Make a Splash!


Bournemouth is well-known for its beautiful sandy beaches. Sandbanks, Chesil beach and Hengistbury Head are just a few around the area. Epic sand castles, fantastic seascapes and splashing about in the water is what it’s all about! You want to capture these special memories,  HOWEVER sand and salt water are your cameras killer, so your electronic equipment stays safely hidden away.

However, all is not lost! There are quite a few underwater or weather resistant cameras that will allow you to capture those interesting unique shots without fear.

The Panasonic FT30 is a handy slim-line compact that can reach a depth of 8m, more than enough for snorkeling or splashing about in the shallows, you can leave it on the beach and its secure design means any dirt or sand stays outside! (Where it’s supposed to be!) The compromise for having a tough waterproof compact is the small amount of zoom it has, meaning there are limitations for any distance work. However, I think this is a fair compromise considering you can submerge the camera underwater. If you’re surrounded by fish, this can make for some fantastic shots that you would never be able to achieve with your £500 land camera! One great photo is better than no photo at all!

Underwater cameras have progressed quite a bit from their humble beginnings.  From the Panasonic FT30 (as mentioned above) the Nikon W300, or the Leica X-U (to name a few!) They have all improved significantly and found that using them as a standard point and shoot does not compromise on quality. Surfing, paddle boarding or kayaking all become memories to capture without worrying about splash back or dropping your camera in the water, if that happens, you pick it up, wipe the lens and carry on!

                                    

As someone who has never owned an underwater compact before, I really put the camera through its paces for the first time on my honeymoon. It is a little bit daunting submerging (what looks like) a standard compact into the water, but I soon got used to it. Having discovered that the fish darting around in the shallows loved bread, I became surrounded by hundreds of fish and it was awesome! If I didn’t have an underwater compact I would not have captured these fun photos!

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Action cameras are another great choice for the budding underwater photographer. They don’t have any zoom, but do have a superb wide-angle view. You can be sure to get the image you want if the animal you’re trying to capture is darting around all over the place. Or some fantastic landscape views.

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What about those of us that enjoy the professionalism of a DSLR system I hear you say! Well, fear not my water-loving friend, there are options out there! I would guide you towards Pentax. Almost all the Pentax range come with the *WR symbol (*weather resistant) If you get caught in the rain, take your new camera out on a boat in choppy waters, or simply don’t want to worry about the crazy English weather, then Pentax may be for you. Don’t forget to purchase WR lenses which will complete the kit. I did hear a story about a customer who mistakenly though WR meant underwater and happily took his new Pentax camera for a swim! Luckily the camera coped with the big surprise and the customer was none the wiser! The images came out brilliantly! This is definitely something I would not advise, however it shows how Pentax are made incredibly well and if one camera can handle underwater shooting, then you can have full confidence that a little rain will be water off a ducks back (so to speak!)

For those of you who already have your perfect purchase then the op-tech rain sleeves are a good option for spring showers, the coming winter, or the standard good old English weather!

Embrace the rain and water. Take your camera wherever you go.

Here are two shameless animal selfies courtesy of myself (Alice) and Luke in Salisbury. Have you got a shameless underwater selfie you would like to share?

    

DJI Mavic Review (with help from Russell)


Castle Cameras is an Aladdin’s cave of various cameras, scopes, bags and accessories. Amongst all the electronic gear (of which Canon is my camera of choice) are the drones. They open up a new avenue for the budding aerial photographer. It is a great item for beginners and professionals alike.

Having not had a chance to test the DJI out or seen it in action, I thought it was about time I had a play around and see what all the fuss was about! Russell has had a lot of experience with the DJI Mavic Pro, so I got him to show me the basics. Below, you will find my review, with a few hiccups along the way!

The first thing to do is download the DJI app. This was very simple to do. I would suggest having WiFi access as it takes slightly longer than normal and you don’t want to use all your data to download the app. Once this is up and running, its time to fit the DJI together! I won’t go through the ins and outs of this, but as a general rule make sure you take time to slowly and securely fit everything together, as once its up in the air there is nothing you can do about it (more on this story below!)

I have an iPhone SE that didn’t seem to fit very well in the controller; however once it was in I was confident it wasn’t going anywhere (even though it didn’t look like it!)
To turn the controller and drone on and off, you need to hit the power button, then again for 5 seconds. This is in the comprehensive instruction book, but anything I can tell you to make your life easier with the DJI is always a good thing!

 

TIME TO FLY.

I was a bit unsure about flying a £1099 drone when I never have before, so Russell offered to go through the basics with me before going solo! I popped the propellers on and laid it on the ground ready for its first flight with me at the helm! This is when the “fun” started! I had failed to check all propellers were secure, so when the drone tried to lift off, one of the propellers flew off! The drone (powerful little device that it is) still flew and proceeded to spin uncontrollably through the air making its way towards a brick wall!
Russell being the heroic gentleman he is, ran towards the drone and caught it in mid air. (I would not advise doing this. Although it has made for a funny story and Russ is fine, it could have been a lot worse) He has his battle scar now. The true testament of a man!  Moral of the story, double and triple check the propellers. If in any doubt, get someone else to check it!
Russ then put the drone in beginner mode ☹

 

ON MY OWN.

Russ fit the propellers on for me and I took it home! I live by a big field so this was the perfect place for someone who is slightly nervous (after almost dismembering her colleague!) I was impressed at the height and speed it could go (after I disabled beginner mode – sorry Russ!) and my husband had a great time zooming about all over the place. I can see how easy it would be to become engrossed in the videos or photos you were taking when watching the controller screen and forget about where the drone is headed. You do have to be extremely careful of trees, buildings, animals and other people when flying. It did take a little bit of the fun out of it for me, but (as always) safety first and as you get more used to the DJI the more relaxed you become. As I went higher with the drone, I saw a beautiful sunset that I never would have seen otherwise.

I was a bit apprehensive of other people in the field as you can never be too sure about what they may think. The DJI Mavic is loud when it flies and not easy to ignore. I have been reliably informed that it is incredibly quiet compared to other drones. This is something I have not had experience with, having only ever flown one drone so far, so I am going by my experience as a complete beginner! Transporting it was painless. It’s very light and I carried it in one hand. The controller can fit in a large pocket.

This is by no means a definitive review. Having only tried the camera out once it would not be fair to judge based on my limited skills. However, I can appreciate the immense capabilities of drones, the new dimensions that have now opened up to the average Joe (that could only ever be achieved by professional photographers in helicopters!) It was a lot of fun (once I got over my fear!) I will be sure to take it out again and practice with a few more fun videos! Watch this space.

Please see below for a lovely selection of Russell’s photos taken on the DJI Mavic Pro. With a bit of practice you can achieve beautiful shots like this!

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Sony Cameras inc A9 – An Interview With Sony Steve


Last week we held a Sony In-Store day at our Bournemouth branch to showcase the exciting new Sony Alpha 9, or A9 as it’s being called. Take a look at the video below where Greg has a chat with Sony Steve about the A9 and other cameras and lenses in the Sony range.

The Sony Alpha 9 is in stock now, and you can order online here https://www.castlecameras.co.uk/sony-alpha-9-body or come in to store.

Sony Alpha 9 Unboxing & Flagship Camera Comparison


 

Useful links:

Sony In-Store Day https://www.castlecameras.co.uk/events/sony-a9-in-store-day
Sony Alpha 9 https://www.castlecameras.co.uk/sony-alpha-9-body
Canon 1Dx Mark II https://www.castlecameras.co.uk/canon-eos-1d-x-mark-ii
Nikon D5 https://www.castlecameras.co.uk/nikon-d5-body

Canon M5 Staff Photo Competition


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At the start of the year Canon challenged staff members at Castle Cameras to take their interpretation of the best photo with the Canon M5. The winner wins the camera! We only had one camera between us, but all had a fair go with it and the results really put the M5 through its paces!

Low light, long exposures, sunny days, rainy days, and close up. The M5 does it all! And that’s just with the 15-45mm kit lens! Dan (our Canon rep) finally narrowed it down to 3 finalists. Here are the stories behind their ideas and the technical skills they achieved to create their final shot.

 

Debra – Winner

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Was this a planned shot or spontaneous?

I had a specific shot in mind when I borrowed the M5. However, nothing went to plan! The day was incredibly windy and wet and I didn’t get the photos I wanted. On the way home I got stuck in traffic! So while I was waiting I started playing around with the camera (I wasn’t the one driving!) I noticed that the rain on the window was creating some nice effects. So I waited until the car brake lights turned on and a man walked past to take the shot. It took 4 – 5 shots to achieve this one. The camera was set to automatic.

 

Why did you pick this particular shot?

Because everything came together in this one shot. The man walking past and the lights all worked very nicely together.

 

Were you happy with the results?

YES! It won me the camera.

 

Benefits of M5 – Debra

-Size

-Being able to use canon lenses with the adaptor (though this shot was taken using the kit lens)

– Metered beautifully on auto.

 

Hugh – Finalist

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What was the idea behind the photo?

I like to control the light and isolate my subjects to create interesting and unique photographs. The skull was lying around my house and I thought it would make a striking shot. With a complex shape it creates interesting highlights when using flash at close quarters.

 

How did you achieve the photo?

I took the photo in my bathroom. The skull was sitting on a makeshift stand. The camera was on a tripod. I held the shower head in one hand (to create the water droplet effect) and the flash in the other. I pre-focused the camera manually, then turned the lights off ready for the shot. The external flash was on low power about 20cm away from the skull. The M5 was on a 6 second exposure at f16. I activated the camera and held the flash in different places to achieve the best effect.

 

Why did you pick this particular shot?

I took a variety of different shots, experimenting with multiple exposures and other props. I felt that this photo was well exposed and not super weird. This shot was crisp and sharp with striking but subtle water droplets. I was pleasantly surprised that the 15-45 managed this level of sharpness considering it’s just a kit lens!

 

Are you happy with what the M5 achieved with your idea?

With the situation I was in (makeshift stand, not enough hands for the job) I was happy with the result I got.

 

Benefits of M5 – Hugh

-Lightweight

-Nice to have a kit lens that’s wider than the standard.

– Long exposure noise reduction works well

 

Russell – Finalist

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What was the idea behind your photo?

I am fascinated by space and like experimenting with astro photography. I thought this would be a good opportunity to do some more and test the M5’s capabilities.

 

How did you achieve the photo?

I traveled to Hengistbury Head and set the camera up on a tripod. The camera was set at 25 seconds, f4, ISO speed at 1600. I traveled to many different locations to achieve the best results.

 

What made you choose that photo?

I couldn’t decide between a couple of photos, so had help from my colleagues who chose the photo based on the interesting composition and the best starry sky.

 

Are you happy with what the M5 achieved with your idea?

I was happy with how the image turned out considering what the M5 can do compared to a full frame camera. What I wasn’t happy with was the incredibly cloudy skies we had the duration of my time with the canon!

 

Benefits of M5 – Russell

-Small, sleek design

-App works well with the camera

-Easy to use controls.

 

Click here to find out more about the Canon M5, or pop into the store to talk to us about our experiences and all the fun we had!

Sigma MC-11 super test! 24 Canon fit lenses tested


Welcome to our super test of one of the most exciting new products from Sigma, the MC-11 EF to Sony E mount adaptor.

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The Sigma MC-11

This great piece of kit from Sigma is designed to allow fully compatible use of the Sigma lenses in Canon EF on Sony E mount cameras, including full frame FE mount cameras like the Sony A7SmkII, A7RmkII and A7mkII.

Greg Thurtle from TP Photography, who helped me complete this mammoth test, joined me in store as we went through many Canon L series lenses and other third party lenses to see how well they perform. As this adaptor is not supposed to support these lenses, the results would be very interesting. If it worked well, the MC-11 could be a much more cost effective alternative to the popular Metabones adaptors. The list of lenses tested is listed below, watch the video to see how well they performed!

Full Frame Lenses

Canon EF 35mm f/1.4 L USM

Canon EF 24-70mm f/4 L IS USM

Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 L IS USM

Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 L IS II USM

Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8 L II USM

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 L IS USM MACRO

Canon EF 85mm f/1.2 L II USM

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L II USM

Canon EF 17-40mm f/4 L USM

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L II IS USM

Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM

Canon EF 135mm f/2.0 L USM

Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM

Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG Macro EOS

Tamron 70-300mm f/4-5.6 Di EOS

Sigma 70mm f/2.8 EX DG Macro EOS

Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 VC USD EOS

Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 VC USD EOS

Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM EOS

Crop Lenses

Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4 DC Macro OS HSM-C

Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM

Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM

Sigma 50-100mm f/1.8 DC HSM ART

 

As you can see from the video, only two of the lenses we tested failed to work and many of them worked flawlessly. This adaptor from Sigma is an absolute game changer and is a strong contender for our product of the year! The Sigma MC-11 and all of the lenses tested are  available from Castle Cameras now.

Sony G-Master 85mm f/1.4 review by Greg Thurtle


One of our lovely customers, Greg Thurtle has made a review of the new Sony G-Master 85mm f/1.4 lens. Greg is a wedding photographer here in Dorset and has used the lens in anger with very good results. Watch his video review of the lens below, buy your copy from us here

Gossen Sixtomat F2 review


Gossen Sixtomat

 

We have begun to stock a new range of light meters. Essential for not just the studio photographers out there, but with added features for landscape and portrait photographers too.

Measuring ambient, incident flash and reflected light readings, the Gossen Sixtomat F2 is the swiss army knife of light-meters.

It has the ability to pre-select the aperture you need to create the desired depth of field and then take a meter reading from there to determine the shutter speed required for first time exposure accuracy, every time. With 1/10 stop accuracy for measurement and the ability to check the contrast range within your subject, you can be sure that your image will be exactly as you expect, removing any guesswork or trial & error.

For the studio the Sixtomat F2 can be operated in either corded flash mode or un corded flash mode, dependant on your requirements and to create greater depth of field in your subject, multiple exposure calculations can be achieved in the meter without needing a reference chart or scale.

When shooting with fill in flash for creative effect the Sixtomat F2 can display the ratio between flash and ambient light, ensuring that your flash equipment is set up to produce exactly the result you imagined.

The Sixtomat F2 even excels at night and can be used to determine exposure levels for up to 60 minutes making it ideal for creating star-scape images, panoramas and night scenes.

The Gossen Sixtomat F2 is available now from Castle Cameras for £149.

Nikon D500 – The best crop sensor DSLR ever?


We review the new Nikon D500 on our youtube channel

Sitting alongside the Nikon D5 as Nikon’s latest high performance cameras, comes the new D500 DSLR. It is a DX-format crop-sensor DSLR with pro-level features. The successor of the very popular Nikon D300S, but it shares quite a bit in common with the new Nikon D5.

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Inside the D500 is an all new 20.9-megapixel CMOS sensor and Nikon’s EXPEED 5 image processing engine. Compared to the full-frame D5, the D500 is fast and light, suitable for things like wildlife and sports photography where a cropped image sensor and light weight are valued. Nikon mentions that using the new Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6E on the D500 is like shooting with a 350-750mm lens on the D5.

The D500 has a native ISO range of 100 to 51,200, and it can be expanded to 50-1,640,000.

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Speed-wise, the D500 can shoot at 10 frames per second using the same 153-point AF system as the D5, and the points fill the frame from side to side. The large buffer can store 79 consecutive 14-bit raw shots in burst mode.

The D500 is a professional standard camera designed to take a beating. It features the same rugged weather sealing as the Nikon D810, with magnesium alloy on top and in the rear, with a front side that’s reinforced with lightweight carbon fiber. The shutter is rated for 200,000 actuations.

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On the video front, the D500 can shoot 4K video at 30p and 1080p video at a number of frame rates. It shares many of the pro video features found on the D810, including Picture Controls and uncompressed HDMI output. New video features include in-camera 4K time-lapses, Auto ISO smoothing, and the ability to send 4K video to the card and HDMI output simultaneously.

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Nikon is also debuting a new technology called SnapBridge, which is designed for wireless connectivity and photo sharing. It lets you establish a Bluetooth link between the D500 and a smart device, allowing for automatic photo transfers with a link that stays up. This is in addition to the built-in Wi-Fi and NFC.

Other features and specs include a 3.2-inch (2359K-dot) touchscreen LCD, an XQD card slot, and an additional SD card slot.

The Nikon D500 will be available in March 2016 body only for £1729.00. Pre-order yours here 

Premium Sigma wide and macro lenses for just £399


We are pleased to be able to offer you two fabulous special purpose lenses from Sigma that have had their price slashed to just £399.

Sigma 105mm F2.8 Macro EX DG OS

This superb lens offers premium optical quality, a fast aperture, optical image stabilisation and real 1:1 macro close focusing ability.

Sigma’s medium telephoto macro lens incorporates Optical Stabilisation allowing the use of shutter speeds approximately 4 stops slower than would otherwise be possible. SLD glass provides good control of aberration and the floating inner focus system ensures high rendering throughout the focusing range. By using Sigma’s APO Tele Converters, it is possible to take photos at greater than 1:1 magnification. HSM ensures a quiet and high speed AF as well as full-time manual focus override. This lens has a rounded 9 blades diaphragm which creates an attractive blur to the out of focus areas.

I took this lens out at the weekend to see what it could do. It works with both full frame and cropped sensor cameras. I used a Nikon D7100 here to show you  just how close you can get:

Focused at around 1:5, (approx 40cm)

Then the same setup shot at 1:1 (minimum focus distance) this is a full sized image, not cropped in any way!

This ten pence coin is also shot at 1:1

The detail this lens can render is marvellous, this shot is straight out of camera with no adjustments

It also makes a good portrait lens, with great sharpness and beautiful background blur

This great lens is available in Nikon, Canon and Sony fit all for just £399

Sigma 10-20mm f3.5 EX DC HSM

Another premium lens from Sigma, this wide angle lens for cropped sensor cameras offers amazing wide angle shots with superior sharpness.

It’s wide-angle of view from 102.4 degrees produces striking images with exaggerated perspective, enabling photographers to emphasise the subject. ELD (Extraordinary Low Dispersion) glass, SLD (Special Low Dispersion) glass and Aspherical lenses provide excellent correction of all types of aberrations. The Super Multi-Layer lens coating reduces flare and ghosting and creates high image quality throughout the entire zoom range. The HSM (Hyper Sonic Motor) ensures fast and quiet autofocus, while allowing full-time manual focus override.

I also took a few shots using this lens and a Nikon D7100. I was out around Poole Harbour for sunset which provides the kind of shooting conditions this lens thrives in. Once again these shots are all straight from the camera with no post production or cropping.

I think you’ll agree it gives impressive results and an interesting perspective over a standard zoom lens. This lens is available in Nikon, Canon, Sony and Pentax fit for just £399

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