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.

Fujifilm XH-1 Real World Review

We take the Fujifilm XH1 to the Lake District to put it to the test in this real world review with a landscape photography flavour.

The Fujifilm XH-1 is Fuji’s new flagship mirrorless camera and sits above the XT2 in the Fuji lineup. It has the same 24mp crop sensor as the XT2 so we know the sensor is capable of capturing some great images. 

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Many of us need a camera to be rugged and reliable and that’s exactly what this camera is. The all new metal chassis feels rock solid and it’s weather sealed so when the rain starts, we don’t have to stop. One of the big benefits of mirrorless cameras is they can be smaller and more compact than a DSLR. This in part led to popularity of the XT2, especially amongst landscape photographers because weight and size really matters when hiking in the wilderness.

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It might seem odd then that Fuji have gone in the opposite direction and made this camera bigger than its predecessor, but I don’t think so. It’s still significantly lighter than a pro DSLR body so weight is still being saved over most pro cameras. However the bigger size makes it much more comfortable in the hand, especially with the optional battery grip. The comfort adds versatility and makes this camera a genuine option for photographers working with their camera all day like wedding and street photographers. It seems to be a genuine all rounder.

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One of the big selling points of this new mirrorless camera is the new in body 5 axis image stabilisation. Image stabilisation has never excited me when it comes to stills but it absolutely does when it comes to video. The system works really well to smooth out your shot and also breaths some new life into older lenses you might have lying around that don’t have IS.

This camera is a bit of a beast when it comes to video and I’ve been very impressed. It shoots 4K, it can do 120fps at 1080p and has loads of built in video presets to vary the look of your footage including a log mode. I’ve settled for the new ETERNA film mode that mimics the look of that film but still leaves me with plenty of room for post production if I need it.  Aside from that I’ve just been hugely impressed by the sheer quality of the video image. It looks sharp and punchy and just looks really good and is on a par with the Canon 5D mark iv.

An external microphone can also be attached and a really nice feature is the ability to set microphone gain separately for the built in mic and an external mic so you don’t need to adjust it every time you plug a mic in.

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So will this be replacing my DSLR. To be honest, not at the moment. It’s very close though and I have been very impressed with the Fujifilm XH1. I have absolutely loved shooting with it today and I feel it’s definitely better than the lower end DSLR’s and also better than the Canon 6D Mark ii that I reviewed the other week They are very similarly priced. 

It’s not the perfect camera, there are slight annoyances like the lack of a built in bulb timer and the touch screen is not as useful as it could be but the biggest issue for me is the cropped sensor. It is a good sensor but it’s just not full frame. Like all cropped sensors any noise that is present looks harsh and kills the sharpness and you lose some dynamic range. That might not matter to you but when you think the new full frame Sony A7R Mark iii is just around the corner, at a pretty similar price, personally I would need to try that out first before finally making the leap to mirrorless.

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Anyway this is still a very nice camera and I have had a great time using today here in the absolutely stunning Lake District. If you decided to buy I don’t think you would be sorry.

I’ll put more information down in the description and Please subscribe if you enjoyed this video, I have more reviews coming up and I’ll be out again next week for another landscape photography vlog. leave a comment down below with your thoughts or questions about the camera and I’ll see you another one very soon

Out!!!

Canon 6D Mark II Real world Review

I review the Canon 6D Mark II DSLR camera and head to the Lake District to put it through it’s paces from a landscape photography perspective.

If you have seen my camera reviews before you will know I am not interested in repeating all the specs and obvious elements. I want to get the camera out into the real world and use it exactly like a photographer would. In the video we look at the abilities of the camera mostly from a landscape photography perspective when we headed to Loughrigg Fell in the Lake District.

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Full Frame Sensor

The whole point of the Canon 6D Mark II is the entry into using a full frame sensor. This has a number of advantages. It usually includes improved dynamic range (not so much in this case - read on), better low light ability and least obviously - the potential to use better glass, particularly at the wide end. High end lenses like the Canon 16-35mm L are perfect for landscape photography and on a full frame camera you get the full 16mm wide end coverage. Putting this lens on a cropped sensor camera effectively increases the 16mm to a more narrow 25mm which can be limiting in some situations.

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Build Quality

Build quality of the camera is the usual Canon quality. It is a plastic build but it feels solid and secure and the weight also benefits from this. It has a flip out screen, which is missing from the higher end cameras for the sake of durability, but I find them particularly useful. When the camera is low down near a stream, or close to the ground, having the screen point up towards you is a real back saver. The flip screen means you can also use the Canon 6D Mark II for vlogging. Not a cheap vlogging option, but it is possible.

Image Quality

Next is the image quality. There are not many cameras out there today that provide poor image quality. This camera is no different. Image quality is superb for stills and you can quite happily use the 26MP sensor to create massive prints. Sadly though dynamic range was not as good as I would have hoped, especially at low ISO. This might put off some landscape photographers who might be looking at rivals from Sony and cameras like the Nikon D750. Personally when it comes to stills I am not concerned too much about dynamic range. Using bracketing can easily capture all the dynamic range in a landscape scene.

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Portraits and Focusing

The dynamic range of the camera improves dramatically as ISO increases. Therefore, like many full frame cameras, The Canon 6D Mark 2 is excellent in low light. Any noise that does appear has a film grain type feel rather than the harsh noise often associated with crop sensor cameras. This means the camera lends itself to shooting portraits as well as landscapes. Depending on the lens you attach to the camera it is capable of capturing stunning portraits. However I would be reluctant to use it at a wedding or for any other professional portrait work. The focus system covers a smaller area of the frame than higher end cameras like the Canon 5D Mark IV which can be limiting when you have to focus and re-frame more often that you would like. Having said that, for most, that will not be a problem. The focus system is still very accurate and fast. It also has the dual pixel autofocus system for video. This Canon system is really second to none for video focus and it very very rarely misses including when using face detection.

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Video Quality

Video quality is reasonable but again the dynamic range can be limiting. When I was out in the mountains getting detail across the frame was not easy and I was often left with blown out skies. This could probably be improved by using a flatter picture setting rather than sticking with the built in presets like I did. There is also no 4K option and the 1080p quality is softer than the Canon 5D Mark IV and more in line with the cropped sensor Canon cameras. However the ability to shoot 1080p at 60fps does provide the option of producing some slo-motion footage.

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Conclusion

Overall I had a superb time using this camera. If you were to buy it, you would be very happy. Just be aware it is not a professional level camera. We should not be expecting it to be though given the price point of £$1600. Indeed, the camera only comes equipped with one SD card port. To remove the slight limitations mentioned above you are looking at upgrading to the pro level Canon 5D Mark IV which is more than double the price. The Canon 6D is an all round performer suitable for all different genres of photography and will perform them all to a good standard. In many respects the upgrade to full frame is something many photographers aspire to and this camera allows you to do it much sooner with only very slight downsides. It is a shame the dynamic range is not better at low ISO but that is being hypercritical. An all rounder at a great price point for a full frame camera. A solid 4 out of 5.

iPhone 6S Unboxing and Review

A first look at the new iPhone 6s

In this video review we are unboxing the new iPhone 6s that was released today and having a quick look at some of the new key features.

The new iPhone 6s is very similar in form factor to the previous version, the iPhone 6, as is normal with the S iteration of iPhones.

The big new feature of the iPhone 6s is 3D Touch. This uses force sensors to figure out how much pressure you are applying to your touch and uses this for new contextual menus. When you press once on the screen you can preview or 'peek' at things in a list, such as, emails or iMessages. Then press harder again and the message will 'pop' into the screen. It is actually a very useful feature and feels incredibly natural to do.

We also play around with the new 'Live Photos’ feature of the iPhone 6s which look like they could be good fun.

The iPhone 6s also features two new cameras. A 5 megapixel front facing camera, or selfie camera and a 12 megapixel rear camera that could prove to be the best camera we have ever seen on a phone. I will be playing with the new camera for the next few days and then putting up a full review later in the week.

Check out the new iPhone 6s for yourself over on the Apple website.

iPhone 6s

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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