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Major firmware updates coming for Fujifilm X-T2 and X-Pro2

Wed, 03/22/2017 - 12:21

Fujifilm will launch a couple of major firmware updates for its X-T2 and X-Pro2 cameras. The first one, available at the end of this month, brings the X-T2 up to version 2.00 and the X-Pro2 up to 3.00. Another update will arrive in late May.

The first update brings no less than 27 feature improvements to Fuji's flagship mirrorless cameras, including an option to enable focal length-dependent minimum shutter speed in ISO Auto, up to 15 minute exposures in T mode, more options for bracketing while shooting Raw and added autofocus flexibility.

Several other updates are aimed at improving handling during video shooting, including the addition of a live histogram for X-T2 owners.

A second round of updates will come in May. Firmware 2.10 for X-T2 and 3.10 for X-Pro2 will add -6 and -7 EVF brightness settings for very low light shooting and the ability to assign functions to the rear command dial. A few functions are added for the X-T2 only including tethered shooting via Wi-Fi. See the very long list of updates below.

X-T2 version 2.00 & X-Pro2 version 3.00 - due late March 2017

1. Shooting RAW in Bracketing and Advanced Filters
The update enables you to use the RAW format when shooting not only in AE Bracketing but also in other Bracketing modes (ISO, Dynamic Range, White Balance, Film Simulaitons) and also in Advanced Filter modes.

2. Extended ISO 125 and 160 selectable
The update adds ISO125 and ISO160 to extended ISO levels available.

3. Programmable long exposure of up to 15 minutes
Long exposure in the T mode currently goes only up to 30 seconds. The update will allow users to extend it up to 15 minutes.

4. ON/OFF for 1/3-step shutter speed adjustment (X-T2 only - already in X-Pro2)
The update allows you to turn off the Command Dial's function to adjust shutter speed by 1/3 steps in order to prevent unintended adjustments.

5. Full-range ISO adjustments with the Command Dial (X-T2 only)
With the update, set the ISO "A" position to "Command" to adjust ISO sensitivity across the full range, including extended ISOs, with the Front Command Dial.

6. "AUTO" setting added for the minimum shutter speed in the ISO Auto setting
The update adds an AUTO option for the minimum shutter speed in the ISO Auto setting, that allows the camera to automatically define the minimum shutter speed according to the focal length of the lens attached.

7. Faster "Face Detection AF"
The update enables the use of Phase Detection AF for faster performance in Face Detection AF.

8. Improved in-focus indication in the AF-C mode
The update reduces focus hunting in the AF-C mode, making it easier to track a subject.

9. Addition of a smaller Focus Point size in Single Point AF
The update adds a smaller Focus Point size in Single Point AF, bringing the total number of available sizes to six. The new smallest size facilitates pin-point focusing.

10. Addition of "AF Point Display" (X-Pro2 only - already on X-T2)
With the update, you can choose to have AF Points constantly displayed in Zone AF and Wide / Tracking AF, making it easier to track a subject.

11. Addition of "AF-C Custom Setting" (X-Pro2 only - already on X-T2)
The update adds "AF-C Custom Setting" for specifying focus-tracking characteristics. Choose from five presets according to your subject's type of movements.

12. Addition of "Portrait / Landscape AF Mode Switching" (X-T2 only)
The update allows you to specify separate AF mode and AF point settings for portrait orientation and landscape orientation.

13. Change of focus frame position while enlarging it
The update allows you to move the position of focus frame while enlarging it in Single Point in the AF-S mode or in the Manual Focus

14. Activation of the Eye Sensor in video recording (X-T2 only)
The update allows you to use the Eye Sensor during video recording to automatically switch between EVF and LCD.

15. Change of ISO sensitivity during video recording (X-T2 only)
The update allows you to change ISO setting during video recording.

16. Re-autofocusing in video recording
With the update, half-press the Shutter Release button or press the button assigned to "AF-ON" function during video recording to re-do autofocusing.

17. Display live histogram during video recording (X-T2 only)
The update allows you to display a live histogram during video recording.

18. Optimization of external microphone's input level (X-T2 only)
The update optimizes external microphone's input level (lower limit revised from -12dB to 20dB) to reduce white noise when an external microphone with preamp is connected.

19. Addition of "Eye Sensor + LCD Image Display" in the View Mode
The update gives the "Eye Sensor + LCD Image Display" option in the View Mode that allows you to shoot through the viewfinder and check images on the LCD, just as you would with an SLR.

20. Shorter EVF display time-lag (X-Pro2 only - already in X-T2)
The update shortens EVF's display time-lag in the AF-C mode so that you will not miss a photo opportunity.

21. Constant "Dual" mode display (X-T2 only)
With the update, the small window in the Dual mode stays on even when you half-press the shutter release button.

22. Automatic vertical GUI for LCD (X-T2 only)
With the update, when you hold the camera in the portrait orientation, the camera will automatically display the GUI on the LCD in the same orientation.

23. Name Custom Settings
The update allows you to assign a specific name to Custom Settings 1 - 7.

24. Copyright information in EXIF data
The update allows you to register the photographer's name and the copyright holder's name in advance so that the camera automatically adds the information to EXIF data for each image.

25. Voice Memo function
The update enable you to record 30-second "Voice Memo" clips in the Playback mode.

26. Extended AE Bracketing
The update extends AE Bracketing from the current 3 frames +/-2EV to up to 9 frames +/-3EV.

27. Addition of "Shoot Without Card" mode
With the update, you can have the "Shoot Without Card" mode turned OFF so that the camera can not shoot when there is no SD card inserted.

X-T2 version 2.10 & X-Pro2 version 3.10 - late May 2017

28. Support for computer tethering via Wi-Fi (X-T2 only)
The update adds support for computer tethering via Wi-Fi.

29. Addition of "All" AF mode (X-T2 only)
With the update, select "All" in the AF mode so that you can select the AF mode and Focus Area size by only using the Command Dial.

30. Function extension for "Shutter AF" and "Shutter AE" (X-T2 only)
With the update, you can specify different settings for AF-S and AF-C in "Shutter AF" and for AF-S / MF and AF-C in "Shutter AE."

31. Addition of "-6" and "-7" to EVF's brightness setting
Additional options of "-6" and "-7" to the "EVF Brightness" setting so that, even in an extremely low-light condition, the brightness of the EVF does not distract you from shooting.

32. Switchover of the main and sub displays in the Dual Display mode (X-T2 only)
The update allows you to switch between the main and sub displays in the Dual Display mode.

33. Function assignment to the Rear Command Dial
With the update, you can assign a specific function to be activated when the Rear Command Dial is pressed.

Categories: Photo News

Drobo announces 'easiest and fastest ever' 5-bay NAS storage with 5N2

Wed, 03/22/2017 - 11:39

Digital storage solutions company Drobo has updated its 5N desktop network attached device with a new version that it claims is easier to use and faster than any previous NAS it has produced. An upgraded processor makes the Drobo 5N2 twice as fast as the previous model, and it comes equipped with a pair of Gigabit Ethernet ports so two units can be connected for additional capacity and safety via what Drobo calls Adaptive Link Bonding.

The 5-bay device can accept up to 64TB total capacity and allows users to add and switch drives at any time. The 5N2 is happy to accept spinning and solid state storage, and can accommodate both varieties at the same time. One of the benefits of the company’s BeyondRaid system is that disk capacities don’t have to match and users can top-up the system using empty bays and can upgrade existing individual disks to higher capacities when needed. As the unit doesn’t use trays or carriers new disks simply slot in.

Drobo says the 5N2 is aimed at home networks, media professionals and small businesses and that up to 250 user accounts can be created. The device takes only ten minutes to set up and account holders can use a range of Apps to access data remotely and via smartphones and tablets. Read and write speeds are said to average around 190-197MB/s.

The Drobo 5N2 is available now and costs $499/€599/£518 with a pair of Ethernet cables. For more information see the Drobo website.

Press Release

Drobo Launches Next Era of Storage Solutions with the 5N2 NAS

The Drobo 5N2 brings a revolutionary storage solution for the connected home or small office environment

Today, Drobo is launching the revolutionary 5N2, the fastest 5 Bay Drobo NAS with expanded functionality that includes the advanced technology features of Drobo’s enterprise level products. The 5N2 is built with Drobo’s patented BeyondRAID™ technology to meet the demanding data storage requirements of connected home users, media professionals and small businesses. The 5N2 has an impressive list of customer centric, industry-leading features such as:

  • Two, One Gigabit Ethernet ports for unparalleled performance
  • Upgraded processor for increased speed and throughput
  • DroboDR, the Simplest to use Disaster Recovery (DR) solution available
  • 2x Performance boost over the original 5N with port-bonding enabled
  • Two Year Warranty
  • DroboApps for turn-key applications and file management support

Designed From the Ground up for Connected Homes and SMBs

The 5N2 is perfect for the connected home and Small to Medium Businesses (SMBs) who want a simple, safe, and smart storage solution. The 5N2 has secure remote access and enterprise level DroboDR functionality. The 5N2 also includes access to DroboApps, which extends the functionality of Drobo NAS devices. Applications such as DroboAccess (private cloud solution) and DroboPix (mobile pictures and video management) allow users both privacy and security of their data on a Drobo they own -- unlike public cloud solutions.

“The team at Drobo is working hard to deliver on the commitments we have made to customers, partners and ourselves,” said Mihir Shah, CEO of Drobo. “Our customers have been asking for our enterprise level technology in our 5 bay NAS products and the 5N2 delivers just that, at a cost effective price. We strive to be the storage company that is laser focused on our customer’s requirements.”

Superior Performance With Disaster Recovery

The 5N2 is the fastest 5 bay network attached Drobo ever. This allows for superior performance for data intensive applications that most connected homes and small businesses have. To ensure data is safe, the 5N2 also comes with the DroboDR software solution developed by Drobo. With DroboDR, users can set up a pair of 5N2s to make an

offsite copy of data. DroboDR is simple to setup and manage and replicates data to another 5N2, ensuring availability in case of disaster. Furthermore, the remote 5N2 stores all user account information, resulting in a quick and painless recovery with a single click in the Drobo Dashboard. The Drobo 5N2 also comes with an internal battery that protects against data loss during a power outage.

Customer Driven Focus

The 5N2 is the 7th new product introduced after the company underwent an acquisition and management change in 2015. Drobo is committed to introducing innovative products that preserve simplicity and customer confidence. The 5N2 includes a two-year warranty to extend peace of mind for users.

The 5N2 is the easiest to use NAS on the market today with automation usually reserved for more expensive solutions. This ease of use is what customers expect from Drobo’s award-winning focus on simplicity. This is evident in Drobo’s unique features such as:

Internal battery back-up for zero data loss during a power outage
Expandability with any size disk
Award winning ease of use setup and management dashboard
mSATA cache for speedy access to frequently used data
Ability to mix and match any size HDD’s and SSD's

Price and Customer Loyalty Program

The Drobo 5N2 is available today at an MSRP of $499 USD through www.drobostore.com and select channel partners.

Drobo is offering Drobo FS and 5N customers a $50 USD discount when they purchase a new Drobo 5N2 through www.drobostore.com.

US customers will also receive a limited edition GelaSkin if purchased on the US Drobo Store. The limited edition GelaSkin offer and $50 rebate are valid until April 4th, 2017 or while supplies last.

Categories: Photo News

Midwest Photo camera store thieves reportedly cut hole in roof to steal gear

Wed, 03/22/2017 - 11:24

Midwest Photo, a retail store in Columbus, Ohio, has been the subject of a reported theft that the company president Moishe Appelbaum describes as 'Mission Impossible style.' On Wednesday, March 15th, an unknown thief or multiple thieves broke a hole through the store’s roof and used that hole to gain access to a pipe, which was then used by the thieves to slide down into the shop.

Once inside, the thieves stole a cache of items from Midwest Photo’s storage area, including cases, cameras, and lenses. A surveillance camera was able to capture at least part of this theft, though the store says it has now rolled out additional security crews. Speaking to local news affiliate FOX 28 Columbus, Appelbaum said, '[It was a] really professional crew that knew what they were doing.'

Appelbaum goes on to state that this may be the work of a professional burglary ring that is targeting camera shops across the Midwest and possibly the nation. ‘This is the third camera store burglary overnight we’ve seen in the Midwest in the past week-and-a-half,’ he said. ‘This is a crew I believe is making their way across the country.’ The company is encouraging anyone with info to contact Midwest Photo or the Columbus police department.

As DPReview previously reported, California lens company Veydra suffered a similar theft a couple days prior to Midwest Photo's burglary. In that case, thieves broke into Veydra's California headquarters on Sunday, March 12, and made off with more than 200 lenses. Whether the two incidents are related is unknown. At this time, it doesn't appear the stolen items in either case have been recovered.

Via: FOX 28

Categories: Photo News

Instagram will soon let you book photographers and other services directly in the app

Wed, 03/22/2017 - 11:03

Photographers with a strong presence on Instagram might soon be able to monetize their accounts in a more tangible way than has been possible so far. In an interview with Bloomberg, James Quarles, Instagram's head of business, has confirmed that Instagram will soon add a function to book a business or service directly from the mobile app. The feature is expected to be launched within the next couple of months. 

In practice, business accounts will be able to add a booking option, allowing potential customers to schedule appointments through the app, without the need to use other means of communication. The Bloomberg article gives the example of booking an appointment in a hair salon but the new feature could be especially interesting for commercial photographers, many of whom maintain a strong presence on the image sharing platform.  

The move will put Instagram into direct competition with services such as Yelp or OpenTable. Quarles also said that currently about 8 million businesses use profiles on Instagram and 80% of users follow a business. The company may eventually add more tools, such as reviews. If you are a photographer offering commercial services, now seems like a good time to brush up your profile. 

Categories: Photo News

We asked three Canon lens masters to name their first and favorite lens designs

Wed, 03/22/2017 - 01:00
What is your first and your favorite Canon lens?

It's not everyday you get to sit down with three master lens designers, but it's also not every day you tour Canon's Utsunomiya lens factory (read the interview and take the tour). Each of the three gentlemen we posed our two questions to - what was the first lens you designed and what is your favorite lens - has decades of experience designing Canon glass.

Masato Okada (center), the Deputy Chief Executive of Image Communication Products and Operations, first began designing lenses for Canon back in 1982. Meanwhile, Kenichi Izuki (right), the Plant Manager and Masato Okada (left), the Deputy Chief Executive of Image Communication and Products Operations, have each been designing Canon lenses since the late 80's/early 90's.

It takes decades of experience to design a lens like the Canon EF 16-35mm F2.8L III USM. What was the first lens design you worked on at Canon?

Masato Okada: "It would go back many years, maybe you weren’t even born yet (Editor's note: I was not), but the first lens I worked on was the FD 150-600mm F5.6L. It was one of those lenses where it was on a box and you actually had a one-touch action to do the zoom and one-touch action to do the focus. That was a big revelation."

Masato Okada is the Deputy Chief Executive of Image Communication and Products Operations at Canon's Utsunomiya lens factory.  What was the first lens design you worked on at Canon?

Shingo Hayakawa: "It launched in 1991, the 75-300mm F4-5.6 USM, was the first lens I worked on and also the very first lens in that series. At the time, we actually launched the product at a lower price than the third party manufacturers, which was big news. The version "III" of that lens is still on the market."

Shingo Hayakawa is the Deputy Group Executive of Image Communication and Products Operations at Canon's Utsunomiya lens factory. What was the first lens design you worked on at Canon?

Kenichi Izuki: "Because I joined Canon as a technical engineer I have so many memories of all the products I’ve worked on. Initially, I handled maybe 10 products over the course of a year. But the very first one that I worked on, which is now discontinued, is the EF 100-300mm F4.5-5.6 USM. It's also one of my favorites."

Kenichi Izuki is the Plant Manager at Canon's Utsunomiya lens factory. What is your favorite Canon lens design?

Masato Okada: "For me I’d have to say the 11-24mm F4L USM, because when launched, it allowed the widest angle possible on a full frame with no distortion. And I was torn at the time of production because we could have gone for the 12-24mm F2.8, which I thought would be more customer-prone. But I was developing the lens more in terms of particular users: a videographer for example, needing that extra field of view, even if they can’t physically back out. Other manufacturers were doing the 12-24mm, but only Canon was doing 11-24mm. We thought it was something we should go for. And it was really difficult in terms of the design for mass production. So because of those challenges, I’d say this would be my pick."

Masato Okada is the Deputy Chief Executive of Image Communication and Products Operations at Canon's Utsunomiya lens factory. What is your favorite Canon lens design?

Shingo Hayakawa: "I can say that in terms of the lenses we’ve been launching over the years, we’re proud of them all. But the ones that came out last year in 2016, the 16-35mm F2.8L III USM in particular, was very highly spec'd at the time of its release. I'm proud of it because it has amazing performance and resolution. But if I were to narrow it down, my choice would be a lens that came out in 2012: the Canon 24-70mm F2.8L II USM. And if I were to choose a telephoto, I’d say the 200-400mm F4L IS USM with the 1.4x internal extender. But the 24-70mm II is my overall pick."

Shingo Hayakawa is the Deputy Group Executive of Image Communication and Products Operations at Canon's Utsunomiya lens factory. What is your favorite Canon lens design?

Kenichi Izuki: "My favorite, which I truly remember because it was so hard to design, was the original Canon 70-200 F2.8 L USM non-IS. I actually worked on the 70-200mm F2.8L USM version II with IS when I became a manager of the division. That posed a challenge because we had to exceed the requirements of the previous version."

Kenichi Izuki is the Plant Manager at Canon's Utsunomiya lens factory. Have your say, what's your favorite Canon lens?

So what do you think of the responses we received – were there any surprises? And what is your all time favorite Canon lens? Let us know in the comments!

Categories: Photo News

Meyer Optik Trioplan 35+ Kickstarter unlocks colorful lens trio reward

Tue, 03/21/2017 - 12:06

Meyer Optik has an active Kickstarter campaign seeking funding for its new Trioplan 35+ Fine Art Lens, and though 22 days remain in that campaign, backers have already well exceeded the company's $50,000 base funding goal. As a reward for the high amount pledged (about $480,000 total at the moment), Meyer Optik has announced the launch of a new limited edition reward: green, red, blue and titanium versions of the Trioplan lens.

According to Meyer Optik, it took a total of six minutes post-launch for the Kickstarter campaign to reach its $50,000 funding goal. Over the following week, the Kickstarter went on to raise in excess of $420,000, and the company has launched the special Kickstarter stretch reward as a result. Says company CEO Dr. Stefan Immes, ‘The new colors are strictly limited in quantity and, therefore, [are] a real collector’s item.'

The crowdfunding campaign now includes pledge options for the new colors, of which 50 units are available per color. All four special ‘super limited color edition’ Trioplan lenses are priced at $799 and are estimated to ship to backers this upcoming November.

Via: Photography Blog

Categories: Photo News

Apple launches new 9.7" iPad and limited edition iPhone 7 in red

Tue, 03/21/2017 - 11:12

Apple has today announced a new 9.7" iPad model that is simply called the iPad and replaces the iPad Air 2. Compared to the latter, the A8X processor has been replaced with the A9 chip that is also being used in the iPhone 6s. Due to a larger 8610 mAh battery the new model is at 7.5mm also 1.4mm thicker than the iPad Air 2. The rest of the specifications, including the 9.7" display with a resolution of 1536 x 2048 pixels, the 8MP/F2.4 rear camera and the 1.2MP front camera remain unchanged. TouchID with Apple Pay is on board as well. 

In an unusual move, Apple has lowered prices. In the past 9.7" iPads started at $499. The 32GB base version of the new model is only $329. The 128GB variant will set you back $429. An additional $130 gets you the cellular version of the respective models. The new iPad will be available in Silver, Space Gray, and Gold starting March 24 in the US and 20 other countries. Apple also reduced the price of the iPad mini 4 which now comes in only one storage version with 128GB at $399. The cellular version is $529.

In addition to the iPad, Apple also launched the (Product) Red edition of the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. Proceeds of the (Product) Red line go towards charitable causes – in this case, they go to the Global Fund to support HIV/AIDS programs.

The new models only come as 128GB and 256GB storage versions. The red iPhone 7 starts at $750, the Plus version is $870. In both cases an additional $100 gets you the 256GB model. The devices will be available from March 24.

Also new is a video sharing app called Clips. It lets you treat your videos with a large variety of transformations, overlays and filters and also offers a number of more conventional video editing features. Final results can be shared to any app but Clip lacks some of the social networking features of apps like Vine or Snapchat. 

Categories: Photo News

Android 7.1.1 update for OnePlus 3T brings improved video stabilization

Tue, 03/21/2017 - 10:55
In our review of the OnePlus 3T we were in general quite impressed by the device's camera performance and thought the 3T represented excellent value for money. However, video stabilization was a point of criticism as panning could lead to noticeably shaky footage.    OnePlus claims to have fixed the issue with its OxygenOS 4.1.0 update which is based on Android 7.1.1. and says the performance of the electronic video stabilization is now on the same level as the Google Pixel. Looking at the sample clip we recorded after installing the update we'll have to agree. Stabilization is noticeably improved and panning is now buttery smooth, allowing for very steady hand-held shooting.     Other new features and improvements of the update include the following:
  • Upgraded Android 7.1.1
  • Updated Google security patch to 1st March 2017
  • Added expanded screenshots
  • Improved picture taking of moving objects with blur reduction
  • Improved WiFi connectivity
  • Improved bluetooth connectivity
  • General bug fixes

The over-the-air (OTA) update will be incremental. So if you own a OnePlus 3T and haven't received it yet, don't despair, it should arrive on your device within the next few days. 

Categories: Photo News

US bans most electronic devices, including cameras, on flights from eight countries

Tue, 03/21/2017 - 09:52
 Image: Etihad

If you are planning to fly to the US from some Middle-Eastern and African countries and carry camera equipment or other electronics, you should probably have a closer look at the new rules put in place by the Trump Administration on Tuesday. 

Passengers departing from 10 airports in Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates won't be allowed to carry on electronic devices larger than a cellphone. This includes laptops, tablets and cameras. 

The new rules took effect at 3 a.m. E.D.T. on Tuesday, and must be followed within 96 hours by foreign airlines flying to the United States from the affected airports – but not US-carriers. It is currently unknown how long the ban will remain in place.

According to Royal Jordanian airlines, medical items are exempt from the ban and banned electronic items can still be transported in checked baggage. Officials estimate that overall 50 daily flights to the US will be affected. Homeland Security says the ban is not based on a threat of an imminent attack.

Categories: Photo News

Fujifilm X-T20 Review

Tue, 03/21/2017 - 07:41

The Fujifilm X-T20 is a midrange SLR-styled mirrorless camera that sits above the X-E2S and below the X-T2. The X-T20 replaces the X-T10 and offers a host of new features, including Fujifilm's latest 24MP CMOS sensor and image processor, faster burst shooting, any improved autofocus system, 4K video capture and more. In many ways, it's a smaller, less expensive 'little brother' to the X-T2, a camera that earned a Gold Award when we reviewed it last year.

The X-T20 finds itself in a competitive field of both 'mirrored' (DSLR) and mirrorless cameras. Buyers are likely to find themselves deciding between midrange DSLRs like the Nikon D5600 and Canon EOS 77D, as well as mirrorless models such as the Sony a6300, Panasonic GX850 and the Olympus E-M5 II.

Fujifilm X-T20 Key Features:
  • 24MP X-Trans CMOS III sensor
  • Up to 325 selectable AF points (169 of which offer phase detection)
  • 2.36M-dot OLED electronic viewfinder
  • 3" 1.04M-dot tilting touchscreen LCD
  • 4K UHD video at up to 30 fps, with clean output over HDMI
  • 8 fps continuous shooting with AF, 5 fps with live view
  • 2.5mm jack for external microphone or wired remote control
  • Dials for exposure compensation, shutter speed and drive mode

The X-T20 is more about the overall package than one or two specs that standout. That said, the 24MP sensor has proven its worth on the X-Pro2 and X-T2, and the AF system has also been refined in a good way. The EVF is a pleasure to use, though the touch functions on the tilting LCD are limited. The burst rate hasn't changed since the X-T10, but the buffer size has been dramatically increased. 4K video has also been added, helping to keep the X-T20 at an even level with the best of its peers.

And let's not forget the design of the camera which has become a trademark of Fujifilm's X-series models. The classic DSLR-style design isn't getting old (at least for this reviewer) and the build quality is very good for a $900 body.

Compared to...

Below we'll lay out the similarities and differences between the X-T20 and the Sony a6300 and OIympus E-M5 II mirrorless cameras, along with the Canon EOS 77D DSLR.

  Fujifilm X-T20 Sony a6300 Olympus E-M5 II Canon EOS 77D MSRP (body) $899 $899 $1099 $899 Sensor 24MP APS-C 24MP APS-C 16MP Four Thirds 24MP APS-C Color filter X-Trans Bayer Bayer Bayer Lens mount Fujifilm X Sony E Micro Four Thirds Canon EF/EF-S ISO range
(expanded) 100-51200 100-51200 100-25600 100-51200 Image stabilization Lens-based Lens-based In-body Lens-based AF system Hybrid1 Hybrid1 Contrast-detect Phase Detect + Dual Pixel AF2 LCD type Tilting Tilting Fully articulating Fully articulating Touchscreen Yes No Yes Yes Viewfinder (magnification3) EVF (0.62x) EVF (0.7x) EVF (0.74x) OVF (0.51x) Max shutter speed
(Electronic) 1/4000 sec (1/32,000) 1/4000 sec 1/8000 sec (1/16,000) 1/4000 sec Built-in flash Yes Yes No
Clip-on, rotating/ bouncable included Yes Flash x-sync 1/180 sec 1/160 sec 1/250 sec 1/200 sec Burst rate
(with AF) 8 fps 8 fps 5 fps 6 fps Mic/headphone
jacks Yes / No Yes / No Yes / No Yes / No Video UHD 4K @ 30p UHD 4K @ 30p 1080/60p 1080/60p Wireless Wi-Fi Wi-Fi w/NFC Wi-Fi Wi-Fi w/NFC Weather-sealed No Yes Yes No Battery life 350 shots 400 shots 310 shots 600 shots4 Dimensions 118 x 83 x 41mm 120 x 67 x 49mm 124 x 85 x 45mm 131 x 100 x 76mm Weight 383 g 404 g 469 g 540 g

1. Hybrid denotes contrast and on-sensor phase detection.
2. Dual Pixel AF is a variation of on-sensor phase detection that has left/right-looking diodes on every pixel, rather than masked-out pixels on traditional PDAF systems.
3. 35mm equivalent
4. Live view battery life rated at 270 shots.

Lots to talk about before we really dive further into the X-T20. The X-T20 is remarkably competitive with its peers: sometimes an equal and other times surpassing the other cameras. The only area in which it falls a bit short is with regard to its electronic viewfinder, which is smaller than the other two mirrorless cameras (though it's larger than what you'll find on the EOS 77D). It's not weather-sealed like the a6300 and E-M5 II, so if you want that on a Fujifilm you'll need to step up to the X-T2, which is nearly double the price. 

Categories: Photo News

Opinion: Thinking about buying medium format? Read this first

Tue, 03/21/2017 - 03:30

The recent announcements of Fujifilm’s GFX 50S and Hasselblad's X1D have turned a lot of heads, and for good reason. To take the GFX 50S specifically (since it's more likely to represent an affordable option for DSLR shooters), we love Fujifilm cameras. It’s hard not to – they offer excellent ergonomics with a level of direct control that photographers itch for, and Fujifilm’s color science renders images that harken back to the days of film, while retaining all the advantages of digital. Meanwhile, the X-Trans color filter array (CFA) offers a number of advantages compared to traditional Bayer CFAs, showing decreased false color and a slight noise advantage due to a (relatively) greater proportion of green pixels.

Ultimately, though, the image quality of Fujifilm’s best cameras was limited by their APS-C sized sensors, which simply cannot capture as much light as similar silicon in larger sizes. And if you’ve kept up with our recent technical articles, you’ll know that the amount of total light you’ve captured is arguably the largest determinant of image quality.

'Fujifilm skipped the arguably saturated full-frame market and went straight to medium format.'

That left many of us wondering when Fujifilm would step up to full-frame (35mm). But Fujifilm went one better – they skipped the arguably saturated full-frame market and went straight to medium format. In a rather compact, lightweight mirrorless form-factor at that. That made a lot of sense especially when you consider Fujifilm’s heritage in medium format film cameras, and its experience making medium-format lenses for other brands.

So, finally, here comes the GFX 50S: Fujifilm ergonomics and colors, but with all the advantages offered by larger sensors. But while heads turn, eyes widen, and colleagues fight over who gets to take the camera out for a shoot, personally I’m in need of a little convincing. And think you should be too, if you’re thinking about plopping down a fat wad of cash for this seemingly drool-worthy system.

But what’s not to like, you ask? Bear with me…

Theoretical advantages of larger sensors

The potential advantages of larger sensors can broadly be split into four areas: noise in low light, dynamic range, subject isolation (shallow depth-of-field), and resolution. But zoom into the following 36MP at 100% - are any of those lacking?

ISO 64 on a Nikon D810 gets me medium format-esque signal:noise ratio (image cleanliness), along with subject isolation I can't get on medium format just yet, not at this focal length anyway (which would require a non-existent 44mm F2.5 MF lens). The incredible sharpness of this lens means I get good use out of those 36MP even wide open at F2. Photo: Rishi Sanyal (Nikon D810 | Sigma 24-35mm @ 35mm F2)

The question is: does the GFX 50S currently deliver on all, or any, of these advantages over what the best of full-frame has to offer? Let’s look at each separately.

Low light (noise) performance

For the same f-number and shutter speed (or ‘focal plane exposure’), a larger sensor is exposed to more total light. The same light per unit area is projected by the lens, but the larger sensor has more area available capturing it. An image made with more light has less relative photon shot noise (the noise that results from the fact that light arrives randomly at the imaging plane). The more light you capture, the more you ‘average’ out these fluctuations, leading to a cleaner image (that’s the laymen’s description of it anyway; read about it more in-depth here).

That’s why a full-frame camera generally gives you cleaner images than your smartphone.* So if more light means better images, that’s a clear win for the GFX 50S, right?

Not so fast...

No, literally, not so fast. The lenses available for the GFX format simply aren’t as fast as those offered by full-frame competitors. The fastest lens on Fujifilm’s GFX roadmap is F2, which in full-frame equivalent terms is F1.56** (the concept of equivalence is out of scope for this article, but you can read about it in-depth here; for now, just remember the GFX has a reverse crop factor, relative to full-frame, of 0.79x). And most of the current MF lenses hover around F2.8 and F4, or F2.2 and F3.2 equivalent, respectively. That means that if they had the exact same underlying silicon technology (or sensor performance), a full-frame camera with an F2.2 (or F3.2) lens should do just as well as the GFX 50S with its F2.8 (or F4) lens. Even if were were to think ahead to the MF 100MP sensor Sony provides in the Phase One cameras, its 0.64x crop factor at best yields an F1.3 full-frame equivalent lenses from the one F2 lens announced, still not beating out the Canon 85/1.2, and barely beating out the plethora of available F1.4 full-frame lenses. So even if the newly announced G-mount lenses cover the wider medium format image circle (which I'd sure hope they would), things still aren't so exciting.

But full-frame can do better than that: F1.4 and F1.8 lenses are routinely available for full-frame cameras, typically for less money too. An F1.4 lens projects twice as much light per unit area than an F2 lens, and 4x as much as an F2.8 lens, amply making up for the 1.7x smaller sensor surface area of full-frame.

That means full-frame cameras can capture as much, or more, light as the GFX 50S simply by offering faster lenses. But wait, it there's more...

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Companies like Sony have poured a lot of R&D into their full-frame (and smaller) sensors, and the a7R II uses a backside-illuminated design that makes it more efficient than the sensor used in the 50S. It also offers a dual-gain architecture that flips the camera into a high gain mode at ISO 640, allowing it to effectively overcome any noise introduced by the camera’s own electronics. In other words, the a7R II’s sensor is better able to use the light projected onto it, relative to the MF sensor – ironically a sensor made by Sony itself - in the G50S (or Pentax 645Z, or Hasselblad X1D). This allows it to match the low light noise performance of the larger sensor in the GFX (and Pentax 645Z and Hasselblad X1D) even at the same shutter speed and f-number. See our studio scene comparison widget above.

'The Sony a7R II’s sensor is better able to use the light projected onto it, relative to the MF sensor'

So if we start with parity, guess what happens when you open up that aperture on the a7R II to an f-number simply unavailable to any current medium format system? You guessed it: you get better low light performance on full-frame. Whoa.

Dynamic Range

Although the same f-number and shutter speed give a larger sensor more total light, they receive the same amount of light per unit area. Most sensors of a similar generation have broadly similar tolerance for light per unit area (technically: similar full well capacity per unit area). But a larger sensor devotes more sensor area to any scene element, so can tolerate more total light per scene element before clipping. That means that for the same focal plane exposure, despite clipping highlights at a similar point, a larger sensor will render shadows (whose noise levels define the other limit of dynamic range) from more total light. And the same logic that applies to low light noise applies here as well: more total light = less relative shot noise and less impact of any noise from camera electronics. That means cleaner shadows, and more dynamic range.

So another clear win for the larger sensor GFX, no? Well, no. Because someone poured a lot of R&D into the Nikon D810 sensor (noticing a trend here?), giving it higher full-well capacity per unit area than any other sensor we’ve measured to date: its ISO 64 mode. Each pixel can hold more total charge before clipping, relative to equally-sized pixels on any other sensor in a consumer camera. That means it can tolerate a longer exposure at ISO 64, longer enough (at least 2/3 EV, or 60% more light) to capture as much total light as the 68% larger sensor in the GFX 50S exposed at its base ISO (100). Don’t believe us? Check out our real-world dynamic range comparison of the Nikon D810 vs the Pentax 645Z, which ostensibly shares the same sensor as the GFX 50S:

$(document).ready(function() { ImageComparisonWidget({"containerId":"reviewImageComparisonWidget-54923734","widgetId":479,"initialStateId":3427}) })

In this shoot-out, we exposed each camera to the right as far as possible before clipping a significant chunk of pixels in the brightest portion of the Raw (in the orange sky just above the mountains). The D810, in this case, was able to tolerate a full stop longer exposure***, which allows its (pushed) shadows to remain as clean as the 645Z. That's the (scientific, not baloney) reason we claimed the Nikon D810 to have medium format-like image quality. Because its dynamic range and overall signal:noise performance at ISO 64 rivals many current medium format cameras their base ISOs (though not the huge new 100MP MF Sony sensor in the new Phase One). Just look at its massive SNR advantage (read: image cleanliness) for all tones at ISO 64 over the Canon 5DS R at ISO 100 - we intend to plot the Fujifilm GFX 50S on the same graph, and don't expect it to show any advantage to the D810. Because science.

Read about this all more in-depth in our D810 review here, and check out Bill Claff's quantitative data that shows a 0.22 EV base ISO dynamic range difference between the D810 and 645Z - hardly noticeable, much less something to write home about.

‘OK but it’s not fair to compare ISO 64 to ISO 100!’

Fair enough, there’s a little more to the story. ISO 64 does require more exposure than ISO 100, either via a brighter lens, or longer exposure time. But one might argue that under circumstances where you care about dynamic range – i.e. high contrast scenes – you’re typically not light-limited to begin with, and can easily give the camera as much light as needed. Either because you’re shooting on a tripod, you’re using studio lights and can just crank them up, or because there’s so much light to begin with (it is a high contrast scene, right?) You’re working at or near base ISO anyway, so you shouldn’t have trouble adding 2/3 EV exposure by opening up the lens or lengthening the shutter speed a bit.

'You’re working at or near base ISO anyway, so you shouldn’t have trouble adding 2/3 EV shutter speed'

But, yes, if you’re in a light-limited situation (i.e. you’re not shooting at base ISO) and it’s high enough contrast that you care about dynamic range (have to expose for highlights then push shadows), then the GFX 50S will have the upper hand here. But dare I say, that’s quite the niche use case: keep in mind that most situations demanding higher ISOs tend to be in lower light, where you care more about general noise performance, not dynamic range (since low light scenes tend to have lower contrast). And if that’s what you care about, there’s the a7R II which, although it may clip highlights a bit earlier, can give you as good, or better, low light noise performance… [link back to Noise section above].

But I'll concede – if you want both the base ISO dynamic range of the D810, and the low light noise performance of an a7R II (albeit with F2 or slower lenses), then the GFX might be your ticket.

Shallow Depth-of-Field

As we calculated in our ‘Low light (noise) performance’ section above, the fastest lens on Fujifilm’s roadmap is ~F1.6 full-frame equivalent, with most current available lenses being F2.2 equivalent or slower. Since full-frame routinely has F1.4 (equivalent) lenses available, you actually get more subject isolation, and blurrier backgrounds, with full-frame than with medium format.

And, no, the ‘but larger formats have more compression because you use longer focal length lenses for the same field-of-view’ argument is false. Just say no to the compression myth. For equivalent focal lengths/apertures, there's no extra compression. Compression is relative only to equivalent focal length and subject distance (or subject magnification), and its relative distance to the background. Not the format you're shooting on. Don’t believe us, have a look for yourself:

46mm F2.8 on APS-C is roughly equivalent to 70mm F4.3 on full-frame - meaning the two shots above should be virtually identical. And they are, save for a tiny bit more DOF in the full-frame shot because F4.5 was the closest I could get to F4.3. Now, of course, you can get shallower DOF on full-frame, for example by shooting at F2.8. But that's because those faster lenses are available for full-frame.

They're not in Fujifilm's lineup, which includes two F2.8 lenses, one F2 lens, and a few F4 lenses - which are equivalent to F2.2, F1.6, and F3.2 in full-frame terms, respectively.

Without brighter lenses, there’s just no reason to get excited about medium format for subject isolation and blurry backgrounds. If you're a bokeh fanatic, full-frame’s arguably the sweet spot.

Resolution

OK, finally, some good news. Well, theoretically anyway.

If you have two differently sized sensors with the same pixel count, the smaller one will be more demanding on its lens (it samples the lens at more lines per mm for the same scene frequency). Manufacturing larger lenses is also slightly easier, since the same relative tolerance level can be achieved, despite a larger absolute variance.

So if you’re looking for true 50MP of detail across the frame, you’re more likely to get it with the GFX 50S than with a comparable 50MP full-frame sensor, simply because of the realities of lens design and tolerances. That said, we’ve been told that some of the newer full-frame lens designs were designed with 80 to 100MP in mind, on full-frame sensors. And with the eye-popping performance of some of the newest full-frame lenses we’ve seen, from varied manufacturers, we’re not inclined to disagree. We’ve seen some 50MP files from the 5DS R paired with truly stellar lenses where we simply can’t imagine anything better, resolution-wise. In fact, at ~F5.6-6.2 equivalent, I'm not seeing a major resolution advantage of the medium format cameras over the full-frame cameras in our studio scene comparison tool, and the 50MP full-frame image below isn't exactly starved for resolution, is it?

50MP Canon 5DS R image, shot with a Sigma 24-35mm F2 lens at F2. At F2 full-frame equiv., this image would have been impossible to shoot on the Fujifilm GFX 50S without a 44mm F2.5 lens, which doesn't exist, nor is on Fujifilm's roadmap. And despite the 5DS R's smaller pixels for the same total pixel count sensor, this image isn't exactly starving for resolution and sharpness at 1:1 viewing, thanks to modern lens design. Photo: Rishi Sanyal

Put another way: if you’re seeing eye-popping resolution at F2 above and here and here (and even at F1.4 on some new lenses) when viewing a Canon 5DS R 50MP full-frame file at 100% (do click on the above image and view at 100%), do you want or need a truer 50MP? Or do you want even more than 50MP, particularly if it'll come at the cost of more depth-of-field, since there are hardly any F2 equivalent lenses that'll give you the subject isolation and background bokeh you see in the full-frame shot above?

Only you can answer that question, but it is true that physics being physics, larger sensors will always tend to out-resolve smaller sensors with equivalent glass. And so this is the area where we most expect to see an advantage to the Fujifilm system, especially over time as we approach 100MP, and beyond. It’s probably easier for an F1.8 prime paired with the GFX 50S to out-resolve an F1.4 prime on a 5DS R when both systems are shot wide open, but whether that will be the case (or if Fujifilm will even make an F1.8 or brighter prime for the system) remains to be seen. I certainly don’t think it would be a cheap combination.

Thanks, DPR, for saving me money / killing my hopes and dreams

Still excited about the Fujifilm GFX 50S and Hasselblad X1D? Perhaps you still should be. You get Fujifilm ergonomics and color science in a body capable of far better image quality than Fujifilm's APS-C offerings. But remember you can emulate much of that color science in Raw converters with proper profiles (we're looking into a separate article on this). More importantly, remember that equivalence tells us that an F1.8 medium format prime is what the GFX 50S actually needs to at least match the performance from modern full-frames paired with F1.4 lenses, from the perspective of noise and shallow depth-of-field. And that’s before you consider the advanced silicon technologies we’ve seen in different full-frame (and smaller) sensors that we haven’t yet seen in any medium format sensor. These advances have, for example, allowed a Nikon D810 to catch up to the dynamic range of the Pentax 645Z at base ISO, and the BSI, dual-gain a7R II sensor to catch up to the GFX 50S in low light noise performance.

Still, as I've said, physics is physics. For equivalent apertures and final output resolutions, we do expect medium format to yield a slight resolution advantage, thanks to its lower demands on resolving power of lenses. But the extent of this advantage, especially given some of the tremendous progress we’ve seen in recent lens designs, remains to be seen: I'm not starving for eye-popping detail at 1:1 viewing of 50 and 42MP files when pairing a 5DS R or a7R II with stellar modern prime lenses.

'as medium format evolves, the same gains we see in full-frame over smaller sensors might find their ways into the format.'

Of course, as medium format evolves, the same gains we see in full-frame over smaller sensors might find their ways into the format. But this will require both the silicon to keep up, and for the development of faster lenses. At least as fast as the fastest lenses full-frame offers. One thing does make us hopeful - recent conversations with some forum members alerted us to the fact that certain full-frame lenses, like the Zeiss Otus primes, actually project an image circle large enough for at least a square crop on Fujifilm's new MF format. That would essentially get you high quality F1.1 equivalent glass on the GFX 50S. Cool, if you can focus it, anyway... (the GFX focus even with native lenses is anything but fast or intelligent, by the way). But if we see more and more fast full-frame lenses able to cover the image circle of the GFX G50S, then we're more likely to actually experience the benefits of the larger sensor format, though native fast lenses (that aren't slow unit focus, please) are really what we need.

Else, the potential advantages may be outweighed by the disadvantages: the extra weight, heft, price and severely lacking autofocus. And the GFX 50S has given up some of the noise and false color advantages their X-Trans cameras show...

For now, we hope that looking at the problem through the lens of equivalence at least gives you an idea of how big (or small) you can reasonably expect the differences to be. Maybe it even saves you a dime or two. Or makes you want to yell at us for bringing up equivalence, again.

But at the end of the day, equivalence has left me rather equivocal about medium format digital. What about you? Let us know in the comments below.

Editorial note: The headline of this opinion article has been updated to make it clearer that the points expressed are not intended to be taken as being specific to a single product, but represent discussion of the pros and cons of the emerging enthusiast medium-format camera class as a whole. 

Footnotes:

* It’s also why ‘multi-shot’ modes yield cleaner images than single shots: these modes essentially capture more total light, averaging out shot noise. It’s also why brighter scenes generally look cleaner than low light scenes: more light = more photons captured = less relative shot noise = higher signal:noise ratio (SNR, or ‘cleanliness’ in laymen terms).

** The GFX 50S’ 44x33mm sensor has an effective 0.78x crop factor, so you can multiply the MF lens’ f-number by 0.78 to get the equivalent full-frame f-number.

*** We don’t control for T-stop, which could partially explain the drastic exposure difference. This doesn’t affect our experiment though, as we applied well-vetted 'Expose to the Right' (ETTR) principles for a fair comparison

Categories: Photo News

Thinking about buying a Fujifilm GFX 50S? Read this first

Tue, 03/21/2017 - 03:30

Fujifilm’s GFX 50S announcement has turned a lot of heads, and for good reason. We love Fujifilm cameras. It’s hard not to – they offer excellent ergonomics with a level of direct control that photographers itch for, and Fujifilm’s color science renders images that harken back to the days of film, while retaining all the advantages of digital. Meanwhile, the X-Trans color filter array (CFA) offers a number of advantages compared to traditional Bayer CFAs, showing decreased false color and a slight noise advantage due to a (relatively) greater proportion of green pixels.

Ultimately, though, the image quality of Fujifilm’s best cameras was limited by their APS-C sized sensors, which simply cannot capture as much light as similar silicon in larger sizes. And if you’ve kept up with our recent technical articles, you’ll know that the amount of total light you’ve captured is arguably the largest determinant of image quality.

'Fujifilm skipped the arguably saturated full-frame market and went straight to medium format.'

That left many of us wondering when Fujifilm would step up to full-frame (35mm). But Fujifilm went one better – they skipped the arguably saturated full-frame market and went straight to medium format. In a rather compact, lightweight mirrorless form-factor at that. That made a lot of sense especially when you consider Fujifilm’s heritage in medium format film cameras, and its experience making medium-format lenses for other brands.

So, finally, here comes the GFX 50S: Fujifilm ergonomics and colors, but with all the advantages offered by larger sensors. But while heads turn, eyes widen, and colleagues fight over who gets to take the camera out for a shoot, personally I’m in need of a little convincing. And think you should be too, if you’re thinking about plopping down a fat wad of cash for this seemingly drool-worthy system.

But what’s not to like, you ask? Bear with me…

Theoretical advantages of larger sensors

The potential advantages of larger sensors can broadly be split into four areas: noise in low light, dynamic range, subject isolation (shallow depth-of-field), and resolution. But zoom into the following 36MP at 100% - are any of those lacking?

ISO 64 on a Nikon D810 gets me medium format-esque signal:noise ratio (image cleanliness), along with subject isolation I can't get on medium format just yet, not at this focal length anyway (which would require a non-extant 44mm F2.5 MF lens. The incredible sharpness of this lens means I get good use out of those 36MP even wide open at F2. Photo: Rishi Sanyal (Nikon D810 | Sigma 24-35mm @ 35mm F2)

The question is: does the GFX 50S currently deliver on all, or any, of these advantages over what the best of full-frame has to offer? Let’s look at each separately.

Low light (noise) performance

For the same f-number and shutter speed (or ‘focal plane exposure’), a larger sensor is exposed to more total light. The same light per unit area is projected by the lens, but the larger sensor has more area available capturing it. An image made with more light has less relative photon shot noise (the noise that results from the fact that light arrives randomly at the imaging plane). The more light you capture, the more you ‘average’ out these fluctuations, leading to a cleaner image (that’s the laymen’s description of it anyway; read about it more in-depth here).

That’s why a full-frame camera generally gives you cleaner images than your smartphone.* So if more light means better images, that’s a clear win for the GFX 50S, right?

Not so fast...

No, literally, not so fast. The lenses available for the GFX format simply aren’t as fast as those offered by full-frame competitors. The fastest lens on Fujifilm’s GFX roadmap is F2, which in full-frame equivalent terms is F1.56** (the concept of equivalence is out of scope for this article, but you can read about it in-depth here; for now, just remember the GFX has a reverse crop factor, relative to full-frame, of 0.79x). And most of the current MF lenses hover around F2.8 of F4, or F2.2 and F3.2 equivalent, respectively. That means that if they had the exact same underlying silicon technology (or sensor performance), a full-frame camera with a F2.2 (or F3.2) lens should do just as well as the GFX 50S with its F2.8 (or F4) lens. Even if were were to think ahead to the MF 100MP sensor Sony provides in the Phase One cameras, its 0.64x crop factor at best yields a F1.3 full-frame equivalent lenses from the one F2 lens announced, still not beating out the Canon 85/1.2, and barely beating out the plethora of available F1.4 full-frame lenses. So even if the newly announced G-mount lenses cover the wider medium format image circle (which I'd sure hope they would), things still aren't so exciting.

But full-frame can do better than that: F1.4 and F1.8 lenses are routinely available for full-frame cameras, typically for less money too. An F1.4 lens projects twice as much light per unit area than a F2 lens, and 4x as much as a F2.8 lens, amply making up for the 1.7x smaller sensor surface area of full-frame.

That means full-frame cameras can capture as much, or more, light as the GFX 50S simply by offering faster lenses. But wait, it there's more...

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Companies like Sony have poured a lot of R&D into their full-frame (and smaller) sensors, and the a7R II uses a backside-illuminated design that makes it more efficient than the sensor used in the 50S. It also offers a dual-gain architecture that flips the camera into a high gain mode at ISO 640, allowing it to effectively overcome any noise introduced by the camera’s own electronics. In other words, the a7R II’s sensor is better able to use the light projected onto it, relative to the MF sensor – ironically a sensor made by Sony itself - in the G50S (or Pentax 645Z, or Hasselblad X1D). This allows it to match the low light noise performance of the larger sensor Pentax 645Z even at the same shutter speed and f-number. See our studio scene comparison widget above.

'The Sony a7R II’s sensor is better able to use the light projected onto it, relative to the MF sensor'

So if we start with parity, guess what happens when you open up that aperture on the a7R II to an f-number simply unavailable to any current medium format system? You guessed it: you get better low light performance on full-frame. Whoa.

Dynamic Range

Although the same f-number and shutter speed give a larger sensor more total light, they receive the same amount of light per unit area. Most sensors of a similar generation have broadly similar tolerance for light per unit area (technically: similar full well capacity per unit area). But a larger sensor devotes more sensor area to any scene element, so can tolerate more total light per scene element before clipping. That means that for the same focal plane exposure, despite clipping highlights at a similar point, a larger sensor will render shadows (whose noise levels define the other limit of dynamic range) from more total light. And the same logic that applies to low light noise applies here as well: more total light = less relative shot noise and less impact of any noise from camera electronics. That means cleaner shadows, and more dynamic range.

So another clear win for the larger sensor GFX, no? Well, no. Because someone poured a lot of R&D into the Nikon D810 sensor (noticing a trend here?), giving it higher full-well capacity per unit area than any other sensor we’ve measured to date: its ISO 64 mode. Each pixel can hold more total charge before clipping, relative to equally-sized pixels on any other sensor in a consumer camera. That means it can tolerate a longer exposure at ISO 64, longer enough (at least 2/3 EV, or 60% more light) to capture as much total light as the 68% larger sensor in the GFX 50S exposed at its base ISO (100). Don’t believe us? Check out our real-world dynamic range comparison of the Nikon D810 vs the Pentax 645Z, which ostensibly shares the same sensor as the GFX 50S:

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In this shoot-out, we exposed each camera to the right as far as possible before clipping a significant chunk of pixels in the brightest portion of the Raw (in the orange sky just above the mountains). The D810, in this case, was able to tolerate a full stop longer exposure***, which allows its (pushed) shadows to remain as clean as the 645Z. That's the (scientific, not baloney) reason we claimed the Nikon D810 to have medium format-like image quality. Because its dynamic range and overall signal:noise performance at ISO 64 rivals many current medium format cameras their base ISOs (though not the huge new 100MP MF Sony sensor in the new Phase One). Just look at its massive SNR advantage (read: image cleanliness) for all tones at ISO 64 over the Canon 5DS R at ISO 100 - we intend to plot the Fujifilm GFX 50S on the same graph, and don't expect it to show any advantage to the D810. Because science.

Read about this all more in-depth in our D810 review here, and check out Bill Claff's quantitative data that shows a 0.22 EV base ISO dynamic range difference between the D810 and 645Z - hardly noticeable, much less something to write home about.

‘OK but it’s not fair to compare ISO 64 to ISO 100!’

Fair enough, there’s a little more to the story. ISO 64 does require more exposure than ISO 100, either via a brighter lens, or longer exposure time. But one might argue that under circumstances where you care about dynamic range – i.e. high contrast scenes – you’re typically not light-limited to begin with, and can easily give the camera as much light as needed. Either because you’re shooting on a tripod, you’re using studio lights and can just crank them up, or because there’s so much light to begin with (it is a high contrast scene, right?) You’re working at or near base ISO anyway, so you shouldn’t have trouble adding 2/3 EV exposure by opening up the lens or lengthening the shutter speed a bit.

'You’re working at or near base ISO anyway, so you shouldn’t have trouble adding 2/3 EV shutter speed'

But, yes, if you’re in a light-limited situation (i.e. you’re not shooting at base ISO) and it’s high enough contrast that you care about dynamic range (have to expose for highlights then push shadows), then the GFX 50S will have the upper hand here. But dare I say, that’s quite the niche use case: keep in mind that most situations demanding higher ISOs tend to be in lower light, where you care more about general noise performance, not dynamic range (since low light scenes tend to have lower contrast). And if that’s what you care about, there’s the a7R II which, although it may clip highlights a bit earlier, can give you as good, or better, low light noise performance… [link back to Noise section above].

But I'll concede – if you want both the base ISO dynamic range of the D810, and the low light noise performance of an a7R II (albeit with F2 or slower lenses), then the GFX might be your ticket.

Shallow Depth-of-Field

As we calculated in our ‘Low light (noise) performance’ section above, the fastest lens on Fujifilm’s roadmap is ~F1.6 full-frame equivalent, with most current available lenses being F2.2 equivalent or slower. Since full-frame routinely has F1.4 (equivalent) lenses available, you actually get more subject isolation, and blurrier backgrounds, with full-frame than with medium format.

And, no, the ‘but larger formats have more compression because you use longer focal length lenses for the same field-of-view’ argument is false. Just say no to the compression myth. For equivalent focal lengths/apertures, there's no extra compression. Compression is relative only to equivalent focal length and subject distance (or subject magnification), and its relative distance to the background. Not the format you're shooting on. Don’t believe us, have a look for yourself:

46mm F2.8 on APS-C is roughly equivalent to 70mm F4.3 on full-frame - meaning the two shots above should be virtually identical. And they are, save for a tiny bit more DOF in the full-frame shot because F4.5 was the closest I could get to F4.3. Now, of course, you can get shallower DOF on full-frame, for example by shooting at F2.8. But that's because those faster lenses are available for full-frame.

They're not in Fujifilm's lineup, which includes two F2.8 lenses, one F2 lens, and a few F4 lenses - which are equivalent to F2.2, F1.6, and F3.2 in full-frame terms, respectively.

Without brighter lenses, there’s just no reason to get excited about medium format for subject isolation and blurry backgrounds. If you're a bokeh fanatic, full-frame’s arguably the sweet spot.

Resolution

OK, finally, some good news. Well, theoretically anyway.

If you have two differently sized sensors with the same pixel count, the smaller one will be more demanding on its lens (it samples the lens at more lines per mm for the same scene frequency). Manufacturing larger lenses is also slightly easier, since the same relative tolerance level can be achieved, despite a larger absolute variance.

So if you’re looking for true 50MP of detail across the frame, you’re more likely to get it with the GFX 50S than with a comparable 50MP full-frame sensor, simply because of the realities of lens design and tolerances. That said, we’ve been told that some of the newer full-frame lens designs were designed with 80 to 100MP in mind, on full-frame sensors. And with the eye-popping performance of some of the newest full-frame lenses we’ve seen, from varied manufacturers, we’re not inclined to disagree. We’ve seen some 50MP files from the 5DS R paired with truly stellar lenses where we simply can’t imagine anything better, resolution-wise. In fact, at ~F5.6-6.2 equivalent, I'm not seeing a major resolution advantage of the medium format cameras over the full-frame cameras in our studio scene comparison tool, and the 50MP full-frame image below isn't exactly starved for resolution, is it?

50MP Canon 5DS R image, shot with a Sigma 24-35mm F2 lens at F2. At F2 full-frame equiv., this image would literally have been impossible to shoot on the Fujifilm GFX 50S, without a 44mm F2.5 lens, anyway, which doesn't exist, nor is on the roadmap, for the Fujifilm. Photo: Rishi Sanyal

Put another way: if you’re seeing eye-popping resolution at F2 above and here and here (and even at F1.4 on some new lenses) when viewing a Canon 5DS R 50MP full-frame file at 100% (do click on the above image and view at 100%), do you want or need a truer 50MP? Or do you want even more than 50MP, particularly if it'll come at the cost of more depth-of-field, since there are hardly any F2 equivalent lenses that'll give you the subject isolation and background bokeh you see in the full-frame shot above?

Only you can answer that question, but it is true that physics being physics, larger sensors will always tend to out-resolve smaller sensors with equivalent glass. And so this is the area where we most expect to see an advantage to the Fujifilm system, especially over time as we approach 100MP, and beyond. It’s probably easier for a F1.8 prime paired with the GFX 50S to out-resolve a F1.4 prime on a 5DS R when both systems are shot wide open, but whether that will be the case (or if Fujifilm will even make a F1.8 or brighter prime for the system) remains to be seen. I certainly don’t think it would be a cheap combination.

Thanks, DPR, for saving me my money / killing my hopes and dreams

Still excited about the Fujifilm GFX 50S and Hasselblad X1D? Perhaps you still should be. You get Fujifilm ergonomics and color science in a body capable of far better image quality that Fujifilm's APS-C offerings. But remember you can emulate much of that color science in Raw converters with proper profiles (we're looking into a separate article on this). More importantly, remember that equivalence tells us that a F1.8 medium format prime is what the GFX 50S actually needs to at least match the performance from modern full-frames paired with F1.4 lenses, from the perspective of noise and shallow depth-of-field. And that’s before you consider the advanced silicon technologies we’ve seen in different full-frame (and smaller) sensors that we haven’t yet seen in any medium format sensor. These advances have, for example, allowed a Nikon D810 to catch up to the dynamic range of the Pentax 645Z at base ISO, and the BSI, dual-gain a7R II sensor to catch up to the GFX 50S in low light noise performance.

Still, as I've said, physics is physics. For equivalent apertures and final output resolutions, we do expect medium format to yield a slight resolution advantage, thanks to its lower demands on resolving power of lenses. But the extent of this advantage, especially given some of the tremendous progress we’ve seen in recent lens designs, remains to be seen: I'm not starving for eye-popping detail at 1:1 viewing of 50 and 42MP files when pairing a 5DS R or a7R II with stellar modern prime lenses.

'as medium format evolves, the same gains we see in full-frame over smaller sensors might find their ways into the format.'

Of course, as medium format evolves, the same gains we see in full-frame over smaller sensors might find their ways into the format. But this will require both the silicon to keep up, and for the development of faster lenses. At least as fast as the fastest lenses full-frame offers. One thing does make us hopeful - recent conversations with our forum extraordinaire Jim Kasson have alerted us to the fact that certain full-frame lenses, like the Zeiss Otus primes, actually project an image circle large enough for Fujifilm's new MF format. That would essentially get you high quality F1.1 equivalent glass on the GFX 50S. OK, that's cool. If you can focus it, anyway :) But if we see more and more fast full-frame lenses able to cover the image circle of the GFX G50S, then we're more likely to actually experience the benefits of the larger sensor format.

Else, the potential advantages may be outweighed by the disadvantages: the extra weight, heft, price and severely lacking autofocus. And the GFX 50S has given up some of the noise and false color advantages their X-Trans cameras show...

For now, we hope that looking at the problem through the lens of equivalence at least gives you an idea of how big (or small) you can reasonably expect the differences to be. Maybe it even saves you a dime or two. Or makes you want to yell at us for bringing up equivalence, again.

But at the end of the day, equivalence has made me rather equivocal about the GFX 50S. What about you? Let us know in the comments below.

Footnotes:

* It’s also why ‘multi-shot’ modes yield cleaner images than single shots: these modes essentially capture more total light, averaging out shot noise. It’s also why brighter scenes generally look cleaner than low light scenes: more light = more photons captured = less relative shot noise = higher signal:noise ratio (SNR, or ‘cleanliness’ in laymen terms).

** The GFX 50S’ 44x33mm sensor has an effective 0.78x crop factor, so you can multiply the MF lens’ f-number by 0.78 to get the equivalent full-frame f-number.

*** We don’t control for T-stop, which could partially explain the drastic exposure difference. This doesn’t affect our experiment though, as we applied well-vetted 'Expose to the Right' (ETTR) principles for a fair comparison

Categories: Photo News

Pentax KP sample gallery

Tue, 03/21/2017 - 02:00

The Pentax KP packs tons of features into one of their most petite bodies yet. It offers a new 5-axis SR II IBIS system, ISO expansion up to 819,200 and interchangeable grips. We like how the camera looks, but what about its pictures? Take a look at our sample gallery to see for yourself.

See our Pentax KP sample gallery

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Categories: Photo News

£10,000 of Sigma lenses up for grabs in Amateur Photographer of the Year competition

Tue, 03/21/2017 - 00:01

The UK’s Amateur Photographer magazine has launched its 2017 Amateur Photographer of the Year competition and is offering a total of £10,000 worth of Sigma lenses in prizes. 

The competition is run over the course of eight rounds with monthly closing dates from the end of April to the end of November. Each month has a different theme and winners are picked by the Amateur Photographer judging panel and through an online voting system run by Photocrowd. At the end of the year, an overall winner will be selected to win the top prize.

Anyone can enter, but AP points out that entrants who live outside the UK would need to pay any applicable import tax on their winnings.

Monthly prizes will amount to approximately £1000 of Sigma lenses, cameras and flash units each, while the final winner will take away £2000 worth of kit in the shape of Sigma’s 85mm F1.4 DG HSM Art and the 35mm F1.4 DG HSM Art, along with a Sigma USB Dock. Monthly winners of the Photocrowd vote get a year’s subscription to the magazine.

Weekly magazine Amateur Photographer has been running this competition for 26 years, but this is the first time entry has been allowed via an online system. For more information see the Amateur Photographer website and the competition’s Photocrowd page. Entry is free.

Monthly themes:

MARCH
Magical monochrome - Black & White
Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM | Art (£749.99) + Sigma EF-610 Super Flashgun (£259.99)
Total Prize Value: £1,009.98

APRIL
Hit the streets - Street Photography
SIGMA dp2 Quattro (£899.99) + VF-41 Viewfinder (£199.99)
Total Prize Value: £1,099.98

MAY
Small wonders – Macro
105mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM Macro (£649.99) + SIGMA EM-140 DG Macro Flash (£379.99)
Total Prize Value: £1029.98

JUNE
City clickers- Cityscapes / Architecture
SIGMA sd Quattro + 30mm F1.4 DC HSM Art (£1049.99)
Total Prize Value: £1,049.99

JULY
Into the wild – Wildlife
Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM | Contemporary (£999.99) + Sigma USB Dock (£39.99)
Total Prize Value: £1,039.98

AUGUST
Creative eye - Abstract Art
SIGMA 24-35mm f/2 DG HSM | Art (£949.99) + SIGMA 82mm WR CERAMIC PROTECTOR (£104.99)
Total Prize Value: £1,054.98

SEPTEMBER
Land lovers - Landscapes
SIGMA dp0 Quattro (£899.99) + VF-51 / Viewfinder (£199.99)
Total Prize Value: £1,099.98

OCTOBER
Face to face – Portraiture
SIGMA 85mm F1.4 DG HSM ART (£1,199.99)
Total Prize Value: £1,199.99

GRAND PRIZE
SIGMA 85mm F1.4 DG HSM Art (£1199.99) + SIGMA 35mm F1.4 DG HSM Art (799.99) + SIGMA USB Dock (£39.99)
Total Prize Value: £2,039.97

Overall Prize Value = £10,624.83

Categories: Photo News

Real 3D images of Mars make up this video of a simulated flight over the red planet

Mon, 03/20/2017 - 13:17

It took photographer and self-proclaimed space enthusiast Jan Fröjdman three months to produce a video turning NASA anaglyph images of Mars into a simulated flight over the planet. NASA's high-resolution imagery offers depth information and comes from HiRISE, a camera on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. 

Fröjdman converted the still images into panning video clips using reference points – 33,000 of them – and color-graded the images. He describes it as an effort to visualize the planet in his own way, rather than as a strictly scientific endeavor. It's certainly a mesmerizing way to spend 4 minutes.

Categories: Photo News

Lomo'Instant Automat Glass Magellan has a wide-angle glass lens

Mon, 03/20/2017 - 12:39

Lomography has introduced what it says is the first instant camera featuring a glass wide-angle lens: the Lomo'Instant Automat Glass Magellan. That lens uses a multi-coated surface to reduce glare, as well as an F4.5 aperture and three zone focusing settings: 0.3m, 0.6m and 1m to infinite. Those who pre-order will also get four color filter gels.

This is the latest version of the camera Lomography first launched on Kickstarter back in August. The Lomo'Instant Automat automatically adjusts the aperture, shutter speed and flash, and offers other high-tech features such as a lens cap that doubles as a remote shutter release and an LED film counter. The model uses Fujifilm Instax Mini film and is powered by a pair of CR2 batteries.

Lomography is currently offering the Glass Magellan model on its website for pre-order at $189. Deliveries to those who pre-order is estimated to start in the middle of April.

Via: Lomography

Categories: Photo News

U.S. Supreme Court seeks permanent full-time photographer

Mon, 03/20/2017 - 11:19
Photo by Joe Ravi, used under CC-BY-SA 3.0 license

The United States Supreme Court is hiring a new full-time, permanent photographer who will be tasked with documenting a variety of things related to the Supreme Court, including employees, buildings and artwork the Court has in its collection. This individual will also be tasked with 'managing public access' to the Court's Photographs Collection, per the job listing.

The job listing was posted on March 13, and it will be live until March 27 at 11:59PM EST. The chosen photographer will be located in Washington D.C. and will work with the Court’s Curator’s Office performing the above duties, as well as photographing various events. Those interested in the position must be a U.S. citizen, pass a security background check, and must meet the minimum qualifications.

According to the job listing, a qualified applicant will possess both 3-5 years of 'progressively responsible [photography] experience' as well as a Bachelor’s degree. In lieu of that experience, the applicant needs 'any directly related experience that has demonstrated a thorough understanding of the principles, practices and techniques of photography, image processing and image management.' The college degree requirement can be waived if the applicant has 'at least four years of additional experience.'

As well, the job listing says the applicant must know how to operate Nikon and Hasselblad gear, including accessories, artificial lighting, and video cameras. The applicant also needs digital image processing skills, Digital Asset Management software experience, proficiency with Microsoft Word/Access/Excel and Adobe Creative Suite, and more.

Interested photographers can apply via the USA Jobs link below. Applications require a cover letter and resume, form OF-306, the completion of an online questionnaire, and a portfolio link with three examples of multiple types of photos, including special event photographs, individual portraits, and more.

Via: USAJobs.gov

Categories: Photo News

Oberwerth launches Donau line of leather lens pouches

Mon, 03/20/2017 - 11:08

German manufacturer Oberwerth, best known for its high-end leather camera accessories and bags, has launched its new Donau line of leather lens pouches. Like other Oberwerth products, the pouches are handmade in Germany from soft cowhide leather. A surface finish provides stain protection and should preserve the natural material's shine for a long time to come. In the interior the pouches are lined with non-pilling wool felt to keep your valuable glass scratch-free. 

The Donau pouches come in sizes S, M, L and XL to accommodate lenses of various dimensions but at a width of 9.5 cm/3.74 in and a diameter of 9 cm/3.54 in even the biggest XL version seems more suitable for a large prime rather than fast tele-zooms lenses. The pouches are available now, starting at $150/€139 for the small size. The XL variant will set you back $214/€199. More information is available on the Oberwerth website.  

Categories: Photo News

The home of the L-series: We tour Canon's Utsunomiya factory

Mon, 03/20/2017 - 07:00
The home of the L-series: Inside Canon's Utsunomiya lens factory

Recently, following the CP+ 2017 show in Yokohama, we were granted the enormous honor of a guided tour through Canon's Utsunomiya lens factory. Canon has been making lenses in Utsunomiya since 1977, and we were the first journalists ever to be allowed to see the L-series assembly line.

Utunsomiya (indicated with the dropped pin) is the capital and largest city of Tochigi Prefecture, in the northern Kantō region of Japan - about 80 miles north of Tokyo.

On February 27th, we made our way from Yokohama to Utsunomiya in the company of several representatives from Canon Inc., and our friends Dave Etchells and William Brawley from Imaging Resource. Click through this slideshow to see what we found.

The home of the L-series: Inside Canon's Utsunomiya lens factory

Plant Manager Kenichi Izuki introduces his team. Of the six 'Master Craftsmen' within Canon, two of them work at the Utsunomiya plant. 

The home of the L-series: Inside Canon's Utsunomiya lens factory

Mr Izuki explains what the Utsunomiya plant does. As you can see, several different families of products are manufactured in Utsunomiya, from high-end broadcast and EF lenses to components for office equipment.

The 2-story plant itself employs around 1,700 people and covers an area of almost 80,000 square meters (roughly 20 acres). 

The home of the L-series: Inside Canon's Utsunomiya lens factory

Painted yellow lines snake through the corridors of the Utsunomiya factory. These are 'read' by robotic carts that carry components to various parts of the plant on pre-programmed routes.

The home of the L-series: Inside Canon's Utsunomiya lens factory

Why, here's one of them now!

The home of the L-series: Inside Canon's Utsunomiya lens factory

One of the two 'Master Craftsmen' at the Utsunomiya factory, Mr Saito explains the incredibly fine tolerances involved in the creation of 4/8K broadcast lenses. Canon claims a tolerance of +/-30 nanometers. As such, if one of the finished elements were scaled up to the size of an Olympic stadium, the surface variation would be no thicker than a plastic grocery bag. 

Yes, you read that correctly.

The home of the L-series: Inside Canon's Utsunomiya lens factory

To make these lenses, first you must make the tools which shape them. In the foreground, on the left you'll see a steel 'prototype standard'. Every element in a broadcast lens was born here, from a prototype standard - effectively a 'master', rather like a shoemaker's last, from which the element takes it essential shape. Canon stores thousands of them.

The home of the L-series: Inside Canon's Utsunomiya lens factory

On the left is the diamond plate, which takes its shape precisely from the prototype standard. This is used to make the lens polishing tool. Each grey disk on the plate is a diamond grindstone. On the right is the polishing tool itself, with its array of polyurethane pads, which is used to polish a single side of each glass element.

Each surface of every element takes roughly 90 minutes to polish, and this is done by hand.

The home of the L-series: Inside Canon's Utsunomiya lens factory

The grinding and polishing process of broadcast lens elements explained. 

The home of the L-series: Inside Canon's Utsunomiya lens factory

A replica prototype standard, with a measurement tool on the right. The tool is incredibly accurate, and is used to check for surface inaccuracies. Even a divergence of 0.1 microns (1/10,000th of a millimeter) from design parameters would be considered unacceptable.

The home of the L-series: Inside Canon's Utsunomiya lens factory

Mr Saito demonstrates how a diamond plate is shaped by hand, using a large (and very heavy) carborundum disk. 

The home of the L-series: Inside Canon's Utsunomiya lens factory

With decades' of experience, Master Craftsmen (or 'Takumi') can tell when to apply more or less pressure by feel alone. Some processes, like this one, are considered so critical that they must be performed by hand.

It typically takes between 25-30 years before a lens polishing technician attains the status of 'Meister', and their experience is essential to the production line. 

The home of the L-series: Inside Canon's Utsunomiya lens factory

Here, an element is being smoothed. Afterwards it will be centered, and then polished. Every day, the manufacturing process uses 400 tonnes of water, which is purified and re-used continually in a 'closed loop' system.

The home of the L-series: Inside Canon's Utsunomiya lens factory

Not everything is done by hand. When it comes to EF lenses, Canon is expanding its automated manufacturing capabilities. We were extremely privileged to be shown this lens element polishing machine, which processes glass elements from a raw 'cake' of glass right through to final polishing, without any human intervention. 

During our tour, this particular machine was processing elements for the new Canon EF 16-35mm F2.8L III USM. From a raw cake of unpolished glass to a finished element the process of grinding, polishing and centering takes about 30 minutes. If this were done in the traditional (non-automated) manner it would take about 3 days per element. 

The home of the L-series: Inside Canon's Utsunomiya lens factory

Here's a single element from the Canon EF 16-35mm F2.8L III USM at the beginning of its life, as a cake of raw glass. This is what gets fed into the polishing machine. A finished element emerges from the machine every two minutes, and we're told that all of the non-aspherical elements in the new Canon EF 16-35mm F2.8L III USM are processed in this way. 

Aspherical elements are produced using a separate high-precision molding process, which happens elsewhere in the facility, behind closed doors. 

The home of the L-series: Inside Canon's Utsunomiya lens factory

Canon is at pains to point out that machines like this can only be created as a result of the Master Craftsmen's decades of experience. The machines themselves are made in-house too, by Canon's Production Engineering Headquarters. 

Although there has been a factory on this site since 1977, Canon opened the current building in 2005. According to Masato Okada, Deputy Chief Executive of Image Communication Products Operations, this move provided an opportunity for Canon to completely revamp its lens production methodology.

The home of the L-series: Inside Canon's Utsunomiya lens factory

After watching elements being polished, the next stage of the tour is lens assembly. Before we set foot in this area of the facility, we need to don coveralls and take a cool, refreshing 'air shower' to make sure we don't accidentally contaminate the production line. Here's Barney, trying not to brush against the (sticky) walls of the decontamination room. 

The home of the L-series: Inside Canon's Utsunomiya lens factory

This area of the factory is where Canon's high-end L-series lenses are assembled. Like the broadcast lenses, much of the assembly process for fast prime telephotos is still done by hand. 

The home of the L-series: Inside Canon's Utsunomiya lens factory

Here, a Canon assembly line Meister (her badge tells us she's been a Meister for 17 years) works on the front assembly of a telephoto prime lens. 

The home of the L-series: Inside Canon's Utsunomiya lens factory

A finished EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM is checked by computer before its final housing is put on.

The home of the L-series: Inside Canon's Utsunomiya lens factory

'OK' - this one passed! You can read up on Zernicke Polynomials here, if you like that sort of thing.

The home of the L-series: Inside Canon's Utsunomiya lens factory

This finished lens is being checked on a computerized test rig, which measures the lens's optical characteristics in three positions, across 48 points of a proprietary test chart (which we're not allowed to show, sorry). The camera is a modified EOS 5D Mark III. We don't know exactly how it's been modified, but our guide mentioned some firmware and hardware differences compared to a stock model. 

Interestingly, information about the lens's optical characteristics is saved to a chip inside the lens itself. This data can be read and updated by Canon if and when the lens comes back for service. This allows information to be gathered about the durability of certain components over time and allows Canon to learn about long-term wear patterns.

The home of the L-series: Inside Canon's Utsunomiya lens factory

Although rarely-used now, some lenses are still occasionally tested partly by using the traditional 'projection' method. Here, in a darkened room off to one side of the assembly line a technician (just visible in the background, under the image of the chart) is inspecting the image projected through a telephoto prime lens.

The home of the L-series: Inside Canon's Utsunomiya lens factory

Increasingly, Canon uses automated assembly processes for its L-series zooms, which have a comparably higher sales volume than telephoto primes and broadcast lenses.

Again, the new EF 16-35mm F2.8L III USM is at the forefront of developments in automation. Roughly 50% of the assembly process of this lens is automated and Canon tells us that, they're aiming for 80% automation within a year.

The home of the L-series: Inside Canon's Utsunomiya lens factory

Because the non-aspherical elements in the EF 16-35mm F2.8L III USM are polished automatically, and 50% of the assembly process is done by machines, the amount of people involved in the manufacture of the new EF 16-35mm F2.8L III USM is relatively small. Roughly 10% of the manpower required if it were manufactured entirely by hand, we're told.

The home of the L-series: Inside Canon's Utsunomiya lens factory

Here, the view from a tiny camera inside the assembly machine shows a technician what's happening. A EF 16-35mm F2.8L III USM's focus positioning brush switch is being installed – a highly delicate procedure which requires extremely precise positioning.

The home of the L-series: Inside Canon's Utsunomiya lens factory

Here's another one of those modified EOS 5D Mark III lens checking cameras, this time hooked up to a finished EF 16-35mm F2.8L III USM.

The home of the L-series: Inside Canon's Utsunomiya lens factory

It passed! We get the impression that very few lenses don't. From start to finish, it takes roughly 24 (non-continuous) hours to manufacture each 16-35mm.

Editors' note:

It's impossible to come away from Canon's Utsunomiya plant without an appreciation for the vast amount of expertise employed by Canon in the manufacturing of its high-end lenses. One striking aspect of the assembly process of broadcast lenses is how many steps are deemed so critical that they must be accomplished by hand. In the broadcast lenses assembly line we were told repeatedly that 'this process is too complex to be performed by a machine'.

One of the reasons that Canon's broadcast lenses are so costly is that as we saw, each element is hand-polished - often by someone with a minimum of 30 years' experience. Internally, assembling one of Canon's high-end broadcast lenses is considered among the most difficult jobs in its entire production line.

Manufacturing high-volume EF lenses in this way would be impractical (the wait-times for new models would likely stretch into decades...) but even so, when it comes to fast telephoto primes, much of the process is still performed by hand.

'anyone that fetishizes the words 'made by hand' should try shooting with the EF 16-35mm F2.8L III sometime.'

Perhaps most impressive though is the automation. Canon has clearly invested a lot of time and energy (not to mention money) in automated lens polishing and assembly. We've been lucky enough to visit several factories, run by several manufacturers, and Canon's Utsunomiya plant is definitely the most advanced that we've seen. Automation of critical lens polishing and assembly processes makes perfect sense for mass-produced products, and anyone that still blindly fetishizes the words 'made by hand' should try shooting with the EF 16-35mm F2.8L III sometime.

Canon's self-calibrating lens polishing machines (designed and manufactured in-house) are capable of incredible precision, and the data gathered by automated testing and eventual servicing can be used in any number of different ways, to improve quality control over time.

After watching the entire assembly process from lens element polishing to final QC checks, we're most excited by the possibilities which emerge from Canon's inclusion of a chip inside each recent lens, which saves data about its own specific optical characteristics.

'This could allow for... a bespoke 'lens profile' to be applied automatically'

As well as data-gathering and long-term quality control improvement, this also opens up the possibility that at some point a lens's specific optical characteristics might be made available to the camera to which it is attached. This could allow for automatic AF fine-tuning, or potentially even for a bespoke 'lens profile' to be applied automatically to correct for optical characteristics unique to that one lens. This isn't possible right now, but we're told that Canon is working on making it a reality.

What did you make of this tour through Canon's Utsunomiya factory? Let us know in the comments. 

You might also like...

Behind the scenes at Fujifim's Sendai factory (2016)

A tour of Sigma's factory in Aizu (2015)

Categories: Photo News

Tamron SP 70-200mm F2.8 Di VC USD G2 sample gallery

Mon, 03/20/2017 - 03:00

Like its predecessor, the Tamron SP 70-200mm F2.8 G2 offers moisture-resistance, and we couldn't be more grateful. We put the updated telezoom to work in one of the rainiest months in recent Seattle history. With improvements to autofocus as well as image stabilization, it's a substantial upgrade and, thankfully, a lens that's not afraid of a few showers.

See our Tamron SP 70-200mm F2.8 Di VC USD G2 sample gallery

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Categories: Photo News

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