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Fuji X-T3. Third time lucky?

I’m always in two minds when it comes to the fuji sensors. and like Olympus they seem to be doing noise reduction and low level sensor data manipulation even when it’s disabled in camera. It could be the “grain effects” that make Fuji unique, but it does make it hard to compare their sensors to other bodies.

Having said that the new X-T3 performs much better than the X-T2, even with a few more MP. At 1 and 30 seconds the sensor is much better than it’s predecessor. Noise does build up quicker with longer exposures and at five minutes the results are worse (noise mean), but with less standard deviation.

X-T2 vs X-T3

Compared it to the Nikon Z6, currently the leader for long exposure noise the X-T3 appears to do very well. However as mentioned above this in my mind only shows one thing, that Fuji are seriously processing the RAW data. Keep in mind that the X-T3 is a crop body, where as the Z6 is not.

Thats some serious low noise?

When compared to a crop body like the Nikon D7500 you start to get an idea of what is going on:

Nikon D7500 vs X-T3, whats the story here?

Conclusion:
There is no doubt that the X-T3 is a big improvement on the previous model, the noise has been greatly reduced. However I am really not sure how this camera will perform in a real world low light situation. Either Fuji have a crop sensor that is performing better than any full frame sensor, or they are performing noise reduction. I think the latter is more likely, and how this impacts on some subject matter like stars I guess time will tell. Some real world astrophotography samples would be great to see.

If you would like to compare the X-T3 to more models, or learn more about the sensor database click here.

Again, a big thanks for Alex @Stallards in Hobart for access to the X-T3.

Nikon Z6 & Z7 King of the Hill

Nikon’s last low light monster, the D750 has finally been knocked off the hill. The new Z6 and Z7 with their new BSI sensors have overtaken the D750 to hold positions 1 and 2 for low light performance, at least for exposure times below 30 seconds. Our testing showed at 300 seconds (5 mins) the Z6 and Z7 were significantly worse than the D750, as well as many other models. At what point the sensor introduced the noise is yet undetermined, I expect well above 30 seconds.

So for any application below or at a few minutes the Z6 is going to be better than anything currently available in the market. There is no evidence of star eating, and NR off in camera appears to be “off” unlike some other bodies that add grain or manipulate the RAW data even when set to “NR Off”.

How does the D750 compare to the new Z6 and Z7

The Z7 is still great at 1 second, but starts to fall away when compared to the D750 @ 30 seconds. Keep in mind this is a 46 v’s 24 mega pixel race. So the Z7 performs exceptionally well for its pixel count. At 30 seconds I expect you would be getting wonderfully clean images in low light.

The Z7 seems to perform slightly better at 300 seconds compared to the Z6, which was a bit of a surprise, and it was also out performing the 5DSR and GFX-50S. It was about the same as the A7RmII (I do not have the mIII sample as yet).

If you are looking for exposures in minutes, then I’d maybe consider other bodies. But keep in mind the new Z mount may see some faster glass in the future, which would allow a reduction in ISO, and possibly a more cleaner image, and it is 46MP after all.

Overall it’s a very impressive result, and continues to show that Nikon are working hard with Sony to produce sensors that give exceptional results in low light / long exposure situations.

To compare more models, or see further details, check out the Sensor Database.

A big thanks for Alex @Stallards in Hobart for access to the Z6 and Z7 for testing.

Golden Gate Bridge, Red, San Francisco

The Golden Ratio (Spirals) & Custom Grids.

Most photographers have heard of the thirds rule, and most camera models have grids available either in the view finder, live view or both. Most supported grids are normally 1/3 or 1/4 in size. 1/3 size being the most popular supporting the 3rd’s rule. However I think it’s become increasingly obvious companies are missing out on one big consumer need, and it’s a need that is very easy to fill:

Custom Grids.

As a landscape photographer I shoot a lot using live view, and I use a lot of the information provided in live view to assist me to position my shot, such as the grid, exposure, level, filter position, focus etc. But some of the information is very limiting, particularly the grid. What  I may want to use is a custom grid, such as the popular Phi Grid (Golden Spirals) ?

Nikon, Canon, Sony, I’m talking to you, how hard would it be to allow users to upload their own overlays from the SD card? or for you to even provide a few more options inbuilt? I mean, seriously it’s not that hard, the only hard thing about a custom grid is possibly the orientation, but even that can be solved with 4 seperate grids that can be flipped and mirrored. Semi-Pro+ bodies allow you to reassign buttons to do this fairly easily.

I would love to have a button assigned to rotating a custom Phi or golden ratio ‘grid’. Nikon, make it happen (please). In all seriousness, DSLR producers really are behind the software curve when it comes to bells and whistles, and it wasn’t until Sony started to bring in new features that the others took note. How long did it take the Nikon and Canon to introduce features like HDR and time-lapse in camera? Why does magic lantern exist? I was completely frustrated with Canon years ago and their inability to innovate.

Sure you could argue that it’s not a priority or not inline with their goals, but some features really are an easy add-on, and this is one of them.

Aurora, Australis, Beams, Colours, Pirates Bay, Selfie

Dealing with Social Media & Lightroom.

It seems every year there is a new photo sharing social media site that photographers have to deal with. I have had my photos on Flickr for as long as I can remember, before it was purchased by Yahoo. During that time may photo sites have come and gone, but a few have persisted and in this short article I will discuss what I use and how I handle my workflow.

I like many use Lightroom (LR) for post editing and to catalogue my photos, so it makes the most sense to publish directly from LR if I can. Firstly there are a number of features built into LR that you should be using beyond the basic editing. Two important concepts that can save you a lot of time and effort are collections and metadata.

Bottlebrush, Red, Tasmania, TreeCollections are a way of sorting images based on criteria, either automatically through a smart collection, or a unique selection of images you desire. Smart collections allow you to automatically create a collection based on information or metadata about an image, such as a lens or body. A general collection is just a bunch of images you want to have grouped.

In any given year I shoot thousands of photos, some years tens of thousands. Of course I’m not going to publish them all so whenever I do publish an image I add it to a collection I created for that year, i.e. “2015 Publish Images”. This allows me to quickly go back and find images I have published from any given year. No one wants to go and search though thousands of images to find it. After you have created a collection all you need do is drag the image(s) into it (NOTE it does not move the image, it’s just a reference to the image).

Metadata is additional information recorded about an image, your camera records some metadata and adds it to the image by default, such as camera settings, location, date, time etc. LR allows you to build upon this and add additional metadata to make it easier for you in the future, for locating, sorting and publishing. Trust me a little time spent here will save you later on down the track….

Addition metadata you should add:

  • Check the defaults (Metadata menu->Edit Metadata Presets), i.e. copyright info and default keywords. You should be adding these all the time.
  • Always add additional metadata on EVERY import, if you add a few hundred shots from a shoot the least you can do is select them all and add a few additional keywords, such as the location, the model, the event etc.
  • For each shot that you are going to publish you should add additional keywords, Title and a Caption.

 

Once I have edited an image for publishing I add the additional metadata mentioned above, and then I place it into any useful collections, including a publishing collection for that year. From here I can publish to many locations. This is done my dragging the image into a publishing services, the same you do with collections. then publishing it with the publish button. Here are the publishing services I use:

LR has Facebook and Flickr built in, all you need to is configure them:

  • Facebook: This is pretty straight forward to setup / link to Facebook and all the export settings are pretty standard, the Title you added to the metadata will be used as the text when it posts to your account.
  • Flickr: Again this is pretty straight forward to setup. Title will again be used as the text, and if you have export all metadata enabled in the plug-in settings then the keywords should also carry across as well.

External Plugins, downloaded from 3rd parties and added to LR via the Plug-ins Manager.

  • Instagram: https://www.lrinstagram.com/, Pretty straight forward to setup and link to your Instagram account. In the plug-in settings change the Instagram Caption to be a custom template and add “{title} {caption} {#keywordTags}”. This will ensure that your title, caption and keywords (as hashtags) are used in the post.
  • WordPress: https://wordpress.org/plugins/wplr-sync/, This one is slightly more complex to setup as it requires a plugin in both WordPress and LR. In WP you can find the plug-in via the plugin search and install it, you need to make sure you change the permalinks as recommended. In LR download and add the plug-in and link to your WP blog. In the LR plug-in settings I use the ‘Alt. Text’ box to pass the keywords.
    NOTE: this plug-in does not create a new post in WP, it only added the image to your media, but it will have a title, caption and keywords, which are all a handy for a new post you are writing. Also If you update an image and LR you can re-published and the WP site will also update accordingly.

Some important stuff to keep in mind:

  • Get your metadata right at the start, this saves you additional work later on.
  • Start using collections to improve your workflow.
  • Get the export settings right for each publishing service, such as image size and watermarking. What is right for one service will not be right for another.

If you are publishing your images on other sites chances are they will have LR plug-in, heres some I found fairly easily:

  • GETTY: http://www.gettyimages.com.au/resources/plugins
  • iStockPhoto: http://www.berman-photo.com/lrplugins
  • ShutterStock: https://www.shutterstock.com/lp/adobe-photoshop-plugin-shutterstock

Happy Publishing 🙂

YES! Sigma 14mm f1.8, Full Frame, Yes. Really.

When I first heard that Sigma were making a 14mm f1.8 Art my initial reaction was one of resentment, why are sigma creating more crop sensor ART lenses?
What about us poor sods waiting in the full frame (FF) world?. It seemed to good to be true to be a FF lens. But there was still the hope deep down, that just maybe, Sigma has been able to do something magical and bend the laws of physics and light to pull off the first 14mm f1.8 lens. After all companies are innovating in this space all the time right?, look at Canon with their fancy 11mm lens.

Then a few weeks ago the chatter started across various tog sites, rumours so wonderful they seemed to good to be true. The new 14mm was indeed going to be FF. At this point I like many others were hanging out on the edge of their seat, waiting for an official press release. Had Sigma done the impossible? Well it appeared they had when the offical word was given from Sigma. Since then specifications have been released, as well as sample pictures.

However, the story is not over. Possibly the most important piece of information is missing. How much is it going to cost? Surely bending the laws of physics and light comes at a cost? Now we wait, stuck in a holding pattern until Sigma release offical pricing. Oh course it does not stop people of speculating, so far I’ve seen people quote the lens as cheap as $800, and as much as $3000. Oh course I know a few people who are familiar with Sigma pricing, and they believe it should be around the $1500 mark (AUD).

So my name is number one of the order list (well at least here in my local town), and you can be assured that I will be testing it as soon as humanly possible. So until then, let us all keep calm and make sure your name is on a list somewhere, or you can wait for my review 🙂

The Flagship, Canon 1DX Mark II, No. 50!

The Canon 1DX Mark II results are now in the Sensor DB, and it’s our 50th camera to be added. WOW 50. It’s taken a few years, but the list is now becoming quite substantial, giving the community some good insight into the level and treatment of noise.

The results are good and there is a significant improvement at 5 mins compared with the 1Dx, which, I think is reflective of the new ISO range, allowing up to 409600 ISO. There has obviously been a sensor change from 17.9MP in the old model compared to 20.2MP in the new model, with the original 1DX slightly better with noise at 1 and 30 seconds. However the 1DXm2 gives very respectable results, and the difference could easily be attributed to the additional megapixels.

Of course the 1D series of cameras is not intended for astrophotography, and it would be hardly the camera to recommend for that task. But it’s nice to see it’s a solid performer none the less.

Again, a big thank you to Walch Optics for providing access to many of the models we test.

More Models Tested: Canon 1300D, 760D & 80D. + Olympus PEN-F

We have added 4 more models to the Sensor DB today. Including the Canon 80D and Olympus PEN-F.

Some interesting results, and worth a look if you are considering one of these models for long exposure low light work.

Pushing to +5EV, Pentax K1 & PetaPixel

I have been working hard on the Sensor DB, add new features and models. As part of the process of adding newer and better models I have re-processed all of the samples to +2.5EV and +5EV. This allows the noise to be more visible in the samples for comparison. It was getting tougher to determine visually how samples were comparing. With this problem in mind I also added some statistical data to show the RGB noise characteristics and the mean, median and standard deviation are now shown.

New models added include bodies from Fuji, Nikon, Sony, and Pentax, including the new K1, along with the Fuji XPro2. I’m also hoping to add new search features soon to allow searching by sensor size. This will make it easer to compare common models.

I’d also like to thank Michael Zhang at PetaPixel for the great review of the Sensor Database on their site. Thanks for the write up, I’ve had a lot of positive feedback, and it certainly seems to have caused a lively debate.

 

Gotcha, Buying Secondhand.

I run a local buy/sell page for photography equipment here in Hobart on FaceBook, and I’m also a member of many other similar pages across Australia. Photography equipment can be expensive. So I’m as keen as the next photographer to grab a bargain.

But what is a good price?

Price is very subjective and what people are willing to pay can depend on many factors such as urgency, availability, age and condition.  So I thought I’d give a few points to consider when buying your next body. Since the specifications, age, availability and the like are all subjective I will focus mainly on condition.

Even if a body has issues, it’s not necessarily a reason to pass, but it could help you to determine if the price is right. If you are buying on the internet some of these checks many be impractical to do, but never the less, here is my check list:

  • Condition (External):
    • How does it look externally? To be honest most photographers will baby their equipment, so this is not a good factor to look at. Dust and dirt can be easily removed, but it is worth looking in the hard to get spots to get an idea on how well it has been looked after.
    • Check for obvious dings and the like, even if it still working external marks could indicate internal damage.
    • How worn do the buttons appear? Are there any wear marks, text worn off or shiny buttons?, Glue? Do they all work?
    • Does anything feel worn? (Lens mount, thumb sticks, selection wheels etc)
    • How worn does the tripod mount look, marks around the mount point?
    • How worn are the anchor points and strap?
    • Are there any screws missing? Do they appear to be tight, check lens mount particularly.
    • Are there any parts missing? (Battery cover clip, rubber weather seal boots, view finder surrounds, viewfinder cover for long exposure etc).
    • Check articulated displays have full movement, and display has no issues while moving.
    • Is there any damage to LCD screens caused by excessive sunlight / heat.
  • Condition (Internal):
    • Is the inside of the mirror housing clean?
    • Is there any dust in the viewfinder?
    • Is the sensor clean?
    • Is the battery compartment clean?
    • How worn is the USB port and jacks? Do they work?
    • Are the card slots clean, do the cards click in and out as they should?
    • Is there any corrosion or residue to indicate it’s been used around salt water a lot?
    • What is the shutter count?
  • Problems & Testing:
    • Does this body have any recalls? have they or can they be fixed? cost?
      • Classic examples here include 5D mirror falling off, 5D light leaks, D750 AF light banding issues / shutter issues, D800/D600 oil spots on sensor etc.
    • Are there known issues with this model? Google, know the body, not just the specs on paper, Test for them….
      • Classic examples not covered under recall, D800 asymmetric AF issues, 7D bent CF pins etc.

After you are happy the body and it’s condition, obviously you should test it further if you can, run it through it’s paces, and preferably review the shots before buying.

Happy hunting 🙂

Nikon D500, good for Astrophotography?

Recently I tested the Nikon D500 sensor for long exposure noise, and to be honest it performed a little worse than I expected initially, but the more I thought about it the more realistic I became about my expectations. After all it was the D500, the new D300(s).

There is no doubt that the D500 is going to do great in the reviews, you only have to look at the specs on paper and combine that with the unchanged layout to entice existing D300 owners, and you are on a winner. With 10 frames per second shooting and 153 Auto Focus points it’s going to be a sports or wedding shooters dream.

But what about the long exposure high ISO?

The D500 performed slightly better at 1 second than it’s closest rival the D7200, but performed worse at 30 and 300 seconds. But the more I thought about this, the more it made sense, after all not many general users push cameras beyond 30 seconds, and most will never be taking shots at even 1 second. For sports or wedding use it’s going to be well above 1 second. In some respects I can understand why manufacturers care little about long exposure and high ISO, it really is the 0.05% use case. For all other uses this camera is going to beat the D7200, and possibly any in it’s class*

However it is worth remembering that manufacturing tolerances do occur from body to body, and with this in mind I will be re-testing the D500 as soon as I can get another body just to confirm the outcome.

The results, can be viewed here.

*I have no idea, just speculation.

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