Godox TT350 Flash Review – the Little Flash that Can

The post Godox TT350 Flash Review – the Little Flash that Can appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Sean McCormack.

Godox – the mighty Chinese brand that’s sweeping the lighting world, bringing fear to long-established premium brands. And their quality has reached the point where they can now be trusted.

Godox tt350 with box

One thing they’ve done well to push the brand forward is their system integration. Any of their X-series triggers will fire any light in the system. Not only that, their TTL speedlights can also act as masters for other lights in the system, from the mighty AD600Pro right through to the humble TT350.

That’s what we’re looking at today – the TT350.

This compact and pocketable unit is the smallest flash in the Godox range. It really is small – requiring noting more than two AA batteries.

The Specs

  • A Guide Number of 36 (rather than the typical 52 of most larger flashes).
  • Recycle time of 2.2 seconds at full power
  • 210 full-power flashes available from two 2500maH AA batteries
  • TTL, Manual, Optical Slave, Optical Slave with Preflash, and Multiflash modes available
  • Coverage from 24–105mm in full-frame 35mm terms
  • High-speed sync up to 1/8000 sec
  • Built in 2.4G radio transmitter and receiver to act as either radio master or slave
  • Wide-angle diffuser and bounce card

On-Camera

The small size and weight of the TT350 make it the perfect on-camera flash for any camera system, particularly mirrorless systems. While I’m using them with a Fuji, they’re also available for Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus/Panasonic and even Pentax.

As with any on-camera flash aimed directly at the subject, the light is hard and not particularly flattering.

Godox tt350 direct flash
While the flash does have a bounce card, I prefer using reverse bounce for on-camera situations to create a larger light source coming from behind me.

Godox tt350 bounce flash
On-camera, the TT350 can be used as a master for other off-camera flashes.

Now let’s look at off-camera flash.

Off-Camera

The benefits of using a flash off-camera are many. You get better placement to control shadows, and by extension the shape of the features in the shot. You also can use a larger range of modifiers to soften or shape the light itself. To go off-camera, you need a flash, a trigger and a stand (with a modifier being an additional option). In this case, our flash is the TT350.

Triggers

The TT350 can be powered from:

  • the X-16 for manual power
  • the X1T or XPro trigger for TTL and Manual.

It can also be triggered from:

  • another TT350 (and its lithium battery brother the V350)
  • the TT685 and V860II speedlights.

The trigger sits on-camera and relays information from the camera to the remote flash.

Stands

Any stand will do, even the cheap Photo-R stands . I find Neewer to be great value for money, although in the studio I prefer using C-Stands even with speedlights.

Master and Slave

To use the radio features, hold down the Sync button and then twist the dial when the antennae icon flashes.

The first option that appears is M, making your flash the Master.

Godox tt350 Master

A second twist brings you to S, which enables the Slave mode.

To change between TTL, Manual and Multi modes, press the Mode button.

Godox tt350 slave

In Master mode, press the Slave button to alternate between the Master group (M) and the A, B or C groups.

In Slave mode, pressing Slave chooses the group the flash is on (A, B or C).

Godox tt350 slave group c

The M group in Master dictates what the flash does on-camera. Press Mode to switch between flash off, TTL and Manual.

Here’s a video that takes you through the entire process.

Make sure all your flashes or triggers are on the same channel. To set the channel:

  1. Hold down the Slave button until the CH number flashes
  2. Use the dial to change channel
  3. Press Set to make the change.

You’re now ready for off-camera flash.

Using the TT350 with modifiers

Moving the flash off-camera doesn’t automatically make it look better. But you do get to position the shadows better, as you can see in my article on lighting. I also have a list of cheap modifiers that won’t break the bank. The 120cm Octa is a good investment.

One light

Godox tt350 120cm Octa setup

With the TT350 inside a 120cm Octa (with the diffuser on), you’re ready to get some big light from a small flash. With the Octa between you and the subject, you’ll get flattering light in the ‘Butterfly’ position.

Godox tt350 120cm octa portrait

You can improve this further by adding a reflector underneath, such as the Lastolite Halo Compact.

Godox tt350 120cm octa portrait reflector

High-Speed Sync

To get really shallow depth of field with flash (especially outside), you need to use High-Speed Sync to overcome the limitation of the camera sync speed. To engage it, tap the Sync button once.

Here’s a shot at 1/2000sec and f/1.4, ISO400 with HSS on. (You’ll find bumping the ISO helps save battery life, which is why I’m using ISO400 here).

Godox tt350 120cm octa portrait HSS

Two lights

Another way to help battery life (and the recycle time) is to use two flashes in the modifier.

Godox tt350 dual

Set both flashes to the same channel and group. This allows them to automatically match power when you make a change.

Godox tt350 120cm dual 120

You can get double flash brackets and aim them into the center with them positioned either close together or further out.

Godox tt350 120cm dual portrait

Here’s a portrait with this dual-light Octa box setup on the left (facing across the shot) and a white reflector on the right.

Godox tt350 120cm octa portrait dual setup

This is what the setup looks like.

Godox tt350 120cm cross light

Removing one of the lights and putting it on a stand behind our subject gives a good cross-light setup.

Should you get a TT350?

Clearly, a flash you have with you is better than one you leave behind because of the weight. So for general flash applications the TT350 is great. But, it’s never going to overpower the sun, and and its compact size makes it the lowest-power flash in the range (excluding their mobile phone flash unit).

However, you can buy two TT350s for the price of a V860II. And while they don’t have built-in batteries, combined they can provide more power for less weight.

Me? I bought two so I can use them in the configurations I’ve shown here, and as a master-slave setup if I have an issue with a trigger.

Overall, they’re great tools to have in the bag.

Have you used this flash? What are your thoughts? Please share with us and the dPS community in the comments below.

 

The post Godox TT350 Flash Review – the Little Flash that Can appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Sean McCormack.

Gear Review: The Lastolite Halo Compact Reflector

The post Gear Review: The Lastolite Halo Compact Reflector appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Sean McCormack.

The Halo Compact is a new reflector/diffuser design from Lastolite (a Manfrotto company). In January, at The Societies Convention in London, I got a glimpse of the first batch on the Manfrotto stand. It looked great on display, and in the demo, it packed down really small. It was also attached to standard light stand fitting on display. As the owner of a few Lastolite products, I’m quite aware of how innovative they are, and that they do make quality products. Some of these are used day in and day out in the studio (e.g. the Hilite and the Triflector).

The Halo Compact on the Lastolite/Manfrotto stand at The Societies Convention.

Now I own a lot of reflectors. From large 5-in-1 disc reflectors to the already mentioned triflectors, to 6’X3’ frame reflectors; I even have a California Sunbounce. I’m not exactly in need of a new one, least of all something that’s well on the way to being €100 with shipping.

However, I was still interested in one major selling point – how compact it is when it is packed down. Seeing as I’d flown to the convention, I knew it would be a perfect travel reflector. I went to buy one. No luck. The small amount of stock that was in the shop at the convention was gone, so I left empty handed.

My next look at the Halo Compact in person was at The Photography Show in March. I happened to chat with one of the folks at the stand, and it turned out to be Matt Bailey. Matt had taken over from Gary Astil as a product designer, so we got chatting about the Halo, and how it solved quite a few problems.

Needless to say, I bought the diffuser version with the frame and a silver/white reflector cloth as well, to give me the best variety for shooting situations. I could have gotten the reflector with frame and the diffuser cloth if I preferred.

The Lastolite Halo Compact Reflector setup

The blue containing pouch

The Lastolite Halo Compact Reflector comes in a small, dark blue, zipped pouch. It has a carabiner to attach to a clips, belts or even belt loops. The material and finish are far better than the old royal blue material Lastolite formerly used, which tended to fray behind the zip, rendering the zip useless.

When you open the zip, it reveals what looks like a tent pole rods (but pre curled), and a fabric. You’ll also a find ¼” 20 screw back to back in the pouch so it can screw to a magic arm.

The rods are similar to tent pole, but curved.

You’ll find assembly is straightforward. Attach all the rods together. Finish the frame by pushing the two sides of the handle together in a kind of dove tail joint fashion.

The handle pushes together to make the frame rigid. It also houses a tripod fitting.

A quick glance at the handle and you’ll see the inbuilt ¼” 20 hole for a light stand in the handle. This is one of the great features of the Halo.

That’s it. It’s sturdy and firm.

To get either fabric on, you click a clip in place on either side of the handle and then clip them all on at even spacing around the frame.

The grip on the handle is great and I found it reasonably easy to hold outdoors, despite holding it in my left hand on my right side in the wind.

I’m not saying it’s not a kite, but it was far better than the floppy eBay reflector I’d used earlier that day.

Why do you need this?

So why would you bother with having this at all?

The answer is simple.

You want to have control of the light.

Here’s what undiffused evening sun looks like.

While it’s not as harsh as midday sun, it still has hard shadows and causing squinting.

By using the diffuser, the light is spread, making is softer.

Obviously it’s also lower in intensity, so you have to open your shutter to compensate.

Another typical way of shooting with evening sun is to use backlighting.

Here you can lose the direction of the light, but adding a silver reflector can bring back contrast and shape.

 

You could also opt for a more subtle white reflector.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Sturdy
  • Good modifier options with reflection and diffusion
  • Compact, perfect for travel
  • Reliable brand with known quality
  • Built in stand adaptor

Cons

  • Longer setup time than a popup
  • More expensive, but still not the most expensive

Conclusion

While a little on the expensive side compared to the eBay popups, the Lastolite Halo Compact Reflector is still an affordable product. Despite the longer setup time, I feel the compact pack means this product will live in or on my camera (via the carabiner) permanently, vs the pops that are left behind when I’m travelling more compactly.

I’ve included the downside of the price and longer setup time in my rating, but in truth, I’m delighted with this product.

Now to sell some of my other reflectors!

Have you used the Lastolite Halo Compact Reflector? What are your thoughts? Share with us and our readers in the comments below.

 

The post Gear Review: The Lastolite Halo Compact Reflector appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Sean McCormack.

Field Test: Could the Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 be the Most Versatile Wildlife Lens?

The post Field Test: Could the Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 be the Most Versatile Wildlife Lens? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Shreyas Yadav.

Wildlife photography is exciting as well as challenging. Imagine you are photographing a Tiger at a distance and suddenly the Tiger attacks a deer! Alternatively, imagine you are in an African savanna where you are photographing a grazing herd of Elephants at a distance, and right after that, you see a beautiful Eagle on the nearby tree. To photograph these type of objects, you need to have a wide range of zoom lenses. You may have experienced this while on a Jungle Safari. Changing a lens while in the field can be difficult.

Nikon 200-500 f/5.6 lens mounted on a camera, zoomed to 500mm

It looks like Nikon has considered the needs of Wildlife photographers and produced a versatile, fixed-aperture telephoto lens at a quite reasonable price; the Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6.

The Nikon 200-500 f/5.6 lens, priced at around US$1400, weighs about 2300g (81.02oz). The best part is the lens has a fixed maximum aperture of f/5.6. In addition to a fixed aperture, there are three extra-low dispersion glass elements (ED), powerful vibration reduction (VR) – making this lens optically superb – and it also comes with a tripod collar. The lens is stable when mounted on a tripod, and it comes with HB-71 lens hood. The lens also works great with both full-frame (FX) and crop-sensor (DX) Nikon cameras. The telephoto zoom range and beautiful optics make this lens perfect for birds, nature and wildlife photography.

This field review of the Nikon 200-500 f/5.6 lens, looks at how the lens performs from the perspective of a nature and wildlife photographer. It examines how this lens performs in the wild, as well as looking at the lens controls and ergonomics. This is important, especially if the lens has to be used from dawn to dusk in the wilderness.

This lens is versatile for photographing wildlife, mainly because of it’s:

  • Capability to photograph small and large objects
  • Convenience to capture both nearest and farthest objects, thanks to the zoom range!
  • Excellent compatibility with full-frame (FX) and crop-sensor (D) cameras, which means you can use the same lens on either of your camera bodies
  • Compatibility with the latest Mirrorless cameras (requires an FTZ lens adapter)
  • Travel-friendly size
  • Excellent vibration reduction
  • Convenient grip when you hold the lens collar

Specifications

Focal Length

The focal length of the lens is from 200mm to 500mm. Being FX lens, effective focal length on FX bodies is 200mm to 500mm. On DX Nikon bodies, the effective focal length is approximately 300mm to 750mm.

The lens is capable of photographing small objects such as this Ground orchid (at focal length of 310mm)

Image of large-sized Elephant approaching from a distance of around 300ft (110 yards) at a focal length of 200mm.

Image of large Elephant approached closer at a focal length of 500mm.

Small sized Oriental white-eye bird photographed at a close distance of 8ft at a focal length of 500mm.

Aperture

The maximum aperture is f/5.6, and the minimum aperture is f/32. The Nikon 200-500 f/5.6 is an E-type lens (Electromagnetic diaphragm mechanism). It provides better control on the aperture blade as compared to mechanical linkages. This feature is compatible with newer cameras; however, with older DSLR cameras, an aperture is fixed to f/5.6.

Extra-low dispersion glass elements

The lens has 3 ED glass elements. ED glass element helps in reducing chromatic aberrations and offers overall better image quality.

Minimum focusing distance

This is the minimum distance between the lens and an object at which the lens focuses. The Nikon 200-500 f/5.6 has a minimum focusing distance of 2.2m (7.2ft). For wildlife and bird photography, this is a perfect minimum distance. With a minimum focusing distance of 7.2ft, the lens acquires perfect focus in most cases.

Autofocus

Thanks to Silent Wave Motors (SWM), the lens focuses quietly and with accuracy. The lens indicates this feature as AF-S. While you autofocus, you can instantly override autofocus by manual focus and vice versa (M/A). The lens can be focussed manually (M) as well.

Teleconverter support

The Nikon 200-500 f/5.6 is compatible with TC-14E III (1.4X) series teleconverters when used with DSLR cameras which can autofocus up to f/8. During low-light conditions, autofocus performance of the lens along with TC-14E III is satisfactory and usable. With the TC-17E (1.7X) and TC-20E (2X), aperture goes beyond f/8, hence autofocus is not possible. For this reason, it is not recommended you use the Nikon 200-500 lens with TC-17E and TC-20E teleconverters.

Camera compatibility

Full-frame (FX) cameras, crop-sensor ( DX ) DSLR cameras and Nikon mirrorless cameras (Optional FTZ mount adapter required) are compatible with the lens. This E-type lens (Electronic diaphragm) will work with the following cameras (you can change the lens aperture on these camera bodies): D5,D500, D4,D4S, D3, D3s , Df, D850, D810, D810A, D800, D750, D700, D610, D600, D300, D7500, D7200, D7100, D7000, D5600, D5500, D5300, D5200, D5100, D5000, D3400, D3300, D3200, D3100.

On older versions of cameras, such as Nikon D200, you cannot change the aperture. The aperture will be fixed to f/5.6.

Filters (Optional)

The Nikon 200-500 f/5.6 accepts 95mm screw-on filters. When carrying this lens into the wilderness, I recommend you have a filter. It protects the front glass element from dust, mild drizzle and minor scratches. I use the filter while photographing and do not see any significant loss in image quality. However, make sure you use a high-quality lens filter to ensure minimal loss in quality.

Vibration reduction

This lens has excellent vibration reduction performance. I have achieved sharp images at 1/30th during low light conditions. Nikon claims to have the benefit of 4½ stops. I always keep the VR “ON.”

There are two VR Modes – Normal and Sports. Normal mode works fine for me while hand-holding the lens on the ground, and also in the safari vehicle. I tend to keep it set to Normal mode.

Image of Warbler bird with Vibration Reduction OFF. Feathers are not clearly visible Exif: 500mm f/5.6 1/400s ISO 2000, VR OFF

Image as it is from a camera with Vibration Reduction ON. Feathers are sharp. The lens is a handheld. Exif: 500mm f/5.6 1/400th ISO 2000, VR ON

Weight

Weighing in at approximately 2300g (81.2 oz), the lens initially feels somewhat heavy. However, as you start hand-holding this lens regularly, you get used to the weight. I am now able to handhold this lens for two to three hours without any issue.

Lens Hood (included)

The HB-71 Lens hood is a plastic hood. It is a decent hood but slightly big to fit in the bag. However, I do use a hood on the lens mainly to protect the front glass element of the lens from minor bumps, tree twigs, and rain.

Lens Size

The lens Diameter is 4.2inches (108 mm), and the length is 10.5 inches (267.5 mm) at 200 mm zoom. The lens fits perfectly in mid-sized camera bags such as Lowepro Flipside 400 with the body attached. You can invert and fit the lens hood as well.

Controls and ergonomics

Controls

Lens controls

The Nikon 200-500mm f/4.5 has five controls:

M/A – M

M/A means while autofocusing you can override it with manual focus if required.

M is a full-manual focus.

Full/Infinity – 6m

Full allows the lens to focus on the entire focusing range. I use Full all the time and have never missed the focus.

Infinity – 6m option limits the focusing range of the lens. The lens will focus from 6m to infinity. Any object which is closer than 6m won’t be in focus. I recommend using the Full option.

VR ON – OFF

Vibration reduction(VR) ON-OFF. Set this to ON. I set it to ON even when mounted on a tripod.

NORMAL-SPORTS

Set the VR type to NORMAL. For wildlife and birds, NORMAL mode works great. NORMAL mode works great while I am hand holding the lens and even in the safari jeep.

LOCK 200

The Lock 200 button locks the lens to 200mm. You cannot zoom the lens if it is locked. The lock switch is perfect for when you are traveling, and your lens is packed. It avoids unintended zooming during travel.

Ergonomics

The lens is a bit heavy, but as you continue to use it, you will be able to easily handhold it. I found when hand holding the lens, removing the lens collar or rotating it upwards made it easier to hand hold. However, hiking with this lens can be hard due to its weight, especially carrying it up the mountains.

The zoom ring is smooth with an excellent rubber grip. The zooming feels smooth and is precise. However, the manual focus ring feels slightly loose. But, I do find the quality of manual focus to be excellent.

The Nikon 200-500 f/5.6 fits in a mid-sized camera bag. However, to accommodate the lens and camera, a larger bag is required. The only awkward part is the lens hood. Either you can invert the lens hood and keep in the bag or use a slightly bigger bag. I use this lens with Lowepro Flipside 300 (only lens), and the Lowepro Flipside 400 when the camera is attached.

Weather sealing

The weather sealing of this lens is quite decent, and I have used this lens in a moderately dusty forest and some drizzle. The lens offered good weather sealing. Make sure you clean the lens after using in dust and drizzle. I clean the front element, outer lens barrel, and mount. I use a Nikon Lenspen Pro kit for cleaning which is easy to use and travel-friendly.

The overall construction of the lens is good. It can handle minor bumps. However, some parts are made up of plastic, making the lens construction not as rock-solid as pro-grade lenses.

 

Qualities of the lens from the perspective of nature and wildlife photographer

Focusing speed

Wildlife actions happen in a few seconds. Focusing speed is most critical for wildlife photography. The speed of focus with Nikon 200-500 f/5.6 is good. When the light conditions are good – such as morning and early evening – this lens focuses fast and accurately. I use back button autofocus. I have used this lens in forest, safari, grasslands, and drizzle. Here is how this lens exactly performs in the field –

The lens focuses superbly in the following light conditions and scenarios:

  • Bright light such as morning and evening light
  • Drizzle and normal dusty environment
  • Birds in flight (moving at a pace of slow to medium and not fast)
  • Animals and birds behind a tree or grass (behind clutter)
  • Animals in action (moving at a pace of slow, medium and fast)
  • Smaller birds and wildlife such as sunbirds, frogs, and grasshoppers (when they are slow moving or stationary)

Hawk cuckoo bird in the rain. Low light image and photographed from a safari vehicle.

Flight of fast-diving paradise flycatcher. Lens focussed on this fast-moving bird in good light conditions.

This bird was behind the grass. There was significant clutter in front of it and the lens focussed accurately on the bird.

Focus performance of the lens is average in following light conditions and scenarios:

  • Early morning or late evening light – this is the time when action happens for leopards, tigers, owls and nocturnal creatures. You may need an external light such as flashlights or headlights (not camera flash)
  • When the weather is rainy or dusty the lens focus performance is satisfactory
  • If the wildlife action is very fast, such as a Kingfisher bird diving for fish or a swallow bird flying over water
  • If wildlife is very small in sizes such as sunbird, crab or bees and moving

Average focus performance when photographing small objects such as a flying kingfisher at a distance.

A Peacock photographed when it was raining. The lens managed to autofocus decently during low light and rainy conditions.

Focus performance of the lens is poor in following light conditions and scenarios:

  • When the light conditions are poor such as night and heavy rain.
  • When birds in flight are at a very long distance against the plain and cluttered background – Lens struggles to focus in this case. This type of focus hunt I have experienced while photographing birds in flight against blue sky at longer distances.

Crested Hawk Eagle chasing Heron. The birds were at a longer distance and photographed during very low light conditions. Lens focus performance is a bit on the poor side.

The River Tern was flying at a long distance against a plain blue background. In this type of scenario, the lens struggles to focus on the main object.

Low light performance

This is a tricky one! As it depends also on how your camera performs in low light and how you photograph. Many of the latest cameras by Nikon are good enough to shoot in low light. Hence there are only two things which have an impact on the final image: lens low light performance and your shooting style.

All-in-all, lens performance is somewhere between good to average in low light. But if you follow the below techniques, you will be stunned with your images. It is so good! I have followed these techniques and achieved awesome images in low light :

  • Use a bean bag or tripod
  • Use aperture f/5.6
  • Since there is no external light source (such as flash) use shutter speeds from 1/30th to 1/60th of a second
  • If the lens is struggling to autofocus quickly, focus manually
  • Shoot in raw so that you can recover and process images effectively
  • Shoot at a reasonably high ISO (depends on your camera) but generally ISO 2000 to 4000 can provide a great balance between image quality and noise.

Here is an image I shot in almost darkness during a late winter evening. I used a bean bag, the aperture was set to f/5.6 and shutter speed 1/30s. The ISO was around 2500.

A Leopard during a late winter evening. Focus performance was decent during low light. Exif: 480mm f/5.6 1/30th ISO 2500

This type of performance I was able to repeat multiple times.

In short, in very low light scenarios the lens performance is average. But if you master it using the above-mentioned techniques, you can achieve stunning images.

A range of focal lengths

The Nikon 200-500mm captured the market aggressively in a short time. Its focal length is one of the prime reasons. This range is optimum for wildlife photography and is also a great focal length range on both full-frame and crop-sensor cameras. 500mm is a great range for birds, while the 200 to 400 focal length is great for large and smaller size wildlife.

If you are using a full-frame camera, you will get a focal length of 200mm to 500mm. If you are DX shooter, the effective focal length you will be getting is around 300mm to 750mm. 750mm is superb for bird photography. 300mm is great for animals and other wildlife. I use Nikon 200-500 f/5.6 on crop-sensor ( DX format ) body. When I am on a safari with the effective focal length of 300mm to 750mm, I can easily photograph eagles, woodpeckers, small forest birds, tigers, elephants, and snakes.

A Rat snake appeared in the bushes which were very close to me. I zoomed out the lens to capture this beautiful snake. Focal length: 200mm.

Flamingos are very sensitive to a boat. Hence, I have to keep a good amount of distance from them. I captured this image from a long distance while I was in a boat. The long zoom range helped to photograph this distant yet beautiful scene. Focal length: 480mm

 

The one caveat is you can’t capture wildlife when they approach close to your safari gypsy or boat. I needed to switch to the smaller telephoto lens such as Nikon 80-200 f/2.8 in this scenario.

Tigress in the dusty grassland. Lens managed to focus in a dusty environment. This image is captured with Nikon 200-500 f/5.6

As the Tigress approached very close, I switched to the 80-200 f/2.8 lens, as it was a close encounter.

Best aperture, image sharpness, and colors

When the lens is wide open, the aperture is f/5.6 from 200mm to 500mm. At 200mm, the f/5.6 aperture is a bit slow, but at 500mm f/5.6 is excellent. This is where you are going to use it the most.

I use the lens wide open 70% of the time. I use the lens wide open for slow-moving birds and wildlife. If the objects are relatively close, I get sharp images using f/5.6.

In some of the instances, such as birds in flight, fast-moving wildlife, and wildlife at distance, I stop down the lens to f/7.1 or f/8. This is mainly to extend the depth of field.

Shoveler in flight photographed at f/8 – sharp flight.

Shoveler bird captured at f/5.6, sharpness at this aperture is great

If the objects are at a shorter distance and not moving very fast, aperture f/5.6 produces nice colors and sharpness. If the objects are moving fast, use f/8 to achieve sharp images. While you adjust your aperture for image sharpness also ensure you have enough shutter speed to freeze the action.

Here are the techniques to get sharp images with this lens every time. I have used these techniques in the wild and repeatedly produced a sharp image:

  • Set lens aperture to f/5.6 or f/8 depending on the subject
  • Set the shutter speed to at least 2x times the focal length (for example, if you are at 500mm, use a shutter speed at least as a 1/1000s )
  • In case you are not able to use a high shutter speed because of low light, either use Vibration Reduction along with stable support such as a tripod or bean bag (shutter speeds can be as low as 1/30th)
  • Use continuous autofocus with focus areas as a d9 (AF-C + d9) or Single autofocus with focus area as S (center point) ( AF-S )
  • In case required to increase the ISO values. ISO values ranging from ISO 2000 to ISO 4000 (This depends on how well your camera can handle the noise). But for most of the latest Nikon cameras, this is a sweet spot

These are the main aperture values useful in wildlife and nature photography. I have found f/5.6 to f/11 the most versatile. But don’t limit yourself to these numbers. Try different aperture values based on the creative signature you want to make with your image.

Manual focus override

Manual focus override (M/A button) is useful when the lens struggles to autofocus. Usually, this happens if there is clutter in front of the main object. Examples are grass or leaves in front of birds and animals. In this case, use the manual focus ring to focus. The manual focus ring feels a bit loose, but the quality and precision of manual focus are good.

Manual focus override is also useful in low light conditions. In fact, I highly recommend when there is low light or if wildlife is in clutter, use manual focus override. You will end up getting perfectly focussed images every time.

Place Image 26: Image of a jackal. Initially, I tried using autofocus. Since there was much clutter in front of Jackal, I used the manual focus override. The transition was smooth, and the precision of the manual focus worked well.

Vibration reduction

The Vibration Reduction on the Nikon 200-500 f/5.6 is great. I achieved great results when handholding this lens at a shutter speed of 1/30th in low light. When you are in a safari or hiking, this type of great VR is good to have so you can make sharp images while hand holding the lens.

Place Image 27: Barking deer photographed at 1/30 s shutter speed from the safari vehicle. (Exif: at 360 mm, f/5.6, 1/30s, ISO 1600 )

Recommendations

Pros:

  • Maximum aperture of f/5.6 for entire zoom range
  • Excellent Vibration reduction performance
  • Focal length is perfect for wildlife and nature photography
  • Good focusing speed and image quality
  • Most affordable price for a super telephoto lens

Cons:

  • Hood size is big to fit in the small bag
  • Some people may find this lens a bit heavy
  • Bigger filter (95mm) – it adds some price. If you don’t want to use a filter, then you can skip it.

Conclusion

The Nikon 200-500 f/5.6E VR is a beautiful all-around lens. It is perfect for animals and birds. If you are looking for the most versatile lens for wildlife and nature, the Nikon 200-500 f/5.6 E VR is for you! Especially with the price of $1400, no other lens comes close.

It is compatible with all current Nikon DSLR and mirrorless cameras. Nikon 200-500 f/5.6E VR is your best friend in the wilderness. You will purely enjoy photographing the wildlife with Nikon 200-500 f/5.6E VR. Good luck!

Which telephoto lens do you use? What do you think about Nikon 200-500 f/5.6 lens? Please do let us know in the comments below.

 

The post Field Test: Could the Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 be the Most Versatile Wildlife Lens? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Shreyas Yadav.

Review: Pixapro 105cm 16-Sided Easy-Open Rice-Bowl Softbox

The post Review: Pixapro 105cm 16-Sided Easy-Open Rice-Bowl Softbox appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by John McIntire.

Studio photographers, and other users of off-camera flash, are living through a bit of a renaissance. New, innovative and (maybe most importantly) affordable lights and modifiers are popping up all the time – and a lot of them are fantastic. One of the companies that is at the forefront of this movement is Godox.

The Rice Bowl is a large softbox with an unusual shape.

It seems that every time you turn around, there’s something new being released. Enter the Pixapro 105cm (41.34″) 16-Sided Easy-Open Rice-Bowl Softbox (Say that five times fast). Pixapro is Godox rebranded for the UK market. As soon as I saw this thing, I was entranced. Not only is it massive, but its shape means that it’s almost perfectly round (for all intents and purposes) and, as such, will shape light quite differently to your bog standard rectangular softboxes and octaboxes. I bought it and as this review will show you, it was not a mistake.

What is it?

To simplify it, the Rice Bowl is a large umbrella softbox. It’s called an umbrella softbox because it opens like an umbrella, but functions as a softbox thanks to two layers of diffusion material that cover the front. The reason this is a big deal, is that it takes away the massive pain that is putting together and pulling apart standard softboxes. I have more than a few that I’ve put together and then vowed that they would stay that way until the end of time. With the Rice Bowl, all you have to do is pull on the metal rod and open it up like an umbrella and screw the reflector plate into place. It takes seconds.

While the shape of an umbrella, the two layers of diffusion make the Rice Bowl an effective and portable softbox.

As mentioned, the shape of the Rice Bowl also sets it apart from it’s cousins. Because it’s 16 sided (That’s called a hexadecagon by the way. If you want to call it a hexadecabox, I won’t judge you if you don’t judge me), it almost appears completely round. This means that the way it shapes the light and wraps it around your subject is quite different to other softboxes, which can provide you with another tool in your lighting kit.

Pros

The Rice-Bowl softbox does do a few things well.

Size

The Rice Bowl is massive which makes the quality of light it produces wonderful for portraiture.

Here, the Rice Bowl is compared to 22″ beauty dish.

At over 41″ (that’s just under four feet), the rice-bowl is a massive modifier that still packs away in a portable package. Sure, there’s always giant octaboxes and parabolic umbrellas for when you need really soft light, but they don’t pack away anywhere near this easy. For fans of large modifiers, this means two things:

  • Once your done with it, you can pack it away and store it neatly with ease.
  • It travels well and is quite light, so it shouldn’t weigh you down in normal circumstances. I probably wouldn’t hike several miles to a location with it, but short distances should be just fine.

Shape

The 16 sides of the Rice Bowl make it almost perfectly round, which will shape the light differently to rectangular and square softboxes.

The Rice Bowl’s unique hexadecagon shape gives you a rounder source of light than your traditional softbox. The light it produces is gorgeous and soft and ideal for all kinds of portrait lighting. If you have a thing against square and rectangular catchlights, then this might be the modifier for you.

Easy to setup

Setting up the Rice Bowl is dead easy. Just pop it open, secure the reflector into place and attach the two layers of diffusion to the velcro.

As mentioned, setting up the rice bowl is as easy as opening an umbrella. Beyond that, you have to screw on a bit at the end of the rod to keep it secure and attach the diffusion panels. It doesn’t take very long. Add to that that there’s no awkward loose rods to bend and manhandle into place and nothing to pop out with great force and hit you in the eye. The Rice Bowl is a real treat.

Carry bag included

Not only does the Rice Bowl come with a convenient carry bag, but it also fits back into it with ease.

Since it’s well suited to location, it should be no surprise that the Rice Bowl comes in it’s own carry bag. An extra bonus here, is that unlike other modifiers that collapse, once it’s out of the bag, it’s easy enough to get back in and it still fits.

Price

At a price of $110, this thing is fairly cheap. Massive modifiers (especially ones this well made) usually come at a massive price. Just compare the Rice Bowl to any offering from Elinchrome and Broncolor if you’re in any doubt.

Adaptability

Because I am invested in the Bowens system (RIP), I opted for the S-mount. Pixapro offer mounts for just about any system that you could want.

Pixapro sell the Rice Bowl with just about any mount you want, so no matter your preferred lighting system, you should have no problem using this modifier.

Cons

Perhaps nothing can be too perfect, and that is the case with the Rice Bowl. Fortunately, the list of cons is a short one.

Depth

Because of its shape, when it’s mounted on a normal light stand, you cannot get much of a downward angle with the Rice Bowl.

In terms of the light it produces, the depth and shape of the Rice Bowl is fine. Where it lets it down is when it’s on a light stand. Because it’s so deep and large, when it’s on a normal light stand you can’t point it in a downward angle very easily. This is quite limiting when it comes to designing your lighting with it. Certain lighting patterns like butterfly lighting will become a challenge.

To get around this, you’ll need to buy (or already own) a light stand with a boom arm. This isn’t that big of a deal, but if you want to get the very most out of the Rice Bowl, you may have to be prepared to make other purchases.

To get the absolute most out of the Rice Bowl, you will want to have a boom arm to ensure that you can place it at any angle that you want.

That one screwy bit

The screw that secures the reflector into place is small and easy to lose.

Remember I mentioned that you had to screw a bit of metal on to secure the Rice Bowl once it’s setup? That one piece is very small and very easy to lose. I’m keeping a very close eye on mine.

Examples

At the end of the day, I can talk about the Pixapro 105cm Rice Bowl Softbox all I want, but what really matters is the proof. Here’s a few examples of what the Rice Bowl can produce in the studio.

That’s it

At the end of the day, I love this thing. Not only does it produce gorgeous light that is flattering to a whole host of subjects, it is light, easy to set up and just a pleasure to use. I would definitely recommend the Rice Bowl to any photographer who wants to add something else to their lighting kit. If you think the 105cm version might be a bit big for you, Pixapro do make a smaller version that comes in at 65cm for $90.

 

The post Review: Pixapro 105cm 16-Sided Easy-Open Rice-Bowl Softbox appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by John McIntire.

My thoughts on the Micro Nikkor 60mm f/2.8G Lens and the 105mm Macro

The post My thoughts on the Micro Nikkor 60mm f/2.8G Lens and the 105mm Macro appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Lily Sawyer.

I must tell you first of all that before I had the Micro Nikkor 60mm f/2.8G lens, I have always used the bigger and heavier big brother – the Micro Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G Macro. While this article will be about what I think of the 60mm, I feel I must also compare it with the 105mm as I have used both.

dps-60mm-nikkor-micro-105mm-macro-review

Lens specs

Let’s start with the basic similarities: both are prime lenses with an f/2.8 maximum aperture and f/32 minimum aperture, have the same number of diaphragm blades and both rounded blades. Both are autofocus, and being G lenses, have an internal ultrasonic motor type.

In terms of differences, the 105mm has vibration reduction while the 60mm hasn’t. The 105mm weighs in at 720g, much heavier due to the size and optics with 14 elements compared to the 60mm at 425g with 12 elements. Interestingly, both have the same filter thread size at 62mm which I found handy when changing filters.

dps-60mm-nikkor-micro-105mm-macro-review

The main difference, however, for me (and the most crucial one of all) is the focusing distance, which is roughly 6 inches for the 60mm and double that for the 105mm at 12 inches. Why does this difference matter to me?

With the 60mm, I need to be really close to the subject to fill the frame. It can get quite tricky when being so close and sometimes I revert to manually focusing the lens. When photographing rings, to get a really great shot, you have to be extremely close for the ring to take up a lot of the frame. As I usually prop both the ring and lens on a steady surface, I can take my time to focus and get really close.

However, because it’s a wider lens than the 105, sometimes I just can’t fill the frame enough with very tiny objects. I then resort to cropping in post-production for these instances.

The 105mm lens with it’s narrower field of view means I don’t have to get as close to the subject and still can get close enough to fill the frame with it. I find there is less need for cropping in post-production too. Because I am usually photographing still life objects such as rings, movement isn’t an issue. However, this becomes one if you were photographing, say insects, where you can’t be close enough otherwise you disturb them and lose the insects as well as your shot.

When I use these lenses

dps-60mm-nikkor-micro-105mm-macro-review

Generally, and as a rule, when I’m doing smaller and shorter shoots like an engagement session, I bring three lenses – wide, medium and long. Because my shoots are mostly on location and often we walk around quite a lot, I try to pack as lightly as possible. For these types of shoots, I use my three prime lenses: a 35mm f/1.4 G, an 85mm f/1.8G, and a 105mm f/2.8 macro. The 105mm here acts as my longer lens and my macro without the bulk of the 70-200mm zoom and another micro lens being the 60mm.

When I do a wedding that only requires a few hours coverage, I also don’t bring my entire arsenal. Instead, I carefully choose my lenses to make sure I have everything covered for those hours. For short weddings, I pack my 24-70mm f/2.8 G, 70-200mm f/2.8G, 85mm f/1.8G, and 60mm f/2.8G. I don’t need the bulk of the 105mm when I cover that focal length with my zoom but I still need a macro, and the 60mm is perfect.

How I use these lenses

dps-60mm-nikkor-micro-105mm-macro-review

I find the Nikkor 60mm Micro Lens is such a versatile focal length and being a micro lens means I do not have to carry my 50mm f/1.4G along with my other lenses anymore. It fulfills both macro capability – mainly for the ring shot and close-up details like food, table setting, and flowers – and a versatile focal length that allows for natural portraits without distortion and those not-so-close-up details.

When using the 60mm for portraits, I am usually shooting with apertures between f/2.8 – f/5.6. When using it as a micro/macro, I am shooting at apertures between f/7.1 – f/11.

The 105mm, as well as being a macro lens, is also perfect for portraits and gives you that creamy bokeh with gorgeous background compression.

When using the 105mm for portraits (which I love doing), I am usually shooting with apertures between f/2.8 – f/4. When using it as a micro/macro, I am shooting at apertures between f/7.1 – f/8. I find that this lens really sings at f/7.1. I have set my camera to 1/3 stops hence the f/7.1.

Performance

dps-60mm-nikkor-micro-105mm-macro-review_

Both lenses have top specs and perform brilliantly. Generally speaking, I find that when shooting with both lenses, more ambient or available light is required.

Both lenses tend to produce more vignetting than other lenses. However, there is one main difference to the performance of both lenses. Provided there is enough light for the subject matter, the 60mm is faster and quicker to grab focus whereas the 105mm is slower and often hunts for focus. The 60mm works better for moving objects without flash than the 105mm in the same scenario. While the use of artificial light such as electronic flashes does away with this issue, I am mainly speaking about natural or ambient light.

Recommendation

dps-60mm-nikkor-micro-105mm-macro-review

In summary, I highly recommend both lenses both in quality and overall performance. I think there is a lens for each purpose. You just need to analyze which lens you require to achieve your aim. I don’t think there is a one lens for all. My preference is for prime lenses because of their cleanness and sharpness of images, and for me, they perform better.

However, they cannot compare with the zoom lenses when it comes to fast-moving and hectic shoots like weddings where I physically cannot be zooming in and out with my feet all day.

If you are looking for a prime that gives you the flexibility to shoot portraits and macro, then the 105mm is your lens. However, if you are after more of a travel, photojournalistic, natural view type of images and need a micro, then the 60mm would be my suggestion.

On family holidays, I used to carry my 50mm f/1.4 G. You can read here an article I have written on 5 creative uses of the 50mm. But that was during my pre-60mm days. Since then, my 60mm has replaced my 50mm for these occasions. If I am only allowed one lens for family holidays and travel, I go for the 60mm. I may have lost the wider aperture of the 50mm f/1.4 G, but as holidays are usually during the summer when light is abundant, the difference it makes is not an issue.

dps-60mm-nikkor-micro-105mm-macro-review

I hope you found this helpful. Do let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

The post My thoughts on the Micro Nikkor 60mm f/2.8G Lens and the 105mm Macro appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Lily Sawyer.

ThinkTank Vision 15 Camera Bag Review

The post ThinkTank Vision 15 Camera Bag Review appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Peter West Carey.

ThinkTank’s Vision 15 camera bag is one in a line of stylish camera and computer shoulder bags built for photographers who want a functional bag that looks good walking down the street. It’s designed for someone who wants easy access to their gear and isn’t looking for a backpack.

Key features

The Vision 15 has a host of features that I enjoyed while testing. These include:

Fits a DSLR mounted on a long lens

I love my 28-300mm L lens (the same size as a 70-200mm f/2.8 or 100-400mm L lens) and this bag does a grand job of storing it while attached. ThinkTank, in their literature, mentions leaving the camera unattached, but I found the combination just barely fits, with easy, quick access.

Canon 6D mounted with 28-300mm L lens alongside Canon 10-22mm lens

Side view with padding removed

Great organization for extras

Inside the spacious main compartment is space enough for a few lenses and speedlights. There are both vertical and horizontal padded dividers to protect your shorter lens stacked one on the other.

All the dividers have velcro on each side, so they can be attached to either long side of the bag or to other dividers. I usually travel with a long lens attached and a wide angle lens stored. This means I have room for: smaller Sony RX-100 V, waterproof cover (included with bag), battery pack for phone and tablet, glasses case, power brick for laptop and DJI Osmo Pocket. And there is still more room in there.

It can handle a portable office

If your bag is not just for your camera, but for all the other items you want with you on a shoot or day out of the office, this bag can carry most of it.

The Vision 15 can manage a 15″ laptop and a 10″ tablet. The laptop sleeve is padded on the back and bottom while the tablet slot is found on the zippered front pocket.

That front pocket has a host of other slots to hold pens, business cards, large phones, cables, and keys (with a tether and clip so that don’t get lost). And it still has ample pocket space for books, batteries, chargers and all the other little things that join you on the road.

An added bit of security to the main compartment

While the generous top flap of the bag keeps the elements at bay, a secondary zippered flap will help keep prying hands away. The flap has velcro to help hold it in place, meaning it will open when the main flap opens and close when it closes. Or zip up the inner flap for an added sense of security. It can also be tucked under the main flap to keep it out of the way for quicker access.

Expandable bottle holder

This little design aesthetic impressed me when I wasn’t expecting it to. Velcro keeps the bottle holder closed when not in use, reducing the chance that it will get caught on something. Plus it looks more stylish this way.

But when you need to hold your coffee or water bottle, just expand the pocket to one of two sizes for a (nearly) custom fit.

Tough, coated bottom

While the bag’s fabric is stylish and does a good job of resisting stains and water, the bottom is made of beefed-up waterproof tarpaulin. This tough option makes for easy clean up when the bag is placed in anything but the most pristine locations. A quick wipe with a damp cloth keeps it clean and your contents dry.

Front and back book/papers pockets

On the back of the bag is a large pocket for books or notebooks. This is a great spot to place quick-at-hand items, and I use it for my calendar and main notebook.

On the front of the bag is a smaller pocket. While you could fit a book in there, it presses against the organizer pocket behind it. While is looks good in photos, it’s not useful for thick items.

Generously padded shoulder strap and carry handle

The bag comes with two main modes of transport: a padded shoulder strap and a carry handle on top. The padding on the shoulder strap is generous and the strap itself has a wide range of adjustment for a variety of torsos. However, the top carry handle only works when you remember to clip the top flap shut. Still, it is a secure way to get the bag in and out of your car for a quick grab.

It fits easily under a seat on a plane

I’ve tested the bag under economy coach seats on 737s and smaller planes with ease. There is ample room and the bag doesn’t scratch along the underside of the seat.

Not so artful tripod holder

On a bag like this, the tripod attachment goes in the only location it can; on the bottom. ThinkTank uses their attachment straps (which can be removed when not in use, as shown above) to allow for a variety of tripod sizes. There’s really no other place for a tripod to go and the clips do an adequate job.

Roller Bag Passthrough

For those who love their roller bags for airports, the back of the Vision 15 has a slot for your roller bag handle to pass through.

Limits

While this bag has a lot going for it, I find the pockets get full fast. Even just throwing a Mindshift card wallet into the front pocket will expand it enough to press on the other pockets. Toss in a charger and Miops cable release as pictured above and you quickly start puffing the bag up, unlike a backpack-style bag.

Vision 15 with rain cover attached

Don’t expect to comfortably carry a full-size tripod on the bottom of this bag. The length would make things unwieldy. Also, with the tripod attached, you suddenly don’t have an easy way to set down the bag.

In use

I tested the bag in use on my job for a month, which included travel on four different flights up an down the West Coast. Its smaller form factor (compared to my normal backpack) is welcome as it packs into my car trunk easily and was effortless to remove, thanks to its clean lines and lack of straps like a backpack.

Opening and accessing contents is straightforward and I left the velcro attachment connected on the inside lid most of the time. Yet, when I had to set the bag down a couple of times in less than ideal situations, that inner zipper was nice to employ. I never did use the rain cover but I am glad they shipped the bag with a black cover to keep it stylish.

Conclusion

The ThinkTank Vision 15 is a very useful shoulder bag. While it can’t quite hold all I like to carry (no space for a drone), it holds all you need on a day-to-day basis when away from the office all day. It easily holds a long lens as well as battery packs, chargers, cards, tablet and laptop. It can easily handle four lenses and a flash, while the padded shoulder strap makes carrying that load bearable.

While the Vision 15 is sized for a 15″ laptop, they have two other, smaller sizes (which cut out the space for a tablet) that might fit your particular setup better.

 

The post ThinkTank Vision 15 Camera Bag Review appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Peter West Carey.

Review: Sigma 40mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens

The post Review: Sigma 40mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Ringsmuth.

Sigma occupies an interesting and somewhat unique space in the photography industry. They are most widely known for their lineup of third-party lenses for Nikon, Canon, and Sony cameras. Sigma also manufactures other gear such as flashes, filters, and even their own digital camera bodies using their home-grown Foveon image sensor.

While Sigma lenses have always been quite well regarded by amateur and professional photographers, their recent series of Art lenses have really given first-party manufacturers a run for their money. With optical performance that meets, and in many cases, exceeds lenses made by most mainstream camera companies, Sigma has really started to make significant inroads in professional imaging products.

The latest example of this is their outstanding 40mm f/1.4 Art lens.

Sigma 40mm f/1.4: 1/180th second, f/1.4, ISO 720.

The story of this particular lens actually begins a few years ago with Sigma’s 18-35mm f/1.8 Art lens for APS-C cameras. That was the first iteration of what what has become a very successful strategy for Sigma: producing lenses with superior optical performance, even if it means selling them at a higher price than consumers are used to for a third-party company.

Sigma have since fleshed out their Art series of lenses with a variety of focal lengths, in both primes and zooms. Many photographers and videographers have started to take notice, and Sigma has since branched off into a line of Cine lenses specifically designed to meet the demands and challenges of video.

This lens is so big several people thought I was using a zoom.

Enter the Sigma 40mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens (Nikon, Canon, Sony) – designed with features photographers want and videographers demand.

Its optical path and lens elements fit the mold of what their other Art lenses offer, while its all-metal construction and gear-based focusing make it well suited for video. While I’m no videographer and can’t speak to how this lens functions in that regard, I can say for sure that it is one of the most astonishing photography lenses I have ever used.

The price tag is a bit high, but the tradeoff is a lens with supreme sharpness – even at its widest aperture – and virtually none of the problems that plague so many other lenses.

Nikon D750, 40mm, 1/500th second, f/1.4, ISO 100.

As I was using this lens I thought back to my first lens, the humble Nikon 50mm f/1.8. When I got that diminutive piece of glass I remember shooting almost everything at f/1.8 because it looked so cool to have my subject in focus with the rest of the shot was filled with beautiful blurry bokeh. However, I soon realized that these types of shots were a bit problematic, mostly due to all sorts of optical issues like lack of overall sharpness, vignetting, and really bad chromatic aberration.

I soon got used to shooting my 50mm lens stopped down a bit. It’s the same with other lenses that I’ve acquired over the years. While they most definitely work while wide open, there’s usually some tradeoff.

The Sigma 40mm f/1.4 is a whole different beast entirely. Using it is an absolute joy because you can basically shoot whatever you want, any way you want, with total impunity.

100% crop of the image above. The sharpness of this lens at f/1.4 is incredible.

I should point out, before getting too far into this review, that the performance of this lens does not come cheap. At nearly $1400 this lens is almost ten times as expensive as an entry-level 50mm f/1.8.

However, this lens isn’t exactly aimed at entry-level photographers. It’s designed for people who want (as near as I can tell from using it extensively) no compromises in terms of optical performance. As a result, the lens is big, heavy, expensive, and not exactly the sort that you would take out as a casual go-anywhere addition to your camera kit. Although, if you prioritize outstanding image quality above all else, then this may be the lens you are looking for.

Sharpness

I don’t want the substance of this review to get lost in hyperbole or vain platitudes, but in some way, this Sigma 40mm f/1.4 lens really does operate at a whole other level in terms of sharpness. I’ve used sharp lenses before, but nothing quite like this – especially when shooting wide open.

I took this to an equestrian show with my family and just for fun. Then I shot almost exclusively at f/1.4 just to see what this lens could do.

I was consistently impressed by the results.

Nikon D750, 40mm, f/1.4, 1/2000th second, ISO 100.

In the image above, I focused on the horse’s eye, which was a little tricky since it was constantly moving its head up and down. The resulting images were much sharper than I imagined they would be. The f/1.4 aperture also gives a pleasing foreground and background blur, especially on the man’s plaid shirt. The 40mm focal length offers a field of view that’s wide enough to get plenty of elements in the frame.

To further illustrate the sharpness, the following is a 100% crop from the original. You can clearly distinguish individual hairs and eyelashes.

100% crop of original image.

Of course, this type of result really isn’t all that special. Plenty of lenses are quite sharp in the center, but what about the rest of the frame? I was curious to see how the Sigma 40mm f/1.4 performed in a variety of conditions, so I shot scenes like the one below to see how this lens would handle trickier situations.

Normally in a shot like this, the trees in the center would be sharp while the outer edges would be significantly less so. They would also have significant chromatic aberration issues on the branches around the perimeter.

Nikon D750, 40mm, f/1.4, 1/250th second, ISO 100.

Investigating a 100% crop shows that image quality is tightly controlled even around the edges. Individual branches are tack-sharp and clearly distinguishable, with no green or purple fringing whatsoever.

Granted this wasn’t shot in broad daylight, but I found results like this to be consistent in a variety of shooting conditions.

100% crop of above image.

Overall, I was highly impressed with the sharpness of this lens, especially at f/1.4. But then again, this is a $1400 lens. When you spend this much on a lens like this, you might naturally expect these results. If you want to save over a thousand dollars on a wide-aperture 40mm lens you could always opt for the Canon 40mm f/2.8 Pancake, which is a great lens and certainly worth looking at. However, in terms of sheer optical performance, the Sigma 40mm f/1.4 is a whole other ballgame entirely. It is well worth considering if you prioritize features like sharpness and overall performance above all else.

Foreground/background blur

Some qualities of camera gear can be measured objectively, while others are difficult to fully explain or describe without delving into a more qualitative realm.

You could put the Sigma 40mm f/1.4 lens up against similar lenses in a lab and come away with charts and diagrams that illustrate various optical properties of each one.

However, at the end of the day, there’s something about some particular lenses that either grabs me or pushes me away. I don’t know exactly what it is about this particular lens, but the out-of-focus foreground and backgrounds just look, as the saying goes, smooth as butter.

Nikon D750, 40mm, f/1.4, 1/180th second, ISO 1000

The way the bricks in the background slowly fade away while the clean mortar lines remain visible, and the smooth transition across the frame from in-focus to blurry, is far beyond what I’m used to on my usual gear. I don’t know if I quite know how to describe this and I don’t want to sound like a shill for Sigma (they did not pay me for doing this review, and I have no relationship with them whatsoever) but I really, really like the photos I was getting out of this lens.

Throw in some lights in the background, and you start to see even more to like with the Sigma 40mm f/1.4 DG HSM.

Nikon D750, 40mm, f/1.4, 1/400th second, ISO 1250

The clean, clear spots of light behind this bronze statue are nice and blurry without any of the onion-ring artifacts that are so common on a lot of other lenses. It’s part of what makes this lens so fun to use – especially knowing that when you take shots wide open, you aren’t losing anything (at least, nothing that I could notice) in the way of sharpness or overall handling of chromatic aberration.

Of course, there is some vignetting at f/1.4 but nothing that I would consider out of the ordinary, and well worth the tradeoff compared with shooting at smaller apertures. For example, here’s another picture of a purple magnolia flower that I shot at f/2.8.

Nikon D750, 40mm, f/2.8, 1/180th second, ISO 1800

This isn’t a bad photo, and the flower in the center is bright and sharp, which I always like to see on any lens. The 40mm focal length let me fill the frame with branches, buds, and other elements that add a sense of context. However, the scene is transformed into something almost otherworldly when shot at f/1.4.

Nikon D750, 40mm, f/1.4, 1/180th second, ISO 400

The corners are darker due to vignetting at such a wide aperture, but the rest of the image is almost entirely obscured in beautiful bokeh. The out-of-focus areas are blurry without being muddy. While the flower in the center is now a beacon of color amidst brown and yellow. I don’t quite know how to describe just what it is about the rendition of foreground and background elements that I find so pleasing on this lens. But it’s certainly something to behold and a lot of fun to have available at your fingertips.

Autofocus

If there is one area where this lens didn’t impress me all that much it was autofocus. It’s not that it’s bad, but it’s not exactly superlative either. I suppose I could best describe it by saying it simply gets the job done most of the time. I found that it couldn’t quite keep up with my own two kids when they were running around outside, but for most normal shooting conditions it works pretty well. Autofocus is quick and silent – so quiet that I had to hold my ear up to the lens to hear the gears turning – but if you’re used to the speed of a sports-oriented lens like the 70-200 f/2.8, you might find this is lacking too much for your taste.

Nikon D750, 40mm, f/1.4, 1/180th second, ISO 360.

I shot several dozen images similar to the one above, and the Sigma 40mm f/1.4 lens performed just fine. Most shots were nice and sharp, however, the movements of the horse were a trot – not a gallop – and in a mostly predictable straight line. My go-to gear for most daily shooting is a Fuji X100F and this Sigma lens is certainly faster and more reliable than that camera.

Nikon D750, 40mm, f/1.4, 1/180th second, ISO 800. Autofocus kept up fairly well with this remote-control helicopter.

Perhaps the best thing I can say about the autofocus on this lens is that it works about how you would expect. It’s not going to break any records for speed, but it’s reliable, predictable, and effective.

Handling

Similar to autofocus, the overall handling of this lens is something that I can describe in terms of how it feels, but I don’t know if I can accurately quantify it with numbers and hard data. Simply put, this lens is a beast. It’s big, thick, heavy, and feels like it could withstand a beating. Sigma claims it is dust and splash-proof. While I didn’t test this personally, given the overall build quality, I would certainly expect this lens to be able to withstand being out in the elements.

Manual focusing happens with gears, not electronics, so you always have a smooth tactile experience when turning the focus ring. There are no hard stops as you turn the focus ring, but after about 160° of travel, there is a soft click indicating you have reached the nearest or farthest focusing limit. There’s a single switch on the side that alternates between Autofocus and Manual focus, which I found to be simple and effective in regular use.

Image stabilization is nonexistent. However, I didn’t miss it much. With such good image quality at f/1.4, I could use fast shutter speeds without the need for stabilization. Video shooters may have this lens mounted firmly on a tripod, so the lack of image stabilization may not be a mark against it.

Nikon D750, 40mm, f/1.4, 1/2000 second, ISO 100.

Despite being such a heavy lens, I didn’t find it difficult to carry around for general shooting. At 1300 grams, it’s almost as heavy as my 70-200 f/2.8 which clocks in at 1540 grams. The Sigma 40mm f/1.4 packs all that heft in a much smaller package. Because of this, I didn’t feel the weight as much as I thought I would, but it’s the type of lens that will certainly strain your arm over time. I really liked shooting with a battery grip on my camera to help balance things out a bit.

Conclusion

My thoughts on this lens can perhaps be best summed up with this photo:

Nikon D750, 40mm, f/1.4, 1/1500 second, ISO 100.

I don’t think I could have gotten this shot with any other lens, and it’s a testament to the quality and engineering that went into this Sigma 40mm f/1.4.

I focused on the flower just to the left of the sun as it peeked over the horizon and it’s sharp as a tack. Zooming in to 100% reveals a level of sharpness and detail, as well as an almost complete absence of chromatic aberration.

That was highly impressive.

100% crop of above image.

This is one of the best lenses I have ever used, and well worth the price if you value image quality above all else. It’s big, heavy, and not exactly easy on the wallet. But what you get for the price is a lens that is sturdy, reliable, and exquisitely sharp at all apertures – especially wide open.

If you’re looking for a lens that offers outstanding optical performance first and foremost and is designed to meet the needs of demanding photographers and videographers, then I don’t think I can recommend the Sigma 40mm f/1.4 Art highly enough.

The post Review: Sigma 40mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Ringsmuth.

Review: DJI Mavic 2 Zoom

The post Review: DJI Mavic 2 Zoom appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Adam Welch.

Photography is an ever evolving medium. New gear, new technology and new ways of seeing the world make it an extremely exciting time to be a photographer right now.

Over the last year or so I’ve become more and more interested in aerial photography and getting new perspectives for my work. And wouldn’t you know it, DJI just released another brand new tool for aerial photography in August of 2018. So when I had the opportunity to test it out, I didn’t hesitate. I give you…

…wait for it…

…the DJI Mavic 2 Zoom.

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Out of the box

Sleek, compact and understated; that’s how I would describe the appearance of the Mavic 2 Zoom. DJI has chosen a color scheme that should be familiar to those who have experienced the previous model upon which they have based the Mavic 2 Zoom upon – the Mavic Pro. The drone itself is dark gray with a silver belly and matching silver accents. You’ll notice that while the overall lines have been maintained, the Mavic 2 Zoom is a completely different animal when compared to its predecessor.

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The gimbal cover of the Mavic 2 has also been updated to protect the camera during transport. While easy to remove, I have to admit reattaching the gimbal cover was slightly confusing the first time I attempted it. Luckily, DJI has included a quick diagram to help with this.

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Who knows, maybe it was just me being clumsy? In any case, once you get the hang of the new gimbal cover, reattaching it becomes essentially like riding a bike.

The Mavic 2 Zoom has incorporated a set of legitimate landing and take-off lights to aid in low-light situations when the bottom-facing obstacle sensors may have difficulty discerning where the ground may be. Speaking of sensors, DJI has enhanced the Mavic 2 Zoom with Omnidirectional Obstacle Sensing technology (more on that later) for side, front and rear obstacle avoidance. These sensors are readily visible throughout the breadth of the aircraft yet somehow the body of the drone doesn’t appear overly cluttered.

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The controller for the Mavic 2 Zoom has received a light makeover as well. I was happy to see the addition of the fantastic “stow and go” joysticks present on the Mavic AIR controller to this new iteration of Mavic controllers. When not in use, the joysticks can be packed away beneath the folding wings of the controller.

This makes stashing your controller in your bag much easier and less likely to snag or less ideally, break.

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Shown with joysticks attached

Most of the contact surfaces are rubberized, and the controller feels great even when using a larger smartphone like my Samsung S8 Active.

Speaking of phones, an incredibly cool feature of the Mavic 2 Zoom controller is that it charges your phone should your phone’s battery level drop to below 40% during flight. How cool is that?

Thanks for having our backs, DJI.

With that said, you will almost certainly need to remove your phone case (should you have one) to make everything fit within the controller. Of course, you might not have to, but keep that in mind before you fly.

Another feature, albeit possibly not as overtly impressive for some as it was to me, is the addition of an integrated charging cable built right into the included battery charger.

This controller is also identical and interchangeable with the controller for the Mavic 2 Zoom

This enables the user to always have a way to charge their controllers should they misplace or not have another cable to charge the controller.

With the introductions complete, let’s get down to business and see how well the Mavic 2 Zoom performs in the air.

Flight performance

In comparison to the Mavic Pro, it’s safe to say that DJI has improved virtually every area of flight performance in the Mavic 2 Zoom. They have increased the maximum speed and the overall flight time and distance capability. Even though descent/ascent speeds have remained the same as the Mavic Pro (impressive in its own right), it’s easy to see that the Mavic 2 Zoom is very much an upgrade in terms of its ability to fly further faster and with more confidence.

  • Dimensions Folded: 214×91×84 mm (length×width×height)
  • Dimensions Unfolded: 322×242×84 mm (length×width×height) with 354mm at diagonal
  • Weight: 1.99 lbs(905g) with battery and propellers attached
  • Maximum flight time: 31 minutes at constant 15.5 mph(25 kph)
  • Maximum hover time: 29 minutes(no wind)
  • Operating temperatures: 14° F to 104° F(-10°C to 40°C)
  • Maximum speed: 44.7 mph(72 kph) (S-mode)
  • Maximum ascent speed: 5 m/s (S-mode), 4 m/s (P-mode)
  • Maximum descent speed: 3 m/s (S-mode), 3 m/s (P-mode)
  • Maximum altitude: 19,685ft above sea level (6000m)

The Mavic 2 Zoom is about 2g lighter in total weight but all other performance statistics regarding speed, dimensions and flight are precisely the same as the new DJI Mavic 2 Pro drone. In fact, it’s safe to say that the Mavic 2 Zoom and Mavic 2 Pro use the same drone body. The only difference being their respective camera systems.

Don’t believe me?

Here is the Mavic 2 and Mavic 2 Zoom side by side. If you can’t tell, why should I?

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In flight, the Mavic 2 Zoom is nimble with great response time. The propellers have been redesigned to make them quieter when compared to the Mavic Pro. Unfortunately, this also means that the propellers are not interchangeable between the two aircraft. So, you won’t be able to buy a set of Mavic 2 props to quiet down your older Mavic. Sorry folks.

Acceleration is quite impressive, with stops being not overly abrupt. Of course, many of these observations depend on how you have the responsiveness of your controller configured. Speaking of that, DJI has placed the three main flight modes for the Mavic 2 Zoom on the right side of the controller. These modes are Tripod (T), Positioning (P) and Sport (S).

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When in T-mode, the speed of the drone becomes greatly reduced as well as the acceleration and deceleration making it great for slow and controlled pans. Also, all of the Mavic 2 Zoom’s Omnidirectional Obstacle sensors are enabled.

P-mode could be called the “standard” flight mode. In P-mode, all of the Intelligent Flight modes are available.

Lastly, we have blazing-fast S-mode. In sport mode, all obstacle avoidance is disabled which means you’re entirely on your own. The fun part? The Mavic 2 Zoom can then hit a top speed of nearly 45mph (72.4kph). The Mavic 2 Zoom can also allow the pilot to select from pre-programmed intelligent flight modes which are great for obtaining footage that would otherwise be difficult for the average user.

Intelligent Flight Modes

  • ActiveTrack 2.0(with improved 3D subject tracking) Capable of identifying up to 16 subjects and track 1
  • Cinematic Mode (dampens the drone’s movements for increased stability) Softens the breaking period for increased video smoothness
  • Hyperlapse Moves the drone through out the acquisition of time lapses
  • QuickShots (outlined below)
  • Points Of Interest (POI 2.0) Allows the user to choose a subject and instruct the drone to keep it in frame based on a predetermined altitude and speed while circling
  • Waypoint Navigation The Mavic 2 Zoom will fly to a series of locations chosen on the map
  • Tap-to-Fly Select a map area and the drone will automatically fly to that spot

QuickShot Intelligent Flight Modes

  • Dolly Zoom An interesting cinematic zoom effect…Hitchcock style
  • Asteroid Essentially contorts your scene into spherical illusion
  • Boomerang The drone will fly in an ellipse around the subject and automatically start and stop filming in the same place
  • Rocket The Mavic 2 Zoom will take off vertically with the camera flowing your subject
  • Circle Enables the drone to fly in a circle around the subject at a predetermined altitude and distance
  • Dronie Pre-programmed upward flight with the drone moving backward all the while tracking the subject
  • Helix The drone will upward and away while maintaining view of your subject

Zoom Zoom

If you’re like me, then I figure you’re extremely interested in the camera of the Mavic 2 Zoom. After all, unless you just like flying a drone around the sky (which is fun too), the real reason you’re doing it all is to get awesome aerial photos and videos.

The elephant in the room is, of course, the zoom feature which is the Mavic 2 Zoom’s namesake. It has a 2x optical zoom plus an additional digital zoom capability (which DJI reports being lossless) when shooting video in FHD 1080p. DJI also reports the Mavic 2 Zoom to be capable of producing images with 13-stops of dynamic range. That’s impressive.

Here’s a rundown of the major camera features from the DJI website:

  • Sensor: 12MP 1/2.3″ CMOS
  • Focal Length: 35 mm equivalent of 24-48 mm
  • Maximum Aperture: f/2.8 (24 mm) – f/3.8 (48 mm)
  • Shutter Speed Range: 8–1/8000s
  • ISO Range: 100-3200 for video, 100-1600 (auto) 100-3200 (manual) for photo
  • Internal Memory Storage: 8GB
  • Image Formats: JPEG / DNG (RAW)
  • Video Formats: MP4 / MOV (MPEG-4 AVC/H.264, HEVC/H.265)
  • Video Resolution: 4K: 3840×2160 24/25/30p
    2.7K: 2688×1512 24/25/30/48/50/60p
    FHD: 1920×1080 24/25/30/48/50/60/120p

The camera of the Mavic 2 Zoom also incorporates some flashy new in-camera functionalities. It’s “Super Resolution” feature is incredibly interesting. It is essentially an onboard image stitching tool which can create images with a total resolution of approximately 48MP.

Not only that, but the Mavic 2 Zoom also sports DJI’s new “Hyperlight” mode for increasing image quality during extremely lowlight flights.

Here are a few test images made with the Mavic 2 Zoom.

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To give a better understanding of what that 24-48mm focal length actually brings you in terms of zoom capability, here are two frames for comparison. The first shot at 24mm….

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24mm at f/2.8

…and the second at 48mm

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48mm at f/3.8

Why not two more? Each one is a 1-second exposure which speaks to the stabilization of that 3-axis gimbal.

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24mm at f/2.8

Then zooming in to 48mm on that tower the distance.

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48mm at f/3.8

I feel it’s worth mentioning that those last two nighttime images were made in a well-known and open area with the drone constantly in site. Be extremely cautious should you operate any aircraft in dark conditions.

Lastly, here is a quick bit of video footage shot using the Mavic 2 Zoom and a few of its features.

Final thoughts on the DJI Mavic 2 Zoom

The ability to zoom with the camera of the Mavic 2 Zoom adds in a new flavor of excitement to an already exciting drone. The aerobatics of the DJI’s latest entry to the Mavic lineup is impressive for any drone. Especially one marketed as a “consumer grade” aircraft.

With a camera capable of all sorts of high-end feats of imagery, it’s hard to draw the line between consumer and professional performance. From the Intelligent Flight features to the increased flight time and speed, refined obstacle avoidance system and compact form factor, the Mavic 2 Zoom is very much a welcome breath of fresh air to the aerial photography and videography community. Not only does it produce excellent still images and video, but the overall experience of operating this little aircraft is an absolutely enjoyable experience.

Have you used the Mavic 2 Zoom yet? Let us know in the comments how you like it and how it compares to any other drones you might have piloted.

 

review of the DJI Mavic 2 Zoom Drone

The post Review: DJI Mavic 2 Zoom appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Adam Welch.

Mosaic Frames by MOO

If you’re a photographer, you’ve probably heard of Moo business cards. What makes MOO unique, is the ability to print a different image on every card in a pack. What I did not know before placing my first order is that Moo doesn’t just make mini cards. They also offer standard business cards, postcards, sticker books and greeting cards. All with the option of showing off a different photograph on each card! Another great feature that I was not aware of is the fact that I could transfer my selection of images directly from my Smugmug galleries! How much more convenient can it get?

I placed an order of Mini Moos featuring some of my travel photography and an order of standard cards with a selection of images of my commercial work and enough space on the back side for my logo and all my contact info. I also discovered a cool decoration (and conversation) piece to display my mini cards: the Mosaic Frame.

The Mosaic Frame allows you to display 20 of your favorite mini cards. It is available in black or white in the following dimensions 16.54” x 10.63” (42 cm x 27 cm). Each card is inserted in a mini frame which can be positioned in a variety of ways to accommodate horizontal and vertical images. You can also hang or display your frame horizontal or vertically depending on your space. It is a really creative way to display your work in your office or studio! The Mosaic Frame is also a great gift idea for the photographer in your life! To find out more about MOO, visit their website here Moo.com

To learn more about the Mosaic Frame ($39.99 USD) click here.

Post from: Digital Photography School - Photography Tips. Check out our resources on Portrait Photography Tips, Travel Photography Tips and Understanding Digital Cameras.

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Mosaic Frames by MOO