New Gear: The Metabones Nikon to Fuji Speedbooster

New Gear: The Metabones Nikon to Fuji Speedbooster

Not too long ago, following the release of Fuji’s most recent firmware update for its X lineup of cameras, I posted an article about extending the Fuji system with Leica lenses using the Fuji X mount to Leica M mount adapter. Indeed, this adapter, along with the Leica 90mm Summarit f/2.5 lens, is my standard portrait setup today. Recently, however, we got in yet another adapter for the Fuji X-mount, and this one’s a total doozy.   The Metabones Nikon to Fuji Speedbooster does for Nikon lenses (including the “G” lenses, which don’t have a manual aperture ring) what the M to X-mount adapter does for Leica lenses – it lets you put them onto Fuji’s X-series cameras, including the X-Pro1, which we rent. Now, if that’s all it did, I’d be pretty pleased as punch that we had added it to our inventory. But adapting the lens is only part of the equation here. First, the adapter works for a much wider variety of lenses. Traditionally, Nikon’s “D” series lenses have been the most easily adapted lenses for other systems, as they have a manual aperture ring and therefore can be used in aperture-priority mode on almost all the mirrorless cameras out there, with adapters. The “G” lenses, however, don’t have aperture rings, so they’re not as easy to adapt. The Metabones adapter gets around this limitation by offering its own aperture ring that maneuvers the tiny iris lever inside the G lens to change the aperture. The aperture ring has an 8-f-stop range ring, with half-stop markings. I have to wonder how accurate this is; what if...
Hidden Gems – The Canon 400mm f/5.6L

Hidden Gems – The Canon 400mm f/5.6L

Here’s something that’s going to make Canon shooters looking to get started in wildlife or sports photography pretty darn happy. For years, Canon has made this often-overlooked piece of glass that, as the headline for this blog entry suggests, is a true hidden gem. Presenting: The Canon 400mm f/5.6L USM lens.   One of the things I like doing as a hobby is photographing birds. That’s quite apart from my usual genre, so I don’t really own any gear that appropriate for photographing birds. I usually end up renting something, but those large super-telephotos (like the 600mm and above optics) aren’t exactly cheap (though they are way more affordable to rent than own). After a bit of research, I stumbled onto the Canon 400mm f/5.6L USM lens. Surprising small and compact, it’s thinner and lighter than Canon’s 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM II lens, while being about the same size. It’s got an integrated metal hood that collapses down over the lens when not in use, and, when paired with a body like Canon’s 7D, equates out to be a 640mm lens. That’s the combo that was used to make the image above. The neat part? It’s only $42 to rent for three days. Compare that with, say, Canon’s 400mm f/2.8L, which is $300 for three days. You get an extra two stops with that lens, which is pretty handy for sports shooters shooting in stadiums (just ask Scott Kelby), but if you’re just starting out, or even if weight is a concern, the 400mm f/5.6 is a fantastic, razor-sharp lens for a fraction of the cost. In fact, it’s...
Fuji Meets Leica: One of the Best Street Cameras Gets Even Better

Fuji Meets Leica: One of the Best Street Cameras Gets Even Better

To hear some photographers tell it, Fuji is the new Leica. The company, which saw rave reviews for its X100, has been on something of a tear of late. What began with an interesting concept morphed into a camera with a cult following, and was followed up by an entire system that has turned much of the photo world on its head. The X100s, for example, is a body we can’t seem to keep in stock (though it is right now – go get it before it sells out again!), and the interchangeable lens-capable X-Pro1 is one of the finest low-light performers we’ve ever seen in a body that size. That X-Pro1 has now gotten a breath of fresh air. Fuji seems to be the sort of company that really listens to its users, and with the latest firmware update, has made a lot of those users very, very, happy indeed. The 3.0 firmware update for the X-Pro1 brought with it one very important feature: focus peaking. For those of you who don’t know what that is, focus peaking is something that’s made its way over from the video world. It’s a tool that helps photographers and videographers ensure that they’re achieving critical focus in manual mode. When enabled, this feature adds white outlines to objects that are in focus, as shown below. As you can see, the subject’s eyes and parts of his nose have what we colloquially refer to as “white squigglies” on the edges. This tells me that those are the parts of the frame that are currently in focus. In the image above, I’m using the...
Quick Video Tip for Beginners: Use a Rubber-band for Smoother Pans

Quick Video Tip for Beginners: Use a Rubber-band for Smoother Pans

If you’re just getting started with shooting video with your DSLRs, there’s a better than even chance that you’re not quite used to making smooth movements with your camera. Here’s a quick tip to help you get started with making one of the most basic moves in cinematography: a side-to-side move with the camera locked down on a tripod with a fluid head (like this Manfrotto kit, available from BorrowLenses.com now) meant specifically for video. Gear used Video tripod and fluid head (I used my own, but you can rent a Manfrotto video head and tripod here). I also used my own 15mm rail system, but you can rent one like the Redrock Micro Eyespy from us. This is completely optional. HD-DSLR. I used the Canon 5D Mark III with a 24-70mm lens. A rubber band First, find yourself a rubber band. You want one that’s a bit sturdy, but not so stiff that it has no give at all. Then, set up your tripod and camera and make sure your focal length, exposure, and focus and are all adjusted to your liking. To execute the pan, slip the rubber band around your video head’s handle and pull in the direction you want. Keep a smooth, even pressure on the rubber band, and stop pulling at the end of your pan, allowing the natural tension of the band to bring the pan to an end (or fade it to black in post, as I did here). Here’s a video that lays the technique out. The footage is ungraded (i.e., no post-production techniques have been applied to it as yet). It’s...
Op-Ed: My Time With the Fuji X100s

Op-Ed: My Time With the Fuji X100s

It’s been a while since I first got my hands on the Fuji X100s, and in that time, I’ve carried this little thing with me just about everywhere I go (including on my honeymoon). I’ve also gotten a few questions about it that range from my general opinion of the Fuji cameras, to what settings I shoot with. In this Op-Ed, I’ll answer a few of those questions and also put down some of my thoughts about why this camera has turned out to be the sensation that it has. It’s not a full review – for that you’ll have to head over to the one I wrote for Chase Jarvis’ website. First, the questions…. Is the X100s really that much better than the X100? Yes. Yes it is. Really? Yes, really. Why? Well, for starters, it focuses a heck of a lot faster. In fact, it’s one of the quickest-focusing compact cameras out there. I love the X-Trans sensor in it, too; I trust this thing to put out great images with solid dynamic range and color accuracy. Low-light performance is incredible, all the way to ISO 6400. Manual focusing aids like Peaking are a nice touch, and welcome. Okay. What’s your one key favorite feature? Low-light performance. Love it, love it, love it. It’s that good? Yes. Here, look: That’s at ISO 6400, straight out of camera JPEG. Also, that’s shot at 1/8 of a second and is plenty sharp. Leaf shutters for the win. Cool. Would you replace your DSLR with it? Nope. I know some photographers have, or have augmented their Medium-Format systems with a...
The Hasselblad Is Here: First Impressions and Sample Shots

The Hasselblad Is Here: First Impressions and Sample Shots

The Hasselblad H5D40 medium-format digital camera is here, so of course we had to give it a go. We pressed a number of our staffers into service as models, and went through an impromptu portrait session. Sample images as well as first impressions after the jump. First, the sample images… Alex Huff Andrew Wills Ryan Tubongbanua Courtney Newvine and Jo Deguzman Shooting with the Hasselblad H5D40 was a mixed bag in that it was at once familiar and foreign. I’ve shot medium-format digital and film before, mostly on the Phase (digital) and Hasselblad 500C (film). So I was familiar with the H5D40’s basic operation. The shoot was set up in our lobby. We used a large Elinchrom 74″ Octa as the light source, with one 500 w/s Elinchrom BXRI monolight in it, plus a second BXRI scraping across the collapsible background for some of the shots. Both were triggered using the Skyport transceiver included with the Elinchrom BXRI kit. Here are a few initial impressions. Flash sync is up to 1/800th. This is awesome, since it completely eliminates ambient light.  The 120mm f/4 Macro lens I shot with is crazy-sharp. The dynamic range and detail are everything that Hasselblad has promised (more on this in future articles about this new platform). Watch your highlights. There’s a handy histogram in the top LCD that shows you this, so it’s relatively easy. Get a tripod. I shot handheld, but this is a heavy platform. If I was shooting at a lower shutter speed (say, like 1/200th), I’d probably see some camera shake. Since the flash can sync up to 1/800th, it didn’t...
Nikon’s Biggest Gun: A Review of the New 800mm f/5.6E FL ED VR Lens

Nikon’s Biggest Gun: A Review of the New 800mm f/5.6E FL ED VR Lens

Introduction Until recently, Canon’s 800mm f/5.6 lens has been about the longest lens currently in production by one of the big manufacturers. The longest lens on the Nikon side has been the 600mm f/4, which I took out for a spin not too long ago. Now, Nikonians have their own cannon (yes, pun intended) to play with. The Nikon AF-S 800mm f/5.6E FL ED VR lens is finally shipping, and we’ve got them in our inventory for rental. I took this behemoth out for a test to see just what Nikon packed into it. Last week, I posted sample images from that shoot; here’s the full review. A Bad Start My experience with the 800mm began poorly. I took the lens out with a D4, an Induro AT–413 tripod and a Custom Brackets gimbal head to one of my favorite birding spots in the Redwood Shores region of the San Francisco Bay Area. Every spring, these black-and-white birds call Black Skimmers show up around here, and make for some excellent photo opportunities. They gather around the shoreline, and fly low over bodies of water, letting their lower beaks dip into the water as they fly, trying to snap up small fish. Get lucky, and you can walk away with an image of one with its beak creating a wake through water, which is what I was aiming for. Well, things didn’t start out well. I set up everything, balanced the lens on the gimbal, and started shooting. Immediately, I noticed that the lens was incredibly slow to focus. For static subjects, it was fine – you could zero in...
Sample Images from the Nikon 800mm f/5.6

Sample Images from the Nikon 800mm f/5.6

I’ve been out testing the Nikon 800mm f/5.6 lens we just got in, and have a few sample images to share. I went out to the Redwood Shores region of the San Francisco Bay Area to shoot the skimmers that show up around here every spring, and got a handful of other birds as well. The full-up review is coming soon, so stay tuned for that. Black Skimmer   Images © Sohail Mamdani. All rights...
Playing with Nikon’s Big Guns.

Playing with Nikon’s Big Guns.

Not so long ago, I did a post about Canon’s new “Big Guns”, the 600mm f/4 II and the 1Dx. We’re now waiting for Nikon’s newest super-tele, the 800mm f/5.6, to ship, but I thought I’d take the newest flagship camera from Nikon out for a spin with the venerable 600mm f/4 that they’ve had out for a while.   Initial impressions Shooting with the Nikon D4, with regards to ergonomics and handling, was a substantial change from the D3s. It’s not as angular as that body, something I think Nikon’s been changing lately. The buttons have more feedback to them, and don’t feel soft. The body itself is more bulbous and contoured (dare I say, more Canon-like?), and feels way better in my hands than the D3s. The shutter button is angled down a bit, allowing my finger to lie on it in a more natural fashion. One annoyance is that the AE-L button has been replaced with a little joystick, and I miss that. There’s also a live-view button inset into a rocker switch that lets you move it between photo and video modes, as well as the 8-way d-pad that’s carried over from the D3s. All in all, I liked the changes to body. It’s a more pleasant camera to shoot. In the field My experience didn’t start off well – which was my own dang fault. I’d set the Nikon’s CH (Continuous High) mode to 11 frames per second. Why this wasn’t set to the max by default puzzled me, but I shrugged it off and went out to the Coyote Hills Regional Park in nearby...
Small Flash, Big Box: Using the LumoPro Flash Bracket

Small Flash, Big Box: Using the LumoPro Flash Bracket

There’s no shortage of lighting modifiers for small flashes like the Nikon SB–910 on the market today. From the Apollo softboxes we rent, to grid kits, snoots, umbrellas, and beauty dishes, small flash has really come into its own, especially for photographers working on location. Now there’s a new accessory for Strobist-style shooters that will let you use a much wider variety of softboxes with your existing small flashes, including the high-end modifiers from companies like Profoto. I used it with two Profoto softboxes a couple of weeks ago for a portrait, with excellent results. The acecssory is called the Lumopro Speedring Bracket, and it’s basically a softbox speedring modified to let you use one or two flashes in a standard softbox. If you’re not familiar with speedrings and softboxes, take a look at the article “Understanding Softboxes” on our blog. It describes what speedrings are, and how they are used with various modifiers. The Lumopro bracket is essentially a speedring with two adjustable arms protruding from it. A standard stud allows you to to mount the speedring onto a swivel adapter so you can tilt your setup to angle it. I was doing a shoot for costume designer Katherine Nowacki, who needed a bright, airy headshot for her website. I placed her on a balcony with setting sun directly behind her to act as a rim light. My initial idea was to use a reflector to get some fill light into her face, but then decided I wanted something more powerful to balance out the ambient. I went with two Profoto softboxes, a 3’ Octabox and a 1×4’...