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Insurance charges now simpler!

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

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

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


 
 

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

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

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

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

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

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



 
 

Zeiss Batis lens range announced

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here's a quick video from Zeiss





 
 

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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



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

Anyway, these were two I grabbed.



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


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



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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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




 
 

New Blackmagic Micro Cinema Camera

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

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

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

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

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


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



 
 

New Blackmagic URSA Mini

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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


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


 
 

Price cut on Canon C300

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

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


 
 

Canon show off the C300 Mark II

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

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

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

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

So let’s go over the headline features –

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




 
 

Nikon update firmware for working with Shogun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 
 

Canon announce interesting XC10

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

EDIT

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

Audio in

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

Headphone output

3.5mm Stereo mini jack

Video monitor output

No

HDMI

Yes. Output only

HDMI Video Output (Recording Mode)

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

HDMI Video Output (Playback Mode)

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

USB

Yes mini-B, Hi-speed, Output only

HD/SD-SDI output

No

Time code

Yes, via HDMI

 




 
 

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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



 
 

Come and see us at TPS at the NEC!

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

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

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

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

Please do stop by and say hi!


 
 

Easter Offer 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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



 
 

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




 
 
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Overall very happy!
- Harvey Walton, Cambridgeshire

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