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Lenses For Wildlife Photography
When it comes to selecting lenses for wildlife photography, the first thing most photographers look for is focal length—a long lens that can reach out and cover great distances, bringing animals in for close-ups—but other features are also incredibly useful.
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In Focus: October 2015
3 NEW NIKKORS
Nikon has introduced three new lenses of interest to outdoor photographers. For bird and wildlife fans, the AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm ƒ/5.6E ED VR features 4.5-stop Vibration Reduction, a minimum focusing distance of 7.2 feet (0.22X maximum magnification) and a surprisingly affordable price. The lens incorporates Nikon’s E electronic diaphragm, which provides consistent exposures when using automatic exposure with continuous shooting, as well as Sport VR Mode, which works with fast panning and distant subjects at high frame rates. The lens measures 4.2×10.5 inches and weighs 5.1 pounds. For landscape shooters, the new AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm ƒ/2.8E ED VR features three aspherical elements, two ED elements, an aspherical ED element and an HRI element to minimize pretty much all lens aberrations and distortion. The lens includes 4-stop VR and the E electronic aperture control, and provides a nice balance between sharpness and soft blur effects. It measures 3.4×6.0 inches and weighs 38.4 ounces. For a handy walking-around lens, the new AF-S NIKKOR 24mm ƒ/1.8G ED wide-angle has two aspherical and two ED elements in a 3.1×3.3-inch, 12.6-ounce size. All three lenses cover FX (full-frame) sensors and can also be used on DX (APS-C) cameras. Estimated Street Price: $2,399.95 (24-70mm); $1,399.95 (200-500mm); $749.95 (24mm). Contact: Nikon, nikonusa.com.
CANON SPEEDLITE 430EX III-RT
Compact, yet powerful, Canon‘s new Speedlite 430EX III-RT flash is a versatile companion for the Canon-using outdoor photographer. It offers several new features, most notably both radio and optical wireless off-camera operation. In radio mode, up to 15 camera/flash units can be fired from up to 98.4 feet away, and the 430EX III-RT can serve as master or slave. In optical mode, the flash can be operated from up to 49.2 feet (indoors). Other features include a new control dial, illuminated dot-matrix LCD panel, tilting/rotating bounce capability, high-speed sync and second-curtain sync. Dimensions are 2.8×4.5 inches, 10.4 ounces, with an ISO 100 GN of 141 feet/43m at the 105mm zoom setting. Estimated Street Price: $299.99. Contact: Canon, www.usa.canon.com.
PANASONIC LUMIX DMC-GX8
The new flagship “flat”-form-factor model in Panasonic‘s Micro Four Thirds mirrorless camera lineup is the pro-quality LUMIX DMC-GX8. It features a 20.3-megapixel sensor (highest pixel count in MFT, as of this writing) that can deliver 4K video at 30 and 24 fps, and 1080p video at up to 60 fps, as well as 4K (8 megapixels) still frames at 30 fps. The magnesium body is sealed against dust and weather, and features both a 3.0-inch, 1040K-dot free-angle touch-screen monitor and a 2360K-dot tilting OLED eye-level electronic viewfinder. The camera features Panasonic’s very quick DFD (Depth From Defocus) contrast-based AF system, and it can shoot full-res images at 6 fps with AF (8 fps with focus locked at the first frame). Sensor-shift image stabilization can work in conjunction with in-lens stabilization to provide Dual IS when compatible Panasonic OIS lenses are used. There’s also built-in WiFi with NFC for easy connection. The GX8 measures 5.2×3.1×2.5 inches and weighs 15.3 ounces. Estimated Street Price: $1,199 (body only). Contact: Panasonic, shop.panasonic.com.
NEW MANFROTTO XPRO BALLHEADS
Manfrotto has introduced two additions to its XPRO ballhead lineup. The MHXPRO-BHQ2 and MHXPRO-BHQ6 are identical except the BHQ2 features Manfrotto’s popular standard 200 PL plate and the BHQ6, the company’s MSQ6PL plate with safe and secure Top Lock System. The units are made of strong, yet light magnesium alloy, and can support 22 pounds while weighing just under one pound. A new Triple Locking System employs three wedges to apply even pressure to the ball to hold it securely in place. Both units have 360° scales at the bottom, plus bubble levels. List Price: $149.99 (BHQ2); $199.99 (BHQ6). Contact: Manfrotto, manfrotto.us.
REALLY RIGHT STUFF POCKET ‘POD PACKAGE
Really Right Stuff is offering the Pocket ‘Pod Package containing their BC-18 Micro Ball and a set of mini-legs (the unit can support up to 100 pounds with the legs in the fully splayed position). The head features a Really Right Stuff-compatible screw-knob-style quick-release clamp that works with any 1.5-inch dovetailed rail or plate, and a unique level lock to control the ball joint. The compact unit is 7.4 inches long and weighs just 8.9 ounces. List Price: $199. Contact: Really Right Stuff, reallyrightstuff.com.
If you want your landscape and wildlife images to display accurately, as well as be sure your prints look like what you see on-screen, your monitor must be properly calibrated. Datacolor‘s Spyder5PRO is an easy and precise way to do this. The industry’s only seven-detector optical engine with on-screen assistance delivers color and shadow/highlight calibration in five minutes, and it takes just half that to recalibrate (preferably monthly) thereafter. An integrated room-light sensor alerts you when the ambient lighting conditions have changed, so you can recalibrate or adjust the ambient lighting. Estimated Street Price: $189. Contact: Datacolor, spyder.datacolor.com.
METABONES SPEED BOOSTER ADAPTERS FOR MFT
Metabones Speed Boosters are adapters for mirrorless cameras that let you use non-native lenses, and in the process, improve MTF (resolution), increase light transmission one stop and reduce focal length (in this case, 0.71X, which reduces the MFT 20X crop factor to 1.4X). Sounds like magic, but it’s really optics: The Speed Boosters concentrate the light from full-frame lenses so that it covers only the smaller MFT sensor area, reducing lens aberrations in the process. Metabones has introduced two new versions of the Speed Booster Ultra 0.71X, one to connect Canon EF lenses to MFT cameras, the other to connect Nikon F lenses to MFT cameras. Both feature 5 elements in 4 groups with ultra-high-index tantalum glass and a removable Arca-Swiss-compatible tripod foot. The Canon version provides single-shot AF with Panasonic MFT bodies and electronic control of aperture. List Price: $649 (Canon); $479 (Nikon). Contact: Metabones, metabones.com.
FOTODIOX RHINOCAM FOR CANON AND NIKON DSLRS
Create huge-pixel-count panoramic images with your digital camera inexpensively using Fotodiox RhinoCams. The newest models do this for Canon and Nikon DSLRs, both full-frame and APS-C. Attach a medium-format lens to the unit’s lens mount and your DSLR to the back, then use the RhinoCam to precisely move the camera from left to right and top to bottom to make a series of exposures that then can be combined via stitching into one huge image. Conventional stitching—rotating the camera from left to right and tilting it up and down to make the sequence of exposures—causes some distortion and requires cropping out overlap areas. But taking advantage of the medium-format lens’ larger image circle and moving the camera sideways and up and down without tilting, the RhinoCam eliminates these problems. A full-frame camera requires six frames (three horizontally and two vertically), and an APS-C camera, 12 (four horizontally and three vertically). A 24-megapixel full-frame camera will deliver a just-under 144-megapixel stitched final image (24 megapixels times six frames)—great for epic landscapes. List Price: $399.95. Contact: Fotodiox, fotodioxpro.com.
MANFROTTO OFF ROAD 20L
Manfrotto has expanded its popular Off Road Collection with the new 20L backpack, which is ideal for carrying camera gear while hiking. Its protective camera case has room for a midsized DSLR with lens attached and can be removed to turn the 20L into a fine hiking backpack. An innovative camera strap on the front lets you carry the camera ready-to-use with no strain on the neck. There are also straps for hiking sticks (which are available as part of the Off Road Collection) and tripods. A breathable back, padded waist belt and easily adjustable shoulder straps add comfort and versatility. List Price: $159.99. Contact: Manfrotto, manfrotto.us.
GOPRO HERO4 SESSION
The smallest, lightest and easiest-to-use GoPro action cam yet, the new HERO4 Session is 50% smaller than other GoPro HERO4 cameras and weighs just 2.6 ounces, but can deliver 1080p video at up to 60 fps, as well as 8-megapixel still images at up to 10 fps and time-lapse at intervals of 0.5 to 60 seconds. The unit is rugged and waterproof to 10m/33 feet. The built-in battery delivers up to two hours of shooting per charge. Built-in WiFi and Bluetooth provide wireless connection to the free GoPro App, with which you can control the camera via your smartphone or tablet. An optional Smart Remote lets you operate multiple cameras from up to 182m/600 feet away. The Session comes with mounts and mounting buckles and hardware, and is compatible with all GoPro mounts. Estimated Street Price: $399.99. Contact: GoPro, shop.gopro.com.
YUNEEC TYPHOON Q500 4K
The Typhoon Q500 4K from Yuneec is an easy-to-operate quadcopter photo drone with some especially nice features. First, its gimbal-stabilized CGO3 camera with 115° distortion-free lens can do 4K video, 1080p slow-motion at 120 fps and 12-megapixel still images (DNG RAW or JPEG). It comes with two LiPo rechargeable batteries, and can stay aloft for about 25 minutes on a charge. No smartphone or tablet is required; the provided ST10+ Personal Control Station features a 5.5-inch touch screen and the ability to adjust video resolution, white balance, ISO exposure and shutter speed. Also provided is the SmartGrip for gimbal-stabilized handheld ground shooting. Videos and images are stored on the internal memory card and streamed in real time for viewing on the ST10+. Estimated Street Price: $1,299. Contact: Yuneec, yuneec.com.
MINDSHIFT FIRSTLIGHT BACKPACKS
Designed to hold large lenses, yet meet airline carry-on specs, MindShift Gear‘s FirstLight backpacks come in three sizes. The 4.4-pound FirstLight 20L can hold a standard DSLR body and 4 to 6 standard zoom lenses, two mirrorless bodies and 5 to 7 lenses, a 200-400mm zoom detached or a 300mm ƒ/2.8 lens attached to a camera body. The 5.4-pound 30L can hold a gripped DSLR body with 6 to 8 standard zoom lenses and a flash unit, a detached 500mm ƒ/4 supertelephoto or a 400mm ƒ/2.8 attached to a body. The 6.0-pound 40L can hold two gripped DSLR bodies with 6 to 8 standard zoom lenses and a flash unit, a 600mm ƒ/4 supertele or a 500mm ƒ/4 with body attached. The FirstLight backpacks feature comfortable designs with 11 adjustment points, and exterior fabric is treated with waterproof coating. The packs come with a seamless rain cover that can also serve as a ground cloth, plus ballistic nylon bottoms for durability. List Price: TBA. Contact: MindShift Gear, mindshiftgear.com.
LENSPEN ACTION CAMERA LENS CLEANER
Smaller than the original LensPen, the LensPen for GoPro lenses is ideal for cleaning the small lenses on a variety of action cams. Based on a carbon cleaning compound, the LensPen for action cams uses no liquids, sprays, tissues or rags. Just remove loose dust and dirt with the retractable natural brush at one end of the unit, then twist the cap at the other end and use the cleaning tip to remove any remaining dirt, grease or fingerprints. LensPens are environmentally friendly, good for 500-plus cleanings, and have no expiration date. Estimated Street Price: $9.99. Contact: LensPen, lenspen.com.
GALLERY POUCH BY FRAME DESTINATION
It can be a pain to use sheets of bubble wrap and tape to protect your prints for shipping/travel, both wrapping and unwrapping. Frame Destination offers a simple solution: Gallery Pouches are sturdy bubble-wrap pouches custom-sized to fit your prints (or you can order from a wide range of standard sizes). You can choose from opening at a short edge or a long one, flap or Velcro® closure, in sizes from 4×4 to 52×156 inches. Estimated Street Price: Varies with size and quantity; for example, two 16×21-inch pouches cost $13.02 each, which drops to $11.40 each if you order 20. Contact: Frame Destination, framedestination.com.