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Jump 360

I have been, gone, and come back from The Photography Show. And it was good.

I went to take a serious look, at the Eizo monitors range, Wacom tablets, Sigma Art series lenses and the Carl Zeiss Otus and Milvus lenses. But would I buy anything?

I love Carl Zeiss lenses but was dismayed to find, rather as expected, that the combination of modern cameras’ focusing screens, which have been designed for auto focus lenses, and my aging eyesight, means my favourite glass is essentially impossible for me to focus, except when the camera is on a tripod and the subject is inanimate.More on that later.

The Sigma Art series lenses have; stunning optical perfomance, auto focus and prices that make them very good value. However, when testing one on the Sigma stand I noticed it focused too close on my Canon camera. That’s not good. Then I discovered that one can buy a USB connector that allows the owner to fine-tune the focusing, on one’s own camera. I had already ordered a Sigma 35mm f1.4 Art series lens before ever going to the show. It would be delivered in the next few days. So now I bought one of these USB docking units. Purchase number one.

Visiting the Canon stand I mentioned this to one of the Canon Professional Network (CPN) technicians and he said that Sigma is known for exactly what I had noticed, focusing too close. He mentioned that my Canon had a feature that would allow me to correct this. So now I had two ways to fix the problem if the lens I had ordered was the same.

The Eizo self-calibrating 27″ monitors are brilliant, no qualms there, a show special price saving about £300, likely meaning another model is on its way. But that’s always the case and at that price, I bought one. Wonderful! This makes it a very easy business to maintain the highest quality screen reproduction and so have perfect quality control of my photography and it even has the right setting for my television and film work. A no brainer. Purchase number two.

Wacom Intuos tablets are great value and should help eliviate my repetitive strain injury, from too much mouse wrangling. As a show special, they included a free subscription to the latest versions of Adobe Lightroom CC & Photoshop CC for 1 year, worth almost the asking price of the tablet, more great value. Purchase number three.

Then I discovered, to fine-tune the Sigma lenses properly, not just does one have to have the docking USB connector, one also needs a focus target to define the error needing correcting. I bought a Spyder lenscal and bang goes another circa £50.00, purchase number four.

So, I was prepped for when my lens would arrive on Monday. I had the USB connector and the Lenscal and the process was in my head, excellent. I also knew that deep in the menu system of my camera is another technology to address the problem.

So, I now know that the Canon 5DS can be set to correct focus calibration errors. Now there is a thought, perhaps the issues I had with mon grand amour, the Carl Zeiss Otus series was not the viewfinder, per se, rather a micro-mismatch between the combined products, lens and body, which I now know how to fix. Very interesting!

However, the Sigma is fab and I may stick with it, given the convenience of auto focus, which the Zeiss lenses do not offer, and the Zeiss prices being literally circa 5 times higher. The Sigma is not just a value for money winner, it is, by any measure, a great lens, irrespective of the question of price, and it has auto focus, which is often very convenient. Moreover, I doubt anyone could see the differences between the performance of the Sigma and the superb Zeiss Milvus or possibly even the world class Otus, except just possibly when shooting at f1.4, but then with manual focus the better performance of the Zeiss, if they do in deed perform better, would be off-set by the inevitable small focusing errors. More importantly, would anyone pay me a good bit more for the difference, if they could talk themselves into believing the Zeiss lenses out-perform the Sigma? Not in my experience.

So how good is the Sigma 35mm f1.4 Art lens? And do I need such a fast, wide-angle lens? Well knowing that I had the following to shoot 3 days later I thought so, at the time. What do you think, is the Sigma 35mm Art series lens any good and did I need it?

These may not be lens test-charts but they are very good real-world examples of why a professional may buy expensive fast prime lenses (meaning not zoom lenses). Low light, high-speed movement, shot hand held on an ultra-high resolution camera. That’s a lot of responsibility to thrust upon a lens and most would disappoint. I have to say I am impressed with my new Sigma lens. Mmmm, 24mm, 20mm and 50mm when will they bring out an 85mm f1.4 and a 14mm f1.4, I muse? Next year in Birmingham? Perhaps. I can’t wait.

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Another reason for going to the show this year was to catch up with developments in the world of printing. But that conversation can wait for another time.

Then as a bonus, I also bumped into my old friend Lee, a lovely fellow, a friend from the Guild of Television Cameramen (GTC) and always good to chat with. This time, he put me onto a deal wherebuy I got two huge, 256GB, memory cards for my Canon 5DS at about half price. Thanks Lee. Purchase number five, unless I have lost count.

All told, I did not spend such a great deal at this year’s show, although much has been invested over the last 6 months, or so. However, the tools I did buy and the knowledge I acquired made the trip excellent value.

So once again, I spent two days without meal breaks, relentlessly steaming around the show, learning about the latest developments and buying some very useful and highly professional tools. Three days would have been great, as there were things I did not have time to do and several workshops I wanted to attend but I had to get back for work, which of course was cancelled last minute, after I got home. Par for the course. What an industry and what a wasted opportunity.

I guess I’ll just have to make time to go to The Photography Show 2017.

I am a creative Photographer and Filmmaker. I also work as a Lighting Cameraman & Director of Photography, in television, film and digital media.