The IMAGING RESOURCE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWSLETTER


Volume 14, Number 8 20 April 2012

Copyright 2012, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved.

Welcome to the 330th edition of the Imaging Resource Newsletter. Rare is the issue with two camera features, but these two are so different we broke the rules. A Leica competitor, the X-Pro1 delivered the goods. And the GX1 finally answers enthusiast prayers for a serious Micro Four-Thirds digicam. Then Andrew addresses the dSLR fans out there with a Sigma macro review.


TOPICS

SPONSORS
This issue is sponsored in part by the following companies. Please show your appreciation by visiting their links below. And now a word from our sponsors:
S O N Y

NEX-5N -- DSLR Quality That
Fits In Your Pocket.

Take professional quality photos with the interchangeable lens camera you can take anywhere. Using the fully-compatible range of E-mount lenses, it's never been easier to capture what inspires you. And the NEX-5N's full-size, APS-C sensor means you'll be able to share your passions with large, beautiful images from this pocket-sized camera. Share your Sony.

Learn more: http://www.imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/nl/pl.cgi?sn6

S I G M A

Go Splash Proof and Stabilized
With Sigma Lenses!

Sigma introduces three new compact and splash-proof lenses:

  • The 12-24mm F4.5-5.6 II DG HSM in wide angle lenses (an arena pioneered by Sigma),
  • The 120-300mm F2.8 APO EX DG OS HSM featuring Sigma's own FLD glassin the telephoto zoom category, and
  • The powerful 150mm F2.8 APO Macro EX DG OS HSM in the prime macro category.

All have been enhanced to include optical stabilization and Sigma's new splash proof design. Coming very soon. Get ready!

Visit http://www.imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/nl/pl.cgi?sgm for more information.


Are you in the digital photo business? This newsletter is read by approximately 55,000 combined direct and pass-along subscribers, all with a passion for digital photography. For information on how you can reach them, contact us at editor@imaging-resource.com.

Feature: Fujifilm X-Pro1 Shooter's Report

By SHAWN BARNETT
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/fuji-x-pro1/fuji-x-pro1A.HTM on the Web site.)

When shooting with last year's X100, I quickly discovered why so many were enamored of the camera, so I wasn't quite as surprised to find myself really enjoying the Fujifilm X-Pro1 as I took it out for a half-day of shooting around Atlanta.

But the real surprise came at my desk. The X-Pro1's images were stunning. Extremely clean detail. None of the usual artifacts I've learned to accept after years of shooting and analyzing digital images. Fujifilm has often introduced new sensor technology that they said would change everything, but so often the resulting image quality failed to impress. But the X-Pro1's X-Trans sensor array really does seem to have something, optimizing the 16-megapixel sensor in a way we didn't expect.

My first impressions of the X-Pro1 were mixed. The lenses are lightweight, the aperture rings are loose, the focusing ring is electronic rather than manual and the overall camera feel is less substantial than I was expecting. I recently reviewed the Leica M9, which is about the same size, but much heavier. As I began to shoot with the X-Pro1, though, most of those issues fell by the way. What I liked was the rangefinder-like design, its simple controls and the Fujifilm X-Pro1's reliance on prime lenses.

DIALS

Three dials make up the main exposure interface on the Fujifilm X-Pro1:

I learned to quickly tilt the top of the camera toward me to check the aperture ring, the shutter speed and the EV dial after any pause in my shooting, just to be sure. Because they're dials, it's easy to do, which is the good news.

BUTTONS & SWITCHES

I'm more pleased with the rest of the controls, with a few exceptions. Only the Macro button gave me trouble, so we'll start there. It not only calls up the Macro adjustment, but a second press switches in to Macro mode, which changes the optical viewfinder to EVF mode, among other things. Its position makes it easy to press accidentally.

One switch worth mentioning is the Focus mode selector switch on the front. Nikon and Sony/Minolta shooters will be accustomed to this kind of control, but others may not be looking for such a control on the front of the camera. I found it set to an unexpected position once or twice, but it was because I'd set it and forgot about it. Be careful to look at it as you set it, though, as it's easy to turn too far to Manual focus mode when you want Continuous.

The Function button can be programmed via the Shooting menu for multiple exposure, depth-of-field preview, self-timer, ISO sensitivity, image size, image quality, dynamic range, film simulation, white balance, AF mode, movie recording, Raw/JPEG toggle or to bring up the Custom Settings menu which has three banks. The Fn Button menu can also be displayed by pressing and holding the Function button.

Until I discovered the Quick Menu button, I primarily used the Drive mode button. It brings up a quick menu that offers most of the interesting modes available on the Fujifilm X-Pro1. After that, the AF button allows you to quickly change your chosen AF point and even adjust its size with the rear dial. Easy access to greater precision: tough to discount that.

The Quick menu button offers access to the rest of the important adjustments. At first, navigation isn't obvious. It really is simple, though. The four arrows move between items on the grid and the Rear dial adjusts each item. It's quick and handy for adjusting settings like ISO, film-simulation type and Aspect ratio.

The Main menu is accessed with the center navigation button. It brings up a left-tabbed menu system that is straightforward and well organized. Scrolling down moves through all the red-tabbed Shooting menu items and reaching the bottom of the fifth menu brings you back to the top. To get to the three Set-up menus, just arrow left to select the tabs and scroll down. This menu follows the same rule, returning to the top at the bottom of the third menu. Once you get this, you know how to navigate the menu and the simple, block letter design and simple descriptions will guide you to the rest of the way.

LENSES

As I said, they're light, but in the end that turns out to be good. It's what they do with light that makes all the difference and according to our SLRgear testing and our lab results, the three lenses are quite good. They also focus quickly and are built very well. I even like the lens hoods, which are small, short, metal and in the case of the two wide-angle lenses, semi-rectangular, which reduces their nuisance factor. A large, visible number is also printed on one side, indicating the focal length of the lens, so I mount them with this facing up so I can see at a glance what's mounted. The two wide-angle lens hoods come with an additional rectangular rubber cap, a good solution, since getting the lens cap on and off inside these rectangular hoods is not easy.

Because I didn't attach a camera strap to the X-Pro1, I had a little more trouble than usual changing lenses. Further complicating matters is all three lenses have large aperture and focus rings, which means it's harder to find an area to grip the lenses and twist them off, particularly if you're not shooting with aperture set to Auto. If you grip the lenses from the back, as close as possible to the camera body, the bezel there is stationary. In general, I recommend a camera strap, particularly with a camera that will require more lens changes (provided you buy more than one lens, that is).

It's also noteworthy that though the lenses focus pretty quietly, the aperture of the lenses clicks constantly as it adjusts to compensate for differing light levels. This happens regardless whether you're using the optical viewfinder, the electronic viewfinder or the LCD. I attribute the X-Pro1's low battery life primarily to this constant activity, as I got only about four hours out shooting with the camera on before the battery went completely dead. I've since switched the camera off between shots and got much better battery life.

VIEWFINDER

Most of the real fun in shooting the Fujifilm X-Pro1 is found in the unique optical viewfinder. I split my time about evenly between this and the LCD at first, but defaulted more to the LCD as the time wore on. Despite the X-Pro1's valiant attempts to resize and shift the bright-line indicator in the Hybrid Multi Viewfinder to compensate for parallax, the captured image usually included considerably more of the scene than I expected.

I love that you can duplicate all of the features available on the LCD, including the leveling feature, histogram and grid in the optical overlay view. You can also pick and choose which enhancements appear in either view. Having an optical view with a heads-up display LCD overlay is a surreal experience. I would love to see an SLR manufacturer emulate such a display.

Problems I had with the OVF include the "failure to shift" accurately, making the bright-line indicators untrustworthy. The LCD overlay on occasion didn't light up in bright conditions on occasion and when that happened, it slowly faded in over a few seconds. The small lens hoods still got in the way of much of the viewfinder frame, making the lower right corner a constant mystery. I also have a tendency to touch the front viewfinder lens element when I pick up the camera with my left hand, but that's more of a handling issue. I also quickly forgot that I was shooting in black and white mode a time or two, capturing images I'd have rather had as color. Shooting in Raw takes care of that, of course, but has the overhead of increased write times.

Framing images with the 60mm lens is a little funny, because though the Hybrid Multi Viewfinder has two optical angles that serve the 18mm and 35mm lenses, when you attach the 60, the bright line framing indicator is so small it looks more like an AF point. Its then that you really do better framing with the LCD for a better look at focus and finer framing.

It's also important to note that there's no diopter correction and the Hybrid Multi Viewfinder's eyepoint isn't very high, requiring me to press my glasses in to my eye socket and peer around to see all the available elements of the display.

MOVIES

Shooting movies was pretty straightforward. Just press the Drive button and scroll up, which takes you to Movie mode at the bottom of the list (I love menus that wrap, don't you?). Movies can be recorded in full Auto mode or in Aperture priority mode and you can use the full gamut of available film modes, including the various black and white modes.

Video quality is spotty, depending on the light levels. Rolling shutter is also a pretty significant issue if you move the camera rapidly, especially when panning. Since there's no image stabilization built into the Fujifilm X-Pro1, handholding the camera for video is not really recommended.

MORE

Motion Panorama. Capturing a Motion Panorama is relatively painless as well. Again in the Drive menu, just select Motion Panorama and follow the onscreen instructions. Pressing the right arrow on the four-way allows you to choose a panning direction and pressing the left arrow lets you choose between medium and wide-angle panoramas.

Tripod. As I made the night shots, I realized too late that I'd forgotten to format the memory card before I started shooting. That left little space for videos and Raw images. It was then that I discovered an unfortunate flaw in the X-Pro1: to change cards or the battery, you have to remove the quick-release plate from the camera to open the card door, because the tripod socket is only two millimeters from the door. This may be the worst design choice on the otherwise excellent Fujifilm X-Pro1.

Film bracketing mode automatically saves three files of your choosing. Default is Provia, Velvia and Astia, as seen here.

Film modes. Even in this digital age, Fujifilm insists of referring to film types. I guess when a company decides to embed the word into their name, it makes sense to keep it going. Their film types emulate several popular Fujifilm brands of old, like Provia, Velvia and Astia. The X-Pro1 offers additional film simulations the company calls Pro Neg. Hi which is recommended for outdoor portraits, Pro Neg. Std optimized for studio portraits, Monochrome, Monochrome + Ye Filter, Monochrome + R Filter, Monochrome + G Filter, as well as Sepia. These also apply to videos, as I mentioned.

Flare? As we reported in the X100 review, we found a bit of odd flare when shooting outdoors. The conditions weren't exactly the same, so it's hard to say if it would have been more dramatic or less. The unusual multiple expanding circles make me suspect it's light bouncing back and forth between the lens and front sensor glass. It was most obvious with the 18mm lens, but also occurred with the 35mm. It varies considerably with the light source.

SAMPLE IMAGES

You can find our Test Shots at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/fuji-x-pro1/fuji-x-pro1A7.HTM and the Gallery Shots at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/fuji-x-pro1/fuji-x-pro1GALLERY.HTM.

CONCLUSION

Shooting with the Fujifilm X-Pro1 is really a kick. It took me back to the days when all I had were prime lenses and my senses were tuned to the world around me such that I could anticipate which lens I needed before the action happened and swiftly reach into my bag for the right lens.

Though it only has a simple grip, its relative thickness makes holding the Fujifilm X-Pro1 feel natural. Its analog controls are a joy to use. If they're a little wayward now and then, a quick glance at the top of the camera tells the story quickly enough, a strategy I recommend. The rest of the Fujifilm X-Pro1's controls are refreshingly simple as well. The X-Pro1 gives the impression that its goal isn't to dazzle with special features, but to serve.

Fujifilm left the dazzling to the sensor and processor that turn out such clean images. Detail is particularly sharp, but in a realistic way, not in the oversharpened fashion we normally see. Some subtle detail appears a bit soft at lower ISOs, but performance stays consistent as ISO rises up to ISO 1600. Other cameras have similarly impressive results, but with most you'll find more obvious sharpening halos. It seems Fujifilm's 6x6 X-Trans filter array really does have some special sauce.

One thing is clear: The Fujifilm X-Pro1 doesn't give quite the same experience as a dSLR, nor does it match other compact system cameras in size or features, as it's not quite as compact. It's really better compared to its only major competition, the Leica M-series cameras. With that in mind, the Fujifilm X-Pro1 is a comparative bargain, though you do give up the real manual focus for electronic manual focus, as well as the buttery-smooth bokeh. But optical quality is still pretty high. Compared to a dSLR, the X-Pro1 has a faster Live View mode than most, but again that manual focus issue lives on. Add that enthusiast dSLRs at this price generally have faster AF systems with fairly accurate optical viewfinders and some of the advantage of the X-Pro1 goes away.

Still, there's no question the Fujifilm X-Pro1 is an excellent camera in its own right. It's a different way of shooting, for sure. While we were disappointed with the X100 for its many bugs and idiosyncrasies, Fujifilm successfully moved away from most of that with the X-Pro1, producing a surprisingly excellent digital camera system that we recommend very highly to anyone who enjoys photography enough to try something new. We think Fujifilm's going to have a hard time keeping up with demand. The Fujifilm X-Pro1 is an absolute Dave's Pick.

Return to Topics.

Feature: Panasonic GX1 Shooter's Report

By SHAWN BARNETT
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/GX1/GX1A.HTM on the Web site.)

Here's a challenge: write a Shooter's Report on a camera that in most ways has returned to a former design. Finding unique things to report on will be difficult. In many ways, though, that's the story. Panasonic did the right thing starting back at the GF1, especially for the U.S. and European markets. I'm sure camera enthusiasts around the world will appreciate it. Most hobbyists prefer fast, easy control over a camera, not a camera that does everything automatically. That's what the GF3 had morphed into. Though the GF3 still has manual controls and modes available via the dial, a few buttons and the touchscreen, they aren't enough, lacking tactile control over major settings.

It's not just speculation on my part that Panasonic returned to the GF1 to create the GX1. They plainly told us they did and they also told us why: the GF2 and GF3 turned off too many enthusiast buyers.

While I mention the controls, only one thing put me off buying a GF1, GF2 or GF3: the JPEG engine. It just didn't do well with oranges, yellows and greens, a problem that increased as ISO rose. Otherwise, I loved the small, tight, minimalist designs, particularly the GF1. I still think it's a unique example of Japanese minimalism at its finest, one that could stand alone to illustrate the concept. I don't quite think that of the GX1 in terms of its look, but they really did get the ergonomics right. The grip is almost as good as the grip on the G3, a deeper, tapering design that gives a solid feel to the lightest fingertip hold. I just let the bottom right corner of the camera settle into my palm and it's a very natural fit.

As much as I like the gunmetal gray on the silver GX1 we have, I prefer the black model. Fitted with a pancake prime, it's a pocket camera dream. I prefer the 20mm (equivalent to a 40mm) but the 14mm (equivalent to 28mm) is also excellent, even a little smaller. I'm more of a people photographer, so the 40mm-equivalent appeals to me. I also like the image-stabilized 14-42mm kit lens, a no-nonsense design that sticks out quite a bit more than the new 14-42mm X Vario, but I also prefer the physical zoom control for most of my shots.

There's no question, though, that the X Vario would be tempting for everyday carry, offering the small package you get with a pancake prime and the full 28-84mm equivalent zoom. Its electronic zoom control isn't as tactile as I like, but it is better for smooth zooming in videos.

Unfortunately, we ran into trouble with the Lumix G X Vario lens at our near full telephoto, finding the same characteristic image doubling that we found with the Olympus E-P1 (for exhaustive detail on that camera's problem, see our Blur Anomaly article at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/EP1/EP1BLUR.HTM). Because both companies use different image stabilization strategies, we suspect the cause is slightly different, but the doubling appears whether the X lens's stabilization is on or off.

AUTOFOCUS

The Lumix GX1 has incredibly fast contrast-detect autofocus. Olympus wowed us with the autofocus system in their latest cameras, but Panasonic's wowed us again. It's incredibly fast, enough to make your pulse quicken. It's also so fast that once you're used to it, just about everything else seems slow. After testing, turns out the Olympus tests a little faster still. The GX1 turns in a 0.259 second lag, while the E-P3 managed 0.222. Still, a dead heat with contrast-detect autofocus competing down in dSLR phase-detect territory, so we're pretty impressed.

I also used the Panasonic 25mm f1.4 ASPH Leica DG Summilux lens. It's a mouthful of a name, but a small, unassuming lens design. I enjoyed shooting with it in extreme low light and I also made an effort in my Galllery shots (http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/GX1/GX1GALLERY.HTM) to show its nice, buttery bokeh. Micro Four Thirds cameras are a little more challenged to produce any bokeh at all when compared to APS-C and full-frame cameras, so it's nice when a lens design can give you that big-camera look.

Also in the Gallery an image shot at f1.4 for effect ran up against the GX1's 1/4000 second shutter speed limit. With ISO set to 160, I was unable to get a shot of a shirt that was quite blown out even though I set -1.0 EV.

The GX1 performed about as well as the G3 in terms of auto white balance and color rendition. As ISO rises, color tends to desaturate a bit, but it's not bad. If I owned the GX1, I'd shoot in Raw+JPEG to have a backup in most cases, giving me more control over color, saturation, noise processing and sharpening, among other things.

TOUCHSCREEN

It's a shame to have to say it yet again, but I'm not a fan of touchscreens. The good news is it seems manufacturers are getting the message and in some cases limiting just how the touchscreen is used.

In the case of the GX1, Panasonic has created a little virtual tray that slides out from the right of the screen. Touching it just right isn't that easy, but because I'll seldom use it, I'm glad the icons it conceals are not cluttering up my view. Slide it open and by default you get the Touch shutter option and two additional Function buttons (Fn3 and Fn4). Again by default, the two buttons activate the built-in Level function, which is very fast and slick and the Histogram, which can be moved around the screen with your finger.

Notice I'm not complaining about either of those features. In fact, I'm glad they're there. Having a level image means less tweaking after the fact, preserving your framing and seeing the histogram before capturing the photo also allows you to fine-tune exposure before you commit to pressing the shutter.

Touchscreen capability is also present in the Quick Menu, making adjustments ridiculously easy. Actually a little easier than using the navigation buttons, because you don't have to remember to use the up arrow to access the options. Instead, you just touch the button you want.

Touch control disappears in the main Menu, though, which is probably for the best. Touch control in Playback mode is problematic, not working as well as it should. This didn't get better with the shipping version, unfortunately.

SHOOTING

Running around shooting with the GX1, I found it to be as enjoyable and capable as its predecessor, the GF1. Fast autofocus is joined by a easy-to-master interface and reasonably fast capture.

I ventured to try a few of the GX1's more interesting options, like Autofocus Tracking. As I was shooting, it seemed to work great, locking onto my little running subject and following her better than I could as she ran down a big hill. Looking at the 460K-dot screen, I was pretty pleased with the results, but back at the computer they didn't look as good. Tracking in videos looked a little better, so that's comforting.

Though it lacks an articulating screen, I found composing from low and high angles with the GX1 pretty easy thanks to the LCD's wide viewing angle.

In its first iteration on another camera, I found the Intelligent Auto button annoying, but Panasonic quickly made an option to keep it from activating with a single touch -- requiring a press and hold -- and now I appreciate the mode more. Why? Well, I too often get a camera from the lab with some unknown mode set, thanks to the many tests we run on the cameras and the iA button allows me to quickly set it to dummy mode and get some kind of shot before the moment's gone, after which I can find the offending setting and fix it.

Conversely, I'm more likely to want to switch into some custom mode, then right back out into Program or Aperture Priority modes, so I'm grateful for the return of the Mode dial. I've programmed the C1 position on the dial to black and white, capturing Raw+JPEG. That allows me to see and compose in black and white, but also captures a Raw image so I can reprocess it from scratch if I want to. And rather than having to reset two menu items to get those items set, I just spin the dial.

I was pleased shooting the GX1. It was nimble, stealthful and gave me easy access to basic controls. I'd like to see discrete controls for aperture and shutter settings on a future version, but for now the simple press on the rear dial is sufficient for a small camera like this. We weren't very happy with the new 14-42mm G X Vario lens, so we recommend the standard zoom kit over the G X Vario until Panasonic can address this serious issue.

I'm glad Panasonic saw the light and made a camera for people who love photography and want a smaller tool to work with -- but not too small. I also like that they put the G3's sensor into this format. Some of us want the smallest camera possible, while maintaining physical controls, yet don't see the value in an EVF, so the GX1 answers those needs better than the G3, whose rear EVF housing juts quite dramatically out the back.

SAMPLE IMAGES

You can find our Test Shots at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/GX1/GX1A7.HTM and the Gallery Shots at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/GX1/GX1GALLERY.HTM.

CONCLUSION

With the GX1, Panasonic addresses several crucial complaints from enthusiasts about their Micro Four Thirds cameras, particularly the rangefinder-style class once represented by the GF series. They've returned to a larger size that's a better tradeoff between a large dSLR and a small pocket camera. They've added back the Mode dial, hot shoe and a few more controls, while maintaining the touchscreen. Even the touchscreen is less of a nuisance, though, with major components hidden an easy-to-ignore, virtual sliding tray.

Though they missed a few key features users were hoping for, like dual manual control dials as seen on the Sony NEX-7, the GX1 is a good start toward making a camera that enthusiasts will appreciate. An increase in resolution comes with an improvement in high ISO performance too, as is evident from the crops above. There are tradeoffs here and there when compared to the competition, but the GX1 still performs admirably.

I was disappointed to find the motion blur issue again, initiated by the Micro Four Thirds shutter mechanism's vibration. As such, I can only recommend the longer, manual zoom 14-42mm kit, at least until Panasonic issues a fix to the X lens that solves the problem.

Otherwise, though, I found the Panasonic GX1 quite a pleasure to use, with excellent image quality, surprisingly fast autofocus and generally reliable results. The ever-growing list of lenses compatible with the Panasonic GX1, like the Leica 25mm, make the camera an easy choice for enthusiasts who like to carry quality glass without taking up too much space. It's a clear Dave's Pick.

Return to Topics.

Feature: Sigma 105mm EX DG OS HSM Macro

By ANDREW ALEXANDER
(Excerpted from the full review posted at http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/1424/cat/30 on the Web site.)

The Sigma 105mm EX DG OS HSM is an update of a venerable macro lens produced by Sigma for several years. The new lens is a complete overhaul of the design: a new layout of elements, optical stabilization and HSM focusing technology make up the large list of changes.

The Sigma 105mm EX DG OS HSM was designed as a full-frame lens and on subframe APS-C sensor-based camera bodies the lens provides an equivalent field of view of either 168mm (Canon) or 158mm (Nikon and others). The lens is available in Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Sigma and Sony mounts.

The lens takes 62mm filters, ships with a round lens hood and is available now for around $950.

SHARPNESS

The Sigma 105mm f2.8 EX DG OS HSM provides a very sharp image even wide open at f2.8, but for maximum sharpness you need to stop down to f5.6. There are traces of corner softness at f2.8, which settle down nicely at f4 and all but disappear at f5.6. Performance at f8 is more or less the same as f5.6 (though according to the numbers, just very slightly less sharp). Diffraction limiting sets in by f11, though you don't notice any practical impact on sharpness until f16 and even then, it's still very good. At f22 we begin to see some light softness across the frame.

The previous version of the lens could stop down as far as f45, but we noted extreme softness at this or the f32 setting -- probably better that Sigma just removed these settings, as they didn't provide very useful results.

CHROMATIC ABERRATION

Chromatic aberration is kept very much in check with this lens. There is some to speak of in the corners when the lens is used on a full frame body (in this case, the Canon 1Ds Mark III), but it isn't by any means excessive. Peeping at 100 percent crops, you'll note very light magenta fringing in the corners on the full-frame sample images -- but it's very light indeed.

SHADING ('VIGNETTING')

Mounted on the subframe Canon 7D, the Sigma 105mm f2.8 showed very little corner shading -- just 1/3 EV darker in the corners, when set to f2.8. At any other settings, there is no light falloff.

Mounted on the full-frame Canon 1Ds Mark III, there was a bit more falloff -- more so when used wide open at f2.8. In this case the corners are over 3/4 darker than the center. At f4, the corners are just over 1/3 darker than the center. At smaller apertures, there is no problem with light falloff.

DISTORTION

The Sigma 105mm f2.8 EX DG OS HSM produces no meaningful distortion whatsoever, on either the subframe 7D or full-frame Canon 1Ds Mark III.

AUTOFOCUS OPERATION

The Sigma 105mm is a welcome advancement from the previous version, with its implementation of HSM focusing. Autofocus is moderately fast and near-silent and results can be overridden by just turning the focusing ring. It took just over a second to go through the lens' focusing range. As a macro lens, there is a lot of focus travel. The front element does not turn during focusing, making life a little easier for polarizer users.

MACRO

The Sigma 105mm provides excellent macro performance, offering full 1:1 (100 percent) macro reproduction, with a minimum close-focusing range of 12 inches.

BUILD QUALITY & HANDLING

It's a fairly beefy optic, made lighter by its use of plastic components (26 oz). It's finished with Sigma's matte gray texture and offers a metal mount and plastic 62mm filter threads. The lens is noted as having a splash-proof design.

This is a complete redesign of the previous version. It now features 11 lens groups, with 16 elements, of which one is a Special Low Dispersion lens, another is a high refractive index SLD lens. There are now nine rounded diaphragm blades instead of eight straight ones to improve bokeh performance. Focusing is by way of a floating focusing system that moves two different lens groups in the optical path. And to top it all off, Sigma has thrown in optical stabilization, very useful for when you don't want to bring a tripod into the field.

The lens offers a few control surfaces of note: in addition to the focusing ring, there is a small panel on the side of the lens which features a switch to enable or disable autofocus and a switch to enable image stabilization in mode 1 or mode 2 or disable it completely. There is also a focus limiting switch, offering options of 30cm to 45cm, 45cm to infinity and no limit (30cm to infinity).

The lens also provides excellent scales. There is a distance scale in feet and meters, as well as reproduction ratios as the lens is focused toward its close-focusing distance. However, there are no depth-of-field indicators, nor is there an infrared index marker.

The focusing ring for the lens is very nice -- over an inch wide, composed of rubber with deep ribs. Manually focusing with the ring is stiffer than usual, but this is what you want for macro work so you don't disturb a carefully focused scene. There are no hard stops at the close or infinity ends -- an increase in resistance lets you know there's no point to focusing further.

Sigma's OS (Optical Stabilization) technology features in this lens, which in our testing provides 2.0 to 2.5 stops of stabilization performance. It makes a slight whirring noise when it's activated. Our testing noted some poor performance in this system when used with a shutter speed of 1/60s. Otherwise, it works as advertised.

The lens ships with a round lens hood, ribbed and painted a smooth black on the interior to reduce any flare. Sigma also includes the HA 680-01 subframe hood adapter, which is intended for use when the lens is used with (obviously) subframe cameras such as the 7D. Without the adapter, the hood adds 2 inches to the overall length of the lens -- with the adapter, that goes up to around 4.

It's worth noting that there is no compatible tripod adapter for this lens. It is compatible with Sigma's 1.4x and 2x teleconverters.

ALTERNATIVES

CONCLUSION

Sigma has produced an excellent macro lens in the 105mm f2.8 EX DG OS HSM. It does away with an antiquated and confusing focusing system by using the HSM system and offers optical stabilization. Just be careful to avoid the 1/60 shutter speed when the OS system is in use, as it tends to do more harm than good.

Return to Topics.

New on the Site

At http://www.imaging-resource.com/new-on-ir you can keep track of what's new on our main site. Among the highlights since the last issue:

Return to Topics.

In the Forums

Visit the Imaging Resource discussion forums at http://www.photo-forums.com to find out what people are saying about the latest digicams, hard-to-find accessories, friendly suppliers, clever techniques, you name it! Recent hot topics include:

Read the Nikon 'Friends of the 8800' discussion at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?13@@.ee9b16a

Visit the Pentax Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.eea2980

Read about Tamron lenses at http://forums.slrgear.com/index.php?showforum=7

Visit the Scanners Forum at http://www.photo-forums.com/WebX?14@@.ee6b2ae

Return to Topics.

Dave's Deals

Looking for special prices on featured products? Because of their time-limited nature, we only publish them in the email version of this newsletter. The good news is that you can subscribe for free on our Subscriber Services page:

Subscribe for Great Deals!

We deliver -- just Subscribe!

Support this Publication!

Visit the IR PriceGrabber Page twice a year!

Support this Publication!

Visit Amazon from this link!

Return to Topics.

We Have Mail

You can email us at editor@imaging-resource.com. You can read our Letters policy at http://www.imaging-resource.com/IRNEWS in the FAQ.

RE: Pholium Phault

I read your excerpt of the Pholium review. I thought it sounded useful and thus told some friends about it saying that it sounded like a neat way to share photos.

The big catch in this is the other person has to buy the app for $9.99, too. So they make $99.89 for every 10 people you send it to. And if those 10 people decide to send it to 10 more and they buy the app.... That's quite a business plan!

Not so sure this is such a cool idea after all. In fact I don't think it's a good idea at all. No crime in what they're doing, but I don't think I'd send an ebook to a friend and expect him or her to pay $9.99 to see it.

-- Sigrid Trombley

(Yes, that's a big catch, which is why we (tongue in cheek) calculated the costs to share our Surfing ebook with all of our subscribers. The PDF export was supposed to be the free way to view a book but it really isn't up to the game, as we observed. That disappointed us. But we'll see. They're a small company and they may come up with something fast so nephews, nieces and grandmothers do not fight to the death over at the cookie jar. -- Editor)

RE: Whoops

Today I tried submitting a photo from my Kodak Z712 camera and the response said "It does not appear to be an image file." It is an image file. I tried submitting another photo from my Sony DSC-H7 and I got the same message.

-- Thomas McCune

(We had problem with a security update last week, Tom, which resulted in just such behavior. Should be all right now. We do check submissions to make sure they're images we can process (and not, say, code), but that module was updated improperly causing the issue. Apologies for the hassle. This problem also caused a delay in the display of Richard Merry's dramatic "Bald Eagle" as Photo of the Day on April 7 (http://www.dailydigitalphoto.com/cgi-bin/potd/potd.pl?day=7&month=4&year=2012), for which we also apologize. -- Editor)

RE: The Butler Did It

A couple months ago my Sanyo projector finally went dead so I bought an Epson V610. I had been going nuts trying to match the image on my laptop to what was projected. Last weekend I attended a photo conference where there was an Epson booth and told the man there my problem. I had had several phone calls with Epson to no avail.

He said he bet the problem was with the cable that connects the laptop to the projector. Probably a pin on one of the ends was no good.

So I tried the cable from my old projector and the two images matched perfectly. I called Epson, told them the story and they immediately shipped me a new cable at no charge and told me to throw the old one away. Good to remember.

-- Burt Hesselson

(It's often the simplest thing that avoid detection the longest. -- Editor)

RE: How to Celebrate a Holiday

Another newsletter and three more days off to have time to read the articles of interest (which is all of them). It's Easter and I closed my shop Thursday at 2 p.m. and went home through a wintery (!) Stockholm to prepare the Easter eggs.

Thought of a walk with my Nikon during the holidays but the weather forecast was right this time: below zero at night, snow the next day and still not many degrees above freezing outside. Crawled back under the pillow with my wireless connection to the Internet to read the Newsletter. Beautiful day!!!

-- Lasse Jansson

(Hmm, maybe there's something to being a holiday tradition after all. -- Editor)
Return to Topics.

Editor's Notes

Columbia University announced the winners of its 96th annual Pulitzer Prizes, including Massoud Hassaini for Breaking News Photography (http://www.pulitzer.org/citation/2012-Breaking-News-Photography) and Craig F. Walker for Feature Photography (http://www.pulitzer.org/citation/2012-Feature-Photography).


Corel (http://www.corel.com) has released its $79.99 AfterShot Pro 1.0.1 [LMW] with improved highlight recovery, Equalizer and Nostalgia plug-ins, support for JPEG or TIFF images up to 40 megapixels, support for 20 new cameras and bug fixes.


Phanfare (http://www.phanfare.com) has announced Premium and Pro customers can now edit photos on the Web using the PicMonkey suite of photo adjustments and filters. The company also introduced SnapSync, to keep photos on Android and iOS devices as well as Windows and Mac systems synchronized.


Tamron (http://www.tamron.com) will ship its SP 24-70mm f2.8 Di VC USD (Model A007) full-size high-speed standard zoom lens with Vibration Compensation and Ultrasonic Silent Drive on April 26 in a Canon mount with a Nikon mount following.


Think Tank Photo (http://www.thinktankphoto.com) has announced a May release for its Retrospective 7 shoulder camera bag designed for standard dSLR systems with a rear pocket to hold an iPad or an 11-inch MacBook Air.


OnOneSoftware (http://ononesoftware.com) has released Perfect Effects 3 Free Edition with over two dozen photographic effects and updated Perfect Photo Suite to v6.1 with improved tools and faster performance.


DxO Labs (http://www.dxo.com) has released Optics Pro 7.2.2 [MW] with support for the Nikon D4 and Olympus XZ-1/E-P1.


Adobe (http://www.adobe.com) has released Revel 1.2 [M] with Events grouping, multi-select, date/time updating, grid view, Retina display support and more.


Swivl (http://www.swivl.com) is "your personal cameraman" with hands-free video control for iPhone, iPod Touch, GoPro and most pocket cameras.


Tenba (http://www.tenba.com) has introduced the Roadie Video Backpack and Shoulder Bag for video gear including the Canon 5D Mark III/EOS-1D X, Nikon D4/D800 and larger gear from RED Epic/Scarlet, Canon C300 and Sony, along with a laptop and a full assortment of accessories.


Peachpit Press (http://www.peachpit.com) has published Your Camera Loves You: Learn to Love It Back by Khara Plicanic. The title is available via the Imaging Resource Amazon affiliate program at a 39 percent discount (http://www.amazon.com/dp/0321784103/?tag=theimagingres-20).


Rocky Nook, c't Digital Photography magazine and SeenBy Fine Art will host the Photoact 2012 Conference & Workshops (http://www.rockynook.com/photoact2012) Aug. 24-25 in Santa Barbara, Calif. Discuss the art, craft and technology of photography in an intimate gathering limited to 125 participants.


FXhome (htttp://www.fxhome.com) has released its $299 PhotoKey 5 [MW] with a new Chroma Key system to better key hair, glass and other difficult subjects.


Overmacs (http://overmacs.com) has released its $9.99 PhotoSweeper 1.6.0 [M] duplicate image finder with interface updates, improved performance and memory use.


O'Reilly (http://www.oreilly.com) has published the fourth edition of iPad: The Missing Manual by Jude Biersdorfer. The title is available via the Imaging Resource Amazon affiliate program at a 45 percent discount (http://www.amazon.com/dp/1449316182/?tag=theimagingres-20).


Nik Software (http://www.niksoftware.com) has released Snapseed 1.4 with the ability to open photos directly into Instagram. Several popular filters within Snapseed have also been updated.


The Father Browne S.J. Photographic Collection (http://titanicphotographs.com) "contains the most important collection of Titanic photographs taken during the liner's voyage from Southampton to Cobh (Queenstown] in Ireland."


Alan Poindexter remembers taking a Nikon D3s on the Space Shuttle Discovery (http://www.luminous-landscape.com/locations/photography_in_space.shtml) two years ago.

Return to Topics.

One Liners

For just $150 per insertion you can list your URL or 800 number here (up to a maximum of 70 text characters).

Digital Photography Tutorials for Beginners: http://www.photoxels.com

PhotoRescue: http://imaging-resource.com/SOFT/PHR/PHR.HTM

Curtin Short Courses: http://imaging-resource.com/cgi-bin/nl/pl.cgi?bdc

Return to Topics.

Signoff

That's it for now, but between issues visit our site for the latest news, reviews, or to have your questions answered in our free discussion forum. Here are the links to our most popular pages:

Daily News: http://www.imaging-resource.com/news
SLR Gear: http://www.slrgear.com
New on Site: http://www.imaging-resource.com/new-on-ir
Digicam index: http://www.imaging-resource.com/camera-reviews
Q&A Forum: http://www.photo-forums.com
Tips: http://www.imaging-resource.com/BETTERPICS.HTM

Happy snapping!

Mike Pasini, Editor
editor@imaging-resource.com
Dave Etchells, Publisher
web@imaging-resource.com

Go to Imaging Resource Home | News | Tips | Digital Camera Index | Scanner Index