Friday, February 27, 2015

The Selfie Stick Through the Ages

Credit: Alan Cleaver, via The BBC

There is no arguing that the selfie-stick is a silly idea, yet that doesn't stop millions of people who apparently lack in terms of self-consciousness. There is a rational economic reason for their popularity given how expense a stolen smartphone is to replace. However, the unlikely acceptance(?) of selfie-sticks can't be explained by our love of smartphones, as the first such devices predate the iPhone... let alone digital cameras as the above example shows. It was taken of (and by) the grandparents of freelance reporter Alan Cleaver in 1925 in central England. It's not that this was the first self-portrait using a camera, but it's deliciously reminiscent of the countless selfies taken today. The intrusive inclusion of the stick poking out of the photo is just icing on the cake.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Nikon D5500 Review

With each passing year comes new camera updates, some updates being more often than others. The Nikon D5500 and it's predecessors fall into the "more often" category.On paper the differences are minor and iterative:

  • Touch screen LCD
  • Flat picture control
  • Re-profiled body
  • No more built-in GPS.

Admittedly,  it's not a particularly blood-stirring update. That's sort of the point with cameras in this segment, though... the D5500 is not exciting at the moment but give it time and it will age into a value-packed mid-tier product. However, to get a true gist of this camera, you have to look past the specs and to see it in person; it's more of a change from the D5300 than the D5300 was to the D5200.

March 2017 Update: Much of this review also applies to the D5600; the only significant difference is the inclusion of Nikon SnapBridge; outside of the connectivity the shooting experience is largely similar with some small differences. Be aware that the D5600 kit lens uses 55mm threads, so kit-lens filters and caps are not cross-compatible between generations.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Canon EOS 5DS and 5DS R Launch Review

In time for the 2015 CP+ Japanese tradeshow, Canon announced the 50mp EOS 5DS and the 5DS R variant. The internet is naturally abuzz, proving that "big number" product marketing isn't dead in the camera industry. What has changed since the 5D Mark III:

  • New 50.2MP Canon-designed sensor 
  • 150k pixels exposure meter (RGB+IR, like 7DmII
  • Reinforced tripod mount
  • Electronic first curtain shutter option in Live View
  • Dual Digic 6 processors
  • Artificial light flicker reduction (like 7D Mark II)
  • New mirror mechanism (like 7D Mark II)

What hasn't changed:

  • 61-point AF module, 41 cross-type, 5 double-cross type
  • 1080/30p video (7DmII can do 60p)

What's worse:

  • No headhone jack
  • No clean HDMI output
  • Battery life slightly worse

The end result is a mixture of ultra-high resolution feature set combined with features that seem curiously...crippled. The exposure meter is upgraded from the 5D Mark III, which is synergistic with the increased resolution. Though the 5D Mark III autofocus system is good, a (theoretically) better unit now exists in the 7D Mark II. The fact that video hasn't changed at all and is arguably worse than the 5DmIII indicates that Canon is being more single-minded about the EOS 5DS' mission than it was with the general-purpose predecessors.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Fujifilm XF 50-140 mm f/2.8 R LM OIS WR

Fujifilm XF 50-140 mm f/2.8 R LM OIS WR

One thing that doesn't seem to translate well between full frame and crop-frame shooting is the use of the classic 70-200mm f/2.8 workhorse zoom. This is a versatile focal length that does well for portraiture and event photography, but the equivalent crop-frame focal length of 50-140mm has never quite caught on. Crop users tend to be more casual in how they use their gear; as a collective group they tend to prefer longer focal lengths over mid-range quality. You often see DSLR users mounting those 70-200 f/2.8 onto crop-frame cameras, but that gives the effective field of view of 100-300mm on full-frame, which is somewhat awkward to use if you are moving in and out of a crowd during a social function. This comes back to the idea of the field of view for a classic working-zoom; it isn't so much about dealing with distance as it is with creating compression and isolation. To that end, the Fujifilm Fujinon XF 50-140 mm f/2.8 R LM OIS WR fits the bill.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Fujifilm 35mm f/1.4 XF R Review

 Fujifilm 35mm f/1.4 XF R

The Fujifilm 35mm f/1.4 XF R is a "normal" lens that approximates the field of view that a 50mm lens (52mm, actually) gives on a traditional film/full-frame system. Though there is a convincing argument that this field of view is not exactly what the human eye sees, it nonetheless is a useful one as it can be used for many situations. There is also a convincing argument that this field of view isn't "creative" enough for stand-out photography as it neither opens up a scene like a wide-angle lens, nor does it compress the perspective that a portrait length does. However, there is no denying that this is a popular focal length, and for good reason; 35mm equivalent brings you too close to the subject for portrait work and 85mm is far too tight for landscape.  

To that end end, 50mm (or 35mm on APS-C) is a happy medium. Even though it isn't the "right" focal length for dedicated photography, it is the "right" lens for many people. People are rational beings, and when budgets are limited, the choice will often narrow down to multitasking tools rather than uni-taskers. As such, the XF 35mm f/1.4 R is often the first lens that many Fujifilm X-system users choose to supplement the kit lens.