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Sony announce 4K AX100E camcorder

Posted on: 07/01/2014 11:01:00 under News » General 
Sony have announced today the new AX100E, their smallest 4K camcorder yet, recording in XAVC S format.

Anyone familiar with Sony's smaller camcorders like the NX30 and NX70 will be firmly at home with the AX100E.

Those that follow Sony's 4K history will know that they announced the AX1E (or Z100 for pro users) last year at IBC. Thing was, in all honesty it wasn't really ready to go as it could only record in XAVC (S for the AX1) - AVCHD recording is still yet to come with a firmware update and you're confined to using XQD media which is pretty expensive, certainly compared to SDHC. We were also not hugely impressed with the low light performance but then think back to the good old HD/SD debate some 9 years ago. The FX1 and Z1 were rubbish compared to the good old PD170 simply due to fact you were cramming more pixels into the same space and expecting them to be sensitive enough to overcome their smaller size. Wasn't going to happen.

So is the AX100E any different? Well it uses a new backlight 1 inch Exmor R CMOS sensor which is good news as at least it's starting off with a reasonably sized sensor. It would be interesting to find out if this is related to the one in the RX10 as we know that is already pulling all the info off the sensor and then digitally downsampling to HD (although this one is backlit). The AX100 features the new BIONX X image processing engine - it's this that's allowing that 4K processing power (once again something that the RX10 possesses). So could the RX10 be already capable of filming in 4K? Question for another day!
Back to the AX100E, size wise it's in between the NX30 and NX70 which equates to being some 75% smaller and 66% lighter than the AX1/Z100. So small enough to be reasonably compact but big enough to at least handle.

The BIONZ X processor uses area-specific noise reduction and detail reproduction processes to offer the best possible image in compromised conditions. We know Sony's good at low light performance so it will be interesting to see how this compares to the AX1 (which is disappointing).

Lens wise, there's a newly-developed Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* lens with 12x optical zoom with 11 groups & 17 elements. It features Sony's brilliant Optical SteadyShot. It's good to see Sony's included 3 ND filters built into the camera.

Handling is pretty good with a large lens ring that can be allocated to focus, zoom or exposure. You've still go the side-mounted dial that you can also the assign to things like gain.
Sony's has given the AX100E Dual Video Recording so you can record on XAVC S (at up to 4K/60Mbps or HD/50Mbps) or AVCHD formats whilst at the same time recording a lower resolution MP4 format which can then be transferred wirelessly to a tablet for either review or sharing! Connectivity is provided by WiFi and NFC so you can download to a tablet or use it to remotely view and control the camera.

Audio is handled either internally on the built in 5.1 system or there is a stereo minijack input. You do have the option of attaching balanced XLR inputs via the hotshoe. Media is either SDXC Class 10 or above or Memory Stick PRO Duo (Mk 2) or above.

Sony have mentioned that the camera can capture at a high frame rate at 720p. Still trying to get to the bottom of what that frame rate is - bear with us!

We're still not quite sure whether the camera will be Global or not as Sony's press release spec is rather confusing. As soon as we know, we'll update this.

The camera should be with us in May. Expect Sony's PSE division to come out with a Pro version using the XAVC codec which offers even higher bit rates.

Sony have released some sample footage, shown below -


New Fujinon XF 56mm f/1.2R announced

Posted on: 06/01/2014 17:59:00 under News » General 

Fuji have announced today the arrival of the new XF56mm f/1.2R lens.  This is going to really appeal to portrait photographers with a 35mm equivalent of 85mm and a very fast max aperture of f/1.2.

Like the XF23mm f/1.4R, the 56mm is constructed from metal (including the aperture and focusing rings) to give a nice quality feel.

Optically the lens features 11 elements in 8 groups to deliver excellent results.  Fuji have included their HT-EBC coating to reduce ghosting and flare whilst the seven blade rounded diaphragm ensures a creamy smooth bokeh effect that most will be buying this lens for.


Sony announce the new HXR-NX3

Posted on: 10/12/2013 17:43:00 under News » General 

So say hello to Sony's new AVCHD camcorder - the HXR-NX3.

Look familiar? Well it should as visually it's pretty similar to the good old Sony HXR-NX5. We're a great fan of the NX5 as for video journalism it's perfect - good quality and nice and easy to use. The NX3 differs in using AVCHD 2 which allows full 1080 50p recording at 28Mbps. The camera also features Slow & Quick Motion - available without any extra processing - which allows the frame rate to be set between 1fps to 50fps. The three CMOS sensors are all new at 1/2.8inch in size boasting good dynamic range and excellent low light performance.

You've got dual media slots so you can record either in simultaneous or relay modes. Interestingly enough, you can also configure different start/stop buttons for each card slot!!

The lens looks the same as the NX5 but nothing wrong with that - a 20x optical zoom. There's a larger 3.5" LCD display (up from 3.2"). There's a built in LED light - yes, it's not huge but better than nothing, putting out 200 lux at 1m.

You've got Wifi/NFC for remote control from a tablet. It is also supposed to transfer MP4 video to a smartphone via Wifi. Both of these functions are accessed through the Sony PlayMemories app - we've had varied success with different models so will be interesting to test this.

We suspect that this camera will just build on the NX5's demand as a surefooted performer than can cope with most scenarios and provide even the beginner shooter with excellent footage.

We should have the cameras in stock Jan/Feb 2014. Until then, feel free to have a look at Sony's official video, DP'd by our good friend Den Lennie. After that, have a look at the BTS video - some interesting tips for you!


Canon C300 firmware update now available

Posted on: 29/11/2013 08:17:00 under News » General 

Good news - Canon have finally now sorted the C300 firmware update. It had been made available a couple of weeks ago but there was an issue with colour balance. This has now been sorted and we will now get our models updated.

Details of the update are as follows -

EOS C300 Cinema EOS Camera & EOS C300 PL Cinema EOS Camera
1. Fixes a phenomenon where the previous Firmware Version offered incorrect colour balance.
2. Ability to move the magnification viewing area around the LCD using the MAGN Function.
3. Support for a 1440x1080/35Mbps recording mode.
4. ISO up to 80,000 has been added.
5. Added functionality to support the optional Canon GPS Receiver GP-E1.
6. A Key Lock menu setting has been added which now makes it possible to lock all operations, including the START/STOP button.
7. Using the optional Canon WFT-E6 Wireless File Transmitter, the camera's remote-control application allows two users to access the same unit via a Wi-Fi® link providing simultaneous camera operation and control and metadata input simultaneously.
8. [Lens Exchange] and [ND+/ND-] have been added as functions that can be allocated to any assignable button.
9. A new Wide DR Gamma setting provides an expanded dynamic range of 800%.
10. Flicker Reduction has been improved.

EOS C300 Cinema EOS Camera only
11. Provides Push Auto Iris and One-Shot AF operation.
12. A new AE Shift function and the selection of various light-metering modes are now available when used with some Canon Cinema lenses (EF mount) and Canon EF Lenses.
13. Ability to assign the two control dials to operate either Iris or ISO sensitivity independently.
14. Peripheral Illumination Correction Data has been added for seven (7) Canon Cinema lenses (EF mount) and fifteen (15) Canon EF Lenses.
15. A function has been added to enable continuous focus and iris setting on a subject in the middle of the screen when one of the two EF STM lenses** is attached.
**[EF-S18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM], [EF-S18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM].

Gamma information will not be shown correctly in the metadata of clips filmed on the Wide DR Gamma setting included in Firmware Version and above when using the bundled software application Canon XF Utility Ver.1.3.1 or earlier. Therefore, we recommend our customers install Canon XF Utility Ver.1.3.2. The installer for this application has already been released.


Come and see us at BVE North!

Posted on: 06/11/2013 11:57:00 under News » General 
Is it that time of the year already?!  Yup, next week we head up to Manchester for the BVE North show.  We'll be bringing along some equipment and are obviously on-hand to try and answer any questions we can!

The show runs for two days - Tuesday 12th and Wednesday 13th November from 9.30 to 18.00 on the Tuesday and 9.30 to 16.30 on the Wednesday.

You can find out more about the show by looking at the BVE North website.


Canon announces Dual Pixel AF for C100

Posted on: 06/11/2013 09:49:00 under News » General 

The Canon C100 has been a very popular camera for us.  Why?  Because it's got a great sensor, it's really portable and the image quality is superb.  You can have a lovely short depth of field shot one moment and next close the lens down, bump up the ISO and treat it like a ENG camera.  If you're worried about the AVCHD quality (which is more than good enough for most people), bolt on a Ninja (a lot of our clients do more for ease of workflow).  In fact our only real gripe with the camera is the lousy viewfinder but we can offer a Zacuto ZFinder that solves that one!

Up to now, the camera has supported One Touch AF with AF enabled lenses.  This is hugely useful when you run out of hands or time to grab a shot.  Canon did announce that the C100 would be upgraded to use the STM lenses for full time AF but today they have announced another little surprise - the addition of Dual Pixel CMOS Autofocus.  We first saw this on the EOS 70D and I'm a real fan of it.  Yes we don't need to use AF all the time but sometimes it's really useful (imagine having face tracking when filming bride and groom walking down aisle and still with a short depth of field).

One Touch AF fans will be delighted to hear that the camera's focus speed will double as well!

We'd expect Canon to announce more STM lenses going forwards as they are far quieter for this application but the AF will work with any EF/EF-S lenses.

The only big shame is not having a touchscreen for shifting focus points - this has been incredibly useful on the EOS 70D, just using your finger on the LCD to change the point.  It's a really good feature.

We'll be upgrading our C100's as soon as it becomes available and as we're buying more of them early next year, all of them will be suitably equipped.

Below is the official release from Canon -

Canon has announced a major feature upgrade for its EOS C100 digital cinema camera, with the addition of Dual Pixel CMOS Autofocus. This technology, first seen in the EOS 70D DSLR, offers continuous autofocusing with all EF and EF-S lenses1 and will be available from Q1 2014.

The EOS C100 is a large sensor video camera designed with the single shooter in mind, already offering functions such as One-shot AF, Push Auto Iris, auto white balance and built-in microphone to aid individual camerawork.

Dual Pixel CMOS AF expands shooting possibilities for lone users by providing smooth, accurate autofocus with a huge range of lenses. For cameramen requiring more precise control the responsiveness of the One-shot AF function has been greatly enhanced through a doubling of the camera's focus speed.

The upgrade, an extra-cost option, utilises the existing Super35mm sensor in the EOS C100. It will be implemented at Canon Regional Competence Centres and is expected to be available in Q1 2014.

Dual Pixel CMOS AF is a sensor-based, phase detection autofocus (AF) technology designed to provide smooth, high-performance continuous focus in movies.

It is a unique, Canon-developed technology, ideal for fast and accurate autofocus, helping filmmakers to create stunning footage which maximises the creative options offered by fast lenses and shallow depth-of-field.

First seen in the EOS 70D DSLR, this groundbreaking advance has now been adapted to fit the capabilities of the EOS C100 and optimised for video shooting, providing fast, natural focussing in a familiar visual style. Capturing a subject and retaining sharp focus, even when moving, has never been easier.

Dual Pixel CMOS AF provides continuous autofocus with any EF lens1, spanning EF and EF-S, fixed focal length, wide-angle and telephoto lenses. One-shot AF operation is supported by 104 different EF lenses. The system marks a significant advancement with greatly improved AF speeds.

With the ability to make a subject stand out with a limited depth-of-field, comes a requirement to keep control over focus if the main subject moves or the point of focus changes. Dual Pixel CMOS AF was developed so that control of focus during moviemaking is made easier and smoother.

Although Canon’s Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology was not fully developed when the EOS C100 started shipping, it was identified as an opportunity to offer users enhanced functionality and added value at a later date. Canon has since developed the supporting technology to provide the benefits of Dual Pixel CMOS AF in a large sensor camcorder.

Launched in 2012, the compact C100 features a specification designed around the needs of single operators. Its advanced imaging system utilises the widely used AVCHD codec, with a 35mm CMOS sensor capturing 8 megapixel resolution to provide 1920x1080 (Full HD) resolution video. Recording on SD cards1 at up to 24Mbps with 4:2:0 colour sampling, the C100 delivers sharp, vivid, professional-quality video. An uncompressed signal can also be output directly to external recorders via an integrated HDMI terminal, complete with embedded timecode data.

  • Continuous AF with all EF and EF-S lenses
  • Improved One Shot AF – now twice as fast and compatible with 104 EF lenses
  • AF LOCK function allows user to change the framing
  • Stable AF movement
  • Reduced focus ‘hunting’


The Nikon Df - a new classic?

Posted on: 05/11/2013 08:42:00 under News » General 

So here is Nikon’s new SLR. We’ve been teased over the last couple of weeks as to what it might be so, what is it exactly?

It takes only a millisecond to see where Nikon is aiming this camera – with a design going back to the look of classics like the F3, it’s bound to pull on the heart strings of older Nikon users that just want a decent old fashioned camera, without the frills, but with the image quality.

The top of the camera is covered with an array of knobs for shutter speed, ISO and exposure control and a very small digital display - it's old school.

The good news is that the 16.2mp sensor is taken from the D4. It’s coupled with an EXPEED 3 image sensor giving a native ISO range of 100-12,800 that can be expanded to an ISO equivalent of 50-200,800.

The new shutter unit is capable of shooting at up to 1/4000th sec. The Df is able to shoot continuously at 5.5fps.  The AF unit is taken from the D610 and is a 39-point system. That’s a shame as it’s not as good as the D800’s 51-point system.

The viewfinder is the same as in the D800 and D4 providing 100% coverage and 0.7x magnification and on the back you’ve got a decent 3.2in LCD.

Build quality is something you’d expect with the Df and magnesium alloy has been used for a fair amount of its construction – the body has the same level of dust and moisture resistance as the D800. 

Two things apart from the design show where this camera is aimed. Firstly there’s no video function at all. I do get lots of older Nikon shooters (most retired photographers) that have a go at me at shows for Nikon not having a non-video camera. So here you go – Nikon has answered your prayers – one less thing for people to complain to me about!!!

The second point is the Df’s ability to use a collapsible metering coupling lever which means you can attach non-AI older lenses. So in Manual or Aperture Priority modes, this enables full-aperture metering. Clearly manual focusing is going to be an issue and Nikon have allowed the focus point illumination to be turned off in the viewfinder. Not only that, Nikon claim to offer an improved Live View display (though quite how it can improved beyond magnifying the view shall be interesting to see). Peaking would have been nice.

So it’s small and lightweight for a D-SLR which is great news. The design will appeal to a great many people. There will be little to fault with the build quality and we already know what great IQ the D4 has so no complaints there.

BUT (and it’s a big but) I see literally thousands of photographers around the country each year and if I’d actually had a pound for every single person that has complained to me (mostly D700 users) that Nikon have ignored their plea to introduce a true successor to the D700, I’d be writing this somewhere very hot and sunny on a beach. Why oh why, if Nikon’s going to build new models out of its existing technology, can’t they just put that D4 sensor in the D800 body and charge a realistic price for it? People have ageing D700’s that need replacing!  And that's before we get to those waiting for a true D300s replacement.

Retro is cool no doubt but at least the likes of Fuji and Olympus have pushed the boundaries with new technology and produced stunning cameras in their own rights, regardless of how they look.  I can't help feeling that Nikon's too late with this (and also is somewhat ambitious with its pricing).

I wish them all the luck in the world with this camera but I can’t help but feel there will be a fair number of Nikon photographers who will be just shaking their head.

Foolishly I’d hoped that there would be significant advances here. Most bizarrely it seems that it’s down the likes of Sony and Fuji to push new barriers. Nikon still have a gaping hole in its range for their pros. Whilst Canon have possibly the best DSLR range they have ever had, let’s hope they now take the opportunity to show us something forward thinking.


Christmas Offer 2013

Posted on: 30/10/2013 16:40:00 under News » General 

Where has the year gone?!  The clocks have gone back and Christmas is only around the corner.  Last year we were told off for not posting up our Christmas offer early enough so we've hopefully done better this year!

Unlike last year, we're clearly explaining right from the start how the offer will work.  Regardless of what price you pay, we plan to deliver our Christmas hires on Wednesday 19th 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 that week.

Collection will be Thursday 2nd January 2014 for all bookings (unless you have extended your hire).  

So how does the charging work? It's simple - the later you book, the cheaper the hire will get BUT if you are after a specific camera, lens or accessory, you run the risk of it being booked out!  Rather than customers working by guesswork, these are the dates when it all changes - 

Any bookings made up to the end of Saturday 30th November - the charge will be equivalent to a one week hire.

Bookings made from Sunday 1st December until the end of Sunday 8th December - the charge will be equivalent to a weekend's hire.

Bookings made from Monday 9th December onwards - the charge will be equivalent to a day's hire charge.

Last year our warehouse was completely empty and we would expect this year to be no different.  All we would suggest is if you are after something specific and perhaps in high demand, don't leave it too long (and before you ask, all Sony a7/a7r's have already been booked!!!).

*Standard courier charges apply and insurance will charged for the full length of hire.  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.


Christmas Opening Hours

Posted on: 30/10/2013 11:27:00 under News » General 

As with last year, we are staying open late for both the Monday and Tuesday in the last run up to Christmas. Our last day of dispatch is Thursday 19th December. Please bear in mind that in the event of adverse conditions, we may have to move this earlier. If we do, we will also move our late nights earlier to give people the chance to ensure they can get their bookings through in time.

Our usual opening times are from Monday to Friday : 8.00am to 6.00pm.

Monday 16th December 2013 LATE NIGHT 8.00am to 8.00pm
Tuesday 17th December 2013 LATE NIGHT 8.00am to 8.00pm
Wednesday 18th December 2013 8.00am to 6.00pm
Thursday 19th December 2013 LAST DAY OF DISPATCH 8.00am to 6.00pm
Friday 20th December 2013 LAST DAY OF DELIVERY 8.00am to 6.00pm
Monday 23rd December 2013 8.00am to 12.00pm
Tuesday 24th December 2013 CLOSED
Wednesday 25th December 2013 CLOSED
Thursday 26th December 2013 CLOSED
Friday 27th December 2013 CLOSED
Monday 30th December 2013 CLOSED
Tuesday 31st December 2013 CLOSED
Wednesday 1st January 2014 CLOSED
Thursday 2nd January 2014 FIRST DAY OF COLLECTION 8.00am to 6.00pm
Friday 3rd January 2014 FIRST DAY OF DELIVERY 8.00am to 6.00pm


Treat someone to a Gift Voucher

Posted on: 30/10/2013 10:17:00 under News » General 

We know only too well how hard it is to sometimes think of Christmas presents.  Well we've come to rescue - give them a Hireacamera Gift Voucher.

Yes we know it's still October (just) and Christmas for a lot of us is still a while away but it's always good to be prepared!

We can offer you vouchers of any size you want (we did have some quite amusing amount requests last year).  All you need do is give us a call with your details and we'll do the rest!

Better still, if you buy the gift vouchers during November, as part of our 10th anniversary celebrations, we'll add in a small present of our own - we'll give you 5% off!  So if you purchase a £100 voucher, you'll pay only £95!


Digital Imaging Show - Exeter

Posted on: 26/10/2013 09:31:00 under News » General 

This Monday, 28th October, we're off to the Sandy Park Conference & Banqueting Centre near Exeter (it's just off the M5 by the Exeter Services) for the next Digital Imaging Show.

You'll find us there with a load of other exhibitors and there are free seminars during the day.


Sony RX10 - the one stop solution?

Posted on: 26/10/2013 07:01:00 under News » General 

It’s easy with all of the massive coverage of the new Sony a7/a7r to overlook Sony’s other release but in some ways I think the new Sony RX10 could be at least, if not more, significant.

We get lots of customers wanting a dual purpose camera that does pretty much everything and it’s not just for personal use. Businesses are no different in their needs and much like everyone else, they have a limit to their expenditure and just how much kit they want to carry.

So what if you do want something that does everything? Surely there are compromises? Of course there are. Let’s stick around the £1,500 mark for expenditure. What does that buy you?


On the camcorder side, I’d recommend the Sony NX30. I know of several very well known filmmakers that have bought these little beauties. Why? Because they are so great for simple pieces to camera. The Steadyshot lets you get away with murder, the Exmor chip punches beyond what you’d expect for its size, you’ve got XLR balanced connections and it’s even got a projector for reviewing footage (and it’s not a gimmick – I’ve used it in several hotel rooms!).

But if we had to take some serious still images with it, the honest answer is it doesn’t really cut the mustard. Yes it will shoot stills at same time as video and yes, you can shoot with a resolution as high as 24.1 megapixels. But the reality is it is a pain for trying to shoot decent stills.

So let’s look at things from a camera point of view. The best option I’ve tried recently is the Canon 70D – I took one with me to IBC recently as I needed something to record videos on new products for our internal training but I also needed a decent camera for shooting stills to then transfer up to the web for customers to see new products.

I’ll be honest, it was a superb solution and my opinion of the camera was very much transformed. I was doing solo pieces to camera on a small tripod so having a reversible screen made it easy to frame up. I left the focus on AF with face tracking and not once did it miss a beat. The stills were as you’d expect from a Canon DSLR. The great thing was being to immediately pull them over to my iPhone via WiFi for posting up on the web.

Were there any issues? The 70D is not great at shooting video in low light and like many DSLRs it does suffer from moire and aliasing so you need to just bear in mind what you’re shooting (and to an extent what you’re wearing!).

But wouldn’t it be nice if there was something that was really dual purpose – that combined the best qualities of these two cameras in one package? Well I do think that perhaps the new Sony RX10 is just that.


It looks like any other bridge camera so nothing to exciting there. But when you start to look further into it, you discover something way more exciting. The sensor is the same 1” CMOS sensor found in the RX100 with a powerful BIONZ X processor backing it up. You’d expect a reasonable zoom range on the lens and you’d be right – it’s an impressive 24-400mm (35mm equiv) focal length. What you wouldn’t be expecting is that it’s got a constant aperture of f/2.8 and is actually a Carl Zeiss T* coated lens!!! That’s hugely significant because typically with lenses of this ilk would be sporting apertures of around f4.5-5.6.

So surely with a lens like that, it’s not what you’d call small. Well, true, it’s not as compact as most mirrorless cameras but it’s comparable to one of the smaller DSLR’s with a kit lens. It’s worth mentioning now that the camera is moisture and dust resistant as well.

Looking first at the photo side of things, it really is incredibly easy to use. The Sony RX100 is one of our favourite pocket cameras as that image chipset packs a huge punch and the RX10 doesn’t disappoint. I first got my hands on one whilst sitting at the back of an auditorium watching Philip Bloom giving a presentation in what can only be described as appalling light. Yes I had to bump up the ISO but with Optical Steadyshot and that excellent lens, I was astonished with what I got away with (please read this in perspective – this is only a 1” chip so don’t go expecting full frame sensor levels of low light performance). I then took the camera outside and snapped away – what impressed me was how easy it is to use. You’ve got an iris ring on the lens barrel and the rear dial adjusts shutter speed. Turning the menu dial adjusts ISO. If you want to shoot in Priority mode, you’ve got exposure compensation right on top of the camera. Zooming in and out can either be done with the zoom ring or by the servo button by the shutter release.

The OLED Tru-Finder is great to use. You can control the amount of info you want to see in it which is nice. It’s not quite as big as the a7 one but I suspect that was to try and keep the housing size down. The LCD tilts up and down and is pretty good, even in bright light. Thing is with such a good viewfinder, I found myself rarely using the LCD anyway.


Those that dread Sony’s NEX menus (they are an acquired taste) will be delighted to hear the RX10 uses Sony’s Pro menu system. If you’re used to Canon menus, you’ll be right at home. There’s also a quick menu which gives you access to the most used options instantly. And it gets better, the button layout is hugely configurable. You can select nearly any function (I understand it’s about 40 – the list was quite long!) to one of 6 buttons. Want expanded focus or peaking? Not a problem.

So we’ve established that it shoots great stills. But it gets better as the RX10’s trick card is just about to be dealt – shooting movie.


So let’s first talk about the connections here. The camera’s got two 3.5mm jack connections – one for a stereo microphone and one for headphone monitoring. It’s also got a Micro-HDMI port that supports uncompressed clean HDMI! Finally you’ve got Sony’s hotshoe assembly that they introduced first on the a99 and VG900. This means you can attach an XLR adaptor to the camera giving you two balanced inputs.

From an operational point of view, Sony have really thought about using this camera. Turn the camera upside down and you’ll find an option to de-click the aperture!! Yup, that gives you smooth noise-free adjustment of the aperture ring during filming.

Focusing wise, you can choose to use AF or MF. The AF is pretty good and the face tracking works really well. It’s worth just mentioning at this juncture that the RX10 uses just contrast detection and doesn’t have the phase/contrast on-sensor combo of something like the Canon 70D. But because it’s a smaller sensor, the AF’s not working as hard and to be honest, I thought it was pretty quick (just not as quick as the a7 I’d just put down which is FAST). Manual control is okay – just bear in mind that there is no direct connection between the control ring and the lens. You’ve got adjustable peaking and expanded focus to help you out (and they work during recording as well).

One addition I wasn’t expecting was the ND filter option. You can either assign it to a customized button or it’s one click away in the Function menu. Both Kanta from Sony’s Pro Team and I were trying to figure out how this worked. I can only assume it electronically reduces the sensitivity of the sensor as we couldn’t see any physical action switching between it. However it does it, it really does work. We were testing on an unusually bright day outside the bright white building at Pinewood Studios and having just put down an a7 that was screaming out for a variable ND to put on the front, the RX10 really showed off its ‘solution in a box’ credentials.

So all good but it doesn’t stop there as there is something very significant that I didn’t actually realize until Kanta explained to me. Very simply, the camera doesn’t skip lines when processing the video off the sensor. It actually uses the entire pixel array for each frame (up to 60 times a second) and then sub samples the raw image data digitally to produce the final HD 1920x1080 video. So in theory there should be a massive reduction in moiré compared to normal large sensor still cameras. As far as I know, this is the first camera to do this.  It's not a case of manufacturers not knowing how to do it, merely a case of processors not having been quick enough before to cope.  The camera was only a prototype so I have to take the footage as only being an indication of what it will be in the full production camera but I thought it was hugely impressive.

Frame rates, it supports 24/25/30/50/60p rates recording on AVCHD up to 28mbps to SD cards.

Whilst some may see it as a gimmick, I love the Wifi/NFC connectivity. Using Sony's PlayMemories App, you can not only transfer photos to your camera for sharing but you can also remotely control the camera (start/stop & zoom) and use your phone as a monitor - useful for one man shooting and framing.

So where’s the catch? Well clearly the sensor isn’t going to be as good in low light as larger sensor cameras – that much was clear when we compared the a7 to the RX10 when shooting Phil at the back of the auditorium – there was a significant difference. The XLR connection can be a bit of a pain – you need to use a bracket. If you use Sony’s, it stops you tilting the LCD. It’s all small things but at least we CAN put XLR connections on the camera. There’s still nothing stopping you just putting a Rode mic on top anyway!  Whilst we're on the subject of sound, I do need to point out that you've got audio monitoring on the camera and you can adjust the audio even whilst you're recording!

I’m not a huge fan of fly-by-wire manual focusing but I accept that you have to draw the line somewhere in such a complete solution. We also found that the servo zoom significantly slows down when recording – I assume that’s to keep it quiet.

Lastly you’re stuck with that lens which might be a bit restrictive for real shooters. Fine, use a D-SLR then. For me, having a built in f/2.8 with a 24-400mm equiv lens, makes this camera so unique. Okay, I accept that it’s effectively an equivalent aperture of about f/7.6 but it let’s in a damn site more light than anything else out there.

So who’s going to use this? I can see huge potential for this camera. Our corporate clients will absolutely love it as they’ve got a one stop solution that’s incredibly easy to use and cost effective with it. I suspect our stock will be well travelled – we support a huge number of charity trips to the far corners of the earth where dual purpose equipment is favourable.

The great news for everyone is that Sony has really pushed things on and I know they are not stopping there – there are plenty more ideas!

We should have the cameras end of November with a full range of accessories to support them.


A play with the new Sony a7 and a7r

Posted on: 25/10/2013 00:19:00 under News » General 

The strangest thing happened to me today – I came away genuinely excited from playing with some new Sony products. I am one of their greatest fans but I am also one of their harshest critics (as certain members of both the Professional and Consumer teams will happily testify to!).

So often in the past I’ve eagerly awaited a new model’s arrival only to be hugely disappointed after getting my hands on it. The Sony a99 was supposed to be one of those cameras yet despite it still being a very impressive stills camera (we have one at home and are very happy with it), for something pertaining to be biased towards movie making, it was a disappointment. Yes it had some great features never before seen on an SLR sized camera BUT it omitted some essentials that should have been there and would have completed it.  Once again, it was a case of ‘if only’.

If I am truthful, I could sense the frustration because the fact was, Sony had the knowledge to produce something far better – the question remained as to when, if ever, we were going to see it.

One thing that was going to cause issues - however great an Alpha camera became, it still had an Alpha mount. The simple fact is not many a shooter has Alpha/Minolta lenses or at least if they do, they are in a small minority. This was where Sony’s E-Mount really made huge sense and when the Sony VG900 was finally launched, that had confirmed what we all needed to know – the E-Mount could contain a full frame 35mm sensor. That same E-Mount with adaptors could take nearly any lens mount.

From then onwards, it was just to be a waiting game – how long before Sony would come out with something and more importantly, would it be any good or just another frustratingly lost opportunity?

By the time most people had woken up to the news of the Sony a7/a7r, I’d already committed to buying them. Once again, I’d decided to part with some quite serious money completely blind (I’d also ordered a suitable stock of lenses and accessories as well) and so I had more than just a vested interest in getting my hands on them!

Today I did just that and I’ll cut to the chase, I have no wish to cancel my order at all. We’ve all now read reviews, watched Youtube videos and already feel we know the cameras without even seeing them in the flesh. But still there’s nothing like actually getting your hands on something!  This wasn't so much a technical test - more like getting a feel for the camera and giving some feedback to Sony.

So what’s so good? Well if you’re a movie shooter, you’re going to be happy to hear that for the first time ever, all the functions operate independently of each other. That means if you want to shoot manually but still have push to touch AF, you can – no longer is it a case of either fully auto or fully manual. The custom keys are infinitely configurable and allow you to add things like peaking (in a range of colours and intensity), zebra and expanded focus (that also works whilst you’re recording). You can configure the LCD screen to what you want to display but now it includes a histogram in video mode along with real time audio monitoring (and again, you can adjust whilst recording). I should mention that you can also attach balanced XLR inputs via the hotshoe.

So what’s it like to handle? Well, first let’s get the bad news over and done with. The start-stop button is not really well sited. You need a third joint in your right thumb to really press it without causing some shake – it’s a shame but I did find myself getting more used to it. The customizable buttons work well and I found pretty quickly I could use them by touch with my eye up against the OLED viewfinder.  Ideally I'd have liked a bigger eyecup but it's workable.  Ah yes, that viewfinder - it works very nicely indeed. Sony produces some of the very best OLED screens and this one is no exception - everything you see on the LCD is replicated in the viewfinder, great for days like today when it was just too bright to see the screen at times.

Those who despise the NEX menu system will be delighted to find the Alpha pro system. Everything’s pretty explanatory and there’s a function button to take you quickly to the most used functions.  Because you can use this and the custom keys, it's rare you have to enter the menu.

I used the a7r first with the Zeiss 50mm prime. I’ll be honest, for manually focusing it’s not great – as the focus ring is not directly connected, it can be a little hit and miss pulling focus. I doubt this will be a huge concern for most movie shooters as they won’t be using these lenses anyway – they’re more than likely to use existing glass with adaptors. (One quick note – if you’ve already got an EF Metabones adaptor, unless it’s a newer Mk3 version, you’ll have problems with vignetting - IS works fine though.) You have got AF there if you want it. On the a7r, it’s acceptable – I wouldn’t call it dramatically fast but it’s not that bad at all - comparable with the Canon 70D.   Like that camera the a7/r come with face tracking which worked well on video.

So the question on everyone’s mind – what was the footage quality like? Well I only had the cameras for a brief play and whilst I was allowed to keep the footage, it’s still a pre-production camera. However, considering the pixel count and lack of low-pass filter, I was pleasantly surprised. Yes, it did have slight issues with some fabric shots but then that’s to be expected, surely? We expected the a7 to be better (more of which in a bit).

Codec wise, it’s a global camera so you’ve got AVCHD 24/25/30/50/60p all recording onto SD card. It’s also got a clean HDMI output (although it is micro-HDMI which is a bit fiddly – we’re going to have to find a fixing solution before customers break them!).  You also got separate jack connections for mic and headphones.

Onto stills with the a7r and just wow! Comparisons have been made with the Nikon D800 and judging by what I’ve got on my Mac, that’s not completely unfair. Whilst I have access to RAW files, only Sony’s Digital Image Converter will handle them which is a shame as it’s not the greatest bit of software. Colours were nicely represented and the detail is definitely there in the shadows and highlights – it’s just such a pain to do anything in DIC.  Hopefully Adobe will have support for it soon enough. 

Focusing on stills with the a7r (excuse the pun), you haven’t got the phase detection you have with the a7 and it is slower but it’s not THAT slow. Also it doesn’t have that contrast detection tendency to hunt – it just goes straight to the point of focus.

If I were being picky, I would say the shutter mechanism is just a weeny bit too loud – did it really need to be like that? Wedding photographers will find it a pain – certainly people will be aware of you taking shots where and when you shouldn’t!

Low light tests were really brief due to time available so I’m not going to comment except to say that some indoor shots we did with the a7r came out better than I expected when compared to the RX1 and I am sure that the production version will improve on that further as they refine the noise levels.

Onto the a7. Stills wise, first thing you notice is the speed of focus – it’s really quite quick. SLR quick? Well I wouldn’t like to say but it’s pretty good and I'd say as fast as a low end full frame DSLR like a D600.   I don’t think a 1DX is really going to start sweating yet but it’s way better than I thought it was going to be (rather used to my laborious focusing speeds on my RX1!), especially considering the size of the sensor. Stills image quality is actually very comparable to the RX1, which is not really much of a surprise as it uses the same sensor (although updated and using different algorithms).

So onto video. Well it's a bizarre one.  On the footage I had, the fabric shot was fine but the chairs didn't hold up as well as the a7r.  But surely it's better?  [EDIT I managed to get my hands on another couple of cameras and a7r seems better - surely this must be a pre-production firmware issue??]  I hope that they have fixed it and we’ll find out soon enough. Looking at the footage, it does seem a tiny bit soft but again I didn’t have time to play around with the profiles other than to leave them flat. [EDIT - okay I know why it was soft - that lens was not focusing on AF sharply].  Both of them show slight aliasing which is a shame and amazingly it's the a7 that's the worst - once again the 5D MkIII beats them.

So what have I learnt about the a7/a7r today? Even my brief play with them has made me smile. All of the operational issues have been resolved – Sony has really listened and come up with the goods. Stills image quality is definitely up there with the best but then as someone that uses an RX1 on a regular basis, I never expected anything else. I can’t wait to get my Summicron’s on the a7r.  When Fuji replace their X-Pro 1, it's going to need to be very special indeed.

Lens wise, there are two primes and two zooms worth considering at launch but Sony will build on this and we know that Zeiss will be bringing out their own offerings in addition to those produced by Sony with their name (full frame Touit anyone?).  As we've said, you're not just limited to E Mount unless you want AF  (interestingly we quickly tested an EF lens fitted with a Metabones Mk III adaptor - AF does work but it's quite a lot slower).

The big question is over the quality of the movie footage and on first look, it’s certainly an improvement. Is it good enough?  I do really hope it is. I’ll leave someone far better qualified than me to make that call once they’ve used them extensively (I’m sure you can guess who that might be). Today wasn’t a technical challenge – it was getting a feeling for the cameras.  The honest truth is that even if the movie footage isn't groundbreaking, as stills cameras both the a7 and a7r are very impressive indeed and we shouldn't forget that these are primarily stills cameras.  It would just be nice to have the icing on the cake!!

I have to say I think both models are reasonably priced. It’s great for us as we can pass that onto our hire customers and we’ll be shortly getting them up on our website. We should have them in stock for the end of November but considering the number of enquiries we have already had, it may be 2014 before most get their hands on one to play with!

One quick note – if you are thinking of buying one, please do consider buying a battery grip. Even on my brief play, I got through battery power pretty rapidly!!

I haven’t mentioned the RX10 here. I’ll do a separate post on that as if anything, that was the real surprise of the day and needs explaining further.


Canon announce EOS-1D X firmware update

Posted on: 23/10/2013 11:51:00 under News » General 

We love the Canon EOS-1D X.  Sure, it's overkill for most people and the Canon 5D Mk III will do a pretty fine job for most applications but you have to be impressed with the 1D X.  It's ability to deal with rapid fire applications is astonishing.

Interestingly Canon have released details of an upcoming firmware upgrade saying that 'the features provided by firmware Ver 2.0 are designed for more efficient automation that takes the task of changing settings from the 'heat of the moment' and enables photographers to concentrate on creativity and more efficient operation.'

Full details from Canon are shown below - 

EOS-1D X Firmware Version 2.0

Firmware Version 2.0 incorporates the following key functional enhancements:

Improvement of AF accuracy in low light with AI Servo
The new firmware further refines the AF sequence in order to improve autofocus performance in low light. The AI Servo focusing algorithm has been improved to allow more time for light sampling during AF activation prior to shutter release, enhancing AF performance in low-light situations. This is due to the initial AF control being based on the new “+2 focus priority” setting in AI Servo 2nd Image Priority, which has better measurement capabilities under low-light conditions. Upon full depression of the shutter button, settings from AI Servo 1st Image Priority take over and then settings from AI Servo 2nd Image Priority are applied on any subsequent images in the burst. This increases AF performance in low light while ensuring the probability that the first image in a burst sequence will be as sharp as possible.

Expanded AF parameters
To improve tracking performance, additional parameters for acceleration/deceleration tracking in AI Servo AF have been added to provide photographers with more precise control when photographing rapidly moving subjects that may quickly or suddenly accelerate or decelerate. In response to feedback from professional photographers, two new settings have been added to handle slower changes in speed compared to the previous firmware. Currently, the AF parameters are -1 / 0 / +1. The new firmware enables the parameters to be increased to -2 / -1 / 0 / +1 / +2. This is a feature that sports photographers in particular will find useful, when shooting over a long distance or where obstacles such as football players cut across in front of the main subject during tracking.

Improvement in exposure control
A new feature that utilizes the EOS-1D X’s wide ISO range. The new firmware enables greater exposure control when using Auto ISO. Photographers can set aperture and shutter speeds as desired and still achieve the correct exposure when the light conditions change whilst retaining creative control. In response to user feedback, Canon has increase the minimum shutter speed option of Auto ISO to enables photographers to freeze moving subjects by now being able to select a minimum shutter speed as high as 1/8000th of a second. Exposure Compensation can now be used with Auto ISO in manual exposure to adjust the exposure for challenging lighting conditions (e.g. a very dark or very bright background). This new function can be activated through the Quick Control Dial or by using the Main Dial while pressing the SET button.

Increased customisable options
Faster control is the goal of firmware Version 2.0 by increasing the number of customisable features. It is now possible to assign the ‘One Shot/AI Servo’ setting to M.Fn2 button, for example. This new customisation enables a combination of selectable settings to be assigned to the AE Lock and AF-ON buttons via Custom Controls include: Currently selected AF point vs. pre-registered AF point, AI Servo AF configuration sets (Case 1 through Case 6), One-Shot AF vs. AI Servo AF and Currently selected drive mode vs. 14fps Super High Speed drive mode. With these new options, photographers can reconfigure their EOS-1D X camera on the fly, while keeping their eye on the viewfinder to maintain concentration. For example, the camera could be set up for One-Shot AF and single shot drive mode on the shutter button, AI Servo AF in Case 1 with high-speed continuous drive mode on the AE Lock button, and AI Servo AF in Case 4 with super-high-speed 14fps continuous drive mode on the AF-ON button.

EOS-1D X Firmware Version 2.0 is available to download from January 2014. Firmware Version 2.0 is for cameras with firmware version 1.2.4 or earlier.


Come and see us at Brands Hatch

Posted on: 18/10/2013 10:12:00 under News » General 

Another week and another show!  This time it doesn't involve a huge trip as it's just up the road at Brands Hatch Race Circuit in Kent.  We'll be there with some sample kit and would love to see you for a chat!  Registration's free - click on the image above to go to the Photovision website.


New Sony RX10 premium bridge camera

Posted on: 16/10/2013 10:48:00 under News » General 
It's no secret that I'm huge fans of both the Sony RX100 and RX1.  The RX100 is everything you'd want a compact to be with its excellent 1in sensor.  I know of many pro photographers that have one in their arsenal for pleasure and also as backup.  The RX1 produces just stunning results and is the first Sony camera for a while that our regular customers haven't wanted to hand back!

Sony have decided to expand the RX range further with the introduction of the RX10 premium bridge camera.  Bridge cameras have always had a bit of bad image for real enthusiasts as they have always been a bit of a compromise with a mediocre long zoom lens and small sensor - the upshot being that unless the light was great, the performance was less than ideal.

The RX10 is somewhat different.  First off, it's got the same 1" 20.2 megapixel sensor as the RX100.  That's a great place to start as I've used the RX100 in plenty of low light situations and it never ceases to please.  Next off is the lens - it's quite special.  Sony have fitted a Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* 24-200mm (35mm equiv) zoom lens with a constant maximum aperture of f/2.8!!  Better still it also incorporates Optical Steadyshot.  So finally we really do have an great option for those wanting an all-round performer without the need to carry numerous lenses (I can see this being very popular on safari).

AF is said to be speedy and responsive, thanks to a new Direct Drive SSM mechanism.  Lock-on AF accurately tracks moving subjects, even it is disappears momentarily behind something in the foreground and then reappears.  There's a choice of three selectable sizes for the spot AF frame.  This can cut the risk of accidental focus errors with very small subjects (you do have a macro option available).

To view your subjects, Sony have incorporated a new high-contrast OLED Tru-Finder offering a wide (33 degrees) viewing angle.  The 3" White Magic LCD tilts up and down allowing you to hold the camera high or low.

The RX10 features on-board WiFi and NFC connections, allowing easy transfer of footage or remote control from your smartphone or tablet.

Finally let's cover the movie side of things.  Footage can be shot in 25p/50p in AVCHD with full control in manual mode.  Sony offer a clean HDMI out feed allowing footage to be recorded on an external recorder like the Atomos Ninja 2.  We have still to find out whether Sony have finally included an expanded focus in movie mode or a histogram.  As soon as we get our hands on one, we'll let you know!  There are jack connections for audio and headphones and you'll be pleased to see you've got an audio level meter and adjustable levels.  Additionally you can add the XLR-K1M adapter kit to give you pro-quality sound recording with two balanced XLR connections.

The camera is due around early December.


New full frame E Mount lenses announced

Posted on: 16/10/2013 08:43:00 under News » General 
Now we've had the new Sony a7/a7r Full Frame Mirrorless camera announced, it seems fair to expect some new lenses to use with them!  Well, this morning 5 new lenses were announced, 3 from Zeiss and 2 from Sony.

Vario-Tessar T* FE 24-70mm F4 ZA OSS
So this is quite exciting as this is Zeiss' ever full frame E-mount zoom lens.  The 24-70mm focal range has to be one of the most popular with 35mm shooters as it lends itself ideal for everyday shooting whether it's portraits or landscapes you're after.  The lens features Optical Steadyshot giving you assistance at slow shutter speeds.  

The lens design features five aspherical elements with one ED glass element.  The T* coating cuts glare and internal reflections to boost contrast.

Finally the lens is resistant to dust and moisture.

Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA
So to the first of the primes, this is an obvious choice for portraiture and low-light shooting, offering a bright f/1.8 maximum aperture. This also should produce a lovely bokeh.

The lens contains a 9 blade circular aperture and like the other full frame lenses, is dust and moisture resistant.  The T* surface coating is used to ensure glare and internal reflections are cut to a minimum.

Sonnar T* FE 35mm F2.8 ZA
The second of the Zeiss primes offers the popular focal length of 35mm.  As this was designed primarily for street photographers, it was made small and light (weighing only 120g).  As with the other full frame E-mount lenses, it features the T* coating to cut down on glare and is dust and moisture resistant.

FE 28-70mm F3.5-5.6 OSS
This is expected to be the 'kit' lens offered with the a7 if you don't buy it body only.  The good news is that it features Optical SteadyShot.  You might need it as the maximum aperture ranges from f/3.5 to 5.6.  Again it's dust and moisture resistant.  Unlike the other lenses, we have no plans to stock this lens for hire as we suspect that everyone will want the Zeiss 24-70mm in preference!

FE 70-200mm F4 G OSS
This is a really interesting lens as this is the first really premium mirrorless telephoto zoom.  The lens has been designed to be used with the Sony a7/a7r for sports and wildlife applications and offers a maximum f/4 aperture throughout the focal range.  You've also got Optical Steadyshot to help you out as well.

The optical design features Advanced Aspherical elements, Super ED and ED glass elements and Sony's Nano AR Coating is designed to reduce flare and ghosting.

Design wise, it looks like someone's shrunk a full size 70-200mm as it features barrel-mounted buttons for focus hold, focus range and panning modes.  And of course it has monopod mounting as well.

All of these lenses will be appearing around early December and we'll look to stocking them as soon as we can (with the exception of the 28-70mm).


Sony announce full frame mirrorless cameras - a7/a7r

Posted on: 16/10/2013 07:32:00 under News » General 

So we knew this was coming - it was just a question of when. Sony showed that the full frame sensor could fit in the E Mount when they launched the Sony VG900E. The question thereafter was just how long before they come out with a full frame mirrorless camera.

Well the wait is over as they have announced this morning the Sony a7 and Sony a7r. Both cameras feature a full frame 35mm sensor - the a7 has an updated version of the 24.3 megapixel sensor that's found in the Sony a99 SLR camera, the a7r features a 36.4 megapixel sensor with no optical low-pass filter.

Both cameras are E Mount so have an endless range of possibilities in terms of lenses. It's worth noting that any current Sony, Sigma or Zeiss E Mount lenses will NOT work at full 35mm on these cameras - they would automatically crop the sensor. Thankfully Zeiss have brought out three new lenses that we'll cover in the next blog post along with two new offerings from Sony. If you're a Canon lens owner, Metabones have already launched a Mk 3 version of their adapter which accommodates the full frame sensor without vignetting.

The bodies themselves are well finished. The top housing and internal structure are constructed of magnesium alloy (the a7r also has a mag alloy front structure). Importantly the cameras are dust and moisture resistant.

Both cameras feature a new BIONZ X processor that delivers faster processing speed and most importantly excellent low light performance. Natively both cameras support from ISO 100 to 25,600 (expandable down to 50).

Focusing was always an issue with the Sony RX1 (a camera we still love to pieces) so what have Sony done to improve the a7? The a7 has an enhanced Fast Hybrid autofocus system combining phase detection AF with accurate contrast detection AF. Sony claim it achieves among the fast autofocusing performance of any full frame camera. To quote them - 'Even when capturing a subject partially turned away from the camera with a shallow depth of field, the face will be sharply focused thanks to extremely accurate eye-detection (eye AF) that can prioritise a single pupil. First, the phase-detection AF with 117 densely placed phase-detection AF points swiftly and efficiently move the lens to bring the subject into focus. Then contrast-detection AF (25 points) fine tunes the focussing in the blink of an eye.'  It's worth noting that the a7r uses only the contrast detection so focusing will be slightly slower.

Sony have always been pretty good with viewfinders and the a7/r features the same OLED EVF found in the a99 (albeit with 5 levels of brightness adjustment rather than 3). They also feature Sony's excellent tilting screen design.

We're delighted to see that Sony have incorporated both WiFi and NFC on the a7 range. We just hope that it's implemented better than with the Sony NEX-6 which is a little fiddly.

Movie wise, we all hold our breath so see just how the cameras will perform. It's still early days but we do know that the cameras are PAL/NTSC compatible so expect 25p/30/50p/60p. There's no mention of 24p so far on the press release but I understand from Sony that it does feature it. All will be recording on AVCHD2. Good to see is a clean HDMI feed and audio level controls. You'll also find both headphone and mic sockets on the side of the camera.  As with the Sony a99, you'll be able to connect the Sony XLR-K1M XLR adapter kit which will give you two balanced channels.

Both cameras are supported with new accessories, the first of which is the VG-C1EM battery grip that extends shooting time by using two FW50 batteries.

We've already put our pre-order in and expect to see the cameras probably early December. In the meantime, feel free to have a look at the launch video.


Sigma announce new SIGMA 24-105mm F4 DG OS HSM lens

Posted on: 16/10/2013 05:58:00 under News » General 

One of my favourite lenses is the Canon 24-105mm f/4 IS L simply because it’s a great all rounder.  Okay so the zoom control at its widest is a little fiddly but it covers a lot of scenarios and having the IS for shooting movies is a Godsend.  I had someone who had moved camp to Nikon ask me the other day why oh why don’t Nikon make anything similar.  

Well at present they don’t but his prayers are about to be answered. Sigma have announced this morning their new 24-105mm F4 DG OS OSM, the next launch in the Art section of the Global Vision range.  You would need to have been on a different planet over the last year not to have heard just how good their new lenses have become so it is with great anticipation we receive news of this new lens. 

No word quite yet on when we’ll be seeing them but our order’s already in! Below is Sigma's official release about the lens.


SIGMA 24-105mm F4 DG OS HSM
Digital SLR cameras have been evolving rapidly, and more and more photographers have been seeking a lens that can bring out the potential of a high-resolution sensor. There are occasions when photographers select zoom lenses as they offer more convenience than a fixed focal length lens, yet they do not want to compromise on image quality. SIGMA has long tackled this task to provide excellent quality images for such occasions. We are proud that SIGMA 24-105mm F4 DG OS HSM meets these requirements and is the standard zoom lens from our "Art" line, offering stable and fine image quality from wide to mid-telephoto range. It has a combination of fixed aperture and a good zoom ratio that we kept as high as possible. Many simulations were carried out before achieving this goal, and made the specification compatible with 35mm full size image sensors. Moreover, it was designed to surpass the quality inspection of the original MTF measuring system, A1, so it has succeeded in creating superior image quality for the new standard of high-spec cameras.

* Angle of view differs on cameras to which the lens is attached.          
Corresponding AF Mounts: Sigma, Sony, Nikon, Canon
Accessories: Case and Petal Hood (LH876-02) supplied.
* The Appearance and specifications are subject to change without notice.

Our Art line delivers high-level artistic quality
Sigma is organizing all its interchangeable lenses into three product lines; Contemporary, Art and Sports. Designed with a focus on sophisticated optical performance and abundant expressive power, our Art line delivers high-level artistic expression. Developed with the maximum emphasis on artistic touch, they are designed to meet the expectations of users who value a creative, dramatic outcome above compactness and multifunction. Along with landscapes, portraits, still-life, close-up and casual snaps, they are perfect for the kind of photography that unleashes the inner artist. Ideal for studio photography, they offer just as much expressive scope when capturing architecture, starry skies, underwater shots and many other scenes. 

Covering the standard shooting range of 35mm full size image sensor
The convenience of a zoom lens enables photographers to capture various subjects without the need to change lenses. The SIGMA 24-105mm F4 DG OS HSM is the perfect lens in this respect as it covers the basic shooting range from wide to mid-telephoto. Moreover, its constant aperture of F4, OS (Optical Stabilizer) and HSM (Hyper Sonic Motor) enhances the lens’ usability. It is ideal for portraits, landscapes and general photography. 

Superior image quality
This is a lens that represents the concept of our “Art” line, and it meets the highest standard of our quality test. For those standard lenses with a high zoom ratio, they tend to show astigmatic aberration, field curvature, distortions and color aberration. In order to compensate for these, various types of high-performance lenses, such as FLD, SLD and glass-molded aspheric lenses including double-sided aspheric lens, have been included into the optical system. In addition, it suppresses chromatic aberration very effectively at telephoto-end, and achieves superior image quality throughout the zoom range. This lens overcomes low peripheral brightness that is common for those lenses with similar specifications. Also, the wide filter size 82mm is contributing for superior optical performance. 

Optical Stabilizer
This lens incorporates an OS system which offers superior stabilization, making it possible to compensate for camera shake even in macro range photography where a small blur can be easily identified.  

Convenient handling
The lens' wide zoom ring ensures convenient handling. Putting the zoom ring in front allows the lens barrel to be more compact. The inner focusing system eliminates front lens rotation, enhancing the lens' stability and allowing useof Circular Polarizing filters. 

Designed to minimize flare and ghosting
Flare and ghosting were thoroughly measured and monitored from an early stage in the lenses development to establish an optical design which is resistant to strong incidental light such as backlight. The Super Multi-Layer Coating reduces flare and ghosting and provides sharp and high contrast images even in backlit conditions. 

Minimum focusing distance of 45cm
With a minimum focusing distance of 45cm and a maximum magnification ratio of 1:4.6, this lens is excellent for close-up photography. 

Hyper Sonic Motor
The HSM (Hyper Sonic Motor) ensures a silent, high-speed AF function. Optimizing AF algorithm, smoother AF is achieved. It also enables full-time manual focusing capability which allows sensible focus adjustment by simply rotating the focus ring. 

Incorporating Rounded diaphragm
The 9 blade rounded diaphragm creates an attractive round bokeh at large-aperture settings. 

Design concept
The new product lines incorporate rubber for the attachment part of the provided lens hood. For better usability, the designs of the lens cap and AF/MF changeover switch have been improved. In order to ensure high accuracy of the product, all metallic parts and the new compound material, TSC (Thermally Stable Composite), which has a high affinity to metal parts, are housed internally. On the zoom ring, the last three digits of its release year are engraved so the lens can be identified according to the year of its launch.    

Brass made bayonet mount
This lens incorporates a brass made bayonet mount which has both high accuracy and durability. A special treatment to reinforce its strength is applied to the surface giving it greater strength and making it highly resistant to long-term use. 

Newly developed “USB DOCK” exclusively for new product lines
Attaching the lens to an optional USB DOCK plugged to your computer and using dedicated software “SIGMA Optimization Pro”, you can update the lens firmware and adjust parameters such as focus. 

Evaluation with Sigma’s own MTF measuring system “A1”
We used to measure lens performance with MTF measuring system using conventional sensors. However, we've now developed our own proprietary MTF (modulation transfer function) measuring system, called A1, using 46-megapixel Foveon direct image sensors. Even previously undetectable high-frequency details are now within the scope of our quality control inspections. The SIGMA 24-105mm F4 DG OS HSM will all be checked using this “A1” before they are shipped. 

“Made in Japan”
All Sigma’s manufacturing processes- right down to molds and parts, with a few exceptions, are carried out under a single integrated production system entirely in Japan. We like to think our products are somehow imbued with the essence of our homeland, blessed as it is with clean air and water, and focused, hard-working people. We pride ourselves on the authentic quality of Sigma products, born of a marriage between highly attuned expertise and intelligent, advanced technology. Our sophisticated products have satisfied professionals and lovers of photography all over the world, because our manufacturing is based on genuine craftsmanship, underpinned by the passion and pride of our experts. 

Specification (For Sigma mount)
Lens Construction: 19 elements in 14 groups | Minimum aperture: F22 | Filter size: ø82mm | Angle of view (35mm format) : 84.1°-23.3° | Minimum focusing distance: 45cm/17.7in. | Dimensions (Diameter x Length): ø88.6mm x 109.4mm/3.5in. x 4.3in. | Number of diaphragm blades: 9 (Rounded diaphragm) | Maximum magnification ratio: 1:4.6 | Weight: 885g/31.2oz


Nikon D610 announced

Posted on: 09/10/2013 09:20:00 under News » General 

So say hello to the new Nikon D610!  Look familiar?  Well that's because it is very closely related to the current Nikon D600.  Ah yes, the Nikon D600 - the camera that Nikon still emphatically refuse to acknowledge that there's a problem with them collecting oil and dust on the sensor.  Honestly for us, it's not a huge problem, merely an inconvenience, as we always check and clean sensors in between hires and so far no customers have complained (usually because they haven't shot enough to witness the issues in extreme).  But we know the issue exists as the frequency of cleaning is way way higher than any other SLR we stock.  So it's frustrating that Nikon still doesn't acknowledge there is an issue and it was with a chuckle that we saw the launch of the Nikon D610 - the major change over the D600 being..... yes, you guessed it.....  a newly designed shutter mechanism!  Clearly there's no confirmation yet as to whether that has solved the problem (although we suspect that Nikon will have made damn sure it has).

So let's leave the D600 issues behind and look at the new camera.  It can now shoot at 6fps up from 5.5fps on the D600.  Not a huge gain and you're probably not going to really notice the difference.  What could be more useful is the quiet continuous mode which shoots at 3fps and it a lot quieter than normal shooting mode (although it's still going to be a lot noisier than using a CSC camera).  Lastly the white balance system has been updated to give more realistic skin tones and produce more accurate colour balance.

So are we going to be stocking the D610?  I'm afraid not - there just isn't enough improvement to really justify the purchase and in reality, the D600 is nowhere near as popular for hire as its bigger brother, the D800.

To be honest, that's a shame as the D600 is really a cracking camera offering exceptional image quality.  It shoots well at higher ISO's and the dynamic range and information in the RAW files is mighty impressive.  It also has a solid feel with a weather sealed magnesium body.  My only real gripe with the D600 is for video.  Why push a camera as having extensive video options yet you can't adjust the aperture in Live View??  Crazy.

So don't consider a D600 for video (unless you like to leave everything on Auto). But please do consider it as a good value full frame Nikon camera as it really is that good.  If you want to buy one, now is a good time - just make sure you know how to clean a sensor as you WILL need to do it - not every day, probably not every week - but you will need to do it more than with other cameras.

We'll keep hiring out the D600 and indeed have slightly dropped the price to make it just that bit more tempting.  

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