Sony’s FE 135mm f/1.8 GM May Be the Sharpest Lens of Its Kind
Sony’s new FE 135mm F1.8 GM lens will hit store shelves next month, but it’s already dropping jaws with its sharpness. According to one new test, it may be the sharpest lens of its kind on the market today.
“I mounted the first one, sipped my coffee and then lost my mind and started shouting various expletives, enough to bring Aaron running in from the other room to see what I’d broken,” Cicala writes. “I hadn’t broken anything; I just saw MTF curves higher than anything I’d ever seen in a normal-range lens.”
“Let’s make this simple and straightforward,” Cicala writes. “In the center, that’s the highest MTF I’ve seen on a non-supertelephoto lens. The highest.
“Let’s put particular emphasis on the purple line, which is 50 lp/mm. That’s a higher frequency than any manufacturer tests (that we know of), appropriate for fine detail on the highest resolution cameras. We would consider an MTF of 0.5 at 50 lp/mm to be very acceptable. This is hugely better, nearly 0.8 in the center. We’ve never seen that kind of resolution before.”
Cicala compared the Sony 135mm’s MTF charts to the $1,400 Sigma 135mm f/1.8 and $1,500 Zeiss Batis 135mm f/2.8, two lenses praised for their sharpness, and found that Sony’s sharpness is noticeably better in the center half of the image (and on par at the edges).
“[T]his lens can resolve fine details that would be a blur on excellent lenses,” Cicala writes. “What does this mean for you? Well, in a couple of years if you are shooting a 90-megapixel camera, this lens will be the one that wrings the most detail out of that sensor. Right now it looks at your 43 megapixels and goes, ‘that’s cute.’
“[T]he results are pretty simple. This is the sharpest lens we’ve tested. Period. (At last count, that’s out of 300+ lenses tested.)”
Image credits:Crown art in header illustration by Heralder and licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
It seems like having dual cameras on your phone has become almost the norm nowadays, but many people don’t even know that they are there, let alone why. However, I believe that Portrait Mode is an incredible tool for the modern photographer to promote themselves — particularly on Instagram.
Portrait Mode is what Apple calls its artificial shallow depth of field tool in the camera app, although many other phones also have a similar feature. It uses the dual lenses on the back of the phone to approximate distance information of the subjects in the frame, and calculate how much to blur the background based on that.
I use a third party app called Focos, which uses the Portrait Mode engine but gives you more control over the amount of bokeh, lets you focus after the fact and gives you a few other tools.
With the right conditions, you can create great photos with your phone and continue your photography brand’s high-quality image from your phone.
I use this all the time when I’m in an interesting place or on an interesting job — for example, a food photo shoot. I’ll take a quick photo, then edit it and put it up as an Instagram story. These posts usually grab people’s attention as most other stories are low-quality shaky videos or directionless snapshots.
Here’s the sort of photo I’d use if I was on a food shoot, with a picture of my camera and a caption saying what I’m doing, encouraging engagement:
I’ll leave you with a challenge I did with fellow photographer Will H Cho on the set of a music video we were working on. We took the same photo with his Mamiya Medium format film camera and my iPhone. Here are the two photos, let me know if you can see the difference! (Full disclosure, I edited the iPhone photo to match color-wise.)
(Answer: The first photo was shot with the iPhone and the second was shot with the Mamiya.)
About the author: Ben Stewart is a New Zealand based photographer and videographer specialising in events, music, portraits and commercials. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of his work on his website and Instagram. This article was also published here.
Frozen Living for 34 Days on the Only Private Island in Central Helsinki
Last winter, I got the beautiful chance to spend time living and photographing on a freezing island located right in the central Helsinki. I spent 24 nights there as the cold winter turned to spring.
It all started when I saw an article about an island that was for sale for one million euros. Katajanokanluoto is the only privately owned island in central Helsinki and is located just a few hundred meters from the Helsinki shoreline. I had seen the island many times before from the Suomenlinna ferry. Suomenlinna is one of the most popular locations in Helsinki among the tourists and one of my favorite places.
I emailed the owner and asked if I could live and photograph on the island. He thought the idea was great and encouraged me to carry out the plan. A few days later, I had keys for the cabin. The only thing left to figure was how to get to the island.
It had been a record-breaking cold winter. It dropped as low as almost -20 °C in Helsinki, so the ice was really thick. The central location of the island meant that there were many open ship lanes surrounding the island. Walking there wasn’t an option. Ship lanes were opened only for huge ships, so they didn’t help for getting a small boat to the island.
I asked a ride from archipelago transportation business. Due to the coldness, they had already postponed all their transportations at that moment. I incidentally met them in Kauppatori while they were trying to free their ship from the surrounding ice.
I really didn’t want to wait until spring so I had to figure out another option. The only vehicle that can easily move on both ice and water is hovercraft. Luckily I found a guy that imports them and does some transportation as well. He said that he needs to make sure there weren’t any huge ice chunks on the way. When icebreakers operate, the edge of the open lane is sometimes piled with ice, making it dangerous to pass with hovercraft. Few days went by and I got the good news. Ice is flat enough so the adventure could begin.
The trip from the nearby dock to the island was a small adventure by itself. It was really fascinating to watch how effortlessly this versatile vehicle could move over the water and ice when driven by a skilled driver. The ride was over in just a few minutes.
Being on the island for the very first time, and realizing there is no going back before the scheduled pick-up after 7 days, felt oddly relaxing. The sights were amazingly beautiful, the air was fresh, and the cabin was really comfy looking.
Katajanokanluoto island is about the size of a half soccer field, 5000 square meters (~1.24 acres). It looked much bigger on the spot than from the distances I had seen it before.
After circling the island a few times, I went to check out the cabin. Outside very traditional, warm and comfy looking cabin surprised from the inside. White painted walls, stunning board floor, minimalistic interior design with some beautiful art pieces took me far from the traditional cabin views.
Just a few hours after arriving I knew that I would enjoy my stay. The versatile presence of nature felt wholesomely good. It is really empowering to watch the madness of the city from just a few hundred meters distance and feeling mentally really far away from it. Time and events of the world lose their significance. Observing nature and surroundings felt much more important.
Crows of the island were shocked about my arrival. At the beginning even opening the cabin door got them bolting to another side of the island. Day after day they approved me better. When watching swans I experienced a beautiful moment of trust. The crow flew and landed between me and the swans just under 10 meters from me. It groomed its feathers like it even didn’t notice me.
Besides the crows, blackbirds, common goldeneyes and swans inhabited the island in the winter time. Later came mallards, white wagtails, and geese. Lots of geese.
Ice circumstances and weather conditions varied rapidly throughout the day. Nighttime coldness halts the sea entirely while the warmth of the morning sun revived it back alive bringing chunks of ice from the distance.
As the day progressed, ice gathered on the shore. Changing ice formations, clouds and the tones from the setting sun made sure that all the nights looked different. Snow blizzards arrived in just minutes. Often making it literally snow from left to right. The wind was very piercing and combined with coldness, it effectively revealed the weak spots on clothing. Weather conditions were generally favorable and I had the chance to enjoy sunny moments almost every day.
I spent most of the time exploring and photographing the island. Quilted trousers were needed even in temperatures around zero. Especially when observing birds. I never felt outstandingly cold. The first night I heated up the fireplace. After that, I slept without heating.
I got used to the coldness really quickly. Only the first moments after waking up and getting out from the sleeping bag felt harrowing. “Washing” myself with the snow and bathing in the sea filled with ice cubes were the most shivering experiences. The coldest temperature was 12 degrees Celsius below zero.
My morning routine was to get up without hesitating, get the clothes on and go outside to take photos for 2-3 hours until the sunrise. Then I ate breakfast and took a nap. After that, I continued enjoying the fresh air outside and taking photos for the moments after sunset having just a few eating, warming, and resting breaks in between the shoots.
During the first six days, preparing food took a huge amount of time. I prepared a warm meal with the stove using wet wood three times a day. Every time it was a great challenge and I got well-needed practice of patience and fire starting skills. After the first trip, I took my portable stove with me so the meal preparation was much easier and less time-consuming.
Living on the island was really relaxing, healthy and full of well being. Keeping the mobile phone silent and living without grid electricity and computer ensured uninterrupted living. Days went by on a flow state taking photos and doing small tasks. Sleeping difficulties were gone and I slept better than ever. Usually starting around 10 pm.
The cruisers passed the island from just a few hundred meters of distance. Bigger ships could be felt as a low-frequency rumbling but overall they made quite little noise and operated just a few times a day. The motor of Suomenlinna ferry kept oscillating noise which could be heard every time in advance. Cabin fever hit me so I felt the urge to go to the shore watching, wondering and photographing the ships passing the island. I can imagine ending up on many photos and videos taken by tourists. Katajanokanluoto island is a pretty popular subject of photography for the people going to Suomenlinna and back.
The first six days on the island was over in an instant and completely without the present of homesickness or getting bored of the scenery or daily routines. I was surprised how quickly the ordinary haste and stress were gone. Small challenges on the island life: trying to keep the drinking water in a liquid state, using a pit in the snow as a fridge and maintaining warmness by clothing, were just the right kind to keep the mind stimulated and to give continuous rewards from the small successes in the day.
My next trip happened a few weeks later. I got a lift from the same hovercraft business but this time the vehicle was a self-made hovercraft. This sportier looking vehicle turned out to be as stable as the one before and again the trip to the island was successfully over in just a few minutes.
This time the sea was partly open. The weather shifted between snowy cold and warm. First signs of spring were there. Plants sprouted, the smell of the sea was present and the bird count increased day by day. In morning and night, It was fascinating to observe the creation and the melting of the ice on the sea.
I enjoyed my stay on the island more every day. While I was there, my only concern was returning to city life. In an apartment building and in the city, concerns of humanity are present all the time. Schedules, noise pollution, and conflicts. On the island, these worries seem distant. Lack of disturbances and other people created a stronger sense of being in charge of one’s well being.
I did a quick maintenance break on the mainland. Washing clothes, copying data from the memory cards, charging batteries and preparing food. I returned to the island with a small motor boat. The remnants of winter were gone and replaced by the spring livelihood and lightness. Few times I could bathe in the sun shirtless. Birds were also on a spring mood. Moments after arriving, I witnessed the weird mating rituals of mallards and observed how the Canada geese and the barnacle geese were fighting for their territories.
In the beginning, the bigger Canada geese didn’t tolerate their smaller cousins at all. They did numerous random attacks towards them. With the tiring tactics and the bigger count, barnacle geese invaded numerous spots from the island gaining majority.
In a late evening moment, the cliff on the island was a war ground. As usual one of the defiant male Canada goose shooed away the barnacle goose couple that had come too near. This time barnacle goose had some reinforcements. Other barnacle goose couple joined the fight and the four smaller geese scolded the bully with their aggressive pecking. The Canada goose escaped dragging its neck to the pushes just to bluster and peck its mate. That night the victorious barnacle geese cackle more confident than ever before.
There was a greylag goose nesting on the island too but for some reason, other geese didn’t seem to notice it at all.
In the morning of the returning day, I saw something in the corner of my eye. It was an American mink with a fish on its mouth. The mink leaped under the tarps of the dock. I got a little bit closer to wait and after a few minutes, its curiosity won. The mink came back to stare me a while. This time without its fish.
After returning from the next maintenance break the atmosphere was quite different. Geese had formed their territory and maintained it with aggression. Barnacle geese had eggs on their nests and they were really defiant towards me. At first, I had to gain back my routes by walking them with a broom. Numerous of mean stares, hissings, and fake attacks later I took over their respect and could walk on the island again. It was a game of patience.
In that week the weather conditions varied from stunningly clear and warm sunny days to cold and misty. There were gorgeous sunrises and sunsets. A few times in the middle of the day, a low flying mist cloud arrived from the horizon covering everything. The visibility was limited to just twenty or so meters. It is a surrealistic experience being on the island in the Heart of Helsinki and not seeing or hearing anything besides the foghorns echoing in the distance.
From the start to finish of the trip, the same basic routines and thoughts repeated themselves. Nevertheless, the adventure changed its shape and developed by time. In the beginning, the snow and ice dominated the landscape. The wintery peacefulness was something truly spectacular and unique. Observing the form shifting ice and getting by on the cold, felt an adequate thing just by itself. Later when animal and human contacts got more frequent, it brought hecticness to living. Advancing spring, enjoying the sun and watching birds gave lots of joy. I really felt that I was at the mercy of nature.
One of the most unique features in photographing on the island were its limitations. Many times there is a bit restlessness about whether you are on the most photographic place or not. On the island the subjects and the spots were limited. To get versatile photos I really had to challenge myself and think the photo expression again and again.
All in all, the adventure was one of the greatest I’ve experienced. Well-being, peacefulness, and the absence of stress and restlessness felt really good. I returned the island for October and Christmas week. Spending 34 days on the island in 2018.
About the author: Pasi Markkanen is a photographer, artist, and entrepreneur who lives in Porvoo, Finland. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Markkanen’s work on his website and Instagram. A longer version of this article was published here.
Phantogram Curated Your Fav New Playlist
Phantogram is generously giving us a taste of what they’ve been listening to lately with a compilation of fourteen of their favorite songs. V can promise this playlist will have you on a trip down memory lane and feeling futuristic feels, simultaneously. The group, made up of musicians Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter, was the recent headliner at CRSSD Fest in San Diego last weekend. They’re killing the game right now and we can’t wait to hear what else they’ve got in store for us.
NASA Shot the First Pics of Supersonic Jet Shockwaves Interacting
NASA has captured the first-ever photos showing the shockwaves of supersonic jets interacting in flight. The beautiful images were captured in an extremely difficult air-to-air photo shoot.
To create the groundbreaking photos, NASA outfitted a B-200 twin-turboprop research aircraft with a new imaging system (capable of 1,400 frames per second for up to 3 seconds) and flew it at around 30,000 feet. A pair of Northrop T-38 Talon supersonic jets were then flown at supersonic speeds at a lower altitude.
“[T]he pair of T-38s were required to not only remain in formation, but to fly at supersonic speeds at the precise moment they were directly beneath the B-200,” NASA says. “The images were captured as a result of all three aircraft being in the exact right place at the exact right time designated by NASA’s operations team.”
The T-38s seen in the photos were only about 30 feet away from each other.
The technique behind these photos is known as Background Oriented Schlieren (BOS), which allows relatively inexpensive photography equipment to be used to visualize air, heat, and sound. NASA’s Air-to-Air Background Oriented Schlieren (AirBOS) is something that has been in development for over a decade.
The shockwaves seen in the photos are “rapid pressure changes which are produced when an aircraft flies faster than the speed of sound, or supersonic,” NASA says. “Shockwaves produced by aircraft merge together as they travel through the atmosphere and are responsible for what is heard on the ground as a sonic boom.”
NASA will be using this same system to test a new supersonic airplane that will be capable of flying without producing loud sonic booms — it’s an aircraft that could pave the way for government restrictions to be lifted on supersonic flights over land.
Jaguar Attacks Woman Who Climbed Zoo Barrier for Selfie
A woman was attacked by a jaguar at a zoo in Arizona on Saturday after crossing a barrier to get closer to the animal for a selfie. The cat reached out and gashed the woman’s arm, and she was rushed to a nearby hospital.
The Arizona Republic reports that the unidentified woman in her 30s was at the jaguar exhibit at Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium and Safari Park when she put safety aside for a selfie. While standing right next to the jaguar enclosure, the cat reached through the cage and pinned the woman, piercing her arm with its claw.
Other zoo visitors managed to distract the jaguar with a water bottle enough to allow the woman to be pulled away from the cage.
The Arizona Republic published this graphic video showing the aftermath of the incident (warning: very deep and disturbing gashes can be seen on the woman’s arm):
The woman arm wounds caused excruciating pain, but all of her injuries were non-life-threatening.
Back in 2016, the 17-year-old gorilla Harambe was shot and killed by zoo officials after a 3-year-old boy climbed into its enclosure. After this latest jaguar incident, people immediately began raising concerns about the fate of the jaguar, but the zoo responded quickly to quell those fears.
We can promise you nothing will happen to our jaguar. She’s a wild animal and there were proper barriers in place to keep our guests safe- not a wild animals fault when barriers are crossed. Still sending prayers to her and her family.
— Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium & Safari Park (@ZooWildlife) March 10, 2019
“We can promise you nothing will happen to our jaguar,” the zoo writes. “She’s a wild animal and there were proper barriers in place to keep our guests safe — not a wild animals fault when barriers are crossed.”
This ,200 Sony Camera Got Fried by a Tattoo Removal Laser
You probably know that the lasers in concerts and even on self-driving cars can damage your camera’s sensor in a direct hit, but did you know that light reflected off skin during laser tattoo removal can also destroy your sensor? Watch this 37-second video to see for yourself.
The video was recorded by Andy Boyd, who had his $2,200 Sony a7S II permanently damaged by pulses from the tattoo removal laser.
“Don’t record laser tattoo removal on… anything,” Boyd writes. “You can see with each pulse the sensor shows new damage. The repair cost was about as much as a new camera so try to avoid this.
“Club lasers can do this too but we’d never seen the reflection of a laser beam do damage, only when the beam itself hits the sensor.”
So if you’re ever around any kind of powerful laser being used for any kind of purpose, you may want to think twice before pulling out your digital camera.
Flickr Will Save All Creative Commons Photos, Deceased Members’ Accounts
Flickr will begin deleting photos of accounts over the 1,000 file limit starting on March 12th, but the photo-sharing service has just announced two changes to its policy: spared from deletion will be all Creative Commons photos and the accounts of deceased members.
Creative Commons Photos
When Flickr announced its Free account changes back in late 2018, it stated that freely licensed public photos (e.g. Creative Commons, public domain, U.S. government works) uploaded on or before November 1st, 2018, would be spared from the mass deletion.
But Flickr is now going a step further by promising that future Creative Commons photos will be protected as well.
“Creative Commons licenses have been an important part of Flickr since we introduced them on our platform in 2004,” Flickr says. “We wanted to make sure we didn’t disrupt the hundreds of millions of stories across the global internet that link to freely licensed Flickr images. We know the cost of storing and serving these images is vastly outweighed by the value they represent to the world.
“In this spirit, today we’re going further and now protecting all public, freely licensed images on Flickr, regardless of the date they were uploaded. We want to make sure we preserve these works and further the value of the licenses for our community and for anyone who might benefit from them.”
Flickr says it now hosts over 500 million public CC-licensed photos.
At the same time as making this CC-photo change, Flickr is also disabling bulk license changing across the site to prevent members.
“We’ve done this to prevent community members from flipping all their images to a new license without first understanding the significant implications of the various free licenses we support,” Flickr says. “Any member (Free or Pro) can still change the license of any of their photos on the photo page.”
Flickr is also announcing that it will preserve the accounts of members who pass away.
“Since we announced changes to Flickr’s Free and Pro accounts on November 1, we’ve heard from members who are concerned about what will happen to accounts owned by deceased members, and what will happen to their own accounts when they die,” Flickr says. “We’re photography lovers here at Flickr, too, and we love the idea of photographers’ legacies living on in memoriam—that’s why we’re pleased to announce today that we’re offering ‘in memoriam’ accounts to existing Flickr members who have passed away.”
All public content of “in memoriam” accounts will be preserved indefinitely even if the account’s Pro subscription expires. The account will also be locked (i.e. no one can sign in) and the username will be updated with the “in memoriam” status.
You can help Flickr identify accounts that qualify for “in memoriam” designation by nominating it on this Flickr Help Center page. Once Flickr staff verify the required details, the account will be preserved.
Spring/Break Art Show Hits NYC
The Spring/Break Art Show, is a curator driven fair that has taken over unconventional locations in New York since its founding in 2009. In the face of debates on facts and their “alternatives” Spring/Break chose the theme ‘fact- and fiction’ for their 2019 showcase. The submission guide contained references to Brett Kavanaugh, to Dana Shchutz’s Emmet Till [ainting Open Casket, this curator driven affair sets out to one up its status quo challenging reputation. The show has an…
Sony Smartphone Cameras Trail Rivals Due to Fears of Cannibalizing Itself
Sony’s imaging sensors have been the talk of the photography world for several years now, and the company’s mirrorless cameras have been praised for their imaging quality and abilities. But while Sony dominates the global image sensor industry, its own smartphone cameras have trailed rivals in hype and features.
In an interview with Trusted Reviews, Sony Senior Manager of Global Marketing Adam Marsh revealed that politics and fears of self-cannibalization may have held Sony back in the past from dominating smartphone photography more.
“Even though we’re one company, there are still sometimes barriers that Alpha doesn’t want to give Mobile certain things, because all of a sudden you have the same as what a £3,000 camera’s got,” Marsh tells Trusted Reviews. “Now that barrier’s gone a little bit. They’re saying, ‘Okay, we see that having a smartphone and camera that gives you the same experience is a good thing.’”
“[Maki] said ‘Okay, so we work with Alpha here, let’s take this bit, we work with the CineAlta brand, let’s bring this bit.’ He opened up the whole of digital imaging for us,” Marsh says. “Because that imaging team is all together, they can share that experience across Cybershot, Alpha and Xperia.
“A closer collaboration with Alpha is a definite, thanks to the management change that’s happened in Tokyo with Mobile now belonging to Imaging.”
Sony’s new Xperia 1 marks a change of approach for Sony, Trusted Reviews says. The phone features a triple-camera system with the BIONZ X image processing engine, RAW noise reduction, manual control of shutter speed and ISO, 21:9/4K/HDR/24fps video recording, optical and electronic image stabilization, 2x optical zoom, 10fps (with AF/AE), and Eye AF (the first in a smartphone).
Sony has also benefited from rival companies’ self-cannibalization fears. Even though Sony jumped into full-frame mirrorless cameras with the a7 back in 2013, Canon and Nikon didn’t unveil full-frame mirrorless cameras to rival Sony until late 2018 due to fears of cannibalizing their bread-and-butter DSLR sales, allowing Sony to enjoy years of growing as a near-monopoly in the full-frame mirrorless market.