Techradar Camera and Camcorder reviews

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If the Lumix GX9 looks familiar, that’s because externally it’s almost indistinguishable from the Lumix GX8, Panasonic’s previous premium rangefinder-style mirrorless camera. The Lumix GX9 does not replace the cheaper but similar-looking Lumix GX85 (GX80 outside the US), but we can assume it will take over from the Lumix GX8.

While things may look the same on the outside, a few things have changed inside, although the Lumix GX8, launched way back in 2015, was arguably ahead of its time, and the improvements here are subtle rather than revolutionary. Panasonic is pitching the Lumix GX9 at amateur photographers who want a ‘professional’ experience.

The difference between this camera and Panasonic’s new Lumix G9 is that the Lumix GX9 is a smaller, more compact camera designed for portability – hence the ‘street’ camera label. The G9 is a bigger camera styled like a DSLR and better suited to sports, action, bigger lenses and more ambitious styles of photography.

Features

  • Micro Four Thirds Live MOS sensor, 20.3MP
  • 3-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 1,240,000 dots
  • 4-stop built-in image stabilization

Panasonic uses Micro Four Thirds sensors, which are smaller than the APS-C sensors in most interchangeable lens cameras, but match them pretty well for performance and image quality. 

The Lumix GX9 comes with 4K video, as we’d expect from Panasonic, and the company has also enhanced its 4K Photo modes. Here, the camera uses its 4K video processing power to capture images designed to be exported as 8MP stills. The 4K burst mode captures frames at an impressive 30fps, and the GX9’s new auto marking feature puts markers in the burst where there’s a significant change in the frame contents to help you find key moments later.

The 4K Post Focus mode is even more impressive. The camera captures a short burst using every focus point, and in playback mode you can simply tap on the picture to choose the focus point you want. This enables you to do something which feels like it ought to be impossible: focus after you’ve taken the shot. And new in the Lumix GX9 is in-camera focus stacking, so you no longer need a computer to merge a series of images with different focus points into a single photo that’s sharp from front to back – something that's impossible to achieve in macro photography with a single exposure.

There are also new focus and aperture-bracketing modes, and Panasonic has extended the battery life in Power Save mode to 900 shots, and increased the regular burst rate to 9fps (with focus locked on the first frame) or 6fps with autofocus.

The in-body image stabilization system has been enhanced with 5-axis compensation

Inside, the in-body image stabilization system has been enhanced with 5-axis compensation, which works alongside Panasonic’s in-lens optical stabilizers to enable you to use shutter speeds four stops slower than would otherwise be possible and still achieve sharp shots.

The Lumix GX9 now has Bluetooth as well as Wi-Fi, and analog film fans will be pleased to hear there’s a new L.Monochrome image style, along with a Grain effect available in three different strengths for enhancing that ‘film’ look.

Build and handling

  • Rangefinder body with tilting EVF and LCD
  • External EV compensation dial and focus lever
  • Weighs 450g

The Lumix GX9’s body may be designed in the style of a compact rangefinder camera, but it’s actually quite substantial, and no smaller than a Sony A6000-series camera (such as the Alpha A6300) or even the compact DSLR-style mirrorless Fujifilm X-T20. This does give the Lumix GX9 a quality ‘feel’, although given the size of the body it’s a shame there aren’t a few more external controls.

There is a mode dial on the top plate and, stacked below it, a EV compensation dial, and the focus lever on the rear of the camera can be used to switch between AF-S (single shot), AF-C (continuous AF) and Manual focus modes, but other routine settings like the drive mode, 4K Photo modes, focus point selection, ISO and white balance settings rely on buttons and the Lumix GX9’s on-screen interface. 

While the GX9’s weight and solidity give it a ‘proper camera’ feel, its reliance on menus and icons for routine adjustments can be tiresome

While the GX9’s weight and solidity give it a ‘proper camera’ feel, its reliance on menus and icons for routine adjustments can be tiresome. The touchscreen is responsive and effective, though, and you can use the twin control dials for menu and feature navigation rather than tapping on the screen.

The top dial is easy to spin with your forefinger. The rear dial is squeezed in above the thumb rest on the back of the camera and isn’t quite so easy to use, however, and it has a ‘click’ action which you can sometimes engage accidentally when you meant to spin the dial.

The electronic viewfinder is very good, and even offers a 90-degree tilt for viewfinder fans who find themselves working at awkward angles. The rear screen also tilts, but stops short of a fully-articulating pivot, so it doesn’t work as well when the camera is held vertically.

Image quality

  • ISO200-25,600 (expandable to ISO100-25,600)
  • No optical low pass filter
  • Monochrome Image Styles

We'll need to spend more time with the camera to fully review performance and image quality to get the full picture on how the Lumix GX9 performs, but did get to shoot with the camera.

Panasonic has removed the low-pass filter from the sensor in the Lumix GX9 to further enhance fine detail rendition. This does increase the risk of moiré effects (interference patterns) in fine textures and details, visible in some of the shots we took with the camera, but it squeezes the absolute maximum detail from the sensor. We obviously couldn't look at raw files either, so check back once we've got full review sample.

Early verdict

With a launch price of £699 body-only in the UK and AU$1,399 for the 12-32mm kit in Australia (US pricing is still to be confirmed), the Lumix GX9 looks good value. 

It’s well made and packed with high-end features. We tried it with Panasonic’s retracting 12-32mm zoom, which is a good size match for the GX9’s body; longer lenses, such as the Panasonic and Leica 12-60mm lenses, could make it a little more front-heavy, but there is a 14-42mm kit lens option too.

Even though the emphasis is on classic camera styling and handling, we think the Lumix GX9’s appeal lies more in its digital capture and processing technologies than in its physical design. If you’re really into knobs and dials rather than menus and icons, you might be disappointed.

Posted: February 13, 2018, 1:00 pm

The PEN E-PL9 is the latest mirrorless camera from Olympus aimed at those looking for a stylish but accessible upgrade over their smartphone as they look to take their photography to the next stage. 

Whereas the OM-D line of mirrorless cameras is targeted at the enthusiast and professional photographer, the PEN range has always been designed to appeal to the more fashion-conscious snapper, and those who want to take nice-looking images without getting too bogged down with a host of settings.

Features

  • Micro Four Thirds Live MOS sensor, 16MP
  • 3.0-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 1,037,000 dots
  • 4K video capture

The PEN E-PL9 features a tried and tested (we could also say 'ageing') 16MP Micro Four Thirds sensor that we’ve seen in numerous Olympus cameras in recent years – as we felt when reviewing the OM-D E-M10 Mark III, a boost in resolution to 20MP would have been welcome. This camera does, however, get the latest TruePic VIII processor (also used in the flagship OM-D E-M1 Mark II), with an ISO range running from 100-25,600. 

Rather than 1080p Full HD video capture, the PEN E-PL9 gets upgraded to 4K video capture at up to 30fps, while you can also shoot Full HD footage at up to 60fps.

There's no built-in electronic viewfinder (and there's now no accessory port to attach an optional one either), but there is a 3.0-inch tilt-angle touchscreen. As we've seen on previous E-PL models, the E-PL9 uses a fairly unusual tilt-mechanism, with the display flipping out under the body, rather than above it. For those who love taking a selfie, this is supposed to offer the best selfie-taking experience – perhaps because you're looking just below the lens rather than just above, although we couldn't see massive difference.

To combat camera shake, the PEN E-PL9 takes advantage of the highly effective five-axis in-body image stabilization system we've seen on other recent Olympus cameras. The clever system has impressed before, and delivers a claimed four stops of compensation to reduce blur and shake in both stills and video.

Just as we've seen with the OM-D E-M10 Mark III, there's also the new Advanced Photo (AP) mode. This is designed to make shooting creative images that bit more accessible, with easy access to settings like Live Composite, multiple exposure, HDR, sweep panorama and focus bracketing. 

There's now a new nostalgic Instant Film art filter

Art Filters have become synonymous with Olympus cameras, and the PEN E-PL9 features 16 effects, including Bleach Bypass, which we first saw on the OM-D E-M10 Mark III, and a new nostalgic Instant Film art filter, which should come into its own when used at night with flash – darker areas becomes green, and skin is given a warm glow. 

Like many new cameras, the PEN E-PL9 combines Bluetooth Low Energy and Wi-Fi connectivity to provide a permanent connection to your smartphone or tablet via the OI.Share app. The app also features a new set of easy-access 'How To' video guides to help get the best out of the PEN E-PL9.

Build and handling

  • Larger grip and mode dials
  • Built-in flash
  • Weighs 332g

The design of the PEN E-PL9 follows on from both the E-PL8 and E-PL7, but there have been some subtle tweaks. For starters, the grip on the front of the camera has been enlarged, and it certainly gives a bit more purchase. 

The mode dials on the top plate have been tweaked and enlarged compared with those on the E-PL8, while Olympus has also managed to shoehorn a small pop-up flash into the camera (older models came with a separate mini- flash). 

Despite these additions, the PEN E-PL9 is still pretty svelte at 117 x 68 x 39mm, while the supplied 14-42mm power zoom lens complements the camera nicely with its compact proportions. 

The finish is pretty good overall, with a nice leatherette material in black, white or tan covering the majority of the camera. However – and perhaps we've been spoiled with the magnesium alloy construction of the OM-D E-M10 Mark III – the PEN E-PL9 comparison felt a little plasticky in parts in comparison with that camera. That said, the quality is certainly in line with its rivals.

Autofocus

  • 121-point AF
  • Coverage across most of the frame
  • Face Priority AF and Eye Detection AF

The 81-point AF system in the PEN E-PL8 has been replaced by the newer 121-point system that's been used elsewhere in the Olympus range.

While there isn't the on-sensor phase-detection autofocus that other systems offer for speedier focusing, in our brief time with the PEN E-PL9 we found focusing to be quick and responsive in the lighting conditions we tried it under.

Early verdict

The PEN E-PL9 looks as though it'll be a sound option for those looking for a sleek-looking, easy-to-use mirrorless camera, although it's a little disappointing not to see a resolution boost, while removing the accessory port seems a bit of a backwards step. 

It's priced at £579.99 body-only and £649.99 with the compact 14-42mm kit lens (US and Australian pricing and availability have yet to be announced), which is only marginally less than one of our favorite mirrorless cameras, the OM-D E-M10 Mark III – and for the small additional outlay you get a brilliant built-in electronic viewfinder and sturdy magnesium alloy body, making the OM-D E-M10 Mark III the better buy.

Posted: February 7, 2018, 6:00 am

Here’s a funny thing. People buy a DSLR so that they can use interchangeable lenses, then they want a single lens that does everything.

Available in Canon and Nikon mount options, Tamron’s latest all-in-one ‘superzoom’ lens comes closer than most to that goal, stretching from fairly generous wide-angle coverage to an unprecedented 400mm ‘super-telephoto’ focal length – on Canon and Nikon APS-C format bodies, that’s equivalent to using a 600mm or 640mm lens respectively, on a full-frame camera.

Features

  • Works well as a travel lens
  • Compact and lightweight
  • Good but not great IS

One of the main attractions of any superzoom lens is that it’s convenient for travel photography.

Whether you’re pounding city streets on a mini-break or climbing mountains, one thing you won’t really want to take along is a heavy bag full of lenses.

The Tamron works well as a travel lens because, as well as delivering the same kind of zoom range as two or three regular zoom lenses, it’s also reasonably compact and lightweight; indeed, at 710g the Tamron feels well-balanced when mounted on Canon or Nikon APS-C format bodies, and doesn’t feel unduly big or heavy, even if you’re carrying it around all day.

Along with the record-breaking zoom range, there’s a new-generation autofocus system with an HLD (High/Low torque-modulated Drive) motor. It’s virtually silent in operation and well suited to both stills and movie capture, delivering speedy performance for stills and smooth transitions for movies.

Another headline feature is optical image stabilization, or VC (Vibration Compensation), as Tamron calls it.

Canon and Nikon cameras typically don’t feature sensor-shift stabilization, although Canon has introduced video stabilization in the EOS 77D. That makes optical stabilization pretty much essential for handheld shooting towards the long end of the Tamron’s zoom range. Rated at 2.5 stops, the VC is good, but not as great as in some other recently launched Tamron lenses, such as the Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2, which have a five-stop rating.

Build quality and handling

  • Feels quite robust and solid
  • Zoom creep is fairly minimal
  • Easy to operate

Despite being fairly lightweight, the lens feels quite robust and solid, from its weather-sealed metal mounting plate through to the supplied petal-shaped lens hood. Despite having no less than four concentric sections in its telescoping barrel, the construction feels firm and wobble-free. The zoom ring operates reasonably smoothly, but requires different amounts of rotational force as you progress through the range. There’s a lot of extension too, with the lens stretching to 25cm (10 inches) at its longest zoom setting. Zoom creep is fairly minimal, and only really an issue when you're shooting practically vertically upwards or downwards. A zoom lock switch is fitted to avoid accidental extension while you’re carrying the lens around.

The switches for auto/manual focus, and VC on/off are nice and large, and easy to operate even if you're wearing gloves. One downside to handling, however, is that the manual focus ring rotates during autofocus, so you need to keep your fingers clear, although it's not as much of a problem as it could be, because the focus ring is at the front end of the lens; a bigger concern is that the autofocus system doesn’t enable manual override. On the plus side, with a fully internal focusing mechanism, the front element doesn’t rotate, so it’s easy to use filters like circular polarizers and ND grads.

Performance

  • Electromagnetic aperture control
  • Barrel and pincushion distortion
  • Color fringing is well controlled

Autofocus and aperture control proved consistently accurate in our tests. Electromagnetic aperture control is used in the Nikon-fit as well as the Canon-fit option of the lens. It’s mostly a good thing, compared with the mechanical lever used in most Nikon-fit lenses, but a downside is that it makes the lens incompatible with older Nikon APS-C cameras, up to and including the D300s, D3000 and D5000.

Superzoom lenses are somewhat notorious for compromising image quality in favor of outright zoom range. The new Tamron is no exception, but sharpness is maintained fairly well throughout the entire zoom range, for this type of lens, right up to its 400mm extremity.

Color fringing is well controlled through most of the zoom range, but becomes noticeable at the long end, especially on Canon cameras where, unlike with Nikon bodies, it’s not automatically corrected in JPEG quality modes. Similarly, barrel and pincushion distortions are clearly visible toward the short and long ends of the zoom range, respectively.

Verdict

For overall performance and image quality, the Tamron performs as well as other superzoom lenses like the Sigma 18-300mm and Tamron’s own 16-300mm, despite its extra-long maximum focal length. However, what you gain in telephoto reach you lose in ultra-wide viewing angle, which is still a major plus point of the older Tamron 16-300mm, a lens that's is unique in this respect. The autofocus system of the 16-300mm also has the handling benefit of its focus ring remaining stationary during autofocus, while enabling manual override.

Posted: January 31, 2018, 11:37 am

What price a top-flight standard zoom? Canon and Nikon shooters upgrading from an APS-C format body to a full-frame model face a hefty extra bill for the latest own-brand 24-70mm f/2.8 lenses, at around £1,730/$1,750/AU$2,400 and £2,000/$2,400/AU$3,050 respectively. And neither is perfect for general shooting; the Canon lens lacks image stabilization and the Nikon is comparatively massive, mostly due to the fact that the physical length remains fixed throughout the zoom range.

Tamron has a long history of manufacturing ‘budget’ lenses that offer decent build quality and performance but can’t really compete with the best glass on the market. That’s changed recently, with the advent of G2 (Generation 2) editions of the company’s 24-70mm and 70-200mm f/2.8 lenses, which aim to match or even beat camera manufacturers’ pro-grade lenses while still undercutting them for price.

Features

  • New optical path
  • Revamped AF system
  • 5-stop IS system

Upgrades over the original Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 include a new optical path that aims for impeccable image quality. High-grade components include two XR (Extra Refractive Index), three LD (Low Dispersion) and three GM (Glass-Moulded aspherical) elements, plus a hybrid aspherical element. Nano-structure and regular coatings are combined to keep ghosting and flare to a minimum, and the front element has a muck-resistant, easy-clean fluorine coating.

The autofocus system is revamped for extra speed and accuracy. Being a ring-type ultrasonic system it’s typically quiet as well, and comes complete with the usual manual override. Whereas the Canon lens has no stabilization and the Nikon has a 4-stop stabilizer, the Tamron has ‘best in class’ stabilization with a 5-stop CIPA rating.

Build quality and handling

  • Full set of weather seals
  • Heavier than Canon rival
  • Precise adjustments

The Tamron G2 ticks all the right boxes for a professional-grade standard zoom lens. It’s sturdily built with a metal outer barrel and a full set of weather seals. As with the Canon lens, it stretches in physical length as you extend the zoom setting, but that enables it to be reasonably compact for carrying. At 905g, the Tamron weighs 100g more than the Canon lens, but is 165g lighter than the Nikon.

The zoom and focus rings operate smoothly and enable accurate, precise adjustments. There’s no hint of zoom creep, but a zoom lock switch is fitted anyway. As you’d expect in this class of lens, a focus distance scale is mounted beneath a viewing window, and the lens is supplied complete with a petal-shaped hood and soft pouch.

Performance

  • Excellent sharpness and contrast 
  • Defocused areas nice and smooth
  • Minimal color fringing

Sharpness and contrast are excellent throughout most of the zoom range, and at most apertures. Sharpness across the frame is impressive when shooting wide open at 24mm, although you'll need to stop down to f/5.6 if you want optimum sharpness right into the corners; doing so also eliminates vignetting, which is rather noticeable when shooting at 24mm and f/2.8, although no worse than in the pricier Nikon lens.

Center sharpness drops off a bit towards the long end of the zoom range when shooting at f/2.8, but the upside is that bokeh is wonderfully smooth and soft. This makes the Tamron excellent for portraiture, where it won’t accentuate every tiny blemish in skin, while giving a delicious blur to the background.

Color fringing and distortions are pretty minimal, and resistance to ghosting and flare is very good. In our tests, the autofocus system lived up to its claims for accuracy and speed, while the VC (Vibration Compensation) system is one of the best we’ve used.

In terms of image quality compared to the latest own-brand Canon and Nikon lenses, the Tamron fares well. It matches the Canon for center-sharpness throughout most of the zoom range, and is only slightly worse at the long end, while actually beating it for corner-sharpness in the 24-35mm sector. For other facets of image quality, the Tamron and Canon are very similar. The Nikon edges ahead for sharpness, but the Tamron fights back with better performance in terms of color fringing, distortions and wide-aperture vignetting.

Verdict

There’s always something to be said for sticking with your camera manufacturer’s own lenses, especially at the top end of the quality range. However, the likes of Tamron and Sigma are now making lenses that offer similar quality at more affordable prices.

Indeed, this Tamron is also up against the Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM | Art lens. For build quality, handling and performance there’s almost nothing to choose between the Tamron and Sigma, but the Tamron is a little less expensive to buy, so it wins out on value for money.

More significantly, the Tamron 24-70mm G2 holds its own against its more expensive Canon and Nikon rivals. All things considered, this is a top-class standard zoom lens, and a bargain at the price.

Posted: January 30, 2018, 10:22 am

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
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Apart from the EOS 7D Mark II, all current APS-C format Canon DSLRs are sold with the option of an included ‘kit’ zoom lens. In many cases, you can choose between Canon’s latest 18-55mm or 18-135mm lenses, both of which give solid performance and come complete with image stabilization and virtually silent STM (Stepping Motor) autofocus systems, ideal for both stills and video capture. But a basic standard zoom will only get you so far.

Even with the generous 1.6x focal length multiplier or ‘crop factor’ of Canon EOS APS-C format bodies, the 18-135mm kit lens comes up short in telephoto reach for shooting action sports and wildlife. And both kit lenses lack a seriously wide viewing angle for some landscape and interior shots. You might also need a tight depth of field to blur the background in portraiture and still life images, something the relatively narrow widest apertures of kit lenses struggle to deliver. Another popular lens option is a ‘macro’ optic for shooting extreme close-ups.

The biggest bonus of any interchangeable lens camera is that you can fit the ideal lens for the job at hand, from ultra-wide zoom to super-telephoto, and fast primes in between. In fact, sometimes full-frame-compatible lenses are a better option than dedicated APS-C format lenses.

Lens designations

It’s actually worth getting the designations of lenses clear at this point. Canon’s EF (Electro-Focus) lens mount dates back to 1987 and the 35mm film era. The EF-S variant was launched in 2003, to suit Canon DSLRs with smaller, APS-C image sensors. There are no issues using EF lenses on APS-C format cameras, but you can’t use an EF-S lens on a full-frame DSLR. The classifications used by Sigma are DC (APS-C) and DG (full-frame) and for Tamron it’s Di-II (APS-C) and Di (full-frame).

We’ve put all of the main contenders through their paces with rigorous lab testing and shooting in all manner of ‘real-world’ scenarios

If you’ve got a Canon camera, it might seem sensible to use Canon lenses. However, third-party lenses from the likes of Sigma and Tamron often give similar or even better performance than own-brand Canon lenses, and at more competitive prices.   

We’ve put all of the main contenders in the various categories through their paces with rigorous lab testing and shooting in all manner of ‘real-world’ scenarios. Based on the results, here’s our list of the 10 best lenses to buy for your Canon APS-C format body. We’ve included outright winners in each category, as well as best-value alternatives to suit a tighter budget. 

A major upgrade from Tamron’s original 10-24mm lens, the new ‘VC HLD’ edition adds image stabilization and a new autofocus system, which is quicker and quieter. Handling is also improved, because the focus ring no longer rotates during autofocus. The good-quality build includes weather seals and a keep-clean fluorine coating on the front element. Image quality benefits from good sharpness and contrast, along with well-contained distortions for an ultra-wide zoom lens, and fairly minimal color fringing. 

Great-value option: Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM 

Not much more than a third of the price of the Tamron 10-24mm, this is a top-value buy. It matches the Tamron’s maximum viewing angle, includes image stabilization and has a compact, lightweight build that’s well matched to bodies like the EOS Rebel T6 / 1300D and EOS Rebel SL2 / 200D

We’ve got so used to autofocus that a lens which you can only focus manually might sound like a retrograde step. However, the huge depth of field enabled by a lens with such a short focal length makes accurate focusing less critical. Better still, the Samyang’s distance scale enables you try traditional focusing methods for landscape and street photography, like setting the hyperfocal distance and ‘zone focusing’. Smart design and high-quality glass help to ensure good image quality, while nano-structure coatings help to keep ghosting and flare to a minimum. 

Great-value option: N/A

Wide-angle prime lenses for APS-C format cameras are practically non-existent. Canon does make an EF-S 24mm pancake lens but, taking the crop factor into account, it’s more ‘standard’ than ‘wide-angle’. 

Now more than a decade old, this was the first enthusiast/pro-grade EF-S standard zoom lens Canon produced. It’s still the best, and the only one to feature a fast and constant (meaning it's available throughout the entire zoom range) f/2.8 aperture. It’s also the most expensive standard zoom for APS-C format Canon cameras, and has enthusiast-friendly features like ring-type ultrasonic autofocus and a focus distance scale beneath a viewing window. Even so, it’s not one of Canon’s L-series (Luxury) lenses, and has no weather seals. Frustratingly, as with the vast majority of non-L-series Canon lenses, you need to buy the lens hood separately. 

Great-value option: Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4 DC Macro OS HSM | C 

Relatively compact and lightweight, this Sigma has a variable yet fairly fast aperture rating and delivers impressive image quality, at a bargain price. 

Whereas most APS-C format cameras have a 1.5x crop factor, Canon’s is a little more aggressive at 1.6x, and that makes this Sigma 30mm a particularly good fit as a ‘standard prime’, as its effective focal length works out to 48mm, only marginally short of the preferred 50mm. As one of Sigma’s recent ‘Art’ class lenses, it’s beautifully built and boasts a fast f/1.4 aperture rating. This not only enables fast shutter speeds under low lighting, without needing to push your ISO setting too far, but delivers a fairly tight depth of field, even taking the relatively short ‘actual’ focal length into account. Image quality is very impressive in all respects and, for such a ‘fast’ lens, sharpness remains excellent even at the widest available aperture. Autofocus is also fast, thanks to a rear-focusing mechanism that drives the smaller, rear elements of the lens via a ring-type ultrasonic system. The front element therefore neither extends nor rotates during focusing.

Great-value option: Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM

Unfeasibly small and lightweight, this ‘pancake’ lens measures less than an inch in length and tips the scales at a mere 125g. It doesn’t have a very fast aperture, at f/2.8, but image quality is very good and it’s a great little prime for traveling light, with an ‘effective’ focal length of 38.4mm on APS-C cameras, which is a good compromise between a wide-angle and standard lens.

Canon’s only real ‘superzoom’ lens for APS-C format cameras is the EF-S 18-200mm, which is about 10 years old, has a rather basic autofocus system, and is frankly a bit of a disappointment. This Tamron lens is a much more attractive option. It’s unique among superzoom lenses in shrinking to 16mm rather than the usual 18mm at the short end of its zoom range. A couple of millimeters might not sound much, but the extra wide-angle potential is very noticeable in practice. There’s no skimping at the long end either, with a generous 300mm maximum focal length, far outstripping the Canon. Unusually for a PZD (Piezo Drive) ultrasonic autofocus system (which relies on a small motor rather than a ring-type arrangement), the focus ring remains fixed during autofocus and adds a manual override facility. The only real downside is that, like most superzoom lenses, sharpness drops off a little at the long end of the zoom range, and barrel distortion is quite pronounced at the short end.

Great-value option: Tamron 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC

Remarkably compact and lightweight for a superzoom, the new edition of Tamron’s 18-200mm makes an excellent all-in-one ‘travel lens’, and is unbeatable value at the price.

Compared with budget 50mm lenses, such as the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM, this one is a lot more expensive. Indeed, it’s also pricier than Canon’s faster f/1.4 lens. However, the Tamron is really nicely made, and boasts an optical stabilizer that’s lacking in both Canon 50mm lenses, and most others from the likes of Sigma. It’s full-frame compatible but gives an effective focal length of 72mm on APS-C cameras, ideal for portraiture. As such, bokeh is important, and it’s here that Tamron strikes gold, with defocused areas having a deliciously smooth and creamy appearance, while in-focus areas retain good sharpness.

Great-value option: Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM

The STM (Stepping Motor) edition of Canon’s EF 50mm f/1.8 lens is much better built than its predecessors, with a metal rather than plastic mounting plate, a more well-rounded aperture based on seven diaphragm blades instead of five, and a more refined autofocus system. Image quality is essentially as good as from Canon’s more upmarket 50mm f/1.4 lens, making the f/1.8 STM unbeatable value at the price.

Not to be confused with the preceding Tamron 90mm macro lens of the same name (which had a gold ring around the barrel), this one adds higher-grade glass, dual nano-structure coatings, improved weather seals and a fluorine coating on the front element. More importantly, it has a redesigned autofocus system that’s optimized for close-up shooting, and a new ‘hybrid’ optical stabilizer that counteracts axial shift (up-down or side-to-side movement) as well as the usual angular vibration (wobble). In this respect, it’s similar to Canon’s range-topping EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens, but in our tests the Tamron had the edge for image quality, and it's less expensive to buy. 

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, all at a knockdown price.

When it comes to telephoto zooms, there’s a lot to be said for buying a full-frame compatible 70-300mm lens. They tend to still be manageably compact and lightweight, and you’ll be cherry-picking the best image quality from the centre of the frame when using a camera with a smaller, APS-C image sensor; and naturally, should you upgrade to a full-frame body in the future you’ll also be able to continue using the lens. This Tamron is a great example of the breed. It has very good build quality, complete with weather seals, and delivers impressive image quality. Further plus points include fast and whisper-quiet ring-type ultrasonic autofocus with the usual manual override, and an effective image stabilizer. Sharpness and contrast are very good throughout the entire zoom range, although, as is typical with telephoto zooms, sharpness does drop off a little at 300mm. 

Great-value option: Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM

Designed exclusively for APS-C cameras, this Canon lens is refreshingly compact and lightweight for a telephoto zoom, although part of the weight-saving is due to it having a plastic rather than metal mounting plate. As with other STM lenses, the stepping motor autofocus system works well for both stills and movies. Sharpness is good throughout the zoom range, even when shooting wide-open, and the image stabilizer is worth about three stops.

So-called ‘fast’ telephoto zooms tend to be fairly big and heavy, with the 70-200mm f/2.8 lenses often favored by pro photographers weighing in at around 1.5kg – that’s a lot of weight to hang off the front of a small APS-C format body like a EOS Rebel SL2 / 200D or EOS Rebel T7i / 800D. An f/stop slower, this lens still offers a constant aperture of f/4 throughout the zoom range, along with L-series trapping like pro-grade build quality, weather seals and optical excellence, but it's a much more manageable package – indeed, it’s only about half the weight of most 70-200mm f/2.8 zooms. Sharpness and contrast are superb, boosted by the use of top-notch fluorite and UD (Ultra-low Dispersion) elements, and the ring-type ultrasonic autofocus system is super-fast.

Great-value option: Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM

A great bargain buy, the Sigma has the faster, often favored f/2.8 aperture rating and is a very good performer, although it lacks weather seals.

Sigma has a history of pushing the envelope when it comes to super-telephoto reach, and this 150-600mm delivers a spectacular effective focal length of 960mm at the longest end of its zoom range when used on an APS-C format Canon body. Even so, its physical size isn’t too monstrous, and it weighs less than 2kg, making it nearly a kilogram lighter than Sigma’s 150-600mm Sport lens. It features many of the same design flourishes as its bigger sibling, including dual, switchable autofocus modes for auto or manual priority, dual-mode stabilization for static and panning shots, and a dual-position autofocus range limiter that can lock out either the short or long end of the range. It also features the same zoom lock mechanism, which enables you to lock the zoom length at any marked (numbered) position between 150mm and 600mm. Performance is very good, from sharpness, contrast and other optical attributes to autofocus speed, stabilization and handling. Overall, it’s a top buy that’s ideal for maximizing your telephoto reach on Canon APS-C format bodies.

Great-value option: Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM | C

The maximum focal length is comparatively modest but Sigma’s new Contemporary class super-telephoto zoom is wonderfully compact and lightweight, making prolonged handheld shooting less of a strain.

Posted: February 16, 2018, 3:31 pm

Ultra-wide zoom lenses are the thick end of the wedge, at least when it comes to viewing angles. With zoom ranges starting at just 8mm for APS-C format lenses, and 11mm or 12mm for full-frame, you can shoehorn vast areas of a scene into the image frame. It’s great for shooting sweeping landscapes or architecture, and arguably even more useful when shooting indoors, where space is limited and your back’s up against the wall.

Another key attraction of ultra-wide lenses is that you can create images with extraordinary perspective effects. Get in close to the main subject in a scene and you can massively exaggerate its relative size, against a shrunken and rapidly receding background. Parallel lines appear to converge at alarming rates and shots generally get a proper wow factor.

Another bonus is that short focal lengths equate to huge depths of field. Unlike in portraiture, where it’s often favourable to blur the background, wide-angle lenses enable you to keep very close subjects and the distant horizon simultaneously sharp.

Distortion effects

Some lenses deliver a 180-degree viewing angle but these are curvilinear or ‘fisheye’ optics. They’re renowned for their extreme barrel distortion. By contrast, all of the lenses in this round-up are rectilinear, aiming to keep distortions to a minimum. 

It’s sometimes said that photographers often only use this type of lens at or near its shortest focal length. However, many ultra-wide zooms give almost no distortion at mid-range to long zoom settings. You can therefore enjoy much less distortion towards the long end of the zoom range, especially compared with using a ‘standard’ zoom lens at a matching focal length.

Most APS-C format ultra-wide zooms have variable aperture ratings, with their widest available apertures shrinking toward the longer end of the zoom range. By contrast, most up-market full-frame lenses are constant-aperture designs, maintaining either f/2.8 or f/4 widest apertures at all available focal lengths. Naturally, combining wide viewing angles with wide aperture ratings requires very large-diameter front elements, especially for full-frame lenses. 

Filter fitment

Especially in the full-frame camp, many ultra-wide lenses have particularly bulbous front elements that protrude from the front of the lens barrel. For physical protection, as well as to reduce ghosting and flare, they therefore have a built-in petal shaped lens hood. The same arrangement is used in the ultra-wide Sigma 8-16mm APS-C format lens. 

A downside is that these designs don’t enable filters or a filter holder to be screwed into the front of the lens barrel. However, Lee Filters markets an SW150 Mark II filter system with custom adaptors to fit various ultra-wide zooms including the Canon 11-24mm, Nikon 14-24mm, Sigma 12-24mm, Tamron 15-30mm and Tokina 16-28mm lenses. This enables you to use neutral density and ND grad filters, popular especially for landscape and architectural photography.

Canon DSLRs with APS-C format image sensors start with entry-level models like the EOS Rebel T7i / 800D, and go right through to bodies like the EOS 7D Mark II at the high end of the enthusiast market. Just as with standard and telephoto zooms, a bonus of the APS-C format is that ultra-wide lenses tend to be more compact and lightweight than equivalent full-frame optics. Here’s our top seven picks, in descending order.

The original Tamron 10-24mm gave the biggest outright zoom range of any ultra-wide lens for APS-C format Canon cameras. This major revamp boasts upgraded optical elements, a new HLD (High/Low toque-modulated Drive) autofocus system and the addition of VC (Vibration Compensation) stabilization. Overall build quality is better as well, with added attractions of a weather-sealed mounting plate and fluorine coating on the front element. The lens comes complete with a hood and is compatible with Tamron’s optional USB docking station, for applying customization and firmware updates. Autofocus is quicker and quieter than in the original lens, and unerringly accurate. Sharpness and contrast are impressive, right down to the very shortest zoom setting, colour fringing is minimal and distortions are well controlled for an ultra-wide zoom. All in all, it’s a top performer.

This lens is newer, bigger and better than Sigma's original 10-20mm. A notable difference is that it has a constant f/3.5 maximum aperture, rather than a variable aperture rating that shrinks at longer zoom settings. It's a high-grade lens with fast and quiet ring-type ultrasonic autofocus and a seven-blade diaphragm. The build is quite chunky, with a comparatively large 82mm filter thread. Sharpness and contrast are excellent, and very consistent throughout the zoom range. Colour fringing is very well controlled, and distortion is only really noticeable towards the shortest end of the zoom range. It’s a superb lens that's great value for money.

For really maximizing your ultra-wide viewing angle, look no further than this Sigma 8-16mm. Compared with most competing lenses that shrink to a 10mm focal length, the subtraction of 2mm at the short end of the zoom range makes a huge difference to the angle of view. Physically, the Sigma 8-16mm is quite long because the hood is built into the lens barrel. Build quality is very good, with a smooth-acting zoom ring and ring-type ultrasonic autofocus system. One downside of the ultra-wide angle of view is that barrel distortion at the short end of the zoom range is more noticeable but this lens is unbeatable for squeezing more into the frame, and for really exaggerating perspective.

Canon has launched several compact, lightweight zoom lenses that feature STM (stepping motor) autofocus and image stabilization. The lightweight theme stretches to the mounting plate, which is made from plastic rather than metal. The STM system delivers fairly rapid autofocus for stills, along with smooth and virtually silent autofocus transitions when shooting movies, while the 'fly by wire' focus ring is smooth and precise in operation. The 10-18mm zoom range makes sense, as it gives a wide angle of view at the short end, and matches the 18mm starting point of standard kit zooms at the long end. Sharpness is good, beating that of Canon's long-established 10-22mm lens at both ends of the zoom range, and it’s much less expensive to buy.

This was the first ‘EF-S’ ultra-wide zoom that Canon launched for its APS-C format DSLRs, and it’s still going strong. Despite the addition of the EF-S 10-18mm IS STM lens to the line-up, the 10-22mm remains the better built and more upmarket option. It feels a quality item, and includes ring-type ultrasonic autofocus, plus a focus-distance scale that’s lacking on the cheaper 10-18mm lens. This can be a big help for setting the hyperfocal distance for maximizing depth of field, and for zone focusing, which is especially popular in street photography. However, the 10-22mm lacks image stabilization and outright sharpness is a little disappointing, especially towards the edges and corners of the image frame.

Tokina’s 11-16mm ultra-wide zoom lens became something of a classic in the early days of APS-C format DSLRs. It delivered very pleasing image quality and had a robust construction, although its outright zoom range was distinctly limited. This newer lens retains the same 11mm shortest focal length, but boosts the longest zoom setting from 16mm to 20mm. A major attraction is the lens’s fast f/2.8 aperture, which remains available throughout the entire zoom range. As a consequence, however, the filter thread is relatively large, at 82mm in diameter. Image quality is good with impressive sharpness, but autofocus is relatively slow and noisy compared with most current lenses. A typical Tokina design feature is that you can slide the focus ring forwards and backwards to engage auto or manual focus modes.

For a long time this has been the official Canon super-wide-angle zoom for its APS-C DSLRs, and although it's now been joined by the new EF-S 10-18mm STM lens, the 10-22mm remains the pricier, more upmarket option. Now 10 years old, the lens still feels like a quality item, and includes ring-type ultrasonic autofocus and a focus-distance scale mounted beneath a viewing window. We have, however, experienced poor sharpness from this lens in the past. The sample we tested this time proved better at the frame centre with apertures around f/8, yet sharpness was still disappointing towards the edges and corners, especially at larger apertures, where vignetting was also noticeable.

With the relentless march of extra megapixels into full-frame image sensors, it’s good to have an ultra-wide zoom that pays attention to detail. Our top seven lenses are mostly recent designs that aim for excellent sharpness, right across the frame and into the corners.

The ‘Art’ edition of Sigma’s 12-24mm lens represents a significant upgrade over the previous Mk II model. The variable f/4-5.6 rating of the older lens has been replaced by a constant f/4 aperture, and the improved optical path includes an extra-large-diameter aspherical element at the front of the lens, along with no less than five top-grade FLD (Fluorite-grade Low Dispersion) elements. Fluorine coatings are applied to the front and rear elements, and the mounting plate is weather-sealed. The ring-type ultrasonic autofocus system has also been uprated, with added torque for faster performance, and the lens is compatible with Sigma’s optional USB Dock for applying customization and firmware updates. As for image quality, the new lens delivers greater sharpness, remarkably little colour fringing and minimal distortions for this type of lens. Overall, it’s a spectacular performer.

Canon markets some superb ultra-wide zoom lenses for its full-frame DSLRs. Until recently, however, the only option shorter than 16mm was the EF 8-15mm f/4, which is a fisheye rather than rectilinear lens. Compared with a 16-35mm lens, the 5mm reduction in minimum focal length has a huge impact on the maximum viewing angle. This is actually the most ‘wide-angle’ zoom you get for Canon full-frame DSLRs. As usual for such an ultra-wide lens, the bulbous front element is shielded by a built-in petal shaped lens hood. A lens cap fits over the hood to protect the precious glass in transport. Handling and image quality are excellent but the Canon loses out slightly to the Sigma 12-24mm Art lens for control over colour fringing and distortion.

This Tamron lens doesn't go quite as wide as the Canon 11-24mm, but it's still wider than most. Tamron has developed a line of 'fast' zoom lenses that have a constant, wide f/2.8 aperture, complete with image stabilization (VC, Vibration Compensation), and this 15-30mm takes the line-up into ultra-wide-angle territory. Other similarities include impressive build quality, a weather-sealed construction and ring-type ultrasonic autofocus. It's a big lens but feels well balanced on Canon full frame bodies from the EOS 6D Mark II to the EOS-1D X Mark II and handling is excellent. Sharpness is exemplary from the centre to the extreme edges of images, throughout the zoom range. Colour fringing is controlled well and the stabilizer gives a four-stop benefit.

On the face of it, the narrower aperture rating of this lens compared to Canon’s 16-35mm f/2.8 might make it seem less desirable, but the weather-sealed build and handling are similarly impressive. Bonuses include a more compact and lightweight form factor, an attachment thread for easy use of filters, and the addition of a four-stop image stabilizer. Centre-sharpness is fabulous throughout the zoom range, even at the widest f/4 aperture. Sharpness is also retained well towards the edges, but drops off a bit more than usual at the extreme corners of the frame. There's very little colour fringing and overall performance is excellent, making this lens a smart buy at the price.

Like other L-series lenses in Canon's ultra-wide line-up, the 16-35mm f/2.8 is robust and features weather-seals. Its ring-type ultrasonic autofocus is fast and quiet, and the zoom and focus rings are silky-smooth in operation. This latest version is optically rather better than the Mark II edition, delivering excellent sharpness across the whole frame, along with superb contrast, even when shooting wide-open at f/2.8. However, sharpness and contrast aren’t significantly improved over the EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM, and that lens also features image stabilization along with a more regular 77mm filter thread, compared with this lens's 82mm thread.

Like most (but not all) of Canon's up-market L-series lenses, this one features weather seals, including a rubber ring around the mounting plate to guard against the ingress of dust and moisture. It's one of the least ‘ultra-wide’ zooms in the line-up but is also the most affordable. Autofocus is very rapid and the manual focus ring is smooth and precise, both in manual focusing mode and during override of autofocus. The action of the zoom ring is similarly smooth. There’s no optical stabilizer in this lens, but sharpness is impressive even at the widest aperture of f/4, which remains available throughout the entire zoom range. There's some vignetting (darkening of image corners) but it's no worse than average for this type of lens, and in-camera corrections are available in recent Canon DSLRs.

This is a large and heavy ultra-wide zoom, typical of those with an f/2.8 constant aperture rating. It employs a GMR (Giant Magnetoresistance) autofocus module which, according to Tokina, gives faster, quieter autofocus. That’s certainly true compared with some of Tokina's older lenses, and this one retains the trademark 'one-touch focus clutch'. It’s essentially a push-pull mechanism coupled to the focus ring, for switching between autofocus and manual focus. Handling and image quality are very good, with high levels of centre sharpness and well-restrained colour fringing, although the corners could be sharper. As with a growing number of competing lenses, there’s a built-in hood but no filter attachment thread.

You need the right tools for any job, and that’s especially true when it comes to ultra-wide zooms for ‘DX’ format Nikon cameras. Thankfully, there’s a healthy selection of lenses on offer that are tailor-made for DSLRs with APS-C format image sensors.

A major revamp of Tamron original 10-24mm lens, this one boasts upgraded optics, a new HLD (High/Low toque-modulated Drive) autofocus system and the addition of VC (Vibration Compensation) stabilization. Overall build quality is better as well, with added attractions of a weather-sealed mounting plate and fluorine coating on the front element. The lens comes complete with a hood and is compatible with Tamron’s optional USB docking station, for applying customization and firmware updates. Autofocus is quicker and quieter than in the original lens, and the focus ring no longer rotates during autofocus. Sharpness and contrast are impressive, right down to the very shortest zoom setting. Colour fringing is minimal and distortions are well controlled for an ultra-wide zoom. All in all, it’s a top performer. One thing to watch out for, however, is that the electromagnetic aperture control system is incompatible with older Nikon DSLRs, including the D1, D2, D40, D40s, D60, D70, D70s, D80, D90, D100, D200, D3000 and D5000.

This lens is newer, bigger and better than Sigma's original 10-20mm. A notable difference is that it has a constant f/3.5 maximum aperture, rather than a variable aperture rating that shrinks at longer zoom settings. It's a high-grade lens with fast and quiet ring-type ultrasonic autofocus. The build is quite chunky, and features a large 82mm filter thread. Sharpness and contrast are excellent, and very consistent throughout the zoom range. Colour fringing is well controlled, and distortion is only really noticeable towards the shortest end of the zoom range. It’s a star buy that's great value for money.

For really maximizing your viewing angle, look no further than this Sigma 8-16mm. Compared with most competing lenses that shrink to a 10mm focal length, the subtraction of 2mm at the short end of the zoom range makes a huge difference. Physically, the Sigma 8-16mm is quite long because the hood is built into the lens barrel. Build quality is very good, with a smooth-acting zoom ring and ring-type ultrasonic autofocus system. One downside of the ultra-wide angle of view is that barrel distortion at the short end of the zoom range is rather noticeable but this lens is unbeatable for squeezing more into the frame, and for really exaggerating perspective.

As with many own-brand lenses from camera manufacturers, the Nikon 10-24mm is expensive compared to independently manufactured lenses with similar specifications. In its favour, this Nikon has a class-leading 2.4x zoom range, which it shares with the Tamron 10-24mm lens. The Nikon's build quality and construction is good, with ring-type ultrasonic autofocus which delivers fast, snappy AF. Handling is excellent. The medium-aperture sharpness is no more impressive than in most other rival lenses, but the Nikon does retain sharpness at wide apertures particularly well, and stays sharp into the corners of the frame. Vignetting is also quite well controlled. If you want to stick with Nikon and want a more affordable alternative, take a look at the new AF-P 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6G VR (below).

Comparatively small and only about half the weight of most DX format ultra-wide zooms, this is a smart choice for travel photography. The inclusion of VR stabilization also means that you’re less likely to need to carry a tripod, even for shooting under very dull lighting conditions or indoors. The AF-P (Pulse motor) autofocus system is virtually silent and enables smooth focus transitions during video shooting, as well as fairly speedy performance for stills. However, in many older cameras up to and including the D7000, D5200 and D3200, neither autofocus or manual focus is possible. This budget lens matches the pricier Nikon 10-24mm for sharpness at short to medium zoom settings, but lags behind at 20mm. Colour fringing and barrel distortion are also quite noticeable, unless corrected in-camera or during post-shoot editing.

Tokina’s 11-16mm ultra-wide zoom lens became something of a classic in the early days of APS-C format DSLRs. It delivered very pleasing image quality and had a robust construction, although its outright zoom range was distinctly limited. This newer lens retains the same 11mm shortest focal length, but boosts the longest zoom setting from 16mm to 20mm. Another major attraction is the lens’s fast f/2.8 aperture, which remains available throughout the entire zoom range. As a consequence, however, the filter thread is relatively large, at 82mm in diameter. Image quality is good with impressive sharpness, but autofocus is relatively slow and noisy compared with most current lenses. A typical Tokina design feature is that you can slide the focus ring forwards and backwards to engage auto or manual focus modes.

With a minimum focal length of 12mm, this Tokina lens can't deliver quite such a wide viewing angle as most of its rivals, but it does offer a longer maximum zoom setting. This makes it more of an all-rounder that you could keep on your camera for more of the time. It feels reassuringly robust and has Tokina's recently introduced SD-M (Silent Drive-Module) autofocus, which is based on a GMR (Giant Magneto Resistance) system. It still lacks full-time manual override, but you can quickly switch between AF and MF via a simple push-pull mechanism for the focus ring. The amount of barrel distortion is disappointing at the shortest zoom setting, but it's practically non-existent at the long end of the zoom range. Sharpness is pretty reasonable but not overly impressive.

Nikon’s own-brand lenses are up against some stiff competition when it comes to ultra-wide zooms for FX-format (full-frame) cameras. If you’re upgrading from an APS-C format camera body, you can continue to shoot with a DX-format ultra-wide lens in ‘crop mode’, which only uses the central portion of a full-frame camera’s image sensor, but it’s a poor substitute for shooting with the right format of lens.

The ‘Art’ edition of Sigma’s 12-24mm lens represents a significant upgrade over the previous Mark II model. The variable f/4-5.6 rating of the older lens has been replaced by a constant f/4 aperture, and the improved optical path includes an extra-large-diameter aspherical element at the front of the lens, along with no less than five top-grade FLD (Fluorite-grade Low Dispersion) elements. Fluorine coatings are applied to the front and rear elements, and the mounting plate is weather-sealed. The ring-type ultrasonic autofocus system has also been uprated, with added torque for faster performance, and the lens is compatible with Sigma’s optional USB Dock for applying customization and firmware updates. As for image quality, the new lens delivers greater sharpness, remarkably little colour fringing and minimal distortions for this type of lens. Overall, it’s a spectacular performer.

This is Nikon's top ultra-wide zoom for its full-frame DSLRs. It can’t compete with the Sigma 12-24mm lens for maximum viewing angle, but it’s not very far behind, and has a wider aperture rating of f/2.8. Image quality is superb, with excellent sharpness and contrast throughout the entire zoom range. Colour fringing is minimal, although not quite as negligible as in the Sigma 12-24mm Art lens. Barrel distortion at 14mm is noticeably worse than from the Sigma at its even shorter 12mm focal length. Autofocus performance is similarly rapid in both lenses.

This Tamron lens doesn't go quite as wide as Nikon's 14-24mm, but it's still wider than most. Tamron has developed a line of 'fast' zoom lenses that have a constant, wide f/2.8 aperture, complete with image stabilization (VC, Vibration Compensation), and this 15-30mm takes the line-up into ultra-wide-angle territory. Other similarities include impressive build quality, a weather-sealed construction and ring-type ultrasonic autofocus. It's a big lens but feels well balanced on Nikon full-frame bodies from the D750 to the top-flight D5, and handling is excellent. Sharpness is exemplary from the centre to the extreme edges of images, throughout the zoom range. Colour fringing is controlled well and the stabilizer gives a four-stop benefit.

This was Nikon's first ultra-wide lens to feature image stabilization. It's based on Nikon's second-generation VR (Vibration Reduction) system, and gives a four-stop benefit in beating camera-shake. It can't match the focal range and maximum aperture of the Nikon 14-24mm or Tamron 15-30mm, but it has proved a popular, lighter alternative for landscape photographers – especially as you can easily fit filters via the 77mm attachment thread. Other attractions include ring-type ultrasonic autofocus, a weather-sealed mounting plate and fast, ring-type ultrasonic autofocus which is practically silent and enables full-time manual override. Image quality is good although barrel distortion is very noticeable at the 16mm focal length.

This variable-aperture zoom is smaller and cheaper than the Nikon 14-24mm and 16-35mm lenses, but you lose a little in maximum viewing angle. The lens also lacks the VR (Vibration Reduction) facility of the Nikon 16-35mm lens, although the overall build quality feels of an equally good standard. Another downgrade is that the 18-35mm lens has Nikon's Super Integrated Coating rather than Nano Crystal Coating, but its resistance to ghosting and flare is still pretty good. Chromatic aberration is very well controlled for a lens in this price bracket and fine detail is generally retained well even in the extreme corners of images. Even so, sharpness across the image frame isn't a match for the Nikon 16-35mm at the short end of the zoom range.

This is a large and heavy ultra-wide zoom, typical of those with an f/2.8 constant aperture rating. It employs a GMR (Giant Magnetoresistance) autofocus module which, according to Tokina, gives faster, quieter autofocus. That’s certainly true compared with some of Tokina's older lenses, and this one retains the trademark 'one-touch focus clutch'. It’s essentially a push-pull mechanism coupled to the focus ring, for switching between autofocus and manual focus. Handling and image quality are very good, with high levels of centre sharpness and well-restrained colour fringing, although the corners could be sharper. As with a growing number of competing lenses, there’s a built-in hood but no filter attachment thread.

Posted: February 15, 2018, 12:15 pm

Fujifilm has announced the X-H1, its new flagship X Series mirrorless camera that sits above both the X-T2 and X-Pro2.

Aimed at professional photographers and videographers, the X-H1 is the first X Series camera to feature in-body image stabilization (IBIS for short). 

Together with a specially developed dual-processor, the new 5-axis IBIS provides up to a maximum of 5.5 stops of image stabilization when used with all XF lenses that don't include optical image stabilization (OIS) technology. 

Fujifilm has also refined the way in which the image stabilization system is manufactured. A laser measurement device is used to control component flatness and position with twice the precision of standard components, while a new spring mechanism has been included to reduce micro-vibrations caused by operation of the mechanical shutter.

The X-H1 may have a new IS system, but Fujifilm has stuck with the 24.3MP X-Trans CMOS III sensor that's impressed in many recent Fujifilm cameras including the X-T2 and X100F

Ready for anything

The X-H1 is both dust and water-resistant, and can operate in temperatures as low as -10°C. It's similar to the X-T2 in those respects, but to underline its pro credentials the X-H1 also uses a 25% thicker magnesium alloy compared to the X-T2.

Fujifilm has also revealed that it's modified the structure for attaching the lens mount, resulting in a more compact size and lighter weight body than if it had stuck to the previous design, while the X-H1 also sports a high-quality scratch-resistant coating.

Like the larger, medium-format GFX 50S, the X-H1 sports a small top plate 1.28-inch LCD that displays key shooting information. Its arrival means there’s no place for a dedicated exposure compensation dial – something that's become a bit of a design trait of Fujifilm cameras. We found the fiddly little button that replaced it on the GFX 50S a bit awkward to use, so hopefully this has been refined on the X-H1.

Fujifilm hasn't skimped on the viewfinder for the X-H1 either, with a 3.69-million dot resolution and a large and bright 0.75x magnification. The display also promises to be incredibly smooth, with a display time lag of just 0.005 seconds and a frame rate of 100fps. 

As we first saw on the X-T2, the X-H1 features a three-direction, double-jointed 3.0-inch rear display, allowing you to pull the screen outwards and away from the body when the camera is tilted on its side as well as when shooting in landscape format. The X-H1 also gains touchscreen functionality.

Listening to feedback

Fujifilm has always been very good at listening to feedback from photographers and channeling this into future models, and it's done so again with the X-H1. 

The X-H1 sports a larger handgrip design than the X-T2, and also features a new leaf-spring switch for the shutter release button. This has been designed to give a stable feel when holding the camera, as well as to facilitate easy operation of the shutter release.

The X-H1 now features a dedicated AF-On button at the rear of the camera

Back-button focusing is a technique that many photographers swear by, so the X-H1 now features a dedicated AF-On button at the rear of the camera, allowing autofocus to be activated with the thumb. There's also a dedicated focus lever, while many of the X-H1's buttons on the rear of the camera have been enlarged over previous models. 

Extensive video features

While Fujifilm doesn't want the X-H1 to be seen as a video-first camera, as the Panasonic Lumix GH5 is, the new camera does sport a comprehensive set of video features. It's capable of shooting DCI 4K (4096 xPanasonic Lumix GH5 2160) at 24p and 4K (3840 x 2160) at 30p, and can also shoot at 120p in Full HD. 

With the ability to record at a high bit rate of 200Mbps, the X-H1 can shoot F-log, and also offers a 400% dynamic range setting (approximately 12 stops). There's also a new ETERNA film simulation setting that Fujifilm reckons is ideal for shooting movies as it simulates the look of cinematic film, creating understated colors and rich shadow tones.

Improved performance

The X-T2's autofocus system impressed when we tested it, and Fujifilm has tinkered with AF algorithm on the X-H1 to enhance the performance further. 

For low-light shooting, the phase detection autofocus has been improved by approximately 1.5 stops from 0.5EV to -1.0EV, while the range at minimum aperture has been expanded from f/8 to f/11. This should enhance performance when using the camera with teleconverters and lenses like the XF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR, as phase-detection autofocus can now be used.

Fujifilm also reckons it's improved the AF-C performance for the X-H1, which should see better results when shooting finely-detailed surface textures, wild birds and wild animals. 

The X-H1 is capable of shooting at up to 14fps (with the electronic shutter) and 8fps with the mechanical shutter. The dedicated VPB-XH1 battery grip enhances the performance though, increasing the burst speed of the X-H1 to 11fps (with the mechanical shutter), while the NP-W126S battery should deliver 310 shots.

The Fujifilm X-H1 will be available from March, priced at $1899.95 / £1,699 (body-only) or $2199.95 / £1,949 with the VPB-XH1 battery grip in the UK. Australian pricing is still to be confirmed.

Posted: February 15, 2018, 5:00 am

Fujifilm has just taken the wraps of the X-H1, its new flagship X Series camera. So how does the X-H1 compare to the fabulous X-T2, a camera that it sits above in the Fujifilm range? 

Both share the same 24.3MP X-Trans CMOS III sensor, so which camera is the one for you? Let's take a look at some of the key differences. 

X-H1 vs X-T2: In-body image stabilization

While the X-T2 relies on specific lenses for image stabilization (those designated OIS), the X-H1 for the first time in a X Series camera features in-body image stabilization, that promises to offer up to an impressive 5.5-stop compensation. 

X-H1 vs X-T2: Viewfinder and rear screen

The X-T2's electronic viewfinder impressed when we tested it, but the X-H1 is that bit better. While both are the same size at 0.5-inches roughly, the X-H1's resolution of 3.69-million dots is an improvement over the X-T2's already impressive 2.36-million dots. 

Interestingly, the 0.75x magnification offered on the X-H1 is a slight regression on the X-T2's 0.77x magnification, but both have a display lag time of just 0.005 seconds and a refresh rate of 100fps. The minor difference here is that the X-T2 achieves this frame rate in a Boost mode (and requires the VPB-XT2 battery grip), and would otherwise by running at 60fps.

Both sport a 3.0-inch, 1.04-million dot rear display with a clever three-directional tilting mechanism, but the X-H1 has the advantage of a touchscreen interface. 

X-H1 vs X-T2: Build quality

Just like the X-T2, the X-H1 is dust and water-resistant, as well as being able to operate in temperatures as low as 14°F / -10°C. However, the X-H1 also features 25% thicker magnesium alloy compared to the X-T2, while the camera also features a high quality, scratch-resistant coating.

The X-H1 is a bigger camera overall as well, measuring 139.8mm (W) x 97.3mm (H) x 85.5mm (D) compared to the X-T2's dimension's of 132.5 x 91.8 x 49.2mm, while it's also a little heavier at 673g compared to the X-T2's weight of 507g. 

X-H1 vs X-T2: Controls

The design of the X-H1 is a bit of a departure from the X-T2, and borrows some design elements from the medium format GFX 50S.

The most obvious addition to the X-H1 is a much more pronounced handgrip, while there's now a 1.28-inch LCD on the top of the camera, emulating the design of the GFX 50S and displays key shooting information. This does mean that the handy exposure compensation dial on the X-T2 has disappeared. 

There's also the arrival of a dedicated AF-On button at the rear of the camera for back-button focusing, while the buttons on the rear of the X-H1 have been enlarged and improvements made to the grip of the front and rear command dials.

X-H1 vs X-T2: Autofocus

Both the X-H1 and X-T2 both feature the same hybrid AF system that employs both phase-detection and contrast-detection points.

This sees up to 169 phase-detect points arranged in a large square formation (13 x 13) in the centre of the frame that's supplemented by two grids of 6 x 13 contrast-detect points either side to deliver a total of 325 focusing points across a large area of the frame.

With the X-H1 though, Fujifilm has improved the AF algorithms. This has led to the low-light limit for phase-detection points improved by approximately 1.5 stops from 0.5EV to -1.0EV, while the performance at minimum aperture has also been expanded from f/8 to f/11. For instance, phase-detection AF can now be used when using the XF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR with the a XF2X TC WR teleconverter.  

There's also be major improvements made to the AF-C performance while operating in zoom, which should make the X-H1 more suited to shooting fast moving subjects.

X-H1 vs X-T2: Video

Both the X-H1 and X-T2 offer 4K recording (3840 x 2160), but the X-H1 also offers DCI 4K (4096 x 2160) at up to 24p. The X-H1 also has the edge when capturing Full HD footage, capable of shooting at up to 120p compared to the X-T2's 60p.

Fujifilm's also doubled the bit rate on the X-H1, increasing it from the X-T2's 100Mbps to 200Mbps, while it also offers a 400% dynamic range setting and a ETERNA film simulation mode that simulates cinematic film, creating understated colors and rich shadow tones according to Fujifilm.

X-H1 vs X-T2: Burst shooting speed

While you'd expect the X-H1 to have an advantage here, they're both the same, with a top burst shooting speed of 14fps (with the electronic shutter), dipping to 8fps should opt for the mechanical shutter.

Both see a boost in performance if you attach their respective battery grips, with both the X-H1 and X-T2 capable of shooting at 11fps with the mechanical shutter activated. There's no performance gain if you use the electronic shutter.

X-H1 vs X-T2: Battery

Both cameras use Fujifilm's NP-W126S Li-ion battery (good news if you're planning to have both cameras in your kit bag), but the X-T2 has the slightly better battery life of 340 shots compared to 310 shots for the X-H1. 

This can be attributed to a number things, but perhaps the larger viewfinder and in-body stabilization are going to drain the power of the X-H1 a little more.

Posted: February 15, 2018, 5:00 am

The new Lumix GX9 is the successor to one of the oldest mirrorless cameras in Panasonic's current range, the Lumix GX8.

Aimed at the enthusiast photographer who wants a compact but high-performance camera, the Lumix GX9 features a 20.3MP Micro Four Thirds Digital Live MOS sensor, although it's not quite clear if this is the same sensor as the one in the recently announced Lumix G9

There's no low-pass filter though, and Panasonic believes that the combination of this sensor and the latest Venus Engine image processor, for the best possible lens performance, should deliver natural, high-precision images.

Panasonic is touting the Lumix GX9 as the ideal street camera, and to that end has added a new L.Monochrome D mode Photo Style, which promises to deliver detailed black and white photos with emphasized highlights and shadows. The grain effect can also be fine-tuned in all monochrome modes to tailor the 'street' look.

5-axis stabilization

The Lumix GX9 features a 5-axis Dual I.S. (Image Stabilizer) that combines the 2-axis O.I.S. (Optical Image Stabilizer) of a compatible lens and 5-axis B.I.S. (Body Image Stabilizer), making it possible to use a shutter speed four tops slower than would otherwise be possible and still achieve blur-free shots.

Panasonic has also kitted the GX9 out with a shutter unit that incorporates an electromagnetic drive, which should reduce the risk of shutter shock by approximately 90%, while a Silent Mode switches the shutter from mechanical to electronic and turns all sound (AF, operation) off.

The Lumix GX9 gets an uprated electronic viewfinder that tilts upwards 80 degrees and has a 2.7m-dot equivalent high-resolution display and 0.7x (35mm camera equiv.) magnification.

On the rear of the Lumix GX9 is a 3.0-inch 1240k-dot touchscreen display that also tilts upwards 80 degrees, and down 45 degrees, to make high- and low-angle shooting easier.

The Lumix GX9 features Panasonic's Contrast AF System that includes DFD (Depth From Defocus) technology, which sees the system exchange digital signals between the camera and the lens at 240fps, which in turn is claimed to deliver a focusing speed of 0.07 sec.

The Lumix GX9 features a wide range of AF functions including Face/Eye Detection AF, Pinpoint AF, One-shot AF and advanced Low Light AF. If you're going to be shooting in near-darkness, Live View Boost makes it possible to check composition under these conditions by boosting the sensitivity just for the Live View display.

4K video capture

As you'd expect for a Panasonic camera, 4K video capture is a given (at 30p or 24p in MP4), while there's also 4K PHOTO. Taking advantage of 4K technology, the Lumix GX9 can shoot at 30fps and output 8MP-equivalent images. If you want to shoot at the camera's full 20.3MP resolution, the GX9 can shoot at up to 9fps (AF-S) and 6fps (AF-C). 

Compared to the Lumix GX8, the Lumix GX9 features an exposure compensation dial, and a dedicated focus lever on the rear of the camera for quickly toggling between AF modes. 

The GX9 features Bluetooth Low Energy to enable a constant connection with your smartphone or tablet for instant image sharing, in addition to Wi-Fi.

The Lumix GX9 will be available in early March priced at £699 (body-only) in the UK. In Australia, the Lumix GX9 is available as a single lens kit with a 12-32mm lens costing AU$1,399.  US pricing is still to be confirmed.

Posted: February 13, 2018, 1:00 pm

The Lumix ZS200 (known as the Lumix TZ200 / TZ220 outside the US) is the latest travel zoom compact camera from Panasonic, and one which the company hopes will continue its stranglehold on this growing market. 

Panasonic pretty much invented the travel zoom camera genre – that is, compact cameras that you can fit in a pocket but which have long zoom lenses built-in – with the current Lumix ZS100 (TZ100 / TZ110) our pick of the bunch right now.

The company isn't resting on its laurels though, and has extended its range further with the Lumix ZS200 / TZ200 / TZ220, with the company stressing that the ZS100 / TZ100 / TZ110 continues in the lineup.

15x optical zoom

Perhaps the biggest difference between the new Lumix ZS200 / TZ200 / TZ220 and the ZS100 / TZ100 / TZ110 is the zoom range on offer. While the ZS100 / TZ100 / TZ110 managed to squeeze in a 10x optical zoom with a range of 25-250mm and a maximum available aperture of f/2.8-5.9, the ZS200 / TZ200 / TZ220 incorporates a 15x optical zoom with a coverage of 24-360mm and a maximum aperture of f/3.3-6.4; a touch wider at the start of the zoom range then (though with a slightly narrower/slower maximum aperture), but noticeably more reach at the long end. 

The new lens design enables the Lumix ZS200 / TZ200 / TZ220 to focus down to 3cm to enable the capture of close-up macro shots.

With such a large 15x zoom, there's also Panasonic's Power OIS stabilization system on hand to counteract camera shake for stills photography, and five-axis hybrid OIS stabilization for video.

What made the ZS100 / TZ100 / TZ110 unique among travel zoom compacts was its relatively large 1-inch sensor, which is some four times larger than those in most rival cameras (such sensors are normally found in premium compacts like Sony's RX100 V and Panasonic's own Lumix LX10 / LX15), and the Lumix ZS200 / TZ200 /TZ220 features a similar 20.1MP 1-inch sensor.

The Lumix ZS200 / TZ200 / TZ220 can shoot in raw (as well as JPEG), and it's no surprise to see 4K video capture up to 30p, while Panasonic's 4K PHOTO mode lets users extract single frames from 4K burst files shot at 30fps and save them as 8MP equivalent images. 

Enhanced handling

While the inclusion of a built-in electronic viewfinder (EVF) on the ZS100 / TZ100 / TZ110 was certainly welcome, its modest resolution let it down a bit. The Lumix ZS200 / TZ200 / TZ220 retains an EVF, but gets a decent boost in resolution, from 1.17m dots to an impressive 2.3m. It's also a little larger at 0.21 inches (compared to 0.2 inches on the ZS100 / TZ100 / TZ110), and offers slightly better magnification of 0.53x compared to 0.45x. These improvements should make framing shots in bright ambient light that much easier.

The ZS200 / TZ200 / TZ220 also has a large 3-inch touchscreen on the rear. As you'd expect, there's a sensor which detects when the camera is held to the eye and automatically switches off the main screen and activates the EVF.

The body design has also been refined. The smooth grip, which came in for some criticism on the ZS100 / TZ100 / TZ110, now has a textured lip that's designed to provide a more solid feel in the hand.  

The Lumix ZS200 / TZ200 / TZ220 features a newly adopted eco30fps mode, which reduces the Live View refresh rate, and which should see the camera good for around 370 shots (if you're using the rear LCD) per charge. The battery can be charged via AC or USB.

Like many recent cameras, the Lumix ZS200 / TZ200 / TZ220 features a Bluetooth Low Energy connection to enable a consistent connection with a smartphone or tablet with minimum power consumption, alongside the usual Wi-Fi connectivity.

The Lumix ZS200 / TZ200 / TZ220 will be available in early March (April in Australia), in graphite silver or black finishes, and is priced at $799.99 / £729 / AU$1,199.

Posted: February 13, 2018, 1:00 pm
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10 FREE 3D printed Gadgets for Photographers

By: Mathieu Stern

Published on Feb 7, 2018

►You can find all the free models i speak about here :
Photo background : https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:101…
Sony rear Lens cap : https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:753741
Front cap : https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:110870
mountain sd card holder : https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:149…
Framing spiral : http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:1358472
Screw mount : https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:578514
Fujian lens hood : https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:258…
Lens cap holder : https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:276…
Kiev 10-15 adapter for Helios 60 : http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:1464062
Lithophane : http://3dp.rocks/lithophane/

►Learn more about the cheap Cetus 3D printer :
https://www.cetus3d.com

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Tripods: How to Use Them, and Choose Them

 

By: steeletraining

Originally published on Feb 14, 2017

https://www.steeletraining.com – Learn how to use a tripod for photography and how to choose the right one for your needs. Video tutorial by Phil Steele.

For more free tutorials and photography courses visit: https://www.steeletraining.com/

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Huge Black Friday Photography Deals Special!

 

By: Chris Winter

Originally published on Nov 25, 2016

✅✅ $1 Lav Mic: http://amzn.to/2gu3b0N
✅✅ Neewer Lav Mic: http://amzn.to/2gtYFPH
✅✅ Canon 80D Body: http://amzn.to/2gtXgsM (Click ‘Show More’ To See Other Deals)
✅✅ Canon 80D with 18-135mm: http://amzn.to/2gHnqLc
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✅✅ Canon SL1 with 2 lenses: http://amzn.to/2gtZsAu
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✅✅ Nikon D3400: http://amzn.to/2gu1XCQ
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✅✅ Neewer Carbon Tripod: http://amzn.to/2gtZyYx

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Best Photography Deals Of The Week (Pre-Black Friday Sales!!)

 

By: Chris Winter

Originallly published on Nov 24, 2016

✅✅ Nikon D3300: http://amzn.to/2gkhB5Y
✅✅ Nikon D3300 (Refurbished): http://amzn.to/2frK4SW
✅✅ Canon T6i: http://amzn.to/2gkoa8y (Click ‘Show More’ To See Other Deals)
✅✅ Canon T6i Kit: http://amzn.to/2frwBdT
✅✅ Canon 10-18mm STM: http://amzn.to/2gke1sH
✅✅ Nikon 50mm 1.8: http://amzn.to/2gkcQJQ
✅✅ DJI Osmo: http://amzn.to/2gkjlfv
✅✅ Yongnuo 50mm 1.8: http://amzn.to/2frGvMD
✅✅ Dolica Tripod: http://amzn.to/2gkhRSm
✅✅ Ravelli Tripod: http://amzn.to/2gknf80
✅✅ Takstar Shotgun Microphone: http://amzn.to/2gkiGed
✅✅ Carbon Slider: http://amzn.to/2frKHfg
✅✅ Aluminium Slider: http://amzn.to/2frFHra
✅✅ PNY SD Cards: http://amzn.to/2frFLXN
✅✅ AmazonBasics Backpack: http://amzn.to/2frKQ24

More Deals:

✅✅ Panasonic G7: http://amzn.to/2fAk0ql
✅✅ Panasonic G7 (International): http://amzn.to/2fAgmwC
✅✅ Panasonic G85 Body: http://amzn.to/2fAmyVF
✅✅ Panasonic G85 Kit: http://amzn.to/2fAmXqW
✅✅ Nikon D5500: http://amzn.to/2fUpdgE
✅✅ Canon SL1: http://amzn.to/2fAlQHK
✅✅ Canon 50mm 1.4: http://amzn.to/2fUp5Oj
✅✅ Tamron 18-270mm: http://amzn.to/2fAnnxL
✅✅ XCSource Carbon Tripod: http://amzn.to/2fAmgy3
✅✅ Yongnuo YN600 Flash: http://amzn.to/2fAjsAX
✅✅ Neewer TT560 Flash: http://amzn.to/2fUmJ1P
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✅✅ Koolertron Slider: http://amzn.to/2fAoXPO

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