Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX DC HSM Review

When laypeople talk about extremely wide-angle lenses, they will invariably use the word "fish-eye" in the same way that many people colloquially use the word "migraine" to describe any type of major headache. In both cases, the intent is commonly understood but the accuracy of the terminology is suspect. "Fish-eye" is properly used to describe a specific type of wide-angle lens in the same way that "migraine" is medically descriptive of a specific subset of headaches. 

Ultra-wides are the go-to lens below the 16mm APS-C (24mm full frame) focal length. They are eminently more-practical than fish-eyes, if somewhat less dramatic. "Practical" is a good term to use to describe the Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX DC HSM, which upholds the traditional virtue of costing less than the equivalent first-party equivalent. However, traditional Sigma lenses have also not met the same performance standards as those set by Canon and Nikon. To that end, does the benefit of better affordability hamper the quality of this lens?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Leica D-Lux 6 Review

There is no denying that Leica's are beautiful. Leica knows this as well, and as is the case with modern luxury, it must maintain the air of exclusivity while being accessible to as many people as is possible without damaging that exclusivity. This is known as having your cake and eating it too, and is something that BMW does well with their 3-series cars, which somehow manage to maintain both high-margin and respectably high production volumes as well. The Leica D-Lux 6 is the camera equivalent affordable luxury. Like many  "high end" women's handbags, it is very plainly expensive but not so expensive that it is unattainable by middle class consumers. For many people (though not the same ones), Leicas are objects of both scorn and lust. They are undeniably beautiful but obviously pricey. Disregarding the Leica C, the D-Lux 6 is the most "affordable" Leica camera for serious photographers.. but how much value is there in a camera platform that is near the end of its lifespan (as of this writing in 2014)  and which is is at heart, indistinguishable from its Panasonic cousin?

Monday, April 7, 2014

Nikon D610 Versus D7100

Left: Nikon D610     Right: Nikon D7100

Now that the D600 has been updated to the D610, the question of which 24mp Nikon DSLR to get comes up again: the D610 or the D7100. With these two cameras we have one of the most level playing fields in comparing FX and DX. Both have 24mp, both with near identical control layouts. These are essentially the same camera with different sensors... that's it. This is about as equal a playing field as possible between full frame and crop sensors. The real question, of course, is not about debating the merits of these two. When most people ask this question, what they are really asking is: is there a way to justify the full frame camera, which costs nearly double the price.  As they say, bigger is always better... until it isn't.

Updated April 2014. New ISO samples and various additions.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM (EOS 70D Kit) Review

Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM on EOS 70D

Kit lenses are typically middling, as per their very nature. The lens needs to be inexpensive enough to make the price of the camera kit affordable, but the optical quality can't be so cheap that it would turn off a buyer from ever delving deeper into a manufacturer's lens lineup. Because of this formula, kit lenses usually end up in the "not bad for it's price" category. "Hey, it's only opens as wide as f/5.6, but it's still sharp at that aperture!"

The Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM is one step up from such lowly aspirations, and is offered as the second kit option on the T5i (EOS 700D) after the 18-55mm STM, and as the primary kit lens option for the 70D. Like the Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-140mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, the Canon lens feels more at home on the advanced-enthusiast body than it does on the consumer body. The EF-S 18-135mm covers the full frame equivalent of  29-216mm, which technically takes it out of the normal-zoom bracket and puts it into the lower end of the super-zoom category. Traditionally, such lenses have been Jack-of-all-trades but master of none. Does the Canon EF-S 18-135mm STM break that mold?

Monday, March 31, 2014

Nikon P340 Review

As smartphones eat into the compact camera market,  the demand side of the camera market has shifts upwards. Cameras like the Canon S120 or Panasonic LF-1 were once considered to be advanced compacts; devices that catered to enthusiast shooters looking for portable shirt-pocket machines. However, many modern smart devices produce image quality that is comparable to the matchbox cameras of old, and as such, anybody who is purchasing a camera in 2014 (and beyond) is likely looking at a device that gives demonstrably better features and image quality than their phone. This is the "disruptive" aspect to what the iPhone has done; not only has it replaced the traditional digital camera for many people, it has changed the nature of the cameras that people are buying in its wake.

The benchmark in small, lightweight and slim compact cameras has long been Canon's S-series. The current standard-bearer is the S120, but the range dates back to the S90. That camera was launched in 2009; future iterations did not stray far from it's formula of basic box with above-average photographic features. As a competitor,  Nikon's P3xx series launched in 2011, and like the Canon S-series, has maintained a consistent form factor and overall operational familiarity. The P300-320 cameras have traditionally been positioned below the Canon S series, but starting with the P330, the sensor size was increased from the entry-level 1/2.3" size to the more advanced-compact 1/1.7" size to match against the Canon S110. So, is the Nikon P340 a worthy competitor to the Canon S120?