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Feb
23

Ex-Lexar execs have launched a new memory card company, here’s why you should care

Filed Under News: Digital Photography Review

ProGrade Digital is a brand new memory card brand founded by former executives of memory maker Lexar.

In June 2017 parent company Micron unexpectedly announced the end of Lexar, but the brand was shortly after acquired by Chinese company Longsys. Now, a group of former executives from both managerial and technical backgrounds has teamed up to produce and market high-quality memory cards, directly competing with Lexar itself and other high-profile storage brands, such as SanDisk.

Initially the new company will offer two lines of cards: The CFast 2.0 cards will be available in 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB capacities for $230, $350, and $700, respectively, and offer transfer speeds up to 550MB/sec. The UHS-II SD-card line comes in 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB capacities for $55, $95, and $190, respectively, delivering speeds of up to 200MB/sec.

ProGrade says the controllers in all cards are optimized for use in professional cameras, and will each be tested from component-level down to individual memory chips before leaving the factory. Add a three year warranty into the mix, and the new cards look like an enticing alternative to the established brands for photographers who demand maximum reliability.

The brand was officially announced last week, but rather than simply cover the news, we decided to send ProGrade a few questions instead. Specifically, we wanted to know what sets the brand apart, how they expect to compete with the big guys, and why they started the company in the first place.

Mark Lewis, Vice President Marketing for ProGrade Digital, was kind enough to answer these questions:

Do we really need another memory card company?

Yes. With Micron’s sale of the Lexar brand and Western Digital’s purchase of SanDisk, there seems to be a shift in market focus for these two iconic brands and the future is uncertain.

Their decisions to realign product lines and focus solely on higher margin industrial and OEM SKUs opens up an opportunity for a new player—one with laser-focus on the professional market and whose intent it is to fill the void and service this market of professional photo, video and cinema customers. We at ProGrade Digital are that new digital memory card company who will champion their cause.

How will your company be different than the rest?

We bring several competitive advantages to help us stand apart. First, it’s about the people involved. At the executive and engineering level our team brings extensive experience, having worked for numerous years with leading components suppliers and vendors in the design and delivery of precision products specifically for this niche. Our marketing and sales group also has deep roots within the imaging industry, including professionals who not only produce still and motion capture for ProGrade Digital, but who also regularly create for private clients. Plus we acknowledge our growing family of influencers and ambassadors from both the still and motion capture worlds, individuals whom you will soon be reading more about.

The second way that we will stand apart from the competition is our product. I’ve already touched on the fact that, through our past employment, we bring a deep level of experience having built integrity into both the Lexar and SanDisk product lines. Our work here with ProGrade Digital not only lets us expand upon that foundation but, as a smaller firm, we now have the latitude and drive to make even better products specifically for the imaging markets. Two such ProGrade Digital imaging industry firsts include 100 percent in-factory test (to help us sustain a goal of zero percent failure), plus laser-etched serial numbers on each memory card. The serial number enables us to track firmware, controller and memory type. This ability to track a card’s manufacture gives us one more tool for being that much more proactive when it comes to supporting our customer base.

Other product strengths: as executive members of the SD Association and Compact Flash Association (CFA) we work with device manufacturers and other industry leaders on the development of new technologies. ProGrade Digital products are competitively priced, and distribution is limited so that we may preserve quality and control, plus maintain a direct relationship with our customer.

How can a David hope to compete against a Goliath?

If you know the story about David and Goliath you may recall that, despite Goliath’s physical size, level of experience and massive army to back him up, it was a young, small and nimble David who took precise aim and used the right weapon. ProGrade Digital is tightly focusing on a customer that we know, and specifically developing best-in-class products able to meet the needs of the professional imaging market.

What's the future for card form factors such as SD, CFast, CFexpress and XQD?

The future for all memory cards continues to evolve. It is difficult to predict exactly what will happen to any particular form-factor, but the standards work currently being developed by the two memory card associations will help drive the direction.

Specifically, plans are in the works to move to the PCIe interface; the PCIe interface will allow for speeds to advance beyond some of the limits of the SATA interface. Of particular note are efforts being done by the Compact Flash Association (CFA) on the CFexpress form-factor. Their work has support from the major device manufacturers, and ProGrade Digital is at the forefront of those developments. As new standards gain in popularity, I believe that we will see some current form-factors slowly begin to phase out.

A big thank you to Mark for taking the time to answer these questions. If you want to learn more about this new memory card company or browse through ProGrade's whole product line, head over to the ProGrade Digital website.

Press Release:

ProGrade Digital Launches New Line of Professional-Quality Memory Cards and Card Readers for Use with Digital Cameras, Camcorders and Cinema Cameras

Former Lexar Executives Start New Company: Pledge to Focus on Developing and Marketing Products of Superior Performance, Quality and Reliability

SAN JOSE, Calif. – Feb 15, 2018 8:00 am EST-ProGrade Digital, anew company founded on a mission to provide the highest quality, professional grade memory cards and workflow solutions available, today announced a new line of products designed to uniquely fill the needs of today’s high-end DLSRs, camcorders and digital cinema cameras. Memory cards will be offered in a variety of formats and industry-leading capacities. The company will also design and market a selection of card readers, starting with a CFast & SD Dual Slot Workflow Reader that boasts a USB 3.0, Gen. 2 transfer protocol. ProGrade Digital’s new memory cards and card readers will become available in the month of February at www.progradedigital.com, Amazon.com and B&H Photo and Video

ProGrade Digital was founded by former executives from Lexar who held management or technical leadership positions at the company recognized as the pioneer in memory card development for digital photography. The team has more than 60 years of combined experience in the design, development and manufacture of memory cards gained while working for Lexar, SanDisk and other firms. Leveraging its experience and industry relationships, the team will focus exclusively on developing and marketing memory cards, card readers and software optimized for use within professional cinema and photography markets.

“Our goal is to be the professional’s source for top performing, professional grade memory cards and workflow solutions,” says Wes Brewer, founder and CEO of ProGrade Digital. “We will be committed to focusing our efforts on the digital imaging pro who is meticulous about his equipment and workflow-delivering the best service, plus best product quality and reliability.”

Memory Card Key Features

  • Professional-level capacities for CFast 2.0 and SDXC UHS-II memory cards
  • Optimized controllers specifically designed for use in professional-grade cameras
  • Rigorous full-card testing with serialized tracking of key components and manufacturing data for the highest quality control
  • Component-level testing down to individual memory chips for optimal quality
  • 3-year warranty

Card Reader Key Features

  • Dual slot reader for CFast 2.0 and SDXC UHS-II card formats
  • USB 3.0 Gen. 2 transfer speed of up to 10Gb/second
  • Supports concurrent full-speed flow of data from cards in each slot
  • Portable and compact
  • Includes two 18″ connection cables: one for Type A to Type C and one for Type C to Type C
  • Magnetized reader bottom firmly connects reader to laptop (using included metal mounting plate)
  • 2-year warranty

ProGrade Digital memory cards are designed to provide the highest levels of performance, quality and reliability in high-end DSLRs, camcorders and digital cinema cameras from manufacturers such as Canon, Nikon, Sony and Blackmagic.

ProGrade Digital cards and card readers are available online at www.progradedigital.com, Amazon.com and B&H Photo and Video.

Feb
23

Weekly Photography Challenge – Headshots

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Photography Tips and Tutorials

You don’t need a fancy studio or lights to do good headshots, but there are a few things you need to get right like the lighting and posing.

Karthika Gupta Memorable Jaunts DPS Article - Sigma 135mm lens review-11

Images by dPS author Karthika Gupta.

Here are some tips for both to help with this week’s challenge:

Weekly Photography Challenge – Headshots

Simply upload your shot into the comment field (look for the little camera icon in the Disqus comments section) and they’ll get embedded for us all to see or if you’d prefer, upload them to your favorite photo-sharing site and leave the link to them. Show me your best images in this week’s challenge. Sometimes it takes a while for an image to appear so be patient and try not to post the same image twice.

Share in the dPS Facebook Group

You can also share your images in the dPS Facebook group as the challenge is posted there each week as well.

The post Weekly Photography Challenge – Headshots by Darlene Hildebrandt appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Feb
23

Sigma 14-24mm F2.8 DG HSM Art will cost just $1,300, seriously undercuts Nikon

Filed Under News: Digital Photography Review

When Sigma announced the 14-24mm F2.8 DG HSM Art lens, the company held off on sharing pricing or availability. Fortunately, Sigma didn't make us wait long, revealing today that the ultra-wide angle zoom will ship in mid-March for the very reasonable price of $1,300.

Sigma is not being bashful about this lens. The press release announcing the price and availability of the new Art lens reads:

Designed for 50-megapixel plus cameras, the 14-24mm F2.8 DG HSM Art achieves the legendary Art lens sharpness with three FLD glass elements, three SLD glass elements, and three aspherical lens elements, including one 80mm high precision molded glass aspherical element. With near zero distortion (less than 1%) and minimal transverse chromatic aberration, flare and ghosting, the new Sigma 14-24mm offers constant F2.8 brightness throughout the zoom range and delivers optimal image quality at every focal length and shooting distance. The high-speed, high-accuracy autofocus allows photographers to capture incredible, in-the-moment images that set a new standard in the era of outstanding high-resolution.

Here are a few sample images from Sigma that purport to show off this optical prowess:

The lens is available in Canon, Nikon, and Sigma mounts, with the Canon version boasting compatibility with Canon's Lens Aberration Correction function and the Nikon version featuring a brand new electromagnetic diaphragm. All mount options also feature Sigma's "Sport line level dust- and splash-proof design."

It seems Canon users have a new ultra-wide zoom option, while Nikon users have been handed 600 very good reasons to consider the brand-new Sigma over Nikon's own 11-year-old AF-S Nikkor 14-24mm F2.8G ED that goes for $1,900.

Press Release

Sigma Announces Pricing & Availability for Its New 14-24mm F2.8 DG HSM Art Lens

The ultra-wide angle zoom will begin shipping in mid-March for a retail price of $1,299.00 USD

Ronkonkoma, NY – February 23, 2018 – Sigma Corporation of America, a leading still photo and cinema lens, camera, flash and accessory manufacturer, today announced that the latest addition to its Sigma Global Vision lens offerings, the 14-24mm F2.8 DG HSM Art, will be available in mid-March for $1,299.00 USD through authorized US retailers. Designed for 50-megapixel plus cameras, the 14-24mm F2.8 DG HSM Art achieves the legendary Art lens sharpness with three FLD glass elements, three SLD glass elements, and three aspherical lens elements, including one 80mm high precision molded glass aspherical element. With near zero distortion (less than 1%) and minimal transverse chromatic aberration, flare and ghosting, the new Sigma 14-24mm offers constant F2.8 brightness throughout the zoom range and delivers optimal image quality at every focal length and shooting distance. The high-speed, high-accuracy autofocus allows photographers to capture incredible, in-the-moment images that set a new standard in the era of outstanding high-resolution.

In addition to outstanding optical performance, the 14-24mm F2.8 DG HSM Art features the Sports line level dust- and splash-proof design with special sealing at the mount connection, manual focus ring, zoom ring and cover connection, allowing for the lens to be used during varying weather conditions.

The new Sigma 14-24mm F2.8 DG HSM Art lens supports Canon, Nikon and Sigma mounts and works with Sigma’s MC-11 Sony E-mount converter. The Nikon mount features brand new electromagnetic diaphragm, whereas the Canon mount is compatible with the Canon Lens Aberration Correction function.

Full technical specifications can be found on the Sigma website at: https://www.sigmaphoto.com/14-24mm-f2-8-dg-hsm-a.

Feb
23

Sigma 14-24mm F2.8 DG HSM Art will cost just $1,300, seriously undercuts Nikon

Filed Under News: Digital Photography Review

When Sigma announced the 14-24mm F2.8 DG HSM Art lens, the company held off on sharing pricing or availability. Fortunately, Sigma didn't make us wait long, revealing today that the ultra-wide angle zoom will ship in mid-March for the very reasonable price of $1,300.

Sigma is not being bashful about this lens. The press release announcing the price and availability of the new Art lens reads:

Designed for 50-megapixel plus cameras, the 14-24mm F2.8 DG HSM Art achieves the legendary Art lens sharpness with three FLD glass elements, three SLD glass elements, and three aspherical lens elements, including one 80mm high precision molded glass aspherical element. With near zero distortion (less than 1%) and minimal transverse chromatic aberration, flare and ghosting, the new Sigma 14-24mm offers constant F2.8 brightness throughout the zoom range and delivers optimal image quality at every focal length and shooting distance. The high-speed, high-accuracy autofocus allows photographers to capture incredible, in-the-moment images that set a new standard in the era of outstanding high-resolution.

Here are a few sample images from Sigma that purport to show off this optical prowess:

The lens is available in Canon, Nikon, and Sigma mounts, with the Canon version boasting compatibility with Canon's Lens Aberration Correction function and the Nikon version featuring a brand new electromagnetic diaphragm. All mount options also feature Sigma's "Sport line level dust- and splash-proof design."

It seems Canon users have a new ultra-wide zoom option, while Nikon users have been handed 600 very good reasons to consider the brand-new Sigma over Nikon's own 11-year-old AF-S Nikkor 14-24mm F2.8G ED that goes for $1,900.

Press Release

Sigma Announces Pricing & Availability for Its New 14-24mm F2.8 DG HSM Art Lens

The ultra-wide angle zoom will begin shipping in mid-March for a retail price of $1,299.00 USD

Ronkonkoma, NY – February 23, 2018 – Sigma Corporation of America, a leading still photo and cinema lens, camera, flash and accessory manufacturer, today announced that the latest addition to its Sigma Global Vision lens offerings, the 14-24mm F2.8 DG HSM Art, will be available in mid-March for $1,299.00 USD through authorized US retailers. Designed for 50-megapixel plus cameras, the 14-24mm F2.8 DG HSM Art achieves the legendary Art lens sharpness with three FLD glass elements, three SLD glass elements, and three aspherical lens elements, including one 80mm high precision molded glass aspherical element. With near zero distortion (less than 1%) and minimal transverse chromatic aberration, flare and ghosting, the new Sigma 14-24mm offers constant F2.8 brightness throughout the zoom range and delivers optimal image quality at every focal length and shooting distance. The high-speed, high-accuracy autofocus allows photographers to capture incredible, in-the-moment images that set a new standard in the era of outstanding high-resolution.

In addition to outstanding optical performance, the 14-24mm F2.8 DG HSM Art features the Sports line level dust- and splash-proof design with special sealing at the mount connection, manual focus ring, zoom ring and cover connection, allowing for the lens to be used during varying weather conditions.

The new Sigma 14-24mm F2.8 DG HSM Art lens supports Canon, Nikon and Sigma mounts and works with Sigma’s MC-11 Sony E-mount converter. The Nikon mount features brand new electromagnetic diaphragm, whereas the Canon mount is compatible with the Canon Lens Aberration Correction function.

Full technical specifications can be found on the Sigma website at: https://www.sigmaphoto.com/14-24mm-f2-8-dg-hsm-a.

Feb
23

‘Perfect’ sensors may be possible, but might not come to cameras

Filed Under News: Digital Photography Review

Fossum's team has created a prototype chip with a variety of pixel designs and readout methods. This included combinations with sufficiently low read noise to allow individual photons to be counted.

The future could include sensors that perfectly describe the light in the scene, that offer new computational possibilities and give film-like latitude in the highlights. And yet we may never see them in cameras, says father of the CMOS sensor, Professor Eric Fossum.

We spoke to Fossum shortly after he received, alongside three other pioneers of digital photography, the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering for his work on CMOS sensors. But the topic of our conversation is the future, rather than his past achievements. He now leads a group working on what he calls Quanta Image Sensors (QIS) and has recently published a paper announcing a breakthrough using the same fabrication process used to make CMOS image sensors.

The perfect sensor?

The principle is to use nanoscale, specialized pixels, called 'Jots' to capture light at the level of individual photons. They work in a binary fashion: they've either received a photon or they haven't (as opposed to conventional sensors which accumulate the charge generated by lots of photons during exposure). These jots are read repeatedly to see whether another photon has arrived since they were last checked.

While Fossum is keen to stress that other teams are having some success in the same field (using a slightly different approach), his own team's work is looking very promising. The paper in the journal Optica shows the team's technology has been refined such that a 1MJot chip can be read 1000 times per second while still exhibiting sufficiently low read noise that it can distinguish between individual photons.

We can count every photon: you can't do any better than that

"The Holy Grail is no read noise," says Fossum: "so that the read signal is proportional to the signal as it arrived." And the team's latest paper says they've got very close to this, with noise levels so low that the sensor can distinguish between individual photons without getting confused by read noise. This opens up the possibility of cameras that could perfectly describe the light in the scene, even in near total darkness.

A mathematical model showing how noise levels (measured in the root mean square of the number of electrons), affect the ability to interpret small signals. The lower the read noise, the more accurately you can distinguish between individual values in the signal.
Diagram from the team's paper in Optica

Eliminating read noise from the sensor wouldn't mean totally noiseless photos, since the randomness of the light being captured is a key source of noise, but it's the best any sensor can possibly achieve. "We can count every photon: you can't do any better than that," he says.

The paper, perhaps conservatively, says the technology could be suited to scientific, space, security and low-light imaging applications, but Fossum has clearly also been thinking about conventional photography.

A classic response

"Because it's binary in nature, its response is comparable to old photographic film," he says. "In film, when the silver halide was hit by a photon, it's reduced to a silver atom that isn't washed away [during processing]. If it's hit by two photons, it doesn't make any additional difference."

This ends up meaning that in bright regions of the image there are ever fewer unexposed silver ions as the exposure goes on. This, in turn makes it less likely that the last few ions will be hit by a photon, so it becomes increasingly difficult to fully saturate the system. The same is true for the tiny, binary Jots: as more of them become saturated, it becomes increasingly difficult to saturate the last few.

"The response is linear at moderate exposure but it trails off to give significant overexposure latitude. It's a pattern first observed by Hurter and Driffield in 1890," says Fossum: "they showed the same curve that we measure, experimentally, in our QIS devices."

Diagram showing the Jots' exposure response, in comparison to mathematical models of different read noise levels. Note the roll-off at high exposures, comparable to the Hurter Driffield response curves of photographic film.
Diagram from the team's paper in Optica

"That has obvious interest both for still photographers who're used to shooting film and for cinematographers who're looking for that kind of response."

The use of such tiny pixels has other benefits, too: "Jots are below diffraction limits in size. This means the resolution of the system is always higher than the resolution of the lens, which means we never have to worry about aliasing." While the group's prototype sensors feature one million Jots, Fossum says their target is one billion.

Beyond conventional photography

Fossum isn't just thinking about photographic history, though. The tiny size and the approach of repeatedly reading out the sensor challenges the existing concept of single exposures. "At the moment we make motion pictures by shooting a series of snapshots. With QIS it's more like the reverse process," he says: constructing still images from precisely captured movement.

Professor Fossum has already been responsible for one revolution in photography: the invention of the CMOS sensor. In December 2017 he was awarded the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering for his work.

Essentially, taking lots of short, sub-frames during an exposure gives you an extra dimension to your images: time. "If you take a single frame, you get a bunch of ones and zeros. If you take another, you quickly build up a cube of ones and zeros," Fossum says: "For example, if you shoot 100 frames at 1000 frames per second, you get a cube that's x pixels wide by y pixels tall, but also 100 frames deep."

This presents some interesting questions, he says: "What do you do with that data? How do you create an image from that very faithful map of where photons arrived?"

"You could choose a number of pixels in x and y but also in the time axis. If you wanted a very sensitive pixel in low light you could combine 10 x 10 Jots in x and y and then maybe combine the data from 100 frames: it's essentially like increasing the grain size in a more sensitive film."

Of course you can achieve something comparable to this in conventional digital photography by downscaling an image, but Jots allow greater flexibility, Fossum says: "your pixel size could vary between different parts of the image, so in some places you'd have bigger but more sensitive grains."

What is the object of photography? Is it artistic or an attempt to perfectly recreate the scene as it was?

The time component also opens up additional possibilities, he says: "if an object moves during these hundred frames, instead of adding all the values from the same location, you could add them at an angle that corresponds to the movement," so that all the pixels relating to the same object are combined. "We could take out motion blur or remove the scanning effect of a computer screen in video."

The idea of combining multiple frames in interesting ways is, of course, already becoming a core part of mobile photography, and Fossum says finding all the things that are possible is a challenge he is leaving for others: "From my point of view, we're building a platform for computational imaging, it's for others to develop all the ways to use it. A camera would have to take account of the new sensor capabilities."

But it'll ask interesting questions, he believes: "What is the object of photography? Is it artistic or an attempt to perfectly recreate the scene as it was? Some of the things we associate with photography are artifacts of the way we capture them."

Not the only future

With all this going for it, it might seem odd that Fossum isn't promising to deliver a second revolution in digital imaging. But, having devoted a career to developing technologies and teaching about the challenges, he's realistic both about the work left to do and the competition any product would face.

"What we've already achieved is wonderful. The next challenge is adding color [awareness], but I don't think that's going to be particularly problematic. Then there's power: we've shown we can produce a large chip that doesn't consume or disperse a prohibitively large amount of power. We're currently at around 27mW but scale it up by 1000 [to get to one billion Jots] and that's 27W, so we need to cut that by about a factor of ten."

His concern is more about the current state of the rival technologies: "In order to bring a new technology to replace the existing one, it has to be compellingly better in a number of ways," he says. "For a few niches, [our technology] is already compelling." But for photography, the bar is already set very high.

I don't want our startup to be another esoteric imaging product that fails to find a market

"CMOS technology is pretty awesome right now," he says, before almost embarrassedly stressing that he's not claiming the credit for this: "where it is today is the result of the input from thousands of engineers from different companies who've contributed towards where we are now."

Professor Eric Fossum pictured with Dr Jiaju Ma, one of the co-authors of the Optica paper and a co-founder of the spin-off company, Gigajot Technology.

But, for all his cautious words, Fossum is convinced enough by the technology's potential to have created a company, Gigajot Technology, with his co-researchers. "Finding a sweet spot in the market is a really important part of challenge. It comes back to the things I teach: 'who is your customer?' 'what is your market?' 'how are we going to get there?'"

"I don't want our startup to be another esoteric imaging product that fails to find a market," he says.

While it's by no means certain that QIS sensors will make their way into mainstream cameras, it already looks like the technology has tremendous potential for niches such as scientific measurement. This alone shows just how far the technology has come from Fossum's original idea. As he readily admits: "When we first started this project I wasn't even sure it could be made to work."

Feb
23

811 Film Noir

Filed Under Digital Photography Tips

Alexei did a photographic exercise that Chris considers one of the most important ones. He took the same photo 136 times. Benjamin wonders how to replicate the style of Film Noir with the right type of lighting and Chris helps analyze what Film Noir is, what its typical look is and how you can achieve the same today.

Photo by Rodion Kutsaev

RECEIVE EMAIL FOR NEW EPISODES

Links:

Photo tours with Chris Marquardt:
» May 2017: Svalbard — Arctic (sold out)
» Oct 2017: Bhutan — The Happiness Kingdom (only 1 spot open)
» May 2018: New York Tilt-Shift
» Aug 2018: Ireland — Giant's Causeway
» Sep 2018: Norway — Lofoten Fantastic Fjords
» Oct 2018: Morocco
» all photo tours

The post 811 Film Noir appeared first on PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS FROM THE TOP FLOOR.

Feb
23

Video Tutorials – Portrait Posing Tips

Filed Under Digital Photography School, Photography Tips and Tutorials, Portrait Photography

Taking portraits is a challenging genre of photography, but add in posing and it can seem insurmountable if you’re just starting out in photography. Here are three videos I found to help you with some portrait posing tips. Practice with a friend and see tell us how it goes.

How to pose a single portrait

In this video excerpt from a Lynda.com class, you’ll see how the photographer works with a single model. She helps him get comfortable in front of the camera and create poses that are flattering to him.

How to pose (direct) couples

In this video from Mango Street, you will see how to gently direct a couple in how to pose. Giving them a few suggestions and tips and letting them fall into their own comfortable pose makes the images look more natural.

How to pose people to get rid of a double chin

Finally, in this last video, photographer Joe Edelman shows several tips for posing to flatter your subject and get rid of or minimize a double chin. Where you position the camera is also important, taking a higher position can be helpful for posing.

The post Video Tutorials – Portrait Posing Tips by Darlene Hildebrandt appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Feb
22

Tokina unveils the FíRIN 20mm F2.0 FE AF autofocus lens for Sony E-Mount

Filed Under News: Digital Photography Review

Well, that didn't take long. Less than 12 hours after Nokishita shared some leaked photos and specs of the unreleased lens, Tokina has officially announced its latest piece of Sony E-Mount glass: the FíRIN 20mm F2 FE AF.

The new lens is only the second prime lens in the FíRIN series of lenses designed specifically for mirrorless cameras, and it's actually a followup to the first. The original FíRIN 20mm F2 FE was a manual focus lens, and the new AF version uses an identical optical design. But it doesn't so much replace the old lens as sit next to it in Tokina's lineup, giving users "two options ... to choose [from] according to the purpose and style of shooting."

Like its predecessor, the FíRIN 20mm F2 FE AF boasts 13 lens elements in 11 groups, including two aspherical elements and three Super-low Dispersion elements that promise to do away with as much spherical aberration, distortion, and chromatic aberration as possible.

Unlike the manual focus version, this lens features a ring-type ultrasonic motor coupled with a GMR sensor for fast and silent focusing, and Tokina promises full compatibility with Sony's Fast Hybrid AF system and all AF function settings, "providing the same AF performance as with common E-mount AF lenses."

The FíRIN 20mm F2 FE AF lens is tentatively scheduled to arrive at the end of April for Japanese customers, and end of May worldwide, but if you happen to be at CP+ next week, you can check out a prototype of the new lens at Tokina's booth.

No pricing info has been released as of yet.

Press Release

New Tokina FíRIN 20mm F2 FE AF

February 22nd, 2018 – Kenko Tokina Co., Ltd. is proud to announce the new Tokina FíRIN 20mm F2 FE AF, the second prime lens in Tokina’s premium lens series “FíRIN” for mirrorless cameras.

Overview

FíRIN 20mm F2 FE AF is the long-awaited autofocus version of the existing FíRIN 20mm F2 FE super wide angle lens for full-frame Sony E-mount. Adopting the same optical design as in MF model, now we offer two options for end-users to choose according to the purpose and style of shooting.

Optical performance

Being optimized for full size camera sensors in terms of size and resolving ability, the optical design adopts 2 aspherical elements and 3 lenses molded from Super-low Dispersion glass to significantly reduce any type of aberration including spherical aberration, distortion and chromatic aberration while assuring high resolution and stunning performance even at wideopen aperture.

Functionality

Keeping along with the basic development concept of the previous model FíRIN 20mm F2 FE AF is made compatible to autofocus and other functions of the camera providing perfect functionality and usability for the photographer.

Ring-shaped ultrasonic autofocus motor

For AF drive system FíRIN 20mm F2 FE AF adopts quick responsive and silent ring-shaped ultrasonic motor. Coupled with GMR sensor AF performs fast and accurate focusing.

Full compatibility to AF system

FíRIN 20mm F2 FE AF is fully compatible with Fast Hybrid AF system and all AF function settings, providing the same AF performance as with common E-mount AF lenses. Fine manual focus adjustment is also possible.

MF Assist function

Accurate focusing is supported by compatibility to MF Assist function, when fine focusing adjustment is operated by manual rotation of the focusing ring with the simultaneous interlocking with image enlarging function and bar distance display on the monitor.

Optical correction

Due to the data transmittance ability via electric contacts the camera obtains necessary data from the lens chip to correct shading, distortion and lateral chromatic aberrations. Optical corrections can be done by the camera as well.

Image Stabilization

By transmitting focal length data FíRIN 20mm F2 FE AF is able to get maximum use of In-Body Image Stabilization function of the camera.

* When in-built camera flash is used vignetting may occur. Please use external flash.

About sales release:

Sales release in Japan: end of April, 2018 (tentative)
Sales release worldwide: end of May, 2018 (tentative)

A prototype of Tokina FíRIN 20mm F2 FE AF will be displayed at CP+2018
Kenko Tokina booth location: Exhibition Hall(1F), booth # G-57

Feb
22

New Sony release cable enables dual-shooting with the RX0

Filed Under News: Digital Photography Review

In addition to the new HVL-F60RM wireless flash, Sony also debuted a new release cable that might be of interest to owners of the company's ultra-compact DSC-RX0 sort-of action cam. The VMC-MM2 cable is Sony's "convenient dual-camera shooting solution" for users who want to shoot with their Sony ILC and RX0 at the same time.

The cable is used to sync your Sony alpha (or Cyber-shot) camera up with an RX0 enable simultaneous photo/video capture using only the main camera’s release button. To quote Sony:

This form of dual-camera shooting is especially useful for wedding, event and press conference photographers and journalists. It offers the opportunity to capture multiple perspectives using different angles of view that can be edited and packaged into an impactful series of work.

The new VMC-MM2 release cable will be available starting in April for $50 USD (or €55).

Press Release

Sony Introduces Dual-camera Shooting Solution for RX0 with Launch of new Release Cable

SAN DIEGO, Feb. 22, 2018 – Sony Electronics, a worldwide leader in digital imaging and the world’s largest image sensor manufacturer, has today announced the latest addition to its family of RX0 solutions with the launch of a new Release Cable, model VMC-MM2.

Helping to break down barriers to shooting style and image expression, the VMC-MM2 is a new solution for convenient dual-camera shooting, freeing the user to capture two different perspectives simultaneously.

The ultra-compact dimensions and superb image quality offered by the RX0 make it the ideal accompaniment to other cameras for dual-camera capture. By mounting an RX0 to the Multi Interface Shoe™ 1 or bracket/rig, users can use the RX0 to shoot high quality images concurrently with their main Sony α™ or Cyber-shot® camera body2. The VMC-MM2 cable realizes simultaneous photo/movie shooting3 with just a single press of main camera’s release button. This enables the user to capture one moment in two different ways, with a variation of angle of view, depth of view or frame rate. The cable also has a coiled design with a right-angle connector to minimize clutter and keep it clear of the EVF during shooting.

This form of dual-camera shooting is especially useful for wedding, event and press conference photographers and journalists. It offers the opportunity to capture multiple perspectives using different angles of view that can be edited and packaged into an impactful series of work.

Pricing and Availability

The new VMC-MM2 will be available in North America in April, 2018 priced at approximately $50 US or $60 CA.


1 Shoe Mount not included

2 Refer to the Sony support page for camera compatibility information http://www.sony.net/acc/mm2/

3 To synchronise movie REC/STOP, the main camera must assign “Movie w/ shutter” to its release button

Feb
22

Sony announces new flagship guide number 60 HVL-F60RM wireless flash

Filed Under News: Digital Photography Review

Sony just released a new flagship radio-triggered wireless flash for its full-frame E-Mount cameras. The HVL-F60RM has a built in radio receiver, which means it can be triggered simply via a FA-WRC1M Wireless Radio Commander attached to your E-mount body. It's a powerful unit with a guide number 60m at 200mm, ISO 100. The flash covers a zoom range of 20-200mm and promises to provide "uniform wide-range zoom coverage without shading with continuous shooting up to 220 flashes."

The HVL-F60RM does not replace the HVL-F60M flash, which remains in Sony's lineup for A-mount cameras. The RM version is designed specifically for E-mount (though it will work with A-mount, but without AF Assist), but even for A-mount it has the added benefit of not requiring a separate radio receiver mounted to the flash to be triggered wirelessly.

Several improvements have been made to make the RM version worth your money. First, you don't need a separate radio receiver attached to your flash. Also, heat resistance has been increased by "as much as" 4x, recycle time has been reduced to 1.7 seconds, and a new External Battery Adaptor (the FA-EBA1 seen in the gallery above) can drop that recycle time even further to just 0.6 seconds.

Additional features include non-directional wireless radio communication from up to 30 meters away, support for up to 15 flash units (assigned to up to 5 groups) when the flash is mounted to a compatible camera and used as a transmitter, an LED Light and AF Illuminator, and a dust and moisture resistant design that "allows flash shooting even in challenging environments." But there's one important thing to keep in mind...

No truly usable AF Assist

Sony removed the AF assist beam from the original HVL-F60M that projects a red grid upon your subject to quickly help the AF system achieve focus on subject in total darkness, say, on the dance floor at a wedding. This is a huge omission and sad oversight. We have yet to see if any light is triggered - Sony's claim that there's an AF illuminator indicates that at least some AF assist light is triggered. But a blinding LED is not what subjects at events in the dark want thrown in their faces. Instead, Sony should've built in a an AF assist grid that's projected onto nearby subjects for quick AF in low light. Since Sony's AF pixels on most modern a7/a9 bodies actually use blue color filters, a blue AF assist grid would be ideal, and wouldn't even bother subjects you're focusing on significant.

We hope Sony develops a radio transmitter that projects a blue grid for AF-assist in the future, for fast AF in total darkness

Sadly, all Sony E-mount cameras will do with this flash is project a bright LED on your subject for focus, making it difficult to shoot professional events in low light. That's a huge shame, and our last remaining hope is that Sony develops a radio transmitter to be mounted on-camera that projects this AF grid to help achieve focus quickly.

Here's a quick video intro to this new flash:

To learn more, head over to the Sony product page for either the HVL-F60RM flash or the FA-EBA1 external battery. The HVL-F60RM costs $600 USD (€700), while the FA-EBA1 External Battery Adaptor will run you $250 USD (€300). Both products will begin shipping in April.

Press Release

Sony Launches New Flagship Guide Number 60 Flash

New HVL-F60RM Combines Overwhelming Continuous Flash Performance with Advanced Operability and Wireless Control

SAN DIEGO, Feb. 22, 2018 – Sony Electronics, a worldwide leader in digital imaging and the world’s largest image sensor manufacturer, has today announced a new flagship addition to its digital imaging range with the launch of the HVL-F60RM Flash.

Addressing the needs of the increasing numbers of professional photographers adopting the Sony α system, the HVL-F60RM offers high-power flash output, reliable continuous performance and advanced control features with integrated radio control options.

The HVL-F60RM has a guide number of 60[i] and covers illumination angles from 20mm[ii] to 200mm[iii] providing uniform wide-range zoom coverage without shading with continuous shooting up to 220[v] flashes. The use of heat resistant materials and the deployment of new advanced algorithms means that heat resistance has been increased by as much as 4x[iv] compared to the previous model, HVL-F60M.

Further improvements have been made to the recycle time which has been reduced to 1.7 seconds[v] or just 0.6 seconds[v] with the new External Battery Adaptor, product code FA-EBA1. A unique benefit of previous Sony flashes, Quick Shift Bounce is included, allowing the photographers to quickly shift from horizontal to vertical orientation, 90 degrees left or right, upward by up to 150 degrees, and downward by 8 degrees for flexible positioning and optimum lighting for a wide range of scenes.

Independent light output level (LEVEL -/+) buttons allow direct control of output or compensation, supporting an efficient workflow. A comprehensive display facilitates adjustments and flash output level confirmation, and also provides intuitive access to flash output settings for paired wireless flashes.

Functions can be freely assigned to the unit’s four-way controller, center button, and control wheel for easy access when required. Furthermore, TTL flash output can be memorized and recalled in manual mode when needed for immediate use or use after minor adjustment. This is another feature that can simplify manual workflow and save time.

The dust and moisture resistant design[vi] of the HVL-F60RM allows flash shooting even in challenging environments and a new optional Rain Guard[vii], product code FA-RG1, provides added protection to the connection between the flash and camera[viii]. Another example of the complete attention to detail that has gone into the design of the HVL-F60RM, is the metal foot of the Multi Interface Shoe™ connection which has been re-designed for increased rigidity and reliability.

A pre-requisite for leading-edge studio set-ups, the wireless radio communication is non-directional so receiver flash units can be positioned anywhere up to approximately 30 meters[iii] away from the camera, even in situations where reflectors or other obstacles would interfere with optical communication. A HVL-F60RM mounted on a compatible camera[ix] functioning as transmitter can be paired with off-camera units functioning as receivers. Multiple flashes are supported with the user able to use up to 15 flash units, assigned in to up to 5 groups[x] or wireless flash control and the use of a pairing system effectively prevents interference from other electronic devices.

Pricing and Availability

The new HVL-F60RM will be available in North America in April, 2018 priced at approximately $600 US or $730 CA.

The new FA-EBA1 will be available in North America in April, 2018 priced at approximately $250 US or $330 CA.

The new FA-RG1 will be available in North America in April, 2018 priced at approximately $25 US or $30 CA.


[i] 200mm at ISO100 in metres

[ii] 14mm with wide panel

[iii] 35mm full-frame equivalent

[iv] Sony test conditions

[v] With Ni-MH batteries, Sony test conditions

[vi] Not guaranteed to be 100% dust and moisture proof

[vii] Not to completely protect against water ingress. When the camera is held in the portrait orientation or at a tilt for photographing, in particular, it may fail to protect water ingress

[viii] With this unit attached, the camera may fail to record audio during video shooting, depending on the model. For the camera models to which this precaution applies, visit http://www.sony.net/acc/rg1/.

[ix] Refer to the Sony support page for camera compatibility information. http://www.sony.net/flash/f60rm/

[x] In the Group flash mode. Up to 3 groups in the TTL or Manual flash mode