before impact that the Mavic does.

Consider how much these drawbacks mean to you when you take into account the super cheap price. Don’t get fooled thinking a smaller price means lower quality. Xiaomi, just like DJI, is a Chinese company with a focus on creating high-quality hardware, that’s impressive even by western standards.

#3 – DJI Phantom 4 Professional – the pro choice at a small price

You have probably heard of drones like Phantom 3 or 4 by now, and they were all amazing, but the DJI Phantom 4 Professional is on the next level.


If the DJI Mavic Pro Platinum is not enough for you in terms of camera capability and you want more professional freedom in your work, this is the best way to go.

Here’s what this $1500 drone comes with:

  • The 4K camera we’ve been used to has a 1-inch sensor now. This means nighttime photos will be considerably better and less noisy compared to any of the previous drones.
  • The 20mp sensor also delivers amazing quality photos and video.
  • It can shoot 4K in 60fps and Full HD in 120FPS and comes with a mechanical shutter (just like your DSLR), so you get a smooth video image and no rolling shutter effect.
  • It’s super secure with obstacle sensing in 5 directions: 2 front sensing cameras, 2 side infrared detectors, Sonar and cameras on the bottom (to land precisely), And even one in the back!
  • Just like the Mavic Pro Platinum, it comes with 30-minute flight time, 3-axis gimbal stabilization and 7 km range (but, this time, it’s dual-band transmission, so the signal is more secure).

What are a few disadvantages: It’s bulky and loud. It can’t fold up, so if you want to take it on vacation, it will be harder to carry.


I recommend this drone for the more professional bunch of people, who want to use it more intensely for professional projects and don’t mind the bigger form size. This drone is great for people who want to have more control over their images, and it’s perfect if you want to shoot at high ISO in lower light.

Over to you

I only gave you three choices because I believe these are the best of each price category. So, depending on your budget, you can confidently choose one of these, as there’s simply no competition on the market right now.

Don’t forget to fly safe and check the regulation in your area!


The post How to Choose Your First Camera Drone and Skyrocket Your Photography by Paul Archer appeared first on Digital Photography School.


Review of the Lensbaby Velvet 85

Filed Under Cameras and Equipment, Digital Photography School

Lensbaby has been producing lenses that create interesting effects since 2004. During that time people have been experimenting and trying out different ways of using them. In the spring of 2015, they introduced the Velvet 56 to the joy of many photographers, especially those doing macro. This year, their newest lens in the line-up was released, the Lensbaby Velvet 85.


The Lensbaby Velvet 85

The Velvet 85 promises to be a great lens for portraiture creating impressionist-like portraits of people. It does indeed do that, but you can use it for so much more. It is a great lens for photographers who like images with mood and which concentrate more on the subject with a lot of bokeh.

First Impressions

The lens is very well made and when you hold it in your hand you can feel the coolness of the metal it is made from. It is not an overly heavy lens, but it’s also not light. It is bigger than the Velvet 56, which is to be expected, though not a lot heavier. They are both very well made, high-quality lenses.

Using the Lensbaby Velvet 85

Like most lenses that are available on the market today, the Velvet 85 can be used for many different types of photography. I use it mainly for macro photography and find it really good. However, you can also use it for portraiture, city photography, and landscapes. It doesn’t work the same as other lenses as you get a really soft-focus effect with it, but for most people, that is exactly why they buy it.

Review of the Lensbaby Velvet 85

A macro image that was taken with the Lensbaby Velvet 85.

Manual Lens

The lens is completely manual and you cannot use your camera to control it, as you can with other lenses. You need to change the aperture and focus it yourself. You will not be able to see what aperture you used when you download the images to your computer either.

Manual Focus

Focusing is also manual and you need to adjust it as you take your photos. It does turn a long way and you have to twist the focusing ring a lot. Some cameras can tell you when the image is in focus, for example, Nikon does. When you are at that spot of good clarification, then the round dot in the viewfinder appears. However, as you get used to the lens you will need to rely on that less.

Review of the Lensbaby Velvet 85

Opening up the aperture gives you images with a lot of soft-focus.

For macro photography, most people tend to use manual focus anyway and it is easier with this lens. You can focus where you want and then move yourself and the camera to a spot where the image will be in focus.

For landscape photography, you can set it to infinity and you should get images that are sharp, depending on your aperture. For objects in between macro and infinity, you will have to practice and see it goes. That is probably the area I found the hardest, though as I did it more, it became easier.

Controlling the Lens

With many lenses now you can change the aperture with the camera, however, the Velvet 85 is more like a vintage lens from older style cameras. It does not communicate with your camera and you need to control the aperture yourself. To change it there is an aperture ring on the lens which you turn to adjust it to the setting you want.


Unlike other sorts of dedicated macro lenses, the Velvet 85 doesn’t use aperture in the same way. You can take photos of flowers at f/2.8 and get a fairly decent image. If you tried doing that with, say a Nikon macro lens, you will find the photo would almost be an abstract version of the flower with very little in focus.

The aperture starts at f/1.8 on the Velvet 85 and goes up to f/16. At the latter, you will get the greatest depth of field and if using the lens for landscape photography it is a good one to choose. If you are taking macro images of flowers then the wider end is much better.

Review of the Lensbaby Velvet 85

Using a smaller aperture such as f/11 gives less soft-focus and you get more of a natural looking image.

One thing the lens is really good for is the soft-focus effect that is possible. You can control how much of it you want by using different apertures. The wider it is the more of the effect appears, and the opposite happens as you close it down.

Interesting effects

If you like to get different effects with your lens then the Velvet 85 will be fantastic for you. You can get interesting results for portraits, though I don’t do them if you go to the Lensbaby website you can see some good examples. If you want to give your clients images that are not the same as what others are doing then you should consider adding this lens to your kit. Click here for images.

Bokeh Effect

Without a doubt one of the most special and addictive aspects of the Velvet lenses, and perhaps more so with the 85, is the blurring you can do with it. You won’t find any other lenses available that will give you the same effects. You can play around with the aperture to change how much blur you achieve in your images.

Review of the Lensbaby Velvet 85

Creating a bokeh effect with a poppy flower and bee.

Whether you are photographing a landscape or a macro image you can use the aperture and blurring effect to highlight your subject. The Velvet 85 is fantastic for this. You can change the aperture to different widths and that will determine how much blur you will get. From that, you can decide what level of blurring you want in your image.

Tilt-Shift Effect

This was a popular effect a few years ago, though, there is no reason it can’t be again. This is where you use blurring effects to make objects in your image look like they are miniature or toy-like. By controlling the aperture and giving the images a lot more of the blur you can get images that look as though your subject is miniature. The lens does not do it all, but it gives you a good starting point.

Review of the Lensbaby Velvet 85

The soft-focus is a good start to creating tilt-shift images.

Moody Images

Using blurring effects is a great tool for giving your images a moody feel. You can apply it to most types of photography and get those sorts of images that people love. You can use it for most types of photography, try it out if you can.

Review of the Lensbaby Velvet 85

Playing with the aperture you can create a mood in your image.

Comparing the Velvet 85 with the Velvet 56

There is an obvious difference between the size of the two lenses, which you can see in the image below. However, you will find the same with most fixed or prime lenses.

Review of the Lensbaby Velvet 85

The Lensbaby Velvet 85 next to the Velvet 56.

If you change the focus to point so that you can get as close as you can to what you are photographing, they both seem to capture the same image.

Review of the Lensbaby Velvet 85

How close you can get with each lens, the Velvet 85 on the left and the Velvet 56 on the right.

However, if you are trying to photograph something from a fixed point, then the Velvet 85 will allow you to get closer images. This is great if you are taking photos in a location like a garden, you can photograph those flowers that are at the back and harder to get to.

Review of the Lensbaby Velvet 85

Standing in the same place, the difference can be seen with the Velvet 85 on the left, and the Velvet 56 on the right.

If I had to choose between the two lenses, I think I would want the Velvet 85. The longer reach is appealing, and the soft-focus effect is really interesting. There isn’t a great deal of difference in the price, so it would be my choice.

Adding the lens to your kit

It is not an overly expensive lens, Lensbaby sells the Velvet 85 for $499. It is available for most cameras on the market today. You can get a full list on the website.

If you are looking for a lens that is capable of macro photography, then this is a good alternative to the more expensive macro lenses that many companies make. It would also suit a portrait photographer, however, don’t forget street photography and landscape. It is a versatile lens which you will enjoy, but don’t expect to get the same results that you’d achieve with normal lenses.


The post Review of the Lensbaby Velvet 85 by Leanne Cole appeared first on Digital Photography School.


Review: Interfit Honey Badger Studio Strobe and Universal Remote

Filed Under Cameras and Equipment, Digital Photography School

Right now is a great time to be a studio photographer. Never before has there been such a multitude of options available to you in terms of photographic lighting. It seems that the recent surge in new photographers has lit a fire in the industries that create photographic gear. Lighting is a sector that has seen a huge influx of new options and new innovations.

Interfit has been one of those companies that constantly add to the mix for a while now. Not only do they make affordable studio strobes and continuous lights, they also make a ton of lighting modifiers and an indescribable amount of other studio accessories. If you need something for your studio, chances are that Interfit makes it.

Review: Interfit Honey Badger and Interfit Universal Remote

Stylish design is usually absent from studio lighting, but the Interfit Honey Badger aims to remedy that.

The newest light in Interfit’s range is the Honey Badger. A small, mid-powered studio strobe that fits into the low-middle pricing range. the light itself is in a stylish, bright yellow casing which adds a bit of a flourish to the monolight (the sort of product which is usually lacking in any sort of aesthetic design). I had chance to spend some time with and review the Honey Badger as well as the Interfit Universal Remote. Here are my thoughts.

What Exactly is a Honey Badger?

If you’re not familiar with the light’s namesake, a honey badger is a medium-sized mammal found in Africa and Asia. At first glance, they’re adorable. However, honey badgers are infamous for being unstoppable murder machines that maim, mutilate and maul everything in their path. You’ll often find them near the top of lists of the world’s most dangerous animals.

Knowing that you can probably figure out what Interfit are going for with their branding. You have a small, stylish light that’s cute to look at, but packs a punch when set loose in the studio.

So did they achieve that? The short answer is – yes, quite well.

The Strobe

As per the Interfit website, the specifications for the Honey Badger are as follows:

Review: Interfit Honey Badger and Interfit Universal Remote

The biggest takeaways here are the seven stops of power range up to 320ws (which is pretty decent for a strobe in this price range), the S-mount, and the built-in receiver.


Before I get into anything else, let’s address the elephant in the room. Announcements of new studio strobes these days always seem to include the wonderful features of High-Speed Sync (HSS) and Through the Lens metering (TTL), both relatively new features in the world of studio strobes as they have been previously limited to flashguns (speedlights). The Honey Badger does not have these features. Then again, its price point reflects their absence.


The Honey Badger sells in the US for $299.99 and the UK for £259.99, putting it squarely in the low-middle range of the market. For this price range, it packs a decent punch and pulls its weight easily.

The Interfit Universal Remote is sold separately at a more than reasonable $79.99 USD and £39.99 UK.

Built-in Receiver

What the Honey Badger does include, which surprised me a little, is a built-in receiver. This means that you can fire the strobe with a transmitter on your camera without having to worry about extra receivers, errant sync cables, and dead batteries. Interfit sells a Universal Manual Remote (covered by this review) that works with the Honey Badger and a selection of other Interfit lights.


Review: Interfit Honey Badger and Interfit Universal Remote

While 320ws is a long way from the power output you can get from some strobes, it is more than enough in most everyday situations. As long as you bring your lights in close to your subject like I do, you should have no problem obtaining apertures of f/8 and f/11 for portraits and f/16 and beyond for tabletop set-ups.

If you’re working out of a home studio or another small space, the power output of the Honey Badger is likely going to be enough for you.


Review: Interfit Honey Badger and Interfit Universal Remote

As far as strobes go, the Honey Badger is quite small and highly portable.

The size of the Honey Badger was far more noticeable than the color when I first took it out of the box. This light is small. For comparison, above is a photo of it next to a Bowens light with similar specifications and a Canon 580 EX II Speedlite.

I can speculate on both the advantages and the disadvantages of the size of the Honey Badger.

I have no way of testing it, but I imagine that fitting three or four of these lights into a carry-on sized Pelican case would be pretty easy. If you’re a traveling photographer, being able to easily transport that many studio strobes might be a huge bonus.

When I attached one of my own modifiers, a large Interfit Strip-box, the small size of the strobe and the narrowness of the strip-box allowed me to point the light straight down. This isn’t usually possible without a boom arm and it got me pretty excited about the possibilities. (That said, one of the kits that Interfit offer with the Honey Badger includes a stand with a boom arm.)

Review: Interfit Honey Badger and Interfit Universal Remote

The shape of the Honey Badger may allow you more configurations with some modifiers.

On the other hand, we live in a world where appearances matter. Between the size and the color, the Honey Badger does look a little bit like a toy. Throughout the rest of this review, I will try to assure you that the Honey Badger does perform well, but if you have clients that like to see big productions with big lights everywhere, they may be less than impressed.

The Softbox

Review: Interfit Honey Badger and Interfit Universal Remote

The Honey Badger kit I tested included a 24” popup softbox. It’s a small softbox; I can’t say much more than that about it. In fact, it’s identical to a Neewer branded one that I bought a few months ago for use with my speedlights. The only difference is the Interfit branding. It is of good quality, fits snugly on the Honey Badger and has no apparent effect on the color temperature of the light that passes through it.

If your intent is to shoot portraits, especially in a fixed studio environment, you’re going to want a bigger light modifier. The softbox is useful and you will be able to get results from it, but you will want to find something much larger.

If you purchase this kit, be forewarned. The softbox comes in a pouch much smaller than its actual size. When it comes out of that bag, it opens itself with quite a lot of force. Don’t do what I did and please, please hold it away from your face.


Review: Interfit Honey Badger and Interfit Universal Remote

With a Bowens S-mount, the Honey Badger gives you access to a vast range of modifiers.

The fact that the Honey Badger has a Bowens S-Mount on it is a major advantage in my opinion. There is a vast range of modifiers available that fit the S-mount, ranging from cheap imports to high quality, but far more pricey, proprietary modifiers from brands like Interfit and Bowens. I may be a bit biased as I am a Bowens user, but if I were to invest in the Honey Badger system, that S-mount would make my life so much easier.

As an aside, Bowens has gone out of business. That doesn’t mean you should forsake the S-mount. As mentioned, there are hundreds of products and dozens of other lighting systems that use the S-mount. Bowens might be going, but modifiers that fit the S-mount are going to be around for a long while yet.

White Balance

The Honey Badger has a color temperature of 5600k. This means it’s a touch warmer than the flash White Balance setting in Lightroom. If you like warmer tones in your images, this is not a problem. However, if you would prefer a more neutral look, remember that you will need to dial your White Balance back a hundred degrees. Bear in mind, if you’re using cheaper modifiers, they tend to have a significant effect on your color temperature which renders this point moot anyway.

Diffusion Dome

Review: Interfit Honey Badger and Interfit Universal Remote

The frosted diffusion dome covering the flashbulb gives an extra layer of diffusion behind your modifier.

Unlike most strobes, the Honey Badger has a frosted dome over the flashbulb. This adds a tiny amount of diffusion to the bare bulb. In most cases, you’re never going to want to shoot with a bare strobe, but I tried it anyway. The light is as hard as you would expect, but it is possible to use it to creative effect.

Modeling light

When I first turned the Honey Badger on, I didn’t expect an LED modeling light. This is a plus as it means that your subjects aren’t going to boil under hot lights. In fact, I used the Honey Badger nearly constantly in four studio sessions and it never even got warm, never mind overheating.

The Interfit Universal Remote

Review: Interfit Honey Badger and Interfit Universal Remote

The Interfit Universal Remote allows you to control the Honey Badger (and other Interfit strobes) from the top of your camera.

I will admit that using the Universal Remote to control the Honey Badger from the top of the camera is an absolute pleasure. I tend to work in confined spaces anyway, but not having to actually walk to the light to change the power output was fantastic. The remote is easy to use as well, and all the functions are labelled clearly. When I’m next in the market for new strobes, this remote may very well play into my considerations. I imagine a scenario where I don’t have to dodge behind a subject to the back of a studio to change the power output on a pair of rim lights. I can dream right?!

That said, the remote was the only problem I had while testing the Honey Badger. For the first 20 minutes or so, I couldn’t figure out why the modeling light was turning itself off. I was convinced there was a problem with the light itself, but it turns out that for whatever reason, on the unit I tested, the modeling light shuts off any time you change the power output via the Universal Remote. I don’t know why this would be and I am unaware if it was a problem isolated to the unit I used, but it did not do the same when you change the power output on the actual strobe.

With a price tag of $79.99 USD (£39.99), if you are interested in the Honey Badger, or other Interfit lights, this remote is a no brainer.

The Test

For the first test, I set up the Honey Badger straight out of the box with everything included (24” softbox and the Universal Remote). I had the whole thing set up in no time and once the batteries went into the remote, all the channel settings were sorted out in seconds. (It really is that easy.)

Pop-up Softbox

Review: Interfit Honey Badger and Interfit Universal Remote

To start with, I placed the light at 45 degrees in a basic Rembrandt setup. Because the softbox is so small, I brought it in really close to the subject (about a foot away).

Review: Interfit Honey Badger and Interfit Universal Remote

Review: Interfit Honey Badger and Interfit Universal Remote

From here, I moved the soft box away a short and distance and further to the subject’s left. I wanted to take advantage of the harder light from the smaller softbox and try to create some images with deep, defined shadows.

Review: Interfit Honey Badger and Interfit Universal Remote


Review: Interfit Honey Badger and Interfit Universal Remote

I happen to own a large Interfit strip softbox (which I adore), so that was the next modifier to go on the Honey Badger. At first, I was overcome with glee as I realized I could point it straight down thanks to the Honey Badger’s small size; however, I chose not to keep it that way as it’s not the most flattering light for human subjects.

Instead, I put it straight in front of my subject, slightly above and pointed straight at her nose for a basic butterfly lighting set-up.

Review: Interfit Honey Badger and Interfit Universal Remote

Review: Interfit Honey Badger and Interfit Universal Remote


Review: Interfit Honey Badger and Interfit Universal Remote

As mentioned, I felt inclined to see what the light from Honey Badger looked like as a bare bulb. The diffusion dome got the better of my curiosity. In my opinion, it’s perfectly usable. You won’t want to use it a lot, however, but the hard light might suit some high fashion portraits quite well.

Review: Interfit Honey Badger and Interfit Universal Remote



7’ Parabolic Umbrella with Diffusion

Review: Interfit Honey Badger and Interfit Universal Remote

This is where I started to see some possible limitations with the Honey Badger. I wanted to see if the Honey Badger could cope with a giant parabolic umbrella. The answer is yes, but not without extra pieces of equipment. The light itself does have a hole for an umbrella, but I wasn’t willing to see if it would hold that much weight. Instead, I placed a Bowens umbrella reflector on it and attached the modifier.

Because the light is so small, I had to bring the umbrella really close to the light before it would support the umbrella’s weight. With the light so close to the umbrella, it was not able to use the full surface area of the modifier. The 7’ umbrella effectively became a 4.5’ umbrella. This is not the end of the world, but it was annoying. There are plenty of options for umbrella holders and mounts on the market that would solve this problem, I just don’t happen to own any of them.

Review: Interfit Honey Badger and Interfit Universal Remote

Beauty Dish with Grid & Diffusion Sock

The final variation I tried was using a 24″ beauty dish with both a grid and a diffusion sock. For this setup, the light was placed about 10 feet in front of the subject for a harder light and to reduce the speed of the light fall off so that more light hit the background.

Extra images

Below are other photos taken using the Interfit Honey Badger and the included pop-up softbox.



Pros and Cons

Having used it for a while, I can tell you that the Honey Badger has more pros than it does cons (and a few of the cons are hyperbolic).

Pros of the Honey Badger

  • Reasonably priced
  • Small
  • Reasonably powered
  • Bright LED modeling light
  • Bowens S-mount
  • Fast recycling times (I never had to wait for it)
  • Built-in receiver
  • The Universal Remote works like a charm
  • Doesn’t overheat easily
  • Good build quality
  • Stylish in appearance


  • The light might be too small in some situations
  • 24” softbox is too small for many studio situations, albeit perfectly functional
  • Modeling light turns itself off (on the unit I tested) when the power is adjusted via the Universal Remote
  • No HSS or TTL
  • May have issues supporting the weight of large modifiers like an 8’ Octabox


In the end, I enjoyed using the Honey Badger. It is a good quality, competent light that would suit any photographer working a studio environment, especially for those setting up a home studio. The Universal Remote really adds to the experience as well, making power adjustments from the top of the camera a breeze.

If you’re looking for HSS or TTL functionality, or a light with a self-contained battery, no, the Honey Badger is not for you. For anything else, the Honey Badger is absolutely worth your consideration.

Disclaimer: Interfit provided the product on loan to our dPS author so he could test and do this review. However, all reviews on dPS are 100% the author’s unbiased opinion. 

The post Review: Interfit Honey Badger Studio Strobe and Universal Remote by John McIntire appeared first on Digital Photography School.


Review of the Aputure Light Storm COB 120D Studio LED

Filed Under Cameras and Equipment, Digital Photography School

The team at Aputure via Kayell Australia (thanks) sent me the Aputure Light Storm COB 120D LED studio light to try out and that’s exactly what I’ve been doing! I had planned a day’s worth of food shooting, but that wasn’t to be after the client delayed the session. So I went about doing what I like to do and photographed myself holding a coffee in preparation for a portrait series I’m working on called “In My Shed” which is literally just that, but more on that later… Back to the light, and what a light it is!

Review of the Aputure Light Storm COB 120D Studio LED

What’s in the box of the Aputure Light Storm

The Aputure Light Storm is an LED light with only one light source, as opposed to a panel with lots of little LEDs on it. The COB stands for “chip on board” which is basically multiple little versions of those LED’s you’re used to seeing, but all mounted on a board with a blob of phosphor flowed on top of them.

The phosphor is the bit that gives the LED light its color temperature (The D or the T) The version I have is called the 120D, the D is for Daylight. This means it’s closely daylight balanced, as opposed to the other model, the 120T which is more closely tungsten balanced. If you’re super interested in how they’re made, search on YouTube, it’s pretty interesting. Anyways…

Review of the Aputure Light Storm COB 120D Studio LED

I must admit, when I first started talking about the C120D with some industry peers, the initial feedback I got was, “It isn’t built very well.” and, “It won’t be bright enough for what you need to do!” but I pressed ahead despite those second-hand reservations and I’m very glad I did.

The unboxing part is always exciting for me, new gear and all that, and this little fellow was no different. The Aputure Light Storm COB 120D kit comes with its own semi-rigid case complete with a small reflector, power supply, cables and a remote control with a working distance of 100 meters. Everything you need to be up and running with some stunning light in less than five minutes is included.

Review of the Aputure Light Storm COB 120D Studio LED

Stunning light

So, I say stunning light, and I guess, like almost everything in photography, that’s a subjective statement. But I really love the light this unit produces, in the situations I’ve used it. I held off working on this article as I wanted to get some good use in with the light as I’d originally planned for this review.  That was to use it as my key light for food photography.

I prefer to use a big soft window for food photography, but sometimes you don’t have that option, so you need to create your light. I typically use a Jinbei HD600 which is a portable studio flash. It’s a great unit, but I wanted to try out a constant light source and see how that worked for what I was shooting.

Let’s kick it off with your dinner and dessert. Thanks to Trackside Noodle Bar for letting me use these images! There are images that they’re going to use in their marketing and menus. Entree and dessert for you, mains we’ll have a little bit later

Review of the Aputure Light Storm COB 120D Studio LED

Review of the Aputure Light Storm COB 120D Studio LED

No surprises with continuous lighting

I think the best bit, given I’m not a full-time photographer and I don’t shoot as often as some of you, is that using LED lights means that I see exactly what I’m going to get.

So you light your scene and adjust it, and you can see the adjustments immediately as the light source is always on. You can do the same when you use strobes or flash, but you need to make an exposure to check (I’m shooting a Sony a7rmk2 and so I see what I get on the screen at the back).

I find it super easy to set up my plate of food, use the light’s remote to back off the power if I need to do so, and click – job done.

Review of the Aputure Light Storm COB 120D Studio LED

When I came to the main course, I wanted a bit of light coming back in from the left of the plate. So a really simple bounce card (aka white square of card that can stand on its own) sitting out of shot on the left and I was good to go. You can see my hand-drawn “artist’s” impression of my setup, below.

Review of the Aputure Light Storm COB 120D Studio LED

Or, as a real photo, without my awesome drawing skills!

Review of the Aputure Light Storm COB 120D Studio LED

Self-portrait time

A funny thing happened on this journey. As I mentioned at the start, I did a little self-portraiture in my shed for a project I’m working on. I shared the image with Aputure and it’s now in their catalog! So, that was kind of cool…

For this portrait, I had the light set up outside the shed window, the camera on a tripod being controlled via my iPhone which if you look really closely, you might spot on the window ledge (Sony’s Playmemories app). I could adjust the light power from inside the shed using the controller. The light was running on a vLock battery, I used the Core SWX Slim which meant I could take the light anywhere, I also used a Bowens S Mounted 90cm deep para reflector.

Review of the Aputure Light Storm COB 120D Studio LED

Review of the Aputure Light Storm COB 120D Studio LED


The summary, after working with this light for a couple of months is that it’s a great unit! Well built, plenty bright, easy to transport. I only have one minor negative point, and it’s that the controls have to be so big, but then the light itself is quite compact, so I guess all the controls and battery mount have to go somewhere! Like I said, minor.

The Aputure Light Storm COB 120D LED studio light is a fantastic addition to my regular portrait and food photography kit. This is a five-star review of a well deserving product! Let there be light.

Disclaimer: this product was provided to the author for review, but all reviews on dPS are 100% unbiased opinions of the author. 

The post Review of the Aputure Light Storm COB 120D Studio LED by Sime appeared first on Digital Photography School.


The 19 Most Popular DSLRs Among our Readers

Filed Under Cameras and Equipment, Digital Photography School

Every few months we like to report back to the dPS community which cameras (and other gear) are most popular with our readers. Today we’re going to take a look at the highest selling DSLRs among our readers over the last 4 months (as ranked by the reports that Amazon gives us*).

popular dslrs

As usual you’ll see it is largely a battle between Canon and Nikon (who dominate this class of camera) and that at the top of the list we see entry level DSLRS most popular (mainly due to their price). Further down the list we see more serious (and expensive) contenders.

1. Canon EOS Rebel T6i


2. Nikon D750

Nikon D750 popular dslr

3. Nikon D850

Nikon D850 popular dslr

4. Nikon D3400

Nikon D3400 popular dslr

5. Canon EOS 6D Mark II

Canon 6D Mark III

6. Canon EOS Rebel T5


7. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV popular dslr

8. Nikon D5500

Nikon D5500 popular dslr

9. Canon EOS 80D

Canon 80D DSLR Popular

10. Nikon D5300

Nikon D5300 DSLR Popular

And here are the next 9 most popular DSLRs.

  1. Canon EOS Rebel T7i
  2. Canon EOS Rebel T5i
  3. Nikon D5600
  4. Canon EOS 77D
  5. Nikon D7200
  6. Canon EOS Rebel SL2
  7. Nikon D500
  8. Canon EOS 6D
  9. Nikon D3300

Updated 23 November 2017

*Note: this list was compiled from reports supplied to us from where we are affiliates. One of the ways dPS is able to cover its costs and be a sustainable business is that we earn a small commission when readers make a purchase from Amazon after clicking on our links (including those above). While no personal details are passed on we do get an overall report from Amazon about what was bought and are able to create this list.

The post The 19 Most Popular DSLRs Among our Readers by Darren Rowse appeared first on Digital Photography School.


The 19 Most Popular Compact System and Mirrorless Cameras with Our Readers

Filed Under Cameras and Equipment, Digital Photography School

Earlier in the week we revealed the DSLRs that were best selling among our readers over the last few months. While DSLRs are still the most popular type of readers among our readers this last quarter has seen a big rise in the number of you using compact system/mirrorless cameras.

popular compact system cameras

In fact if we combined the two lists we’d now see compact system cameras in the top 20 cameras bought by our readers with the Sony Alpha a6000 and the Sony Alpha a7II both making that list.

Also an indication of the growth of sales in the compact system camera class of camera is that today we’re listing 19 of them while last time we created this list we only saw enough sales to justify making it a list of 9 cameras.

Here are the most popular compact system cameras among our readers!

Note: we’ve included cameras with interchangeable lenses and fixed lenses in this list.

This post was last updated 23 November 2017

1. Sony Alpha a6000


2. Panasonic LUMIX G7


3. Sony Alpha a6500


4. Sony a7R III

Note: this camera made the list based purely upon pre-orders – it’s one of the most anticipated mirrorless cameras ever.

sony a7r III

5. Sony a5100


6. Sony Alpha a6300

91SK7Lmn0GL SL1500

7. Fujifilm X-T20


8. Sony Alpha a7II


9. Panasonic LUMIX DMC-G85

81Y920s19 L SL1500

10. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II

81Y920s19 L SL1500

That’s our top 10 – here are the next 9 most popular compact camera systems.

  1. Sony a7
  2. Panasonic Lumix GH5
  3. Panasonic Lumix GH4
  4. Sony a7R II
  5. Sony Alpha a7S II
  6. Canon EOS M100
  7. Fujifilm X-Pro2
  8. Fujifilm X-E3
  9. Samsung NX500

*Note: this list was compiled from reports supplied to us from where we are affiliates. One of the ways dPS is able to cover its costs and be a sustainable business is that we earn a small commission when readers make a purchase from Amazon after clicking on our links (including those above). While no personal details are passed on we do get an overall report from Amazon about what was bought and are able to create this list.

The post The 19 Most Popular Compact System and Mirrorless Cameras with Our Readers by Darren Rowse appeared first on Digital Photography School.


Review of the Tamron 18-400mm F/3.5-6.3 DI-II VC HLD Zoom Lens

Filed Under Cameras and Equipment, Digital Photography School

Tamron has been specializing in super-zoom lenses for the last few years. You may be familiar with their 16-300mm, 18-270mm or 150-600mm lenses. Their newest super-zoom is an even more astonishing focal length, the Tamron 18-400mm. I recently had a chance to review this lens for a few weeks so I thought I’d give you an idea of who this lens is for, the good, the not-so-good, and my overall recommendation.

Review of Tamron 18-400mm F/3.5-6.3 DI-II VC HLD Zoom Lens - Hibiscus

Hot pink hardy hibiscus bloom. Canon 7D Mark II, Tamron 18-400mm lens @ 400mm, f/9, 1/160th, ISO 100, handheld.

About this review

I know you already know this (because you read ALL my pieces for dPS, right? Right?!) but my lens reviews are pretty real world. I don’t sit in a lab or use techy gizmos to measure sharpness. I actually hold a lens in my hands and shoot with it. This lens was tucked in my favorite bag for most of August.

That said, my intention was to see how a lens holds up for an actual shoot. I used this lens to photograph Lipizzan horses at a dressage performance as well as at the racetrack. Then I used it on a mission to photograph old barns and finally to make some macro flower images.

Tamron 18-400mm lens -  Lipizzan Foal

Lipizzan foal at Tempel Farms, Old Mill Creek IL. Canon 7D Mark II, Tamron 18-400mm lens @ 300mm, f/6.3, 1/640th, ISO 500, handheld. 

The goal was to make images at most focal lengths with a variety of apertures, but a few might have been skipped because I was really out there shooting. I shoot at the focal length, shutter speed, ISO and aperture that each situation calls for. So let’s just say I apologize in advance if I’ve skipped something important to you. Give me a shout in the comments if that’s the case. I’ll dig through my notes and image archives to see if I can answer your question.

Lens specs

Let’s start off with a quick overview of the lens specs. This lens is for Nikon and Canon APS-C (crop sensor) cameras only. I tested the lens on a Canon 7D Mark II.

The Tamron 18-400mm super-zoom is a variable aperture lens. Meaning that at 18mm, the maximum aperture (largest opening) is f/3.5. But when you zoom into 400mm, the maximum aperture is f/6.3. The minimum aperture (smallest opening) is f/22 at all focal lengths.

Tamron 18-400mm - Red barn

Dilapidated red barn, McHenry County IL. Canon 7D Mark II, Tamron 18-400mm lens @ 71mm, f/9, 1/250th, ISO 200, handheld.

The lens has an HLD Autofocus Motor that is quick and quiet for a consumer lens at this price. It also has Tamron’s standard VC Image Stabilization. This feature enables you to get sharper shots while hand-holding at longer focal lengths. The lens also has what Tamron calls Moisture-Resistant Construction. I’m relieved to tell you I didn’t get to test this feature.

The minimum focusing distance – important especially if you want to try your hand at making macro images – is 17.72″ (45 cm). Macro is usually a 1:1 ratio and this lens only produces 1:2.9, but I was pleasantly surprised with my macro results.

Tamron 18-400mm - White bud

White hardy hibiscus bud. Canon 7D Mark II, Tamron 18-400mm lens @ 400mm, f/13, 1/320th, ISO 320, handheld.

If you use screw on filters, like a circular polarizer, the front thread is 72mm. The lens is 1.56 pounds (710 g) and approximately 3.11” in diameter by 4.88″ in length (79 x 123.9 mm). It’s an incredibly compact lens for this focal length range.

The price, at the time of publication of this article, is $649.00 USD.

Who is this lens for?

I would describe the ideal user of this lens as an amateur or enthusiast. If you’re an amateur photographer who travels but doesn’t want to carry more than one or two lenses, this is the perfect choice for you.

With an 18-400mm focal length, you might not need to ever change the lens, except in a dark indoor situation, when you need either flash or perhaps the fast f/1.8 maximum aperture of a nifty fifty.

Tamron 18-400mm - racehorse portrait

Low-key portrait of a racehorse, Arlington Park IL. Canon 7D Mark II, Tamron 18-400mm lens @ 400mm, f/6.3, 1/250th, ISO 250, handheld.

This lens would also be great for a busy parent who needs more than a smart phone to capture pictures of soccer matches and dance recitals but who doesn’t have a ton of extra room in her carryall bag. The compact size and weight of the Tamron 18-400mm make it an easy addition to any parent’s standard kit.

What’s good about this lens

The size of this lens just can’t be beat. At only a pound and a half and less than 5 inches long, it’s a lot of focal length in a very small package. I was really taken with how small it was since I normally shoot with such large neck-and-shoulder-busting glass.

Hand-holding this lens for an afternoon at the race track wasn’t even remotely painful. With the insane focal length capabilities, I didn’t even bother to carry a second lens with me (or even my camera bag!) and that made for a really care-free afternoon.

Tamron 18-400mm - size comparison

The Tamron 18-400mm lens, attached to the Canon 7D Mark II, with the Canon 100-400 lens alongside for size comparison.

Tamron 18-400mm lens comparison - extended

The extended Tamron 18-400 lens, attached to the Canon 7D Mark II, with the extended Canon 100-400 lens alongside for size comparison. Clearly you can see what a compact size this lens is and how beneficial that could be when you travel.

Great for landscape images

It’s also a pleasure to catch a pretty landscape out of the corner of your eye and to simply zoom out to 18mm to capture it. Typically if you’re shooting with a long lens, you have to take the time to switch over to your wide-angle lens, take the shot and then switch back to your longer focal length lens again. Well, actually, if you’re me, you see that landscape and think ooh, pretty and then walk away without taking the shot.

Tamron 18-400 - at the track

Arlington Park Racetrack IL. Canon 7D Mark II, Tamron 18-400 @ 18mm, f/13, 1/100th, ISO 320, handheld. Processed in Lightroom.

I’m lazy that way so this was the first time I’ve actually made images of the racetrack itself. The lens performed really well in the 18-50mm focal range. It was both sharp and relatively distortion free. Lightroom’s Lens Correction easily managed the slight distortion there was too.

Things to be careful of

Remember I said we’d talk about the not-so-good too? It is a touch tricky to twist the lens in order to zoom in past 200mm to get to the 400mm focal length. First, your hand gets a bit “stuck” since anatomically, your wrist only twists so far before you have to reposition in order to continue the twisting motion.

Tamron 18-400mm lens - racetrack

Headed to the gate, Arlington Park IL. Canon 7D Mark II, Tamron 18-400mm lens @ 209mm, f/6.3, 1/1000th, ISO 250, handheld. 

Second, the lens has what I call a “hiccup” where you need to exert more pressure to push it past this point. I missed a few shots because the twisting motion wasn’t smooth enough and I jerked the lens a bit as I zoomed in from 200mm to 400mm.

Tamron 18-400mm lens - white hibiscus

White hardy hibiscus bloom. Canon 7D Mark II, Tamron 18-400mm lens @ 227mm, f/13, 1/400th, ISO 320, handheld.

Softness around the edges

There is a definite softness (or loss of sharpness) at the longer end of the lens, especially when your aperture is wide open, e.g., 400mm at f/6.3. If you crop in too much during post-processing or print too large, you’ll start to see the loss of fine details in your image since they weren’t tack sharp to start. You won’t see this loss of detail in a small 5×7″ print, or if you post to social media – so for many people, this actually won’t be a big issue.

Tamron 18-400mm lens Review - Riders up

Riders up at the paddock, Arlington Park IL. Canon 7D Mark II, Tamron 18-400mm lens @ 18mm, f/5, 1/500th, ISO 640, handheld.

Use the center focus point

The lens tends to be softest in the corners so sharpness improves if you use your camera’s center focus point. It also improves if you close down your aperture to f/8, f/9, or smaller. Because the lens is not tack sharp all the way through the focal length spectrum, I’m not recommending this lens for super serious wildlife shooters or anyone who likes to print really large. For you guys, I’m going to suggest sticking with a more standard zoom lens like a 100-400mm or 200-400mm. (I apologize in advance for the wear and tear this recommendation will cause your shoulders.)

If you predominantly shoot wide-angle images, like landscapes, and only occasionally shoot long, this lens will be a good fit for you when you don’t want to carry a ton of gear.

Final thoughts

Ultimately there were a number of things I really liked about this lens. The small size and super-zoom focal length make it a very practical tool to have in your bag. At $649.00 USD, it’s also a great value.

However, the softness at the long end of that focal length can become a real issue if you’re not careful. Because of that, I’m cautiously going to rate this lens 3.5 stars out of 5.

Tamron 18-400mm lens running foal

Running Lipizzan foal at Tempel Farms, Old Mill Creek IL. Canon 7D Mark II, Tamron 18-400mm lens @ 400mm, f/6.3, 1/640th, ISO 100, handheld. 

I’d love to hear your opinions too. Have you tried super-zooms lenses? Do they work for your type of photography? Which is your favorite one and how does it compare to the Tamron 100-400mm lens? Please share your thoughts with the dPS community in the comments below.

The post Review of the Tamron 18-400mm F/3.5-6.3 DI-II VC HLD Zoom Lens by Lara Joy Brynildssen appeared first on Digital Photography School.


Full Frame or APS-C for Wildlife Photography – Which is Best?

Filed Under Cameras and Equipment, Digital Photography School

Choosing between a full frame or cropped sensor camera for wildlife photography can be a tough decision. Both options offer their own benefits, so choosing between the two can cause quite the headache. Lots of photographers have their opinions, but choosing what’s right for your own use will largely come down to your personal style of shooting. So let’s break it down.

FX full frame and APS-C - Full Frame or APS-C for Wildlife Photography - Which is Best?

The Basics

Most modern camera companies use either full frame or APS-C (crop) type sensors in their DSLR (and mirrorless) cameras. The former is often classed as the professional standard, with the sensor size being a close replica to that of a 35mm film negative.

APS-C on the other hand, is roughly two thirds the size of a full frame sensor, resulting in the field of view being multiplied by a factor of 1.5-1.6x that of a standard full frame model. These sensors feature mostly in the lower tiered offerings by camera companies, with the chips being less expensive to produce.

Full Frame or APS-C for Wildlife Photography - Which is Best?

Working with APS-C means you can travel lighter.

Crop Factor

For APS-C models one of the largest benefits for wildlife photographers is that of the additional crop factor. The 1.5-1.6x magnification of your optics can be hugely beneficial when working out in the field, trying to photograph small birds or distant wildlife.

The crop factor also allows you to get a similar angle of view with a far smaller lens, helping to reduce the gear you need to carry while still giving you great telephoto reach. This is something a lot of photographers find as a huge benefit, as they can minimize the size and weight of the gear they need to carry out into the field.

For example, a 70-200mm lens on a 1.5x crop-factor body gives you the equivalent of a 105-300mm lens. A perfect compact wildlife setup.

APS-c cameras crop factor can be a great benefit for wildlife photography - Full Frame or APS-C for Wildlife Photography - Which is Best?

APS-C cameras crop factor can be a great benefit for wildlife photography.

ISO Sensitivity

One of the large benefits of a full frame camera is that of better image quality when shooting at high ISO. The larger sensor means in the individual pixels (and light sensitive photo sites) are larger than those on an APS-C type camera. This means as a general rule they are more sensitive to light, allowing cleaner noise-free images at high ISO settings, something that is fabulous when trying to work and photograph wildlife in low light conditions.

Now with modern sensor advances, APS-C models of the past few years have come up leaps and bounds in terms of ISO performance – easily being useable to ISO 6,400. But, if low light usability is key for the subjects you’re working with, a full frame camera is still king.

Full Frame or APS-C for Wildlife Photography - Which is Best?

APS-C cameras can still make great results at a high ISO.

Depth of Field

When comparing that of full frame sensors with APS-C models, one extra thing to consider is the depth of field characteristics and how areas are rendered out of focus.

With the smaller sensor in APS-C models, they give the effect of having a larger depth of field at equivalent apertures when compared to a full frame camera. This means that if you are going after images that render clean bokeh and have a very restricted depth of field to isolate and direct your viewer’s attention to your subject, a full frame model will be better suited.

Full Frame or APS-C for Wildlife Photography - Which is Best?

Full frame cameras are great for shallow depth of field effects.

Of course, if you do a large amount of macro work and want to maximize the depth then an APS-C camera might be right up your alley.


In the past few years, technology has advanced in resolution steadily, with cameras being introduced that have high 36-42 megapixel sensors. For the most part, ultra high-res sensors have been used in the realms of advertising and commercial photography for years. But of course, now having been brought into DSLRs they offer photographers more flexibility.

The high resolutions models are mainly full frame sensors, as packing huge numbers of pixels onto small sensors can heavily impact their quality. The FX models that have high resolution offer a unique advantage, as they make the most of the benefits of full frame models, yet offer the ability to crop heavily to replicate the crop factor of those advanced APS-C DSLRs.

Often a disadvantage is that these high-resolution cameras are slower in terms of frames per second, due to internal data writing limitations. But this is advancing all the time, especially with new forms of storage media offering faster write times.


Full Frame or APS-C for Wildlife Photography - Which is Best?

High megapixel full frame cameras offer great all-around performance.

The full frame camera with a high-resolution sensor can be somewhat of a perfect compromise for those wanting the ISO performance and bokeh rendering benefits of full frame, combined with the ability to crop. Providing, of course, that they aren’t to hung up on needing blazing fast frame per second shooting rates.


One factor that always plays a part when looking to buy new gear is that of cost. Full frame bodies by their nature are more expensive, with the chips inside being harder to engineer and more expensive to produce. APS-C cameras are often found at lower price points, but this depends on the body design and extra features such as speed, construction, and technologies implemented.

Some full spec APS-C cameras are significantly more expensive than full frame models due to the advanced autofocus features, frame rates, and build quality.

So what to choose?

For wildlife photography, it largely depends on your target subjects.

If you love photographing birds and small creatures, a high-end APS-C body that combines the crop factor with speed will serve you well. The crop factor is also a huge benefit if you want to get a longer telephoto reach without having to shell out for ultra-expensive super telephoto lenses. Meaning you can have a small set up that offers a good compromise for most situations.

If you want to truly get the best performance and quality, full frame models are where to look. The high-resolution sensors and excellent low light performance make for great image quality. However, of course, you’ll also need to invest in the best optics to make the most of them.

These are both costly and a large burden to carry around. However, if you want the best quality imaginable that’s what it takes. For those starting out investing, an APS-C model would be my recommendation. Save your funds to buy decent quality lenses, as these will largely make more of a difference to your images than a single stop of ISO or a slightly higher resolution sensor.

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