Fake SSD drives hit Walmart in USA

Our good friend and epic photographer Frank Doorhof alerted his Facebook followers today to Walmart selling imaginary 30TB tiny SSD drives for almost nothing. This saga just continues – Amazon has certainly been duped by vendors, Facebook may or may not finally have stopped the fraudulent adverts.

Back in March/April edition of Cameracraft we lifted the lid on one of these fake SSDs. I don’t know if any other UK photo magazines have bothered to do the same. We just try to give readers information they need!

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Elinchrom ELC500 TTL studio flash

A new generation from Swiss masters of studio flash Elinca SA brings multi-platform TTL, super-fast recycling and flash durations, brilliant LED modelling and many design innovations. David Kilpatrick has been trying out the twin head kit.

The second wave of any innovation in technology is often safer to invest in than the pioneering first generation. Studio flash offering IGBT duration and power control, allowing much the same TTL and high speed functions found in camera speedlights, has been in development for over a decade but whole generations have been orphaned by advances in wireless trigger and camera firmware.

Finally bringing this to their new mid-range ELC TTL heads – one rung below the ELC Pro and one above the BRX – Elinchrom has worked for maturity in the whole technology. So, when the ELC 125 and 500 TTL arrived they worked much like any head with the EL Skyport Pro. Days later new firmware for the triggers enabled TTL operation, across a range of camera platforms already proven with the portable ELB 500 TTL.

The ELC 125 TTL is a little larger than a D-Lite. The ELC 500 TTL is substantial – as expected.
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Sony E 70-350mm f/4.5-6.3 G OSS

The neatest solution for sharp long tele shots on Sony A6000 series APS-C

  • Excellent full aperture performance from 70 to 350mm
  • OSS stabilisation works with every Sony Alpha E-mount APS-C body
  • Perfect for movies with A6000, A6300, A6400 without sensor stabilisation
  • Compatible with all NEX and Alpha E-mount models from 2010 on
  • Enhanced OSS with A6500, A6600
  • Compact and light weight
  • G series optical quality, Custom Button on lens, AF/MF and OSS switches on lens
  • Lens lock at 70mm to prevent zoom creep
  • Single extending zoom barrel
  • 67mm non-rotating filter thread
  • Bayonet lens hood included
  • Moisture and dirt resistant multicoating
  • Coverage allows use on full frame bodies with larger than APS-C crop

This lens was purchased in October 2019 and the review is based on nine months of use on Sony A6500 (ILCE-6500), A6300 (ILCE-6300), A6000 (ILCE-6000) and A7R MkIII (ILCE-7M3). Review by David Kilpatrick.

A solution for practical photography out and about – worldwide

I had been using the Sony FE 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G OSS full frame tele zoom on my A7RIII for over a year. This lens is very sharp wide open and benefits from the best close focusing in its class at 90cm meaning a scale of 0.31X at 300mm. It weighs 854g and has a double tube zoom extension. As you can see above this lens (left) is only a few mm longer physically than the APS-C 70-350mm (right) but the extra barrel heft, 72mm filters and much larger lens hood meant it needed a bigger kit bag, and proved harder to change quickly when swapping lenses.

The 70-350mm for the smaller image sensor proved if anything even sharper, right to 350mm. Lenses like this often prove soft at maximum focal length and maximum aperture. The 70-300mm at f/5.6 is a third of a stop faster, but to get it as crisp as its newer little brother, it needs to be set f/6.3 – a match in speed. You can see above how much bigger the full frame lens becomes at 300mm. The 70-350mm only weighs 625g but its very fast and silent XD Linear Motor AF can only get as close as 1.5m at 350mm, 1.1m at 70mm. The maximum subject scale is 0.25X.

I knew the 70-350mm would be my choice for travel and daily use with my A6500, but I was going to miss that closer focus. The full frame lens has an AF range limiter, full range or 3m to infinity but oddly no 0.9m to 3m choice. The APS-C lens has no limiter but I have never missed it and rarely used it on the 70-300mm.

My big question was – can I do without the 70-300mm and use the 70-350mm on my full frame bodies?

Cropping power, sensor resolution and coverage

Tests quickly proved that distortion and vignetting kick in fast beyond the crop format field of view, but sharpness remains good and depending on focal and aperture you get much more than APS-C. You can almost get a full frame at close range.

This mushroom (about hand sized) is at 350mm and f/11 on the A7RIII, and you can see the mechanical vignetting cut-off left and right. It’s caused by the lens rear baffle not the optical design – the lens could be modified to remove this, but it’s not advised.

At 70mm on a very demanding subject the distortion without lens profile, on full frame, is extreme (left) but with Lens Profile correction applied at 200% plus -8 Manual, and similar vignetting adjustment, Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom can almost handle it. On a neutral subject like a portrait with a foliage background the coverage would be fine. More to the point, manual crops much larger than the 16 x 24mm you could expect from an APS-C lens are fully usable.

But why use a full frame body? Unless you own a Sony A7RIV (61 megapixels) you won’t actually get a more detailed distant animal or bird. The modest 24 megapixels of all the current APS-C bodies beats the 18 megapixel crop format of the A7RII/III. Canon users have much the same position, their smaller APS-C (1.6X not 1.5X) and 28 megapixel resolution matches 60 megapixels on 24 x 36mm. The advantage of full frame is that you may catch more of your subject, your framing and tracking active subjects enjoy more leeway. If your subject stays in position the smaller sensor can capture finer detail – and this is where the 70-350mm excels.

This is a good example. At 198mm on the 70-350mm on A6500, it’s the same composition I would have had with the A7RIII and 70-300mm at 300mm and that would have produced a larger more detailed image. There’s only a real benefit to the 70-350mm on APS-C when you’re near the 350mm end. Did I keep both? No – I already knew I wanted a much faster but still compact zoom for the full frame kit, and the Tamron 70-180mm f/2.8 was coming in six months’ time. So I sold the 70-300mm and decided to use the A6500 with 70-350mm for all longer tele shooting.

From the start it proved a very capable combination.

Fast lenses are not as important now

Mirrorless cameras with phase detection autofocus, good high iSO performance and better resolution electronic viewfinders have made wide aperture lenses less essential for low light. The linear motor focus of the 70-350mm rarely misses a shot regardless of conditions. One of my first shoots was a music festival, where this lens allowed me to work from the very back of the hall and never get in the way of the audience.

Processed from a raw file at ISO 6400, this shot of Steve Byrne performing was taken at 350mm wide open at f/6.3. The same on full frame would need a 525mm lens at f/8 and ISO 8000 (a direction Canon is taking with their new 800mm f/11 IS STM for the R mount – the working aperture no longer matters much if the viewfinder stays bright, AF is accurate and there’s not much noise at high ISO settings).

The long reach in a concert hall is one side of using a 350mm on APS-C. Here’s another – the lens may only achieve a quarter life size and need you to be 1.5m away at 350mm, but 0.25X on a 1.5X factor sensor is 0.375X in ‘old macro’ terms. Not only that, the ISO 2500 used here is about the same in grain or noise terms as an ISO 400 film and the stabilisation of this lens on the A6500 is as good as you get. A 1/125s shutter speed did not prevent tiny hairs on the caterpillar’s head being sharply resolved.

This lens is far better than the 18-200, 18-300, 18-400 or 16-300mm I’ve used on a variety of DSLRs for long APS-C reach. It’s free from the residual aberration which demands you ‘stop down one’ to clean up the long end image. Combined with Sony’s PDAF it handles a concert or low indoor light as well as an ƒ2.8-4 on a conventional DSLR.

Compare this with a 100-400mm for the same format

For the sake of 50mm at the long end – a difference of only 12.5% in image scale – the excellent Fujifilm Fujinon XF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 R LM also gives a half to a third of a stop more light transmission in its longer range. But look at the cost! It is twice the price and weight, and you can see the size. Gains – a near-apochromatic performance, matched 1.4X and 2X converters available (not an option for the Sony and never likely to be). Losses – only 0.19X close-up scale. It’s remarkable how much difference there is in the physical aspect of these two lenses. I have used both and in practice they are equally sharp on 24 megapixels.

The Sony 100-400mm and Sigma 100-400mm are both full frame lenses and much larger. The 70-350mm is unique as far I can tell, no-one else has a lens like it. It also answers one of the major criticisms of the original E-mount APS-C system, the lack of any lens longer than 210mm and that only in a 55-210mm design best described as consumer grade. I’ve actually found it pretty good for the money – but it’s not much money!

Sony 70-350mm G OSS image gallery

Rather than write much more, I’ll leave you with this gallery. I have reduced the file size but where you see an enlarged section clip along with the full frame – well, you can judge for yourself.

Sony 70-350mm G OSS verdict

If you own any of the APS-C Sony bodies, from the NEX-3 and 5 of 2010 onwards, this lens will not disappoint you. The effective OSS image stabilisation means that even if you prefer to compose and shot using the rear screen and hold the camera away from your body you’ll get sharp stills and steady movies. It’s a big step up from the 55-210mm and much more affordable than, say, a 70-200mm f/4 G with 1.4X or 2X converter.

You may have to control colour fringes in some strong backlight situations with blur when working from raw files, as it’s not an apochromat just a regular very good tele zoom. However the resolution reflects advances in design over the last decade. It’s also a very handsome looking black lens with its silver G logo and designation contrasting with white markings. It feels robust and the zoom and manual focus (when needed) are smooth. The metal bayonet is a tight precise fit on my A6500 and A7RIII, a little less so on my A6000 with its older four-screw type body mount.

I can carry this lens all day without even realising it’s there, round neck or shoulder – and there are not many lenses covering this range you would want to hang on a strap round your neck.

You can support my reviews if you check these links for availability and price:
Amazon UK – didn’t have any stock at all at the time of writing – https://amzn.to/30ZC4Ck
Park Cameras UK – https://tidd.ly/3jLHbP7
WEX UK – https://tidd.ly/3hKRhhA
B&H USA and Worldwide – https://tinyurl.com/y6cguvpo

Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 G OSS Macro lens review

In the last few weeks I’ve found myself replying to Facebook Sony user group posts where new owners building their systems have asked about the Sony 90mm f/2.8 G OSS Macro FE lens. Over the months before this, I’d seen so many comments saying this was the best ever Sony and perhaps the second best lens ever.

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Lightroom 3 Beta 2 – the high ISO wunderkind

I’m not going to bore you with countless 100% clips. Just open this one file. It is a 100% screen shot of a tiled view of the same raw file from a Canon EOS 550D (aka Rebel T2i), taken at ISO 6400.

On the left, you see what Adobe Camera Raw 5.6 does with this file using no sharpening, 25 Luminance NR, 50 colour NR. On the right, you see what LR 3 Beta 2 does using the same settings (LR noise reduction has some further options – these are not adjusted).

When exporting the LR image to Photoshop, a dialog box appears saying you may need to install Adobe Camera Raw version 5.7! At the time of writing, version 5.7 is not yet available. But LR3 Beta 2 knows it exists… I used LR Rendering for this sample.

Click the image, open the full size screen shot. Or view it at
http://www.pbase.com/davidkilpatrick/image/123036282

The 12,800 shot is by no means bad either. You could compare it with ISO 1600 shots from the first 10 megapixel CCDs.

Trust me, the LR 3 Beta2 result is superior both to the Canon in-camera JPEG and the Canon DPP processed result. Had I the time I’d post examples of every ISO from 100 to 12,800 and you would see something very special – the increase in size of ‘grain’ with each speed step, but nothing more. NOTHING more than a proprotional increase in grain size, just like film  used to be.

No oatmeal. No porridge. No hot pixels, no smeary watercolours. No colour blurring and luminance smoothing. Just neat, tight, virginal grain. Hmm. I should not have said that. Even so…

And another things – it works on everything. It works on old files, new files. RAW files from before the Ark got stuck on Ararat. Night shots taken when night shots could only make 7 x 5 inch prints. Nikon, Canon, Sony, old Minolta, Pentax, Olympus – download this beta, and you just discovered great pictures in the stuff you thought was rubbish because you accidentally used ISO 800 when that meant shaking the pepperpot over your soup!

Go download! http://labs.adobe.com/technologies/lightroom3/

Tip: to use Lightroom use a front end, just set Photoshop as your editor, and after adjusting the pic hit Command-E – same as hitting the Open button in Adobe Camera Raw. Go straight to Photoshop, Do Not Pass Go, and do not (yet!) spend £200!

– DK

Nikon D3S video: dark, rain and wind 400mm f/2.8

As part of my tests of the Nikon D3S (British Journal, report in December, with additional material by Richard Kilpatrick who is shooting with Nikon on November 25th at a press event) I dragged the £6,000 400mm f/2.8 AF-S IF ED G supertele into the rain as darkness gradually forced the ISO up from a mere 10,000 to the maximum 102,400. The object was make a short video showing rising floodwaters, no threat in our town but still dramatic to watch.

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Here’s how it came back from the hour in the rain, a quick wipe down with an oily rag and it was all as good as new. Actually, it needed a thorough drying with the towel then a clean up with a lint free microfibre cloth to remove dust and towelly stuff. The very deep lens shade kept the exposed front element totally dry despite the wind and rain; I just made sure it was never aiming into the wind.

During the shoot, wind noise was a major problem. I locked the microphone to level 2 manual gain, not automatic which would have been a disaster. Many clips had to be shortened, some discarded due to violent wind noise I could not mask. The sheer weight of this combo made lugging it with a decent Slik tripod (pan and tilt head for video) difficult; I drove to the evening location with the rig laid flat on the back seat of the car, but still had to walk several hundred yards for some shots. I wore a Tog24 parka and found that by pulling the fur-lined hood over the camera body I could cut out nearly all the wind noise. I must have looked like a view camera operator with a dark cloth, or something out of Monty Python with my jacket pulled up and the hood over the Nikon!

But, this seemed such a good solution to the wind noise I would consider unzipping the hood from the parka and using it as a baffle in finer weather.

My favourite part of the video is the one with the worst noise, where I was not able to keep the wind away from the direction of shooting – the sequence of the road (flooded by the morning) with headlights, tail lights and cars in rain. This consists of three takes blended with long crossfades. During each take, the manual focus of the 400mm used at near wide open f/3.2 aperture was pulled to bring the moving traffic in and out of focus, and create huge bokeh circles from the lights. This would be impossible with a camcorder and not all that easy with a conventional high-end video kit. The combination of full frame 35mm format and the fast 400mm has enabled a highly effective cinematic technique to succeed on the first time of trying. With some markers on the focus ring, some practice and many more takes the result could have been refined further.

But I was getting very wet and so was the camera!

The first part of the video is all on the 400mm with tripod, with High ISO video enabled. The ‘next morning’ stuff is on the 24-70mm, hand held, locked down to ISO 200 at f/8.

I’m not sure when our final review of the camera will appear in the British Journal, it should be early December.

The video is encoded to best quality 720p from iMovie09, and can be best be downloaded and viewed without any YouTube jerkiness at full res if your connection is not good.

– David Kilpatrick

Nikon D5000 short film with pull focus

Though autofocus is not possible with live video in any current true DSLR (the Panasonic GH1 promises this) it is possible to use pull-focus effects with a little planning. We now have a Nikon D5000 – it won the competition for best fine image detail when comparing results frame by frame with Canon’s nominally higher resolution rival. It was also a very good deal, £629 inc VAT with an 18-55mm VR kit lens and a SanDisk Ultra II 8GB SDHC card plus Crumpler Messenger Boy 2500 bag thrown in free (from Jacobs). You Tube sample –

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Sigma’s DP2 – Camera less obscure

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Sigma’s DP1 was launched in 2007 (with production models available in 2008) to great critical acclaim. occupying a unique spot in the marketplace by combining an APS-C format sensor with a compact “point and shoot” style body. There were a few controversial design choices, and the user and reviewer feedback varied greatly with the time and effort people were prepared to put in learning about the camera, yet the verdicts on the optical performance were united – the DP1 was astounding. Now the DP2 has arrived, with production-quality units available from UK retailers.
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Kelso Races – D5000 freehand with 70-300mm VR

The wind noise has made filming with the D5000 almost impossible for the last few days, because it has been very windy. Simple as that. So I devised a popshield or wind sock for the tiny microphone by cutting a piece of red nyloop fabric from a pad which once belonged in the bottom of a lens case. Then the 70-300mm lens arrived, so I tried this combination on a race when the light was reasonable and it was not raining.

Technically, it’s not a good idea to pan with action when holding a lens of this size at arms’ length in order to see the framing on a rear screen. However, I had already experimented with a monopod and found that didn’t work – my pans tended to skew the horizon too easily – and for this clip, I did not want to use a tripod. I wanted to see what the VR did, and how well it worked with a fixed focus set on the fence before starting.

– DK

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