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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
of view differs on cameras to which the lens is attached.
Corresponding AF Mounts: Sigma,
Sony, Nikon, Canon
and Petal Hood (LH876-02) supplied.
* The Appearance
and specifications are subject to change without notice.
Our Art line delivers high-level artistic
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
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.
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.
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
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
focusing distance of 45cm
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) 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
The 9 blade
rounded diaphragm creates an attractive round bokeh at large-aperture settings.
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
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
Newly developed “USB DOCK” exclusively for
new product lines
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
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)
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 |
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.
So we knew this was coming as I saw the prototype version of this back at Photokina last year and have since then seen sample images shot on one. To say they are quite incredible just does not do this lens justice. It's big, heavy and expensive but Zeiss wanted to produce the ultimate lens without compromise so that's what it had to be!
Sensors in SLRs have been getting higher and higher in resolution and this puts enormous demands on the performance of the lens. We've had a few people complain to us about images taken on the Nikon D800 only to find it was actually their lenses at fault, not the camera!
The idea with the Otus range is to produce lenses without chromatic aberrations and ensure perfect image quality, even with the lens wide open (which is quite often where others fall short). The lens is based on a floating elements design with 12 lens elements in 10 groups. This includes a lens with an aspheric optical surface and six lenses made of special glass with anomalous partial dispersion. The unique variable lens arrangement within the lens ensures excellent imaging performance over the entire focusing range – from 0.5 meters to infinity. Colour fringing and distortions are not visible.
On the subject of physical build, the lens is as you would expect for something of this level. The focus operation is smooth with a large angle of rotation to allow the finest adjustment. You'll notice yellow labels (just like on their Master Prime cine lenses) to ensure easy readability (and perhaps to just show others just what glass you're using!!).
The lens has already won the iF Product Design Award 2013. We think it's rather special and will be looking to stock the lens initially in Nikon mount but with a view to adding a Canon mount lens soon after.
If you'd like to find out more about the lens, please do have a look at Zeiss' video below
Next week sees us back at the Ageas Bowl cricket ground for the Photovision Roadshow. The organisers have promised a new format with the Photographers Equipment fair. If you still want to have a look at some new kit, pop over and say hi!
So it's not been THAT long a time since we announced the arrival of the GoPro Hero3's. So what have GoPro done to the camera now and is it really worth worrying about?
To look at the only way you'll tell a difference between the two cameras is the '+' on the front. It's not until you look at the housings you'll tell a huge difference. GoPro decided to sacrifice a little depth ability (it's now rated at 40m rather than 60m) but the difference in the size of the housings is significant. All the buttons are bigger and way easier to press - I've always found them a bit hit and miss in the past. One last thing, the camera appears to fit far more snuggly into the housing now, which should reduce any chance of excessive shake.
To the camera itself - if you compare closely with the GoPro Hero 3, you will see a change in the lens. This is because it's now got a new f/2.8 lens which is supposed to be a huge improvement (we'll be testing side by side later today). Dynamic range is said to be improved (and going by the official video below, you can see this). There's a new wifi chip that boasts greater speed which should mean less latency using the smartphone app. What would be nice would be an extended range but it doesn't look like that's the case.
Battery life is a huge issue with the GoPro Hero 3. Indeed, we've had customers accusing us of supplying defective equipment, so bad was the performance compared to the Hero 2. GoPro has put a higher power battery in the 3+ (1180mAh against 1050mAh) and has done some software optimization to ensure power consumption is as low as possible. GoPro claims a 30% improvement which might be possible but so far we've been playing with it alongside the 3 and there's no doubt the battery isn't draining as fast.
A lot has been mentioned about the SuperView mode. Very simply the GoPros have a 4:3 sensor and so for normal footage, it crops the top and bottom of the sensor to produce 16:9 images. This SuperView mode uses the whole sensor and then conforms it to 16:9. You'd think this would squish everything but to be honest, for action footage it's pretty good - people don't look anything like as 'deformed' as you would expect by doing this!!
There's a new Auto Low Light mode that will automatically adjust the frame-rate to improve low-light performance. If you're shooting at 60fps in 1080p mode, the camera can drop down to as low as 24fps to let more light on the sensor. We need to really put both cameras side by side to test this as any advantage wasn't immediately noticeable.
Last but not least, the mics have been redesigned with one on the side and one on top. Again we want to test more side by side but so far we reckon background noise is lower with the +.
The cameras only arrived yesterday but we'll be getting them up on the website shortly for booking!
Canon announced today that the EOS-1DC has been independently tested in accordance with European Broadcasting Union standards for HD content acquisition and has been found to be the first DSLR to ever provide an image of high enough quality for use as a broadcast production tool.
The results showed that the EOS-1DC provides 'exceptional' HD resolution for a 4K source with 'very low' aliasing and 'good' colour performance and motion portrayal. The test results also confirm that the EOS-1DC camera system and its imaging performance comply with the recommended specification for inclusion in HD Tier 1 for HD production.
2013 really should be known as 4K year and IBC next week shows no sign of changing the current tune. We suspected something 4K flavoured would appear on the camcorder side from Sony and here it is - the new Sony PXW-Z100.
As you can see, it looks like pretty much any other Sony camcorder and anyone familiar with a Sony HDV/XDCAM/NXCAM camcorder will feel right at home.
The camcorder is built around a new 1/2.33" Exmor R CMOS 4K sensor recording 4K at 50p and 60p. On the front of the camera is a Sony G lens with 20x optical zoom with a useful wide angle of 29.5mm (35mm equiv).
The PXW-Z100 uses Sony's XAVC recording format. Bit rates work out at 500Mbps, 600Mbps and 223Mbps during 4K 50p, 60p and HD recording respectively. A firmware update is planned later in 2014 to support a Long GOP mode for extended 4K recording time and also support for AVCHD (strange this wasn't added from launch as surely it will be AVCHD customers that will be looking at this camera???).
Recording media is Sony's XQD memory card. We've already seen them in Nikon's D4. They are not desperately cheap (£180 for 32gb) but they are coming down in price now. The camcorder has two XQD slots allowing hotswapping. Interestingly the camcorder also has an SDHC slot that will allow simultaneous recording on AVCHD once it becomes available.
Connections wise, the PXW-Z100 has an HDMI interface outputting 4K as a 50p/60p signal allowing viewing when connected to a Sony 4K-compatible TV. A future upgrade is planned to allow compatibility with the new HDMI 2.0 standard which will allow 4K connectivity to other devices. A 3G HD-SDI interface is also included.
Another buzz feature at the moment is WiFi remote and the PXZ-Z100 is no exception in featuring control using the browser function of a smartphone or tablet.
We'll be having a look at the camcorder next week at IBC and will report back then. Our initial concern is over the cost of recording media and its initial lack of AVCHD for current HD shooters - will that stop people considering it? Time will tell.
Price wise, although we have yet to have this confirmed, hire charges will be -
Daily £102, Weekend £155, Weekly £389 ( all inc VAT including a 32gb XQD card and reader).
We'd expect Sony to start shipping towards the end of 2013.
Canon has decided to make a raft of announcements before IBC on its current cinema range which can only be good news for us shooters.
The ISO on the EOS C300 and EOS C100 (and the C500 which I’m afraid we don’t and will never stock) has now been extended from a maximum of ISO 20,000 to IOS 80,000. Canon claim this will allow you to shoot in even more extreme low light conditions whilst still capturing detail and colour. Users will now be able to shoot in 1 stop or 1/3 stop increments from ISO 320 through to ISO 80,000.
A big issue with the C300 and C100 was the fact that the magnify feature only allowed you to magnify the central portion. This has now thankfully been changed so you can choose between 25 different segments of the image in view (much like with the SLRs).
A new option allows users to lock all functions, including the REC button, when the Power switch is in Lock mode and great news – it will be possible to assign either ISO or IRIS control to the main body and hand grip dials on the C300.
The C300 also follows the C100 in having the option of wide DR gamma – this offers 12 stops of dynamic range when shooting in Canon Log gamma but produces a far less flat image which requires a lot less grading and post work.
Also in common with C100, the C300 will also offer support for the STM range of lenses with continuous AF and enhanced AE options.
The 1DC comes in for some improvements. On the visual side support for the EF Cinema lenses has been improved with Peripheral Illumination and Chromatic Aberration Correction functions designed to improve image quality. On the audio side, you will be able to take a Line feed into the jack mic input as you will be able to select between Line and Mic levels.
The firmware updates are going to be available towards the end of the year. Naturally as they become available, we will update our stock.
We've seen a huge rise in demand for Sony's E Mount and have committed to stocking the full range from not only Sony but Zeiss with their Touit lenses.
It's been a while since Sony launched a new E Mount lens so it's good to see a few come along at the same time (although really it's only two new lenses).
Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar T* 16-70mm f/4 ZA OSS
First off is the new Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar T* 16-70mm f/4 ZA OSS. As its name suggests, the lens comes with Zeiss' T* coating reducing glare and ghosting plus it also has Sony's Optical Steadyshot. Those good at maths will have already worked out the focal range is 24-105mm in 35mm full-frame equivalent. Build wise, the barrel is metal so expect Zeiss levels of quality.
Finally we have a decent quality zoom lens with good constant aperture. This is the first E Mount zoom lens that photographers can take seriously. It also should be quite an interesting lens to bolt on the front of E Mount camcorders, especially with the Steadyshot.
E PZ 18-105mm f/4 G OSS
Next up is the E PZ 18-105mm f/4 G OSS. This is the first ever Sony G lens specifically created for the E Mount cameras and camcorders. The zoom range is pretty generous at 5.8x (27-157.5mm 35mm full-frame equivalent), all with a constant aperture of f/4. Whilst this is not a Zeiss lens, Sony's G range are very much their pro range so expect build quality to be good. It's worth noting that very usefully the overall lens length remains unchanged during focusing and zooming.
Speaking of zoom, the lens has a power-zoom function that is controllable either on the lens itself or in the case of camcorders with zoom control (like the EA50), on the camcorder itself. Last but by no means least, the lens also features Sony's excellent Optical Steadyshot.
E 50mm f/1.8
Last up is the E 50mm f/1.8. The sharp eyed reader amongst you will have spotted that this lens has been out for a while. Well yes it has in silver form. Sony has now decided to launch it in black!
But we don't mind as the two other lenses really are great news for both still and video E Mount users. We've already got them on order with Sony and are expecting delivery around the end of October.
We're hoping for yet more sun to come for the August Bank Holiday but even if it doesn't, we'll do our best to put a shine on things!!
As with previous years, we're offering our normal 3 days for the price of 2. Hire for the weekend and we'll throw in Monday 26th August for nothing. But that's not all - if you order by Wednesday 21st and we have the equipment in stock, we'll send it out early. That means you could have up to 5 days for the price of 2!!!
The earlier you book, the more chance you have of securing your kit!
* Cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer, discount or loyalty scheme. Minimum hire charge of £30, normal courier charges and deposits still apply.