Gear Spotlight: Is the 24-70mm f/4 IS Canon’s Best General-Purpose Zoom?

Gear Spotlight: Is the 24-70mm f/4 IS Canon’s Best General-Purpose Zoom?

The 24-70mm zoom range is one of the most popular zoom ranges on any camera, and most manufacturers have at least one lens in that category. Canon’s 24-70mm f/2.8 zoom was getting fairly long in the tooth, and its replacement, the Mark II, has garnered widespread praise and accolades from users and reviewers alike. Lost in all of that was Canon’s 24-70mm f/4L IS zoom, which was released a few months after the f/2.8 version. This odd lens, which is, ostensibly, the replacement for Canon’s similarly long in the tooth 24-105mm f/4L IS lens, came as something of a disappointment. Why, people wondered, did Canon kill the additional 35mm of zoom range from this lens, and why would anyone opt for this lens over the sharper and faster f/2.8 Mark II? Well, I’ve been using this lens for the last few weeks as I work up a series of video articles for you folks, and I’m starting to think that this dark horse of a lens is a hidden gem. Bad figures of speech aside, there’s a lot to like about the Canon 24-70mm f/4L IS lens. Let’s start with the “IS” part. IS stands for Image Stabilization, and the 24-70mm f/4 lens, like many of Canon’s other lenses, has that. What’s unusual is that this is only the second lens in Canon’s lineup to feature the newer “Hybrid IS” system. Most image stabilization systems have the ability to compensate for movement or vibration in an up-down and side-to-side direction. Canon’s Hybrid IS system goes one step further, adding compensation for camera shift in both vertical and horizontal planes....
Moose Peterson’s Shooting Tips for the Nikon 800mm f/5.6 Super Telephoto Lens

Moose Peterson’s Shooting Tips for the Nikon 800mm f/5.6 Super Telephoto Lens

Moose Peterson is a Nikon Legend Behind the Lens, Lexar Elite Photographer, recipient of the John Muir Conservation Award, and a Research Associate with the Endangered Species Recovery Program. Moose has a passion for photographing wildlife and wild places and educating the public about our wild heritage. He has been published in over 142 magazines worldwide and is the author of 26 books, including Photographic FUNdamentals. Moose has shot with a lot of super telephoto lenses and the Nikon 800mm f/5.6 is among his favorites. See why in his quick review with sample images. The Amazing Nikon 800 f/5.6 AFS by Moose Peterson 800mms is a magical focal length that I had longed to see in the Nikon AFS line-up. It is one of Nikon’s sharpest lenses ever. The 800mm f/5.6 delivers such amazing image quality that it’s nearly disconcerting because it shows off any flaws in your photographic technique. You must use proper long lens technique when shooting the 800mm on a fantastic tripod properly situated on Earth. At 800mms, you have a very narrow depth of field especially when you’re shooting up close and personal. 800mm f/5.6 vs the 600mm f/4 The lens itself is just a tad longer and a tad heavier than the 600mm f/4. However, I feel it is also a tad better more balanced and a tad sharper. So with that said, you could go with the 600mm and a 1.4x teleconverter and be in the same ballpark as the 800mm but it’s not quite the same. We are splitting hairs here but that’s what we do in photography – we look for the right...
New Gear: The Fuji X-E1 Is Here

New Gear: The Fuji X-E1 Is Here

The Fuji X-Pro1 has been in our inventory for some time now, and we’re pleased to add its newer sibling, the X-E1, to our rental offerings. This younger, lighter, and smaller version of the X-Pro1 ditches a few features of the critically acclaimed (and very successful) X-Pro1, while adding a few welcome ones. Read on to find out what you need to know about the Fuji X-E1. First things first – the X-E1 is, as I just said, lighter and smaller than the X-Pro1. By weight, it’s about 25-30% lighter, but by size, the difference isn’t as drastic as I thought it would be when I bought mine (yes, I bought one not too long before we started carrying the X-E1 – figures!). The X-E1 is shorter than the X-Pro1, and while the difference isn’t great, folks with large hands will notice the difference. The X-E1 is also thinner than the X-Pro1, but again, not by much. The button layouts have also changed a bit. Fuji has relocated the playback button to the left of the display, but otherwise, everything on the back is about where it was on the X-Pro1. The X-E1 also retains the dual dials of the Pro, as well as the assignable “Fn” button on top. Besides the size and button layout, there are some other key differences between the bodies, so let me sum them up. The X-E1 doesn’t have an Optical Viewfinder (OLF). Unlike the X-Pro1, which has a “hybrid” viewfinder that can be switched from OVF to Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) mode, the X-E1 just has an EVF. It is a higher-resolution EVF...
Quick Look at the Sony HVL-F60M Flash with LED Video Lights

Quick Look at the Sony HVL-F60M Flash with LED Video Lights

Sony has started releasing cameras and flashes with hot shoes that abandon the previous proprietary Minolta-style hot shoe which means the Sony HVL-F60 pairs well with the NEX line, the RX line, and the A99. This is also our first flash gun that is suitable for both photographers and videographers thanks to the inclusion of a mini LED panel on the flash head. Pros Versatility. Even if you aren’t a videographer, the LED option is neat. It can replicate small window light and is easy enough for a complete lighting neophyte. Menus are bright and easy to navigate/read. Accepts an off-camera cable and external battery pack. Built-in bounce, high-speed sync option (up to 1/2000th), TTL. Can be optically fired from your camera’s built in flash and the HVL-F60M can, in turn, fire other flashes. Cons No PC sync cable port. It’s kind of huge. The tilting is in clicks of 90º, 60º, 45º, and 30º and not in between. Can’t be used on your older Minolta-style hot shoes unless you have an adapter. Check this compatibility chart for more info. The off-camera cable and external battery pack ports are only compatible with Sony’s FA-CC1AM and FA-EB1AM, respectively. We’d recommend this flash for any Sony user, especially if you have been looking for something powerful for the little NEX or RX cameras. For the video users, the specs on the LED indicate that you can light your subject at about 6′ away on ISO 3200 and f/5.6. Just how WELL it lights your subject at that distance is uncertain and probably up to personal taste/artistic vision. Rent it and tell us...
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...
SnapKnot’s Favorite Beach Wedding & Engagement Photos

SnapKnot’s Favorite Beach Wedding & Engagement Photos

Photographers are always seeking ways to land that one awesome wedding shot. The unique setting, timing, and location of each photo opportunity is what makes the final product so special. In order to share some brilliant inspiration, we had our friends at SnapKnot send five of their favorite beach wedding and engagement photos from their expert photographers. Better yet, they shared the secrets behind their incredible shots. SnapKnot’s Favorite Beach Wedding & Engagement Photos This portrait was taken at sunrise just after a short ceremony with a Canon 5D Mark II and a 24-70 f/2.8L. Only natural lighting was used for this at ISO 320, f/2.8, and 1/1000th of a second. This well-timed candid was taken in the late afternoon after a heavy rain with a Canon 5D and a 24-105mm f/4L using only available light. Taken at ISO 400, f/5.6, and 1/250th of a second. This trash-the-dress shot was taken early in the morning with a Canon 5D Mark III and 135mm f/2L. No flash was used; instead, King captured the moment by taking super quick, multiple shots. Taken at ISO 800, f/6.3, and 1/1000th of a second. This scenic portrait was taken at sunset with a Canon 1D Mark IV and a 16-35mm f/2.8. To light the scene, Joy used 2 Canon 580EX II flashes triggered in ETTL mode with remotes. Final settings: ISO 200, f/2.8, and 1/1600th of a second. White balance was manually set. To learn more about triggering flashes at high shutter speeds, see Syl Arena’s tutorial on using high speed sync with Canon flash. This romantic silhouette was taken at sunrise with a...
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...
Small Cameras with Big Impact: Traveling Light without Compromising Quality

Small Cameras with Big Impact: Traveling Light without Compromising Quality

Don’t get us wrong – we LOVE our big cameras, especially those pro bodies with huge, high-quality glass. Lugging it around, however, is not so ideal – especially while on vacation or during situations where there just isn’t a lot of room to shoot. High-quality sensors are coming in smaller and smaller form factors, which is good news for globe-trekking photographers or for those who simply need to pack lightly. These small cameras are perfect for: Hiking to get that great sunrise/sunset shot from a high vantage. Inconspicuously taking candids out on the street. Using auto or fully-manual settings on a simplified system. Here are 5 recommended small cameras with incredible image quality: Sony RX1 & Sony RX1R These full frame cameras sport 24 MP sensors and fixed 35mm f/2.0 Carl Zeiss lenses. They shoot full HD 1080p video and have incredible low-light performance. The “R” version lacks an optical low-pass filter, which is ideal for catching extra detail in landscape shooting. The only bummer about these? You’re stuck with that lens. However, on the full frame sensor the 35mm is a great walking-around focal length and the all-metal Zeiss construction is top notch. Another great small-form-factor offering from Sony is their NEX series of mirrorless cameras (with some sample images here). Olympus E-P5 This retro-looking, handsomely-built micro four thirds camera does full HD 1080p video and shoots stills up to 9 FPS on its 16MP sensor. It is very slim and yet still accepts interchangeable lenses, like the fast 17mm f/1.8 M.ZUIKO. Many of our street photographers extol the virtues of this camera. Fuji X100s Another retro beauty, the X100s comes equipped with...