Thursday, 14 July 2016

News and Rumours: Sony, Adobe, FLM, Phottix and Westcott

In this week's summary:
  • Sony surprises everyone with a new prime lens release;
  • Adobe releases new versions of Lightroom for mobile;
  • FLM is launching a new high quality travel tripod on Indiegogo;
  • Phottix has a new collapsible beauty dish; and
  • So does Westcott.


Sony finally announced the price of their 70-200 f/2.8 lens, and it's coming in at a rather pricey $2,600. A little surprising is that although previously reported it will only ship in September, this appears to only apply to Japan - with the lens becoming available in USA later this month.

In addition, both the 1.4x and 2.0x teleconverters for the 70-200 f/2.8 GM lens have been priced at $550 each, and are also expected to be available in USA this month. I think it would be an interesting test of just how good the 1.4x converter is compared to just setting an A7RII into APS-C mode.

However, the bigger news from Sony is the new Zeiss branded 50mm f/1.4. Like some other recent prime offerings from Sony, it's a hefty lens weighing in at 778g. For comparison, it is slightly less than a Sigma 50mm ART (815g), even before adding an adapter. It is also expected to be available this month for $1,500USD.

Initial reports from DPReview are positive:
At a recent shooting event in San Diego, we had a chance to go hands with this fast prime (view our gallery here). Despite being a bit heavy, the lens handles beautifully. We were very impressed by sharpness: subjects placed far off-center remained sharp even wide open, despite the 42MP Sony a7R II sensor resolution. Indeed, MTF curves indicate an impressive 60% response is maintained across the frame wide open even at 40 line pairs / mm. Our initial shots also indicate that axial chromatic aberration (green and purple fringing) are very well controlled, and bokeh appears very smooth, both of which add to this lens' appeal over options like the Sony FE 55mm F1.8 ZA.
Online comments have the usual gnashing of teeth at both the size and price of this lens, but comparing it to the Sigma 50mm ART, it's a pretty decent offering for those after a high quality prime. For those after smaller and cheaper lenses, there's still the 55mm f/1.8 and the recent 50mm f/1.8.

Personally, I applaud Sony for making sure there are some high quality primes available - even though it would be nice to see them fill other gaps in their lens line up.

However, where I can't support Sony is for their outright stupidity in not supporting AF-assist beams from on camera flashes. DP Review was reviewing their wireless system and had this to say:
Sony's continued lack of any support of off-camera assist beams on transmitters or flashes is unfortunate, given Sony's desire for acceptance by pros, and considering that in our own lab tests, Sony's a7R II and a6300 focus incredibly well with red/IR assist beams triggered by Canon/Nikon systems (contrary to the belief of many that on-sensor phase-detect AF systems can't 'see' these beams). [Emphasis mine.]
This was one of the bigger complaints I have with the Sony A7RII. Sony should be doing all they can to eliminate the negative differences between their high end mirrorless cameras and DSLR - and this is one glaring omission that seems would be so easy to fix. Shame Sony, shame!


Adobe has released a new version of Lightroom for iOS:
The company has quite different apps for the two operating systems, and while Android users have been able to edit Raw files for some time the facility is now offered to iOS users via version 2.4. Owners of Android devices can now install version 2.1 which offers what Adobe calls a ‘Pro’ shooting mode that allows much more detailed control over the way pictures are recorded.
I'm currently considering to purchase a tablet, and was considering whether Apple or Android would suit my needs best. However, as competent as the Adobe offering is, I don't find it a really compelling reason to choose one over the other. That's possibly largely due in part to the fact I use Capture One, warts and all, for the vast majority of my raw conversions.


For those unfamiliar with FLM, they're a family owned German company who describe themselves as a world leader in the design and manufacturing of ball heads and carbon fibre tripods. They certainly have a reputation for high quality products, and they're now claiming to have designed what [they] think is the ultimate travel tripod.

There's quite interesting, and also lots of trite, comments on the product on the the DPReview press release page. Although touting 10x carbon fibre and some other new design features, many users seem concerned that any 5 leg tripod can ever offer sufficient stability to be worthwhile.

The current nearest competitor, specs wise, is the Manfrotto BeFree Carbon Fiber tripod. While that promises a load capacity of 4kg, the FLM CP-Travel Tripod is claiming to support 10kg. The Manfrotto is currently available for $350USD with a ball head, whereas the FLM CP-Travel is expected to retail for $635 for legs only.

However, if you want to support them on Indiegogo, you're able to get the legs only for $425USD, or with a ballhead and QR clamp for $575USD. The ballhead usually retails $125USD on B&H, and the QR plate for $89. So, to get them both for an extra $150USD is a good deal if they're suitable for you.

People who know me well know I have a weakness for smaller and high quality goods, so this has piqued my interest and I'm now trying to decide if I should order it with or without the ballhead. Unfortunately for you, gentle reader, I'll be unable to let you know my findings before all the cheaper pre-order options expire.

If you're interest in this travel tripod, you can learn more or support them on Indiegogo.

However, if you're after this kind of tripod and just can't wait, then B&H have the black BeFree currently on sale for $290USD (a $60 saving).

Phottix / Westcott

I've decided to put Westcott and Phottix together - as their products will probably appeal to the same kind of photographer. And for myself I have the same complaint about both of them.

Phottix has released Spartan collapsible beauty dish, which can also function as an Octa softbox.

Westcott also have a new collapsible softbox, but a much more rounded design than the original Luna beauty dishes from Phottix and similar manufacturers.

The problem I have with both, and the somewhat similar Adorama Glow Parapop Octabox, is the lack of Elinchrom Quadra native mounts. You can use the Elinchrom adapter of course, but that just makes it bulkier, heavier and a more troublesome solution.

With a little drilling, it looks like a Lastolite Ezybox Quadra speedring could be used with the Glow Parapop, but there's no love for Quadra mount from Westcott or Phottix.

Westcott, if a major advantage of your beauty dish is the weight and portability, maybe you should consider making a mount for the most portable Elinchrom offering?

In the meantime, the best and most portable option for Quadra users seems to be Elinchrom's own Portalite Octa Softbox, which can be used with their deflector set to give a beauty dish like light. This is what I currently use, but is a little on the small side. It packages to a very small size, but is a little fiddly to set up and break down.

If you just want a portable Octabox, there is the Lastolite Hotrod Octa kit available in 36 inch and 27.5 inch varieties, but are reported to be a little slow and cumbersome to set up.

I'd really like to take a look at using the Glow Parapop with a Quadra but, unfortunately, both Adorama and Phottix charge exorbitant fees to ship overseas. Please take a page from Amazon and B&H's page, and offer some cheaper shipping options!

However, the good news for Australian readers is, if you're just after the 28 inch version, you can get the original SMDV speed box from Dragon Image - but you're out of luck if you also want the grid, other speed ring mounts or other sizes.

Update: Capture That Photographics also has the 36inch version and different speed rings available, but still no grids.

Alternatively, Westcott, release your new softbox with an Elinchrom Quadra mount and I'll put my money where my mouth is!

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