Photography Gear Reviews

New Lens Vs Old Lens

We compare the Canon 16-35mm F/4 IS against the older Canon 17-40mm F/4 in a landscape photography setting to see if the upgrade is worth the money.

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After a recent video some said I should get the Canon 16-35mm to replace my 17-40mm. So I have. But I’ve been talking recently how the gear doesn’t make the photographer so I’m not totally convinced this purchase was required. So I thought I would put it to the test, possibly prove myself wrong, and help you when it comes to making your next lens purchase decision.

Sharpness

There are certain things important to me in a lens when shooting landscape photography. Sharpness is important up to a certain extant. Once an acceptable level of sharpness is reached then I am happy. Most photographs are viewed at a reasonable distance and a normal viewer is not looking at minute details or pixel peeping an image. The overall story is much more important.

Lens Distortion

When working with super wide angles like 16-20mm, distortion can become a real problem and is extremely distracting and prevalent in cheaper lenses. The Canon 17-40mm handles distortion reasonably well so I was interested to see if Canon 16-35mm F/4 IS would be better.

Chromatic Aberration

The coloured soft edges in high contrast areas of an image look extremely unpleasant and can make an image look cheap. Also known as chromatic aberration, one major benefit of a high quality lens is the ability to control it. These days, it can be controlled in post-processing but it results can be hit and miss depending on the image. The Canon 17-40mm can be susceptible to chromatic Aberration, can the 16-35mm improve matters.

When conducting a camera lens review I am also looking at build quality and extras such as IS. Image stabilisation is not important to me for stills. For video, it is much more important so it is still something I look for.

In the video I pit the two lenses against each other at Ribblehead viaduct in the Yorkshire Dales. The Limestone pavement provides some big foreground interest for a shot, something I really wanted to include in the lens review.

Irix 11mm f4 Blackstone Lens review

A review of the astonishing new Irix 11mm f/4 ultra wide angle lens.

This Irix 11mm wide angle lens that is designed for full frame cameras. The lens comes in a variety of mounts including Canon, Nikon and Pentax. When mounted to a full frame camera the 11mm 126 degree field of view is astonishing and opens up new realms of creativity for landscape, architecture photographers and even some scenes close in.

Low Distortion

iris 11mm f4 review
iris 11mm f4 review

The Irix 11mm f4 lens is not a fish eye. It is rectilinear with minimal distortion thanks to the '4 high refractive lenses, 2 ED lenses and 3 aspherical lenses that guarantee minimal distortion'. Irix claim distortion is as low as 3.13%. If you want a full technical breakdown of the lens there are some excellent channels out there. I am more interested in practical applications of gear and I can say that distortion handling is excellent, particularly across the centre of the image. Horizon lines remain perfectly straight and vertically down the middle as well. There is some distortion towards the corners of the image but if used correctly this can compliment the image. Its not ideal if you have people in the corners but this is not really a portrait lens.

Image Quality

iris 11mm review
iris 11mm review

The lens is nice and sharp but does produce a small amount of vignette and also Chromatic abberation. This was within perfectly acceptable boundaries for me and is very easily removed in post processing using Adobe Lightroom. The vignette is also reduced by stopping down a bit.

Blacktone or Firefly

The lens comes in two varieties to suit the style of photography you are doing. The Irix 11mm f/4 Blackstone is the flagship version. There is also a cheaper and lighter version, with the same high quality optics that may be more suited to photographers wanting to travel light. This is called the Irix 11mm f/4 Firefly Lens.

Build Quality

irix
irix

The build quality of this Blackstone version is excellent. The metal body is well constructed and feels so solidly built that it could survive some serious punishment. The focus barrel is reassuringly stiff but rotates smoothly and accurately. There is a focus lock to ensure there is no slippage in focus and the engraved markings on the Blackstone glow in the dark.

The lens is manual focus. I am sure if you're looking seriously at this lens that will not be a concern for you. The distance markings are there to assist but I did the majority of my focusing using the camera’s zoomed live view function. Quick and easy. The lens is so wide that most things are in focus anyway.

Weather Sealed

The Irix 11mm is weather sealed on all parts apart from the front element. It is splash proof and I used it in the rain without any problems. The lens hood is permanent and protects the bulbous front element.

The Firefly is built using high quality plastic to save weight and bring cost down but is still weather sealed the same as the Blackstone.

Alternatives from the much more expensive Canon 11-24mm F/4 lens and Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8.

Conclusion

I have loved using this lens. It has allowed me to get shots that I otherwise would not have been able to achieve. The wide angle rectilinear perspective gives you a really interesting point of few and opens up new creative possibilities. It is not a lens I would use for every shot but it is relatively unique and having it in your arsenal is a real benefit that will allow you to get shots that other people cannot.

11mm is very wide and captures a large portion of your field of view. The amount of bokeh you get will be limited so it really forces you to think about every single area of your frame and you need to carefully compose your shot. This is a good thing and can result in some really exciting shots.

Cost

At the point of release.

Irix 11mm f/4 Blackstone - $799 / £771

Irix 11mm f/4 Firefly - $599 / £567

You can find a list of dealers at - http://en.irixlens.com

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Tamron 24-70 mm F2.8 VC USD Review

In this video review we take at look at the Tamron 24-70 mm F2.8 VC USD.

If you are looking at the Tamron 24-70 lens you are probably in the market for a 24-70mm lens. The 24-70mm zoom range is probably suited to more situations than any other range and forms part of the holy trinity of zoom lens with the 70-200mm and a lens on the wider end like the 16-35 Canon or the 14-24 Nikon. Living in the bag of most pro photographers this focal range is perfect for weddings, portraits, street photography, some landscapes and much more. The question is whether this offering of a Tamron 24-70 mm is enough to pull you away from the Canon or Nikon equivalents.

Living on a full frame camera this lens will offer the versatile range described above. On a cropped sensor camera however things get a big longer. The 35mm equivalent is 38-112 which is still useful but some of the wide areas are lost meaning, for example, the wedding group shot or some landscapes will be more difficult.

This lens has a f/2.8 aperture throughout the zoom range making it good for low light and matches that offered from Canon and Nikon. The USD (Ultra Silent Drive) means silent focusing and it does this well and without delay. The rubber ring around the lens mount ensures this is weather sealed and it has performed well in this area during the time I have used it. 

The quality of this lens is very high and it takes professional grade images. Even in comparison to the most recent Nikon and Canon lenses this still holds up as a great shooter. There is some loss of sharpeners to the edges of the frame on a full frame camera and there are a couple of issues with flare at the long end. These are minor issues though and will not be noticed in everyday shooting.

This lens is optically not as good as the Canon and Nikon and if that is the most important thing to you then you should opt for one of them. However let me provide two good reasons why you should buy this Tamron 24-70.

Firstly, value. This lens is currently half the price of the Canon and Nikon equivalent at £679 in the UK and slightly closer to them at $1200 in the US. For glass that is almost as good, this is amazing value. The Tamron 24-70 has a secret weapon up its sleeve though - image stabilisation. No other 24-70 f/2.8 has image stabilisation leaving the Tamron 24-70 out on its own in terms of versatility. Although not totally necessary for still shots the image stabilisation makes this lens a must have for photographers shooting video. The stabilisation makes shooting video handheld a real joy and combined with some stabilisation in post (warp stabiliser) this lens can produce video that looks like is was shot with a very expensive rig.

With all this in mind the lens deserves some serious attention and if you are already looking at this lens then it is likely the price tag has already attracted you. Given the excellent images this creates and the ability to shoot high quality video with just one lens, this will certainly be sitting on many cameras where previously a Canon and Nikon lens would have ruled.

Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM | ART Lens Review

Is the Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM Lens a True Contender?

Typically, when research begins to buy a new lens most people will begin looking at the options from their chosen camera manufacturer. This is a sensible approach as historically the output from the likes of Canon and Nikon was better than the offerings from third party manufacturers. Recently however things have changed with companies such as Sigma and Tamron producing some excellent lenses that are giving the big boys a run for their money. The truly superb Tamron 24-70 mm F2.8 VC, for example, challenges closely in image quality and offers benefits not found currently in the main models. There must be some nervous people around at present in Canon and Nikon as Sigma has been rolling out a number of new lenses branded under it's Art line and they have been gathering much favour.

The Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM is one such example. Unboxing is a pleasant experience as you are struck by just how beautiful this lens looks and the solid feel in your hands. The metal construction is welcome in the face of the more recent plastic trend. The look is more Zeiss or Sony than Canon or Nikon. Once attached to the camera it formed a nice balance in the hand with a large focus ring perfectly placed with a satisfying smooth motion. On the smaller cropped sensor cameras the lens was a little more weighted towards the front as the optics and quality build provide some bulk. This lens is much bigger than your standard 50mm f/1.4 or f/1.8.

When shooting the first few images I noticed that focusing was off leaving images soft. Whilst this could just be the model I was using a lens should come ready to shoot perfect images, straight out the box. Not ready to give up on the initial impression this lens had made on me I spent a few irritating minutes shooting a wall chart from my tripod to calibrate my camera to the lens. Sigma do offer a lens dock for some of their new lenses where calibrations can be made to the lens itself and firmware can be updated but I would rather it all just worked so I could get straight to shooting.

Sigma 35mm
Sigma 35mm

On taking the first few frames i was reminded of just how much I love the 35mm focal length. It is neither a hugely wide field of view nor a close in one. In fact it is very near to the field of vision of the human eye. This makes it a hugely versatile focal length with virtually endless creative possibilities. It is the ideal focal length to hone your eye and get used to taking beautiful pictures because you are forced to think and work for it. Close in you can capture portraits whilst further away you can grab a beautiful landscape. In the middle it is perfect for documentary and street photography. On a crop sensor camera this lens will give you a 56mm focal length which is still perfect for street photograph and portraits.

sigma 35mm
sigma 35mm

The Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM has thirteen elements in eleven groups and the optical quality is simply excellent. With nine aperture blades and a large f1.4 aperture the quality of the bokeh is dreamy and satisfying. Chromatic aberration is well controlled and I have never once felt the need to correct this in post production.

sigma 35mm
sigma 35mm

There is a small amount of distortion that is noticeable when shooting portraits close in but this would be true of most lenses at 35mm. There is noticeable vignette when shot wide open but performs better than the equivalent canon 35mm L and can be quickly and easily removed in post. In terms of sharpness the lens performs superbly well even wide open and at this focal length I could not ask for more. Sharpness across the image is better than the Canon and Nikon and as soon as you stop down a bit, you might get cut. The Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM is not weather sealed but thanks to the build quality, should survive a bit of drizzle just fine.

sigma 35mm
sigma 35mm

This lens has been a joy to use and once you get your hands on it you simply want to hold on and never let go. If you are starting out with a cropped sensor this will act as a beautiful 56mm lens, then, on upgrading to full frame, you will already have an amazing 35mm in your arsenal. Whilst the focal length is covered by many excellent zoom lenses the optical quality achieved by this lens could make it worth the purchase alone. When you consider the low light capabilities, the simplicity and the value, at nearly half the price of the main manufacturer equivalents, the Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM is a lens I will be keeping in my bag and very often attached to my camera.

Please use one of the below links if you decide to buy this lens.

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