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Last week the team at iFixit undertook a teardown of the brand new Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus to examine and evaluate the device's repairability. Now analysts TechInsights have done the same thing, but with a focus on components and costs.
When taking the device apart the team found Samsung's Fast 2L3 third-generation 12MP, 1.4 µm pixel-pitch Dual Pixel ISOCELL sensor in the main camera and a 12MP, 1.0 µm pixel-pitch Samsung S5K3M3SM in the tele-camera, the same as in the Galaxy Note 8 dual-camera module.
TechInsights also provides cost estimates for all components and at $48 the Samsung's camera setup is the third largest cost block on the device. Only the display at $72.50 and the main chipset at $68 have a higher impact on the overall figure. Final assembly and testing is estimated as $12.50, and the overall manufacturing cost of the device is $379.
Given in the US the S9 Plus currently retails at $840 unlocked, this should leave a decent margin for covering overheads and, crucially, making a profit. For more technical details and up-close images of most components have a look at the full report on TechInsights.
Chinese manufacturer Oppo has unveiled its latest two high-end Android smartphones, the R15 and R15 Dream Mirror Edition. The new devices are among the first of likely very many Android devices to be launched with an iPhone X style camera notch at the front this year. There is also a tall 6.28" screen with 19:9 aspect ratio and 1080 x 2280 pixel resolution. The device comes with a metal frame and glass at front and back.
The R15 doesn't only come with the iPhone X's camera notch, though. It also borrows a face unlock feature from the X and the dual-camera comes with a portrait lighting mode, similar to what we've seen on Apple's latest models.
In terms of camera specifications, the R15 features a main camera with a 1/2.6" 16MP Sony IMX519 sensor and F1.7 aperture. The secondary lens comes with a 5MP resolution and F2.2 aperture. It is used to generate a bokeh mode and, according to OPPO, the new setup is capable of automatically recognizing up to 120 scenes and adjusting the camera settings accordingly, thanks to built-in Sony AI.
In the processing department the R15 runs a Helio P60 chipset with octa-core CPU and features 6GB of RAM. 128GB of storage and a 3,450 mAh battery are on board as well.
The Oppo R15 Dream Mirror Edition swaps the Helio chipset for a Snapdragon 660 but comes with otherwise very similar specs. That said, there is one important difference in the camera module: instead of the standard model's 5MP sensor, the Dream Mirror Edition's secondary camera comes with a 20MP sensor and fast F1.7 aperture, making it look very similar to the unit used in the 5T model of Oppo's sister company OnePlus.
Scene recognition and portrait lighting modes are the same as on the standard R15, however. Both new models will be available from April 1 in China. The R15 will retail at CNY 2,999 (approximately $475), while the Dream Red model will set you back CNY 3,299 (approximately $521). There is no word on international availability yet, but we would expect the new devices to become available outside China at some point.
|Kazuto Yamaki, CEO of Sigma, pictured at the 2018 CP+ show in Yokohama, Japan.|
Recently we visited the 2018 CP+ show in Yokohama, Japan and as usual, we booked interviews with senior executives from several major manufacturers, including Sigma. Among the topics covered were Sigma's determination to make more native Sony E-Mount lenses for mirrorless cameras, and the story behind why wide-angles are such a Sigma specialty.
The following interview has been edited slightly for clarity and flow.
The new Sony E-mount full-frame lenses – did you basically just build-in the MC-11 adapter, or is it more complicated than that?
The MC-11 adapter can be thought of as kind of a translator. Let’s say the camera speaks English, and the lens speaks Japanese. The MC-11 recognizes which lens is attached, and allows the camera and lens to talk to one another. That’s a complicated task. And even with the best translator, conversation isn’t as smooth as it would be between native speakers. It takes time to fine-tune the communication.
What we did was to optimize the communication, for Sony. It’s faster, smoother, and we were able to utilize Sony [communication] protocols in the lenses.
Will you release a USB dock for the new Sony-mount lenses?
We don’t have a USB dock available for these lenses right now, but we’re considering this as an option for the future.
|Sigma's MC-11 adapter can be used to convert Canon and Sigma-mount lenses to work on Sony's full-frame mirrorless cameras.|
The new 14-24mm F2.8 joins the 14mm F1.8 at the wide end of Sigma’s lineup – how do these two lenses compare, optically?
In terms of performance, the two lenses are equivalent. When it comes to zoom lenses, a standard zoom lens [like a 24-70mm] is quite challenging to design. We have to make compromises. However, the performance of wide and telephoto zoom lenses is very good, and [can be] equivalent to prime lenses. But of course we can’t implement such fast maximum apertures [in zooms]. Implementing a maximum aperture of F1.8 in the 14mm was very difficult.
We want to create lenses that don’t exist in the industry today
We’ve spoken in the past about your ambition to create more wide-angle zoom lenses – it seems like they’re a Sigma speciality.
In the past, one of our employees who had been with the company since the very beginning was a mountain climber. He was very passionate about wide-angle lenses. That’s one of the reasons Sigma has always specialized in wide-angle lenses. And it’s also quite interesting to challenge ourselves. We still maintain this mentality – we want to create lenses that don’t exist in the industry today.
If you have a choice between designing a lens that will be large, heavy, but optically amazing, or designing one that might be optically less impressive but smaller and lighter, how do you make that decision?
I personally want to develop excellent lenses, at the cost of size and weight. My personal ambition is for Sigma to be a company that is supported by professionals. But that doesn’t mean that we’d always choose to make lenses like this.
|Sigma's new 70mm F2.8 macro prime lens is small, compact and lightweight, thanks to its front-focus mechanism and lack of an image stabilization system.|
For example we just released a 70mm F2.8 macro lens. We had the option of including image stabilization, but it would have become much bulkier – probably equivalent in size to our 105mm macro. Because with a macro lens, the focusing group has to move a big distance. If we had added stabilization we would have had to use an inner focusing system, which would have made the lens long, and bulky.
Is that the same reason there’s no stabilization system in the new 105mm, too?
Partly, yes. Also we didn’t want to compromise performance in terms of vignetting, longitudinal aberrations or coma. That’s why the lens is already quite big. If we had been willing to compromise in any one of these areas, the lens could have been more compact. You don’t see lenses of this kind very often, so we wanted to give it as long a life [in the market] as possible.
There’s another reason for our approach to that lens, too. One of the chief designers is very keen on astrophotography, and he wanted to make a lens that was perfect for this kind of photography. Among this community, the Zeiss 135mm F2 is regarded as a benchmark, but it’s relatively slow. Our target was to make a lens with equivalent performance but at F1.4. That’s very difficult.
If you had designed the recently-announced E-mount primes from the ground up for Sony’s full-frame cameras, would they be smaller?
The wide-angle lenses would be, yes. We just announced E-mount versions of the 14mm, 20mm, 24mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm and 135mm. Probably, the 14mm, 20mm and 24mm lenses could have been smaller [if they were designed for Sony full-frame from the beginning]. But any lens longer than 35mm, they’d be about the same size. Our 35mm F1.4, for example, is about the same size as the Sony 35mm F1.4. But for wider lenses, because of the short flange-back distance of the E-mount, we could make them smaller.
This is one of the reasons we decided on our approach with these lenses. Because the size difference would have been minimal with most of the focal lengths, we focused on making the performance better and smoother, using our existing optical designs.
Some time ago we were skeptical about lens corrections, but the algorithms have been improved so much
So wide-angle lenses benefit most from being designed for short flange-back distances?
Yes. For example the Sony 12-24mm zoom. Sony achieved very good performance with a small size. They rely on distortion correction in the camera body, but it’s an amazing performance. I don’t think we could achieve that kind of performance in a lens of that size for DSLRs.
We already have two Sony-native lenses for Sony - our 16mm and 30mm F1.4 lenses for APS-C. And we already take advantage of distortion correction in those lenses. It’s beneficial for customers. Some time ago we were skeptical about lens corrections, but today the algorithms have been improved so much.
|Sigma recently released a range of native Sony E-mount prime lenses, which we're told will give better performance than lenses attached using the MC-11 adapter.|
Do you think Sigma has an opportunity to create more lenses for Sony’s APS-C cameras?
We’re going to release another APS-C lens for Sony E-mount this year, probably around Photokina. We need to see what the response from customers is like. If it’s good, we’ll continue development.
We are working on lenses designed from scratch for Sony E-Mount. This is just the beginning
Are you committing to fully supporting Sony full-frame cameras in the future, alongside Canon and Nikon?
Yes. We are also working on [full-frame] lenses designed just for Sony E-Mount, from scratch. These lenses will take advantage of [aspects of] the Sony system. This is just the beginning.
But the [Sony E-mount versions of the Art-series primes] we’ve just released also offer some advantages for customers. For example if you own a Canon EF mount version of any of them, we can convert your lens to a Sony E-mount version, for a charge. And if that user decides to go back to Canon EF in the future, we can even re-convert the lens back again.
Customer support is just as important as the products themselves
In order to do that practically, you’ll need good, fast service facilities. Is improving this kind of service a priority for you?
Recently, in our internal sales meetings, the first thing we’ve been discussing is not actually sales, it’s customer support. Our lenses are intended for high-end users and professionals, and customer support is [therefore] just as important as the products themselves.
Will you create some kind of version of a pro support system outside of Japan?
We’ve been discussing this with our global subsidiaries, and we’re preparing to roll something out. We’ve made great improvements already in terms of customer support, and it’s very important [that we continue to do so].
Which lenses have most impressed you recently from other manufacturers?
The Sony 12-24mm, and the 16-35mm F2.8 GM. They’re very good lenses for mirrorless cameras. The Canon 35mm F1.4 II is also a great lens. Our 35mm F1.4mm is very good but the Canon 35mm is also great. I think these days Canon does a great job. They put so much effort into developing good optics. Every time they amaze us.
I’m also very interested in the new Tamron 28-75mm F2.8. It’s very compact and lightweight. Of course we haven’t yet seen how it performs, but if the performance is good it should be a great lens, and will be a benchmark for us.
|Tamron's new 28-75mm F2.8 zoom for Sony E-mount is a lens that Mr Yamaki hopes could become a benchmark for his own company, as Sigma works on filling out its lens options for full-frame Sony cameras.|
Is there a lens that does not exist right now, which you think should exist?
We successfully developed F1.8 zoom lenses for APS-C. This kind of lens did not exist before. Similarly our F2 zoom for full-frame. That kind of lens did not exist before, either. I can’t give you specific details but we would like to explore that path [further].
Some of our products are planned from a business perspective. But every year we have one or two special projects, where we don’t care too much about sales, but we aim to create unique products. That’s a big motivation for our engineers, and also for me personally. Old manufacturers, like Carl Zeiss, invented many great lenses in the past – and they continue to do so. We would like to do that for the 21st Century.
Our mission is unchanged – we want to provide unique lenses that other manufacturers don’t have. We’ll continue on that path.
A lot of our readers are looking forward to a Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 Art…
I know! And it will come – not too far in the future.
We always look forward to speaking to Mr. Yamaki, who stands out as one of the best-liked figures in the entire photography industry in Japan. While many manufacturers seem to prefer to speak about their products as if they existed in a vacuum, Mr. Yamaki is unfailingly candid and open, even when talking about his competitors.
Partly I suspect this reflects the nature of his company – Sigma is primarily a third-party lens manufacturer and as such, of course, it relies on the success of companies like Canon, Nikon and Sony in order to stay in business. Keeping a close eye on the lenses that these manufacturers make is only sensible if Sigma wants to create alternatives that can compete in price and quality.
For the head of a major manufacturer to openly praise specific products made by his main competitors is almost unheard of
But partly, too, it's the nature of the man. For the head of a major manufacturer to openly praise specific products made by his main competitors is almost unheard of, but over the years we've come to expect (and appreciate) such candor from Mr. Yamaki. It's one of the reasons I always look forward to interviewing him, and why our interviews with him often contain some of the most useful and interesting insights of all the conversations that we have with executives at shows like CP+.
Among the nuggets of information contained in this interview were Sigma's commitment to develop native Sony E-mount lenses for full-frame cameras in the future, and some interesting information about what kinds of lenses benefit most from being designed for short flange-back mirrorless systems. It's clear too that Sigma is very focused on improving its post-purchase support, and is actively working to extend its professional service network beyond Japan in the near future. Hopefully this should give more professionals the confidence they need to buy and use Sigma lenses without fear of losing their gear for long periods of time if it ever needs servicing.
Sigma is very focused on improving its post-purchase support, and is actively working to extend its professional service network
I was interested to learn about the background behind Sigma's new 105mm F1.4 telephoto prime, too. Opportunities for astrophotography are pretty few and far between in a Seattle spring, but after hearing the story behind its inception, I'm keen to see how it performs. And I'm sure I'm not alone in waiting anxiously for a 70-200mm F2.8 in the Art series. Mr. Yamaki specifically mentioned that Sigma is now able to make very high-quality wide and tele zooms, which gives me hope that this lens – whenever it makes it appearance on the market – will be worth the wait.
Previous interviews with Kazuto Yamaki of Sigma:
At this year's CP+ show in Yokohama, we sat down with senior executives from several major manufacturers, including Canon. Topics covered during our conversation with Go Tokura, Yoshiyuki Mizoguchi and Naoya Kaneda included Canon's ambitions for high-end mirrorless cameras, and the importance of responding to changing definitions of image capture from the smartphone generation.
Answers from the three interviewees have been combined, and this interview (which was conducted through an interpreter) has been edited for clarity and flow.
How important is it for Canon to add higher-end mirrorless products to your lineup?
At Canon we have what’s called a ‘full lineup strategy’. This means that we want to satisfy all of the demands in the market, so we have mirrorless and also DSLR, which combined makes an EOS hierarchy. We want to fill the gaps to satisfy customer demands across the board.
The new M50 is an entry-level model, because that’s where the high-volume sales are. We want to establish ourselves in this market, and then move forward [from there]. In accordance with the full lineup strategy, we will be tackling [the mid-range and high-end mirrorless market] going forward.
The EOS M50 offers 4K video and Dual Pixel CMOS AF, but not at the same time. Is there a technical reason for this limitation?
With the EOS 5D Mark IV, we do offer 4K video and Dual Pixel CMOS autofocus, so technically it is feasible. But given the position of the M50 in the lineup, we can’t include all of the features available in a product like the 5D IV. Given the position of the product, we wanted to achieve the optimal balance [of features] in a camera in that range. We’ve optimized the M50 as best we can [for its market position], and within those parameters, the combination of 4K video and Dual Pixel CMOS autofocus was not possible.
|Canon's new EOS M50 offers limited 4K video capability, making it the first of Canon's mirrorless cameras to go beyond HD video capture.|
Another manufacturer that we spoke to estimated that Canon would have a full-frame mirrorless camera within a year. Is that realistic?
That would be nice, wouldn't it?
The Tokyo Olympics in 2020 is coming up - when we look at photographers shooting with Canon at Tokyo in two years time, what will we see?
The Tokyo Olympics is a very important opportunity for us. If we look at the professional camera market, we would like to introduce a professional model at that time. Having said that, we take reliability very seriously. So when we talk about [creating] a model for the Olympics, we’re not just talking about performance. We’re also want to make sure that we can achieve the same level of reliability that we’ve always delivered [in our professional DSLRs].
The Tokyo Olympics is a very important opportunity for us
We also want to raise Canon’s presence overall, with camera products and also events and services. We have been instructed [by our senior leadership] to maximize the opportunity!
In your opinion, what is the most important quality for an entry-level camera?
We are always looking for speed, ease of use, and maximum resolution. We’re also thinking about how we can deliver better image quality than a smartphone. So it’s about really focusing on speed, ease of use and image quality. Small size and weight comes into [the calculation] as well, and also the GUI.
Looking beyond the entry-level class towards cameras aimed at high-end amateurs like the 5D class, those customers need even better image quality, and they also want to take more control over operation. They want to expand, and express their creativity. Reliability also comes into play.
|The Canon EOS 5D Mark IV offers both 4K video capture and Dual Pixel autofocus - not a combination available lower down in Canon's ILC lineup (for now).|
Do you think that 4K video is a more important feature at the entry-level end of the market, or the enthusiast / professional segment?
We believe that 4K video is important for all market segments, and all users. Given that we have a range of products, we always have to think about how best [to implement 4K] in that class of camera. And you can do more with 4K video in a higher-end camera than in an entry-level model.
Why is that?
The cost required to introduce [features like 4K] into cameras dictates the kind of features that we can introduce [in products of different classes]. 4K is important to offer in all market segments, and in the M50 we’ve achieved 4K at 25 fps, and that’s the best we can do at this time. We can’t introduce all of the features [in an entry-level camera] that we could in a higher-end model. Another point is that consumption of 4K footage in terms of devices to view 4K video – the penetration of those devices in the market, and their adoption, was a little faster than we expected.
In the past, you’ve said that you won’t introduce a high-end mirrorless product until there would be no compromises compared to DSLR technology. Are we getting close?
In the EOS hierarchy we have cameras from entry-level to professional with different features. When it comes to mirrorless cameras, we have entry-level models, and we’ve just about started on the mid-range class. What that tells you is that Canon is confident about mirrorless technology within this range of products.
We still believe there’s work to be done before we can achieve the level of satisfaction that our users are looking for before they could confidently move from DSLR to mirrorless
But if you look at the enthusiast and high-end product class, in terms of both autofocus and viewfinder [experience], we still believe there’s some work to be done before we can achieve the level of satisfaction that our users are looking for before they could confidently move from DSLR to mirrorless. That’s where we are right now. We’re still on the path to development.
|So far, the EOS M5 is the nearest thing Canon has made to a high-end mirrorless camera. The M5 is a great product, but a far cry from some of the industry-changing cameras that Canon has been responsible for in the past.|
Having said that, it’s not like we don’t have the components required to create a mirrorless model that would be on a par with DSLR models. For example Dual Pixel CMOS autofocus, lenses that can focus quickly, and optical components like the EVF. We have the technology required to create a camera that would be satisfactory. It’s just a matter of combining [those components] together. So you can look forward to our developments in the future.
There’s still a perception among our readers that Canon is a little conservative. Where is Canon innovating right now?
Rather than some of the very novel features that some of our competitors have been introducing, we believe that it’s really important to deliver the basics. Speed, ease of use, and good image quality. Dual Pixel CMOS autofocus is representative of that [philosophy]. It’s not only important for stills photography, but also for video. Only Canon is pursuing this area [of development] right now. We also have Dual Pixel Raw, and we’re looking for new ways of applying [this technology] currently.
With lenses, we introduced the EF 70-300mm [EF70-300mm F4-5.6 IS II USM] zoom lens, and the EF-S 18-135mm [EF-S 18-135mm F3.5-5.6 IS USM] which both have Nano USM focus motors. This makes three focus actuators: ring type, stepping motor and Nano USM. This gives us more options when it comes to optical design. For a super wide lens like the 10-24mm L [EF11-24mm F4L USM] for example, we offer ring-type USM, which provides higher torque. Our optical technology is a strength that we’re proud of.
Maybe Canon lenses don’t look that different to our competitors, but in terms of performance, we’re able to create lenses that are superior
We also have a range of [special] optical materials, and methods to process these materials. If you just look at specs, maybe Canon lenses don’t look that different to our competitors, but in terms of performance, we’re able to create lenses that are superior. It’s also about post-purchase support. Durability, reliability, and the ability to withstand extreme temperatures. Our users are able to enjoy this level of performance and they appreciate that.
We also have a new product – our new Speedlite 470EX-AI flash, for automatic bounce photography. So we believe that we can provide innovation across the system of cameras, lenses and accessories. Our customer base is also diversifying, particularly generations ‘Y’ and ‘Z’. They’re looking for new things. We were just at CES in Las Vegas, where we showed some new concept models. We got a lot of feedback, and we want to turn [the concepts] into a marketable product pretty soon.
When we look at trends in mirrorless technology, we’re considering the technical advancements that are possible.
Clearly, the transition to mirrorless will be a big challenge, technically. When you look ahead to further mirrorless development, are you envisaging a new lens system?
It’s been more than 30 years since we launched our EF lens mount, and we’ve sold more than 130 million EF lenses during that time, so we can’t simply ignore that many lenses in the market. At the same time, when we look at trends in mirrorless technology, we’re considering the technical advancements that are possible. It’s a difficult question to answer, but maybe let your imagination suggest some possibilities!
The move from FD to EF in 1987 was bold but also controversial given the legacy of FD lenses and the lack of compatibility between the two platforms. Do you think that situation will happen again?
That’s a difficult question to answer. There was a lot of discussion and debate about that shift, in 1987, and we’re going through the same thing now. We want to nurture and support our [existing] EF customers and we’re in discussion about that at the moment.
|Canon's recently-announced EF 85mm F1.4L, showing the electronic contacts which are a defining element of the EF lens system, first introduced more than 30 years ago to replace the all-mechanical FD lens platform.|
In 1987, the shift was from a mechanical interface to an electronic interface. That [precluded cross-compatibility]. Despite that shift, the change provided significantly more value for our customers, which is why we went ahead. If it turns out that [the introduction of mirrorless] will create a similar situation, this might be a decision that we would take [again]. But we’re not sure yet.
Because we’re already using an electronic interface, the shift will be more gradual [than it was in 1987] so [we would better able to] maintain compatibility.
Looking ahead, what is Canon’s main priority?
We want to improve our product lineup, including lenses. We just released an entry-level model (the EOS M50), and because young people are really getting into photography more actively, the entry-level segment is one that we always need to make sure to tackle.
The entire concept of capturing images has changed over the past couple of years
When it comes to maintaining market share and ensuring growth, what is the most difficult challenge that Canon is facing?
We’ve been producing cameras for a long time, but the entire concept of capturing images has changed over the past couple of years, and we need to engage with this new style of capturing images. The first stage is our new concept cameras. It’s important for us to relax and expand our concepts of image capture.
This is of the several concept cameras that Canon has been showing this year - an 'intelligent compact camera' designed to automatically capture images, and intelligently learn about the kinds of pictures you want to take.
Now, maybe the camera can be beside you, or maybe even away from you, and still capture the image that you’re looking for. We need to have the technologies to respond to [these new ways of capturing images] in the way that Canon should.
For a very long time, Canon and Nikon dominated the professional market. There’s a lot more competition these days. Is more competition good for Canon?
More players means more activity in the industry, which is a positive thing. Having said that, of course it’s tough.
Does this pressure generate better ideas? More innovation?
Very much so, and it goes both ways. For all players, to be stimulated by increased competition allows us to level-up across the board.
Is it more important for camera manufacturers to design cameras that behave more like smartphones, or that they communicate the benefits of a dedicated camera to smartphone photographers?
I think we have to do both. We have to continue to evolve the traditional benefits that a camera can provide, and at the same time we have to consider the diversification of image capturing tools, including smartphones, and what they have to offer. Our mission is to pursue both approaches.
This interview was the fourth time I've spoken to Mr. Tokura in recent years, who has become more senior within Canon since we first met back in 2014. Our conversation at CP+ covered some old ground (the perception among some industry-watchers that Canon is a little conservative, increased competition from the likes of Sony, etc.) but this year I really got the sense from talking to him that Mr. Tokura and his team will have some pretty interesting products to show us in the not too distant future.
We know from previous conversations with both Mr. Tokura and his boss Mr. Maeda that increasing the speed of product development has been a priority at Canon in recent years. Since then, we've seen some solid refreshes at the top and middle of Canon's DSLR lineup (along with some truly excellent new lenses), but a lot of the company's energy seems to have been directed towards the lower-end, especially within the EOS M lineup. This focus on the entry-level segment of the camera market ('where the sales are', as Mr. Tokura said in our interview) makes sense, but I've expressed my own disappointment in the past about such a 'slow and steady' approach in the face of increasingly fast-moving competition.
Canon has the technology for high-end mirrorless - it just has to put all the pieces together
It's been a long time coming, but in this interview Mr. Tokura came pretty close to at least hinting that higher-end, perhaps even full-frame mirrorless is imminent – and maybe even within the next 12 months. As he said, Canon has the technology – it just has to put all the pieces together.
Possibly even more exciting is the possibility of a professional model to come by 2020. Back in 2016, Mr. Tokura reminded me that Canon likes to launch flagship models in Olympic years, and the fact that the next Olympiad will be held in Tokyo is likely to present an irresistible opportunity. You heard it here first.
Canon has shaken up the photography market several times in the past, and has the potential to do so again.
Speaking of the future, the Canon executives I spoke to at CP+ were very keen to show me the mockups of a range of concept cameras that were first unveiled at this year's CES show in Las Vegas, in January. While none are finished, marketable products (yet) it's clear that Canon is keen to explore products that respond to what Mr. Tokura calls 'a new style of capturing images'.
Canon is sometimes criticized for taking a conservative approach to product development, and in some cases this is true (although it isn't always a bad thing). It's important to remember though that Canon has shaken up the photography market several times in the past, and there's every chance it could do so again.
Previous interviews with Canon executives:
We recently got a chance to follow local frame builder Max Kullaway as he created one of his AirLandSea bikes. To document the process, we used the Fujifilm X-E3, the 18-55mm F2.8-4.0 R OIS and a selection of the company's mid-price F2 prime lenses.
Here are favorites of the photos we got, as the project progressed from bare tubes all the way to rideable bicycle. For the full story, check out our video.
This is sponsored content, created with the support of Amazon and Fujifilm. What does this mean?
|A night of stunning Northern Lights dancing above Haukland Beach, the Lofoten Islands, Arctic Norway, on a moonless evening.|
The serene stream that flows from the surrounding mountains and pours into the Norwegian Sea curved into a beautiful shape, paralleling the curves of the Auroral display. Haukland is a very good location for shooting Aurora, since it has numerous interesting features (such as the mountain and the stream), and since any water left stationary frequently freezes over and supplies more variety and interest. It's also relatively shielded from artificial lights.
This image was taken in the winter of 2016 during my Lofoten workshop. I used a Sony A7R and a Samyang 14mm F2.8 with a Metabones adapter. The photograph was taken at F2.8, ISO 3200, and 8 sec exposure. The high ISO, wide aperture and long exposure were used to counter the darkness and produce a balanced exposure.
Erez Marom is a professional nature photographer, photography guide and traveler based in Israel. You can follow Erez's work on Instagram, Facebook and 500px, and subscribe to his mailing list for updates. Erez offers photo workshops worldwide.
Sony recently announced the a7 III, a comparatively affordable full frame mirrorless camera that incorporates a host of advanced features derived from the a9 and a7R III. The combination of price point and feature set makes it attractive to both enthusiasts and pros, particularly those looking to get into full frame or perhaps even make the switch to mirrorless. While we've already shot quite a bit with it and offered our thoughts on the camera as a whole, we hadn't had a chance to take a deep dive into its image quality performance.
And we know many of you are wondering: what's the dynamic range like? The high ISO performance?
Let's take a look.
Low light (high ISO) performance
Low light performance has improved markedly over the a7 II, putting it more or less in-line with the a7R III (and therefore a9) when images are viewed at the same size (we've downsized the a7R III shot to 24MP). These are 100% crops here (if you're viewing on a smartphone or Retina / 4K display, see this footnote* below). Roll over the captions, or click on any of the images to view our full studio scene images for each camera.
This is a great result, but also comes as no surprise: noise performance is broadly determined by a combination of sensor size and technology, and we've recently seen some significant improvements to sensor technology made by Sony. In particular, the backside-illuminated (BSI) and dual gain architecture of most recent Sony sensors helps squeeze every last bit of performance out of these already low noise imaging chips. Furthermore, the original a7 and a7 II lagged in high ISO performance, often failing to surpass the best APS-C sensors.
Dynamic range vs. the a7R III
The a7 III more or less matches the base ISO dynamic range of the a7R III, when both are viewed at common size (we've normalized all our graphs to 8MP). That means both cameras will give you similar ability to make use of (brighten) shadows in Raw files if you want to show a wider dynamic range than shown with the default tone curve. And as long as you're shooting uncompressed Raw, performance is no different whether you're shooting Single or Continuous drive.
In numbers, that's 14.6 EV and 14.8 EV for the a7 III and a7R III, respectively, which falls within our margin of error. You might see a difference in extreme pushes or exposure adjustments, but it's not likely to be photographically relevant.
Note the jump in dynamic range at ISO 640 for both cameras. That's essentially the camera's second 'base' ISO, where the second stage of the dual-gain architecture kicks in. At ISOs 640 and above, most recent Sony sensors use a higher gain mode that essentially amplifies the signal at the pixel-level to get it above the (already pretty low) noise floor.** In laymen's terms, that just means 'more picture, less noise', particularly in shadows – hence the increase in dynamic range.
Our analysis shows the a7 III to just edge out the a7R III at these higher ISOs, albeit only by about 0.3 EV (which happens to be right around our margin of error). You might see this in the deepest shadows – in fact, if you look very closely at the darkest patch in our ISO 25,600 rollover above, you can kind of see a tad bit less noise in the a7 III, but is that photographically relevant? Up to you.
... but it shows a marked improvement over its predecessor
While base ISO dynamic range remains the same as its predecessor, the dual-gain design brings a marked improvement at high ISO. Shadows at high ISO will be notably cleaner on the a7 III, and that's before you consider the better overall high ISO performance – even in brighter tones – likely due to either a more efficient sensor or lower upstream read noise.
Compressed continuous drive performance
If you shoot compressed Raw, the camera drops to 12-bit sensor readout in continuous drive modes. This negatively impacts dynamic range, dropping 1.4 EV at base ISO and roughly 1 EV at ISO 640. Dynamic range catches up at higher ISOs, though never quite matches the performance of 14-bit readout. Even at ISO 6400, 12-bit files are roughly 0.4 EV behind - though this is unlikely to significantly impact your photography. The differences at lower ISOs and at ISO 640, on the other hand, you might notice in more extreme pushes.
|a7 III Uncompressed (orange) vs. Compressed 12-bit (light orange) performance. We're not sure about the jumps at ISO 160 and 800, but for the most part there's a drop in dynamic range at lower ISOs that more or less evens out at the higher ISOs.|
In Single drive mode, compressed Raw continues to use 14-bit sensor readout, so measured roughly the same dynamic range as Uncompressed (it dropped 0.1 EV, but that's within our margin of error).
And if you're confused about when the camera drops to 12-bit – which is the only time you'd see these drops in DR – the only combination that diverges from 14-bit is when you shoot compressed Raw in (any) continuous drive mode. All other combinations of Mechanical or Electronic shutter, drive mode or Raw type are 14-bit.
vs. a7R II
We threw this one in here because the a7 III and a7R II are currently being sold for roughly similar price (the latter is $400 more expensive), so we're aware of some discussion about choosing between the two. You're unlikely to notice our measured 0.2 EV higher base ISO dynamic range of the a7 III, but you might notice the 0.5 EV advantage at ISO 640. At higher ISOs the cameras even out.
Realistically though, there's not much difference between these cameras.
|a7 III (orange) vs a7R II (red) dynamic range. You might notice the 0.5 EV advantage of the a7 III at ISO 640, but for the most part performance is similar.|
Due to the dual-gain architecture, there are two 'ISO-invariant' ranges: ISO 100-500, and ISO 640-51,200. This means that if your midtone exposure demands ISO 400 but you're worried about clipping highlights, you're better off keeping your exposure settings the same but dialing the camera back to ISO 100 and then selectively brightening the Raw later. This affords you 2 EV extra highlight headroom, with no extra noise in shadows or midtones. If on the other hand your midtone exposure demands ISO 6400, you're better off keeping the same shutter speed and aperture and dialing the ISO down to ISO 640, affording you 3.3 EV extra highlight headroom at no noise cost.
Wait, does this mean I should shoot ISO 640 instead of 320?
No. Not necessarily.
If you have enough light to expose ISOs 200-500 correctly, you should use those ISOs. For example, say you can set a shutter speed and aperture to expose ISO 320 properly. You should not rather choose ISO 640 and shorten your exposure (to preserve highlights that the higher amplification of ISO 640 might clip). That would mean lower overall signal:noise ratio due to increased photon shot noise contribution, and would essentially have the same overall effect of shooting with a smaller (in this example: APS-C) sized sensor.
Recall that dynamic range is not everything, and generally the more light you collect, the better your image. Bill Claff's 'Photographic Dynamic Range' data for the a7R III, which uses a higher threshold for 'acceptable noise in shadows' and therefore considers total light captured more than our measurements, shows that ISO 100-400 outperform ISO 640 and higher. Dual-gain boosts low light performance, and shouldn't affect your exposure decisions any differently, other than perhaps biasing toward ISO 640 rather than 500 in low light.
We've summarized our results in numbers in the table below.
|ISO 100 (24MP)||ISO 100 (8MP)||ISO 640 (24MP)||ISO 640 (8MP)|
|a7 III||13.8 EV||14.6 EV||13.4 EV||14.2 EV|
|a7 III (compressed 12-bit)||12.4 EV||13.2 EV||12.3 EV||13.2 EV|
|a7 II||13.9 EV||14.7 EV||11.8 EV||12.6 EV|
|a7R III||14 EV||14.8 EV||13.1 EV||13.9 EV|
|a7R II||13.6 EV||14.4 EV||12.9 EV||13.7 EV|
|a9||12.6 EV||13.4 EV||12.4 EV||13.2 EV|
So what's the take-away? The a7 III's image quality more or less matches what we've come to expect from modern, well-performing full-frame sensors. There's really not much difference between the a7 III, the a7R III, the a7R II, or the Nikon D850 for that matter.
But if you're coming from one of the original a7 cameras, you'll notice the dramatic increase in low light performance. The a7 III bests its predecessors both in dynamic range and general noise performance at higher ISOs, thanks to a number of sensor improvements (efficiency, BSI, dual-gain). Interestingly, the a7 III, which we'd imagine shares a similar sensor to the a9 minus the stacked design, offers roughly 1 EV more dynamic range than that camera at ISOs 100 and 640 (the cameras even out at the highest ISOs). General noise performance of the a9 - if you're not pushing your files - is similar though.
The a7 III's image quality more or less matches what we've come to expect from modern, well-performing full-frame sensors
The a7 III offers great image quality performance at an affordable price point. That said, it's not image quality that sets this camera apart from its contemporaries but, rather, its significant other capabilities like autofocus, silent shooting, video and a number of other things we'll be delving into in our full review.
* Retina & smartphone optimized 100% crops:
** Technically speaking, it's not exactly more amplification. Rather, the sensor switches to a different circuit within the pixel that has different capacitance at the floating diffusion node. This essentially generates a larger voltage swing (signal) per photoelectron captured, which means the signal - your picture - is less affected by the noise floor of the sensor and electronics.
The AI-powered Google Lens feature uses visual recognition to provide information about whatever your smartphone's camera is pointed at. For example, it can identify landmarks, a type of flower, or provide information about a restaurant or other businesses you're photographing.
Google first showed of this feature at the I/O 2017 event, then integrated it into the company's Pixel phones, and later made available for all Android devices. Now, the final step of the natural Google Lens evolution is complete: the company has announced that Google Lens is coming to Apple's iOS operation system:
A few things you can try with Google Lens:— Google Photos (@googlephotos) March 15, 2018
On your Android or iOS device, with your device language set to English, open the Google Photos app, select a photo and tap the Google Lens icon to learn more about landmarks. See ratings, hours, historical facts, and more. pic.twitter.com/62FK1yTFJJ
iOS users should see a preview of Google Lens appear in the latest version of the Google Photos app over the next week. So, look out for the update and, if you haven't got the Google Photos app already, you can download and install it from the iOS App Store.
|Photo by Kevin|
It's starting to feel old hat by now: another quarter, another record-breaking earnings report coming out of Adobe. No matter how much people—present company certainly not excluded—gripe about Adobe's move to the Creative Cloud subscription model, the software company is absolutely raking in the dough as a result.
The last record-breaking revenue report we shared out of Adobe came in Q3 of 2017, when Adobe announced that it had earned $1.84 billion that quarter. Now, in Q1 of 2018, the company is staring at that figure in the rearview mirror.
This quarter, Adobe is posting record quarterly revenue of $2.08 billion, $1.23 billion of which came straight from Creative Cloud in the Digital Media Segment. That $2.08B figure represents a jump of 24 percent year-over-year, and contributes to the 43 percent growth in YoY operating income and 64 percent growth in YoY net income that Adobe also revealed.
You can dive into the nitty gritty details in the release below, and see the full number-by-number breakdown in this PDF.
Adobe Achieves Record Revenue
Creative ARR Exceeds $5 Billion in Q1 FY2018
Thursday, March 15, 2018 4:05 pm EDT | San Jose, California – Adobe (Nasdaq:ADBE) today reported strong financial results for its first quarter fiscal year 2018 ended March 2, 2018.
- Adobe achieved record quarterly revenue of $2.08 billion in its first quarter of fiscal year 2018, which represents 24 percent year-over-year revenue growth.
- Diluted earnings per share was $1.17 on a GAAP-basis, and $1.55 on a non-GAAP basis.
- Digital Media segment revenue was $1.46 billion, with Creative revenue growing to $1.23 billion and Document Cloud achieving revenue of $231 million.
- Digital Media Annualized Recurring Revenue (“ARR”) grew to $5.72 billion exiting the quarter, a quarter-over-quarter increase of $336 million. Creative ARR grew to $5.07 billion, and Document Cloud ARR grew to $647 million.
- Digital Experience segment revenue was $554 million, which represents 16 percent year-over-year growth.
- Operating income grew 50 percent and net income grew 46 percent year-over-year on a GAAP-basis; operating income grew 43 percent and net income grew 64 percent year-over-year on a non-GAAP basis.
- Cash flow from operations was $990 million, and deferred revenue grew 25 percent year-over-year to approximately $2.57 billion.
- Adobe repurchased approximately 1.6 million shares during the quarter, returning $301 million of cash to stockholders.
A reconciliation between GAAP and non-GAAP results is provided at the end of this press release and on Adobe’s website.
“Adobe’s outstanding growth is driven by enabling our customers to be more creative, work smarter and transform their businesses through our relentless focus on delivering innovation and intelligence across our solutions,” said Shantanu Narayen, president and CEO, Adobe.
“Our leadership in the large addressable markets we created, combined with Adobe’s leveraged operating model, contributed to another record quarter in Q1," said Mark Garrett, executive vice president and CFO, Adobe.
Adobe to Webcast Earnings Conference Call
Adobe will webcast its first quarter fiscal year 2018 earnings conference call today at 2:00 p.m. Pacific Time from its investor relations website: www.adobe.com/ADBE. Earnings documents, including Adobe management’s prepared conference call remarks with slides, financial targets and an investor datasheet are posted to Adobe’s investor relations website in advance of the conference call for reference. A reconciliation between GAAP and non-GAAP earnings results and financial targets is also provided on the website.
Forward-Looking Statements Disclosure
This press release contains forward-looking statements, including those related to customer success, product innovation, business momentum, our addressable market, revenue, annualized recurring revenue, non-operating other expense, tax rate on a GAAP and non-GAAP basis, earnings per share on a GAAP and non-GAAP basis, and share count, all of which involve risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially. Factors that might cause or contribute to such differences include, but are not limited to: failure to develop, acquire, market and offer products and services that meet customer requirements, failure to compete effectively, introduction of new technology, complex sales cycles, risks related to the timing of revenue recognition from our subscription offerings, fluctuations in subscription renewal rates, potential interruptions or delays in hosted services provided by us or third parties, risks associated with cyber-attacks, information security and privacy, failure to realize the anticipated benefits of past or future acquisitions, changes in accounting principles and tax regulations, uncertainty in the financial markets and economic conditions in the countries where we operate, and other various risks associated with being a multinational corporation. For a discussion of these and other risks and uncertainties, please refer to Adobe’s Annual Report on Form 10-K for our fiscal year 2017 ended Dec. 1, 2017, and Adobe's Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q issued in fiscal year 2018.
The financial information set forth in this press release reflects estimates based on information available at this time. These amounts could differ from actual reported amounts stated in Adobe’s Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q for our quarter ended March 2, 2018, which Adobe expects to file in March 2018.
Adobe assumes no obligation to, and does not currently intend to, update these forward-looking statements.
|The New York Times Building by wsifrancis | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0|
The New York Times has posted a job opening for the position of Photo Director. If you're looking for a high-profile job in the world of photojournalism, and you live in (or don't mind moving to) New York City, you could do a lot worse than working for The Gray Lady.
The opening was listed seven days ago, and it goes to great lengths to emphasize the importance of photography to the Times' mission. "Photography is a central part of our identity," reads the posting. "It’s how we bear witness to events that matter, and our Photo department is one of the treasures of our newsroom."
As for the job of Photo Director itself, the posting reads:
Now we’re looking for someone to lead this talented and diverse team and to become part of the visual leadership of the organization. We want to continue integrating photography and other forms of visual journalism into the fabric of our report — as closely as our words.
This role is one of the most important and high-profile jobs in visual journalism, and we’re seeking candidates with a rare combination of journalistic experience, organizational expertise and extraordinary visual talent.
Some of the listed qualifications include:
Daily leadership of a large staff of photo editors and photographers who work across the globe, covering all subjects.
Candidates should be able to maintain high journalistic standards and sustain a level of excellence that makes photography a core component of The Times’s identity.
Sophisticated news judgment and a compelling vision for how The Times can produce world-class journalism and innovative storytelling. We’re looking for a strong digital sensibility, including the ability to recognize emerging techniques and platforms and a clear understanding of how to define a modern photo desk.
Strong grasp of feature and portrait photography and the ability to improvise visual solutions for news coverage that may not be obviously visual.
Sharp eye for talent and ability to recruit a diverse, first-rate team of photo editors and photographers.
If you think you have what it takes to be the new Photo Director at the New York Times, click here to read the full job opening and apply.
According to a new report out of South Korea, Samsung is increasing production of its ISOCELL image sensors at its Hwasung, South Korea location in a bid to clinch the #1 spot in image sensors worldwide.
However, this feat is definitely easier said than done. Current market leader Sony has a comfortable advantage over its South Korean rival, and certainly won't go down without a fight. In the lucrative smartphone segment alone, Sony currently has a 46 percent market share versus Samsung's much smaller 19 percent.
That said, technologically at least, Samsung is well-placed to take on the challenge. Its latest Galaxy Note 8 and Galaxy S9/S9 Plus devices all come with innovative imaging technologies and offer excellent camera performance built on Samsung's own sensor technology.
The company rebranded its image sensor range as Isocell in June 2017. Since then, Samsung has not only expanded its high-end sensor offerings, it also designed low-cost image sensor modules that are easy to implement into devices by other manufacturers. Several of those, for example Xiaomi and Meizu, are already using Samsung image sensors.
However, market leadership cannot be achieved with smartphones alone. Samsung is also planning to grow in the automotive space where CMOS sensors are increasingly used in the autonomous vehicle space and for other applications. In this segment, Samsung will face stiff competition from the likes of Bosch and Continental.
Whoever ends up ruling the image sensor market, a large company like Samsung challenging Sony's quasi-monopoly for image sensors can only be good news for consumers.
Large format wilderness photographer Ben Horne recently embarked on a little experiment with some help from his friend, Michael Strickland. Horne shoots large format 8x10 slide film, and Strickland has a drum scanner that can scan that film at insanely high resolution. How high? Using a little bit of trickery, Strickland was able to provide Horne with a 709.6-megapixel file to pixel peep in this video.
Take that, 100MP medium format sensors!
To give you an idea of just how high resolution this file is, printed at 300ppi, the resulting print would measure 79.3 x 99.4 inches. As we mentioned, this took a bit of 'trickery'—namely: Strickland actually had to drum scan the print twice. He first scanned the top half, then the bottom half, and then merged the two scans together in post.
In the video, Horne zooms in to 100% and makes his way around the file. He explains how he shot the image, what sacrifices he had to make regarding sharpness in the closest foreground and furthest background, and shows off just how sharp this thing is in the parts of the image he's most concerned with.
Check out the full explanation for yourself up top, and then head over to Horne's YouTube channel for more videos like this one.
eCapture Technologies has launched a new version of the LyfieEye mobile camera on crowdfunding website Indiegogo. Called LyfieEye200, this model is being dubbed "the world's smallest 360° VR/AR camera," and offers a bunch of neat AR/VR features for Android users who want to get more mileage out of their smartphone photography adventures.
The LyfieEye200 was designed for Android smartphones, and adds 1440p support in addition to the original model's 1080p resolution. The removable camera plugs directly into a smartphone's USB-C port, where a pair of greater-than-180° FOV fisheye lenses work together to enable both 360° image/video capture and 360° livestreaming.
To make the magic happen, the camera works in conjunction with the LyfieView200 Android companion app on devices running Android 5.0 or newer. And if you want even more creative possibilities, eCapture offers both the LyfieStroll and LyfieRoam apps for creating simple VR and AR content, respectively. Finally, the camera is also compatible with PCs running Windows 7 or higher, but it does not support iOS.
The LyfieEye200 is available now on Indiegogo, where backers can 'reserve' theirs by pledging at least $90 USD. Shipments to backers are expected to start in June, assuming the campaign reaches full funding and doesn't pull a KitSentry.
Filmmakers who need really long sliders are the target of the new Magic Carpet Pro, the latest in a series of sliders announced by accessories manufacturer Syrp. The key selling point of the Magic Carpet Pro is its 'limiteless' range, a feature made possible by a new track lever design that allow users to lengthen their slide by simply clicking additional lengths of track into place—no tools required.
But that's not all the Magic Carpet Pro can do.
A newly designed flywheel sits inside the camera carriage, eliminating the need for belts and pulleys while creating smooth motion during manually controlled camera movements. And as with all of Syrp's other slider systems, automated motion control can be added via a Genie system; in fact, the Genie ll is able to slot directly into the new quick release holder in the carriage itself.
The tracks are made from aluminum, and are expected to manage a payload of up to 70lbs when no extension tracks are in use, and up to 50lb when they are. Here's a quick video intro from Syrp itself:
The Syrp Magic Carpet Pro can be pre-ordered now for May/June delivery, with kit prices ranging from $990 to $1470. Three kits will be available, including one with a two foot ‘Short Track’, one with a 'Medium Track' of three feet, and a third that includes both the short and the medium tracks to create a combined five foot slider.
For more information, visit the Syrp website.
|Kenji Tanaka, Senior General Manager of Sony's Digital Imaging Business Group, pictured in Yokohama for the 2018 CP+ show.|
At the recent CP+ show in Yokohama, we sat down with executives from several major camera and lens manufacturers. Among them was Kenji Tanaka, of Sony. In our interview we discussed the new a7 III, as well as Sony's plans to attract more professional users, without ignoring entry-level and APS-C customers.
The following interview has been edited slightly for clarity and flow.
What is your target customer for the new Alpha a7 III?
We describe it as a basic model but maybe our definition is different [to other manufacturers]. What we mean is that any customer can use this model. Many professionals could use the a7 III, I think. I hope that many kinds of customer will be happy with this model, so we’re not strictly defining a target customer for the a7R III.
|The new Sony Alpha a7 III is ostensibly an entry-level model in Sony's a7-series lineup but despite its relative affordability, it's packed with features.|
Sony had a very busy year last year – what are your priorities going into 2018 and beyond?
We’re displaying the 400mm F2.8 [at CP+] – of course many articles are written about the a7 III, but as well as the camera bodies, the lenses are very important. Especially lenses like the 400mmm F2.8 – sports photographers are a new category for us.
One of the most important lenses for sports photographers is the 400mm F2.8
Last year we launched the a9 and some sports photographers are already using the a9, for example at the Olympics, but one of the most important lenses for sports photographers is the 400mm F2.8. The weight is very light. Usually sports photographers use monopods because the lenses are very heavy, but the weight of our 400mm F2.8 is very light, and you can use it handheld, which makes it easy to create different kinds of photographs. We already announced the development of this lens, and the launch is scheduled for this summer.
How important is feedback from sports photographers?
It’s very important. Not only when it comes to quality, but also durability. The winter Olympics for example, with the low temperatures, whether a product works in those tough conditions is very important. Whether or not we will launch a new product, the proof of concept is very important.
For a product aimed at a hobbyist, maybe it's less important but for the 400mm F2.8 we’re really dedicated to create a ‘monster’ lens.
|Sony was showing a prototype of its forthcoming 400mm F2.8 at CP+, which Mr. Tanaka sees as an essential weapon in Sony's arsenal of lenses if the company is going to attract professional sports photographers to the brand.|
There have been questions about the weather sealing of a7-series and a9 cameras. Is this something you want to address?
In really bad conditions, in really heavy rain, will photographers keep on taking pictures [for long periods of time?] I don’t think so. In those conditions, most photographers will use some kind of rain cover. But of course durability is very important. Photographers should be able to shoot [in poor weather]. We have an internal ‘weather test’ and for each kind of customer we will aim to produce products with adequate durability.
For a professional camera, the requirement for durability is higher
Is that something that your professional users are asking for?
Yes. But we need a balance between durability, and size and weight. For a professional camera, the requirement for durability is higher, but for hobbyist kinds of camera, the priority is smaller size and lower weight.
Tamron and Sigma are now creating lenses for Sony FE - is this a good thing for Sony?
Yes, it’s a good thing. The E-mount is an open standard – anyone can create a lens for the E-mount system. Of course there are criteria for compatibility, but because we think that the E-mount is a good technology, we think that the open format is good for the market and good for customers.
|Tamron's first lens for full-frame Sony mirrorless cameras will be the upcoming 28-75mm F2.8 zoom. Sigma is planning its own range of native E-Mount primes and zooms, too.|
How long will it be before Canon and Nikon join Sony and mirrorless full-frame becomes the norm?
This is just my personal opinion, but I think that maybe by next year’s CP+ you’ll see full-frame mirrorless cameras from Canon and Nikon. I think [by then] they will be participating in this market.
If cameras are going to develop, manufacturers have to develop mirrorless technologies
Just look at our technologies, like eye focus. All of those are made possible because of data from image sensors. In DSLRs, the data comes from separate sensors. The main imaging sensor is blacked out, 90% of the time by the mirror. The sensor is turned off. But the imaging sensor is very important. So if cameras are going to develop, and be able to capture the moment [more effectively], manufacturers have to develop mirrorless technologies. So within one year, I think.
Do you think we’ll see mostly mirrorless cameras at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo?
How many of those cameras do you want to be made by Sony?
Many! But the professional market is very conservative, so we’re taking it step by step. We saw some photographers using the Alpha 9 at this year’s winter Olympics but of course the majority was Canon and Nikon. But the number of Sony photographers is increasing.
|The Sony Alpha a9's innovative wide-coverage autofocus system makes it a powerful tool in the hands of an experienced sports photographer.|
A lot of our readers want more Sony APS-C lenses…
We know that some people think we’ve neglected the APS-C market, but it’s just an issue of prioritization. A couple of years ago we introduced the a6500. Then the next year we introduced the a9, and the a7R III. But we think that the APS-C market, and APS-C customers are both very important, because the majority of the market is APS-C, and we’re developing many kinds of APS-C products, so please be patient – we will never ignore APS-C.
Some of your competitors keep flagship products up to date over time with firmware updates. This seems like the opposite strategy to Sony. Is this something that might change?
We’re still in the early stages of challenging the market with our products, and the new model cycle is relatively rapid, compared to our competitors. But the next step is to increase our market share. And if we want to reach new customers, we need [to make] new types of cameras.
We’re still in the early stages of challenging the market with our products, and the new model cycle is relatively rapid
Sony makes a lot of key devices, for example image sensors and processors. I’m originally an engineer. Engineers always want to provide the latest sensor, the latest processor, and so on. Maybe this is one of the reasons our product release cycle is faster than some of our competitors. [But] user-upgradable software is very important. Our new model cycle is speedy, however I think that firmware updates are something we should offer.
Our conversation with Mr. Tanaka was candid and interesting, coming in the middle of a very busy period for Sony. The company has released a lot of high-end products over the past 18 months, and shows no signs of slowing down. We don't know how far out the new 400mm F2.8 sports lens is, but given recent sightings of at least one working prototype 'in the wild' at the winter Olympics, it could be pretty imminent.
Mr. Tanaka knows that Sony won't have the full-frame mirrorless field to itself for much longer, and welcomes the competition
Mostly I came away from this interview with the strong sense that Sony isn't planning on resting on its laurels. Mr. Tanaka knows that his company won't have the full-frame mirrorless field to itself for much longer, and welcomes the inevitable competition from established DSLR manufacturers like Canon and Nikon, as well as third-party lens manufacturers like Sigma and Tamron. As he correctly points out, some of the most useful features to emerge in the photography market in recent years could only have been possible thanks to mirrorless technologies, and Sony deserves enormous credit for developing and perfecting many of these technologies faster than any other manufacturer.
Sony will not ignore either APS-C users, or entry-level full-frame customers
It was very reassuring to hear Mr. Tanaka stress the importance of durability, as well as technology in Sony's high-end cameras. Concerns have been raised about the ability of some of its products to withstand use in wet conditions, but clearly this is something that the company is mindful of – especially in cameras and lenses designed for professional use.
That's not to say that Sony is focused entirely on breaking into the professional market. Mr. Tanaka was at pains to reassure us that Sony will not ignore either APS-C users, or entry-level full-frame customers. The new a7 III is proof of the latter point – a 'basic' model in Sony's terminology, but one that I suspect will satisfy the needs of many enthusiasts and even professionals.
Previous Sony interviews:
Austrian wet plate photographer Markus Hofstaetter is back with another crazy large format photography experiment. This time, he decided to find a way to shoot macro photos on a large format wet plate camera. To do this, he actually had to stack two wet plate cameras front to back, bellows fully extended.
Markus documented the whole experiment on his blog, and shares a behind-the-scenes 'Making Of' look at the shoot in the video above. His subject was a little snowdrop from his garden, with a simple tin-foil background for some pretty bokeh. But getting any sort of magnification with a large format camera is no easy feat. He needed a lot of distance between his film plane and the little flower.
That's why he decided to 'connect' two large format wet plate cameras together, giving him enough extension to magnify the flower onto an 18x24cm plate.
Here's a diagram that shows the difference between your standard "full-frame" size, a 10x12cm plate, and an 18x24cm plate (left) and that same diagram overlaid on the final plate:
The next problem he faced was getting enough light. The farther the plate is from the subject, the more light he needs—the plate has an ISO value of about 0.5—and he was pretty far away from his subject. The trick to solving this problem, says Markus, is using fresh chemicals and a LOT of artificial light.
"Freshly mixed chemicals are more sensitive to light," he tells DPReview. "If I had used older chemicals, I’m not sure if this macro shot would have been possible." Add to that two flashes of 7,000W of light, and you've got JUST enough exposure to make this work.
Mix all of this together and here's what you get. Scroll to the very end to see the final image:
Definitely check out the whole Making Of video at the top if you want to see how this shot came together. Markus goes into more detail, revealing interesting tidbits about the lens he used, his lighting setup, and lets you tag along for the entire developing process as well.
And if you like his work, don't forget to visit his website, check out his blog, and give him a follow on Facebook and Instagram. His quirky experiments—several of which we've featured on DPReview—might just get your creative juices flowing, too.
The Fujifilm X-H1 is the company's range-topping APS-C camera and its most video-capable camera to date. It's based around the same 24MP sensor as the X-T2 but adds in-body image stabilization as well as a more comprehensive set of video options.
The X-H1 looks like a fractionally larger X-T2 but with the sloped viewfinder 'prism' and top-panel LCD that hint at the styling of the GFX 50S. Fujifilm has also clearly been listening to critics of the X-T series and have made the camera's grip and buttons significantly larger, particularly the AE-L and newly-added AF-On buttons.
- 24MP X-Trans APS-C sensor
- 5-axis in-body image stabilization (rated at 5EV)*
- 3.69M-dot OLED viewfinder
- Touch sensitive rear LCD with two-axis tilt
- DCI and UHD 4K capture at up to 200 Mbps
- Slow motion 1080 (from 120 and 100 fps)
- Internal F-Log capture
- 24-bit audio capture
- Eterna/Cinema Film Simulation mode
- Reduced blackout in continuous shooting
- Twin UHS-II-compatible card slots
- Anti-flicker shooting mode
- Wi-Fi with Bluetooth for constant connection
The company says it's made further improvements to its AF system and says the new camera will be able to focus in lower light and with smaller apertures.
Despite being based around the same sensor and processor, the X-H1 promises significantly improved video performance, with the range of shooting options extended to include DCI as well as UHD 4K shooting, bitrates up to 200 Mbps and the ability to record F-Log footage internally.
Other additions include the movie style 'Eterna' Film Simulation and an anti-flicker option for shooting under artificial lights.
Interestingly, although rated at 5EV, Fujifilm says the stabilization can hit 5.5EV of effectiveness if paired with non-IS lenses. The explanation for this is that the unstabilized lenses tend to be primes and are generally relatively wide focal lengths, both of which mean they're more likely to project a larger image circle than the sensor requires. This gives the sensor more room to move around, providing greater stabilization.
The X-T2 is already a very credible video performer: offering good levels of detail capture and Log output over HDMI if needed. The X-H1 takes this a step further. In addition to being able to shoot UHD 4K at up to 30p it can also shoot the wider aspect ratio DCI 4K format at 23.98 and 24p. Enhanced compression options allow capture at up to 200 Mbps and it can also capture F-Log footage internally.
Like the X-T2, the H1 uses a 1.17x crop region of its sensor to capture its UHD and DCI 4K video. This means using roughly 1.4x more pixels than necessary, in each dimension, to produce its UHD footage. This oversampling leads to higher levels of detail capture than would be possible by simply using a 3840 x 2160 region. If the X-T2 is anything to go by, it should look good and have pretty well-controlled rolling shutter.
It seems most of the camera's additional size relates to the addition of the stabilization unit, but thermal management has also been improved, allowing the camera to shoot 4K for 15 minutes, rather than the 10 of the X-T2. However, as with the X-T2, there's an optional battery grip that lets the camera cycle between drawing power from each of three batteries. Presumably this avoids too much heat building up in the same place, since it extends the camera's 4K shooting duration out to the traditional 29 minutes, 59 seconds stipulated by import duty regulations.
On top of this comes the ability for the camera to retain a raft of settings separately for stills and video. This means you don't have to significantly reconfigure the camera every time you switch from stills to video shooting or back.
|Parameters treated independently for movie shooting|
The obvious things that can't be set independently for stills and movie shooting are the exposure settings, since these are primarily defined by dedicated control dials. If you plan to swap back and forth between stills and video shooting, the camera's new 'Movie Silent Control' mode is one way around this.
Movie Silent Control disables the aperture ring, shutter speed dial and ISO dial, passing control to a touchscreen, joystick and four-way controller-based interface. This means discrete stills and video settings can be maintained, since the dedicated control points no longer have any affect in video mode.
However you choose to control exposure in movie mode, you'll quickly find that the X-H1 offers shutter speeds equivalent to 360, 180 and 90 degree shutter angles for 24, 30 and 60p video capture, with the options for 1/24th, 1/48th, 1/96th, 120th and 1/240th becoming available.
Like its sibling, the X-H1 offers a series of focus peaking options (color and intensity) but no zebra warnings for setting exposure, beyond the 'Live View Highlight Warning' option that indicates an unspecified and unspecifiable brightness.
The X-H1 also brings Fujifilm's DR modes to movie capture for the first time, allowing you to capture more highlight information, if you can tolerate higher ISO settings. Meanwhile the 'Eterna/Cinema' Film simulation is designed to give 'soft,' low-saturation footage with low contrast but distinct shadows. Fujifilm says it can be used as an end-point in itself or to give yourself a degree of latitude for color grading.
Users of Fujifilm's MK lenses (launched in X-mount alongside the X-H1) will appreciate the ability to view aperture as T-stops, rather than F-numbers. It's unclear at this point whether this option will be available with adapted and third-party lenses identified this way.
Dynamic Range Priority
Fujifilm was one of the first brands to exploit the ISO-invariant properties of the sensors it uses through its Dynamic Range modes (The DR modes offer multiple ways of delivering ISO settings using different amounts of hardware amplification to capture additional highlight information).
The X-H1 takes this further with a 'Dynamic Range Priority' mode. This uses the existing DR modes in combination with the camera's ability to adjust the Highlight and Shadow aspects of its tone curves. There are four settings: Weak, Strong, Auto and Off. The 'Weak' setting is DR200% mode with highlights and shadows softened by 1 step (since it's based on DR200%, is only available from ISO 400 upwards), while 'Strong' is DR400% with Highlights and Shadows set to -2. Strong is only available from ISO 800 or higher.
New shutter mechanism
Along with in-body stabilization, the X-H1 gains a new, quieter shutter mechanism. In addition to being quieter, it also allows the camera to offer Electronic First Curtain (EFC) shutter mode. In this mode the sensor being activated starts the exposure but a physical shutter is still used to end it, so that you significantly reduce the risk of shutter shock without increasing the risk of rolling shutter.
Various combinations of EFC, mechanical and fully electronic shutter are available, to allow the use of each mode for the shutter speeds where it gives its greatest advantage.
Compared with its peers
The X-H1 is the latest high-end crop sensor camera to offer both stills and video shooting but each one provides a different set of features:
|Fujifilm X-H1||Fujifilm X-T2||Sony a6500||Panasonic GH5|
|Sensor size||APS-C||APS-C||APS-C||Four Thirds|
|Image Stablization||5-axis, 5.5EV||Lens only||5-axis, 5EV||5-axis, 5EV|
|Maximum shooting rate||14 fps with e-shutter, 8 fps mechanical (11 with grip)||
14 fps with e-shutter, 8 fps mechanical (11 with grip)
|11 fps||9 fps (11 with S-AF)|
|Screen articulation||Two-axis tilt||Two-axis tilt||Tilt||Fully articulated|
|EVF||3.69M dots||2.36M dots||2.36M dots||3.69M dots|
|Video Bit depth||8||8||8||10|
|200||100||100||400 (150 in 8-bit mode|
|Mic / Headphone sockets?||Yes / On VPB-XH1 accessory grip||Yes / On VPB-XT2 accessory grip||Yes / No||Yes / Yes|
|Log capture?||Yes||HDMI out only||Yes||HLG (V-Log L Via paid upgrade)|
|USB||3.0 Micro Type B||3.0 Micro Type B||2.0 Micro Type B||3.1 Type C|
|Shots per charge (CIPA rating)||310||340||310||410|
|Weight (with card and battery)||673g||507g||453g||725g|
Pricing and availability
The X-H1 is available with an MSRP of $1899 body only and $2199 bundled with the VPB-XH1 vertical grip.
|Review Publication History|
|February 15||Introduction, body and handling, first impressions and samples|
|March 15||In Use..., Autofocus, Image Stabilization, Image Quality,
Dynamic Range, Video and Conclusion added
*Fujifilm says the camera will give up to 5.5EV of stabilization when paired with non-stabilized XF lenses. As with all CIPA ratings, the performance is likely to be lower with very wide or long lenses.
Every year, Lamborghini puts on something called the "Winter Accademia." It's a week-long event wherein professional racing drivers teach clients how to drive the latest Lamborghini supercars on snow and ice—in short: one of the coolest events a motorsport photographer could cover. And this year, motorsport photojournalist Jamey Price was there to document the whole thing.
I stumbled across Jamey's story earlier this week on Facebook, where he shared the Behind the Scenes video above. But rather than just post the video without further context, I reached out and asked Jamey for some details about the Winter Accademia and what it's like to shoot it.
What he ended up sending us is worth publishing in full, so read on to find out what it's like to shoot the Lamborghini Winter Accademia 2018, and then scroll through the gallery at the bottom to see some Jamey's favorite shots from the event.
Shooting the Lamborghini Winter Accademia 2018
Every winter, Lamborghini North America organizes a driving event called Winter Accademia for existing and prospective clients to drive the latest Lamborghini models on snow and ice. Most people see a Lamborghini as an exotic car meant for driving in “normal” conditions, but in reality, with a little help from Pirelli winter tires with small metal studs, they are more than capable as performance cars on the ice too.
I’ve been fortunate to work with Lamborghini since 2013 covering races, as well as private driving events, concours and auto shows around the United States. This is simply one of the many events that is organized for the brand during the year. But as you can guess, it's one of my favorites.
Lamborghini descended on Hotel Sacacombie on the lake that bears the same name in Quebec for a week of driving in late February and early March. The cold temperatures during the winter freeze the lake with over 30 inches of ice, which is more than enough to drive on. The track is simply a plowed section of snow on the frozen surface of the lake where we can run a drift circle, figure eights and the full track where a team of 7 professional racing drivers can teach clients the finer points of drifting a Lamborghini.
As a photographer, it doesn’t get much better than this. Yeah, it’s long days in the cold which is brutal on both the gear and myself, but it’s amazing photography chasing these high performance cars in an environment that is very contained, safe and, most of all, fun.
Especially with the professional drivers, I can put myself in places I would never consider standing under normal conditions at a track. Because everything happens in slow motion on the ice, you can get pretty close and capture lots of photos of the cars completely sideways and throwing snow and ice into the sky.
Credits: Lamborghini, Lamborghini Squadra Corse, IRIS Worldwide and the amazing team of professional drivers I'm fortunate to work with every week.
A big thank you to Jamey for sharing his experience and photos with us. To see more of his work or follow along as he shoots some of the most adrenaline (and gasoline) fueled events around the world, visit his website or give him a follow on Instagram and Facebook.
Apple was the first mobile manufacturer to popularize still/video hybrid files with its Live Photos that were introduced on the iPhone 6s. Google then launched the Motion Stills app to improve and stabilize Apple's Live Photos, and ported the system to the Android world soon after.
For the new Motion Photos feature on its latest Pixel 2 devices Google built on Motion Stills, improving the technology by using advanced stabilization that combines the devices' soft and hardware capabilities. As before, Motion Photos captures a full-res JPEG with an embedded 3 second video clip every time you hit the shutter.
However, on the Pixel 2, the video clip also contains motion metadata that is derived from the gyroscope and optical image stabilization sensors.
This data is used to optimize trimming and stabilization of the motion photo and, combined with software based visual tracking, the new approach approach aligns the background more precisely than we've seen in the previous Motion Stills system (which was purely software-based). As before, the final results can be shared with friends or on the web as video files or GIFs.
Novoflex has announced an expansion of its TrioPod tripod product line with the launch of the TrioPod PRO75 model. This is a high-capacity advanced spider tripod, according to Novoflex, which claims that the PRO75 model can be used "for even the heaviest photo and video equipment."
Novoflex explains that its new PRO75 tripod is constructed with 8-layered carbon fiber legs alongside reinforced components. Buyers have a choice between three or four-section carbon fiber legs, as well as a pair of mini legs. The PRO75 model also supports existing TrioPod legs.
|The PRO base by itself will run you over $880 USD.|
The TrioPod PRO75 model can support a maximum load of 65kg / 143lbs and has a total of seven leg lock positions at 23-, 43-, 45-, 65-, 87-, 155-, and 180-degrees. The tripod is made with a high level of versatility in mind, offering support for most 75mm accessories and both 1/4" and 3/8" connections, a removable base plate for using a leveling ball, and a self-locking geared center column.
Of course, all of these capabilities are going to cost you a pretty penny. The TrioPod PRO75 base alone, without legs, costs a whopping $885.28. Add 3-section carbon fibre legs (plus 2 mini legs) to the kit and you're looking at $1,476.64, while a set of 4-section legs by themselves will run you $663.52.
To find out more about the TrioPod PRO75 lineup or order some bits and pieces for yourself, head over to the Novoflex website.
Introducing the NOVOFLEX TrioPod PRO75
The new Modular Tripod of choice for discerning professionals looking for the sturdiest, modular support solution.
For almost four years, the NOVOFLEX TrioPod tripod collection has been lauded as the most innovative tripod system on the market. The Product Innovation Team at NOVOFLEX is proud to announce the expansion of this tripod series with a modular, high-capacity tripod system, the TrioPod PRO75.
Exceptionally stable and modular with immense load capacity.
The basis for the all-new TrioPod PRO75 is the advanced tripod spider, which offers exceptional stability and immense load capacity. Thanks to the reinforced design of the individual components and new 8-layered carbon fiber legs, this modular tripod can be used for even the heaviest photo and video equipment.
The system can be purchased with 3 or 4 section carbon fiber legs plus two mini legs for maximum versatility.
In addition to the recommended new tripod legs C3930 and C3940, existing TrioPod legs can also be used with the new TrioPod PRO75 as well. With the optionally available carbon leg extensions, a total height of 79 in./2.0 m is possible. Short 2-segment carbon fiber legs C2820 are also available allowing you to achieve completely new perspectives and are even compatible with the existing TrioPod and QuadroPod Systems.
Maximum Load Capacity – 143 lbs/65 kg – Maximum holding capacity for maximum protection.
Removable Base Plate – A new feature of the tripod spider is the removable base plate that easily be detached and replaced with the optional leveling ball (MBAL-PRO75) or a geared center column (TRIO-CC-PRO75).
Unmatched Versatility – To build your tripod to meet the needs of any job the PRO75 can fit most 75mm accessories, even from other manufacturers. The optional leveling ball (MBAL-PRO75) can also be used with any other tripod you may have with a ¼” & 3/8” connection.
Self-Locking Geared Center Column – The innovative 3/8” studs on both ends of the geared center column provide an extra measure of security and compatibility by taking the load off the ¼” threads. The column itself can be adjusted by 19 in./48 cm.
7 Leg Lock Positions for Any Situation – For shoots on level surfaces, the TrioPod PRO75 spider allows the legs to be set at 23°, 45°, 65°, and 87°. Should you find yourself in a more confined space, a further locking position of 155° enables you to support the tripod against vertical surfaces. Particularly innovative is a new 43° angle that allows the tripod to flip upside down quickly for ground-level work, eliminating the need to reverse the center column and/or tripod head. For easy packaging, the legs can also be folded up at 180°.
Ground Level Work
The TrioPod PRO75 is available in two kits:
TRIOPROC3930 – consisting of TrioPod PRO75 tripod spider, (3x) C3930 3-segment carbon fiber legs, (2x) A1010 mini-legs, a tripod bag and multi-tool.
TRIOPROC3940 – consisting of TrioPod PRO75 tripod spider, (3x) C3940 4-segment carbon fiber legs, (2x) A1010 mini-legs, a tripod bag and multi-tool.
The two QLEG-A1010 mini-legs that are part of the kits can be screwed into the accessory thread creating limitless possibilities: Add one leg to smooth your workflow by attaching your camera bag, keeping your tripod weighted and giving you quick access to your equipment. Alternatively, replace two legs to create a “leaning pod” and achieve a new variety of creative perspectives for your boundless imagination.
Photographer William Briscoe captured this spectacular 360° 8K timelapse on January 31st near Fairbanks, Alaska. He shared the video on his YouTube channel and Facebook page a few weeks ago, alongside this description:
Here is a 360 video of the Lunar Eclipse, Alaska style, which I filmed on January 31st near Fairbanks. Lady Aurora, being the Diva she is, just couldn't let the moon have all the attention that night, so she made a nice showing as well.
If you have VR glasses of some sort, by all means slap them on! If not, simply drag the video around until you spot the moon, then watch as it disappears and becomes a black disk by about 30 seconds in, allowing the aurora to cover it entirely for the duration of the eclipse.
Unfortunately, capturing both aurora and eclipse in a single exposure is not possible, something Briscoe revealed in a comment on YouTube:
It is a composite video. The difference between the settings required to properly expose the moon and the Aurora is too great to do it in a single shot. The 360 camera was set to expose the Aurora and Landscape, while a second camera attached to a telephoto lens was used to time lapse the lunar eclipse itself. I combined them in post.
Without the second timelapse, the moon, even during eclipse totality, was bright enough to cause a white dot in the sky at the settings I had to use.
Of course, the fact that it was composited doesn't mean it was easy to shoot. Responding to a comment on YouTube, Briscoe revealed that it was -31°F (-35°C) out that night, so just getting his 360° rig (a custom-built array of numerous 35mm DSLRs) to work and staying warm for the three hours it took to shoot this was a challenge!
Google's HDR+ mode is widely regarded as the current benchmark for computational imaging on smartphones, but Chinese manufacturer Vivo wants to unseat the champion. Earlier today, Vivo announced its AI-powered Super HDR feature—a direct competitor to the Google system found in Pixel devices.
Super HDR is designed to improve HDR performance while keeping a natural and "unprocessed" look. To achieve this, the system captures 12 exposures (Google uses 9) and merges them into a composite image, allowing for a fine control over image processing.
Additionally, AI-powered scene detection algorithms identify different elements of a scene—for example: people, the sky, the clouds, rocks, trees, etc.—and adjust exposure for each of them individually. According to Vivo, the end result looks more natural than most images that use the simpler tone-mapping technique.
Looking at the provided sample images, the system appears to be doing an impressive job. That said, these kind of marketing images have to be swallowed with a pinch of salt; we'll see what the system is really capable of when it's available in a production device we can test.
Speaking of which, as of now, we don't know which device Super HDR will be shipping on first, but there is a chance it might be implemented on the upcoming Vivo V9, which is expected to be announced on March 22nd. The V9 is currently rumored to feature a Snapdragon 660 chipset and 12+8MP dual-camera.
The YouTube channel JerryRigEverything recently tore down (or rather tore apart...) the new Samsung Galaxy S9, giving us the closest look at yet at the new smartphone's camera hardware. So if the still images in the iFixit teardown weren't quite interesting enough for you, this might just do the trick.
The camera teardown is about one minute and a half long, running from the 3:30 mark until about 5:00. In that time, we get to see the Optical Image Stabilization system demoed and torn open to reveal the magnets inside:
Then, we get really close look at one of the phone's most intriguing features: the variable aperture. It turns out the system works using a little lever on the side of the housing. So when the phone senses that there is enough light to justify it, it'll flip this switch electronically and switch from it's world's-brightest F1.5 setting to F2.4.
Here's a very close look at that switch in action:
You can check out the full teardown in the video at the top. And stay tuned, because we'll be bringing you a full smartphone camera review of the Samsung Galaxy S9 just as soon as we can put a unit through its paces.