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Derek

About Derek

Our resident web guru, Derek graduated from Ball State with a BFA in Visual Communications. When not in the office slaying CSS dragons, jousting social media windmills, or working on the blog, he's also a fine artist, working in oil paints and photography. Derek Martin+

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Derek

Profoto Announces New B2 AIR Off-Camera System with TTL


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Profoto today has launched a new entry into its B-line AIR series lighting kits. While not quite as unique as they'd like to sell it as (it's basically the first true competitor to Elinchrom's Quadra system), it is the first system of its kind to offer Canon or Nikon TTL support, which does indeed give it quite a competitive edge as a strobe/off-camera flash solution. So, yeah, the B2, is an off-camera lightly solution that uses compact, lightweight heads combined with a compact traveling pack that make it more desirable for location work than previous portable systems have, and also make it small enough to target shooters who would normally use speedlights instead.

Profoto's take on this solution is based around a 250w/s pack that allows for true independent control of 2 flash channels (the Quadra system is based around a 400w/s pack with a fixed 1:2 output ratio between the two channels, for comparison). That's a little weak on power to target location studio lighting, and targets it pretty squarely at replacing your speedlights as a location solution instead. To further reinforce that notion is the focus on TTL lighting, complete with FP sync support (the flash heads, in fact, can fire at an impressive minimum duration of 1/15,000 second. The Quadra system's A-heads top out at 1/6000 second). The whole system is powered by a lithium-ion battery capable of delivering up to 215 flashes at full power.

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The B2 is available with everything a la carte (heads, pack, li-ion batteries, cables, AC and car charger, carrying bag, etc...), but getting started you'll probably want to look at either the 1 head "to-go" kit or the 2 head "location" kit.

The 1 head to-go kit includes:

  • 1 Profoto B2 head
  • 1 B2 250ws Pack
  • 1 Li-ion Battery
  • 1 AC charger
  • 1 carry bag for pack
  • 1 location bag for kit

The 2 head location kit includes:

  • 2 B2 heads
  • 1 B2 250ws pack
  • 2 batteries
  • carry pack
  • location bag
  • AC charger

It's worth noting that none of the kits come with the Air TTL remote, so, if you're looking to use this system via TTL (or, indeed, via remote at all) you'll need to pick up one of those for Nikon or Canon.

The B2 system will run $2,995 for the location kit, $2,195 for the to-go kit, $695 per head, $1,495 for just a pack (no battery), and $229 per li-ion battery. The Air TTL remote you'll need to make it all work runs $406 for either Canon or Nikon. If this sounds like exactly the sort of thing that'll rock you world you can preorder pretty much all of this here.



Derek

Nikon D7200 Increments D7100 With Bumped Buffer and Low-Light AF


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Well well well, what have we here? Why, it's a Nikon D7200, upgrade to the 2013 D7100 model. It's a pretty incremental bump over its predecessor, I can't really pretend it's not. The sensor is a new one, but ends up speccing just .1 megapixels more than the previous, and still lacks an optical low-pass (OLP) filter. Combined with the also typical processor bump (Expeed 4 instead of 3) you should see some increases in imaging quality, but they won't be the type you can reflect in specs. It still maintains the same ISO sensitivity range and 6 frames per second as its predecessor. The buffer speed is reported to be 30% faster though, which should help solve a common complaint on forums regarding the D7100's somewhat, er, underwhelming buffer for RAW shooters. The D7200 can now proudly buffer 18 full-size 14-bit RAWs, 27 12-bit compressed RAWs, or 100 full-rez JPGs before the buffer tanks. That's going to be the biggest improvement you see in this camera, however. The only other notable spec change is the new Advanced MultiCam 3500DX II autofocus module. The core specs, once again, remain the same with 51 autofocus points mostly covering the DX frame (and entirely covering the 1.3x crop mode frame) with 15 cross types and a center point sensitive to F8. The improvement here is in light sensitivity, and the sensor now boasts functionality as low as -3EV instead of just -2EV.

But hey, at least they built the wi-fi in this time, right?

The video capabilities have also gotten the usual incremental improvement, bringing them more inline with the D810 and D750 as far as features like zebra-striping, auto-ISO in manual, and the like go. Further towards the video vision is a new ME-W1 wireless mic with 164 foot range.

The D7200 will be available early April as a body only for around $1,199.95 or with an 18-140mm VR for $1,699.95. You can of course preorder those here. If you're looking for a solid DX-format hobbyist model in the meanwhile, the D7100 isn't much worse-specced and we still have those in stock in a variety of kits starting $996.95 (after $200 instant savings) for body only, and topping out at $1,496.95 (after a massive $630 instant savings) for a complete kit with 18-140mm VR and 55-300mm VR, WU-1A wireless adapter, 32GB SDHC card, camera bag, and a beginner's DVD. You can browse our remaining stock of D7100 deals here. But, if you're interested in those, I'd do it soon. With the new model announced, once these are gone they're going to be gone for good.



Derek

Panasonic Adds Two New Lenses to m4/3 Lineup


Panasonic today has announced two new Lumix lenses for the Micro Four Thirds system, a 42.5mm f1.7 portrait prime and a 30mm f2.8 macro lens with 1:1 reproduction.

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The macro lens is properly the Lumix G Macro 30mm f/2.8 ASPH MEGA O.I.S. As mentioned just a moment ago (you didn't forget did you?) it's a true 1:1 macro, and with m4/3's 2x crop factor means it will have the final result of functioning like a 2:1 60mm macro. Not too dang shabby. The MEGA O.I.S. in the name means it has built-in lens-based image stabilization to help you keep things steady (though, if you're buying this to use on many Olympus bodies you'll want to turn it off, since it'll argue with the sensor-shift IS Olympus uses instead). Lens construction is pretty straightforward with 9 elements in 9 groups with just the one aspherical element mentioned in the name as the only exotic. Unlike the Olympus 60mm there's no weather-sealing here, and given the shots of it there'll be a lot less control in terms of focus limits too:

H_HS030_side

You'll be able to pick one up for $399.99 in April or so, and that means this link right here will be for preorders until then:

http://robertscamera.com/catalog/product/view/id/53697/s/lumix-g-marco-30mm-f-2-8-asph-lens/

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The portrait lens is formally known as the Lumix G 42.5mm f/1.7 ASPH POWER O.I.S, and is also a reasonably standard affair. With m4/3's usual 2x crop it's a 50mm f1.7 standard lens, the OIS stabilization has the same caveats as the macro did, with the note that the "POWER" iteration is supposed to be up to twice as effective as the older "MEGA" version. Construction shows 10 elements in 8 groups, and once again just that lone aspherical lens from the name as the exotic. This, too, will run $399.99 but the availability is more like May. The link below will be a preorder until then, but if you're reading this from the future (is it everything we ever dreamed it would be, future citizen?) then it may in fact just go to where you can buy one right now. But at this boring "present" moment, it's a preorder instead.

http://robertscamera.com/catalog/product/view/id/53698/s/lumix-g-42-5mm-f-1-7-asph-lens/



Derek

Need to clean a lens?


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If you're looking for a good tip on the basic maintenance that is cleaning your lenses, our own very own Jeff "JJ" Johansen has been interviewed by local business reviewer Angie's List on how to do exactly that for a how-to guide they have posted today. Go ahead and give them the click to check that out and learn how our rentals manager (who sees more than his share of dirty lenses) recommends caring for your gear.



Derek

Buzzing About Drones


So, this past weekend a draft of the FAA's proposals for handling drones leaked online, and given that drones are expected to be quite the large industry going forwards (changing everything from photojournalism to Amazon deliveries, if the cards fall right) it's been getting a lot of attention. Especially because right now the FAA doesn't feel technology is ready to let drones avoid collision autonomously and is leaning towards requiring they only be operated in line-of-site (which would, yanno, really put a damper on those Amazon deliveries...). It's still of course just a leaked document, not even a final proposal, and once it is, it'll still have to go through a feedback period that could take up to two years, so, it's in no way a done deal yet. But, since it's slow while we wait on things like Canon's new 5DS models to land, how about a poll? How do you feel about the proposed line-of-sight regulation? Let us know below.



Derek

Sigma's Global Vision Gets Wider with 24mm f/1.4 ART


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Sigma today has added another fast prime to it's ever-growing collection of incredibly well-regarded ART lenses. The 50mm f/1.4 and 35mm f/1.4 have both met with nothing but rave reviews for build quality, performance, and optical quality, and we've got a lot of faith this newest entry is going to keep that up. To that end, continuing to widen things up, we have the new 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM | A. Like its siblings it's a beefcake of a prime, certainly not one of the compact ones of yore. The 3.6" length and 77mm filter aren't too terrible though by modern lens standards, and while 23.5oz sounds quite hefty it does speak well of the amount of glass to be found inside the lens.

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A promise which is indeed followed through on by the specs, with 15 elements in 11 groups making up the optical formula. To go crazy, 9 of those elements are specialty glass (2 aspherical elements, 3 FLD low-dispersion elements, and 4 SLD low-dispersion elements.) We don't have any empirical testing on it yet, but the MTF charts from Sigma look promising:

401_mtfchartIt will of course be compatible with Sigma's USB dock for fine tuning your AF performance for your camera and style. In Canon and Nikon mounts, availability and price TBD. Check out more on our site:

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM | A

 



Derek

Nikon Looks to the Stars with World's First Full-Frame DSLR for Astrophotography


d810a

File this under "Cool, but pretty darn niche," but Nikon has announced a new astrophotography camera based on the D810, and dubbed reasonably the D810A. It's the first astro-specific camera we've had since Canon discontinued the 60Da, and the first of its kind to bring full-frame to the table. Unless you spend a lot of time looking at the stars this isn't going to be a camera for you, because while there are a lot of fine tweaks to earn it that "A" most of them won't matter for general shooting, and one of the main ones will actually make the camera less than ideal for anything other than long-exposure night shots. That change being the biggest part, a modification to the IR filter letting more of the IR spectrum (656nm) needed for astro-photography in (at the cost of probably adding a pervasive red tint to normal old daylight photos where you don't need that extended range). Other changes include manual shutter speeds all the way up to 900 seconds (15 minutes) before you have to break out the bulb mode and a virtual preview for long exposures to help you get your composition and focus right. Before you spend 15 minutes on the shot.

Nikon provides this table to break down the difference between the D810 and the D810A, but the big take-away is still that unless you're just shooting stars, you just want the regular model. If stars are your thing though, this is going to be the ticket.

CapturFiles-20150241_1002

The D810A will be available in May, but Nikon doesn't have any pricing yet so stay tuned. If you're interested regardless of the future cost, check it out on our site:

Nikon D810A



Derek

Canon Brings the Resolution with New EOS 5DS Twins


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Well, we've all heard the rumors so we knew it was coming, and today's the day for it. Canon has come clean with the EOS 5DS and the EOS 5DS R, two megaliths of resolution with 50 megapixel full-frame sensors. Of course, you can't just more than double the resolution of a sensor without any consequences, and in this case the big thing to note is the 5DS twins are not gunning to be low light kings, their native ISO range is down to 100-6400 compared to the 100-25,600 range of the EOS 5D Mark III they build on. To that end, the 5D Mark III is going to remain in the line-up as the low-light choice, while the 5DS twins are best thought of as studio and landscape variants for people with more specific needs. Other than the ISO thing, Canon has done an admirable job keeping the compromises to a minimum in these new bodies. Dual DIGIC 6 processors will keep them humming along at 5 frames per second despite their currently-record-breaking resolution, although even on a UDMA7 card you'll see that top out at about 14 frames. There's still only so fast you can move 50mp worth of data after all. And, to make your decision between them and the 5D Mark III even harder, both sport the same stellar AF system debuted in the EOS 7D Mark II, with a 61-point AF system containing 49 high-accuracy cross-type points married to a 150,000 pixel 252-zone metering system.

Other than the giant bullet point of the sensor, the twins have only a few new features to offer over predecessors. Mostly small tweaks. There's a new customizable quick control screen for getting to settings you use often faster, and they are the first Canon's to offer time lapse video controls right in the camera (with programmable intervals from 1 second all the way up to just 1 second shy of 100 hours!).

The difference between the 5DS and the 5DS R is the same place Nikon was a few years ago with the D800 and the D800E. They are the same camera except the 5DS R effectively negates its antialiasing filter to maximize the possible resolution with the usual caveat of increased moire (but hey, thanks to Nikon breaking the ground here Lightroom has already provided a moire slider for years now, so, once it adds support for these you'll be good to go, right?).

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Oh, and hey, to go along with them Canon has also announced a shiny new EF 11-24MM F/4L USM super-wide angle lens. Didn't we just mention landscape photographers as an ideal market for these twins? Guess Canon thinks so too...

EOS 5DS

EOS 5DS R

EF 11-24MM F/4L USM



Derek

Olympus Announces OM-D E-M5 Mark II


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Presumably looking to make a splash Olympus has announced the successor to their popular OM-D E-M5 today, uncreatively named the OM-D E-M5 Mark II. There's a note here that I should always spell it out as "Mark II" and not contract it. So, there you have it. It's the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II. Take note of that and make sure to get the hyphens all in the right place, there'll be a quiz later and the ridicule of your peers if you get it wrong.

Moving on.

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The OM-D line continues to be Olympus' pro-oriented line of 4/3 mirrorless bodies. They still sport the same 4/3 size 4:3 aspect ratio 2x crop factor sensors Olympus cameras have since they went digital, and still uses the smaller m4/3 mount that's probably the best supported mirrorless mount on the market.

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And this is just the Olympus line-up. Panasonic, Sigma, and Lensbaby all also support this same mount

On paper most of the specs of the E-M5 Mark II don't differ much from the original. It's still a 16 megapixel LIVEMOS sensor, 5-axis image stabilization, weather-sealing, built-in wifi, yadda yadda. I suppose I could be boring and dwell on the fact that the rear display is now a vari-tilt model

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But, you'd probably rather hear about how the all-new 16mp sensor in this model can utilize that 5-axis image stabilization system to enable a 40mp high resolution mode, wouldn't you?

Yeah, I thought so...

Olympus seem to have taken a page straight out of Hasselblad's playbook and are using controlled sensor shifting and multiple exposures to yield a higher resolution picture without the consequences of squeezing more pixels onto the same chip (increased noise, decreased dynamic range, etc).  Unlike the Hassy it won't cost you $36,000 to play with this feature (though, I suppose, 40mp also isn't 200mp... let's just stop comparing apples to oranges now then...)

Other sensor improvements include dragging the native ISO range down to the curiously labeled "approx" 100, and still up at 25,600 on the top end. The shutter speed also gets a bump up to the proper 1/8000 and not the slightly less "ticks every box" 1/4000 of the original. It has received a minor bump from 9 to 10 frames per second, and a major bump in being able to shoot at the speed forever in RAW (subject to the card), and not just for 11-17 shots.

Oh, yeah, and remember how awesome the AF system was on the original? Well, it's got over double the points now, coming in at 81 areas and not 35.

Basically, the Mark II is a beast of a camera, especially for the $1,099.99 it's going to cost when it lands (body only in black or silver.) Hit the jump for more pretty pretty pictures, or the link below to go read more on our site and get your preorders in.

OM-D E-M5 Mark II

read more



Derek

Buying Gifts For Photographers (When You Aren't): Part 1, Canon and Nikon Lenses


Well everyone, it's getting on into that time of the year again. Holiday shopping! And as you might expect, around this time of the year a lot of the orders we're getting are gifts for people other than the ones buying them. And in a technical market like photography this sometimes leads to a problem: how do you buy a gift for your photographer friends and family, people who know what all these cryptic names and numbers mean, but you don't? Well, we can't realistically teach you everything you need to know to ease those woes in the short shopping season, but we can give you a few easy pointers that might help make it less terrifying.

Today we're going to talk about lenses for "the big two:" Canon and Nikon. While these certainly aren't the only brands on the market (I have myself shot Olympus, my future brother-in-law shoots Sony, and there's Leica, Pentax, Panasonic, Fuji, and oh so much more too), they do account for a very large chunk of the market. The odds are in your favor that your photographer friend uses one of the two of them, and especially if they're just getting going a cheap lens like a 50mm or 35mm prime, or a nice used one might come up as a gift idea. And they are! But, there are a few pitfalls you as a loving gift giver and savvy shopper would like to avoid, and without burdening you too much with the technobabble behind them we'll help point out a couple here real quick.

1. DSLRs have different size sensors.

Unlike pretty much every film camera you've probably seen someone using, that all took the same 35mm film, DSLRs actually commonly have one of two basic sensor sizes. Cheaper ones will have a smaller one often called a "crop" sensor, and many more expensive ones (though not all of them) will have one the same size as 35mm film called "full frame." The reason you need to know this is because there are some lenses made only to be used with the smaller sensor. These "crop" lenses can be made smaller, and smaller means cheaper, and cheaper means they're likely to be tempting gifts. And that's great so long as your giftee has a crop camera. So, step one is to figure out if you're buying for a "crop" or "full-frame" camera. You could always just ask them, most photographers will certainly know. If they don't but you can find out the model of their camera you can also very easily look up whether they have a crop or full-frame sensor.

crop-vs-fullframe

Once you know whether or not they have a crop or full-frame sensor, here are your handy tips:

  • Lenses made for full-frame sensors can be used just fine on both full frame and crop
  • Lenses made just for crop sensors will be specially noted right in their names
  • Canon crop lenses will have "EF-S" in the name. The -S is the key part. Think of it as "EF-Small"
  • Nikon crop lenses will have "DX" in the name. If you don't see a DX, it can be used for either full frame or crop.

Tamron's 18-270mm Is a Popular Lens Available For Both Canon and Nikon

But, wait! What about third party brands, like Tamron and Sigma, who make some excellent (and honestly more affordable) lenses for Canon and Nikon? Their names look different, and I don't see an EF-S or DX in any of their names! How do I know which ones work with these "crop" and "full-frame" cameras you're talking about?

Good question! These brands also note whether they're for crop sensors, but for copyright reasons they use different terms.

  • Tamron crop lenses will have "Di-II" or "Di II" in the name
  • Sigma crop lenses will have "DC" in the name (for "Digital Crop" actually)
  • Just like with the brand Nikon and Canon lenses, if you don't see either of those terms in the name it'll work on both full-frame and crop bodies

2. Nikon Autofocus

This is just for the Nikon people, and mostly just if you're shopping used lenses. A lot of modern Nikon DSLRs cannot autofocus older Nikon autofocus lenses. Without having to know the technical stuff there is once again a super-easy way for you to know if you're getting a lens that can autofocus on any camera. Nikon's universal, new autofocus system is indicated by an "AF-S" in the lens name. Older ones will only be called "AF" without the important "-S". All new Nikon lenses are AF-S anyway, you'll only run into this worry when you start looking for used.

To further help you, here is a list of the Nikon DSLRs that require the use of an AF-S lens for autofocus: D40, D40x, D60, D3000, D3100, D3200, D3300, D5000, D5100, and D5200. All of the other Nikon DSLRs can use the old AF lenses just fine, if your budget is tight.

3. Canon EF

This one is just for the Canon people, and again really just if you're buying used. Canon has had two different lens mount systems in its time. The original one all those Canon AE-1's in your closets used back in the 70s was called FD. Any Canon camera with EOS in the name uses the newer EF (or EF-S, if crop) mount. It is important to know that the old FD lenses absolutely won't work on EOS digital cameras. They physically cannot be mounted. This is a pretty common mistake and we want to help steer you away from it right now. Be sure that the lens you're buying for your friend's and family's digital Canon have an EF somewhere in the lens name and you'll always be OK.

4. Buying With Confidence

We know the stuff we sell is highly technical, and highly specific. We don't want you to be afraid to gift it because of that. Leave a gift message on anything you buy from us until Christmas Eve and we'll extend the exchange period on it until January 10th! If it's not right for your giftee, or they need something slightly different, we'll take care of them. We'll make sure one way or another that your gesture of love and thoughtfulness ends with them having the item they want and need for their specific kit. So, even if you do get a bit buried under all the technobabble and alphabet soup, we've got your back. No worries.

Have you checked out our starter's list of 30 gift ideas for photographers all under $200? It's a great place to start...