Nikon

...now browsing by tag

 
 

Another nail in the coffin of Canon/Nikon relative duopoly – Cactus introduces cross-platform radio remote TTL flash system

Saturday, March 25th, 2017

Since the 1960′s, Canon and Nikon have enjoyed a relative duopoly in the world of system cameras, especially amongst professional photographers.

In the late 1980′s, Canon took the lead with their totally redesigned lens mount system allowing fast AF, and it is only in the last decade or so that Nikon has again taken the lead with their even better AF tracking and metering technologies.

But as Olympus has shown with their Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II camera, the advantages of the Canon and Nikon dSLR systems are rapidly being lost to ever improving technological advances, especially with sensors, AF and mirrorless systems which, particularly in the case of Micro Four Thirds, offer adequate image quality (often better edge to edge image sharpness) , smaller, lighter, less expensive kits more suited to our travel and hiking needs, more accurate and often faster AF, faster burst speeds with accurate continuous AF, much better image stabilisation, hand holdable super telephoto reach as well as better run and gun hand holdable 4K video.

Part of the successful marketing strategy of Canon and Nikon is keeping their users loyal to their brand – once they have invested into their system, much like Apple users, they are generally too heavily invested to swap brands or even to use other brands with different user interfaces or incompatibilities.

If you had, or wanted to use Canon lenses to their full capability, you had to buy Canon dSLRs, likewise for Nikon.

If you had a Canon system, you had to buy Canon-specific flash systems if you want TTL or remote radio TTL flash – likewise for Nikon.

Canon dSLR owners could use other lenses, even Nikon lenses but with sacrifice of fast AF.

Nikon dSLR owners could not use non-Nikon mount lenses due to a physical design issue – the distance from sensor to lens mount is too long.

Enter the new world of cross-platform utility

My last blog post espoused the potential utility of using Sony full frame mirrorless cameras with a Sigma MC-11 adapter which at last provides fast AF with most Canon EF mount lenses on Sony cameras, but in particular, the Sigma branded ones.

This allows photographers increased choice – they could get a mirrorless full frame camera with a different sensor characteristics plus sensor based image stabilisation and face AF for their Canon lenses with better feature sets at the same price as the entry level Canon 6D dSLR- seeing that Canon has not shown interest in creating such a camera.

Now, Cactus has massively increased cross-platform utility by announcing a free firmware upgrade to their Cactus V6 II radio remote control flash system, which allows Canon, Nikon or Olympus flashes to be used with most other brand cameras with either on-camera TTL or remote radio cross-TTL capability!

This is awesome, but wait, there’s more, the Cactus V6 II x-TTL also allows:

  • remote control of flash unit output, even below 1/128th level for ultra short, motion-stopping shots
  • automatic zoom level control of flashes
  • Super FP or HSS mode (but Pentax and Sony cameras need a brand-specific flash for this to work)
  • Power Sync mode to allow a faster flash sync without losing flash output as occurs in Super FP/HSS mode
  • two unique new flash exposure modes:
    • Flash Compensate – store a desired flash exposure that will automatically adjust according to changes in camera settings.
    • Flash Power Lock – lock flash power output after a desired TTL exposure is achieved, for consistency in repeat shooting.

See my wikipedia page for more information of remote control of flashes.

 And, of course, this also also fantastic news for Micro Four Thirds users who can now have radio TTL flash on their Olympus and Panasonic cameras – even with Canon flashes!

Can’t afford a mirrorless camera? Here is a brief guide to the budget dSLRs in Jan 2017.

Friday, January 27th, 2017

In 2017, the mirrorless interchangeable cameras such as Micro Four Thirds (eg. Olympus or Panasonic – see my previous post on budget mirrorless cameras) are probably the best suited for most people in terms of size of camera and lenses, weatherproofing, image stabilisation, hand held video capabilities, versatility, image quality, more fun and value for money.

However, the most affordable versions of these tend to be too compact and lack too many features, and for those on a strict budget who need better ergonomics and can do without weathersealing and the many features that mirrorless offer (eg magnified manual focus in viewfinder, image review in viewfinder without need for reading glasses, live histograms, focus peaking, etc.), they may have to resort to entry level cropped sensor dSLRs with their cut down features.

The sad fact is that both Canon and Nikon have largely failed to offer high quality dedicated lenses for these dSLRs so that users can grow into the system without having to resort to large, heavy, expensive full frame lenses to address their growth needs. Enthusiast photographers will generally quickly migrate to more expensive full frame dSLRs to make the most of these full frame lenses – but this is a path to financial pain as well as backache, and they will not be able to use their cropped sensor lenses on these full frame cameras without having to resort to a cropped view mode.

Unlike mirrorless cameras, if you want to shoot video, you have to put the mirror up and use the rear LCD screen – you won’t be able to see anything through the viewfinder. In addition, very few lenses for dSLRs are optimised for video work – exceptions are those with stepping autofocus motors (marked as “STM” on Canon lenses).

Canon cropped sensor dSLRs can use dedicated cropped sensor lenses (“EF-S”) or larger full frame lenses (“EF”).

Nikon cropped sensor dSLRs can use dedicated cropped sensor lenses (“DX”) or larger full frame Nikon F mount lenses.

All have rather dark, cropped view Pentamirror viewfinders rather than the brighter, 100% coverage of the more expensive dSLR pentaprisms.

Canon budget dSLRs:

All have 1.6x cropped sensors, optical viewfinder with 95% image coverage, 1080HD 24/25/30p video, flash sync 1/200th sec, longest timed shutter speed of 30sec, built-in flash, scene modes including Scene Intelligent Auto, ±5 exposure compensation, 3frames AE bracketing up to ±2EV, Face Detection AF but only fast in Live View with mirror up,  USB 2.0, single SD card slot, limited spread of AF points across the frame and minimal button customisations.

None have weathersealing, built-in sensor based image stabilisation or 4K video.

The older models up to and including the 700D (rebel T5i), and the smaller cheaper models all have similar outdated 18mp sensors 1st introduced with the Canon EOS 550D (rebel T2i) – ie. the sensors are old 2010 level technologies – a lot has happened since then!

The newer 24mp sensor is still not as good for high ISO and dynamic range as the Sony sensors found in Nikon, Pentax, Olympus and Sony bodies.

Canon EOS 1300D (Rebel T6):

  • this is the older, 2013, basic model with 18mp sensor, Digic 4+ image processor, 9 AF points, 3″ fixed 920Kdot LCD screen, shutter to 1/4000th sec, mono mic, no mic port
  • popup flash has GN of 9.2m at ISO 100
  • burst rate 3fps
  • AF is very slow in Live View or movie mode
  • 485 g (1.07 lb / 17.11 oz)), 129 x 101 x 78 mm (5.08 x 3.98 x 3.07″)
  • remote control via optional RC-6 cable or WiFi
  • built-in WiFi + NFC but compatible with Eye-Fi SD cards to transfer images wirelessly
  • in Jan 2017, body with basic 3x zoom kit lens will cost $AU433 after cash back from Canon

Canon EOS 100D (Rebel SL1):

  • this is the compact 2016 model with 18mp sensor, Digic 5 image processor, 9 AF points, 3″ fixed 1mdot LCD touch screen, shutter to 1/4000th sec, mono mic and a mic port
  • popup flash has GN of 9.4m at ISO 100
  • burst rate 4fps
  • basic 63 zone metering system
  • AF is very slow in Live View or movie mode
  • 407 g (0.90 lb / 14.36 oz), 117 x 91 x 69 mm (4.61 x 3.58 x 2.72″)
  • remote control via optional RC-6 cable
  • no built-in WiFi but compatible with Eye-Fi SD cards to transfer images wirelessly
  • in Jan 2017, body only will cost $AU399 after cash back from Canon, perhaps a good option is the kit with the EF 40mm f/2.8 STM lens for $490 after cash back

Canon EOS 750D (Rebel T6i /Kiss X6i):

  • this is the larger 2015 model with 24mp sensor, Digic 6 image processor, 19 AF all cross type points (same as 70D), 3″ articulated 1mdot LCD touch screen, shutter to 1/4000th sec, stereo mic and a mic port
  • popup flash has GN of 12m at ISO 100
  • burst rate 5fps
  • new 7560 pixel RGB + IR metering sensor for more accurate metering
  • new Hybrid CMOS AF III uses sensor-based phase detection points for increased focus speed and accuracy in live view (this is different to the Dual Pixel AF sensor found on the more expensive 70D and 7D II)
  • Eye sensor for use with optical viewfinder
  • Flicker detection
  • 555 g (1.22 lb / 19.58 oz) / 132 x 101 x 78 mm (5.2 x 3.98 x 3.07″)
  • remote control via optional RC-6 cable or smartphone via WiFi
  • built-in WiFi + NFC
  • issues include:
    • poor subject tracking and face detection AF unless you use Live View
    • limited AF point coverage across the frame (mainly just in the centre – so problematic for portraits, etc away from the centre)
    • limited dynamic range
    • no exposure compensation in manual mode with auto ISO
    • auto ISO uses the 1/focal length as longest shutter speed to use, cannot program this
    • poor battery life compared with more expensive dSLRs
    • no ability to microadjust AF for each lens leading to possible inaccurate AF in all shots
  • in Jan 2017, body only will cost $AU755 after cash back from Canon

Canon EOS 760D (Rebel T6s /Kiss X6s):

  • as for 750D but $30 dearer and adds:
    • LCD information display on top plate
    • Quick control dial on rear but awkward to use for some
    • Servo AF in live view, which lets you track moving subjects when shooting in live view
  • competes with the Nikon D5500

Nikon budget dSLRs:

All have 1.5x cropped sensors, optical viewfinder with 95% image coverage, 1080HD 24/25/30/60p video, flash sync 1/200th sec, longest timed shutter speed of 30sec, built-in flash, ±5 exposure compensation, 3frames AE bracketing up to ±2EV, Face Detection AF but only fast in Live View with mirror up,  USB 2.0, single SD card slot, limited spread of AF points across the frame and minimal button customisations.

None have weathersealing, built-in sensor based image stabilisation, PDAF in Live View, or 4K video.

Nikon D3400:

  • this is the compact 2016 model with 24mp sensor, Expeed 4 image processor, 11 AF points, 3″ fixed 920Kdot LCD screen, shutter to 1/4000th sec, mono mic but no mic port and no timelapse recording
  • popup flash has GN of 12m at ISO 100
  • burst rate 5fps
  • AF is very slow in Live View or movie mode
  • battery life 3x longer than the above Canon models
  • 395 g (0.87 lb / 13.93 oz) / 124 x 98 x 76 mm (4.88 x 3.86 x 2.99″)
  • remote control via optional  cable or smartphone via Bluetooth
  • Bluetooth Snapbridge only no built-in WiFi
  • in Jan 2017, body only will cost $AU535

Nikon D5500:

  • this is the compact 2016 model with 24mp sensor, Expeed 4 image processor, 39 AF points incl. 9 cross-type, 3.2″ articulated 1mdot LCD touch screen, shutter to 1/4000th sec, stereo mic, mic port
  • popup flash has GN of 12m at ISO 100
  • 17 mm eyepoint
  • burst rate 5fps
  • Multi-CAM 4800DX autofocus sensor module with TTL phase detection
  • 3D color matrix metering II (type G, E, and D lenses)
  • 3D subject tracking
  • no anti-alias filter and thus can give marginally more image detail than the above Canon models
  • no AE bracketing
  • AF is very slow in Live View or movie mode
  • battery life 2x longer than the above Canon models
  • Optional GP-1/GP-1A GPS module
  • 465 g (1.03 lb / 16.40 oz) / 124 x 97 x 70 mm (4.88 x 3.82 x 2.76″)
  • remote control via optional  MC-DC2 cable or WiFi via WR-1/WR-R10
  • Wifi
  • in Jan 2017, body only will cost $AU825

Nikon D5600:

  • as for D5500 but $70 dearer, half the battery life,  AE bracketing, Bluetooth,  NFC, timelapse recording, exposure metering using 2016-pixel RGB sensor

Conclusion:

The Nikon dSLRs have better sensors than the Canon in terms of dynamic range and perhaps more detail without the anti-alias filter, plus they have better subject tracking, better battery life and the video mode can capture 60 frames per second not just 24/25/30p.

The Canon dSLRs with sensor-based phase detection points have better Live View AF and all the Canons can use a much wider range of legacy lenses (eg. you can adapt a Nikon lens in manual focus only onto a Canon dSLR but you cannot use a Canon lens on a Nikon dSLR due to its long sensor to lens mount distance).

There are more expensive versions of these dSLRs which add weathersealing and improved autofocus as well as pentaprisms instead of the dark pentamirrors, but then, you probably would be better off buying a mirrorless camera such as an Olympus OM-D E-M1 or Panasonic GX85/80.

Nikon introduces new full frame pro sports dSLR – the Nikon D5

Thursday, January 21st, 2016

Nikon recently announced a new pro dSLR for their sports and wildlife photographers who have $US6500 to upgrade from their aging Nikon 4DS, and it adds some nice new features to get them excited.

Specs of the new Nikon D5 dSLR:

  • 20.8 mp full frame sensor
  • native ISO 100-102,400
  • 12fps burst rate
  • all-new autofocus module with 153 points, 99 of which are cross-type
  • EXPEED 5 processor
  • 4K video but this is very limited
  • touchscreen LCD
  • support for Nikon’s new radio remote TTL flash functionality (requires a radio TTL compatible flash)
  • $US6500

On paper, seems like a great camera for Nikon’s sports and wildlife photographers who will get much improved high ISO performance, better AF, some 4K video capability as well as remote radio TTL flash.

 Why carry all this weight and pay $US25,000 for a telephoto kit?

In my last post, I blogged about the wonderful new super telephoto lenses for Micro Four Thirds – the Olympus 300mm f/4 and the Panasonic 100-400mm.

You could use a Panasonic GH-4 mirrorless camera with the 100-400mm zoom and gain not only wonderful hand held telephoto reach up to 800mm in full frame terms but better 4K video quality, and this for well under $US4000 and perhaps a quarter of the weight and size as a Nikon 600mm full frame telephoto with less reach.

Alternatively, you could use an Olympus OM-D E-M1 with the 300mm f/4 lens and gain unprecedented image stabilisation capability with superb optics in a much more compact size and weight than the Nikon kit and again coming in at under $US4000.

So why then buy the Nikon outfit?

The answer is primarily, the improved capability of shooting moving subjects in very low light – a scenario where image stabilisation is of very limited utility as you need sufficiently fast shutter speed to adequately stop the moving subject – and here is where image quality at high ISO becomes a prime consideration.

The Micro Four Thirds cameras will get you to ISO 3200 with good image quality but it can be expected that the Nikon will give you at least 1, maybe 2 more stops of higher ISO for similar image quality, although we will have to await tests to see how good the Nikon really is.

The Micro Four Thirds options will be just as good and perhaps even better for many situations such as studio work, macro work, static wildlife/sports subjects and for moving subjects in good light (although the Nikon’s AF may be better, and the optical viewfinder will have advantages in this situation) and allow for far more versatility and maneuverability thanks to not being stuck with a large heavy tripod and having to carry large lenses.

 

 

Nikon’s new D810A astrophotography dSLR – why bother?

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015

Nikon has just announced a special version of the Nikon D810 full frame dSLR, the D810A designed purely for astrophotography.

So what is different about it?

  • infrared filter has been modified to allow the H-alpha 656nm wavelengths of light to better image certain nebulae
  • additional features to support long exposure photography:
    • Long Exposure M mode that provides selectable shutter speeds from 4 to 900 sec (15 minutes) – similar to the Olympus Timed BULB mode
    • a virtual exposure preview in bulb and time settings, similar to Olympus Live Time mode
    • a dark frame subtraction mode (called ‘astro noise reduction’ in Raw) – and I thought all cameras had this already!
    • red virtual horizon, so as not to interfere with night vision
    • ability to dim the viewfinder’s OLED

It will set you back $US3800 for the body only.

Is it worth it?

Maybe to some astrophotographers who are just into Milky Way landscape shots but really keen astrophotographers need more than this in an astro camera, such as:

  • cooling of the sensor
  • no SLR mirror to cause camera shake (the mirror is pretty much useless for astrophotography anyway)
  • electronic view finder with Live Boost (as with Olympus OM-D cameras)
  • WiFi full remote control to avoid touching the camera and causing shake

These keen astrophotographers would be looking more to modifications of cameras such as performed by CentralDS

For instance they will take apart your Canon EOS 5D Mark III and totally transform it by removing the mirror housing, changing the IR cut filter, adding in a cooling system for the sensor to keep thermal noise as low as possible, adding in a drop-in filter system, etc.

Perhaps a better suited camera is a mirrorless camera, and so this company will also modify your Sony A7s mirrorless full frame camera and turn it into a dedicated cooled astro camera with IR filter replaced for under $US1000 which should give far better results than an uncooled Nikon D810A:

modified Sony A7s

and this is what happens to thermal noise when you use a cooled camera vs un-modified camera:

thermal noise

5 awesome cameras for 2014 – E-M1, E-M10, GM-1, GH-4 and Fuji X-T1

Friday, February 7th, 2014

Following on from the footsteps of the brilliant camera of 2012 – the Olympus E-M5, we now have a range of amazing cameras to build on it’s success to address nearly every need.

Firstly the Panasonic GM-1.

I am not a fan of cameras without viewfinders but the GM-1 has changed the face of the shirt pocket camera genre – previously ruled by the excellent Sony RX 100 II.

The GM-1 is a Micro Four Thirds camera and thus not only does it have interchangeable lenses unlike the fixed lens on the Sony, but it’s sensor is MUCH larger meaning higher quality images and more shallow depth of field is possible for when you want to blur the background.

It came with a new very compact 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH MegaOIS kit lens and a silent electronic shutter and certainly has the compact size to suit most people who just want a camera for their purse or pocket to take anywhere.

EOSHD.com placed it 2nd to the Canon 5D Mark III for HD video in its league 3 category of cameras for HD video work!

Like any tiny camera it has its compromises, in particular, no viewfinder, poor flash capabilities and ergonomic issues due to small size – but they are the price you pay for tiny size.

Then came the photographic product of the year for 2013 – the superb Olympus E-M1.

E-m1

Image courtesy of dpreview.com.

This built upon the E-M5 and improved almost every aspect including the EVF and the world’s best image stabiliser, and added phase detect AF to provide much improved AF tracking of moving subjects and much needed fast AF support for the superb range of Four Thirds lenses.

Not only that but it became one of the 1st cameras of its type to have WiFi with NFC and allow smartphones to not only have images transferred easily but remotely control the camera, view the live image on the phone and even select an AF subject. Very handy indeed.

The image stabiliser is so good that eoshd.com voted it as the BEST camera for hand held video without resorting to a large image stabilisation rig.

Olympus then followed this up with the “entry level” Olympus E-M10.

It may be entry level in price but what a great camera – even better than the E-M5 with loads of new features including many on the E-M1 but also a built-in flash which will please many. The missing features will not be of great importance to the buyers of this camera – lack of weathersealing, only 3 axis IS instead of 5 axis IS, and a few other features.

Not to be outdone, Fuji stepped up to the plate with their well received Fuji X-T1.

The Fuji X-T1 is in many ways similar to the Olympus E-M1. It does have a larger sensor so can give marginally better image quality and potentially 1 stop shallower depth of field, plus you get to see the main camera settings by looking at the dials. But critically it lacks the great image stabiliser, the range of lenses and flash sync, shutter speed range, BULB modes are not as good while the lenses are much bigger and heavier.

Today, we have the announcement of the Panasonic GH-4.

This is an incredible camera in that it has the most amazing video features for a camera in the price range, plus it has high end still photography features although unfortunately there is no sensor-based image stabiliser.

At an expected price of under $2000, you get 4K HD video, uncompressed video out, up to 96fps 1080p slo-mo variable rate  video with very high image quality (200Mbps) and an optional accessory port add on which takes it to another level altogether.

As a stills camera, it is weathersealed, has awesome EVF, shutter to 1/8000th sec, Bulb to 60 minutes,  12fps burst (7fps with AF tracking), silent shutter mode, flash sync to 1/250th sec even for external flashes, eye detect AF as with Olympus cameras, smartphone WiFi remote control, and more!

GH-4 with YAGHE video accessory

Sony has started something big too.

Sony is threatening to change the photographic world with their full frame mirrorless cameras which they introduced in 2013.

Unfortunately, the 36mp model, the Sony A7R has not lived up to expectations as it is plagued with shutter issues and one really needs to use it on a tripod to make the most of it.

The 24mp Sony A7 on the other hand seems to be a much more useful camera, although both lack built-in image stabiliser which would make use of legacy lenses much more attractive while dedicated new AF lenses are rolled out.

I would really like to see Olympus bring out a full frame mirrorless with their 5-axis image stabiliser and given their collaborations with Sony it may eventuate.

But what has happened to Canon and Nikon?

Both Canon and Nikon were conspicuously absent in dpreview.com’s readers’ votes for cameras of the year for 2013 – even Pentax K-3 won the dSLR section which Canon and Nikon practically own!

Canon and Nikon must be planning something big because they have not been producing any exciting cameras for a while.

Their dSLRs are just conservative evolutions of their usual dSLRs not able to take advantage of the technologic advantages and functions available with mirrorless systems.

Nikon tried to go retro to piggyback on the retro success of the Olympus OMD cameras but came up with an expensive, dysfunctional camera – the Nikon Df dSLR.

Canon’s top of the range APS-C dSLR is still their ageing Canon 7D, although they did introduce a 70D with dual AF for live view.

Both Canon and Nikon are sitting on their 2012 technology full frame dSLRs – the Nikon D800/D600/D4 and Canon 5D Mark III / 1D X (other than the Nikon D610 which is just a fix of the problematic D600).

Canon’s mirrorless system, the EOS-M does not appear to be going anywhere – given the autofocus of the EOS-M was so terrible. Why haven’t they brought out a more capable camera? The answer may well be that they don’t care because Americans love BIG cameras so they are just going to sell cheap dinosaur dSLR products to Americans and bide their time until they come up with a killer product.

Meanwhile the rest of us have realised we can get practically the same results with more fun, better image stabilisation, better hand held video, less backache, and more space in our travel bags by buying Micro Four Thirds.

New full frame cameras – mirrorless Sony and the retro Nikon Df

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

Nikon today formerly announced their new retro styled full frame dSLR – the Nikon Df.

The Nikon Df presumably is in response to the Olympus OM-D E-M5 and the Fuji mirrorless cameras which have enthused the enthusiast and pro photographer world with their great retro styling and classic ergonomics.

 

Nikon Df

Nikon Df

The Nikon Df is bound to be a hit with Nikon die hards who will fall in love with its nice styling but unlike the Olympus OM-D E-M5, instead of combining great retro looks and ergonomics with cutting edge technologies and awesome new versatility such as brilliant image stabilisation down to 2 secs hand held, almost waterproof features, WiFi control by smartphones, etc, etc, Nikon has produced a camera with no new technology but instead less technology and functionality  than is currently available in equivalent but less expensive cameras – such as their Nikon D800 dSLR.

It certainly has more aesthetics than Nikon’s other dSLRs, but at a cost of less customisation options – unlike the OM-D cameras, the top dials cannot be customised to other functions as needed and some dials such as the exposure compensation dial will be redundant in manual exposure mode.

The Nikon Df is a hybridization of:

  • Nikon F-series film camera:
    • body resembles that of Nikon’s F-series 35mm cameras, complete with dials for shutter speed, aperture, and exposure compensation.
    • unfortunately the utility and ergonomics of these dials is not great, especially if you have your eye to the viewfinder as these dials are difficult to unlock without viewing directly
    • furthermore, the argument the dials display all the data falls down as they don’t show aperture, and if you want more flexible shutter speeds, will not show that either as you use the front dial instead, plus you have the LCD screen to display all this anyway.
  • the Nikon D4 pro dSLR:
    • the 16mp full-frame CMOS sensor
    • EXPEED 3 image processing engine
    • 1/250th sec flash sync
  • the Nikon D600 mid-level dSLR:
    • the 39 point autofocus system from the Nikon D600
    • same boring fixed non-touch 3.2″ 921K dot LCD screen as the Nikon D600/D800/D4
    • same optical pentaprism viewfinder as the Nikon D600/D800/D4
    • same limited shutter range as the Nikon D600 (30sec-1/4000th sec)
    • same limited 5.5fps burst rate
    • “environmental sealed” as for the D800
  • minus a few features:
    • only +/- 3EV exposure compensation instead of +/- 5EV
    • only 1 SD card slot and no CF slot
    • lighter at 760g, it is lighter than the other Nikon full frame dSLRs (the D610 is 850g)
    • no movie mode
    • no scene modes
    • no timelapse recording
    • no built-in flash

In summary, lovely looking camera with great image quality with excellent high ISO capability designed for the still photographer only, but no built-in image stabilisation, and unlike the Sony option below only takes Nikon-mount lenses or larger format lenses.

Unfortunately the aesthetic design gets in the way of ergonomics and functionality instead of improving it as is the case with the Olympus E-M5 and E-M1.

and the hands on preview at dpreview concludes with “As such, although I hate to say it: from a cold, hard practical point of view, I can’t shake the feeling that the Df is a little bit… silly.”

Unless you really, really want the 16mp sensor, or you need to use very old Nikon lenses, you would be better off with a MUCH CHEAPER 24mp Nikon D610.

Now for the Sony mirrorless full frames – the a7 and a7R:

These two camera represent an the start of the future of full frame cameras – removing the old optical pentaprism and noisy, heavy mirror box and replacing it with modern high quality electronic viewfinders allows the cameras to be made much smaller, lighter, less expensive, and best of all, capable of using almost any 35mm full frame lens ever made, including Leica rangefinder lenses.

The Sony a7 camera is a 24MP camera with on-sensor phase detection sensors for faster continuous AF tracking and some AF capability with lenses not optimised for CDAF technologies.

The more expensive Sony a7R has a similar sensor to the Nikon D800 at 36mp with no anti-alias filter for highly detailed images but no phase detect sensors.

Time for Olympus to go full frame too?

Olympus and Sony are collaborating, and I only wish Olympus produce a full frame version of the their Olympus OM-D E-M1 with its wonderful features such as awesome image stabiliser down to 2 secs hand held which works on all lenses,  almost waterproof, cool Live BULB and timed BULB modes, WiFi control by smartphones, fast, accurate CD-AF, and a flash system compatible with Micro Four Thirds (although hopefully with new radio TTL flash system added).

Of course this would mean Olympus would need to develop a new range of CD-AF compatible full frame lenses but as there is really no-one else seriously doing this apart from Sony, this would be an awesome time to get in first and become a leader as they have done with Micro Four Thirds in the cropped sensor mirrorless genre.

 

It’s now a new world with the latest Micro Four Thirds – why would anyone bother buying a cropped sensor dSLR anymore?

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013

There maybe some good reasons to buy a Canon or Nikon cropped sensor dSLR including:

  • they are cheap and still take great photos
  • you have lots of Canon or Nikon lenses and want a 2nd camera body as backup or for telephoto reach, or plan to compliment it with a full frame dSLR
  • you desperately need radio TTL remote flash capability using Pocket Wizard modules

Hate to disappoint you but they are really the ONLY reasons now, and for the rest of us who can afford a Panasonic GX7, Olympus E-M5 or the new Olympus E-M1, you will find they offer far more versatility with much less weight, size, the same or better image quality and they are much more fun to use as they don’t have the archaic noisy, annoying mirror.

Top of the range cameras from each camp:

The Olympus E-M1 vs Nikon D7100 vs Canon 7D (although this is well overdue for a replacement being 2009 technology).

The advantages of the E-M1:

  • the best sensor dust cleaner – I have never had to clean my Olympus cameras yet my Canon 1D Mark III plagues me continuously
  • in-camera 5 axis image-stabiliser which is the most effective of ANY camera AND works on ANY LENS even old legacy manual focus ones AND is very effective in movie mode negating the need for heavy, expensive stabilising rigs
  • much reduced need to carry a tripod – the image stabiliser even allows hand held shots as slow as 1 second with wide angle lenses for those flowing water or moving crowd shots – awesome indeed!
  • the highest level of weather protection – it is almost waterproof as long as it is not subject to underwater pressures – just check out the videos online of using it under a shower and in a puddle of water! Makes it easy to clean, and you will feel much more comfortable in dusty places or in the rain!
  • an awesome electronic viewfinder which offers some great advantages over optical dSLR viewfinders including:
    • live histogram so you can keep an eye on blowing out highlights
    • image stabilised live magnification to make manual focus far more accurate and easier
    • focus peaking for an alternative mode of accurate manual focus
    • the EVF is far better than optical for accurate manual focus of tilt lenses
    • can set most settings without your reading glasses or taking your eye away from the viewfinder
    • ability to still visualise the scene and focus when using a dense filter such as a Hoya R72 infrared filter or a ND400 filter.
    • ability to pre-visualise effects such as Art Filtered or monochromatic images with filters applied and various levels of contrast and desaturation
    • ability to see panoramic stitching guides
    • ability to pre-visualise different aspect ratios
    • you can hold the camera to your eye for better stability in movie mode
    • NB. other EVF functions in other Micro Four Thirds cameras:
      • the GX-7 and some forthcoming cameras can use truly silent electronic shutter mode with potentially even faster burst rates with camera held to viewfinder
      • the GH-1 and presumably other GHx cameras also allowed pre-visualisation of shutter speed effect, displaying the extent of flowing water effects, etc
  • far more autofocus points when using the viewfinder – 800 CDAF + 37 phase detect easily beats 51 phase detect for the Nikon and 19 phase detect for the Canon – this means you can AF on ANYWHERE in the frame
  • faster, more accurate AF for slow moving subjects – on sensor AF sensors means that AF does not need microcalibration as with dSLRs and the AF is incredibly fast
  • ability to accurately and quickly AF on the closest eye of your subject anywhere in the frame – this is awesome and one of my favorite functions!
  • quiet shutter – much, much, better for shooting in quiet events such as wedding ceremonies, classical music concerts
  • no mirror-induced camera shake at high magnification – no need to go into clunky mirror lockup modes
  • extended shutter speed range to 60sec – great for astrophotography
  • unique Timed BULB and Live View BULB modes – long exposures are now much easier – just watch the image “develop” on the screen and terminate the exposure when you are happy with it
  • 10fps burst rate (w/o AF or IS) with up to 50 RAW shots (the 7D will only do 15 RAW in a burst and limited to 8fps)
  • automatic hand holdable HDR modes as well as traditional HDR bracketing modes
  • WiFi built in allowing almost full remote control and wireless tethering to smartphones or Apple iPads – you can see the LIVE image on your device, change settings and then even touch a subject and the camera will AF on that subject then take the shot – absolutely awesome capability which will allow new creative imagery to be achieved, placing the camera in dangerous situations or spots where a human cannot control it directly, yet still be fully controlled by WiFi.
  • tiltable touch screen – again, you can just touch the rear screen and it will AF and take the shot  – the screens on the Nikon 7100 and Canon 7D are fixed and do not have touch capability, and even if they did, AF is very slow in Live View mode
  • light – the E-M1 is only 497g, yet very nicely laid out for ergonomic use even with larger lenses. The dSLRs are around 800g.
  • smaller – 130.4 x 93.5 x 63.1mm
  • ability to convert almost any full frame legacy lens into an image stabilised tilt or shift lens
  • more telephoto reach for same size telephoto lens
  • ability to use a wider range of legacy lenses such as the superb Leica M rangefinder lenses, as well as a new range of f/0.95 manual focus lenses, and have them image stabilised.
  • ability to use the superb, cropped sensor optimised Olympus Four Thirds lenses with fast AF.

Advantages of the dSLRs:

  • don’t need to turn camera on to see through viewfinder
  • slightly better C-AF tracking but not in movie mode – however, C-AF will only get better as technology improves with mirrorless cameras
  • in addition to 30p movie mode, 24p movie mode plus 60p on the 7D – however, if you want the best video – look at the GX-7 or GH-3 Micro Four Thirds cameras
  • full compatibility with their respective full frame lenses albeit in cropped view – although the new Metabones Turbo EOS adapter may give this capability to Micro Four Thirds as well
  • radio TTL remote flash option not just light-based remote TTL flash – however, hopefully this will be addressed soon, although there is already a 3rd party option
  • a very cheap portrait lens option – the 50mm f/1.8 lens but no eye detection AF as with Olympus (~$199 vs $349 for the Olympus 45mm f/1.8)

The all important standard zoom lens:

Let’s compare the E-M1 with the 12-40mm f/2.8 lens with equivalents on the Nikon 7100 (Nikon DX Nikkor 17-55mm f/2.8G lens) or Canon 7D (Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM).

The additional advantages of the Olympus kit include:

  • 24mm wide angle of view in 35mm terms instead of only 26mm for the Nikon and 27mm for the Canon
  • 4 stops image stabilisation compared to 2-3 stops with the Canon and NONE with the Nikkor lens.
  • yes, that means you could hand hold this lens down to half a second, perhaps 1 second at the wide angle range, while you would be lucky to achieve similar results on the Nikon at 1/20th second.
  • almost waterproof
  • lens is almost half the weight at 382 g compared to 755g for the Nikkor and 645g for the Canon
  • lens is more compact being only 84mm long compared to 111mm and when mounted on the camera the differences are even greater as the E-M1 is not as thick
  • cheaper filters as you only need 62mm instead of 77mm for the Nikon and 72mm for the Canon
  • closer focus of only 0.2m giving 1:3 macro compared to 0.35/0.36m respectively for the Canon and Nikon
  • movie silent fast CDAF autofocus as well as phase detect AF capability – the Canon and Nikon lenses are not optimised for CDAF and are quiet but not movie silent
  • customisable lens function button on the lens which can be assigned to a range of roles
  • superb image quality – it will be interesting to see how the Canon and Nikon compare, but given the reviews I think I know the answer!
  • despite all the benefits above it is a similar price to the Canon and significantly more affordable than the Nikon ($999 vs $1399 for the Nikon)

To be fair, there is ONE advantage of the Canon and Nikon zoom lenses – 1 stop more depth of field versatility, however, this is easily addressed by supplementing the Olympus with one or two very small, affordable prime lenses such as the Olympus mZD 17mm f/1.8, Panasonic 25mm f/1.4, Panasonic 42mm f/1.2 (coming soon), or Olympus 45mm f/1.8, or if you really want a different lens to compliment the zoom, add the awesome Olympus mZD 75mm f/1.8.

Autofocus macro lenses:

The main options designed for the cropped sensors are the Olympus mZD 60mm f/2.8, the Nikkor DX Nikkor 85mm f/3.5G and the Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8.

The Olympus lens has it all over the competitors with advantages such as:

  • better image stabilisation (although IS is not as effective in the closest macro ranges but still can be handy)
  • almost waterproof (neither of its competitors have any weatherproofing)
  • almost half the weight at 185g vs 355/335g – this is really important for hand held macro work as tired hands waiting to time the shot start shaking!
  • movie silent fast CDAF autofocus as well as phase detect AF capability – the Canon and Nikon lenses are not optimised for CDAF and are quiet but not movie silent
  • optimised for live view mode, and when combined with the E-M1′s tiltable screen means getting down low or high for those macro shots are far easier and far more fun
  • focus limiter switch included which further speeds up AF and allows immediate access to 1:1 focus – neither of its competitors have this
  • more affordable than the Nikon ($449 vs $635) and higher quality than the similarly priced Canon

Low light urban street walking capabilities:

When travelling, one of the great experiences for photographers is to walk the streets at dusk and capture a very different view of the cities – without a tripod and with a small discrete kit.

The GX-7, E-P5, E-M5 and E-M1 cameras blow away the dSLR competition for this purpose as they are much smaller, even jacket pocketable, have similar high ISO image quality, have much better image stabilisation for longer hand held shots in the dark and, particularly, if combined with the 12mm f/2.0 lens or 17mm f/1.8 lens, make awesome night time hand holdable street cameras.

The E-M5 can hand hold a 12mm lens down to 0.3secs comfortably while the E-M1 can do 1sec or perhaps more.

What wide angle low light autofocus primes are available for the dSLRs?

Canon offer an EF 24mm f/2.8 IS or the much more expensive EF 24mm f/1.4L lens or the 14mm f/2.8L but neither of the latter have image stabilisation.

Nikon offer 20mm f/2.8, 24mm f/2.8 or the much more expensive 14mm f/2.8 or 24mm f/1.4 lenses but NONE have image stabilisation.

There are no cropped sensor optimised EF-S or DX wide angle prime lenses, let alone image stabilised versions of these!

Neither Canon nor Nikon offer affordable cropped sensor dSLR low light solutions with AF with effective focal length wider than 30mm even without image stabilisation!

The Micro Four Thirds absolutely eats the cropped sensor dSLRs for this very common need.

More details:

I have created a detailed comparison table of the above and more on my wikipedia – see here.

For those concerned about the marginally less shallow depth of field in certain circumstances, they can resort to f/0.95 lenses, or consider the future technology – already the E-M1 uses intelligent jpeg sharpening of only the in-focus areas so it would not take much imagination to assume it won;’t be long before the user can “dial-in” a degree of extra blurring of the out-of-focus regions.

The end of the cropped sensor dSLR is nigh – I would be surprised if they exist in another 10 years.

Furthermore, one has to wonder what Canon and Nikon will do with their lens range which is generally NOT compatible with CDAF when CDAF becomes increasingly important with the advent of full frame mirrorless cameras.

There is a limit to what can be achieved with on-sensor phase detect AF alone compared to what can be achieved with CDAF combined with phase detect AF.

If I was a betting man, the whole range of current Canon and Nikon lenses,  just like the Olympus Four Thirds lenses will lose substantial value in 10 years because they are not CDAF compatible and will be replaced with more versatile lenses.

 You have to ask yourself – why would I even think of buying a cropped sensor dSLR – get a full frame dSLR if you really need that extra shallow depth of field  or go Micro Four Thirds for much more fun and versatility.

 

Metabones Speed Booster focal reducer lens adapters for Sony NEX, Micro Four Thirds and Fuji mirrorless cameras

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

Metabones has just announced 0.71x focal reducer lens adapters which they have named “Speed Booster” for a variety of mirrorless cameras including Sony NEX, Olympus and Panasonic Micro Four Thirds, and Fuji-X.
adapter

Although expensive at $US599, these adapters will significantly add to the versatility of these camera systems as they will allow:

  • high image quality reduction in effective focal length and thus field of view will be closer to that of the native lens field of view – on a 1.5x crop camera such as Sony NEX, the crop factor becomes 1.09x, while on a 2x crop factor Micro Four Thirds camera, the crop factor becomes 1.42x (almost the same as a 1.3x crop APS-H Canon 1D dSLR camera)
  • effective aperture for exposure becomes 1 stop brighter, as in effect, more light is squeezed onto the sensor, in other words, it gives you 1 stop higher ISO in effect which can also mean 1 stop less noise
  • the Canon EOS adapter will allow aperture change, optical IS, EXIF data, presumably MF-ring activation of magnified view, and, on the post-2006 EF lenses, slow autofocus – an adapter which can do all this at last given that the long awaited Birger Engineering adapter that was meant to achieve these functions has not eventuated.
  • and of course, if you use a Olympus camera such as the E-M5, you will get sensor based image stabilisation to any lens – and perhaps you may not even have to dial in the focal length – we shall have to wait and see on this aspect
  • the white paper promises excellent correction of spherical aberration as well as field curvature, coma, astigmatism, distortion, and chromatic aberration. Intentionally, it has a very small amount of undercorrected spherical aberration at f/0.90 to improve the bokeh when the Speed Booster is used with ultra high speed f/1.2 objectives. Aberrations should be considerably less than with front-mounted wide adapters.
  • being a focal reducer, it increases resolution and contrast (MTF) compared with using the lens without this adapter as it should compress aberrations
  • improves telecentricity by moving the exit pupil further away and potentialy could reduce vignetting
  • improves image quality of wide aperture legacy film lenses due to improved interaction with low pass and IR filters on the camera sensor, although it appears that image quality may be worse in the corners with some lens combinations such as when using cheap 50mm prime lenses
  • physical length is reduced by 6mm on Micro Four Thirds and by 4mm on Sony NEX compared with using a normal adapter

Thus on a Olympus OM-D E-M5 Micro Four Thirds camera, here are some awesome possibilities:

  • Sigma 8-16mm DX lens = image stabilised 5.6-11.2mm ultra wide angle zoom lens which is even wider than the Micro Four Thirds 7-14mm lenses but the fixed lens hood may become visible
  • Canon TS-E 17mm f/4 tilt-shift lens = image stabilised 12mm f/2.8 lens which will give the same field of view and depth of field as a 24mm f/5.6 tilt shift lens on a 35mm full frame camera, but exposure value of an f/2.8 lens image stabilised
  • Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II lens = image stabilised 17mm f/1.0 lens which will give the same field of view and depth of field as a 34mm f/2.0 lens on a 35mm full frame camera, but exposure value of an f/1.0 lens image stabilised
  • Canon 50mm f/1.2L lens = image stabilised 36mm f/0.85 lens which will give the same field of view and depth fo field as a 72mm f/1.7 lens on a 35mm full frame camera, but exposure value of an f/0.85 lens image stabilised
  • Canon 85mm f/1.2 lens = image stabilised 60mm f/0.85 lens which will give the same field of view and depth of field as a 120mm f/1.7 lens on a 35mm full frame camera, but exposure value of an f/0.85 lens image stabilised
  • Nikon 85mm f/1.4G II lens or Rokinon 85mm f/1.4 lens = image stabilised 60mm f/1.0 lens which will give the same field of view and depth of field as a 120mm f/2.0 lens on a 35mm full frame camera, but exposure value of an f/1.0 lens image stabilised
  • Canon EF 135mm f/2.0L lens = image stabilised 96mm f/1.4 lens which will give the same field of view and depth of field as a 190mm f/2.8 lens on a 35mm full frame camera, but exposure value of an f/1.4 lens image stabilised

The adapter will open up many exciting possibilities, particularly for those who already have full frame lenses.

Adapters will be available for Canon EF/EF-S, Nikon F/G/DX, Leica R, ALPA, Contarex, Contax C/Y , and Olympus OM lenses.

Note that cropped sensor lenses such as EF-S and DX can be used on Micro Four Thirds with this adapter as long as they do not have fixed lens hoods such as the Nikon DX fisheye, or the Sigma 8-16mm zoom, but the image circle is too small for use on Sony NEX size sensors.

Interestingly, I posted in Feb 2010 about a patent by Olympus for a similar type of adapter which would be a 0.5x reducer (2 f stops) for use with Olympus OM lenses, and it was hoped they would be incorporating SWD or contrast detect AF elements as well which would add fast AF to Olympus OM lenses when used on Micro Four Thirds cameras. Unfortunately, this has not seen the light of day, but perhaps this adapter from Metabones may inspire them to produce such an adapter.

See a review of the Metabones adapter by EOSHD from a video perspective here.

Best cameras of 2012

Tuesday, January 1st, 2013

Best cameras for 2012 depends upon what purpose the camera is needed for.

Nevertheless, a poll of 14,807 readers on dpreview.com gave the following:

Olympus OM-D EM-5 23.3% (3457 votes)
Nikon D800/E 22.1% (3273 votes)
Canon EOS 5D Mark III 14.4% (2133 votes)
Nikon D600 7.8% (1156 votes)
Sony Cyber-shot RX100 7.1% (1056 votes)
Fujifilm X-Pro 1 6.2% (914 votes)
Sony Cyber-shot RX1 5.6% (831 votes)
Sony Alpha SLT-A99 4.2% (617 votes)
Pentax K-30 3.3% (485 votes)
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3 2.2% (328 votes)
Canon EOS 650D / Rebel T4i 1.8% (266 votes)
Sony Alpha SLT-A57 1.2% (172 votes)
Olympus PEN-Lite E-PL5 .5% (79 votes)
Olympus Stylus XZ-2 iHS .3% (40 votes)

This list would certainly be a good starting point for those looking to buy a new camera as it does list the most important cameras of 2012.

If one wants a high image quality, compact, versatile, interchangeable lens camera, then Micro Four Thirds system is probably the best for most people and these are represented here by the Olympus E-M5, Olympus E-PL5 and the Panasonic GH-3 – the latter having the best video quality and features of all the listed cameras.

If one does not care about interchangeable lenses and just wants good image quality and compact camera size, then the Sony RX100 and RX1 along with the Olympus Stylus X-Z2 should be high on your list – see dpreview’s roundup of best compact digital cameras for enthusiasts.

If you want a digital SLR, then the full frame cameras are the way to go if you can afford them – the Nikon D800 and its cheaper version, the Nikon D600, the Canon 5D Mark III, or perhaps the Sony Alpha SLT-A99.

Wish you all a Happy New Year for 2013.

The new Canon 6D and Nikon D600 entry level full frame dSLRs compared to the new Sony SLT alpha A99

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

It has been an exciting week with the announcement of of new cameras from all the major manufacturers.

I am sure all of the cameras for which I have posted blogs this week will be fantastic cameras capable of brilliant image quality.

As excited as I am about the new Micro Four Thirds gear, such as the new lenses on their road map, the new PEN cameras with their important image quality upgrade, and the awesome videographer’s camera, the Panasonic GH-3, it is the raft if entry-level full frame dSLRs that have been announced which finally bring full frame dSLR photography to the enthusiasts for around the $2000 mark which may be the most significant of all the announcements.

Why is this such a significant event?

If you can buy a full frame dSLR for about $2000, why bother with a cropped sensor dSLR unless you are primarily doing sports or wildlife photography where you need all the telephoto reach you can get?
After all, unlike Olympus, neither Canon nor Nikon really have committed to making great lenses for their cropped sensor cameras – all the really good lenses are designed for full frame sensors, so you may as well buy a full frame dSLR rather than a $1,000+ Canon or Nikon cropped sensor dSLR.

Let’s compare the new full frame cameras.

The most exciting of them in my mind is the Sony SLT alpha A99 as it is the only one truly optimised for Live View and thus videography and accurate manual focus using magnified view assist, as it is the only one with full time electronic viewfinder and fulltime phase contrast AF system (although we do need to wait and see how well it really does perform given past SLT cameras have not quite matched their hype in this regard).

Not only these features, but of critical importance to those using prime lenses for still photography is that the Sony SLT has sensor-based IS built-in – something that neither Canon nor Nikon have in any of their cameras.

The Canon 6D and Nikon D600 are both good cameras missing some features of their more expensive counterparts.

Their AF system has been scaled down – in the Canon 6D it only has 11 AF points instead of 61 points on the 5D Mark III, while the Nikon D600 has 39 points instead of 51 on the Nikon D800. This means gaining AF outside the central area requires AF then recompose techniques – this also applies to the Sony SLT A99.

Presumably, the 6D will have the same deficiency as its expensive cousins, the 5D Mark III and 1D X – inability to AF when using a lens with aperture smaller than f/5.6 such as an f/4 lens with 2x tele-extender – this will limit the utility of these cameras for wildlife photographers!

The burst rates are modest ranging from 4.5fps for the 6D, 5.5fps for the D600 and 6fps for the Sony SLT.

In particular, their shutter system is lower end with a fastest shutter reduced to a consumer level of 1/4000th sec and a flash sync reduced to 1/200th on the D600 and only 1/180th sec on the 6D – heck even the new Olympus PEN cameras have a flash sync of 1/250th sec!

This is VERY important for fashion and outdoor portrait photographers using lenses such as the 135mm f/2.0 and fill-in flash. Without image stabilisation, a shutter speed of only 1/180th second is really pushing your luck in allowing sharp hand held photos consistently.

In this regard, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Micro Four Thirds camera with its built-in 5 stop image stabilisation system, matched with the superb Olympus 75mm f/1.8 lens and Olympus FL-600R flash which can sync at 1/250th sec, accurate closest eye, face detection AF anywhere in the frame (no need to AF and recompose and worry about AF microadjustments) will most likely give you far more accurately focused and sharper photos whilst still having a similar perspective and a shallow enough depth of field to make your subject really pop.

On this same matter, if you need even shallower DOF at 35mm focal length and you are doing flash photography outdoors, then the new Sony RX-1 full frame fixed lens compact with its silent leaf shutter and flash sync to 1/2000th second would be ideal although at $2,800 it is not cheap!

Of note, the Sony SLT A99 gives you the best of all worlds in this regard – sensor-based IS plus flash sync of 1/250th sec, and a fastest shutter of 1/8000th sec.

For video work, the 6D and D600 only have mono mics, and 30p/25p/24p frame rates and thus no option for slo-mo work whereas the Sony has a more usable 60p/24p plus stereo mics, but none will really compete in functionality and image quality with the new Panasonic GH-3, although the D600 and the A99 both allow the option of uncompressed video output.

For a detailed table of the main differences between all the current full frame dSLRs, see here.