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Heavy hitter: Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM first shots

Sony has made some strong claims about its new G Master lens series. Unveiled earlier this week, the FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM is one of three in the lineup to make its debut, giving Sony's full-frame mirrorless customers a fast, constant standard zoom for the first time. We had a few moments to shoot with the lens at Sony's press event in New York, and while we only provide a small sampling of shots at this time, we will be updating this gallery as soon as we can. 

Our initial impressions are extremely positive: sharpness appears to rival prime levels wide open, and there's very little axial chromatic aberration to speak of. Sony's claims may not be exaggerated at all.

We need to make a note about lens corrections: it seems that the camera we were handed had vignetting and chromatic aberration corrections turned on. The way this feature works is that these corrections are applied even in Raw mode (technically, vignetting correction is applied prior to writing the Raw file, while chromatic aberration correction information is embedded in the Raw and irreversibly applied by ACR).

The good news is that we've looked at Raw conversions from third-party converters that ignore the CA correction profile, and CA from this lens appears to be very minimal. Watch this space for more sample images, hopefully very soon.

Samyang adds 14mm and 35mm lenses to Xeen cinema system

The 14mm T3.1 Samyang Xeen lens

Korean lens manufacturer Samyang has added two new wide angle lenses to its Xeen series of full-frame video lenses. The new focal lengths are 14mm and 35mm, and while the 35mm conforms to the family-standard maximum aperture of T1.5 the 14mm opens only to T3.1. The Xeen system now contains a total of five lenses as these two join the existing 24mm, 50mm and 85mm.

All the lenses are manual focus only, and feature focus and aperture gear rings in identical positions so that they can be switched quickly in and out of the same rig. Filter rings also match, and users have a choice of metric or imperial focus scales. The lenses come with interchangeable mounts, and adapters are available for Canon EF, Nikon F, Sony E, PL and Micro Four Thirds bodies.

The 35mm T1.5 Samyang Xeen lens

Samyang is proud of the way its lenses render out-of-focus highlights, and the new 35mm complements the existing lenses with its 11-blade diaphragm. The wider lens uses a 9-bladed iris.

The lenses should be on sale by March at a cost of £1599.

For more information visit the Samyang Xeen website


Press Release:

Two more XEEN Lenses announced by Samyang to complete a Perfect Five-Lens-Set

SEOUL, February 5th, 2016 –Global optics brand, Samyang Optics, has announced the release of 2 new lenses: XEEN 14mm T3.1 and 35mm T1.5. These two lenses, along with the existing 24mm T1.5, 50mm T1.5 and 85mm T1.5 lenses, create a perfect balanced five-lens-set for filming video and cinema with the outstanding image quality from resolving power for 4K+ production.

XEEN is a specialized brand in professional video-cine lens launched by Samyang Optics in 2015. The XEEN lenses are designed with Samyang Optics' know-how and have outstanding optical performance for 4K+ with the X-Coating Technology, ensuring maximum image quality to create a cinematic look.

The 24mm x 36mm negative size allows XEEN to not only work with full frame cameras, but also with Super 35, APS-C and APS-H cameras. The lenses are available in five different mounts - PL, EF, F, E, and MFT and two different focus scales - metric and imperial units. Also, the aluminum metal housing is known for its reliability in various shooting conditions.

Most of the XEEN lenses come in a bright T1.5 aperture. The lenses deliver high quality footage with clear contrast and impressive colours, even under less-than-optimal lighting conditions. The large aperture also creates a pleasing bokeh effect for a cinematic look.

“Thanks to the rise of multi-channel networks, the demands for video creation is internationally surging and the expectation of video quality is also increasing,” stated a XEEN official. He continued, “to satisfy the international needs, we have completed the first five lenses which deliver a high-quality cinematic image.” As an answer to the future product plan, he carefully disclosed that two more XEEN lenses will be announced in the second half of the year.

Created to deliver infinite possibilities, XEEN14mm and 35mm lenses will be globally available in early March. The recommended retail price of each lens is £1599.00 inc VAT.

More detailed product information is available on the official website (http://www.xeenglobal.com) and Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/xeenglobal) or Samyang Lens Global Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/samyanglensglobal).

GoPro to discontinue three cameras and exit entry-level market

This week, GoPro announced it will discontinue three of its six available action cameras and abandon the entry-level market. This follows the company’s preliminary fourth quarter results revealed last month. GoPro had stated at the time that poor holiday sales would likely result in low quarterly revenue, and that it would layoff 7% of its workforce as a result.

In a conference call this week, GoPro’s founder and CEO Nick Woodman said the company’s recent misfortunes aren’t due to increased competition. 'Growth slowed in the second half of the year,' said Woodman, 'and we recognize the need to develop software solutions that make it easier for our customers to offload, access and edit their GoPro content.'

GoPro is banking on the improved software reversing its sales numbers, but it isn’t clear what other plans may be in place. Woodman said the company will be 'delivering this new experience in 2016, period.' In the meantime, though, GoPro anticipates its first quarter sales will be below analysts' $300 million expectation, falling between $160 and $180 million.

GoPro will stop selling its HERO+ LCD, HERO+ and HERO entry-level cameras in April, making the $200 HERO4 Session its least expensive model.

Via: Financial Times

Leica T firmware version 1.5 update adds Wi-Fi Direct feature

Leica has released firmware version 1.5 for the Leica T, adding Wi-Fi Direct functionality for transferring images wirelessly. After updating, Leica T owners can set up a mobile hotspot through which images are shuttled between the camera and an iOS mobile device running the Leica T app. In addition, firmware 1.5 speeds up the camera's wireless reconnection with known networks and improves reconnection reliability.

The Leica T for iOS app is available from iTunes. The new firmware version 1.5 update is available through the Leica T website.

Via: Leica Rumors

'We want to make lenses that can be used forever': Sony engineer discusses G Master lenses

'We want to make lenses that can be used forever,' says a senior engineer behind Sony's new G master lenses. At the launch of the ‘G Master’ range of high end lenses, we spoke to Motoyuki Ohtake, Distinguished Engineer in Sony’s Lens Design Department about the process and the philosophy behind the latest lenses.

The development process series involved re-thinking several parts of the design and manufacturing process, he says.

Motoyuji Ohtake, Distinguished Engineer, Opto Design Department, Core Technology Division, Digital Imaging Business Group at Sony.

To understand how the lenses came about, he explained the usual process of lens development. ‘Sometimes we propose a new lens but often it comes from the product planning department [the marketing department that assesses potential requirements and demands]. We then make a series of rough designs, some are big, with high optical performance, others are more compact but maybe not so optically strong. We discuss which design to proceed with, based on what we think is the optimal balance or cost, performance and size to make the perfect product.’

After deciding which of the initial designs to pursue, there’s a great deal of collaboration between teams, he explains: ‘we work with the mechanical team, the lens motor team, the lens control team, the lens element team and maybe the equipment team who will have to prepare the manufacturing process.’ Each of these team feeds its expertise into the design. ‘Maybe the optical team proposes a new lens design and the motor team tells us which motor is best. Or warn us if the focus will be too slow. They feed back about the mechanical aspects,’ he says.

The G Master series required many of these teams to re-think their parts of the process, from design to manufacture.

Re-thinking basic assumptions

‘For the G Master lenses we decided we would assess the spatial frequency at 50 lines per mm,’ says Ohtake: ‘Usually lens makers, including ourselves, evaluate lenses at 10 and 30 lpmm (or 10, 20 and 40 for Carl Zeiss-branded optics).’

‘At the start of the process we all agreed we should change the spacial frequency [to a more challenging target],’ he says: ’but which is best to get good performance? We could design for 100 lpmm but the lens would become very bulky and long - which might not be a very practical lens. A balance of the size and the optical performance was very important.’

The target of 50 lpmm wasn’t dictated by the company’s 40MP camera or 4K video, he says. ’All our FE lenses were designed for at least 40MP. Because we have an image sensor team within Sony, we get to see the sensor roadmap, so we’ve been designing for this all along with FE. With the G Master we’d like to make lenses that can be used forever.’

A focus on bokeh

But it’s not just the more stringent frequency assessment that was developed for the G Master lenses, Ohtake explains: ‘We had to discuss what good bokeh means. We have some designers from Minolta who understand that the spirit of the ‘G’ lenses was good bokeh in the background but we had no way to evaluate that.

‘We looked at what is considered good bokeh and how it affects not just the background rendering but also the transition from perfectly sharp to out-of-focus regions. We developed a way to evaluate bokeh and were able to make a simulation. This meant we didn’t have to build a lens to see how it performed, we could now computer model it before taking a design too far.’

This is a significant change, Sony says, as it means bokeh can be one of the primary design considerations, rather than being something that can only be adjusted later in the process, once the main aspects of the design have been settled upon.

Another piece of the puzzle - shape and smoothness

This analysis of the factors that affect bokeh showed that both the precision of the lens molding and the smoothness of the lens surface could have an effect.

‘Traditionally it was very hard to achieve both: current technology gives a roughness on the scale of 20-30nm on the aspheric surface. Improving this usually involved polishing, which can then lead to the lens element being slightly unevenly shaped.’

‘We developed a new way of making the lens element and a new molding process, including a new machine. Now we can get roughness down to around 10nm and get a more accurate shape to the aspherical surface.’

AF technologies

Ohtake wouldn't budge when we asked which his favorite lens was, but immediately reached for the 85mm F1.4 when we took this group shot.

The first three G Master lenses use three different AF motor technologies between them - emphasizing Ohtake’s point that different technologies work better in different contexts.

The 24-70mm F2.8 uses a Direct Drive SSM system (piezoelectric element). This is very fast, very quiet and very precise. We used a linear motor for the 24-70mm F4 but this lens has a heavier focus element, so direct drive was a better choice.

The focus element in the 85mm F1.4 was even heavier, however. ‘For the 85mm we use a ring type focus motor. This is very good for heavy lens elements and our lens software team developed a good algorithm so that it works well with contrast-detection autofocus' (a traditional weakness for ring-type designs).

Finally, the 70-200mm uses a combination of a linear actuator and a ring-type focus motor. ‘The focus group had become too heavy so we separated the two focusing lenses. One is very heavy, so we used a ring type motor for that one, then used a linear motor for the other. The ring type is used to quickly achieve approximate focus and the linear motor is used for the high precision aspect.’

Still correct to optically correct

Discussing the idea that bokeh and sharpness have previously been in conflict, we asked Ohtake about other trade-offs. We’ve been told that the ability to correct lateral chromatic aberration in software makes lens design easier, since you don’t have to correct it optically, which can quickly complicate the lens design and detract from other parameters.

Not for G Master lenses, he explains. ‘Light doesn’t separate nicely into red, green and blue' (the color channels that most cameras capture, and which can be adjusted, relative to one another, to correct lateral CA). It’s a continuum with each wavelength being displaced slightly differently. ‘To get the really high contrast we wanted in G Master, we had to suppress it in the lens.’

The future of APS-C

We also asked Ohtake about Sony's APS-C lenses for E-mount. His team likes designing APS-C lenses, he says: ‘The focus elements are light, so it’s easier to design. We have all these focus motor technologies in-house and we’d like to try them in APS-C lenses if that’s what the Product Planning team says is required.’

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