Photography

Digital Photography Review - News

April 7, 2020
Skyllaney unveils its forthcoming 50mm F2 'Bertele' Sonnar lens for Leica M-mount cameras

If you’ve never heard of Skyllaney, you’re not alone. The company is an up-and-coming lens manufacturer based in England that has announced its first product, a 50mm Sonnar lens for Leica M-mount camera systems that’s due out by 2021.

The Skyllaney 50mm F2 Bertele, as it’s being called, is specified as a ‘limited edition’ lens made in the British Isles. The ‘Bertele’ nickname is given to the lens as a tribute to German optics constructor, Dr. Ludwig Bertele, whose original 50mm F2 Sonnar design inspired the construction of this lens.

Currently, Skyllaney is working on producing the first 20 units, which will be pre-release prototype units that will be used for photographers to provide feedback on the design and overall experience. Once ‘everyone involved is happy, we will then finalise the design and begin the production manufacturing runs,’ according to Skyllaney.

As it stands though, the lens will be constructed of glass elements with anti-reflective (AR) coatings, feature a rounded nine-blade aperture diaphragm and will have an aperture range between F2 and F22. It will also have 6-bit coding for transferring EXIF data to M-mount cameras, offer a minimum focusing distance of 70cm (27.5in) and have engraved lettering on the front ring that Skyllaney says can be customized.

The lens will be offered in black (anodized aluminum) and silver (chrome-plated brass), and will be limited to 150 units for the first production run, with the potential for another 100 units if there’s enough interest.

You can read up more information on the lens design and sign up to be informed of further updates via the form on the bottom of Skyllaney’s blog post.

April 7, 2020
Wet plate photographer shoots portrait of subject 4000 miles away via Zoom

Life is difficult when you are a portrait photographer and social distancing restrictions prevent face-to-face meetings with anyone beyond the people you live with. Not one to let a global virus pandemic get in the way of a good picture, Shane Balkowitsch combined modern and ancient technology to create a wet-plate photograph of a friend who was almost 4000 miles away using video-conferencing application Zoom. From his studio in Bismarck, North Dakota, Shane photographed Morgan Barbour in London, England, as she streamed video of herself to his computer screen – which he photographed using a 10x8in large format camera with a wet collodion plate loaded in the back.

Morgan in the Zoom video conference on Shane's screen

Shane tells DPReview that the idea came about when Morgan asked him to make a wet plate image of her. He was going to copy a previous print he had made of her, but having just been introduced to video conferencing the week before it occurred to him that he could make the picture ‘live’ using the computer screen. He sent instructions to Morgan about how she could set up the lighting in her house to create a silhouette and they had a conference call to make the shot.

‘I’d never shot this way before’ Shane explained ‘and I didn’t know what to expect, so I decided that instead of trying to capture a “well lit” portrait we could go for a silhouette. It would take us back to when photography was first invented and the very simple, honest photographs of 180 years ago when photographers were just trying to get any proof of the photograph.’

‘The two plates we made are rather lovely in their simplicity and mood. Our first attempt, which is now known as “A Distance Exposure In Isolation”, is the better of the two. The light reflecting off her upper body adds just the right degree of femininity for me.

Shane tells us that he would usually expect an exposure of ten seconds for his wet plate portraits but this one needed Morgan to remain still while he counted down a full minute.
‘I wasn’t sure how the image on the screen would come out, or if it would come out at all. The wet plate process relies on ultraviolet light to make the exposure, and I didn’t know whether there would be some sort of UV filter on the monitor to protect users’ eyes. Fortunately, however, that turned out not to be the case. It still needed six times the usual exposure to activate the silver on the plate though, and that was for a backlit silhouette. If I’d wanted to get detail in her face I’d probably need two to three minutes.’


Shane says he is stunned by the mixture of technologies that exist 170 years apart, and how the light traveled from Hampstead in London to his Bismarck studio 3961 miles away. ‘There’s no truth in the light I recorded!’ he exclaims. ‘It has been transfigured and translated so many times. It passed through the background in Morgan’s house to reach her phone, where it was converted into zeros and ones to travel across the globe via the internet before reaching my screen. Here it was turned back into light again before passing through my lens and on to the plate. It’s amazing.’

The final image - note the cursor in the top left corner. A sure clue to the mix of technologies

To avoid capturing the texture of the screen Shane says he focused on the outline of Morgan’s lips and nose, and then pulled the focus back a little to blur the pixels of the screen and to create a softer feel to the picture. ‘I didn’t know if I’d get reflections off the screen too, but they don’t seem to show in the picture. There was an odd mark on the plate that I noticed as the image developed. I didn’t know what it was at first, but when I came to remove it I realized it is the arrow cursor from my computer left in the picture area by mistake. Kinda funny!’

Shane's darkroom, where he sensitizes and develops his plates

Shane will have the chance to practice the process once again this Friday as a model from New York has contacted him since seeing the pictures of Morgan to have her portrait taken. ‘We’ll see what we can come up with. We just got off the phone together, we have never met but she has wanted to have her portrait taken by me for some time.’
Shane says ‘If we ask ourselves, “why would you even attempt this?” the answer is simple - out of necessity. I am usually booked 7-8 months ahead for my Friday sessions in my natural light wet plate studio, but right now I’m having to cancel all those sittings. Now I can shoot remotely. Take that Coronavirus! You think you can stop us from creating? I think not.’

Self-portrait with one of his wet plate cameras

Below you can see the video of the conference call during which Shane made the picture, which also shows the process of sensitising the plate and developing it after the exposure. You can see more of Shane’s wet plate work on Instagram and on his website.



Shane may be the first to shoot a wet plate image directly from a live subject on computer screen, but Robert Matheson used a similar process to record portraits from a live image projected onto a wet plate during the interview below.

April 7, 2020
Canon releases 1D X Mark III firmware update to fix lock-up issue, add 23.98p video capture

As it had promised a few weeks back, Canon has released a firmware update (version 1.1.0) for its 1D X Mark III DSLR camera that addresses the lock-up issue we first reported on in early March. In addition to the lock-up issue, the update addresses a few other ‘enhancements and fixes.’

First and foremost, firmware version 1.1.0 corrects a problem that would cause the camera to lock up when the electronic level is set to ‘Show’ in the viewfinder display and the shutter or AF-ON button is pressed. Below is a video from DPReview reader Hamilton Pytluk, who shared the lock-up issue in action:

The update, which was released on March 31 and only recently brought to our attention, also fixes an issue where the ‘Custom Shooting Mode’ settings could change when the shooting mode is switched and adds the option for a 23.98p frame rate option. Canon has also improved the communication speed when connected via wired LAN, added a ‘Browser Remote’ function and added the ability to transfer only images that are protected.

You can find the firmware update, available to download on both macOS and Windows computers, on Canon Europe’s 1D X Mark III support page.

April 7, 2020
How HDR display could change your photography forever

Not the HDR you love to hate

You probably already have some understanding of what HDR images are, and equally probably, a moderate-to-strong opinion about their artistic merit. But you're likely to hear a lot about HDR in the coming years that has nothing to do with the eye-popping candy-colored processing you're thinking of.

A standard DR impression of the HDR difference

This is a necessarily limited representation of the difference between SDR and HDR images, constrained by your SDR display.

On an HDR monitor, capable of brighter whites and darker blacks, the shadow region would be brighter and able to express more contrast, while the sky would be brighter still and more distinct from the foreground, just as it would be in the real world. However, it's impossible to convey the capabilities in a JPEG image, viewed on an SDR display, so all we can do is try to maintain the distinction between the sky and foreground.


The technologies that make this possible are displays that can achieve a wider color gamut, a greater maximum and minimum brightness than conventional displays, and that can show more subtle gradations of tones from this brightest point down to black. This means they can show a more convincing representation of the real world, but requires content that makes use of this possibility.

What we currently think of as HDR images are usually high dynamic range scenes tone-mapped to fit into the constraints of standard dynamic range (SDR) displays and print. But a new generation of displays: OLED and other high-end TVs and many mobile devices, are able to display a wider range of tones than before. And, crucially, this isn't about eye-catching effects, it's about representing the world more realistically.

HDR in video

This capability has already been exploited in cinema. Directors and DoPs are increasingly shooting and grading their movies to utilize the wider dynamic range offered by modern cameras and displays. The latest HDR TVs allow us to gain this same experience in the home.

The push toward HDR TV has spawned a series of standards, from the sophisticated Dolby Vision to the less ambitious HDR10, via HDR10+, which sits somewhere in between. There's also the more simplistic Hybrid Log Gamma, which is the one you're most likely to have already heard of.

HLG was developed by broadcasters to look good on an SDR display, but better on HDR screens

Dolby Vision, HDR10 and HDR10+ are being used to various degrees by content streaming services, where it's possible to deliver different streams to users whose systems can report that they're HDR compatible and those that aren't. This means they don't have to be cross-compatible with older, SDR screens. Hybrid Log Gamma was developed by broadcasters and is designed so that it looks good on an SDR display, but looks better on HDR screens. This was necessary since broadcasters have to deliver the same signal to everyone.

Ultra HD Blu Ray discs get round the problem of how to accommodate SDR viewers by providing a standard Blu Ray disc alongside the HDR 4K version (HDR 10 in this instance)

There's scope for cynicism here: we've just watched a wave of enthusiasm for 3D movies and TVs surge and ebb, so it's no surprise that there's another technology rushing towards us, in the hope it drives us to all upgrade our TVs to the latest spec. But this one has a more direct benefit for photographers.

HDR in stills

At present, the JPEGs produced by cameras are designed with the expectation they'll be viewed on standard definition displays. This limits how much of the dynamic range of the real world can be shown before everything begins to looking flat and washed-out, or tips over into the hyper-real look of aggressively tone-mapped HDR images.

So far we've seen two camera manufacturers go further and try to take any advantage of the arrival of more capable displays. Panasonic's S-series cameras have a mode that can output images based around the HLG standard. These files can be viewed on the majority of HDR TVs if you connect the camera using HDMI. Images shot using HLG Photo mode are output as .hsp files (defined in the HLG standard), whose wider user and acceptance is currently unclear. The cameras can also output .hsp files using in-camera Raw conversion.

Not all the elements necessary for exploiting HDR's photographic potential are in place yet

The first sign of Canon exploiting HDRTVs' capabilities is that you get a higher DR preview of Raw files from its recent cameras, if you connect them to a 10-bit display over HDMI.

But the big news being that the EOS-1D X Mark III will output 10-bit files designed for HDR displays in the HEIF image format.

HEIF is already in use for HDR imagery on Apple's phones (though not, yet, its Mac computers, which can open HEIF files but don't display the HDR version of the image). HEIF/HEIC is a broad standard, and the files from Canon and Apple are not cross-compatible with one another, but its use by two such large players in the imaging industry significantly increases the likelihood of third-party software offering support.

We may start to see HDR displays become a leading way to exhibit photography

Canon's HEIF files use the response curve used in both the Dolby Vision and HDR10 standard. This should aid compatibility across HDR systems, but it is not backwards compatible with SDR systems.

It's worth noting that the HEIF standard includes the option to include multiple image files: so it could potentially offer a way of delivering both an HDR and SDR version of an image, without any compromises to maintain cross-compatibility.

So what does this mean?

For now, there's no standard workflow for producing HDR images, so it's not something you can easily start doing today. But it's worth being aware that the possibility is coming and it could change what you can do with your photos.

For instance, since the latest HDR screens can show a much more convincing version of the world than bright lights reflected off good quality prints, we may start to see HDR displays become a leading way to exhibit photography. If that's your target, you wouldn't need to worry about also producing a more restrictive version for SDR display, so you could process your images on an HDR display with HDR output in mind.

Apple's Photos software, running on latest Mac Pro and combined with the rather pricey Apple XDR display, is one of the few combinations to currently let you edit photos for HDR displays.

Alternatively, embracing a Hybrid Log Gamma workflow would mean that nearly everybody could view your photos but that those with SDR monitors wouldn't miss out on the subtlety in the brighter parts of the image. Or perhaps there'll be a need to prepare two versions of your best images: one optimized for HDR and a second that still looks good to everyone else.

If you haven't already drawn this conclusion: it's early days for HDR photography and not all the elements necessary for exploiting its photographic potential are in place, yet. But it is coming. And your next TV could be a chance to expand your photography beyond a set of limitations you might not even have realized were confining you.


SDR/HDR demonstration by Rishi Sanyal with help from Dan Bracaglia
April 7, 2020
Tamron's 70-180mm F2.8 lens should ship in mid-May for $1,199

Last October, Tamron revealed it was working on a compact 70–180mm F2.8 telephoto lens for full-frame Sony E-mount camera systems. Now, we officially have availability and pricing information for the 70–180mm F2.8 Di III VXD.

As promised, the lens is small despite its focal length range, measuring in at 149mm (5.9") long and 81mm (3.2") diameter, with a weight of 810g (28.6oz). The lens is constructed of 19 elements in 14 groups, including one molded aspherical element, one hybrid aspherical lens, one 'eXtra Low Dispersion' (XLD) element, five Low Dispersion (LD) elements and fluorine coatings. The lens is ‘moisture-resistant,’ but Tamron doesn’t elaborate on what exactly it can endure.

An illustration of the optical construction of the lens.

Autofocus is driven by Tamron’s ‘Voice-coil eXtreme-torque Drive’ (VXD) linear focus motor. At 70mm, the minimum focusing distance is just 27cm (10.6") in manual focus and the aperture diaphragm features a nine-blade design. As with other lenses in Tamron’s lineup, the 70–180mm F2.8 features a 67mm front filter thread.

The 70–180mm F2.8 Di III VXD lens will be available in the U.S. on May 14, 2020 for $1,199. However, Tamron notes that due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic the release date could be bumped back.

Tamron Announces the Launch of Lightest and Most Compact Large Aperture Telephoto Zoom Lens in Its Class for Sony Full-Frame Mirrorless Cameras

Third model in Tamron’s series of fast F/2.8 zoom lenses for Sony full-frame mirrorless cameras delivers quiet, fast focus and superb performance

April 6, 2020, Commack, NY – Tamron announces the launch date of the 70-180mm F/2.8 Di III VXD (Model A056), a large aperture telephoto zoom lens for Sony E-mount full-frame mirrorless cameras that is the lightest and most compact in its class. The lens will be available in the U.S. on May 14th at $1199. However, due to the spread of COVID-19, the release date or the product supply schedule could be delayed.

The 70-180mm F/2.8 features a compact and lightweight design with a 67mm filter diameter, the same as Tamron’s highly esteemed 17-28mm F/2.8 (Model A046) and the 28-75mm F/2.8 (Model A036). The optical construction includes several special lens elements that contribute to the lens’s overall superb imaging performance. Its very short 33.5” MOD (Minimum Object Distance) expands overall versatility. The lens utilizes Tamron’s newly developed VXD (Voice-coil eXtreme-torque Drive) linear motor focus mechanism that produces an autofocus drive that’s quieter and quicker than ever before. Additionally, a floating system is used to achieve excellent optical performance at all shooting distances. By simultaneously operating two VXD units via electronic control, the system produces clear and sharp images of all objects near and far. Other features that support a great shooting experience include Moisture-Resistant Construction for added weather protection and Fluorine Coating for easy maintenance. In addition, the 70-180mm F/2.8 is fully compatible with various camera-specific features including Fast Hybrid AF and Eye AF. Developed under the concept of “making large aperture zoom lenses user-friendly,” the 70-180mm F/2.8 provides users with complete portrait-to-telephoto lens range coverage. This new model joins the 17-28mm F/2.8 Di III RXD and the 28-75mm F/2.8 Di III RXD to complete Tamron’s fast zoom lens trinity for full-frame mirrorless cameras.

PRODUCT HIGHLIGHTS

1. Compact size maximizes the mobility advantages of mirrorless cameras

A true marvel of portability and utility, the 70-180mm F/2.8 incorporates an innovative zoom mechanism and 180mm telephoto power. It was possible to maintain extreme light weight and compactness even while attaining a fast F/2.8 aperture across the entire zoom range by leveraging camera-based image stabilization. It is small: filter diameter 67mm, maximum diameter 81mm, length 5.9” at the 70mm setting, and also light weight: 28.6 oz. The super-compact size helps make handheld shooting a breeze. As part of our constant, ongoing effort to achieve both high image quality and supreme compactness, Tamron went to great lengths to create this product in answer to demands of the new generation of digital cameras.

2. Newly developed VXD linear motor focus mechanism delivers high-speed and high precision autofocus performance

Tamron developed its first-ever linear motor AF drive focus mechanism, VXD (Voice-coil eXtreme-torque Drive), especially for the 70-180mm F/2.8. While operating faster than ever before, the drive also maintains positional accuracy down to 0.005mm (0.0002”), less than one tenth the width of a human hair! This provides unprecedented fast and precise AF performance. A floating system that uses two high-speed, high-precision VXD units with advanced electronic control is also used. This innovative design produces clear and beautiful images of all objects from near to far and at the same time helps reduce size and weight. In addition, its exceptional quietness enables low noise shooting in silent settings. Active athletes and moving vehicles are among the subjects commonly photographed with telephoto zoom lenses. The enhanced, highly responsive focus features of the 70-180mm F/2.8 enable following a subject’s movements to provide users with a whisper-quiet, high-precision shooting experience, not just for still images but also video.

3. Superior design for uncompromised image quality

The 70-180mm F/2.8 has an optical construction of 19 elements in 14 groups. It includes a total of six XLD (eXtra Low Dispersion) and LD (Low Dispersion) lens elements combined, and three GM (Glass Molded Aspherical) and hybrid aspherical lens elements combined. Special lens elements are generously and optimally arranged to correct chromatic aberration and maintain very high-resolution performance from edge-to-edge. This model also features BBAR-G2 (Broad-Band Anti-Reflection Generation 2) Coating, which minimizes ghosting and flare and produces stunning, clear images with brilliant, sharp subject detail. Furthermore, excellent high image quality across the entire zoom range is enhanced by camera-based distortion and shading correction. Additionally, the bokeh effect obtained using the fast F/2.8 aperture delivers beautifully smooth and soft transition from the subject to the background. The images created with this lens are emblematic of Tamron’s pursuit to combine supreme compactness with superb image quality.

4. 67mm filter diameter for system convenience

The 70-180mm F/2.8 features the same 67mm filter diameter as Tamron’s other lenses for full-frame mirrorless cameras including the 17-28mm F/2.8 (Model A046), a fast ultra-wideangle zoom, and the 28-75mm F/2.8 (Model A036), a fast standard zoom, as well as the close-focusing prime lens series (20mm, 24mm and 35mm). This uniformity significantly reduces cost and trouble when working with PL, ND and other filters. Even the front lens caps are the same size, eliminating the hassle of sorting caps when switching lenses. These features combine to produce a highly convenient and mobile system that adds more fun to photography.

5. Close focusing to a mere 33.5 inches

The new 70-180mm F/2.8 lens has a MOD of 33.5” throughout the entire zoom range. This is astonishingly close for a large aperture telephoto zoom lens. The short MOD paves the way for impressive telephoto shooting at a maximum magnification ratio of 1:4.6 at the 180mm telephoto end. Moreover, a floating component equipped with two VXD linear focus mechanisms maintains high image quality while effectively controlling aberrations so that the 70-180mm F/2.8 ensures great image quality even at close-up. To effectively suppress optical aberrations, this lens features a floating mechanism that ensures great image quality at distances as short as 33.5”.

Note: At the 70mm setting only, it is possible to shoot closer than the specified MOD of 33.5” (as close as 10.6”) when manual focus (MF) is set on the camera. However, results may be less than optimal since image quality decreases in peripheral areas. For more details, please visit this website: https://www.tamron.jp/en/support/guide/closeup.html

6. Moisture-Resistant Construction, Fluorine Coating, and Zoom Lock switch

Seals are located at the lens mount area and other critical locations to deter infiltration of moisture and/or rain drops and afford Moisture-Resistant Construction. This feature provides an additional layer of protection when shooting outdoors under adverse weather conditions. Also, the front surface of the lens element is coated with a protective fluorine compound that has excellent water- and oil-repellant qualities. The lens surface is easier to wipe clean and is less vulnerable to the damaging effects of dirt, moisture or oily fingerprints, allowing for much easier maintenance. Additionally, the conventional Zoom Lock switch prevents unwanted barrel extension during transportation.

7. Compatible with main camera-specific features and functions

Tamron’s new 70-180mm F/2.8 is compatible with many of the advanced features that are specific to certain mirrorless cameras. This includes the following:

- Fast Hybrid AF

- Eye AF

- Direct Manual Focus (DMF)

- In-camera lens correction (shading, chromatic aberration, distortion)

- Camera-based lens unit firmware updates

* Features vary by camera. Please consult your camera’s instruction manual for details. (As of January, 2020.)

8. Tamron’s ‘Dream Team’ of large aperture zooms for full-size mirrorless cameras

Tamron’s 17-28mm F/2.8 Di III RXD (Model A046) ultra-wideangle zoom and the 28-75mm F/2.8 Di III RXD (Model A036) standard zoom lens earn high marks for user-friendliness and high image quality among large aperture zoom lenses for both E-Mount and FE-Mount Sony mirrorless cameras. Now, the 70-180mm F/2.8 Di III VXD (Model A056) telephoto zoom lens joins the lineup to complete the Dream Team Trinity of high-speed zoom lenses for full-size mirrorless cameras. A key advantage of this series is their portability. The three models altogether weigh surprisingly little, just 62.8 oz. Featuring light weight, compact size, a fast F/2.8 aperture and superb image quality, Tamron’s Dream Team is easy to carry, easy to deploy and easy to enjoy.