Photographing Portraits with Classic Lenses (includes Example Images)

The post Photographing Portraits with Classic Lenses (includes Example Images) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Matt Murray.

photographing-portraits-with-classic-lenses

From the 1930s onwards, manufacturers around the world produced 35mm film camera systems with a huge array of interchangeable lenses. Some good, some bad, some legendary.

With the rise of digital in the early 21st century, much of this gear fell out of favor, and prices declined rapidly. But things soon turned around.

Classic lenses are now in big demand. This is not only due to the current renaissance in film photography but also due to the fact that many photographers love to shoot with these lenses on digital cameras as well.

In this article, I explain how you can shoot portraits with classic lenses on your digital camera, including how to find one, how to set your camera up, and what to expect from vintage glass. Why limit yourself to the lenses made by your camera manufacturer when there is so much good glass out there?

photographing-portraits-with-classic-lenses

Three classic M42 mount lenses that can be used in digital photography. [L-R] Pentax Super Takumar 50mm f1.4, Helios 44 58mm f2, Meyer Optic Goerlitz Oreston 50mm f1.8.

Why shoot portraits on classic lenses?

This is a key question – why shoot portraits on classic lenses? There are a few reasons why I enjoy it.

Firstly, I love the different look that it gives my photos. They’re not better or worse than images taken with modern autofocus lenses. However, they certainly have a unique charm and character that you just don’t get from today’s ultra-sharp digital lenses.

Secondly, buying a vintage lens is a fantastic way of getting some quality glass in your kit on the cheap. Although prices have risen in recent years, you can still buy many amazing lenses for under $100 USD.

Finally, it’s a lot of fun to shoot with an older lens. I love to think about the images the lens has taken over the course of its lifetime, who has used it, and where it’s been. It’s also a point of interest – people often look puzzled and will go out of their way to find out what lens you’re using and where you got it.

How do I find a classic lens?

Finding a classic lens is relatively straightforward. The first thing you could try is to ask friends and family if they have any old film photography gear. It’s quite possible that an old Pentax or Olympus film camera is lurking in their attic. With some luck, the lens (and camera) will be in a usable condition, and you will be able to shoot portraits with it.

If that avenue doesn’t produce any classic beauties for you, turn to eBay, Facebook marketplace, and other online markets to see what’s for sale.

photographing-portraits-with-classic-lenses

Considering their optical quality, Super Takumar lenses are still a bargain despite rising prices.

Before you do this, do some research about which lenses you’d like to buy, and make sure that you can get an adapter to fit the lens to your digital camera.

Take care when reading the description of lenses online. Ideally, you want a lens that has clear glass, with no fungus or haze. Don’t worry too much about small amounts of dust – all lenses (especially vintage ones) will have dust in the lens, which doesn’t usually affect image quality too much.

Although I’ve said above that you should avoid lenses with fungus and haze, I have used lenses with plenty of fungi in, without having much of a noticeable effect on images. Still, it’s something you’re best to avoid. If you look at the images of the lenses posted in this article, there are plenty of spots of dust and marks on the lenses I’ve used, but with no noticeable effect.

Buy a lens adaptor

A classic lens will not fit on to your digital camera as it is – you will also need to buy a lens adaptor. There is an adapter for almost every classic lens/digital mount combination.

Don’t just buy the cheapest one you can find; quality does matter here. If you’re not sure which brand to buy, ask around in Facebook groups to see what other people use and recommend.

The adapter I used for images in this article is the K&F Concept M42 to Fujifilm X adapter. I have two K&F Concept adapters – one for M42 mount and one for the smaller M39 mount.

Image: Lens adapters are available for almost all classic lens to digital camera combinations. Pictu...

Lens adapters are available for almost all classic lens to digital camera combinations. Pictured are M42 and M39 to Fujifilm X lens adapters.

Set your camera up to shoot with your classic lens

Once you have your lens and adapter, you now need to set up your camera to shoot with it. The steps I have below are for my Fujifilm X-Series cameras. If you’re using another brand, ask in Facebook groups, or turn to Google to find out how you can do the same for your camera.

Firstly, you need to enable the “shoot without lens” option in the menu. If the camera doesn’t recognize the lens, it may not allow you to take any images at all, so this is a must.

Secondly, set the focal length of the lens you are using in the mount adapter setting. The camera doesn’t know which lens you are using, so it will take the value in here for the metadata for images. If you skip this step, it’s no big deal, but it certainly makes finding images later on a little easier in Lightroom. Also, remember to keyword your images on import, as you may have several classic lenses with the same focal length.

Now you’re all set to manually focus your classic lens on your digital camera.

Wait, I have to focus manually?

In the vast majority of circumstances, yes. If you’re adapting a lens from one system to another, you’ll have to focus manually.

It may surprise you to know that in terms of the history of photography, autofocus lenses are relatively new. The first mass-produced autofocus camera was the Konica C35 AF point-and-shoot in 1977, and the first 35mm autofocus SLR, the Pentax ME F, was released in 1981.

Even after the arrival of this new technology, many professional photographers thought of autofocus as a gimmick and didn’t trust it until further advancements in the late 80s and early 90s.

If the thought of manually focussing on a portrait shoot alarms you, don’t worry. Digital cameras have amazing technology inside them that will help you.

Image: I found this classic in a charity shop for $15USD.

I found this classic in a charity shop for $15USD.

Set up focus peaking

Focus peaking is a technology that many cameras have to make manually focussing a lens easier. When this is enabled, the camera will highlight objects that are in focus with a color (typically red) as you look through the viewfinder.

As you rotate the lens back and forth, different objects will come in and out of focus. When shooting portraits, you rotate the lens until your subject’s hair and/or eyelashes highlight in red.

This technology helps to focus enormously, especially if, like me, your vision isn’t as good as it used to be. Other options to assist manual focusing in the Fujifilm X-Series line include digital split image and digital microprism.

Classic lens road test

To illustrate the types of portrait images you can take with vintage glass, I’ve used three different lenses for this article. I’ve used the Meyer Optik Gorlitz Oreston 50mm f1.8, the Pentax Super Takumar 50mm f1.4, and the Helios 44 58mm f2 lens.

All of them have the same M42 mount, a system of attaching a lens to a camera body originally designed by the Carl Zeiss company in the late 1930s.

M42 is a screw mount. To attach the lens to a lens adapter (or an M42 mount vintage camera), you rotate it around in a circle until it stops. Don’t overtighten it. This is quite different from many modern cameras which use a bayonet-style mount. Many legendary camera manufacturers have used M42 at some stage, including Contax, Pentax, Yashica, and Olympus.

Meyer Optik Gorlitz Oreston 50mm f1.8

I picked up this Meyer Optik Gorlitz Oreston in a bag of camera gear at a charity shop for $15 USD. As soon as I saw the zebra stripe pattern around the edge of the lens, I knew I had something special.

photographing-portraits-with-classic-lenses

The Zebra stripes of the Meyer Optik Gorlitz Oreston 50mm f1.8, mounted with a K&F Concept adapter to my Fujifilm X-T2.

Meyer Optik produced this lens in their East German factory from 1960-1971. After this, the company was absorbed into the Pentacon group, and the name disappeared from lenses entirely.

A feature of this lens is its beautiful color rendition and distinct vintage look. It has a softer, dreamier overall look than other lenses, but it’s still sharp. Shoot wide open with this lens for beautiful, dreamy bokeh. It’s one of my favorite classic lenses.

photographing-portraits-with-classic-lenses

Sarah in a field. This image shows the dreamy bokeh of the Meyer Optik Goerlitz Oreston 50mm f1.8 lens.

photographing-portraits-with-classic-lenses

This is one of my favorite shots of my daughter, taken with the Oreston 50mm f1.8 lens.

 

Pentax Super Takumar 50mm f1.4

Image: This lens has a few dents but keeps on rocking! Super Takumar 50mm f1.4 mounted with a K&...

This lens has a few dents but keeps on rocking! Super Takumar 50mm f1.4 mounted with a K&F Concept adapter to my Fujifilm X-T2.

 

In the 1960s, Pentax wanted to come up with a lens that would rival – or even outperform – Carl Zeiss glass. The result was the first version of the Super Takumar 50mm f1.4 lens with eight elements.

It’s been said that in the early days of its release, Pentax lost money each time they sold one. Perhaps this is why they soon switched to a cheaper seven-element version of the lens.

Manufacturing differences can make identification tricky, but I understand the lens that I have (pictured above) is a later version of the seven-element Super Tak. This version of the lens uses a radioactive element – Thorium – in its rear element. Despite their radioactivity, lenses with Thorium are not considered dangerous. Unless you grind one up and eat it, but that would be a terrible waste of a good lens.

Over many years, Thorium can cause yellowing in the glass. You will see from the images below – especially the first – that it has quite a warm look to it because of this issue.

The Super Tak (any version you can get your hands on) is a gem of a lens. Faster than other lenses in this review, it’s sharp, has pleasing bokeh and fabulous color rendition. If you don’t like the warm cast some of them have, due to the yellowing of the lens, you can always correct it in post.

Image: At the beach. Shot wide open at f1.4 on the Pentax Super Takumar 50mm lens. Note the very war...

At the beach. Shot wide open at f1.4 on the Pentax Super Takumar 50mm lens. Note the very warm look to the image caused by a yellowing of the lens over time.

photographing-portraits-with-classic-lenses

Alyssa in Brisbane. Shot on the Fujifilm X-T2 with Super Takumar 50mm f1.4 Lens.

 

Helios 44

Helios 44 lenses are among the best-known vintage lenses that photographers have bought in recent years to use with digital cameras. Like many post-war Russian lenses, it’s a copy of an earlier German design, the Carl Zeiss Jena Biotar 58mm f2.

photographing-portraits-with-classic-lenses

An odd-looking combination – a silver Helios 44 58mm f2 lens mounted on my Fujifilm X-T2.

Helios 44 lenses were produced in several different factories in the former Soviet Union. My lens features a full chrome metal construction, but others are black anodized lenses that come in a variety of styles. It’s been said that no two Helios lenses are the same – each has its own unique character.

Take the photos below – the Helios lenses are most associated with swirly bokeh, but in one of the images below, my lens has quite a bit of soap bubble bokeh.

The Helios is sharp, fun to use, and has the most unique bokeh in the lenses I’ve featured in this article. When you use the lens for portraits, though, beware of the bokeh trap.

What’s the bokeh trap?

Bokeh is the name for the aesthetic quality of the out-of-focus parts of an image. Vintage lenses are known to generally have much more unique bokeh than modern lenses. Be careful not to fall into the bokeh trap though – remember that you’re shooting portraits, you’re not producing images just to show off the bokeh.

Image: This image shows some of the swirly bokeh that the Helios 44 line of lenses is known for.

This image shows some of the swirly bokeh that the Helios 44 line of lenses is known for.

photographing-portraits-with-classic-lenses

In the right circumstances, the Helios 44 lenses can exhibit incredible looking bokeh. Pictured above is the soap bubble bokeh due to the backlit foliage behind the subject.

 

Lens comparison test at the beach

I took the photos above at different locations, so to demonstrate what the lenses look like on the same shoot, I took them to the beach with my Fujifilm X-T2.

On this shoot, there are noticeable differences between the three, and I believe that I could pick each one if I hadn’t taken the images myself. However, the differences were not as big as I had imagined. All images were shot wide open (using the smallest f-number the lens has) with focus peaking turned on.

Image: No prizes for guessing which lens this is! The Super Takumar has a warm cast to it.

No prizes for guessing which lens this is! The Super Takumar has a warm cast to it.

Image: Next up is the Oreston, the sea did not produce a very distinctive bokeh in this instance com...

Next up is the Oreston, the sea did not produce a very distinctive bokeh in this instance compared to other images I’ve taken with foliage in the background.

photographing-portraits-with-classic-lenses

Almost surprisingly, this image taken by the Helios was my favorite all-around image in this test.

Image: The Helios RAW image with some edits applied in Lightroom.

The Helios RAW image with some edits applied in Lightroom.

 

Conclusion

Using a vintage lens with your digital camera is something every photographer should try. It’s an easy way to give your images a very unique and characteristic look, including bokeh, which you just don’t get on modern lenses.

It’s also a fantastic way of adding some high-quality glass to your kit for a fraction of the price of modern equivalents.

An added bonus is that it can help you grow as a photographer – especially if you’ve only used autofocus lenses before. Using a classic lens will force you to manually focus and discover more about the incredible features of modern cameras, like focus peaking.

Has this article, Photographing Portraits with Classic Lenses inspired you to try classic lenses with your digital camera? If you’ve already used classic lenses in your photography, which ones were your favorites? Tell us in the comments below.

The post Photographing Portraits with Classic Lenses (includes Example Images) appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Matt Murray.

Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 Lens for Sony – Thoughts and Field Test

The post Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 Lens for Sony – Thoughts and Field Test appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

Sigma-14-24mm-f-2-8-Lens-for-Sony-review

The Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 lens is a brand new ultra-wide-angle zoom lens intended for full-frame mirrorless cameras. Launched in August 2019, this lens follows in the footsteps of the Sigma 45mm f/2.8 prime lens. Similar to that lens, the Sigma 14-24mm is available for Sony E-Mount cameras, or L-Mount mirrorless cameras made by Panasonic, Sigma, and Leica. It is currently the widest and fastest full-frame zoom lens made for Sony E-Mount, with FE 12-24mm f/4 as the closest match.

In the DSLR world, the 14-24mm f/2.8 lens is no stranger. Nikon made its own version, and Sigma has been making this lens for full-frame DSLRs for a while now. But the 14-24mm focal range is indeed for special use cases, with most photographers preferring the 16-35mm range to meet their wide-angle needs. Tamron echoes this sentiment with the recent release of the 17-28mm f/2.8 E-Mount lens. So what sets the 14-24mm lens apart, and who is this lens for? Read on to find out!

Sigma-14-24mm-f-2-8-Lens-for-Sony-review

Technical specs

The Sigma 14-24mm has a maximum aperture of f/2.8 and a minimum aperture of f/22. It offers a 114.2 degree to 84.1-degree angle of view and has a minimum focusing distance of 11 inches (27.94 cm). This is an autofocus lens that also offers manual focus at the flip of a notch. There is no image stabilization or vibration reduction, making it unideal for video. It is on the larger side with dimensions of 3.35 x 5.16″ and a weight of 28.04 ounces. But it is slightly narrower and lighter in weight than its DSLR counterparts.

This lens is also weather-sealed, but the front lens element is curved and thus cannot be protected by standard screw-on UV filters. On that note, you also cannot use screw-on ND filters or polarizers with this lens either.

Currently, the lens retails for $1,399.00 USD. It’s not cheap, but it does cost less than the Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 and the Sony 16-35mm f/2.8.

Sigma-14-24mm-f-2-8-Lens-for-Sony-review

Pros

Ultra-wide focal range

The biggest benefit of this lens its ultra-wide focal range. If you’re shooting in tight spaces or want to cram as much visual detail as possible in your image, this is the lens to use. It’s perfect for shooting architecture, real estate, or landscapes. However, ultra-wides can also be tricky to work with due to distortions (more on that below).

Solid build quality

Sigma declares this lens to be dustproof and splashproof (in other words, semi-weatherproof). The front lens also has a coating that repels water and oil. Given the heft of this lens, it indeed feels like it could withstand various outdoor environments, but I wouldn’t take it into a downpour.

Nice bokeh effects

With a relatively fast f/2.8 aperture, this lens is much faster than its wider yet slower cousin, the 12-24mm f/4. However, ultra-wide lenses are typically used for landscape and architecture, when you’ll be shooting an f/9 or f/11 to get as much of your scene in focus as possible. So whether you really need the f/2.8 aperture depends on what kind of photos you intend to shoot.

While ultra-wides are not a standard portrait or subject photography lens, the f/2.8 gives you a nice background blur if you prefer shooting wide. The smooth bokeh is thanks to the 11 rounded diaphragm blades, an increase to the 9 blades found in previous models.

Sigma-14-24mm-f-2-8-Lens-for-Sony-review

Cons

Large and heavy

Pretty much all f/2.8 lenses are larger and heavier than their slower counterparts, and this lens is no exception. It’s a big and bulky lens that you likely won’t use for casual travel photography, not just because of its size, but because the front element is completely exposed.

Distortion

All wide-angle lenses face the challenge of decreasing the amounts of barrel or pincushion distortion. In other words, the wider the lens, the more likely your vertical lines won’t be straight.

The Sigma 14-24mm handles this moderately. At its widest focal length, there is indeed some barrel distortion. For certain scenarios such as astrophotography or landscape photography, this is less of an issue. But for real estate, architecture, or anything that requires super straight vertical lines, this lens may not be the best choice.

You can, of course, attempt some perspective control in Photoshop.

Can’t use standard filters

As mentioned earlier, the front curve of this lens prevents standard ND filters or polarizers from being used. Sigma does say that the lens comes with a rear filter holder, but you would need to invest in this specific type of filter to make use of it. Standard filters that screw onto the front of the lens would not work.

Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 Lens for Sony – Thoughts and Field Test

Who is this lens for?

All in all, the 14-24mm f/2.8 is a specialty lens. At its widest focal length, there is typically quite a bit of barrel distortion. This makes for extra post-processing work for those trying to shoot real estate or architecture, but perspective control has improved in post-processing software.

While barrel distortion is less of an issue for landscape or astrophotography, this lens doesn’t allow you to attach screw-on ND filters and polarizers that are often needed when shooting outdoors. Sigma declares that the 14-24mm f/2.8 is intended to be “the definitive lens for astrophotography.” Unfortunately, it is not the season for night sky photos, so I was not able to test this aspect of this lens.

With all of that said, the image quality is fantastic. This lens produces tack-sharp images with excellent colors. It just requires a bit of extra work in post-production to make up for some of its shortcomings.

Would you buy this lens? Let me know in the comments below!

Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 Lens for Sony – Thoughts and Field Test Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 Lens for Sony – Thoughts and Field Test Sigma-14-24mm-f-2-8-Lens-for-Sony-review Sigma-14-24mm-f-2-8-Lens-for-Sony-review Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 Lens for Sony – Thoughts and Field Test Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 Lens for Sony – Thoughts and Field Test

Watch Suzi’s video review

The post Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 Lens for Sony – Thoughts and Field Test appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

The Olympus TOUGH TG-6 Camera Review – A Perfect Adventure Companion?

The post The Olympus TOUGH TG-6 Camera Review – A Perfect Adventure Companion? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mat Coker.

olympus-tough-tg-6-review

The Olympus Tough TG-6 is the perfect camera for the adventurous soul.

Like a wilderness travel guide, the TG-6 pulls you into the micro world, under the water, and down deeper trails than you would ever take your clunky DSLR down. You can trust the Olympus Tough TG-6 out in the wild because it’s built strong and made for adventure. It’s even tough enough to let your kids use it.

Moreover, it’s really small, so it doesn’t hinder your adventure for even a moment. And it’s so capable it will inspire adventures you hadn’t planned.

This review is about what the Olympus Tough TG-6 will let you do as a photographer and how the pictures look.

TG-6 small size

An evening adventure used to mean hauling a heavy bag filled with gear. I never knew which gear I would need for sure, so I always brought too much. Eventually, I just stopped going on spontaneous adventures because it became too much of a chore. The Olympus Tough TG-6 replaces all that stuff I used to haul around. Gear is no longer the hindrance it used to be.

The technical specs

The reason why so many people are excited about the Olympus Tough TG-6 is the impressive list of technical specs.

  • F2.0 wide-angle lens (the aperture narrows as you zoom)
  • 20 frames per second
  • Underwater modes
  • Microscope mode
  • In-camera focus stacking
  • Scene selection
  • Aperture mode
  • RAW capture
  • 4K video
  • Waterproof
  • Shockproof
  • Dustproof
  • Crushproof
  • Freezeproof

Of course, the reason this list of specs is so exciting is because of what they’ll let you do with this camera as a photographer.

“No photographer is as good as the simplest camera.” – Edward Steichen

When you read camera reviews, you want to know what a camera is capable of and how great the picture quality will be.

Don’t forget that a camera only has to be so good and then the rest is up to you. The world’s greatest camera isn’t much good in the hands of a person that knows nothing about light, moment, or composition. Look for a camera that meets your general needs, then up your game as a photographer.

The most famous photographs were made with cameras that we would consider inferior by today’s standards. A beautiful photograph transcends the technology it was made with.

In the end, it’s not about the technical specs of a camera, but what those technical specs let us do as creative people and photographers.

The TG-6 has an impressive resume. Let’s see what it can help us do.

Adventure photography olympus tg-6

Aperture: f/2.0, Shutter Speed: 1/250 sec, ISO: 3200

When my first child was born I was just becoming the photographer I had always wanted to be. I couldn’t wait to take him on adventures with me as he grew. Ironically, it was a bag filled with too much gear and too many options that held me back from adventures with my kids. The TG-6 is everything I always wanted and fits in my pocket. It practically pushes us out the door and into the world.

“My life is shaped by the urgent need to wander and observe, and my camera is my passport.” – Steve McCurry

What if you could shrink yourself?

It is captivating to suddenly see the world through a magnifying glass or microscope – to see tiny details blown up big. You may not be able to shrink yourself, but you can enter the micro world with the Olympus Tough TG-6.

Microscope mode

With the TG-6, you can get insanely close and discover the mystery and beauty in the fine details of everyday objects. You’ll be exploring the world in a way you haven’t done since science class.

The micro world offers you an infinite number of things to photograph. Look around you right now. There are so many things that you would never photograph on their own, but you can dive in microscopically to a new world and become enamored with the beauty of fine details.

insect macro photography

If you’ve got the courage, the TG-6 will bring you up close and personal with insects.

 

The Olympus TOUGH TG-6 Camera Review – A Perfect Adventure Companion?

 

The Olympus TOUGH TG-6 Camera Review – A Perfect Adventure Companion?

 

macro mode fine detail

The TG-6 can capture incredibly fine detail that the human eye overlooks.

 

The Olympus TOUGH TG-6 Camera Review – A Perfect Adventure Companion? The Olympus TOUGH TG-6 Camera Review – A Perfect Adventure Companion? The Olympus TOUGH TG-6 Camera Review – A Perfect Adventure Companion?

 

Berry macro photography

F/3.6, 1/100 sec, ISO 800

The problem with close-up photography

One of the biggest problems you’re going to run into with close-up photography is a shallow depth of field. You may take a photo of a flower, and nothing more than the edge of a petal is in focus. This is frustrating when you want more of that tiny object to be in focus.

How “focus bracketing” solves the problem

One way to deal with this is to take a series of photos at different focus points (focus bracketing), and later combine them in Photoshop in a process called focus stacking. The end result is an image with more depth of field than is possible in a single photo. If you’re a serious macro photographer, this is an amazing option. But it’s a labor-intensive process and you’re not likely going to do it on a whim while on a nature hike.

But the amazing thing about the Olympus Tough TG-6 is that it can actually do both the focus bracketing and focus stacking for you – all in-camera!

Let the Olympus Tough TG-6 do the Photoshop work for you

The photos below illustrate the frustration of such a shallow depth of field in close-up or macro photography. But they also illustrate the power of the TG-6’s in-camera focus stacking.

Olympus TG-6 focus stacking feature

The photo on the left is a single exposure with a shallow depth of field, while the photo on the right is the result of several photos with varying focus points stacked together into one image.

 

Focus Stacking with the Olympus TG-6

On the left, only a small portion of the leaf is in focus. But using the focus stacking option on the TG-6, the photo on the right is almost entirely in focus.

Normally, you need a dedicated macro lens if you want to take close-up, macro, or microscopic photos. That means a financial investment and another lens in your bag. But the TG-6 has this capability built-in. The close-up function is worth the cost of the camera.

Get in, the water’s nice!

You’re missing so much fun if you can’t take your camera into, or at least near, the water.

Generally, an underwater housing is expensive and might limit your access to camera settings. Best case scenario, you invest a lot of money to get your camera into the water. But this is a lot to invest and most people won’t do it on a whim. You’ve got to be sure you want to be in the water a lot to make it worth the investment.

With the Olympus Tough TG-6, you don’t need to think twice; just get in!

Having a camera that can get wet means you can get into the splash zone. Don’t photograph puddle-jumping-kids from a distance; get close and get wet!

Get underwater and explore fish from their world.

Don’t stand on the shore with dry feet to photograph the sunset; hit the waves.

The Olympus TOUGH TG-6 Camera Review – A Perfect Adventure Companion? The Olympus TOUGH TG-6 Camera Review – A Perfect Adventure Companion? The Olympus TOUGH TG-6 Camera Review – A Perfect Adventure Companion? The Olympus TOUGH TG-6 Camera Review – A Perfect Adventure Companion?

 

Olympus TG-6 underwater mode

My kids and I discovered a stream filled with salmon. I knew it was the perfect chance to try out the TG-6 underwater.

A couple of years ago, I stepped into a river with one camera in my hand and one around my neck. I was photographing people back on the shore and kept crouching a little to go for a lower angle. Every time that I crouched down for a great low angle, I was unknowingly dunking the camera around my neck into the water. Goodbye, Fuji x100s.

The irony is that I had an underwater case for my x100s. But it’s so clumsy to use in the case that it hinders my photography.

You no longer need to be nervous around the water with your camera – the TG-6 is completely waterproof and pulls you right in.

A good motivator

If it hasn’t happened yet, the day will come when you lose your drive and inspiration as a photographer.

At first, the thought of packing up all your gear and lugging it around will overwhelm you. Especially because you know you won’t even be happy with the pictures you take.

Then, even just the thought of picking up your camera will depress you.

You lose your drive, your inspiration, and eventually your will as a photographer.

You’ve already learned that new gear is not the answer to this depressing dry period you’re going through. But that’s because most gear is the wrong gear for you.

The TG-6 isn’t just a new camera, it’s a passport to new lands. It’s like slinging on a backpack and heading out to discover the world. It sits there looking at you, hoping you will take it out to play. Photography doesn’t have to feel like a burden anymore.

TG-6 photography inspiration

“It’s a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” ~ Bilbo Baggins

Leave the Olympus TG-6 laying around

When my camera is in the bag, it never gets used. I prefer to leave it out with the lens cap off and the power button left on so that I’m ready to make a photograph at a moment’s notice.

But when I leave my cameras lying around, my wife doesn’t like the clutter (even though she loves the photos that result from the clutter).
Not to mention that leaving expensive cameras around is a hazard with a house full of kids and their rowdy friends.

The TG-6 has become our dedicated “leave it laying around the house” camera. It’s so small that it doesn’t bother my wife. It’s there when we need it. And, it’s so tough we don’t mind the kids using it.

I’m capturing many more moments now that I’ve got a dedicated “everyday life camera.”

Olympus TG-6 capturing candid moments

 

Window light candid moments with the Olympus TG-6

 

Black and white photography wit hthe Olympus TG-6

So tough I let the kids use it

One of the things that first attracted me to the Olympus Tough cameras is that I can let my kids use them. The TG-6 is waterproof, shockproof, dustproof, crushproof and freezeproof. Which means it’s also kid-proof.

TG-6 great for kids

I love to look at the photos my kids have taken. It’s inspiring to see what captures their attention enough to take a picture.

 

Olympus TG-6 dustproof

When my kids ask to use the camera while they explore sand dunes and lakes, I have no problem handing them the TG-6 to use.

Essential modes

After using the Olympus Tough TG-6 for about a month, I’ve figured out my favorite combination of settings for everyday use; P mode.

I want a certain amount of control over ISO, aperture and shutter speed because I understand how they affect my photo. But I don’t want to overthink these settings and miss the beauty of the moment.

In P mode, the camera will choose the shutter speed and aperture for you. All you have to think about is ISO (but you can select auto ISO if you wish).

With a few minor adjustments in P mode, I can make the TG-6 do exactly what I want it to.

In the menu, I set the minimum shutter speed to 1/125th. I want the camera to set the shutter speed for me, but I don’t want it to go any slower than this.

I select auto ISO, but I set the maximum ISO to 1600. I don’t want the ISO to go any higher than that because of the noise issues.

While it’s balancing the settings out, the TG-6 will always favor a lower ISO and only raise it if it needs to. Eventually, if it’s dark enough, it will go below your minimum shutter speed in order to achieve a good exposure.

Here’s the best part; in P mode, you have direct access to exposure compensation with the camera dial. Your camera will hardly ever get the exposure just as you want it. So use the exposure compensation feature to brighten or darken the photo before you take the picture.

There is no full-manual mode on this camera. But if you know what you’re doing, you can still take full control.

TG-6 exposure compensation feature

Processing RAW files

Using Lightroom 6, I am unable to edit the RAW files from the TG-6. However, Olympus provides free editing software called, Olympus Workspace.

Because of this camera’s smaller sensor size (and difficulty capturing extreme dynamic range), I am not putting much hope in the RAW files. RAW + JPG capture is a great option. Get the best exposure you can in order to have the highest quality JPG file, and keep the RAW file in case of an emergency.

Even heroes have a weakness

There are three main weaknesses that I have discovered with the Olympus Tough TG-6.

Lens Flare

I love playing with lens flare and I quickly discovered that is almost impossible to do with the TG-6. This is the strangest lens flare that I have ever seen. It’s discouraging, but I’ll have to learn to make compelling photographers without lens flare.

Oympus TG-6 lens flare

Noise

The Olympus Tough TG-6 produces a lot of noise in high ISO, low light photos.

The following photos are lit with a small-screen TV and/or a lamp.

High ISO

This photo was lit with a lamp. you can see the grainy discoloration in the white blanket. The ISO is 3200.

High ISO noise

This is a close-up of the white blanket in the previous photo.

 

High ISO noise

This photo is lit with the light from a TV and a small light in the next room over. The ISO was 3200.

High ISO noise

Close up of high ISO noise

You can see the grain and discoloration in his skin.

The following photos are backlit with dim light from a living room window.

Bright light high ISO noise

Again, the ISO was set at 3200. Because the light is brighter, there isn’t as much noise and discoloration. But there is a lack of crispness to the photo.

 

High ISO and window light

But I was shocked to capture this photo with lots of movement at ISO 3200 because it looks so crisp.

Sharp in bright light

You’ll have to get used to keeping your ISO at 1600 or lower (you’ll need a steady hand for the slow shutter speed that results).

But in bright light, with a low ISO, the TG-6 is nice and sharp.

A sharp photo with low ISO

So the Olympus Tough TG-6 is weak under extreme lighting conditions, but so are many other cameras. For many of us, high ISO with low noise is the last frontier on the technological side of photography.

We can strengthen the TG-6 by post-processing the photo with a program such as Lightroom. Keep your ISO to 1600 or lower when possible, and convert to black and white when suitable.

No control over shutter speed

At first, I thought it was a problem that there was no shutter speed mode on the TG-6. But then I realized that it wasn’t really necessary. You just have to know how to work around it.

If you want a quick shutter speed to freeze the action, use sports mode.

If you want a slow shutter speed to capture motion blur then you need to understand how to force the camera to produce a slow shutter speed.

Suppose you want to capture a silky waterfall photo. Normally, you need control over your shutter speed to make it go slow enough to capture the motion. But with the TG-6 you don’t have control over the shutter speed.

Or, do you?

When you understand ISO and aperture then you do have control over the shutter speed.

Olympus TG-6 slow shutte speed silky waterfall

In order to get silky waterfalls, you need a slow shutter speed. You can force your camera to choose a slow shutter speed by lowering your ISO and closing your aperture.

Choose an ISO of 100. Choose an aperture of f18. This will effectively choke out the light and force the TG-6 to slow down the shutter speed to let more light in. The slow shutter speed will produce a silky waterfall.

So the lack of control over shutter speed isn’t a big problem.

Olympus TOUGH TG-6

The greatest weakness

As photographers, we can find moments so powerful that lens flare isn’t necessary. And, we can look for moments so strong that the viewer will overlook high ISO noise in the photo. Whatever the shortcomings of our cameras, we as photographers always fall shorter. Whatever their weaknesses, our cameras are just fine. We need to increase our skills and know that, even if there was a perfect camera, it could only be used by an imperfect photographer.

The power of the Olympus Tough TG-6 is not merely in its technology. The power is in what that technology allows us to do. This is a camera that will nudge you every time you walk by. It’s like a kid who wants to be played with or a dog that wants to be taken out for a run. Come on, just a quick adventure?

A countless number of moments pass us every day. They become almost infinite in size when we consider their range from wide-angle to microscopic. When you’ve got a camera like the TG-6 in your pocket, it’s not so hard to make those moments hold still.

Have you used the Olympus Tough TG-6 camera? Would a camera like this make you take more photos? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!

The post The Olympus TOUGH TG-6 Camera Review – A Perfect Adventure Companion? appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mat Coker.

Prime Lens vs Zoom Lens – Find Out Which is Best Suited to You

The post Prime Lens vs Zoom Lens – Find Out Which is Best Suited to You appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Bond.

prime-lens-vs-zoom-lens

An important discussion in photography circles revolves around which lenses you use. The answer to this question will certainly rest on the type of photographer you are. The needs of a landscape photographer are very different to those of a portrait photographer. In this article, we’ll look at prime lens vs zoom lens, and you’ll be able to decide which is the right setup for you.

It’s possible you’ll go for a mixture of both lens types, or you might keep to just prime or just zoom. Read on and find out the pros and cons of both of these lens types.

Image: This photo was taken using a wide-angle zoom lens. Zooms lens are great for dynamic situation...

This photo was taken using a wide-angle zoom lens. Zooms lens are great for dynamic situations that may require a quick change in focal length.

What type of lenses are there?

There are many lenses on the photography market, it’s not all about zoom lens vs primes lens. The focal length of your lens can also have a defining impact on your photo as well. So in addition to zoom vs prime, you also have 5 subcategories to consider.

The below focal lengths reflect a full-frame camera. For crop-sensor cameras, you’ll need to apply the crop factor to these focal lengths. This crop factor can be between 1.2 to 2, depending on your camera. For example, if your camera has a crop factor of 1.5, then a 17mm full-frame lens is the equivalent of 25mm on the crop sensor (17 x 1.5).

  • Super wide-angle – 21mm or less.
  • Wide-angle – 21 to 35mm.
  • Standard – 35 to 70mm.
  • Standard telephoto – 70 to 135mm.
  • Telephoto – 135mm and above.

These categories are worth considering. If you choose to mix and match your zoom lens with your prime lens, then perhaps having zoom for the telephoto end of these focal lengths, and prime for the standard and a wide-angle lens is an option. As there is a limit to the number of lenses you’re going to carry if you’re on location, some tough decisions need to be made.

Ideally, you’ll carry two or three lenses with you, in addition to your camera body.

Image: Prime lens are of fixed focal length. Here you can see a 135mm, a 50mm and a 100mm lens. The...

Prime lens are of fixed focal length. Here you can see a 135mm, a 50mm and a 100mm lens. The 100mm is a macro lens.

What’s a prime lens

A prime lens is a lens with a fixed focal length that you can’t change. The most well-known prime lens is the 50mm, it’s probably the first prime lens most photographers will use. So why would you use a lens like this, when you can’t quickly change the focal length? There are several advantages.

  • Weight – These lenses are often a lot less heavy than zoom lenses.
  • Maximum aperture – With apertures that go down to f1 in some cases, they beat zoom lenses by a long way.
  • Composition – Having one focal length can be an advantage for composition, since it forces you to find compositions within the focal length you have available. This process will improve your photography skills.
Image: This photo was taken using the 135mm F2. It’s low light, and the background has been bl...

This photo was taken using the 135mm F2. It’s low light, and the background has been blurred by the high aperture.

When to use a prime lens

Prime lenses are considered best for portrait photography but don’t discount them for landscape photography as well. The 14mm prime lenses can be exceptional when it comes to landscapes. Plus, that large aperture means they’ll outperform their zoom lens counterparts when it comes to niche fields like astrophotography where you want to photograph the milkyway.

So here is a selection of situations you’d choose a prime lens.

  • Portrait photography – This works well for both studio and environmental portrait work. You can control where your model stands, and therefore the fixed focal length is less of an issue. The large aperture then allows you to blur out the background for a pleasing photo.
  • Street photography – The most well-known street photography lens is the 50mm. That’s because it combines a focal length that similar to what you see with your eye and a nice large aperture for low-light street photography. There are other nice focal lengths for street photography like the 35mm, or even the 135mm.
  • Low light – Once it gets dark, you have the option of using a tripod, but what if you’re subject is moving and you want them to be sharp? This is where a fast prime lens will work the best. Think of a night time festival, and the best lens is going to be a prime lens.
  • To produce bokeh – While zoom lens can still produce bokeh, especially at f2.8, the best bokeh will be produced with a prime lens using a large aperture.
Image: A zoom lens can have it’s focal length changed. Here you can see a 28-105mm lens and a...

A zoom lens can have it’s focal length changed. Here you can see a 28-105mm lens and a 70-300mm lens.

What’s a zoom lens?

Okay, next up in the prime lens vs zoom lens debate is, of course, the zoom lens. These lenses have a variable focal length, which in the majority of cases can be manually adjusted.

The ability to quickly change focal lengths can be vital for certain situations that are constantly changing. Think of wedding, event or sports photography. In fact, many landscape and portrait photographers choose zoom lenses because they don’t want to keep changing lens in order to change focal length.

So what’s the drawback to this, and what are the advantages?

  • Quick change – The ability to quickly change the focal length to suit the photo that’s suddenly before you can be make or break when it comes to getting the photo.
  • Weight – The downside is that zoom lenses weigh more than prime lenses, though to some there is the other argument. You would need multiple primes lenses to cover the focal range a zoom lens offers, and the combined weight of these may well exceed the one zoom lens.
  • Aperture – There is no disguising the fact zoom lenses don’t offer as large an aperture. The most expensive zoom lens will go to f2.8, but with that aperture comes even more weight to carry.
Image: A zoom burst photo is something only a zoom lens can achieve.

A zoom burst photo is something only a zoom lens can achieve.

When would you use a zoom lens?

A zoom lens is a versatile lens that can be used in many situations, owing to its ability to change the focal length.

There are some situations where it’s particularly good though, and you’ll see those listed below. It should be noted that those zoom lenses with an aperture of f2.8, will also work very well for portrait photography – it’s just these lenses are heavy.

  • Event photography – Functions or weddings often have photographers recording those events. Having a lens that allows you to change focal length is essential for these.
  • Sports photography – Sports photography also needs a lens that can have its focal length changed. It also needs to be fast, so using an f2.8 zoom lens is important here.
  • Travel photographyTravel photography is the definition of needing to be a jack of all trades. You need to capture landscapes, food, street, and event-style photos when there is a festival. As you’re traveling, you also have limited space in your bag. A zoom lens with differing focal lengths that’s not too heavy is ideal here, so think of a zoom lens with an aperture of f4.
  • Zoom burstThis is a technique that specifically requires a zoom lens. In order to implement this technique, you need to change the focal length of your lens during an exposure.

Prime lens vs zoom lens

So you have a choice between the lighter primes lenses with their large apertures or the more versatile zoom lenses that allow you to change the focal length but are often much heavier to carry.

Which is the correct choice for you?

A lot of photographers will feel f2.8 is a large enough aperture for them and go for three zoom lenses that cover wide-angle, standard, and telephoto focal lengths. However, that’s going to be a very heavy bag to carry. And, add in a tripod, and you might need to make friends with a chiropractor before long.

Image: This photo shows bokeh created using a prime lens.

This photo shows bokeh created using a prime lens.

Which lens goes in your bag?

Primes lens vs zoom lens have their pluses and minuses, but for some photographers, there will be clear winners. Take a look at this list of photographer types, and the lenses typically used by these photographers.

  • Wedding photographer – The workhorse lens for you will be the 24-70mm zoom lens with an aperture of f2.8. Those focal lengths will cover almost everything you need to photograph. A wide-angle zoom is also worth carrying. Occasionally there is time for a portrait session during the wedding day, so packing one prime lens for this, perhaps the 85mm f1.4, is a good idea.
  • Street photographer – The 50mm f1.8 is a great lens, however, if you have more money, get the f1.4 or f1.2. As an alternative, the 135mm f2 also works very well.
  • Travel photographer – A wide-angle zoom for many situations, and because you’re traveling, use an f4 so it’s lighter weight. A decent prime lens like the 50mm, because, like the street photographer, you’ll want to capture those people scenes. Then a telephoto zoom for day’s you’re photographing a festival and you need the extra reach. Or perhaps there is a landscape that needs to be compressed.
  • Landscape photographer – A wide-angle lens is a must, however, this could be a zoom or a prime. If you like photographing the Milkyway, you need an aperture of at least f2.8. However, if you get a wide-angle prime lens, you can get even larger apertures, and this will help your astrophotography. There are plenty of landscape photos that need extra reach though, and only work with compression, so getting a telephoto zoom is a great move.

What lens do you like the most?

The debate over prime lens vs zoom lens won’t be settled in this article. It’s too complex for that, and it really depends on what type of photography you do. We’d love to hear your opinions at digital photography school. What type of photographer are you, and what lens preference do you have? As always we’d love you to share your thoughts and photographs in the comments section of this article. Thanks for reading.

 

The post Prime Lens vs Zoom Lens – Find Out Which is Best Suited to You appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Simon Bond.

The 5 Best Low Light DSLRs You Can Buy in 2019

The post The 5 Best Low Light DSLRs You Can Buy in 2019 appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

best-low-light-dslrs-you-can-buy-in-2019

The 5 Best Low Light DSLRs You Can Buy in 2019

Do you want a camera that will capture amazing shots in low light?

As camera technology advances, DSLRs get better and better at handling the low light demands of photographers. Ten years ago, you would feel uncomfortable pushing ISOs past triple digits; now, ISO 3200 and ISO 6400 are common settings. And low-light autofocus lets you do some much more compared to 2010.

Of course, if you want these low light capabilities, there is one caveat:

You have to have the right camera. Because while some cameras perform admirably in low light conditions, others are still less than impressive.

In this article, I break it all down. I’ll share with you the five best low light DSLRs you can buy.

You’ll come away knowing which DSLR you need to grab – if you want the best low light capabilities out there.

Let’s dive right in.

The 5 Best Low Light DSLRs You Can Buy in 2019

1. Overall winner: the Canon 5D Mark IV

best-low-light-dslrs-you-can-buy-in-2019

The Canon 5D Mark IV is an all-round great camera. And its low light performance is, well, amazing.

First, the Canon 5D Mark IV features strong low-light autofocus. The camera is rated down to -3 EV, and the autofocus does well when acquiring focus in the dark.

But where the Canon 5D Mark IV really shines is in its high ISO performance. The 5D Mark IV’s sensor easily outperforms the 5D Mark III, the 6D Mark II, and every Canon crop-sensor DSLR ever produced.

Images are great up through ISO 1600, and still usable at ISO 3200, 6400, and even 12800. This makes the Canon 5D Mark IV perfect for those who need to carry on shooting, even in ultra-dark conditions, such as wedding photographers and astrophotographers.

Plus, the Canon 5D Mark IV is just great across the board, packing a 30.4-megapixel sensor, dual card slots, 61 AF points with 41 cross-type points, and 7 frames-per-second continuous shooting.

Note that the Canon 1D X Mark II (Canon’s $5000+ flagship camera) does give better photos than the Canon 5D Mark IV, especially at ISO 6400 and 12800. But the unspeakably high price makes it a non-starter for pretty much every enthusiast and even semi-professional photographer, so I opted to leave both it and its Nikon equivalent, the D5, off the list.

2. Incredible alternative: the Nikon D850

best-low-light-dslrs-you-can-buy-in-2019

First things first:

The Nikon D850 is one of Nikon’s top DSLRs and an amazing low light shooter in its own right.

In fact, the Nikon D850 edges out the Canon 5D Mark IV when it comes to low-light focusing. The Nikon D850 can lock focus in almost complete darkness, and it’s rated by Nikon down to an AF sensitivity of EV -4. In other words, the D850 is a strong option for event photographers, as well as anyone else looking to shoot moving subjects in low light.

Where the Nikon D850 falls short is in terms of ISO performance – though “falling short” is a bit of a misnomer in this case, because the D850 features amazing high ISO capabilities.

(It’s a credit to the Canon 5D Mark IV’s outstanding low light performance that it comes in ahead of the Nikon.)

The D850 offers beautiful photos up to ISO 1600. Images are still usable at ISO 3200. After this, color casts begin to distort the D850’s photos, though noise performance is still impressive.

If you’re comparing the D850 versus the 5D Mark IV, it’s worth noting the higher resolution of the D850 (45.7 megapixels) with the same frame-per-second rate (7 fps). Add to that 4K video capabilities, and you’ve got yourself a tremendous competitor.

3. Good budget option: the Nikon D750

The 5 Best Low Light DSLRs You Can Buy in 2019

The Nikon D750 is a few years old now (it was released in 2014), but that doesn’t stop it from offering up impressive low light performance, five years later.

The biggest benefit the D750 offers in terms of low-light capabilities is its autofocus; while it can’t go down to the -4 EV AF sensitivity featured on the D850, it offers autofocusing at a respectable -3 EV and does extremely well (better than the D810) at acquiring focus in low light.

The D750 packs impressive high-ISO capabilities, as well. You should be able to shoot comfortably up through ISO 1600. At ISO 3200, some noise will be present, increasing at ISO 6400, but remaining usable.

Other features include a 6.5 fps continuous shooting speed, a full-frame, 24.3-megapixel sensor, and an adjustable LCD screen. Where the D750 shows its years is in terms of its accessories: there’s no touchscreen, and no 4K video.

But it’s easy to find used D750s on sale for under 1000 dollars. So if you’re looking for a stellar low-light camera on a budget, the D750 may be the way to go.

4. Canon 6D Mark II

The 5 Best Low Light DSLRs You Can Buy in 2019

The Canon 6D was considered an exciting full-frame option for enthusiasts. Unfortunately, its successor, the Canon 6D Mark II, debuted to less critical acclaim.

That said, the Canon 6D Mark II does have a few features worth noting, including its low light ISO performance, which is outranked only by the 5D Mark IV among Canon’s semiprofessional and APS-C DSLRs.

On the 6D Mark II, you can push your ISO to 1600 without worrying about intense noise. Even ISO 3200 gives useable, though somewhat noisy, images.

Low light focusing is good, with the 6D Mark II acquiring focus down to an EV of -3, and featuring a strong AF center point (as part of a 45 AF point spread).

All in all, the Canon 6D Mark II is a solid low light option, especially for those not willing to shell out the money for a Canon 5D Mark IV (or its Nikon competitors).

5. Best APS-C low light option: the Nikon D7500 (and the Canon 80D)

best-low-light-dslrs-you-can-buy-in-2019Full-frame cameras are better low light shooters, hands down. The larger pixel size gives better noise performance, and top brands channel their best features into semi-professional and professional full-frame bodies.

That said, there are some great low-light crop-sensor options out there.

In particular, the Nikon D7500 offers some impressive low-light capabilities at a very reasonable price (and is just an all-around solid option).

First, the ISO range is outstanding: ISO 100 to ISO 51,200, with an extension to the whopping ISO 1,638,400 (not that you should ever use it).

ISO 1600 shows noise, but nothing serious. Images at ISO 3200 are surprisingly good for an APS-C camera, and even ISO 6400 is usable with some noise reduction for smaller print sizes.

On the Canon side of things, the 80D doesn’t quite match the low-light performance of the Nikon D7500 but is still worth a look. Images become noisy around ISO 1600, increasing with ISO 3200 and beyond. I’d also recommend checking out the new Canon 90D; while the noise performance will no doubt be scrutinized over the coming months, initial tests indicate that the 90D is close to equivalent with the 80D at high ISOs.

best-low-light-dslrs-you-can-buy-in-2019

Here’s the bottom line:

For entry-level shooters looking to grab a strong low-light performer, the Nikon D7500 or the Canon 80D might be the way to go.

The 5 best low light DSLRs you can buy: conclusion

You should now have a good sense of the best low-light DSLRs out there – and the right one for your needs.

If you’re looking to do some serious shooting and you have the cash to spare, the Canon 5D Mark IV or the Nikon D850 is the way to go.

But the Canon 6D Mark II and the Nikon D750 are solid backups.

And for the entry-level photographer, the Nikon D7500 and the Canon 80D both feature good high-ISO performance, even if they are APS-C bodies.

Do you agree with these low light shooters? Are there any other low-light DSLRs you’d recommend? Share with us in the comments!

best-low-light-dslrs-you-can-buy-in-2019

The post The 5 Best Low Light DSLRs You Can Buy in 2019 appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

Review: Laowa 17mm f1.8 Lens with Micro-Four-Thirds Mount

The post Review: Laowa 17mm f1.8 Lens with Micro-Four-Thirds Mount appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mark C Hughes.

review-laowa-17mm-f1.8-lens-MFT

review-laowa-17mm-f1.8-lens-MFT

The new Laowa 17mm f1.8 lens for MFT

There are a lot of gear reviews for new photography gear. Many focus on technical specifications and others focus on sharpness and precision of the optics. I had a chance to spend a few weeks with the Laowa 17mm f1.8 lens for Micro-Four-Thirds (MFT) mount. This is a bit of a different lens that requires a slightly different approach to a review. I am hoping this approach will help you decide if this is a lens for you.

review-laowa-17mm-f1.8-lens-MFT

The New Laowa 17mm f1.8 lens is a fully manual compact design with metal construction, a small metal hood and clear markings on the barrel

review-laowa-17mm-f1.8-lens-MFT

This lens fits 46mm threaded filters (common for MFT)

Technical Specifications

I will run through the technical specifications of the Laowa 17mm f1.8 lens as they have some interesting but limited impact on this review (aside from the price). As a 17mm lens on an MFT mount, this has a corresponding field of view that corresponds to a 34mm lens on a full-frame (FF) sensor (65 degrees). The lens has nine elements in seven groups with a seven-bladed iris. The filter diameter is 46 mm, and the weight is 172g. It is not weather-sealed, and the MSRP is $149USD.

Image: Works great even in low light conditions

Works great even in low light conditions

Practical details

Aside from the mathematics of technical specifications, I think a lens review should provide more practical details. Details that describe the intangibles about the lens. Things you only realize when you have the lens in your hand or on your camera.

review-laowa-17mm-f1.8-lens-MFT

Perfectly balanced with smaller MFT camera bodies like the Pen F

For starters, this is a completely manual lens with manual focus and manual aperture control.

It is a small but solid – really solid – lens with metal construction and even a small metal lens hood (not much shading from this guy). This lens does not feel plastic-y in any way shape or form. The movement of the aperture ring and focus control feels great, and the aperture ring has quiet click settings (it is not clickless but moves easy) and the markings on the focus ring are clear.

This lens feels like something from the best film era vintage lenses and is well-sized to match the size of smaller MFT camera bodies.

review-laowa-17mm-f1.8-lens-MFT

Works well with the Olympus EM5 MK II

Focal range

At 34mm FF equivalent, the Laowa 17mm f1.8 is a prime lens size that, along with a 50mm FF equivalent, should be in any photographer’s bag. Some famous photographers have operated with only lenses in this range. At a 34mm FF equivalent, it provides a relatively wide field of view and a more forgiving range for focus. Wider lenses tend to be more forgiving when trying to focus them. With the manual focus on this lens, not getting focus perfect can still result in usable images.

Image: Because it has a wide field of view, you can get pretty close.

Because it has a wide field of view, you can get pretty close.

Image: Once the focus is set, the lens performs well.

Once the focus is set, the lens performs well.

Sharpness

As for image quality, the lens does reasonably well. It is not the sharpest (even when you nail focus) and it is clear that when fully wide open, the lens is sharper in the center of the image but softer at the edges. Saying this doesn’t really describe the image results from this lens. The image is sharp where it needs to be and softer where is it okay to be softer. The look from the lens is great. In addition, the seven-bladed iris produces very nice starbursts when closed down for night shots of light sources.

Image: Even with close-ups, there are little problems resolving the images and little vignetting.

Even with close-ups, there are little problems resolving the images and little vignetting.

review-laowa-17mm-f1.8-lens-MFT

The seven-bladed iris allows for very nice starbursts at night

Size

As for size and usability, this Laowa 17mm f1.8 lens fits smaller MFT bodies really well (like a Pen F) and looks a little dwarfed on a bigger body (like an EM1X). Not only does this lens fit well on smaller bodies, but it looks entirely old school like the cameras that are going for that stylistic approach.

I had many people asking me if I was shooting with a film camera when I had this lens on my Pen F. I seemed to reinforce this feeling when I tried to focus and take a photograph and took forever. This is not a run-and-gun lens.

review-laowa-17mm-f1.8-lens-MFT

The lens is small and can seem overly-small on larger MFT bodies

Old-school feel and slow approach to photography

I am old enough to have shot film with manual film cameras. I thought I had left that all behind to use all the technical horsepower in modern cameras to really nail technically-challenging circumstances trying to get the best images. As a consequence, I had forgotten about the slower process of taking photographs when all you had was a split prism and a needle for a light meter.

When you connect a manual lens on an MFT camera, you operate primarily with the histogram/light meter to get a good exposure. You have to think about ISO, shutter speed, aperture, and focus. It takes time.

Image: Fun to experiment with when you have the time

Fun to experiment with when you have the time

Slow photography is like slow food

I remember years ago traveling in Italy and going to a slow food restaurant.

The whole concept with slow food is to make it more of an experience and to take time to savor the flavors and textures. I think shooting with a manual lens is similar. It means that you are shooting slower and have to think way more about your images – no run and gun.

Slow photography is forced on you when you shoot with this type of lens. With cell phones, you pull them out and shoot. You barely focus. There is no thought to the process, and maybe that means that people can focus on the subject matter of their images. However, at other times, it means that you really aren’t thinking much about the images you are taking.

Image: Despite being quite a wide lens, there is little obvious distortion with the Laowa 17mm f1.8...

Despite being quite a wide lens, there is little obvious distortion with the Laowa 17mm f1.8 lens.

Nailing focus

Trying to nail focus with a manual focus lens also means you have to slow down. Back in the old manual focus film camera days, you had split prisms and micro prisms in your viewfinder to help you get your focus right. These tools are not available on modern digital cameras.

However, with mirrorless bodies on MFT cameras, you have other tools at your disposal including magnification and focus peaking. I was able to custom set my camera’s buttons to allow me to set one button for magnification and another for focus peaking. It’s still not fast, but it worked fairly well.

Image: Even for moving subjects, such as from a balloon, once you have your exposure and focus set,...

Even for moving subjects, such as from a balloon, once you have your exposure and focus set, it performs like any other lens.

This magic of this type of lens is that you need to slow down and think about the image you are composing. You need to think about everything from ISO to aperture to shutter speed and finally focus. If any are off, you can instantly see that you have screwed up. If you think back to the film days, it wouldn’t be until you got your images developed that you would know you messed up. When I was using this lens, I knew immediately when I screwed up, even when I thought I had all the settings right.

Image: Limited distortion even for buildings

Limited distortion even for buildings

That process of slowing down and understanding what you are doing was a great deal of fun. The lens was wide enough and fast enough (aperture wise, not in any other way) that I would feel comfortable taking only this lens out to take some shots.

Not for the faint of heart

Slow means you can’t shoot fast. This seems obvious, but when someone says to you, “take our picture, “…they pose and wait for you. This lens will not do that quickly, regardless of how good you are.

You can take portraits, but you need to plan the shots and be ready when the opportunity comes up. An old street photography trick used to be to set your exposure with an intermediate aperture, put your focus at 3 feet, and point and shoot. In practice, this is not quite so simple. Nailing the exposure is a little trickier because you need to be looking through the lens to get the exposure balanced.

Image: This lens is great to travel with because of its width and small size

This lens is great to travel with because of its width and small size

The Results

I really enjoyed the Laowa 17mm f1.8 prime lens. I have other similar prime lenses, but all are equipped with autofocus and electronic apertures. They also feel pretty plastic. They are more expensive, but sharper. This lens feels great, is super-solid, shoots well and needs lots of attention to your images. It forces you to shoot like a photographer. You feel like a photographer. It also makes you look like a photographer.

At $149 USD, the Laowa 17mm f1.8 lens is quite the value. My images turned out great and I fell in love with taking slower pictures again. I had a chance to slow down and smell the roses, or in this case, take more deliberate thoughtful images.

Would you use a lens like this? Share with us in the comments below.

The post Review: Laowa 17mm f1.8 Lens with Micro-Four-Thirds Mount appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Mark C Hughes.

5 Questions to Ask Before Buying Used Camera Gear

The post 5 Questions to Ask Before Buying Used Camera Gear appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

Questions to Ask Before Buying Used Camera Gear

I’ve bought a lot of used gear over the last decade.

Cameras.

Lenses.

Batteries.

And more.

Questions-to-Ask-Before-Buying-Used-Camera-Gear

A lot of those purchases turned out great. Some of them I still use to this day.

But a large chunk of the used purchases I made?

Trash.

In fact, in my more naive years, I was forced to return over 50% of the gear that I purchased. There were just so many problems: sand in focusing rings, stains on the front element, shutter buttons that couldn’t communicate with the shutter. (Oh, and my least favorite: Fungus inside the lens. Doesn’t that just make you shiver?)

And here’s the kicker:

I bought all of this gear through respectable buyers, who described the equipment as in “excellent condition,” “flawless,” “perfect,” “like new,” – you name it.

It got so bad that I considered leaving the used market entirely and just buying new. But I resisted.

Why?

Used camera gear is a real bargain – if you buy carefully. This is why I took all of my negative gear-buying experiences and turned them into a process for making sure I purchased good used gear.

At the core of that process is a series of questions. Questions that I’m going to share with you today. Some of the questions are for you, the buyer. Others should be posed to the seller before you put any cash down.

Are you ready to discover how to buy used gear effectively?

Let’s get started!

Questions-to-Ask-Before-Buying-Used-Camera-Gear

Question 1: Are you buying from a reputable seller with a money-back guarantee?

This is the number one most important thing that you should do when buying used gear.

Purchase from a seller that you trust – and that gives you an enforceable money-back guarantee. You don’t want to purchase a camera online, only to find that it’s full of water damage and sports a cracked LCD.

This means that buying used through Amazon is fine. All of their products are backed by Amazon month-long guarantees.

Buying used through eBay is also fine. Ebay’s buyer protection ensures that you’re not going to get ripped off in such an obvious fashion.

5 Questions to Ask Before Buying Used Camera Gear

But this makes most forums (if not all forums) off-limits. If the forum doesn’t have a serious money-back guarantee that’s honored by the site itself, then stay away.

This also makes in-person sales off-limits, such as those done through Craigslist. Sure, you can inspect the item upon receipt, but what are you going to do when you get home, put that lens under a light, and realize it’s filled with an army of fungus?

It’ll be too late, and your seller may not be so receptive to a return.

So just don’t do it. Instead, use sites like Amazon, eBay, B&H, or KEH, which all have clear money-back guarantees.

Question 2: Does the seller include actual pictures of the gear?

Sellers not including pictures is a big warning sign, especially on a website like eBay, where pictures are the norm. It should make you ask: Why doesn’t the seller want to show off their “excellent condition” item? Is there something they’re trying to hide?

Another red flag is only showing a stock photo. These are easy to spot; they look way better than anything that a casual, eBay-selling photographer would have taken, and there tends to be only one or two of them.

5 Questions to Ask Before Buying Used Camera Gear

If you like the price and everything else checks out, then go ahead and shoot the seller an email, asking for in-depth pictures of the item. If the seller refuses, then it’s time to look elsewhere.

You might come across some sellers who are offering many units of the same item (e.g., five Canon 7D Mark II’s). In this case, they likely have shown a stock photo, or a photo of one item, because they don’t want to go through the effort of photographing each piece of kit.

In such cases, you should message the seller and ask for pictures of the exact item that you’ll be purchasing. It’s too easy, especially with these big sellers, to end up with an item that you’ll have to send back.

Question 3: How many shutter actuations has the camera fired?

(Note: This section is for buying cameras.)

First things first: A shutter actuation refers to a single shot taken with a camera.

Every camera has a number of actuations its shutter is rated for. Once the shutter has reached around that point, it just…fails. While you can get the shutter replaced, it generally costs enough that you’re probably better off buying a new camera body.

5 Questions to Ask Before Buying Used Camera Gear

If you want to know the shutter actuation rating of any particular camera, you can look it up through a quick Google search.

Of course, the shutter rating isn’t a hard and fast rule. There are some cameras that go far beyond their predicted shutter count, and there are some cameras that fail far sooner. The shutter count is just an average.

Now, when you look at camera listings online, you’ll see that shutter actuations are reported about fifty percent of the time.

But the other fifty percent of the time, there will be no mention of them.

This is for three possible reasons:

  1. The seller doesn’t know about the importance of shutter actuations.
  2. The seller can’t figure out how to determine the shutter actuations for their camera.
  3. The seller doesn’t wish to share the shutter count because it won’t help the sale.

I would never buy a camera without knowing its shutter count. Therefore, I recommend reaching out to the seller and asking.

If the seller refuses to share the count, then let the camera go. If the seller claims they don’t know how to view the shutter count, explain that they should be able to find it easily, either within the camera itself or through a website such as https://www.camerashuttercount.com/.

If they still won’t give you the count, then don’t buy. It’s not worth risking it.

Question Four: Does the lens have any blemishes on the glass, fungus, scratches, haze, or problems with the focusing ring?

(Note that this is for purchasing lenses.)

This is a question to ask the seller, and I suggest you do it every single time you make a purchase.

5 Questions to Ask Before Buying Used Camera Gear

Yes, the seller may be annoyed by your specific question. But this is a transaction; it’s not about being nice to the seller! And I’ve never had someone refuse to sell to me because I annoyed them with questions.

In fact, what makes this question so valuable is that it often forces sellers to actually consider the equipment they’re selling. Up until this point, the seller may not have really thought about some of these things. So it can act as a bit of a wake-up call and make the seller describe the item beyond “excellent condition.”

When you ask this question, make it clear that you want a detailed description. You genuinely want the seller to check for scratches on the glass, fungus in the lens, problems with the focusing ring, and more. You don’t want a perfunctory examination.

Unfortunately, there will still be some people who don’t do a serious examination, or who lie in the hopes that you won’t notice the issues (or be bothered enough to make a return). But asking the question is the best you can do.

Question Five: Has the seller noticed any issues with the item in the past?

This is another question to ask the seller before you hit the Buy button. It’s meant as a final attempt to determine whether the item has any issues.

In this case, by asking about the item’s past.

5 Questions to Ask Before Buying Used Camera Gear

Unfortunately, there will be sellers who have had an item break repeatedly – but, as long as it’s working at the moment they take the photos, they’ll give it the “perfect condition” label. Fortunately, many sellers will still be honest with you. If they’ve had a problem with the item, they’ll say.

So it’s definitely worth asking – just to be safe.

5 Questions to ask before buying used camera gear: Conclusion

Now that you know the five most important questions to ask before buying used camera gear, you’re well equipped to start buying gear online.

Questions-to-Ask-Before-Buying-Used-Camera-Gear

Yes, you’re still going to run into the occasional issue, but if you’re careful, and you think about these crucial questions to ask before buying used camera gear…

…the number of issues will be far, far lower.

And you’ll be able to effectively take advantage of used camera equipment!

Questions-to-Ask-Before-Buying-Used-Camera-Gear

The post 5 Questions to Ask Before Buying Used Camera Gear appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Jaymes Dempsey.

Thoughts and Field Test: Leica X-U Underwater Camera

The post Thoughts and Field Test: Leica X-U Underwater Camera appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

leica-x-u-underwater-camera-review

When it comes to waterproof cameras, you’re likely to think of GoPro or a similar action camera first. But what if you wanted a waterproof camera with full manual control? There aren’t many options on the market unless you’re willing to splurge for an underwater housing for a DSLR or mirrorless camera. But there’s a less-known option made by the venerable camera brand, Leica. In 2016, Leica introduced the Leica X-U – a rugged, waterproof compact camera. It didn’t seem to get much fanfare as it was completely unbeknownst to me until I browsed Borrowlenses.com in search of a camera for my upcoming whitewater rafting trip.

So how did it perform? Read on to find out!

Leica XU underwater camera

Technical specs

The Leica X-U is considered a point and shoot camera. It has a 16.2 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor and a fixed Summilux 23mm f/1.7 lens (equivalent to about 35mm in 35mm format). The camera can shoot both RAW and JPG photos and record full HD video (1080p).

Some dials allow you to take full manual control of the camera and set the ISO, shutter speed, and aperture. You can even manually focus the lens.

Taking into consideration all of these specs, this is essentially a pro-level camera that has the added benefit of being dustproof, shatterproof, waterproof (up to 15 meters for 60 minutes), and shockproof (from heights of up to 1.22 meters). It has a pro-grade camera price tag retailing at $2,999 USD.

Look and feel

There’s no escaping the fact that the Leica X-U is a chunky camera, especially when compared to other waterproof point-and-shoots on the market. It weighs in at 1.32 lbs and doesn’t float or come with a floating strap. Thus, you’ll want to make sure it is always strapped tight to you, or find a floating strap for it.

The camera exterior, made of anti-slip rubber, feels good in the hands. In front is a manual focus fixed lens with a built-in flash on top. There’s also a hot shoe on top of the camera for adding a larger flash or extra accessories.

Leica also includes a rubber lens cap with a small strap, but it fits very loosely and is prone to falling off. I recommend looping the lens cap strap to the camera for extra security.

Leica XU underwater camera

Ease of use

This was my first time using a Leica camera. Up until this point, all I knew about Leicas was that 1) they were expensive, 2) they’re very solid in construction, and 3) their user interface is relatively simple and straightforward. All of these assumptions are true in the Leica X-U, but it is the third point that I appreciated the most.

The bulk of the camera’s controls are in the top two knobs and the lens’ focus ring. If you’ve used a film camera or Fujifilm mirrorless camera, you’ll feel right at home. Any other camera settings are controlled using buttons on the rear end of the camera, where there is also a large, brightly-lit LCD screen. Buttons were decently responsive, and the LCD was fast and accurate.

The one thing I wish Leica included is a touchscreen LCD. Menus are laid out simply, and it was easy to adjust settings. A rechargeable battery powers the camera, and it easily lasted a full day of shooting.

Leica XU underwater camera

Performance in the field

I extensively researched this camera before renting it for my rafting trip. Unfortunately, most of the camera reviews swayed toward the negative. Many claim the Leica X-U’s autofocus is too slow, and its overall features fall behind when compared to what modern cameras (and smartphones) can achieve.

When shooting with this camera, I brushed off those negative reviews. Shooting with this camera was an absolute joy. I loved the ability to shoot in manual without having to worry about water splashes. And it is very easy to go from shooting still photos to video since the video record button is right next to the shutter.

Leica-X-U-underwater-camera

Best of all was the ability to shoot photos of the night stars, which was my main reason for wanting this camera. My rafting trip frowned upon bringing non-waterproof cameras, so I didn’t want to risk bringing my expensive mirrorless cameras.

However, we would be spending the night in the pitch-black forests of Southern Oregon with stars shining bright every night, and I wanted the ability to snap photos of them.

With its fast aperture and the ability to shoot in manual focus, the Leica X-U had the capability of pulling off star photography, and it did so pretty well.

Leica XU Underwater Camera

At the end of each day, I reviewed the photos and videos on the camera and marveled at what I was able to capture. Those negative reviews seemed completely wrong – that is until I reviewed everything on my computer.

Image and video quality

It’s a classic mistake to review media content on a tiny device screen and think that everything is working well. The real quality test is to review them on a big screen. Doing this showed that those reviewers were 100% right.

The Leica X-U’s image quality is quite good when shooting a static or slow-moving object. However, the camera absolutely blew the autofocus when shooting anything in movement.

This is an odd shortcoming for a camera that seems built for action, but it happened on a very consistent basis.

Leica XU Underwater Camera

For fast-paced scenarios, the autofocus simply wasn’t fast enough, leading to many unfocused shots like this.

Leica XU Underwater Camera

The video quality was downright atrocious, and I’m ashamed that I put so much trust in this camera when shooting videos. My Samsung Galaxy S10, in its waterproof case, took far better video.

So…should you use this camera?

Handling this camera was an absolute joy, but I can’t commend its photo or video quality.

If you’re seeking a waterproof camera with manual controls, this camera might work for you, but it depends on what you’re shooting. In fast-paced action scenarios, this camera’s autofocus performance won’t keep up. But if you’re shooting static landscapes or astrophotography, this camera will likely meet your needs.

For videography, don’t even bother.

Leica XU Underwater Camera

Leica XU Underwater Camera

Leica XU Underwater Camera

Leica XU Underwater Camera

Leica XU Underwater Camera

Leica XU Underwater Camera

Leica XU Underwater Camera

Leica XU Underwater Camera

Leica XU Underwater Camera

The post Thoughts and Field Test: Leica X-U Underwater Camera appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

Review: Sony A7R IV Mirrorless Camera

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

Sony-A7r-IV-review

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

Mirrorless versus Digital 

Review: Sony A7R IV Mirrorless Camera

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

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

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

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

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

Specifications

Sony-A7r-IV-review

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

And it has not disappointed.

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

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

Sony-A7r-IV-review

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

Build 

Sony-A7r-IV-review

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

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

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

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

Sony-A7r-IV-review

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

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

Ease of use 

Sony-A7r-IV-review

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

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

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

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

Autofocus, sharpness, and clarity 

Sony-A7r-IV-review

Just one word: phenomenal. 

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

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

Review: Sony A7R IV Mirrorless Camera

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

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

Buffering

Review: Sony A7R IV Mirrorless Camera

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

Color rendering

Review: Sony A7R IV Mirrorless Camera

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

Low light capability 

Review: Sony A7R IV Mirrorless Camera

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

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

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

Battery life 

Review: Sony A7R IV Mirrorless Camera

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

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

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

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

Final thoughts

Review: Sony A7R IV Mirrorless Camera

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

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

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

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

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

Sigma 45mm f/2.8 Lens for Sony Review

The post Sigma 45mm f/2.8 Lens for Sony Review appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

The Sigma 45mm f/2.8 DG DN (sony, Leica) is the latest addition to Sigma’s Contemporary lens line. Launched in July 2019, this lens is available as Sony E-mount or Leica L-mount. The latter mount is of particular interest as the new L-mount is compatible with Panasonic and Leica full-frame cameras, plus Sigma’s own forthcoming L-mount mirrorless cameras. I got my hands on an E-mount version and tested the lens with my Sony A7RIII. Here are my thoughts.

Sigma 45mm f/2.8 Lens for Sony E Mount

Specs

The Sigma 45mm f/2.8 lens has a maximum aperture of f/2.8, which may be a disappointment for photographers used to having at least an f/1.8 on their prime lenses. It also is a fairly expensive lens given its $549 price tag. However, this lens makes amends when it comes to size and the build quality.

Size

Compared to other Sigma prime lenses such as the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art (Nikon, Canon, Sony), this lens is significantly smaller and more lightweight. It weighs 7.5 ounces (half of the aforementioned 35mm) and comes in at less than 2-inches long. This makes the 45mm much more portable and discreet when compared to Sigma’s other Art lens primes that all have an f/1.4 aperture, but are significantly larger and heavier.

This compact size is closer to that of the Canon 50mm f/1.8 and 40mm f/2.8 pancake lens. Both were my longtime favorite prime lenses when I shot with Canon DSLRs. The beauty about this size is that it feels very balanced when attached to a full-frame camera, whether it be my old Canon 5D Mark III or my new Sony A7RIII. With that said, this lens puzzles me when I compare it to other similar lenses that I’ve owned.

Sigma 45mm f/2.8 Lens for Sony E Mount

Sigma 45mm f/2.8 (left), Fujifilm 35mm f/2 (center), and Sony 55mm f/1.8 (right).

Build quality

It’s hard to ignore the design of this lens, which is both visually eye-catching and functional. There are two physical rings – the outermost ring controls the focus and the innermost ring selects the aperture, similar to how a Fujifilm lens performs. Choosing the aperture via the lens can take some getting used to, but it’s a wonderful way to interact with your camera. There’s also a switch to toggle autofocus or manual focus. The lens itself is made mostly of metal, and it includes a lens hood that is also made of metal. There is also weather sealing on the mount of the lens to keep dust and dirt at a minimal.

Shooting experience

45mm is an interesting focal length. It sits comfortably between two of the most popular focal lengths out there: the 35mm and 50mm. Not too wide or too narrow, 45mm gives you a range that feels natural, yet intentional. Autofocus on this lens is fast, accurate, and very quiet thanks to a fast-stepping motor.

If you shoot on a Sony full-frame mirrorless camera, you may also be familiar with the feature of flipping between shooting in full-frame and APS-C mode. While the latter does crop and shrink your images, it gives you the ability to shoot at a slightly zoomed-in focal length. This, in turn, gives you at least two focal lengths to shoot from, and it is one of my favorite features of my Sony A7RIII.

Sigma 45mm f/2.8 Lens for Sony E Mount

Image quality

The images captured by the Sigma 45mm f/2.8 lens result in very consistent color, tones, and sharpness. This lens has a rounded seven-blade diaphragm that renders a smooth, shallow depth of field. There is a minimum focusing distance of 9.4 inches, giving this 45mm decent macro capabilities.

In Conclusion

Overall, I had a very positive experience shooting with this Sigma 45mm f/2.8 lens. The compact size complemented the Sony A7RIII perfectly, making it a very portable unit. I usually have a 24-70mm f/2.8 or 55mm f/1.8 glued to my camera when shooting in low lighting scenarios. Thus, the 45mm’s f/2.8 aperture did not hinder me much. However, there is something to be said about having a faster aperture, especially in low light conditions.

If you enjoy shooting with a versatile prime lens that is reasonably fast but very portable, this Sigma 45mm f/2.8 lens might be the lens for you.

What are your first impressions of the Sigma 45mm f/2.8 lens? Would you purchase it? Why or why not?

Sample photo gallery

Sigma 45mm f/2.8 Lens for Sony E Mount

Sigma 45mm f2.8 for Sony E Mount

Sigma 45mm f2.8 for Sony E Mount

Sigma 45mm f2.8 for Sony E Mount

Sigma 45mm f2.8 for Sony E Mount

Sigma 45mm f2.8 for Sony E Mount

Sigma 45mm f/2.8 Lens for Sony E Mount

 

Sigma 45mm f/2.8 Lens for Sony

The post Sigma 45mm f/2.8 Lens for Sony Review appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Suzi Pratt.

1 2 3 4