Archive for the ‘Product Reviews’ Category

Robert Huber reviews the Canon 16-35 L II Lens

April 10, 2009

Filter Size: 82mm
f/Stop Range:
Minimum Focus Distance: 0.9′ (28cm)
Magnification: 1:4.5
Zoom/Focus Control: Two-touch
Angle of View: 108-63°
Groups/Elements: 12/16
Length: 4Posts.4″ (112mm)
Maximum Diameter: 3.5″ (88mm)
Weight: 1.4 lb (635g)

The canon 16-35mm L II lens is considered by many to be one of the most important lenses in the L-series lineup. It replaced the original 16-35mm L in 2007. As one would expect, it carries the classic build quality of all Canon’s L-series lenses. It uses an 82mm filter thread up front- a first for Canon. A UV filter is recommended to fully weather seal this lens, and if using a full-frame camera one may want to pick up a slim-framed version to avoid slight vignetting at 16mm. The ring USM in this lens focuses very quickly and accurately, and very close to the lens at all focal lengths. I measured about 7 inches or so. Distortion is evident in the wider focal length range of the lens, which is something that should be expected from a lens this wide, and it will be particularly more evident on a full-frame camera. The focus and zoom rings are very well placed, and have an excellent feel to them.

© Robert Huber

© Robert Huber

I used this lens to photograph some promotional shots for a band “Future Future” that I have been photographing for some time now. After working with them for a while, they expressed to me the desire to be photographed with a wider angle lens in order to make them appear “bigger”. I used the lens on a crop-sensored camera, and found it very effective in the field. We shot at dusk with some off-camera lighting, on a tripod to get some nice dark blue skies. The lens autofocused perfectly, even in the rapidly depleting available light I was given. The lens had a much higher resistance to flare than I expected, which allowed me to place my lights very close to the edge of the frame, even aiming directly towards the camera to back-light.

In conclusion, this lens is an extremely well-built lens that is designed primarily for the professional market. It would work extremely well in the hands of a photojournalist or travel photographer, but is undoubtedly a welcome addition to any camera bag.


Ritz Camera Closing

April 3, 2009

WOODLAND HILLS, Calif. — Ritz Camera Centers, Inc., the nation’s largest specialty camera and image products and accessories retailer, has announced that it will close more than 300 stores nationwide as part of a court-supervised bankruptcy reorganization. The move will leave approximately 400 Ritz Camera stores still open around the country.

Retail inventory valued at more than $50 million will be liquidated at the stores that are being closed. Store closing sales offering substantial discounts on all inventory at those locations will begin on Saturday, April 4 and are expected to continue until everything is sold to the bare walls.

A joint venture group comprised of Great American Group, LLC, SB Capital Group, LLC, Tiger Capital Group, LLC and Hudson Capital Partners, LLC, will be conducting the sales.

Daniel Platt, senior vice president, capital markets, for Great American Group, said, “Long-time Ritz Camera customers as well as those with any interest in cameras, photography and video-related products will find a tremendous selection of quality, brand-name merchandise at greatly reduced prices. Shoppers looking for distinctive and unique gifts will find these sales particularly appealing, as well.”

Among the thousands of products that will be available at reduced prices are digital cameras and accessories, dSLR compact cameras, digital frames, binoculars, camcorders and video accessories and other popular electronic items.

Beginning with a single store in Atlantic City, N.J., in 1918, the Beltsville, Maryland-based privately held chain quickly grew to become the country’s leading supplier of photography products, equipment and services. At one point, after acquiring Wolf Camera, Kits Cameras and a number of other companies, Ritz Camera had over 800 stores in more than 40 states across the country. Financial troubles, however, caused the company to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in February.

Ritz Camera’s downsizing follows efforts over the past year by a number of prominent retailers to deal with slumping sales and the drop in consumer spending brought on by the recession. Major national retailers that have liquidated completely in recent months include Circuit City, Mervyns, Steve & Barry’s, Shoe Pavilion, KB Toys and Linens ‘N Things.

Ritz Camera to Close More than 300 Stores Nationwide; Starting April 4 – Imaging

Canon TS-E 24mm Hands On

March 30, 2009
© Robert Huber

© Robert Huber Photography

With the announcement of the new 17mm and 24mm TS-E lenses from Canon (version II), we decided to do a comparison review of the two different versions, to be released in two parts. We will be testing the 24mm versions.

Focal Length & Maximum Aperture: 24mm 1:3.5
Lens Construction: 11 elements in 9 groups
Diagonal Angle of View: 84° (without tilt or shift)Image circle dia. 58.6mm.
Focus Adjustment: Manual focus, Overall linear extension system
Closest Focusing Distance: 0.3m / 1 ft.
Filter Size: 72mm
Max. Diameter x Length, Weight: 3.1″ x 3.4″, 1.3 lbs. / 78.0 x 86.7mm, 570g

This lens offers the user the ability to make tilt and shift adjustments, which are perpendicular to one another. The lens can be rotated in order to facilitate the use of these adjustments in both directions, but they are always perpendicular to one another. Upon purchase, you can send this lens to Canon and they can make the adjustments parallel to one another (at your expense). Build quality of this lens is very solid. There is a heavy feel during focus, which allows one to be very precise. Out of all three ts-e lenses currently available, this is the only one to be considered as “L-series”. Unlike many of the other L-series lenses, this is not a weather sealed lens. There is a small amount of chromatic aberration towards the edges of the image circle when shifts are taken very far.

The first thing some people may ask about this lens would be, what is it used for? Why would someone want to spend so much money on a lens if such adjustments can be made so easily in Photoshop? The quick answer: they can’t. Although you can make small corrections for convergence in Photoshop, essentially you are not doing the same thing. There is also one thing that can be done with this lens that is impossible to replicate in Photoshop: the Scheimpflug principle.

The Scheimpflug principle allows a person to control the angle of the plane of focus in relation to the angle of the film plane. When pointing the camera at a downward angle towards a flat surface which is not parallel to the film plane, this lens will allow you to put said flat surface in perfect focus, regardless of aperture.


© Robert Huber Photography

That being said, Scheimpflug is not so easy to employ with this lens. It is much easier in my opinion to put a loupe on a ground glass to check focus than to take 50 different shots and zoom in on a tiny LCD screen. Nonetheless, this lens is quite fun to use. It has a very close focusing distance, and the adjustments are more than ample. When you move the lens around they don’t seem like much, but they really do let you do quite a bit.

In conclusion, this is a great lens for anyone doing close quarters still life or product work, but the restriction of rotation leaves a bit to be desired.

New Photos From Expansion of Unique University and New Superstore Layout

March 30, 2009


The Unique Photo superstore has been under construction and now we have increased our display areas to showcase more of today’s hottest photographic products. Visit out store and see our new display of Carl Zeiss SLR lenses for both Canon and Nikon mounts as well as our other photographic products on display.

The expansion of Unique University is almost complete and will be ready for the upcoming John Woodward seminar on April 2nd.   As you can tell by this image we have nearly doubled the size of the existing Unique University. With this additional square footage stay tuned to see our updated Photo gallery as well as larger upcoming classes and events!

Profoto AcuteB 600r: A Review By Brian Roy

March 20, 2009
© Brian Roy

© Brian Roy

This past week I was fortunate enough to try out the Profoto AcuteB 600r strobe pack with an AcuteB head. As the name implies, the 600r is a 600 watt second pack, the R designation meaning it has a built-in wireless transmitter, which is fully compatible with the industry standard Pocket Wizard technology (32 channels, 4 zones, more options than you’ll probably ever need). While both the pack and head are diminutive in size, they are a classic Profoto design, built like tanks. All in all, the total package is small enough to fit in a backpack, and rugged enough for you to not feel bad about it. Basically a guerilla photographer’s dream…almost.

Allow me to preface this critique by saying quite honestly I did not fully charge the pack before I took it out. When the pack was on, it was really on; quick recycle times, consistent output. But once I depleted the battery I found myself having to wait minutes before being able to start the pack up again and go for another burst of say…20 or so shots. Luckily the clients were friends of mine and our time was not restrained. After the Indoor shots, we had plans to do another set on top of their parking deck (In twenty degree weather in the middle of the night mind you), so I allowed the pack to charge for about an hour before we gave that a go, since, needless to say, I wanted to slim my time out in the cold down to as little as possible to get the shots we needed. The trick seemed to work and this was when I really felt the pack shined. I fired off at least 120 shots at about three-quarters power no problem, turning the pack off briefly in between models to set up various scenes and warm my hands up in the deck’s elevator lobby.

Now I know it’s only a 600 watt second pack, and any photographer worth his salt can make a single light set up look like a three or four light set, but I would have certainly liked the option to have a second head for this assignment. BUT, I must say, that one head is certainly no slouch, and Profoto heads are definitely my favorites to date. They’re solid, small, consistent, and the reflector system is genius. Honestly I don’t know why companies haven’t bitten off their idea a long time ago. It simplifies light management so much to be able to just slide the modifier/reflector along any point of the head instead of building a zoom function into the light itself making more things that could possibly break.

Overall my experience with the 600R was for the most part positive, however an AC connection would be a welcomes feature on future models. Hopefully Profoto will jump on the lithium bandwagon to make longer lasting battery packs, but until then, the 600 and 600R seem like fairly good deals to me particularly if you’re a student buying through Mac-On-Campus. I liked the 7-stop adjustability of the pack as well as its solid construction and the head’s simplicity and sturdiness.

Canon 50mm 1.2 L Series Lens Review

March 17, 2009
© Robert Huber Photography

© Robert Huber Photography

The Canon 50mm 1.2L is a newer L series version of another popular 50mm, the 1.4. Primary improvements to the prior released 50mm (1.4) include better weather resistance,  and better resistance to ghosting/flare. In quick comparison, it is quite easy to see (and feel) the superior build quality.
A quick look at the mount will show a nice rubber seal, a great improvement over the old lens. Canon suggests the use of a UV filter on the front to completely weather seal this lens.
This lens shoots excellently in very low light! During use, it has been commonly said that this lens tends to “hunt” for a focus, this is solely due to the razor-thin area of sharp focus allowed by such a small aperture- a problem very easily overcome by use of the full-time manual focus ring offered. The resistance to flare offered by this lens is quite amazing.
I used this lens to photograph a band performance that was back-lit, and found it very easy to use the stage lights as “rimlights”, with absolutely no incidence of flare. The lens is very fast in daylight also, allowing buttery-smooth out of focus backgrounds that are truly to die for.  With the advent of many 2.8 zoom lenses out there many people forget about the magic of a standard prime lens, I truly believe this lens is a must-have for any portrait or photojournalist style photographers out there. When used on a crop-sensor body, it allows one to get just out of the comfort zone for some excellent portraits.

Canon 50mm 1.2L

Focal length and max aperture: 50mm f/1.2
Lens construction: 8 elements in 6 groups
Diagonal angle of view (full frame): 46 Degrees
Close focus distance: 1.48 ft/ .45 meters
Filter size: 72mm

PocketWizard® – PocketWizard Goes Beyond TTL

February 17, 2009

So. Burlington, VT – February 16, 2009 – Professional photographers have depended on PocketWizard radio slaves for reliable triggering of their manual flashes and cameras for years.  With the advent of digital technology, photographers have been seeking a simple solution for off-camera TTL flash without limitations or complexity.  PocketWizard has made it possible with the “Slide-n-Shoot” simplicity of the new ControlTL™ system, featuring the MiniTT1™ Transmitter and FlexTT5™ Transceiver for Canon and Nikon.  These new E-TTL II and i-TTL capable radio slaves make taking off-camera flash as effortless as slide-in, turn-on and shoot.

Now you can get perfect off-camera flash photos in any environment — around corners, out-of-sight and in bright sun. Canon and Nikon users can use the new MiniTT1 Transmitter and FlexTT5 Transceiver to control single or multiple off-camera Canon E-TTLII or Nikon i-TTL flashes at speeds up to 8/fps.

PocketWizard® – PocketWizard Goes Beyond TTL – Press Release.

CANON U.S.A. Honored ” MFP Line Of The Year” & 6 “PICK” Awards

January 13, 2009

Canon imagePROGRAF iPF820 – BLIs Pick for Wide Format of the Year

Canon imagePROGRAF iPF820 – BLI's Pick for Wide Format of the Year

LAKE SUCCESS, N.Y., January 13, 2009 – For the sixth time since 2000, Canon U.S.A., Inc., a leader in digital imaging solutions, has received the prestigious “MFP Line of the Year” award from Buyers Laboratory Inc. (BLI), as well as six additional “Pick of the Year” awards for the imageRUNNER, imagePROGRAF and imageCLASS lines.

<!–LAKE SUCCESS, N.Y., January 13, 2009 – For the sixth time since 2000, Canon U.S.A., Inc., a leader in digital imaging solutions, has received the prestigious “MFP Line of the Year” award from Buyers Laboratory Inc. (BLI), as well as six additional “Pick of the Year” awards for the imageRUNNER, imagePROGRAF and imageCLASS lines.

–> Awarded once a year, the “MFP Line of the Year” is bestowed upon the vendor whose product line is determined the best overall based on the cumulative test results from BLI’s rigorous, two-month laboratory evaluation. During the testing and selection process, among the many factors considered are reliability, image quality, productivity, connectivity attributes as well as the breadth of each vendor’s line and its solutions.

In addition to the “MFP Line of the Year,” Canon received six “Pick of the Year” awards for the imagePROGRAF iPF820 in Wide Format, the imageRUNNER 3245i for Segment 4 Monochrome MFP, the imageRUNNER 3225 for Segment 2 Monochrome MFP, the imageRUNNER 3235i for Segment 3 Monochrome MFP, the Color imageRUNNER C2550 for Segment 2 Business Color MFP, and the Color imageCLASS 9170c for Small Workgroup Color Multifunction Printer.

“Canon is honored to receive these prestigious accolades and awards from Buyers Laboratory for our ability to provide customers with innovative products that greatly improve the end-user’s experience,” said Sam Yoshida, vice president and general manager, Marketing & Field Sales, Canon U.S.A., Inc. “These awards are a testament to Canon’s commitment to providing a range of products and features that meet the diverse digital imaging needs of today’s printing environments, and we look forward to carrying this momentum into the new year with the launch of more products suited for the marketplace.”

According to Daria Hoffman, managing editor at BLI, “Canon has won an astounding 23 MFP ‘Picks’ since 2005, including more MFP ‘Picks’ than any other vendor this year, three additional ‘Outstanding Achievement’ awards and numerous other ‘Picks’ for its wide format devices, scanners, fax-centric MFPs and printers. All those ‘Picks’ add up, giving Canon the most consistent quality of products across all spectra of the digital imaging industry”

Press Release.

My Favorite Lens

September 12, 2008

A few weeks ago, I replaced my Nikon 80-200mm AF ED f2.8 push-pull lens purchased over 10 years ago with Nikon’s updated version of this lens, the 70-200 F2.8 AFS VR ED. This lens is now my absolute favorite and is on my camera constantly due to its versatility and quality.

The true focal length of this lens (with the 1.5 crop factor) on my D300 is a 100-300mm f2.8. These focal lengths are ideal for the landscape and nature photography I do. The 300mm range is great to have for wildlife subjects that are approachable, especially a fast F2.8. For many years, I used a 300mm lens for wildlife and worked around its limitations by learning how to get close to my subjects.

The 70-200mm 2.8 VR produces images with a degree of sharpness, color and contrast that exceed the expectations of all photographers who use it, even full-time professionals. There have been published test reports suggesting the lens performs better on Nikon’s small sensor DSLRs than it does on the new FX full frame cameras like the D3 and D700. I have not tested the lens on either of these cameras. My experience is with the D300, and I can honestly say I’m floored by its optical excellence.

Even with Nikon’s TC-14E 1.4X teleconverter attached to the lens, I’m hard pressed to see any reduction in sharpness and contrast. This combination further increases the versatility of the lens making it a 150 to 450mm f4.

This is one lens I don’t have to worry about which aperture setting is the sharpest. It’s tack sharp all the way from f2.8 to f16 . My choice of aperture is totally dependent on the depth of field I need for creative effects. At F2.8, the 70-200mm VR gives a very pleasing out of focus area or “bokeh” (the appearance of out-of-focus areas in an image produced by a camera lens using a shallow depth of field). The quality of bokeh produced by the 70 200 VR is every bit as good as found on Nikon’s high speed professional portrait lenses.

The Nikon 70 to 200mm 2.8 AFS ED VR is worth every penny I paid for it. I highly recommend it.

Fast 50mm Lenses for Available Light Photography

July 7, 2008

Another digital essential that resides in my camera bag is a fast, versatile, affordable, lightweight Nikkor 50mm f1.4 lens (effective focal length of 75mm on my Nikon D300). A fast prime lens of this focal length is great for available light applications whether used indoors or outside as an event lens or as a fast portrait/travel/landscape lens.

I enjoy working with short telephotos in the classic portrait range of 70 to 135mm (50 to 85 mm on a cropped sensor DSLR). These are my favorite focal lengths because they allow me to crop my images tightly eliminating distractions and wasted space. In addition, the natural perspective, distortion free images created by theses lenses are in tune with my personal vision and how I see the world.

The shallow depth of field (DOF) produced by this lens at apertures of f1.4 through f2.8 will enable you to artistically blur backgrounds and place emphasis on your main subject. Brokeh (the rendition of out of focus areas) is almost as good as Nikon’s more expensive portrait lenses, namely the 85mm f1.8.

In addition to the shallow DOF characteristics as described above, this fast short telephoto (on a cropped sensor digital camera) can be used to stop action or subject movement even in low light without having to resort to flash or use high ISOs. This is a very valuable feature that’s useful in all types of photography.

Optical performance is amazing, especially when stopped down to f2.8 and below. At f1.4, the lens is a good performer and is capable of producing sharp photos. Stopping down to f2.0 results in snappier images with better contrast. When set at f2.8, my results were terrific, with outstanding optical quality and a very attractive DOF. For distance shooting, an aperture of f8 to f11 produced tack sharp, highly detailed images with great color and contrast.

The 50 f1.4 is a fantastic low-light companion lens to have in your bag, especially if you are using one of the slower aperture multi-purpose zooms.

Nikon D300, Nikon 50mm f1.4 @f8