Category Archives: Reviews
I first heard about the Satechi Bluetooth Wireless Timer about a year ago while researching various intervalometers for use with time-lapse videos. It sounded like the answer to my prayers. Control your camera settings from your iPhone? Only $45.00? Count me in! So, I splurged.
It turns out that, at least in this case, you get what you pay for; it’s a piece of junk with serious limitations even on it’s best days.
I’ve read some really bad reviews out there about connectivity issues with the Bluetooth features of the device and thought they were mostly bullshit since mine connected just fine – at first. It eventually had the same issues everyone else has experienced, and they haven’t stopped since. You can hold your iPhone an inch away from the Satechi device and it will connect, and two seconds later it will tell you that it’s moved out of range, if you can get it to connect at all.
That said, even when it connected without a hitch, it had serious limitations. Most notably with it’s “timed” intervalometer features. You basically put your camera on it’s bulb setting and you can program how long the shutter stays open, how often it opens, and how many times it opens from your phone. Sounds good, right? Except for the fact that you can only program in hours, minutes, and seconds. The lowest shutter setting is one second. That would work great for night photography, if you could get it to work, but what about daylight photography? One second is a long time for your shutter to stay open in the daytime, even stopped down with low iso settings. Add to that an extra second or two if you have your long exposure noise eliminator set, and you have a recipe for a really screwed up intervalometer.
Bottom line, it’s a great idea but it just doesn’t work. Sometimes you get what you pay for.
Update: I’ve found some videos on YouTube that clearly explain how to repair the connection with your phone. So, that works fine now. It’s a little tricky though; you have to go into your general settings on your phone and disable the original bluetooth pairing before it will let you repair it.
I’ve been reading a lot of really good reviews lately about the new Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Lens. At almost half the cost of a new Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L USM, I figured it was worth a look. I rented one for a week from BorrowLenses and I must say it definitely lives up to the hype.
Part of the Art series of lenses from Sigma, the lens is compatible with the Sigma USB Dock. This allows you to connect the lens to your computer, and, using the included Sigma Optimization Pro software, to update firmware and other parameters such as focus specifically tailored to your needs.
The DxO Marks for the lens clearly blow the Canon lens out of the water, and it definitely stands up to the test. On my Canon 60D, the lens is closer to a 50mm lens than a 35mm lens , but it still works great for street photography and portraiture.
I’ve tried a few tests with exceptional results (see the self-portrait at the end of this post). Chromatic aberrations are practically non-existent. There is slight distortion, but compared to the more expensive Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L USM, it’s hardly noticeable. I read some reviews with people complaining about slow focus and I was a little worried, but it focuses just as fast as any glass I’ve ever tried and is quieter by far than most.
The real test will come this Sunday when I head to New York City for the day to shoot some street photography. I’ll post some shots then.
Details for the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Lens are as follows:
The 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Lens for Canon DSLR Cameras fromSigma is the first entry into Sigma’s Art series of professional lenses, with an emphasis on artistic expression and the creative potential of the lens. With a bright f/1.4 maximum aperture, floating inner focusing system, and Hyper Sonic Motor (HSM) you’ll have quick and accurate control over the artistic effects achieved by the lens’ high quality elements.
For wide angle photography, this 35mm lens and its circular 9-bladed f/1.4 aperture ensure excellent brightness and blurred background (bokeh) effects. The Super Multi-Layer Coating reduces flare and ghosting and provides sharp and high contrast images even in backlit conditions.
The lens’ Hyper Sonic Motor (HSM) and floating inner focusing system ensure that you experience quick, quiet and precise autofocusing whenever you need it. Adjust focus using either autofocus (AF), or full-time manual focus, without having to switch camera modes or change settings – just flick the switch from AF to MF.
For greater build quality and strength, all metallic parts and the new Thermally Stable Composite compound material (TSC), are housed internally. Its brass made bayonet mount has both high accuracy and durability, and a special treatment is applied to its surface giving it greater strength and making it highly resistant to long-term daily use.
- Aperture Range: f/1.4-16
- With a bright maximum aperture of f/1.4 this lens allows you to capture images with beautiful defocused background bokeh effects in darker conditions – using faster shutter speeds and lower ISO sensitivities.
- Hyper Sonic Motor (HSM)
- This lens’ motor is driven by ultrasonic waves to provide quiet, high speed autofocus. This Hyper Sonic Motor (HSM) ensures high speed and quiet AF as well as full-time manual focus override by rotating the focus ring.
- Floating Internal Focus System
- For stable focusing, this lens moves its inner lens groups without changing the lens length. It also compensates for astigmatic aberration and provides extremely high optical performance for close-up photos.
- Minimum Focusing Distance: 11.8″
- This lens has a minimum focusing distance of 11.8″ so you can capture wide-angle close-ups from nearly a foot away.
- Anti-Flare Super Multi-Layer Coating
- This lens’ coatings reduce lens flare, internal reflections and light scattering that can occur between the surfaces of its glass elements.
- USB Dock & SIGMA Optimization Pro Software
- Because of its redesigned series of lenses, Sigma developed proprietary software (SIGMA Optimization Pro) and an optional USB docking system that allows you to update the lens’ firmware and adjust its parameters such as focus. The 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM A1 Lens is compatible with the USB Dock.
- Special & “F” Low Dispersion Elements
- This lens incorporates “F” Low Dispersion (FLD) glass elements, which have performance equal to that of fluorite, and Special Low Dispersion (SLD) glass elements. By optimizing the power alignment of the lens, chromatic aberration has been corrected, achieving high image quality through the entire focusing range.
- DG Lens for Digital & 35mm Film SLRs
- This is a large-aperture lens with wide angles and a short minimum focusing distance. Because of its great peripheral illumination, or lack of vignetting, it is an ideal lens for DSLR Cameras and traditional 35mm SLRs alike.
- Sigma’s Artistic A-Series Lens
- Sigma has organized all of its interchangeable lenses into three product lines: Contemporary, Art and Sports. The Art line delivers high-level artistic quality with a focus on sophisticated optical performance and abundant expressive power. The SIGMA 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM is the first lens from the Art line. Developed with an emphasis on artistic touch, Sigma’s Art line lenses are designed to meet the expectations of users who value a creative, dramatic outcome above compactness and multifunction.
- Front Filter Thread Diameter: 67mm
- The 67mm front filter thread is fixed, allowing rotating polarizing filters to be used with the lens.
- 9x Circular Aperture Blades
- With nine circular blades, the lens’ diaphragm delivers very pleasant, soft bokeh background effects.
- Brass Bayonet Mount
- This lens incorporates a brass made bayonet mount which has both high accuracy and durability. A special treatment to reinforce it is applied to the surface, giving it greater strength and making it highly durable for long-term use.
- Ease Of Use
- For better usability, the designs of the lens cap and AF/MF switch have been improved, as well as the rubberized lens hood attachment. In order to ensure accuracy and precision, all metallic parts and the new Thermally Stable Composite material are housed internally.
- Quality Control & Sigma’s MTF “A1″ Measuring System
- Sigma used to measure lens performance with the standard MTF (modulation transfer function) measuring system, using conventional sensors. However, they have since developed a proprietary MTF measuring system – dubbed “A1″ – using 46MP resolution Foveon direct image sensors. Previously undetectable high-frequency details are now within the scope of their quality control inspections.
- Canon 60D, Sigma 35mm f/1.4
- 35mm, f/11, 1/160s
Sony has answered my prayers!
Available just in time for the holidays, the new Sony Alpha a7R Mirrorless Camera includes a 36.4MP Full Frame Exmor CMOS Sensor, interchangeable lenses, and a flip down screen for discreet shooting.
With three new high-quality Sony/Zeiss lenses, in 35mm, 55mm, and a 24-70mm zoom, due out at the same time, this camera is sure to be a hit. Fuji has countered stating that they will be releasing a full frame fixed lens camera to compete with the full frame Sony DSC-RX1 in 2014, and a full frame interchangeable lens camera in 2015. It seems like too little, too late though. I know I won’t be waiting until 2015 for a Fuji when I can get my hands on a Sony next month. They’re going to have to step it up if they plan on keeping up with Sony in this battle.
The Alpha a7R Mirrorless Digital Camera from Sony incorporates a full-frame Exmor CMOS sensor into an E-mount body thus providing the light gathering capability and detail-rich imaging of a full-frame sensor with a compact, lightweight and versatile mirrorless interchangeable lens camera system. Differing from the full-frame Sony Alpha a7, the Alpha a7R omits the low-pass filter from its 36.4MP sensor, thus optimizing its high resolution, detail-rich imaging capability. In addition, the sensor features a new gapless lens design to increase corner-to-corner light collecting efficiency.The standard ISO sensitivity range of 100-25600 provides rich saturation in bright light and clear, low-noise images in low-light situations.
The new BIONX X image processor offers fast processing and operation speeds including fast, intelligent autofocus and 4 fps burst shooting. Front-end LSI (large-scale integration) improves the early stages of image processing resulting in more natural details and richer tones. 14-bit RAW output preserves the detail provided by the sensor.
The new autofocus system is optimized for the full-frame sensor including flexible spot focus areas in addition to multipoint, center-weighted, and zone focusing. Manual focus assist can be optimized for full-frame or APS-C-format shooting zones and new Eye AF Control provides highly precise eye-detection for shots that place the focus directly on the subject’s eye, even when they are partially turned away.
Full HD 1080 video capture with 24p/60i/60p frame rates is supported in both AVCHD and MP4 codecs. Uncompressed video can be recorded off-camera via an HDMI connection, and both built-in and external stereo recording is available. HDMI and wireless output allow for viewing of still images on ultra-HD 4K television. The 3.0″ tilt-able LCD has a 1.23M-dot resolution and WhiteMagic technology for better visibility in bright light. A high-contrast 2.4M-dot OLED electronic viewfinder provides 100% coverage, a wide viewing angle and features the same 3-lens optical system used in the Sony a99 DSLR.
Built-in Wi-Fi and NFC capability enable easy wireless transfer of images as well as remote shutter control from smartphones and tablets. Remote Control via a USB connection enables still photo adjustment control and now includes video capture control. The Quick Navi Pro interface system makes can display all camera adjustments on the LCD for rapid setting changes when needed.
The advanced Sony Multi-Interface shoe expands compatibility options for flash, microphone, and other accessories, and as an E-mount full-frame camera, the Alpha a7 is compatible with all present E-mount lenses as well as new E-mount full-frame Zeiss and Sony G-series lenses. Lens mount adapters with a tripod mount are also available to use A-mount lenses on E-mount cameras and an optional dedicated battery grip enables stable extended shooting and vertical orientation stability.
- Full Frame Compact Mirrorless Digital Camera
- The Sony Alpha a7R incorporates a full frame 35.9 x 24 mm sensor into the compact, lightweight form of the E-mount mirrorless cameras providing the imaging prowess of full frame and the convenience and versatility of mirrorless.
- 36.4MP Exmor CMOS Sensor with No Optical Low Pass Filter
- The 36.4MP resolution and outstanding performance of the Alpha a7R are optimized by removing the optical low-pass filter. In combination with the new BIONZ X image processing engine this design increases resolution and enhances the reproduction of the finest details. In addition, the sensor includes a new gapless lens design that fills the space between neighboring pixels to significantly increase light collecting efficiency and realize high corner-to-corner image quality. Differing from the Sony Alpha a7, the Alpha a7R with its omitted low-pass filter, gapless lens design sensor and contrast-detection AF provides the utmost in high-resolution, finely detailed capture. With 36.4 effective megapixels, the Exmor CMOS sensor captures high-resolution, low-noise images with rich tonal gradation and low-light sensitivity. The normal ISO range on the Alpha a7R is 100-25600.
- Gapless, On-chip Sensor Lenses
- Sony optimized the design and positioning of the sensor’s on-chip lens (OCL) covering every pixel to significantly enhance light-gathering efficiency. A gapless on-chip lens design eliminates the gaps between the micro-lenses to collect more light. Moreover, each on-chip lens is optimally positioned depending on its location to accommodate the sharper angle of light entering the periphery, which is caused by larger sensor dimensions being teamed with the E-mount’s short flange-back distance.
- BIONZ X Image Processor
- The new BIONZ X image processing engine reproduces textures and details in real time via extra high-speed processing capabilities. Together with front-end LSI (large scale integration) that accelerates the earliest processing stages, it enables more natural details, more realistic images, richer tonal gradations, and lower noise whether you shoot still images or movies.
- Fast Intelligent AF
- The high-speed image processing engine and improved algorithms combine with optimized image sensor read-out speed to achieve high-speed AF despite the use of a full-frame sensor.
- Compatibility with Sony’s E-mount Lenses and New Full-Frame Lenses
- Maintaining its lightweight form, the Alpha a7R is fully compatible with Sony’s present APS-C E-mount lens system and the new line of E-mount compact full-frame lenses from Carl Zeiss and Sony’s premier G-series.
- 3.0″ Tilt LCD Monitor
- The tiltable 3.0″ Xtra Fine LCD Display offers a 1,229K-dot resolution and makes it easy to photograph from low or high angles, swinging up 84° and down 45°. WhiteMagic technology dramatically increases visibility in bright daylight. The large display delivers brilliant-quality still images and movies while enabling easy focusing operation.
- 2.4M-Dot OLED Electronic Viewfinder
- With its 3-lens optical system the viewfinder faithfully displays what will appear in your recording, including the effects of your camera settings. You’ll enjoy rich tonal gradations and improved contrast. High-end features like 100% frame coverage and a wide viewing angle enable comfortable and stable eye-level composition.
- Full HD Movie at 24p/60i/60p with Uncompressed HDMI Output
- The Alpha a7R supports in-camera AVCHD codec frames rates in super-smooth 60p, standard 60i or cinematic 24p. MP4 codec is also available for smaller files for easier upload to the web. Also, it is possible to capture Full 1080 HD uncompressed clean-screen video files to external recording devices via an HDMI connection in 60p and 60i frame-rates.
- Built-In Wi-Fi and NFC
- Connectivity with smartphones for One-touch sharing/One-touch remote has been simplified with Wi-Fi/NFC control. In addition to Wi-Fi support for connecting to smartphones, the Alpha a7R also supports NFC (Near Field Communication) providing convenient transfer of images to Android smartphones and tablets. Users need only touch devices to connect; no complex set-up is required. Moreover, when using Smart Remote Control – a feature that allows shutter release to be controlled by a smartphone – connection to the smartphone can be established by simply touching compatible devices.
- Direct Access Interface
- Quick Navi Pro displays all major shooting options on the LCD screen so you can rapidly confirm settings and make adjustments without searching through dedicated menus. When shooting opportunities arise, you’ll be able to respond swiftly with just the right settings.
- New Eye AF Control
- Even when capturing a subject partially turned away from the camera with a shallow depth of field, the face will be sharply focused thanks to extremely accurate eye detection that can prioritize a single pupil. A green frame appears over the prioritized eye when focus has been achieved for easy confirmation. Eye AF can be used when the function is assigned to a customizable button, allowing users to instantly activate it depending on the scene.
- 14-Bit RAW Output
- 14-bit RAW image data of extremely high quality is outputted by the Alpha a7R. This data preserves the rich detail generated by the image sensor during the 14-bit A/D conversion process. When developed with Sony’s Image Data Converter RAW development software, these images deliver particularly high quality photographic expression and rich gradation.
- Wired Remote Control with Video Capture Control
- Remote Camera Control allows you to control your Alpha a7R from your computer using a USB cable. It has been updated to include video capture control.
- Multi-Interface Shoe
- The Alpha a7R features the advanced Multi-Interface Shoe that dramatically expands compatibility with Sony digital imaging accessories such as flash units, microphones, lights, and monitors thus increasing the potential of your photo and movie shooting.