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GH4 Firmware Update

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

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

Here is a summary of the improvements - 

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

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

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

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

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

Playback performance of recorded 4K video is improved.

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


 
 

Shogun now playing back!

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

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

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

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

Bug fixes:- 

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

Features:- 

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

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

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


 
 

New LED lighting added to stock!

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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





 
 

2014 - What a year.....

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 



 
 

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.  

THAT'S 5 DAYS FOR PRICE OF A NORMAL WEEKEND HIRE CHARGE!  

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!!



 
 
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