Review of the Westcott Eyelighter for Headshots and Portraits

The portrait and headshot industry in photography is likely the craft’s most popular niche. As such, it isn’t a stretch to say that there is a multitude of headshot and portrait photographers in every state and country. So, you need to find a way to stand out from the herd. The Westcott Eyelighter is one such way to differentiate from the masses, a unique reflector unlike any other I’ve seen before.

Review of the Westcott Eyelighter 2 - studio portrait of a model

What is the Westcott Eyelighter?

Much like the name implies, the Westcott Eyelighter is curved to mimic the shape of the human eye and illuminate the bottom part of the iris (something that many photographers tend to add in post-production). The eyes are the windows to the soul, and often the very first thing most viewers notice about an image. This highlight creates an eye-catching image (no pun intended).

As all working photographers understand, the more time you spend in front of a computer screen is less time out there shooting. So taking advantage of a tool that creates a commonly edited effect is grand. This product certainly diminishes the time spent at the computer.

portrait of a model in a black and white dress - Review of the Westcott Eyelighter for Headshots and Portraits

What’s in the box?

The Westcott Eyelighter kit features the reflector itself and a carrying case, with additional accessories sold separately. The physical makeup of the Eyelighter includes a durable aluminum frame and a highly-reflective silver surface. Tension rods are utilized to pull this material taut, maximizing the light cast on the subject.

I was quite impressed by the durability and quality of the Eyelighter’s build, this is not an addition that will snap or break easily.

Review of the Westcott Eyelighter for Headshots and Portraits - b/w of a model in the studio

Assembly

Assembling the Westcott Eyelighter is not much of a task on paper, but can be a bit of a handful in practice. Myself, as a 5’ 5” 98lb female, did struggle to put the Eyelighter together with no help, but it is most certainly possible.

Westcott released a very helpful YouTube instructional video (see below) on how to properly assemble this reflector for those that don’t find the instruction manual helpful. The real difficulty comes from the tension rods as I found it requires quite a bit of strength to put together.

Had there been a second pair of hands to help, the assembly would have been more of a breeze (so photographers that have studio assistants, there won’t be much concern there). On average, after practicing the assembly process several times, it finally took me 10-15 minutes to put together.

Review of the Westcott Eyelighter for Headshots and Portraits

What’s included with the Westcott Eyelighter.

Transporting the Eyelighter and portability

The Eyelighter is a rather large piece of studio equipment and really is intended as a permanent addition to your studio. As I did not want to assemble and disassemble the kit every time, I wanted to test to see if I can transport the reflector in its fully assembled state.

From personal experience, I can attest that this product can fit into a car fully-assembled (minus the tripod). I drive an SUV, and I did not need to place the seats down to fit this reflector in horizontally across the backseat. Seats may need to be put down for smaller vehicles, but the height of the kit poses no issue fitting inside of a car.

The Eyelighter does come with a carry case and can be disassembled and assembled, but the assembly does take a bit of time. At least, for me it took a significant amount of time, so I would rather transport the reflector fully-assembled.

Review of the Westcott Eyelighter for Headshots and Portraits - studio setup showing it in use

Using the Westcott Eyelighter

Using the Eyelighter is rather simple and doesn’t require any advanced studio knowledge. Like any reflector, the Eyelighter works by bouncing light off of its reflective panel.

The Eyelighter is already tilted upon attachment to a tripod (which must be purchased separately). As such, all you need to do is take a large softbox (I personally use an octagonal one for this but a square or rectangular softbox is just as valid), place it directly above the Eyelighter, and aim downwards.

It may take a bit of maneuvering and brief trial-and-error test to find the correct placement of the reflector underneath your subject, but the general consensus is that it belongs below the chest area of your model. This piece of equipment will not affect your additional lighting setup, which allows you the freedom to light the rest of the subject in any which way.

Unique catchlights

Review of the Westcott Eyelighter for Headshots and Portraits - dramatic b/w portrait

The Eyelighter reflects light toward your subject, leaving a catchlight that follows the natural curve of the eye. If the silver reflector is too bright or causes too stark of a reflection, Westcott has a white sheet available for purchase that will cover that whole panel and soften the effect.

My favorite aspect of this is how seamless the catch light is, there are no odd or unflattering gaps. As well as this, it really does soften the light on the neck and chin. Paired with your other studio lighting kits, this is a must-have for anyone looking to add something fantastic to their collection.

That being said, it is important to keep in mind that due to the necessary position to create the effect, this reflector really is for portrait and headshot use only – you won’t be able to catch a whole body image with this.

Review of the Westcott Eyelighter for Headshots and Portraits - white panel

 

Conclusion

In conclusion, the Westcott Eyelighter is a fun, eye-catching, and simple to use reflector that can really help you stand out from the competition.

With a retail price of $299, this isn’t the absolute most expensive item in your photographic arsenal but can make a huge difference to your portraits and headshots.

The post Review of the Westcott Eyelighter for Headshots and Portraits appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Impressions

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

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

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

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

Build Quality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image Quality

In the Lab

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the Field

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Focus, Accuracy and Speed

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

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

Shots from the Field

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pros:

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

Cons:

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

Final Rating and Product Value

Sigma 14-24m, Review

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

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

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

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

Review of the Lensbaby Burnside 35 Special Effects Lens

Review of the Lensbaby Burnside 35 Special Effects Lens

A Lensbaby lens is a dream come true for artistic, creative, and ground-breaking photographers. A company made famous by their innovative effect lenses and optics, Lensbaby has captivated the industry for nearly 14 years. This company’s newest pride and joy is the Lensbaby Burnside 35, an f/2.8 lens that is unlike any other in their arsenal.

Swirly Bokeh

The Burnside 35 features the iconic “swirly bokeh” that Lensbaby is famous for. This effect is seemingly influenced by the Petzval objective which causes a swirly bokeh and vignette, and it is created by pairing two doublet lenses with an aperture stop in between.

The first lens corrects spherical aberrations and the second lens corrects for astigmatism. However, the pairing creates the swirly distortion that we all love.

You can adjust the intensity of the swirly bokeh by changing the aperture: f/2.8 will be most intense, while something like an f/16 won’t have any swirl at all. The thing that I find most compelling about Lensbaby is the fact that all of the effects are in-camera/in-lens, hence saving you a lot of time on the editing front.

Review of the Lensbaby Burnside 35 Special Effects Lens

Built-in vignetting

I was very intrigued to stumble upon this lens, as it has a feature I have never before seen in any other – a built-in vignette slider. Instead of needing to darken the edges of your photograph in post-processing, you can do an in-camera effect and save yourself the editing trouble.

Review of the Lensbaby Burnside 35 Special Effects Lens

Review of the Lensbaby Burnside 35 Special Effects Lens

It’s a manual lens

That being said, much like other lenses in the Lensbaby collection, this one is fully manual. The aperture is adjusted by rotating the aperture cuff at the very back of the lens rather than in the camera as is common for other lenses. The vignette slider is located near the cuff on the opposite side of the lens.

When rotating either the vignette slider or the aperture ring, you can feel each stop as there feels to be a minor indent that pops into place – a welcome feeling when wanting to make quick adjustments without looking up from the lens.

Review of the Lensbaby Burnside 35 Special Effects Lens

The focus is also manual, which may cause a bit of a learning curve for photographers that rely heavily on autofocus. However, I found that it was rather easy to see when the focus was captured or not and I was able to become proficient in a matter of a half hour.

Keeping the fully manual aspect of the lens in mind, this may not be the right piece of equipment for fast-paced action shooting. That being said, the artistic look of Lensbaby Burnside 35 can even make out of focus images look intentionally fuzzy (although any stylistic choice should look intentional, not as a mistake).

Review of the Lensbaby Burnside 35 Special Effects Lens

Build

The lens’s build feels incredibly sturdy (it’s made of metal) and it is visually striking. Though I’d consider the lens fairly light in comparison to other 35mm lenses, it is still a significant weight that adds to the impression of a very sturdy build.

The lens does not come with a case, and I’d highly recommend one. Despite a sturdy build, a good bump could crack something, and that’s not a risk worth taking.

The metal front lens cap is easy to slide on and off but holds very tight when it’s on; exactly how you’d want it to be. The rear mounting cap is equivalent to all the ones I’ve seen from other lenses. The box comes with a user guide with tips and tricks on how to get the most out of your lens, a welcome addition to any lens purchase.

Review of the Lensbaby Burnside 35 Special Effects Lens

The vignette slider in action

The vignette slider makes a significant, visual difference in the image. It’s great to be able to see right-off-the-bat how the image will look at the various vignette stops. As well, from a purely aesthetic perspective, it can be rather fun to watch the vignette open and close on the glass itself – it’s a bit like a reptilian creature blinking.

Do keep in mind that the frame will darken significantly when the vignette slider is set at its most closed point. As such, I actually found myself using the vignette slider almost like a neutral density filter to bring out the colors of a very bright sky.

The versatility of this lens is also notable enough to bring up. You are certainly not obligated to photograph at a low aperture number and a shallow depth of field, when bumping the aperture up to f/16, architectural photographs are exceptional at the 35mm focal length. Add the vignette slider and you have a dramatic image worthy of any gallery.

Review of the Lensbaby Burnside 35 Special Effects Lens

The vignette slider at the dark end of the scale.

Review of the Lensbaby Burnside 35 Special Effects Lens

Review of the Lensbaby Burnside 35 Special Effects Lens

Review of the Lensbaby Burnside 35 Special Effects Lens

The vignette slider at the light end of the scale.

Overall

This 35mm lens is nice and wide and can focus up to 6 inches away from the glass itself, excellent for macro photography. There isn’t much distortion on the subject that is in focus in the center, which is much appreciated.

Compatible with both full-frame cameras and crop sensors, I tested the Burnside 35 on my Canon 5D Mark IV (full-frame) and Canon 7D Mark II (crop sensor) to see how well it performed. I was brilliantly satisfied with its abilities for both, though it was clear to see that the full-frame yielded even more fantastic results than the crop sensor.

It’s worth mentioning that I was exceptionally pleased with how fluid the manual focus was as well as the vignette slider, both moved with ease and can be adjusted with just one or two fingers! This lens is exceptionally sharp when the focus is right, making sure that whatever you want to be the subject is very clear.

The equipment is small and easy to carry, another welcome sight in lenses.

Review of the Lensbaby Burnside 35 Special Effects Lens

At a retail price of $499.99 (available now), the Lensbaby Burnside 35 is worth every penny if I do say so myself. The Burnside 35 is available in the following mounts: Canon EF, Nikon F, Sony E, Sony Alpha A, Fuji X, Micro 4/3, Pentax K, and Samsung NX.

The post Review of the Lensbaby Burnside 35 Special Effects Lens appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Review – Shimoda Explore 40 Camera Adventure Bag

I love to hike. I love to head out into the backcountry, and I regularly take my camera gear with me. Funnily enough, my first article here on dPS discussed just this fact. So it seems rather fitting that I got to review the Shimoda Explore 40 Camera Adventure Bag.

The opportunity to review the bag was also timely because I’m currently in the market for a new backpack and had been looking at several brands before the arrival of this Shimoda pack.

Review - Shimoda Explore 40 Camera Adventure Bag

The view from my hike. I love this area of Ontario, Canada.

The Shimoda Explore 40 pack is designed to be used as a daypack. It’s not meant to be used for weeklong treks into the wilderness with your camera gear.

If you’re looking for a pack to suit those needs, Shimoda makes the Explore 60 which more resembles a trekking bag. It’s similar to my 55 L Vaude Bag but it’s designed to hold camera gear whereas my Vaude bag was designed solely to carry backpacking gear. That doesn’t mean I haven’t adapted the bag to carry my camera gear, but it’s nice to have something designed specifically for photographers.

Review - Shimoda Explore 40 Camera Adventure Bag

Here’s the complete Shimoda Explore 40 kit.

The Material

Review - Shimoda Explore 40 Camera Adventure Bag

Here’s a close up of the material. It’s smooth, not rough like my other bags.

The first thing I noticed about the pack was the material. It is distinctly different from the material of my other bags. I took the Shimoda Explore 40 out of the packaging and was surprised by the feel and texture. It’s a smoother surface that is deceptive at first.

I am used to a bag that has a sort of canvas type material that feels rough like an old tent. At first touch, I was a bit sceptical about the durability of this material. I needed time to get used to the differences. The material is, in fact, double-resin coated nylon. It does not feel like the material of my Vaude hiking pack or my Lowepro Backpack.

I tested it in my kitchen sink. The water easily beaded on the material and rolled off without soaking through. The zippers are also water-resistant. The Explore 40 does not come with a rain cover, though. Most of the time you won’t need one but to be on the safe side, there’s plenty of room to pack a generic rain cover, just in case.

Review - Shimoda Explore 40 Camera Adventure Bag

Here’s a close-up of the zippers with leather pulls. You’ll notice they are heavy-duty, not likely to break.

The Structure

The Shimoda Explore 40 is very well constructed of a heavy-duty material and also comes with a reinforced frame. Shimoda has inserted aluminum rods into the frame of the pack to help it maintain its shape and durability. I like the structure of the bag and how truly sturdy it feels.

The Core Units

Review - Shimoda Explore 40 Camera Adventure Bag

I packed the core unit just to see how everything fit. Later, I changed the configuration for my hike as I didn’t take my extension tubes or the flash components.

The Shimoda Explore 40 is designed for lighter travel. It comes with two small core units as well as a medium sized one. The units are strong and durable. The dividers are easy to use and configure to the needs of your camera gear. I was able to remove pieces and reposition them quickly and easily without the Velcro becoming stuck to the sides and annoying me.

The camera gear is quite safe within the core units. They are designed to protect the gear and cushion items from the bumps and bangs that often occur when out on the trail. On my hike, I slipped down a rocky section of the trail and landed at the bottom of a steep hill. My gear was safe and secure within the core unit.

Review - Shimoda Explore 40 Camera Adventure Bag

This is the interior of the small core unit.

The two smaller core units come with a very basic strap that allows you to turn the unit into a shoulder bag for carrying around one or two lenses and a camera body. But the strap isn’t designed for all day walking through a city.

I could see the bag possibly digging into my shoulder if I were to use it to peruse a city with my camera for 8 hours. The unit is designed more for quick jaunts around the campsite or for short walks.

Review - Shimoda Explore 40 Camera Adventure Bag

The inserts are very sturdy and I found the tapered edges made it easier to configure the unit for my camera gear.

Storage within the Bag

Review - Shimoda Explore 40 Camera Adventure Bag

Here’s a shot of the front compartment. I stuffed a trail guide in here.

The Shimoda Explore 40 is designed to hold more than just camera gear. I was able to pack food items as well as a water bottle. If need be the Explore 40 is equipped to carry a water bladder and hose. For this trip, I chose to take a small mug and water purifying drops, so I didn’t test out the water bladder compartment.

The bag comes equipped with tons of pockets. I was able to store my lunch, extra socks, my phone, a map, a rain cover, mug, and extra mittens within the pack. There was certainly room for more gear inside the pack.

The outer straps allow you to attach items to the exterior of the pack. You could choose to carry a small tent at the bottom of the bag.

Review - Shimoda Explore 40 Camera Adventure Bag

The bag is pretty spacious when opened.

The bag also comes equipped with a sleeve in which you can fit a 13” laptop. The padding of the back panel would protect the laptop from any bumps or bangs that might cause possible damage to the gear.

The Shoulder Straps

The pack comes with several different adjustable should heights. I put the bag on the smallest setting. To give you an idea I am 165cm (5’5″) tall.

The pack fit nicely on my torso at the smallest setting. The hip belt rested just above my hip bones, and the adjustable straps allowed me to set the shoulders comfortably so that I felt no strain and carried the majority of the weight on my waist.

The last thing you want is a bag that places most of the stress on your shoulders, and by the end of the day, you’re regretting your decision to take your gear.

Review - Shimoda Explore 40 Camera Adventure Bag

There are four different settings for the height of the torso.

My one complaint about the strap configuration has to do with the chest strap. It comes across the front and helps to keep the shoulder straps in place. This takes some strain off the top of the shoulders.

The issue is pretty much based on anatomy. The bag is designed as a unisex item. It does not take into consideration the female chest. Many women’s bags are designed so that this strap sits above the bust. I was able to slide the strap up somewhat but not enough to keep it from resting on the bust.

It’s a minor complaint that only female photographers will struggle to overcome. Believe me, we are used to this. It would be nice one day for someone to take the risk and design a camera bag specifically for the shape of a woman (hint, hint, Shimoda).

Review - Shimoda Explore 40 Camera Adventure Bag

The bag sits comfortably on the body, even when you’re wearing a thick sweater.

Accessing Camera Gear

The Explore 40 comes equipped with both side and rear access to your camera gear. For my test hike, I used the medium core unit and tested out the rear access. It was easy to get to my camera and to switch lenses when needed.

The core unit easily held my 5D Mark III, a 70-200mm, a 16- 35mm and a 50mm prime lens. The side access works quite well also. At home, I inserted the small core unit and stuffed the bag with towels to hold it in place. It was easy to sling the bag sideways and remove my 70-200mm while it was attached to my camera body.

In Conclusion

Overall the bag is beautifully designed. I tested it on the Bruce Trail. It was a cold and rainy day. I completed a 15km hike over rough terrain. The design of the bag ensured it fit snuggly to my body. I didn’t ever feel burdened by the gear I was carrying.

The hard frame of the core unit did slightly dig into my lower back, but I was able to make a few adjustments to the straps and solved the issue. Over time I can see myself breaking some of the plastic clips, but this is pretty common in most bags. I have replaced the clips on my Vaude trekking bag on several occasions.

Review - Shimoda Explore 40 Camera Adventure Bag

At the start of the trail with the Shimoda Explore 40 pack.

I wouldn’t use the Shimoda Explore 40 for long overnight hikes. The shoulder straps are not designed to carry the weight of camera gear plus all of the items necessary for a backcountry trip. Shimoda recommends their Explore 60 for those types of activities.

After looking on their website I discovered that they also offer a carry-on unit for planes as well as several accessory packs that can help make packing your gear easier to manage. I’ll be honest, I’m considering the carry-on the unit. The core units fit into this bag, so it’s easy to transfer items from carry-on to your pack once you arrive at your destination. I like this feature an awful lot. It would have helped me out a great deal last year during my trips.

Review - Shimoda Explore 40 Camera Adventure Bag

The straps are comfortable and durable but definitely designed as a daypack. I’m told the Explore 60 has much heftier straps for longer hikes.

See the bag overview in this video:

Shimoda recently completely a Kickstarter campaign. Check them out and see what you think of their products.

The post Review – Shimoda Explore 40 Camera Adventure Bag by Erin Fitzgibbon appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Review of the Breakthrough Photography X4 CPL Circular Polarizing Filter

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

Geeky stuff about polarizers

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

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

Review of the Breakthrough Photography X4 CPL Circular Polarizing Filter

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

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

The X4 CPL Circular Polarizing Filter

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

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

Build Quality

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

Review of the Breakthrough Photography X4 CPL Circular Polarizing Filter

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

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

X4 CPL Circular Polarizing Filter

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

Optical Performance

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

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

Sharpness

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

X4 CPL Circular Polarizing Filter

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

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

Color Cast and Vignetting

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

X4 CPL Circular Polarizing Filter

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

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

X4 CPL Circular Polarizing Filter

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

X4 CPL Circular Polarizing Filter

Final Thoughts on the X4 CPL

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

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

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

Rating 5/5 stars – my first ever! 

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

Review of K&F Concept KF-885 Speedlight

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

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

Review of K&F Concept KF-885 Speedlight

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

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

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

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

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

K&F Concept KF-885 Speedlight

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

K&F Concept KF-885 Speedlight

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

K&F Concept KF-885 Speedlight

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

K&F Concept KF-885 Speedlight

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

#2 Display Screen and Menu Options

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

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

K&F Concept KF-885 Speedlight

#3 Usage

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

K&F Concept KF-885 Speedlight

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

K&F Concept KF-885 Speedlight

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

K&F Concept KF-885 Speedlight

Summary

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

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

Image Editing Software Review: PortraitPro 15

mWhen it comes to portrait photography, there seem to be two predominant schools of thought. The first says that retouching is bad, that people should be presented as they are and retouching is a no-no. The second school of thought says that when people have their portrait taken, it should be an idealistic representation of the person, flattering the subject and minimizing any flaws.

The truth, however, probably lies somewhere in the middle. When people have their portrait taken, they want the photographer to make them look as good as possible. Most portraiture requires some level of retouching, and truth be told, retouching was in vogue long before the digital age. Digital photography, however, has brought with it some new tools. One of those tools is PortraitPro 15, from Anthropics Technology.

An example of a portrait retouched using PortraitPro 15

An example of a portrait retouched using PortraitPro 15.

Overview of PortraitPro 15

PortraitPro 15 is available as a standalone application, or as a plugin for Photoshop, Lightroom, or Aperture. There are three different versions available; Standard, Studio, and Studio Max. PortraitPro Standard is the standalone version, which also has a few other limitations. PortraitPro Studio and Studio Max can both be used as plugins, and they also offer a variety of other options including RAW file support, color profile support, the ability to read and write TIFF and PNG files in 16-bit mode, and a batch dialog. The Studio Max version also offers a Full Batch Mode to greatly speed up your workflow. Compare all editions of PortraitPro 15 here.

Before and after using PortraitPro 15

Before and after using Portrait Professional 15

Getting started with PortraitPro 15

Getting started in PortraitPro 15 is simple. If you’re using the standalone application, simply open the file you wish to work on. From Photoshop (if you’re using the Studio or Studio Max version), go to the Filters menu and Select Anthropics > Portrait Professional.

Once your image is open, PortraitPro 15 will detect the facial outline of the subject. It will sometimes detect gender and age, or it may ask if the subject is male or female or a young girl or boy under 12. You will then be shown a side-by-side comparison, with the image on the left showing the outlines of the face that the software will use for its retouching. These outlines can be adjusted to provide better accuracy, but the software does a pretty good job of selecting facial features on its own. On the right is a preview of what the subject will look like after the retouching is applied.

On the far right, you will see a navigator window that allows you to move around the image easily. Beneath that is a list of presets so you can easily apply a particular look to your subject. Beneath the presets is a group of “Portrait Improving Sliders”. These sliders include;

  • Face Sculpt Controls
  • Skin Smoothing Controls
  • Skin Lighting Controls
  • Makeup Controls
  • Eye Controls
  • Mouth and Nose Controls
  • Hair Controls
  • Skin Coloring Controls
  • Picture Controls

Each of these groups of sliders affects different aspects of the image and provide an incredible amount of control over the retouching process.

Before and after using PortraitPro 15

Before and after using PortraitPro 15.

Some of these sliders, particularly Face Sculpting may seem a bit controversial. Like most digital photo editing tools, you can certainly go too far with its use. But, there are times when it has come in handy and improved the subject, such as when one eye may not be fully open. As with all things, moderation is the key to using these sliders.

The Basic Retouch

Gender Selection in PortraitPro 15

When you open an image using PortraitPro 15, the application will ask you to confirm the gender and age of your subject.

Whether you choose to use the plugin version or the standalone version, the workflow is the same. From Photoshop you’ll select Portrait Professional from the Filters menu, and from Lightroom, you’ll select “Edit In”, which will open the current image in PortraitPro 15. If using the standalone version, simply go to File > Open.

Facial features selection

PortraitPro 15 will try to automatically detect the age and gender of your subject and try to select their eyes, nose, and mouth. If it is unable to detect the gender and age, or any facial features, you will be prompted to do this. Selection, if needed, is easy. You’ll click the outer corner of the left eye, hit next, then click the outer corner of the right eye. Hit next again, and you’ll be prompted to click the tip of the nose. You’ll continue until the eyes, nose, and mouth are selected. PortraitPro will then find the top of the head and the jawline.

The main screen of PortraitPro 15

The main screen of PortraitPro 15

First editing steps

Once the selection is made, PortraitPro will automatically adjust your image using the Standard settings. From here, you are free to choose a different preset or start moving the sliders to better retouch your portrait.

The first slider I adjust is the Face Sculpt Controls. I will say that I’m not a huge fan of this adjustment so normally I just turn it off. There are times it can get too aggressive and will really alter the look of the subject’s face. You can minimize the amount of adjustment using the Master Fade slider to amend the overall look, or the individual sliders to only affect certain features. For instance, I will often set all the sliders to zero but then use the Eye Widening slider if the subject happens to have a sleepy eye. I do try and keep the digital plastic surgery to a minimum.

Skin Smoothing

The next slider group is the Skin Smoothing Control. This set of sliders does a nice job of minimizing wrinkles and removing blemishes. You do need to be careful when you have a subject with freckles or beauty marks that you want to retain. Again, adjusting the individual sliders will help you find the right amount of smoothing without making things look too plastic, and the Touch Up Brush will allow you to remove strong blemishes without affecting the overall skin texture.

Skin Selection PortraitPro 15

If you need to adjust the area affected by skin smoothing and lighting, you can manually paint in your selection.

PortraitPro offers some quick tips when you select the various sliders. In addition, you may notice that the application hasn’t quite selected all of the skin you want to be retouched, due to changes in tone. Or, conversely, that it has selected areas which you don’t want to be affected, such as clothing with colors close to the skin tone, or hair. You can adjust the skin selection by clicking View/Edit Skin Area and adding or subtracting from the skin selection using a brush, similar to applying a selection by using a layer mask in Photoshop.

Before skin smoothing

Medium skin smoothing applied.

Heavy skin smoothing applied.

Skin Lighting

The Skin Lighting slider controls can actually adjust the lighting on your subject. This is another set of sliders that are best used with care, but a judicious adjustment can help improve your image. Going too far with it, on the other hand, will result in images that have a definitive fake look to them. You have the ability to adjust shadows to the left or right, a kick light to the left or right, and even adjust the angle of your main light.

Before skin lighting effects applied.

Skin lighting medium applied.

Skin lighting heavy applied.

Makeup

The Makeup Controls sliders allow you to add digital makeup to your subject. Everything including lipstick, mascara, eye shadow and eyeliner can be added or enhanced here. As with the Face Sculpting and Lighting Controls, you will want to be careful not to overdo things here. But again, I’ve had occasions where a little eyeliner or a change in lipstick color has helped the image.

By the same token, if you are taking a portrait as a starting point, you can create some incredibly different looks by changing the subject’s makeup. This makes it an excellent tool if you are creating a digital illustration from a photo.

Skin Smoothing Controls PortraitPro 15

The skin smoothing controls inside PortraitPro 15

Before make-up applied using PortraitPro 15.

Make-up added.

Make-up added heavily, this is over done.

Facial feature control sliders

The Eye Control sliders do a nice job of enhancing the subject’s eyes and bringing them out. Brightening the irises, sharpening the eyes, and whitening them are all done here. You can even change the eye color and add catch lights. The biggest mistake I’ve made (and seen others make) is going too far with the whitening, giving the eyes an unnatural glow. Eyes can be adjusted individually, so you have a lot of control over their look.

Before eye controls applied.

Eye controls medium applied.

Eye color change applied.

Mouth & Nose Controls are sliders to enhance the mouth and nose. Here you can adjust the saturation of the lips, their brightness, and contrast. You have the ability to make the same adjustments to the nose.

Hair and skin sliders

Hair Controls is a set of sliders that I like a lot. You have the ability to re-color hair, adjust the shine, reddening, and vibrance. In addition, as with the skin selection, you can adjust the hair selection. Especially cool is the Hair Tidying Mode, which allows you to smooth and soften the hair. It can give the hair an almost painted look, which is one I tend to like, but again, it is possible to go too far.

Skin Coloring Controls allow you to adjust skin color, add a glow, or a bit of a tan. In addition, you can add cheek coloring here and adjust the exposure on the face.

Before skin coloring

Tan skin coloring applied.

PortraitPro 15

On the right side of the application window, you’ll find a navigator, a list of presets, and the Portrait Enhancement Sliders.

Picture Controls

Finally, the Picture Controls slider allows overall adjustment of the color temperature, tint, exposure, contrast, and vibrancy. You can also crop here. If you’re using Photoshop or Lightroom, these adjustments are better handled there, after retouching. But if you’re using the standalone version, this is an excellent way to finish off your image.

Once you’ve finished with the face you’re working on, you click the Next button at top right, and either click “Return from Plugin”, or “Enhance Another Face”, if you have more than one subject in your photo.

Pros of PortraitPro 15

PortraitPro 15 is an excellent application for quick and easy retouching of portraits. Blemish retouching, eye enhancing, and cleanup of hair is simple and can PortraitPro 15 can provide a nice finished look to a portrait. In addition, the ability to adjust lighting can give added pop and make a flatly lit portrait much more interesting. The same goes for the ability to add or enhance makeup. It’s easy to see the effects of the changes you make usingPortraitPro and compare them to the unretouched photo, so you can judge the edits as you work.

Before and After

Before and After

Cons of PortraitPro 15

My biggest issue with PortraitPro 15 is that it’s easy to go too far with an adjustment and suddenly your image looks fake or digitized, almost like a 3D animation. Like most photo-enhancing filters, a little goes a long way and moderation is required. In the right hands, PortraitPro can be an awesome editing tool. In the wrong hands, it can return some ugly results. Additionally, PortraitPro appears to have some issues when one eye is covered by hair or a hat, or when the face is at a 3/4 angle to the camera. So in those situations, you’ll need to pay extra attention to your selections, and in the case where one eye is hidden, set all sliders for that eye to zero.

My other issue with PortraitPro is that it does seem to be a resource hog. As soon as I enter the plugin from Photoshop, the fan on my 2014 iMac (with the max amount of RAM) starts up and keeps going until I’m done. Some of the adjustments are slow, and on my machine, adjusting the outlines takes a moment as my computer catches up.

Before & After PortraitPro 15

Before & After

Bottom Line

Overall, I love PortraitPro 15 and the ability it has to retouch portraits quickly and easily. While I prefer not to use all of the features all of the time, such as face sculpting or skin lighting, things such as skin smoothing and eye retouching really help give my portraits a finished look. The learning curve is not terribly high and it is fairly easy to tell when you’ve gone too far. It’s become an essential part of my portrait workflow.

See the three editions available on Amazon. The Studio version is a great value.

Before & After PortraitPro

Before & After PortraitPro

Before & After PortraitPro

Before & After PortraitPro

The post Image Editing Software Review: PortraitPro 15 by Rick Berk appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Overview of the New Canon 5D Mark IV

Canon’s 5D Mark line has embedded itself deeply in the heart of photographers. Although the price generally keeps this camera in the hands of professionals, hobbyists have equally drooled over its capabilities and power. It comes as no surprise that the newest edition to the line, the Canon 5D Mark IV, sparked a lot of excitement and interest. But does this model really live up to the expectations it has set itself?

Review of the Canon 5D Mark IV

Subject: Rusty the Golden Retriever

As a Canon camera enthusiast myself, having gone through many different cameras in my career (and currently working with four), I have been pleasantly impressed by the new model. Each camera has its high points and its low points, but the Canon 5D Mark IV lends itself to being an excellent piece of machinery with more pros than cons. In comparison to its predecessor the 5D Mark III, beloved features have been better optimized and improved while adding new capabilities that were previously missing.

Review of the Canon 5D Mark IV

Review of the Canon 5D Mark IV

Physical Specs of the Canon 5D Mark IV

In terms of the camera’s physicality, the Canon 5D Mark IV weighs at 28.2 ounces, versus its predecessor which weighed 30.4 ounces. Although this doesn’t sound like a significant difference, your arms will thank you for the lighter weight of the Mark IV after several hours of shooting. Lighter equipment weight is an aspect that many photographers consistently request from their beloved camera companies, as heavy gear often leads to various body aches.

The body feels sturdy and comfortable. The fact that Canon found a way to decrease the weight of their newest 5D camera shows that the brand was certainly listening. Alongside this, the camera’s weather sealing shows quite an improvement over the previous models. I have taken the camera out to the snow, beach, heat, and rain with no trouble.

Otherwise, The 5D Mark IV feels almost indistinguishable to the 5D Mark III. They have virtually the same ergonomics, buttons, and menu layout. The camera continues to have the dual card slots, much like the Mark III; one slot for a compact flash card and one slot for an SD card. The settings allow you to write on either both simultaneously or switch over to the secondary card once the main card is full.

Review of the Canon 5D Mark IV

New feature – touch screen

Possibly the most noticeable new feature is the inclusion of a touch screen, the first of any of the 5D models. The touchscreen has been present in several of Canon’s other models, and this was highly requested as an addition to the new 5D lineup. In Live View Mode, the touchscreen allows you to tangibly tap the screen to adjust the focus or the exposure settings. This is a significant benefit to video shooters, as tapping the screen allows you to silently make your adjustments without adding noise to your rolling video.

The touchscreen is also customizable, similar to the live view features of the 1Dx Mark II. It can be programmed so that the touch of the LCD screen actually takes the picture. The rear LCD on the 5D Mark IV is an improved 1.62 million-dot 3.2-inch screen, unlike the 5D MK III’s 1.04 million-dot LCD. Although Canon did not include a swivel LCD screen as wanted by many shooters, the touchscreen is a welcome addition.

Review of the Canon 5D Mark IV

Megapixels – big increase

Although both are full-frame cameras, the Canon 5D Mark IV sports a whopping 30.4 megapixels versus the 5D Mark III’s mere 22.3 megapixels. 30.4 MP offer a solid 17% linear resolution increase. In addition, the new camera features Canon’s DIGIC 6+ image processor. Pair the processor with the increase in megapixels, and the 5D Mark IV officially has a better dynamic range (an aspect of the Mark III that often gets criticized).

ISO range – not much change

Review of the Canon 5D Mark IV

The Canon 5D Mark IV at ISO 25,600 shutter speed 1/500th.

The Canon 5D Mark III at ISO 25,600 shutter speed 1/500th.

The ISO range for the 5D Mark IV is ISO 100 – 32,000, versus the Mark III’s 100 – 25,600. However, both models offer the same expanded ISO range of 50 to 102,400. The high ISO and low light performance continue to be quite excellent, as is to be expected from a full-frame Canon DSLR. However, there is no real significant difference in higher ISO performance from the Mark III to the Mark IV.

Canon does have significantly better low light cameras in its highest end models (such as the ID X series), but the 5D holds its own very well for the price point. A big change in the ISO aspect of the camera, however, is the move to on-sensor analog-to-digital circuitry (ADC) that results in noteworthy improvement in base ISO dynamic range. Canon DSLRs prior to the 1D X Mark II and 80D were very well known for poor shadow recovery. This is not an issue in the Mark IV.

Review of the Canon 5D Mark IV

Subject: Kiss the Border Collie

Frames per second burst rate

The Canon 5D Mark IV has a 7 FPS burst rate, about one frame per second faster than the 5D Mark III. Not a huge difference in hindsight, but where the 5D Mark IV really excels is the buffer performance. Continuous JPEG shooting is essentially unlimited; the camera will shoot until the memory card is full, whereas the 5D Mark III’s buffer filled after about 63 JPEG images. Still an impressive feat, but the unlimited is certainly better.

21 RAW frames can be captured before the buffer fills and the camera comes to a halt, which is fantastic considering that each RAW frame is from a 30.4 MP sensor. Wildlife photographers will really enjoy the 7 FPS burst rate and increased buffer performance.

Review of the Canon 5D Mark IV

Subject: Valkyrium

New Dual Pixel Raw Mode

On the topic of RAW, the Canon 5D Mark IV includes a very powerful new Dual Pixel Raw mode, which advances upon the Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology. This makes use of the split-pixel design to capture two images at once. The outcome allows you to be able to make subtle adjustments and changes to focus/sharpness, bokeh, and ghosting. The downside is that the file sizes of Dual Pixel Raw images are nearly twice as large, and the burst rate and buffer capacity are reduced while in Dual Pixel Raw mode.

Review of the Canon 5D Mark IV

Canon 5D Mark IV with Canon 70-200mm F/2.8 L IS USM II

Autofocus

The autofocus in this model is downright incredible. While the 5D Mark IV offers the same 61 AF points as in the 5D Mark III, the new model uses an upgraded AF system. Now all 61 points can focus down to f/8 and they can cover much more of the frame. The 5D Mark III only offered f/8 autofocusing at the center point. These changes are very similar to features inside the EOS-1D X Mark II, Canon’s high-end model. Photographers that use super-telephoto lenses and teleconverters are sure to appreciate this improvement.

21 of these points also remain cross type for extra sensitivity. Unfortunately, there is no way to link spot metering to a chosen AF point. One of the big changes to autofocus on the 5D Mark IV is the use of the infamous Dual Pixel CMOS AF, frequently touted by Canon. Equally, the model has inherited the AI Servo AF III with EOS iTR AF from EOS 7D Mark II and EOS-1D X Mark II. This AF feature truly shines when using the camera to photograph sports or action.

The AF system’s detection range has also been broadened, from -2 EV on the EOS 5D Mark III to -3 EV, and this drops down even further to -4 EV when using Live View. As well as this, there’s also now an AF Area Selection button on the back plate.

WiFi!!

Review of the Canon 5D Mark IV

Another brand new feature to the Canon 5D line is the presence of WiFi capabilities and NFC technology. This new aspect of the model allows the camera to be controlled remotely from a smartphone or tablet and have images transferred wirelessly to a multitude of other devices. The camera utilizes the same Canon Camera Connect app as other WiFi models, which is available for both iOS and Android platforms. This feature was also widely requested from Canon users and allows photographers to bypass the need to purchase wireless triggers for their camera.

Self-portrait photographers rejoice! GPS/Geo Tagging continues to be included in this upgrade to the Mark III.

Review of the Canon 5D Mark IV

Subject: Jessica Bari

Video features – pros and cons

Arguably the most marketed aspect of the Canon 5D Mark IV is the ability to film in 4K. This model is one of the first DSLRs to allow you to shoot in 4K and showcases Canon’s interest in shifting high-quality videography to DSLRs. The benefit to shooting footage with these smaller cameras is maneuverability, portability, and other such size benefits. The videography portion of the camera does sport very accurate autofocus, the touch screen allows you to switch focus points and exposure levels silently, and it is all-around a smooth piece of filming equipment. Due to its on-sensor

Due to its on-sensor phase-detect system, Live View AF on the Mark IV is super-quick, smooth and precise. By comparison, the 5D Mark III offered only contrast-detect AF with Live View, which was slower and had a tendency to hunt, making for distracting wobbling as focus adjusted.

Much like Canon’s other 4K models, the EOS 5D Mark IV allows you to extract JPEG frames from the 4K footage. The images have a resolution of 8.8MP, as opposed to the lower 8-8.3MP resolution of images extracted from cameras recording the slightly lower resolution UHD 4K footage.

That being said, being one of the most marketed features also opens the doorway to major scrutiny. Videographers have mentioned the 4K video being limited to Motion JPEG, the 4K/30p video requiring the use of a CF card, the 1.64x crop factor in 4K video limiting FOV, the HDMI-out limited to 1080 video, and the lack of log gamma, focus peaking, or zebras for video as all major cons to this feature.

Review of the Canon 5D Mark IV

Canon 5D Mark IV with Canon 16-35mm F/2.8L USM II

Special features

As far as built-ins go, the 5D Mark IV has a movie time-lapse mode, an intervalometer, HDR and multiple exposure capabilities, mirror vibration control, and a “Fine Detail” picture style. The camera also has an anti-flicker feature that was originally introduced in the 7D Mark II and 1D X Mark II, in which the camera can be set to adjust the moment of exposure to compensate for flickering electric lighting.

Subject: Desiree Perkins

Summary

In conclusion, the Canon 5D Mark IV keeps itself familiar and sentimental, while improving upon features that attracted photographers to the 5D line in the first place. Although not every desired feature was implemented in this model, Canon certainly showed that the company listened to its customers and took their feedback into strong consideration. The product that resulted is a well-rounded, functional, and incredible piece of equipment. On the value-for-dollar front, the 5D Mark IV is absolutely worth its price tag.

The post Overview of the New Canon 5D Mark IV by Anabel DFlux appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Review of the Benro Ranger 400 Pro Backpack

Ask most photographers and they will tell you that one of the hardest things to find with respect to photography gear is the perfect camera bag. One that will suit your every need. We search and search, but in the end, we all come to the realization there isn’t one bag that will be great for every situation. Though, sometimes you can find one that comes close, for me it was the Benro Ranger 400 Pro backpack.

Review of the Benro Ranger 400 Pro Backpack

Lots of options

One of the things to look for in a bag is one that gives you lots of options when using it. One that can handle most photographic situations that you might encounter.

I was looking for a bag that would hold my camera, my filters and holder, plus up to three lenses. Also ideally one that would take my laptop from time to time. It was also very important that it would hold my tripod.

The Benro 400 Pro backpack is lightweight and has a lot of protective elements. The outside of it measures 14 in (35cm) wide, by 19 in (50cm) high, and 8 in (20cm) in depth. It isn’t a large bag, but it’s big enough for most people. The inside is 12(W) x 17(H)x 6(D) inches, or 30(W) x 42(H) x 15(D) cm.

Review of the Benro Ranger 400 Pro Backpack

Sitting next to the Benro Tripod.

Space in the bag

The bag has three separate ways to enter it. The main zipper, that allows full access to the inside of the bag. There is a side zipper to allow easy removal of the camera with the lens attached. There is also a small zipper on the back near the top to help you get to your lenses faster for quick changes.

Review of the Benro Ranger 400 Pro Backpack

The side entrance to get your camera.

Inside the bag, you can move the dividers around to suit your needs. It is like most camera bags in that respect. It will take the camera, and more importantly large cameras fit easily. There are plenty of sections for your lenses, and  it will also allow you to take up to three others (besides the one on the camera), filters, and other smaller accessories you may need for your trip. You do need to be careful that you don’t carry too much, think of your back.

Review of the Benro Ranger 400 Pro Backpack

The inside of the bag.

The bag is deep and you can put your lenses in length ways, unlike other bags where they need to lay down and take up more room. For most lenses you can put them in this way.

There are also places to keep memory cards and batteries. If you want to carry your laptop it will take up to a 14-inch one. A 13-inch Wacom MobileStudio Pro also fits into it fine.

Review of the Benro Ranger 400 Pro Backpack

The area at the back so you can easily reach your lenses.

Materials

The Benro 400 Pro backpack is made with a black water-resistant nylon. It has a hard bottom, so for a backpack it will stands up really well when you put it down. When moving around you can just place it down and not worry about it falling over as many other bags do. It is very hard and gives the bag a lot of support with the structure of the bag as well.

Comfortable to wear

It is very comfortable to wear and the smaller size makes it a good bag for most people. The straps are thick and provide a lot of padding which make it good to carry on your shoulders. When the bag is full of gear you can carry it with ease.

Review of the Benro Ranger 400 Pro Backpack

The bag sits well on the back and is comfortable.

Waist band strap

It does come with a waist strap that you cannot remove from the bag. The sides that come around your waist to sit on your hips also have small compartments with zips. When you get the bag, one of the pockets holds the strap for the tripod and the other side has the rain cover. You can remove both and use them as pockets for easy access. I use one to store my car keys. The zip means they will be safe there.

Tripod attachment

The strap that is found in the side waist strap pocket is used to put across the front of the bag, and another pocket from down the bottom at the front pulls out so you can attach your tripod. The strap is fiddly and can take a bit to put your tripod on it.  I found it frustrating, and instead, choose to attach it a different way.

Review of the Benro Ranger 400 Pro Backpack

How the tripod fits to the front of the bag.

You can also attach it on the side of the bag as well, There is a strap at the bottom of the side that doesn’t seem to have much purpose, and then the strap that is used to keep the front section to the back section, extra security at the top of the side. You can use them to hold the tripod onto the bag. It is, in some ways, a much easier way to attach it. It is nice that you get a couple of choices.

Review of the Benro Ranger 400 Pro Backpack

The tripod attached to the side.

In the end

Since getting the Benro Ranger 400 Pro Backpack I’ve used it continuously. The only time I change bags is when I want to use one on wheels. It has been to many places and has not let me down so far. It has been comfortable to wear for hours and the tripod is easy to get on and off. For me it is almost the perfect camera bag.

The post Review of the Benro Ranger 400 Pro Backpack by Leanne Cole appeared first on Digital Photography School.

Camera Bag Review – The Udee Backpack

As a photographer, amateur or professional, you know the value of good, reliable gear. It is often said that we photographers value good gear more than expensive material things like jewelry, designer watches, and/or expensive clothes. If you don’t agree with me, just ask my husband. He is still perplexed about my choice of buying a 20+-year-old film camera for what it would have cost him to buy an Apple watch for my birthday! But considering that I am the one who works most with my gear, carries it around, and takes care of it, I want to make the best buying decisions when it comes to my photography business. So when I had the opportunity to review the Udee backpack, I was excited to give it a test run.

Camera Bag Review - The Udee Backpack

Udee Backpack

As a somewhat petite female photographer who is generally lugging about 20+ lbs of gear, I am always on the lookout for a good, sturdy yet comfortable, camera bag that will last me a long time. I had the opportunity to test the Udee bag on several hiking trips with my family last month.

This is where I want a bag that is durable and can last the rough wear and tear I generally put my gear through when I am hiking. For my wedding photography business, I already have a bag that is tried and tested and something that I will likely not change as my needs for that part of my business are very different.

Camera Bag Review - The Udee Backpack

The Udee bag was really comfortable to carry around while hiking and walking in the mountains.

You can see the individual features of the Udee backpack on their Kickstarter project here.  My personal opinions of the Udee are based on a few factors that I feel are important to me when I am buying a camera bag.

Appearance

I have to say that when I first saw the Udee backpack I was very impressed with the appearance. It’s definitely one of the more stylish looking backpacks I have ever seen. The color combination of the gray flannel-type material with orange accents was attractive, and it appeared to be made of good and sturdy quality fabric. It did not feel like cheap construction and there were no telltale signs of poor workmanship in terms of loose threads, uneven seams, bad zippers, etc., at first glance.

Camera Bag Review - The Udee Backpack

The material felt strong and sturdy yet light-weight. The padding on the back of the pack also felt thick and soft. I prefer camera bags that don’t look and scream “here is a photographer with several thousand dollars worth of gear on their person” too much. On many occasions, I venture out on my own in a new place and I don’t want to attract too much attention.

Camera Bag Review - The Udee Backpack

Camera Bag Review - The Udee Backpack

Comfort

As per Udee, their bag touts a weight reduction system by improving weight distribution via an S-shaped buckle, and an X-shaped back support structure. I tested the bag when I went for a family hiking trip to Colorado and completely loved the weight reduction system. I hiked for a good two to three hours and did not feel the discomfort that I normally feel with other traditional backpacks.

The back support made carrying the bag super comfortable and the straps did not dig into my shoulders with the weight of the bag. The combination of the X-shaped back padding and stiff back support made it easy to carry the camera bag for an extended period of time. I did not have any odd shaped gear poking into my back making it unfordable to carry. The bag straps were also wide enough to comfortably fit on my shoulder.

Camera Bag Review - The Udee Backpack

My seven-year-old son also carried the bag for a short period of time (minus the camera, as I was holding it taking pictures) and he did not complain about the weight. At that time it contained a few snacks, a 50mm prime lens, a 70-200mm and a water bottle.

Camera Bag Review - The Udee Backpack

Of his own accord, my son volunteered to carry the bag for me…with slight adjustments to the straps, it fit his small frame quite comfortably.

Storage

I used to carry a lot of gear with me during my travels but over time I have narrowed down my options to only carrying lens and gear that I know I will use. I plan out my excursions ahead of time so I know exactly what I will be using and when. The Udee backpack fit the following comfortably:

  • 1 camera body
  • 2 zoom and prime lenses
  • My Canon 70-200mm (with the lens case)
  • Camera battery charger
  • Memory cards
  • 3 camera batteries
  • And a 15in MacBook laptop

I don’t carry additional bodies when I travel most of the time but sometimes I will carry an additional film camera body which is small enough to comfortably fit in the Udee.

Padding

Camera Bag Review - The Udee Backpack

The padding inside the bag is thick and soft. I am very particular with my gear and always travel with the lenses in the bags they come in. Sometimes I will put two or more lens in a smaller padded zip bag and then put it in my backpack. It might seem like overkill, but I would rather do this than have damaged gear when I reach my destination.

With the Udee backpack, I felt comfortable enough to just put my lenses in their bags directly into the bag. I did find it a little uncomfortable to fit my 70-200mm with its case in the bottom storage compartment but it fit perfectly in the top compartment. The main compartment of the Udee also had various smaller storage areas that hold traditional things like cards, a wallet, loose change and even had a padded place for sunglasses or eyeglasses.

Camera Bag Review - The Udee Backpack

On a side note, for those of you who travel on planes with the Udee, the dimensions are within the guidelines of the airlines and it actually fits perfectly in the flight overhead compartment.

Camera Bag Review - The Udee Backpack

Anti-theft device

I found this to be a very unique and interesting feature of the Udee backpack. Call me paranoid, but I never ever leave my gear unattended. If I am traveling alone, it comes with me wherever I go. If I am with family, then I have someone watch my gear if I have to step away. My gear is what keeps my business afloat and even though I have insurance, I still behave like I don’t when it comes to safety and security with my gear.

When I read about the anti-theft device in the Udee, I was intrigued. This is an interesting feature for travelers especially if you put your camera bag in an overhead rack when using public transportation or need to step away from your gear for a few minutes. The small, built-in combination lock and steel cable are long enough to keep your pack safe and the lock can also be used on some of the pack’s zippers.

Camera Bag Review - The Udee Backpack

Security pocket and luggage belt

I love bags that have a luggage belt. This small but important feature is invaluable to me as it helps maintain my sanity when I am rushed and traveling through an airport with my kids. Those of you who travel with young ones can likely relate. Somehow you suddenly become the luggage porter just minutes before walking through security. Especially when they swore that they would carry their own bags the whole trip if you just let them take that extra book or that extra game!

The luggage belt allowed me to hook the camera bag onto my carryon bag handle and gave me an extra hand to maneuver my kids through the crowded airport. I liked the security pocket too because it let me store and access my phone easily. However, I don’t see myself using this for anything other than a phone and maybe some money just in case I lose my wallet somewhere. It was easy to access even with both bag straps on my shoulder, which is a big plus in my mind.

Camera Bag Review - The Udee Backpack

LED Light

I really loved this feature of the bag. I found it particularly useful when I was hiking with my family. We tend to stay out past sunset (generally because I am photographing something and get carried away) and we always carry flashlights with us. We have headlamps, but the fact that the bag could light up and replace my headlamp was particularly impressive.

I can also see this as being very useful for people who walk along roadsides at night. With just the click of a button on each strap, the LED strips either blink slowly, blink quickly, or stay on continuously. The fact that each LED module can be removed from the strap and can be plugged into a standard micro-USB charger is also really practical as there are no batteries to replace.

Camera Bag Review - The Udee Backpack

Cons of the Udee backpack

But there were a few things about the Udee backpack that I personally did not like. These are just my opinion based on my time with the Udee!

No water bottle pocket

Now I am very conscious of the environment and try to practice sustainability in my everyday life. To that end, I always carry my own water bottle everywhere I go. This is especially important when I am out hiking and camping with my family. This was a huge con in my mind as there is no storage spot for me to keep my water bottle on the Udee bag.

I would have to use an external hook to clip the bottle to the shoulder straps, which I find extremely cumbersome and awkward as the bottle tends to hustle around when I am hiking. The other option would be to put the bottle inside the bag which makes me very nervous – liquid and electronic gear in close proximity is a disaster just waiting to happen!

Accessibility to the bottom storage compartment is difficult

I found accessibility to my camera very difficult when I stored it in the bottom compartment of the Udee backpack. This is the part of the bag that Udee calls the camera storage area. With the bag on both shoulders, it was impossible to reach the zipper of the bottom storage. I had to shift the bag onto one shoulder and even then, it was very challenging to open the zipper and take out the camera.

Camera Bag Review - The Udee Backpack

My arms could not reach the bottom storage while I was holding the bag. I had to put the bag down, take some stuff out of the top storage and then access the bottom camera storage area!

The bottom storage compartment was stiff and did not open wide enough to take the camera out, especially when there were extra lenses in the top compartment weighing it down. This may not be an issue if you don’t anticipate taking pictures while you are getting to and from your destination. I like to stop and take some pictures along the way when I am hiking and/or walking around town. I don’t necessarily want to have the camera around my neck for easy access.

Safety and security

Especially when I am hiking a difficult terrain, I like to be safe with my expensive gear. I did notice that it is possible to access the lower compartment from the interior of the backpack since the divider has a zipper around it. However, that’s not practical if the upper compartment is also full of stuff.

Camera Bag Review - The Udee Backpack

But what surprised me was that the bottom storage was accessible easily when the bag was worn on the back. My son wanted to store his jacket (5 minutes into the hike of course) and was easily able to do so. Not so good for the security of camera gear.

Quality of the zipper

Through out my time with the Udee bag, some of the zippers were very difficult to use. Now, this could be just my copy of the bag and not really a problem in general.

The orange zipper which opens to the compartment with the key hook (I kept the car keys and my wallet there) was particularly hard to operate. The key hook kept getting stuck in the zipper and it was hard to open. I had to press down on the front of the bag and then open it. So I could not open the bag and take my keys out super fast. I would have to try a couple of times before being able to get anything out. I did not have a problem with the other zippers so, as I said, it could be just an issue with my copy of the bag.

Camera Bag Review - The Udee Backpack

Overall thoughts on the Udee backpack

Overall I think the Udee backpack is a very good looking bag that is generally well-built. Its list of features includes some really innovative things like the LED lights, anti-theft device, and portable charging.

However, I feel that it also has some serious misses like the poorly designed lower-compartment in terms of accessibility and lack of beverage storage. I may be tempted to use this bag for light photography use and small day trips where I may not even take my camera or take just a point and shoot. I would not consider taking this on an extensive travel trip where I am constantly on the move, taking a lot of pictures along the way and need to take my camera out multiple times.

Camera Bag Review - The Udee Backpack

P.S. I really want to thank my kids for being such sports and testing out the Udee with me on our trip. The bribe of being photographed for an article really worked in my favor this time around!

The post Camera Bag Review – The Udee Backpack by Karthika Gupta appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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