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The Gratical is here!

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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



 
 

Sony confirm E Mount lens releases

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

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

So just to recap as to what's coming - 


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

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

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


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


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

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


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

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


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



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

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











 
 

Is this the new website?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All the very best
Guy


 
 

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

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


Here is Sigma's press release - 

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

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





 
 

Fujifilm updates X mount Lens Roadmap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*1 35mm format equivalent

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

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






 
 

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

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


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

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



 
 

Canon announce EOS 5DS and EOS 5DS R

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


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

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


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

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

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


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




Below is Canon's actual press release -

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




 
 

GH4 Firmware Update

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

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

Here is a summary of the improvements - 

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

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

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

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

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

Playback performance of recorded 4K video is improved.

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


 
 

Shogun now playing back!

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

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

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

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

Bug fixes:- 

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

Features:- 

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

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

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


 
 

New LED lighting added to stock!

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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





 
 

2014 - What a year.....

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 



 
 

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.




 
 
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