November 13th, 2014

The Hidden History of the Zoom Lens in Films and Movies

What do the zoom lens and atomic bomb have in common? Both have roots in the second World War and both owe their genesis, in part, to qualified engineers fleeing the Nazi regime.

Nick Hall, a researcher at Royal Holloway, University of London composed the following short history of the zoom lens for the Society for the History of Technology’s three minute dissertation contest. It’s a fascinating, if brief, overview of how a once controversial technology permeated U.S. filmmaking.

Via: Studio Daily

November 10th, 2014

Canon’s New 100-400mm Lens Is Steadier Than Ever

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It’s been 16 years since Canon shooters have seen a new 100-400mm EF lens. The wait is now over.

The second generation EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L II USM lens is official and boasts improved image stabilization, giving it four stops of stabilization versus the 1.5 available on the first generation model. Image stabilization is also now tripod sensitive and will be available in three modes: standard, panning and during exposure only.

The lens has been redesigned from the original “push-pull” zoom to a rotating zoom that Canon says will keep the lens steadier and more precise when zooming. The zoom torque adjustment ring has had its own makeover so you can set your zoom tension more easily.

The optical formula has been revamped as well. There is now one Flourite and one Super UD lens element in the lens as well as newly developed Air Sphere Coating to minimize flaring and ghosting.

The new 100-400mm will be able to focus on objects as close as 3.2 feet away.

The lens will offer Flourine coatings on the front and rear surfaces to keep dusty and water from beading on the lens and will feature a weather resistant magnesium housing to keep it safe from the elements.

It will ship with a new lens hood that will feature a slide window for quick access to lens filters, so you don’t have to pop the hood off to adjust your filter. The tripod mount has also been redesigned so that it’s quickly detachable.

The new 100-400mm will hit retail in December carrying a $2,199 price tag.

October 8th, 2014

New Lens Correction Software Takes Aim at Expensive Lenses with Math

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The German software company Piccure+ is not one to mince words. Calling the prevailing lens making model “ignorant” the company has released lens correction software that it claims can correct lens defects without building a huge bank of profiles. The upshot, they claim, is that you can use inexpensive lenses and still create high quality images that look as if they were snapped through more expensive glass.

Piccure+ uses complex mathematical models to create a point-spread function for each image before applying a deconvolution to correct defects — much like the approach NASA took to fixing the Hubble Telescope’s optics. Among the virtues of this approach is that it can correct what lens profiles can’t, namely deviations in lens manufacturing.

Rather than work off what it thinks is wrong with the lens, Piccure+ tackles the optical defects directly in the RAW image file itself. (The software can also work with JPEG images but the company claims that the already-compressed JPEG files won’t benefit as much from its algorithmic massaging.) This means that it can also correct distortions and aberrations on images without EXIF data and for lenses that don’t have profiles in competitive software like Adobe’s Camera RAW.

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In a blog post announcing the software’s release, the company ambitiously called for a rethink of the entire lens manufacturing paradigm. Rather than invest money in building flawless lenses, the company is arguing that much of the heavy lifting can be done in software. Specifically, their software (of course). Photographers would then be liberated to use less expensive zoom lenses while lens makers could focus on driving their own costs down by relenting on quality control — an argument we have trouble believing is going to find much traction among lens manufacturers.

We’ve just started playing with the software, which you can kick around for free for 14 days. From our initial impressions, it’s clearly easy to use, with a minimalist interface with sliders for optical aberration, sharpness and denoising. However both previewing and processing images on our 2.6GHz dual-core Mac (16GB of RAM) took a fair amount of time (evidently our Mac likes doing complicated math about as much as we do). You can save settings to make your workflow go a bit faster when working in a similar batch of images or you can tell the program (via a slider) to prioritize speed over quality.

Piccure+ will cost $109 and can work as a plugin for Lightroom or as a standalone application.

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Nikon D610; 1/320 @ f/7.1 with 24-84mm Nikkor lens. Original image on left.

September 16th, 2014

Photokina 2014: Ricoh Tips K-Mount Lens Plans

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Ricoh didn’t bring much in the way of product launches to Photokina 2014, but they did let it be known that some new K-mount lenses are in the works.

The most detailed of the bunch, set to launch later this year, is the Pentax DA 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6ED DC WR (pictured above). It will have a quiet AF driving motor, “high grade” HD coating and a weather resistant construction.

Two other lenses were tipped with scant details. Ricoh said it had a high magnification super telephoto zoom lens and a large diameter telephoto zoom lens in the works. Design mock ups for both are below, starting with the super telephoto.

Stay tuned.

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September 15th, 2014

Photokina 2014: Olympus Intros 40-150mm Pro Lens, Firmware Upgrade for Studio Tethering

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Olympus announced today at Photokina that it will bring a new 40-150mm f/2.8 Pro lens to the market in November.

The M.Zuiko Digital ED 40-150mm lens keeps a constant f/2.8 aperture and uses dual linear voice coil motors to keep focusing fast and quiet. Capable of focusing on objects as close as 20 inches away, the lens offers a dedicated function button, manual focus clutch and a sliding protective lens hood. It’s also dust, splash and freeze proof and measures in at a little over 6 inches.

The lens will set you back $1,499. Olympus will also sell a 1.4x teleconverter, the MC-14, for use with the lens in November for $349.

Firming Up

The OM-D E-M1 is also getting a firmware upgrade the will enable several new capabilities including USB tethered shooting using the new Olympus Capture software utility. Capture will display the E-M1′s live view display on a computer monitor and allow for remote controlling the camera from a desktop or laptop.

The firmware will also allow keystone compensation to correct trapezoidal distortion in live view and delivers the Live Composite Mode found on the E-M10 for capturing light trails in a dark sky. There are also two new Art Filters, improved EVF display lag, and a panning scene mode that sets optimal shutter speed to match the movements of your subject.

The new firmware will come pre-installed in a new Silver edition of the E-M1 (shipping this month) and will be available for current E-M1 owners on September 24th.

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September 12th, 2014

Sony Courts Filmmakers with New Full Frame Lens

Sony’s continued its push to make its full frame mirrorless system attractive to filmmakers with the new FE PZ 28-135mm F G OSS, the first full-frame lens with a power zoom for smoother focusing. SELP28135G_A-1200

The new E-mount lens is part of Sony’s effort to boost its full frame cameras among filmmakers by tackling three issues that bedevil still photo lenses during video shoots: changes in angle of view during focusing, focus shifts during zoom and the movement of the optical axis during zooming.

The new lens will combat these maladies with a supersonic wave motor drive and a double linear motor to reduce focus noise.

The FE PZ 28-135 will also have separate control rings for focus, zoom and aperture and features a maximum aperture of f/4. Optical image stabilization is also on hand to keep things steady—it can be switched off via a button on the lens barrel.

The new lens is set to ship in December for $2,499.

May 13th, 2014

Big Guns: Nikon Launches 400mm F/2.8 FL ED VR Super Telephoto Lens and 1.4x Teleconverter

Nikon unleashed a new super telephoto lens and tele extender this morning: the AF-S Nikkor 400mm f/2.8E FL ED VR lens and 1.4x magnifying AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E III. Sports photographers and wildlife shooters should find a lot to like here; the Nikkor 400mm f/2.8 features improved autofocus, exposure accuracy and speed, while the teleconverter TC-14E III multiplies the focal length of Nikon lenses by 1.4x with reportedly only a one-stop loss of exposure.

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Unfortunately for those photographers looking to get their hands on these big guns they don’t go on sale until August 2014 and they won’t be cheap. The the AF-S Nikkor 400mm f/2.8E FL ED VR lens will sell for $12,000, while the AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E III will retail for $500.

Read more of this story here.

January 6th, 2014

CES 2014: Sigma Intros 50mm F/1.4 and 18-200mm Lenses

Sigma-50mm-1-1.4-DGSigma introduced two new lenses at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas today. The company says the 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 DC Macro OS HSM is “improved and redesigned” from the previous model, while the 50mm F1.4 DG HSM has been “reengineered and redesigned” from its predecessor.

Pricing and availability has not been announced for either lens, which, as per usual, are expected to be available in a variety of lens mounts including for Canon and Nikon digital SLRs. More info in the press release after the jump.

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October 17th, 2013

Nikon Announces 24.2MP D5300 DSLR and Nikkor 58mm f/1.4G Lens

Nikon-D5300_BK_18_140_frontNikon has just announced two new products for photographers: the prosumer-friendly 24.2MP, APS-C sensor-based D5300 digital SLR, and the pro-worthy AF-S NIKKOR 58mm f/1.4G portrait lens.

The Nikon D5300 will go on sale this month as a kit with the AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-140mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR lens for $1,399. It will come in black, red, and gray color options, if you like your DSLR to have a little pizzazz.

The NIKKOR 58mm f/1.4G, which is the higher end product of the two and designed for both full-frame (FX-format) and APS-C (DX-format) cameras, goes on sale this month for $1,699.

Read the rest of the story about this Nikon news here.

October 16th, 2013

Sony Unveils Full-Frame Mirrorless Cameras, New Lenses, and High-End Superzoom Model

Sony-7R_frontSony went where no camera manufacturer has gone before this morning, unveiling the world’s first full-frame mirrorless cameras: the 36.4-megapixel Alpha 7R and 24.3-megapixel Sony Alpha 7. Both compact system cameras use 35mm-sized Exmor-branded, CMOS image sensors but the Sony Alpha 7R has no optical low pass filter over its chip to help it capture more detail in photos. The Alpha 7, meanwhile, boasts a new Hybrid AF system, designed to quickly lock in focus on subjects.

Both cameras will go on sale this December, with the Sony Alpha 7R retailing for $2,300, body only, and the Sony Alpha 7, selling for $1,700, body only; or as a kit with a new 28-70mm F3.5-5.6 lens for $2,000.

You could also pair these full-frame mirrorless cameras with five new full-frame E-Mount lenses that Sony just unveiled. The new Sony E-Mount lenses include three Carl Zeiss-branded models: the Sonnar T* 55mm F1.8 ZA ($1,000) and Sonnar T* 35mm F2.8 ZA ($800) prime lenses, and the Vario Tessar T* 24-70mm F4 ZA OSS mid-range zoom ($1,200).

We’re curious what PDN readers think of the new Sony Alpha 7R and Alpha 7 mirrorless cameras. Does the addition of full-frame sensors make you want to give these these high-end compact system cameras a second look or do you plan to stick to your DSLR?

Read more of this story here with details on all of Sony’s announcements this morning and then leave your thoughts in the comments below.