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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.



 
 

The Gratical is here!

Posted on: 10/03/2015 06:12:00 under News » General 
I remember first seeing the Zacuto Gratical in prototype form at NAB in Vegas last April.  We had been under pressure to stock more EVF's.  With more and more camera options being stocked, what people wanted was some familiarity with what they looked at.  Thing was, if you were using anything with SDI (such as the Blackmagic Cameras), that rather limited what could be used.  We did think about stocking the Alphatron and indeed I was just about to when I headed over to NAB to see if anything else would fit the bill.


Onto the stand and a understandably proud Jens Bogehegn took me through their prototype.  The two things I just couldn't get over were firstly the sheer quality of the OLED screen and secondly the ingenious format of putting normal overlay info underneath the actual screen.  

Input and output wise, you have everything covered whether HDMI or SDI and if you wanted to loop through, no problem.  Want SDI in and HDMI out?  No problem!


We've been hiring a7s and FS7's now for what seems like a fair while.  In reality, it isn't but it just shows how much of our business (or indeed my life) rotates around them!  Having the ability to shoot in a nice flat S Log Gamma is, as we all know, just wonderful.  Looking through the viewfinder at that flat image is not!  The Gratical gives you the option to upload via USB LUT's that can be applied to the flat input, giving you something far more acceptable to work with.  All the time, you're still recording a flat image in camera.  

Just a quick note here - yes, you can apply LUTs to the FS7 viewfinder but it's also very easy to mistakenly apply that LUT to what you're recording which would be pain.


The whole LUT option brings another great option when combined with the fact you have no need for overlays - you can actually record the HDMI signal coming out of the Gratical on an external recorder (such as the Ninja Star) with the LUT applied.  So now you have the flat S Log recorded internally and a LUT applied Pro-Res for quick turnaround to a client.

So it offers a great work solution and the brilliant thing is that it will work on anything and yet still give you a constant reference.

Naturally on seeing these last year at NAB, I ordered them on the spot!!  I'm delighted that of less than 10 that have arrived in the UK so far, we've now got 2 in stock.  Mounting options are being covered as well and we'll have rigs shortly up on the site for C100, C300, FS7 and a7s



 
 

Sony confirm E Mount lens releases

Posted on: 04/03/2015 07:40:00 under News » General 

Okay so there are no real surprises here as we saw all these lenses in some shape or form back at Photokina last year but it is good to see they are now officially on their way.

So just to recap as to what's coming - 


Distagon T* FE 35mm F1.4 ZA (SEL35F14Z) full-frame wide angle
As someone that uses Sony a7 range regularly, this is one lens I've really been waiting for.  We've already got the excellent Loxia 2/35 and now the new Zeiss 1,4/25 ZM and whilst I'm not expecting the same level of quality, having AF when combined with the a7 II especially means having a fair chance of cracking focus wide open when you just wouldn't have the chance with manual AF (unless you were lucky - I have toddlers and it's definitely a hit and miss affair!).  The other lovely thing is having a minimum focusing distance of just 0.3m (as opposed to 0.7m with the other two).  

It gets better as Zeiss have followed on from the Loxia's lead and given the lens not only an aperture ring but also a de-click switch allowing smooth iris control for movie shooting.  This is a first for a AF Sony E Mount lens and it's brilliant news as this lens will make an ideal partner to the a7s.

As with all the other lenses here, it's dust and moisture resistant.


FE 90mm F2.8 Macro G OSS (SEL90M28G) medium telephoto macro
This is another lens I'm itching to get my hands on as it has been LONG overdue - a decent E Mount portraiture lens (and I do like playing with macro shots if I'm honest).  It features Sony's OSS which will be useful when not using an a7 II and Sony says the smooth, quiet Direct Drive SSM (DDSSM) mechanism drives two ‘floating’ focus groups independently, ensuring extremely precise focus positioning that’s crucial for macro photography.  I like the fact that when focusing, the lens also maintains a constant length.


FE 24-240mm F3.5-6.3 OSS (SEL24240) full-frame zoom
Whilst not the most show stopping lens for me, I can see this being hugely popular offering an all-in-one travel solution.  It's not desperately light at 680g but bear in mind its focal range and to be fair to Sony, it's a fair old range with 24mm a genuinely usable wide starting point.  Having OSS will help on those longer shots when zoomed in.

Being dust and moisture resistant will help as I expect ours will be travelling all over the place!


FE 28mm F2 (SEL28F20) full-frame wide angle prime
So this is Sony's widest full frame prime for the moment and it's pretty cheap (compared certainly to the first two lenses above!).  It only weighs 200g so is nice and light.  It's got a 9-blade circular aperture - combined with the lens’s large aperture it should produce nice smooth bokeh.

Interestingly you can get two adaptors for this lens - the first, the SEL075UWC Ultra-wide Converter giving you a 21mm f/2.8.


The second, the SEL057FEC Fisheye Converter giving you a 16mm fisheye with full 180° coverage if you use in crop sensor mode.



Apparently Sony are also releasing firmware updates to support these new lenses and add features to existing FE lenses.  This is wonderful news as let's be honest, Sony are dreadful at releasing firmware updates and any indication that this could be changing has to be met with joy!

We've got all the lenses above already on order.  We'll shortly get them up on the website for pre-booking.











 
 

Is this the new website?

Posted on: 02/03/2015 10:28:00 under News » General 
We've mentioned a fair bit on social media about our new website that's coming.  It was due to be launched last Friday but we found a significant issue at the 11th hour that really needed to be addressed before launch.

In fact there were several things we wanted changing in hindsight and having missed our BVE deadline, we've decided to delay things just a bit longer.

Unfortunately our new logo and branding couldn't wait as we had already committed to this for the show and so what you see here is only our old website with the new branding.  Really sorry for any confusion!!

Those that visited the stand during BVE will have seen the new site and I'm over the moon with the general reaction.  It's a huge move for us - all of our stock moves to a new platform which has been a massive undertaking.

What you will see at launch is only the start - we have a 24 month update release programme going forwards, offering more as the year goes on.  We've already been holding clinics with our biggest customers and I think that many of the ideas we're moving ahead with will be of interest to quite a few.

As to when it will launch - we hope by the Photography Show which opens on Saturday 21st March or at least that's the plan.  The most important part is there's no inconvenience to our customers so if we have to delay further, we will.  

As soon as I have a (hopefully) fixed completion date, I will let you know!

All the very best
Guy


 
 

Sigma announce new SIGMA 24mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art lens

Posted on: 10/02/2015 11:10:00 under News » General 
We're huge fans of Sigma's new Global Vision lenses and it's fair to say their Art Primes (SIGMA 35mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art and SIGMA 50mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art) have taken the world by storm with their quality.  We always knew there was more to come and here it is - the SIGMA 24mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art.


Here is Sigma's press release - 

New “F1.4” joins SIGMA’s Art line. The Sigma Corporation is pleased to announce the SIGMA 24mm F1.4 DG HSM. The highest optical performance in its class, perfect for a variety of subjects from cityscapes to the star-filled night sky.

SIGMA has a proven reputation for wide-angle lens design and manufacturing. Drawing on this experience and design know-how, refined through development of the SIGMA 35mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art and SIGMA 50mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art, we have successfully minimized sagittal coma flare, chromatic aberration, distortion and vignetting to achieve exceptional levels of optical performance with almost no aberration or distortion. This lens provides the best possible performance when photographing a variety of subjects from cityscapes, mountain ranges and the star-filled night sky that demands great rendering, to indoor photography with low illumination or scenes with a smooth bokeh effect. Enjoy the astonishing optical performance from the new “F1.4” series that has just joined the SIGMA’s iconic Art line. 





 
 

Fujifilm updates X mount Lens Roadmap

Posted on: 10/02/2015 11:01:00 under News » General 
Fujifilm have built up quite a comprehensive range of X Mount lenses now, the latest being the XF16-55mm f2.8 R LM WR that arrived last week.

Now we know what's on the horizon as today they have released their latest lens roadmap.   The new lenses that have been added to the Fuji X Mount Lens Roadmap are:

  • NEW XF120mmF2.8 R Macro 1:1 Macro, telephoto lens
  • NEW XF35mmF2 R compact and lightweight standard focal length lens
  • NEW 1.4x Teleconverter for XF50-140mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR, XF120mmF2.8 R Macro, XF100-400mm

The XF120mmF2.8 R Macro is the second macro lens to be added to the line-up.

The XF35mmF2 R, with a standard focal length of 50mm*1, is a much anticipated addition to the line-up, aimed at photographers who will appreciate the smaller size and lighter weight.

The 1.4x Teleconverter is the first of its kind for the X-mount and can be attached to other Fujinon X mount lenses*2 to extend the focal length by 1.4 times.

Updates on other products
Fujifilm can confirm that the much-anticipated "Super Telephoto Zoom" lens that was announced on its previous roadmap update will be the new XF100-400 and have a focal range equivalent to 150-600mm*1. Further specifications of this lens will follow closer to the release date.

*1 35mm format equivalent

*2 The x1.4 teleconverter will be compatible with the following lenses: XF120mmF2.8 R Macro, XF50-140mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR, XF100-400mm

*3 The roadmap is correct as of February 10th, 2015. Specifications are subject to change






 
 

Canon announce new EF 11-24mm f/4L USM lens

Posted on: 06/02/2015 07:47:00 under News » General 
Over the last few years, I've spend a fair amount of time at shows big and small all over the country and one moan I've had has been from Canon users complaining about the fact they've never had a decent usable wide lens. You've either had to go extreme to the 8-15mm f/4 L Fisheye or settle with the good old 16-35mm f/2.8 L or the newer 16-35mm f/4 IS L lenses. Problem is the Fisheye distorts the image and the 16-35mm isn't wide enough! What they've wanted is something akin to Nikon's brilliant 14-24mm f/2.8 ED lens. Well wait no more!!


Launched at the same time as the new 5DS twins, Canon clearly thinking that this lens will be an ideal partner, it is apparently the world's widest angle rectilinear zoom lens. What does rectilinear mean? Basically no distortion - straight lines appear as straight lines. If you try shooting at 11mm on an 8-15mm f/4 L Fisheye, very simply straight lines won't appear totally straight. I can see this lens being popular with motion shooters in particular - being able to offer 18-24mm equivalent on Super 35mm sensors will be very useful indeed.

The lens is naturally weather sealed which is probably a good thing if it's aimed at shooting outdoors. It features three aspherical lenses including a ground aspherical element, which Canon say maximises image quality and delivers minimal levels of distortion.



 
 

Canon announce EOS 5DS and EOS 5DS R

Posted on: 06/02/2015 07:20:00 under News » General 
Today Canon have announced several new models and lenses, the most interesting for us are the EOS 5DS and EOS 5DS R. For Canon this was an unusually badly kept secret with leaks coming out in the last week or two so most keen followers had an inkling they might appear.


So what we're talking about here is ultimate resolution. These two cameras feature a 50.6mp sensor and are aimed at studio and landscape photographers mainly. The difference between the two is the EOS 5DS R also features a low pass cancellation filter.

As you would expect, packing 50mp into a 35mm sensor is surely going to lead to low light issues and interestingly Canon say the cameras provide ISO100-6400, expandable to 50-12800. So don't expect them to be superb in low light and get away with what the Pentax 645Z can (in fairness it has got a larger sensor for its equivalent number of pixels and let's not forget it's twice the price!). What will be interesting to see is if the Canon's can impress so well with their dynamic range - certainly for the landscape photographer, this will be important.


The cameras feature a new in-camera crop shooting mode - 1.3x, 1.6x and 1:1, that advantage being if you want cropped shots, you don't need to handle such huge files (19mp when at 1.6x mode).

We would expect the AF to be exceptional (much as the 5D Mk III) and both the EOS 5DS and 5DS R feature a 61-point AF system with 41 cross-type points. The also feature EOS Intelligent Tracking and Recognition AF to track both faces and colour.

Body and control wise, they are as you would expect a 5D series camera to appear and to look at any 5D Mk III user will feel right at home!


The cameras are not due to be with us until June and we will be getting our hands on them before then and report back our findings. Will they be popular? Difficult to say - for a great number of people the 22.3mp shots coming from a 5D Mk III are already very impressive and plenty big enough, coupled with the fact you have that low light performance. But for studio work and ultimate landscape photography, these cameras will no doubt prove very attractive.




Below is Canon's actual press release -

Canon revolutionises resolution with the EOS 5DS and EOS 5DS R

United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, 6 February 2015 – Canon today transforms the EOS system with the arrival of the EOS 5DS and the EOS 5DS R – a new breed of ultra-high resolution full-frame DSLRs. Breaking the boundaries of 35mm sensors, the new cameras offer the highest megapixels ever seen in a full frame sensor, an astonishing 50.6 MP. Delivering unparalleled quality, the cameras provide an exceptional combination of resolution, responsiveness and durability, whether shooting landscapes, architecture, high fashion or portraiture, either personally or professionally. When nothing but the sharpest image is expected, the EOS 5DS R also features a low pass cancellation filter to maximise the sensor’s resolution and visible image quality. Alongside the new DSLRs, Canon also introduces the EF 11-24mm f/4L USM, the world’s widest-angle rectilinear zoom lens¹, the perfect companion for landscape and architecture photographers.


Establishing new standards for full-frame DSLRs
Setting a new benchmark for full-frame cameras, the EOS 5DS and EOS 5DS R combine fast, instinctive DSLR handling with the newly-developed 50.6 MP CMOS sensor, providing the flexibility to shoot a wide range of scenes and subjects, making it ideal for large format mediums, such as advertising billboards and magazine covers, where every pixel matters. The sensor’s advanced architecture provides ISO 100-6400 sensitivity, expandable to 50-12800, ensuring high quality images with low noise, accurate colours and wide dynamic range. For added flexibility, the cameras’ resolution enables three new in-camera crop shooting modes – 1.3x, 1.6x and 1:1. Visible through the viewfinder, the crop modes deliver outstanding results, with stills at 19 MP even when cropped to 1.6x.

Built to withstand the most demanding shoots, the EOS 5DS and EOS 5DS R’s dual DIGIC 6 processors provide the rapid performance and responsiveness required to deliver first-class images with exceptional colour reproduction. Both processors are designed to comfortably manage huge levels of image data from the 50.6 MP sensor, whilst simultaneously reducing image noise and providing the freedom to shoot at five frames per second.

Automatically exceptional
Created to ensure every detail of your exquisite landscape or high-fashion studio shoot is in focus, the EOS 5DS and EOS 5DS R feature an advanced 61-point AF system, with 41 cross-type points, delivering incredible levels of image sharpness and accuracy across the frame. Both cameras comfortably maintain focus with moving subjects, using EOS Intelligent Tracking and Recognition AF (iTR) to track both faces and colour. To reduce image blur, Canon’s Mirror Vibration Control System uses cams to drive the cameras’ mirror up and down in a highly controlled fashion, avoiding all sudden stops and softening the shutter-release sound.

Additionally, the EOS 5DS and EOS 5DS R’s 150k pixel RGB+IR metering sensor with Flicker Detection ensures images can be captured with consistent and accurate exposures under varying lighting scenarios, including florescent.

Incredible detail and unrestricted creativity
Putting unrivalled image quality at your fingertips, the EOS 5DS and EOS 5DS R include a number of customisable modes and settings to ensure stunning results every time. A new Fine Detail Picture Style maximises the level of detail that can be achieved from the sensor, enabling advanced sharpness adjustment without the need for editing software.

Popular creative modes, including Multiple Exposure and HDR, provide instant, in-camera creativity, while a built-in timer allows you to shoot over long periods and create stunning time lapse videos, without being tied to the camera or needing advanced software and excessive kit.

First-class professional construction, customisable features
The EOS 5DS and EOS 5DS R have been expertly constructed to allow you to operate quickly, regardless of the environment you’re shooting in. The 100% viewfinder with electronic overlay makes framing vital shots easy and can be customised to your preferred style. The large, 8.11cm (3.2”) Clear View II LCD screen, with an anti-reflective structure, minimises reflection or glare when reviewing shots and also acts as a visual and accessible dashboard of the most commonly used settings. The cameras’ new Custom Quick Control screen means that the type, size and position of icons are also easily customisable to the user or shooting scenario.

Both cameras utilise Canon’s iconic design DNA – a highly durable body constructed from high-grade magnesium alloy to provide weather resilient shooting – ideal for landscape photographers who are dedicated to getting the perfect shot, whatever the weather.

EOS 5DS R: Engineered for the ultimate in DSLR image quality
When nothing but the absolute maximum level of detail possible will do, the EOS 5DS R features a low pass cancellation filter to ensure the sharpest possible results. Great for landscape photographers, where patterns are organic, the camera’s low pass cancellation filter produces the stunning level of detail required to turn a great shot into an incredible shot.

EOS 5DS Key features:
  • 50.6 MP CMOS sensor with dual DIGIC 6 processors
  • 150K Pixel RGB+IR Metering Sensor
  • Up to 5.0 Frames Per Second
  • 61-point AFCropped Shooting

EOS 5DS R also includes:
  • Low-pass cancellation filter




 
 

GH4 Firmware Update

Posted on: 26/01/2015 09:06:00 under News » General 

Seems to be the day for firmware updates today!  The GH4 is actually a remarkably good partner to the Atomos Shogun.  Two things up to now were missing - timecoding and remote start/stop over HDMI.  No longer an issue as these were part of the improvements announced in the latest Ver 2.1 firmware update announced this morning.

Here is a summary of the improvements - 

Time code can be embedded to the HDMI output signal. 
- Selectable in Motion Picture menu : [Time Code]>[HDMI Time Code Output]

* Available when DMC-GH4 or DMW-YAGH are connected with the products of ATOMOS Global Pty. Ltd. or the products complying with the extended specifications of ATOMOS Global Pty. Ltd..

RSS (Recording Start/Stop) signal can be embedded to the HDMI output signal. 
- Selectable in Motion Picture menu : [HDMI Rec Output]>[HDMI Recording Control]

* Available when DMC-GH4 or DMW-YAGH are connected with the products of ATOMOS Global Pty. Ltd. or the products complying with the extended specifications of ATOMOS Global Pty. Ltd..

FHD at 30p/25p native output via HDMI is available while recording video in FHD at 30p/25p. 
- Selectable in Motion Picture menu : [HDMI Rec Output]>[1080/30p Set.] or [1080/25p Set.]

Playback performance of recorded 4K video is improved.

[Time Lapse Shot] Program is fixed to start recording at the designated time even when [summer time] is set.


 
 

Shogun now playing back!

Posted on: 26/01/2015 08:21:00 under News » General 

The Atomos Shogun's arrived just before Christmas to much fanfare and mixed reviews. Brief overview - the screen is simply excellent and the ability to record 4K is great, the battery life isn't superb with the standard battery (not a problem as we have high power alternatives as an option), the battery indicator is a bit vague and obviously there is only one battery slot so no hotswapping and the screen's a bit reflective outside. That's a bit simplistic as there are other issues BUT what it offers for the money is without dispute and a lot of these issues can be worked around.

However one thing has put our customers off hiring them up to now - lack of playback. Some might accuse Atomos of releasing too early - having a recorder without playback renders it a bit too risky for some - but they seem to have been working day and night to resolve this and now it is here!!

Over the weekend Version 6.1 Firmware update appeared - here are the release notes -

Bug fixes:- 

Improved speed of SATA drive mounting.
Recording will start a new clip when exceeding the quicktime sample count limitations - fixes corrupt clips on long recordings
Changed screen settings to improve calibration results
Fixed obscure problems in timecode accuracy

Features:- 

Playback!
Scrolling movie picker
Audio meters added to playback
Independently record or mute left and right analog channels when recording (Important for 48V)
Input screen will notify when monitor is not compatible with the video mode
Option to disable HDMI timecode output for monitors who do not accept this flag
Tally light now blinks when recording
Many Gui enhancements

Known bugs:- A few seconds analog headphone delay is experienced when switching between playback and record.

So best start hiring them now!! You can find out more details on our detailed page.


 
 

New LED lighting added to stock!

Posted on: 08/01/2015 10:04:00 under News » General 
We've seen a large increase in demand for LED lighting over the last year.  Why?  We're finding more customers are being asked to do both video and stills so as good as strobe lighting is for specific stills shoots, this is where LED lights come in.  Added to which, they offer controllable soft lighting, no heat output and a low power consumption.

Our Bowens Limelite Mosaic Daylight 1x1 Panels have proved very popular, putting out up to 4200 Lux of high-quality brilliant 5600ºK daylight.  The real winner is being able to power them with VLock batteries, making them totally portable (in fact so popular has the VLock option been, we have tripled our stock of batteries in the last few months!).

Whilst we can supply an optional Filter Kit for adjusting the colour temperature, we've been asked by several customers if we could start stocking Limelite Mosaic Bi-Colour Panels


 These provide from 2400 to 5200 Lux of high quality blend-able light, easily adjusted from 2800ºK to 5600ºK.  So whilst they are not quite as bright as the dedicated colour panels, they are not far short and the ability to finely adjust the colour temperature makes them very appealing.

We've also been asked to look at fluorescent lighting (mostly Kino-Flo Diva's).  Our problem has always been couriering the kit as we're the first to admit the couriers can be a bit hamfisted and early tests found that despite the tubes being pretty tough, the couriers still managed to damage them.  This lead us to look at LED alternatives and at the same time, Bowens were launching their new Studiolite SL455DMX so we thought we would have a look.  


It's a 4 strip light bank offering two different colour temperature options (you can choose between 5400K or 3000K or we can equally supply both!).  Being LED, the bank stays cool, maintaining a constant colour temperature.  They are also remarkably robust.  If you want to link up multiple lights, the Studiolites offer DMX in/out. There is an onboard digital panel, allowing you dimmable adjustment between 0 and 100%.  For photographers the power output display can be easily switched from linear to f/stop units to make metering easy.

As with the Mosaic's, we offer a range of accessories including Grids, Filter Holders and Barn Doors.

The last LED offering is certainly unique - the IC12 LED Lightcube.  I was originally given a sneak preview of a prototype one at IBC last year and was keen to stock them when the time came.  Well they are finally on their way!  We'll be able to talk more about them when they arrive but here are the basic facts.  


They offer excellent duality between stills and motion.  As a flash, there is no recycle time and you set the flash duration from 1 second down to 1/8000 second.  They can be triggered remotely via sync cable, wireless trigger or as light sensitive slave.  For filmmakers, the dual kit offers up to 5,000 Lumens of light output at a stable colour temperature at 5600k with consistent colour temp as power levels are adjusted.

They are powered by Li-ion batteries (4 are supplied in the kit).  We'll be testing continuous lighting times but they are said to offer up to 15,000 flashes on a single charge.

We will be offering Barn Door and Filter sets, snoots, softbox adaptors and various mounts as options (should have these up shortly).





 
 

2014 - What a year.....

Posted on: 06/01/2015 11:33:00 under News » General 

Firstly, a very Happy New Year to you all. I trust you had a wonderful Festive break and are looking forward to a very prosperous 2015! It’s a time for New Year’s resolutions and my first one is to try and write more blogs and reports about kit – at least one if not two a week.

I was chatting with one of our regulars yesterday about how hectic last year had been for us – the great thing about not being a big conglomerate is we can adapt and move with the market and never have times been so exciting as far as I am concerned. Point in question, I talked to the guys at Red at BVE last February and categorically said to them we wouldn’t be stocking Red. Nine months later, all that changed as we took delivery our first Scarlet Dragon. I should have known better!

So what happened in 2014? There were some product launches that seemed to go almost unnoticed and others that held the headlines and had the forums in a frenzy. For us, development of our new website and booking system was well underway and we looked forward to launching in the summer (funny how things end up taking way way longer than you think!).

From a personal point of view, highlight for me in January was the release of the Zeiss Otus 1.4/55

I’d seen the prototypes way back at Photokina 2012 so I was more than a little excited to finally get my hands on one. As with most new shiny toys that come in, I headed over to my good friend (and rather good shooter) James Miller. I was interested to do a comparison with stock 50mm primes from Canon and Nikon. The difference was quite astonishing. Here was a lens that was pin-sharp even fully open at the corners. The focal roll off was just beautiful and gave it a quite unique look. Manual focus yes, but it was amazingly easy to use. James borrowed it to shoot a quick film down in Brighton (just for a change) and fell in love with it. That video went viral and initially Zeiss weren’t over the moon about it as this was a still lens and the last thing they wanted was it to be used for motion. But here’s the point, optically it has been agreed that it’s very similar to a Zeiss Master Prime (which is a £15k lens). Okay it isn’t optomised for filming but that you can gain access to that kind of optical quality at a relatively cheap price has to be applauded. Me, I’m more of a stills guy and found it attached to my Sony a7r all too often – a combo that only recently has been challenged by a new contender (more of which later).

 

Fujifilm announced their XT-1 in February – we managed to our hands on them just before the Photography Show at the end of that month. This was an interesting landmark for us. I’ve been banging on about mirrorless cameras for a long time now and have backed up my convictions by stocking more mirrorless kit than anyone else in the UK. Critics of early cameras cited their lack of everyday use as being the real problem and really they were more for leisure than work. Okay, Olympus’ OMD-EM1 was already out there doing a great job with pros but Fujifilm’s launch of the XT-1 off the back of Sony’s a7/a7r three months previous really had an impact on the market. Here were pro’s moving over to mirrorless – some dipping their toes and others dumping their SLR kit altogether. A year on and Fujifilm have updated the XT-1 offering some very useful additional features. They have also launched some cracking lenses but really there is only one chink in their armour and that’s the lack of a decent flash gun – surely that will be resolved soon?

Whilst on the subject of mirrorless cameras, whilst Fujifilm’s lens range is now pretty comprehensive (although there are some lovely ones coming this year), Sony had faced pretty heavy criticism at the beginning of last year for launching the a7/a7r without a decent range of lenses – just two primes and one kit zoom. We had to wait until March before seeing the new Zeiss Vario-Tessar T* FE 24-70mm F4 ZA lens – this was the first really usable Zeiss full frame offering and it was very impressive. 

Some critics said it wasn’t hugely better than the existing 28-70mm f4 but that was missing the point somewhat as it was hugely nicer to use and in a different league build wise.

Still on the mirrorless theme (yes I know but bear with me!), the Panasonic GH4 arrived to much fanfare. Here was a 4K camera that wasn’t daftly expensive, recorded 4K internally on a single SD card – surely there must be a catch? Well honestly, nope not really. 

If you were picky you’d say that due to the small micro four thirds sensor, low light performance was pretty rubbish but otherwise it was (and still is) very impressive indeed.

There was another launch that co-incided with the GH4 and that was the Sony a7s. This was quite a revelation as Sony had made no bones about the fact this 12 megapixel camera was really designed with motion shooting in mind rather than stills. Having said that of course, its stills performance proved really rather good and the silent shutter mode won it many fans. 

Contained within this body was a camera that offered XAVC-S recording, full sensor sampling (so no moire or aliasing) and Sony S-Log 2 gamma offering incredible dynamic range. But that wasn’t the real party piece – that was its frankly incredible low light performance which is still nothing short of astonishing. Downsides? Well whilst it had a 4K sensor, it only recorded externally (unlike the GH4) so until the (recent) launch of the Atomos Shogun, that proved a little tricky.

I remember joining Den Lennie for a test comparison shoot not far from home – we’d chosen the little village of Alfriston as at night it is beautifully dark. This was our first chance to try a near production-spec camera and what it produced was frankly unbelievable. You can find out more about it on Den’s blog.

So which was best? I think most people would say neither as both lended themselves to certain strengths and fact was you should probably have both!

 

Onwards into June and we got our first full frame Sony FE 70-200mm F4 G OSS lens. I was keen to see just how fast it was so headed down to Brighton to join up with Philip Bloom and James Miller doing a promo shoot for Miller Tripods. I attached a Sony a6000 (still one of my favourite cameras and one that’s massively underrated). I was astonished at what the lens could do. Bear in mind the a6000 is shooting at up to 11 frames a second! I remember posting up about it then and there whilst having a coffee. Gordon Laing from Cameralabs saw my post and popped down to see what the fuss was about as he wasn’t expecting much from it. Well all I can say is guess what camera/lens combo he took to shoot the Tour de France?!

Bumping into Mike from Miller was rather fortuitous - Phil was doing a promo piece their new Miller Air Carbon Fibre Tripod System which I was very interested in stocking. Feedback from our customers suggested that they wanted light but well made tripods and for smaller camera users, these carbon fibre beauties seemed a perfect fit. 

Our order was put in (along with some Miller Compass 12 Solo 75 2-Stage Carbon Fibre Tripods that we’d been testing since March). They have been incredibly well received by customers and the support by Miller has been absolutely faultless. We plan to increase our stock this year.

September could have been dubbed ‘FS7’ month because we really heard about nothing else! Here was a £7k camera that recorded in 4K internally using XAVC with S Log 3 gamma, up to 180 frames per second in HD and the possibility of RAW 2/4K recording with optional adaptor (up to 240fps in HD). 

To say that it covered all bases was an understatement and many voiced concerns that perhaps Sony had shot themselves in the foot with F5 owners due to the high level of spec and lower price. Of course it’s not been all good news with frustrating foibles that us early customers found but Sony’s been working on firmware updates (the last of which was released just before Christmas). There is also the issue of actually getting your hands on one – we’ve still them on back order which is very frustrating indeed (the ones we have are fully booked). We're working with Sony to resolve this as soon as possible.

Dare we go back to mirrorless or at least Sony E Mount lenses again (don’t forget they also work on the FS7 so it’s not totally biased!!)? The third in Sony’s usable high performance zooms came in the shape of the Zeiss Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35mm F4 ZA OSS lens, an impressive wide angle unit. I used one throughout Christmas and can’t fault it.

Now all these Zeiss and Sony E Mount lenses were all well and good for stills but for video they were a bit lacking – manual focus control being the main culprit. We all knew Zeiss had a range of full frame lenses up their sleeves and sure enough, the Loxia range was announced just before Photokina with a Loxia 2/50 and Loxia 2/35

They offered manual focus and iris adjustment – the clever part being the ability to switch between stepped and smooth iris adjustment, thereby lending themselves perfectly to motion shooting with the a7s (or FS7). Those a bit frightened by the idea of manual focus for stills shouldn’t have been worried – any slight movement of the focus barrel automatically enabled expanded focus assist in the viewfinder/screen allowing you to pull focus easily.

Fujifilm finished off the latter part of the year with two great zooms – the XF 18-135mm F3.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR and quite incredible XF 50-140mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR. The 18-135mm offered a good value zoom range with image stabilisation and weather resistance – a perfect all-rounder. The 50-140mm has left a lot of reviewers absolutely gobsmacked as it punches well above its weight and the images coming out of it have been compared to prime shots. Okay, it’s not cheap but anyone voicing their concerns that lens quality on mirrorless would never top DSLR lenses, well just try this lens on the front of an XT-1 before you do so.

The last mirrorless offering of the year was the new Sony a7 II. So what’s changed? Well the design has been improved, the AF is faster but most importantly it offers a new 5 axis image stabilisation on the sensor itself. Does it work? Err, yes it does! It’s worth pointing out that on lenses with OSS, it disables itself but overall the a7 II is a very impressive package. 

Perfect for motion then? Sorry but nope – the sensor still exhibits the same problems as the a7 before it with evidence of moire and aliasing. We’ll have to hold on until Sony release the inevitable a7s version for that but it is a revelation for handheld shooting.

Okay, that’s enough mirrorless as I expect you’re thoroughly sick of it but the fact that a huge part of this review centres around that market shows how active and forward thinking it has been.

We have always avoided the medium format market simply because we felt those products were outside our customer remit due to their operation and cost. Pentax changed all that with the 645Z

I blame Philip Bloom who got one of loan from B&H for his documentary shoot. I’d been hovering over pressing the button and that was the decider after seeing his photos. We ordered a kit with the 55mm lens. I’m really not sure what superlatives I haven’t used in the last few months to describe this camera. It is utterly stunning and everyone who’s hired it has kindly taken the time to email to say just that as well! Portability has never been a medium format forte but this all in one package is just incredible. I took it out shooting in damp cold dark conditions by the sea and it didn’t put a foot wrong. The resolution is just gobsmaking. I really do urge you to try one.

So the camera I said we’d never buy…… The Red Scarlet Dragon. I’ve been chatting to Red for some 6 months and I am now totally sold on the camera. All the big hire companies offer the Epic Dragon so why go for the Scarlet? Very simply down to cost. Most of our clients are perfectly happy with 5k (rather than 6k) and if it means we can halve the hire charge, surely that has to be a good thing? We’ve stripped the camera down to just the bare essentials to firstly keep the price down and secondly allow existing Red shooters to use their own kit (viewfinders, batteries, etc..) rather than forcing them to hire ours. So what’s it like? 

Built like a tank for a start!! It’s not to bewildering to be honest – I was interested in seeing just what kind of level of stills at 5k I could pull from it. With a 55mm Otus stuck on the front, open at f/1.4 I chose my restless toddlers as test subjects. I can tell you it is utterly addictive. Just leaving the camera rolling you can shuffle back and forth to ensure you have exactly what you want in focus. 

Pulling off the camera using RedCine is incredibly easy (ran of my lowly MacAir), exporting as a Tiff straight into Camera Raw. Clearly it’s being hired more for motion at the moment but I really see the stills side taking off more as the year progresses.

Accessory wise, we have massively expanded our range with a full range of Zacuto support gear, more Kessler sliders (and motion control equipment), cages, to name a few. We will be building on this next year, with specific kits based around core models.

One accessory that does deserve mention (and just makes it into 2014) is the Atomos Shogun 4K recorder. Finally the a7s can record in 4K! 

It’s actually pretty good with the GH4 as well. It’s not perfect – battery life isn’t great, the caddy design is not perfect and the firmware needs updating asap – not being able to playback is a little disappointing. But we’re early adopters and we know it will soon come. Fact is, even as a 7 inch screen, it’s stunning so really should be considered something of a bargain.

So nothing from the DSLR world? Well yes but nothing earth shattering. Canon announced the 7D Mk II to the world. So where’s the disappointment? I suppose after 5 years had elapsed since the original’s launch, the world expected more. Look, if you’re after something superfast to shoot with and can’t stump up for a 1DX then it’s a no brainer and for that purpose it is very fast (although the image quality is by no means a huge leap forward). Nikon launched the D810 and D4s – again incremental advances. I’ve heard it said (and I do agree) that with these updates they are actually the cameras they should have been all along. Are they bad? Hell no, in fact the D810 ranks alongside the 1Dx as my favourite DSLR of all time. Again though nothing earth shattering.

And that is what sums up 2014. Manufacturers like Sony, Panasonic and Fujifilm have really forged forwards in their offerings and continue to push the boundaries. Where are Canon and Nikon in all this? For companies that have always innovated in the past, there is no question of disappointment. Will all that change in 2015? I for one genuinely hope so as choice and competition is a good thing and only we can gain from it.

The motion side of things is much the same. Canon have announced the C100 Mk II and in isolation it appears a very nice camera (we’re massive fans of the C100). Does it offer enough over the original camera? I’ll leave you to decide!

Sure there is more I could mention but you’re more than likely falling asleep by now so we’ll leave it at that. We never did quite get the website launched (despite hundreds of hours of work) – we wanted it to be right from the start so have delayed in until early spring – we hope you’ll think it worth it!

 



 
 
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Fantastic service although it would be nice if the courier could be more specific about the time of the collection.
- Dan Warman, East Sussex

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