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We're hiring!

Posted on: 10/07/2015 15:52:00 under News » General 
It's that time again - we're hiring!

Job Title: Customer Advisor
District: MAYFIELD/FIVE ASHES, EAST SUSSEX, TN20 6EH
Wage: £ Neg
40.00 HOURS PER WEEK MONDAY TO FRIDAY 8.30AM - 5.30PM

Full-time vacancy for our busy hire department based in Five Ashes. The position would be working within a small friendly team taking orders and liaising with customers. You would need a good telephone manner, competent computer skills, be keen, organised, self-motivated, reliable and able to work efficiently under pressure to tight deadlines, together with a flexible attitude to work. Training will be provided.

Transport would be essential as we are based in a rural situation.

Please call Jaine on 01435873028


 
 

Sony RX10 II and RX100 IV explained

Posted on: 23/06/2015 07:08:00 under News » General 
You'd be right for thinking that a lot has happened in the last week and just the launch of something like the a7R II would be enough but no, Sony also launched two other cameras at the meeting I went to a week ago and in some ways, they are just as, if not more significant.




So let's start with the RX10 II. We've stocked the RX10 since launch and once the fuss had died down, it's never really been that popular - certainly not for the market I felt would like it (has been great for travelling for customers however). There was a good reason for this though - the video quality was never quite what we all hoped for and the zoom ring just drove you mad - best way to describe it was 'lazy'. But it did boast a 35mm equiv 24-200mm lens boasting a constant f/2.8 across the focal range and the Intelligent Hotshoe mount meant you could bolt on either XLR adaptor or a UWP wireless mic via a SMAD connector. So we knew whilst it wasn't quite there, this was only the start and there was potential!



I've personally owned each iteration of the RX100 and currently have an RX100 III at home. I know they are not cheap but they do deliver and I love the EVF that the Mk III brought (even though it's too easy to knock the diopter adjustment on it with my glasses!). For its size, the lens is brilliant - a 24-70mm equivalent Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* f/1.8-2.8.

So let's start with the biggie and that's the sensor that's fitted to both these cameras. To look at it sounds like it's the same 20mp 1 inch sensor but you'd be very wrong. Sony have introduced a new stacked CMOS sensor with DRAM chip. What they have done is move the highspeed processing circuit to directly under the pixel area and then below that they have attached the DRAM memory. Put simply, this means that the image process now works 5 times faster than before with better image quality.


Now the headline grabbing things are the internal 4K recording and the fact that you have slow motion video up to 1000fps. Both are impressive and we'll cover them further in a bit. But from a photo point of view, this quicker technology means something impressive for an electronic shutter - no longer will you get rolling shutter on faster exposures. It should of course mean less rolling shutter on video as well but I couldn't really tell when just playing.

So let's just quickly stick with stills for a moment. The RX10 II can shoot at up to 14fps (and the RX100 IV 16fps) but it must be pointed out that this is NOT with continuous AF - if you want that, you're reduced down to 5.5fps. That hugely fast processor also means a shutter speed of up to 1/32000s!

AF has been upgraded on both cameras with high-precision contrast detection of a moving subject in as little as 0.09 seconds. Sony’s proprietary AF algorithm allows them to recognise and lock-in on a subject with a simple half-press of the shutter button at a much more efficient rate compared to previous models.

Let's finally move onto the killer features, firstly 4K. Both cameras record 4K internally using the XAVC-S codec (100mb/s at 4K). The RX10 II can record up to 29 minutes whilst the RX100 IV is limited to 5 minutes. But it gets better as like with the a7s, there is no pixel binning so expect a much better quality image. It doesn't stop there as Sony have included S-Log 2 and timecoding! Think about it, something as small as the RX100 IV offering high quality 4K with a flat gamma and a respectable codec to get the best from it. And people are moaning about the cost!

The second killer feature that Sony are making a big fuss about is the slow motion. Now look at the samples below and you can see in 40x mode, it isn't quite as sharp but that's because it's only recording a crop of the sensor and then converting to 1080p.


Take a look at the 20x mode though and things improve quite a lot.


There is a limit to record times (2 secs on quality mode) but bear in mind how long that produces when played back, it's still pretty good - you just have to be accurate with your timing!
  • 250fps: 1824×1026 (Quality), 1676×566 (Time)
  • 500fps: 1676×566 (Quality), 1136×384 (Time)
  • 1000fps: 1136×384 (Quality), 800×270 (Time)
Let's be realistic about this as I am sure the naysayers will soon be jumping around complaining about how it's not perfect (really, at this price?). At 250fps, it's near enough recording in full HD - that's impressive. It's not an instant write to the camera - much like Sony's Smooth Slow Record, it's taken into a buffer then written onto the SD card.

What else? The RX10 II has been made dust and moisture resistant with a new mag alloy casing. The RX100 IV's top dial has been changed slightly in feel and now incorporates the high-speed option.

The EVF is still the same and absolutely no worse for it. Naturally both cameras come with Wifi and NFC.

Our order is in and I'd expect to see them around mid July. I see both these cameras being heavily in demand for their features - it will be interesting to see!

Here are Sony's official product videos for them both -






 
 

Sigma announce new 24-35mm F2 DG HSM Art lens

Posted on: 19/06/2015 16:32:00 under News » General 

This week shows no sign of slowing down on the news front!  This afternoon Sigma have announced the new 24-35mm f/2 DG HSM Art lens.  Up to now the 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM | A has been the default wide zoom to use BUT it's not full frame.  This new lens is with a constant f/2 aperture throughout the zoom range.


Our order is already in (well we don't actually bother ordering as we take any new releases Sigma do!) so we will have them at launch.

Here's the breakdown from Sigma's press release - 

While offering the premier optics of the Art line, this lens covers 24mm, 28mm and 35mm focal lengths. Incredible performance overturns the conventional perception of a zoom lens.

SIGMA was determined to create a zoom lens that offers the same brightness and resolution as a fixed focal length lens: in other words, the highest level of optical performance. The result of this challenge was the SIGMA 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM | Art, the world’s first zoom to offer a fast F1.8 aperture value throughout the zoom range. Building on this concept, SIGMA has developed the new SIGMA 24-35mm F2 DG HSM | Art for 35mm full frame sensor. It allows photographers to carry one lens to do the work of three fixed focal length lenses, a 24mm, 28mm and 35mm — with F2 brightness and top optical performance. One package delivers flexible functionality and high convenience. In particular, at the 24mm and 35mm focal lengths, this lens offers the performance that is equivalent to that of two prime lenses in the Art line. Instead of changing one high-performance fixed focal length lens for another, simply zoom. This is a new zoom lens for 35mm full frame sensor SLRs that offers the quality of a fixed focal length lens at various angles of view.

Key features

1. The world’s first large-aperture full-frame zoom lens offering a wide open aperture of F2 throughout the zoom range

A large-diameter zoom lens covering the full frame image sensor. Optical performance equivalent to a fixed focal length lens throughout the entire zoom range. These are the concepts the SIGMA 24-35mm F2 DG HSM embodies. It covers three of the most commonly used prime lenses, 24mm, 28mm and 35mm all in one lens. In order to achieve an attractive bokeh effect at wide aperture, we have developed the world's first zoom lens for the 35mm full frame sensor with an F2 aperture value throughout the zoom range*.

* Among interchangeable lenses for 35mm full frame image sensors (June, 2015).

2. Outstanding optical performance of the fixed focal length lenses in SIGMA’s Art line

The SIGMA 24-35mm F2 DG HSM builds on the concept of the SIGMA 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM | Art, the world’s first zoom lens to offer F1.8 brightness throughout the zoom range. Thanks to the outstanding optical performance, the lens provides the quality of high performance fixed focal length lenses in the Art line.

3. Covering the range of three fixed focal length wide-angle lenses

Delivering excellent functionality and convenience, one lens offers the equivalent quality of three high-performance fixed focal length lenses at F2 brightness: 24mm, 28mm and 35mm. With a minimum focusing distance of 28cm and a maximum magnification ratio of 1:4.4, this lens is suitable for close-up shooting, portraits with an attractive bokeh and deep-focus landscape photography. Photographers have access to the angle of view equivalent to that of three wide-angle lenses without having to switch them. While achieving the desired background effect can be difficult with a conventional wide-angle lens, the large diameter of this lens allows photographers to open the aperture wide and use the shallow focus to achieve stunning results.

4. Incorporating SIGMA’s latest technologies

To realize a large-diameter zoom lens for full frame cameras with F2 brightness, SIGMA designed each and every part with uncompromising care and quality. The lens incorporates large-diameter aspherical lens elements, which require advanced technologies to manufacture, one FLD (“F” Low Dispersion)* glass and seven SLD (Special Low Dispersion) glass elements, of which two are aspherical lenses. The advanced optics and optimized lens power distribution minimize spherical aberration, axial chromatic aberration and field curvature, resulting in outstanding optical performance. Even at widest aperture, this lens delivers breathtaking image quality.

* FLD glass is the highest level low dispersion glass available with extremely high light transmission.

This optical glass has a performance equal to fluorite glass which has a low refractive index and low dispersion compared to current optical glass. It also benefits from high anomalous dispersion. These characteristics give excellent correction for residual chromatic aberration (secondary spectrum) which cannot be corrected by ordinary optical glass and ensures high definition and high contrast images.

5. Convenient handling

The inner focusing system eliminates front lens rotation, enhancing the lens' stability and allowing use of Circular Polarizing filters. This specification is particularly convenient for shooting video.

Other features

Minimum focusing distance of 28cm

With a minimum focusing distance of 28cm and a maximum magnification ratio of 1:4.4, this lens is excellent for close-up photography.

Designed to minimize flare and ghosting

From an early stage in the lens design process, flare and ghosting have been measured to establish an optical design resistant to strong incident light sources such as backlighting. The Super Multi-Layer Coating reduces flare and ghosting and provides sharp and high contrast images even in backlit conditions. The included lens hood can be attached to block out extraneous light, which can have a negative effect on rendering performance.

Hyper Sonic Motor ensures High AF Speed

The HSM (Hyper Sonic Motor) ensures a silent, high-speed AF function. By optimizing the AF algorithm, smoother AF is achieved. Also, this lens offers full-time MF by rotating the focus ring of the lens while auto focusing. Without changing the AF/MF Focus Mode Switch, it allows faster focus adjustment.

* The default setting of Full-time MF function varies for each mount.

Rounded Diaphragm

The 9 blade-rounded diaphragm creates an attractive blur to the out-of-focus areas of the image.

Brass bayonet mount

This lens incorporates a brass bayonet mount which has both high accuracy and durability. A special treatment to reinforce its strength is applied to the surface giving it greater strength and making it highly resistant to long-term use.

Applicable for the Mount Conversion Service

As an experienced lens manufacturer that has been creating a diverse range of interchangeable lenses, we have started the innovative “Mount Conversion Service”. With this chargeable service, the mount of your current SIGMA lenses can be changed to another mount of your choice. It gives new life to your favorite lenses when you wish to use them on a different camera body.

* This “Mount Conversion Service” is different from a normal repair. In order to apply for the service,

please contact your nearest authorized subsidiary / SIGMA distributor.

Art line delivers high-level artistic expression

SIGMA is organizing all its interchangeable lenses into three product lines; Contemporary, Art, and Sports, where each line has a distinctive concept. Designed with a focus on sophisticated optical performance and abundant expressive power, our Art line delivers high-level artistic expression. With the astonishing rendering performance that meets the highest standard, along with landscapes, portraits, still-lifes, close-ups, and general snaps, they are perfect for the kind of photography that unleashes the inner artist. Ideal for studio photography, they offer just as much expressive scope when capturing architecture and starry skies and many other scenes.

Customization and flexible adjustment for convenience or a specific purpose is possible. SIGMA USB DOCK that is designed exclusively for the new lens line-ups.

With the optional SIGMA USB DOCK, you can update your lens firmware, adjust focus points and customize Full-time MF function settings as well as the timing to operate the Full-time MF function. By attaching this lens to a SIGMA USB DOCK, which is connected to a computer, the dedicated software “SIGMA Optimization Pro” offers various types of customization and adjustment.

New product lines from SGV concepts that are setting new benchmarks for image quality.

Design Concept

With the new product lines, supplied hoods incorporate rubber for the connected part. Lens caps and AF/MF switches are also newly designed in order to improve usability. For the internal parts, various metals and a new material called TSC (Thermally Stable Composite)*, which works well with metal, are located to achieve products with high accuracy. The lens barrel includes the year of release, engraved for users to recognize when the lens was released.

* TSC (Thermally Stable Composite) offers thermal expansion characteristics similar to those of aluminum. Parts made with TSC deform less, making possible lens construction of extremely high precision. As compared to polycarbonate containing 20% glass, a commonly used material, TSC offers approximately 70% higher elasticity. As compared to polycarbonate containing 30% glass, it offers 25% higher elasticity. (Comparison is between SIGMA-produced components.)

Evaluation with SIGMA’s own MTF measuring system “A1”

We used to measure lens performance with an MTF measuring system using conventional sensors. However, we’ve now developed our own proprietary MTF (modulation transfer function) measuring system (A1) using 46-megapixel Foveon direct image sensors. Even previously undetectable high-frequency details are now within the scope of our quality control inspections. All SIGMA 24-35mm F2 DG HSM lenses will all be checked using “A1” before they are shipped.

*A1:Aizu 1

"Made in Japan"

All SIGMA's manufacturing – right down to molds and parts – with a few exceptions, are carried out under a single integrated production system, entirely in Japan. We are now one of the very few manufacturers whose products are solely "made in Japan". We like to think our products are somehow imbued with the essence of our homeland, blessed as it is with clean air and water, and focused, hard-working people. We pride ourselves on the authentic quality of SIGMA products, born of a marriage between highly attuned expertise and intelligent, advanced technology. Our sophisticated products have satisfied professionals and lovers of photography all over the world, because our manufacturing is based on genuine craftsmanship, underpinned by the passion and pride of our experts.





 
 

a7R II vs 5DS - the big debate!

Posted on: 18/06/2015 11:49:00 under News » General 
Face off!


The last 7 days have just been extraordinary. I’ve witnessed some pre-launch hype and brand battles before but this one really has EVERYONE talking. As of Friday, all I had to go on was what everyone else had – specs (though rarely does that stop everyone suddenly exclaiming which is best!).

This Monday morning, that all changed when I firstly picked up our first 5DS. For us as a hire company, it’s a no brainer to buy them – effectively a higher resolution 5D Mk 3 that will appeal to some if not all Canon customers. I can see many applications for it and regardless of anything else out on the market, it makes perfect sense for Canon to produce it.

New toy collected


I picked it up en route to the Sony launch of the a7R II, RX10 II and RX100 IV cameras at Pinewood. Here was going to be my first chance to get my hands on the a7R II to compare. Whilst it wasn’t a production spec camera (and still on an early firmware) and so I couldn’t really compare like for like, it still gave me an early indication of what we were looking at.

So let’s be clear about one thing here that has really held back the a7R for a lot of DSLR users - that’s AF. Myself and my friends from Zeiss did a quick test of AF with not only a Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8ZA lens that Sony had put on the a7R II but also with Zeiss’ new 1.8/85mm Batis lens. So how good was it? The 55mm was a tiny bit faster than the Batis (but it wasn’t huge). How did that compare to the Canon? Not as fast – the Canon was as lightning fast as you’d expect. BUT (and it’s a big but), for most situations a7R II was fast enough (light-years away from the a7R – think a7II but better), only in low light did the difference become noticeable. The reality is that only a small number of people will be combining this resolution with action (wildlife photographers most likely) and for them, the 5DS is a no brainer. It has the same detailed AF presets as the 5D Mk 3 and for those people, it will be brilliant.

The lovely Batis attached to the a7RII


Sony made a big thing about the ability to use the Phase AF sensors when mounting on a Sony EA Alpha adaptor. This obviously lead to me wondering whether this would be the same with a Metabones EF adaptor and EF lens. I did try on the sample I had and it was most definitely quicker than before (no more contrast AF shuffle) but I wouldn’t say it was lightning fast. Now I’ve read reports that people HAVE seen quick AF with one so again perhaps it was firmware differences. Just goes to show you really have to take pre-production cameras with a bit of a pinch of salt. It's also worth noting that rumours have started circulating that Metabones are working on an electronic Nikon F adaptor to take advantage of the autofocus. It seems things could get very interesting!

Speaking of Zeiss, let’s talk about lenses here because with these high resolution cameras, lens quality really comes into the mix. I have to say the Batis lenses are just hugely impressive and are what the E Mount full frame system has been waiting for. I increased my order on the spot! Combined with that new a7R II sensor, the results that we saw on the day were astonishing. It’s still too early to really tell but it reminded me of when we first tried a Sigma Art prime on a D800 and stood back and went ‘Wow’!


One thing we did notice with the Canon was it appeared really soft at 100% with a 24-70mm f/2.8 Mk 2 lens I had brought along. Bit of AF Microadjustment improved things considerably which is interesting. Firstly, it highlights just how sensitive the 5DS is to AF adjustment for each lens and secondly just how much the massive resolution shows any flaw whatsoever!! Interestingly, I’ve rarely had any problems with my a7r and I’ve used plenty of our lenses with 5D Mk 3’s without problem. If you think it was just one lens, then you’re wrong. The 11-24mm worked absolutely fine but I had to adjust the Sigma 50mm Art by a couple of stops to ensure it was sharp.

That 11-24mm is a cracker but it does also show that there is a great variance in quality amongst the L lenses (which we already knew when we did Otus comparisons on the a7R last year) - some may not fare so well.


Wheel5DS with 11-24mm lens @ 1/200 sec; f/10; ISO 100


Decent glass is going to be more important than ever and I hope Canon wisely think about launching some high end primes. Does that mean there’s no point using with cheaper glass? Not at all, I took a non L prime and had a play. Yes, it showed up the lens’ limitations but it did take advantage of the greater resolution (certainly in the middle) so like for like, compared to say a 5D Mk III, once you’d shrunk the image down to a comparable resolution, the result was better. My point is, to really make that sensor shine, it deserves decent glass. Image no question, it’s Otus all the way or Sigma Art if you want AF. Just make sure it’s an EF mounted Otus as I tried one of our Nikon F mount Otus 85mm’s with a Fotodiox adaptor (all I had on the day) and still the focus assist doesn’t work so you’ve got no choice but to use liveview and at 1.4 on an 85mm shooting something at 8ft, that’s bloody hard to do handheld and hit bang on your chosen focal point.

Canon EOS 5DS sample image 5DS with Otus 85mm @ f/1.4; 1/640; ISO 1600

Especially when you’re so used to having the use of an EVF where you can use expanded focus (and peaking if you want). I have to say, it’s been a while since I’ve used an SLR. I took the 5DS down to Brighton with me on Tuesday afternoon to see Gordon Laing from Cameralabs. I had orders coming in so I only had that body for a day more. We shot with the 11-24mm mostly (as I knew it was one of Canon’s best L lenses they’ve produced). I also took down an Otus for two reasons. Firstly I wanted to see what we could do with it and secondly I wanted to understand how much of a hassle it was to use with a mirrored camera when shooting with it on an a7r is just second nature.

My answer was pretty quick in coming forward. Gordon find it a nightmare to shoot with and quickly moved back to using the 11-24mm!! Now had we used an EF mount one where the focus assist would have lit up, that would have helped enormously. But it’s all so much hassle when you’re used to EVF’s that just make life so easy! As Gordon said, “it’s a bloody nightmare trying to do this without an EVF!”

What am I trying to get across by saying this? Look, there are those that will stand by optical view finders until the world ends and that’s fine. But use an EVF for long enough in varying scenarios and you soon miss having one. The reality is at this resolution this is absolutely no way whatsoever I can focus manually at f/1.4 through the viewfinder and always expect it to be bang in focus – not at 50MP. So I have to count on AF to pin it. I tried the camera manually using focus assist with the Sigma lens and it’s usually pretty close but again it wasn’t a foregone conclusion that just because the light went on, I was exactly on point. Perhaps I’m just too set in my ways having used the a7 range for too long….

One thing I’m also set in my ways now is having the ability to shoot lower res stills off the camera straight onto my iPad via Wifi. It’s great to be able to share images whilst out and about. I just don’t get why Canon don’t offer this??

So what’s the resolution like on the Canon? Well, look for yourself - it’s pretty damn impressive. Massively better than the a7R II? I doubt you’ll see a huge difference to be honest – it’s too early to say until I can compare two RAW files like for like. Dynamic range is also very good – I’ve read some reports saying that it’s lousy like the 7D Mk II. Must have been using a different camera to me because I thought it pulled up the shadows and pulled down highlights pretty well to be honest. Feel free to judge for yourself.


Cyclist JPEG5DS with 11-24mm lens JPEG out of camera @ f/10; 1/160 sec; ISO 100

Cyclist5DS with 11-24mm lens RAW @ f/10; 1/160 sec; ISO 100

 

Pavillion 2 JPEG5DS with 11-24mm lens JPEG out of camera @ f/10; 1/320 sec; ISO 100

Pavilion 25DS with 11-24mm lens RAW @ f/10; 1/320 sec; ISO 100

I’ve been using the Pentax 645Z a lot recently which is just extraordinary when it comes to what that sensor can capture. So to say I was surprised by the 5DS is a good thing. But I know the a7R II will be good because I’ve been getting away with murder on exposures on the a7R for a long time now!!

Let’s quickly talk about noise here. I know when I did comparisons between the a7R and a7s when the latter first came out, that a7R held its own up to 12,800 ISO and it wasn’t until after that that the lower light capabilities outshone the loss of detail in the a7R image that couldn’t be recovered. Yes there was noise on the image but you had so much detail, you could still reduce the noise and produce something acceptable. We’re all assuming the a7R II will improve on this. This wasn’t clear on Monday when I tried a pre-production sample but I must point out that this was not the final product.

The 5DS is no low light king but again, let’s be realistic here. Noise becomes evident at full resolution above about 800 ISO and is quite noticeable above 3200 but as with the a7R above, you can get away masking some of this because you have so much detail, reducing the noise of the image stills gives you something acceptable at lower resolutions. So you CAN shoot at 12,800 ISO but just don’t expect to show it off at full resolution.

a7R II JPEG5DS and 11-24mm lens JPEG out of camera @ f/5.6; 1/125 sec; ISO 6400

a7R II RAW5DS and 11-24mm lens RAW @ f/5.6; 1/125 sec; ISO 6400

The thing is I still haven’t even talked about the fact that the a7R II also can shoot in 4K in Super 35mm with no pixel binning, S-Log2, XAVC-S codec and time coding. Again, I can’t say what it’s truly like but the launch footage looks good. I popped over to James Miller’s yesterday to have a look at the footage coming off the 5DS – results were not that surprising really – similar to a 5D Mk 3 but possibly not as good. Whilst I was there I also grabbed a shot of Buddy below using the Sigma 50mm Art lens on the 5DS.


Buddy

I digress - have a look at James’ recoloured footage shot with the a7R II below and see what you think.

Sony a7R II - Quick grade for fun only! from James Miller on Vimeo.

All I’ve read for the last day has been ‘Canon killer’ this and that. Hmmm… What to say? The 5DS was a logical step for Canon to produce and it’s a very good camera. I’d love them to produce some ‘ultra’ primes to go with the camera that really show what the sensor can do. After the IQ disappointment of the 7D Mk II, I am really pleased to say it’s a good ‘un! I can see a lot of Canon customers being very happy with the camera and wondering what all the fuss is about. I feel a bit sorry for the 5DS as it really is a bloody good camera. I do think some will find the ISO range a bit limiting if they want to use that full resolution but it’s a big sensor so really is that a surprise? You’re also going to need to stock up on decent memory cards as the RAW files are big and don’t forget a battery grip as it’s a bit hungrier on power.

Back to the debate, I can however also see the other side of things. I’ve read a lot of people thinking that this is the time to switch away from either Canon or Nikon (Canon especially). IF the production cameras can focus quickly with a Metabones adaptor using Canon EF lenses, then one of the biggest photography hurdles has just been leapt over. It might be a bit slower but for many the advantages will outweigh the negatives. We’ll know for sure soon enough!

That Sony are forging ahead at a pace is quite astonishing. If you think it’s limited to just the a7R II, you’re dead wrong. The other two cameras launched on Monday at Pinewood I’ll go over in more detail elsewhere and are just as impressive.

For me personally as an a7R user, I am as happy as anything. I can still use my manual lenses but for the first time I can actually think about bolting an AF lens on when needs be and actually still reap the rewards of that astonishing sensor. And that’s before I even think about the quality of the 4K footage. Happy days! Oh and those Batis lenses! Did I mention them?!



 
 

XAVC-S now for a6000!

Posted on: 18/06/2015 08:29:00 under News » General 

The Sony a6000 is just one of the most underrated cameras out there.  I know of plenty of customers that have been simply astonished with it (and have bought them afterwards).  Whilst it's superb for the stills side of things, it's not too shabby for video as well and has again surprised quite a few.

Sony are not known for their firmware updates, usually releasing a new model to incorporate new features rather than updating existing ones so I am delighted to see they have announced Firmware 2.0 that adds the newer XAVC-S to video recording (in addition to AVCHD).


 
 

Gratical Firmware Update

Posted on: 18/06/2015 08:00:00 under News » General 

We love the Zacuto Gratical.  Sure it's not that cheap but it really delivers as a viewfinder.  The only problem is once you've used one, it's quite tricky to go back!

Zacuto have this morning announced a firmware update that we'll be putting through our stock as they return from their current hires.


  1. A new peaking feature has been added to the menu overlays->focus assist->reg peaking. 
  2. Activating red line peaking will no longer make the image lose sharpness. 
  3. Image flip will now stay active after a power cycle. 
  4. Fixed a bug where the image would appear to jump or change positions. 
  5. Fixed a bug where the image’s contrast or brightness appeared to change. 
  6. Changed the FS7 Slog3 to rec709 preset LUT. 
  7. Added compatibility for Nikon D800/D810 cameras. 
  8. Added compatibility for Wooden Camera C-Box Converter. 
  9. Fixed a bug that would not allow a user to create a custom DSLR scaling. 
  10. Decreased the audio meter latency. 





 
 

Sony announce the new a7rII

Posted on: 12/06/2015 10:15:00 under News » General 

It’s been interesting following the reaction to the announcement of Sony’s new a7R II. Everyone on the photo side assumed it would have a 50MP sensor and there has been a wave of disappointment from some, which is frankly bonkers when you look at what it DOES have to offer. The filmmakers have all been waiting for the a7S II to appear, rightly discounting the R range as being ultimate photo machines and not for them. So imagine their surprise when Sony announce 4K internal recording with no pixel binning shooting in Super 35mm mode. Combine that with 5 axis stabilization and improved AF and certainly their ears seem to have pricked up. Of course that leaves the million-dollar question – what will the a7S II offer to trump this all? You could guess at it using perhaps XAVC rather than XAVC-S and perhaps S-Log 3 and better colour space – who knows? I’m sure we’ll find out at some point but let’s look at the a7R II for now.

Now I’ve got to admit – I am a little biased. I’ve used an a7R since launch and I absolutely love it. Yes it has its flaws – AF is useless, it’s unnecessarily noisy, suffers from shutter vibration and the handling could be better BUT the image quality is just stunning. I use manual lenses so have never been bothered about manual focusing but for Sony to really steal sales from SLR users, it’s something they really had to address.

The a7 II showed promise with its improved grip, much faster AF and the 5 axis stabilization – whilst on paper it didn’t sound like a lot, it was a huge leap forward over the a7.

The a7R II looks set to further Sony’s march. So let’s start with the sensor. Gone is the old 36.4MP one to be replaced by a new 42.4MP back-illuminated CMOS sensor. The point about this new one is rather than throw just more pixels at it, Sony have worked hard to ensure it works as efficiently as possible. The gapless on-chip lens design and AR (anti-reflective) coating on the surface of the sensor’s glass seal dramatically improve light collection efficiency, resulting in high sensitivity with low-noise performance and wide dynamic range. This allows the camera to shoot at an impressive ISO range of 100 to 25600 that is expandable to ISO 50 to 102400. I know from my old a7R that you couldn’t push it over 12,800 if you wanted to maintain IQ so it will be interesting to see just how far you can push the new camera.

Due to the new design, data is output from the sensor 3.5 times faster compared to the old model, fed to the BIONZ X processing engine that ensures the highest possible detail and the lowest possible noise. There’s also no optical low pass filter so you’re getting the very best you can from the sensor.

As I mentioned, two things grate with the existing camera when it comes to the shutter – noise and vibration. I’m not sure how much quieter it is in normal mode (but I hope it’s less) but I am delighted to see that Sony have included a Silent Shutter mode. First seen on the a7s, this has become invaluable to wedding photographers now able to shoot at ceremonies without anyone noticing. As for the vibration, the a7R II has a new highly durable reduced-vibration shutter that delivers 50% less vibration from shutter movements compared to its predecessor.

So let’s move onto the AF. I’ll be the first to admit the a7R is rubbish, especially in lower light. I can focus far quicker manually than with AF. Now we know Sony can produce decent AF – I’ve got a a6000 at home and it’s bloody brilliant – the AF is lightning fast. We all knew it was just a matter of time before they implemented this tech on a full frame sensor. The a7R II has 399 focal-plane phase-detection AF points that work together with 25 contrast AF points to achieve focus response that is apparently 40% fast than the original model. The a7R II utilises an advanced motion-detection algorithm combined with this Fast Hybrid AF system to achieve up to 5fps continuous shooting with AF tracking. Now I can’t help but think Sony’s being a little conservative with this – the proof will be in the pudding when we finally get our hands on one but the real point here is it sounds like the difference between this and an SLR is now pretty small.

Additionally, the focal plane phase-detection AF system on the a7R II works well with Sony A-mount lenses when they are mounted on the camera using an LA-EA3 or LA-EA1 mount adapter. This allows users to enjoy the wide AF coverage of 399 focal plane phase-detection AF points, high-speed response and high tracking performance with a wider range of lenses. This marks the first time that the AF system of a mirrorless camera can achieve high performance with lenses originally designed for DSLRs. So where does this leave us with Metabones and EF lenses? That’s an interesting one as it’s always been an Achilles heel – the AF being lousy using one. But phase detection AF on EF lenses using a Metabones adaptor – imagine that!

I have been using an a7 II for a while now and have to say I’m impressed with the new 5 axis stabilisation system. No question in challenging situations, it helps enormously. It has been fine-tuned to support the a7R II’s high-resolution shooting capacity. Similar to the system launched on the a7 II model, this advanced form of image stabilisation corrects camera shake along five axes during shooting, including angular shake (pitch and yaw) that tends to occur with a telephoto lens, shift shake (X and Y axes) which becomes noticeable as magnification increases, and rotational shake (roll) that often affects video recording. This camera shake compensation system is equivalent to shooting at a shutter speed approximately 4.5 steps faster. Additionally the 5-axis stabilisation works cooperatively with Sony Alpha lenses with optical SteadyShot.

I love having an OLED viewfinder and it’s good to see Sony have improved this with a double-sided aspherical lens that delivers the world’s highest viewfinder magnification of 0.78x for crystal clear image preview and playback across the entire display area.  ZEISS®T* Coating is also utilised to reduce unwanted reflections that interfere with the shooting experience.

If you’ve used the a7 II, you’ll know just how much better the new grip and shutter button design is. Sony have also added a mode dial lock and there are now even more customisable buttons (was already pretty good).

Naturally it has Wi-Fi and NFC compatibility. I use this all the time with the a6000 transferring to the iPad with PlayMemories.

So last but certainly not least (for the filmmakers) is the movie shooting. The a7R II can shoot in 4K quality (QFHD 3840x2160) in either Super 35mm crop mode or full-frame mode.

In Super 35mm mode, the camera collects a wealth of information from approximately 1.8x as many pixels as 4K by using full pixel readout without pixel binning and oversamples the information to produce 4K movies with minimal moire. In full-frame mode, the a7R II uses the full width of the 35mm sensor for 4K recording and is as such the world’s first digital camera to offer this in-camera full-frame format 4K recording capacity.

The camera utilises the XAVC S codec during video shooting, which records at a high bit rate of 100 Mbps during 4K recording and 50 Mbps during full HD shooting. Obviously you can connect a Atomos Shogun still to not only gain Pro-Res 4K recording but also now dual recording (internally and externally) at 4K – something the a7s can’t do, even recording internally in HD.

It’s interesting for a high end photo camera to also have features like S-Log2 Gamma and S-Gamut, 120fps high frame rate movie shooting in HD (720p), time code and clean HDMI output.

No wonder the filmmakers are watching with interest. You’ve got to hand it to Sony – they really are pushing the boundaries and I for one can’t wait to get my hands on one to try! 


We've already put our order in and will have them available at launch.




 
 

Insurance charges now simpler!

Posted on: 05/05/2015 09:33:00 under News » General 
I am absolutely delighted to announce that as of 1st May our insurance pricing has all been changed to make things far more simple!

No longer will there be a complicated charging structure - now the premium will simply be 15% of the (inc VAT) hire charge or £6 (whichever is greater).

All the terms of cover (including the excesses) remain the same but at least now it's far easier to work out just how much the cover will be!


 
 

Sony FE 24-240mm F3.5-6.3 OSS lens in stock!

Posted on: 01/05/2015 09:58:00 under News » General 

I am delighted to announce that the new Sony FE 24-240mm F3.5-6.3 OSS lens has landed with us.

Sometimes having an interchangeable lens camera can be a pain - you just want to go out with one lens and cover all possibilities.  The lens is full frame compatible with a 10x optical zoom.  Clearly it's not going to be tiny but it's not THAT much bigger than the FE 24-70mm (the lens has a telescope design so is obviously longer when zooming in at 240mm).  It is worth noting that it is quite heavy but the balance is actually much better when attached to an a7 body as the majority of the glass must be at the lens mount end.

Image quality seems to be very impressive and whilst some might complain about the speed of the lens, the OSS most definitely helps (it's also very useful for video).

This lens won't be for everyone BUT I can see it being very popular for certain applications (especially travel).



 
 

Zeiss Batis lens range announced

Posted on: 22/04/2015 10:33:00 under News » General 

This morning Zeiss announced a new range of lenses called Batis. These are full frame FE Mount designed to work with the Sony a7 series of cameras - if you think of them as full frame Touits, you'll not be far wrong.

The initial lenses on offer will be 2/25 and 1.8/85 - designed to fit in with the current Sony Zeiss primes already available (Zeiss Distagon T* FE 35mm F1.4 ZA and Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA).

With the Loxia range already available (and soon to be expanded), Zeiss have the manual FE market covered so it was a logical move to provide fast AF primes. These are aimed at professionals and high end amateur photographers. If you want to use them for video, I'd stick with Loxia's.

For the first time on any lens, they include an OLED display. This shows the distance of the focal plane from the camera system and depth of fields.

The lenses will be available between June and July 2015 and we will be of course stocking them. Hopefully we should get our hands on them before then so will report back!

Here's a quick video from Zeiss





 
 

Zeiss Distagon T* FE 35mm F1.4 ZA is here!

Posted on: 21/04/2015 14:21:00 under News » General 
Okay, so I must firstly admit that I'm a Sony mirrorless fan.  I've still got an RX1 that I love - even if it is getting a bit past its sell-by date, it still takes a damn fine photo!  The a7r has been a trusty companion of mine - sure, it's not without its faults but when you bolt a decent bit of glass on the front, it truly shines.  Let's not forget the new boys on the block - a7s and the a7 II.  The a7s needs no introduction but the a7 II?  They should have called it something different as it's a big leap up over the original - it's a brilliant bit of kit.

Anyway, it's safe to say that I have been looking forward to this new Distagon T* FE 35mm F1.4 ZA since a little birdy first hinted it might be coming along last year.  We saw mock ups officially at Photokina but it would be another 6 months before working samples appeared.  Well, our first production lens arrived yesterday!

As it is booked to leave us today (and thus was needed back in the office this morning) and I was at meetings until 10pm last night, I was going to get little chance to have a play but I needed to have a quick look!

I've been using the Zeiss Distagon T* 35mm f/1.4 ZM lens with a Leica M adaptor on my a7r - it's one of the most under-talked-about primes on the planet.  It's a cracker.  It's not cheap but for those that are willing to settle with f/2 and want a lens optimised for the full frame Sony's, Zeiss also produce the wonderful Loxia 2/35. Manual focus is not for everyone though (and not always practical) and this is where this lens comes in....

First thing you notice about the lens is its size and weight.  It's not a daft size (think about the same as Sony's 16-35mm f/4) but it's a lot bigger than the Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA.


As you can see, it absolutely dwarfs the 35mm ZM lens.  It is built very well and there are 12 elements in that lens contributing to that weight.  Interestingly, it's got an aperture ring.  I very much hope that Sony continue this theme as being a manual lens person I like it.  I also love that Sony have put a switch on the lens to de-click it for video use.  Filter size is 72mm so many will already have filters to fit (or at least use a step up/down ring).

So I ventured out at 4.45am this morning to the coast to try and grab a sunrise.  I wanted to see not only what the lens was like wide open but also closed down.  I had to be in the office by 7am so not a great of time.  I was also without my a7r so had grabbed an a7s.  Ideally I otherwise wanted to use an a7 II but they are all out as well!!


Putting the lens and camera on one of our Manfrotto BeFree travel tripods only made the lens look bigger but it was easy to handle.  To be fair, the only reason I really noticed it is because I've had the Zeiss ZM attached to my camera for a while!



As a lot of our filters were out, I had nabbed a Tiffen Variable ND from the office to give me some chance of shooting into the sun.  I closed the lens down to F16 and shot.  As a quick aside, I posted a couple of pictures up on my personal Facebook this morning and had a comment back about the a7's being a pain having to wait for camera to process.  This is the Long Exposure Noise Reduction doing its thing which takes almost as long as the exposure.  It's only ever of use with JPEGs so if you're shooting RAW, do yourself a favour and turn it off!!

Anyway, these were two I grabbed.



Both of these were shot at f/16, ISO 50 at 30 seconds.  These are obviously cropped down but here's the last one at 100% crop (bear in mind this is only 12mp sensor of the a7s - must try with the a7r).


I watched reviews of the pre-production lenses which pointed to vignetting and obvious CA at f/1.4.  I've got to say I thought it was pretty good.  Camera Raw actually applies a built-in profile to correct for CA so it's a bit hard to tell!  But there's no correction for vignetting and as you can see, it's not really evident.  The next two f/1.4 images have not been processed other than for colour (or lack of it in the second photo).



I don't think it's that bad at all - in fact I'd go as far as saying it's almost non-existant!

I also read that the lens was sharp as anything in the centre at f/1.4 but it was soft at the edges, not improving until f/4.  Hmmm.... Looking at 100% crop of above image, taken at f/1.4, you can judge for yourself.


It's not easy to pick your way through the stones that are supposed to be in focus (seemed like a great idea at the time!) but I think it's not bad considering the lens is wide open.  Need to do a better test really.

Any negatives?  It is big and heavy compared to the ZM but then it's got a lot of glass and to be fair does what it's supposed to.  I suppose my only real niggle is with the manual focus - it doesn't have the feel of a manual lens where there is a physical connection and for some, especially on the motion side of things, that might prove annoying.  AF wise, it was as quick as the a7r will ever make it - would be interesting to try on a a7 II.  

It's not the most technical test but firstly I'm not desperately technical and secondly I didn't have an awful lot of time.  Hopefully once everyone's finished playing with them, I'll get a chance again!

You can find out more about keeping me from doing so and hiring one here - http://www.hireacamera.com/lens_hire/detail.asp?model=1126

Until then I'll just have to slum it with the Distagon T* 35mm f/1.4 ZM :-)

EDIT - My post above is only skimming the surfaces.  If you want to have a read of a more detailed review, may I point you in the direction of Mat and Heather at Mirrorlessons with their review here.




 
 

New Blackmagic Micro Cinema Camera

Posted on: 14/04/2015 21:09:00 under News » General 
We've done reasonable business with the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera.  Personally I am not that impressed with the build quality (we have yet to have a camera that hasn't gone wrong or broken in some way) but you can't deny the fact that the image coming off it is first rate.

Blackmagic think there's more to be done with that Super 16 sensor as here's their latest - the Micro Cinema Camera!!  Blackmagic are pitching it at the drone market naturally and I am sure it will do well.  It's got an expansion port that will allow remote controllers to operate the camera wirelessly.

But hold on, surely there are other applications for it.  It's small size and low weight means it can be mounted pretty much anywhere on a roll bar, helmet or suction mount.  

Let's go back to the sensor which many will be familiar with.  It's a Super 16 sensor with full 1080 HD resolution with global shutter up to 30 frames per second and 13 stops of dynamic range.  Native ISO is 800 expandable up to 1600.  Files are recorded onto SD card in either 12-bit log Cinema DNG RAW or ProRes.

Like the Pocket Cinema Camera, this features a Micro Four Thirds lens mount.  You've got stereo built in mics with a 3.5mm audio jack input supporting both line and mic levels.  Controls on the camera are pretty basic and there's no touchscreen here - just an hdmi output to feed to a monitor or viewfinder (at least it's a full sized one!).  Once you have connected a monitor, you have access to all of the on-screen functions, controlled by the buttons on the body.
Battery power on the Pocket Camera is lousy at best (we supply 5 spare batteries on our cameras, I kid you not!).  This time round Blackmagic have used Canon LP-E6's which are supposedly good for an hour to an hour and half.  That is a MASSIVE improvement over the Pocket Camera.  The battery level is shown on the HDMI display as an overlay.  Included is also a 12V DC input jack for external power supplies.


I'll be interested to see what 3rd party controllers come out utilising the expansion port.  We'll be stocking the cameras from June - plenty of time for some of our customers to no doubt think of some inventive ways to use them!



 
 

New Blackmagic URSA Mini

Posted on: 14/04/2015 20:09:00 under News » General 

Okay so I'll be the first to admit that I haven't been that complimentary about the Blackmagic URSA.  I am sure it is the perfect camera for someone (probably a weightlifter!) but it just seemed to be massive overkill for our market.  Having said that of course, there are some cracking features to it and I remember parting company with the demo I was loaned thinking 'what if'.  

Well say hello to the Blackmagic URSA Mini!  For me, this is what the URSA should have been all along and it's going to bring the fight to the current champion of the people, the Sony FS7.  I am genuinely excited about this camera and what it can do for our customers.


So the camera comes with either 4K or 4.6K sensors. For hire, we'll only be concentrating on the 4.6K as it brings other benefits besides the greater resolution.  Both EF and PL mounts are available - no great surprise to hear that we'll be solely stocking the EF mount (for which we have more than a few lenses!).  What you see here is a camera with the optional shoulder kit (which I think we'll be supplying as standard).  Included in that kit is also an arm that allows you to extend the side grip (think FS7 and you'll be spot on!) and also the top handle.  The camera has a fold out 5 inch screen but Blackmagic have also launched an URSA Viewfinder (shown in these photos) which we'll be offering as an option.
So onto the camera.  Let's start with the design.  It's made from mag alloy so it's actually pretty light but built to withstand the odd knock. Shape wise, it is uncannily like an FS7 to be honest, the big exception being the 5 inch 1080 HD touchscreen - this is used not only for monitoring but also accessing all of the camera settings.  The side grip with control buttons is mounted on a standard rosette and is, as we mentioned, able to be put on the end of the optional arm in Shoulder mount kit (which we'll include as standard), as you can see below.  Power will be dealt with using the optional (that we'll also throw in with the camera!) URSA Vlock Battery Plate.


It's good to see there are plenty of mounting points on the camera (apparently 9 1/4 inch threaded points on top and bottom).  The Shoulder Pad has an integrated tripod quick lock release and you've got rail mounts which will be essential outside if you want to mount a Matte Box (and you will as there are no internal ND filters on the camera!).

It's also good to see a decent set of connections.  You've got balanced XLR's with phantom power on the top of the camera body, 2 LANC connections, 12G HD-SDI Out, 4 pin XLR 12V power in and out (out used for optional viewfinder), timecode in and headphone jack.  As well as the balanced XLRs, you've also got built in stereo microphones. 
So let's talk about that new sensor - 4.6K with 15 stops of dynamic range!!  The sensor features global shutter up to 30 frames per second and rolling shutter up to 60 frames per second.  The camera can capture full resolution 4.6K recordings at up to 60 frames per second and up to 160 frames per second in regular 1080 HD! 

On the recording front, I am just going to quote Blackmagic as it's quicker - 'Blackmagic URSA Mini features dual CFast 2.0 recorders so you never have to stop recording when you need to change the media! When the current card is full, recording continues onto the second card so you can swap out the full card and just keep shooting. URSA Mini uses the latest, incredibly fast CFast 2.0 technology for recording speeds up to 350 MB/s. You get perfect high frame rate RAW recording and instant play back on the built in 5 inch screen. Files can be saved as lossless 12-bit CinemaDNG RAW for the highest possible quality, or as ProRes for easy post production workflows with minimum storage requirements!'

So a quick word on the optional viewfinder.  This has been designed as a perfect match for the camera (which is clear from the images).  In it is a high resolution 1920 x 1080 colour OLED display with adjustable diopter.  Cleverly, they've built a sensor in so the OLED is only on when you're looking into the viewfinder.  I also like the fact it's not a proprietary connection to the camera - merely 12V and SDI (Sony take note!)


I am hugely excited by this camera.  We have loads of customers who absolutely love the Production Camera but that love gets questioned every time you try to use the damn thing as the trade off for all that lovely image quality is the lack of practicality and the number of extra bits needed to make shooting a reality.  The URSA Mini really solves these problems in one go and I can't wait for us to start stocking them around June time!


 
 

Price cut on Canon C300

Posted on: 14/04/2015 18:42:00 under News » General 

I always like to be the bearer of happy news for our customers and so you'll be pleased to hear that we've slashed the hire charges on our C300's!  Doubt that will prove popular with some but I think it's fair.  In fact we've gone and bought more!!  Why?  Simply because it's a bloody good camera and at under £130 a day (same price as an FS7), you really can't go wrong.


 
 

Canon show off the C300 Mark II

Posted on: 14/04/2015 17:57:00 under News » General 

It would seem my blog software either doesn’t like me or wishes for me to not post anything about the C300 Mark II as this is my third time of attempting to write this post! What it has done though is given me time to reflect on the camera and its place in the ever-changing market.

As I see it, there are two camps here. Those that think that Canon is resting on its laurels and there are no great surprises here in terms of spec. Indeed, the camera is in an increasingly uncomfortable position when you look at the likes of the Sony FS7 and the new Blackmagic Ursa Mini announced yesterday.

Supporters will however dismiss all that saying that what you need is a dependable reliable workhouse that can deliver every time reliably and the C300 Mark II is precisely that.  C300 users will also tell you there's just something about the image that is just lovely.

So let’s go over the headline features –

  • 8.85MP Super 35mm Canon CMOS sensor.
  • Shoot 4K at up to 410Mbps/10-bit with the Canon XF-AVC H.264 codec for easy 4K integration into existing workflows.
  • 15 stops of dynamic range with Canon Log2.
  • Simultaneously record 4K to dual internal CFast 2.0™ cards*, 2K/FHD proxy files to SD card and output 4K RAW to external devices.
  • Concentrate on the action with improvements in Dual Pixel CMOS AF, Face Detection AF and Auto White Balance.
  • High-sensitivity, low-noise images up to ISO 102,400.
  • Sensor readout speed is improved, producing even lower rolling shutter distortion.
  • Support for BT.2020, Canon Cinema Gamut and DCI-P3 colour space
  • 4 channel 16/24-bit audio.
  • Huge range of compatible lenses, servo zoom support and service changeable PL mount option

 

So nothing revolutionary but Canon have made some significant improvements over and above the 4K headline.  There's a new sensor and Dual Digic DV5 processor running things which means 4K capture internally in 4:2:2.  The sensor is now read in significantly less time which should reduce effects of rolling shutter.

Canon have built their own new codec called XF-AVC and as you can see from the specs above, at 30fps in 4K it's recording at 410Mbps!  To cope with the high bitrate, the camera now uses CFast 2.0 card.  It's worth noting that a proxy file can also be recorded at the same time (in 2K/HD 4:2:0) to an SDXC card.  You can also export 4K 4:4:4 to an external recorder like the Atomos Shogun.

One thing people were crying out for was faster frame rates and it's a shame to see that high speed recording is only up to 120fps (in NTSC mode) and only in HD/2K.  So far most of C300 users I've spoken to already have an a7s which shoots at same rate (albeit onto a full frame sensor and not a cropped mode 35mm) so there is a bit of disappointment there.

With the EOS C300 Mark II, Canon have introduced Canon Log 2 which is effectively a flatter version of Canon Log and they claim it now gives the camera a dynamic range of 15 stops.  For those that want something easier to grade, Canon have also included the WideDR mode as found on the recent C100 Mk II.

Low light performance was pretty good on the Mk I but Canon claim to have improved this on the Mk II with the ISO range starting at 100 all the way up to 102,400.  Nature ISO when using Canon Log 2 is 800.

Dual Pixel CMOS AF makes an appearance as standard and is said to have been improved, covering 80% of the sensor area.  Face detection is now available and the AF is customisable in not only tracking but also speed.

Audio wise, there is now 4 channel recording so you can record on both the minijack AND the XLRs at the same time.

Looking at the body, there have been a few improvements.  The top handle has been redesigned with a new mounting and is said to much more sturdy.  One thing that hugely annoyed me as a rental house were the leads of the Mk I - I am hugely delighted to see that these are now detatchable at both ends - hallelujah!! The EVF is now an OLED EVF with far greater resolution and contrast.  That's great news as being able to use the camera without the rest of the rig stripped down is one of the camera's biggest assets.

It will be time to invest in new batteries as the old ones are not carried over - expect our cameras to be supplied with the optional 6200mAh BP-A60's.

We have customers that swear by the C300's and I expect they'll swear by the C300 Mk II.  The reality is that the price difference when renting is never quite as great as the purchase price difference - truth is whilst the C300 Mk II costs twice as much as an FS7, it won't cost twice as much to hire (more is the shame for us!), so we know they'll go out the door.

For owner/operators I suspect that decision is less clear cut.  Will they just keep using their Mk I until they are forced into 4K production and will they then go for the C300 Mk II - difficult to tell.

We HAVE put in our order and are expecting them around September time!




 
 

Nikon update firmware for working with Shogun

Posted on: 13/04/2015 09:44:00 under News » General 

We all know that Nikon has pushed its more recent DSLRs as perfect for video with their clean HDMI output and dedicated video functions.  I think it's fair to say they aren't perfect but if you are using them for stills and need video functionality, then they serve a purpose.  Most usefully they did give Canon a kick up the backside to offer a clean HDMI feed with the 5D Mk III last year!

Last Friday Nikon announced that they were developing new firmware for the Nikon D4S, Nikon D810, and Nikon D750 DSLR cameras, for release this summer. The new firmware will improve workflow for professional video applications by improving recording command functions with HDMI output to external recorders.

Below is the press release.  As soon as it becomes available, naturally all of our stock will be updated.

London, UK, 10th April 2015: Nikon Corporation is developing new firmware for its Nikon D4S, Nikon D810, and Nikon D750 DSLR cameras, for release this summer. The new firmware will improve workflow for professional video applications by improving recording command functions with HDMI output to external recorders.With the new firmware, communication can be established between the cameras and Atomos Shogun or Ninja-2 external recording devices. The video recorders will be able to recognise the cameras’ own operations, enabling the start/stop recording commands to become synchronised and automated. Meanwhile, it will also provide greater support for recording of high-definition, uncompressed data that makes the most of the superior resolution of the D4S, D810 and D750, plus the excellent rendering performance of NIKKOR lenses to external recorders.Nikon continues to expand and provide greater support for its video recording functions in response to the creative needs of professional photographers, videographers, video creators and advanced amateurs. With improved video recording capabilities, users will be able to take full advantage of the performance and capabilities of Nikon’s range of products.

Demonstrations of the firmware currently under development will be held in the Nikon booth at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Show, held in Las Vegas from Saturday 11th April through to Thursday 16th April[*]. 

Simon Iddon, Group Product Manager, D-SLR Lenses and Accessories, Nikon UK, says: “DSLR cameras are being used now more than ever for broadcasting, film and video production, so they are required to capture stills whilst being able to support high quality video recording and editing. This new firmware will make the process even easier, allowing greater communication between multiple systems when used professionally. Nikon’s continuing advancement and dedication to making our products better and even more capable is demonstrated in these innovative new changes.”


 
 

Canon announce interesting XC10

Posted on: 08/04/2015 08:15:00 under News » General 
Okay, so I will admit that I've been as equally harsh as others on Canon over the last couple of years for not really doing anything innovative and again this morning when I saw the specs on the C300 Mark II, it was with a pang of regret. Where was the Canon we used to know and love that came out with products that really pushed the boundaries?

Well I am delighted to see that Canon have announced something a bit more interesting than the norm - the XC10. Surely we've already seen bridge cameras such as the Sony RX10? Well yes but that was a stills camera with a video function (and a stab at some video features). Canon have approached it from the other end by producing a video camera foremost, just in a more stills like body.

So what you're seeing here is a camera that takes features from the EOS cinema line and chucks them into a body that will instantly familiar to an SLR user. I have to say, I really like it.

Let's go through the details. The sensor is a 1 inch 13.36mp CMOS using Canon's new DIGIC DV5 image processor. In video mode, the camera will record in either 4K (3840 x 2160 UHDTV) or Full HD (1920 x 1080) at frame rates of either 25p, 50p or 50i (interesting there is no 24p) at 4:2:2 colour sampling. The XC10 uses Canon's new XF-AVC H.264 codec which should be supported by most NLE systems by the time the camera is released in June. Bit rates are high, recording in 4K at up to 305Mbps (normal HD is 35Mpbs at 25p and 50Mbps at 50p). Storage media for 4K video is CFast 2 cards (I would suspect Canon will now move this way with all of their cameras going forwards). There's also an SD slot for stills and Full HD recording.


Canon are quoting a 12-stop dynamic range and it's good to see they have included the Canon Log gamma. High ISO's are available at up to 20,000 - it will be interesting to see what the noise is like.

The camera offers both slow and fast motion recording modes with up to 1200x fast motion (although you've also got interval recording in stills mode anyway) and up to 1/4x slow motion (only in HD).

Let's not forget this camera also shoots stills! 12 megapixels may not sound huge but it's more than enough for most things (as the Sony a7s has proved). Also this is a video camera first and foremost and a high megapixel sensor is not what you want as it's clearly going to compromise video performance. You can obviously also grab frames from the 4K video (8.29 megapixels) - whilst not RAW, if you're using Canon Log gamma, you're still going to have 12 stops of DR to play with.


Onto the lens, it offers a 35mm equivalent focal range of 27.3-273mm (f/2.8 to 5.6) with image stabilisation (both optical and electronic). You've got separate manual control rings for focus and zoom. I can see people already complaining about it, saying it's not bright enough (and it's not interchangeable) but I think to do so is slightly missing the point at where this camera is aimed (and priced). Having said that, I could see Canon at a later point introducing an interchangeable EF version.


I really like the design of the body. There is a rotating grip which is a massive step up from a basic SLR design and all the major controls are to easily to hand. Anyone used to a Canon SLR will feel instantly at home. There's a 7.66cm vari-angle touch LCD (great news as touch focus is very useful) and Canon include an optical loupe viewfinder which fits directly over the LCD.

Last by not least, the XC10 has Wifi enabling remote control via tablet or smartphone.

In terms of inputs and outputs nothing has been mentioned yet but would expect jack input for mic and mini HDMI with hopefully clean 4K feed out to take into a Shogun (if you wanted backup). As soon as I find out more, I'll add to this post.

I am really pleased to see this camera announced today. As soon as we can get our hands on one, we'll report back more.

EDIT

I have just been sent this from Canon which shows that the camera will output a clean HDMI signal in both HD and 4K.

Audio in

Built-in stereo microphone, 3.5mm stereo mini jack external microphone

Headphone output

3.5mm Stereo mini jack

Video monitor output

No

HDMI

Yes. Output only

HDMI Video Output (Recording Mode)

Colour Bars (HD output only)
Camera Mode: (Dependent on capabilities of external recording device)
305Mps/205Mbps: 3840x2160 (25.00P)
1920x1080 (50.00P/50.00i) 720 x 576: 50.00P
50 Mbps: 1920 x 1080 (50.00P/50.00i) 720 x 576: 50.00P
35 Mbps: 1920 x 1080 (50.00P/50.00i) 720 x 576: 50.00P

HDMI Video Output (Playback Mode)

PAL
4K movie playback : 3840x2160/25.00P: 1920x1080/50.00P/50.00i
720x576/50.00P
HD movie playback: 1920x1080/50.00P/50.00i
720x576/50.00P

USB

Yes mini-B, Hi-speed, Output only

HD/SD-SDI output

No

Time code

Yes, via HDMI

 




 
 

Zeiss Distagon T* 1,4/35 ZM is here!

Posted on: 13/03/2015 07:43:00 under News » General 

Okay, I firstly need to hold my hand up and say I have a bit of a thing about manual rangefinder lenses.  It always amuses me when I read comments on forums discussing the advance of mirrorless cameras and people stating that there's a huge flaw with downsizing the glass - it can never be anywhere near as fast or good.  Yet everyone's quick to forget about good old rangefinder lenses that have been producing the goods in a compact size for quite some time.

Okay so they are manual focus and okay, they are heavy (and also quite expensive!) but they do deliver.  Unfortunately these days my eyesight isn't as sharp as it was and I find using a rangefinder too hit and miss at short depths of field.  So my Leica went and I now pretty much exclusively use a Sony a7r.  But thankfully I can still use manual glass.  I know Zeiss produce the excellent Loxia range of lenses for a7 cameras and these are incredible (and indeed more than enough for most).  But there's something about the feel of a ZM lens that just feels so right.

So what's it like?  Very good indeed.  The lens performs excellently and is crisp at f/1.4 and usefully that quality doesn't drop that much as you move to the edge of the picture.   


Detail moves from impressive to gobmackingly stunning about around f/4 (helps if you've got something like an a7r on the back to appreciate it).  Closed down to f/11, it's still good (actually at f/16 I found it just as sharp as wide open) - so you could say it's an overall performer!  I have no doubt that reviews will appear with all the test details but it doesn't take rocket science to work out if you're getting a sharp image or not!


ZM's have always been a Marmite choice and indeed with hire it's been much the same.  If I'm very honest, I've never been too worried as I'm happy using the lens myself (but I will share!).

In this world of auto everything, there's something just magical about having a fixed focal length, manual aperture and manual focus.  It's not for everyone but I think that's a good thing. 



 
 

Come and see us at TPS at the NEC!

Posted on: 10/03/2015 14:01:00 under News » General 

We're only a week away from getting packed up and heading up to Birmingham's NEC for The Photography Show and we're really looking forward to it.

Last year was brilliant - it was fabulous to see so many existing customers and also meet some new faces.

You'll find us up the top half of the hall (just round the corner from our friends at Sigma) on Stand B80.

Please do stop by and say hi!


 
 

Easter Offer 2015

Posted on: 10/03/2015 09:25:00 under News » General 

Temperatures are warming and the sun's making more of an appearance.  This can mean only one thing - spring's coming and so is Easter!

Once again, we're back with our great Easter Offer.  Here's how it works.

If you book now, subject to availability, we will send out your goods on Tuesday 31st March to arrive with you on Wednesday 1st April.  We will then pick them up on Tuesday 7th April.  THAT'S 6 DAYS FOR PRICE OF A NORMAL WEEKEND HIRE CHARGE!  

That's not all - those looking for a real bargain and willing to take a chance might like the next option.  As of 2pm on Tuesday 31st March, any equipment still in stock can be booked to be dispatched on Wednesday 1st April for a SINGLE DAY'S HIRE CHARGE - THAT'S 4 DAYS FOR THE PRICE OF 1!!

Normal courier, insurance and minimum hire charges, equipment deposits and delivery conditions apply.  Cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer.



 
 
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Exceptional service for personal delivery over Xmas. Look to stock more accessories may be useful and offer additional memory cards if knowing we'll be using the still cameras for video :-)
- Bertie Stephens, MWS Media, Berkshire

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