Thursday, December 8, 2016

REVIEW: Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art - Yeah, it's da shnizzle!

Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens at B&H
Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens

Quite often on the web the fan boys come out and overhype their latest object of affection so much that you get the feeling that you've just "gotta have it". However, nothing is worse than reading a bunch of hype and pulling the trigger to find out that it was more hype than reality.

My mission for this blog has always been to shoot it straight even when my opinion might be at odds with the hype or marketing machine behind a product, but I'm here to say that this product is da s**t! Yes, it's beyond Zeiss Otus 85mm sharp with fast and accurate autofocus for a fraction of the price. I don't say that lightly because I've never been one to choose value over quality, but this is seriously one of the sharpest lenses I've ever tested from any brand at any price.

100% Unedited Shots

What follows are the in-camera JPEG's exactly as they came out of the camera - no cropping, no editing, no white balance adjustments - nothing. Granted I was using a Canon 1DX Mark II which is a pretty good camera, BUT there are cameras that are cheaper like the Nikon D500 or Canon 6D which I think would be just as impressive with lens. There are also higher resolution cameras like the 5D Mark IV, 5Ds/5DsR and D810 that would benefit even more from what this lens has to offer. Heck, even a Canon T6s is going to create amazing images with this crazy sharp glass!

NOTE: All images are copyright Ron Martinsen - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. You may view these images while your web browser is open to this article, but you may not print, edit, save, upload, share or link to any of these images without a ink on paper authorization from me.


f/1.8 @ 85mm for 1/125 sec at ISO 1600
Want to add some bokehlicious background lights to your images? Check!


f/9 @ 85mm for 1/200 sec at ISO 100
Want to be able to count the pours, facial fuzz and eyelash textures? Check!


f/9 @ 85mm for 1/160 sec at ISO 100
Want to be able to pick out the detail of lace fibers? Check!

Hell, if this lens has a flaw it's that it might be too damn sharp for using with people because you'll spend a lot more time in Photoshop addressing things like the texture of lips, skin fuzz, pours, fly away hairs and material flaws that normally wouldn't be noticeable with a softer lens!

Bookshelf Test

For newbies, my bookshelf test shots are unedited and shot with mirror lockup using a timer on a tripod with the viewfinder door shut. These are done as a mechanism to have an unscientific but close approximation to compare across my other lens and camera reviews, and I can tell you these are the best results I've seen on my 1DX Mark II.

YOU MUST CLICK these images and VIEW AT 100% to get anything out of this section. What you see inline is meaningless.


f/1.4 @ 85mm for 5/10 sec at ISO 100
At f/1.4 the bokeh is so strong a full frame that the adjacent green Hobbit and blue strip poker books are out of focus while the red book is razor sharp. There's also some vignetting that darkens the outer edges, but that goes away at f/1.8


f/5.6 @ 85mm for 8 sec at ISO 100
By f/5.6 I was checking the front of my camera to see if I was shooting with a 5DsR or A7R Mark II because the detail in the texture of the spine and laces on the blue strip poker book was on par with super resolution sensors!

There was a point where this lens actually made me angry. I wasn't angry at the lens, but I was angry to see just how much more I could get out of my sensor when I pair it with a lens this sharp!


f/16 @ 85mm for 30 sec at ISO 200
At f/16 I saw something I can't recall ever seeing in my previous lens tests - texture on the back wall behind the book with boys on the spine to the right. f/16 with diffraction and ISO 200 was still sharper than the best aperture at ISO 100 of other lenses I have tested - holy c**p!!!

When it comes to sharpness and bokeh, I can think of very few lenses that can compete with this lens and every one that comes to mind is thousands of dollars more expensive than this lens!

Living with the Sigma 85mm Art

The old Sigma 85mm I tested years ago wasn't to bad, but if given a choice I'd still take the Canon 85mm f/1.2L. However, I now wouldn't take the Canon 85mm f/1.2L if you tried to give it to me for free after using this lens because it had a horrible minimum focus distance (0.95cm / 3.1 ft), a god-forsaken electronic focus ring that felt awful and was slow as hell at focusing. 

This SIGMA feels like a fine German engineered lens (even though it's from Japan) that reminds me a lot more of the amazing build quality of the Zeiss Otus 85mm than it does the Canon 85mm f/1.2L.

This great glass comes with an "unspecified" weight by Sigma, but to my hands it feels a lot heavier than the Canon (or Nikon equivalent). Yes, it's lighter than the Otus for sure, but it's still big enough for people to say "wow, that's a long lens" (and your arms to say "and it's heavy too"). If you are the type who thinks a 70-200mm f/2.8 is too heavy or you are already considering mirrorless for weight reasons, then this lens is definitely not for you. For me, it's worth its weight in gold for the quality you get out of it, so I have no issues with the weight whatsoever.


f/9 @ 85mm for 1/160 sec at ISO 100
Finally and 85mn that allows you to get in close and personal with your subject! 

As previously stated the minimum focus distance of the Canon or even the Nikon 85mm f/1.4G (3.0' / 91.44 cm) needs more space than this lens at a much more usable  (2 feet 9.5" / 85cm) - which is very important for a portrait lens! While I would hit the minimum focus distance limit in real world shooting, it was much more rare than ever before with an 85mm and when I did I was often less than an inch from where I needed to be to acquire focus and get the shot. I can't emphasize enough how important this detail is - even more so than sharpness!

Finally, I found the hood to be very effective with no negative effects with vignetting after f/1.4 and the focus speed felt on par with my 70-200mm f/2.8 in studio shooting scenarios. In real world testing I only had a few shots that were out of focus due to the lens and most often the reason was due to the shallow depth of field you get at f/2.8 and below (when up close to your subject) or minimum focus misses during fast shooting scenarios.

Simply put, I'd have no qualms in saying that this is every bit as good as a Canon L lens or a Zeiss Otus lens in terms of build quality.

With all that said, one place where I think this lens does fall short is the color you get out of it. Experienced shooters will understand what I am saying here, but some lenses just have out of camera color that seems to be blessed by the color fairies. My old Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L II and 85mm f/1.2L were lenses that just "had it" when it came to color, but this lens has more of a blue to neutral tone that might be more accurate but is less flattering. It's easy to overcome with white balance adjustments or post-processing, but if  had to knock this lens for something that's pretty much the only place where I felt disappointed.


f/8 @ 85mm for 1/200 sec at ISO 100
During my testing it was easy to accidentally get the high-key look because this lens is so efficient at light gathering. As a result I had to forget my usual settings and dial back the lights to get a nice skin tone free of blown highlights

Real World Shots

Anybody can make any lens look good under studio lights as I did for the previous shots, but what about when you are just around the house with minimal lighting and just flash like the 600EX-RT?


f/2.5 @ 85mm for 1/200 sec at ISO 400 using 600EX-RT
You must view this crab's eyes at 100% to fully appreciate how awesome the sharpness is on the focus point and the beautiful bokeh in the background

How about with no flash at all - backlit?!!!


f/1.8 @ 85mm for 1/200 sec at ISO 10000
While not perfect, this is a shot that would have led to endless focus hunting with other 85mm's I've used. While I'd say this is a reject by my standards, I was just pleased to see that it got a shot that is reasonably usable thanks to a very good focusing lens and camera combo


f/1.8 @ 85mm for 1/200 sec at ISO 400
Another reject shot, but I had to share because it nailed the focus with such beautiful bokeh it makes you want to keep every shot you get out of this lens! Look at the details in the eye lashes and tear on her right eye!!!


f/4 @ 85mm for 1/250 sec at ISO 800
Last in the shi**y shots camp is this shot, but I had to share because of the texture in the strawberries and the bokeh in the center hole and candles. I don't think I've ever been as excited about a birthday cake shot as this one - especially given how bad this looks before editing! :)

I still have more testing to do and I'll try to drop images in the review gallery here, but I had to share these few because even dud's are worthy of admiration with this lens.

Conclusion


f/10 @ 85mm for 1/200 sec at ISO 100
One more shot - just because ;-p

In case you haven't figured it out by now, I kinda like this lens. Given my past history with the Sigma 35mm Art and the Sigma 50mm Art I expected this lens to be very special and it didn't let me down. In fact, I was kinda hoping it wouldn't be so good so I could talk myself out of adding it to my wish list, but I definitely want this lens.

This lens has outstanding build quality, fast autofocusing, and a very usable minimum focus distance that will empower you to take beautiful images with incredible sharpness and delicious bokeh. If you've always wanted an 85mm or you are a portrait photographer who hasn't yet invested in a 70-200mm f/2.8, then I can easily say that you should definitely buy this lens!

I give this lens my highest recommendation!

Where to Buy?

CLICK HERE to learn more or buy 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 making a donation or saving money by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

This blog is intended for freelance writing and sharing of opinions and is not a representative of any of the companies whose links are provided on this site.

The opinions provided are of Ron Martinsen alone and do not reflect the view of any other entity

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

REVIEW: Canon PRO-2000 Part I - Device Features & Thoughts

Ron Martinsen Photography: Canon PRO-2000 &emdash; PRO-2000Review-12
Canon PRO-2000 after a couple weeks of heavy use
It's a sexy beast, but it will show fingerprints despite being very durable otherwise

Welcome to the first of my multi-part review of the Canon PRO-2000. This is a large format photo ink jet printer that supports up to 24" wide rolls. It uses the best archival pigment ink that Canon has ever made, called Lucia Pro, so under the right conditions your prints can in theory last well beyond 200 years.

If you've read my eBook or followed my Printing Series, you know that I have a lot of passion for printing and that I'm a long-time owner of Canon large format printers dating back to the iPF6300 and most recently the iPF6450. I can easily say up front that this printer blows its predecessors away in so many ways which is why I had to do this early sneak preview review which I encourage you to read if you haven't already.

I've got a lot to say about this printer so with this article I tried to limit my scope to features on the printer itself. Again, I covered a little of this in the early sneak preview review so I try to avoid duplicating content as much as possible.

Touch Screen Control Panel

Ron Martinsen Photography: Canon PRO-2000 &emdash; PRO-2000_ControlPanel

One of the nice features of this printer is that it offers a touch screen control panel which is great, but if you also own a PRO-1000 like me which does NOT have that feature, it can be a little frustrating going back and forth.

Loading Ink

Ron Martinsen Photography: Canon PRO-2000 &emdash; Canon PRO-2000 Misc-3

This printer supports 11 Lucia Pro pigment archival inks + Chroma Optimizer in three different ink sizes: 160ml, 330ml, or 700ml. It comes with a full set of starter 160ml ink cartridges but this ink goes much faster than any you'll ever use later due to the need to filling all of the print head lines (shown below) with ink):

Ron Martinsen Photography: Canon PRO-2000 &emdash; PRO-2000Review-46
Loaded ink lines coming from the print head

When using the 160ml these big 700ml capacity reservoirs swallow the ink cartridges as shown here:

Ron Martinsen Photography: Canon PRO-2000 &emdash; Canon PRO-2000 Misc-25

Paper Handling

Paper handling on this printer has been the best I've had the pleasure of using. My printer is also equipped with the optional multifunction holder which allows you to have two rolls at one time. I've also heard that you can use it to automatically wind up your long prints as come off the first roll, but I haven't tried that feature yet.

Here's what the control panel for this device looks like:

Ron Martinsen Photography: Canon PRO-2000 &emdash; PRO-2000Review-19

It's worked brilliantly so far, BUT my biggest complaint is that there's no cover for the second roll so I worry about my paper attracting dust which can destroy a big print. Fortunately that hasn't happened so far.

I'm also pleased to report that both rolls can be loaded at the same time, but as far as I can tell you can only print to one at a time.

Another small but significant improvement is the new lever that locks and unlock to make removing the left portion of the roll holder off the spindle very easy:

Ron Martinsen Photography: Canon PRO-2000 &emdash; PRO-2000_RollClasp

It's a little thing, but I've really loved how much easier this has made changing rolls. I should also note that the locking mechanism for the smaller core adapters is significantly easier to add and remove.

Manual Paper Loading

I'm thrilled to report that paper can be manually loaded WITHOUT you having to remove your roll paper - this is a huge improvement over previous roll model printers I've used which didn't support this simple concept. I will admit that loading paper is a bit tricky since you have to manually aligning it to an orange line as shown here:

Ron Martinsen Photography: Canon PRO-2000 &emdash; PRO-2000_ManualPaperLoading

However, if you are careful with your loading then it works quite well. If you make a mistake it will generally just give you instructions to try again, although once I did have my paper ejected out the back which was annoying.

Video Demo

Here's a crude video that demonstrates how the touch screen control panel works plus how to load paper manually and change inks:

Printing from USB

Ron Martinsen Photography: Canon PRO-2000 &emdash; PRO-2000-3
Direct view JPEG's on the touch screen LCD

While I suspect most people won't use this feature, surprisingly this printer supports direct from USB printing. In the animated image below I demonstrate how you go through the menu to do a standard color print of an unedited in-camera JPEG from my Canon 1DX Mark II shot using the SIGMA 85mm Art lens: 

Ron Martinsen Photography: Canon PRO-2000 &emdash; PRO-2000-PrintFromUSB
An quick animated walkthrough of print from USB

Surprisingly you can't direct connect your camera and have it read the USB storage, but if you put your memory card in a supported reader or use a flash drive then it works just fine. For those who are wondering, RAW files are not supported.

After a quick few minutes the print comes out as shown below, but if you have a landscape image like I did here you'll want to use the rotate menu option so that it fills the page.

Ron Martinsen Photography: Canon PRO-2000 &emdash; PRO-2000-39

More to come

I'm quite excited about this printer and have so much more to share, but I need to go to bed tonight. Stay tuned for more info and a vide very soon.

Where to Buy?

Here's where you can learn or buy your own:

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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 making a donation or saving money by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

This blog is intended for freelance writing and sharing of opinions and is not a representative of any of the companies whose links are provided on this site.

The opinions provided are of Ron Martinsen alone and do not reflect the view of any other entity

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

MINI-REVIEW: Canon PRO-1000 & PRO-2000


Canon PRO-1000 17" Photo Printer

If you've followed my printing series, you know that I love printing quite a bit and that I've got a lot of time invested in both Canon and Epson printers. Both brands have their strengths and weaknesses, but I'm so excited about my two new printers that I had to write a quick blurb before the reviews are ready.

PRO-1000 Early Thoughts


Epson 80ml ink


Canon LUCIA PRO 80ml ink

While I am disappointed that it lacks the roll support that my Epson SureColor P800 offers, and the larger ink set on the Canon (12 vs 8) means higher ink costs, so far that's where my concerns have ended. With excellent build quality, a much more durable finish that looks fantastic, and most importantly gorgeous prints sent seamlessly over wifi, I've been very happy in my early testing with this printer. 

All of the ICC profiles I've tested for this printer from Canon, Red River Paper, and Ilford have been excellent so far.

PRO-2000 Thoughts 


Canon PRO-2000 24" Photo Printer with Optional Multi-Function Roll

I loved the prints I got from my iPF6300 and I loved the hard drive feature of the iPF6450, but the quality of the ICC profiles created for the 6450 never matched the quality that I enjoyed with the 6300. This meant that if I wanted a good print, I had to go through the effort of generating the profile myself.

For the PRO-2000, the print quality has been excellent and all of the ICC profiles I've tried so far have been very good. I did have one for the Ilford Galerie Prestige Smooth Pearl 310gsm paper that was slightly darker than I think it should have been, but the PRO-1000  profile was great so I think this was an anomaly.  All of the Canon and Lexjet profiles have been great too.

The optional multi-function roll support has been fantastic and loading sheet paper has gone very well so far. However, the biggest news here is that the phenomenally improved unibody construction makes this printer significantly more stable (and heavy) resulting in less movement and noise than its predecessors. This is a good thing and the looks of this printer just puts a smile on my face every time I walk into my studio - it's stunning to look at!

Features Video

Here's a great video that Canon did that shows how sweet these printer are, and much more is to come from me when I do my official reviews:

Black & White

Black & White support is on par with Epson Advanced Black & White (ABW)
Black & White support is on par with Epson Advanced Black & White (ABW)

One thing that Canon has always done an excellent job with is black and white prints, and the chroma optimizer makes those blacks look even more incredible.

The new Print Shop Pro software is like a scaled down RIP that replaces my beloved Canon Export Module, but you get to this one off the Automate menu in Photoshop to create print jobs with more features than the export module supported. Sadly it lacks the roll preview feature, but I'm getting used to it despite some quirks.

Pattern Print (aka Print Variations) lives on in both color and B&W
Pattern Print (aka Print Variations) lives on in both color and B&W

Initially I thought my beloved variations / print pattern feature was gone, but it's alive and well in both color and black and white modes. As usual it does better with big prints vs smaller sheets, but I got up to 45 thumbnails on a letter size sheet (not that you can see squat but it's possible).

PRO-1000 almost equals the PRO-2000

Other than size, ink capacity and roll support, these printers seem to behave identically in every way. The software and print results have been identical which is a good thing for people who like to have a dedicated sheet printer to go with their big roll printers (which is great if you can afford it as you don't have to fight the curls on smaller prints).

Both supported easy to setup wireless and wired network printing. The PRO-1000 does have the added support for integrating with Google Cloud print and AirPrint, so that makes it handy for every day jobs as well. The PRO-1000 also features a night mode to make it a little quieter at night, but neither one made enough noise to wake my 13 month old daughter in an adjacent room with the doors open, so I wouldn't consider either model to be noisy.

I'm thrilled to have this combo in my studio!

Conclusion

I'm quite excited about both of these printers which is why I'm doing this early sneak preview. I've got a couple dozen prints under my belt with them but need more testing before I can draw any official conclusions. I can say that it's everything I liked about the PRO-1 print quality with the amazing LUCIA PRO ink set and the fantastic Chroma Optimizer has been very, very good so far. The Canon faithful should be extremely pleased based on what I've seen so far.

Come back later in December for more details!

Where to Buy?

Here's where you can learn or buy your own:

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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 making a donation or saving money by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

This blog is intended for freelance writing and sharing of opinions and is not a representative of any of the companies whose links are provided on this site.

The opinions provided are of Ron Martinsen alone and do not reflect the view of any other entity

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

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Friday, November 25, 2016

Black Friday Deals 2016

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I hate posting deals on the blog, but it's honestly how this blog is funded. This time of year I am flooded with deals and try to keep most of best ones contained to my deals newsletter , but around Black Friday, Christmas and the New Year I try to do a few extra deal posts to keep you informed. If you hate these, just check out the index or archive to the right on the desktop web browser (or the reviews tab on mobile) to get to the stuff you are really interested in.
Ron 

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

This blog is intended for freelance writing and sharing of opinions and is not a representative of any of the companies whose links are provided on this site.

The opinions provided are of Ron Martinsen alone and do not reflect the view of any other entity