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Photography News and Community for Creative Professionals

Building a Stock Catalog of Lifestyle Images Through Assignment Work and Adobe Stock

Building a stock photography portfolio and generating passive income can be one of the easiest ways a photographer can make money. However, creating a sizable portfolio that generates a worthwhile income month after month doesn't just happen overnight. Chances are you have already been shooting images suitable for stock without realizing it. With just a little planning and adjustment to how you see and approach assignments, you can turn your existing and future work into a growing stock catalog. Additionally, with stock sites like Adobe Stock built right into your Creative Cloud, submitting, tracking, and learning what sells is a relatively easy task.

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Author: Michael DeStefano
Posted: January 17, 2018, 8:04 pm

Wedding Photographer Accused of Fat-Shaming after Over-Editing Engagement Photos

Would you take the liberty to Photoshop an image so drastically that it offends your clients? That’s exactly what one wedding photographer did when they gave their client a “chin tuck.”

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Author: Dusty Wooddell
Posted: January 17, 2018, 7:04 pm

How to Use Bounce Flash With Four Unique Light Modifiers

I can still remember the first time I saw the effects of bounce flash. The soft natural light looked unlike anything I had seen from my little point and shoot's direct flash, and the resulting image looked so natural. Soon afterward I was introduced to off camera flash and a variety of light modifiers. The results between all of these lighting techniques were not subtle and I became obsessed with finding my favorite tools to light people. In today's video, I explain how one single flash both on and off camera, and a few light modifiers can give you the perfect light quickly and easily.

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Author: Patrick Hall
Posted: January 17, 2018, 6:04 pm

Shortcuts That Will Save You Time in Lightroom

Time is valuable. The next three minutes of this video could possibly save you a ton of time over the course of your editing career, and if there is absolutely anything I can do to speed up my Lightroom workflow, I’m all for it.

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Author: Dusty Wooddell
Posted: January 17, 2018, 5:02 pm

Getty's Royal Photographer Reveals Difficulties of Photographing the Family, Says Queen Doesn't Often Smile

Getty’s royal photographer has discussed the challenges the job brings - namely how it can be hard to get the right shot of the Queen since she often “can go a whole event where she's not smiling."

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Author: Jack Alexander
Posted: January 17, 2018, 4:02 pm

My Best Investment as a Photographer

As I set up to shoot an assignment last week, I found myself in a casual conversation with the owner of the location. He was also a photographer, and as I opened my Pelican case and began to set up my strobes, he commented on the fact that he owned the same one. He then lamented the fact that this particular kit was no longer made by the manufacturer. It had been discontinued and replaced by a new line of photographic debutants. I had no idea.

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Author: Christopher Malcolm
Posted: January 17, 2018, 3:02 pm
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WAJDA PHOTO – Film vs. Digital Photographers: Is There a Difference?

Featured

By: Kenneth Wajda

Published on Dec 27, 2017

WAJDA PHOTO – Film vs. Digital Photographers: Is There a Difference?

Photo Walk Folks: https://roystryker.wordpress.com/2017…

To support me as a patron with a contribution, even just $1 or $2 a month: https://www.patreon.com/kennethwajda – Many Thanks!

Shop at Adorama and support this channel: http://adorama.evyy.net/c/266353/5192

My Commercial Photography site: http://KennethWajda.com
Film Portraiture site: http://TheFilmPhotographer.com
The Wise Photo Project : http://TheWisePhotoProject.com
Elderly Photo Visits: http://ElderlyPhotoVisits.com
Street View: http://ColoradoFaces.com
6×6 Blog: http://6x6portraits.com
My Video Production site: http://DenverBoulderVideo.com

 

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Major Camera Manufacturer’s News

Fuji cameras - Google News

Google News


Fujifilm Recalls 270000 Wall Chargers Over Shock Hazard
ConsumerReports.org
Fujifilm is recalling more than 270,000 power adapter wall plugs that were packaged with six of the company's point-and-shoot and mirrorless camera models, due to a risk of electrical shock, according to Consumer Product Safety Commission. Fujifilm ...

and more »
Posted: January 17, 2018, 1:54 pm

Fstoppers

Thinking of Switching to Mirrorless? You Need to Watch This
Fstoppers
There are a lot of people switching from DSLR to mirrorless these days. But while Sony has the full frame side of things pretty much locked down, a ton of people, including Fujifilm X Photographer and Fstoppers tutorial maker, Elia Locardi, are ...

Posted: January 14, 2018, 6:02 am

PetaPixel (blog)

Fujifilm Lenses Have Quality Control Issues: Reports
PetaPixel (blog)
The GFX is a premium camera that costs $6500. It's completely reasonable to expect quality lenses for a body that expensive. If Canon has that kind of QC for its L lenses, it hasn't been within my photography life (I don't shoot Nikon, so I can't speak ...

Posted: January 12, 2018, 9:34 pm

Fstoppers

Nikon's Full Frame Mirrorless Camera Will Likely Have a New Lens Mount [Rumor]
Fstoppers
Thus, Canon and Nikon are left with a paradox of how to create a mirrorless camera that isn't the size of a DSLR. Both manufacturers have an advantage over Sony, Fuji, and the like in that they have deep libraries of lenses, and if they can make those ...

Posted: January 12, 2018, 4:45 am

PetaPixel (blog)

Canon Shares Composite Photo Made with a Fujifilm Camera Without Credit
PetaPixel (blog)
I'd say because they are a camera company. Their customer base is photographers. They will be held to a higher standard than your rando facebook group. Even if they are in the clear legally, they ain't in the clear reputationally. Even if they hadn't ...

Posted: January 11, 2018, 5:17 pm

Fstoppers

Why Other Camera Manufacturers Should Be More Like Fuji
Fstoppers
The long-running battle between camera companies is something that will always exist. Forums and article comment sections will always have some type of argument about who has the better high ISO or dynamic range, how Canon has better color than Nikon ...

Posted: January 6, 2018, 10:22 pm

canon cameras - Google News

Google News


PetaPixel (blog)

Nikon's Full Frame Mirrorless to Have New Z-Mount: Report
PetaPixel (blog)
The Canon and Nikon owners have be screaming for a mirrorless camera that they could use their current lenses on, not a camera that would force them to either buy new lenses or use an additional adapter. The move would be to just incorporate the ...

Posted: January 16, 2018, 8:52 pm

Fstoppers

Testing How Canon, Nikon, Sony and Olympus Cameras Fare in the Rain: Which Is Most Waterproof?
Fstoppers
Imaging Resource recently decided to put the weather sealing of a Nikon, Canon, Sony, and Olympus camera to the test. Watch as the team use a hosepipe to soak the equipment in simulation of a rainstorm to determine which camera fares best. Using the ...

Posted: January 16, 2018, 4:00 pm

PetaPixel (blog)

Water Torture Camera Test: Canon and Nikon Shine, Sony Fails
PetaPixel (blog)
The cameras tested were the Nikon D850, Sony a7R III, Canon 5D Mark IV, and Olympus OM-D EM-1. Imaging Resource took all four cameras outside and used a garden-hose sprayer to simulate natural rainfall in both a strong rainstorm and a heavy mist. Each ...

Posted: January 13, 2018, 7:33 pm

Canon Shows Two New Camera Concepts – CES 2018
Android Headlines
Today is the final day for CES 2018 and renowned camera manufacturer Canon has taken the opportunity to show several devices across two new concepts the company is working on. It's worth bringing up that both of the cameras are only concepts, so ...

Posted: January 13, 2018, 3:34 pm

The Verge

These concepts are the most exciting cameras Canon's brought to CES in years
The Verge
Tucked in a corner on a shelf at Canon's booth are the two most exciting cameras the company has brought to CES in years. They're not wholly unique ideas (and one of them doesn't even work yet), but compared to the iterative releases and myriad of ...

Posted: January 12, 2018, 7:20 pm

PetaPixel (blog)

Canon: We're Lagging in Innovation
PetaPixel (blog)
I have shot with Sony before switching to Canon. All top notch gear. Canon wipes the floor with Sony when it comes to usability, speed, reliability and color. Yes, you can potentially get better images of a steady subject with Sony in good light. The ...

Posted: January 9, 2018, 6:21 pm

pentax camera - Google News

Google News


Global CMOS Digital Camera Industry 2018 – Fujifilm, Samsung, Polaroid, Nikon, Pentax, Olympus, Sony, Canon
News of Columnist: Research News By Market.Biz
The CMOS Digital Camera research report contains a professional analysis of the current state of the global CMOS Digital Camera market and the factors that will shape its progression in the future. The CMOS Digital Camera industry report also examines ...

Posted: January 16, 2018, 5:25 am

Camera Jabber (press release) (blog)

Ricoh changes social media pages to 'Pentax by Ricoh Imaging'
Camera Jabber (press release) (blog)
In a somewhat curious move, Ricoh Japan has changed the names of its social media accounts from Ricoh Imaging to 'Pentax by Ricoh Imaging.' Pentax Rumors noticed the change on Ricoh Japan's Facebook and Twitter pages. It could be nothing more than ...

Posted: January 15, 2018, 10:52 pm

Alaska Dispatch News

Photographer shares what he believes is at stake in ANWR with one image
Alaska Dispatch News
Late that summer night, Wright lifted his Pentax camera mounted with a 300-millimeter lens. With the sun high in the sky to the northwest, there was enough light that he did not need a tripod as he turned along the horizon, snapping when he thought ...

and more »
Posted: January 13, 2018, 10:22 pm

Juneau Empire

Image of porcupine herd travels cross country
Juneau Empire
Late that summer night, Wright lifted his Pentax camera mounted with a 300-millimeter lens. With the sun high in the sky to the northwest, there was enough light that he did not need a tripod as he turned along the horizon, snapping when he thought ...

Posted: January 12, 2018, 2:45 pm

Global CMOS Digital Camera Market 2018 – Olympus, Nikon, Canon, Samsung, Fujifilm, Polaroid, Pentax
The Daily Telescope
Chicago, IL — 01/10/2018 — Global CMOS Digital Camera Market report 2018 provides readers with a detailed insight of CMOS Digital Camera industry inclusive of subjective aspects which will help subscribers in various important strategic decision ...

and more »
Posted: January 11, 2018, 2:18 am

D Magazine

Linda Cooper's On Permanent Vacation
D Magazine
She was 15 years old when a Japanese photographer discovered her at an outdoor mall and put her in ads for Pentax cameras and on a sake label. She was able to parlay her “quintessential Valley Girl” persona into a career as a commercial and fitness ...

Posted: January 5, 2018, 3:17 pm

Samsung cameras - Google News

Google News


NRF 2018: Samsung Puts a New Spin on Retail with Pop-Up Store
BizTech Magazine
That was a key theme of this week's NRF 2018: Retail's Big Show in New York City. And Samsung is getting in on the action with a new pop-up, connected and modular retail store concept. Earlier this week Samsung announced an all-in-one pop-up store ...

and more »
Posted: January 17, 2018, 5:09 pm

Pocket-lint.com

Meizu M6s first in line with a Samsung Exynos processor
Pocket-lint.com
Around the rear, a 16-megapixel Samsung CMOS sensor drives the camera, that has an aperture of f/2.0, while an 8-megapixel sensor can be found on the front, also made by Samsung. Meizu includes its Beauty Mode with the cameras. While we're not usually ...
Samsung intros Exynos 5 (7872) series chipsets for mid-range smartphonesPhone Arena
Meizu Announces M6s with Exynos 7872AnandTech
MeizuNDTV

all 54 news articles »
Posted: January 17, 2018, 10:21 am

Android Central

Samsung Galaxy On7 Prime is designed to fuel your impulse buying habits
Android Central
As for the internal hardware, you're looking at a 5.5-inch Full HD display, 1.6GHz octa-core Exynos 7870 chipset, microSD slot, dual SIM card slots, 13MP rear and front cameras, 4G with VoLTE, and a 3300mAh battery. On the software front, the phone ...
Samsung Galaxy On7 Prime launched at Rs 12990 with 13-megapixel cameraBusiness Standard
Honor 9 Lite vs Oppo A83 vs Samsung Galaxy On7 Prime vs Xiaomi Mi A1: Price, specifications and features comparedBGR India
Samsung Galaxy On7 Prime with Samsung Mall, 13-megapixel camera launched in India: Price, specificationsFinancial Express
Deccan Chronicle -Digit -Gadgets Now
all 164 news articles »
Posted: January 17, 2018, 9:39 am

The Star Online

Samsung Galaxy A8 and A8+: Shoot sharper selfies with dual front cameras
The Star Online
To prove the point, Samsung Malaysia Electronics president Yoonsoo Kim dropped a Galaxy A8+ into the pool in Sky Bar, Kuala Lumpur, where the launch was held. After almost five minutes, the phone was retrieved and Kim proceeded to take a selfie. “We ...
Samsung launches the Galaxy A series (2018) smartphones with ...The Straits Times
Samsung launches Galaxy A8, A8+ for millennialsJakarta Post
Samsung Galaxy A8/A8+ (2018) with dual-selfie cameras have ...SoyaCincau.com
Digital News Asia -New Straits Times Online -KLGadgetGuy (press release) (blog)
all 14 news articles »
Posted: January 17, 2018, 9:27 am

TrustedReviews

Galaxy S9 Leaked Specs: Here's What to Expect
Tom's Guide
We've seen evidence that Samsung will be trumpeting the "reimagined" cameras in the Galaxy S9 and S9+, and recent reports seem to back that up. Specifically, a leaked image of the Galaxy S9's packaging shows that it will feature a Super Speed Dual ...
What the heck is variable aperture?Android Authority (blog)
Samsung Galaxy S9 specs reportedly appear in retail packaging leakTrustedReviews
Samsung launches new smartphones: Galaxy A8, A8+ and Grand Prime ProDunyaNews Pakistan
Vulcan Post (press release) -Lowyat.NET (blog) -Phone Arena
all 360 news articles »
Posted: January 16, 2018, 8:50 pm

Wccftech

The Samsung Galaxy S9 Will Feature A Variable Aperture Rear Camera! Alleged Retail Box Leak Suggests DSLR ...
Wccftech
We've only got a couple of weeks left until the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+ are official. The Korean tech giant is heading into the year with a strong run, as opposed to 2017. Featuring solid designs, the market received its Note 8 and S8/S8+ solidly ...
'Galaxy S9' packaging leak hints at single rear camera sensor with variable apertureAppleInsider (press release) (blog)
Samsung Galaxy S9 Leaked Retail Box Reveals Variable Aperture Camera, Super Slow-MoInternational Business Times
Samsung Galaxy S9 Leak Could Reveal All SpecsTom's Guide
Camera Jabber (press release) (blog) -Tech Advisor -The INQUIRER -The Investor
all 247 news articles »
Posted: January 14, 2018, 10:50 am

Sony cameras - Google News

Google News


PetaPixel (blog)

Nikon's Full Frame Mirrorless to Have New Z-Mount: Report
PetaPixel (blog)
The Nikon F-mount full frame system has a flange focal distance of 46.5mm and an external diameter of 44mm. The Sony E-mount, which is used on Sony's full-frame cameras, has a flange focal distance of 18mm and an external diameter of 46.1mm. A ...

Posted: January 16, 2018, 8:52 pm

Fstoppers

Testing How Canon, Nikon, Sony and Olympus Cameras Fare in the Rain: Which Is Most Waterproof?
Fstoppers
Imaging Resource recently decided to put the weather sealing of a Nikon, Canon, Sony, and Olympus camera to the test. Watch as the team use a hosepipe to soak the equipment in simulation of a rainstorm to determine which camera fares best. Using the ...

Posted: January 16, 2018, 4:00 pm

Golfweek

'We want parity': Golf Channel camera crews walk out on Sony Open broadcast ahead of final round
Hawaii News Now
Organizers of the 2018 Sony Open had plenty to worry about on Saturday, given the state's false ballistic missile warning, but it now appears the tournament has a new set of issues. Unionized workers for the Golf Channel, including the video and audio ...
Strike affects Golf Channel coverage of Sony Open, viewers not impressedGolfweek
Golf Channel's Sunday tournament broadcasts, including Sony Open, expected to be impacted by striking video/audio ...GolfDigest.com
James Hahn rallies to win Sony OpenBoulder Daily Camera
Golf.com -Golf Channel -Yahoo Sports
all 321 news articles »
Posted: January 14, 2018, 9:50 pm

Gulf Times

Sony mirrorless camera line-up launched - Gulf Times
Gulf Times
Fifty One East and Sony Middle East and Africa have announced that the “impressive addition” to their full-frame mirrorless camera line-up, the 7R III (model.

and more »
Posted: January 13, 2018, 8:32 pm

PetaPixel (blog)

Water Torture Camera Test: Canon and Nikon Shine, Sony Fails
PetaPixel (blog)
The cameras tested were the Nikon D850, Sony a7R III, Canon 5D Mark IV, and Olympus OM-D EM-1. Imaging Resource took all four cameras outside and used a garden-hose sprayer to simulate natural rainfall in both a strong rainstorm and a heavy mist. Each ...

Posted: January 13, 2018, 7:33 pm

Fstoppers

Sony a9 Camera Receives Firmware Update 2.00 | Fstoppers
Fstoppers
Today Sony has released a version 2.00 firmware update for its a9 mirrorless cameras. The enhancements and added functions include changes to the continuous autofocus system as well as metadata input and image protection. The continuous autofocusing ...

and more »
Posted: January 11, 2018, 10:49 pm

Panasonic cameras - Google News

Google News


Game 360 (blog)

Global WiFi Cameras Market 2017 Top Manufacturer – Gopro, Nikon , Canon, Sony, Panasonic
Game 360 (blog)
Based on the profit estimation which is gained by the manufacturers as well as the policies affecting it, the product cost in the WiFi Cameras market is examined. The cost-profit is broken down regionally, leading to assessment results that explains ...
Innovation in IP Surveillance Cameras Market 2018: Hikvision, Axis Communications, PanasonicNewsient (blog)
IP Cameras Market Globally 2018 : Dahua, Bosch Security Systems, Panasonic and SonyPerfect Analyst
Global IP Surveillance Cameras Sales Market Attractiveness, Competitive Landscape and Key Players Hikvision , Axis ...Island Post Gazette
Hi-tech Beacon -Market News Access -satPRnews (press release)
all 84 news articles »
Posted: January 17, 2018, 11:52 am

Panasonic Lumix DC-GX850
PCMag
Panasonic Lumix DC-GX850 : Benchmark Tests The GX850 starts, focuses, and captures an image in as little as 1.6 seconds, a solid mark for a mirrorless camera. Its autofocus system is quite quick, locking onto subjects in 0.1-second in bright light and ...

Posted: January 16, 2018, 6:50 pm

SportTechie

Panasonic's Vision Of 2030 Smart Sports Venues And Why It's Realistic
SportTechie
Of course there be paperless entry to venues as more leagues and events move toward mobile ticketing, but Panasonic sees that these gates will be able to be unmanned also because face recognition technology will be used to authenticate identity using ...

Posted: January 16, 2018, 6:15 pm

Panasonic Launches Line of NDI PTZ Cameras
TV Technology
These cameras are able to link directly to an NDI network, with automatic detection by the NewTek TriCaster, NewTek IP video switchers and the Panasonic AV-HLC100 Live Production Center, as well as other NDI-capable products. This is done via ...

Posted: January 16, 2018, 5:10 pm

TechRadar

Panasonic brings the Lumix GH5S to the Middle East | TechRadar
TechRadar
Originally unveiled at CES 2018 in Las Vegas, Panasonic is now bringing its latest video-focused mirrorless camera, the Lumix GH5S to the Middle East. If the comprehensive video specification of the Lumix GH5 isn't quite enough to satisfy your needs ...
Panasonic claims world's first 4K 60p/50p digital mirrorless camera ...BroadcastProME.com (press release) (blog)
Panasonic Lumix GH5S hands-on review - Stuff Middle EastStuff Middle East
Panasonic Middle East Officially Launches The LUMIX GH5S In The ...Feedbaac

all 4 news articles »
Posted: January 14, 2018, 11:00 am

Digital Trends

Panasonic GH5S Hands-On Review | Digital Trends
Digital Trends
The Panasonic GH5S is light on megapixels but heavy on pro video features, making it perhaps the best mirrorless camera for video that you can buy.
CES 2018: The Best & Biggest Announcements in Camera Tech - ALCAdorama

all 2 news articles »
Posted: January 12, 2018, 9:36 pm

nikon camera - Google News

Google News


PetaPixel (blog)

Nikon's Full Frame Mirrorless to Have New Z-Mount: Report
PetaPixel (blog)
During CES 2018 in Las Vegas last week, Nikon Rumors heard the interesting rumor that Nikon will introduce a new Z-mount with an external diameter of and a flange focal distance of 16mm. By comparison, the Nikon 1 series mirrorless system has a flange ...

Posted: January 16, 2018, 8:52 pm

Fstoppers

Testing How Canon, Nikon, Sony and Olympus Cameras Fare in the Rain: Which Is Most Waterproof?
Fstoppers
Imaging Resource recently decided to put the weather sealing of a Nikon, Canon, Sony, and Olympus camera to the test. Watch as the team use a hosepipe to soak the equipment in simulation of a rainstorm to determine which camera fares best. Using the ...

Posted: January 16, 2018, 4:00 pm

Ubergizmo

Nikon 1 V3 Mirrorless Camera Has Been Discontinued | Ubergizmo
Ubergizmo
Back in 2014, Nikon announced the Nikon 1 V3 mirrorless camera and now about four years later, it appears that the camera has since been discontinued. This is according to a listing on B&H in which they claim that the camera has been discontinued, but ...
Nikon 1 V3 listed as discontinued | Camera JabberCamera Jabber (press release) (blog)

all 2 news articles »
Posted: January 16, 2018, 5:58 am

TechRadar

Full-frame cameras: do you really need one?
TechRadar
Perhaps the biggest advantage of going full-frame is image quality. While APS-C and full-frame cameras can now share an almost identical resolution – Nikon's APS-C 20.9MP D500 and full-frame 20.8MP D5 is just one example, full-frame sensors are ...

Posted: January 15, 2018, 2:57 pm

PetaPixel (blog)

Water Torture Camera Test: Canon and Nikon Shine, Sony Fails
PetaPixel (blog)
The cameras tested were the Nikon D850, Sony a7R III, Canon 5D Mark IV, and Olympus OM-D EM-1. Imaging Resource took all four cameras outside and used a garden-hose sprayer to simulate natural rainfall in both a strong rainstorm and a heavy mist. Each ...

Posted: January 13, 2018, 7:33 pm

Fstoppers

Nikon's Full Frame Mirrorless Camera Will Likely Have a New Lens Mount [Rumor]
Fstoppers
Those anxiously awaiting a full frame Nikon mirrorless camera will be interested to hear this major piece of news: the company will likely be introducing a new mount, the Z Mount, for their upcoming mirrorless camera. Here's the basic problem Canon and ...

Posted: January 12, 2018, 4:45 am
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Techradar Camera and Camcorder reviews

TechRadar - Cameras and camcorder reviews

TechRadar UK latest feeds

The Essential Review

This is TechRadar’s review summary that gives you all the key information you need if you’re looking for quick buying advice in 30 seconds - our usual full, in-depth review follows.

The Yi Technology 4K+ Action Camera is just as good as the GoPro Hero6 Black, but it's not identical. An action camera just as portable as its rival – and with just as poor a battery life (less than two hours) – the Yi Technology 4K+ Action Camera can record in 4K at 60fps, just like a GoPro Hero6 Black. That's more detail and smoothness than you probably need to capture your adventures. Its 12MP photos are great, too – sharp and colourful – and it also shoots in raw (though not natively in HDR). 

Where the Yi Technology 4K+ Action Camera gets one over on a GoPro Hero6 Black physically is with its weight (93g vs the GoPro Hero6 Black's 117g) despite having a slightly larger touchscreen. It's also easier to use, thanks to a super-fast processor and an impressively simple user interface your granny could master. 

However, the Yi Technology 4K+ Action Camera is more affordable than its rival, and that comes with a few cut corners. Unlike the GoPro Hero6 Black, the Yi Technology 4K+ Action Camera is splash-proof, not waterproof (not without adding a separate housing), while it also lacks GPS, an accelerometer, and a gyroscope. Are any of those omissions deal-breakers? Probably not.  

So if you're aquatic-minded, or you need to know exactly where you were, and how fast you are going when you took a video, buy a GoPro Hero6 Black. However, if you're more interested in saving a few quid on features you didn't even want, the Yi Technology 4K+ Action Camera is one of the simplest and best designed gadgets around. Everyone considering buying an action cam should have a look at the Yi Technology 4K+ Action Camera because it's almost exactly the same and, in some ways, even better than a GoPro. 

Who’s it for and should I buy it?

If you have your eye on a GoPro for some time, but haven't yet  investors in one, is a great opportunity to save a bit of cash. Almost as good as its more famous rival in almost every way, the Yi Technology 4K+ Action Camera is nevertheless not natively waterproof. Do you care? Action cameras like these tend to be used sporadically, and how often any of them actually get taken underwater is anyone's guess. However, simplicity is the Yi Technology 4K+ Action Camera's biggest attribute, and if you've no need for the GPS, accelerometer and gyroscope found on the GoPro Hero6 Black, why pay for them? 

Lightweight, easy to use and producing great quality 4K video and stills that's so easy to transfer to a phone for sharing, the Yi Technology 4K+ Action Camera is an impressive way to save a substantial slab. However, this follow-up to the Yi 4K Action Camera is more tweak than overhaul, with the main improvement being that the Yi Technology 4K+ Action Camera can film in 4K at 60fps, so if you've already got Yi's first action cam, skip this second version and wait for the third. 

Yi Technology 4K+ Action Camera price

  • Current price: £299/ $339.98 (both prices include waterproof case)

An action cam that's much better value than a GoPro

  • Built-in image stabilization
  • Not natively waterproof
  • Recharges via USB-C port

The Yi 4K+ isn't incredibly different to the original Yi 4K, the main addition being an ability to shoot video at 4K at 60fps, just like a GoPro Hero6 Black. Requiring a U3 class microSD card to be used, shooting in 4K/60fps does mean a maximum bitrate of 120Mbps, which is double what the Yi 4K offered. It's also worth bearing in mind that although the Yi 4K+ does have electronic image stabilization onboard, it only works up to 4K/30fps.

Inside is the same 12MP Sony IMX377 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor with Exmor R as on the Yi 4K, but this version has a new Ambarella H2 + Quad-core ARM Cortex A53 processor. They work terrifically well together, allowing the Yi 4K+'s operating system to work fluently and without a hitch despite the bigger bitrate. 

You're probably not going to use the Yi 4K+ much for photography, but you can. It shoots very usable 12MP images, and it's possible to save in JPEG or keep the raw files, which is outputs as universal .DNG files. It doesn't deal in HDR, as the GoPro Hero6 Black does, but since it shoots in raw that's no big deal. 

Unlike the original Yi 4K, this new version recharges via USB-C port , and in the box is an adaptor for hooking-up an external microphone. It takes a microSD card up to 64GB. 

So why would anyone buy GoPro? There are a few tiny corners cut on the Yi 4K+. Unlike the GoPro Hero5 Black or the new GoPro Hero6 Black, the Yi 4K+ is not natively waterproof, although a separate Waterproof Case Kit – which is also apparently 'dustyproof' – is available. However, the only really noticeable difference between the Yi 4K+ and GoPros are that the Yi 4K+ lacks the GPS, gyroscope and accelerometer sensors, so your videos don't include tags for geographical positioning, direction and speed. You either care about that, or you don't. Unless you're a performance athlete obsessed by data, it's probably irrelevant. 

However, what is annoying – and it's exactly the same with all GoPro products – is a short battery life. The Yi 4K+ has a 1400mAh battery that lasts for just over an hour in 4K mode, a little longer if not. 

A small, portable and money-saving design

  • Weighs just 93g
  • Not waterproof
  • Corning Gorilla glass

Aside from its attractive, subtle checkerboard pattern on its font, the Yi 4K+ looks exactly the same, physically, as its forbear, the Yi 4K. 

It weighs just 93g, and it's rectangular little 65 x 42 x 30mm body hosts a 2.19-inch colour touchscreen coasted in tough Corning Gorilla glass. Better still, that touchscreen – as well as being a large – is of excellent quality; it's colorful and contrasty, with a great viewing angle, and it's extremely sensitive to touch. That makes the clear, concise operating system a breeze to use; I would go as far as to say that the Yi 4K+ has among the simplest and speediest user interfaces I have come across in the last 15 years. 

Its new voice control software does add to that, though results are mixed despite having to first have the Yi 4K+ record a voice sample. Shouting 'Yi Action take photo', 'Yi Action record video' and 'Yi Action turn off' (among other voice commands) at the Yi 4K+ does herald results, but it doesn't work too well if you're outdoors … which is kinda's all what this camera is for. 

Linking reliably to a smartphone via Wi-Fi on either 2.4GHz or 5GHz, the app can access all the settings on the camera, and hosts an almost instant live feed

The Yi 4K+ has a standard tripod thread on the bottom, which is a boon for anyone wanting to connect it to the plethora of mounts available (as well as a standard camera tripod). Despite the natively easy to use Yi 4K+ not requiring a good app to make the device usable (which is so often the case), its free Yi Action app is impressive. 

Linking reliably to a smartphone via Wi-Fi on either 2.4GHz or 5GHz, the app can access all the settings on the camera, and hosts an almost instant live feed. Once you're done, you can transfer images and videos to your phone, apply some filters and image effects (from HDR and a the 360-degree camera-style 'Tiny Planet' and 'Spial Galaxy' to more run-of-the-mill 'vintage', 'nostalgia' and 'romance'), and share to Facebook, Instagram and – showing its Asian heritage – Line. 

To battery life, which on the Yi 4K+ we measured at around an hour on 4K/60fps, and almost two hours on Full HD 1080p, which is relatively good compared to the GoPro Hero6 Black. However, that doesn't mean such a super-short battery life is acceptable, and seems to me to signal that the Yi 4K+ is too small for its own good. 

Image quality

  • Clean but jumpy 4K/60fps
  • Smooth but noisy Full HD
  • Good wide-angle JPEG and raw photos

The Yi 4K+ does 4K at 60fps. Great, but in practice that headline-grabbing feature does come with a few caveats. For example, its 4K Ultra 4K mode – its most detailed – tops-out at 30fps. So does its 4K HD mode (which contains 4000x3008 pixels instead of the standard 3840 x 2160 pixels). However, stick it in 4K mode and the Yi 4K+ can record in 60fps (or 48fps, or 30fps). 

At 60fps the results are impressively sharp and contrasty, with well saturated colour. Video can be a little choppy if you hand-hold, which is a result of the low frame-rate (particularly noticeable on camera pans) and the fact that Yi 4K+'s electronic image stabilisation only applies to 4K/30fps and below. Still, that's something for the follow-up from Yi, and besides, image stabilisation can be overdone (see the Sony FDR-X3000R review for proof of that). 

Those after the smoothest possible video from the Yi 4K+ should consider shooting in Full HD 1080p, which can be done in all kinds of frame rates, from the 'cinematic' 24fps right through to 120fps, which is good for slow-motion footage. That jumps to 240fps if you shoot in 720p. It's also worth knowing that if you shoot in 4K/24fps it's possible to use an ultra wide field of view mode, which stretches the sensor. 

The Yi 4K+ also takes good still images, albeit all in a wide-angle. That means you have to get really close to your subject – uncomfortably close, sometimes – though it produces a reasonably sharp images nevertheless. I didn't notice too much fisheye effect and, besides, it can be easily removed later. However, the finished JPEGs often appear very compressed, contrasty, and with over-exposed areas.  

As well as producing JPEGs, the Yi 4K+ records raw images at DNG files. However, shooting in raw does require a little patience, with an approx. 10-seconds wait between each shot. It also doesn't produce the cleanest raw photo you'll ever see, but they're good enough to produce some much better-looking results through Photoshop. 

Not convinced? Try these

If the Yi 4K+ action camera isn’t for you, here are three excellent alternatives for you to consider... 

Posted: January 15, 2018, 4:22 pm

The Sony Alpha A9 has quite a job on its hands. While the likes of Fujifilm's X-T2 and Sony's own Alpha A7R II have tempted some pros, particularly studio and landscape photographers, to trade-in their DSLR kit, it's been a harder challenge to get sports and action photographers to give up their Canon and Nikon gear.

[Update: Sony's just announced a new Firmware update for the Alpha A9, with version 2.00 offering a number of tweaks and refinements. For Continuous AF, performance has been improved when tracking moving subjects, while there's enhanced stability of the AF-C when zooming. There's also now the option to protect images to a custom button, as well as the ability to transfer (via FTP) all protected files at once, overall operational stability has been improved.]

Rather than being cosseted in a comfy camera bag, the gear of those action photographers is going to get bashed about on a daily basis, while the performance demanded from their camera bodies means we haven't yet seen a mirrorless rival to the likes of Canon's EOS-1D X Mark II and the Nikon D5.

Until now. The new Alpha A9 from Sony has those two speed merchants of the camera world firmly in its sights. So will it fall at the first hurdle, or can it give its rivals a run for their money?

Features

  • Full-frame stacked CMOS sensor, 24.2MP
  • 3,686K-dot electronic viewfinder with 120fps refresh rate
  • 3.0-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 1,440,000 dots

The key piece of tech at the heart of the Alpha A9, and one that's had a knock-on effect on the performance of other components, is the 24.2MP full-frame stacked CMOS sensor.

While it has substantially fewer pixels than the 42.2MP Alpha A7R II, it does offer a slight resolution advantage over the 20-odd megapixels of the Canon 1D X Mark II and Nikon D5, but it's the architecture of the chip that's the key element here.

The stacked design means the integrated DRAM memory modules, a high-speed processing circuit and the BIONZ X image processing engine are all lined up behind the image sensor. 

This design has allowed Sony to push the data through the sensor, not around it, resulting in a a sensor that reads data 20 times faster than would otherwise be possible, enabling the Alpha A9 to shoot at a blistering 20fps for 241 raw files or 362 JPEG images.

How does that compare to the EOS-1D X Mark II and Nikon D5? Very well in fact, comfortably beating both the EOS-1D X Mark II's 170 raw files at 14fps and the D5's 200 raw files at 12fps – although if you're planning to hold down the shutter for that long you might want to re-evaluate your technique.

The stacked sensor design also means the Alpha A9 and can perform an impressive 60 AF/AE tracking calculations per second (we'll get onto the nuts and bolts of the AF shortly).

Designing the sensor this way doesn't just have performance benefits – it should also deliver better noise performance, thanks to the light-gathering elements of the photosites (pixels to you and I) being closer to the surface of the sensor.  

The Alpha A9 features a broad native ISO range of 100-51,200, and this can be expanded to 50-204,800. That said, for those who shoot regularly in low light, the likes of the D5 offer an extra four stops on the A9 here, with an expanded ISO ceiling equivalent to 3,280,000.

We've always liked the large electronic viewfinder on the Alpha A7R II, but the EVF on the A9 is bigger and better. 

With approximately 3,686,000 dots, the all-new, high-luminance Quad-VGA OLED Tru-Finder viewfinder is the highest-resolution viewfinder Sony has ever incorporated in a camera. It boasts 0.78x magnification, a 120fps refresh rate, and a Zeiss T* coating to greatly reduce reflections, as well as a fluorine coating on the outer lens that repels dirt.

Thanks to the electronic shutter, which promises to be both vibration-free and completely silent (with a maximum shutter speed of 1/32,000 sec), there's no horrible viewfinder blackout even at 20fps (though the refresh rate of the EVF does drop to 60fps).

As well as the EVF, there's a 3.0-inch tilt-angle touchscreen with a solid, if not ground-breaking, resolution of 1,440,000 dots (though it's a modest boost over the 1.23m dots of the A7R II's).  

The Sony Alpha A9 is equipped with an innovative 5-axis image stabilization system that provides a shutter speed advantage of five stops.

As you'd expect for Sony's mirrorless flagship camera, video is well catered for. For a start, there's 4K (3840 x 2160p) video recording across the full width of the full-frame image sensor. When shooting in this format, the camera uses full pixel readout without pixel binning to collect 6K of information, oversampling it to produce high-quality 4K footage. Recording is also available in Super 35mm size.

Additionally, the Alpha A9 can record Full HD at 120fps at up to 100Mbps, which allows footage to be reviewed and eventually edited into 4x or 5x slow-motion video files in Full HD resolution.

The Alpha A9 benefits from two SD card slots, but it's perhaps slightly disappointing to see that Sony has opted to give only one slot the faster UHS-II media support. In some ways it's a bit of a surprise to see the A9 forego the even faster XQD card format (especially as Sony was instrumental in its development) that both the Nikon D5 and D500 support.

As well as having the usual Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth credentials, the A9 features a flash sync socket (something that was missing from the more studio-focused Alpha A7R II) and Ethernet port, underlining Sony's view that it sees the Alpha A9 as a camera that's going to muscle its way pitch-side, where speedy transfer of images is key.

Build and handling

  • Magnesium alloy construction
  • Weather resistant
  • Weighs 673g

While the likes of the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II and Nikon D5 are probably some of the bulkiest and heaviest cameras you're likely to pick up this side of a medium format model, the Sony Alpha A9 is noticeably more compact.

It follows a similar design aesthetic to Sony's Alpha 7-series full-frame mirrorless cameras, but the A9 is just that bit chunkier, at 63mm versus 60.3mm.

One of the most obvious differences between the Alpha A9 and its pro-spec DSLR rivals is the lack of an incorporated vertical grip; whether this is a good or a bad thing will depend on your personal preference. 

The hand grip itself is a decent size and pretty comfy, but your little finger will overhang the bottom of the camera. An optional GPX1EM grip extension is available, as well as a VGC3EM battery grip.

On its own, the Alpha A9 balances nicely with lenses like Sony's 24-70mm f/2.8, but it feels very front-heavy when a 70-200mm f/2.8 is attached – the VGC3EM battery grip will certainly help on this score. 

Appropriately enough for a camera that has designs on being a tool for jobbing pros, the Sony Alpha A9 is based around a durable magnesium alloy body that's also weather-resistant. That said, looking closely at the various doors dotted round the body of the Alpha A9 there don't appear to be any signs of rubber seals to protect the camera from the elements – we'd perhaps be a little nervous, then, if we were sat on the sidelines of a sports pitch in the rain with the Alpha A9, which we wouldn't be if we were shooting with a 1D X Mark II or D5. 

In the past we've felt that Alpha (and some Cyber-shot) cameras have been held back a little by their overly complex procedures for changing key settings, and while the overall design of the Alpha A9 follows previous models in the line-up, there have been a number of revisions to the handling.

Starting with the top plate, and to the left of the viewfinder there's now a dedicated control for the Alpha A9's drive modes, with a focus mode selector round the collar to boot. 

To the right of the viewfinder is the mode dial, which includes an 'Auto' mode –something we wouldn't expect to see on a pro-orientated camera. One slight annoyance with both dials is the locking mechanism. You have to press down on the central button to rotate the dial, which is a bit of a faff if the camera's held up to your eye; on the Fujifilm X-T2, for example, you can either set the dials to rotate freely, or lock them so that you have to press before you can rotate.  

Another slight issue is the positioning of the front command dial. Because the grip is that bit larger than on the Alpha A7R II, your index finger doesn't fall naturally on it – it requires a bit more of a stretch to get to it. This may sound a little nit-picky, but believe us when we say that after a day of shooting you'll wish it was positioned a bit closer to the shutter button.

Round the back, the most obvious difference from the Alpha A7R II is the very welcome arrival of a dedicated joystick control. Primarily for AF point selection, this can also be used to navigate the camera's menu system. 

There's also a proper AF-On button here – a must for many sports and action photographers – while the video record button moves to a more sensible spot just next to the viewfinder.

We've always been impressed by the customization options on Alpha cameras, and the Sony Alpha A9 is no different. Pretty much every button or control can be reprogrammed, with some controls, like the dedicated custom buttons, offering the choice of a staggering 69 settings. The default setup makes a good starting point, but it's worth experimenting to find your optimum configuration.

To say the menu is comprehensive is an understatement – the first shooting sub-category has 13 pages to trawl through, while movie settings are still tucked away in the second shooting sub-category. The arrival of the joystick speeds navigation up, but it's a shame the touchscreen interface doesn't allow you to quickly swipe through pages of menus. 

The touchscreen itself is actually pretty limited – you can only use it to select an AF area when shooting, and when reviewing images you can double-tap the screen to quickly zoom, then tap and drag to move round the image. If you think you can swipe through images though, you can think again.

Autofocus

  • 693-point AF
  • 93% coverage
  • Enhanced Eye-AF

Sony's not mucking around with the AF system inside the Alpha A9, showering it with a staggering 693 phase-detect AF points that cover 93% of the frame – something even the likes of the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II and Nikon D5 will struggle to match. 

The Alpha A9's array and distribution of AF points is impressive

As you'd expect, there's a plethora of autofocus settings available depending on what you're shooting. For general shooting, and to keep things as simple as possible, either the Wide or Zone modes will take care of much of the decision making for you, while Center mode uses the central AF point.

Not everything you want to focus on will be slap-bang in the center of the frame though, so there’s also a Flexible Spot mode (with the choice of three AF area sizes) that enables you to use the joystick to position the focus area pretty much anywhere in the frame. If you're struggling to focus there's also Expand Flexible Spot mode, which utilizes additional AF points to assist with focusing. 

Flick the AF mode to AF-C and things really get interesting. You've got the same focusing area options as you have when shooting in the Alpha A9's AF-S focusing mode, but with the addition of a Lock-on setting.

The AF tracking performance of the Alpha A9 is blisteringly quick

Half-press the shutter button (or preferably use the AF-On button instead), and with your subject selected the AF will instantly snap into focus, while a dizzying array of AF points will light up the viewfinder as it tracks your subject round the frame – thanks to the architecture of the sensor, the Alpha A9 is making 60 tracking calculations per second.

We found that if you want to be really precise with what the camera tracks (especially if your subject is far off in the distance), then Lock-on: Flexible Spot M is the best option, as this allows you to select the specific part of the frame where the subject you want to track is. That said, if you're shooting subjects that fill the frame and make predictable movements, then Zone mode can be very effective. 

For this shot, Zone mode in AF-C was used to track the car through the bend

The Alpha A9 is also the first Sony camera to feature customizable autofocus tracking sensitivity. If you haven't come across this before, it lets you tell the camera how quickly you want the camera to refocus should a distraction obstruct your view of your tracked subject.

In some instances you might want the camera to hold focus (for instance if your subject has disappeared briefly behind an obstacle) or to quickly snap on to a new subject (an opposing player has made a challenge and won the ball). The A9's sensitivity scale ranges from 1 to 5, with 1 least likely to refocus, while 5 is most likely to refocus should a new subject enter the frame.

The Alpha A9's AF performance is incredibly impressive; while it did get tripped up a couple of times, for the most part the speed and precision of the AF is outstanding.

Performance

  • 20fps burst shooting
  • 5-axis image stabilization
  • 480-shot battery life

Raise the camera up to your eye and start rattling off bursts of shots at 20fps with no viewfinder blackout, and the Sony Alpha A9 really does feel like the product of witchcraft. 

It's almost a little unnerving at first, but you quickly embrace the stunning capabilities of the camera. Helpfully, there's a subtle 'shutter' sound to reassure you that something is actually happening, though you can switch to fully silent operation via the menu if required. 

If a burst rate of 20fps is overkill for what you're shooting, you also have two slower drive modes to choose from, while those looking to use a lens adapter (something that's likely given the limited range of longer focal length lenses) will see the Alpha A9's burst shooting performance cut in half to 10fps.

The viewfinder itself is excellent – the 120fps refresh rate and the clarity of the 3,686k-dot resolution combine to provide a beautifully clear and large view of what you're shooting. Whether you have a preference for this over the big and bright optical viewfinders on the A9's DSLR rivals will come down to you; optical viewfinders still have the edge in high-contrast and poorly lit scenes, but the EVF on the Alpha A9 provides a real-time look at how the camera is going to capture the scene – and you can't ignore that blackout-free burst shooting. 

Battery life has been bumped up from the Alpha A7R II to deliver 480 shots, but when put up against the EOS-1D X Mark II's 1,210 shots and the D5's staggering 3,780 shots this looks a little paltry, especially if you're going to be holding the shutter down at 20fps for long periods. It goes without saying then that you're going to need spare batteries – and more than one if you're a working photographer. 

Image quality

  • ISO100-51,200, expandable to 50-204,800
  • Good ISO performance
  • +/-5 EV exposure compensation in 1/3 or 1/2 stop increments

Landscape and studio photographers should still plump for the more densely populated 42.2MP Alpha A7R II, but that's not to say the sensor inside the Sony Alpha A9 falls short – far from it.

Out-of-camera JPEGs deliver excellent levels of detail

The 24MP sensor is capable of delivering images rich in detail, especially when married with some of Sony's G-Master lenses, and results compare very favorably to those from the slightly lower-resolution EOS-1D X Mark II and D5. You should have no qualms about producing sharp Super A3 prints, while A2 sized prints are a reality too.

This converted raw file at ISO12,800 holds up very well

The Alpha A9 also holds its own against its rivals when it comes to high-ISO performance. Looking at JPEG files, even at ISO12,800 results look very good; there's a slight hint of luminance (grain-like) noise, but, while detail has been compromised, the overall result is perfectly useable. Raw files at the same sensitivity see some chroma (color) noise appear, but detail is that bit better, and you have the option to apply noise reduction to taste in post-processing.

All told it's very impressive, and while the A9 doesn't quite eclipse the high-ISO performance of our low-light king, the D5, you have to really pixel-peep to see the differences.

The A9's dynamic range performance, while not quite a match for that of the A7R II, is still broad enough in the real world to enable you to recover a decent amount of highlight detail from raw files. It also copes well with shadows – we found that we could happily drag the Shadows slider in Adobe Camera Raw a good way to the right without the image deteriorating. 

Verdict

The Sony Alpha A9 is a phenomenal camera. It's not without its faults – we'll be interested to see how the weather-sealing holds up when it's properly exposed to the elements for starters, while the absence of XQD card slots and very limited touchscreen control is disappointing.

Those issues aside, however, the Alpha A9 doesn't fail to impress. The autofocus system Sony has blessed the A9 with is not only incredibly quick, but the tracking performance has to be seen to be believed. 

Partner that with a incredibly rapid 20fps burst shooting speed, and a large and bright EVF that doesn't black out when you're shooting, and you've got a camera that'll mix it with the best that Canon and Nikon has to offer when it comes to shooting sports and other fast-paced action. 

Our only slight reservation about whether the Alpha A9 can succeed in this area is not the camera, but the lens support. While photographers shooting with Canon and Nikon DSLRs have a plethora of long lenses to choose from, the Alpha A9 is limited to a single (variable aperture) dedicated zoom lens with a reach beyond 200mm.

Just as Sony is rolling out a series of dedicated pro service centres to meet  the demands of professionals, we hope to see similar efforts result in some new fast telephoto optics to support this fabulous camera.

Competition

Posted: January 15, 2018, 9:17 am

There’s never a shortage of drones at CES 2018 these days, but if you look past all the hexacopter and quadcoptors designed for extreme performance, Ryze unveiled something uniquely simple with the Tello. Priced at $99 (£99, AU$169) Ryze Tello is more of a tiny flying toy to help kids and starting filers into the air.

On top of that, the Tello is brings some fun features including mid-air flips, livestreaming and the ability to program your air frame. Furthermore, the drone is packing some smart tech courtesy of Intel to make it safe and easy to fly indoors.

And in case if you haven't heard of Ryze before, they're a Chinese startup. At the same time DJI is closely partnered as a supplier providing its flight stabilization technology and selling the tiny flier on its online store.

Design

The Ryze Tello really is a little dinky thing when you first see and hold it. Whereas we could hold the DJI Spark in an outstretched hand, the Ryze Tello neatly fits into just our palm. Measuring just 98 x 92.5 x 41mm and weighing 80 grams, it’s an incredibly small drone compared most of the air frames we've seen released so far.

Tininess aside, there’s it's clear the Tello and takes inspiration from the Spark. Both drones share a similar two-tone look and body shape. That said, the Tello gets rid of redundant landing gear and instead extends the bottom of its rotor arms to act as its feet. The result is an even shorter, more compact air frame that should be easier to fly indoors.

Features

The Tello is essentially a smaller DJI Spark in every way. Both drones even pack the same flight stabilization technology and Intel Movidius Myriad 2 VPU, which means you can launch it from your palm and control it with hand motions.

Unfortunately, shrinking things down has led to some downgrades. The drone’s camera utilizes a 5MP sensor that can only record 720p videos – the Spark has a 12MP camera capable of capturing Full HD 1080p footage.

Flight time also cuts off at a maximum 13 minutes, compared to the Spark's 16-minute battery life, although it’s astonishing that a drone this small can fly for so long. You won’t be going anywhere quick with this drone either – its max speed tops out at an 8m/s, and you’ll only be able to fly it outside when there's no wind at all.

On the plus side, the Tello pulls off a few tricks you won’t find even on DJI's drones. For one thing the control interface includes a flip button for being fancy in the air or dodging any Nerf darts at a party. There are also several flight modes, including ones for shooting a quick 360-degree video and having the drone fly away and upward from you in one smooth motion.

Ryze Tello owners will also be able to program their own flight patterns at home, using an included coding tool called Scratch. We haven’t had a chance to try this out ourselves, but we’ve been told it will be simple for anyone to plot their aerial maneuvers.

With an Google Daydream VR-like phone holder, Tello owners will also be able to jump into a POV flying experience.

Early verdict

It’s easy to write off the Tello as a $99 (£99, AU$169) toy drone, but it brings some serious performance to the world of tiny drones. With 13 minutes of flight time and motion-based controls, it’s a much more accessible option than buying another cheap toy drone that you’ll crash-land within minutes of getting airborne.

The Tello isn’t just one of the smallest and cheapest drones, it’s also looks like a ton of fun – the abilities to flip with a single tap and quickly pop into a POV mode with your phone can’t be discounted. We can’t wait to give this drone a full review when it arrives this March.

  • New year, new tech – check out all our coverage of CES 2018 straight from Las Vegas, the greatest gadget show on Earth!
Posted: January 12, 2018, 10:05 pm

The Nikon D850 is finally here. After months of speculation, and Nikon itself teasing us back in July that the camera actually existed and was in development, the D850 has been officially announced – and boy, does it look like it's been worth the wait.

Superseding the brilliant 36.3MP D810 that's loved by both pros and enthusiasts alike, the D850 certainly has big shoes to fill. That said, while the D810 ticked a lot of boxes for photographers, its modest burst shooting speed of 5fps meant it wasn't the perfect all-round DSLR.

Nikon doesn't appear to be holding back with the D850, though, boosting numerous areas of the camera's performance to make it appear (on paper at least), the most well-rounded DSLRs we've seen. Is the D850, then, the ultimate DSLR?

Watch our hands-on video below

Features

  • Full-frame CMOS sensor, 45.4MP
  • 3.2-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 2,359,000 dots
  • 4K video capture

While the D810 retained the same 36.3MP resolution as the groundbreaking Nikon D800/D800e, it's been eclipsed by both the 50.6MP Canon EOS 5DS and 42.2MP Sony Alpha A7R II. The D850, though, gets an all-new 45.4MP full-frame back-illuminated sensor (BSI), which is a hefty increase in pixels over the D810, and only marginally behind the 5DS.

Thanks to the light-collecting elements being closer to the surface of the sensor, the BSI design should deliver better low-light performance than previous sensors. Just as we've seen with the D810 (and D800e), the D850 forgoes an anti-aliasing filter, which means even more detail can be eked out of the sensor, although there is the added risk of moiré patterning. 

On the occasions where you don't want (or need) to shoot at the D850's full resolution, there are two reduced size options, 25.6MP and 11.4MP, recording either raw or JPEG files. We can certainly see this feature appealing to news and sports shooters who'll want to transmit images as quickly a possible to picture desks, and might have otherwise passed up the D850 in favor of the 20.8MP Nikon D5

Another trick up the D850's sleeve is the camera's DX Crop mode, in which the perimeter of the viewfinder is masked to provide a view equivalent to that of an APS-C-format DSLR. The resolution drops, as you're only using a portion of the sensor, but thanks to the D850's huge resolution you'll still be able to capture 19.4MP files – that's impressive stuff, and not far off the 20.9MP resolution of both the D500 or D7500. There's also a new 1:1 aspect ratio at 30.2MP.

Compared to the D500 (and, for that matter, the D5), the Nikon D850 has quite a modest ISO ceiling of 25,600, with a native base sensitivity of ISO64. This is no surprise really when you consider how densely populated the sensor is, but there is an extended sensitivity range up to an ISO equivalent of 108,400 (Hi2), while landscape photographers will be happy to learn that the D850 also has a Lo1 setting equivalent to ISO32.

The D850 sports a new 0.75x optical viewfinder – that's the largest magnification factor ever on an FX Nikon DSLR, and also a touch bigger than the 0.71x viewfinder on the 5DS. Unlike the D810, the D850 also features a tilt-angle, 3.2-inch 2,359,000-dot touchscreen. It's similar in spec to the one on the D500, but offers greater touch control, enabling you to navigate the menus as well as touch to focus, trigger the shutter and review images. 

The D850 can shoot 4K UHD video in FX format with no sensor cropping at up to 30p, allowing you to take full advantage of the field of view of your lenses. Lower-resolution video modes are also available, including Full HD footage in 60p, while 4K UHD timelapse movies can be created in-camera.

If 4K timelapse footage isn't quite enough for you, the D850 can also create a full resolution time-lapse videos in third-party software thanks to the camera's built-in intervalometer – you can now create a new folder and reset the file numbering for each timelapse sequence, and avoid the rigmarole of stripping out the desired files yourself.

The D850 drops the CompactFlash card slot that was on the D810 in favor of an XQD slot

There's also an electronic Vibration Reduction system to reduce the impact of camera shake when shooting movies handheld, and there are ports for an external microphone and audio monitoring.

The D850 drops the CompactFlash card slot that was on the D810 in favor of an XQD slot and the performance advantages that brings (although at the moment Nikon is the only manufacturer to take up this storage format on its cameras), while the SD card slot supports cards up to UHS-II. 

The D850 gets Nikon's SnapBridge connectivity for wireless transfer of images, which establishes a low-energy Bluetooth connection between the camera and your smart device. Images can then be transferred from camera to device via as you shoot at either 2MP or full resolution (though we'd avoid this with 45.4MP files), or individually if you select images on the camera. For speedier Wi-Fi transfers you can use the app to browse and select the images you desire.

Build and handling

  • Magnesium alloy body
  • Comprehensive weather-sealing
  • Weighs 1005g

The Nikon D850 may share similar proportions to the D810, but quite a bit has changed. 

Pick up the camera, and if you're coming from a D810 or D800, the first thing that strikes you is the re-worked grip. It's now that bit deeper, and much more comfortable to hold than its predecessor, especially for longer periods. 

As on the D500, Nikon has omitted the pop-up flash in an effort to make the camera even sturdier. Some may be sorry to see this feature disappear – we've found it useful in the past for triggering remote Speedlights – but it's always felt like a bit of a weak link on a pro-spec DSLR.

And with no pop-up flash, a tough magnesium alloy body, and weather seals to protect it from the elements, the D850 feels every bit the pro DSLR you'd expect it to be. It's incredibly well made, and there's no question this camera's up for the rigors of professional use.

Compared to the D810, the controls have also been tweaked on the D850 – in fact, if you've been shooting with the D500 or D5, it should be pretty much home from home for you, and if you're planning on using different bodies side by side it should making switching between them pretty seamless.

If you're coming from a D810 though, you'll notice that the top plate arrangement has changed for a start, and it's much better for it. The ISO button now sits just behind the shutter button, which makes it easier to adjust single-handed; it's an improvement on the slightly awkward positioning on the D810, where it sat in the cluster of four buttons above the drive mode selector.

The D850 offers a refined shooting experience

Round the back, and along with the tilt-angle display the other notable addition is a small AF joystick, like the one we've seen on both the D500 and D5. This enables you to quickly select your desired focus point, although you can still use the eight-way controller on the back of the camera if you prefer. Its positioning means it falls under the thumb easily; if we're being super-picky it would be nice to be able to assign this as the back-button focus control as well, but the AF-On button is positioned just above the joystick.

As on the D500, you can set the majority of the controls on the Nikon D850 to light up (along with the top-plate LCD) by rotating the on/off switch beyond the 'on' position – it's a really useful feature that makes it much easier to quickly change settings in poor light.

All in all, the D850 offers very refined shooting experience. You'll be able to happily shoot and tweak core shooting settings without taking your eye away from the viewfinder.

Autofocus

  • 153-point AF, 99 cross-type AF points
  • User-selected array limited to 55 points
  • Impressive coverage across the frame

The 51-point autofocus system in the D810 is still one of the best performers out there, but Nikon has equipped the D850 with the same Multi-CAM 20K AF module as its flagship D5. 

In our book this is one of the best, if not the best, autofocus systems we've seen on any camera to date. It features an impressive 153 AF points, of which 55 are user-selectable, while 99 are the more sensitive cross-type points for even greater precision. That's not all – AF sensitivity goes all the way down to -4EV for the central AF point (with the remainder focusing down to -3EV), which should enable the D850 to focus pretty much in almost complete darkness. 

As we've experienced with the D5, the system is excellent, with sports and action photographers unlikely to be disappointed by the D850's autofocus performance. 

If you're coming from the 51-point AF system in the D810 you'll notice the difference, particularly in poor light – even in these tricky conditions the D850's ultra-sensitive AF snapped into focus incredibly quickly. 

We tested the D850 in a range of conditions, with its toughest challenge coming when we shot the Tour of Britain's Time Trial stage. With cyclists going flat-out, the D850 didn't let us down; focusing speed was incredibly quick, even letting us grab shots when cyclists appeared in the frame without warning, while it would happily track fast-moving subjects as they moved towards and across the frame. 

This scene was almost in pitch black when the shot was taken, but the AF performed extremely well. D850 with 85mm f/1.8, 30 sec at f/16, ISO250

As with the D5 (and the D500), Nikon has included its clever automated procedure for fine-tuning lenses on the D850. It's an incredibly useful tool for tweaking the performance of prime lenses for critical focusing, and the system on the D850 has been improved to make it even easier to set up and calibrate your lenses.

Something the D850 can't quite match Canon's latest DSLRs for is Live View performance. While the Dual Pixel CMOS technology used in the likes of the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV can rival that of mirrorless cameras, Live View focusing with the D850 is still a little clunky; it's better than previous models, but still not as swift as it could be. 

Performance

  • 7fps burst shooting (9fps with battery grip)
  • 51 shot raw file buffer
  • 1,840-shot battery life

Despite the decent increase in pixels over the D810, the Nikon D850 features an increased burst shooting speed, up from 5fps to 7fps, making it an even more versatile piece of kit.

Furthermore, attach the optional MB-D18 battery grip to the D850 with a large EN-EL18B battery (as used in the D5) inserted, and that rate will increase to 9fps. This certainly compares favorably with the 5fps shooting speed of both the Canon EOS 5DS and Sony Alpha A7R II, and considering the size of the files the D850 has to process, the 51-shot buffer (at 14-Bit raws) is also very impressive.

The D850's standard battery is the EN-EL15 – it's the same power pack used by the D810, but Nikon has managed to squeeze even more life out of the battery here to deliver a staggering 1,840-shot life. To put that in perspective, you'd need seven NP-FW50 batteries with the Alpha A7R II to reach anything like the D850's battery capacity, or two LP-E6N batteries with a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV.

Something that's bound to appeal to wedding and social photographers is the D850's ability to utilize an electronic shutter to shoot silently at 6fps in Live View mode. Need more speed? Select the DX crop mode and you can shoot 8.6MP pictures at an impressive 30fps.

The D850's Matrix metering system performs well in a range of lighting conditions

The D850 employs a 180K-pixel RGB sensor (the same as the D5's), offering metering down to -3EV. This may not sound like a big deal, but if you're shooting long exposures with ND filters you can now rely fully on the D850’s AE and AF without needing to detach the filter. In our tests, the D850's multi-zone Matrix metering system performed very well under a range of lighting conditions, while the breadth of the camera's dynamic range (more on that in a bit) means you've got a fair bit of leeway should the camera get it wrong.

The D850 features three types of auto white balance to cover you for most scenarios. Auto 0 should faithfully render whites under any light sources, Auto 1 maintains a balance of the original subject color and ambient lighting, while Auto 2 renders colors with a natural sense of warmth, retaining the color of incandescent lighting.

The optical viewfinder is stunning; it's incredibly large and bright, while the clarity of the rear touchscreen display doesn't disappoint.

Image quality

  • ISO64-25,600 (expandable to ISO32-108,400)
  • Additional 25.6MP Medium and 11.4MP Small raw file sizes
  • Built-in focus stacking

As you'd expect from a sensor packing 45.4 million pixels, the level of detail the Nikon D850 is capable of resolving is impressive. You'll be able to produce large prints rich in detail, although it goes without saying that to make the most of the sensor you'll need the best glass.

When it comes to high-ISO noise performance, again the D850 doesn't disappoint. Images up to ISO3200 display excellent levels of detail, with minimal noise, while at ISO3200 there's barely any luminance (grain-like) noise in images, and no hint of chroma (color) noise.

Push above that to ISO6400, and while luminance noise is slightly more pronounced, it's still very good – we'd be more than happy to shoot at this sensitivity. Even at ISO12,800 and ISO25,600, while noise is more noticeable it's still well controlled, and results are more than acceptable. Above that we'd try to avoid the two extended settings, which see saturation dropping off a tad; however, with some tweaking in Lightroom or similar it might be possible to get a satisfactory result at ISO51,200.

The D810 has always impressed with its dynamic range performance, and the good news is that despite the extra pixels populating the D850's sensor it appears to be a similar story here. It's possible to severely underexpose a shot and be able to happily recover shadow detail without unwanted noise encroaching on the shot. 

Manually shooting focus-stacked images can be a chore, but the D850 introduces a focus shift photography function, which enables it to shoot a sequence of up to 300 frames, while gradually and automatically shifting focus position from the start point to infinity. The shutter release interval can be set from 0-30 seconds, while the focus step width can be selected from 10 levels. 

You'll need an image-editing program like Photoshop to then combine the pictures in post-production, but this looks like a great way to quickly shoot highly detailed macro images

Verdict

It's felt like a long time coming, but the Nikon D850 has definitely been worth the wait. To say the specification is comprehensive is an understatement; the D850 is packed with desirable photographic features, while it backs these up with impressive performance and stunning image quality. 

Live View focusing speeds could still be better, while the rather rudimentary SnapBridge connectivity offered is disappointing; but those issues aside, whether you're shooting weddings, landscapes, portraits, action or wildlife, the D850 won't leave you wanting.

A much more versatile proposition than the D810 (and its closest rivals), the D850 is a brilliant DSLR, and perhaps the most well-rounded camera we've ever tested.

Competition

Posted: January 12, 2018, 9:00 am

The Lenovo Mirage Camera eschews the idea of capturing 360-degree video and, instead, focuses on recording brilliant-looking 180-degree footage in 3D.

We tested Daydream VR-supported camera at CES 2018 and can firmly say that '180' doesn't mean it's half as good as the best 360 cameras available. In fact, for a lot of people, it's simpler to use and better than a 360-degree camera.

The Mirage Camera is shaped like a compact and lightweight point-and-shoot camera – one without a display on back and two 13MP camera lenses in front. They look very much like beady eyes, but that's the magic behind being able to shoot super-wide 3D photos and video in a literal snap. It's also easier for your viewers to understand where you want them to look. 360-degree video can be a bit complex to shoot, edit (file sizes are huge) and watch.

There's a familiar shutter button on the top right and a 1/4-inch screw hole for a tripod on the bottom. The battery is removable that lasts two hours when recording video and charges via USB-C. It'll fit right in your pocket unlike Samsung's first bulbously 360-degree camera, for example.

There's 16GB of internal storage and the ability to optionally add up to 128GB of additional space via a microSD card. We really like this feature, not just because of the expandable storage, but if you forget your microSD card at home (i.e. leave it in your computer), you can still snap 3D photos and video with the camera due to its internal storage. You won't see a "No microSD card" message. How many times has that happened to you?

The Lenovo Mirage Camera is tightly integrated to Google Photos and YouTube, supporting the new YouTube VR180 video format. You can view everything you shoot on a television without the need for special equipment. You don't need a VR headset, like you really would to properly experience 360-degree video. Of course, Lenovo would love it if you did and it was the new Lenovo Mirage Solo standalone Daydream headset.

Here's where could see the Lenovo Mirage Camera getting complicated. Without the viewfinder on back, you can't frame your shot. The argument is that it really doesn't matter thanks to the super-wide aspect ratio. And you can always pair a smartphone to this 3D camera via Wi-Fi Direct. But we've been through this before with screen-less GoPros. We like framing our shot and having to view everything with a smartphone makes for a cumbersome process (often falling out of sync). Everything else about the Mirage Camera appears to be made as simple as can be.

Early verdict

The Lenovo Mirage Camera captures 180-degree video in a 360-degree world – and in a world where there are so many 360 cameras. However, we see the appeal behind its simplicity. It's small, lightweight and acts like a point-and-shoot camera. Of course, the results give you super-wide 3D video, and that's going to be easier to a mainstream audience to capture and watch. We'll test it outside of CES when it gets closer to its middle-of-the-year launch and nail down the price information. Lenovo promises it'll cost under $300 (about £221, AU$381).

Posted: January 12, 2018, 2:41 am

The Alpha A7R III is Sony's latest high-resolution mirrorless camera, and an update of the excellent Alpha A7R II, which was responsible for tempting many a photographer away from the comfort of their Canon and Nikon DSLRs. 

This latest model looks to draw on many of the technologies used in the speed-orientated Sony Alpha A9, which is just as well, because with the likes of Nikon's brilliant D850 offering a tempting combination of high resolution and high performance the Alpha A7R II was beginning to look a little pedestrian. 

With some impressive boosts to performance, as well as tweaks to handling and the peace of mind of a five-year guarantee, could the new Alpha A7R III see even more second-hand Canon and Nikon DSLRs appearing on the shelves of camera stores as more photographers make the switch to Sony? 

Features

  • Full-frame stacked CMOS sensor, 42.2MP
  • 3,686K-dot electronic viewfinder with 100fps refresh rate
  • 3.0-inch tilt-angle screen, 1,440,000 dots

While many might have expected Sony to boost the amount of pixels to match or exceed DSLR rivals like the D850 and Canon EOS 5DS, it's actually opted to stick with the same count as the Alpha A7R II.

At the core of the A7R III then is a 42.2MP back-illuminated full-frame Exmor R CMOS sensor, although Sony has borrowed some of the innovations from the 24.2MP Alpha A9 and integrated them with this more densely populated chip. 

There are gapless microlenses and a new anti-flare coating for starters, while the Alpha A7R III features a new front-end LSI that almost doubles the readout speed of the sensor. It also takes advantage of the latest BIONZ X image processing engine, and combined, these enhancements deliver a boost of up to 1.8x in processing speeds compared to the A7R II.

Sony says the A7R III has a staggering 15-stop dynamic range at low sensitivity settings

The A7R III's sensitivity range remains unchanged (ISO50-102,400 at the camera's expanded setting), so those hoping for something to match the Nikon D850's expanded ISO32 setting may be a little disappointed. However, the new processing engine should be able to handle image noise better than its predecessor, while Sony also claims the Alpha A7R III will have a staggering 15-stop dynamic range at low sensitivity settings. 

The Alpha A7R III has the same electronic viewfinder (EVF) as the Alpha A9, with the Quad-VGA OLED EVF sporting a resolution of approximately 3,686k dots, and utilizing a Zeiss T* Coating to reduce reflections. On top of this, the A7R III supports a customizable frame rate for the EVF, with options of either 60fps or 120fps, again matching the 120fps offered by the A9.

Along with the EVF, the rear tilt-angle display has also been upgraded over the outgoing model; it now has a resolution of 1.44 million dots, and, just as we've seen with recent models like the RX10 IV, offers touchscreen functionality. 

Also as with the A9, Sony has shunned the XQD card format (even though it's now the sole manufacturer of that format), instead opting for dual SD card slots on the Alpha A7R III, with only one of those supporting UHS-II type cards.

The Alpha A7R III offers 4K (3840 x 2160 pixels) video capture, with the option to use either the full width of the sensor or Super 35mm format mode, with the latter using the full pixel readout without pixel binning to collect 5K of information, and oversampling this to produce what promises to be even crisper footage. 

As well as this, the Alpha A7R III now features a new HLG (Hybrid Log-Gamma) profile that supports an Instant HDR workflow, allowing HDR (HLG) compatible TVs to play back 4K HDR footage, while both S-Log2 and S-Log3 are also available. 

If you want to shoot Full HD footage you can capture this at up to 120fps, while there are ports for both a microphone and audio monitoring.

Build and handling

  • Magnesium alloy construction
  • Dust- and moisture-sealed
  • Weighs 657g

The look and feel of the Sony Alpha A7R III broadly follows the design of the A7R II, but there are a host of tweaks and refinements when you start looking a little closer. 

While the new camera doesn't get the dedicated drive mode dial/focus mode selector that sits to the left of the EVF on the Alpha A9, it does get a similar multi-selector joystick.

It may seem a small thing, but the arrival of the joystick greatly improves handling over the A7R II, as it makes for much quicker AF point selection. The A7R III also sees the addition of a dedicated AF-ON button for back-button focusing, again as on the A9.

In fact, the rear of the camera mimics the control layout of the A9 – that means the A7R III gets an additional 'C3' custom button, while the rear scrollwheel is more pronounced, and less likely to be accidentally knocked.

The changes may be modest, but they combine to make the A7R III that much more user-friendly and satisfying to shooting with

The rear touch display, meanwhile, does away with an annoying quirk of the A7R II. If you were shooting from the waist with the screen angled outward, the older camera would think you had the camera raised to your eye, resulting in the feed being cut on the screen. The display on the A7R III disables the eye sensor when the screen is flipped out, allowing you to shoot at waist level uninterrupted. 

The body is slightly thicker than the A7R II, but fractionally slimmer than the A9, and features a magnesium alloy top, front and rear covers, as well as an internal frame. Sony has also increased the number of lens mount screws to six for enhanced durability, while all major buttons and dials are sealed, and there's sealing throughout the body, to protect the A7R III from dust and moisture.

The menu system has also been overhauled. Now color-coded, it's that bit easier to navigate, but the menu system on the Alpha A7R III is still incredibly comprehensive. That said, once you've tailored the various custom buttons to your desired settings, these, along with the body-mounted controls, mean there should be little need to be regularly diving into the main menu. When you do though, give yourself a bit of time to find exactly what you're looking for.

The changes may be modest, but they combine to make the A7R III that much more user-friendly and satisfying to shoot with. 

Autofocus

  • 399 phase-detection points
  • 425 contrast-detection points
  • Eye AF with enhanced tracking performace

Sony has improved the focusing system as well. The 399 focal-plane phase-detection AF points from the A7R II remain (with 68% coverage of the frame), but Sony has bolstered the number of contrast-detection AF points from 25 to 400. 

Sony reckons this overhaul should improve autofocus speed, delivering up to roughly two times faster speeds in low-light conditions, along with improved AF tracking performance. 

The Alpha A7R III can also focus in brightness levels as low as -3EV. When you consider that's pretty much complete darkness, it's very impressive, although the D850's central AF point just edges it at -4EV.

As we've seen on other Sony mirrorless cameras, there's a wide range of autofocus settings. Wide or Zone modes are good for general photography and will take care of much of the decision-making for you, while Center mode uses the central AF point. 

There’s also a Flexible Spot mode (with the choice of three AF area sizes) that enables you to use the joystick to position the focus area pretty much anywhere in the frame, while the Expanded Flexible Spot mode takes advantage of additional AF points to assist with focusing. 

Focusing is fast in single servo mode, but it's when you flick the focusing over to continuous that the system really impressives. You get the same focusing modes as before, but with the addition of a Lock-on setting – use this mode and you'll find the Alpha A7R III can do a stunning job of tracking your designated subject as it moves round the frame. 

The Alpha A7R III's Eye AF has also been enhanced, and now uses the same autofocus algorithms as the Alpha 9. This means that when the A7R III is in AF-C mode and with Eye-AF activated, the system should be able to continuously track and focus on your subject's eye, even if they look down or away from the camera.

In our time with the camera this really impressed us. The A7R III managed to happily maintain focus on a subject in two challenging scenarios – while they were moving round the frame quickly as well as moving towards us, or looking down or away from the camera. 

Performance

  • 10fps burst shooting
  • 5-axis image stabilization
  • 530-shot battery life

While the A7R II could only manage 5fps burst shooting, the enhanced processing power inside the Alpha A7R III sees that rate double to 10fps, and that's with continuous AF/AE tracking. It can sustain this for up to 76 JPEG/raw images, or 28 uncompressed 14-bit raws. 

You have the option of using the A7R III's mechanical shutter to achieve this, or if you prefer you can opt for the camera's electronic shutter for silent shooting. And, rather than having to wait while the camera writes large quantities of images to the card, it's still possible to use many of the A7R III's key functions.

The Alpha A7R III is kitted out with Sony's 5-axis optical image stabilization system, and this has been tweaked for the new camera to deliver a 5.5-stop shutter speed advantage, improving on the A7R II's 4.5-stop system. To reduce the risk of vibration and image blur, especially when shooting at 10fps, there's a new low-vibration shutter mechanism. 

You can expect the A7R III to carry on shooting for 530 frames

The electronic viewfinder is excellent, with a clear and large view thanks to the fast refresh rate and 3,686k-dot resolution, while the rear display doesn't disappoint either. 

One of the biggest complaints levelled at the A7R II was its poor battery life, with just 270 shots possible if you were lucky. Sony has swapped out the W-series battery used in that camera and replaced it with its latest Z-series unit, and you can expect the A7R III to carry on shooting for 530 shots if you use the viewfinder, or 650 shots using the rear display. It's a welcome improvement, but still some way behind the likes of the Nikon D850's 1,840-shot rating.

Image quality

  • ISO100-32,000, expandable to 50-102,400
  • 15-stop dynamic range
  • 14-bit raw shooting

The Alpha A7R III is able to resolve an impressive level of detail; you'd be hard-pushed to distinguish between its images and those from the more densely populated sensors on the 45.2MP Nikon D850 and 50MP Canon EOS 5DS. At the end of the day, if you're planning to produce large A2 sized prints, you won't be disappointed with the files from the Alpha A7R III.

Noise control is another area in which the Alpha A7R III is very strong. Noise levels are kept well within acceptable limits, delivering pleasing results with natural-looking granular noise and minimal Chroma (color) noise even when you're shooting at the higher end of the native sensitivity range (up to ISO32,000). As with most cameras, we'd avoid resorting to the high expansion settings (the maximum here is ISO102,400) unless getting a shot is more important than its ultimate quality.

The Alpha A7R III's dynamic range performance is also very impressive. If you're shooting at low sensitivities and purposefully underexposing the shot to retain highlights, you'll have to really push the file in post-processing before you see any signs of quality beginning to deteriorate in the shadows. For general editing of raw files where you want to recover detail, you've got plenty of flexibility with the A7R III's files. 

Verdict

If Nikon thought it was going to have things all its own way with the D850, it should think again. Sony has taken one of our favorite mirrorless cameras and bolstered the performance to make the new Alpha A7R III a much more capable and well-rounded offering.

As we've seen with the D850, you no longer have to sacrifice performance for resolution or vice versa. The heady mix of 42.2MP and high performance that includes 10fps burst shooting and a very sophisticated AF system is bound to help this camera appeal to an even broader range of photographers than the older model. This is a camera that would be equally at home perched on a mountain as in a studio or on the sidelines of a football match.

For now, the Alpha A7R III is not only the most well-rounded mirrorless camera you can buy, but one of the best cameras out there.  

Competition

Posted: January 5, 2018, 12:15 pm
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So you want to get into photography and are looking for a decent camera that you can build a system around?  

A few years ago that was easy question to answer – you had to buy a DSLR. But then in 2008 Panasonic launched its first mirrorless camera, the Lumix G1, and everything changed.

Like DSLRs, mirrorless cameras (also known as CSCs or compact system cameras) allow you to change lenses, but as the name might suggest, the don't feature a complex mirror system like DSLRs do. 

This means that they can in principle be smaller, lighter and mechanically simpler. They can also be just like super-sized compact cameras to use, whereas DSLRs are a bit of a jump from a regular compact.

With no mirror, there's no optical viewfinder, with models either relying on the rear screen or featuring electronic viewfinders

Enthusiasts and pros, however, have taken a bit of convincing on the merits of mirrorless cameras. With no mirror, there's no optical viewfinder, with models either relying on the rear screen or featuring electronic viewfinders, while there have been concerns over image quality, features and handling in the past.

Perhaps most importantly, compared to established DSLR systems, the lens ranges of these mirrorless systems isn't quite as extensive. 

With a raft of new mirrorless cameras and growing lens ranges, have mirrorless cameras done enough to be genuine DSLR rivals or, more to the point, are they already better? To help you decide, here are the key differences and what they mean for everyday photography.

  • DSLR: Can be big and bulky, though this can be a help when shooting with big telephoto lenses (and big hands)
  • CSC: Yes, they are generally smaller and lighter, but the lenses in some cases can be just as big as a DSLR's

Small size is one of the big selling points for mirrorless cameras, but it doesn't always work out that way because what you actually have to take into account is the size of the camera body and lens combination. 

This is a problem for mirrorless cameras with either full-frame or APS-C sized sensors because you can get a nice slim body but a fat, heavy lens on the front. Some models now come with retractable or power-zoom 'kit' lenses, but that doesn't help when you have to swap to a different type of lens. 

Panasonic and Olympus cameras have an advantage here. The Micro Four Thirds sensor format is smaller (which many photographers don't like) but this means the lenses are smaller and lighter too (which many do), delivering a much more compact system all round.

Interestingly, some higher-end mirrorless cameras are now growing in size as they take on more features and manufacturers respond to feedback from photographers who want larger grips, while entry-level DSLRs are shrinking to compete with the smaller footprint of similarly priced CSCs.

  • DSLR: Both Canon and Nikon have a massive lens range for every job
  • CSC: Olympus, Panasonic and Fujifilm have good and growing ranges. Sony is doesn't have quite the breadth, but is catching up quickly

If you want the widest possible choice of lenses, then a Canon or Nikon DSLR is possibly the best bet thanks to their huge range of optics - they both have an extensive range of lenses to suit a range of price points, as well as excellent third party support from the likes of Sigma and Tamron. 

While Canon and Nikon have both had decades to build-up and refine their lens line-up (Nikon's lens mount is unchanged from 1959), while the first mirrorless camera only appeared 10 years ago. However, mirrorless cameras are certainly gaining ground. Because Olympus and Panasonic use the same Micro Four Thirds lens mount and have been established the longest, the range of Micro Four Third lenses is the most comprehensive, offering a broad range of optics, from ultra wide-angle zooms to fast prime telephoto lenses. 

Fujifilm's lens system is growing all the time, with some lovely prime lenses and excellent fast zoom lenses. Even the 18-55mm 'kit' lens is very good. There's still a few gaps in the range, but Fujifilm's definitely working hard to deliver a comprehensive and high-quality range of lenses.

Sony offers some really nice high-end optics that are designed for its full-frame line of cameras, but it could do with introducing more glass, especially at focal lengths beyond 200mm, though a 400mm f/2.8 is in development. 

  • DSLR: Many photographers still prefer an 'optical' view for its clarity, natural look and lag-free viewing
  • CSC: Others though prefer to see a digital rendition of the scene as the camera will capture it

All DSLRs, even the cheapest, come with an optical viewfinder because it's an integral part of the DSLR design. However, quite a few entry-level mirrorless cameras don't have viewfinders at all, so you have to use the rear LCD to compose photos, which doesn't always work so well in bright light.

Mirrorless cameras with viewfinders cost more, and these are electronic rather than optical viewfinders – they display the image direct from the sensor readout and not via an optical mirror/pentaprism system.

Electronic viewfinders are advancing in leaps and bounds, so the latest rarely show any pixelation or 'granularity' that was an issue in earlier generations, though there can often be a slight but visible 'lag' if you move the camera quickly.

The advantage of electronic viewfinders is that they can display a lot more information than an optical viewfinder can, including live image histograms, for example. They can also simulate the digital image the camera will capture, so you don't get any horrible surprises when you review your image.

This simulation is not always perfect, however, and many photographers prefer to see the world with their own eyes as they compose the image and check the digital version on the LCD straight after it's been captured. They're also easier to use in low-light.

This will come down to personal preference - get one of the latest high-end mirrorless cameras with a large magnification, large resolution electronic viewfinder, and you'll be hard pressed to find fault with it.

  • DSLR: Used to have a clear advantage, but not quite as clear-cut now. On the whole they're better for tracking fast subjects, but can be weak in Live View
  • CSC: Live View AF performance is generally very good when using the LCD screen, while latest models can have excellent overall AF performance when using the EVF

DSLRs use fast and efficient 'phase detection' autofocus modules mounted below the mirror in the body. This system can be incredibly fast at focusing and tracking subjects, with camera's like the Nikon D850 featuring incredibly sophisticated system. 

The trouble is that these systems only work while the mirror is down. If you're using a DSLR in live view mode, composing a picture or video on the LCD display, the mirror has to be flipped up and the regular AF module is no longer in the light path. Instead, DSLRs have to switch to a slower contrast AF system using the image being captured by the sensor.

The latest Canon DSLRs (such as the EOS Rebel T7i / EOS 800D, EOS 80D and EOS 5D Mark IV) though include the company's Dual Pixel CMOS AF that uses phase-detection pixels built into the sensor. This is designed to give faster autofocus in live view mode to close the gap on CSCs.

Mirrorless cameras have to use sensor-based autofocus all the time. Most are contrast AF based, but these tend to be much faster than equivalent contrast AF modes on DSLRs, partly due to the fact the lenses have been designed around this system. 

More advanced mirrorless cameras have advanced 'hybrid' AF systems combining contrast autofocus with phase-detection pixels on the sensor, with the likes of the Fujifilm X-T2, Panasonic Lumix G9 and Sony Alpha A9 really impressing with not only their speed, but with the accuracy at which they can lock on and follow a moving subject – the one area where DSLRs have, until now, had a clear advantage.

  • DSLR: The best DSLRs can no longer match the speeds of the best CSCs
  • CSC: The mirrorless design makes it easier to add high-speed shooting

You need a fast continuous shooting mode to capture action shots, and mirrorless cameras are streaking ahead here, partly because the mirrorless system means there are fewer moving parts and partly because many models are now pushing ahead into 4K video – this demands serious processing power, which helps with continuous shooting too.

To put this in perspective, Canon's top professional DSLR, the EOS-1D X Mark II, can shoot at 14 frames per second, but the mirrorless Panasonic Lumix G9 and Sony Alpha A9 can both shoot at a staggering 20fps. 

You have to be a little careful though when looking at the spec. Some mirrorless cameras will boast even higher frame rates than this (in some cases, up to 60fps), but will have to use an electronic shutter to achieve this and focus will be fixed from the first shot. 

You've also got to be realistic about what kind of burst shooting speeds you are going to need - shooting at 60fps means you'll fill up a card pretty quickly, while you'll have to spend a lot of time trudging through a multitude of images to find that 'one' shot. 

  • DSLR: Once massively popular with pros but getting overtaken by mirrorless rivals
  • CSC: 4K video is becoming more common, better live view AF – this looks like the future

DSLRs were the first to offer professional HD and Full HD video, together with a vast range of lenses and other accessories, and pros prefer systems with solid, long-term support.

This means that initially most pros shooting video used a DSLR, but that's changed as mirrorless cameras advance and offer a wealth of video features that most DSLRs can't match.

4K capture is a more common feature for starters on mirrorless cameras, while DSLRs have been slow to offer this functionality. There's also the efficient live view autofocus and processing power offered by mirrorless cameras, while there's a growing range of adapters and accessories out there to offer users a complete system.

Panasonic has carved out a niche for itself with the Lumix GH5, offering a hybrid stills/video camera that's loved by enthusiast photographers and professional cinematographers, while Sony has opted for a similar approach with the Alpha A7S II

  • DSLR: Even entry-level models have full manual controls, and DSLRs are powerful cameras
  • CSC: They match DSLRs feature for feature, often going a step or two further

In terms of photographic features and controls, DSLRs and mirrorless cameras are hard to split here. 

They all offer full manual control over exposure and focusing and can shoot raw files as well as JPEGs, allowing you to get the best image quality possible. In any one sector, such as entry-level cameras, enthusiast or pro models, the control layouts and capabilities are pretty similar. Entry-level DSLRs tend to hide away the manual controls under a layer of automation, but it's the same for mirrorless cameras.

Keep in mind the point about viewfinders, though – all DSLRs have viewfinders, but often cheaper compact system cameras don't.

  • DSLR: DSLRs use the latest and best state of the art APS-C or full-frame sensors
  • CSC: They use the same sensors, but there are also smaller formats for even smaller cameras

There's nothing to choose here either. Currently, the highest resolution is in a DSLR, the 50MP chip nestled inside the Canon EOS 5Ds, but the 42.2MP Sony Alpha A7R III isn't far behind.

It's not just about megapixels, though, because the main factor in image quality is sensor size. Full-frame sensors are the biggest and offer the best quality, while cameras with APS-C sensors are almost just as good and much cheaper – and you can get either of these size sensors in both DSLRs and mirrorless cameras.

But the compact system camera market offers smaller formats too. The Micro Four Thirds format used by Panasonic and Olympus is smaller than APS-C, but so are the cameras and lenses, so you need to weigh up what's most important to you - size or ultimate image quality.

Overall, then, there's no intrinsic image quality advantage in a DSLR, given that the same sensor sizes are available in mirrorless cameras too.

  • DSLR: 600-800 shots is average, better models can shoot over 1,000 shots on a charge
  • CSC: Much weaker, and typically around 300-400 shots. You'll need spare batteries

Battery life comparisons might not be exciting, but they are important when the differences are as great as this. The Nikon D7500 DSLR, for example, can take 950 shots on a single charge, while the Fujifilm X-T2 mirrorless camera, a close match on paper, can only shoot 340 photos before the battery expires. This pattern is repeated across the range of DSLRs and mirrorless cameras.

It's not clear why. DSLR batteries are sometimes larger, though not always, and you might have thought that driving the mirror up and down for each shot would consume more power, and that that LCD display would be used just as much. However, mirrorless cameras will have to power and EVF in most cases as well.

Apparently not, though, and this is one area where DSLRs do often have a substantial practical advantage. You'll certainly need an extra battery or two with most mirrorless cameras.

  • DSLR: You get more for your money with a cheap DSLR than a cheap CSC
  • CSC: Cheap CSCs don't have viewfinders; those that do cost a more

You might hope that the simpler design of a compact system camera would make them cheaper to buy, but that's not necessarily the case. 

If you want a fully-featured, 'proper' camera for the least money, then a DSLR is still the cheapest option...but it's getting a lot closer between the two.

For example, the 24MP Nikon D3400 DSLR has just about the best APS-C sensor currently on the market, an optical viewfinder (of course), decent manual controls and 700-shot battery life.

Its nearest rivals on price in the mirrorless camera market can't match its resolution or its battery life and they don't have viewfinders, but for only a little more the Sony Alpha A6000 packs in an almost identical 24MP APS-C sensor and features a built-in electronic viewfinder. You'll still need to get a second battery though. That said, it's only that cheap because it's been superseded.

Once you get into enthusiast and pro market, however, the differences largely disappear – for any given amount of money you get broadly the same features, performance and power.

  • DSLR: Sturdy, good value cameras offering old-school handling and top image quality
  • CSC: Smaller, technically more advanced and arguably the way forward

The technical differences between DSLRs and CSCs aren't the only things you need to consider, and may not even be the most important to you. 

The only way to decide once and for all is to pick them up and try them out to see which you prefer. You might prefer the fat, chunky feel and optical viewfinder of a DSLR, or you might prefer the smaller bodies and more precise feel of a mirrorless camera. It'll really come down to what you like to shoot and what the camera can deliver - and pay attention to the lenses offered and accessories available as well.

For novices and those on a budget, an entry-level DSLR gives you more than a cheap mirrorless camera. Further up the price range, it's a close call, but you'd have to say that while some might prefer their handling and their viewing system, there are fewer and fewer technical reasons why a DSLR should be considered the best option for photographers.

Posted: January 17, 2018, 12:30 pm

It’s often said that any camera is only as good as the lens you put on the front of it. Recent FX (full-frame) format Nikon bodies like the D810 and D850 certainly set the bar high, with high-pixel-count sensors that draw attention to any shortfall in sharpness. But there’s more to a good lens than just its ability to resolve fine detail.

Handling is a key factor in how a lens performs in real-world shooting. You’ll need fast and accurate autofocus, to ensure you nail defining moments in anything from a fleeting expression in portraiture to action sports and wildlife photography. In handheld shooting, effective optical stabilization can make the difference between capturing images that are fit for a gallery, or just fit for the bin.

Increasingly, shortfalls in various aspects of image quality can be corrected in-camera

Even outright image quality is about much more than mere sharpness. Good contrast is highly desirable, even when shooting wide-open at the largest available aperture. Other attributes we tend to look for are minimal distortion and color fringing, good resistance to ghosting and flare, and reasonably low vignetting (darkened image corners). Increasingly, shortfalls in various aspects of image quality can be corrected in-camera, or in post-processing, but that’s a poor substitute for great optical quality.

Nikon or third-party?

Other facets of image quality are harder to quantify, like ‘bokeh’ (the attractiveness of defocused areas within images). It’s a critical aspect of performance for ‘fast’ lenses that enable a tight depth of field as well as enabling you to retain moderate shutter speeds even under dull lighting without the need to really push your camera’s ISO setting.

It’s certainly not always the case that own-brand Nikon lenses outperform competitors from independent manufacturers like Sigma and Tamron. Indeed, some of the latest lenses launched by independent companies are simply superb, and there are some serious bargains to be had.

Based on our extensive lab tests and ‘real-world’ testing, we’re proud to present our top 10 lenses in a wide range of popular categories, as well as great-value alternatives to suit tighter budgets. Let’s take a closer look at all the winners.

You have to go some to beat Nikon’s legendary AF-S 14-24mm f/2.8G ED ultra-wide zoom, but that’s exactly what Sigma has done with this spectacular lens. Like its predecessor, it boasts a class-leading maximum viewing angle, thanks to an incredibly short minimum focal length for an FX format zoom. However, the new ‘Art’ lens has upgraded optics with an extra-large-diameter aspherical element at the front and five top-notch FLD (Fluorite-equivalent Low Dispersion) elements. Fluorine coatings are applied to the front and rear elements, and the mounting plate gains a weather-seal ring. The autofocus system is revamped and noticeably faster, and the new lens switches to a constant-aperture design. From an image quality standpoint, sharpness and control over distortion are excellent, and represent considerable improvements over the previous edition. As with many ultra-wide lenses the hood is built-in, offering physical protection to the bulbous front element. However, this means you can’t easily fit filters, unless you go for a system like the Lee Filters SW150 Mk II.

Great-value option: Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD

It’s not quite as ultra-wide as the Sigma, but this Tamron undercuts it for cost, while adding optical stabilization and a faster f/2.8 aperture rating.

Sigma’s ‘Art’ lenses are designed to unleash photographers’ creative potential, delivering excellent image quality and fast aperture ratings. There’s a large selection of f/1.4 primes to choose from in the range, including 20mm, 24mm, 35mm, 50mm and 85mm lenses. This 20mm lens is not only the widest-angle f/1.4 optic in the group (there’s also a 14mm f/1.8 lens), but is remarkable for combining such a wide aperture with such a short focal length. The no-compromise design and superlative image quality are enabled by an extra-large-diameter aspherical lens; this makes for an undeniably chunky and heavy build, but it’s a beast of a lens.

Great-value option: Irix 15mm f/2.4 Firefly

It lacks autofocus, but this is a fabulous manual-focus lens that’s beautifully built and a real joy to use. The ‘Blackstone’ edition adds a couple of extra luxuries, but the Firefly is unbeatable value.

This lens literally dwarfs most standard zooms, but at least the physical length remains fixed throughout the zoom and focus ranges. It builds on the success of its predecessor, adding Vibration Reduction and improving the optical path and build quality. Enhancements include four ED elements, an HRI (High Refractive Index) element, Nano Crystal Coat, fluorine coatings on the front and rear elements, and an electromagnetically controlled diaphragm. Image quality is excellent in most respects, although color fringing can be noticeable if uncorrected, and vignetting is quite severe at f/2.8.

Great-value option: Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2

The G2 (Generation 2) edition of Tamron’s 24-70mm lens combines excellent image quality with a tough build and great handling. The original edition is still on sale as well, and rather less expensive to buy.

Our top choice of ‘portrait prime’ for DX-format DSLRs is also our favored standard prime for FX cameras. Compared to the excellent Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art lens, the Tamron loses two-thirds of an f/stop in aperture rating, but is a much more manageable size and weight, and gains optical stabilization. You could argue that you don’t really need stabilization in such a ‘fast’ lens, but we disagree. Standard primes are often used in preference to zoom lenses, for their excellent sharpness and minimal distortion, not just for their faster apertures. You might well want to dial in a medium or narrow aperture setting to extend the depth of field, so stabilization can be a big help in handheld shooting.

Great-value option: Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.4G

Compared with the ‘budget’ Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.8G, this f/1.4 lens is about twice the price, but still rather less expensive than the Tamron. It’s nice and sharp, but you do forego stabilization.

Superzooms for DX-format cameras are often referred to as ‘travel lenses’ because they deliver a big zoom range, stretching from wide-angle to telephoto focal lengths, usually in a fairly compact and easily manageable package. This avoids the need to carry more than one lens if you’re trekking around the city, or flying to the other side of the world. The travel-friendly theme is somewhat lost in the FX-format camp, however, and this superzoom tips the scales at 800g. Even so, it’s a useful lens for event photography and other times you need to quickly and repeatedly switch between wide-angle and telephoto shooting. As is often the case, the extended zoom range comes at the cost of compromised image quality – in this case it's good rather than great, with mediocre sharpness and severe distortions and vignetting.

Great-value option: Tamron 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di VC PZD

It’s a cheaper option than Nikon’s FX-format superzoom and delivers similar image quality, but the autofocus system is comparatively basic and build quality doesn’t feel quite as good.

There are some fabulous 85mm f/1.4 portrait lenses on the market, including Nikon’s own AF-S 85mm f/1.4G and Sigma’s 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM | A. This Tamron can’t quite compete on aperture rating but adds optical stabilization, which is lacking in the other two lenses. It’s also significantly less expensive to buy. While the slightly narrower maximum aperture might seem to give the Tamron a disadvantage when it comes to blurring the background in portraiture, the lens actually produces a wonderfully smooth bokeh, while maintaining excellent sharpness at the point of focus. For indoor portraiture without flash, or for handheld shooting in low-light conditions, the stabilizer is well worth having, even when using a very wide aperture; it’s even more of a benefit when using narrower apertures for extending the depth of field, to put portrait sitters into the context of their surroundings.

Great-value option: Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8G

This Nikon lens is a bargain if you’re willing to stick with f/1.8 rather than stretching to an f/1.4 aperture, although it doesn’t feature stabilization.

Almost as expensive as Nikon’s popular Nikon AF-S 105mm f/2.8 G IF ED VR Micro lens, the latest edition of this Tamron classic includes a revolutionary hybrid optical stabilization system. Essentially, this can counteract shift in the vertical and horizontal axes, as well as angular vibration or wobble, which gives superior stabilization, especially for close-up shots. In our tests, the Tamron proved a little sharper than the Nikon, especially for extreme close-ups, while defocused areas look a little smoother.

Great-value option: Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM Macro

It lacks the Tamron’s hybrid stabilization system and weather seals, but has refined handling and delivers superb image quality.

Nikon’s pre-digital-age 70-300mm ED lens was hugely popular, and the later VR edition has long been a favorite with DSLR shooters. It’s now been replaced by this lens, which features much of Nikon’s latest technology, including an AF-P (Pulse) autofocus system based on a stepping motor. This delivers rapid performance for shooting stills, along with smooth and virtually silent focus transitions for movie capture. It also features an electromagnetically controlled diaphragm, for more consistent apertures in rapid-fire shooting using fast continuous drive mode. On top of that, you get Nikon’s recently introduced Sport VR mode, which makes it easier to track erratically moving subjects in the viewfinder. However, the AF-P autofocus and electromagnetic diaphragm control make the lens incompatible with some older DSLRs, and the relatively expensive price tag stretches the notion of a ‘budget telephoto zoom’.

Great-value option: Tamron SP 70-300mm f/4-5.6 Di VC USD

As well as being our top pick for DX-format cameras, thanks to its good performance and relatively inexpensive price, this Tamron is also a smart budget buy for FX bodies.

The go-to telephoto for most professionals, a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens gives you good telephoto reach, and retains a respectable f/5.6 aperture rating at up to 400mm when used with a 2x teleconverter. Top tricks include auto and manual priority autofocus options, a Sport VR mode, and an electronically controlled diaphragm, all of which are also featured in Nikon’s new 70-300mm ‘budget’ telephoto zoom. This top-flight lens is supremely well built, however, more suited to professional use. The autofocus system is super-fast and image quality is stunning, with incredible contrast and sharpness.

Great-value option: Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2

This directly competing second-generation Tamron’s 70-200mm f/2.8 lens is very nearly as good as the own-brand Nikon, but costs about half the price.

Despite significantly undercutting the popular Nikon AF-S 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR for price, this Sigma ‘Sport’ lens delivers 50% more telephoto reach and packs a real punch in terms of performance. Rarely for a Sigma lens, it features a full set of weather seals, and there’s no shortage of high-tech treats. Auto and manual priority autofocus modes are available, and the clever zoom lock mechanism enables you to lock the position at any marked focal length, rather than just at the short end of the zoom range. Excellent contrast and sharpness are retained all the way to the maximum 600mm focal length, distortions and color fringing are very well controlled, and the ring-type autofocus system does well to keep up with even fast-moving subjects.

Great-value option: Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM | C

Nearly a kilogram lighter in weight, this Contemporary lens retains many of the advanced features of the Sport edition, but is cheaper to buy and less of a strain in handheld shooting.

Posted: January 16, 2018, 5:00 pm

Spoiler alert! The video above includes the results of our iPhone X vs Red Scarlet-X test, so before watching it read on to learn more about our two contenders, and how we conducted the test.

Smartphone cameras have seriously improved over the last few years, putting high-quality video recording into the hands of professionals and non-professionals alike. 

The iPhone X is one of the best when it comes to smartphone video capture, but just how far has recording on our handsets come?

We took to the streets of Cambridge to shoot with the iPhone X and the Red Scarlet-X, an pro-level video camera used to shoot feature films, for a side-by-side comparison in an attempt to find out. 

Disclaimer: We’re aware this is far from a ‘fair’ test. The two devices are designed to be used for very different reasons, and the price difference is huge. This test is to see just how far smartphone cameras have come – and you may be surprised by some of the results.

Hardware: phone vs cinema cam

The iPhone X is capable of recording 4K video at up to 60fps, technology that was once only available in professional-level cameras. The 12MP dual cameras around the back have optical image stabilization, which helps minimize camera shake making for a smooth shot. The primary camera has an f/1.8 aperture wide-angle lens, while the secondary camera has an f/2.4 2x zoom lens – both great for allowing more light to hit the sensor, and especially useful in dark scenarios. 

The Red Scarlet-X is a professional cinema camera from Red Digital Cinema. Red has been making digital cameras since the original Red One released in 2008, and its cameras have had a huge impact on modern digital cinematography. 

The Scarlet-X is one of Red’s older cameras, introduced in 2011, featuring a previous-generation Mysterium X sensor, and shoots beautiful raw video in 4K. 

It's a pretty cumbersome, and pretty expensive, setup. It's now discontinued, but a second-hand rig, including lens, batteries and storage, will set you back in the region of $6,000 (around £4,500 or AU$7,500).

Meanwhile, as expensive as the iPhone X is for a phone at $999 / £999 / AU$1,579, it’s a good deal cheaper than the Scarlet-X, and it's a complete and obviously much more compact solution. Perhaps the only accessory you’ll need in addition to a tripod is a power bank to keep your battery topped up.

Red specifics

Red takes pride in the modularity of its cameras, making custom rigs possible, but the downside of this is that you need multiple pieces of kit to make the camera work, which adds to the cost. We kept our setup simple with a 5-inch Red touch monitor, 64GB SSD, V-Mount battery and a Canon 24-105mm L lens. 

The Red shoots in a very flat picture style, designed to be color-graded in post-production to draw the most detail from the shadows and highlights. This allows a good deal of flexibility, as the user can completely change the mood of the shot. For casual users posting to social media though, this may be a hindrance, as images straight out of the camera will lack any 'pop'. 

It’s clear that the Red camera is better geared for cinema, but that doesn’t mean an iPhone can’t shoot a movie. Filmic Pro claims that with its app, which we used for this comparison, a phone can create video that holds up on a cinema screen. 

In fact, some filmmakers have already dived into the world of smartphone filmmaking. Most notably, the film Tangerine was shot entirely on an iPhone 5S, and later premiered at the Sundance film festival. It looked very impressive, although it still maintained a noticeable camera phone aesthetic. 

Shooting setup

We filmed with both cameras side-by-side, capturing various 4K shots in beautiful Cambridge. The goal wasn’t to prove how the Scarlet-X is better, but more to see how well the iPhone footage holds up in comparison. 

Using a magic arm, we rigged the iPhone above the Red’s lens so the two lenses where as close together as possible, then filmed at the same time. Due to the Red’s flat picture style, we color-graded its footage to align more closely with the iPhone's.

Apple’s included camera app has been designed for a basic point and shoot experience. This comes with limitations as it lacks manual controls, therefore a third-party camera app such as Filmic Pro is recommended. 

Filmic Pro allows 100Mb/s recording. It’s not free, though – it'll cost you £14.99 / $14.99 / $22.99 to download it from the App Store.

We wanted to see how well the cameras performed in different scenarios. Starting with shots designed to test detail and dynamic range, we shot in bright sun with varying levels of light, and captured wide-shots and mid-shots, and buildings and faces, to make sure the cameras were properly put through their paces. 

We also tested the low-light capabilities of each camera, and while this round in particular might seem like a foregone conclusion, don’t count your chickens – the results were quite surprising despite the iPhone sporting such a small sensor and lens combination. 

Lastly, we tested stabilization by walking with the cameras in a straight line. This was to see how well each camera handled the natural shake from the user's hands. The Red camera doesn't have optical image stabilization, but the lens we were using did.

The results

And so to the results. TechRadar’s video producer, Basil Kronfli, reviewed the footage blind, not knowing which images were from which camera. He offered his thoughts, which you can see in the video at the top of the page, and was very impressed with how well both cameras performed. 

To blind-test the cameras yourself, watch the video on mute, then play it back with Basil’s commentary. Hopefully you’ll be as impressed and surprised as we were by the capabilities of Apple’s all-in-one pocket camcorder.

Posted: January 16, 2018, 12:40 pm

Action cameras are unlike any other kind of camera. They're designed to be attached to helmets, surfboards, cars and other objects, and they're small, tough and simple to operate, with a lens that captures the world in high-definition video and in a wide-angle fish-eye perspective.

Their small size and dramatic POV ('point of view') footage has made them popular with extreme sports participants, who capture their adventures by attaching cameras to themselves or their equipment. They're also used by TV production companies where using a regular video camera would be impossible.

GoPro is the market leader with its iconic box-shaped Hero cameras, but action cams also come in a 'bullet' style, like the TomTom Bandit. There's lots of choice now, and you shouldn't just buy on brand – think about what you want from an action camera and how you plan to use it.

If you're helmet-mounting, then a bullet cam will probably be the best choice. For a chest mount a box design will be more stable. And when it comes to features, do you really need Wi-Fi, 4K, GPS or even a screen? These all bump up the price, and while they are invaluable in some situations, you can still get great footage without them.

While it may appear to be a minor update from the Hero5 Black on the outside, a lot's changed on the inside. The Hero6 Black gets a new GP1 processing engine, allowing you to record super high-quality 4K footage at 60fps. Other highlights include an improved image stabilization system, while the Hero6 Black offers a wider dynamic range and better low-light performance than the Hero5 Black. Waterproof down to 10m, the Hero6 Black has a useful 2-inch touchscreen, voice commands and an updated app with QuikStories that automatically transfers and edits your footage for you. If you want the best action camera, this is it. 

Read our in-depth GoPro Hero6 Black review

It may have been overshadowed by the new Hero6 Black, but the Hero5 Black still has a lot to offer. Shooting 4K footage up to 30fps, video footage is incredibly smooth, while the ability to shoot stills in raw format brings even more flexibility. Waterproof down to 10m without the need for a protective case, it's also simple to use, while the addition of a rear touchscreen, voice control and GPS make it one of the most feature-packed cams currently available. The great news is that GoPro's just wiped $100/£100 off the price, making it an even more tempting proposition.

Read our in-depth GoPro Hero5 Black review

If you're aquatic-minded, or you need to know exactly where you were, and how fast you are going when you took a video, buy a GoPro Hero6 Black. However, if you're more interested in saving money on features you didn't even want, the Yi Technology 4K+ Action Camera is one of the simplest and best designed gadgets around. Everyone considering buying an action cam should have a look at the Yi Technology 4K+ Action Camera because it's almost exactly the same and, in some ways, even better than a GoPro. 

Read our in-depth Yi Technology 4K+ Action Camera review

TomTom Bandit

Bullet shape cams might have fallen out of fashion recently thanks to GoPro and its box-shaped cameras, but the TomTom Bandit bucks the trend. In fact, the Bandit packs features that other manufacturers will need to follow if they're to keep up with this newcomer. Taking years of GPS experience, TomTom has built in a series of sensors that not only record location but speed and G-force too, so that when these sensors pick up that something exciting has happened they automatically tag the footage. Back in the pub and with the app open and connected, a quick shake of your phone and the app will automatically edit your footage ready for upload. It really couldn't be easier.

Read our in-depth TomTom Bandit review

Olymous TG-Tracker

The TG-Tracker's futuristic design is hard to miss with an ultra wide 204 degree lens. Headline video resolutions include 4K at 30fps, 1080p at 60fps and an impressive 240fps at 720p for slow motion capture. This is an action camera ready for anything and even features a small LED video light built in. Sensors are the big news for the Tracker with GPS, compass, acceleration sensors plus a barometer and thermometer all capturing data from inside the compact case. The intel from these can all be displayed when viewing back the footage or in the video edit so you can show just how extreme you are. What's more, it's waterproof to 30m, features built in stabilization and can withstand temperatures down to -10C.

Read our in-depth Olympus TG-Tracker review

How often do you take an action cam underwater? If the answer's not a lot, then the YI 4K Action Camera could be for you. While there's an optional underwater case available, the camera isn't waterproof. There is a large and responsive touchscreen, a big battery and a fast file transfers however, and while it may lack a few niceties – and we would include lens distortion correction and image stabilisation in that list – the YI 4K Action Camera remains a great value addition to any adventurer's kit bag.

Read our in-depth YI 4K Action Camera review

Olfi Action camera

There's not much an Olfi one.five owner is left wanting, despite the unit costing half the price of GoPro's leading camera. GPS, voice activation and the ability to link external sensors, such as Garmin's numerous cycling products, are just a few things missing from the package, but for those who simply want to capture good-looking footage without breaking the bank, there's very little to complain about.

Read our in-depth Olfi one.five review

GoPro Hero4 Session

The Hero5 Session follows on from the Hero4 Session, stripping back the action camera concept to its basics, but sharing many of the same specs as the Hero5 Black. That includes 4K video capture up to 30fps, image stabilisation, voice control and is waterproof down to 10m. The large Record button on the top starts and stops recording so there's no worrying about different modes and options – that's all handled by the app (though it does have a simple menu system if you wish). Back to basics, but still captures the quality of video that you'd expect from GoPro.

Read our in-depth GoPro Hero5 Session review

All action cameras are now promising 4K at 30fps, but Sony’s effort is about a lot more than just resolution and frame rate. The diminutive FDR-X3000R's biggest claim is Balanced Optical SteadyShot (B.O.SS) image stabilization, which works across all resolutions and recording modes. It also includes an underwater housing – a rarity in the action camera market – and comes with a wearable, mountable live view remote, a smartwatch-sized contraption that allows the FDR-X3000R to be operated from afar, and its images previewed in real time.

Read our in-depth Sony FDR-X3000R review

The SJCAM SJ7 delivers some good-looking footage, especially when shooting in 4K. However, this budget GoPro Hero5 rival doesn't boast the sort of professional features offered by the biggest name in the action camera game, such as voice activation, GPS and the ability to make quick and easy video clips via a smartphone app. If you want a action camera that delivers strong footage at a fraction of the price though, then the SJCAM SJ7 Star is worth a look.

Read our in-depth SJCAM SJ7 Star review

Posted: January 16, 2018, 10:50 am

Owning a full-frame DSLR or mirrorless camera, such as the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, Nikon D850 or Sony Alpha A7R III, is the ambition of many photographers. 

After all, they think, bigger must be better – and these cameras, with their super-sized sensors, are what all the top professionals seem to use.

Switch to a full-frame camera and your pictures will automatically be better – or so the hype goes. But this is only partly true; a full-frame sensor camera just takes different – not necessarily better – shots compared to DSLR and mirrorless cameras with the more standard APS-C-sized sensor.

Full-frame explained

So, what exactly do we mean by 'full-frame'? A full-frame camera uses a sensor that's the same size as a single frame of traditional 35mm film, measuring 36 x 24mm. The more popular APS-C sensor size found in most DSLRs and mirrorless cameras measures 22 x 15mm. This means a full-frame sensor has more than 2.5 times the surface area of an APS-C sensor.

Sure, size has certain advantages, but there are also distinct drawbacks to making the switch up to a full-frame DSLR.

Camera selection

In most cases, if you want to upgrade to a full-frame DSLR or mirrorless camera, prepare to pay a premium. For starters, the added production cost of the bigger sensors (and the lower volume of production) is one area that forces cost up. 

That's not the only reason though. Because full-frame cameras are primarily aimed at professionals and keen enthusiasts, there's a certain expectation as to the level of performance, features and build that these cameras should have, which again all comes at a price. 

Not everyone wants (or can afford) all of these advanced features, which is why we've seen some relatively affordable full-frame cameras in recent years, with the Canon EOS 6D Mark II, Nikon D750 and Sony Alpha A7 II standing out right now. These all offer full-frame sensors, but don't have quite the same ultra-rugged build and top-line performance as their stablemates offer. Don't get us wrong though – these are still very capable cameras that can achieve some brilliant results. 

Image quality

Perhaps the biggest advantage of going full-frame is image quality. 

While APS-C and full-frame cameras can now share an almost identical resolution – Nikon's APS-C 20.9MP D500 and full-frame 20.8MP D5 is just one example, full-frame sensors are crucially more than two-and-a-half times bigger, which allows for much larger individual pixels (or if we're getting technical, photosites) compared to an APS-C sensor that shares the same resolution.

This means full-frame sensors typically produce better quality images at higher ISO sensitivities, as the larger individual pixels can capture more light, resulting in less unwanted electronic noise encroaching into images. 

However, full-frame cameras have another trick up their sleeve: dynamic range

The larger physical dimensions of a full-frame sensor mean it's also possible to increase the number of pixels on the chip without seeing this high ISO performance suffer. Both the 45.4MP Nikon D850 and 42.2MP Sony Alpha A7R III are brilliant examples of this, managing to deliver excellent high ISO results while featuring densely populated sensors.

In a lot of instances however, if you were to shoot at low sensitivities with both full-frame and APS-C camera that shared the same resolution, the amount of detail recorded would be very hard to tell apart. However, full-frame cameras have another trick up their sleeve: dynamic range.   

Full-frame cameras, thanks to the larger pixels, have a broader dynamic range in general (though other factors do play a part), making them better equipped to capture the full brightness range of a scene that features both extreme areas of dark shadows and bright highlights, as well as midtones. 

Crop-factor effect

The size of the sensor also changes the amount of the scene captured by the camera. Although APS-C and full-frame cameras can share many of the same lenses, the visual effect they provide is different. It's the angle of view that actually changes, as smaller APS-C sensors cover less of the image projected by the lens.

This image was shot on a full-frame DSLR at 16mm, with the yellow box showing how much of the frame would be cropped if the same lens was used on an APS-C camera

This is known as the crop factor, which compares the angle of view with that of a traditional full-frame 35mm film SLR. With full-frame DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, because the sensor is the same size as a 35mm negative, that's not an issue; a 24mm lens gives the same angle of view as a 24mm lens before the age of digital cameras.

An APS-C sensor, however, sees a smaller angle of view, with a crop factor of 1.5x (Canon APS-C sensors are ever-so slightly smaller still, with a crop factor of 1.6x). This means the same 24mm lens on an APS-C DSLR or mirrorless camera actually captures the angle of view of a traditional 36mm focal length (24 x 1.5 = 36). So if you want to capture sweeping wide-angle vistas, a full-frame camera allows you to take in more of the scene in front of you than an APS-C model with the same lens.

The flip-side is that the crop factor effect of APS-C cameras becomes an advantage when shooting distant subjects. For instance, a 300mm lens is 300mm on a full-frame camera, but on an APS-C model it becomes a much more desirable 450mm – great for getting close to the action in sports or wildlife photography.

APS-C based cameras are great if you want to shoot distant subjects and fill the frame

Lens choice

Full-frame cameras used to offer a real advantage when shooting landscapes or indoors in tight spaces. However, lens makers have combated this by developing both prime and zoom lenses with shorter focal lengths exclusively designed for use on APS-C-sensor cameras.

The typical standard zoom bundled with a lot of APS-C camera offers 18mm as its widest setting, roughly equivalent to the view given by a full-frame 28mm lens. Super-wide lenses offer settings of 10mm, equivalent to, or with an effective focal length (EFL) of, 15mm. These lenses can't be used with full-frame cameras (as they would produce dark corners), so in some ways APS-C users actually get a wider choice of optics. 

It's worth considering this compatibility though if you're thinking of investing in a full-frame body down the line, as you might have to trade in some or all of your selection of lenses if you've bought dedicated APS-C glass.

Blurring backgrounds

It's easier to achieve shallow depth of field effects with a full-frame camera

Portrait photographers love full-frame cameras, as the larger the sensor a digital camera uses, the shallower depth of field (DoF) you get. This means you can throw backgrounds and foregrounds more out of focus, for artistic effect and to draw strong attention to the subject.

The reason for this is that the amount of depth of field depends on three different factors: the aperture, the subject distance, and the focal length.

In practice, this means wide apertures on full-frame cameras provide noticeably more defocused backgrounds than on APS-C cameras. It's not by much – about a stop – but it does make a difference. If you're shooting a portrait for instance, using the same angle of view, a full-frame camera at f/4 produces a seemingly similar amount of depth of field and background blur to an APS-C camera at f/2.8. 

APS-C cameras are better, however, if you want to maximize depth of field, which has advantages in studio and landscape photography. For example, when using the same angle of view, on an APS-C camera you'll be able to get away with using, say, f/11, whereas on a full-frame camera you may have to use f/16 to ensure your scene is sharp from foreground to background.

Posted: January 15, 2018, 2:55 pm

Originally unveiled at CES 2018 in Las Vegas, Panasonic is now bringing its latest video-focused mirrorless camera, the Lumix GH5S to the Middle East.

If the comprehensive video specification of the Lumix GH5 isn't quite enough to satisfy your needs, then the GH5S could be for you.

Designed primarily for professional filmmakers, Panasonic believes that the Lumix GH5S will deliver the highest-ever video image quality seen in a Lumix camera. 

For the Lumix GH5S, Panasonic has ditched the 20.3MP Micro Four Thirds Live MOS sensor found in the GH5 and replaced it with an all-new 10.2MP sensor. This has allowed Panasonic to improve on the maximum ISO of 25,600 on the GH5, with an ISO ceiling of 51,200 in the GH5S. 

To reduce the risk of background image noise in low-light conditions, Panasonic has also included its Dual Native ISO Technology – we'll bring you more detail on this when we have it.

The Lumix GH5S also gives those shooting stills the option to shoot 14-bit raw files, while the newly developed multi-aspect sensor provides sufficient margin to get the same angle of view in 4:3, 17:9, 16:9, and 3:2 aspect ratios.

Cinema 4K at 60/50p

While the Lumix GH5 was the first mirrorless camera capable of shooting 4K footage at up to 60/50p, the Lumix GH5S takes this one step further and shoots at a world-first 4K 60/50p recording in Cinema 4K (4096 x 2160). 

That's just part of the story, as the GH5S is capable of internal 4:2:2 10-bit recording, which should deliver even stronger color reproduction, while V-Log now comes pre-installed on the camera – something that was an additional cost on the GH5. 

The Lumix GH5S is also compatible with Timecode In/out, making it easy synchronize multiple compatible devices

You can record both Full HD and 4K video for as long as you want – there's no time limit, while the Lumix GH5S complies with 4K HDR video with Hybrid Log Gamma (HLG) mode in Photo Style. The GH5S also records 4:2:2 10-bit 400Mbps All-Intra in 4K (at 30p/25p/24p) and Cinema 4K (24p) and 200Mbps All-Intra in Full HD. 

The Lumix GH5S is also compatible with Timecode In/out, making it easy to synchronize multiple compatible devices when filming, for pain-free post-production editing. A bundled coaxial cable for a BNC terminal connects to the flash sync terminal of the camera, allowing the camera to be used as a Timecode generator for other GH5S cameras and professional camcorders. 

Design and operation

Apart from a flash of red round the collar of the mode dials on the top of the camera, and a red record button (and of course the 'S' designation on the front), the design of the Lumix GH5S is unchanged from the GH5. 

This means it also gets the same magnesium alloy full die-cast front and rear frame, while it's also dust-proof, splash-proof, and freeze-proof down to -10C. Like the GH5, it's equipped with dual SD memory card slots, compatible with UHS-II and Video Speed Class 60 SDXC cards, while there's a HDMI Type A terminal as well. 

There's also the same electronic viewfinder, with a large magnification ratio of 0.76x (35mm camera equivalent) that delivers a smooth display at 120fps, and a 3.2-inch vari-angle touchscreen with a 3,680K-dot resolution. 

The Lumix GH5S also promises to make composition and shooting in poor light that much easier. Live View Boost increases the sensitivity just for Live View, while there's also a night mode that features a red interface. 

The autofocus system has also been tweaked over the GH5. The 225-area AF arrangement stays the same, but the GH5S can now focus in light levels as low as -5EV (on the GH5 it's -4EV). 

As far as burst shooting speeds go, it matches the GH5's top burst rate of 12fps (12-bit raw files in AFS). This drops down to 8fps if you're in continuous AF (AFC), while if you're shooting in 14-bit raw it's 11fps (AFS) and 7fps (AFC). 

The Panasonic Lumix GH5S will be available from the end of March priced at  AED 9,899 (body only). Panasonic will be bundling a 64GB SD card for consumers pre-ordering the camera. 

  • New year, new tech – check out all our coverage of CES 2018 straight from Las Vegas, the greatest gadget show on Earth
Posted: January 14, 2018, 10:48 am
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Venus Optics Laowa 7.5mm f/2 for M4/3 Review by Darren Miles

By: Darren Miles

Published on Jan 13, 2018

http://www.DarrenMiles.com – Southwest Florida Portrait, Real Estate, Wedding and Family Photographer

GET A GREAT DEAL on the Laowa 7.5mm f/2 Lens from B&H HERE: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc…

CONCLUSION: So to wrap up this review, we give the Venus optics, compact dreamer, lightweight 7.5mm f/2 lens a 35.5/40 and our Recommended Rating.

THE FINAL WORD: More often than not, wide angle lenses suffer from some inherent issues, weak edge performance, distortion, vignetting, and bad flare performance, well, I’m pleased to report that laowa does a great job with distortion control and edge performance, both seem to be really great as the verticals straight out of camera are in fact pretty straight and the edges look really sharp to my eyes, however, the laowa does suffer from strong vignetting – especially wide open and weak flare performance in brightly lit situations, which again aren’t really strong suits for most wide angle lenses, but they are noticeable in the Laowa – but all in, at just $519 the laowa does in fact offer some really nice benefits for this kind of price – specifically, if you’re a drone operator, video shooter and if you do real estate and landscape photography – sure, you only get manual focus and aperture control, but again, when it’s this wide, big scenes are going to be mostly in focus anyway at or close to infinity on the focus ring. In spite of its shortcomings, the pros, definitely outweigh the cons.

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