Tuesday, 2 October 2018

My-Picture.co.uk Print

I was approached a while back by My-Picture.co.uk with an offer to test out their services. I opted for a large format 90cm x 60cm aluminium print which is something that I'd seen on display by other printing companies at this year's Photography Show in Birmingham.

I went through a load of images that I've shot over the years and decided that I didn't really have anything that I wanted to print that had lots of detail, nice colours and most importantly something that I'd want hung on my garden office wall. So I decided to shoot something new. My office is mainly white with one bright yellow wall so it would need to fit in with that colour scheme. I came up with the idea to shoot some fresh fruit that had been sliced to show the textures and details inside. I shot a few different types of fruit - kiwi, lemons, pomegranate and pink grapefruit. All looked pretty good but the pink grapefruit stood out for me in terms of details and colours. This is a project that I'm going to persevere with and see how many different types of fruit I can shoot in the same type of setup.

Here's the image I shot specifically for this test print

I ordered late on a Tuesday night, I got notification that my order had been dispatched early on Friday morning and the print was delivered by midday on the following Tuesday. My print was packaged well in a made to measure cardboard box. Inside the box the print was wrapped in a thin layer of cushioned plastic and then a protective film on the surface of the print which needed to be peeled off. It also had foam protective corners added.

Made to measure cardboard packaging

Corner protectors and protective plastic

Peelable protective film

On the back of the print I opted to have the additional aluminium backframe fitted so putting this on the wall was pretty simple. I just drilled a couple of holes, used a couple of rawlplugs to secure some screws and then the print was ready to hang.

Mounting framework

Close up of the mounting frame

In the past I've had some large prints done by other companies on canvas and the quality is ok. Having something printed on aluminium like this is something new to me but as mentioned earlier I have seen the benenfits of such printing on display elsewhere. The quality of this aluminium print is superb. If detail is important then you really should check out this method of printing. I'm blown away by the vibrant colours and pin sharp details and it has a stunning glossy finish to it. I don't get to print images as often as I'd like and it makes a massive difference seeing your images in the flesh as opposed to on a screen all the time. This print as you can see has taken pride of place in my office. Needless to say I will be ordering more from My-Picture.co.uk and I can't recommend them enough. I'm intrigued to see what the acrylic prints are like next and would love to compare the two.

Vibrant colours and sharp details in the print

The print takes pride of place in my office

Thanks for reading.

I'd like to thank My-Picture.co.uk for getting in touch with me and offering a trial of their services to me.

For more information on My-Picture.co.uk products please take a look at their website - my-picture.co.uk

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Sunday, 2 September 2018

Samyang 85mm F1.8 ED UMC CS Lens Review

Samyang 85mm f1.8 ED UMC CS on my Sony A7R

Samyang have kind of surprised me a little with this one. Their recent roster of released lenses reads with an impressive array of AF lenses and high performance, manual focus XP lenses all for full frame cameras but on this occasion it’s a manual focus lens for APS-C (cropped sensor) cameras. I would have bet good money that following on from the recent release of the Canon mount AF 85mm f1.4 EF that Samyang would then bring out a similar lens for Sony E-mount with the additional extension to make up the flange distance lost due to the lack of a mirror in mirrorless cameras. I was wrong!

Size in hand (I don't have the biggest of hands)

Recently announced with the tagline "Create New Possibilites - Everything from portrait to street photography" this brand new Samyang 85mm f1.8 will find a gap in the market as there isn’t any competition for fast aperture (cropped sensor only) 85mm lenses. There are plenty of full frame options (which still work on APS-C camera bodies) out there such as Sony’s 85mm f1.4 Gmaster lens (£1649), Zeiss Batis 85mm f1.8 (£935) or Sony’s 85mm f1.8 (£599). However, the first two of these lenses (Gmaster and the Batis) are very pricey. This Samyang lens will be released at a SRP of £319.99 which will appeal to Sony APS-C shooters as this is relatively inexpensive compared to it's competition. Samyang achieves this by leaving out features like autofocus, weather sealing and full frame capability but as a result the lens remains quite compact for a lens of this focal length and aperture. 

The fairly compact lens is made up of 9 elements in 7 groups including one High Refractive Index element and one Extra Low Dispersion element. All elements have Samyang's UMC (Ultra Multi Coating) which helps reduce chromatic aberration and flare. It features a 9-bladed manual diaphragm so the aperture is not recorded in the EXIF of each image, something which made remembering the settings for each test shot that I took pretty difficult. It has a minimum focus distance of 0.65m, a magnification ratio of x0.17 and weighs in at 344g for the Sony e-mount version. It has a 62mm thread for the use of filters and comes with a plastic lens hood. An 85mm lens on a Sony cropped sensor gives a real world/35mm equivalent focal length of 127.5mm or 19.1° so is ideally suited to portrait photography. This lens is also available for the following mounts: Fujifilm X, Canon M and MFT.

Build quality of the lens is very good and it features a metal lens mount. The focus ring is smooth with a lot of travel so you can really nail the focus. The manual aperture ring moves with pleasing half a stop clicks. I was very surprised by the sharpness and detail that this lens is capable of capturing even though I had to use my camera in crop mode so as a result lost quite a lot of megapixels. I'd imagine that this lens would work great on a dedicated APS-C camera like the A6500 which has 24.2 megapixels so you'd see even more detail and have the ability to crop in more if needed. The bokeh produced by this lens is beautiful and due to the relatively wide aperture and long focal distance you can really isolate your subject from the foreground/background.

This lens can be a little tricky to use due to it's reasonably long focal distance and lack of autofocus so it makes shooting some subjects very difficult especially things in motion. In my case with some of the sample images that I've shot I've had to judge where some points of focus were going to be before capturing the image with perfect timing (see punchbag image where you can even see drops of sweat coming off the fighter as he throws the punch).

As usual I've kept the waffle to a minimum so as to let the images speak for the lens's capabilities. The only e-mount camera that I own is the Sony A7R so as a result all images have been shot in the camera's Crop/APS-C mode. This brings the resolution of the images down quite a bit but is still a very respectable 15.3 megapixels. Check out the images below.

1/500th sec, f1.8, ISO 250

1/3200th sec, f1.8, ISO 100

1/160th sec, f1.8, ISO 50

1/160th sec, f4, ISO 100
1/160th sec, f3.5, ISO 64
1/160th sec, f4, ISO 100

1/160th sec, f4.5, ISO 64

1/160th sec, f4.5, ISO 64

1/160th sec, f5.6, ISO 64
1/250th sec, f4, ISO 100
1/1250th sec, f1.8, ISO 100
1/320th sec, f1.8, ISO 100
1/640th sec, f1.8, ISO 100
1/8000th sec, f1.8, ISO 250 (should have dropped the ISO)

Thanks for reading!

Check out my reviews for some of the other Samyang lenses for Sony E-mount below:

Samyang AF 50mm f1.4 FE review
Samyang AF 14mm f2.8 FE review
Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 FE review
Samyang AF 35mm f1.4 FE review (Part 1)
Samyang AF 35mm f1.4 FE review (Part 2)

I'd like to thank Alice and all involved at Samyang Korea for sending the lens out to me for testing.

For more information on Samyang products please take a look at their website - samyanglensglobal.com and subscribe to their newsletter to keep up to date with product news.

Special thanks to Gary at Forge Fitness & Boxing for giving me access to shoot at the gym and also to Cage Warriors Middleweight fighter Lee Chadwick for starring in the action shots.

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Friday, 13 July 2018

Shooting Food with Samyang

Sony A7R and Samyang AF 50mm f1.4 FE

Over the last few years I have developed my skills and focused (excuse the pun) more on food photography as I regularly shoot for a host of clients throughout the UK including restaurant chains Wildwood and Dim T amongst others. Despite being a terribly fastidious eater, shooting food is my favourite photography discipline. I love the detail, colour and texture that each dish can offer and the challenges of photographing them at the right angle with the correct lighting, camera/lens combination and settings.

I have recently started to rely more on my range of Samyang lenses to get the images the clients need. My favourite Samyang lenses that I regularly use on food shoots are the AF 35mm f1.4 FE and the AF 50mm f1.4 FE which I use on my Sony A7R. I also use a 90mm macro lens for some close up images of the food but I would love to replace this lens with a Samyang macro lens at some point. Perhaps Samyang will release an AF version of their 100mm macro lens one day. Who knows?

The reason why I like to shoot with Samyang's AF 50mm f1.4 FE and AF 35mm f1.4 FE is that these lenses offer great sharpness with a beautiful fall-off from the point of focus when used at a wide open aperture. With a fast aperture you can achieve a shallow depth of field which can help isolate a particular item in the image or lead the viewer's eye to a specific part of the dish.

AF 35mm f1.4 FE @ f1.7, 1/80th, ISO 250 (cropped)

When it comes to my lighting setup I usually like to have a good mix of natural light and add in some strobe lighting via a battery powered studio light mounted in a huge octagonal softbox. This softbox produces a beautiful soft light due its size and level of diffusion. However, it’s not always possible to have access to natural light on some food shoots so in those circumstances I just rely on the studio light to get the job done, the same high quality is there but the images have a slightly different feel.

Food photography Essentials
  • Camera body - Pretty obvious. I shoot with a Sony A7R. Yes, it's a few years old but it gets the job done for me and produces stunning, detailed images with a fairly high 36 mega pixel resolution.
  • Lenses - Again stating the obvious. You can get reasonable images from a kit lens but they won't always offer the best image quality. Invest in some good lenses like the Samyang AF 50mm f1.4 FE or the Samyang 100mm Macro. These lenses are capable of a wider maximum aperture than kit lenses so will be able to shoot with a shallower depth of field. These lenses will be sharper, resolve the details a lot better and give you better quality images.
  • Tripod - having the ability to have a slower shutter speed but keeping the ISO down to a minimum is very critical when shooting food. You want your images to be sharp and full of detail.
  • Shutter Remote/Trigger - with your camera mounted on a tripod you'll need a remote to trigger the camera. Using your finger on the shutter button can cause vibrations in the camera which will then make your image blurry. The slightest movement can be picked up by the camera so you really want to minimise this. You could set your camera on a 2 second delay (or whatever your camera is capable of) but this just wastes time when you could just use a shutter remote.
  • Lighting - I use a mixture of ambient/natural light plus a studio strobe with a softbox. I have shot food shoots with just natural light with good results but as I travel to different venues all the time to shoot I can't rely on there being a perfect setup next to a window every time. The studio strobe with softbox light modifier provides a lovely soft light which is perfect for food photography. It's also possible to use a speedlight mounted atop your camera and bounce the light off the ceiling. It all depends on the colour of the ceiling though. A white ceiling is perfect as it won't cast any colours onto your subject.
  • Props - Don't underestimate the importance of setting the scene in your image. Placing props that help tell the story of what's in the food gives context and makes the image so much more interesting.

Here's some of my images that I've shot for various different clients using Samyang lenses. The lens used is labelled underneath each image.

AF 50mm f1.4 FE @ f2.5, 1/20th, ISO 50

AF 50mm f1.4 FE @ f5.6, 1/100th, ISO 250

AF 35mm f1.4 FE @ f2.2, 1/100th, ISO 80

AF 50mm f1.4 FE @ f3.2, 1/50th, ISO 125
AF 35mm f2.8 FE @ f7.1, 1/5th, ISO 125
AF 35mm f2.8 FE @ f5.6, 1/60th, ISO 200

AF 50mm f1.4 FE @ f2.2, 1/160th, ISO 125
AF 50mm f1.4 FE @ f6.3, 1/80th, ISO 250

AF 50mm f1.4 FE @ f4, 1/100th, ISO 160

AF 50mm f1.4 FE @ f4, 1/100th, ISO 100

AF 50mm f1.4 FE @ f4, 1/100th, ISO 100

AF 50mm f1.4 FE @ f2, 1/160th, ISO 64

AF 50mm f1.4 FE @ f2.2, 1/160th, ISO 50

AF 50mm f1.4 FE @ f2, 1/160th, ISO 50
AF 50mm f1.4 FE @ f3.2, 1/400th, ISO 160

AF 50mm f1.4 FE @ f3.2, 1/80th, ISO 160

AF 50mm f1.4 FE @ f3.5, 1/80th, ISO 64

AF 50mm f1.4 FE @ f3.2, 1/125th, ISO 100
AF 50mm f1.4 FE @ f5.6, 1/125th, ISO 200
AF 50mm f1.4 FE @ f4, 1/60th, ISO 100

AF 35mm f1.4 FE @ f6.3, 1/100th, ISO 320

AF 35mm f1.4 FE @ f2.2, 1/60th, ISO 320

Thanks for reading!

Check out my reviews for the two Samyang's AF lenses that I use during food shoots below:

Samyang AF 50mm f1.4 FE review
Samyang AF 35mm f1.4 FE review (Part 1)
Samyang AF 35mm f1.4 FE review (Part 2)

I'd like to thank Alice and all involved at Samyang Korea for their continued support.

For more information on Samyang products please take a look at their website - samyanglensglobal.com and subscribe to their newsletter to keep up to date with product news.

Follow me on my social media channels:

Samyang AF 24mm f1.8 FE