Sony FE 16-35 f/4 & Sony FE 24-70mm f/4 Zoom MTF and Variance

Posted by

Many of you who have followed along as we beta-test our Sony FE lens testing have been asking where the FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS and the FE 24-70mm f/4  ZA OSS test results are. Well, the answer is they are here.

But your other question, why has it taken so long, has a more complex answer. Testing FE lenses are much more difficult than testing standard photo lenses. The electronic focusing mechanisms required us to make some major modifications to our testing bench. The baffles in FE mounts clips some data on the edges, making the testing process more difficult. FE lenses, having a short backfocus distance are more sensitive to the amount of optical glass in the imaging pathway. And, most recently, distortion curves and copy variation among some of these lenses made us question our results and testing methods, sending us back to redo a lot of data and taking up a couple of months of our time.

The end of all that is in sight, and we found, after a lot of internal retesting and questioning that the original results we got for these two lenses several months ago are valid and we’re publishing them now. During this process, we’ve also changed our variation graphs somewhat so they’re going to look a little different this time. That’s simply because these are new and better. We’ll be changing all of our other lenses to the new graphs eventually. (Don’t worry, I’ll have a follow-up article next week, putting the results of all the FE lenses in one place using the same graphs.)

Finally, no, we still aren’t quite done determining a ‘variation’ or ‘consistency’ number formula that we’re completely happy with, so there won’t be numbers for a while longer. You’ll also notice the FE variation graphs are different than what we’re using for other lenses. So first, let’s get a good look at what the two new zooms look like on the optical bench.

Remember when we test FE lenses we get some clipped data because of the baffle in the lens so while data from the center to 14mm is an average of 8 measurements for each lens, the data at 18 and 20mm is generally 4 measurements per lens. It sometimes makes the curves look a bit odd at the edge, and we encourage you to not get overly analytical about the 20mm data.

FE 16-35 f/4 ZA OSS


We have some nice comparison lenses to use here: the Canon 16-35mm f/4 IS and the Nikon 16-35mm f/4 VR. Below are the MTF curves for each at 16mm, 24mm, and 35mm. As usual, Zach has done his magic so you can enlarge the graphs to see them better.

At 16mm, all 3 lenses are good in the center, with the Sony being better than the other two at higher frequencies. The Nikon develops ‘astigmatism-like’ patterns fairly close to center while the Canon and Sony hold together well till about halfway to the edge of the image. In the corners the Sony, while quite astigmatic, maintains sharpness quite well.

OlafOpticalTesting, 2016

OlafOpticalTesting, 2016


At 24mm things repeat somewhat, although here the Nikon is doing better at this focal length and is in some ways better than the Canon here. There is an odd ‘bounce-back’ in the Canon MTF at 20mm. It looks like an artifact, but it’s repeatable and consistent copy-to-copy, so I really don’t know that we can accept those 20mm (edge) readings at face value; the MTF graph may be a bit better than the real world. But again, the Sony appears to be slightly the best of the three.

OlafOpticalTesting, 2016

OlafOpticalTesting, 2016


At 35mm, the Canon is at it’s best. The Nikon and Sony aren’t quite as good here, although I want to be clear, these are all really good performances for wide zoom lenses.

OlafOpticalTesting, 2016

OlafOpticalTesting, 2016


Overall we’d have to say the Sony has the best MTF at the 16mm, particularly at higher frequencies, while the Canon is a bit better at 35mm. The Nikon is at its best at 16mm but doesn’t hold up quite as well at longer zoom ranges. The Sony, as all Sony shooters have come to expect, is more expensive than the other two, although not hugely more. In this case, though, it’s at least as good, and in some areas better, than the others. It’s a really good lens.


I like to tell you my expectations pre-testing. In this case, I thought that wide-angle zooms tend to vary a lot, and Sony FE lenses tend to vary a lot, so I thought the Sony FE 16-35 f/4 would, duh, have a lot of copy-to-copy variation.

Before we get to the graphs, let me repeat that these are different than what we’ve used in the past. In the old graphs, we doubled the Y axis so we could show all 5 frequencies we measured. Now we’re leaving the Y axis from 1 to 1, just like the MTF graph and showing you 3 frequencies: 10, 30, and 50 line pairs/ mm. We think this gives a more intuitive picture of what the MTF of a given copy should look like. The lines in the center are MTF lines and should look the same as the MTF graphs, while the colored area is the range we expect typical copies to fall in.

Again, I want to emphasize we’ve tweaked the formula for our variation curves a bit so you’ll find some slight differences between the variation curves for the Canon and Nikon 16-35 f/4 lenses and our previously published curves. The lenses are the same, our math and graphing are a little different. (Again, you can learn how to read MTF charts here as well as Variance Charts here)

16mm variation


OlafOpticalTesting, 2016


24mm variation

OlafOpticalTesting, 2016

OlafOpticalTesting, 2016


35mm variation

OlafOpticalTesting, 2016

OlafOpticalTesting, 2016


We know from previous testing that variation for the Canon and Nikon 16-35 f/4s are pretty good as zoom lenses go; not great, but good. The Sony 16-35 f/4 OSS has very similar to a bit less variation at the wide end and very similar to a bit worse variation on the long end. Overall, both from an MTF and a copy-to-copy variation standpoint, the Sony FE lens is as good as, and sometimes better than, the Canon and Nikon offerings.

FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS

The 24-70 f/4 has been a very difficult lens for us to test for several reasons. One of the major reasons was distortion. The distortion figures we got testing it on the optical bench were quite different than what is reported for it. I don’t know exactly why, and I don’t intend to speculate here. But most importantly, there was some copy-to-copy variation in distortion which is rather unusual. We finally ended up testing by running a distortion curve for each copy at each focal length, testing the MTF, then repeating. It made the testing really lengthy and drawn out.

I mention it to be clear that testing this lens irritated me and I am therefore predisposed not to like it. I also point out that because of all this I am a bit uncertain with our testing methods with this lens. We’ve repeated measurements numerous times and I’m comfortable that the results are reproducible. But whenever something is weird and I don’t quite understand why, I’m always hesitant about publishing the results. But people keep asking, so here you go. Just keep in mind that there’s something about this lens I don’t understand so we may be missing something.


The logical comparison for the Sony 24-70 f/4 is the Canon 24-70 f/4 IS L lens. Unfortunately, I only have new-method results for the Canon at 24mm and 70mm, so you’ll have to cope with not having a 50mm comparison. But here’s the MTF curves for the Sony at three focal lengths, compared to the Canon at two.


OlafOpticalTesting, 2016

OlafOpticalTesting, 2016


OlafOpticalTesting, 2016

OlafOpticalTesting, 2016


OlafOpticalTesting, 2016

OlafOpticalTesting, 2016


As you can see, the Canon is clearly better at the 70mm end, and better at the 24mm end. The Sony, however, is at it’s best at 50mm in the center of its zoom range, especially off axis where it maintains sharpness with very little astigmatism all the way to the edge of the field.

For a slightly different comparison, below are the Sony FE 16-35 f/4 and Sony FE 24-70 f/4 both measured at 24mm. The 16-35 f/4 is clearly better.

OlafOpticalTesting, 2016

OlafOpticalTesting, 2016

From an MTF point of view, the FE 24-70mm f/4 OSS is OK, but certainly not great.


We’ll start with the variance curves for the Sony FE 24-70mm f/4 at the three different focal lengths we tested. It really is pretty good at 24mm and 50mm, but there is a bit of worrisome center variation at 70mm. (Center variation is associated with an overall sharpness difference, where off-axis variance often indicates more of a tilt.) For a zoom, though, this isn’t a bad performance, as we’ll see below.

OlafOpticalTesting, 2016

OlafOpticalTesting, 2016


The Canon 24-70mm f/4 IS again only has curves at 24mm and 70mm. As you can see in the graphs below, off-axis it has more variance than the Sony, but doesn’t exhibit the center variance at 70mm that the Sony did.

OlafOpticalTesting, 2016

OlafOpticalTesting, 2016


The Sony FE 16-35 f/4 we saw earlier looks similar too.

OlafOpticalTesting, 2016

OlafOpticalTesting, 2016

So the bottom line is while there is definitely some copy-to-copy variation among the Sony f/4 zooms, it doesn’t really appear worse than most zoom lenses.


I will say I’m pleasantly surprised. The Sony FE 24-70mm f/4, while not a great lens is adequate (note I didn’t say adequate for the price, I said adequate) and its copy-to-copy variation isn’t bad. The Sony FE 16-35mm f/4 actually is excellent for an ultra-wide zoom, and again, it seems to have decent sample variation. Would I buy them? Probably not the 24-70 f/4 unless I had no options, but I wouldn’t hesitate on the 16-35mm f/4.

I realize we’ve put out our Sony FE test results in bits and pieces, working through a lot of problems and figuring things out. That’s what this blog is about: trying to figure things out and showing them to you as we go along. But I also realize a lot of you want that information without having to Google 6 different articles to find the test results you’re looking for. So in the next week or so I’ll put out a summary article just showing all the FE MTF and variation charts in one place.


Roger Cicala, Aaron Closz, and Diego Martinez


June, 2016

Roger’s Only Slightly Angry Father’s Day Gift Suggestions

Posted by

I will admit I’m a nightmare to buy gifts for. If I want it, I generally have already bought it. So my kids tend to dread Father’s Day because they have to find a gift that I want that I haven’t realized I want yet. Well, that’s how it should work in theory. In practice, they tend to usually just send me a text or throw donuts at me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m fine with some donuts.

So now you’ll understand why I was surprised when Drew suggested I put together a list of Father’s Day gifts I’d think were cool. So I did that and sent him a list. To which he replied, “No, I meant write a blog post about stuff we rent that would make good Father’s Day gifts. You know, so people can give their dad a gift certificate and some suggestions.” So, here’s my first gift; some advice to all you fathers out there: don’t ever end up working for your kids. Let my life serve as a warning for you.

Then, just to rub salt in the wounds, Sarah came by and said, “Write about stuff dad’s would like. You know, like 28-300 consumer zooms and superzoom compact cameras.” Sarah is very young and doesn’t realize people over 40 still have reason to live. In fact, she’s so young and naive that she didn’t even realize how close she was to a near-death experience there in my office.

Actually, going through the Lensrentals site looking for potential Father’s Day gifts ended up being pretty fun. For those of you who don’t know, I only do repairs and quality assurance for Lensrentals these days, so the first time I see many new items is when they break. I really hadn’t spent time browsing our websites in a year. We have all kinds of stuff I didn’t know we had, and some of it is pretty cool.

So I’ll show you some of the things I found. And because I’m quite passive-aggressive, I’ll also show you the cool stuff that was on my original list that we don’t carry. You know, the stuff I went ahead and ordered for myself because, well, I can depend on me to give me cool stuff. Sarah probably told Drew I wanted a 28-300 zoom.

Things from Lensrentals.com

Well, first of all, the simplest thing is to just get a Lensrentals Gift Certificate and let Dad get what he wants.  Unless you really know what he wants. But my life experience suggests that, no, you really don’t.

I’m a dad so I’ve limited this suggestions list to Dad Tested items; things I actually took home for a weekend and really enjoyed. And after the weekend, I didn’t feel a burning need to buy one and have it forever. I think that makes the perfect father’s day rental gift: he liked it, got to play with it, and saved about half a zillion dollars because he didn’t buy one.

What will he want to try out? Well, my usual suggestion is, when in doubt, go for the extreme. So a BAT (Big Telephoto) with an appropriate tripod is always a good choice. It’s early summer so whether it’s taking some amazing close-ups of the kids or grandkids playing ball, or the hawk nesting in a tree at the end of the road, there’s always a reason to rent a BAT.

Which BAT is kind of brand specific, but for Canon shooters, a weekend with an 800mm f/5.6 is always a treat.



And Micro 4/3 birders are all atwitter (that was good, wasn’t it?) about the Panasonic 100-400mm lens, which gives them 800mm equivalence.



Leica Q

The other extreme is small and light and probably Sarah approved as ‘Dad appropriate’. After all, it’s a Leica and most dad-aged people want to at least take a spin with a Leica. Even I do, occasionally. Plus this one has built-in WiFi so us dads can show the photos and video’s it takes to grand-kids and such. (Not to mention you get to say “Look at the video I took with a Leica”.) But honestly, mostly because this is a really good camera, quite different from anything else he’s shot with, and a fun alternative experience that’s really quite affordable for a long weekend or a vacation.



A KIDS Video Package

KIDS is our acronym for Keep it Dead Simple, and these are perfect for a dad who is considering dedicated video cameras. The kits consist of a video camera, monopod or tripod, a microphone for good audio, with instructions that have you up and running in a few simple steps. Perfect for recording a kid’s recital, birthday party, etc. OK, full disclosure: this is one thing on the list I haven’t taken home myself. But Tyler, who is a triple uber dad, takes one home about twice a week it seems. Because three daughters mean uncountable numbers of plays, performances, recitals and such.



A Medium Format Kit

OK, this is the kind of thing that I’d like for a few days. Because medium format, that’s why. It’s the perfect “It will be really fun and interesting and probably save you thousands of dollars buying one” gift. Personally, I love shooting with medium format and making some awesome huge prints. For about 2 days. Then I remember how much more demanding it is on my limited photography skill set and decide my SLR is all the camera I need for another 6 months.



A Leica M-D

Ah, harken back to the day when men were iron, ships were wood, persons wouldn’t write scathing comments about my using a gender-specific pronoun, and cameras didn’t have any of those fancy LCDs for reviewing what you shot. Nope, you set the ISO and the aperture, take your picture and take your chance, like a real photographer. Except, well, it’s still digital so you can bracket the heck out of everything and be pretty sure to get your shot.

If you can’t tell, I don’t really get this one, but every millennial that works here is certain their dad would love it, so I added it to my list. I will admit the little ISO dial on the back looks pretty cool. And actually, the people who have used it really like it. So, I’m probably just being an old curmudgeon. And yes, this is another thing on the list I haven’t tested myself.


A Lens Package

These are really pretty fun and come at a nice discount compared to individual items. No matter what Dad shoots, there’s bound to be a package that interests him. There are over a dozen Canon shooter packages, including packages for portraiture, wildlife, even newborn shoots. I think my favorite, though, is the Zeiss lens package, which sends four of the best Zeiss lenses in Canon mount.



The same kind of packages are available in Nikon mount.

Cool Stuff I Want That We Don’t Have (but the internet does)

OK, those other things are pretty cool, but I already have most of them, and I can check the rest out for a weekend as the perk they give me to work here. But here’s the stuff would I want for father’s day if I hadn’t already ordered it when I first saw it. BTW – I have linked to some for your convenience, but no I don’t care if you click on the link because I don’t get $0.02 when you do.


A Wooden Keyboard

I think it’s mainly the perversity of a piece of beautiful wood being blue tooth enabled that appeals to me. But I find this incredibly cool, and at $150 bucks reasonably priced. I mean, just think how long it takes to whittle those little keys.

A company called Oree Artisans makes them and is worth a visit, if only because they have some of the most nauseatingly syrupy ad copy I’ve seen since the last time I visited the Leica pages. Stuff like, “Built to endure; the patina of use will only reveal its timeless beauty.” Could be a Leica camera, could be a wooden keyboard. Pretty interchangeable.


Image: Oree Artisans


Nova LED iPhone Flash

I’m like everybody else. I end up leaving the camera home and then wanting pictures from my iPhone. They’re generally fine for putting on social media except for, well, light. Nova is an LED flash that connects to your phone via blue tooth and using its own app, helps you get all those great night time selfies. And actually some other pretty cool shots.

Plus your iPhone can control up to 10 Nova flashes, which lets you do some pretty interesting lighting. OK, I wouldn’t do any real lighting with a 10-light array controlled by my phone. But I can think of, oh, about 32 pranks that I would do.



Easy Model Release App

More useful than cool, but really handy and quite good. Your model signs on your iPhone or Android, it emails the release to you and them, and it’s approved by most photo agencies.


 A Remote Shutter Release for Your Phone

This was overdue. Like most dad-aged people, I have some pride. You are not, I promise, ever going to see me sporting a selfie stick. Walking stick, maybe. But never a selfie stick. But a remote shutter release for my phone? OK, I’ll do that. And actually, be in a picture. It’s small enough to fit on your key ring and works with about every possible phone. One downside, this brand ships from Hong Kong so it may take a while if Amazon is out of stock, but there are several similar devices on Amazon. Because you didn’t read this till it was almost Father’s Day, did you?



A Snap Cam

This is more for Dad’s with smaller kids, but a 1.5″ wearable camera that clips on a child’s shirt and streams video to your phone is awesome. Everybody’s got home movies of their kids, but not many have it from a kid’s eye level. Sure you could use a GoPro, people do all the time, but let’s face it, your kid looks pretty silly at the playground with a GoPro strapped to their head. This will fit in your pocket and has a nifty little magnetic clip so when the opportunity arises you just clip it to the child’s shirt and off they go. And honestly, years from now I bet it would be cool for your grown up kid to have a video talking to you, looking from their eye level.




And I Saved the Best for Last: Some Light Bulbs

Yes. This is it. The ultimate bestest father’s day gift. I think. For full disclosure, I haven’t used all of them yet, but I just spent the bulk of my kid’s inheritance buying about 30 of these for my new house. Sure, I know, everybody’s got ‘Wi-Fi controlled mood tinged LED lighting’ cool all through your house these days. But do you have ‘battery built in the bulb so if the power goes out it keeps working for hours’ cool? Do you have ‘Wi-Fi stereo speaker built into the bulb’ cool? Do you have ‘wireless HD video security camera built in the outdoor floodlight cool’? Do you have ‘Wi-Fi extender hub built into the bulb’ cool? Do you have ‘built in motion detector so the lights turn on when you walk in a room cool’? Yeah, I thought not. But LED lights from Sengled do. While I do think these are ultra awesome, I would caution that the video camera light, as you might expect, doesn’t work quite as well as I would hope. Yes, once again my life serves as a warning for what you shouldn’t do.



So there you go! If your Dad already has everything on this list, then get him a card. But he doesn’t. Unless you’re Drew.


Roger Cicala


May, 2014


A Look at the New Sigma MC-11 Lens Adapter

Posted by

We’ve recently received the Sigma MC-11 Sony E to Canon EF mount adapter which promises full autofocus functionality for 15 Sigma Art Lenses on Sony E-mount cameras. What the Sigma MC-11 brings to the table is the ability to use face detection, eye recognition, and the use of continuous phase detection autofocus in video mode. This means being able to use a third party lens just like you would a native FE mount lens, which is a new luxury that makes e-mount cameras even more versatile. It’s great news for Sony users that want a larger lens selection for video and stills but are not attracted to the limited capabilities and high failure rate of the Metabones adapters.

The Metabones adapters give a tempting promise of being able to use the larger Canon, Nikon, and Sony A- mount on smaller mounts like the micro 4/3 and Sony E-mount. Many times they work and provide aperture control and support image stabilization, but we have routine problems with these adapters that can be quite frustrating. The most common being a loss or lack of electronic connection between lens and camera, sometimes creating errors and freezing in the camera. The adapters also regularly have screws coming loose and other functional issues. We state a warning to customers on the individual product pages discouraging against relying on the adapter for the success of the shoot.

Screen Shot 2016-06-07 at 12.38.30 PM

We would like to find out how well the new Sigma MC-11 performs for video and stills shooters, and how it holds up over time. If it’s built well and works well shooting Sigma Art lenses we are happy. That alone really triples the number of fast AF primes. And when I asked Roger what he wanted from the adapter he told me, “I just want to be able to shoot a Sigma 35mm f/1.4 on an A7RII.” The Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 has a lot of sample variation and tends to be tilted, and Roger’s eyes are old and tired.  It also costs more than the Sigma 35mm and Mc-11 combined. Similar stories for the rest of the lineup, Sigma is beating out Sony either in optics, price, or selection, so the chance to use these on the Sony cameras is quite exciting.

Build Quality

The Sigma MC-11 is solid. The release knob is in a convenient and easy to reach spot and seems very well built. The adapter mounts to both camera and lens with ease and there is little no wiggle when a camera, adapter, and lens are all attached. Common problems we have had in the past with the build of the Metabones adapters are mount wiggle and failure of the release knob. The Sigma already seems to be a bit more rugged.



The MC-11 is compatible with 15 Sigma art lenses, and with these lenses the autofocus works much like if you were using a native E-mount lens, utilizing all focus points and face detection. Here is the list of compatible lenses from Sigma’s website:

Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 4.05.46 PM

In the video below you can see a comparison between a Sony FE 55mm f/1.8 on an a7RII and a Sigma 50mm f/1.4 + Sigma MC-11 adapter on the same camera using the same settings. The autofocus on the camera itself isn’t the best for video, but both setups performed about the same, with the native mount lens coming out slightly ahead.

We also explored the exciting new opportunity to fill the current gap in the Sony FE lineup of super-telephoto length lenses. One of our photo techs, Nick, tried the adapter with a Sony a7RII camera and a Sigma for Canon 120-300mm. We again found that the adapter could keep up with the potential of the lens and camera’s capabilities.

Note: Because we have not had the adapter for very long we cannot give a realistic failure rate or say for sure that it won’t have the same connectivity issues that the Metabones has. You know the ones: no electronic connection, “please clean contacts”, no irising, oops now your entire camera has shut down. But, we haven’t had any problems so far.

Can I Use My Canon Glass?

Sigma states that the adapter is only to be used with Sigma brand lenses, but out of curiosity I tested a few Canon lenses to see what the adapter would support. I took a handle full of popular lenses and put only one copy of each on the adapter so the results I got may be different from what may happen with someone else in another situation.

I found that autofocus worked on all of the AF lenses that I tried. The focus modes and focus points were limited though, and the camera would not go into flexible one-point focus to use any of the points on the outer edges of the frame. The AF speed was good, and face detection was active. The image stabilization also worked fine with all three relevant lenses. I also tried a tilt-shift lens in full tilt and shift positions to check for vignetting and all is good. One lens that did give problems was the Canon 50mm f/1.2. The metering was way off causing the images to be overexposed. After going back later with a different copy of the lens the metering was fine, but I did notice that the aperture only opened to F/1.3. Same deal with the Canon 85mm f/1.2. And checking the Canon 50mm f/1.8 I found it opened up to f/1.7.

Why would this be? We aren’t really sure. Siggy just being weird. But in short, we can’t recommend you try anything but Sigma lenses with this adapter.

Sigma MC-11 or Metabones Adapter?

If you are shooting with Sigma glass the answer is pretty clear that you would want to use the MC-11. You may even want to switch to Sigma glass just to use it. The build quality is better, it supports the full range of AF modes, and with limited use but a trust in the Sigma brand, this adapter will likely be more reliable.

What I Liked

  • Full AF functionality
  • Opens up more super-telephoto options to E-mount shooters
  • Solid release lever and overall build quality

What Could be Improved

  • Limited compatibility


The Sigma MC-11 is an exciting companion to the impressive Sigma Art Series lenses. The technology is great, and would be even more useful if made compatible with other brands. It’s built well, brings more lens options to E-mount users, and seems to work really well. I’m excited to see what future firmware updates bring, and for now this will be my choice adapter.


Sarah McAlexander

June, 2016

LensRentals Reviews the Canon 1DX Mark II

Posted by

Back in February, Canon announced an update to their pro level camera systems with the 1DX Mark II. With a brand new focusing system, and 4K video features, the Canon 1DX Mark II left a lot of fanboys drooling, despite the costly price of $6,000. Alongside the drooling fanboys were a long list of skeptics. With the Canon 5d Mark IV remaining a rumor for years now, is this the next camera that people should succumb to? Is this what the future looks like for Canon? Well, I was able to get my palms on the new system, and test it for myself.

Features Breakdown


The Canon 1DX Mark II is an upgrade from the predecessor in the Canon 1DX in just about every single feature. A small bump from 18.1MPs to 20.2MPs adds a little more resolution to this speedy system. And speedy might be an understatement; at 16fps per second (a 2fps bump from the 1DX), the Canon 1DX Mark II is the fastest shooting DSLR on the market, easily beating the competitor Nikon D5’s 12fps. But the speed doesn’t end there. Utilizing the CFast card technology, the buffer feels completely limitless, allowing 170 RAW images in burst mode, taking only a second to be ready to fire off another 170 images continuously. Though these are numbers posted by Canon…as I easily shot over 200 images on a CFast card without stopping the 16fps even once (Using a Sandisk Extreme Pro 128GB card). Literally everything I threw at this camera, is handled it with confidence…leaving me to believe, that this is the best DSLR ever made.


But the feature list doesn’t end on the photography side of the system. Packed into the Canon 1DX Mark II is 4K functionality. That’s right, 4K footage is able to finally come out of a DSLR, and from my initial tests, the footage looks good. Additionally, the battery also seems endless (I took over 2300 photos on it, and it still sat at half life when I was finished), and the focus, well the focus, is incredible; but we’ll get to that.

Build Quality

The build quality of the Canon 1DX Mark II is something you’re likely not familiar with if you’ve stuck with the Canon 5D Mark III and similar systems. With full weather sealing throughout the camera, this camera just feels more robust that the smaller systems developed by Canon. While I’m always concerned when I have my Canon 5d Mark III by the windy beach, I’m not sure there is anything, aside from maybe a monsoon, that could make me concerned if this camera can hold up. After all, this camera was originally developed for journalists traveling to remote parts of the world, and sports photographers who need the reliability of a system that can really take a beating.

Focusing System

Perhaps the most impressive feature within the Canon 1DX Mark II comes with the new focusing system. This systems focusing system is fast and accurate, like, really fast and accurate. To properly test the focusing, I decided to take the 1DX Mark II out to Malibu, California, and photograph some of my friends on their motorcycles, as they speed around corners going 50mph. To up the ante, I brought along a non-Canon lens, with an extremely long focal length, the beloved Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports Edition. The longer focal length meant that in tight crops, you’re definitely going to need to an incredibly fast focusing system to catch up with your moving subject, and accuracy to adjust as needed. So how’d it do? Spectacularly.

When shooting at 14fps (the max speed without mirror lockup), I found that 95% of the photos I took were keepers, even when shooting at 400mm and longer. On average, the first photo would be out of focus as the system would still be locking onto the subject, from then on, nearly every photo was properly tracked and focused with ease. The focusing system on this camera actually made me delusional with my expectations, and it wasn’t until I went back to my Canon 5d Mark III that I really learned to appreciate the new system in the Canon 1DX Mark II. Much like the frames per second, this system is unneeded for 95% of photographers. But those who do need it can expect to be wowed.


Low Light Performance

No one really expects the Canon 1DX Mark II to be a low light monster, as it’s built for speed more than high ISO clean files. That said, I did find the higher ISO files to be pretty impressive. For me personally, I’ve always commented on how I want more Low ISO options, and I, like most photographers, never really shoot above ISO 3200, because I usually have the lenses or other equipment where high ISO isn’t necessary.

But when testing out the new 1DX Mark II, I found myself to be quite impressed with how high it can go. For one, the focusing system also provides better low light focusing performance, allowing you to focus on things even in the dark. Even at -3 Exposure Value, I found the 1DX Mark II able to focus on objects quickly, and without the need for seeking (as my Canon 5d Mark III often needs to do). The focusing was fast, and the images are clean. I’ll let you be the judge, though, and have provided some high ISO images below.


Video Features

Canon provided the icing on the cake with the Canon 1DX Mark II with the announcement of 4K video at an impressive 60fps. It also comes standard with 1080p, at 120fps, which is equally impressive for video guys out there. As for me, I’m not really a video guy yet, just a photographer experimenting with it from time to time. So I took the liberty to capture some video footage, in low light and present it here for you all to judge. But before getting to the video footage, I do like to point out that one of my favorite underdog features of shooting video with the Canon system came with the touch screen focus. For years, I’ve complained that touch screens don’t belong on DSLRs, but, I think I get it now. The touch screen allowed me to easily adjust the focus on the system and have it lock onto various subjects while shooting.

If you want to download the 100% unedited clip, you can do so here. (4K 60fps ISO 51,200).


The biggest downfall of this system comes with the price of it. At $5,999, it’s not cheap by anyone’s standards but is quite easily the best system Canon has ever built. Does it have a purpose for everyone? Probably not. But for those who need the speed of this camera, I suggest you hand over your Canon 1DX’s now and swap them out for the Mark II version.

What I Liked

  • Incredible Focusing System
  • Impressive High ISO Capabilities
  • 4K Video output at 60fps
  • Robust Build Quality

What Could Be Improved

  • Price (Cause you know, I want my cake and eat it too)


Overall, the Canon 1DX Mark II is without a question, the best Canon camera I’ve ever used. The images looked great, the speed of the camera is unbelievable, and the build is unparalleled. Canon took what everyone loved about the Canon 1DX classic, and improved it on every single level, and managed to do it and keep it cheaper than the Nikon competitor (which in my opinion, is not as good). If you’re a sports photographer, this is your Ferrari. The Canon 1DX Mark II is now available for rental for as low as $21 a day.

Four Ways to Light On Location And Still Stay Mobile

Posted by

I love using lighting while on location, but I’ve certainly experienced the downfalls. While bringing lighting gear outdoors is great for light control, bringing off camera lighting with you while shooting outdoors makes the process cumbersome, and really limits your mobility. However, I’ve found a few different tools that can help with lighting your scene while outside, and giving you full mobility to get up and move with ease.

One of the biggest problems you’ll run into when shooting on location is providing power for your lights. While speed lights are a solution to this, they often fall short in terms of wattage when shooting on bright and sunny days. So for that reason, all of my recommendations will be with the Profoto B1 and B2 systems. I understand that there are more affordable options available (such as an AlienBee B800 and a Vagabond Mini), but I’ve found the Profoto systems to be the easiest solution, and without any cables or extra gear needed to lug around. Furthermore, because of reliability issues, we do not rent the Vagabond Mini system from PCB, so we’re just going to make it easy and use the gear we have in our inventory.

The Bounce + Assistant Technique

Among the most obvious and common ways to control light on location is to get an assistant to help you, and bring along a bounce system to help control and shape the light when working with a subject. Often, I’m able to find a friend or an aspiring photographer who is happy to help me when shooting on location in exchange for lunch, giving me the versatility of light control, while still keeping it affordable.

For me personally, I prefer the California Sunbounce as my preferred bounce system. Sure it’s expensive, but with its rigid design, it’s able to stay lightweight, and give you really nice control of the light. The mini Sunbounce (which is hardly mini) allows for plenty of control of light, and the handles make it easy for an assistant to control the light and make fine tune adjustments, even in windy environments.

Rent the California Sunbounce Mini

The Monopod Lighting Solution

One of the most common ways I light on location while staying mobile is using a monopod instead of a light stand. With the help of an assistant, a monopod keeps the light mobile and lightweight, while giving you, even more, control than a standard light stand, provided that your assistant is able to adjust the light as needed.


Setting up a system like this is easy. First, you’ll need a monopod. I prefer to use one without a tripod head attached, as the head can make the system more cumbersome than it needs to be. I then screw a spigot (or also commonly called a brass monkey) to the top of the monopod, giving me a mounting plate for the light. While we don’t rent spigots, they can be found for a couple dollars at most camera stores and online dealers. When attaching the spigot to the monopod, you now have an effective mounting pin for standard lights.


Personally, I choose to use the Profoto B1 system for this lighting technique. With the battery attached and High-Speed Sync, the Profoto B1 makes shooting on location easy, while still keeping it light enough for an assistant to easily carry around and manipulate. Using this on location with the Profoto foldable beauty dish, or even a medium softbox, you’re able to get nice, soft and controllable light, in an incredibly mobile package.

Rent the Profoto Monopod Rig for Canon | Rent the Profoto Monopod Rig for Nikon

Westcott Icelight

A couple years ago, a new product came onto the photography scene, and completely changed the way we were able to light subjects in lower light environments. This product, call the IceLight by Westcott, is a lightsaber-esque tool loaded with LEDs, and allows for nice and soft light, in an all in one package. While this isn’t a great lighting solution for a bright environment, it does work incredibly well when shooting at dusk or even at night. If I’m doing a darker, moodier shot, I’ll bring an assistant along, and have them hold and control the Westcott Icelight as my main light. The system is surprisingly controllable and provides a really soft light on your subjects.


Boomerang Flash Bracket

Up until now, all of these recommendations come with the need for an assistant in some capacity. While friends and family are often able and happy to help out, you’re not always given the luxury of having someone standing around to help hold and control your gear, so I wanted to leave you with one option that doesn’t require an assistant at all. A product I recently discovered and quickly fell in love with is the Boomerang Bracket by ProMediaGear. I love it so much, that a few weeks ago, I even reviewed the product over at Resource Magazine. What the Boomerang Bracket is, is a bracket system that allows you to mount a Profoto B2 flash unit to the top of your camera, and still give you enough control to move the light around as needed, and enough clearance to actually use a modifier with the unit. While the design is cumbersome for some, it actually works a whole lot better than most options and is light enough to carry around for extended periods of time.


While the system works great for the majority of users, it does comes with some downfalls. For one, it certainly is heavier than other options. While the bracket is lighter than one would suspect, it does have some weight to it. Secondly, it also limits where you can place your light. Often, I’ll just shoot it overhead, giving me the option to flash my subject and create nice and even light on them where they’d otherwise be in the shade. You do have a limited range of motion with the joint on the bracket, you’re still not going to be able to expertly feather the light on your subject with this tool.

Rent the Profoto Boomerang Rig for Canon | Rent the Profoto Boomerang Rig for Nikon

Hopefully throughout this article, you’ve found that there are practical ways to light while on location, and still keeping your mobility about you. Using some of the gear listed above, you’re able to travel from location to location, much like a natural light photographer, and not have to deal with the constraints that natural light often will give you. If you’ve used any of these techniques, feel free to share your results and BTS photos in the comments below.