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LENSTOPIA Part IV — The Top 5 Lenses for Your Micro Four Thirds Camera (+ a few others)

Data tells me that more than 100,000 of you caught my earlier Top 5 Nikon, Top 5 Canon & Top 5 Hasselblad lens posts, but it’s intuition that tells me what many of you are really wanting is today’s post on Micro 4/3 and mirrorless lenses. And yes, I rarely write about gear since there are entire websites dedicated to that pixel peeping universe… but my hope is that this makes the few times I do write about gear more helpful and impactful.

I play the field when it comes to gear so that I can shoot with the best / preferred gear in any situation. And is was really that mantra that got me into this micro 4/3 world. It started out that I was annoyed at dragging my pro Nikon kit around for street photography and personal snapshots, so I jumped on the small camera tip for those uses. Then I hauled a mirrorless kit to the 19,200ft summit of Mt Kilimanjaro and thru the streets of NYC, and.. and… Then I… well you get the picture — I use these things a lot. So between yours truly, my video guru Erik, and my gear editor/research pal Sohail we’ve logged real work to aggregate our thoughts on these lenses with the hope that you get at least 1 or 2 juicy takeaways. The images are Sohail’s since he is more of a gear “tester” — and wrangling thru millions of images to find one of my fav’s with each lens would kill me. So there you have it. And remember a “top anything” list always stirs debate — but that’s welcome and appreciated. Think we’re off by a lens or two? Let us know — and why. Enjoy…


Okay, we’re gonna be up-front about this with you guys: we cheated. If you shoot Micro Four Thirds, you already know that there are a gazillion lenses in this world — far more than most people realize. Throw in adapters and suddenly, that pool more than doubles in size as you can add on Canon and Nikon lenses to the mix as well. So, yeah, we’re cheating. Cause there’s no way I can do just 5 …

The Voigtlander Lenses.

The Voigtlander 17.5mm, 25mm, and 42.5mm f/0.95 lenses.

The Voigtlander 17.5mm, 25mm, and 42.5mm f/0.95 lenses.

We did say we were gonna cheat, right? Well, these three lenses are easily one of the finest lens sets on the Micro Four Thirds platform. Put together, they represent the 35mm, 50mm, and 85mm equivalents on a full-frame sensor. and each one opens wide to an astounding f/0.95. No, that’s not a typo. f/0.95. Which means that most of the complaints about not being able to get good bokeh with MFT cameras are now officially put to rest.

Michio Fukuda, prepping for a shoot. Shot with the Voigtlander 42.5mm f/0.95.

Michio Fukuda, prepping for a shoot. Shot with the Voigtlander 42.5mm f/0.95.

These lenses are superb wide-open, razor sharp when you stop down a bit, and have one extremely neat feature that filmmakers will love. The 17.5mm (35mm equivalent) and the 42.5mm (85mm equivalent) both have aperture rings that can be “de-clicked” with a twist, so you can smoothly go from wide-open to closed-down while shooting video. The 25mm (50mm equivalent) was also recently updated to add the same feature, so if you’re looking to get that one, make sure you get the Mark II version.

While these are manual-focus lenses, they are surprisingly easy to focus, having a smooth, silky action to the focus ring that’s still firm enough to nail focus each time. Without a doubt, these are the best primes on the market for MFT cameras.

Details and specs on the Voigtlander 17.5mm Lens at here at Adorama
Details and specs on the Voigtlander 25mm Lens at here at Adorama
Details and specs on the Voigtlander 42.5mm Lens at here at Adorama

Panasonic 42.5mm f/1.2

Panasonic 42.5mm f/1.2

Panasonic 42.5mm f/1.2

Coming in at a close second for our favorite primes on Micro Four Thirds is this new portrait lens from Panasonic. At f/1.2 it is only a hair “slower” than the Voigtlanders, but it adds two key features that the Voigts don’t have: Optical Image Stablization and Autofocus.

Images from this beauty are downright gorgeous; the rolloff from highlight to shadow is actually smoother than the Voigtlander 42.5mm and the image stabilization is good for a few stops. The cons: It’s 50% more expensive than the Voigtlander, AF is kinda pokey, and it’s much larger, physically. If you need the AF and OIS, however, this one’s still a bargain, as equivalent lenses for Canon and Nikon are even more expensive than this one.

Details and specs at here at Adorama

Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8

Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8

Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8

The Panasonic 12-35 f/2.8 lens equates to a 24-70mm lens on full-frame cameras. As lenses go, this is the workhorse of the MFT platform, and it adds image stabilization to boot. Video shooters working with the Panasonic GH series love this lens; it’s often the first one they buy when moving the Micro Four Thirds platform.

This lens is one of Panasonic’s “X” series lenses, which means that it’s built to a higher standard that Panny’s other glass. Think of it as the equivalent of Canon’s “L” glass, and in keeping with that moniker, it’s dust- and splash-proof when paired with a GH4, for example.

Bixby Bridge. Shot with the Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8. © Sohail Mamdani

Bixby Bridge. Shot with the Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8. © Sohail Mamdani

Optically, this lens is a solid performer. There is some barrel distortion at 12mm, but that’s almost expected. There’s some vignetting at 12mm as well, but again, nothing a quick trip through Lightroom won’t compensate for – if you even notice it in day-to-day shots. It’s also pretty lightweight, despite the addition of image stabilization. If you’re looking for the one lens to buy for your Olympus or Panasonic camera, this would be it.

Details and specs at here at Adorama

Olympus M.Zuiko 75mm f/1.8

Olympus M.Zuiko 75mm f/1.8

Olympus M.Zuiko 75mm f/1.8

This is the long portrait lens everyone seems to be lusting after, and with good reason. The Oly 75mm fills in an important gap in the MFT lineup, giving users a razor-sharp long-portrait lens in the 150mm range. The additional focal length lets you compress perspective a bit more and is optically one of the best lenses in the MFT lineup. Looking at a shot taken with a Panasonic GH4 and this lens at 100%, the level of detail it delivers is yummy. Price-wise, it’s not cheap, but it’s not stratospheric either. It retails for $899.

Details and specs at here at Adorama

Metabones Speedbooster for Micro Four Thirds

Metabones Speedbooster

Metabones Speedbooster

Here’s where we cheat again. The Metabones Speedbooster isn’t a lens, per se, even though it does have an optical element in it. It’s actually an adapter that opens up pretty-much all of Nikon’s lenses to MFT users. From the oldest AiS lenses to modern “G” lenses, this adapter can take them all and bring them to your Oly or Panny. You won’t get autofocus, but you do get manual aperture control, even on the new “G” lenses that don’t have an aperture ring.

Now, if all it did was that, it’d be cool. Maybe not worth the $400 price tag, but still, pretty cool. Except it does more…it slices, it dices, it chops, it mops…. In addition to adapting the lens and making the aperture controllable from the adapter, it also widens the lens and adds up to one full stop of light gathering capability. HUH? Yes. One of the primary complaints from folks who dislike MFT is that there are few wide-angle lenses for it. Panasonic “solved” this problem by introducing a 7-14mm lens (14-28mm equivalent), but now we have yet another solution in the form of the Metabones speed booster. Now, you can take a Sigma 10-20mm lens and adapt it to your Olympus, and instead of it becoming the equivalent of a 20-40mm lens, it’s still a 14.2-28.4mm lens. Metabones changes the crop factor of that sensor from 2x to 1.42x, making that Sigma actually wider on your MFT body than it would be on, say, a D7100. Throw in the additional light-gathering capability and you have an adapter that’s more than worth the $400 price tag.

Details at Adorama


The Bonus Round

Every time you turn around, there seems to be a new mirrorless platform is emerging. Nikon and Canon finally both kicked off their mirrorless camera production, and Fuji, Leica, and Sony now have their own bodies in the mix. Soooo…. we decided to take a look at a few of lenses that stood out to us on these platforms. Enter…

Fuji 56mm f/1.2

Fuji 56mm f/1.2

Fuji: The XF56mm f/1.2

A new high-speed portrait lens for Fuji’s fledgling X-mount mirrorless cameras, this lens is perhaps one of the largest primes Fuji has made yet. Even wide-open, it’s plenty sharp, and has bokeh that will leave you bokeh nerds salivating. AF is a bit slow (argh), but that’s almost to be expected from this class of lens, I think.

Details and specs at here at Adorama

Sony 55mm f/1.8 ZA

Sony 55mm f/1.8 ZA

Sony Full-Frame E-mount: The 55m f/1.8 ZA lens

One of the few new lenses announced for the Sony full-frame mirrorless cameras such as the A7r and the A7s, the Zeiss-branded 55mm f/1.8 is an odd duck. Sohail used it on an A7r and reported reasonably favorable results for sharpness and general optical quality. That could, he also noted, just be the A7r’s 36MP sensor, however, and he did note that the AF was (again!) pretty slow on it. Again – that could just be the camera itself, as the FEs are a bit slow to focus in general.

Details and specs at here at Adorama


Boom! This concludes our Lenstopia series. It’s been a hoot going through all of these systems. We bleed for you. All the links to Adorama will give you tons of product detail, price, etc. If you want to rent instead of buy, our pals at www.borrowlenses.com also rent a bunch of these lenses and will ship them direct to you. Huge thanks to both those fantastic companies for getting us all the gear we don’t already own, and some we do. Both of these companies are really lovely.

Big shoutout to Sohail, Erik, and the other gear support crew who have generally put up with being told to go test all of these lenses with (pretty) good humor. If you’ve got lenses for the MFT or other mirrorless platforms you think we should’ve mentioned, please, sound off below. Otherwise, get out and make/take some damn pictures.

Everything You Weren’t Taught About Taking Photos: How to Make an Image While Making Tough Decisions on Set (Amidst the Drama of it All)

chase jarvis naked juiceBackground Story.
This image was a part of a global campaign — print, OOH and digital – for Naked Juice in 2011. This image was one image in a series of 6 ads where the goal was to achieve what we were calling “the Naked Lens” — a superwarm, hard backlit look, complete with lens flare and jeweled tones throughout the image. While it might be an overused look these days — lens flares hadn’t yet hitting the mainstream for advertising. The idea was that this look, when combined across all Naked’s imagery, could be an “own-able” look for Naked. You can see a few other images from that campaign here or here on the agency’s site to get the gist of them together.

But I can already hear you — “so what’s so special about this shot, Chase? It’s just a guy walking down the beach with a surfboard!” Fair point, but ironically I chose this image specifically for that point. One of the most popular questions I get asked about photography is… “what’s it like to do X, or shoot with Y, in crazy location Z?” By and large people want to hear the sexy war stories of the profession — and there are plenty. BUT in high-end, broad reach advertising work you’re rarely asked to shoot the sexy or the impossible. More often you’re asked to shoot the “normal” under some unique circumstances… be those circumstances a special lighting situation, a special location, during a special type of weather, etc… and with 100 smart people (agency, client, everybody else under the sun) looking over your shoulder all the while — each with their own opinion on the best way to do something. That was the case for this image, and that’s why I thought it a more worthy share than another sexy war story. IMHO it might be a less sexy story, but it’s a better read and ultimately more valuable for takeaways because it’s more real than most of the shiz you’ll read.

Setup
Sometimes even the simple images are hard to get. We were setup on location in Malibu at a beach park we’d permitted after scouting the week before. Key challenge #1 = the weather was NOT good. Overcast, cold, with fog and broken clouds. Certainly no one expects you to control the weather and contracts are written with “weather days” etc, but that’s my point. It DEFINITELY contributes to the mood on set — to everyones mood. All of which not ideal when your #1 objective is a warm, backlit sun flare. To add some complications in there, it was our last shot to get, we’d nailed the previous 5 shooting in LA over the past week. There was a fair pressure to get it done… budget pressure. Nobody likes cost overages and you can imagine the costs of 30+ people staying for another day — client, agency, wardrobe, styling, art department, motorhomes, cancellation fees, etc etc. There was at least another $50 – $100,000 on the line if we didn’t get the shot.

We were all setup several hours early, and a lot of less experienced people on set (client’s do these shoots once or twice a year, the agencies do them a few more, whereas we photographers literally live in this stuff) and the people with the purse strings are getting fidgety. ["Why are we even here? It's cloudy weather! Shouldn't we scramble to another location and try to poach the shot down in Venice? My phone says its sunny down there."]

ENTER: 3 THINGS…
1. Patience. Scrambling 30 people to a new location that “might” be sunny, to shoot without a permit, is NOT a good idea. Parking alone is a nightmare, let alone all the rest. Besides risking getting shut down from the cops, nobody likes a scramble. Moreover, there is a phenomenon that you should be familiar with… it’s the phenomenon that quite frequently bites people in the ass: chasing light, i.e. “you can see it’s sunny right over there.” This sometimes plays in your favor with a smaller crew and a consistent weather pattern, but we had neither of those.

2. Sun Seeker App. Now I’m in no way affiliated with this $10 Sun Seeker app (and I’ve written about it before), but I use it every day of every outdoor photo shoot I’m on. In short, it’s a must have — it gives you the exact location of the sun in the sky at any given time. In this particular situation, when we’d scouted the location earlier we’d identified that our scene would be backlit the right amount for about 45 minutes before the sun went behind this hill just to the northwest of the beach we were on. BUT BUT BUT given the situation at hand I could tell that there were some breaks in the cloud happening right in the zone where the sun was going to be in an hour… and that — if things worked out perfectly — we might get a few minutes of sun just before it went behind the hill overlooking the beach (that you can see in the background of the image).

3. Making the Tough Call. They say that making hard calls in photography “goes with the pay grade.” But let’s be clear: most of the calls you must make on set — to shoot or not to shoot, to stay or move, to use this lens or that one, this model or that, this camera or that, do this or that or don’t — are based on gut and experience, and all of your gut and experience were cultivated with imperfect data. It’s a feeling combined with experience. Well, that’s what went down here. I had a strong hunch we’d get a minute or two of direct sun beneath the clouds and above the horizon, just right before it dipped away. I’d seen it happen 100 times, and that experience coupled withe the technology that told me where the sun was going to be AND the patience to always wait — to always give yourself a chance (see this post) to make the shot.

So, that’s what we did here. Amidst the voices from client and bystanders and agency and etc., I held the cast and crew at the location… and it worked. The sun turned on like a light switch, burning brightly and warmly for exactly 2 minutes. Not 20 minutes, not 2 hours. 2 minutes. But because we were ready (against everyone else’s desire… “its so cloudy its NEVER going to happen…”) we nailed the shot in a 2 minute window.

Gear & Settings
Camera = Nikon D3s
Lens = Nikkor 70-200 f2.8 ED-IS VR (at 78mm)
fStop = 2.8
Shutter = 1/1600
ISO = 800
Flash = none

Why I chose these settings
I needed the aperture wide open to get the light flare as I wanted it and I needed to be 1000% sure to freeze an action (at least 1/1000) and so that roughly dictated my ISO at 800 given the conditions.

Direction
In this case, my direction to the model was much more complex than you might think. First of all, it was very cold — probably in the 50′s and windy, so keeping him warm in between practice run thru’s was a must — can’t have a surfer all goose-bumped out. Second, in order to put him in the right spot on the horizon and in our frame he had to walk in a very unnatural part of the trail, while looking up and keeping a natural expression… no smiles, just contentment. So, the directions weren’t easy, but that’s what makes a pro model a pro. Seriously. Walk “normally” on this root-covered area just off the path with a perfect facial expression, carrying this surf board exactly this way, don’t look where you’re walking, and god forbid don’t look like you’re cold even though you’re wearing no clothes and it’s 50 degrees and windy as hell… aaaaaand now do that 50 times in 2 minutes while I unload 1,000 frames or so. THAT was the direction. #RequiredToGetTheShot

Post Production
In Photoshop we didn’t do all that much. Primarily some light balance between the hot sun and the darker elements (greens, etc.) in the front. The Nikon has great dynamic range, but we focused mostly on tweaking the balance between the brightest bits of the image and the darkest. We warmed it up a tad, we amplified the lens flare and we went a hair more to the jewel side of the tones in the image color to match the creative brief and the other images in the campaign. And Voila!

So there you have it. Feel free to hit me up on Twitter and Fbook with any questions. If you dig this blog post, I only share one of these every so often here… BUT I share one of these case studies every other week to my email list, with a complete breakdown of ever bit of the image making process. If you want to join the thousands of people who receive these special emails, do so on this form here. I will never spam you or share your info. #Respect.

Let’s Have Coffee! Join Me For a 30-Minute Online Hangout

chase jarvis coffeeREMINDER THIS IS TODAY! Don’t miss out. Grab a coffee, JOIN IN HERE on Google+ or HERE on YouTube, and ask some questions! You can also catch an embed down below. I’m all ears and a little bit of mouth… See you in a jiff…

BONUS ANNOUNCEMENT: My friends over at Adorama have made several special deals available as part of my Hangout today. Click on this link to head over to the special Adorama landing page to check out the specials! I’ll also have a $100 gift card to give away during the show, so watch out for that, too.

A lot of people offer to buy me coffee. It’s great. I love coffee and I love talking shop. Only hiccup is that there’s not enough hours in the day. Soooo… Join me for a cup of coffee (tea, beer, bourbon?) and let’s talk shop for 30 minutes via a Google Hangout on Tuesday August 5th. Here’s how.

Remember that contest I ran recently where the prize was a $500 from Adorama, 2 courses from CreativeLive and one-hour totally off-the-record conversation between me and the winner? Well, turns out that David Arthur was that winner and we’re talking on Tuesday August 5th. But here’s where you come in.

My private chat with David ends at 12noon Seattle time (3pm NYC, 20:00 London), but right at that time, I’ll kickoff a 30 minute public Google+ Hangout where you can join/follow the open conversation I’ll be having with you and whomever…taking any and all questions via Facebook, Twitter, carrier pigeon, smoke signal or however you can get ‘em across the wire to me. Ask ‘em day of…or can even ask them early in the comments below.

THE DETAILS
WHO: A worldwide chitchat via a Google+ Hangout
WHAT: Open Q&A that YOU can join or watch
WHEN: Tuesday, August 5th, NOON – 12:30 PM Seattle time (2:00 PM – 2:30 PM Central time)
WHERE: Tune in here my YouTube page, here here via my Google+ page

NOTE: I’ve done a handful of On Air Hangouts before, BUT never pulled it together myself on the casual tip…so cut me a little slack if it ain’t pretty ;) But I think I got this…

Any questions (about the process or that you want me to answer) leave ‘em in the comments, or keep your eyes peeled on my social feeds for deets in the coming days.

Nikon D810: Sharing My Initial Thoughts as Nikon Improves an Already-Solid Camera

Nikon D810 via Adorama

Photo geeks, gear heads, and camera nerds listen up! This post is just for you. Nikon today (or yesterday by the time I post this…) just announced the new D810, a consolidation of the D800 and the D800E. I’m a photographer and not a gear review guy, but I get a lot of requests from readers to weigh in…. should you get one? Should you pass? While that is much more of a personal question, my hope is to add a little value to the core camera geek’s potential purchaser’s day by sharing my initial thoughts. Keep in mind, I’m referring mostly to the ‘concept’ of the camera (is it a good camera in the line of pro / am lineup), do the specs make sense, and do I think it’s a good value.

So then, here’s a quick 2 cents… The D800 was a super solid camera when I posted about it two years ago, but the D810 adds a handful of meaningful upgrades to the system. Some of its improvements below:

_36.3 megapixel full-frame sensor (same as D800) but paired with Expeed 4 processing for sharper images, 30% faster
_up to 5fps still image shooting (7 if you’re in DX with a battery grip)
_1080p HD video at 60, 30, and 24 fps.
_noise-free images from ISO range of 64-12,800 (expands to ISO 32-51,200).
_Live View with spot white balance
_Built in stereo microphone for audio recording
_weight = 31.7 oz (roughly the same as the D800)
_Expeed 4 engine
_51-point AF (straight outta the D4s)
_Zebra stripes for exposure checking in video mode
_Uncompressed HDMI output with simultaneous recording to memory card (bonus)

This might look and feel like the same camera as the D800, but that upgrade to the Expeed 4 processing is going to make a LOT of the difference here (same processing system from the D4s I think!) It’ll allow for crisper shots at high ISOs and jettisons the low pass filter from earlier iterations of the D800. Not only that, but thanks to the updated processor, the D810 shoots slightly faster as well. Note: I have had ZERO face time with the camera, so I can’t go too in-depth on all the changes, but if they send me one, I’ll have more to say/share (BTW, I’m not counting on it. They got scared of me when I started using iPhones and Canon’s to shoot video… Golden boy to Anarchist :)

If you haven’t seen the pictures of it, she’s very, very similar to the D800, but check out images of the camera below in case you want to get an idea of what you’re in for.

The question I’m asked every time a new camera comes out… Chase, are you getting this camera? My answer in this case is no. But not that I wouldn’t want it… It just can’t replace my D4. It would be great wildlife or portrait shooter, but I do too much high speed action and need that 10 or 11 Fps. I also don’t need to chop up my sensor to get 36 megapixels… But I see why some people would love it. So that’s all for me on this quick hit. You asked, so I posted ;) LMK what y’all think/ first impressions/feelings and I’ll try to respond?

[Reminder that Nikon plays close attention to this blog, so your comments on this post — glowing or otherwise — might help inform Nikon about what you're thinking.]

Get all the juicy Nikon D810 updates and/or pre-order over at Adorama.

Let’s Hang Out! WIN a Meeting with Me + $500 in Camera Gear + 2 Classes from CreativeLive

UPDATE: The contest has ended and a winner has been randomly selected! And the winner is… David Arthur! David: send us an email to production@chasejarvis.com to claim your prize and get that consult scheduled. Everyone else: thank you so much for entering! As always, we’ll do more contests in the future for you to win some rad prizes, so make sure to keep checking in.

————————————————

Since I started writing this blog in 2006, I’ve always emphasized creativity and education over gear. You’ve heard me say “the best camera is the one you have with you” (ahem…) once or twice. I’ve handed the microphone to friends like Ramit and Tim to help me shout from the mountaintops that a new fancy camera is NOT one of your photography business essentials.

But while ideas and education trump gear, gear is not irrelevant. I’m 110% aware how easy it is for me to preach creativity over the camera when I’m slinging the latest goodies – D4s, Hasselblads, and an Alexa. The right gear HAS actually made many of my photos, videos, etc possible. Literally.

It’s perhaps then, fair to say that progress in one’s photography career / path takes a combo of 3 things. Ideas, education AND some basic minimum of gear.

SSSOOOOOOOOOO…. It’s with all that in mind that I’m kicking off a contest/sweepstakes TODAY that packs all 3 of those things together. Yours truly, along with my friends at Adorama and CreativeLive are each contributing prizes — all 3 prizes which will go to one winner. That can you be you.

WHAT THE WINNER GETS.
1. A personal consult with Chase Jarvis. Yes, a 60 minute Skype, Google Hangout or phone call with yours truly. We can talk about whatever you want to discuss: creative ideas, business ideas, portfolio review, the World Cup — whatever — you name it, I’m yours.

2. Gear. Adorama is kicking in $500 cash (gift card) toward anything on their site. Grab a new iPhone for mobile photography OR apply that $500 to that Canon 5D that you’ve always wanted.

3. Education. CreativeLive is kicking in 2 free classes — online education from the world’s best experts in photo & video education. There’s also business, design, audio courses and more. Learn from Pulitzer Prize winning photographers, Emmy nominated directors, New York Times Bestselling authors. 2 courses valued at $149 each will be yours — for free.

SO, HOW DO YOU WIN? To help wrangle this giveaway, we’re going back to our favorite widget below. It does a few things really well:
1. manages all entries into a secure database and properly randomizes a winner
2. gives you info about how much time is left in the giveaway / how many entries there are etc
3. allows you to earn extra entries by participating more deeply in the community (tweeting, sharing, reading posts etc)

To enter just fill in your info below and follow along. And note: this giveaway is live TODAY all the way through the 7th of July. Winner will be announced on July 8th via my social feed and email. Feedback welcome on the widget if you have any.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck to all who enter. I can’t wait to chat it up with the winner.

[In the meantime, to start your gearmouth a salivating ... you gear-heads can check out this post: Don't Leave Home Without It Gear Kit.]

LENSTOPIA Part III – The Top 5 Lenses for Hasselblad Cameras

In case you haven’t been following the fun, this is the third installment in my Lenstopia series. We kicked off with Canon lenses a few months ago, then followed with Nikon’s top 5. In this edition we’ll be propping up the top 5 lenses for the Hasselblad system — a camera system I love for high-end, high-megapixel studio, fashion, and occasionally even outdoor photography. It’s the system I used to capture my Diver photo, which ended up appearing my Hasselblad Masters series among other places, even getting used as an album cover. (It’s also the system/shot Kai Man Wong from DigitalRev tried to replicate with a GoPro, which you can see here.) As with past Lenstopia posts, I’ve leaned on my gear gurus Erik and Sohail to help me assemble this list – and its a breath of fresh air to use some other people’s photos for this stuff instead of mine. So these are my top 5 H-system lenses. Contrary opinions are anticipated and totally welcome. You know where to leave ‘em.

Hasselblad 100mm f/2.2 HC Auto

Taken with the Hasselblad 100mm f/2.2. © Faran Najafi

Taken with the Hasselblad 100mm f/2.2. © Faran Najafi

Hasselblad 100mm f/2.2

Hasselblad 100mm f/2.2

We start our lineup with something of a surprise entrant. The 100mm lens from Hasselblad is close in size to the smallest lens in the Hassy lineup (the 80mm f/2.8, mentioned below), but it’s got additional mojo. Why? For starters, at f/2.2, it’s the fastest lens — aperture-wise — in the Hasselblad lineup. Moreover, it is by our account the fastest-focusing lens in the lineup, and if you’ve ever picked up a medium-format rig, you know that these things aren’t known for speed. Every bit counts, and when you’re moving around a subject, firing shot after shot, that extra speed is worth it.

Pixel peepers will find nothing to complain about either; as this lens is more than plenty sharp and keeps up with even the 60mp backs Hassy has been churning out lately. Moreover, its small size and slight extra reach over the 80mm f/2.8 make it an ideal portrait lens.

Get more details, specs and price here from Adorama
Rent it from BorrowLenses

Hasselblad 80mm f/2.8 HC Auto

Taken with the Hasselblad 80mm f/2.8. © Faran Najafi

Taken with the Hasselblad 80mm f/2.8. © Faran Najafi

Hasselblad 80mm f/2.8

Hasselblad 80mm f/2.8

Next up! If the venerable 50mm lens is the workhorse for DSLRs, then the 80mm plays that role for almost every medium format system — and to that extent — it’s this lense that Hasselblad actually sells it as a “kit” with the H5D-40 camera. It’s pretty close to the field of view of a 50mm lens on a full-frame sensor, too, and is most often the first lens purchase for photographers new to medium format. It’s a truly versatile lens, and it lends itself to a variety of uses, from portraiture to landscape to everything in-between.

It’s also about the smallest lens in the Hassy inventory, which makes it easy to handle. Though not as fast (in focus or aperture) as the 100mm, it’s perhaps the…um…”cheapest” modern Hasselblad lens, and there are a lot of photographers shooting medium format for whom the 80mm suffices for the overwhelming majority of shots. So consider that ;)

Get more details, specs and price here from Adorama
Rent it from BorrowLenses

Hasselblad 24mm f/4.8 HCD

Taken with the Hasselblad 24mm f/4.8. © Faran Najafi

Taken with the Hasselblad 24mm f/4.8. © Faran Najafi

Hasselblad 24mm f/4.8

Hasselblad 24mm f/4.8

There are a lot of folks who love using the Hassy system for landscapes and architectural work, and the 24mm is an absolute joy to use. Don’t let the focal length fool you – this lens has a 104-degree angle of view, which is slightly more than the Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L lens at 16mm. Which means that it’s wide — really, really, wide. I have shot a ton of close up action (snowoboard) shots with this lens and it truly feels like a superwide on my dSLR setup.

A side-note about apertures in medium-format work. The f/4.8 maximum aperture of the 24mm might seem comically small to folks used to f/1.4 lenses, but bear in mind that it’s a lot harder to make lenses to cover the massive imaging plane of medium format cameras, so compromises have to be made somewhere. Besides, at f/2.8, as in the case of the 80mm, your Depth of Field is already super-thin; a medium-format lens opening up to f/1.4 wouldn’t just have a nearly nonexistent DoF, the lens itself would have to be much, much larger. And it’s already big enough. Trust me on this one.

Back to the 24mm, though: This is about as wide as lenses get; in fact, I can’t recall a lens that goes wider. There was a time when Zeiss made a 24mm lens for the older Hassy V system that had to be special-ordered, so just having a mass-produced 24mm lens is a real plus. Besides Hasselblad, I think I’m right in saying that only Leica makes a 24mm medium-format lens.

Get more details, specs and price here from Adorama
Rent it from BorrowLenses

Hasselblad 120mm f/4 Macro

Taken with the Hasselblad 120mm f/4.8. © Sohail Mamdani

Taken with the Hasselblad 120mm f/4.8. © Sohail Mamdani

Hasselblad 120mm f/4

Hasselblad 120mm f/4

Let’s go macro. As sharp lenses go, this macro lens is one of the best I’ve ever seen. It was created specifically to work with high-megapixel sensors, and it does so with aplomb. It checks off all the marks and requirements needed for a solid macro performer: 1:1 magnification, excellent performance even at the closest focusing distance, and great sharpness even with the aperture wide open.

This lens also does double-duty as a dazzling portrait lens. With an angle of view similar to that of a 70mm lens on a 35mm sensor, this gets you closer to a classic portrait focal length that 35mm shooters are used to. In test shoots, the lens performed admirably, delivering a detailed and clean image, with excellent (but not overbearing) contrast and tonality.

Get details, specs and price here from Adorama
Rent it from BorrowLenses

Hasselblad 300mm f/4.5

Hasselblad 300mm f/4.5

Hasselblad 300mm f/4.5

Hasselblad 300mm f/4.5

Hasselblad 300mm f/4.5

Ok, now let’s go LOOONNNNGGGGG. There’s really no other way to describe it – this lens is just plain FUN.

Due to the reverse-crop of the massive Hasselblad sensor, this lens equates to somewhere below the 200mm equivalent range on a 35mm system, so it’s not winning any awards for reach anytime soon. It is, however, the longest lens Hasselblad H system makes, and is actually pretty quick to focus too. If you haven’t figured it out already, all of these Hassy lenses are sharp, and this one’s no exception. True it’s not like DSLR or mirrorless cameras, where you can have the reach of a 600mm lens in a decent-sized backpack. But in this case, every additional millimeter of focal length is a very nice-to-have. In the case of the 300mm, Sohail took it out onto a balcony overlooking San Francisco for a quick cityscape image and it didn’t disappoint. Nicely compressed the scene, and the level of detail captured was simply outstanding.

Get details, specs and price here from Adorama
Borrow it from BorrowLenses

Sooooo that’s it for this edition of Lenstopia. In the next — and final — installment, we’ll take on the best lenses for the Micro-Four-Thirds and other mirrorless platforms.

Hasselblad 80mm, 100mm, and 24mm sample images thanks to Faran Najafi.

We are good pals with Adorama, where we buy our stuff. The sell damn near everything for photo and video, plus plus plus…

Gear for this review either owned by Chase or provided lovingly by friends at BorrowLenses.com – where still photographers and videographers can rent virtually everything.

Hands-on with My Favorite Still Photography Camera

Hello camera geeks, gearheads and… well… those of you who just want the best tools for your trade. You heard right, I’m back with another unboxing, this time of the hotly anticipated Nikon D4s — generously sent to me to by my friends at DPReview for a hands-on first impression, and it’s available from my homies/gear partners at Adorama. So here goes…

First impressions: that familiar Nikon gold box looks pretty much like all the Nikon boxes I remember, going all the way back to the F5 (that was a film SLR – remember those?). In fact, the only time I can remember Nikon changing its SLR — “D” or otherwise — boxes was for the Nikon Df, which was flat, matte black, and kinda cool looking. This makes sense – as the chassis for all these top-of-the-line pro cameras have basically been the same or very similar for a decade.

Get past all of the standard straps, warranty cards, manuals and trinkets where… wrapped in cellophane, the D4s has the same heft as the D4 I’ve carried around for a few years now, just with that fancy new “s” after the name.

Nikon D4s and Nikon D4 comparison - front view

The “s” models are typically feature updates, not body or appearance changes, so the size and ergonomics of the D4s are basically identical to its predecessor. There are a couple of touch-ups; the control sticks on the back have a bit more texture to them and the battery door is shaped differently, but that’s about it. If you want to be super-picky about it, the D4s is 60g heavier than the D4.

Does that add up to new features? The short answer = a few nice upgrades that add value to the camera.

Power up this sexy beast and you notice right away that the screen looks a bit nicer than the D4’s display. That might be because mine’s been through a few knocks and bumps, but for those of you keeping an eye on specs, Nikon has added the ability to fine-tune the color on that LCD. Nerdy but nice to have when showing clients over your shoulder.

What else? Well, trigger that shutter and you might be able to detect one extra frame in that burst every second. Nikon has upped the max number of frames the D4s can take per second with autofocus active from 10 to 11. And the buffer is larger.

Nikon D4s and Nikon D4 comparison - rear view

And speaking of autofocus, Nikons says their focus algorithms have been tweaked to accommodate that extra frame per second, and is less likely to get distracted by objects crossing in front of the camera. There’s also something called the Group Area AF, where you can designate a cluster of 5 points to focus on, rather than just one. The guys over at DPReview have more details on this, but any improvement to AF is good news.

There are plenty more changes on the inside, but that new sensor is probably the one that’s got everyone’s attention. Nikon has redesigned the 16MP full-frame CMOS sensor and it’s now capable of — hang on to your pants, folks — a whopping ISO 409,600 in Hi4 mode. Daaaaaamn.

That is NOT a typo. I checked.

Of course, 409,600 ISO is going to be pretty noisy, but hey, you’re going to get those shots of the inside of your lens cap now!

For video shooters, that new sensor has one more trick up its sleeve; combined with the new Expeed 4 image processor, it can now deliver 1080p video at 60p. That’s right – slow motion has finally come to the Nikon flagship. At freakin’ last! Also, if you shoot timelapses, the maximum shot count has gone up to 9999 from 999 and there’s a new smoothing feature for you as well. I don’t even know what that means, but I’m told it’s an improvement. Let’s just go with it.

If you were hoping that Nikon would ditch the XQD slot for another CF or even an SD slot, you’re out of luck; the XQD slot is still there. One bit of good news with regard to storage, though; you can now record video to internal storage while at the same time capturing it via HDMI to an external recorder, something that wasn’t possible earlier.

So there you have it. These are the tweaks that caught my eye — there are, as I said in the video above, a handful of others. The guys at DPReview do the whole multi-page review shebang, so you should really check out their definitive review. I’m just a 15 year pro with a passion for great cameras, not a lab geek. Those guys can really get under the hood. Hopefully, a combo of their detail and my gut and experience is a balance that helps you decide if this upgrade is a worthy one for your hard earned coin.

Final thoughts: this thing is every bit as solid as Nikon’s other flagships. I like it when cameras get upgrades. This is not a revolutionary update — the “s” series don’t fall into that category — but it’s a solid update nonetheless. The internal improvements make it even more useful to speed junkies and videographers, and the insanely high ISO will continue to make it even more appealing to photojournalists, and the other little changes like the battery, buffer, and RAW size improvements are quite welcome too. I am adding 2x of these to my gear bags and relinquishing their predecessors to the camera heavens (actually to the used market ;) )

As always, thanks for watching and head to Adorama here for more info. And feel free to add your thoughts about what you saw in the comments below, on my Facebook page, Twitter, or Google+.

Essential Photo & Video Gear Review — My Detailed, Piece-by-Piece, Don’t-Leave-Home-Without-It Gear Breakdown

I skip 99% of the gear gabbing you’ll find on other photography sites, primarily because I’m more interested in the creative side but also because so many other sites already do it really well. I make the occasional exception, like when a new toy falls into my hands before anyone else, or when I feel some industry hype building around an imminent release that needs to be tempered with some realistic expectations.

I did this popular review of my entire kit and how to pack it for travel…um…but that was 6 YEARS AGO. So as you might imagine, a lot has changed. Between that older video post and the number of times I get asked to highlight my fav gear — I figured it was high time for an update in one single vid. Therefore, I present you dear friends & readers a complete breakdown of my essential “working” photo kit AND the kit that we use to make all our behind-the-scenes videos, plus a few extras. Hope you dig – questions / comments encouraged. I’ll be all over it like white on rice.

In this video, I broke my kit into four sections: Still photo gear, [behind-the-scenes] video gear, data management gear and gear extras. For both the still kit and the video kit, I always roll with two of each body (Nikon D4 and Canon 5D Mark III) and 8 additional batteries for each. This basically gives me enough juice to last a week.

On the data management side, you’ll notice we also double up on our drives, both for the road kit and back at HQ. [Side note: if you're traveling with two drives on the road, keep them separate -- separate vehicles, separate hotel rooms, etc. That way if one crashes and burns, you've got back up.]

For gear extras, we have a few supports to choose from (always carbon fiber), some choice audio gear and a real sexy slider from Rhino Camera Gear that’s affordable and quite portable.

REMINDER and to be extra clear…in both photo & video scenarios what we’ve shared is the BASE kit – the kit that goes everywhere without exception. This is gear I think is worth investing in if you are a working pro. It’s NOT my complete gear list and it’s not the complete solution for every gig –we almost always add speciality pieces for particular assignments– but I thought we’d get too deep into the woods and it woulda made a video that was an hour long if we reviewed all that non-essential, non-”core” stuff. So we kept it focused as we could. Here it is. The camera kit I have with me on 99% of the commercial shoots I do:

Nikon D4 – My go-to for stills since it first made its appearance in early 2012.

Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S Zoom Nikkor Lens

Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S Nikkor Lens

Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G AF-S VR II Nikkor ED-IF Lens

Nikon 85mm f/1.8G AF-S FX Nikkor Lens

Nikon SB-910 TTL AF Shoe Mount Speedlight Flash

Canon EOS-5D Mark III

Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM Ultra Wide Angle Zoom Lens

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM AutoFocus Wide Angle Telephoto Zoom Lens

Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM Autofocus Telephoto Zoom Lens

Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L USM AutoFocus Wide Angle Lens

Promise Technology Pegasus J2 512GB SSD Thunderbolt Storage Solution, Up to 750 MBps Read Speed

Promise Technology Pegasus J4 2.5″ 2TB Thunderbolt Hard / Solid State Drive Enclosure

Zacuto Z-Finder EVF Pro 3.2″ High Resolution Monitor

Tiffen 77mm Variable Neutral Density ND Filter

Manfrotto MVH500AH Professional Fluid Video System, Carbon Legs

Manfrotto Kit with 190CXPRO4 Carbon Fiber Tripod and MH054MO-Q2 Head

Manfrotto 057 4-Section Carbon Fiber Tripod with Rapid Column

Rode Stereo VideoMic Pro On-Camera Microphone

Zoom H4n Handy Mobile 4-Track Recorder

Sennheiser EW122PG3A Wireless Kit

So that’s it. If you look through my BTS posts and videos, there’s a damn good chance you will see some combo of this gear in use. Time-tested; Jarvis-approved.

Special thanks to Adorama for helping me assemble my kit.

HUMANS OF NEW YORK [Best Photo Project Ever] Brandon Stanton on #cjLIVE Wed Feb 19th — Plus Win 30 Days w A Dream Photo Kit

chase jarvis hony humans of new york brandon stantonREMINDER: this show is TODAY at 11am Seattle time (2pm NYC, 19:00 London) and is broadcast LIVE at www.chasejarvis.com/live. Details below – tune in & come say hi.
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I’ve personally nailed several large scale photo projects in my career…Personal work that I grew to a large scale project. And I’ve witnessed hundreds of great photography-based projects come to life in every corner of the world…BUT there may be none better than HUMANS OF NEW YORK, by Brandon Stanton. Seemingly overnight he took a simple photo project from inception to a global phenomenon with a worldwide audience of millions, plus turned it into a #1 New York Times best selling photo book, while staying humble & hardworking through it all. In order to follow his dream, Brandon quit a well paying day job and followed his passion …. with a certain savvy that can be learned by us all.

Lucky for us, Brandon will be our guest AND our private advisor / mentor / coach / inspiration for 90 minutes on the next episode of chasejarvisLIVE this coming Wednesday, February 19th at 11am Seattle time (2pm NYC, 19:00 London time) at www.chasejarivs.com/live. Specifically, we’ll learn the key ingredients for pursuing your YOUR OWN PASSION, how to stand out in a crowded, noisy world, and how to turn your dream life/project/vision into a reality.

WHO: You, Me, Photographer Brandon Stanton + a worldwide gathering of creative people
WHAT: Interview, discussion + a worldwide Q&A
WHEN: Wednesday, Feb 19th 11:00am Seattle time (2pm NYC time or 19:00 London)
WHERE: Tune into www.chasejarvis.com/live. It’s free — anyone can watch and we’ll be taking YOUR questions via Twitter, hashtag #cjLIVE, and my the ChaseJarvis Facebook Page

***NOTE: if you are in Seattle or the PNW and can’t join us in-studio for the live broadcast, but still want to meet Brandon and have your book signed, we are hosting a reception / meet & greet / book signing immediately following from 12:30 – 1:30pm at my studio. There will be books on hand for sale. The address is 3333 Wallingford Ave Seattle 98103. Corner of Wallingford & 34th Street. Ground floor, Wallingford side of the building.

There’s a video at the bottom of this post that highlights HONY, but some more detail on what we’ll cover are here:
_How to conceive of a photography, art, or any project that matters to you
_What were the key steps to transitioning OUT of at 9-5 job and into a dream career
_How did Brandon teach himself to be a photographer?
_How to keep your dreams alive in the face of so much negativity and uphill odds

HELP US PIMP THE SHOW AND WIN THE MOST BOSS PRIZE EVER.
In order to reach the largest audience possible, we’re right now kicking off an amazing prize. To help jump start YOUR dream photo project, give you experience with the best gear in the business, or augment the gear you’ve already got, we’ve partnered with our pals at BorrowLenses.com to give you a chance to win a 30 day rental of a top professional camera body from Canon or Nikon, plus FIVE (5) amazing lenses. (details at the very end of this post). The equipment value is certainly more than 10 grand, and the rental value alone is more than $3000. The contest starts NOW and we’ll announce the winner on chasejarvisLIVE, Wed March 19th

To help wrangle this prize, we’re trying out a new widget below. It does a few things really well:
1. manages all entries into a secure database and properly randomizes a winner
2. gives you info about how much time is left in the giveaway / how many entries there are etc
3. allows you to earn extra entries by participating more deeply in the community (following on social channels, sharing, etc)

To enter just fill in your info in the widget below and follow along. Contest rules in the widget. And note: this giveaway is live all the way through 12 noon PST during the show on 19th February.

UPDATE: THANKS TO EVERYONE FOR ENTERING! The winner has been selected–give a holla for Courtney Zerizef. :)

JOIN US IN THE STUDIO!!!!!!!!!
Want to be part of the live studio audience AND/OR get photos + books signed with Brandon?? We’ll invite the first 40 people who send an email to production@chasejarvis.com to join us +1 guest if you’d like. You’ll receive a confirmation email with attendance details if you’re 1 of the first 40. Champagne, donuts, coffee and other stuff will be there too.

And then here’s a lovely video that Facebook made about Brandon’s project.

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The Camera Rental Package you could win is either….

Canon 1D X or a 5D Mark III
16-35 f/2.8L Mk II
24-70 f/2.8L Mk II
70-200 f/2.8L IS II

PLUS The 200-400 f/4L with Built-in Extender AND your choice between the 85mm f/1.2L or the 50mm f/1.2L Primes

OR ………..

Nikon D4 or a D800
14-24 f/2.8G
24-70 f/2.8G
70-200 f/2.8 VR II

PLUS the 200-400 f/4G VR II AND your choice between the 85 f/1.4F or the 50mm f/1.4G Primes

Whichever you choose, also enjoy a 1 year complimentary membership to BorrowLenses.com, which gets you 10% off rental orders, cancellations with no fees, and drop shipment of items you absolutely need even if they are out of stock for us. A $100 value and you get a t-shirt, to boot!

LENSTOPIA Part II – The 5 Top Lenses For Your Nikon Camera

Hopefully you caught this popular post last quarter. And so it continues here with another review of the top lenses – this time of the top Nikon lenses – my preferred weapon of choice when shooting stills. You already know I rarely write about gear since there are entire websites dedicated to that sophistry but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s still a top request I get from you, so the way I mitigate these divergent forces is by occasionally highlighting the tools that I actually use, lust for or have used extensively in the field…for years. The benefit of this approach is that I shoot almost EVERY camera brand for one thing or another. There is no brand loyalty here – just a loyalty to quality. Nikon for stills. Canon dSLR for video. Hasselblad for high end studio / fashion, GoPro for POV etc etc. So between yours truly, my video guru Erik, and my gear editor/research pal Sohail we’ve logged some real effort here to aggregate our thoughts on these lenses with the hope that you get at least 1 or 2 juicy takeaways. The images are Sohail’s since he is more of a gear “tester” – and wrangling thru millions of images to find one of my fav’s with each lens would kill me. So there you have it. Finally…a “top anything” list always stirs some debate – but that’s welcome and appreciated. Think we’re off by a lens or two? Let us know below – and why.

Oh and as a reminder – this isn’t a list of ‘the 5 lenses everyone should have’. It’s ‘these are the top 5 lenses in the Nikon lineup… Reminder you can rent or buy at very different price point ;)
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So here’s Lenstopia Part II: Nikon.

Nikon 85mm f/1.8G

Nikon 85mm f/1.8G

Nikon 85mm f/1.8G

Nikon makes a very nice f/1.4 version of the standard 85mm portrait lens, but for my money (and yours), the smaller, cheaper, and lighter 85mm f/1.8G is where it’s at. Aside from the small difference in aperture, this lens dominates its more expensive counterpart. This is one of the best portrait lens I’ve ever used, and I can’t speak highly enough of it. It boasts 7 diaphragm blades make for a nice, buttery bokeh, and the optics are simply outstanding, providing tack sharp images even when the aperture is wide open. We’ve all got friends who made their start as portrait photographers with this lens and continue using it well after they could have afforded the more expensive 85mm f/1.4.

Buy it here.
Borrow it here.

Shot with a Nikon D800E and an 85mm f/1.8G lens. © Sohail Mamdani

Shot with a Nikon D800E and an 85mm f/1.8G lens. © Sohail Mamdani

Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G

Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G Lens

Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G Lens

This lens needs no introduction. To say that it’s legendary is to hit it right on the mark. It is a veritable workhorse for me – when I ask for the “wide” from my assistant, he knows to hand me this lens, period. For landscape photographers, it’s always a tasty lens to have.

Another tasty bit that makes this lens remarkable is how incredibly sharp it is, corner-to-corner. Wide-angle lenses –especially those with the bulbous front element that this one has– often lose some of that sharpness in the corners. At 14mm, you’ll definitely see some distortion and there will be some vignetting at that range as well, but both are easily corrected in software. If you use Lightroom, it has a built-in lens profile to correct for those.

Canon users have a serious case of lens envy when it comes to this beauty. There simply isn’t anything out there in this zoom and aperture range that can come close to it in the Canon inventory; in fact, a number of photographers (including Sohail) have stuck this baby onto a Canon body to get the most out of both worlds – especially when shooting video.

Buy it here.
Borrow it here.

Delta Farm. Shot with the Nikon D800E and 14-24mm f/2.8G lens. © Sohail Mamdani

Delta Farm. Shot with the Nikon D800E and 14-24mm f/2.8G lens. © Sohail Mamdani

Nikon 135mm f/2DC

Nikon 135mm f/2DC

Nikon 135mm f/2DC

Erik, Sohail and I rapped about this and two things came up. One: this is the sharpest portrait lens out there. It slays. And two: to the best of our recollection, Nikon and Sony are the only manufacturers that make these “Defocus Control” lenses. Simply put, they allow you to control the “look” of the out-of-focus areas (see this article for a good example of what that means), and that gives you an added amount of creative control over that aspect of your images.

#2 is a nice to have. For #1, this lens is the undisputed heavyweight champ of the Nikon line and perhaps the world. The Nikon 135mm f/2.0DC lens has pure rock-solid optics. Another bonus is the metal hood. The design is tops and helps us avoid those pesky (breakable) plastic ones that dominate the market these days. The only detriment to this lens making this list? It’s very hard to find. They are a limited-run lens and often out of stock. Rumor has it that a shipment is on it’s way to Adorama right now. Literally. If you have the means to pick one up you won’t be sorry. For the record, I don’t own this lens, but I wish I did and may get on this next shipment ;)

Buy it here.
Borrow it here.

Shot with a D800E and a Nikon 135mm f/2

Shot with a D800E and a Nikon 135mm f/2. © Sohail Mamdani

Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII

Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII

Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII

This lens is the workhorse of the Nikon lineup. No lens has spent as much time on Nikon bodies – including mine – as this one, and every single one of my Nikon-shooting buddies swear by the 70-200mm. Version One of this lens was no less of a workhorse, but when the VRII came out around 2009 or 2010, Nikon upped the game considerably. Largely gone were any issues that plagued the version I – the vignetting at certain focal lengths, the slight softness at certain apertures, the chromatic aberration that showed up from time to time. This lens does everything the version I did, and then some. Focusing, btw, is legendary and almost bulletproof.

VR is better as well, giving you up to four stops of vibration reduction. Nikon also added nano-crystal coating to this lens’ elements and the lens is weather-sealed with compatible bodies. The focal length is useful for just about every kind of shooter (Sohail even uses it for landscape, as you can see below), and most wedding and portrait shooters will typically have this one on hand for important shoots.

Buy it here.
Borrow it here.

Fog-shrouded Bay Area. Shot with the Nikon 70-200 f.2.8 VRII © Sohail Mamdani

Fog-shrouded Bay Area. Shot with the Nikon 70-200 f.2.8 VRII © Sohail Mamdani

Nikon 800mm f/5.6

Nikon 800mm f/5.6ED

Nikon 800mm f/5.6ED

Okay, let’s be clear; this isn’t a lens a lot of folks will be able to afford. It’s sweet if you are loaded and have one laying around to use at will – but confession; I do not own this lens (both you and I can rent it from our pals at BorrowLenses.com, though). But it does belong on this list, and here’s why.

Until recently, Canon’s 800mm f/5.6 lens has been about the longest lens currently in production by one of the big manufacturers. The longest lens on the Nikon side has been the 600mm f/4, which is a rather good bit of kit on its own.

Until recently Nikonians have had to put up with Canonites flaunting their 800mm. Well, Nikonians now have their own cannon (yes, pun intended) to play with, and oh, what a cannon it is! The 800mm f/5.6 is a beauty of a lens, and is certainly the finest super-tele optics I’ve had the pleasure of shooting with and perhaps tops overall. It IS the lens on this list that I have the least experience with, but I can confirm that it focuses every bit as fast as Nikon’s 600mm f/4 does, and faster IMHO than the Canon 800mm f/5.6. The optics are yummy, and you’re more likely to notice atmospheric distortion caused by focusing on objects far away than you are optical distortion – which is a feat of physics.

Again, this is not your everyday lense (or even every month) but when you gotta go long, this is absolutely delicious. While TC’s are not my thing, Sohail says if you throw on the included 1.25x teleconverter (now you’re rockin’ a 1000mm f/7.1 lens) this sucker is so powerful, it’ll give you a slightly uneasy feeling as you point it at distant building. From across the San Francisco Bay, standing on Treasure Island, you can take an image that will let you actually see into the windows of the top floors of the Transamerica Pyramid Building well enough to make out the green glow of an “Exit” sign, some art on the walls, and a doorway. Whoa.

Closeup of the Transamerica Pyramid Building © Sohail Mamdani

100% crop of the image of the Transamerica Pyramid Building © Sohail Mamdani

Creepy? Yeah. Cool as heck? Definitely!

Buy it here.
Borrow it here.

That’s it for this edition of Lenstopia. In the next installment, we’ll take on the best lenses Hasselblad has to offer.

Nikon Df Unboxing Video + Test Images + First Impressions While Actually Shooting Photos [gasp!]

When the Nikon Df arrived on the scene a couple months back, I tried to temper the hype (my own included) with a good dose of high expectations. Yes, it looked bad ass. Yes, it housed the same sensor as the D4. Yes, the optical viewfinder has 100% field of view.

But as a compact camera fiend and someone whose owned probably 50 cameras or more, I’m no pushover. So when Adorama shipped the Df to my door, I filmed the unboxing in old school 2006 internet style and wasted no time taking a test run (sparse couple images below).

To determine if the Df hit all the marks, let’s take a look back at those point by point…

From my original notes on appearance when the camera launched…. 1. Ergonomics. Roughly… “I like how all the dials/controls for shutter speed, exposure compensation, and ISO give you the option of being really hands on with setting your exposure. Shooting this way really increases my connection with what you’re creating with the camera. The Nikon DF looks like it’ll do a nice job of recreating (or perhaps simulating) that experience of “making” pictures like the cameras of old… That feel helps me be connecting to the art just a little bit more–i.e. slowing down a tad– than some of my other tools in my shed.”

ACTUAL THOUGHTS on ergonomics having shot with this thing. I’m NOT happy with ergonomics. The dials are pretty cool and give you the retro feel, but they’re in goofy places and hard-ish to reach. The aperature dial on the FACE of the body at your right finger is bizarre. The shutter sound is nice. The grip depth is in no man’s land…not flat enough to feel retro and not deep enough to hold it like a “new”camera. Feels “plastic-y”. Which is easy to see why… because the shell of the camera is entirely largely out of styled plastic. The lens? Plastic.

Now my notes on The size. The size was a huge surprise – as you can see from the video. WAY bigger than I thought from the original marketing materials. WAY bigger. In truth I feel like the product shots were actually aimed to trick me into thinking this would feel like a little body. It doesn’t. Yes, it’s smaller than a D4 or pro body – but bigger than I want for lots of circumstances…similar to a D7000 of D600 or any pro-sumer higher end body. When I’m on a pro gig I use/need the pro body to lean on, bang around, pound nails and otherwise be tough and sturdy. But in this class of camera, I really prefer the portability. So what gives here? I dunno. They made up a nice advertising story about “back to basics” with a “real camera” but they among other things, it’s really just styled like an old camera. Also, rumor has it they couldn’t keep the guts cool enough to shoot video because mechanically that stuff takes up space. That’s probably why it doesn’t shoot video – not based on any “purity”. Jury is out. I like the purity angle, but it’s 2014…

I guess my reaction above says it all. There are good surprises and there are bad surprises. I think we know where that shoe dropped re: size.


3. The sensor. This is this cameras very best feature, bar none. I LOVE LOVE LOVE this sensor. It has the same 16.2-megapixel sensor as Nikon’s pro-focused D4, which is the best still sensor of all time IMHO. You can basically shoot this thing in the dark – can it focus in the dark? Not all that well it turns out. But I still love that they packed that sensor in this body. The images are buttery but not overly so like Canon 5d sensors.


MY ORIGINAL NOTES ON….4. Focus. It better be decent. Nikons have historically kicked everyones ass in this department. This better not be a let down. I hope the focus is fast and accurate. (Speaking of fast…we know it’s not fast in frames per second department. 5 ‘n’ change. Not bad. But not fast. Who cares really – that’s not what this camera is for.) We really do want the focus to be fast, however, if it’s to stand out from it’s peers. BTW, how is the manual focus mode? It better kick ass. I’m curious to see if there are any features to assist with this. There’s a lot of marketing around this camera pimping its ability to use all the old non-AI lenses, but the cameras from that time had focusing screens built for manual focus. Without tools like focus peaking, a split image screen, or a microprism screen, shooting with manual focus lenses might just be a pain in the ass. Let’s hope they get it right.

ACTUAL THOUGHTS on FOCUS having shot with this thing. It didn’t measure up. It wasn’t fast. It was pretty accurate, but it wasn’t fast and accurate, which is what I really wanted. I’m sure that Nikon would respond…”but it has the same x and y as the z so it will do …blah”. It’s a great sensor, but the focus isn’t as fast as other cameras in the compact/mirrorless class. Which is sort of a travesty if you love Nikon still cameras given that that is a huge advantage for Nikon in nearly every other case.

MY ORIGINAL notes on this… 5. Pro shit. I’m excited to see how “professional” the camera can be. Can I pound nails with this thing? Is it heavy and durable? We use a ton of different cameras for video, but the D4 is my go-to camera for EVERY SINGLE commercial photo shoot we do. Could the DF could come along on our shoots as a good BTS rig? Even in our BTS stuff we expect pro quality That would be nice if this delivered. I will always have a couple D4 backups, but for the solo photographer, the DF could potentially save pro photographers some weight and coin if (and only if) it can produce professional results in a pinch.

I can’t tell if it has an alloy metal chassis, but its exterior is plastic-y. That isn’t pro. This isn’t a pro backup camera. The images look really nice, a great sensor but it falls short in other categories.

OVERALL
This is a good camera. Actually it’s a great camera. It will make nice pictures. It’s just not the camera I thought I was gonna get. If you LOVE Nikon you should buy this body. You will not be disappointed if you take what I’ve said here with a grain of salt. I know they are selling like hotcakes so the world really likes this camera. I’m just a tad hard on it. Like I said above, the plus on this baby is the D4 sensor in a much cheaper body. Beautiful dynamic range and looks great in low light. Another plus is that Nikon is at least watching what other manufacturers are doing with their products. The negatives are that they don’t know what their consumers want. Generally speaking we are not posers. This camera’s appearance it trying too hard. And it’s too damn big. But like I said – if you’re a photog who loves Nikon – you might be pleased as punch – so take my words here w a grain of salt.

Bounce on over to Adorama to see the Nikon Df HERE

IMAGES
I did have a short day around our cabin making pizza with my pal Jeff and then taking a quick walk on the beach to grab a few snapshots for this initial post to you guys… I intentionally shot slow moving, simple stuff where I thought this camera could perform. It worked well for that – but I knew the limits. The below are just very very minimally processed jpgs. You can see the magic simplicity with this sensor. It just WORKS. (check out the one image with the white house, the open, dark garage with the lightbulb on, during the day. Crazy subtle. THATS the kind of camera I want in my pocket. Portable.

It also does a nice job with a completely flat scene on the grey beach on a grey day shooting photos of grey stuff. Again, quality sensor. Focus? it was a pain to shoot inside and nail the focus shooting at F2.2 etc. But overall you can tell this camera works. If you can take the gimmicky styling it’ll do you right. If you can’t, then you’ll need a different sword of choice.

ChaseJarvis_NikonDf_0203

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Nikon Df camera in silver

Nikon Df camera from rear

Nikon Df camera side view

Bounce on over to Adorama to see the Nikon Df details HERE

DigitalRev TV uses a GoPro to Fake my Hasselblad Masters Photo

Each time I have the good fortune to work with DigitalRev TV and my friend Kai Man Wong something memorable happens.

For example, you might recall the time that Kai and DigitalRev TV dragged me around Hong Kong with a Lego Camera on one of their infamous CheapCamera Challenges. The highlights included surprise runway models, aggravated kung fu fighters and eating pig’s anus on the street. Most recently Kai and his hilarious crew parodied my Facebook profile photo for Fake A Big Shot. The resemblance was, um, striking?

I decided it was time to turn the tables.

I showed up in Hong Kong to give Kai and the DigitalRev crew a taste of their own medicine. A CheapCamera Challenge of my design: To re-create a photo I shot with the Hasselblad H3D. This was a $25,000 piece of equipment in 2007 when I shot the photo. I gave him 8 hours … and a GoPro Hero3PLUS ($399) to get it done.

Here’s how the the final product compares to my original. What do you think? Check out the video above to see how he did it.

Chasejarvis_DigitalRevTV

Thanks to Kai and the whole DigitalRev TV crew for working on short notice and being such great sports. Subscribe to their channel here.

10 Gifts for Photographers + WIN a Sexy Sony a7 Camera

UPDATE – Happy New Year to all who entered my camera giveaway over the last month…AND a big congratulations to MARK BEHRENS, the winner of the brand spankin new Sony a7. Thanks to everyone who participated and to our homies at Adorama + Sony. BTW, for those of you who signed up for my email list — I’ll be in touch with soon more exclusive content and opportunities to connect.

Good morning friends! I get lots of emails, tweets & Facebook posts from all over the world – husbands, wives, partners, girlfriends of photographers looking for gifts for the creative loved ones in their lives. I know the gift-giving paralysis that can come from not having a few solid ideas for the creatives / photographers (photofiles?) in your life….so in an attempt to be a help to my gift seeking friends and answer all those emails in one fail swoop…. I’ve wrangled a little gift list ranging from $20 to $4000 (yikes!). I’m not big on shopping events but I do appreciate some well-curated suggestions, so rest assured this list is focused enough that any one item won’t disappoint and broad enough that there are things for literally every photog.

Annnndddd… in acknowledging that buying cameras and gear can be expensive and painful (sometimes prohibitively so…), I wanted to offset that with an opportunity for you to win a VERY tasty new camera for free… Remember that super hot Sony a7 camera that I was ranting about last month? Well, thanks in large part to support from Adorama for hosting this, they are allowing me to give away one of these delicious Sony Cameras along with the 28-70mm Sony lens.

To help wrangle this giveaway, we’re trying out a new widget below. It does a few things really well:
1. manages all entries into a secure database and properly randomizes a winner
2. gives you info about how much time is left in the giveaway / how many entries there are etc
3. allows you to earn extra entries by participating more deeply in the community (watching vids, sharing, reading posts etc)

To enter just fill in your info below and follow along. And note: this giveaway is live all the way through the 28th of December. Feedback welcome on the widget if you have any.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Nikon 50mm f/1.8D AF Nikkor Lens

This is a seriously great all-around lens for your kit. Don’t let that low price fool you. The 50mm 1.8 one of the best kept secrets in photo gear. The lens body is plastic, but it still kicks tons of ass. I have had this lens since it first came out – even replaced it with the same thing once when I dropped it into a lake.
Price: $109

SanDisk 32GB Class 10 ExtremePRO SDHC Memory Card

Another quality little stocking stuffer for any photographer. One can’t every REALLY have too many SD cards, unless you’ve got a collection of 50 1GB cards, in which case it’s really time to poke your eyes out consolidate. The Class 10 checks all those boxes that a photog is looking for in a memory card.
Price: $60.95

SanDisk ImageMate All-in-One USB 3.0 Memory Card Reader

For just a few bucks more, you can throw in this all-in-one card reader as a goes-with gift for the above. [If you want to get creative, pull the SDHC card out of the packaging and pop it into the reader before wrapping.]
Price: $32.95

PocketWizard Plus III Transceiver

A quality trasceiver is a must-have for any aspiring photographer. The freedom to move your flash around opens a lot of doors for more creative illumination of the shot. And at under $150, you’re not breaking banks.
Price: $134

Think Tank Airport Security V2.0

For the traveling photographer who wants a safe and secure way to transport all that gear, this Think Tank rolling solution should more than do the trick. Comes with combo zipper lock and the steam-sealed raincover keeps your gear bone dry.
Price: $364.75

Promise Pegasus J2 Thunderbolt 512gb

I love this portable thunderbolt drive. It’s about the size of a smartphone and it’s super fast on the read and write speeds. It will also run without the conventional power adapter, making it perfectly for off-the-grid shoots.
Price: $499.00

Joby Ball Head + Gorillapod SLR-Zoom

For playful but solid support on the fly, nothing beats Gorillapod with the Joby Ball Head. These are great little numbers for attaching GoPro’s and other smaller cams for a sweet little time lapse.
Price: $79.95

Sony Alpha a7 Digital Camera, with FE 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS Lens

I had the chance to play with the a7, and let’s just say this is a no-questions-asked, “I love you (or yourself ;) ” gift. No regifting or returns to worry about on this one, that’s for damn sure. Great design, great quality, compact and sexy as all get out.
Price: $1,998.00

Think Tank Retrospective 10-GR Small Shoulder Bag

Two Think Tank prods in one list? What’s up with that? Think Tank rocks, that’s what. THIS is how you carry your every-day camera kit around, people. Like the travel bag, this one has a nice rain seal on it for those infrequent Seattle showers.
Price: $165.75

Broncolor Senso Kit 22

This is a big-ticket gift, make no mistake. But there really is no price you can put on good lighting. I wouldn’t recommend this for the teenage son or daughter on a flavor-of-the-month kick, but it’s a no-joke upgrade for any aspiring commercial photographer.
Price: $4734.00

DJI Phantom

I’ve toyed around with the DJI Phantom quite a bit. The weight-bearing limitations do more or less count out super high end camera loads, but the aerial footage you can get with a GoPro will really take that budding videographer’s footage to the next level.
Price: $679

And always, if you’ve got some gift ideas of your own you want to share, sound off below – I may add your suggestions to this list.

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