On The Site
A photo series that captures the essence of summer
Nothing says summer quite like shooting out of a water slide, taking a big deep breath and splashing into a chlorine-filled pool. Krista Long’s series “I Love Summer” captures Iowa swimmers in that moment of pure joy or fear before they hit they water.
The series started last summer when Long took day trips with her two daughters to the waterparks near her Des Moines, Iowa home. Long says one slide in particular that captured her attention: “People would shoot out real fast and it was a little different than the typical water slide you see,” she says.
A photography hobbyist for the past 20 years, Long started bringing her camera and shooting her daughters, their friends and eventually strangers as they shot out of the slide. “I wanted every little water droplet to stand out and really capture, emphasize and isolate the facial expressions and the body positions,” she says. “I think it’s so fun just to watch everybody come out of this thing. It is just pure entertainment for me.”
Long captures her images using a Canon 5D Mark II with a Canon 70-200 zoom lens, a wide open aperture and a fast shudder speed, typically around 1/8000. After a day of shooting Long processes in Photoshop to remove a brick background from her images and replaces it with a black one—to give the splashing water and the flying human a bit more oomph. “Getting the timing down took a little practice, at first there were a lot of bumbles,” she says. “Now I’ve practiced it enough that I can get them just right out of the slide.”
See the full 18-image series on Long’s Flickr account.
Low-light sample images from Sony's latest advanced compact
Sony's RX100 Mark II has been one of the best advanced compact cameras on the market, so we have high expectations for the follow up, the Sony RX100 Mark III. We got some time to shoot with the camera and its new pop-up viewfinder in its natural habitiat at night in NYC.
We were also pleased with the initial low-light, high-ISO sample images. We'll have to wait until we get the camera in the test lab to say for sure how it resolves all the way up at ISO 12,800. For the sake of comparison, check out the sample galleries from the other RX100 models below.
Sample Images: Sony RX100 Mark III
Sample Images: Sony RX100 Mark II
Sample Images: Sony RX100
Pepper spray, camera, and alarm, all in one
The Defender is a crowd-funded self-defence tool that combines a suite of different features into one package. When triggered, it snaps a photo, shoots pepper spray, sends the photo to the Defender's servers, contacts local law enforcement with your GPS location, and sounds a siren. And while that's a whole lot for one little thing to do, what it reminds us most of is the long history of combining cameras with guns.
Let's just skip the obvious questions about how good of an identifying photo a tiny sensor like this will take of someone sprinting towards you at night, and instead focus on other combinations of weaponry and photography.
Perhaps the most similar was this 1938 revolver camera, which would take a photo whenever the trigger was pulled. You can see more of it here. And then once, the CIA did the opposite, and hid a gun inside of a camera for surreptitious shooting. Likewise, the KGB.
What's far more common is to see cameras that mimic the form factor of firearms—stretching back right to the earliest days of the history of photography. There was the Photo-Revolver de Poche, which went for £45,000 at auction in 2008. Or the Thompson's Revolver Camera. More recently there was the Japanese Doryu 2-16 gun camera, or the Fulgurator. Plus there are plenty of people who stick cameras on rifle stocks for extra stability.
These days, there's ever more interest in affixing cameras to guns to create an accurate recording of events—so you can buy accessories such as this one for your firearms.
But for almost as long as people have been making cameras they've been sticking them on or around weapons—and that doesn't seem set to change.
Get a good strap, give to a good cause
Camera bag makers ONA have teamed up with charity: water to create a special camera strap, with proceeds going to the organization's attempts to provide clean drinking water the world over. Crafted from leather, neoprene, and canvas, the Sahel strap comes in black with chrome buckles and rivets, and a "Tell Stories" canvas patch.
The Sahel strap is based on a similar design to ONA's Presidio strap. It's the same primarily leather construction, with neoprene padding and chrome accents. But what's nice is the ONA hasn't boosted the price on the Sahel to make up for the fact that part of the proceeds are going to charity—instead, it retains the same $99 pricetag as the leather Presidio straps. And according to charity: water, "$30 from the sale of each ONA Sahel Camera Strap helps fund our operating costs."
In case you're worried about giving money to an operation that you don't know much about, charity: water is rated extremely well on Charity Navigator.
The Sahel itself is a rather long strap, designed to worn cross-body as a sling. It has a 63-inch total length, with a drop that can adjusted from 19.5-23.5 inches, and is capable of holding up to a 6lbs camera.
[via the Phoblographer]
A cheap-but-challenging solution for extremely dramatic light
New coatings also make them resistant to water and scratches
When it comes to filters, it's actually the coatings on the outside of the glass that can make a huge difference in performance. Hoya's newest filters have some brand new coatings that they claim bring a few different improvements.
The filters are treated with antistatic material, which means it won't hold onto dust and dirt like some filters do. If you've ever looked down at the front of your lens and found it a speckled wreck, you know how handy that could be if it's as effective as they claim. It's also resistant to water, stains, and scratches.
Second, they also claim that they have improved light transmission from 99.7% of light to 99.8%. The numbers make it sound a bit hilarious, but when it comes to letting in light, every little bit counts. They also claim to have 100% transmission at some wavelengths.
You can get the filters in Protector (a clear filter meant just for protection), UV, and circular polarizer in sizes from 37mm all the way up to 82mm.
They must have had awesome insurance
Bullet time has been around for quite some time. In fact, we've written about several different versions here on PopPhoto.com. Typically, they use decent lenses and consumer-grade bodies, but this bungee surfing shoot used 50 Canon 1D X bodies with 24-70mm F/2.8L II lenses. That's approaching a half-million dollars in camera gear.
The cameras are arranged in an interesting array. Typically, they form a semi-circle around the subject so you can get a 270-degree view, but the nature of the shoot made that impossible. So, the cameras are arranged on a rail alongside the water.
The sport itself is actually pretty interesting. A boat tows a surfer along using a stretchy cord that slingshots them forward after letting go. It's a bit like wake boarding without the water skiing elements.
The shots are pretty cool, but it seems like the potential to use the 12 fps capabilities (with AF) of the 1D X could lead to some even cooler applications down the road.
So, even if the shots don''t blow your socks off, it's still cool to see what current top-of-the-line gear is capable of. What would you do with access to that much gear?
Without even the need for reflective tracking dots
Accurately tracking 3D motion is not an easy prospect. On one hand, you have the way that most movie studios do it, by outfitting actors in jumpsuits, and covering them with reflective dots to map key points of motion. Or there workarounds, like using a Kinect sensor, which has problems with accuracy or complex scenes. But a team at Carnegie Mellon has developed an alternative method—called the Panoptic Studio, it's a dome, outfitted with 480 cameras, that can track up to 100,000 points in motion.
You can see the results in the video below, and what's especially impressive is how well it manages to deal with incredibly complex scenes. It starts simple, with just a single individual swinging a baseball bat, but then rapidly increases in complexity to multiple people circling each other, people playing games together, or even tracking confetti as it moves through the room.
The Panoptic Studio itself is a two story geodesic dome, but all the cameras are made from off the shelf parts, which means it should be fairly easy to upgrade with new technology as it becomes available.
While doing motion tracking inside of a fully enclosed room may seem restrictive, being able to ditch the jumpsuits and just have people move around the space could be a major advance in 3D motion tracking technology—and could mean a lot for the future of tracking movement.
Converted cinema film stock makes for some interesting photographic effects
Back before the days of Raw files and adjustable ISO, you had to buy film according to the light in which you'd be shooting. Most film was made for daylight, but when you were shooting indoors, you needed something that would render tungsten light bulbs white, rather than grimy orange. Lomography's new Cine200 film stock is balanced for indoor shooting and also offers some benefits typically only found in cinema film (hence the "cine" in the name).
You process the film as you would any other roll of color transparency film, using the C-41 process. So, yes, you can drop it off at whatever photo lab and it will come out just fine (assuming the people doing the processing are competent).
According to the site, the cinema stock has had the back layer removed to make it compatible with 35mm cameras, so you can stick it in whatever old SLR or even film compact camera you may have. As a result, the images have a very cinematic look to them.
It's balanced for shooting in Tungsten light, but that means you can also shoot outside in the sun with it and you'll get very blue-looking images thanks to the color shift. They'll be consistently blue, though, and it won't crank the contrast sky-high like cross-processing will.
They're only making 4,000 rolls of the stock available, so if you want to try it out, you should probably jump on it fairly quickly. There are also some other film stocks out there worth a shot.
Metz has announced its newest high-end flash
German manufacturer Metz has unveiled its newest flash unit, the previously rumored Mecablitz 64 AF-1 digital. It features not just an impressive guide number of 64, but also a 24-200mm zoom capability, as well as a USB port for firmware updates. Perhaps most interesting for most photographers is the touchscreen rear, which you can use to control the unit without fiddling over buttons.
The 64 AF-1 will also play nicely with most major camera systems, offering TTL flash and remote modes for Nikon, Canon, Sony, Pentax, and Olympus/Panasonic/Leica camera. It runs off of 4 AA batteries, or an external power pack. Here's its full feature list:
- Secondary reflector with 2 light levels
- Vertical (–9/+90°) and horizontal (300°) swivel reflector
- Large illuminated, graphic touch display in colour, with automatic rotating function (90°)
- Simple operating concept
- Motorised zoom for 24–200 mm illumination
- Spot and extended zoom Integrated wide-angle diffuser for 12 mm illumination
- Flip-out reflector card
- Modelling light (permanent light for checking shadows)
- Integrated autofocus multi-zone flash metering
- Flash readiness indicator and correct exposure display on unit and on camera
- TFT flash range display
- Acoustic status notifications (beep)
- Automatic unit shut-off and manual key lock
- Wake-up function via the camera Integrated sync cable socket
- Power pack connection
- Rapid mode
- Programme memory (4 memory locations)
- Metal base with quick lock
Unfortunately, we don't know exactly how much the 62 AF-1 is expected to fetch, but given that the 58 AF-2 goes for around $400, we imagine the 62 AF-1 will go for more than that.
This folded optics patent would squeeze a huge zoom into a small space
Have you ever wondered how underwater cameras manage to fit an optical zoom into a body where the lens doesn't seem to move at all? Frequently, they use a system of what's known as "folded optics", rerouting the light along a bouncing path rather than straight from lens to sensor, allowing the camera to squeeze a zoom into a totally enclosed space. A new Japanese patent for Canon has pushed that concept to the limit, with a design for a 45x folded zoom, which could theoretically end up in a waterproof camera.
The patent was spotted by Japanese site Egami, which cites it as a 45x zoom, with a 1/2.3-inch sensor, 24-1066mm equivalent, f/4-9 lens. It would have 12 elements in 9 groups, and what differentiates it from your standard superzoom patent is the fact that the diagram shows a 90° bounce in the light path.
Egami links this to the Canon D-series, which uses optical folding to keep the lens housed inside a waterproof, shockproof system, so that it can take all manner of abuse without getting water, sand, or other detritus in its works.
On the other hand, we're a bit more skeptical about the Canon D-series link, if only because a 45x zoom makes almost zero sense in an underwater camera. As anyone who's shot underwater knows, light dropoff happens extremely fast, and anything beyond just a moderate zoom become almost impossible to see. However, a tough superzoom does make some degree of sense—as does using this folding optics to just shrink down the size of the superzoom all together. Think about the Sony T-line of cameras, which were incredibly thin. If Canon could squeeze a 45x zoom into a body the size of its current 20x compact zoom cameras, that would be a major selling point.
And folded optics can lead to some pretty extreme form factors.
A portable printer to turn smartphone photos into tangible prints
Just be careful, a beta's still a beta
With news that Apple's officially discontinuing development of Aperture to focus on the upcoming Photos app, that leaves a lot of people who used Aperture in their workflow in something a lurch. Where do they go from here? And how do they get there? One developer has taken matters into his own hands, crafting a tool to transition from Aperture to Lightroom. It's called Aperture Exporter, but with the caveat that it's still in beta, so you're taking the life of your image collection into your own hands.
It sounds like much of what the software does is take things you were already able to do, and simplify them. As the site explains: "Aperture Exporter consolidates the process into just a few clicks and provides features not possible with any manual process. Aperture Exporter is also a great way to back up your Aperture Libraries in a format that is not reliant on the future use of Aperture.
The full feature list is:
- Export your Aperture library to a set of folders
- Retain meticulously crafted project hierarchies.
- Keep all your metadata including ratings and comments.
- Original/Master images saved with XMP sidecar files for ultimate compatibility.
- Aperture adjusted images saved as TIFF or JPEG depending on image rating. Adjustments are baked-in the image.
- Exports images contained in your albums and smart albums.
- Converts Aperture flags and colour labels to keywords.
- Your Aperture libraries are unaltered and unaffected.
The fact that it leaves your Aperture library untouched is a major plus, but keep in mind it's still a beta version of the software, and there's still plenty of ways for things to go wrong. So just be careful, maybe back up your archive first, just in case the worst should happen.
Tethered controls without the tether
MIOPS is a Kickstarter for a smartphone controlled remoter trigger system, and while that's not an entirely new concept, it does promise an impressive level of performance and control.
Rather than physically tethering your phone to the camera using a release cable, MIOPS is a bluetooth controlled device, which slots into your hotshoe, and can be used to control your camera. If you don't have a smartphone around (or your battery dies), it still has a full set of manual controls built into the body, so you can still tweak settings as needed.
MIOPS will have three primary control modes: lightning (triggered by light changes), laser, and sound (which is used for triggering the flash rather than the shutter, to minimize delays). However, it can also be used for HDR image recording, and timelapses—and can even have other types of triggers linked in through an external port.
This isn't the first time we've seen camera controls run through a smartphone—Trigger Happy was one such project, there's the TriggerTrap Mobile app, and even wireless options like MaxStone and ShutterBox. But part of what sets MIOPS apart is its lineage, it's made by the same people who made the Nero Trigger, which means they already have experience with remote triggers, and bringing them successfully to market. And with the MIOPS going for just $200 to Kickstarter backers, that puts it on price parity with the non-Bluetooth version.
That's just half of its usual $995 price
Last year, Blackmagic drew the attention of the world for offering a RAW video shooting camera for just $1000. Now, the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera (BMPCC) has dropped in price even further, and for a limited time you can dip your toes into the water of professional level cinematography for just $495.
Until the end of August, the BMPCC will be going for half of its normal cost, and the sale price is already kicking in with major online retailers.
In a press release, Grant Petty, CEO of Blackmagic Design said:
“We have worked hard to set up this exciting special price to allow more people to afford a super compact digital cinema camera that they can personally own. However stock is limited at this lower price so customers who want to buy at this price will need to move fast. We are extremely proud of the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera and we want to thank all the cinematographers who have send us examples of the work they have completed with this camera. We want to thank everyone for the wise and intelligent feedback they have given us and we hope this special offer is a great way to show our appreciation to the wonderful customers we have. For us, this is a dream come true!”
The BMPCC uses a Micro Four Thirds mount, but because of its small, Super-16 sized sensor, it has a 2.88x crop factor rather than the usual 2x you see with Micro Four Thirds sensors.
This camera can record 1920x1080 footage at up to 30fps, in ProRes 422 (HQ) or CinemaDNG formats, and writes to a built in SD card. Blackmagic claims 13 stops of dynamic range in the RAW footage.
While it might not quite have the sheer power of some of the 4K cinema cameras that are currently on the market, with a $500 price tag, it's a way for indie filmmakers to learn the tools of the trade, without being hobbled by overly restrictive formatting, or bankrupting themselves.
The closest view of the action you're going to get without being a world-class athlete
This year's Tour De France has seen a new addition to the rigorously designed and controlled cycle frames that the athletes ride in the world's most prominent bicycle race: cameras. That's right, for the first time, the bikes have cameras loaded on them, and you can see just how intense and exciting the race is from the middle of the pack.
This May, the International Cycling Union gave the thumb's up for on-board cameras for the first time, during the smaller Tour of California, which resulted in an immensely popular video of the race's finish. Now each team has their own camera system set up, giving us a glimpse into how their racers are doing, like some of the ones you can see below, or these ones from Team Giant-Shimano.
While GoPro may be the most common name when you think of action cameras, unusually, they're not the ones being used for this race. According to the New York Times, eight of the teams are using a Shimano action camera (including non-Shimano teams), and Team Garmin-Sharp has their own recording setup.
The cameras are placed either under the handlebars facing forward, or behind the seat, facing back. Since they last about two hours on a charge, it's up to the rider to decide when to turn them on—but if the videos we've seen so far are any indication, there's always plenty of action to be seen.
If this whole post left you scratching your head, you're probably not alone. After all, mountain bikers and cyclists have been using action cameras for, well, as long as there has been action cameras. In the world of competitive bike racing, though, even the smallest amount of weight can be a significant addition, and at 3 oz., the cameras are substantial. But, the benefits seem to outweigh the added grams for the teams, which is just further proof that cameras really are awesome.
This month's collection of amazing reader-submitted photos
Summer time is an awesome time to get out and take photos. But, the one kind of photography that really seems to thrive when the temperatures rise is landscape. This month's contest had a ton of great photos, but the concentration of amazing outdoor and nature shots is almost staggering. There are sweeping mountain shots to dramatic sea scapes and everything in between. It's a nice indicator that, with the polar vortex of the winter over, people are grabbing their cameras (and their tripods) and heading out to make awesome images.
Despite the hefty number of nature images, there's also a nice mixture of other stuff, too. There's a small-but-strong showing by black and white photographers and, as always, some excellent portraiture as well.
Once you've gone through the gallery for inspiration, head on over to our Contests Page for your chance to show off your own images and win some great prizes.
Oh, and if you're primarily a smartphone photographer, be sure to check out our Mobile Photo Contest. There are already some incredibly impressive entries in there.
The controversial application is now out of beta
Nikon has long offered Capture NX, its own Raw conversion and editing application for those who don't want to venture into the waters of third party software. But, in 2012, Google bought out Nik Software, the company that created the underpinnings of Capture NX, leaving Nikon with some decisions to make. Now Nikon has released a totally new app, Capture NX-D.
One of the big selling points for previous versions of Capture NX was the "U-Point Control System", but this tool vanished with Nik Software, leaving many photographers feeling frustrated. And while Nikon has now made the software free, comments on earlier betas suggest that Capture NX-D is essentially just a new skin on top of the widely used Silkypix engine.
Comments on the official release mixed, with some people criticizing its slow speed, lack of editing tools, and most worryingly, poor compatability with Capture NX2 files—some users claim you'll lose all your edits if you bring in old NEFs, restoring them to straight out of camera files.
If any of our readers have experimented with either the NX-D betas, or this official release, sound off in the comments or on Facebook, and let us know what you think of it.
Well-known photographer James Prigoff and a number of other individuals are fighting back for being targeted for innocent activites
James Prigoff has made a career of photographing public art. Now 86 years old, he's a respected author, artist, and lecturer on the subject of street art. So how did he find himself on a terrorist watch list? Because in 2004, he tried to photograph the Rainbow Swash mural in Boston, which was deemed to be suspicious activity. Now, a decade later, the ACLU is suing the federal government on behalf of Prigoff, along with others, who have been targeted, and had suspicious activity reports (SARs) filed against them.
According to Wired, Prigoff was confronted by security guards while attempting to photograph the mural, even though he was on public land, who made a note of the license plate of his rental car. Prigoff was later confronted by an agent of the Joint Terrorism Task Force in his Sacramento home, who also questioned his neighbors.
While Prigoff hasn't had any further run-ins, the ACLU's suit also has a number of other plaintiffs, including a Muslim man whose house was searched under the suspicion (later found to be unfounded) that a domestic violence suspect had fled there, and was put on the watchlist for reading an article about flight simulators. Or a Middle Eastern man who was targeted for “surveying entry/exit points”—as he was waiting for his mother to use the restroom at a train station.
Photographers have long had troubled interactions with security guards, police officers, and federal agents who seem dead set on stopping completely legal photography, and see people taking photos of interesting objects and spaces as dangerous activities. Even if a suit like this doesn't fully resolve the issue, it does, at least, bring awareness to the fact that these problems do exist.
Sonyâ��s latest â�¨gift to APS-C shooters does many things well
Recent years have seen some very cool Sony cameras: the first full-frame compact camera, the RX1, as well as the first full-frame interchangeable-lens compacts, the a7 and a7R. In the midst of all that full-frame hoopla, the APS-C-format NEX-6 debuted to relatively minor fanfare, although its fans had much good to say about the shooting experience.
Now Sony has followed up the NEX-6 with the a6000. The pixel count jumps to 24.3MP from 16.1MP, matching that of the still current Alpha NEX-7. A new hybrid autofocus system with 179 phase-detection AF points embedded in the sensor and 25 contrast-detection areas promises the fastest autofocusing you can get. Given that its predecessor couldn’t quite eke out enough resolving power for an Excellent rating, we were interested to find out how the extra pixels performed for the a6000 ($648, street, body only; $798 with 18–55mm f/3.5–5.6 OSS lens) in the Popular Photography Test Lab.
In the Test Lab
Adding those pixels turned out to be enough to bring the a6000 up to an Excellent rating in overall image quality from its lowest sensitivity of ISO 100 through ISO 400. But readers may remember that the NEX-6 held its Extremely High image quality rating all the way up to ISO 3200, given that it could keep noise to a Low or better rating through that sensitivity.
The a6000’s extra resolving power, on the other hand, comes with extra noise. The camera maintained a Low or better noise rating only up to ISO 400 and reached Unacceptable by ISO 3200. To compare, the NEX-6 turned in 2225 lines per picture height at ISO 100, while the a6000 served up 2640 lines at the same sensitivity. Even at ISO 3200, the new camera delivered 2470 lines, but it dropped off substantially on the way up to its maximum sensitivity of ISO 25,600, where it still managed to capture 2170 lines in our test.
So depending how you like to shoot, the a6000’s extra resolution might outweigh the difference in noise. Given that the noise doesn’t become too extreme even at Unacceptable levels, and that the camera is aimed at a wider audience who might not be too averse to some noise, the tradeoff could be okay.
In our color accuracy test, the a6000 matched the NEX-6’s result with an Excellent rating based on an average Delta E of 7.9.
In the Field
Many would be hard-pressed to see much of a difference between the NEX-6 and a6000 bodies—and that’s a good thing in our book. The a6000’s grip is great, with plenty to hold onto, while not being too bulky: Its shape, quite well thought-out, lets you securely dangle the camera at your side while walking around, and the grip combines nicely with the gently curved thumb area on the back to let you angle the camera as needed with minimum effort.
While you can certainly find bodies with more buttons, the a6000 provides direct access to an ample number of camera settings for a body in this price range. It also offers a pleasing amount of customization. One of our pet peeves is having to press a button to access exposure compensation when shooting in shutter- or aperture-priority modes. The a6000, though, lets you assign exposure comp to either of the two command wheels; we set it to the rear wheel, which helped make for a more seamless shooting experience during field tests.
The OLED electronic viewfinder, with 1.4 million dots, made its own contribution to our experience in the field. Its bright, sharp display made framing images a joy, and the amount of information accessible helped the process. As always, we like being able to keep our eye at the finder when reviewing a just-captured image or looking through camera menus. The magnification isn’t amazing—about the same as 0.7X on a full-frame camera. But, again, in this price range you won’t find any EVFs that will outclass this one.
Fans of a touchscreen might shed a tear to learn that the 3-inch tilting LCD on the a6000’s back won’t acknowledge your fingertips. But the ability to angle it up or down helps when fighting glare in bright sunlight. Plus, you can shoot with the camera extended above your head or held down at waist level.
Burst shooters should very much appreciate the 11-frames-per-second capture rate, which maintains metering, though not continuous AF, during the burst. If you want AF as well, you can step back to a still-impressive 6-fps burst rate.
As we did with the NEX-6, we ran our lab tests using the 16–50mm f/3.5–5.6 power zoom kit lens. While we often end up switching to fancier lenses during field testing, this kit zoom did impress us. It can focus remarkably close, has optical stabilization, and produced very pleasingly sharp images.
We also used Sony’s excellent Zeiss-branded 24mm f/1.8, and mounted both an A-mount Sony 50mm f/1.4 and a Minolta-era 100mm macro with an official Sony adapter. All worked seamlessly, with full communication between the lenses and camera body. Fans of old glass or manual focusing should note that the a6000’s focus peaking can help when focusing manually.
Video shooters can count on very nice footage at up to 1920x1080p60 in AVCHD format. To help you keep overexposure to a minimum, Sony added zebra stripes, which place stripes over the areas of the image that are overexposed as you frame your scene. Some level of overexposure is sometimes unavoidable, but zebra stripes can help you keep it under control.
Built-in Wi-Fi and NFC let you easily connect the a6000 to your smartphone so you can control the camera or transfer images or video using Sony’s PlayMemories mobile app. We didn’t encounter any problems when using the a6000 with a Samsung Galaxy S3 phone. The level of control and access to menu items still isn’t as exhaustive as on apps from Panasonic or Olympus, but it was adequate for most of our needs.
Sony made a big deal about the a6000’s focusing speed when the camera was first announced. And indeed, it autofocuses faster than any ILC we’ve tried yet—at times it felt almost instantaneous. (Our current AF speed tests do not measure this type of autofocus system precisely, but we’ve found that most current ILCs focus with plenty of speed until you get into very dim light.)
The Bottom Line
Sony’s a6000 is a terrific all-purpose camera. Priced just above entry-level DSLRs, its advantage in size and weight over those cameras justifies the extra bucks. Compared with other ILCs in this price range, the a6000 offers detailed images, a great control system, and convenient wireless capabilities. As long as you don’t hate EVFs (we no longer do, especially compared with not having a viewfinder at all), there are many points in the a6000’s favor, though we do hope that Sony will be able to control noise a little better in the next version of this camera.
IMAGING: 24.3MP effective,APS-C-sized CMOS sensor captures images at 6000x4000 pixels with 12 bits/color in RAW mode.
STORAGE: SD/Memory Stick Pro slot stores JPEG, ARW RAW, and RAW + JPEG files
BURST RATE: Full-sized JPEGs (Fine mode), up to 60 shots at 6 fps; RAW (12-bit), up to 23 shots at 6 fps using an SDHC UHS-I card.
AF SYSTEM: TTL hybrid phase/contrast detection with 179 phase and 25 contrast focus points;single-shot and continuous AF; Sensitivity rated down to EV 0 (at ISO 100, f/2.8)
SHUTTER SPEEDS: 1/4,000 to 30 sec, plus B (1/3-EV increments); shutter life not rated
METERING: TTL metering with 1,200-zone Multi-segment (evaluative), centerweighted, spot (size of spot not specified); EV 0–20 (ISO 100)
ISO RANGE: Stills, ISO 100–25,600 (in 1/3-EV increments); Video, ISO 100–12,800 (in 1-EV increments)
VIDEO: Records at 1920x1080p at up to 60 fps in AVCHD v. 2.0; at 1440x1080p at 30 fps in MPEG-4 MOV format; built-in stereo microphone; no built-in mic input
FLASH: Built-in pop-up; GN 20 (feet); Multi Interface shoe for dedicated flash or other accessories; flash sync to 1/160 sec.
VIEWFINDER: Fixed eye-level OLED with 1.44-million-dot resolution.
LCD: 3-inch TFT with 921,600-dot resolution; 5-step brightness adjustment
OUTPUT: USB 2.0, micro HDMI video, composite video, analog audio, and Wi-Fi
BATTERY: Rechargeable NP-FW50 Li-ion, CIPA rating 310 shots (with EVF) or 360 (with LCD screen)
SIZE/WEIGHT: 4.8x2.9x1.8 in., 0.8 lb with a card and battery.
STREET PRICE: $648, body only; $798, with E-mount 16–50mm f/3.5–5.6 OSS retractable zoom lens
With a full-frame equivalent zoom range of 24-1,248mm, this little camera has a lot of reach
In just a few short months, the Photokina 2014 trade show in Germany will bring with it a rush of new camera gear. But, that means we're currently in a bit of a new camera desert. Pentax, however, isn't waiting to unleash their newest super zoom camera, the XG-1.
The latest volley in the optical zoom arms race has a 52x optical zoom range, which gives it a full-frame equivalent field of view of 24-1,248mm. Behind all that glass, the XG-1 has a 16-megapixel sensor that's of the size you'd expect for a super-zoom. It has a 3-inch LCD screen for composing and reviewing shots, as well as built-in image stabilization to help steady things out, especially at those long focal lengths. It is worth noting, though, that it's sensor-shift shake reduction and not optical.
You can expect to see the XG-1 hitting shelves in August with a price tag of $399. Since the smartphone assault on compact cameras hasn't slowed down at all, it seems likely that we'll see more super-zooms hitting when Photokina comes around as manufacturers try to maximize optical zoom, something smartphone cameras haven't mastered yet.
A truly non-reflective material
What we call black isn't really that black. Color is defined by how much light is reflected or absorbed, and even the darkest of most commercially available materials still reflects some light. But what would you do with something that's truly black? That bounces back almost no light at all? Something like Vantablack?
Vantablack is a new material from Surrey Nanosystems in the UK, and is comprised of millions of carbon nanotubes. As light hits it, the light particles get trapped in the densely packed, vertically aligned tubes. It absorbs 99.965% of incoming radiation. That means visible light, infrared, microwaves, and more.
Vantablack is destined for use in high-end scientific and military applications (and reportedly has a stiff cost), and when seen in person, has been likened to staring at a black hole.
While we probably won't see this stuff available at B&H any time soon, it does get our brains turning over about what you could do with a totally non-reflective material—something which truly bounces back no light. Think about how precisely you could mask lights, without having to worry about unwanted light bouncing in. Or pure matte backdrops for product photography—giving you a perfectly isolated subject.
Meanwhile, Surrey Nanosystems is working on even blacker version of Vantablack, as well as ramping up production on the existing version. And if you're desperate to get your hands on something super-black that you can actually purchase, according to ExtremeTech telescope interiors are often painted with a high-end paint called Aeroglaze Z306, and you can definitely find people willing to apply that for you
A quadcopter that'll provide you with perfect lighting, no matter how you or your subject move
One of the trickiest aspects of off-camera illumination is having to frequently adjust the position and strength of the light as you and your subject move around. But imagine a small drone that would be able to analyze all the elements in the scene, and constantly position itself perfectly for the lighting you want. That's what a team from MIT and Cornell are working on, and it's called Litrobot.
The initial iteration of the Litrobot is designed for rim lighting, to provide a single, powerful light source around the edge of the subject. And while the concept itself is fairly simple, the actual design side of things is remarkably complex. A key part of it is that the quadcopter tracks subjects using LIDAR, and is constantly taking low quality images that it uses to estimate the correct illumination, and moving towards a better position.
Particularly cool is the "aggresive mode", which triggers the camera as soon as the drone is in the right position for lighting, so you don't have to wait for it to settle down in the right position, for faster operation.
You can see some of the Litrobot in action in the video below—and there are still some obvious drawbacks. The big one is the noise level—it's not a quiet device. But the potential here is fairly obvious. It should be possible to use Litrobot for other types of lighting, and the idea of having a semi-autonomous swarm of robots providing you with exactly the sort of lighting you want at all times? That's pretty fantastic.
With a variety of custom built housings, photographer Nathaniel Stern has taken his experimental scanner-based photography into the seas
Nathaniel Stern isn't the first photographer to experiment with using flatbed scanners, and he isn't the first to take his love of photography under the water. But he just might be the first person to combine the two, bringing his innovative take on photography into a new environment, and producing some absolutely intriguing images.
This series is called Rippling Images, and for it, Stern and his team designed and then constructed an array of custom made underwater housings for the scanner. While it's fairly easy to purchase a standard underwater photography rig, it's not every day that someone wants to take a document scanner into the depths, so it required a fair amount of ingenuity to put together. As he explains on his site:
Everything leaked, everything broke, nothing did what I wanted or expected: and this is precisely what must have happened to finally see the 18 wondrous prints that premiered when I was the featured artist at the Turbine Art Fair, Johannesburg in July 2014, and as a solo show at Tory Folliard in Milwaukee, WI in October of the same year. This work has been produced with support from the UWM Graduate School.
Stern calls this type of photography Compressionism, and with each of them, he uses the scanner to interact with his environment in unique and interesting ways. And, as he says in the video below, it's often the mistakes that create the most interesting images.
The first of what's bound to be many drone photography competitions shows off just what the method has to offer
Drone photography site Dronestagram recently partnered with National Geographic, GoPro, Parrot, and more in order to hold their first ever Drone Photography Competition. And if this is what the very first contest has to offer, then we can't wait to see what's yet to come. With awards given for both images chosen by experts as well as ones popular with images, the winning photographs are all breathtaking.
The top prize went to user Capungaero, for an image of an eagle taken in Bali, Indonesia with a GoPro Hero 2. As a prize, they're receiving "1 drone DJI Phantom 2 + Go Pro Black Edition Camera + 150 €/200 USD offered on a print on canvas, aluminum or plexiglas. Featuring in Newswatch section of National Geographic website + Photo published on National Geographic French edition."
The prize for the most popular image one Postandfly a Blade 350 QX HORIZON, GoPro Black, and money towards prints, for an image of a 105m waterfall in Mexico.
You can see the rest of the winners on Dronestagram's site.
One thing that stands out is just how exciting this is for the future of the medium. The image quality coming from the tiny cameras that are able to go on these drones still isn't fantastic—images can be a little soft, and the dynamic range is pretty limited. But this contest gives a glimpse at what these rigs are capable of, and as image quality continues to improve, we expect things to get better and better.