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have your say: best high-end ilc of 2017

time is running out to vote for your favorite cameras and lenses in our year-end readers' choice awards! in this category, we've rounded up the seven of the best high-end interchangeable lens cameras for enthusiasts and pros.






top 5 news stories of the week on dpreview

top 5 photography news stories of the week

the world of photography news moves fast, with tens of interesting, tragic, educational, and inspirational stories breaking sometimes daily. to help parse through the noise and focus on the signal, each week, we're going to recap the 5 top photography news stories from the previous seven days.

this week, the tragic story of a young photographer's death was the most popular—and controversial—of the news stories we covered on dpreview. this was followed by a shocking story of a musician kicking a photographer in the face, an inspirational round up of the best nature photos of 2017 and, finally, a pricey announcement from apple and a leica sensor test rounded out our list.

scroll through the slideshow for a quick recap of each story, and then follow any of the big blue buttons to dive deeper.

famed chinese rooftopper falls to his death from 62-story skyscraper

in november, 26-year-old chinese rooftopper wu yongning fell to his death from atop the 62-story huayuan hua centre skyscraper when a photo stunt for an unnamed sponsor went horribly wrong. the story—and a video of his fall—only came to light this week, shining a tragic light on the dangerous lengths some photographers will go to for an exciting shot.

read the full story


photo: weibo

musician kicks photographer in the face during rock concert, sending her to the er

queens of the stone age frontman josh homme found himself the subject of heated criticism and disgust this week, after a video and photos seem to show him purposely kicking photographer chelsea lauren in the face during a performance.

his apologies—first over twitter, and later over instagram video— have not gone over well.

read the full story


photo: screenshot from youtube video

these are the winners of national geographic's nature photographer of the year 2017

moving from tragedy and anger to inspiration, national geographic revealed the winners of its annual nature photographer of the year contest. and as you might have expected, every shot from the grand prize winner down to the honorable mentions and people's choice awards were fantastic.

the grand prize went to photographer jayaprakash joghee bojan of singapore, who beat out 11,000 other entries with his intense wildlife portrait of an orangutan crossing a river in indonesia’s tanjung puting national park.

read the full story


photos courtesy of national geographic nature photographer of the year 2017

a fully loaded imac pro will cost you $13,200

on december 14th, apple finally put the "most powerful mac ever," its new imac pro, up for sale. and now that the powerhouse of an all-in-one is live on the apple store online, we were able to check how much a fully loaded version would cost you.

no surprise here: an 18-core imac pro with 128gb of ram, a 4tb ssd and radeon pro vega 64 graphics card costs about as much as a modest sedan!

read the full story


photo: apple

dxomark: the full-frame leica m10 is 'on par' with the best aps-c sensors

dxomark finished their review of the leica m10 sensor this week, giving the sensor an overall score of 86.

the good news: this means that the sensor inside the m10 outperforms almost every other digital leica ever made, coming in second only to the leica sl with its overall score of 88.

the bad news: the expensive camera still falls significantly short of the top-of-the-line full-frame sensors out there, performing "more on par" with the best aps-c sensors dxomark has tested.

read the full story


photo: dpreview hands-on photo by barney britton






shooting kīlauea volcano, part 2: grounded

in the first part of this series, i talked about shooting kilauea's lava surface-flows using a drone. now, i'd like to take a step back and talk about shooting the lava in a more traditional method: using a dslr on the ground.

if you're inside the hawaii volcanoes national park and can't fly a drone, this is the only affordable way of shooting the surface flows. but even if a drone is an option, shooting from the ground is different and will give you unique opportunities and some challenges.

shooting with a dslr might be the least technically challenging way of shooting the lava in kilauea, but it's not as easy as you might think.

first of all, there's the challenge of traversing the lava on foot. you're basically walking on very hard, sometimes jagged terrain, and moving from point to point searching for compositions can be strenuous. as i've mentioned before, it's a 7-8 km hike to get to the surface flow area, but there's much more hiking on location to get the actual shots.

when shooting, you often want to get as close as possible to the lava, in order to get more detail and/or a desired perspective. this might be a problem in some cases, as the lava is about 1100 degrees centigrade, and this temperature can be felt very well even from several meters away.

in some of the shots, i felt like i was inside an oven. i had to find my composition quickly, take a few images, and run away, since staying there would become unbearable after several seconds.

this particular shot has a slightly narrower depth of field than i'd like it to have. the reason is that lava was flowing underground very close to where i was standing, and because of the intense heat, i didn't have the time to set the tripod. i had to shoot hand held and run for my life!

protective gear is very important. the bare minimum would be a long-sleeve shirt, sturdy, ankle-high hiking boots, long pants and, of course, gloves. the latter are needed both because the skin on your hands is struck by radiating heat from the lava, and because the tripod can get very hot after staying near the lava for some time. i would also recommend a beanie to protect your forehead and ears from the heat.

don't neglect listening to your body—if you ignore the heat and the pain, you might find yourself with second-degree burns. i've mentioned it before, but a good guide is very important when hiking to dangerous surroundings, and can keep you in the safe zone (if you so wish).

last but not least, there's the heat-haze problem. the heat creates this well-known blur, which means some shots cannot turn out sharp, no matter how well-focused they are.

a decent solution can be waiting for the wind to blow the hot air and supply a short relief from the haze, but the wind doesn't always cooperate. you're left with the option of talking multiple shots in hope that some turn out relatively sharp. another approach is using the haze to your benefit in an artistic way. it surely conveys the feeling of heat to the viewer.

the hawaiian sunset is brief, which means the really good light is short-lived, and after that's gone you're going to need a tripod to keep stable. this naturally makes shooting much more cumbersome, and prevents the shoot-and-run-away technique mentioned above. the upside is that there's beautiful contrasty details to be shot, which makes for good abstracts.

regarding photographic equipment, i mostly used the telephoto end of my focal-length range. one lens i didn't use was my 11-24mm, since it was way too wide, and the 16-35 was also left in the bag most of the time. the lenses i used the most were my 24-70mm and especially my 70-300mm.

the latter enabled me to get the intimate details of the lava from a safe (or rather possible) distance.

next time i'll talk about shooting the lava from a boat.


erez marom is a professional nature photographer, photography guide and traveler based in israel. you can follow erez's work on instagram and facebook, and subscribe to his mailing list for updates.

if you'd like to experience and shoot some of the most fascinating landscapes on earth with erez as your guide, take a look at his unique photography workshops in locations such as southern iceland, northern iceland, the lofoten islands, patagonia, greenland, namibia and the faroe islands.

more in the kīlauea series:

part 1: how to melt a drone

selected articles by erez marom:






the olympus tg-5 and nikon coolpix w300 go to puerto rico

josé francisco salgado is an astronomer, science photographer, and visual artist. his series of science & symphony films that have been presented in more than 200 concerts in 15 countries. he is a native of puerto rico.

editor's note: the events described in this article took place several weeks prior to the arrival of hurricane maria, which caused catastrophic damage to puerto rico and other islands in the caribbean.


last summer i traveled to puerto rico to do some night photography for a new science & symphony film i'm producing. i was planning to photograph the milky way and the ocean at the same time, though it's difficult to visit tropical beaches and limit yourself to work.

i shoot my time-lapse sequences with nikon dslrs, but decided to bring along two 'rugged' cameras, the nikon coolpix w300 and olympus tg-5, for casual shooting. these point-and-shoot cameras are shockproof (rated to resist drops from at least 2.1m / 7ft) and waterproof (to depths of at least 15.2m / 50ft), so my motivation was to use them while snorkeling with my fiancée, paula.

she was more than happy to try these cameras, and since she's not a professional photographer i thought it would be good to get her impressions of them as well. i wanted to find out how intuitive the controls were myself, so i decided to consult the manuals only when needed.

olympus tg-5 sample gallery

one big difference between the cameras that's worth calling out is raw support: the tg-5 allows you to capture raw images, but the w300 shoots only in jpeg. i found myself processing the images from both cameras quite a bit in adobe lightroom to get pleasing results, though with the nikon i was limited to editing out-of-camera jpegs.

i really like the fact that both cameras have built-in gps for geotagging photos. (you can read the metadata in the sample galleries if you want to know exactly where these photos were taken.) unfortunately, after returning from the trip i noticed that the cameras, especially the tg-5, didn't geotag consistently.

nikon w300 sample gallery

since the w300 doesn't save raw files, i've included both out-of-camera jpegs and my edited jpegs in this sample gallery.

after landing in san juan, we headed eastward toward our base in playa azul in luquillo. playa azul, aka the costa azul, is a beach with golden sand and turquoise water. we took some photos along the surf and started to familiarize ourselves with the cameras. paula noticed how much easier it was to operate the zoom lever on the tg-5, which is sideways and closer to the shutter, than on the w300, which moves up and down. nevertheless, the optical zoom itself worked well in both cameras. paula also preferred the grip on the tg-5.

we then headed to cabo rojo in the southwest corner of the island to photograph the disk of our galaxy setting in the caribbean sea in the context of the rugged coastline and promontory of los morrillos. we returned to the site during the day with our point-and-shoot cameras to photograph the coastline and the popular stone bridge.

puerto rico's playa azul has golden sand and turquoise water.
olympus tg-5
iso 100 | 1/400 sec. | f8
photo by paula bressman

after cabo rojo, we spent a night at the punta tuna wetlands nature reserve in maunabo in order to photograph the milky way and the punta tuna lighthouse. we did some scouting around the wetland and playa larga, where we appreciated the advantage of shooting in raw on the tg-5. in the split-screen image below, you can see how much more information i was able to extract by processing the raw file in lightroom.

olympus tg-5 (sooc) olympus tg-5 (processed in lightroom)

our next site was culebra, an island-municipality east of puerto rico, which is quickly reached by plane. during the 15-minute flight, paula captured a nice photo of a young boy transfixed by the view from the small plane using the w300. i was able to pull a bit more shadow detail from the jpeg file, but decided not to so the viewer could focus on the boy's attentive face.

then it was finally time to take the cameras underwater, so we took them to a couple of beaches in culebra, playa melones and playa tamarindo. (we preferred playa melones due to its abundance of coral reefs and marine life.)

to use the cameras underwater all you need to do is secure a lock (or two, in the case of the tg-5) and enjoy! considering that these cameras don't float, i recommend using the included straps to avoid accidental loss in deep water. regardless of how much underwater photography you're interested in doing, it's good to know that you can bring these cameras into the water instead of leaving them unattended on the beach.

my fiancée, paula, captured this photo during our flight to culebra.
nikon w300
iso 400 | 1/1000 sec. | f2.8
photo by paula bressman

the color rendition on the tg-5's underwater photos was much better, so i decided to shoot more with it while snorkeling. underwater, colors change based on lighting conditions, depth, water transparency, and amount of sunlight, so i was also intrigued to see how the tg-5's flash would perform underwater. i found that many of the images came out overexposed or washed out, so i stuck to using the best natural light possible (read waiting for passing clouds).

the tg-5 has an underwater mode that, according to the manual, is optimized for underwater photography using natural light, so i decided to use it. according to the manual it should automatically set the iso sensitivity with a priority on image quality. that is, the camera starts with a low iso value and sets the corresponding exposure parameters (speed and aperture), then increases the iso value as needed.

snorkeling near playa tamarindo.
olympus tg-5
iso 100 | 1/320 sec. | f2.8
photo by jose francisco salgado

as sunlight started to diminish, it surprised me that the tg-5 would lower the speed all the way down to 1/60 second while maintaining iso 100 instead of increasing the iso! i understand that auto-iso increases the iso as a last recourse, but i was shooting in underwater mode. this mode should consider that sea currents are moving the photographer, who is often trying to capture moving fish or other animals. a speed of 1/60 second won't cut it.

i decided to manually change the iso to a higher value, but alas, it was impossible to figure out how to change this setting without reading the manual, and therein lies my frustration. i can deal with a program mode not giving the results that i expect, however i do expect to be able to look at the buttons and quickly figure out how to change the parameters that i need to change. the problem wasn't pressing small buttons underwater, but not having an intuitive way to change values. as a result, some of the sea creatures i photographed are motion-blurred. nevertheless, i'm content the photos i got of the carey de concha (hawksbill sea turtle).

throughout a day of snorkeling i got the impression that battery life on the w300 was underwhelming compared to the tg-5.

shooting underwater with the olympus tg-5.

on our last day in culebra, stormy weather moved into the caribbean. conditions were windy, but safe, so we hopped into our rented golf cart and ventured out to enjoy two beaches which have been rated among the most beautiful in the world, playa flamenco and playa zoní.

upon arrival at the playa zoní, it took us sixty seconds to make new friends, magdamarys, michelle, and javier. michelle, an awesome salsa dance instructor, proceeded to teach paula how to salsa as seen in the video below, shot with the w300. it was the perfect way to end our stay in culebra.

i captured this salsa dancing at playa zoní, considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, using the nikon w300.

back on the main island, we used the cameras one last time in el yunque rainforest, where paula enjoyed the cool and refreshing water of the juan diego waterfall.

video of the juan diego waterfall in el yunque rainforest, captured by the olympus tg-5.

final thoughts

although we didn't drop or mishandle these cameras, they appear to be very rugged. they're definitely waterproof, and it was easy to operate them underwater, however the user interfaces could be much simpler. i have apps on my iphone than can control the camera in a simpler and more intuitive way than either of these cameras. then there's image quality. lack of raw support on the w300, and the poor image quality of the resulting jpeg files, disqualifies the camera for me.

although i appreciated having more processing latitude with the tg-5's raw files, that doesn't mean i'm very impressed with the image quality either. nevertheless, it's definitely superior to the image quality produced by the w300, even when comparing out-of-camera jpegs. when processing images from the tg-5 be ready to correct for chromatic aberration, because it can be severe (this wasn't an issue with the w300).

although i appreciated having more processing latitude with the tg-5's raw files, that doesn't mean i'm very impressed with the image quality either.

the tg-5 also failed to focus several times under normal indoor lighting conditions, including once outside right after sunset. i didn't encounter any focusing issues with the w300. i was also happy to see that the tg-5 has a panorama feature, but it completely failed several times and produced horribly stitched images.

these cameras are a great option for you if you're looking for a rugged point-and-shoot camera that works underwater, which is their main strength. if you're just looking for a camera that's more compact than a dslr, or that has a better zoom range than your smartphone, they'll work for that as well. however, considering the prices, you might also want to consider other compact cameras or even stick with your smartphone.

readers wishing to contribute to ongoing hurricane relief efforts in puerto rico are encouraged to visit united for puerto rico.


josé francisco salgado, phd is an emmy-nominated astronomer, science photographer, visual artist, and public speaker who creates multimedia works that communicate science in engaging ways. his science & symphony films with kv 265 have been presented in more than 200 concerts and lectures in 15 countries.

josé francisco is a seasoned night sky and aurora photographer and filmmaker. if you would like to view, photograph, and learn about the northern lights then you can inquire about his borealis science & photo tours in yellowknife, canada.

you can follow him on: flickr, instagram, 500px, facebook, and twitter






have your say: best entry-level ilc of 2017

the most important camera you'll ever own is the first one you buy. this year was relatively quiet on the entry-level ilc front, but the quality of the cameras released in this market segment was universally excellent. vote while you can – polls close monday!






have your say: best mid-range ilc of 2017

this year saw several cameras released in the mid-range ilc class, from full-frame dslrs to super-compact aps-c mirrorless models. take a look for a reminder of the key mid-range ilcs released in 2017, and don't forget to vote for your favorites.






canon powershot g9 x mark ii review

the powershot g9 x mark ii is an ultra-compact camera that features a larger-than-average 1"-type cmos sensor. it serves as the entry-level model in canon's gx-x series, and has an msrp of $529. being the entry-level model, canon has given the camera a touchscreen-based interface that will be familiar to smartphone owners who are looking to trade up to something better.

the main problems with the original g9 x were performance related. continuous shooting was slow, especially when using raw or continuous autofocus, the menus were sluggish and the battery didn't last for long.

the g9 x mark ii took care of most of the performance problems, due mostly to its new digic 7 processor. the burst rate is faster, buffer larger and interface snappier. while improved, battery life still isn't great, though an 'eco mode' gives you another 80 shots above the industry-standard cipa estimate of 235. canon also added in-camera raw processing, bluetooth capability and improved image stabilization for video shooting.

key features

  • 20.1mp 1"-type bsi cmos sensor
  • digic 7 processor
  • 28-84mm equivalent f2-4.9 lens
  • built-in neutral density filter
  • 3" touchscreen lcd
  • up to 8.2 fps burst shooting
  • 1080/60p video capture
  • in-camera raw conversion
  • wi-fi with nfc and bluetooth

the g9 x ii's 20mp sensor is found on all of canon's 1"-type compacts, and is likely the same one found on sony's rx100 iii. the digic 7 processor is what took care of the original g9 x's performance issues, and it makes a world of difference. as before, there's a built-in 3-stop nd filter, with on/off/auto settings. while essentially all cameras now have wi-fi, the bluetooth feature is a nice extra, as it allows for very quick re-pairing between camera and smartphone.

compared to...

the camera that is most similar to the g9 x mark ii is sony's original rx100. it has an older sensor than the g9 x ii, but it's closer in price than its successor, the rx100 ii. we're throwing in the slightly more expensive panasonic lx10, as well as the g9 x ii's step-up model, the g7 x ii, into the chart below.

canon g9 x ii canon g9 x sony rx100 canon g7 x ii panasonic lx10
msrp $529 $529 $449 $699 $699
sensor 20mp bsi-cmos 20mp cmos 20mp bsi-cmos
lens (equiv) 28-84mm 28-100mm 24-100mm 24-72mm
max aperture f2.0-4.9 f1.8-4.9 f1.8-2.8 f1.4-2.8
lcd 3" fixed 3" tilting
touchscreen yes yes no yes yes
burst rate

8.1 fps (af-s)
5.3 fps (af-c)

6 fps (af-s)
4.3 fps (af-c)

10 fps (af-s)
2.5 fps (af-c)

8 fps (af-s)
5.4 fps (af-c)
10 fps (af-s)
6 fps (af-c)
video 1080/60p uhd 4k/30p
wi-fi yes, with nfc+bt yes, with nfc no yes, with nfc yes
battery life 235 shots 220 shots 330 shots 265 shots 260 shots
dimensions
(w x h x d)
98 x 58 x 31 mm 98 x 58 x 31 mm 102 x 58 x 36 mm 106 x 61 x 42 mm 106 x 60 x 42 mm
weight 206 g 209 g 240 g 319 g 310 g

look at the spec comparisons, there doesn't appear to be much of a difference between the g9 x mark ii and its predecessor. same sensor, same lens, same display. that's because most of the changes are under the hood, which boost its burst rate, battery life (barely) and reduces overall sluggishness.

the g9 x ii gets mixed results in terms of spec compared to its peers, though again, it's an entry-level model. on one hand, it's the smallest and lightest in the group, with a fast burst rate and wi-fi with all the trimmings. its lens is the real weakness: it's slow (more on that below) and has a focal range that doesn't have a lot of reach. while better than on the original model, battery life on the g9 x ii is poor, so bring along a spare battery if you're out for the day.

lens comparison

just like 'equivalent focal length' that we use throughout the site, equivalent apertures allow you to compare image quality potential across cameras with different sensor sizes by taking sensor size into account. the equivalent aperture figure gives a clear idea of how two lenses compare in terms of depth-of-field. it's also related to diffraction, which reduces sharpness as the aperture is stopped down. in other words, the higher the f-number, the softer the images will be.

finally, equivalent aperture also gives an idea of low-light performance, since it also describes how much light is available, taking into account the sensor's entire area. however, differences in sensor performance mean this can only be used as a guide, rather than an absolute measure.

that pink line represents the g9 x ii and, as you can see, it quickly ascends to the top of graph. once you hit around 35mm, the equivalent aperture is ~f7.6 equivalent, which is getting into diffraction territory. at its worst the g9 x ii is about a stop slower than the rx100, which most likely gives the latter a slight image quality advantage. the step-up model from the g9 x ii, the g7 x ii, is roughly 1.5 stops faster. this loss of low light capability and potential for control over depth-of-field is the price you pay to keep the camera so pocketable.






disney's 21st century fox acquisition means it will now own national geographic

earlier this week, a major entertainment industry merger was announced: disney is planning to buy 21st century fox for a whopping $52.4 billion. but while this might seem unrelated to the world of photography at first blush, a closer look reveals something pretty important.

if the purchase is allowed to go through, disney will be the majority stake holder in national geographic, taking over the 73% controlling share that fox purchased in september of 2015.

in the scope of the entire deal, fox's share in national geographic might seem like small potatoes—the entertainment giant bought nat geo for just $725 million (less that 1/50th what they are being bought for) and immediately set about cutting costs further by slashing 9% of nat geo's workforce. but fans of the iconic brand will pay close attention to see what disney plans to do with it.

for now, all we know is that national geographic will join pixar, espn, marvel and many more well-known brands in disney's so-called "swollen portfolio" of entertainment assets.






how to photograph the northern lights

after publishing my recent 2017 gear of the year article, in which i highlighted a lens i used for shooting the aurora borealis, numerous people reached out to ask if i would write a follow-up article on how to photograph auroras. so, i decided to team up with dpreview contributor, astrophotographer, and aurora tour guide, josé francisco salgado, to share some insight into capturing this amazing natural phenomena.

the aurora is the earth's own special effects show, seen here from grundarfjörður, iceland.
iso 2500 | 30 sec. | f2.8
photo by josé franciso salgado

what causes the lights?

the northern lights, or aurora borealis, are natural displays of light that occur in the upper part of earth’s atmosphere due to interaction between charged particles from the sun and the earth's magnetic field and atmosphere.

the sun releases charged particles (including electrons) into space in a continuous stream, called solar wind, as well as in sudden and violent releases called coronal mass ejections. several days after leaving the sun, these particles can reach our planet. most are deflected by the earth's magnetic field, but some find themselves inside the magnetic field and populate reservoirs within the field. different events, including interactions with the solar wind, accelerate these particles towards an oval around the magnetic poles.

the northern lights are produced when these charged particles, guided by the magnetic field of the earth, precipitate through the atmosphere and collide with nitrogen and oxygen. these collisions lead to atomic processes called ionization and excitation, which result in the emission of lights of varying color. a corresponding phenomenon in the southern hemisphere is called the southern lights, or aurora australis.

the aurora occurs when charged particles, guided by the earth's magnetic field, collide with nitrogen molecules and oxygen atoms in the upper atmosphere.
iso 6400 | 3 sec. | f2.8
photo by josé francisco salgado

getting to where the auroras are visible

auroras are typically produced in a band known as the auroral zone, which can be 3° to 6° wide in latitude and between 10° and 20° from the geomagnetic poles. this means that auroras are normally seen at very high latitudes (north and south). the region where auroras occur at any given time is called called the auroral oval. auroras are also produced in the dayside of the earth, but since sunlight is about a million times brighter this renders them invisible during the day.

although it's easier to see auroras at higher latitudes, solar activity can cause the auroral oval to enlarge, making them visible at lower latitudes, including the northern regions of the continental us. since geomagnetic activity responds to solar activity several days later, it's possible to forecast auroral activity to help with your planning.

noaa provides long-term (3 days) and short-term (30 min) aurora forecasts online. also, there are several alert systems including email notifications from spaceweather.com or smartphone apps that can provide alerts when the aurora is active at your location, such as my aurora forecast & alerts (iphone; android) and aurorasaurus (iphone; android).

noaa's 30-minute forecast shows the intensity and location of the aurora forecast for the time shown at the top of the map.

when northern lights are forecast to be visible, find an open field with an unobstructed view of the north. if you don't want to wait for that to happen, or if you want to see the most intense aurora, you'll need to move to higher latitudes. before traveling to a particular northern location, consider three factors:

  • is the location within the auroral zone?
  • is the weather usually clear at that location during the month you're planning to visit? (clouds occur at much lower altitudes than auroras, which occur above 100 km.)
  • will local light pollution impede your observations and photography? the website lightpolutionmap.info can be of assistance here.

some locations to consider are:

  • fairbanks, alaska
  • yellowknife, nt, canada
  • churchill, mb, canada
  • outside reykjavik, iceland
  • norwegian lapland, norway
  • swedish lapland, sweden
  • finnish lapland, finland
  • stewart island, new zealand
  • ushuaia, argentina
  • antarctica
photographing the northern (or southern) lights is not very difficult, but you do need to get to a location where you can see them. one of the advantages of shooting from frozen lakes in yellowknife, canada, is the unobstructed views they provide of the entire sky.
iso 5000 | 5 sec. | f2.8

remember, locations at extreme latitudes will have almost no nighttime close to the summer solstice, so avoid visiting these place from mid-april to mid-august in the northern hemisphere, or mid-october to mid-february in the southern hemisphere.

equipment

there’s no ‘correct’ gear for taking pictures of the auroras, but having the right equipment can translate into higher quality images and provide more creative options.

camera: a camera with a full frame sensor will provide better high iso performance than those with smaller sensors. that said, modern sensors are extraordinarily good, and it’s possible to get great aurora photos even if you don’t have a full frame sensor, so don’t let that stop you. on a recent trip, some friends of ours captured great aurora pictures using a sony rx100 iii, a camera with a 1”-type sensor.

this photo was captured using a sony rx100 iii, a camera with a 1"-type sensor. the big dipper and ursa major can be seen in the sky behind the aurora.
iso 3200 | 6 sec. | f1.8
photo by steve and colleen mcclure

lens: a fast, wide lens will let you capture as much light as possible. anything wider than 24mm will work, though a 14mm or 16mm lens will allow for more dramatic shots. a lens with a maximum aperture of f2.8 is a good starting point, but faster is better. for example, a lens with an aperture of f1.8 has 2.5x the light gathering ability of a f2.8 lens. that’s a big difference in low light.

tripod: exposures are usually measured in seconds, so a sturdy tripod is a must. ‘sturdy’ is the key word. it doesn’t have to be a fancy, state of the art carbon fiber model. as long as it holds your camera steady it will do the trick.

there are some optional accessories worth considering as well. if you plan to capture time-lapse sequences, an intervalometer is required, and these are included on many cameras today. a remote trigger, such as a cable release or smartphone app, will make it easy to trigger the shutter without touching your camera. finally, since you’re working in the dark, a headlamp that allows you to see what you’re doing while leaving your hands free to work will be useful. (fellow observers will appreciate you using a headlamp with a red light.)

footage from the legend of the northern lights, a film shot and produced by josé francisco salgado to augment symphony orchestra concerts. these time-lapse sequences were shot in 2014 with the nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8g lens on a nikon d4 and d3s.

taking photos

shooting aurora isn’t technically difficult, but every night is different and you may need to experiment a bit. it’s best to operate your camera in manual mode, with manual focus, for predictable, consistent results.

file format: set your camera to capture raw files. this provides the best image quality and the most latitude for making adjustments in post processing, particularly useful if you need to tweak settings like exposure or white balance. don't depend on a manufacturer’s baked-in jpeg profile.

focus: focusing directly on the aurora is little bit like trying to focus on smoke. fortunately, relative to your position, the aurora is effectively at infinity. it may be tempting to just rotate the focus ring on your lens to the infinity marker, but on many lenses that’s really more of an approximation.

aurora in canada's northwest territories.
iso 3200 | 4 sec. | f2.8
photo by dale baskin

if you’re focusing at night, use your camera’s live view feature. point the camera at the brightest star you can see, magnify the view to the maximum, and rotate the focus ring until the disk of the star looks the smallest. once you think you’ve achieved critical focus, take a test shot and review the image for sharpness. if adjustment is needed, repeat.

once focus is achieved, a useful technique is to lock the focus ring in place with gaffer’s tape to prevent it from moving. alternatively, you can place marks on the lens with a marker in order to return the ring to the same position. these methods can also be used if you want to focus on a distant object during the day and save the focus position for later.

aperture: set your lens to its widest aperture to let in as much light as possible. if you’re concerned about optical performance wide open you can stop the lens down a bit, but doing so will quickly reduce the amount of light reaching the sensor. if at all possible, shoot at f2.8 or wider.

shutter speed: optimal shutter speed will depend on the brightness of the aurora and how quickly it’s moving. a short shutter speed will capture detail and structure that would otherwise be averaged out over a longer exposure. on the other hand, a slight motion blur can make an aurora photo more aesthetically pleasing. take a few test shots to find the optimal balance, but 5-10 seconds is a good starting point to work from.

if the lights are dancing around quickly, shorter shutter speeds will let you capture more of the detail and structure of the aurora that would be otherwise be averaged out in a longer exposure.
iso 1600 | 3.2 sec. | f1.8
photo by dale baskin

iso: set your iso to the highest level that gives you acceptably clean results on your camera. this will allow you to keep shutter speeds as low as possible in order to capture more detail in the aurora. depending on conditions, you may be able to get by with iso 800, though you may have to go to 6400 or higher.

long exposure noise reduction: if you’re planning to take individual photos, turning this on will provide some benefit; however, it will effectively double exposure time while the camera shoots a dark frame. if you plan to shoot time-lapse sequences, leave this feature off to avoid long delays between exposures.

other considerations

embrace the landscape. part of what makes the aurora interesting are the remote places where it’s frequently seen. in alaska, photos may contain mountains. in northern canada, it might be silhouettes of trees in the taiga forest. iceland might present you with glaciers. each place is unique and part of the story behind the photo.

embrace landscape features and even man-made objects to enhance your aurora photos.
iso 6400 | 8 sec. | f2.8
photo by josé francisco salgado

when creating compositions, think about other features or objects you could include. snow and water can reflect light from the aurora, though in very different ways. man-made structures can provide interesting elements in a scene or silhouettes. since a wide aperture will produce a shallow depth of field, avoid objects close to the camera unless you want them to be way out of focus on purpose.

know your equipment. depending on where you are, aurora can quickly go from being a slow, undulating wave to a rapidly moving, multi-colored light show. be prepared to shift gears and adjust your settings quickly to avoid missing great photo opportunities.

finally, be patient. mother nature works on her own schedule, and you’ll need to work around it. if at first you don’t succeed, keep trying. it’s worth it.


josé francisco salgado, phd is an emmy-nominated astronomer, science photographer, visual artist, and public speaker who creates multimedia works that communicate science in engaging ways. his science & symphony films through kv 265 have been presented in 200 concerts and lectures in 15 countries.

josé francisco is a seasoned night sky and aurora photographer and filmmaker. if you would like to view, photograph, and learn about the northern lights then you can inquire about his borealis science & photo tours in yellowknife, canada.

you can follow him on: flickr, instagram, 500px, facebook, and twitter






canon powershot g9 x mark ii review

the powershot g9 x mark ii is an ultra-compact camera that features a larger-than-average 1"-type cmos sensor. it serves as the entry-level model in canon's gx-x series, and has an msrp of $529. being the entry-level model, canon has given the camera a touchscreen-based interface that will be familiar to smartphone owners who are looking to trade up to something better.

the main problems with the original g9 x were performance related. continuous shooting was slow, especially when using raw or continuous autofocus, the menus were sluggish and the battery didn't last for long.

the g9 x mark ii took care of most of the performance problems, due mostly to its new digic 7 processor. the burst rate is faster, buffer larger and interface snappier. while improved, battery life still isn't great, though an 'eco mode' gives you another 80 shots above the industry-standard cipa estimate of 235. canon also added in-camera raw processing, bluetooth capability and improved image stabilization for video shooting.

key features

  • 20.1mp 1"-type bsi cmos sensor
  • digic 7 processor
  • 28-84mm equivalent f2-4.9 lens
  • built-in neutral density filter
  • 3" touchscreen lcd
  • up to 8.2 fps burst shooting
  • 1080/60p video capture
  • in-camera raw conversion
  • wi-fi with nfc and bluetooth

the g9 x ii's 20mp sensor is found on all of canon's 1"-type compacts, and is likely the same one found on sony's rx100 iii. the digic 7 processor is what took care of the original g9 x's performance issues, and it makes a world of difference. as before, there's a built-in 3-stop nd filter, with on/off/auto settings. while essentially all cameras now have wi-fi, the bluetooth feature is a nice extra, as it allows for very quick re-pairing between camera and smartphone.

compared to...

the camera that is most similar to the g9 x mark ii is sony's original rx100. it has an older sensor than the g9 x ii, but it's closer in price than its successor, the rx100 ii. we're throwing in the slightly more expensive panasonic lx10, as well as the g9 x ii's step-up model, the g7 x ii, into the chart below.

canon g9 x ii canon g9 x sony rx100 canon g7 x ii panasonic lx10
msrp $529 $529 $449 $699 $699
sensor 20mp bsi-cmos 20mp cmos 20mp bsi-cmos
lens (equiv) 28-84mm 28-100mm 24-100mm 24-72mm
max aperture f2.0-4.9 f1.8-4.9 f1.8-2.8 f1.4-2.8
lcd 3" fixed 3" tilting
touchscreen yes yes no yes yes
burst rate

8.1 fps (af-s)
5.3 fps (af-c)

6 fps (af-s)
4.3 fps (af-c)

10 fps (af-s)
2.5 fps (af-c)

8 fps (af-s)
5.4 fps (af-c)
10 fps (af-s)
6 fps (af-c)
video 1080/60p uhd 4k/30p
wi-fi yes, with nfc+bt yes, with nfc no yes, with nfc yes
battery life 235 shots 220 shots 330 shots 265 shots 260 shots
dimensions
(w x h x d)
98 x 58 x 31 mm 98 x 58 x 31 mm 102 x 58 x 36 mm 106 x 61 x 42 mm 106 x 60 x 42 mm
weight 206 g 209 g 240 g 319 g 310 g

look at the spec comparisons, there doesn't appear to be much of a difference between the g9 x mark ii and its predecessor. same sensor, same lens, same display. that's because most of the changes are under the hood, which boost its burst rate, battery life (barely) and reduces overall sluggishness.

the g9 x ii gets mixed results in terms of spec compared to its peers, though again, it's an entry-level model. on one hand, it's the smallest and lightest in the group, with a fast burst rate and wi-fi with all the trimmings. its lens is the real weakness: it's slow (more on that below) and has a focal range that doesn't have a lot of reach. while better than on the original model, battery life on the g9 x ii is poor, so bring along a spare battery if you're out for the day.

lens comparison

just like 'equivalent focal length' that we use throughout the site, equivalent apertures allow you to compare image quality potential across cameras with different sensor sizes by taking sensor size into account. the equivalent aperture figure gives a clear idea of how two lenses compare in terms of depth-of-field. it's also related to diffraction, which reduces sharpness as the aperture is stopped down. in other words, the higher the f-number, the softer the images will be.

finally, equivalent aperture also gives an idea of low-light performance, since it also describes how much light is available, taking into account the sensor's entire area. however, differences in sensor performance mean this can only be used as a guide, rather than an absolute measure.

that pink line represents the g9 x ii and, as you can see, it quickly ascends to the top of graph. once you hit around 35mm, the equivalent aperture is ~f7.6 equivalent, which is getting into diffraction territory. at its worst the g9 x ii is about a stop slower than the rx100, which most likely gives the latter a slight image quality advantage. the step-up model from the g9 x ii, the g7 x ii, is roughly 1.5 stops faster. this loss of low light capability and potential for control over depth-of-field is the price you pay to keep the camera so pocketable.






broncolor releases hss-capable rfs 2.2 flash trigger for fujifilm cameras

broncolor has launched the rfs 2.2 f for fujifilm cameras. the new transmitter-receiver was made in collaboration with godox, making it possible for fujifilm owners to use broncolor's pack systems and monolights. when used with supported products, namely broncolor's move and siros lines, rfs 2.2 f supports high speed flash sync speeds up to 1/8000s. the device is also backward compatible with senso, scoro, and other rfs 2-enabled products.

the transceiver, which was previously launched for canon, nikon, and sony, features a rotary control wheel alongside a backlit lcd and pc sync/hot shoe pass-through. likewise, the rfs 2.2 f supports up to 99 studio channels with up to 40 lamp groups per channel. radio connectivity range spans up to 100m / 300ft.

broncolor says the rfs 2.2 for fujifilm is available as a preorder for $112, with shipping planned to start "later in december." but as the phoblographer noted yesterday, godox itself offers a very similar fujifilm hss transmitter for less than half the cost, at $46.






leica unveils limited run of 100 red leica m (typ 262) bodies

leica has released a series of 100 limited edition leica m bodies with red anodized top and base plates. the company says the red hue of the cameras makes a bold statement, though some might argue the nearly-$7,000 price tag is slightly more daring.

the cameras will be technically identical to the existing m (typ 262) with the lightweight aluminum top plate and base, and no video or live view modes. the company says the red body will match the red 50mm f2 apo summicron-m lens that it launched in equally limited numbers in november of 2015, though new owners of the red camera would be very lucky indeed to find one of those red lenses still on the shelves.

the red anodized m bodies will be sold through leica’s own stores starting today. by comparison, a standard m (typ 262) costs $5595/£4680.

for more information, visit the leica website.

press release

leica camera unveils special edition m camera with striking red anodized finish

the leica m (typ 262) ‘red anodized finish’ is limited to just 100 units worldwide

december 14, 2017 – leica camera presents a special new addition to the leica rangefinder system – the leica m (typ 262) ‘red anodized finish’. the unique color scheme of this special edition camera takes the classic styling of the leica m and couples it with the bold statement of a bright red hue. the top plate and baseplate of the leica m (typ 262) are machined from solid aluminum and anodized in red. this lends the camera a unique look that perfectly matches the color of the special edition leica apo-summicron-m 50 mm f/2 asph. lens released in 2016. the exclusiveness of this striking edition is further underlined by the strictly limited number being made available: as was the case with the lens, the leica m (typ 262) ‘red anodized finish’ edition is limited to just 100 cameras worldwide, each with a unique serial number.

the technical specifications of the special edition camera are identical to those of the standard production leica m (typ 262). with its concentration on the functions essential for photography and intuitive handling, it is the perfect camera for experiencing the pure enjoyment of leica m-photography. the leica m (typ 262) embodies all the essential advantages of the leica rangefinder system, while consciously eschewing extraneous features that can distract from the pure rangefinder experience. its full-frame cmos sensor is conceived exclusively for rangefinder photography and intentionally does without additional functions such as live view and video recording. its 24-megapixel resolution ensures exceptional imaging quality and extreme sensitivity to light, which also makes the leica m (typ 262) a perfect camera for photography in any available light situation. supporting the sensor’s versatility to capture top-quality photographs in any situation, the camera’s maestro processor guarantees fast processing of captured images and immediate readiness to shoot.

the handling of the leica m (typ 262) fulfills everything that discerning photographers expect from a leica m. all controls and functions are logically and ergonomically located exactly where the photographer expects them to be. just like every other m, it allows fast manual focusing with the coupled rangefinder and the focusing ring of the lens. it also offers a choice of manual or automatic aperture priority exposure. due to the omission of live-view and video capability, the menu is extremely lean and consists of only two pages. this ensures that all camera settings are easily and rapidly accessible at all times. this also applies to white balance, where the m (typ 262) has a dedicated wb button on the back of the camera.

the leica m (typ 262) ‘red anodized finish’ will be available exclusively at leica stores and boutiques beginning today, for the price of $6,995.00.






dxomark: the full-frame leica m10 is 'on par' with the best aps-c sensors

dxomark has just finished a new sensor test, and for once it's not a "highest rated camera in the world" announcement. instead, the testing and consulting company put the new leica m10 to the test to see how it compares to the rest of the luxury brand's lineup. the results: they're calling it "a classic reinvented."

unlike the top-scoring nikon d850 and sony a7r iii—both of which scored 100 and sit at the top of dxo's full-frame sensor rankings—the m10 pulls in a meeker score of 86. however, that still makes it the second highest scoring leica ever, just behind the leica sl with an overall score of 88.

what's intriguing is that, in terms of sensor performance, the leica m10 actually scores "more on par" with the best aps-c chips dxo has tested, outperforming them significantly only in the low-light iso category thanks to its physically larger sensor:

image: dxomark

dxo summed up these results well for us in an email:

overall, better image quality can be found elsewhere for less money, but the leica offers first-class engineering, and a digital camera with similar proportions to analog m cameras will be hugely appealing to leica enthusiasts. add to that compatibility with almost all leica lenses ever made, as well as its simplicity of operation, and the m10 will be an attractive proposition to those who appreciate the quality of the leica system.

no doubt a good chunk of our readers will bold-face and underline what dxo said above: "better image quality can be found elsewhere for less money." but does the massive lens library, top-notch engineering, 'simplicity of operation,' and that pretty red dot help balance out the cost at all?

head over to dxomark to read the full review, and let us know what you think about these results in the comments.






canon patents 400mm f5.6 catadioptric 'mirror' lens

this diagram of the light path through canon's newly-patented 400mm catadioptric lens shows how the mirrors help to 'fold' the light path and decrease the size of the lens.

a new canon lens patent out of japan has been raising eyebrows around the photo community this week. the patent describes a 400mm f5.6 lens, which wouldn't necessarily be newsworthy... except that it's a catadioptric lens (also known as a 'mirror' or 'reflex' lens).

catadioptric lenses went 'out of style' so-to-speak many years ago, but for a time they offered economical and compact alternatives to standard long telephoto lenses. the optical design of these lenses use mirrors to both 'fold' the optical path and magnify the image coming in, allowing for a far more compact design.

take, for example, this vivitar series 1 600mm f8 catadioptric lens:

vivitar series 1 600mm f/8 solid catadioptric lens | photo by pointnshoot (cc by-sa 2.0)

other advantages of a catadioptric lens design includes very nearly eliminating chromatic aberration and off-axis aberration; but, of course, this kind of lens design doesn't come without its drawbacks.

there are two main issues, both of them caused by the central mirrors causing an obstruction in the middle of the lens.

the first of these is that you can't use a standard diaphragm aperture system, a problem this canon patent seems to 'solve' by using a variable density ‘electrochromic’ filter to 'stop down' the lens—although this will obviously not have any impact on depth of field.

the second problem is the donut-shaped bokeh produced by catadioptric lenses:

donut bokeh example | photo by hustvedt (cc by-sa 2.0)

in the end, it seems manufacturers (or consumers) decided that the drawbacks of catadioptric lenses were not worth the ultra-compact design. but as more and more photographers seek to lighten their kit, maybe canon sees an opportunity to bring the 'mirror lens' back into public consciousness.






how to photograph the northern lights

after publishing my recent 2017 gear of the year article, in which i highlighted a lens i used for shooting the aurora borealis, numerous people reached out to ask if i would write a follow-up article on how to photograph auroras. so, i decided to team up with dpreview contributor, astrophotographer, and aurora tour guide, josé francisco salgado, to share some insight into capturing this amazing natural phenomena.

the aurora is the earth's own special effects show, seen here from grundarfjörður, iceland.
iso 2500 | 30 sec. | f2.8
photo by josé franciso salgado

what causes the lights?

the northern lights, or aurora borealis, are natural displays of light that occur in the upper part of earth’s atmosphere due to interaction between charged particles from the sun and the earth's magnetic field and atmosphere.

the sun releases charged particles (including electrons) into space in a continuous stream, called solar wind, as well as in sudden and violent releases called coronal mass ejections. several days after leaving the sun, these particles can reach our planet. most are deflected by the earth's magnetic field, but some find themselves inside the magnetic field and populate reservoirs within the field. different events, including interactions with the solar wind, accelerate these particles towards an oval around the magnetic poles.

the northern lights are produced when these charged particles, guided by the magnetic field of the earth, precipitate through the atmosphere and collide with nitrogen and oxygen. these collisions lead to atomic processes called ionization and excitation, which result in the emission of lights of varying color. a corresponding phenomenon in the southern hemisphere is called the southern lights, or aurora australis.

the aurora occurs when charged particles, guided by the earth's magnetic field, collide with nitrogen molecules and oxygen atoms in the upper atmosphere.
iso 6400 | 3 sec. | f2.8
photo by josé francisco salgado

getting to where the auroras are visible

auroras are typically produced in a band known as the auroral zone, which can be 3° to 6° wide in latitude and between 10° and 20° from the geomagnetic poles. this means that auroras are normally seen at very high latitudes (north and south). the region where auroras occur at any given time is called called the auroral oval. auroras are also produced in the dayside of the earth, but since sunlight is about a million times brighter this renders them invisible during the day.

although it's easier to see auroras at higher latitudes, solar activity can cause the auroral oval to enlarge, making them visible at lower latitudes, including the northern regions of the continental us. since geomagnetic activity responds to solar activity several days later, it's possible to forecast auroral activity to help with your planning.

noaa provides long-term (3 days) and short-term (30 min) aurora forecasts online. also, there are several alert systems including email notifications from spaceweather.com or smartphone apps that can provide alerts when the aurora is active at your location, such as my aurora forecast & alerts (iphone; android) and aurorasaurus (iphone; android).

noaa's 30-minute forecast shows the intensity and location of the aurora forecast for the time shown at the top of the map.

when northern lights are forecast to be visible, find an open field with an unobstructed view of the north. if you don't want to wait for that to happen, or if you want to see the most intense aurora, you'll need to move to higher latitudes. before traveling to a particular northern location, consider three factors:

  • is the location within the auroral zone?
  • is the weather usually clear at that location during the month you're planning to visit? (clouds occur at much lower altitudes than auroras, which occur above 100 km.)
  • will local light pollution impede your observations and photography? the website lightpolutionmap.info can be of assistance here.

some locations to consider are:

  • fairbanks, alaska
  • yellowknife, nt, canada
  • churchill, mb, canada
  • outside reykjavik, iceland
  • norwegian lapland, norway
  • swedish lapland, sweden
  • finnish lapland, finland
  • stewart island, new zealand
  • ushuaia, argentina
  • antarctica
photographing the northern (or southern) lights is not very difficult, but you do need to get to a location where you can see them. one of the advantages of shooting from frozen lakes in yellowknife, canada, is the unobstructed views they provide of the entire sky.
iso 5000 | 5 sec. | f2.8

remember, locations at extreme latitudes will have almost no nighttime close to the summer solstice, so avoid visiting these place from mid-april to mid-august in the northern hemisphere, or mid-october to mid-february in the southern hemisphere.

equipment

there’s no ‘correct’ gear for taking pictures of the auroras, but having the right equipment can translate into higher quality images and provide more creative options.

camera: a camera with a full frame sensor will provide better high iso performance than those with smaller sensors. that said, modern sensors are extraordinarily good, and it’s possible to get great aurora photos even if you don’t have a full frame sensor, so don’t let that stop you. on a recent trip, some friends of ours captured great aurora pictures using a sony rx100 iii, a camera with a 1”-type sensor.

this photo was captured using a sony rx100 iii, a camera with a 1"-type sensor. the big dipper and ursa major can be seen in the sky behind the aurora.
iso 3200 | 6 sec. | f1.8
photo by steve and colleen mcclure

lens: a fast, wide lens will let you capture as much light as possible. anything wider than 24mm will work, though a 14mm or 16mm lens will allow for more dramatic shots. a lens with a maximum aperture of f2.8 is a good starting point, but faster is better. for example, a lens with an aperture of f1.8 has 2.5x the light gathering ability of a f2.8 lens. that’s a big difference in low light.

tripod: exposures are usually measured in seconds, so a sturdy tripod is a must. ‘sturdy’ is the key word. it doesn’t have to be a fancy, state of the art carbon fiber model. as long as it holds your camera steady it will do the trick.

there are some optional accessories worth considering as well. if you plan to capture time-lapse sequences, an intervalometer is required, and these are included on many cameras today. a remote trigger, such as a cable release or smartphone app, will make it easy to trigger the shutter without touching your camera. finally, since you’re working in the dark, a headlamp that allows you to see what you’re doing while leaving your hands free to work will be useful. (fellow observers will appreciate you using a headlamp with a red light.)

footage from the legend of the northern lights, a film shot and produced by josé francisco salgado to augment symphony orchestra concerts. these time-lapse sequences were shot in 2014 with the nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8g lens on a nikon d4 and d3s.

taking photos

shooting aurora isn’t technically difficult, but every night is different and you may need to experiment a bit. it’s best to operate your camera in manual mode, with manual focus, for predictable, consistent results.

file format: set your camera to capture raw files. this provides the best image quality and the most latitude for making adjustments in post processing, particularly useful if you need to tweak settings like exposure or white balance. don't depend on a manufacturer’s baked-in jpeg profile.

focus: focusing directly on the aurora is little bit like trying to focus on smoke. fortunately, relative to your position, the aurora is effectively at infinity. it may be tempting to just rotate the focus ring on your lens to the infinity marker, but on many lenses that’s really more of an approximation.

aurora in canada's northwest territories.
iso 3200 | 4 sec. | f2.8
photo by dale baskin

if you’re focusing at night, use your camera’s live view feature. point the camera at the brightest star you can see, magnify the view to the maximum, and rotate the focus ring until the disk of the star looks the smallest. once you think you’ve achieved critical focus, take a test shot and review the image for sharpness. if adjustment is needed, repeat.

once focus is achieved, a useful technique is to lock the focus ring in place with gaffer’s tape to prevent it from moving. alternatively, you can place marks on the lens with a marker in order to return the ring to the same position. these methods can also be used if you want to focus on a distant object during the day and save the focus position for later.

aperture: set your lens to its widest aperture to let in as much light as possible. if you’re concerned about optical performance wide open you can stop the lens down a bit, but doing so will quickly reduce the amount of light reaching the sensor. if at all possible, shoot at f2.8 or wider.

shutter speed: optimal shutter speed will depend on the brightness of the aurora and how quickly it’s moving. a short shutter speed will capture detail and structure that would otherwise be averaged out over a longer exposure. on the other hand, a slight motion blur can make an aurora photo more aesthetically pleasing. take a few test shots to find the optimal balance, but 5-10 seconds is a good starting point to work from.

if the lights are dancing around quickly, shorter shutter speeds will let you capture more of the detail and structure of the aurora that would be otherwise be averaged out in a longer exposure.
iso 1600 | 3.2 sec. | f1.8
photo by dale baskin

iso: set your iso to the highest level that gives you acceptably clean results on your camera. this will allow you to keep shutter speeds as low as possible in order to capture more detail in the aurora. depending on conditions, you may be able to get by with iso 800, though you may have to go to 6400 or higher.

long exposure noise reduction: if you’re planning to take individual photos, turning this on will provide some benefit; however, it will effectively double exposure time while the camera shoots a dark frame. if you plan to shoot time-lapse sequences, leave this feature off to avoid long delays between exposures.

other considerations

embrace the landscape. part of what makes the aurora interesting are the remote places where it’s frequently seen. in alaska, photos may contain mountains. in northern canada, it might be silhouettes of trees in the taiga forest. iceland might present you with glaciers. each place is unique and part of the story behind the photo.

embrace landscape features and even man-made objects to enhance your aurora photos.
iso 6400 | 8 sec. | f2.8
photo by josé francisco salgado

when creating compositions, think about other features or objects you could include. snow and water can reflect light from the aurora, though in very different ways. man-made structures can provide interesting elements in a scene or silhouettes. since a wide aperture will produce a shallow depth of field, avoid objects close to the camera unless you want them to be way out of focus on purpose.

know your equipment. depending on where you are, aurora can quickly go from being a slow, undulating wave to a rapidly moving, multi-colored light show. be prepared to shift gears and adjust your settings quickly to avoid missing great photo opportunities.

finally, be patient. mother nature works on her own schedule, and you’ll need to work around it. if at first you don’t succeed, keep trying. it’s worth it.


josé francisco salgado, phd is an emmy-nominated astronomer, science photographer, visual artist, and public speaker who creates multimedia works that communicate science in engaging ways. his science & symphony films through kv 265 have been presented in 200 concerts and lectures in 15 countries.

josé francisco is a seasoned night sky and aurora photographer and filmmaker. if you would like to view, photograph, and learn about the northern lights then you can inquire about his borealis science & photo tours in yellowknife, canada.

you can follow him on: flickr, instagram, 500px, facebook, and twitter






have your say: best prime lens of 2017

the year 2017 was great for prime lens shooters. based on reader interest and preferences, we've got a whopping twenty lenses for this category of our year-end reader polls. vote now for your favorite!






canon powershot g9 x mark ii review

the powershot g9 x mark ii is an ultra-compact camera that features a larger-than-average 1"-type cmos sensor. it serves as the entry-level model in canon's gx-x series, and has an msrp of $529. being the entry-level model, canon has given the camera a touchscreen-based interface that will be familiar to smartphone owners who are looking to trade up to something better.

the main problems with the original g9 x were performance related. continuous shooting was slow, especially when using raw or continuous autofocus, the menus were sluggish and the battery didn't last for long.

the g9 x mark ii took care of most of the performance problems, due mostly to its new digic 7 processor. the burst rate is faster, buffer larger and interface snappier. while improved, battery life still isn't great, though an 'eco mode' gives you another 80 shots above the industry-standard cipa estimate of 235. canon also added in-camera raw processing, bluetooth capability and improved image stabilization for video shooting.

key features

  • 20.1mp 1"-type bsi cmos sensor
  • digic 7 processor
  • 28-84mm equivalent f2-4.9 lens
  • built-in neutral density filter
  • 3" touchscreen lcd
  • up to 8.2 fps burst shooting
  • 1080/60p video capture
  • in-camera raw conversion
  • wi-fi with nfc and bluetooth

the g9 x ii's 20mp sensor is found on all of canon's 1"-type compacts, and is likely the same one found on sony's rx100 iii. the digic 7 processor is what took care of the original g9 x's performance issues, and it makes a world of difference. as before, there's a built-in 3-stop nd filter, with on/off/auto settings. while essentially all cameras now have wi-fi, the bluetooth feature is a nice extra, as it allows for very quick re-pairing between camera and smartphone.

compared to...

the camera that is most similar to the g9 x mark ii is sony's original rx100. it has an older sensor than the g9 x ii, but it's closer in price than its successor, the rx100 ii. we're throwing in the slightly more expensive panasonic lx10, as well as the g9 x ii's step-up model, the g7 x ii, into the chart below.

canon g9 x ii canon g9 x sony rx100 canon g7 x ii panasonic lx10
msrp $529 $529 $449 $699 $699
sensor 20mp bsi-cmos 20mp cmos 20mp bsi-cmos
lens (equiv) 28-84mm 28-100mm 24-100mm 24-72mm
max aperture f2.0-4.9 f1.8-4.9 f1.8-2.8 f1.4-2.8
lcd 3" fixed 3" tilting
touchscreen yes yes no yes yes
burst rate

8.1 fps (af-s)
5.3 fps (af-c)

6 fps (af-s)
4.3 fps (af-c)

10 fps (af-s)
2.5 fps (af-c)

8 fps (af-s)
5.4 fps (af-c)
10 fps (af-s)
6 fps (af-c)
video 1080/60p uhd 4k/30p
wi-fi yes, with nfc+bt yes, with nfc no yes, with nfc yes
battery life 235 shots 220 shots 330 shots 265 shots 260 shots
dimensions
(w x h x d)
98 x 58 x 31 mm 98 x 58 x 31 mm 102 x 58 x 36 mm 106 x 61 x 42 mm 106 x 60 x 42 mm
weight 206 g 209 g 240 g 319 g 310 g

look at the spec comparisons, there doesn't appear to be much of a difference between the g9 x mark ii and its predecessor. same sensor, same lens, same display. that's because most of the changes are under the hood, which boost its burst rate, battery life (barely) and reduces overall sluggishness.

the g9 x ii gets mixed results in terms of spec compared to its peers, though again, it's an entry-level model. on one hand, it's the smallest and lightest in the group, with a fast burst rate and wi-fi with all the trimmings. its lens is the real weakness: it's slow (more on that below) and has a focal range that doesn't have a lot of reach. while better than on the original model, battery life on the g9 x ii is poor, so bring along a spare battery if you're out for the day.

lens comparison

just like 'equivalent focal length' that we use throughout the site, equivalent apertures allow you to compare image quality potential across cameras with different sensor sizes by taking sensor size into account. the equivalent aperture figure gives a clear idea of how two lenses compare in terms of depth-of-field. it's also related to diffraction, which reduces sharpness as the aperture is stopped down. in other words, the higher the f-number, the softer the images will be.

finally, equivalent aperture also gives an idea of low-light performance, since it also describes how much light is available across the sensor's area. however, differences in sensor performance mean this can only be used as a guide, rather than an absolute measure.

that pink line represents the g9 x ii and, as you can see, it quickly ascends to the top of graph. once you hit around 35mm, the equivalent aperture is ~f7.6 equivalent, which is getting into diffraction territory. at its worst the g9 x ii is about a stop slower than the rx100, which most likely gives the latter a slight image quality advantage. the step-up model from the g9 x ii, the g7 x ii, is roughly 1.5 stops faster. this loss of low light capability and potential for control over depth-of-field is the price you pay to keep the camera so pocketable.






a fully loaded imac pro will cost you $13,200

photo: apple

it's official! as we reported yesterday morning, the imac pro is now officially on sale in the united states, starting with the two base models—the 8-core and 10-core variations—and a price tag of $5,000 for the 'standard configuration.'

up until now, that's the only price we knew for this behemoth of a computer—what apple calls "the most powerful mac ever"—but now that the imac pro website is official and the product is up in the store, we can find out how much a fully loaded version costs. and let's just say you should hold on to your wallets.

if you go to apple's store website and trick out the computer, going all the way up to the 2.3ghz 18-core intel xeon w processor with turbo boost up to 4.3ghz, 128gb of 2666mhz ddr4 ecc memory, a 4tb ssd, and a radeon pro vega 64 graphics card with 16gb of its own hbm2 memory, your price tag goes up to.

drum roll please...

$13,200

if you do one of the more basic configurations, you'll be able to get yours in the next 1-2 weeks. however, if you plan to shell out the aforementioned $13,200 for the fully-loaded 18-core beast, don't expect to get the computer in 2017. according to the apple store website, a fully loaded variation will ship in 6-8 weeks.

to learn more or configure your own (if you're lucky enough to have pockets this deep) head over to the imac pro website.






cosina has discontinued the zeiss slr classic series of lenses

cosina japan has officially discontinued the zeiss slr classic lens series, specifically bringing an end to the: zeiss distagon t* 15mm f2.8, 18mm f3.5, 25mm f2, 28mm f2, and 35 f1.4, as well as the zeiss apo‑sonnar t* 135mm f2.

the notice simply reads (translated):

"[production end guide] the zeiss slr classic series of products (2.8/15, 3.5/18, 2/25, 2/28, 1.4/35, 2/135) has finished production."

the announcement comes a couple years after cosina launched a new lens series called milvus, which is designed for digital slr cameras and more-or-less replaced the slr classic series. the milvus series more than makes up for the lenses that are currently being discontinued, already boasting 11 lenses to its name, but there's no doubt that some true gems will be relegated to ebay auctions from this point forward.

you can still find some zeiss slr classic glass new at online retailers for now, but don't expect that to last much longer.






famed chinese rooftopper falls to his death from 62-story skyscraper

photo: weibo

editor's note: we have decided not to post the video of the tragedy, or even link to it. please, if you value your life, do not engage in 'rooftopping' or other risky activities for the sake of a 'cool' photo. there are legal and safe ways to capture great photos from tall places.


performing dangerous stunts to capture exciting photos has long been hotly debated, but that hasn't stopped some people from continuing to do incredibly dangerous things for the sake of a few instagram likes. "rooftopping," the act of climbing a very high structure to take images showing the distance to the ground, is one of the most popular of these activities, and it recently claimed the life of 26-year-old chinese rooftopper wu yongning.

yongning regularly engaged in risky photo shoots. hanging off of tall buildings earned him more than 60,000 followers on weibo and a portfolio of unique, if vertigo-inducing and deeply unsettling, images. in the end, it also claimed his life.

photo: weibo

according to channel newsasia, yongning fell from the 62-story huayuan hua centre while filming an attempted stunt to win 100,000 cny (about $15k usd / €13k eur) from an unnamed sponsor. yongning reportedly planned to use the money to fund his wedding and help pay his mother's medical bills.

a camera that had been set up to record the stunt captured yongning's final moments, showing him performing a couple of pull-ups while hanging off the edge of the skyscraper. tragically, yongning didn't have the strength to pull himself back onto the rooftop afterward, and without anyone there to help him back up, he eventually lost his grip and fell.

the incidence happened on november 8th.

recent public awareness of the tragedy has prompted chinese state media to warn against performing unsafe social media stunts for money and/or attention.