News

Aurora Aperture launches 16-stop ND filter and rear filters for Canon’s super-wide lenses

DP Review News - Thu, 27/04/2017 - 19:50

US filter brand Aurora Aperture has announced a neutral density filter that it claims reduces exposure by 16 stops. The company has launched a new family of fixed factor ND filters called PowerND and is offering strengths of 6, 12 and 16 stops in screw-in and square formats.

The ND64, ND4000 and ND65000 filters will be available for threads of 37-95mm as well as a special 105mm version that will fit an adapter for the Nikkor AF-S 14-24mm F2.8G ED wide-angle zoom. Those preferring a filter system will be able to use the 100 x 100mm square filters. The 16-stop filter is designed for those wanting to make long exposures in daylight conditions and can knock a 1/1000sec shutter speed situation down to 1 minute.

Aurora Aperture has also introduces a series called Aurora CR with filters designed to fit over the rear mount of Canon super-wide lenses. The arch-window-shaped Gorilla Glass filters slide into a holder that screws on to the rear of the lens, and while aimed at users of the Canon EF 11-24mm F4 L USM the system will work with a range of the company’s wide-angle zoom lenses.

The filters are available via Kickstarter with delivery and general sales due to begin in August. Prices start from $34 for small screw-in filters of any of the strengths, to $117 for the 150mm circular filter. The CR kit including the holder and three filters is $165. For more information see the Aurora Aperture website and the company’s Kickstarter page.

Press release

Aurora Aperture Introduces PowerND Family and an Industry First Rear Mount Glass Filter for Canon EF 11-24mm F4L USM

Aurora Aperture Inc., a Southern California startup, today has introduced the PowerND family of high quality fixed neutral density (ND) filters.

The PowerND family consists of three ratings of light reduction capability: ND64 (6 stops),ND4000 (12 stops), and ND65000 (16 stops). Four different formats are available: circular filters from 37mm to 95mm, 100 x 100mm square filters compatible with popular square filter adapters, 150mm circular filters with an adapter for the Nikon AF-S 14-24mm f/2.8G ED lens, and the Aurora CR format, an industry first, a rear mount glass filter for the Canon EF 11-24mm F4L USM lens.

The 6 stop filter is typically used in low light conditions such as during sunrise or sunset for sub-second shutter speed. The 12 stop filter can slow down shutter speed to minutes in dusk and dawn conditions. The 16 stop filter can do magic on a bright day, allowing photographers to expose up to several minutes or more.

The ND4000 and ND65000 have distinct advantages in having more stops than the typical ND1000 or ND32000. They allow users to avoid diffraction softening by enabling users to avoid very small aperture settings or alternatively allowing for longer exposures. In the case of the PowerND 4000 that means two more stops than the typical ND1000 and for the Power ND65000 there’s one additional stop.

“We introduced a variable ND family last year and it was embraced by photographers and videographers worldwide,” said Jinfu Chen, founder and CEO of Aurora Aperture Inc. “the fixed ND family we introduce today is much more powerful in terms of light reduction capability and offers even better optical performance, along with more formats for different camera lenses.”

A small rear mount filter using Gorilla® Glass for the Canon EF 11-24mm F4L USM is an industry first. Prior to this users would have to use extremely large filters with diameters up to 186mm with a bulky front lens shade adapter. The Aurora CR format filter mounts in the rear of the lens, making it much easier to carry and lower in cost. Other Canon lenses that Aurora CR format filter can be used in* are the EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye, EF 11-24mm F4L USM, EF 14mm f/2.8L US, EF 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye, EF 16-35mm f/2.8L USM, and EF 17-40mm f/4L USM.

Designed in California by Aurora Aperture, the Aurora PowerND filters employ up to 128 layers of double sided nano coating** in order to achieve color accuracy and powerful light reduction capability. Hydrophobic and oleophobic coating is applied to filter surface with PFPE coating. The end result is that water droplet on the filter surface can maintain a static contact angle of 110 degrees, one of the best in the industry.

Availability and Pricing
The Aurora PowerND family will be available through Kickstarter starting in April 2017 and to dealers and direct orders in August 2017. List price starts at US$42 and varies depending on filter format and size.
http://www.aurora-aperture.com
info@aurora-aperture.com
* As of April 21, 2017
** ND4000 and ND65000

Categories: News

Harbortronics' DigiSnap Pro is designed for long-term time-lapse photography

DP Review News - Thu, 27/04/2017 - 19:39

Harbortronics has announced DigiSnap Pro, its new low-power complete system controller for long-term time-lapse photography. The controller supports both networked and autonomous operation and can be used with the company's Cyclapse Pro, a time-lapse photography system that includes a camera housing and solar panel for use in locations where AC power is unavailable. 

According to Harbortronics, the DigiSnap Pro controller can be used with 'practically any modern high quality digital camera,' which is said to include medium format models, mirrorless, and full-frame SLRs. When used with the Cyclapse Classic systems, the company says DigiSnap Pro replaces both the Cyclapse Power Module and the DigiSnap 2700, and that all the cables support the DigiSnap Pro. The new controller can be remotely configured using the company's Android app and Bluetooth LE, and a network remote configuration option is being developed. 

DigiSnap Pro itself offers all the functions one would typically need for long-term time-lapse photography, according to the company, including power management, automated image transfer and local data storage, and monitoring the system for issues. Status emails are sent when a problem is detected, including issues with the housing door, camera failure, low battery, temperature issues, and more.

Categories: News

Serious speed: Sony a9 real world samples gallery

DP Review News - Thu, 27/04/2017 - 16:00

The Sony a9 made headlines shortly after its announcement due in no small part to its laundry list of impressive specifications. With 20fps burst shooting, 693 autofocus points and a 3.7m dot electronic OLED viewfinder with no blackout at all in continuous shooting, this camera's got some serious specs and Sony has made some serious claims about its performance.

During our time in New York for the announcement, we were able to learn the ins-and-outs of the camera while photographing hockey players, figure skaters, and a full-on track meet to see just how the camera fared - and it fared well. But don't take our word for it, check it out for yourself in our real world samples gallery. The AF system combined with 20 fps allowed us to nail the exact moment, while the excellent JPEG engine retained detail and minimized noise even at ISOs in the thousands.

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See the Sony a9 real world samples gallery

Burst shooting samples

If you're curious about what a 20fps burst actually looks like, and how well the camera tracks during them, check out this video showing three of those bursts.

Updated first impressions

We've also been hard at work digging into the Sony a9 as much as we could, given our limited time with it and lack of Raw support. Our shooting experience has been updated with impressions of both JPEG image quality and autofocus performance.

DPR's updated impressions of the Sony a9

Categories: News

Updated: A closer look at Sony a9 image quality and autofocus

DP Review News - Thu, 27/04/2017 - 16:00

While combing through our thousands of images from Sony's a9 launch event last week, we've taken a critical look at the camera's revamped JPEG engine and the effectiveness of its 653-point autofocus system. Read more

Categories: News

Sphere of frustration: Nikon KeyMission 360 review

DP Review News - Thu, 27/04/2017 - 15:00

360-degree capture is still a relatively new concept, and one that can be hard to explain to the casual consumer. But play someone a 360 video and you suddenly have the ability to expand their idea of what photography is. This is especially true when 360 content is viewed with a smartphone that senses its position in space, allowing viewers to explore an entire surrounding area, revealing more – behind, above, and below the viewer – as they move the device around. Where most photography provides a window onto an experience, 360 puts the viewer smack in the middle of a scene.

When Nikon announced the KeyMission 360 more than a year ago it appeared, on paper, to be the category leader. 4K image resolution, a somewhat compact form factor, weather sealing for action sports, dual lenses to capture a full sphere of image data: it was all there.

  • Dual F2.0 lenses for full 360-degree image, each with a 1/2.3" 21MP CMOS sensor
  • 4K UHD video capture
  • 29MP still capture
  • Shockproof and waterproof housing
  • Removable battery and microSD card
  • Prominent, easy-to-access physical controls

Well…mostly there. When it was finally released in September 2016, the KeyMission 360 arrived with a personality as dual as its opposing lenses. The hardware impresses in many ways, but the software and interaction with mobile devices quickly make you forget about those advantages. Although Nikon is making incremental progress, you may find the urge to test the camera’s shockproof construction by throwing it across the room.

  Nikon KeyMission 360  Ricoh Theta S  360fly 4K  Samsung Gear 360 (2017) Max Video Resolution

3840 x
2160/24p 

1920 x 1080/30p 2880 x 2880/30p

4096 x 2048/24p

Photo Resolution 7744 x 3872 5376 x 2688 2880 x 2880 5472 x 2736 Waterproof (without a housing) Yes No Yes No Field of View 360 degrees (dual lenses) 360 degrees (dual lenses) 240 degrees (single lens) 360 degrees (dual lenses) Storage microSD card 8 GB internal 64 GB internal microSD card Weight 198 g 125 g 172 g 130 g MSRP $500 $350 $500 TBD

It's worth noting a new 4K Ricoh Theta will likely be announced soon. The Nikon KeyMission 360 is available now for a a street price of $496.95. 

But let’s start with the overall experience, because shooting in 360 degrees takes a different approach from most cameras.

Handling

When we talk about how a camera handles, we usually mean how it feels in the hand, how much it weighs, and how comfortable it is to shoot using a viewfinder or an LCD. With the KeyMission 360 (and most other 360-degree cameras), the entire surrounding area is recorded as a sphere. Its dual lenses (each backed by a 1/2.3" CMOS sensor) capture two separate images that are stitched together by software, leaving nowhere for a photographer to hide.

The camera itself is compact and solid, with a size and heft a bit larger than a baseball (roughly 6.4cm/2.5in cubed), including the space occupied by the curved lens covers. The KM360 weighs in at around 198g (7oz). If you’re holding the camera, though, your hand and arm dominate much of the field of view. When I asked in the DPReview offices if anyone had a selfie stick I could borrow, I thought I would be knocked over by a concussion wave from eyerolls. And yet, 360 works best when you can get the camera away from yourself, be that on an extended mount, a tripod, or a helmet mount. The KeyMission 360 has a standard 1/4 inch socket at the bottom for attaching almost anything.

Two prominent buttons on the case let you capture video or stills. They’re sized and placed in such a way that you can easily trigger a shot by feel alone: video recording using the rectangular button on top, or still photos using the smaller square button on one side. They’re also large enough that you can initiate a capture if you’re wearing gloves. (The typical way to turn the camera on or off without recording is to press and hold the video-capture button for a few seconds.)

Additionally, pressing a button starts a capture even when the camera is off, an unusual feature for most cameras that, in this case, is often helpful. If the camera is mounted on top of your head, for instance, you don’t want to mess around trying to start recording when it’s time to hurl yourself down a snow-covered mountain. By default, the still photo is on a timer so you don’t capture just your King Kong-looking giant hand. The downside to this feature is that it’s easy to accidentally start a video recording as you’re putting the camera back into a bag (I have the hour-plus videos to prove it), or occasionally capture a still image while opening the interface hatch on the opposite side of the button. I’d like to see a setting or lock switch for toggling this feature on and off.

That exterior hatch reveals one of the KeyMission 360’s strengths: the battery (the EN-EL12, which is also shared by several of Nikon's Coolpix compact cameras) and microSD memory card can be removed and swapped with others when needed. Many 360-degree cameras have sealed-in batteries and internal memory, requiring you to stop and recharge the battery or offload media when the storage is full (or both). You’ll also find a microUSB port for charging and data transfer, as well as an HDMI micro (type D) connector.

Nikon claims a CIPA battery rating of 230 still shots and about 1 hour and 10 minutes of video capture per battery charge. In my experience, I got a little less than 1 hour of video when shooting continuously until the battery ran out, without controlling the camera via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi (which consumes a bit more power). Shooting stills using the exterior button and with minimal interaction from the phone app resulted in an impressive 479 shots, however.

The hatch seals tight when closed with a double-locking door, retaining the camera’s waterproofing down to 30m (98ft). It’s also shockproof from 2m (6.6ft) and freezeproof down to -10°C/+14°F.

The wide-angle lenses sit behind protective plastic lens covers that you'll want to keep clean from fingerprints and dust. Unlike most 360-degree cameras, the KeyMission's covers are removable so you can swap in an alternate set of included covers designed for use underwater (to adjust for distortion). Although I could have used the camera without any covers, I didn't see much difference in the image quality, and would rather pay to replace lens covers than the lenses themselves if the KeyMission took a tumble.

Categories: News

Best photos of the day: bathing with buffaloes and Liberty protests

The Guardian’s picture editors bring you a selection of photo highlights from around the world, including an Indian heatwave and Amnesty International activists dressed as the Statue of Liberty

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Categories: News

Throwback Thursday: Minolta DiMAGE X

DP Review News - Thu, 27/04/2017 - 11:00

There were many 'races' in the compact camera market back when they were selling like hotcakes. From resolution to zoom, manufacturers were constantly trying to one-up each other. Another area in which they were competing was just how small a camera could be. One of the smallest was the ultra-thin Minolta DiMAGE X, released way back in 2002.

The DiMAGE X's dimensions were 84 x 72 x 20mm (3.3 x 2.8 x 0.8in) - yes, less than an inch thick - so it easily fit into a shirt picket. How did they do it? Folded optics.

While we're not 100% certain, it's likely that the DiMAGE X was the first digital camera to use folded optics. Light comes through the lens, hits a 90-degree prism and then heads downward where it passes through the various elements until it hits a 2 Megapixel CCD. As you can probably tell from the design of the camera, all of the zooming and focus takes place in the 'downward' portion of the lens.

As noted in Phil Askey's review, two other things that allowed the DiMAGE X to be so thin was its compact lithium-ion battery and 'tiny' MMC/SD cards (which is funny, considering that the way-too-small microSD format was just a few years away). One tradeoff to having such a compact body was the camera's tunnel-type viewfinder – you might as well just use the 1.5" LCD.

While the camera was a snappy performer, its image quality was less impressive. Phil Askey noted that photos were very 'video like - soft with some visible ghosting artifacts.' Vignetting was also an issue. Its measured resolution was the lowest of any 2 Megapixel camera DPReview had tested at the time. Phil suggests that most of these issues are due to the folded optics design that made the DiMAGE X so unique.

Despite its unique optical design and ultra-compact body, the DiMAGE X didn't win over Phil (mainly due to image quality), earning it a 'Below Average' award – a rarity on DPReview.

Did you have a DiMAGE X or its successors? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Read our review of the Minolta DiMAGE X

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Categories: News

Georgia on my mind: Mark Steinmetz's American south – in pictures

From Mississippi lightning to balloons in Georgia, Steinmetz captures stories of longing, despondency and mystery in his photos of the southern states

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Categories: News

Women at war: building Roosevelt's 'Arsenal of Democracy' – in pictures

Photographs by Alfred T Palmer reveal the critical role played by American women in constructing aircraft during the second world war

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Categories: News

New Zeiss CP.3 XD Cine lens line stores metadata, is aimed at budget filmmakers

DP Review News - Wed, 26/04/2017 - 21:59

Zeiss announced a new family of cinema primes geared toward 'low budget' productions at the NAB 2017 show in Las Vegas. The CP.3 XD Cine line includes a total of ten lenses that cover full frame. Meant to replace the CP.2 line, these new lenses are more compact than their predecessors.

The 'XD' in the name stands for 'eXtended Data', which refers to the lenses' ability to store metadata like distortion and shading info when shooting – info that can greatly aide a visual effects artist in post. You can read more about it here. According to Zeiss production manager Christophe Casenave:

"Cine lenses that provide metadata are relatively expensive and, up until now, distortion and shading had to be manually measured – a time-consuming and expensive process. With ZEISS eXtended Data, we are offering Hollywood technology for everyone, providing small film teams with new creative opportunities."

While this lens line is aimed toward the cost-conscience filmmaker, to the average consumer, prices will likely still seem expensive – each XD lens will likely cost between $5000 and $8000. However Zeiss is also offering non-XD versions of the CP.3 line for slightly less cash.

Several of the non-XD lenses will be available as soon as June and July, while the eXtended Data versions will ship in the fall.

Press release:

New ZEISS CP.3 XD Cine Lens Family: "Hollywood Technology for Everyone"

The ten compact prime lenses provide metadata and enable the correction of distortion and shading. For the first time, even low-budget productions can employ visual effects.

OBERKOCHEN/Germany, 24/04/2017.

No matter if it is Star Wars, Harry Potter or Avatar: these days, just about every film features special effects. For many small film productions, having visual effects in their movie would be a dream come true. Unfortunately, making the image fit the look of the footage has required expensive tools – until now. At the NAB Show in Las Vegas, ZEISS presented new metadata technology that makes this possible: the company has equipped its new ZEISS CP.3 XD compact lens family with ZEISS eXtended Data.

ZEISS eXtended Data supports and enhances /i-Technology

What exactly is this? "ZEISS eXtended Data is the first metadata technology which stores the lens distortion and shading – for every single frame," explains Christophe Casenave, Product Manager at ZEISS. "Moreover, all /i-Technology metadata are recorded, including the focus distance, aperture value and depth of field, which is supported by most cameras." This makes the technology ideal for working with visual effects: by using the metadata, it just takes a few clicks to modify the image generated on the computer to fit the lens characteristics, and to then splice it together with the footage to create a realistic image. Distortion and shading can be corrected or even amplified in post-production.

"It used to be that only big blockbusters could take this approach," says Casenave. "Cine lenses that provide metadata are relatively expensive and, up until now, distortion and shading had to be manually measured – a time-consuming and expensive process." However, since ZEISS has incorporated the technology into its compact CP.3 XD cine lens family, low-budget productions can now take the same approach to creating their own special effects. "With ZEISS eXtended Data, we are offering Hollywood technology for everyone, providing small film teams with new creative opportunities."

An end-to-end solution: cooperation with Ambient and Pomfort

With the ZEISS CP.3 XD, ZEISS not only offers the lenses with metadata, but has also given thought to storage and processing. It has teamed up with partners in the industry: the company Ambient has developed the MasterLockit Plus system together with ZEISS. It records all metadata along with a time code in case the technology is not supported by the camera. "This way truly everyone can work with ZEISS eXtended Data, no matter what equipment they use," says Casenave.

Thanks to the cooperation with the software developer Pomfort, distortion and shading can be modified on the set in real-time using the Pomfort tool LiveGrade Pro. The film crew already gets a sense of what the final look will be during the shoot. The film clips and lens data can be consolidated and organized with Silverstack, Pomfort's file manager.

ZEISS plans to further expand the new metadata technology in the future. "Our customers will then be able to upgrade to the new version, making the CP.3 XD a long-term investment," says Casenave.

Compact and light-weight

In addition to the metadata, filmmakers have even more reasons to get excited about the new lens family: the ten prime lenses between 15 and 135 millimeters cover full-frame. As is typical for ZEISS, the image has a clean, crisp look, and ZEISS says the image quality is excellent. "These lenses deliver outstanding results, even in light situations with a large dynamic range, i.e. highlights and shadows within the same scene," says Casenave. The maximum speed of the seven focal lengths between 25 and 135 millimeters is T2.1, the 15, 18 and 21 millimeter lenses have a speed of T2.9. With a front diameter of 95 millimeters, the lenses are light-weight and compact. They are particularly well-suited for hand-held filming or shooting with gimbals, Steadicam or drones. ZEISS has also improved focusing: the manual focus is now noticeably smoother. According to ZEISS, it is comparable with the ZEISS Master Primes and can also be operated with a small motor. The focus rotation angle is 300°. The lenses are equipped with an interchangeable mount so that they can be used on almost any camera. In addition to the ZEISS CP.3 XD, there is also a version available without metadata: the ZEISS CP.3.

Price and availability

Initially, a limited number of ZEISS CP.3 XD and CP.3 lenses will be available at dealers.

ZEISS CP.3 XD

Focal length Recommended retail price (EUR/USD) Available from 15mm/T2.9 XD 6,400 Euro / 7,490 USD September 18mm/T2.9 XD 5,800 Euro / 6,690 USD September 21mm/T2.9 XD 5,000 Euro / 5,790 USD September 25mm/T2.1 XD 5,000 Euro / 5,790 USD September 28mm/T2.1 XD 5,000 Euro / 5,790 USD October 35mm/T2.1 XD 5,000 Euro / 5,790 USD September 50mm/T2.1 XD 5,000 Euro / 5,790 USD September 85mm/T2.1 XD 5,000 Euro / 5,790 USD September 100mm/T2.1 XD 5,800 Euro / 6,690 USD September 135mm/T2.1 XD 6,400 Euro / 7,490 USD September

ZEISS CP.3

Focal length Recommended retail price (EUR/USD) Available from 15mm/T2.9 4,900 Euro / 6,090 USD September 18mm/T2.9 4,300 Euro / 5,290 USD July 21mm/T2.9 3,500 Euro / 4,390 USD June 25mm/T2,1 3,500 Euro / 4,390 USD June 28mm/T2.1 3,500 Euro / 4,390 USD October 35mm/T2.1 3,500 Euro / 4,390 USD June 50mm/T2.1 3,500 Euro / 4,390 USD June 85mm/T2.1 3.500 Euro / 4.390 USD June 100mm/T2.1 4,300 Euro / 5,290 USD September 135mm/T2.1 4,900 Euro / 6,090 USD September
Categories: News

Canon boosts 2017 profit forecast following strong Q1 financial results

DP Review News - Wed, 26/04/2017 - 21:40

Canon's recent acquisition of Toshiba's medical equipment unit has helped spur strong first fiscal quarterly financial results for the camera company, and as a result it has increased its full 2017 operating profit forecast. In January, Canon estimated that it would see a yearly profit of 255 billion Yen; following the favorable Q1 2017 results, the company now estimates the profits will be higher at 270 billion Yen. However, the company's outlook on 2017 camera unit sales are gloomier, with ILC unit sales dropping 7% and compacts down 13%, working out to -9% overall.

Overall, the company saw a year-on-year Q1 operating profit increase of nearly 89%, rising from 40.09 billion Yen in Q1 2016 to 76.67 billion Yen this past first quarter. According to Reuters, Canon Executive VP and CFO Toshiz Tanaka stated during the company's earnings conference that mirrorless cameras are helping drive the company's camera sales. The company's financial report notes that 'healthy demand' for Canon's EOS 5D Mark IV has helped drive the company's interchangeable lens camera sales. First quarter revenue from camera sales were up over 7%, though unit sales were unchanged since Q1 2016.

Canon likewise saw its compact-system cameras' sales increase in Europe and Asia (6% globally), and though overall digital compact camera sales volume dropped in the last quarter, Canon says the PowerShot G-Series and other 'high-value-added models' experienced 'solid demand.' Things aren't looking great for the digital compact camera market overall, where Canon sees sustained market contraction for its budget-tier models (-6% globally). However, developed countries' decreased demand for interchangeable lens digital cameras is 'decelerating steadily,' the company says. 

Canon also touched on the topic of last year's Kumamoto earthquake damage, saying that the resolution of the shortages caused by the earthquake have resulted in 'temporary moderate growth' for interchange lens digital cameras. 

Via: Reuters, Canon 1, 2

Categories: News

Google software engineer shows what's possible with smartphone cameras in low light

DP Review News - Wed, 26/04/2017 - 19:19
Image: Florian Kainz/Google

On a full moon night last year, Google software engineer Florian Kainz took a photo of the Golden Gate bridge and the City of San Francisco in the background with professional camera equipment: a Canon EOS-1D X and a Zeiss Otus 28mm F1.4 ZE lens. 

When he showed the results to his colleagues at Google Gcam, a team that focuses on computational photography, they challenged him to re-take the same shot with a smartphone camera. Google's HDR+ camera mode on the Google Nexus and Pixel phones is one of Gcam's most interesting products. It allows for decent image quality at low light levels by shooting a burst of up to ten short exposures and averaging them them into a single image, reducing blur while capturing enough total light for a good exposure. 

However, Florian being an engineer, wanted to find out what smartphone camera can do when taken to the current limits of technology and wrote an Android camera app with manual control over exposure time, ISO and focus distance. When the shutter button is pressed the app waits a few seconds and then records up to 64 frames with the selected settings. The app saves DNG raw files which can then be downloaded for processing on a PC. 

He used the app to capture several night scenes, including an image of the night sky, with a Nexus 6P smartphone, which is capable of shutter speeds up to 2 seconds at high ISOs. On each occasion he shot an additional burst of black frames after covering the camera lens with opaque adhesive tape. Back at the office the frames were combined in Photoshop. Individual images were, as you would expect, very noisy, but computing the mean of all 32 frames cleaned up most of the grain, and subtracting the mean of the 32 black frames removed faint grid-like patterns caused by local variations in the sensor's black level.

The results are very impressive indeed. At 9 to 10MP the images are smaller than the output of most current DSLRs but the photos are sharp across the frame, there is little noise and dynamic range is surprisingly good. Getting to those results took a lot of post-processing work but with smartphone processing becoming even more powerful it should only be a question of time before the sort of complex processing that Florian did manually in Photoshop can be done on the device. You can see all the image results in full resolution and read Florian's detailed description of his capture and editing workflow on the Google Research Blog.

 Image: Florian Kainz/Google
Categories: News

World’s first 100-million-pixel drone launched by DJI and Hasselblad

DP Review News - Wed, 26/04/2017 - 18:16

Chinese drone manufacturer DJI has announced that it is to launch a new drone later this year that will be fitted with a 100-million-pixel Hasselblad H6D-100c camera. The DJI M600 Pro will be aimed at those who need precise and detailed aerial pictures, as it will not only produce extremely high resolution images but users will be able to position the drone with what the company describes as ‘centimeter-level’ accuracy using the D-RTK GNSS navigation system.


The H6D-100c will be attached to DJI’s Ronin-MX gimbal and will be carried by the M600 drone’s six-rotors, with images streaming back to Earth via the Lightbridge 2 system. The drone is set for release in the third quarter of the year, with a price no doubt as spectacular as the promised image quality.

For more information see the DJI website.

Press release:

DJI And Hasselblad Introduce World’s First 100-Megapixel Integrated Aerial Photography Platform

DJI M600 Pro Drone, Ronin-MX Gimbal And Hasselblad H6D-100c Camera Combine For Unparalleled Aerial Imaging Package

DJI, the world’s leader in civilian drones and aerial imaging technology, and Hasselblad, the leader in high-quality professional medium format cameras, Tuesday marked the start of the next era of aerial photography by introducing the first 100-megapixel integrated drone imaging platform.

The DJI M600 Pro drone, the Ronin-MX gimbal and the Hasselblad H6D-100c camera combine each company’s unparalleled technological expertise to create an unprecedented tool for precise, detailed and accurate aerial imaging. Professional drone users can continuously control camera operations in flight using the DJI GO app, in order to provide rich imagery for landscape and fine-art photography, robust data for surveying and mapmaking, and endless possibilities for future professional endeavors.

The flight platform for the combination is the DJI M600 Pro drone, an advanced and adaptable six-rotor flight platform equipped with the powerful Lightbridge 2 transmission system, a dustproof propulsion system and six Intelligent Flight Batteries. The M600 Pro can be guided by the D-RTK GNSS navigation system, which can withstand strong magnetic interference to provide highly precise centimeter-level 3D positioning. This enhanced accuracy over typical barometer, compass and GPS systems makes it ideal for exacting commercial, industrial and scientific applications.

The Hasselblad H6D-100c camera is a triumph of camera technology, with a large 53.4 mm x 40.0 mm sensor that offers outstanding detail, color reproduction and tonal range even in poor lighting conditions using the HC and HCD lens family. The camera mounts on the drone through the Ronin-MX three-axis stabilized gimbal, which uses powerful motors and inertial measurement units to resist high G-forces, maintain stability and hold the horizon.

The M600/Ronin-MX/H6D-100c platform is the latest product collaboration since DJI assumed a stake in Hasselblad in late 2015, allowing the companies to explore fruitful collaborations on their advanced technology. Their first joint product, released in July 2016, combined the M600 drone platform with the A5D medium format camera. Hasselblad remains the only medium format camera company collaborating with DJI to bring unprecedented quality to drone photography.

The M600/Ronin-MX/H6D-100c platform is on display through April 27 at the NAB Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, in DJI booth #C2807 in the Central Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center. The combination will be released in the third quarter of 2017 at a price to be announced later.

Categories: News

John Downing's best photograph: Mujahideen posing in an Afghanistan safe house

‘They smuggled me over the border in an old ambulance. I was wearing a burqa, hunching down, pretending to be a woman’

In the early 1980s, I was travelling in Afghanistan with the mujahideen, the rebels who were fighting the Russians with the only weapons they had: AK47 rifles and a few rocket launchers. They were tremendously dramatic looking and made for fantastic photographs.

Nobody was getting into the country at the time, but a reporter and I went to Peshawar on the Pakistan border where some mujahideen agreed to take us in. We travelled in an old ambulance with me sitting in the back wearing a burqa, hunching down pretending to be a woman.

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Categories: News

Fujifilm launches professional support program for GFX system in the US

DP Review News - Wed, 26/04/2017 - 15:48

Starting in May Fujifilm will provide a professional support program for its GFX medium format system. Photographers who want to take advantage of the Fujifilm Professional Services (GFX FPS) program have to own the GFX camera and at least one GFX lens. You also have to sign up within 30 days of purchase of a GFX product and be based in the continental United States.

The cost of the program is $499 per year which buys you the following goods and services:

  • Welcome kit
  • Personalized FPS Card confirming exclusive access to dedicated hotline technician telephone and email support
  • 30% discount on non-warranty repairs for Covered GFX System products
  • Expedited two business day turnaround time for repairs with free 2-day express shipping to and from the repair facility
  • 4 Check & Clean program service vouchers
  • 50% discount on additional Check & Clean program services and 2 business day turnaround for check and clean services with complimentary 2-day express return shipping for all service
  • GFX system product loaners for covered equipment in repair may also be available upon request if repair is expected to exceed two business days

If you are Fujifilm GFX owner and thinking the program might be useful to you, you can find more information and register to become a member on the Fujifilm website

Press Release:

FUJIFILM PROVIDES EXCLUSIVE SUPPORT FOR PHOTOGRAPHERS WITH NEW GFX PROFESSIONAL SERVICES IN THE U.S.

Valhalla, N.Y., April 24, 2017 – FUJIFILM North America Corporation, as the leader in innovation for photographers, announced the new Fujifilm Professional Services (FPS) in the U.S. beginning in May 2017. This service is designed to provide exceptional support for photographers currently using the newFUJIFILM GFX system, Fujifilm’s first medium format mirrorless digital camera. The innovative GFX system utilizes a Fujifilm exclusive 43.8 x 32.9mm (FUJIFILM G Format) 51.4MP CMOS sensor that delivers ultra-high image quality. The GFX 50S combines the heritage of over 80 years of imaging and theaward-winning functional design for a relentless pursuit of perfect image quality.

GFX FPS Program Puts Photographers First

Members of the new GFX FPS Program will receive extensive benefits to ensure the utmost support for photographers utilizing the new FUJIFILM GFX System, including:

  • Welcome kit
  • Personalized FPS Card confirming exclusive access to dedicated hotline technician telephone and email support
  • 30% discount on non-warranty repairs for Covered GFX System products
  • Expedited two business day turnaround time for repairs with free 2-day express shipping to and from the repair facility
  • 4 Check & Clean program service vouchers (voucher limitations, terms & conditions apply, terms here)
  • 50% discount on additional Check & Clean program services and 2 business day turnaround for check and clean services with complimentary 2-day express return shipping for all service
  • GFX system product loaners for covered equipment in repair may also be available upon request if repair is expected to exceed two business days

GFX FPS Program benefits are intended to put photographers first by providing service and convenience for an optimal photographic experience.

Program Requirements, Availability and Pricing

The GFX Professional Services begins on May 1, 2017 for an annual membership fee of USD $499.Photographers can become a member of the GFX FPS Program by registering online. For full details on the GFX Professional Services program requirements, please see the GFX digital camera and GF lens purchase requirements and other eligibility requirements here.

Categories: News

Alpha-better: Sony a9 versus a7R II

DP Review News - Wed, 26/04/2017 - 13:00
Sony a9 versus a7R II

The Sony a9 is a masterpiece of technology. Even if you have no intention of ever dropping $4500 to buy one, you have to admit that its key specifications are impressive. Aimed squarely at action photographers, it's much faster than the a7R II, with a more sophisticated AF system, but it can't match the older camera for sheer resolution.

In this article, we'll be comparing the a9 and a7R II directly, looking in detail at exactly where their differences lie. For some photographers, the a9 might meet their needs admirably, whereas for others, the older a7R II might be just as good - or better. Read on to decide for yourself. 

Resolution

Perhaps the most fundamental difference between these two cameras is their sensors. The a9 offers a resolution of 24MP, putting it in the middle of the pack in terms of full-frame cameras' pixel-count.

On the other hand, the 42MP sensor inside the 7R II offers the highest resolution of any Sony Alpha. In the entire full-frame market, it is second only to the Canon EOS 5DS/R when it comes to nominal resolution. And due to backside illumination (BSI), the a7R II's pixels are themselves sharper than traditional frontside illuminated sensors, thanks to lower crosstalk. The a9 is also BSI, so at least its 24MP should be sharp pixels.

Having as many pixels as the a7R II at your disposal is great for certain kinds of photography, like landscape and studio work, but of course it comes at the expense of large file sizes, and reduced operational speed.

Our verdict: If you need the pixels, save some cash and buy an a7R II. If you need speed, read on...

Speed

The a9, on the other hand, features a significantly lower-resolution 24MP sensor, but one that's been optimized for speed, rather than pure resolution. A maximum frame rate of 20 fps makes the a7R II's 5 fps look prehistoric, and 60 fps live view is available even during burst shooting. You don't need that kind of performance for landscapes, but for sports and action, it's extremely appealing. Remember, that's 60 fps with no blackout, perhaps making it easier to track subjects than the best DSLRs (there's still some lag though to the EVF feed).

You can thank a stacked BSI-CMOS design, with built-in buffer memory for these tricks. In the image above, the sensor (1) sends data the signal processing circuitry (2) and on to a buffer (3) before pushing this data to a new BionzX processor with a front-end LSI (4).

But of course, a fast frame rate isn't useful without...

Autofocus

...a decent autofocus system.

The a7R II impressed us when it was released, offering the best all-around AF performance of any full-frame mirrorless camera. Its 399-point on-sensor PDAF system is particularly capable with Sony's generally fast-to-focus E-mount lenses, but also allowed for very good - albeit limited - autofocus with many adapted Canon EF lenses, as well as lenses from Sony's own A-mount line. It even offered more frame coverage than any DSLR at the time.

The a9 takes things to a whole new level, offering 693 phase-detection points with a whopping 93% frame coverage (represented above), even making the a7R II's previously impressive coverage look small. Sony claims 10 fps burst shooting with AF when using adapted lenses, up from the lowly 3 fps of the a7R II with Metabones or LA-EA3 adapters. Sony claims that autofocus acquisition has been improved by 25%, and eye and face-detection rates have improved by 30% compared to the a7R II. It can also focus in one stop dimmer light (-3EV with a F2.0 lens).

Autofocus

We've yet to formally test the a9, but impressions from our initial shooting are extremely favorable. While it's too early to say whether Canon and Nikon sports photographers will be tempted to make the switch, it certainly looks like the a9 can hold its own when it comes to capturing fast action.

Perhaps most impressive: the camera makes AF calculations at 60 fps, or 3 calculations per 20 fps frame. Sony claims this is better-than-DSLR performance, allowing their AF system to need less prediction, instead just measuring and getting it right at the critical moment.

Furthermore, there's now even more extensive button customization, with new a 'Recall Custom Hold' function that allows you to temporarily override a number of camera settings. What does this have to do with AF? You can assign a number of custom buttons to override the current AF mode (AF-S/C) and/or AF area (Wide, Flexible Spot, Lock-on, etc.), allowing you to instantly switch AF modes at the press of a button, allowing one to instantly adapt to changing scenarios (something we loved about the Nikon D5)

If autofocus performance and ergonomics is a priority, the a9 is the clear winner.

Ergonomics

In terms of body design and handling, the a9 is a significant improvement over the a7R II. Cosmetically, the a9's a bit heftier, but barely any larger. An additional grip extender will allow you to wrap all four fingers around the grip. The most important changes are in how the controls work and feel. 

For starters, the buttons and dials on the a9 just feel nicer. Less mushy, more 'clicky'. That's important to pros that need to 'feel' the number of clicks they turned the dial, not constantly pay attention to the (often animated) OSD feedback that could cost them the shot. And there are just more of them, offering far more direct control over things like AF, AEL and drive modes than the a7R II. This, coupled with the reduced lagginess all-round makes the a9 a different beast - you can take a burst and immediately enter playback to check focus at 100% (the a7R II would just give you an error message if you tried to enter playback too quickly). The addition of an AF joystick will be appreciated by all - not just the sports and action shooters who absolutely require it.

Particularly important - the a9 inherits the same instant overrides top-end DSLRs provide: with 'Registered Custom Hold' assigned to various custom buttons, you can press just one button to instantly override camera settings like shoot mode (P/A/S/M), exposure parameters, metering modes, or AF modes and functionality. This could save your shot by, for example, instantly activating the correct AF mode. Furthermore, Memory modes now remember far more options, though we're still waiting for true 'Custom modes' that remember all camera settings, including button customizations.

The a9's menu system is finally vastly improved compared to the a7R II. Not only is it now organized, there's also now (a long overdue) 'My Menu' where your most frequently used options can live. Why is this important? Well the a7R II had 22 AF options split across 11 different submenu pages under 2 different main menu headers - so finding that one setting buried amongst so many unrelated ones was cumbersome. With the a9, you'll know exactly where any setting is - because you put it there yourself.

Viewfinder

The a7R II's viewfinder is really nice, but the a9's is better. It offers greater resolution (3.7 million dots as opposed to 2.4M) and a higher framerate of 120 fps. This drops to 60 fps during continuous shooting, but a 60 fps refresh rate with no blackout during 20fps shooting is nothing to sneeze at, giving DSLRs a run for their money. If you want a high-resolution preview in your EVF though, if you're a landscape shooter for example, then switch off the 120 fps Finder rate for a higher quality preview.

LCD

The a9's rear LCD may sound like it only offers only a modest increase in resolution compared to the a7R II (1.44M dots compared to 1.23M) but there's been a move from a 640 x 480 pixels to 800 x 600, which should be appreciable. The difference is that the previous panel had red, green, blue and white dots at each position, whereas the new screen uses three dots per pixel (red, green and blue, with some green positions replaced by white).

Furthermore, the addition of touch-sensitivity is a welcome (and again, overdue) upgrade compared to the older camera. However, it's turned off by default, doesn't function in the menus, is quite laggy, and has limited functionality in playback. Tap-to-track in video remains unnecessarily complicated. In fact, it's likely the same touchscreen technology found in the a6500, which we only really found useful for rack focus in video.

So there isn't necessarily a clear winner here. Neither cameras have a gorgeous 'retina'-esque LCD like the 2.4M-dot one on the Nikon D5.

PC sync socket

Well now, this is interesting... the action-oriented a9 has an ethernet socket, which makes sense for pro sports photographers, but it also has a PC sync socket, while Sony's high-resolution flagship studio camera, the a7R II doesn't?

We'd be pretty confident that few, if any a9 buyers will ever use their camera's PC sync socket. Many won't use the Ethernet port either, but at least it's an indication of the intended user-base. To us, the addition of a PC sync socket is a pretty good indication that a higher-resolution sister model is on its way. The a9 represents the third ergonomic iteration of the full-frame Alpha series, so it makes sense that physically, any future a9-series models will share the same basic chassis. Is there a higher resolution a9R in the works? If Sony's past release schedules are any guide, we'd say it's a near-certainty.

Video

As well as being highly capable stills cameras, the a9 and a7R II both offer advanced 4K video specifications. In terms of sheer output quality, the a9 is likely to offer the best-looking footage, thanks to 2.4X oversampling from 6K with no pixel-binning, no line-skipping, and no crop factor in 24p (there's a 1.24x crop factor in 30p). The incredibly fast readout speed of the new sensor means less rolling shutter than previous Alpha cameras - but it's still noticeable, far more so than in stills shooting.

Autofocus in video is also improved, with impressive responsiveness (even in 120 fps slow-mo) and little hunting. The a7R II was prone to jump off to the background quite readily when shooting video. Unfortunately, there's still no sensible or reliable 'tap-to-track' implementation: you can enable it (via 'Center Lock-on AF'), but it's cumbersome to and uses an old, unreliable subject tracking algorithm.

Both cameras offer headphone and microphone ports, plus HDMI and USB (the a9 is pictured above), although it's a shame that even the a9 is still limited to an old-style micro USB 2 port. Despite the incredible speed of the camera, we'll have to wait for a super-high-speed USB 3.0 interface.

No S-Log

Oddly though, the a9 lacks S-Log, and does not feature any of the Picture Profiles found on previous a7-series cameras (an example of what ungraded S-Log footage looks like is shown above). This limits its usefulness as part of a professional video rig, because it reduces the potential for those post-processing their footage to capture high dynamic range scenes. Sony says this is because the a9 is offered primarily at stills photographers, but then why add 2.4X oversampled 4K video at all? In fact, Sony engineers told us the a9 has the 'Highest 4K movie image quality of any full-frame ILC', so the lack of log gamma is somewhat ironic.

Whatever the explanation, we're hoping that S-Log will be added via firmware. Unless, of course, its exclusion leaves room for an a9S or some other, more video-centric model?

Our verdict: If you can live without S-Log, the a9 will capture better full-frame 4K video. Oh, and there's something else it has to offer, too...

Card slots

The a9 offers twin card slots, one of which supports UHS-II media. This is an obvious improvement over the a7R II's single slot, and one that might prove to be a big deal depending on the kind of photography you do. Having two slots is always useful for redundancy if nothing else, and for mixed stills and video shooters, it's handy to be able to record movies to one card, and stills to the other. Or Raw to one, and JPEG to another.

We wish the a9 offered two UHS-II slots, so you're not limited by the write speeds of the second card slot when mirroring images (make sure if you're shooting Raw+JPEG to write Raw to the UHS-II slot and JPEG to the UHS-I slot). We also would've loved support for the much faster XQD card format, but we suspect that if it comes at all, XQD will arrive in the next generation of Alpha bodies. For now, two slots of any kind are definitely better than one. 

New battery

Oh happy day - we had almost given up hope. One of our perennial complaints about the a7-series was battery life. The weedy little FW50 inside the a7R II provides enough endurance for a couple of hundred stills, but for video work its low capacity of 7.7Wh meant frequent battery swapping during a typical day of filming.

The a9 is introduced with a new NP-FZ100 battery, providing more than twice the capacity (16.4Wh). The boosted battery capacity, and a claimed 40% general reduction in power consumption compared to the a7R II should mean that the new camera will last a lot longer on a single charge. In fact, the better characteristics of the battery were apparently required to power the new sensor.

The introduction of a vertical grip with the same ergonomics (AF joystick, etc.) of the a9 is incredibly welcome and will double your battery life to boot. Meanwhile, a separate external 4-battery power pack, aimed at videographers and compatible with the a9 and all previous a7-series bodies is good to see, too.

For some immediate perspective: at a recent press event over the course of an entire day we shot over 4000 Raw+JPEG image pairs, and a whole bunch of 120 fps slow-mo and 4K video, all while studying the camera's menu system extensively and... guess what? We were still only on our second battery which was at 69%. With a grip - you'll likely go through a full-day's worth of intense shooting and never need to replace a single battery.

Problem. Solved. 

Final verdict

The a9 is faster in all respects than the a7R II. Judging by our initial impressions, it should be a very capable tool for sports and action photography, certainly compared to its predecessor. Whether it can compete against the likes of Canon's EOS-1D X Mark II and the Nikon D5 is another matter of course, and we'll be testing that soon enough.

From a more general user experience point of view the a9 is improved, too. Finally, a full-frame Sony camera with a menu system that doesn't make us want to scream, and an AF point-selection joystick along with instant camera function overrides via custom buttons! Wonders will never cease... 

Is there anything the a7R II can do that the a9 can't? Not much, but the differences are important.

Having almost 20 million more pixels means the a7R II can produce bigger prints, which might be a big deal for landscape and studio photographers. The a7R II's autofocus system isn't as good as the a9's, but it's still very good, and 5 fps is enough for most everyday shooting. For general photography (and more specialized high-resolution work) the a7R II will do the job admirably, for a lot less money than the a9. For now at least, the option of shooting in S-Log might makes the a7R II a more attractive camera for video professionals shooting in high contrast scenes in crop mode (the a7R II's full-frame 4K footage suffers from line skipping, lowering resolution and noise performance), despite the better resolution and noise performance offered by the a9's oversampled footage. Its lower capacity battery life is still a limitation, but the release of the NPA-MQZ1K Multi-Battery Adaptor Kit will definitely help.

Ultimately, for Sony shooters that really need quick adaptability, autofocus and speed, the a9 is clearly a better camera than the a7R II. The option of 20 fps continuous shooting with a 60 fps live view feed should prove addictive for anyone shooting fast action. The a9's customization options allow it to finally rival the likes of a 1DX II or D5 in terms of quickly accessing camera features, something the a7R II pales at. The faster processor and front-end LSI mean no more error messages when you're trying to view - or verify focus on- your last shot image. The a9 also looks like a better camera for 4K video too, thanks to 2.4X oversampling from 6K and full sensor readout, and a new - larger - battery. 

What do you think of the new a9? Let us know in the comments.

Categories: News

Shores galore: Auckland's wild west coast beaches – in pictures

Epic, windswept, dramatic – Daniel Koehler is captivated by the New Zealand beaches. Our weekly look at people’s travels through three pictures posted on Instagram

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Categories: News

More videos added to product overviews and getting started guides

DP Review News - Wed, 26/04/2017 - 11:00

Are you shopping for a new camera? Or just looking for some advice about how to use your current favorite model? We've just added several new informational videos to our range of product overviews and getting started guides, including guides to how to get started with the Fujifilm X-T20 and Nikon D3400.

You can find all of our recent overview and getting started guide videos from the links below, and subscribe to our YouTube channel to ensure you never miss a new video!

Watch our series of product overview videos

Watch our new 'Getting Started Guides' 

Categories: News

Sands of time: Saharan Africa in the 1930s – in pictures

Czech photographer Ludwig Jindra was sent on a world tour by his government – and opened up understanding about Tuareg culture and beyond

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Categories: News

Best photos of the day: the Queen in Moscow and a giant spider

The Guardian’s picture editors bring you a selection of photo highlights from around the world, including Inna Churikova as Queen Elizabeth II at Moscow’s Theatre of Nations, and the newly discovered Califorctenus cacachilensis

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Categories: News
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