Thursday, April 18, 2013

The New Sigma f/1.8 Zoom Is The First Lens of The Post-Speed Booster Era

I said that the world had changed after Metabones announced their Speed Booster image-reducing lens adapter. To recap, what the Speed Booster does is take all of the light gathered by a full-frame lens and squeeze it down into an image circle that just fits an APS-C sensor. This does two things, first it eliminates the need for crop factor. Since the APS-C sensor is no longer taking only a small, center crop of the FF lens' image, it's no longer acting like a zoom. A 50mm full-frame lens no longer equals a 75mm APS-C lens. The final image is the same.

Second, it makes the image brighter. An f/2.8 full-frame lens increases in brightness to f/1.8 when all of that light is focused on the smaller APS-C sensor. It's wonderful.

There was nothing stopping lens companies from doing this. Canon, Nikon, et al., they could have made their FF lenses brighter on APS-C cameras with relatively small alterations to their FF lens optics. They did not do this because of greed.

Canon, Nikon, Sony: all of the camera companies make more money by restricting freedom. If they give you flexibility in how you manage your hardware, they limit their ability to squeeze money from your pockets. As such, it has taken them this long to simply take larger, FF lenses and squeeze them onto the APS-C sensor.

Indeed, even companies that exist solely as a discount alternative to system lenses, such as Sigma, display this greed.

Sigma is the first to respond, though. They have released an f/1.8 constant aperture zoom lens for APS-C sensors. It has an 18-35mm range, which equate to 27-52.5mm on full-frame, give or take a milimeter.

Usually, designing a lens and bringing it to market can take a long time — one to two years. I don't think that was the case with this lens. I suspect that they basically took an extant optical design and simply installed a Speedbooster-like optical element at the back of the lens.

Sigma does not have a FF lens with those specs, but they do have a discontinued lens that is 28-70mm f/2.8. That lens would equal around an 18-44mm f/1.8 on the Speed  Booster.

Moreover, if we analyze the measurements of the lens, we find similarly corroborating evidence. The 28-70mm Sigma lens weighs 18oz. The new 18-35mm lens weighs 28.6 oz. (If nothing else, the sheer weight and size of the lens confirms FF optics)

The Metabones Speed Booster with AF support weighs 7oz, giving the 28-70mm a weight of 25oz. Not exact, but close.

Similarly, the 28-70mm is 2.91" in diameter. Very close to the 18-35mm's 3.1". The length of the 28-70mm with the Metabones adapter attached is 4.43". Decently close to the 4.8" of the new 18-35mm, but not definitive.

All things considered, I think that this lens was a relatively quick rejiggering of an optical design they already had. When Sigma says that the design was difficult, I think they are lying. They are lying because they want to justify the very high price they are undoubtedly going to ask for it. Remember, this is the same company that tried to sell the SD-1 for $10,000.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Blackmagic Blows Away Everyone Else... AGAIN

I haven't had much time to write recently, but this could not be passed up.

About a year ago, Blackmagic announced the Cinema Camera. It offered unparalleled technology for one-fifth what other companies were charging. It was a game-changing camera and even now, Blackmagic corp. is unable to meet demand for its wonder-product.

Well, right after Panasonic decided to charge far more than it should have for the GH3; right after Canon released even more wildly overpriced crap; right after Nikon released a camera with awful video yet again; right after all of that, Blackmagic has done it again. Twice.

Blackmagic is releasing the not-unexpected 4K camera. What was a surprise was the time -- less than a year after the first camera -- and the global shutter. A 4K, global shutter, for $3999. Holy. Fucking. Shit. Canon can take its hyper-expensive C-Series of cameras and shove them were the sun don't shine.

The camera does lose a stop of dynamic range in the switch to the new shutter, but I remember reading that global shutter designs had a number of significant considerations that negatively affected other elements of the sensor, most notably in noise. I'm assuming that this is the reason for the loss. Frankly, it doesn't matter. One could purchase both cameras for less than the cost of a RED or Arri camera.

Perhaps the more exciting revelation is Blackmagic's compact, 1080p video camera undoubtedly aimed at competing with the Panasonic GH3. It has an active Micro 4/3 mount, does ProRes, and uses the same sensor as the original BMCC but employs a crop.

I say that this is the more exciting announcement because it appeals to a far larger demographic and is, I think, the more disruptive piece of technology. Currently, all camera companies are desperate to keep anything high-end away from their more entry-level pieces of technology, no matter how easy it would be to implement. They're doing this to service what's know as artificial segmentation.

There are many aspects to this process, but the end result as far as the consumer is concerned is that companies do not make the best product they can make. They make a product that fits into their catalog of products and thus forces customers to spend more than they should for certain features.

Blackmagic has come out of nowhere and completely schooled the entire industry in less than a year. This is what happens when an industry ossifies and becomes conservative and greedy. When true innovation comes along, it is such a stunning breath of fresh air that it creates an instant star. And that's what we have here -- a star. Blackmagic is going to be one of the industry's biggest players in the next five years. I guarantee it.