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Christmas Offer 2014

Posted on: 24/11/2014 18:03:00 under News » General 

Yes it's that time of year once more and so we kick off tomorrow (Tuesday 25th November) with our now famous Christmas Offer!

Firstly, regardless of what price you pay, we plan to deliver our Christmas hires by Monday 22nd December. Clearly we don't know what the weather has in store but we will aim to get the equipment out as soon as we can, especially should things turn a bit white!

Collection will be on Monday 5th January for all bookings (unless you choose to extend your hire).

So how does it all work? Very simply, the later you book, the cheaper the hire will be BUT remember, if you are after a specific camera, lens or accessory, you run the risk of it already being booked out! These are the dates when prices will change -

Any bookings made from 10am Tuesday 25th November - the Christmas hire charge will be equivalent to a ONE WEEK hire.

Bookings made from 10am Tuesday 2nd December - the
Christmashire charge will be equivalent to a WEEKEND hire charge.

Bookings made from 10am Tuesday 9th December - the
Christmashire charge will be equivalent to a DAY hire charge.

The last two years have seen huge demand (we've had people asking about our offer since June!) and we don't expect this year to be any different. All we would suggest is if you are after something specific and in high demand, don't leave it too late!

The Important Bit
Standard courier charges will apply and don't forget that insurance has to be charged for the full length of hire (not based on what hire charge you're paying). Please note that this offer cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer or special Club/Organisation discount.

All bookings will be treated on a first come, first served basis. Please note that making an enquiry, either by email or phone, or submitting an availability request does not constitute booking the equipment. You will not be able to re-book any equipment you have previously booked and then cancelled.


Come and see us at The Kit Plus Tour!

Posted on: 04/11/2014 07:32:00 under News » General 

Next week sees us packing up and heading to London and Manchester.  The Kit Plus Tour promises to be a great two days with our good friend Den Lennie leading the talks, advising where to go with the wealth of new cameras out there.  

There are numerous workshops you can attend, not only on camera models but also studio planning and Jonathan Harrison will be there to pass on his wealth of experience in lighting (if you haven't seen one of his talks before, they are good).  Lastly Jon Pratchett will be covering everything you ever wanted to know about Drones (but were afraid to ask).

Blackmagic Design will be bringing along their UltraHD Mobile Demo Vehicle and will have a full range of equipment to view (good chance to have a look at an URSA - try picking it up!!). 

And that's before you get to the trade exhibitors who will be attending.  We'll be bringing along plenty of kit including Canon, Sony, Kessler Crane, Movcam and whatever else we can fit in!

Last but by no means least, attending either day enters you into a draw to win a £500 Hireacamera hire voucher!

The dates you need to know are 11th November in London and 13th November in Manchester.  For more details on the events, please go and have a look at the Kit Plus Tour site - we hope to see you there!!


Canon announce C100 Mk II

Posted on: 22/10/2014 08:42:00 under News » General 

So here you go, Canon's newly announced EOS C100 Mk II.  Looks pretty similar although any C100 users will spot two immediate differences, the viewfinder and the screen.  The viewfinder on the C100 is frankly rubbish (sorry but there's no other way of putting it).  Thankfully Canon have almost doubled the size of it on the Mk II along with a bigger eyecup.   The screen has changed too - it's now OLED and it now flips out to the side.  Canon say this offers greater monitoring possibilities (such as being able to review the frame lens side).

Before you had to have the handle attached to record sound internally.  Canon have now fixed this and provided a built-in mic on the body itself.

The sensor is still the same Super 35mm one found in the C100 and C300, however it is now combined with the DIGIC DV 4 processor to offer apparently better image quality and a larger ISO range of 320 to 102,400.

The C100 Mk II now includes the Dual Pixel CMOS AF optional on the C100.  They have also added Face Detection as well, although I have a funny feeling this is only compatible with their STM lenses.  I'll be honest, this AF system is not really at the cutting edge of things and I'd hoped that Canon might have improved on it.  Most frustrating is the lack of a switchable touchscreen to select focus points - for its intended market, this would have been appreciated (I know - we have had customers moaning about it since we introduced the Dual Pixel option!).

Recording wise, we've now got 1080 recording up to 60p (finally).  You've also got the option of recording in MP4 format at up to 35Mbps, as well as AVCHD 2 at up to 28Mbps.  I'll be honest, this will be seen to really falling behind Sony's XAVC codec now - there's no question that people using the C100 want a better codec.  But hey, that's why we stock Ninja Stars and Blades!  Just would be great to have a better internal codec and still no really fast frame rates (I suspect this is being held back for the C300 Mk II, whenever that might appear).

The addition of Wifi is good addition, if a little ironic as we've only just finished moaning about its lack of addition on the 7D Mk II.  Dual recording allows you to record in HD and SD at the same time, allowing you to quickly transfer the lower resolution files via FTP for a fast turnaround.  Lastly you can control the camera via a brower-based application.

So overall, what do we think?  I'd say it's typical Canon evolution rather than evolution.  You just get the sense they are holding back on things to justify the C300 Mk II's existance when the rest of the market are pushing forward.  To launch a camera now where there is not even any mention of forwards 4K compatibility (let alone actually having it at launch) I think is a mistake.  Whilst it is an improvement over the C100, if you were cynical you could say that that camera should have had these features all along.  

Like everything, it will all come down to price.  At present, there is no mention of what the camera will cost.  With the Sony FS7 setting the benchmark, Canon have got their work cut out.

The cameras will be available in January and will be up on our website once we have pricing confirmation.  In the meantime, here's the official press release below.

United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, 22 October 2014 - Canon today expands its Cinema EOS System with the launch of the EOS C100 Mark II, its latest large sensor professional video camera for single operators. Building on the success of the acclaimed EOS C100, the EOS C100 Mark II offers a comprehensively upgraded package, delivering improved image quality and greater creative flexibility alongside easier operation and wireless sharing capabilities.

First-class results in all conditions 
Harnessing technology found in the flagship EOS C500, the EOS C100 Mark II boasts a powerful imaging engine which delivers outstanding performance. A Canon Super 35mm 8.3MP CMOS sensor combines with a DIGIC DV 4 processor to deliver the rich colour and wide dynamic range synonymous with Cinema EOS cameras, while a new extended ISO range of 320 to 102,400 ensures superb performance, even in extreme low light conditions. The camera also features a new image processing system which enhances performance further by reducing moiré and aliasing, resulting in sharper, clearer images.
The EOS C100 Mark II includes Canon’s pioneering Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology as standard, which enables anyone to find focus and switch easily between multiple subjects in a single shot. Canon’s Face Detection AF technology is also supported and provides further creative control through the automatic recognition and focus tracking of faces.¹

Greater creative opportunities 
The EOS C100 Mark II features two recording formats to suit the needs of different productions. Dual Format recording allows operators to simultaneously capture Full HD footage in both MP4 (up to 35Mbps) and AVCHD (up to 28Mbps) variants, using frame rates of up to 60P. Alternatively users can chose to record HD and SD footage to separate SD memory cards for maximum workflow flexibility and easy sharing. This range of options further expands the world of creative opportunities offered by the EOS C100 Mark II and also makes the capture of slow and fast motion action possible.
Integrated Wi-Fi connectivity – a first for the Cinema EOS series – ensures that sharing footage from the camera is now easier than ever thanks to ability to transfer files via FTP. In situations that demand a fast turn-around, such as news or events reporting, Dual Format recording allows operators to quickly share low resolution SD files directly from the camera whilst the security of an HD copy is maintained.

Uncompromising operation, wherever you are 
Thanks to its robust, compact design, the EOS C100 Mark II is ideal for shooting in a wide range of applications, especially those involving a single shooter. Browser-based camera control via built-in Wi-Fi and support for Canon’s multi-functional RC-V100 remote control allow the camera to be positioned in locations that previously could not have been considered, enabling crews to maintain creative control even in the most awkward or obstructive situations.
The EOS C100 Mark II’s screen has been redesigned and now flips out to the side to provide greater monitoring possibilities, including allowing users to frame the shot whilst in front of the camera. A new OLED display delivers higher contrast, more vivid colours and faster response times, even in bright conditions. The camera also features an improved tiltable Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) and a larger eyecup to provide greater flexibility and accuracy during shooting. Additionally, a range of professional audio features accompany a microphone in the handle unit, while a new built-in microphone has been added to the camera body, enabling sound recording for continuity in the smallest possible camera configuration.

EF lenses – unlimited possibilities 
As part of the EOS system, the EOS C100 Mark II is immediately compatible with – and optimised for - Canon’s world-renowned range of interchangeable EF lenses and 4K EF cinema lenses, providing both the power and versatility to meet virtually any creative challenge.

EOS C100 Mark II key features:
8.3MP Super 35mm CMOS sensor, ISO 102,400
Dual Pixel CMOS AF and Face Detection AF
Dual Format AVCHD/MP4 recording up to 1080/60p
OLED display; improved EVF
Built in Wi-Fi and remote control options 

¹ Face Detection AF available with compatible lenses only 


Photokina 2014 - Other bits!

Posted on: 23/09/2014 16:57:00 under News » General 
So onto other points of mention at Photokina 2014.  It's kind of sad that Canon haven't actually announced enough to warrant their own section.  Then again, neither have Nikon.  That's a real shame and most of the conversations in and out of the show with fellow trade members this year were about the fact that Fuji and Sony were showing astonishing levels of pro-activity compared to the big two and they were in danger of being left behind.  Even Samyang was throwing the whole specification book at the NX1 in a bid to jump on the bandwagon and Panasonic were hardly being shy about pushing their accessible 4K range to great effect as well.

Let's start with Canon.  I want to put in a disclaimer here as I don't want anyone thinking I've got anything against them.  Quite the reverse actually - I still rate the 1DC as one of the finest camera to walk this earth - it's more about frustration.

I think great things have been expected with the 7D Mk II and I know there was huge disappointment when the final spec was announced.  I am kind of split into two camps on this and funnily enough had an interesting conversation on the plane on the way over with someone senior from Canon UK.   The problem is that Canon was once seen as an innovator - it created the whole D-SLR video industry for goodness sake!  The 5D Mk 3 has remained at the top of its tree for a fair while and it's taken until the a7s to actually improve on it - credit indeed.  Canon came out with the 1DC - 4K motion and a stunning HD and stills camera to boot - all wrapped in a weatherproof package and way ahead of others.  Problem is, the 5D Mk III started shipping back in March 2012 and even the 1DC was released 18 months ago and let's be honest, a great deal has happened since then.  You'd be forgiven for not remembering when the original 7D was launched - September 2009 to be precise.

I've got no problem with models having a decent lifespan (hell it costs me more when they don't!) and I accept that Canon have provided useful firmware updates (some forced, such as clean HDMI for the 5D Mk III) but I can't be alone in having expected great things from Canon this year with some killer products.

The irony is that with the 7D Mk II I think Canon have made their path clear.  Whilst D-SLRs will have video capability, they are foremost stills cameras and this is where the improvements will be prioritised - the complete reverse of the 5D Mk III that was very definitely steered towards the video brigade.  Put simply, if you're after the fastest Canon D-SLR and you can't stretch to a 1DX then the 7D Mk II is your new best choice.  Want to do video?  Then wait for next year and it would be a braver man than me to bet against Canon firming up their Cinema Camera range.

The odd thing here is though is that you have the likes of Panasonic and Sony going in the other direction and providing cameras that are current and can shoot both stills and motion with excellent results.  Frustratingly the Sony a7s and the Panasonic GH4 both have their own trump cards and the very best solution would be an amalgamation of both's best bits.  One thing I do know is IT WILL COME!

You only had to look at Panasonic's stand at Photokina.  The photo below says it all!  

They couldn't have tried harder to get over the point of extracting 4K stills from video and had a great set-up to show how easy it was.  

Go back to even this year's Photography Show in March and I remember watching people look on in disbelief as Dave Newton showed them just what could be pulled from a Canon 1DC stills frame and blown up.  Perhaps Canon were just too early for their own good on this and only now it is becoming more mainstream will people sit back and take notice.  This is one area that is only going to get bigger.

Don't believe me?  Compare Red's stand at IBC with there one at Photokina - the latter was ten times the size pushing the ability to pull 6K RAW stills complete with their own catwalk.  Sure it's expensive but this will filter down the chain.

It will be interesting to see if Canon can claw something back going forwards next year.  I truly truly hope so.  Don't write them off quite yet.

Let's quickly move over to Nikon.  Whilst there have been product launches with the D810 and D4s, a cynical person could suggest that these were hardly innovating and really just improving their current offerings.  Perhaps that's harsh, perhaps not.  I actually think the D810 is an amazingly good camera - again, some have said, what the D800 should have been out of the box.  

What I don't get is why it has taken them so long to answer their D700 customers that have been crying out for a replacement.  One thing was for certain, the D800 and the Df were not it!  Not everyone a) requires such a high resolution sensor and b) wants to have to pay a large premium for it.  Now finally the D750 has been launched and bar a few issues, it seems a nice camera.  I'm lost as to why they have put it in the cheaper consumer body and it will be interesting to see how much abuse they will take compared to the D700.

We're due to see them arrive tomorrow so I'm looking forward to taking it away for a few days to play with.


Photokina 2014 - Zeiss

Posted on: 23/09/2014 16:01:00 under News » General 
I already got to have a look at the new Loxia range of lenses before Photokina.  Good job too really as they were in great demand there and it's not really that hard to see why.  As a Sony a7r user, I've been literally counting down the days until Zeiss would announce full frame manual lenses for the E Mount system.  Coming from a rangefinder, I love using manual focus and have up to now been using Zeiss' ZM range with a Metabones adaptor.  They can produce some stunning images but they were never made or optimised for the a7 family.  

Step forward the gorgeous Loxia 2/35 and 2/50.  I got asked by a customer I bumped into on the way home why on earth they didn't make them f/1.4?  I actually don't care.  With the Sony full frame sensor (as opposed to APS-C sized in say the Fuji's), the depth of field is pretty shallow at f/2 and most a7 users won't have any issues with a slightly slower prime if it means lower cost and smaller body.

To handle they are just lovely.  Turning the focus ring just feels right.  So how come they are manual and not AF?  Well bear in mind that Zeiss already produce the excellent FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA and FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA prime lenses for Sony (and there will be a 35mm f/1.4 added early next year).  Those wanting a zoom can already buy the FE 24-70mm f/4 and a FE 16-35mm f/4 is on its way.

So clearly this was going to be a manual lens and thank the Lord for that.  Problems with focusing then?  Nope, the minute you turn the focus ring, the magnified view appears in the viewfinder (or on the LCD).  It really couldn't be easier - okay I'm used to manually focusing ZM lenses but in reality I think it's probably still quicker than an a7r would manage in anything other than bright conditions with an AF lens.

The iris ring is a lovely thing with a precise clicking motion.  Where Zeiss have thrown in a bit of genius is the ability to de-click this for smooth iris adjustment for shooting film.  When you're looking at pairing up with a camera such as the Sony a7s that provides stunning stills and motion, this is a VERY clever move.  Up to now, the only lenses that provided this level of control on an E Mount camera required an adaptor and I can see these lenses appearing in a fair few kit bags going forwards.  

We have a fair few on order and will be stocking them at launch (I'll be shortly getting them up on the website).

So onto the ZM family.  I love the ZM lenses and the fact that most people don't even know what they are shows just how little even photographers are aware of them.  Zeiss chose Photokina to launch their new 35mm f/1.4 ZM lens and very nice it is too.  It shares the frankly bonkers build quality found in the rest of the ZM range and is just a joy to use.  Again, we will have one available to hire at launch.

Lastly we can't leave the Zeiss report without a little mention of the Otus 85/1.4.  Some might consider it sad to declare love for a metal object with bits of glass in it but once used in anger, it's easy to fall for it, much as many have done with its brother, the Otus 55/1.4.  I have used this lens tonnes of times in conjunction with an a7r and the results just continue to amaze me.  Yes sure, the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art gets pretty close, has AF and costs a whole heap less.  But it's that final 10% you're paying an arm and leg for that gives you something quite unique.  The 85/1.4 is just the same and in fact I think actually the differences between it and the mainstream prime glass is even more marked due to the focal length.  I was lucky enough to get to play with a pre-production model back in the summer and was frankly blown away by it - to make a £1,200 Nikon prime look awful takes some doing but it showed it up completely (and don't think Canon got off the hook as their 85mm f/1.2 II didn't do much better).


Photokina 2014 - Fuji

Posted on: 23/09/2014 15:00:00 under News » General 
If you want to see how well Fujifilm are doing, just try going on their stand!  At all times, it was absolutely rammed!  They are deservedly doing well and their product range only continues to improve.

I've already mentioned in a previous post about their new announcements at the show.  I got a chance to have a play with the X100T and I have to say the viewfinder is very clever indeed with its ability to display the focus area on top of the optical view.  Whilst the X-T1 gains a Graphite Silver option, it's the improvements on the firmware that will roll out across all X-T1's towards the end of the year that is the real news.  Biggest part for me is the new high-speed electronic shutter mode allowing silent shots up to 1/32000 sec.  Having used an a7s recently at a wedding, this ability to shoot in complete silence is just brilliant.  You can find out more about the update on my previous blog.

Back to the lenses and it was a nice surprise to see not only lenses that we were expecting but also others in the pipeline that we weren't!! 

Let's start with the biggest - the 40-400 F4-5.6 R LM OIS WR.  Whilst it was only a mock-up, it's due to be heading our way in 2015.

Next up is the 16-55mm F2.8 R WR (by the way WR stands for Weather Resistant in case you hadn't realised).  Now the interesting point to note here is the lack of IOS and a quick look through the forums shows that this has split opinion down the middle.  Fujifilm say that this was done in the interests of image quality.  However rumours are that an OIS version will appear later for a higher price.  I hope not as this will very much annoy early 16-55mm lens adoptors - we'll see.

We then have the 90mm F2 R.  Not meaning to be nasty to it but it's a bit of a 'fatty' and we suspect pretty heavy as well.  Should be lovely for portraits though.

Lastly is the 16mm F1.4 R, very fast for a wide-angle lens.

So it looks like being another crazy year for Fujifilm in 2015.  Of course the rumour mill is in full force over the possible announcement of a X-Pro 2 in 2015 and who knows where else it will go?  There has been a lot of discussion currently about full frame offerings with Fujifilm confirming that at present there are no plans to launch a full frame system  - they did confirm that it wouldn't be possible with the current X mount range of lenses so if that is the case, we're unlikely to see something too soon other than development of the already excellent X Trans sensor.


Photokina 2014 - Sony

Posted on: 23/09/2014 14:25:00 under News » General 
Sony are on an absolute roll at the moment.  We've long been supporters of theirs and stocked the E Mount system long before anyone understood why and we've continued to offer every new lens as they've come along.   The a7 range was pretty popular before the a7s turned up but now it has, demand has gone through the roof and we're having to increase our stock of both lenses and accessories.

So to the new full frame lenses shown at Photokina.  First off was the lovely Sony Zeiss 16-35mm f/4 FE ZA OSS which will be available around November time.  It feels much like the Zeiss 24-70mm f/4, although a bit larger in diameter.  Build quality is as you'd expect.  I wasn't allowed to take any pictures with it but we'd expect quality to be up with the 24-70mm.

I should mention the FE PZ 28-135 mm F4 G OSS which we first saw in public at IBC connected to the front of the new Sony FS7 camera.  This will be the standard kit lens for that camera and it's very much aimed at the motion market with power zoom, rings with gear knurls built in and adjustable iris control.  This should be available in the next few weeks both on its own and as part of the FS7K kit we'll be hiring.

That's all the lenses being launched for this year but there were some announcements of new full frame E Mount glass on its way - all due to be delivered around March next year.

First off is a Zeiss FE 35mm F1.4 ZA.  This will be really interesting as the current Zeiss prime offerings are very good with the FE 55mm F1.4 ZA scoring very highly indeed.  Hopefully it can match that kind of levels of optical quality and will deliver beyond the current FE 35mm F2.8 ZA (which in itself isn't that bad at all).  Naturally it's quite a bit bigger.

Next is a FE 24-240mm F3.5-6.3 OSS.  This seems to be on first view pretty similar in size to the current 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 OSS lens and as this isn't a G lens, we'd expect a similar level of performance. 

Last of our first trio is the FE90mm F2.8 Macro G OSS.  So far Sony have only produced one macro lens, the E 30mm F3.5 Macro.  It's not the best focal length for a Macro and performance was okay at best.  The new 90mm focal length is much better, especially as Sony also include their image stabilisation.  Again not a small lens but should be a cracker.

We were then shown a new FE28mm F2 lens.  The interesting this about this lens was the Sony have produced converters for it, a 16mm fisheye and 21mm wide converter.  What effect these will have on the lens performance we're not sure - they were safely tucked behind glass so we'll have to wait until early next year to find out.

Sony plan to have 20 FE lenses by 2016 which will provide them with a formidable range - no longer will anyone be able to complain about lack of choice.  Great news for early adopters of the lens mount.


Photokina 2014 - Sigma

Posted on: 23/09/2014 12:10:00 under News » General 
It's hard not to be impressed by Sigma's Global Vision range.  So far, every single lens released has met with high praise.  It really is hard to compare on a before/after basis and quality (build and optically) has gone through the roof.  

On the run up to Photokina, we were aware that new lenses would be announced and the rumour mill was running riot with an 85mm prime top of people's wish lists.  Well that didn't happen (yet) but telephoto lovers (wildlife and sports) were in for a treat with two 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM lenses.  Two lenses with same focal length - how come?  At first I was a bit confused so I spent some time on the stand with amongst others Ray Fitchett.

Ray will be well known to most UK Sigma followers and he was quick to outline the differences.  The Sports version's mission is to provide the best optical and action-capture performance, aimed at the professional photographer.  The Contemporary version is designed to offer a light-weight and compact construction for increased usability.

Visibly, there's a difference between the two lenses with the Sports lens a fair bit bigger and heavier.  The simple reason for this is the Sports lens incorporates 24 elements in 16 groups as opposed to 20 elements in 14 groups for the Contemporary version.

Both lenses come with a manual override option for focusing simply by turning the focus ring when in MO mode.  They also can connect up to the USB dock to set AF speed, a focus limiter and OS modes.  Another nice feature is the ability to lock the lens at any focal length with the lock switch.

The Contemporary lens offers a dust-proof and splash-proof mount whereas the Sports lens offers a full dust-proof and splash-proof construction allowing its use in rain without protection.

So put very simply, the Sports is designed to offer the very best performance it can for the professional user.  The Contemporary is there for the amateur/prosumer user that is willing to compromise on performance for a lighter, less expensive option.

We'll be getting both lenses in Nikon and Canon mounts towards the end of October.

To go with the new lenses are two new Teleconverters, the TC-1401 and TC-2001.  Both versions incorporate Special Low Dispersion glass elements to offer excellent aberration correction.

Sigma's latest camera offerings - the DP1 and DP2 Quattro's - are interesting.  There has never been any question over the quality of the Foveon sensor in the right conditions.  The problem with their predecessors was there were plenty of compromises that came with them - dreadful LCD, slow processing, awful battery life, to name a few.  The Quattro's are definitely an improvement whilst maintaining a certain amount of Sigma camera quirkiness!  Low ISO performance is where these cameras really shine (although it's worth noting that you can push the Quattro's up to 800ISO now - previously anything beyond 400ISO was a no go).  They are no doubt still niche cameras and devoted Sigma followers will love them!

I have to say Sigma's stand was properly packed during the days I was at Photokina.  There is absolutely no doubt that they are creating a huge buzz with their Global Vision range and are victims of their own success with demand way out-stripping supply.

On a personal note, a huge thank you to everyone at Sigma UK for their hospitality.  They are a cracking bunch of people, something that's really important in providing our customers with the service they need.  That's why we have been loyal supporters for nearly 10 years now and are committed to supporting every new Sigma product release going forwards.  Oh and they had the MOST amazing Sushi as well!!!


Canon announce 7D Mk II

Posted on: 15/09/2014 13:38:00 under News » General 

So here it is - the new Canon 7D Mk II. Doesn't really look much different to its predecessor and actually you'd be right - the only thing that pops out is the mode dial lock. Some will think this good news. Others might be disappointed that Canon haven't adopted a moveable LCD screen. Whilst we're on the subject of the housing, it is claimed that the Mk II has four times the weather sealing of the original.

So onto the innards. The camera features a new APS-C CMOS sensor with a pixel count of 20.2mp. Coupled with two of Canon's DIGIC 6 image processors, the 7D Mk II can shoot at up to 10fps (and up to 31 raw files at that speed before hitting the buffers). There's a new 150,000 pixel RGB+IR metering sensor to provide more accurate exposures. The ISO range is 100-16,000 expandable up to ISO equivalent of 51,200. How good it is remains to be seen once we're allowed to put a card in one!

The big news is the AF system - a 65 point one where every one of those points is actually a cross-type (rather than 19 as in the original camera). It also get the AI Servo III from the 1DX. Users of a 1DX (and indeed a 5D Mk III) will recognise the AF case studies (I've always found them very effective and actually have never gained anything from adjusting too much!). All this means the AF takes a large jump forward in performance.

Wifi is not included as standard which is a shame. You're expected to part with considerably more cash for the WFT-E7 wireless file transmitter. I have to say I now use Wifi a hell of a lot to turn around images for review on the iPad.

So video wise, no 4K? Afraid not, that would have been a killer surprise too far but it's really a shame as Canon led the D-SLR video market for a long time and the likes of the GH4 and A7s are rather showing them up. Anyway, we finally have full 1980 50/60p recording. We've also got Dual Pixel CMOS AF as well but half the genius of that system is being able to use the touchscreen on the 70D to rack focus between two points - the 7D Mk II doesn't have a touchscreen. That's just such a shame.

Oh and let's we forget - a Canon with an intervalometer!! Who'd have thought it!

So in summary, if you're a Canon shooter and can't afford a 1DX and shoot sport, the 7D Mk II should definitely be on your shopping list. Video wise, there's nothing special and I can't see anyone really looking to buy it for that reason alone.

We'll be looking to stock once in stock which should be late October.


New Fuji announcements for Photokina

Posted on: 11/09/2014 08:14:00 under News » General 
So Photokina 2014 is just round the corner and Fujifilm is first off the blocks with their announcements.

First off is the new X100T. As you can see, it looks pretty similar to is predecessor the X100S and indeed it uses the same sensor and processor. The difference is really a new Advanced Hybrid Viewfinder that Fujifilm claim makes the X100T the first Electronic Rangefinder camera.

The X100T's optical viewfinder can simultaneously display the focus area by using the built-in ND filter. Users simply need to turn the camera's focusing ring for a mechanical rangefinder-style view. Additionally, Focus Peaking and Digital Split Image modes can be selected and the magnification of the focused area can be changed.

With the optical viewfinder, Real-time Parallax Correction has also been added to ensure more accurate framing. Parallax error, which occurs during close-up shooting, is automatically corrected in real time so users no longer having to reframe after focusing.

Other improvements include being able to now adjust the aperture ring in 1/3 stop increments, new Fn buttons and an upgraded LCD.

Lastly, a completely silent shutter, capable of exposures up to 1/32000 sec has been added.

The X100T can shoot full HD video at up to 60fps - will be interesting to see if they have improved the quality but in all honestly that's not really what Fuji's about.

Next up is the X-T1 Graphite Silver Edition. Now we already stock the X-T1 so are unlikely to be stocking this camera but what has also been announced is a new range of updates that will be made available for our X-T1's come December 2014.

First up is a new high-speed electronic shutter with a maximum speed of 1/32000 seconds. This has two great uses. It firstly allows you to shoot on a fast lens wide open in bright sunlight without needing to resort to an ND filter. Secondly there is no noise. We have already seen how devastatingly effective this is on the Sony a7s, especially in a church at weddings.

There are other improvements with this firmware update -

(1) Direct selection of AF Area
The update will let users select the focus area using the 4-way controller, without pressing the Fn key.

(2) Unlocked AE-L/AF-L buttons
The function of the AE-L/AF-L button is currently locked, but will be interchangeable, depending on the user’s preference.

(3) Variable Focus Area during MF
When working in Manual focus mode, the update will enable changing the size of the focus area during Instant AF with the AF-L button.

(4) Direct selection of Macro mode
In Autofocus mode, the update will enable the Macro function to be turned on or off, without accessing the pop-up menu screen.

(5) Q Menu customisation
To make the Q Menu (used for quick access of frequently-used items) even more efficient, the update will allow its items and layout to be changed to the user’s preference.

(6) New video frame rates
As well as the existing 60fps and 30fps selections, 50fps, 25fps and 24fps options will be available with the update. 50fps and 25fps allow video editing in the PAL regions, such as Europe, without converting the frame rate. 24fps offers a cinema-like view.

(7) Manual shooting in Video mode
The update will enable ISO sensitivity selection prior to shooting videos, as well as the ability to adjust aperture and shutter speed during movie recording.

(8) Phase Detection AF support for Instant AF
In Instant AF mode, which is operated by pressing the AF-L button during manual focusing, the update will enable Phase Detection AF, providing faster focusing speeds.

(9) Interlocking of Metering and Focus areas
Users will be able to interlock the AF area position with the Metering area when Spot Metering mode is selected.

(10) Expansion of shutter speed in Program Shift mode
In the current Program Shift mode, the slowest-speed setting is 1/4sec, but this will increase.

So that's the cameras out of the way, now the lenses. First off is the FUJINON XF56mm F1.2 R APD.

Now you'd be forgiven for thinking 'haven't we seen this before'? Well yes and no. We first saw the XF56mm F1.2 R at the Photography Show at the beginning of this year and judging by the amount our ones go out, it's a very popular lens. So what's different about this one? It's something called an apodisation filter. This gives the lens an unique bokeh effect whilst still maintaining sharpness.

We're very much looking forward to doing some side by side comparisons between this and the standard XF56mm F1.2 R to see whether the man on the street can see the difference!!

Last up is a lens I know our customers have been waiting for - a decent telephoto zoom - the 50-140mm F2.8 R LM OIS WR (to give its full mouthful of a name!). What you're getting is a 35mm equivalent focal length of 76-213mm when you take into account the crop factor the the APS-C sensor.

The lens comprises of 23 glass elements in 16 groups, with five ED lens elements and one Super ED lens element comparable to a fluorite lens. This maximizes the reduction of chromatic aberrations and delivers high resolving power. The seven round aperture blades create a smooth circular bokeh.

The length of the barrel remains constant through the entire zoom range and the lens is weather and dust-resistant working down to temperatures as low as -10C.

It contains a Triple Linear Motor to ensure incredibly quick but also very quiet autofocus. Combine this with Fujifilm's new announcement of a silent shutter on the XT-1 and you've got a cracking combo allowing photos to be taken unnoticed in places like church weddings.

Contained within is a high-performance gyro sensor to give the XF50-140mm the best image stablization performance in its class.

We expect we'll see this lens at some point in November or December.


Zeiss announce new Loxia lenses

Posted on: 02/09/2014 12:00:00 under News » General 

Well we have all been holding our breath waiting for Zeiss to come out with full frame E Mount lenses but no-one really knew in what shape they would come.  As of today, the wraps are off and here they are - the Loxia 2/35 and Loxia 2/50.

As you have seen from the image above, they are manual focus which may come as a disappointment to some but I think they have made the right decision.  The a7r (and the a7s) are hardly lightning fast (especially in low light) with current Sony AF lenses.  Coupled to that, if you're aiming on using these lenses for film-making as well, manual control is way way better (and surely this duality of purpose is one of the huge attractions of something like the a7s) as you have a physical connection between the ring and the lens.  I should point out that because there is an electronic connection between the lens and camera, any focus movement, if desired, can automatically trigger the camera's magnifier function - perfect.

The news gets better for the film-makers as the manual aperture can be declicked to give you a smooth constant adjustment.  The focus rotation angle of 180 degrees means that fine adjustment in focus is a breeze.

In design, the advantages are plain to see - they are small.  That means you can get away with shooting without drawing attention to yourself.   Unlike the Touit range, the Loxia lenses are made entirely of metal and have a special weather sealing at the lens mount.

We've already got our order in on both the 2/35 and 2/50.  The 2/50 should be in stock late October whilst the 2/35 will be available towards the end of the year.


August Bank Holiday Offer

Posted on: 18/08/2014 15:09:00 under News » General 
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Book now to get 5 days for the price of 2!!!


The last of our Bank Holidays is upon us and we've once more got an exceptional offer for you!

Subject to availability, book equipment today or tomorrow for this weekend and we will get it dispatched tomorrow for delivery on Wednesday (if you book on Wednesday, we will still aim to deliver on Thursday).  All equipment will then be collected on Tuesday 26th August.  


We will be offering our 1 day Last Minute Offer but do bear in mind that we won't be dispatching until Thursday for delivery on Friday.  This will be available to book as of Thursday morning.

Normal courier, insurance and minimum hire charges, equipment deposits and delivery conditions apply.  Cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer.  All offers are subject to availability.


Sony announces PXW-X70 camcorder

Posted on: 04/08/2014 19:08:00 under News » General 

We already love the Sony AX100 as really there is nothing to touch it for great value 4K Point and Shootability.  Whenever Sony announce a consumer camcorder, you can bet your bottom dollar that there's a pro version on the way.  Well this time that pro version is actually quite different and not just with slightly different specs and a bolt on XLR adaptor.  But let's get one thing out of the way first - this is not YET a 4K camcorder.  It is initially being launched as 4K ready so this will be available early next year.

Sony have really thought about the ergonomics of this camera.  A large hand grip makes handling the camera a breeze and Sony has seen fit to place buttons within reach of your fingers for a change to make it incredibly easy to handle.  The handle is detachable with the XLR audio working through Sony's MI shoe.

The sensor is 1.0 type Exmor R CMOS (sound familiar?).  Combined with Sony's wonderful Bionz X processor, it's capable of fine things.

The lens is a 12x optical zoom ZEISS Vario-Sonnar T* lens with image stabilisation (the camera has Sony's Active Steadyshot).  You've also a four stage Variable ND option.  In HD you can also increase that zoom to 24x by the camera using the extra pixels on the sensor, something Sony call 'Clear Image Zoom' - we've seen this before on Sony camcorders and it works very well indeed.

Recording formats are AVCHD, XAVC and DV.  You've got two SD card slots so you can either hotswap between them or record simultaneously.

To look at what you're shooting, you have a 3.5" LCD or an OLED viewfinder.  The LCD is now a touch screen which allows touch-to-focus and touch-to-expose (something we've been wanting for a while).  You have obviously got all the aids (peaking, histogram, zebras..).

As you would expect for a new camera, connectivity is provided with Wifi and NFC capability.  This means you can control the camera wirelessly from a phone or tablet and video files can be transferred in MP4 format.

Finally connections wise you've not only got HDMI but Sony have also included 3G HD-SDI.

All in all it's a little powerhouse.  Ours are on order already and we're expecting them at launch which we assume will be around October.


Blackmagic Design 1.8 Update

Posted on: 26/06/2014 12:55:00 under News » General 

There have been a lot of complaints about the way Blackmagic Design has been forging ahead with new products without actually resolving issues with their current range.

Yesterday they officially announced Version 1.8 Update which applies to the Cinema Camera, 4K Production Camera and Pocket Camera.  Rumours are they were forced to launch it quickly as it had been leaked.  What they have said is that they have further updates planned and aim to release smaller and more frequent updates rather than bigger ones less frequently.

So onto this update - what's in it?  Well let's clear up a big bugbear - you still can't format the card in camera!!  Grrr....

The user interface has been updated.  Anything changed?  Nope, it just looks a bit more modern.

Of bigger interest is the AF Support for EF lenses.  Whether this works with third party suppliers like Sigma, we've yet to test thoroughly but considering how hard it is to pull focus on the LCD screen (especially if you're shooting in 4K), this has to be great news.  What Blackmagic Design haven't mentioned is what effect this has on power consumption - will the Production Camera actually last longer than 15 minutes on its internal battery when using AF and IS?!!!!

For the Cinema camera, a new debayer is being employed which should provide better image quality in Pro-Res or DivX modes.

Focus peaking is now green to make it easier to view and you can now double push the focus button to activate it.

ISO has been 1600 and the iris setting in no maintained as you switch between record and play modes.

For the Pocket Camera, there is now support for more lenses and an menu option for switching image stablisation has now been added.

Lastly the Production Camera now receives compressed 4K RAW (which people have been waiting for since its launch) and obviously all the other Cinema Camera improvements such as the AF.

We are currently updating our stock as they come back from customers.


Nikon D810 announced

Posted on: 26/06/2014 10:37:00 under News » Cameras 

So two years have passed since the D800 arrived and today Nikon have announced its successor, the D810. Am I desperately excited? I do kind of feel for Nikon as what they are trying to do is ultimately improve their top end SLRs which no doubt they have done. BUT is there anything earth shattering about the new features? Let's have a look.

First off the sensor, it's an all new 36.3mp one with no optical low-pass filter, designed to deliver the best image detail possible. The ISO range now starts at ISO 64 (great for long exposure fans) and ends at ISO 12,800 (expandable up to ISO 51,200 equivalent). The D810 receives the same EXPEED 4 image processor as the D4S giving the camera a helpful boost. Nikon claim image rendering and ISO capability is vastly improved in both stills and video. Burst rates are 6fps at full frame and 7fps in DX crop mode (15.3mp).

The D810 also borrows the 51-point AF system from the D4S offering Nikon's new Group Area AF mode. Interestingly, there is a new shutter mechanism that reduces image shake and you can activate a new electronic front-curtain shutter to minimise internal vibrations. This should also mean a quieter shutter - will be interesting to see.

Many have moaned about the size of the RAW files so it's great to see that Nikon have now introduced a second RAW format - RAW Size S - which delivers 12-bit uncompressed Nikon NEF files but at a resolution of 3680x2456 (9mp).

Whether shooting stills or video, Nikon's newly introduced second-gen Picture Control System includes a new Flat setting allowing you to get the best dynamic range (think Sony S-Log or Canon Log) for working in Post.

Nikon have introduced a new EL-15a battery with the camera which is claimed to allow 1,200 images to be shot on one charge.

Movie wise, afraid there's no 4k which some might have been expecting. You can shoot at 50/60p in Full HD. Still no peaking which is frustrating. What the image is like, we'll just have to wait and see - Nikon claim markedly reduced noise, moire and false colour.

Body wise, things are pretty much the same. There's a new improved grip, some buttons have swapped around and a new memory card housing (still with SD and CF).
So nothing earth shattering - just useful updates to what was already an exceptional camera. I have no doubt that for some this will be a perfect tool (certainly a far better proposition that the frankly pointless Df). Is it enough? That's a difficult one to answer. I would love to see Nikon (and Canon) just being a little bit more innovative and can't help but feel unless this changes, they will get left behind. The CSC market is gathering pace and whilst I applaud these two manufacturers continually refining their high end DSLR products, they ignore this market at their peril.

We'll be stocking the D810 at some point in July and will be getting the camera up on our website for pre-ordering shortly.

In the meantime, here are some videos from Nikon for you to watch!


Trying out Sony's new 70-200mm f/4 FE lens

Posted on: 19/06/2014 10:10:00 under News » General 
Okay, I'll admit it - I've been dying to try out this lens! Sony have been accused of having a non-existant range of FE lenses to go with their full frame E Mount cameras. Up to now it's been a bit scarce with two primes and two zooms. Well we can now add this FE 70-200mm F4 G OSS to the list and a damn good lens it is too!

So here it is attached to a Sony a7r. Let's just touch on the subject of its size and weight. When I posted a picture of it attached to the a6000, I was told it looked daft. Well daft it might look but let's not forget the whole lot weighed about 1,200 grams in total (i.e. a hell of a lot less that a Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS lens just on its own). It's also nowhere near as front heavy as you'd imagine. Overall I didn't have any issues with it and it made me laugh at the look of shock on people's faces when I handed it over to them expecting it to weigh a lot more!

Is this the perfect match for the a7r? I'm not really that sure. I used it to test the ultimate image quality of the lens (which you can see further down the blog post) but in reality, the a7r is pretty slow to autofocus so really holds this lens back in terms of speed (let's be honest, the a7r is about ultimate image quality).  I can see it being used with the a7s when that comes out.  Anyway, let's try bolting on the a6000. I'm a HUGE fan of the a6000, so much so it's the first camera I've actually bought myself to use at home for a fair while. Why? Simply because it's the first CSC that is quick enough to actually rival an SLR for shooting my toddlers! Don't believe me? You really should try one. It's also damn good at shooting movie footage, especially with a Ninja Blade bolted on the side (or try a Ninja Star for ultimate portability). The AF system is leagues better than anything before with nearly full sensor coverage and incredibly quick focus speed. You've got a fair amount of control over the focus modes. I wanted to keep things quite simple so kept in wide mode with face tracking on. Sony's got a great feature called Eye AF - I ran out of time to test if I could use it with Continuous AF shooting but I'll let you know later this week.

I headed off to Brighton as I had some kit to give my friend (and damn fine filmmaker) James Miller. He was shooting down by the pier with Philip Bloom so I thought it would be a good chance to see how the lens coped. I'm sure Phil won't mind me posting this up (at least it's a nice one of him).

Click on the images to expand!!

200mm 1/125th f/4 100 ISO 200mm shot
200mm 1/125th f/4 100 ISO

It's hard to capture people's smiles well especially when they are actually in conversation (and in this case working). The ability to rattle off shots at 11 fps makes picking a 'winner' a hell of a lot easier. I shot this in RAW & Jpeg. It limited the burst of shots I could do (about 15 before it stumbled) and then it would take a little while to write to the card (faster cards are a good investment on this camera). So okay, it's not a 1DX and it can't sit there shooting RAWs until your card runs out BUT then again it's not a £5k camera!  It's also nowhere near as loud which, considering they were shooting, was rather important!  My point is that with that kind of shooting speed, you really have a good chance of nailing the shot. Phil was moving around a fair bit but the camera on Continuous AF had no problems at all, even at 200mm. I should have taken this shot at a higher ISO (I was switching between video and stills and was trying to get away without putting a variable ND on the front!) but the Image Stabilisation is really very impressive, in fact so good I shot video at 200mm handheld!

I left James and Phil in peace to get on with their work and headed off for some seagull spotting. I gave myself five minutes to try and nail a couple of good shots. The camera was switched to just fine jpegs which allowed me about 3 seconds of shooting before hitting the buffers. The AF really worked quickly with was important as I was scouting for birds and was counting on the camera to then focus on them quickly. If you ever want to learn a discipline, try tracking birds at short range at 200mm. I now have a HUGE amount of respect for our wildlife photography customers!! The point of this test was to show just how much you can achieve with a camera/lens combo capable of fast shutter and AF speeds. Here are my two favourites -

200mm 1/4000th f/6.3 400 ISO Seagull shot
200mm 1/4000th f/6.3 400 ISO

200mm 1/125th f/4 100 ISO Seagull 2 shot
200mm 1/125th f/4 100 ISO

These are JPEGs so you're limited in what you can do with the processing wise but I'm pretty pleased with results. I could have made things far easier for myself and the camera by closing the lens down but I really wanted to see what was possible.

So onto the next test - find a cyclist! Trying not to look too dodgy (and I think the camera's size does help a bit here), I waited on Madeira Drive for someone to come along. The lens was set at f/4, again to make life as tricky as possible. I also had full range AF set on the lens and the AF mode was set to the whole frame, just to make life as difficult for the camera. This was again shot at 11fps.

So here we go....

200mm 1/400th f/4 100 ISO Cyclist shot
200mm 1/400th f/4 100 ISO

200mm 1/400th f/4 100 ISO Cyclist shot
200mm 1/400th f/4 100 ISO

200mm 1/400th f/4 100 ISO Cyclist shot
200mm 1/400th f/4 100 ISO

200mm 1/400th f/4 100 ISO Cyclist shot
200mm 1/400th f/4 100 ISO

200mm 1/400th f/4 100 ISO Cyclist shot
200mm 1/400th f/4 100 ISO

200mm 1/400th f/4 100 ISO Cyclist shot
200mm 1/400th f/4 100 ISO

200mm 1/400th f/4 100 ISO Cyclist shot
200mm 1/400th f/4 100 ISO

200mm 1/400th f/4 100 ISO Cyclist shot
200mm 1/400th f/4 100 ISO

200mm 1/400th f/4 100 ISO Cyclist shot
200mm 1/400th f/4 100 ISO

200mm 1/400th f/4 100 ISO Cyclist shot
200mm 1/400th f/4 100 ISO

200mm 1/400th f/4 100 ISO Cyclist shot
200mm 1/400th f/4 100 ISO

200mm 1/400th f/4 100 ISO Cyclist shot
200mm 1/400th f/4 100 ISO

200mm 1/400th f/4 100 ISO Cyclist shot
200mm 1/400th f/4 100 ISO

200mm 1/400th f/4 100 ISO Cyclist shot
200mm 1/400th f/4 100 ISO

200mm 1/400th f/4 100 ISO Cyclist shot
200mm 1/400th f/4 100 ISO

200mm 1/400th f/4 100 ISO Cyclist shot
200mm 1/400th f/4 100 ISO

200mm 1/400th f/4 100 ISO Cyclist shot
200mm 1/400th f/4 100 ISO

200mm 1/400th f/4 100 ISO Cyclist shot
200mm 1/400th f/4 100 ISO

200mm 1/400th f/4 100 ISO Cyclist shot
200mm 1/400th f/4 100 ISO

200mm 1/400th f/4 100 ISO Cyclist shot
200mm 1/400th f/4 100 ISO

200mm 1/400th f/4 100 ISO Cyclist shot
200mm 1/400th f/4 100 ISO

200mm 1/400th f/4 100 ISO Cyclist shot
200mm 1/400th f/4 100 ISO

Okay so towards the end, it's starting to struggle but I think it's put in a pretty stellar performance. I could have made life much easier for the camera by selecting an AF area. As I mentioned, I do need to try Eye AF as well on Continuous AF mode as that may well have improved things. Remember this is all shot at f/4.

Finally let's go back to a shot taken on the Sony a7r. The second shot is 100% crop.

a7r 1/800th f/4 100 ISO a7r shot
a7r 1/800th f/4 100 ISO

a7r 1/800th f/4 100 ISO 100%a7r shot
a7r 1/800th f/4 100 ISO 100%

In summary so far, there's no question the Sony FE 70-200mm F4 G OSS is a brilliant addition to the family.  From a photography point of view, with the a6000 on the back, there really is nothing to touch it until you start spending quite a considering amount more (and let's not forget lugging around a heap more weight).  Sure, it's not going to replace your 1DX or D4 but I know which I'll be taking to Goodwood next week as for me, the compromises are far outweighed by the smaller weight and size. But then I don't shoot for a living!!

Movie wise, I think this is a going to be prove a very interesting proposition with very effective image stablisation.  I look forward to trying it out with the a7s and Atomos Shogun in 4k!

As always, this is not a definitive technical test - I am sure there will be plenty of these coming along by people who are hugely more intelligent than me.  What this first test has shown me is just how surprisingly good the lens is and as an a6000 owner, I am chuffed to pieces!

Okay so it's not an f/2.8 (and I doubt you'll ever see one as it goes against the whole idea of low weight).  Is that an issue?  For most, probably not.  The f/2.8 lenses have always been popular as that extra stop can help enormously in say a dark church.  But let's say you're shooting with an a7s, the camera can pretty much see in the dark anyway so is it really such an issue after all when you can happily shoot at 25,600 ISO?  The simple answer is - if you want to shoot at f/2.8, this won't be for you!!

You can find out more about the lens on our detailed page.  Afraid you can't have it next week as I'm taking it to Goodwood Festival of Speed but I promise to stop hogging it after that!!

Image Courtesy of Sony Professional Europe.

It's really exciting times at Sony, whether you're on the consumer or broadcast side of things.  New product developments are coming thick and fast - this next 18 months we'll see some quite interesting kit being announced.

Today, Sony announced development of a new compact XDCAM camcorder with a 1.0 type Exmor sensor.  This size sensor has been used in the Sony AX100 to great effect so it's no surprise to see Sony Professional coming up with something.

Here's the press release - 

Basingstoke, June 17, 2014: Sony has announced that a new addition to its XDCAM Series of handheld solid-state memory Camcorders is in development, and is set to be made available this year. The new model has today been publically previewed for the first time, with delegates able to see the camera at Broadcast Asia, taking place in Marina Bay Sands, Singapore.

The new XDCAM camcorder features a 20M pixel 1.0-type Exmor® R CMOS Sensor and the capability to record in XAVC Long GOP, enabling 422 10-bit sampling for high-definition recording with rich tonal expression. The camcorder will be designed to support broadcasters and AV professionals as they modernise their workflows with a focus on increased data transfer speeds.

Upon its release the new camcorder is set to become Sony’s most compact XAVC-capable XDCAM camera to date, well suited to field operations for a broad range of professional applications.

“Following the recent announcements of the PXW-X180 and the PXW-X160 camcorders, we’re excited to see the momentum which exists across the industry in adopting the XAVC recording format,” said Robbie Fleming, Product Marketing Manager, at Sony Professional Solutions Europe. “This new compact addition to the XDCAM line-up will bring the benefits of XAVC to an even broader audience, whether it’s in education, videography or news and broadcast production.”


Sigma 50mm - the prime shootout!

Posted on: 04/06/2014 09:57:00 under News » General 

Say hello to the new Sigma 50mm F1.4 DG HSM Art lens (to give it its full name). Rarely has any lens been raved about more before anyone has really got their hands on it! Is it really as good as it sounds and are the rumours true? Is it as good as the Zeiss Otus 55mm?

I love the internet as everyone’s an armchair expert and for the past couple of months, I’ve seen comparisons with people taking two completely different photos, shot on different cameras at different exposures and then using them to compare the lenses?!!

Friday morning last week, our first Canon mount Sigma landed on my desk. Amateur Photographer had borrowed our Otus for a test feature so I tottered over to my good friend James Miller with both the Sigma and a Canon 50mm f/1.2 L to test against his Otus.

These are the lenses we tested and the links to where you can find out more information if you want to try them -

Canon 50mm f1.2L USM
Zeiss Otus 55mm f1.4 Apo Distagon Nikon ZF.2 Lens

All the shots were taken on a Canon 1DC on a tripod using a shutter speed exceeding 1/500th second to eliminate any motion blur – we used the same settings for each lens and tried our best to ensure the frames were as similar as possible. All these shots were taken using manual focus – all framed up in Live View. With the Otus, we used a simple Nikon F adaptor.

This is not scientific, merely a question of whether we could spot a difference between the three. In fact, James is a little annoyed as the focus on the Otus in one shot is slightly soft (he should know as he uses it for work most days). So please, no massive analysis – this is just a real world test.

I’ll quickly deal with AF before we get going. Sigma have always had stick for fact their AF systems are always slower that Canon or Nikon. I have to say that I thought the AF was superb – in fact far better than the Canon. Where the Canon was hunting a bit, the Sigma was quick to pull focus. Looking at the images, it was just a tiny bit soft on the point of focus compared to shooting on manual but it really was very fine and Sigma provide an USB hub which allows you to fine tune the AF at differing focal lengths – very simple but incredibly clever. I tried some other shots using another body back at the office and they were very sharp. Just goes to show difference a body can make!

So test one was to take a portrait shot of James’ son Harry. On looking at the results, we were immediately impressed with the Sigma. Both it and the Otus were frankly in a different league to the Canon at f/1.4.


Zeiss Otus at f/1.4 Full Frame Zeiss Otus f/1.4
Zeiss Otus at f/1.4

Sigma at f/1.4 Full Frame Sigma f/1.4
Sigma at f/1.4

Canon at f/1.4 Full Frame Canon f/1.4
Canon at f/1.4

What also struck us was the difference 5mm in focal length makes (as the Otus is 55mm) and what effect that has on the depth of field. It really is a personal preference and is pretty hard to split them. The Canon I’m afraid just hasn’t got a look in. To really understand why, we need to go to a 100% crop.

Zeiss Otus at f/1.4 100% Crop Zeiss Otus f/1.4 100% Crop
Zeiss Otus at f/1.4 100% Crop

Sigma at f/1.4 100% Crop Sigma f/1.4 100% Crop
Sigma at f/1.4 100% Crop

Canon at f/1.4 100% Crop Canon f/1.4 100% Crop
Canon at f/1.4 100% Crop

As for the backgrounds, see for yourself – again it’s a personal preference thing and you can make up your own mind.

Zeiss Otus at f/1.4 100% Side Crop Zeiss Otus f/1.4 100% Side Crop
Zeiss Otus at f/1.4 100% Side Crop

Sigma at f/1.4 100% Side Crop Sigma f/1.4 100% Side Crop
Sigma at f/1.4 100% Side Crop

Canon at f/1.4 100% Side Crop Canon f/1.4 100% Side Crop
Canon at f/1.4 100% Side Crop

Onto f4 and the Canon is now faring far better but look closer and you can see the Sigma and Otus still have it for sharpness. Again, firstly the full frame shots and then the 100% crops.

Zeiss Otus at f/4 Full Frame Zeiss Otus f/4
Zeiss Otus at f/4

Sigma at f/4 Full Frame Sigma f/4
Sigma at f/4

Canon at f/4 Full Frame Canon f/4
Canon at f/4

Zeiss at Otus f/4 100% Crop Zeiss Otus f/4 100% Crop
Zeiss Otus at f/4 100% Crop

Sigma at f/4 100% Crop Sigma f/4 100% Crop
Sigma at f/4 100% Crop

Canon at f/4 100% Crop Canon f/4 100% Crop
Canon at f/4 100% Crop

So all very well but how about testing the edges of the lenses at f/1.4 and giving them a good workout. Why are the edges of the lens important at f/1.4? Is your subject always framed in the middle? Er no, so there is relevance in this test.

So we headed outside for the good old High Street shot. We compared all the lenses first at f/1.4 – our aim was to pick out the aerial in the top right of shot as whilst not at the far corners of the lens, this was a realistic point at where you’d be framing a subject at f/1.4.

Zeiss Otus at f/1.4 Full Frame Zeiss Otus f/1.4
Zeiss Otus at f/1.4

Sigma at f/1.4 Full Frame Sigma f/1.4
Sigma at f/1.4

Canon at f/1.4 Full Frame Canon f/1.4
Canon at f/1.4

As we zoom in (albeit to a 200% crop), the Canon is frankly disastrous – there’s no clarity whatsoever and the purple edging is very evident.

Canon at f/1.4 200% Crop Canon f/1.4 100% Crop
Canon at f/1.4 200% Crop

Moving on to the Sigma and there’s a big improvement with the image being nowhere near as soft.

Sigma at f/1.4 200% Crop Sigma f/1.4 100% Crop
Sigma at f/1.4 200% Crop

Finally the Zeiss. If you wondered where your money is going, this is where. It really is remarkably sharp.

Otus at f/1.4 200% Crop Otus f/1.4 100% Crop
Otus at f/1.4 200% Crop

Moving onto f4 and the differences are still there but obviously the difference between the Zeiss and Sigma is less.

Sigma at f/4 200% Crop Sigma f/4 100% Crop
Sigma at f/1.4 200% Crop

Otus at f/4 200% Crop Otus f/4 100% Crop
Otus at f/1.4 200% Crop

I’m afraid while not now terrible, the Canon is still trailing.

Canon at f/4 200% Crop Canon f/1.4 100% Crop
Canon at f/4 200% Crop

Clearly we're not all going to wander round shooting TV aerials with 50mm primes but this does very clearly show the differences in quality outside the central point of the lens. Sure, in a lot of shots, you'd be hard pushed to see this but we thought it was only fair to show just where the Otus pulls ahead.

So what does all this mean? Firstly let’s compare the Sigma against the Canon. There’s absolutely no comparison here. Anyone defending the Canon by saying it’s an f/1.2 rather than an f/1.4, well please feel free to do so. Personally I’d rather a decent image at f/1.4! The Sigma quite frankly has it licked at every point. It’s also got a decent AF system that I think is better than the Canon (certainly less hesitation). Throw in excellent build quality (the Sigma is surprisingly heavy), the fact you can tune the lens via an optional USB attachment and finally a 3 year UK warranty and there’s little not to recommend it.

The only problem I can see is getting hold of them!

Okay, now for the Otus. Look, the reality is that for most people the Sigma will be perfectly sufficient. We’re testing on a full frame camera – if you’re using APS-C or Super 35mm, the differences will be even smaller. BUT (and I’m afraid it is a big but), the Otus is unquestionably sharper across the lens and if that is of paramount importance (i.e. you use it professionally day to day and only the best will do), then the Otus is for you. As for the Otus having no AF, is that a problem? For filmmakers, of course not. For photographers, possibly. People are used to using AF on DSLRs - thankfully LiveView and Expanded View make it possibly to pull sharp focus on MF but it’s hardly ideal. But with CSC’s with OLED screens, peaking and expanded view, you’d be surprised how easy and quick the Otus is to focus manually – I know, I use one a lot with the Sony a7r and if I can do it, anyone can with a bit of practice!

I met someone at the pub the other night who’s massively into his road bikes. He’s just bought himself a new frame which is apparently even stiffer but also 10% lighter than his old frame. It’s also double the price. Will it make a huge difference to him? Doubt it but it’s his money. If you cycled for a living, the choice would be far easier – you’d want the best you could get your hands on.

Zeiss set out to build the best 55mm prime they could and I for one am glad that the Otus exists – it’s bloody brilliant. That Sigma can get so close to that greatness at the price they have is an astonishing achievement and I bow my hat to them.

A HUGE thanks to James Miller who provided his son (sorry Harry), plentiful assistance, bits of kit (namely the Otus) and a jolly good cuppa.


May Bank Holiday Offer!

Posted on: 19/05/2014 11:29:00 under News » General 
We're coming up to the second Bank Holiday of May and once again we're offering our early dispatch offer.  That means, subject to availability, book equipment before Tuesday 20th May and we will get it dispatched for delivery on Wednesday 21st.  All equipment will then be collected on Tuesday 27th May.  


We will be offering our 1 day Last Minute Offer but do bear in mind that we won't be dispatching until Thursday for delivery on Friday.  This will be available to book as of Thursday morning.

Normal courier, insurance and minimum hire charges, equipment deposits and delivery conditions apply.  Cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer.  All offers are subject to availability. And so the next Bank Holiday is almost upon us!


NAB report Part 2 - Blackmagic, AJA and Red

Posted on: 08/04/2014 18:26:00 under News » General 
Blackmagic Design really rather deserve their own individual blog as, true to form, they came out with some show stoppers!!  We’ll throw in a bit of AJA and RED as well at the end just for good measure. 

It is interesting to note that after the announcements were made yesterday morning first thing, the immediate feedback on Social Media was that they should perhaps work on getting their existing products right before jumping in with even more – it’s an interesting but increasingly frustrating game they are playing with existing owners desperately shouting out for firmware updates. 

So, putting that issue to one side for a brief moment, what did they have on show? First up is the Blackmagic Studio Camera.  

It features a huge 10” viewfinder, 4 hour battery, talkback, tally indicators, phantom powered microphone connections and built in optical fibre and SDI connections.  It’s available in both HD and 4K models, both featuring a new one inch sensor.  

Mount wise it’s Micro Four Thirds.  So there’s no option to record internally – it’s just live feed out – it’s designed to be tethered to one of their switchers but there’s nothing stopping you using the SDI feed to anywhere.  

We’re not planning to stock them as I don’t think our customer base would have any use for them.  If you are interested, please do let me know. 

So we then move onto the biggie (in more ways than one) – the Blackmagic URSA.  They claimed it’s designed for feature films and commercials – you can decide quite who is going to use it for yourself!! 

There’s no questioning it’s quite impressive with a HUGE 10” fold out monitor, two extra 5” touch screens for adjusting settings, controls or monitoring, upgradeable 4K global shutter Super 35mm sensor (yes it’s the same one as in the Production camera) and internal dual RAW and ProRes recorders.  Phew!! 

You noticed I mentioned that the sensor was upgradeable.  Here they have been quite clear as – as and when Blackmagic produce a new improved 4K sensor, all you need do is remove 4 bolts and replace the front module! The dual recorders is a little misleading really as what we’re talking about is hotswapping of card slots – when the first is full, recording will immediately transfer over to the second slot.  On the subject of cards, the camera uses the new CFast format. 

It’s hard not to be overwhelmed initially (and quite impressed) with the 10 inch screen – it’s a bit bonkers but there’s no denying it’s effective.  How good it is in direct sunlight, no-one knows.  Nice to see a simple zoom button on the side for expanded view.  The two touch screens can not only be used as additional monitors but also for controlling all the settings and things like checking waveforms. 

Connection wise, the camera is pretty well catered for.  You get 6G-SDI out that can be converted to HD and hurrah, XLR connections with phantom power.  Timecode in/out and LANC control are also there. Power wise all I can say is hallelujah – external power in the form of either V-Lock or Anton/Bauer.  There’s also a 4 pin XLR 12V input. Initially the camera is available in EF and PL mounts.  

We have an order on an EF mount one.  Whether we’ll stock it really does depend on feedback so please please, do let me know what you think. 

Prize for the most unexpected camera has to go to the AJA CION.  I really don’t think anyone expected this.  

It’s got a 4K APS-C sized CMOS sensor with 12 stops of dynamic range (pretty similar to the Blackmagic Production camera and the new URSA).  It can record 4K, Ultra HD, 2K and HD.  Frame rates up to 50 and 60p are supported, even at 4K.  Codec wise, it records internally in ProRes 4444, ProRes 422 (HQ), ProRes LT and ProRes Proxy.  Lens mount is PL.  

The camera includes a Optical Low-Pass Filter to reduce moire and also a built in IR Cut filter. As it’s PL mount, it’s not really for our traditional customer base but it seems a very nicely sorted bit of kit and is pretty good value.  We will look at it more closely once available.

Finally a mention of RED.  It was really interesting to see a large portion of their stand was devoted to pulling stills from the cameras.  This has always been of interest to me as ultimately this is the way I see the high end stills market going.  Just interesting that there were doing this at a Broadcast Show that deals with motion more than stills.

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The service was highly professional. The kit was in brilliant condition and I really felt I was being looked after.
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