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› archive for October, 2012


ThinkTank Photo Announces New Glass Limo Bag

Pop quiz: which of these can hold more stuff? Exhibit A:

Or Exhibit B:

The correct answer is: neither! They're both just pixels on a screen and as such can't hold anything. (Why yes, I have always been a fan of The Treachery of Images, how did you know?) However, assuming we meant the cars in them I think we can all agree a limo is larger (and not to mention more glamorous) than a taxi. And so too should we now understand that ThinkTank's new Glass Limo is a larger, more impressive lens chariot than their popular Glass Taxi.

While the Glass Taxi was made to hold a full-size DSLR with either a 500mm f4 or a 300 f2.8 attached, the lass Limo pushes that envelope a bit and can now fit a 600mm f4 inside its ripstop carapace. Or, if you don't own any so-called "exotic" lenses, you can just use it as a regular camera backpack, and it'll fit a full-size DSLR or two and like 5-8 lenses with all the usual bits and bobbles, depending on how you set it up. It also now uses the harness originally seen on the Streetwalker series, for greater comfort and adjustability no matter you torso's shape. Throw in ThikTank's usual construction, fabrics, YKK zippers, rain cover, and three modular accessory rails and it all adds up to another solid bag from a company known for making solid bags.

The Glass Limo is listed at just under $200, and will be available sometime in the month known as November. We have a couple more shots of it and the press release after the jump.

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Joby Announces new GripTight GorillaPod Stand for Mobile Devices


So, here's another neat little product from Joby, makers of the iconic and whimsical Gorllapod products. Like everything in their line-up, the GripTight GorillaPod Stand is an odd solution for an odd set of problems. Niche is one word for it, and there's a fair amount of debate as to how useful GorillaPods are actually. As an owner of one of the original ones, I can say that I have used it less than I expected to when I bought it. But I've never sold it, and continue to pack it for all my big shoots. Why? Because the handful of times I've needed it, it was the only tool that would work.

And now there's this one, for smartphones. Given that over 60% of American adults now use some form of smartphone, and anecdotally we'd say the number of you our customers with them seems even higher these days, there's definitely a market for something that addresses our phones. Especially as more and more cameras are beginning to allow remote operations from a smartphone.

The GripTight GorillaPod Stand is pretty fundamentally simple. The base is a classic GorillaPod, with all of it's articulated rubber-striped balls of goodness. But, instead of a tripod head up top, you get a modified version of the smartphone holder jaws they make for cars. Joby's solution appears more reliable, using two spring-tensioned metal pistons to control and lock the jaws instead of the usual plastic gearing, but the concept is going to be familiar to a lot of you right off the bat. It means it'll work with any phone, any case, and with any accessories on the phone. A truly universal solution.

And, like Joby's other products, it's tempting because it's also cheap. $29.95 is pretty on anyone's budget, and certainly cheaper than replacing a phone if you were to drop or fumble one at a shoot instead of just hanging it on a lightstand, or on a table, or, well, whatever.

Oh, and we suppose it'll probably help act as a tripod for phone pictures too. If you're into that sorta thing.

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A Look At Sensor Fabs and Tech, For The Full-Frame Crowd

Cross-Section of D800 Sensor, by Chipworks

This is for those of you who are into the nitty gritty of how your camera works, and where the actual components that make up their ooey-gooey insides come from. For example, the sensors. Like LCDs, sensors are an electrical component of some great complexity, and are often sourced from outside vendors or fabbers, either off the shelf or to a manufacturer's unique spec. Nikon cameras, especially, since the dominance of their full-frame low-light shooters have often been surrounded by speculation about whether or not rival and undeniably-skilled chip-maker Sony has been providing the hearts of Nikon's well-received shooters.

Enter Chipworks, a Canadian-based company that performs forensic analysis of, well, chips. They've been tracking the sensors inside  full-frame cameras for a decade now, and they know the list of suppliers and fabbers who can make such devices and how products from them look. Which means they can make some pretty intelligent guesses as to exactly where that sensor in your camera came from, and end the guessing games. They also have some thoughts about the tech being used by different makers, and a few loose speculations about what the future might focus on. But I'm pretty sure you're just interested in seeing where your Nikon and Canon FF chips are from. So, I'll let you go now. Hit the external link below and check out Chipworks' blog for the answers.


Nikon 1 V2 Adds Well-Considered Enthusiast Features

Nikon has also today updated the Nikon 1 V1 with the new Nikon 1 V2 (whew, that's a mouthful. I still vote we stop letting engineers name products. It goes badly). As with all Nikon 1 bodies, you're looking at a sensor with a 2.7x crop factor which uses Nikon's new CX mount lenses. It's a mirrorless body designed to fill the gap between compacts and DSLRs. The V line is the one aimed more at professional shooters, with features like a built-in EVF in addition to the regular LCD.

The V2 upgrades the sensor from a 10 megapixel one to 14 megapixels, and it can now do 15 frames per second in continuous drive instead of 10, but most of the rest of the changes will be found on the outside. Right off the bat, the new chunkier grip is apparent. Sure, it messes with the "clean lines" the V1 sported, but pretty much everyone who's had to use a camera seriously knows what a boon a big, chunky grip is to ergonomics. A serious camera isn't much good if it leaves you with a serious case of claw-hand at the end of the day. You'll probably also notice that a small pop-up flash has materialized, removing the need for the external one. Unless you want to use on-camera flash as a master for your other CLS lights. The pop-up can;t do that, and you'll still need to attach either the SB-N5 or SB-N7 to get that job done. And, finally, there's an actual mode dial up top now, and some extensive reworking of the controls on the back lend it a layout that'll be more familiar to users of their DSLR system. All in all, a pretty solid refresh and a good effort for a second-gen body.

The V2 will come body only, or kitted with either just the 10-30 or with both the 10-30 and 30-110 lenses. The prices will be $799.95, $899.95, and $1,149.95 respectively. The new SB-N7 flash unit will run $159.95.

Preorders for the V2 can be found here:

Press release and more images after the jump. But, before you leave, one last thing. Nikon has also announced the development of three more lenses for the 1 system: a 32mm f1.2 (which works out to an 86mm equivalent portrait lens), a 6.7-13mm f3.5-5.6 VR (that's an 18-35mm wide angle zoom equivalent), and a 10-100mm f4.5.6 (27-270mm equivalent superzoom). Prices and availability are not yet known for these three entries, but if you're worried about Nikon's devotion to their 1 line-up, I think these count as a good show of faith that the system is going to continue to grow quickly and nicely.

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Nikon Makes (Some) Dreams Come True, Announces 70-200 f4 VR


Well, would you look at that? As of this morning Nikon has added a most budget-friendly 70-200mm f4 constant to its line-up. Formally known as the "AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/4G ED VR," it's pretty much what you'd expect: a high-performance full-frame telephoto zoom with VR effective to a claimed 5 stops. Just, you know, a stop slower than its big bro. In exchange for the slower maximum aperture, you get to shave 24 ounces off the weight, and, oh, a clean grand off the price. Yup, the 70-200mm f4 VR will run a much easier to swallow $1,399.95 when it hits shelves late next month. One catch: it won't ship with a tripod collar, and that'll cost you an extra $223.95 whenever it joins the party.

Now, you can learn all that anywhere. It's in the press release, after all. But what we at Roberts want to know is: how does it stack up? Without a full test from someone like SLR Gear we can't know for sure, but we can make some guesses from the provided MTF charts. And we now intend to.


70-200mm f4 VR @ 70mm f4

70-200mm f2.8 VR II @ 70mm f2.8

So, here are the MTF charts from the new 70-200mm f4 and the 70-200mm f2.8 VR II. For those of you who haven't read these much, I'll give you the gross over-simplification that'll probably get me banned from any future Zeiss cocktail parties (MTF charts originated thanks to Zeiss, you know). The red lines (10 lines/mm) represent the lens' contrast. The blue lines represent sharpness (and in this case that means the ability to accurately render tight detail without blurring). The higher on the graph, the better. The left side represents the center of the frame, the right side is the corners. The difference between where the red and blue lines are, and between the solid and dashed lines of the same color, help to describe how things like bokeh will work. In general, the closer they are and the more they follow the same slope, the better. When they start deviating a lot, things will look worse.

Got it? OK then! So, looking between these two we can see that at the center of the frame wide-open these lenses are basically the same. High contrast, high detail. The new 70-200mm f4 fares a bit worse as you go to the corners (especially with regards to the astigmatism there in the blue lines), but it's not until you get past the edges of a DX sensor. So, on DX it won't be an issue, and on FX it'll only realistically matter if you have a propensity for sticking your subjects in the very corners of the frames. If they're anywhere in the middle 2/3 or so of the frame, it'll be hunky-dory.


70-200mm f4 VR @ 200mm f4

70-200mm f2.8 VR II @ 200mm f2.8

Well now, here we have the opposite. At 200mm wide-open, the new lens is notably flatter than the 2.8 II is. Now, that's probably because it's already stopped down to f4, and if you tested the 70-200mm f2.8 VR III at f4 also the graph would likely look the same. But, that's sorta the point, at f4 the new lens is going to perform pretty much identically to the big bro. Except the astigmatism in the blue lines in the corners, which continue to persist. I'm not good enough with these graphs yet to say what that'll mean in the real world, but until proven otherwise I'm guessing there'll just be some softening up into the corners. All around, though, this is a pretty good show for a lens that costs a full grand less. It's obvious most of that cost savings is coming from smaller, cheaper glass elements, and not cheaper quality or engineering.

How about it? Convinced? Want to preorder one? We're here for you:

Now, when can I get a 100-400, eh, Nikon? When do you get to make my dreams come true?

Press release after the jump.

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Behind The Scenes At Used Photo Pro

It's coming up on seven months now since we launched our new used division, Used Photo Pro, and the truth is we have grown in absolute leaps and bounds so far. What started out as a week of banging around to put up some empty shelves is now taking over nearly an entire floor of Roberts, with boxes of new gear coming in all the time and spilling out everywhere. Boxes of used gear are starting to feel a bit like blue hand prints in the second season of Arrested Development.  Don't believe us? Well, here's a few rare glimpses into the magic that's fueling our ever-expanding new used effort.

Do note that if you work in an office that doesn't take velociraptor attacks seriously that you should really address that issue with your immediate manager, and dream of working somewhere as magical as Used Photo Pro, where predatory dinosaur attacks are treated as seriously as they deserve.



Canon Updates Autofocus Niggles With EOS-1D X Firmware


Cause slight but persistent annoyance, discomfort, or anxiety: "a nasty leg wound which still niggled at him".
A trifling complaint, dispute, or criticism: "it is an excellent book except for my few niggles"; "I have a few niggles about design".

Got a 1D X? Don't like how it won't always show you the active photo point during AI-Servo in low-light? Wish maybe that center AF point would be a cross type even if you were using a teleconverter for a total effective aperture of f8? Well, boy are you in luck! Those are exactly the things that the newest firmware from Canon brings to the table. The second one is pretty self-explanatory, but the second one also has a rider where you can set how bright the AF point illumination is in low-light, so as to minimize your impact on the metering. The point will also only illuminate intermittently to further help with the same.

If you're lucky enough to be shooting Canon's new flagship, hit up the source link to review the changes in much more detail, and to find a big honking button that'll whisk you off to get it downloaded.