Over the last few weeks, touring the Photography shows and workshops, one lens has come up quite a lot in conversations - the Zeiss Distagon T* 1,4/55 which is due to be launched late this year in both Canon and Nikon mounts.
The lens is the first member of a new high-end family of SLR lenses which will offer uncompromising image quality. It will be perfect for high-resolution, full frame digital cameras such as the current Nikon D800 (and of course anything that Canon choose to launch at some point!). The combination should produce results approaching that of medium format systems.
So how much better will it be compared to a decent existing 50mm prime? Well, we'd advise you watch this video and see the results for yourself!
We'll be stocking the lenses from launch, initially in ZF.2 mount. ZE mount will follow dependant on launch of a hi-res Canon D-SLR.
So it's finally official - we can reveal that Zeiss' new range of lenses for initially Fuji X Mount and Sony E Mount are to be called Touit.
Already it would seem discussions are forming as to the marketing validity of the new name which is a shame because surely it's the lenses we should be worrying about!!!
So to the first two focal lengths that will be available in May - the Touit 2.8/12 and 1.8/32. The first thing people will notice is that are not made entirely of metal. Zeiss decided that for this range of lenses, where parts did not require metal for accuracy, solidity and durability, plastic was to be used in an effort to keep the weight down. Whilst not mentioned in their names, these lenses feature Zeiss' T* anti-reflective coating on all surfaces.
The Touit 2.8/12 is bound to become popular due to its wide angle. This is giving you a 35mm equivalent of 18mm with APS-C sensored Fuji and Sony cameras. Fuji already have a 14mm f2.8 but nothing as wide as this (they do have a 10-24mm f4 OIS in their roadmap for later this year). Sony already have a 10-18mm with OIS but this is an f4 (it's actually a very good lens and brilliant for video work on the FS100/FS700, especially for Steadicam work).
We're really looking forward to also getting our hands on the Touit 1.8/32. Do the maths and you'll have already worked out that this makes a whisper away from being a 50mm in 35mm equivalent. Zeiss say it has been optimised for APS-C format sensors - combined with something like the Fuji X-Pro 1, it really should produce some stunning shots.
Still to come in around November is a Touit 2.8/50 makro. We've ordered 3 sets of each mount and will have the lenses in stock from launch. Details will be up on the website as soon as we're allowed which will be after the launch on 15th May.
Looks like we'll be getting a sneaky play with them next week as Zeiss are coming to see us so we'll let you know what we think of them - can't wait!
The Canon 5D Mk III, since its introduction some 13 months ago, has been an instant hit on the video side. It vastly improved things over its predecessor, the 5D Mk II and immediately set the new standard for D-SLR video. Nikon were hot on their heels with the Nikon D800 and this offered something the Canon didn't (and something we all wanted) - clean HDMI output.
So what does it give you? Just starting with the photo side first, the main news is the centre AF point will now autofocus up to f/8 when used with a len/extender combination. The speed of the AF has also been improved when using a Speedlite's AF-assist beam. Autofocus was hardly slow on the 5D Mk III (especially when compared with the 5D Mk II - it's one of the main reasons for wanting to upgrade) but now it really flies.
So let's get onto the video side. The uncompressed clean HDMI output gives you an 8 bit 4:2:2 output that can be used to feed an EVF (now fills the screen properly!), a monitor or perhaps more interestingly, an external recorder such as the Atomos Ninja 2.
Den Lennie from the F-Stop Academy was over with us yesterday so we quickly shot this shot piece outlining some of the things to note.
Now once thing we omitted to mention in the video that I realised when looking at the footage from the Ninja 2 this morning is there is no audio. Unlike the camcorders, the 5D Mk III does not transmit the sound information through the HDMI. The solution to this is to link straight from the headphone socket through to the din input on the recorder. We're going to do some more investigating on this to see if there is a better way. Whilst it won't produce the best quality sound, it should be more than enough to sync with an external recording device.
In the video Den pointed out the vulnerability of the exposed HDMI connection and we will be looking at stocking the Zacuto Pincher to help ensure that these HDMI ports last!
EDIT - after this posting we found out that the sound didn't pass through the HDMI to the Ninja 2 but we did find a solution. I have put together the following video to show you how it's done. One thing I do need to point out is that there is an issue with syncing of the audio and video using the method shown below - at present the two are about 5 frames apart. Hopefully Atomos will be able to sort this in the same way they dealt with a similar issue with the D800. Until then, you'll have to split them on the timeline and adjust (not the end of the world).
We've already updated all of the bodies we had in stock yesterday and as the others come back from hire, we'll get them updated as well.
It's Bank Holiday time again and we're back with our well know offer, only this time we've made it even better. We had so much positive feedback from what we did at Christmas time, we're doing it again for both Bank Holidays.
Book at ANY time before the weekend and if we have the equipment in stock, we'll send it out that day, pick up on the Tuesday after the Bank Holiday but you'll only be charged for 2 days hire. So if you book on Monday morning and we have the equipment in stock, we'll send out the equipment to arrive with you on the Tuesday, 4 days before the actual weekend!!! We'll do the same thing on Tuesday and Wednesday morning.
Come Wednesday afternoon, any remaining stock can be hired for a one day hire price for the Bank Holiday weekend (all equipment will be sent out on Thursday for arrival Friday morning). Obviously there will be less chance of what you want being available by then but it does give people the chance to try equipment they couldn't otherwise afford.
So get up to 7 days for the price of 2 or 3 days for the price of 1 - choice is yours!
All offers subject to stock. Normal insurance charges, deposits and courier charges apply.
The Bigger Picture Roadshow 2013 kicks off this week with two shows.
Tomorrow, Tuesday 16th April, sees us in Woking at the HG Wells Conference Centre. More details on the venue can be found here.
On Wednesday, we head not far down the road from the office to sunny Eastbourne (actually looks like it might be warm as well!). The show will be held at the Kings Conference Centre. You can find out more about the venue here.
Both days start at 10am and run through to 4pm. Hope to see you there!!
Whilst a lot of noise is being made about Blackmagic's new 4K offering, it would seem that this little pocket camera is further along in development and should appear first.
So what is it? The camera contains a Super 16 sensor (it's between a 1 inch sensor and Micro 4/3rds in size - so around 3x crop factor) offering 13 stops of dynamic range. Recording is done in lossless CinemaDNG RAW or ProRes. Recording media will be fast SD cards.
The mount is Micro Four Thirds and unlike its 2K bigger brother, it's an active mount so you will be able to use Lumix lenses. Obviously with adaptors, you have a huge range of lenses that can be used but it's important to remember that crop factor.
Body wise, the camera is made from mag alloy so should be pretty tough but light (weighs 355 grams). On the back of the camera is a 3.5" LCD (expect a Zacuto Z Finder solution coming along pretty quickly!). You can zoom in to 1:1 which should make focusing even with just the screen as easy as with a DSLR (whether you can do this whilst recording is not clear). Powering the camera is a removable battery - yes, you'll be able to charge multiples and swap them out! Nikon uses may recognise it as that's what it is - a Nikon EL-EN20 - should give around an hour's recording time.
Connections comprise of mini jacks for mic and headphones, 12V DC input, micro HDMI and LANC control.
Delivery is supposed to be around July and yes, we've already put our order in. When we will actually see them is another thing - fingers crossed!
We've already seen the new HXR-IFR5 (or at least a mock up of it) at BVE earlier this year, indeed I 'stole' it off Sony's standard for a live interview with Jon Pratchett at Broadcastshow.
Why is this important for us? Simply because it offers cost effective (relatively) access to useable 4K footage using the excellent Sony NEX-FS700. We'll be offering this unit with the AXS-R5 recorder either to use with our own cameras or as an option for those with their own cameras to try. We may well have some interesting news on what might be offered - we can't say yet but watch this space!
So back to the details of the unit. Sony have officially launched it at NAB in Las Vegas this week. Below is their press released shortly ago -
Las Vegas, April 7, 2013: Sony today announced the interface unit HXR-IFR5, which will connect the NEX-FS700 and the RAW recorder AXS-R5, enabling 4K RAW recording bringing high quality future proofed 4K RAW acquisition to a wider range of applications than ever before.
By applying an upgrade on the NEX-FS700, 4K/2K RAW output via 3G HD-SDI terminal will be available. The new interface unit HXR-IFR5 is equipped with a SDI terminal that can be used to input RAW data from the camcorder and pass the data to the RAW recorder AXS-R5. AXS-R5 is able to record RAW data onto an AXS memory card.
The frame rates at 4K (4096x2160) recording mode are 24p, 30p, 60p. In 4K mode 120fps high speed recording will be available for a limited time, approximately 4 seconds. In 2K (2048x1080) recording mode, continuous 240fps and 120fps shooting is available with unlimited time.The workflow to process RAW data will be exactly the same as the RAW workflow used in the combination of the existing CineAlta 4K camera PMW-F55/F5 and the AXS-R5. The HXR-IFR5 makes the NEX-FS700 one of the most cost effective 4K camcorders on the market - making it an ideal B camera for the F5 or F55, as well as the primary 4K camcorder for more entry level users.
The expectation of 4K is growing bigger and bigger also in the low cost content creation market. The combination of HXR-IFR5 with the NEX-FS700 and the AXS-R5 will be a perfect choice, expanding the possibilities of content creation.Basic Features of HXR-IFR5
External RAW recorder for NEX-FS700 via SDI
AXS-R5(*1) docked onto the HXR-IFR5 will become an external RAW recorder for the NEX-FS700(*2). The connection with the NEX-FS700 will use a single 3G HD-SDI cable, therefore various shooting styles can be realised. The NEX-FS700 can become a camera head when used separately, and it can also be used like a camcorder if the whole set is mounted onto a rig. We have prepared a 1/4 inch screw hole for those kinds of rig solutions. HXR-IFR5 will use the power source on the AXS-R5. AXS-R5 can be powered by a lithium ion battery pack BP-FL75 or a external DC12V power source using the XLR 4 pin power input.
*1: AXS-R5 will need a updated firmware version which will be provided by the time of HXR-IFR5’s sales start*2: NEX-FS700 will need a service upgrade (paid option)
16 bit linear RAW recording onto the AXS memory card
The combination of HXR-IFR5 and the AXS-R5 can record 16 bit linear RAW files onto an AXS memory card. Thanks to the 16bit linear RAW recording, full potential of the 4K imager on the NEX-FS700, meaning the broad latitude and the high colour resolution, can be captured onto the recorded RAW files.
Using the AXS-CR1 recorded RAW files can be easily transferred to a PC and the “RAW Viewer”(*), software provided by Sony, can be used to view, process and also do some simple colour grading. Not only high quality movies, but high resolution 8.4M still pictures can also be captured.
(*) version 1.1 or later is necessary.
4K/2K high speed shooting
Other than 4K (4096x2160) recording at 24p/30p/60p, 120fps recording in 4K resolution is available for approximately 4 seconds. Also, in 2K (2048x1080) recording mode, 240fps/120fps high speed continuous recording is available for unlimited time. These high speed recording modes are only possible with the combination of NEX-FS700, HXR-IFR5, and the AXS-R5.
*: Audio is not recorded in high speed RAW recording modes
AVCHD simultaneous recording on NEX-FS700
Even in the RAW recording mode, the NEX-FS700 can simultaneously record AVCHD onto the camera’s memory card. Since the recorded AVCHD files will have the same time code as the RAW files, the AVCHD files can be used as a proxy file for off line editing.
*: AVCHD cannot be recorded in high speed RAW recording mode
HD output for monitoring
HDMI/Component/Composite video outputs on NEX-FS700 and the AUX OUT of the AXS-R5 can be used for monitoring purposes. In order to achieve accurate monitoring of the wide dynamic range RAW recording, we have added S-Log2 setting onto the picture profile of NEX-FS700.
*: The gamma setting cannot be set individually for each video out/LCD panel/AVCHD recording.
We've been huge fans of the Canon XA10 camcorders since their arrival some two years ago. Canon have chosen just before NAB to announce two new camcorders to their range - the XA25 and XA20, the difference between them being the HD-SDI output available on the XA25.
They don't seem to be much different in design to the XA10, which is a good thing. The XLR handle assembly is exactly the same in how it mounts onto the camera. Both AVCHD and MP4 recording are available with AVCHD recording up to 1080/50p at 28Mbps and MP4 up to 35Mbps.
The touch screen is now OLED rather than LCD. This is great news from what we've seen of other OLED screens, they offer far greater contrast and colour reproduction and are easier to view in daylight.
The last big thing is the inclusion of wireless connectivity with the camera supporting dual band WiFi. Camera Remote support give you wireless adjustment of settings and Remote Browser allows you to review recorded footage on smartphones or browsers. FTP File Transfer allows transfer of the footage at up to 150Mbps via a wireless access point.
We'll look forward to testing all this when we get our hands on one!
Below is Canon's release -
Canon has expanded its handheld video camera range with the launch of two class-leading compact models – the XA25 and XA20 – which feature a completely redesigned Canon HD Video system, from the lens through to the image sensor and processor, to provide new levels of imaging performance.
The two new professional X-series models – the XA25 and XA20 – combine the powerful, all-new imaging system with professional audio and WiFi connectivity in a versatile, compact package that fits neatly in the palm of a hand.
Developed using Canon’s industry-leading imaging technologies, the cameras include powerful specifications to deliver outstanding quality and operability. A range of advanced shooting features and connectivity options make these cameras ideal for either professional or amateur use, and are suitable for shooting everything from news and documentaries to weddings.
ADVANCED CANON HD VIDEO SYSTEM & FIRST-CLASS OPTICS The XA25 benefits from a completely new imaging system, which has been engineered to provide outstanding image quality and versatility. A groundbreaking 20x zoom wide-angle lens offers a 26.8-576mm focal range (*1), employing optical technology found in Canon’s top-of-the-range XF305 digital camcorder. An enhanced 3-mode Optical Image Stabilizer (IS) system (*2) incorporates a Dynamic OIS mode to further reduce the effects of camera movement during shooting. The 8-blade circular aperture also provides enhanced ‘bokeh’, using Canon’s unique Electro Magnetic Diaphragm technology – developed for the Canon EF lens range – to ensure beautiful background blur in shots with a shallow depth-of-field.
A newly designed 1/2.84-type 2.91 Megapixel HD CMOS Pro sensor provides outstanding dynamic range and low-light performance. The increased sensor size maximises photosite area, combining with a highly sophisticated image processing system to reduce image noise and increase sensitivity in low light environments.
The outstanding processing capability provided by a DIGIC DV 4 processor provides enhanced image reproduction, supplementing the strengths of the DIGIC DV family – such as smooth gradation and faithful colour reproduction – with support for recording at higher data rates. The sensor and processor work together to eliminate more camera shake, augmenting a highly effective Optical IS system with electronic stabilisation that detects and compensates for movement in a larger number of directions.
COMPLETE CREATIVE CONTROL Designed to provide maximum flexibility, the XA25 supports multiple recording formats. AVCHD (up to 28Mbps) and MP4 (up to 35Mbps) provide high bitrates suitable for many professional applications. Video is recorded to dual SD (*3) card slots in a range of resolutions and frame rates up to 1080/50p, with slow and fast motion options supported in MP4 mode – providing greater freedom to choose an appropriate setting according to creative requirements.
The XA25 also supports simultaneous recording of different formats to each card – giving users the ability to capture high-quality Full HD footage in the desired format, and smaller MP4 files at the same time (*4). Delivered by the power of DIGIC DV 4, the smaller files can be shared more quickly and easily for time-critical applications, such as reporting breaking news, whilst the high-quality copies are retained for later use.
PROFESSIONALLY OPTIMISED FEATURES The XA25 features the same removable handle concept launched with the popular Canon XA10 camcorder. Easily attached or removed to suit the shooting situation, the top-mounted handle houses a range of additional controls, including XLR inputs for capturing professional quality audio from external microphones. The handle also integrates an IR lamp to enhance the shooting capabilities of the XA25’s infrared mode – ideal for recording night-time documentaries or nocturnal wildlife.
The XA25 has a compact, ergonomically designed body that offers outstanding handling and control during use. A new 8.77cm (3.5”) 1.23million-dot Organic LED (OLED) touch screen panel provides greater resolution, contrast and improved colour reproduction during recording and playback. Users have full manual control over exposure: a combination of the touch screen and a customisable control dial allows for adjustment of aperture, shutter speed, iris, gain and exposure.
Zoom or focus can be adjusted via a switchable ring at the front of the camera lens. Additionally, a new zoom rocker integrated into the camera body is ideal for shooting when handheld or tripod mounted, offering the fine control and convenience typically found on larger professional cameras. An improved 1.56 million-dot 0.61cm (0.24”) electronic viewfinder (EVF) can be tilted up to approximately 45°, providing outstanding detail and comfort for effective handheld or tripod shooting.
STUDIO CONNECTIVITY AND WIRELESS SUPPORT The new XA25 camera offers an advanced selection of interfaces, with physical inputs conveniently grouped together and designed to keep connections in place during handheld use. The XA25 includes integrated HDMI, microphone, USB and headphone terminals, plus HD-SDI output – offering the high capacity, uncompressed connectivity useful for many broadcast applications.
PLEASE NOTE - the XA20 does not have HS-SDI output.
The camera also features newly integrated dual band WiFi support (2.4GHz and 5GHz), providing a range of capabilities for use during or after shooting. Camera Remote support allows wireless adjustment of settings via a web browser (*5), and Remote Browser allows users to review recorded footage from the camera in smartphone or tablet browsers – with no need for playback software.
FTP File Transfer allows users to transfer footage to FTP servers at up to 150Mbps via a wireless access point, and with Media Server, WiFi can be used to play back videos stored on a camera on supported TVs or computers, without the need for cables (*6). Direct movie uploading is also supported for iOS devices using Canon’s Movie Uploader application, allowing the upload of videos directly to YouTube or Facebook at bitrates of up to 24Mbps.
XA20/25 – KEY FEATURES
26.8mm, f/1.8-2.8 lens, 20x zoom, Dynamic OIS.
1/2.84” HD CMOS PRO sensor.
8.77cm (3.5”) OLED touch screen.
Dual-format recording; DIGIC DV 4.
HD-SDI output. (only on XA25)
1.56m dot EVF, 45° tilt.
Built-in IR lamp.
2x XLR inputs.
(*1) 35mm equivalent.
(*2) Standard, Powered and Dynamic modes.
(*3) SD, SDHC and SDXC formats supported.
(*4) Dual recording not supported in AVCHD 28Mbps or MP4 35Mbps modes.
(*5) Rec Start/Stop, aperture, shutter, focus, zoom, white balance and shooting modes supported in Camera Remote.
April 23rd 2013 sees us in St Albans at the next Photovision Roadshow. If you're attending, please feel free to pop over and say 'Hi'! We'll have a selection of camera bodies and lenses on show. More details can be found above.
Next Monday sees us jumping on a plane, heading up to Scotland. On Tuesday 26th March, we'll be at the first Photovision Show of the year, held at the Royal Highland Centre round the corner from the airport. Opening hours are 11am to 5pm with seminars starting at 10am.
For more information, click on the image above to download the PDF. Look forward to seeing you there!
Canon have just announced two new SLR's to their line-up - EOS 100D and EOS 700D.
Let's start with the EOS 100D. This becomes the world's smallest and lightest DSLR on the market. Compared to something like the old EOS 650D (now replaced by the EOS 700D), it's 25% smaller and it is nearly 30% lighter.
The EOS 100D contains a new 18mp APS-C Hybrid AF II CMOS sensor which combined with the DIGIC 5 processor is said to give excellent results. ISO range is 100-12,800 (expandable to 25,600) with Canon claiming excellent image quality.
As with the EOS 650D, the EOS 100D has built in phase-detect AF for focusing when in Live View and for Video. I have to say that it wasn't that impressive in the EOS 650D and I am hoping for better things with this new sensor - certainly it was way behind mirrorless sensor cameras such as the Fuji's.
One thing it doesn't have is Wifi which to be honest is a bit of shame. Movie wise, the camera offers 24,25 & 30p at full 1080 with 50p and 60p available at 720. It does have a mic input and we're assuming the HDMI output is not clean.
The creative filters will no doubt appeal to the target audience and include miniature and fish-eye effects.
It's fair to say that this camera is very much aimed at a new SLR user stepping up from a compact and it features good Auto modes and has a built in guide. Because it is so much smaller than a normal SLR, could you consider it as an alternative to a CSC camera? Possibly but do bear in mind that with the EF-S mount, the lenses will still be pretty big in diameter.
Next up is the EOS 700D. The EOS 650D has hardly been with us a year and along comes its successor. So the EOS 700D has the same 18mp Hybrid AF sensor as the EOS 650D along with DIGIC 5 processor which gives an ISO range from 100 to 12,800 (expandable up to 25,600).
To look at it has the same 3in Vari-angle touchscreen. But there are differences. If you stand the cameras side by side, you notice the finish of the body is different - Canon claims it is more robust and durable. The mode dial now rotates 360 degrees and the modes are embossed rather than stuck on the dial.
So what else? You can now preview filters in real time before shooting and just as backup, the camera can also record the original image (the EOS 700D can only capture the altered image).
Everything else, from what we can see, is pretty much the same which is no bad thing as, Hybrid AF notwithstanding, the EOS 650D is a very good camera.
So overall, the EOS 100D is the more significant release with its smaller body and it's a clever move on Canon's part as you might be swayed over by an SLR where you were considering a mirrorless compact. Why anyone would buy a Canon M is beyond us. One thing that is interesting is that the cheaper EOS 100D now has the newer sensor (from what we can read from Canon's release notes) so we'll be interested to see how the Hybrid AF performs and whether it is any better than in the EOS 650D.
The EOS 700D seems to be just a cosmetic update and perhaps a missed opportunity to add features such as Wifi. Quite why the new sensor wasn't put in as well is a mystery (though we do want to confirm this with Canon).
We're back with our famous Easter Offer but as this is our 10th year anniversary, we thought we would make it just that bit more special.
If you pay the normal weekend hire charge, subject to availability, we'll dispatch your goods on either Monday 25th or Tuesday 26th March. We will then pick them up on Tuesday the 2nd April. ALL FOR A WEEKEND'S HIRE CHARGE!!!
But that's not all. Those looking for a real bargain and willing to take a chance might like the next bit. As of 4pm on Tuesday 26th, any equipment still in stock can be booked to be dispatched on Wednesday 27th March for a SINGLE DAY'S HIRE CHARGE. Yes that's 4 DAYS FOR PRICE OF 1!!
We know we get heavily booked (this is our busiest weekend of the year) so if you really want something specific, we would advise booking early and we will send it out as early as we can next week.
Normal courier charges, minimum hire charges, equipment deposits and delivery conditions apply.
We have been supplying bi-colour 1x1 light panels for a while now and very popular they have been too. Back in September we got chatting to those lovely people at Bowens and hatched a plan to expand our lighting in both stills and video to include models from their range.
And here is the first on the video side - the Mosaic Daylight LED panel offering up to 4200 Lux of 5600K daylight. The light is dimmable from 0-100% controlled by an onboard digital control panel.
If you require more lighting, we can also offer a dual light mounting kit linking both together not only physically but in control using the DMX link.
If you need different temperatures, don't worry - we offer two ranges of gels for sale that you can keep going forwards.
The nice people from Octica came in to show us the Konova range of sliders (which we will be shortly stocking. They happened to have one of these skaters to show us and we were impressed by its simplicity. So we bought some! Ideal for using with a small video camera or SLR, they are a great portable solution for tracking shots.
We always knew Sigma had some more CSC lenses coming along and today at the start of the Camera and Photo Imaging Show 2013 in Japan they announced the introduction of not only three new lenses but also a new SLR lens.
Sigma 19mm f/2.8 DN
Sigma 19mm f/2.8 DN
You will recognise the focal length as Sigma already make the excellent 19mm f/2.8 EX DN lens. This lens is effectively an updated version that has been redesigned with better optical performance. The lenses have a metal exterior and you'll notice that the focus ring is smooth like the rest of the lens. By having a different texture to the surface, it is possible to distinguish between the two parts of the lens in feel.
In line with Sigma's Global Vision, it is now part of their Art range. Along with the other two lenses shown below, the 19mm f/2.8 DN incorporate a tele centric optical design and a linear auto focussing motor that is supposed to ensure accurate and quiet AF for shooting video.
The 19mm f/2.8 DN is a high performance wide-angle lens ideal for indoor photography and landscapes.
Sigma 30mm f/2.8 DN
Sigma 30mm f/2.8 DN
This again is not a new focal length but features the same updates as the 19mm f/2.8 DN. With a 45mm (35mm equiv) focal length on an E-Mount, this is perfect for portraits and street photography.
Sigma 60mm f/2.8 DN
Sigma 60mm f/2.8 DN
This is the new focal length, offering a mid-range telephoto lens with an effective focal length (35mm equiv) of 90mm on an E-Mount. Wide open this should provide excellent short depth of field shooting.
Sigma 30mm f/1.4 DC HSM
Sigma 30mm f/1.4 DC HSM
This is Sigma's update of an old favourite. The new lens features a bright f/1.4 aperture and should be worthy of the sharpness and excellent characteristics that we have now associated with the new Art line that started with the simply excellent 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM lens. Interestingly this is the first smaller focal length lens to be compatible with Sigma's USB dock, which will enable not only firmware updates but also focusing adjustments.
It's easy to assume that sensor sizes are relative to the size of a camera. Once upon a time, that tended to be the case but now things have changed somewhat. Why is it important? Very simply, the bigger the sensor, the bigger the area for those pixels which should guarantee both better low light performance and resolution.
The standard size by which all is compared to is good old 35mm, quite often now referred to as full frame. In the diagram below, you can see all of the popular sizes of digital sensors.
Next to each description are the dimensions of the sensor and the crop factor. That effectively tells you how much the picture will be cropped when using a comparable focal length for the lens. So a 50mm lens on an APS-C sensored camera would actually be 75mm (50 x 1.5). So not only are the larger sensor cameras going to give you better quality but they will also allow you to shoot wider for any given focal length. This is especially useful if you shoot indoors or landscapes.
So going up in size, we start with 1/2.3. This is predominantly the domain of compact cameras - ideal for their size but clearly with the smallest sensor, they are the most challenged and rely on technology to help as much as possible.
Next up is the 1/1.7. This is actually used by Canon's S95/100/110 compacts which are considered to be about the best portable cameras out there (and having owned one for a while, I can happily vouch for that). Fujifilm use the 2/3rds size sensor - that's what you will find in your X10 or indeed the new X20.
The next jump is to 1" sensors. These are the domain of Nikon's 1 range which are CSC's (compact system cameras with interchangeable lenses). You can still get a compact with this sized sensor and that is the incredible Sony RX100 which delivers frankly astonishing quality for its size and is a marvel of packaging - for the size (i.e pocketable) there is nothing to touch it.
And so we move on to 4/3rds. When Olympus and Panasonic launched the Micro 4/3rds mount, this sensor size's popularity rocketed and today, a very large number of CSC's are Micro 4/3rds using the 4/3rds sensor.
Canon built a brand new sensor for the G1X - it's a curious size and you have to question why they build a new sensor just for one camera (the EOS-M CSC camera has an APS-C sensor) remains an absolute mystery!
You might have thought that APS-C sensors were all the same size but you'd be wrong - Canon have a slightly smaller sensor than the competition. APS-C is a very common size these days. If you're an SLR owner, unless you have full frame or APS-H (Canon 1D), you've got an APS-C sensor. This size also appears in some CSC's such as Fuji's X-Pro 1 and E1 and of course the whole of the Sony NEX range (NEX-5r, NEX-6, NEX-7). We mustn't also forget the lovely Fuji X100 and its successor the X100s.
Fuji X-Pro 1 and E1
Next we move up to a no-longer used size - APS-H. This was used for the Canon 1D series - cameras that were very fast and predominantly used for sports photography. With the arrival of the Canon 1DX, that has now changed as it has gone full frame.
And that's where we end up - Full Frame. Canon now have an expanding range of full frame cameras (6D, 5D Mk II, 5D Mk III, 1DX) and Nikon are not far behind (D600, D800, D4). Sony have recently entered the full frame world with the A99.
You might think that full frame is the preserve of just SLR cameras but you would be wrong. Leica have been building full frame Rangefinder cameras for a while now and have had the market all to themselves with models like the M9-P. That has all changed with the arrival of the incredible Sony RX-1.
Sony DSC-RX1 - the world's first full frame compact
The Sony has redefined what is possible, fitting such an enormous sensor is such a compact body and to make things even better, they have combined with a purpose made fixed Zeiss prime lens. Cynics have shut up - very simply it is one of the best cameras out there.
So what does this mean going forwards? Well, full frame CSC's are not far away - this time next year you may well be able to buy one. Compacts will continue to push the boundaries in terms of packaging. When you couple this together with sensor technology like Fuji's X-Trans technology (this deserves a whole blog post of its own!), cameras can only continue to get better and better, pushing the boundaries of low light performance and dynamic range.