Thursday, May 21, 2015

REVIEW: Canon Rebel T6s/760D with 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM Lens (Part I of II)

Canon EOS Rebel T6s DSLR Camera with EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM Lens
Canon EOS Rebel T6s DSLR Camera with EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM Lens

The Canon T6s/760D is probably the most advanced and exciting Rebel series camera I have ever used. It has all the ease of use and advanced features of a typical Rebel, but it takes it to the next level by adding the top of camera LCD that is typically reserved for the next step up (70D at the time this was written):


Top View with LCD not found on the T6i

The T6s adds the following features not found on the T6i:

  • A top LCD panel (shown above) which experienced photographers will appreciate
  • HDR movies – this seems to only be available in SCN mode so I didn’t try it for this part of my review.
  • An electronic level which is handy when you are on stabilizing your camera on a tripod or surface
  • A quick control dial on the rear panel which I found to be invaluable (see below)

Quick Mode Dial
Quick Mode Dial


Front Screen Out View

I’ve become a big fan of the tilt out LCD that allows for selfies and tricky macro shots. The touch screen sensitive seems to be much improved over the T5i which I found to be too sensitive for my taste. This time I found myself enjoying the touch screen and loving this LCD quite a bit.

Here’s a complete list of the T6s body features likes and dislikes during my testing:

Likes
  • AF Zones
  • A dedicated button to switch between single AF point, AF zones and full Auto
  • Touch screen support
  • Fully articulating LCD
  • Quick Dial
  • Top LCD
  • Electronic Level
  • Silent Mode
  • Built-in Flash
Dislikes
  • The insanely annoying power switch that requires you to stop in the middle for photographs as it easily goes straight to video.
  • Lack of a support for using the Q button to jump sections in the menus which is possible on the more expensive bodies.
  • Auto ISO stops at ISO 6400
  • No ability to set a minimum shutter speed in aperture priority
  • No exposure compensation in manual mode when auto ISO is enabled
  • Lacks 5D Mark III’s proper HDR mode (only minimalistic SCN mode offered)

Click here for the product page on Canon’s website. The EOS Rebel website also features some cool stuff here.

Real World Snapshots

As usual, these are all in-camera JPEG’s that have not been modified in any way outside of the camera beyond the filename and metadata. No changes have been made to the crops or color, so click to see the full-size originals to see exactly what you could expect if you took these photos.

You may view these photos for informational purposes, but you may not print, edit, upload, share, display, etc… these images for any reason without my expressed written and signed consent. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED!

Most of these shots are taken using camera default settings in Aperture Priority mode and Auto White Balance with no flash unless otherwise noted.


f/5.6 @ 135mm for 1/1250 sec at ISO 100 Shade White Balance
Despite the cropped sensor, creamy bokeh was readily available with the kit lens


f/5.6 @ 50mm for 1/60 sec at ISO 320 -2/3 EV Shade White Balance
General scene shots contained plenty of detail and rich colors


f/5.6 @ 135mm for 1/1600 sec at ISO 320

I caught the bee in this shot, but the slow focusing kit lens was responsible for hundreds of misses. I also wasn’t very impressed with the weak dynamic range in this shot compared to what I could get with a more expensive Nikon D7200


f/7.1 @ 67mm for 1/640 sec at ISO 100 +1/3 EV
I was extremely pleased with this kit combo for this tough shot in mid-day sun with no clouds


f/4.5 @ 20mm for 1/40 sec at ISO 100 Shade White Balance
Like nearly all cameras, the face will generally take the priority
even in evaluate metering mode so the background will suffer


f/5 @ 20mm for 1/160 sec at ISO 100 Flash White Balance Flash
While the default flash settings are still a little blah for my taste, it does a reasonable job with no user intervention at capturing a clear shot of the subject and properly exposing the background. This will please amateur users who know to use Aperture Priority (vs Program Mode or Full Auto)


f/5.6 @ 18mm for 1/40 sec at ISO 160

With diffused natural light in your favor, a well balanced exposure is possible with more sharpness than you probably want for a portrait


f/5 @ 50mm for 1/60 sec at ISO 400 Shade White Balance
I didn’t see an option for setting the minimum aperture so potentially good family shots like this were ruined by subjective movement and a shutter speed that is too slow for kids


f/5 @ 50mm for 1/200 sec at ISO 100

In harsh mid-day sun once again the evaluate metering mode favored the human subject but this camera lacks the dynamic range to save the details lost in the hot spots on the arms. Nevertheless it made the right tradeoffs for a keeper shot for amateur & family users.


f/5 @ 50mm for 1/1600 sec at ISO 100 Shade White Balance
This sensor doesn’t do especially well with pure reds, but the farther you get away from pure red the better it does. In this case I thought it did a respectable job under harsh conditions.


f/5.6 @ 108mm for 1/1600 sec at ISO 200

Here’s an example where I thought this camera did a excellent job in harsh daylight and in this case the AF managed to focus properly on the busy bee


f/6.3 @ 35mm for 1/500 sec at ISO 2000

This kit lens is plenty sharp and this sensor is no slouch up to ISO 3200

To see a full gallery of photos, visit http://photos.ronmartblog.com/canon/t6s.

Videos

Here are a couple handheld videos with stabilization turned on and auto ISO at 1/60 sec in manual mode:

Click here to download the original 1080p MP4

Click here to download the original 1080p MP4

Unless you invest in some video stabilization hardware, you can easily see that this isn’t going to perform as well as your camcorder or cell phone which is true of ALL DSLR’s. This is a common frustration point for amateurs who mistakenly assume they’ll get camcorder performance from a DSLR especially when they feature these STM lenses (which are really just silent motor lenses).

Click here to see more videos that have been professionally edited and shot using stabilization equipment. Great video is possible, but it’s not point and shoot easy like a typical camcorder or cell phone.

T6s vs iPhone 6

The iPhone 6/6+ is a very impressive camera phone, so I decided that for a couple shots I’d do a head to head comparison for my own curiosity. What follows are the results where you can click to see the original and compare them side by side on your local computer. I’ve included my observations below:


T6s f/5.6 @ 24mm for 1/30 sec at ISO 100
For this image I appreciated the better bokeh and separation between the subject and background with the T6s. I also felt that the color was more natural as it appears in real life.


iPhone 6 f/2.2 @ 29mm for 1/120 sec at ISO 50

This is a gorgeous shot to view on the iPhone’s retina display with its rich colors. The small sensor means a 7.21 crop factor so this is more like a f/14+ shot so there’s lots of depth of field in the flowers which some might find desirable while others may hate.


T6s f/5 @ 59mm for 1/500 sec at ISO 100 -2/3 EV
The larger sensor meant more detail and bokeh in places, but the dynamic range was rather disappointing compared to the iPhone 6.


iPhone 6 f/2.2 @ 29mm for 1/860 sec at ISO 32

The f/14+ aperture once again favored the iPhone 6 resulting in a image with incredible sharpness overall with the only detail loss being in the smaller flower buds.

The iPhone 6 was definitely impressive, but anyone who loves color accuracy and the creamy bokeh that separates the primary subject from the rest of the image will certainly appreciate a DSLR – even an entry model like this T6s. However, I’d call the iPhone 6 images “good enough” for those non-critical images you take for fun (i.e., the food shots) – especially after a one click edit with Perfectly Clear

Conclusion

More to come in my next installment, but overall I felt this is a good starter camera. While I don’t think the image quality will satisfy 70D, 6D and 5D Mark III users seeking a second camera body, it does seem to be roughly on par with the 7D Mark II.

I was very disappointed in the AF performance of the STM lens so I’d encourage those that can afford it to look at my lens recommendations. Unless you are doing primarily video, even a slightly softer 24-105mm (which is easily found on the used market) will offer much faster autofocus speed based on my real world testing.

Product Advisories

There always seems to be some white disc conspiracy theory with every camera that comes out these days, so camera makers are getting used to it. Canon has quickly issued an advisory and free repair offer for impacted customers should this happen to you, but I didn’t see this problem during my testing.

SIGMA has also issued an update to the firmware for their lenses when using Live View with T6x models. Click here to learn more.

Where to order

Click here to learn more or order the XXXX on the B&H web site. My friends at Amazon have it available here.

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Disclosure

If you make a purchase using links found in this article, I may make a commission. It doesn’t cost you a penny more, but it does help to support future articles like this.

If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by donating a dollar or saving several dollars by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

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Thursday, May 14, 2015

Elinchrom Price Drop on Kits

Elinchrom has slashed prices on some of its kits that make now one of the deals they’ve offered this year. Check it out:

Elinchrom D-Lite RX 4 2-Light To Go Kit with Stands and Bags
Elinchrom D-Lite RX 4 2-Light To Go Kit with Stands and Bags
only $849

Elinchrom BRX 500/500 2-Light To Go Set with Bag
Elinchrom BRX 500/500 2-Light To Go Set with Bag
only $1414!!!

Elinchrom ELC Pro HD 1000/1000 To Go 2 Light Kit
Elinchrom ELC Pro HD 1000/1000 To Go 2 Light Kit

Adorama has some exclusive deals with Elinchrom too – check out their sales prices here.

Other articles you may enjoy

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Disclosure

If you make a purchase using links found in this article, I may make a commission. It doesn’t cost you a penny more, but it does help to support future articles like this.

If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by donating a dollar or saving several dollars by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

Click here to learn more about how this blog is funded.

REVIEW: Spider Camera Holster & Spider Monkey vs BlackRapid Straps

Spider Camera Holster SpiderPro Single Camera System
Spider Camera Holster SpiderPro Single Camera System

For a few years people have been asking me to Spider Camera Holster series of products, but with so many products to review I’ve never got around to it. I’d also been very happy with my BlackRapid products so I didn’t see the point.

This past March in Las Vegas, I had the opportunity to finally get to see this product in action and I was impressed. With all of the good things I had heard about it in the past I decided it was time to finally give a try for myself.

Here’s a little video of my first impressions of both the elegantly designed holster and the handy Spider Monkey that I love for my flash:

This product is extremely well built and designed. My long-term testing found that it does put a lot more stress on my back when used as I had it configured, so I found myself avoiding it and going back to the BlackRapid system. I do think that if I had shoulder straps that took the weight off the waist it would have easily resolved the problem. I should also note that I have a very bad back with a pinched nerve, so this problem may not bother someone with a healthy back at all.

In all my testing, even with the lock disengaged, never once did I have the camera accidentally come out of the holster. While the holster was too awkward to use while sitting in a car, the camera still stayed put. When used as directed, it works great – exactly as promised.

Conclusion

This product is extremely well engineered and the price reflects that reality. While I was disappointed that I couldn’t keep it on while I rode in the car (something that I often do with my BlackRapid strap), the flexibility of not having a strap was liberating. In addition, the support for dual wielding, which is something you can do with straps, makes it a brilliant choice for sports photographers.

The addition of the spider monkey also made it a great choice for event / wedding photographers as I loved being able to carry my battery pack and have them more readily available than I do with my Think Tank Photo modular system.

While I’ll stick with my current BlackRapid RS-Sport and ThinkTankPhoto Modular Components configuration due to my back problems, anyone who likes the idea of being untethered should be very satisfied with this product. I highly recommend it for those are willing to pay a little more for being untethered or those who want a solution that allows you to hold two cameras at once.

Where to order

Click here to learn more or order on the B&H web site. My friends at Amazon have it available here.

Other articles you may enjoy

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Disclosure

If you make a purchase using links found in this article, I may make a commission. It doesn’t cost you a penny more, but it does help to support future articles like this.

If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by donating a dollar or saving several dollars by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

Click here to learn more about how this blog is funded.

Monday, May 11, 2015

REVIEW: Topaz Labs Glow (discount offer)

For years Nik Software was an innovation leader in photo editing, but ever since they were bought out by Google not much has changed. In that time Topaz Labs has really stepped forward with a fantastic line of products featuring outstanding innovation their newest products like Impression and now Glow.

Like many Topaz products which offer unique effects not found by the other major products in the photo editing industry, Glow has some really cool things I haven’t seen before. In fact, I’d couldn’t replicate most of the filters manually in Photoshop as there seems to be some nice low-level image processing happening here.

Given the unique nature of this product, it’s helpful to see a video as screen shots can easily mislead one into thinking that it only offers neon-like effects that some photographers might find unappealing. Check out the video below and see if it doesn’t spark some ideas that make you want to download the free trial!


Great video that shows a lot of cool examples using Glow

Using Glow

Topaz Glow Stand Alone Version
Topaz Glow Stand Alone Version

Glow runs both as a stand-alone app (great for Lightroom integration) as well as a Photoshop plug-in. The user interface is identical to Impression where presets (which allow for customization) appear as live thumbnails to the right. At the bottom you can adjust the strength of the effect as well as the blend mode which is super useful when you aren’t using Photoshop layers as it allows third party hosts (like Lightroom) to only apply part of the effect rather than only the full effect.

When you click a filter the effect is applied and if you click the controls button then you are taken to the panel below where you have the ability to do a significant amount of customization. Customizations are immediately applied and can be saved as new presets.

image
Lots of customization is possible

A word about performance

On my Alienware Aurora R4 Windows 7 workstation with a Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-3820 CPU @ 3.6GHz and 16GB of RAM, I found the time required to render thumbnails to be slow enough to be annoying but it didn’t block my productivity. It did require more patience than I usually have so I would go off and read an email while it was rendering previews for each image. If you’ve used Impression 1.1 then this is the same UI, but the processing of previews was several times faster.

Sample Before & After Images

Here are some photos I took recently while in Asia using a Canon 1D X and 24-105mm lens which are straight out of the camera JPEG’s with no post-processing. I’ve simply applied the preset to the image and saved. A full gallery of examples can be found at here where you can read the image captions for info about what preset was used.

Please note that all images are copyright Ron Martinsen and ALL RIGHTS are reserved. Written consent is required for any saving or external linking.

Liquify II
Liquify II

Soft Bloom II
Soft Bloom II

Wonderland
Wonderland

Brilliant Fibers III
Brilliant Fibers III


Natural Neon III

Fur and Feathers III
Fur and Feathers III

Conclusion

Like Impression, this is a unique product that doesn’t do what other products on the market do. Some of the presets are similar to what can be done in other Topaz products like Clean, Detail and Simplify, but the vast majority are totally unique to this product. As a result I had a lot of fun exploring and found myself “in the zone” experimenting when I was supposed to be writing a review!

I wish the performance wasn’t so bad on my PC, but I’m due for a PC upgrade next year anyway. I suspect that people on fast Haswell or greater Intel processors won’t have the same delays I am seeing, but to be sure you might want to download the free trial before committing to a purchase. Topaz updates their products regularly, so even if this version doesn’t meet your performance criteria, I’d urge you to check back from time to time for an update. 

I had a lot of fun with this innovative product and highly recommend it for those who aren’t photorealism purists.

Where to order (SPECIAL OFFER)

Click here to learn more, download a free trial or order your copy today.

image
Enter the coupon code and hit apply

WARNING: To get the discount on this product or your entire order you MUST CLICK HERE and enter the coupon code RONMART. If the code isn’t working then visit my discount coupon code page for the latest code and offer details.

Other articles you may enjoy

Here’s some of my Topaz Labs software reviews:

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Disclosure

If you make a purchase using links found in this article, I may make a commission. It doesn’t cost you a penny more, but it does help to support future articles like this.

If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by donating a dollar or saving several dollars by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

Click here to learn more about how this blog is funded.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Recommended Adobe Lightroom CC 2015 Books


Click image to look inside

The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC Book for Digital Photographers by Scott Kelby is the latest installment of a book that I’ve been reading since the first edition many years ago. This latest installment is better than ever with over 550 pages of helpful step by step instructions on how to use all the cool features of Adobe Lightroom 6. If you’ve read the previous versions then you know what to expect, so this is a significant refresh that also covers all the new features found in Lightroom CC 2015. Simply put, this is the best edition yet for what seems to be the best version of Lightroom yet, so I highly recommend this book for photographers for Scott Kelby fans and those who like visual step by step instructions on how to use all the features Lightroom has to offer.


Click image to look inside

The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC / Lightroom 6 Book: The Complete Guide for Photographers by Martin Evening is very different from Scott Kelby’s book. This is 700+ page book is like the Lightroom encyclopedia of features. With in-depth details, this book is for the geek who doesn’t want you to show them how to use a feature (which Kelby’s book does), it’s for the geek who wants to know why to use a feature and how it works in depth. This book is NOT for the faint of heart, but it is extremely well written and very comprehensive. I highly recommend this book for geeks if you are the type of person who finds Scott Kelby’s books lacking the depth of technical details you want to know then this is for you. If you are the type that just wants to just see how to use a feature, then get Scott Kelby’s book.

Conclusion

These books are for two distinct different audiences, but I know for a fact that both audiences exist in the photography world. One audience will love one of these books and be underwhelmed by the other. Personally, I find both to be extremely well written and comprehensive resources. I’m glad to have the opportunity to have both on my bookshelf, but quite honestly I’ll probably reach for Scott Kelby’s book more often as my busy lifestyle often needs step by step “just show me” answers.

Where to order

Click the images or links above to order print or digital copies online today.

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Disclosure

If you make a purchase using links found in this article, I may make a commission. It doesn’t cost you a penny more, but it does help to support future articles like this.

If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by donating a dollar or saving several dollars by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

Click here to learn more about how this blog is funded.