Monday, 31 August 2015

Published - National Geographic

Our images have been published worldwide over the years in various publications such as books, magazines, calendars etc however we were pleasantly surprised recently when we received a request from National Geographic Books requesting to use the image below as a full page in an upcoming book titled "Destinations of a Lifetime". The image was taken by Helen in Aitutaki in the Cook Islands 


Aitutaki Lagoon in the Cook Islands
Once we have received a copy of the book we will post it here so make sure you subscribe to our blog to be kept notified. If you would like to purchase a copy please visit the National Geographic Shop. Orders will be sent out after 27th October 2015. Visit our Cook Islands gallery to see more of this great destination.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Review - Sony FE 70-200 F4 G Zeiss lens (SEL70200G)

As mentioned in our last post, we recently added the Sony FE 16-35 F4 G OSS Zeiss and the Sony FE 70-200 F4 G OSS Zeiss lenses to our stable of lenses for the Sony A7r mirrorless camera. To read our post on the 16-35 lens click here. This lens has been available since about mid 2014 and was one of three highly anticipated lenses that Sony users were waiting for as there were few Full Frame lenses available at the time. This focal range is generally useful for Portraits, Nature and Sports photography.

Although we don't shoot in the 70-200 range that often in our Travel Photography work, it is still a focal range that we would not leave home without. We still shoot with a Nikon 80-200 F2.8D lens (see picture below) which has produced magnificent images over the years on our Nikon cameras, however this weighs in at 1300g (1.3kg) due to the fact that it has a F2.8 maximum aperture which will always make a lens heavier. It also doesn't have Image Stabilisation/Vibration Reduction. As we get older this lens has become harder and harder to handhold. The Sony FE 70-200 F4 lens on the other hand weighs in at 840g which is significantly lighter and as we really don't need the low light or portrait capabilities of a F2.8 lens this lens for our work this was really a no-brainer for us. With the addition of Image Stabilisation/Vibration Reduction it theoretically gives us back the extra stop lost and allows us to handhold longer without increasing the ISO.  Naturally if we really wanted to use the Nikon 80-200 F2.8 lens then we could still use this with the Sony camera using the appropriate adaptor however we tested this combination before purchasing the Sony lens and the results were not as sharp as the dedicated Sony lens.

The first thing that surprised us about this lens was the colour. Sony have produced all of their lenses in the standard black colour but produced this with a white finish which makes it look a little like a Canon telephoto lens. Not that this makes any difference, just unusual. The lens also comes with an extremely large lens hood (if you put a base on it, it would make a really good coffee cup :-)). When attached it adds significant length to the lens however it can be reversed over the end of the lens when not being used. The lens is noticeably light and extremely well built and is also dust and moisture-resistant. The black ribbed rubber focusing and zoom rings are extremely smooth to rotate and like most electronic systems, the focussing ring will keep turning with no beginning or end. There is also no focus distance marks when wanting to use Hyperfocal Focussing although using Focus Peaking in Manual Focus with the Sony cameras is just as good. Between the black Focus Ring and Zoom Ring are three focus lock buttons located at the 12, 9, 6 o'clock positions which is extremely handy saving you time fumbling around for a single button. Just in front of the tripod lens collar are the lens controls consisting of 4 switches -
  1. AF/MF switch - for switching between AutoFocus and ManualFocus
  2. Focus Limiter - set a focus limit of 3m to infinity, or the complete range.
  3. Optical Steady Shot ON/OFF - turn this off when mounted on a tripod. When turned off on the lens you will not need to turn off the SteadyShot feature in the camera (Steady Shot function in the Menu will be grayed out)
  4. Optical Steady Shot Mode 1 & 2 - Mode 1 is best for normal shooting Mode 2 is best when panning moving subjects 
The tripod lens collar can be rotated in any direction but can also be removed entirely from the lens however we keep it attached as we find it gives more grip when holding the lens.

Nikon 80-200 F2.8D lens - weight approx 1300g





Sony FE 70-200 F4 Zeiss lens - weight approx 840g

Main specifications

Lens configuration (group / element)15 / 21
35mm-equivalent focal length (APS-C)*1 (mm)105 - 300
Angle of view (APS-C)*122° - 8°
Angle of view (35mm full frame )34° - 12°
No. of aperture blade9 (circular aperture)
Min. aperture (F)22
Max. magnification ratio (x)0.13
Min. focus (m)1-1.5 (AF), 1-1.35 (MF)
Distance Encoder for ADI flash metering-
Filter dia. (mm)72
Hood shape / mountround / bayonet
Dimensions: Dia. x L (mm)80 x 175
Dimensions: Dia. x L (in.)3-1/4 x 7
Weight (approx.) (g)840 (without tripod mount collar)
Weight (approx.) (oz.)29.7 (without tripod mount collar)
Provided accessoriesHood (ALC-SH133), case, tripod mount


*1= Crop Sensor Camera
Sony FE 70-200 F4 G Zeiss lens with lens hood


We did quite a bit of testing with the lens and found that there is some vignetting (light falloff) when wide open at F4 which is quite normal and is mostly corrected once stopped down to F5.6 and completely gone once at F8 which is the optimum F-stop for this lens throughout the 70-200 range. The lens also struggles with edge softness at 200mm when shot wide open at F4 but again this improves vastly when stopped down to F5.6 and F8. 













While this lens is absolutely awesome on a  Sony Full Frame camera such as the Alpha A7 series, it would also be ideal on the APS-C sensor cameras such as the fabulous Sony a6000. Although, the lens dwarfs the small a6000 camera the focal length of 105mm-300mm would make it a great piece of kit for the travel photographer especially when shooting at 11 frames per second!. The small camera body may look a bit ridiculous hanging off the rear of this lens however the secret to using this combination of camera & lens is to take most of the weight of the lens in your left hand and leave the right hand to change the settings on the camera.

PROS
  • Lightweight compared to other lenses with this focal range
  • Very Good edge-to-edge sharpness
  • Excellent build quality
  • Minimal vignetting at wider apertures
  • Lens stabilization (with 2 modes)
  • Dust and Moisture resistant
  • Removable tripod collar

CONS

  • Expensive (RRP is $1999 AUD)
  • Not a fast lens (F4)

Conclusion -

We really debated whether we should get this lens or just stick to the Nikon 80-200 F2.8 lens and use it with the adaptor on the Sony camera. Considering the amount of usage the focal lengths gets in our work we were really on the fence. We were swayed by several important advantages -

1. The weight. Any weight saving is a blessing in Travel Photography. 
2. The Optical Stabilisation (OSS). 
3. The sharpness compared to using the Nikon with adaptor and only having Manual Focus. 4. The speed of use compared to using it manually with the Nikon lens.
5. Option to remove the tripod collar making it even lighter to handhold (if needed)

All in all, we have definitely not regretted the purchase this lens and although it is an expensive lens we are confident that it will produce the quality images that we expect. Below are 2 images shot at 70mm and 200mm and although shot at different settings they highlight just how sharp this lens is at both ends of the focal range when shot at the optimum apertures.
Sydney Harbour Bridge & Luna Park - Sony FE 70-200 F4 OSS lens @70mm F11 30sec ISO50


Sydney Harbour Bridge & Luna Park - Sony FE 70-200 F4 OSS lens @200mm F8 10sec ISO100
Hope you enjoyed this brief review and we look forward to hearing any comments you may have. 

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Thursday, 13 August 2015

Travel Photography - New Ebook

We have just launched a NEW eBook titled "Travel Photography - 10 steps when using Neutral Density Filters". In the ebook we have shared 10 steps when using Neutral Density 9 and 10 stop filters. This is combined with some great images and a printable Cheat Sheet for calculating your long exposures. The eBook is ideal for anybody wanting to learn more about this technique which is used by Travel Photographers to give their landscape images more mood and impact. For a Limited Time only the cost of the eBook is AUD$0.99. Payments can be made with Paypal. 

For more information about these filters you can also read our blog post by clicking here 

Over the coming months we will be launching more eBooks so Sign up for our Newsletter to be notified. To get the eBook click on the image below.

Travel Photography - 10 steps when using Neutral Density Filters

It would be great to hear any feedback you may have about the eBook so that we can make improvements to any future releases.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Steel Wool Light Painting

We recently had the opportunity to photograph some Fire Painting here in Sydney, Australia that was organised by some friends on Google+. Below are some of the images that were captured during the evening. If you ever get the opportunity to do this then you should give it a go. These are very easy images to take for those that want to try it for themselves. The biggest challenge is finding somewhere that has an interesting background. It is also best done right after sunset during the blue hour as this way you still get some nice colour in the sky and maybe some streaky clouds depending on the conditions.

Here are the steps to take to achieve the shot. They are really simple. 
  1. Mount the camera on a tripod.
  2. Compose the shot.
  3. Focus the shot by holding a torch at the point where the spinning will take place.
  4. Change to Manual Focus and Manual Mode.
  5. Choose an aperture of about F8 or F11 or similar that will give you about a 30sec exposure. ISO should be as low as possible e.g. ISO100.
  6. Set shutter 30sec or to BULB setting for longer exposures.
  7. Shoot using a wireless remote or cable release and experiment with the exposure times to achieve the results you want.
Please Note: Do not attempt Steel Wool Light Painting without the right equipment and safety measures in place. Ensure that you are not in an area where it may cause a fire or any damage to property or spectators. If in doubt please obtain permission from your local authorities. These images below were taken in a  controlled environment by experienced personel.
  
Sony A7r camera with a FE 24-70 F4 lens / ISO100 31mm F11 36sec / Tripod Mounted / Remote shutter release
Sony A7r camera with a FE 24-70 F4 lens / ISO100 46mm F8 39sec / Tripod Mounted / Remote shutter release
Sony A7r camera with a FE 24-70 F4 lens / ISO100 29mm F8 30sec / Tripod Mounted / Remote shutter release
Sony A7r camera with a FE 24-70 F4 lens / ISO100 30mm F8 30sec / Tripod Mounted / Cable shutter release
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Monday, 3 August 2015

Review - Sony FE 16-35 F4 Zeiss lens (SEL1635Z)

Back in December 2014 we made the decision to move from Nikon to the Sony mirrorless camera system and bought the Sony A7r. This camera is 36mp of sheer delight. We purchased it with the FE 24-70 F4 Zeiss lens which has been an absolute dream to work with. Despite the fact that DXO Mark rates this camera's sensor behind the Nikon D810 and Nikon D800E by the narrowest of margins, the size and weight of this camera more than makes up for the 3rd ranking. We guess this is the reason why so many professional photographers are now flocking to the mirrorless cameras systems and selling all their DSLR gear. Having tested the camera and lens thoroughly over the last 8 months we decided that it was so good that we were ready to purchase the expensive FE 16-35 F4 Zeiss and FE 70-200 F4 Zeiss lenses. This review will cover the wide angle FE 16-35 F4 Zeiss lens. We will review the other lens in another post. 

This is an extremely well built lens and considering that it is a Zeiss lens this should be no surprise. It is almost identical in size and weight to the FE 24-70 F4 lens that we initially bought with the camera. It is so well built that, shortly after buying it was accidentally dropped off a tripod into mud & water! Although the fall was dampened by the mud and the lens hood it continued to work perfectly and considering that it is has a moisture and dust resistant design, it certainly lived up to this specification. The metal construction of the body and focus ring are sturdy, yet silky smooth when zooming or using manual focus. The filter diameter is 72mm which fortunately is the same as the FE 70-200 F4 lens but different to the FE 24-70 F4 lens (67mm) so if using polarisers or other screw-in type filters you will need an adapter ring or need to buy extra filters. The only annoying thing we have found with this lens is the awkwardness of attaching the hood. Maybe it's just us but we always seem to struggle with attaching and removing the hood compared to our Nikon lenses. This certainly is not a deal breaker and maybe is something we need to get used to.

Vignetting has always been a problem for photographers using wide angle lenses and 16mm on this lens was a concern for us when using a Lee Filter holder with filters however we were pleasantly surprised to find that there is only very marginal vignetting which is easily corrected in post processing. This is a huge plus for landscape photographers wanting the very wide perspective while being able to use ND & ND Grads without having to do considerable crops in post processing. 

Based on tests with the lens we have found that the lens is sharpest at F8 - F11 and although the lens only has a maximum aperture of F4 this is not a problem for us with our photography however may be a problem for those that specialise in low-light or astrophotography.



Below are the specifications of this lens - 

OPTICS/LENS

  • Lens Mount Type : Sony E-mount (35mm full frame)
  • Lens Stabilization : Optical SteadyShot
  • Minimum Focus Distance : 11″ 0.28m
  • Lens Groups-Elements : 10 groups, 12 elements
  • Filter Diameter : 72mm
  • Lens Type : Full-frame E-mount Wide-angle Lens
  • Lens Weight : 18.3 oz (518g)
  • Aperture (Max.) : f/4.0
  • Aperture (Min.) : f/22
  • Maximum Magnification : 0.19x
  • Focal Length (35mm equivalent) : 16-35mm (35mm) 24- 52.5mm (APS-C)
  • Aspheric Elements : 5 aspherical, 1 advanced aspherical
  • Aperture Blade : 7 blades (Circular aperture)
  • Angle of View : 83°-44° (APS-C) 107°-63° (35mm)
WEIGHTS AND MEASUREMENTS
  • Dimensions (Approx.) : 3-1/8″ x 4″ (78 x 98.5mm)
  • Weight (Approx.) : 18.2 oz (518g)

PROS

  • Lightweight 
  • Good edge-to-edge sharpness
  • Minimal flare
  • Excellent build quality
  • Minimal vignetting with filters
  • Lens stabilization
  • Dust and Moisture resistant

CONS

  • Expensive (RRP is $1779 AUD)
  • Not a fast lens (F4)
  • Fiddly lens hood attachment


SAMPLE SHOTS

These shots are unedited and were shot for test purposes only. They have only been lightly sharpened in Lightroom and converted to JPG. All images were shot using the Sony A7r mirrorless camera. See our conclusion at the end of the post.

Shot at 16mm F8 1/100th ISO100. There is very slight vignetting in the corners which is easily corrected once the lens profile is used. 

Shot at 24mm F8 1/250th ISO100

Shot at 35mm F8 1/200th ISO100
CONCLUSION: With the amount of testing that we have done to date and for the images that we have shot in our professional work, this lens is awesome and strongly recommended for anyone using the Sony mirrorless cameras. It's useful for any kind of photography work but Landscape and Travel photographers will absolutely love this lens. Its weight, functionality, build and image results make it a MUST HAVE for anyone using these cameras that want superb sharpness from edge to edge throughout the focal range. It may put a hole in your wallet but well worth the investment.

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