Jon Chiang Photography: Blog en-us (C) Jon Chiang [email protected] (Jon Chiang Photography) Mon, 18 Mar 2024 13:44:00 GMT Mon, 18 Mar 2024 13:44:00 GMT Jon Chiang Photography: Blog 120 80 Eizo CG2700X Display Review (ft. Eizo CS2740) If you are looking for a wide-gamut, colour accurate monitor for content creation work in 2024, you'd be spoilt for choice with the myriad of competing products in the market space. Asus has their ProArt series, BenQ with their PhotoVue, Viewsonic's ColorPros - these are just some of the display brands which have recently thrown their hat into the niche content creation market with their colour-centric offerings. Even Apple has their desirable 5K Cinema Display that comes with an equally exorbitant price tag for the brand name. Still, there is one name that any photographer serious about colour critical work would take reference to when choosing such a display to aid in their creative work - and that would be none other than Eizo.

Personally, I've upgraded to an Eizo CS2740 monitor (non-sponsored, of course) and couldn't be more satisfied with its value and performance. I've been previously using my faithful NEC PA272W hardware-calibrated monitor since 2015, and while it's been a joy to use as with any impeccably engineered Japanese tech product, it is showing signs of its age. Hotspots have started to appear and grow more obvious over time, and dust particles have somehow lodged themselves between the display laminate, which cannot be easily cleaned without disassembling the monitor. I had a brief stint with the much-hyped BenQ SW271 display and found it sorely lacking in the quality department, which is a definite disappointment in contrast to all the supposed wide acclaim it had. Frustrated with the sub-par offerings of Eizo's competitors, I decided to go straight to the endgame and just buy an Eizo.

That's not to say that NEC's monitors are poor (mine still works), because they are the closest to an Eizo in the market (and for many years as well). The workmanship of NEC displays is top-notch, and they have a more palatable price tag compared to Eizo's premium. Problem is, servicing an NEC monitor (in Singapore, at least) is a hassle and it seems that they have pulled out of the reference displays market too, with all of their SpectraView series of monitors listed as discontinued on their website and on B&H. HP's DreamColor is a consideration, but support for them in Singapore is absent, if any. That more or less leaves Eizo in the running - and with their strong local and APAC presence, solid warranty and service delivery, it's probably the only logical choice for a no-compromise professional display.

So why am I now writing this review when the reputation and quality of an Eizo product more than speaks for itself? Well, recently I took part and won second runner-up in a local photography competition co-hosted by both Cathay Photo Singapore and Eizo APAC, which also came with the opportunity to loan the CG2700X display for a test drive. Curious to know how much of a difference the extra premium you pay makes for the CG2700X as compared to my CS2740, I went forward with the test drive of the sample unit loaned to me from Cathay Photo.

Disclaimer: This is an independent user review from a hobbyist photographer's perspective. Neither Cathay Photo nor Eizo APAC had any input to the content of this review, which is of a loaned sample unit without any obligations from either parties. As much as I can, I will be as upfront with all my product reviews as possible.

Initial Impressions

The Eizo CG2700X, just like the CS2740, is a heavy, no-nonsense, professional display with thick bezels on its front and cooling vents on its back. While not as thick and heavy as my old NEC, both Eizos are still heftier than the construction of the BenQ SW271, which is designed more like a modern-day bezel-less monitor. The CG2700X has a thicker top bezel for the built-in calibration sensor, and uses metal vents on its back for cooling, while the CS2740 depends on an external calibration device like my i1DisplayPro (now Calibrite) and uses mainly plastics for its construction. Nevertheless, it still feels as weighty and solid as its more expensive brethren.

Eizo CG2700X (left) and Eizo CS2740 (right) Eizo CG2700X (left) and Eizo CS2740 (right)

Both displays support hardware calibration, which means that the adjustment profiles are stored within the display itself and is handled by a dedicated ASIC chip that makes the necessary adjustments based on an internal 16-bit look up table (LUT). For more information about hardware calibration, you can refer to Eizo's explanation here.

The Eizo CG2700X also includes a monitor shading hood for better glare protection especially if your ambient environment is very well-lit. As my room isn't overly bright, I used mine without the hood to save some desk space. Additionally, the superior anti-reflective texture and surface treatment of the CG2700X panel allows for better contrast and reduced glare, which is noticeable especially when compared to my CS2740. Still, it's a welcome addition in the package especially since other brands also include hoods in their competing products.

Ease of Use

The On-Screen Display (OSD) of many monitors tend to be complex to navigate and understand, and though Eizo's implementation has advanced settings buried under layers of submenus, I'm happy to say that the common settings are right at the top. Different calibration profiles and targets can be easily switched, as well as the display input. The CG2700X can be scheduled to perform self-calibration through the OSD, without the need for ColorNavigator (Eizo's proprietary display management and calibration software) to be launched. This means that you can leave the monitor on standby and let it handle calibration by itself once a month (as recommended by Eizo), or as often as need be (especially if you print regularly). 

Self-calibration feature of the CG2700X

All of these settings are a touch away (or a few touches away, for the more advanced settings) on both the CS2740 and the CG2700X, which uses the same OSD user interface and touch-sensitive 'buttons'. Personally, I prefer the implementation of non-physical 'touch' buttons as opposed to physical buttons - which can wear out and become unresponsive if depressed too often. Additionally, the brightness of the buttons can be adjusted or turned off (same with the beep volume), which makes for a less distracting and uncluttered display.

Different display profiles are a touch away through the OSD shortcut


Performance of such a specialised piece of equipment like the Eizo CG2700X is excellent, but is not without its caveats which will be further explored in this review. In short - you don't have to worry about viewing angles, black points and uniformity with this display, as all Eizo ColorEdge displays are engineered to exacting standards that guarantee good viewing angles of up to 178° in either vertical or horizontal orientation. Although that is par for the course for most displays these days - most monitors would not be able to stay consistently uniform across the entire screen. With Eizo's Digital Uniformity Equalizer (DUE) technology, both Eizo displays correct for any internal variances in brightness and colour tone. In my experience, Eizo's implementation of this technology is top-notch, flattening out any perceived differences in brightness evenly across the panel. Contrast this with the BenQ SW271 which lacks such a feature - resulting in noticeable brightness and tone falloff towards the edges when an image is not placed at the centre of the screen.

Additionally, what makes the display so great with rendering colour precisely and uniformly also makes the Eizo a wonderful screen for content consumption and productivity. Videos and images don't "pop" like a typical glossy OLED or LCD display, but are rendered faithfully and true-to-life. The high-quality paper-like matte screen cuts glare and reflections, and can be set to output less blue light to combat eye strain. Eizo also claims flicker-free images with their displays, and although I'm unable to keenly perceive flicker from most other displays, I'm still appreciative of Eizo's efforts to cut eye fatigue, especially since we live in such a screen-dominated world. More information about Eizo's eye safety features can be found here.

The CG2700X is rated for a peak brightness of up to 500cd/m², and supports HDR content by default. Since I do not do much video work, except for the occasional Instagram reel, the 350cd/m² of my CS2740 is more than enough for my needs. I also set my displays to a lower brightness value of 100cd/m², which is optimal for both photography and print work, and has the added benefit of mitigating eye strain for those long editing nights.

Calibration and Measurements

While the CG2700X comes with 8 different factory-calibrated profiles, including the popular AdobeRGB and DCI-P3 colour spaces, I opted to use the custom profile I applied for my CS2740. With that, I can compare both screens to observe any discernible differences between them. With a custom profile, I have the the added benefit of using the monitor's full native gamut, which does not limit the palette of the monitor as opposed to using a preset (e.g. the AdobeRGB profile will limit the display to only output colours within the AdobeRGB spectrum).

Creating a custom colour profile for colour calibration can be a daunting process if you are new to this - under the main ColorNavigator window, select an unused CAL advanced (ADV) colour mode and create a new target under 'Target Settings'.

This would bring up a new window with 4 options. Select 'Enter manually' to adjust parameters such as the brightness, black level, temperature and gamma to your use-case.

Note that you may need to enable the colour mode by right-clicking the mode and selecting 'enable' before you can do so.

These steps are the same if you wish to create different targets for different applications, such as DCI-P3 for video work and paper matching/softproofing for print work. Eizo has a handy guide that details the benefits of hardware calibration and the recommended settings to use for the process, which can be accessed here.

The below table summarises the settings I use for my photography work, which I feel suits most web publications and the occasional print job. For further reference, Image Science made a lengthy article with a detailed explanation of each setting for calibration that does a better job with the explanation of each setting. 

Setting Value Info
Brightness 100cd/m² Mimics the intensity of reflected light off a print, also easy on the eyes
Black Level Minimum If you print regularly, a black point of 0.4cd/m² is recommended as paper has a lower contrast level
White Point 6500K/5000K 6500K - D65 sRGB colour standard for web use 5000K - D50 standard for printing and publishing
Gamma 2.2 Most screens in the world uses a gamma of 2.2, which would work in most web or print jobs
Priority Standard Best left to 'standard' as per Eizo's recommendation for a CG2xx0 or CS model. Can be biased towards grey balance if you absolutely need your greys neutral.
Gamut Native For print work, it's useful to display the full spectrum of colours. If you are doing video, it may be more logical to set it to DCI-P3 or Rec.709.
ICC Profile  4.2 4.2 is the latest version and most modern software should be compatible with it.

Once your desired settings are dialed in, hit the 'Calibrate' button and follow the on-screen instructions to calibrate your monitor. For a display without a in-built calibrator like my CS2740, you will be prompted to hook up your external calibrator to your computer. With the CG2700X however, the process is automated via the self-calibration functionality. Calibration with both monitors is a snappy affair, taking no more than three minutes. A sped up clip of the process is shown below.

Calibrating the CG2700X (top) vs CS2740 (bottom)

Once calibration completes, ColorNavigator will display the result of the calibration. With the CG2700X, you can obtain a superior contrast ratio of nearly 1500:1 - much higher than my CS2740's 782:1. This positions the CG2700X as a better monitor for mastering video content with its superior low black levels. For print work, you will need to increase the black levels to a recommended value of 0.4cd/m², which will decrease your contrast ratio to around 250:1 if your peak brightness is set to 100cd/m² - both monitors will handle this without a sweat. That said, the CG2700X is definitely more versatile of the two with its better contrast ratio and lower black levels - ideal for both the production and consumption of video content.

CG2700X calibration result


ColorNavigator will prompt you to perform a validation of the calibration, which gives you an idea of how accurate your screen is. The process runs through a set of validation colour targets and uses the colorimeter to measure how 'off' your screen is to a particular colour. The ΔE result is shown as a summary and for each particular colour measured. Usually I would skip this step as it is not necessary, but I performed it for both my monitors to compare their abilities in rendering colours accurately.

Generally, monitors with a ΔE of 3 and below are considered very good, and a ΔE of 1 and below will be imperceptible to the human eye. 
Both monitors performed admirably in this regard, with very low average ΔE values of less than 0.5.

Most LCD monitors will struggle with displaying accurate colours at lower brightness values, and that is the same for my CS2740 - resulting in a higher maximum ΔE score. Not for the CG2700X. It is able to achieve deeper blacks as compared to the CS2740, displaying more accurate colours in the darker shades - hence its lower maximum ΔE value.

The above validation result shows the performance of the CG2700X for each individual colour tested. Note the topmost colour patch tested (0,0,0 - black), again showing its ability to display deep black levels and darker colour shades accurately. The CS2740 scored a ΔE of 2.03 vs the CG2700X's 0.74 in this regard. To read more visual perception between colours and how the ΔE is defined, read this article.

Gamut Volume

Both displays are marketed as true 10-bit (1024 shades per RGB value) screens, which means they can display up to 1.07 billion colours simultaneously without the use of frame-rate contol (FRC) dithering like cheaper monitors. Typical consumer displays are 8-bit, which only displays up to 16.77 million simultaneous colours.

To make up for their shortcomings, FRC alternates colours for each pixel so quickly that your eyes will perceive the 'intermediate' colour. While this is usually imperceptible in real life, it's satisfying to know that Eizo does not skimp on quality and the potential for flicker from using FRC - which is why they could market their monitors as flicker-free indeed.

I measured the gamut coverage for both displays to compare how well they cover popular colour spaces like AdobeRGB and DCI-P3 for photo and video work. This time, I used an external open-source software (DisplayCAL) to determine this metric and to validate the results from Eizo's ColorNavigator.

The CG2700X and the CS2740 are both marketed to cover 99% of the AdobeRGB spectrum, and from the looks of it, this claim is very accurate. The CG2700X even manages to edge out the CS2740 here with its near-perfect AdobeRGB coverage score of 99%. Additionally, the CG2700X claims to cover 98% of the DCI-P3 space, and the measured result is very close to the spec. While the CS2740 does handle video well, it has a somewhat lower DCI-P3 coverage score which puts it more into the territory of a photography-first monitor for print.

DisplayCal also does its own validation on the screens, which basically confirms the validation result from ColorNavigator. The CG2700X scored a maximum ΔE of 0.76 versus the CS2740's maximum of 2.33, both of which are close to what ColorNavigator reported.

Comparing the native gamut coverage for both CG2700X (in rainbow) and CS2740 (in white) displays, it is apparent that Eizo has managed to squeeze out slightly more colours from the CG2700X. This is why it supports both AdobeRGB and DCI-P3 spaces so well - quite a feat of engineering indeed! This definitely makes the CG2700X the more versatile monitor for photography, print and especially video work.

Screen Uniformity

DisplayCal has a useful tool for determining screen uniformity (under Tools > Report > Measure Display Device Uniformity) that performs a rigourous series of tests with an external colorimeter across the entire surface of the screen. The default patch layout is a 5x5 grid, where you will be prompted to take brightness measurements throughout the screen using this grid. This gives you an idea of the brightness distribution and any colour shifts across the screen.

Typical consumer displays have an uneven spread of luminance and colour temperature across the screen, and they generally experience higher falloff the more you deviate from the centre. Eizo's ColorEdge CS and CG monitors combat this via their proprietary DUE technology by automatically correcting non-uniformities in luminance and chrominance for all tone values across the entire image area - equalising brightness and colour shifts across the entirety of your screen. This is important for creative content production and printing, because there's no point calibrating your display just for it to be most accurate in the middle of the panel - you are going to need to work on your images or videos across the canvas of your screen, so you need every part of the display to be as accurate as it is in the centre.

CS2740 uniformity test results

First up is my personal CS2740 display - with DUE enabled, the results are spectacular, showing green across the board (ΔE < 2 deviation for each patch from the centre as reference). This is a very impressive result, which reflects in real-world use. Opening a white background shows no noticeable shifts in colour or brightness when viewed off-centre, which means that you can process your work with confidence that your end result would look as close as what you have envisioned on your monitor.

CG2700X uniformity test results

Next up - the CG2700X. It almost passes all patches with flying colours, except for the last two in the bottom right where it slightly exceeded ΔE > 2 for maximum brightness deviation. Still, it passes the uniformity test, though not at the exacting level of my CS2740 - which is an odd result. This could be due to sample variation, or the engineering sample unit that was sent to me.

For curiosity's sake, I did a test without DUE enabled on the CG2700X - and as expected, the brightness and tonal shifts were significant especially off centre. I would recommend to keep this setting on for almost all use cases.

CG2700X uniformity test results without DUE enabled

To dig deeper into the reason behind this deviation in the CG2700X's performance in screen uniformity, I did a long exposure of both displays with a black frame displayed on screen in a darkened room to observe how each monitor handles backlight bleed and blooming. Note that all LCD monitors will show some amount of backlight bleeding or haloing, but Eizo keeps this to a minimum. Nevertheless, I had to use a significant amount of exposure time for the backlight bleed to show up. This is generally not an issue in real life though.

Ignore the pin-point bright spot in the CG2700X pictures - it's a scratch on the engineering sample that I was sent. The 25s exposure is probably too extreme an example for showing backlight bleed, but it does show how even the CS2740's screen is. There is some glow around the corners, though this is very much inconsequential to my eyes when editing my photos. The CG2700X one-ups the CS2740 by having a screen that is much closer to black in the 25s exposure - definitely a testament to its superior contrast ratio. 

However, there appears to be more unevenness especially in the bottom right of the display where backlight bleed is most severe on the CG2700X. This does correspond to the drop in uniformity across this region as seen in the earlier uniformity tests. I could also make out the bottom row LED backlights through the screen in the longer exposure. Again, this could be plausibly due to my CG2700X being an engineering sample - so this result could be more of an exception than the norm.

In both of the shorter 5s exposures, both displays handled backlight bleed admirably, and I was hard-pressed to make out any blooming in the images. 


The CG2700X is a no-nonsense piece of kit that aims to provide a solidly neutral canvas for your digital editing needs. With its superior contrast ratio and screen uniformity surpassing most of its competitors in the market, the CG2700X promises a result that you can knowingly trust that what you see is indeed what you get - on print or on digital media. It takes away the hassle of hooking up an external calibrator, quietly and faithfully keeping track of your calibration schedule and performing re-calibration every time it is needed. It does have a steep price tag of $5,101.00 (from Cathay Photo's online store, the local distributor for Eizo products in Singapore), but if you are a professional looking for an uncompromising image or video editing tool, the CG2700X is tough to beat. All in all, you do get what you pay for and more with this professional-grade display. For me though, I'm happy enough with my trusty CS2740!

[email protected] (Jon Chiang Photography) architecture cityscape comparison display eizo monitor photo photography print review screen video videography Tue, 12 Mar 2024 14:20:27 GMT
H&Y 100mm Magnetic Filter Solution Review ft. Laowa 15mm Shift Handy Filters

The world of photography accessories can be a very competitive space to be in, with decent low-cost solutions vying for the attention of photographers seeking any accessory to aid in their photography exploits - be it camera supports, studio lighting, and optical filters. H&Y is a Hong Kong-based photography filter solution brand that is a relatively new entrant into the saturated market of optical filters - but with a unique value proposition that brings a fresh take to a familiar accessory: Magnets.

Nikon D850 and Laowa 15mm Shift with H&Y 100mm magnetic filter adapter

Filter holders are a pretty standard accessory that landscape photographers would be familiar with. Coming in different flavours of sizes with 100mm being the most common, a vanilla slot-in filter holder attaches to the front of your lens and contains filter slots which guide your filters into position and hold them in place with friction. H&Y introduces magnets to this time-honoured mainstay of landscape photography - replacing friction as the force needed to keep filters in place, and resulting in a more elegantly engineered method of optical filtration.

H&Y magnetic filter frames with optical glass filters and filter holders

H&Y's solution is intuitively simple to deploy and use in the field - pop on the filter holder on your lens and the magnetic frames attaches onto the holder with a satisfying click. There is a small knob on the side of the holder that screws into the notches of the filter frame for extra security, but in my experience there is no need for this step as the magnets enclosed within the filter frames are extremely strong and snappily locks into place on the holder without slipping. I've not experienced any slippage even when I accidentally knock the holder - the magnets are secure and do their job in keeping the frames from falling off which is quite a testament to H&Y's engineering.

The filter holder doesn't contain magnets but is itself magnetic, allowing the filter frames to clasp on magnetically on either side without issues. The holder also comes with a neoprene case and velvet gaskets along the edges to prevent light leakage, which is crucial for long exposure photography. Thanks to the use of magnets in the holder design, optical filters can be positioned much closer to the lens without gaps as the essentially 'stick' onto the holder instead of riding along friction-based guides that most manufacturers would use in their products. This keeps light leaks and vignetting to a minimum, especially with ultrawide lenses.

Set of neutral density glass filters with H&Y filter frames

The only caveat is that now you will need to purchase additional magnetic filter frames for every filter you use in your kit. This can be costly depending on the number of filters you use, so you might want to weigh on how often you shoot with neutral density filters. Otherwise, a simple filter kit would suffice for most. Nevertheless, if you frequently use filters in your landscape work, I'd consider switching to the H&Y magnetic filter solution as it really makes setting up your filters a hassle-free affair. There's no need to check if your filters are in the correct slots or accidentally drop your filters while slotting them in, which can and do happen in low-light conditions out in the field. The magnetic filter frame provides additional shock protection for your fragile glass filters (I've dropped one by accident in the frame and it helped to prevent my filter from shattering) and allows you to position your filters without touching them directly, keeping fingerprints literally out of the picture.

H&Y L-100 filter holder for the Laowa 15mm shift lens

In addition to the standard H&Y filter kit that I've mentioned, I'll also base my review on the L-100 holder, which is specifically designed for use with the Laowa 15mm shift lens. Since H&Y and Laowa co-designed this piece of kit, they complement each other very well. The holder itself attaches to the front of the Laowa through the bayonet mount just like its protective cap, so there's no need to fuss around with screw-on mounts like in other lenses. Just like the Laowa 15mm shift lens, whose metallic design brings to mind the 80s-era of legacy manual lenses, the H&Y holder is also made of solid aluminium. Amazingly, H&Y has managed to produce a 100mm filter holder that can be used on an ultrawide shift lens without vignetting. Most other manufacturers would usually require a bulky and inconvenient 150mm solution for such a feat, and I've definitely destroyed a few of those large and expensive panes of glass for my other ultrawide lenses.

Attaching the H&Y filter holder to the Laowa 15mm shift lens

I do wish that H&Y would etch guides to the bayonet mount of their L-100 filter holder, which would most certainly increase the intuitiveness of the product especially in the field. This is easily solved with a white marker or a bright sticker, and that will help you do away with fiddling and feeling your way about while mounting the holder onto your shift lens. Another point for H&Y to note is that the filter holder could have been designed with the notch present in the front cap - it doesn't make sense that the original front cap could click securely into place while the holder, which is based off the bayonet mount of the front cap, could not and must be held in place by friction. Having it click into place would make the set-up much more secure and give the photographer a greater peace of mind.

Attaching two filters to the H&Y holder

Just like any other magnetic H&Y product, the holder is able to support multiple filter attachments without slipping. As the magnets are only present in the filter frames, care needs to be taken in remembering the polarity of the filter frame when using more than one filters on the set-up. I paste stickers on the top of my frames to indicate their polarity, so that subsequent filters I attach will be correctly positioned.

Two filters attached to the holder with correct polarity

Using the H&Y holder with the Laowa 15mm shift lens that it was designed for is a breeze. It performs as what one would expect of a quality filter holder without fuss. Full shift in vertical or horizontal orientation is possible without mechanical vignetting - quite a feat considering that the filters used are the standard 100mm ones. This certainly makes it a godsend for tricky techniques like shift panoramas.

(C)Jon Chiang Photography 2020

No vignetting at full shift for the top

(C)Jon Chiang Photography 2020 Likewise, for the bottom as well

(C)Jon Chiang Photography 2020 No vignetting issues in vertical orientation too

Just like any other standard filter kit, there is no need to purchase only H&Y-branded optical filters for use with this system. Should you prefer to use a brand that you are more familiar with (e.g. Lee, Nisi, Singh-Ray, etc.), you can purchase the magnetic frames for your 100mm filters and they should fit snugly around the edges of your preferred filter brand. Coupled with the modularity of the system, you'll have a myriad of options in building up the filter kit for your needs.

The H&Y filter solution is available through Photosphere Singapore, which is where I usually procure my photography accessories from. Apart from quality filter products, Photosphere also distributes the value-for-money Leofoto brand of tripods and camera supports. 

But enough of the standard review write-up for now; I'll let some sample pictures do the talking:

(C)Jon Chiang Photography 2021

Sunset in Teck Whye

(C)Jon Chiang Photography 2021 Sunset in Teck Whye (full shift panorama without mechanical vignetting)

Sunset as seen from atop Marina Bay Sands Skypark (handheld shift panorama)

(C)Jon Chiang Photography 2020 Sunset across Toh Guan

(C)Jon Chiang Photography 2020 MCI Building/Old Hill Street Police Station

[email protected] (Jon Chiang Photography) 100mm 15mm Architecture Cityscape Filters HnY Landscape Laowa Lens Magnetic Nikon Photography Photosphere Review Shift Sun, 20 Jun 2021 11:32:46 GMT
Hoya Starscape Light Pollution Cut Filter Review Anti-light pollution filters used to be a specialty item that was both hard and expensive to procure, limiting them mostly to hardcore astrophotography enthusiasts with deep pockets desiring the best clarity in their astro shots. They've since gotten somewhat popular in the recent years, with many brands releasing their own take on these filters. New to the game is Hoya's Starscape filter, which purports to be able to reduce the glare of artificial city lighting, such as sodium and mercury vapour lamps, whilst keeping image colours natural and pleasing with improved contrast in the night sky, while keeping colour casts to a minimum.

Main Features (quoted from Hoya's product page):

  • Reduces yellowish and greenish color cast from artificial city lights
  • Natural color reproduction and improved contrast overall
  • Compatible with wide and super-wide angle lenses
  • Low profile frame

I received my 77mm copy from Cathay Photo Singapore, who provided me with a sample of the new Starscape filter for this review. As with the other reviews on my blog, I will be as forthcoming as I can with my opinions and thoughts of the product, even though I've been given a copy for my review.

Packaging and Form Factor

The filter came packaged in a familiar clear plastic padded case, which is typical of most of Hoya's circular filter lineup. Since this is a circular screw-on filter, there are many sizes to choose from depending on the diameter of your lens (49mm to 82mm diameters). Sadly, Hoya does not offer these filters in 100mm square formats - which would be a far better solution for adaptability and modularity between lenses of different front diameters, and would remove the need for purchasing multiple filters of different sizes or using step-down adapter rings, which may cause vignettes.

However, this also removes the need for buying a dedicated filter kit, which will be pricier compared to just purchasing a single screw-on filter. If you happen to only use lenses of a certain diameter, or do not mind carrying adapter rings, the Hoya Starscape is certainly a far simpler (and arguably cheaper) solution.

77mm Hoya Starscape in plastic case

Hoya Starscape mounted onto a camera lens

Price Comparisons

As with other filters designed for a specific and niche scenario, light pollution filters can be pricey, especially for photographers who do not photograph night scenes or indulge in astrophotography on a regular basis. The prices here are also for the 77mm circular variant of each manufacturer's night filter.

Hoya Starscape Haida Clear Night Nisi Natural Night
S$118 (Cathay Photo) S$128 (Lazada) S$219 (Lazada)

For a name-brand such as Hoya, the Starscape filter is priced the cheapest out of the commonly-available night filters here in Singapore, which does give it a leg up over the competition on price. Coupled with the Made-in-Japan assurance of quality in contrast to its more expensive Chinese siblings, the Hoya is indeed a compelling option for those who want to try their hand at some astrophotography or improve their night-time photography without a heavy investment on what would be a filter that is arguably won't be used as often as a neutral density filter.

Image Quality Comparisons

A light pollution filter works by cutting out certain frequencies of yellow light that is normally emitted from sodium and mercury vapour street lamps and similar sources of light, thus reducing or eliminating heavy light pollution from artificial light sources, which are plentiful in a busy city like Singapore. Ideally, the filter should help in reducing light pollution and flare caused by strong yellowish light sources, which become prominent as it gets dark. This should net a positive result by improving contrast on night scenes and especially on night skies.

For the review images in this comparison, I used a Sony a7rii with the Zeiss 16-35mm wide-angle zoom lens, along with a 72mm step down ring to mount my 77mm Hoya Starscape filter onto the lens. All images were exported to JPEG from Capture One with minimal processing (highlight recovery and lens profile corrections), without tweaking white balance and colour cast.

In the above and below image comparisons, the yellow cast that is typical of city lighting has been greatly reduced when the Hoya Starscape filter is used. This also has a side effect of shifting the white balance towards the cooler tones. Depending on your preference, you can choose to further correct the white balance if the filter is too cool for your liking, but I found that the filter generally produces a natural rendition that can be quite pleasing. 

Since the filter does cut out on certain frequencies of light in order to remove the colour cast caused by artificial lighting, it can also help light sources that are normally overwhelmed by city lighting to become more apparent, thus revealing additional colours that may be obscured by the cast. Because of that, the filter will slightly increase exposure time as it cuts down around 0.5 stops of light.

White Balance Matching

By selecting a neutral spot on both images as a base to match white balances, any residual colour cast created by the filter will be revealed. I used the white balance picker on the outer white facade of the apartments in the foreground for the comparison images below and found that the filter corrects very well to give a neutral result that is close to the corrected image taken without filters.

Looking at the street lamps in both images, it is clear that the Hoya Starscape does its job by eliminating the yellow cast, although the filtration does make the resulting effect on the lighting more orange-magenta.

Compared with Haida Clear Night

In contrast to the Haida Clear Night filter that I own, the Hoya does not exhibit such a strong blue-magenta cast and is actually quite neutral. Even though the Haida's colour cast can be corrected in post, the fact that Hoya produces such a neutral and pleasing result out-of-the-box makes it very straightforward for processing or for a usable result without processing work.

Concluding Remarks and Recommendations

The Hoya Starscape filter fares well in real-world testing, especially when compared to its more expensive counterparts like Haida or Nisi. Despite being a newcomer in this specialised field of light pollution filtration, the Hoya offers excellent value-for-money in terms of quality output and neutral results, which helps in cutting down time spent in post-processing. It is hard to find anything to fault this filter with, although I do wish that it does in 100mm and 150mm filter sizes, even though that would definitely add to the cost.

This filter is available for S$118 at Cathay Photo Singapore, and can be bought through Cathay's online and physical stores.

Sample Image Gallery

Central Fire Station - Sony a7rii, Zeiss 16-35mm, Hoya Starscape

Esplanade Bridge - Sony a7rii, Zeiss 16-35mm, Hoya Starscape
Cityscape from Funan Roof Garden - Sony a7rii, Zeiss 16-35mm, Hoya Starscape

Queenstown Estate - Panorama with Sony a7rii, Zeiss 16-35mm, Hoya Starscape

Queenstown Estate - Sony a7rii, Zeiss 16-35mm, Hoya Starscape
(C)Jon Chiang Photography 2019

Clarke Quay - Nikon D850, Nikkor 70-200mm VRII, Hoya Starscape

[email protected] (Jon Chiang Photography) astro astrophotography cityscape comparison filter haida hoya lens long exposure mirrorless night nikkor nikon photography review slow shutter sony stars starscape ultrawide Mon, 30 Dec 2019 14:56:51 GMT
Developing 4x5 large format slides at home with the Unicolor E6 kit If you have explored the other galleries on my website, you might have come across a gallery of my large format film work. I've been shooting film for quite some time now, especially so when I purchased my large format Horseman 45FA field camera in 2013. I do shoot smaller formats from time to time, but the resolution and definition of larger formats is something to behold in-person, where a single 4x5 frame is almost like a portal or a window to the time and place where the photo was taken. I especially use large format to complement my digital work, particularly when documenting soon-to-be-demolished buildings or spaces in land-scarce Singapore. That way, it's almost as if I get to keep a tangible piece of the place.

Film photography is no longer as widely-used these days, and so it can be tough finding places to develop film. While one can still find many places to develop C41 colour negatives in 35mm and 120mm, E6 and C41 in 4x5 and above is a trickier affair in Singapore as there's only one lab that processes it (Analog Film Lab). Large format photographers will be hard-pressed to find processing services for both C41 and E6 in Singapore, and usual solutions would be to send it in to Analog Film Lab or mail the slides to overseas shops. While Analog Film Lab usually does a good job with slides, prices can be...well, pricey for 4x5 sheet film. At $10 per sheet (it's $10 per roll for other formats, which is still pretty reasonable), it would make more economical sense to me to self-develop them at home or my alma mater's photography club.

Purchasing Chemicals

Personally the trickiest part of the process to me, because not every supplier can ship these things in. Locally, we have a Fujifilm chemical process plant that still manufactures the Fujihunt chemistry, but it is a six-step process and they only ship in volume. That leaves us with shipping chemistry in from overseas. I used to ship the Tetenal Colortec E6 kit from FotoImpex, but they stopped overseas shipping of chemicals and Tetenal kits have been tough to purchase ever since they had financial troubles. 

These days, I get my kits from Film Photography Project. They sell both the Unicolor E6 and C41 kits, and can be shipped into Singapore through a shipping redirector service. I use EZBuy for this, but do check with your preferred service if they allow chemistry to be brought in. Alternately, you can also purchase chemistry from Omega Brandess. They can ship film directly to Singapore, but shipping fees are expensive. 

Unicolor E6 Kit

Equipment Needed

Since E6 and C41 are temperature-critical processes, you need to have a heated bath to immerse the working solutions to ensure that their temperatures are kept constant. Otherwise, there will be errors in processing and your slides will end up too dark and muddy. I use a big plastic tub as a bath to hold the working solutions and the developing tank, as well as a sous-vide immersion heater and circulator to keep the water exactly at 38°C. The sous-vide heater is a great tool for this as it can keep the water temperature constant through circulation. Plus, it can cook up a real nice steak too!

I'm using the standard Paterson developing tank for this process - this is a slightly larger one that can take 6 sheets of 4x5 film through a special holder, or up to 4 rolls of 35mm film through the Paterson reels. The film holder I'm using is the B's Roll by Bounet Photography. It's a lot better suited for agitation with the agitating stick, and it holds the film very securely within the 3D-printed plastic slots. I used to use the MOD54 holder, but that holder is more suited for inversion processing as twirling it around with the agitation stick may cause uneven development. It also doesn't hold the film securely, and I have issues with film getting dislodged mid-way through processing.

After loading the film into the developing tank within your standard light-tight environment (darkroom, changing bag/tent, etc.), you can start your developing process just like for black and white film. The only difference is that everything must take place in a temperature-controlled environment as much as possible. For both E6 and C41, I try to process my film in a well-ventilated environment and avoid skin contact with the chemistry as much as possible as they can be toxic. This is also why I use the agitation stick instead of inversion processing in order to prevent spillage.

Processing Film

Now that you have your workspace properly laid out, it's just a matter of following the processing steps listed in the instructions that came with the chemistry, which is a 4-bath process. For my Unicolor kit, I'm using the following steps:

  1. Pre-heat the film in the developing tank by filling it up with 38°C water and letting it soak for 5 minutes.
  2. First Developer: 6 mins 30 secs - Constant agitation for first 15 seconds, then once every 15 seconds till completion.
  3. Wash: 2 mins 30 secs - Running water at 38°C if possible, or change water once every 30 seconds with constant agitation.
  4. Colour Developer: 4 mins 30 secs - Constant agitation for first 15 seconds, then once every 15 seconds till completion.
  5. Wash: 2 mins 30 secs - Running water at 38°C if possible, or change water once every 30 seconds with constant agitation.
  6. Blix: 6 mins 30 secs - Constant agitation for first 15 seconds, then once every 15 seconds till completion.
  7. Wash: 4 mins - Running water if possible, or change water once every 30 seconds with constant agitation. This part is no longer temperature critical, and film can be exposed to light.
  8. Stabiliser: 1 minute of constant agitation before hanging and drying. Do not wash film after this step.

Once the blix step is completed, you can take your film out for inspection and carry on the final washing and stabilising steps in the light. Although it is possible to take film out after the colour developer step, I prefer to play it safe and do so after blix. The Unicolor kit also doesn't come with a stabiliser, so I'm using my old stabiliser from the Tetenal kit. You can also use the C41 stabiliser that comes in the powdered kits. I'm not sure why Unicolor leaves out the stabilising step - I find it pretty crucial as it coats your film with a preserving agent that helps to prevent fungal growth.

Once the final rinse and the stabilising steps are completed, you can hang your film up to dry. Be sure to leave the stabiliser on the film instead of washing it off as it needs to be absorbed into the film for protection. I use hangers and clips to dry my film.

At this point you can proceed on to another batch or pack up your chemicals and admire your work. Be sure to keep track of how many sheets or rolls of film you have gone through. The E6 chemistry are usually good for multiple uses, and may be able to process more than their rated capacities but you may have to compensate in certain ways (extending processing time, etc.). Once fully dried, you can store the film in plastic sleeves or scan them.

Processing film - both colour and black and white is always a therapeutic affair for me, and the results at the end are certainly very worth it (especially for slides)! I do think that it should be an endeavour that every film enthusiast should try at least once.

Some samples from my E6 endeavours viewed on a lightbox:

[email protected] (Jon Chiang Photography) 4x5 colour developing diy e6 film home large format photography processing slides Wed, 30 Oct 2019 05:58:25 GMT
Panasonic S1R Review The mirrorless camera market is heating up since longtime rivals and veteran camera manufacturers Canon and Nikon entered the market in 2018 with their full-frame Z-series and EOS R respectively, so it came as quite a surprise that Panasonic also wanted a piece of the pie in this now very competitive and saturated market segment. Panasonic isn't playing around either, launching three very specific bodies that seem to compete directly with Sony's product strategy - the general-purpose S1, high-resolution S1R and video-centric S1H.

With more lenses to come by 2020, The Panasonic S-series Lumix mirrorless cameras is shaping up to be a tough competitor in the professional mirrorless scene. At present, the camera has only 3 new Panasonic-developed lenses to choose from, but Panasonic made the wise choice of opting to adopt the already-established L-mount for their new mirrorless series, allowing users to choose from an existing selection of Leica and Sigma lenses in the newly-established L-mount alliance.

Panasonic Lumix S-Series Roadmap

Thanks to Clubsnap and PhotosphereSG, they arranged for me to get a loaner S1R set courtesy of Panasonic Singapore for the purpose of this review. As usual, I'm not promised any kickbacks nor sponsorships, so I'll be as objective as I can for the review.

I was also loaned a Lumix 24-105mm f/4 'kit' lens and an S-Pro 50mm 1.4 prime lens to play around as well, granting me a very capable and all-rounded Panasonic kit that should fit a variety of shooting scenarios. Being an urban landscape photographer, I do wish that they'd release the 16-35mm earlier, but at least that lens is projected to launch in 2019.

Panasonic S1R with Lumix S-Pro 50mm and 24-105mm general zoom lens

Size, Build and Handling

Unlike the diminutive and inconspicuous Ricoh GRIII that I test-drove a few months back, the Panasonic S1R is quite the opposite. With its uncompromisingly tough magnesium exterior, deep handgrip, large electronic viewfinder (EVF) and similarly large lenses to go with the whole getup, the S1R is unapologetically large. No compromises were definitely made for this camera - it's beefy, screams quality and wants you to know that too. Of course, with a pro-level build, the camera has a pro-level price tag as well - coming in at around S$5,000 for body-only, and over a thousand Singapore dollars more for the 24-105mm kit!

Size-wise, the S1R is akin to a DSLR instead of its smaller counterparts. It weighs in around 1020g with battery, in fact inching out my Nikon D850's weight of 1005g with battery! The only other mirrorless cameras that are as heavy or heavier are probably the Fujifilm GFX mirrorless medium-format cameras. The weight is not without good reason though - this camera is clearly targeted at professionals instead of even keen amateurs, who would probably prefer to go with the lighter Sony/Nikon/Canon full-frame mirrorless cameras. Tough weather-sealing with a metal body and a deep grip does give the shooter a level of no-compromise confidence that smaller systems may struggle to reach. The large size also allows Panasonic to pack in a similarly-large battery capacity of around 3,100mAh - which is crucial to power the high-resolution built-in EVF. 

Lumix S1R with Sony a7rii and Nikon D850

Lumix S1R with Sony a7rii and Nikon D850

When placed side-by-side a Sony a7rii and a Nikon D850, the Lumix S1R makes the Sony look tiny in comparison, and is matched size-wise by the full-frame Nikon D850. Panasonic isn't playing around when they announced their intention of wanting to take on the professional market!

The button placement and layout for the S1R is as intuitive as one can expect from a camera aimed at professionals, with both front and back dials placed within easy reach of the thumb and index fingers. Shutter button, along with White Balance, ISO and Exposure Compensation buttons can be adjusted easily with your index finger, along with your thumb for the focusing modes, AF-point selection joystick and the AF-ON button. This is a good layout for the most commonly-used settings, which frees the user from diving into menus instead. However, the power switch and backlight button are placed at an odd position, requiring you to stretch your index finger quite far down to access them. I would rather they put those settings at the shutter button like that on most Nikons and their new S1H.

You need to stretch a finger down to a weird position in order to access the ON/OFF switch and backlight button, but other than that, the buttons and dials are pretty intuitively-positioned

EVF and LCD Display

5.76 million dots and a 120Hz refresh rate for the EVF bestows upon the Panasonic S-series an electronic viewfinder experience that is uncannily life-like. As of time of writing, these new Lumix cameras have the highest EVF resolution out of all currently-available mirrorless cameras. The EVF definitely guzzles battery power though, so there's an option to drop the refresh rate down to 60Hz. That said, composing through the EVF is a wonderful, immersive experience indeed. The only caveat that I have with it is that for some reason, previewing the live exposure through LCD or EVF will result in lag at longer exposures because the camera actually previews exposure time instead of upping the gain for exposure preview! This can be annoying at night because there will be a lot of lag during image composition, but perhaps I might not have figured out a way to set it properly.

Articulating LCD displays are pretty much a norm for DSLRs and mirrorless cameras alike these days, but the Panasonic S1R goes a step further with an extra axis of articulation that is extremely useful when the camera is placed in a vertical orientation. This allows the screen to be flipped up and angled towards the photographer for ease of use. As with most modern cameras, the LCD display is also touch-sensitive, allowing ease of menu and autofocus selection and scrubbing through both video and images.

The Panasonic S1R's rear LCD display can be positioned in a multitude of ways to make composing easier

High-Resolution Mode

Such modes are usually seen as either gimmicks or for use only when your subject is completely still - i.e. archival of artworks or other completely stationary objects, because any movement will create ugly artifacts in the final result. I can safely conclude that with Panasonic's image-processing magic, this problem is largely resolved with the S1R, making it the perfect tool for archiving landscape and architecture indeed! This is probably the feature that I'm most hyped-up about since it relates so well with the kind of photos I usually take. I've only managed to find one artifact so far out of the many high-res photos I've taken, and even that is a very minor one, so kudos to the Panasonic engineering and design team indeed!

The Panasonic S1R captures eight images in succession while shifting the image sensor about half a pixel in a certain direction for each exposure, allowing the final merged composite to have full RGB values and getting rid of moire caused by the Bayer filter array. This results in a massive 187mp final image stitched from eight 47mp files. As evidently shown in the examples below, there is quite a bit more detail in the high-resolution shots as compared to the normal single-exposure images.

Top: High-res image, Bottom: Standard image

Top: High-res image, Bottom: Standard image - notice the much improved definition in the block numbers!

Top: High-res image, Bottom: Standard image - The words on the 'New Bridge Centre' sign can be clearly discerned in the high-res composite

Left: High-res image, Right: Standard image - moire is removed in the high-res image, allowing increased definition

Although Panasonic has a killer image-processing algorithm that eliminates most artifacts caused by movement in between each successive shot when a high-resolution image is taken, there can be be lapses where the algorithm misses certain elements. That said, it is incredible how well this function works for most real-life scenes with moving elements.

Top: High-res image, Bottom: Standard image - Notice that there is no ghosting in the high-res image with the moving human elements, and the lack of noise as well

High-resolution crop of a highway - no ghosting in the vehicles!

For the most part, Panasonic's image processing takes care of any moving elements in a high-resolution composite flawlessly, but there may be tricky scenes or lighting scenarios that can confuse the algorithm:

Top: High-res image, Bottom: Standard image - Notice the artifacts on the cars in the high-res image

Still, the high-resolution mode does an impeccable job of producing a clean and detailed image with very indiscernible artifacting. To top it off, the output image is also in a raw file format and can be opened with any standard viewer (I personally use Capture One) with the correct profiles. This is much more usable than Sony's implementation where the output file needs to be opened in Sony's proprietary viewer to be saved in an editable format. Quite an exciting feature for landscape documentary photographers looking to archive scenes in extreme detail for hyper-realistic prints!

Autofocus and Image Stabilisation Performance

Panasonic utilises a contrast-detect (as opposed to the usual phase-detect) autofocus system in the S1R, and it does show in day-to-day shooting despite claims that the autofocus can match the performance offered by the more established phase-detect systems. Although the autofocus can hunt from time to time or lose track of the subject, it is very snappy for a contrast-based system and works well with streets. Even so, it might struggle with fast-moving and erratic subjects like those found in sports photography, so the camera is probably better suited for events or stills instead of action. The reason why Panasonic uses a contrast-based autofocus is not without merit - since phase detect points requires the autofocus sensing points to be laid atop the imaging sensor, which may cause banding when lifting shadows.

Some street samples taken with the single-point autofocus mode

I generally prefer to use the single-point autofocus mode instead of continuous autofocus tracking on the S1R, because due to the design of the autofocus system, the camera tries to predict the movement of the subject using its AI algorithms - which can result in an off-putting jittery motion in the EVF or LCD screen. This was rather distracting, so hopefully a future update may be able to rectify the issue.

For the image stabilisation system, Panasonic claims a 6-stop shake reduction when used with lenses with built-in stabilisers, or 5.5-stop when only using in-body stabilisation. That's a pretty bold claim, but the S1R seems to live up to it indeed:

For this 100% crop, the camera's autofocus and in-body stabilisation performed very well to create a crisp and sharp output. Especially in daylight, high ISO shots like the one above (which was shot at ISO 3200) exhibits very little graininess.

I also pushed the stabilisation system to its limits by shooting a scene at 105mm and making a 100% crop to check for fuzziness caused by handshake. Using the '1/focal length' rule for my shutter speed, I took a bunch of images starting at 1/100 and gradually increased the shutter speed to compensate for each stop. The samples below are taken completely hand-held, without any form of support such as resting my body on a wall or propping my arms up on a railing.

Left: Image taken at 1/5s (4-stops more than 1/100s), Right: Image taken at 1/1.6s (Full 6-stops of shake reduction in play)

As all the sample shots in the sequence were relatively sharp, I decided to pick out two samples from the bunch to showcase the S1R's combined optical and sensor-shift stabilisation. Even at 1/1.6s, which is a around 6-stops more than 1/100s that I would have used otherwise for a non-stabilised setup, the Panasonic's S1R's incredible stabilisation system manages to keep almost everything tack-sharp at 100% crop at a focal length of 105mm. At this level of pixel-peeping, some slight fuzziness can be seen due to movement, but the image is definitely very usable even for print.

High ISO Performance

Noise performance for the S1R is good, as one would expect with modern high-resolution imaging tools in this generation. The S1R ISO capabilities ranges from a low of 50 to a maximum of 51200, providing lots of leeway for a variety of shooting scenarios. I generally find ISOs up to 6400 and perhaps 12800 reasonable with some noise cleanup, so the S1R is a capable available-light camera for the resolution it offers. 

ISO 1600 - Panasonic S1R on the left, Nikon D850 on the right

Compared to my Nikon D850, the Panasonic S1R exhibits slightly less noise at ISO 1600, but both cameras show similar levels of details. 

ISO 12800 - Panasonic S1R on the left, Nikon D850 on the right

At ISO 12800, both the D850 and the S1R exhibit a lot of noise at 100% crop, so some noise reduction would be necessary before publishing. Both cameras still show good levels of detail in the elements within the scene despite the graininess. All in all, the Panasonic S1R can be a capable high-ISO available-light camera if you know how to work within its limits, and especially by using its powerful sensor-shift stabilisation to drop your ISO.

Urban Landscapes

The S1R is clearly aimed at landscape/portrait photographers and other professionals who require the resolving power of a 47mp sensor for detailed documentary work. In this regard, the camera definitely performs admirably. Apart from pure resolution, the SIR definitely delivers in its wide dynamic range as well. I've not tested it fully myself, but according to Photons to Photos, the S1R has a dynamic range that competes favourably with both the Nikon D850 and the Sony a7riii. In my experience, this seems to be more or less the case especially when shooting at the S1R's base ISO of 100 or expanded ISO of 50.

[email protected] (Jon Chiang Photography) architecture cityscape comparison dslr landscape lens mirrorless panasonic photography review s1 s1h s1r street Sun, 02 Jun 2019 14:50:32 GMT
Hands-on with the Ricoh GR III The Ricoh GRIII is Ricoh's newest (as of March 2019) compact fixed-lens camera featuring a discreet and stealthy profile with an APS-C sensor and a very sharp 28mm lens. Building upon the strong GR lineage, the GR series of Ricoh compacts is typically a cult favourite among street shooters for its low-profile design. Thanks to Ricoh Professional and travel photographer Michael Lee together with Photosphere, I got the opportunity to loan the Ricoh and put it through its paces in both streets and urban landscapes.

Disclaimer: I was only loaned the camera for review, and am in no way paid by Ricoh or Photosphere for the marketing of this camera. That said, I'll do my best to be as objective as I can for this review.

Ricoh GRIII Camera

(C)Jon Chiang Photography 2019

(C)Jon Chiang Photography 2019

Size, Build and Handling

TL;DR: It's small. This camera really puts the 'compact' in the compact camera form factor. Although I did not compare it with its predecessor, the GRIII shaves a few millimetres off the overall length of the body for a shorter profile more akin to the GR Digital IV camera. Despite the shorter length, the grip is still...well, grippy and comfortable to hold for long periods of time and the shutter button is nice and big as well. Both front and back dials are positioned within easy reach of your fingers, as well as the mode dial and power button. The well thought-out layout certainly makes single-handed use a straightforward affair. Ricoh definitely has the advantage of experience in its iteration of the many generations of GR compacts through the years.

(C)Jon Chiang Photography 2019

GRIII in hand

The telescoping lens design that retracts into the camera body makes the Ricoh GRIII a pocketable camera. Unlike a Fujifilm x100-style of camera or a Leica Q whose fixed lenses do not retract, you do not need a strap to sling this camera around your body for immediate access when the situation calls for it. Simply slip it into your pocket and pull it out whenever you need it. The almost-instant startup time of the camera definitely helps in this process, as the lens is retracted only when power is off or in power-saving mode. That said, one can also opt to use a wrist-strap for the camera, and the GRIII generously provides you with three strap loops around the body for your preference. As a street camera, I certainly appreciate Ricoh's commitment to making the GRIII as discreet as possible, which definitely puts it above its competition in this regard.

GRIII top view

The startup camera settings is a tad consumer-centric in nature, as the camera by default turns on the autofocus confirmation beep, shutter sound and autofocus-assist light. All these can be switched off, thankfully. You can even turn off the power indication LED light around the power button for a more stealthy profile. I guess it's understandable that Ricoh included the cheesy shutter sound by default because the leaf shutter of the GRIII is incredibly silent. Apart from a soft click and an LCD-screen blackout when the shutter button is pressed, there's no other indication to note when a picture is being taken.

Three user-defined preset modes (U1, U2 and U3) are available on the mode dial for users to program and quickly switch between different settings and modes for various shooting scenarios. For example, one preset could be a highlight-weighted metering mode with auto-ISO enabled for quick-action streets, and another could be set to base ISO to maximise dynamic range for landscapes and architecture shots.

GRIII wide-angle lens attachment mount

The touchscreen is always a much-welcomed feature (at least for me) in modern cameras, and the GRIII sports a sufficiently-sized 3-in touchscreen that recognises standard smartphone gestures like swipes to scrub through photos and double-taps to zoom in on an image. The touchscreen is snappy and responsive, and so is the refresh rate. By default, tapping on the touchscreen in single-point autofocus mode will activate the selected focus point and autofocus only, but users can also opt to fire the shutter through the screen as well by setting that option in the menu. That said, if you are not a fan of touchscreens on cameras, you can turn it off in the settings as well.

Like its predecessors, the GRIII comes with a bayonet-like mount for an optional ultrawide-angle lens adapter, which increases the camera field-of-view to about 21mm. It also includes metal contact pins for the adapter so that EXIF information can be recorded for the lens as well. However, since the 28mm lens of the GRIII is newly-design and thus optically different from its predecessors, the 21mm lens adapter has to be re-engineered as well. At the time of writing, it has yet to be released but should arrive later in the year.

Real-world use

The GRIII is the current culmination of Ricoh's efforts to design the ultimate unassuming compact street camera, and it definitely shows. Especially when used in Snap Focus mode, where focus is predefined to a pre-set distance (the camera also displays a handy depth-of-field scale on the screen as well), the shutter lag is almost non-existent and pictures can be made spontaneously and quickly - perfect for street photography.

Mouse over to view street photos from the GRIII - images were processed from Ricoh's DNG raw format in Capture One, where only basic colour, contrast, cropping and some noise reduction were applied

Autofocus is decent in good midday light, but if you are looking for Sony a7 series of autofocus performance, the GRIII is definitely not up to par. Despite the on-sensor phase-detect autofocus points, the GRIII is susceptible to focus hunting, especially at lower light levels, or when the selected autofocus point is unable to detect a subject with contrast, and thus losing the autofocus lock. Although the camera has continuous autofocus and face-detection, the hit-and-miss nature of the autofocus meant that I was using the Snap Focus feature or single-point autofocus a lot more to mitigate focus hunting and losing my shot.

Distortion characteristics of the GRIII's 28mm wide-angle lens

The 28mm lens is quite a sweet-spot for street photographer - wider than a 35mm and not so wide as to introduce too much rectilinear distortion in your subjects. This means you can get up-close to your subjects without too much stretching in the perspective. The lens does exhibit a bit of barrel distortion, but unless you are shooting architecture or brick walls like the photo above, it's usually indiscernible.

100% crop from the GRIII at f/2.8

Avid fans of the Ricoh GR series and pixel-peepers alike would also be delighted to know that the redesigned 28mm fixed-focal-length lens of the GRIII is sharp, even wide open at f/2.8. Coupled with the new 24-megapixel sensor without anti-aliasing filter (AA-filter simulation available in the settings if moire is of concern), the GRIII produces incredibly sharp outputs worthy of its new, higher-res sensor (vs 16mp of the GRII). Another new feature would be the in-camera sensor cleaning function that is now available on the new camera. Due to the fixed-lens design, cleaning the sensor due to dust being pulled into the system through the retracting lens design is an expensive hassle, and the sensor cleaning function is a much-welcomed feature that should both limit the impact of dust and trips to the service centre.

Despite the GR's design as a compact street-focused camera, it can also double up as a capable landscape-oriented camera, especially with the 21mm ultrawide-angle adapter lens attachment. Even with the standard 28mm wide-angle lens, it is quite sufficient for quickly shooting urban landscapes, much like a smartphone. Especially with the camera's small profile, security guards would be less inclined to stop you as would they if they spot someone with a tripod and DSLR set-up. But this is not a reason to trespass into private property so please don't do that! The small profile just means that the camera is not attention-grabbing, much like photographing with a smartphone, which makes grabbing even landscapes on the fly a very seamless affair.

Mouse over to view urban landscape and architecture from the GRIII

With the built-in ND filters and sensor-shift stabilisation, it's easy to capture sharp landscapes at the camera's base ISO of 100 even in lower lighting conditions. Dynamic range at base ISO is also rather decent for an APS-C sensor, and it is possible to maximise the dynamic range by underexposing an image, pulling the highlights and pushing the shadows. That said, the shadows may take on a bit of a blue tint when pushed too much, so try not to overdo your processing. Of course, to make full use of the dynamic range, one needs to first be shooting in raw mode.

Dynamic Range Example #1: Before Processing

Dynamic Range Example #1: Recovery of Highlights and Shadows 

Dynamic Range Example #2: Before Processing

Dynamic Range Example #2: Recovery of Highlights and Shadows 

High-ISO performance of the camera is rather decent as well, and the camera definitely holds its own in low-light scenarios. The GRIII can go up to an ISO of 102400, but at such a high ISO, the output is unusable, except for maybe thumbnail images on Instagram with heavy noise reduction. ISO 6400 and perhaps even ISO 12800 with noise reduction is very useful, especially when published to the web. I suspect it should also hold up pretty well for printing too, given the grain-like noise characteristics and low colour noise artefacts even at higher ISOs.

Mouse over to view night street photography with the GRIII

Concluding Remarks

As I'm still holding on to the GRIII, I'll definitely be updating my review to include any new thoughts I have about the camera and its features, but for now I can safely say that the camera does excel in its original intent as a discreet street shooter, despite the iffy autofocus and lower battery life compared to its predecessor. Hopefully, the autofocus can be further tweaked and improved upon through a firmware upgrade, but that said, I still do think that the GRIII is a worthy upgrade from the GRII, especially with the higher resolution, touch interface and especially the in-camera sensor cleaning feature, which will definitely combat the dust issue.

Although I'm not really a street shooter, the small and unassuming profile of the Ricoh GRIII is a breath of fresh air when compared to my heavy landscape rigs that I'm used to lugging around. The greatest asset of the Ricoh GR series of cameras is their discreet nature, which makes street photography a lot more fun for me by allowing me to concentrate on the scene rather than be self-conscious as I would with a big camera rig. It's a camera that certainly does not draw attention to itself, and I'll definitely miss it when I have to return the unit.

The Ricoh GRIII will be available at the end of this month in Singapore at the launch price of S$1,299.

[email protected] (Jon Chiang Photography) architecture compact gr iii griii landscape lens mirrorless photography review ricoh street Sun, 10 Mar 2019 10:09:24 GMT
Chasing Lightning The year-end months of November and December in Singapore tend to be rather wet with high levels of rainfall due to the monsoon winds (more information here at Singapore's meteorological service), resulting in frequent thunderstorms happening many days of the week. While this may usually put off a typical landscape photographer's usual light-chasing activities, it also makes for great opportunities to photograph dramatic tropical storms and especially lightning.

Thunderstorms usually occur during the inter-monsoon months of April and May and October and November, and take place mostly during the later parts of the day. Since we experience so many thunderstorms (around 168 days a year), Singapore sees up to around 11,500 strikes a year. While we may be one of the most lightning-prone countries in the world, the lightning capital actually goes to Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela, which can be struck up to 233 times per square km a year. In comparison, Singapore sees about 17 flashes per square km yearly.

Despite that, lightning storms are pretty much the norm during the monsoon, and when one happened around the place I lived, I took the opportunity to photograph the natural phenomenon from one of the highest vantage points around my area - Bukit Batok Skyline. On that day, I initially wanted to head out to shoot my usual sunset cityscape scene, but was hampered by the bad weather. While having dinner at home, a huge electrical storm was taking place just outside and I quickly finished up and rushed out to capture the scene:

Suffice to say, it was indeed a very fruitful trip with lots of drama. Setting my camera to a 30-second exposure at f/11, ISO 64, I captured a sequence of images for over the period of about an hour from 8.30pm to 9.30pm as the storm passed across the frame. The ultra-sharp, ultra-wide-angle Sigma 12-24mm Art lens really came in helpful here, as I could get everything into the frame without having to stitch a panorama, which would be prohibitive for such a scenario.

The storm mainly took place around the south-west of Singapore, over Jurong Island and Pulau Bukom. I was fortunate that the vantage point from where I shot my sequence of images faced this direction, which allowed me to capture the progress of the storm perfectly. Even better, I could also frame the estate where I resided into the frame, which made this composition a lot more personal!

In the end, I picked out 31 frames with lightning and light trails to blend them into a composite image using Photoshop's 'Lighten' blend mode. I then cropped the image slightly to centralise the cluster of buildings into the foreground, and cloned away the ceiling and the other elements on the top and the left. The rest is just my usual colour and contrast processing using Nik software plugins like Color Efex Pro. If you noticed, there's a lightning rod at the right side of the frame. Even though the storm was happening far away from where I was, it was still unnerving to say the least! 

(C)Jon Chiang Photography 2018

Altogether, I'm quite satisfied with the end result, though I feel that some parts could have been blended better. Definitely will be looking forward to my next thunderstorm shoot if conditions permit!

[email protected] (Jon Chiang Photography) architecture cityscape climate lens lightning nikon photography sigma thunderbolt thunderstorm ultrawide weather Sat, 24 Nov 2018 03:55:53 GMT
Haida Red Diamond Nanopro Filter Review Picking up from the success of Haida's Nanopro line of filters, the filter company's latest line of Red Diamond filters promises all the previous advantages of the Nanopro filters, in addition to being up to twice as strong as conventional glass filters. Engineered to be the toughest line of filters in Haida's current offerings, the Red Diamond features a shock-and-scratch-resistant design, making them ideally suited to the harsh challenges of outdoor landscape photography.

As a landscape enthusiast, I was naturally intrigued by the new design, and was pleasantly surprised when Haida approached me to write a review on these new toughened glass filters. In the past, I preferred using resin filters as they were tougher than glass filters in the sense that they readily withstand impacts, whereas glass filters will shatter when dropped. However, resin scratches easily, which may cause flaring issues in the long run. The Haida Red Diamond series seemingly addresses both problems and offers landscape shooters the best of both worlds.

(C)Jon Chiang Photography 2018

The filters arrived in Haida's now-standard padded metallic tin case, and on first glance, looked almost exactly like their standard Nanopro range of filters. Apart from the etched 'Red Diamond' wording on the top of the filter and the slightly more rounded corners designed to make them easier to slip into filter holders, the Red Diamond and Nanopro are similar in all other aspects. Like the Nanopro, the Red Diamond also includes Haida's superb Nano coating, which helps to reduce vignetting, flare and unwanted colour casts, something which I greatly appreciate with my Haida filters.

(C)Jon Chiang Photography 2018

Haida Red Diamond filter on the right, Lee resin grad filter on the left

Compared to my Lee 0.9 soft grad resin filter, the Haida Red Diamond glass filter does not exhibit any colour casts at first glance, whereas the brownish cast on the Lee filter is very apparent from the photo above. That said, I have been using my Lee filter for years, and the brownish discolouration could be due to age. The use of glass as opposed to resin for Haida's filter products should also yield a more resilient filter which should not discolour with age.

(C)Jon Chiang Photography 2018

Installing the filter is also much easier with the rounded corners - a small but well-thought-out design feature of the new Haida filters.

Haida Nanopro 0.9 soft grad on the left, Red Diamond medium grad on the right

The nano coating on the Red Diamond also helps to repel dirt, oil and water, which used to be a nuisance on my resin filters. With my Haida filters, I can easily wipe away debris with my shirt and continue to shoot with it, unlike conventional resin filters which require a good wipe with cleaning fluids and microfibre cloths. This is especially crucial when shooting in rainy conditions or shooting seascapes, where sea spray is oftentimes a concern. The bluish-purplish tint on both the filters in the photo above is a result of the Nanopro coating, and have no discernible impact on real-life results.

It's also good to note that despite the new processes used to toughen the Red Diamond filters, the filters still exhibited Haida's best-in-class colour neutrality and light transmission. Images taken with the newly-launched filter showcased a lack of colour cast, similar to those taken with the Nanopro range of filters. From the comparison shots below, it is evident that the 3-stop graduated top portion of the Red Diamond filter cuts down sunlight significantly, which is vital for controlling highlights in the sky for landscape photography in order to get a well-exposed photo.

Testing the new filter on some cityscapes yielded very promising results, and it would be interesting indeed to use the filter for seascapes, which would be a good environment to test the filter's features. A drop test would definitely be interesting as well, to see how such a filter handle accidental impacts in the real world.

As such, I made some comparison shots with different Haida-branded 6-stop neutral density filters (the original Gen 1 filter, the Nanopro and the latest Red Diamond) to see how much they differed from each other. The test was done at Punggol Beach, as I figured that seascapes would be best to showcase the filters' effect of slowing down shutter speed and extending exposure time for smooth water effects.

Three generations of Haida neutral density filters: uncoated first-gen, Nanopro and Red Diamond

Real-world use in seascapes

From the comparison above, it is apparent that the Nanopro and Red Diamond filters have little to no colour casts, whereas the first-gen Haida 6-stop filter exhibits a bluish colour cast and a strong vignette. However, the cast can be easily corrected with a white balance tool in an image processing software, though the same can't be said for the vignette. More comparison shots can be seen in an earlier review here.

The Haida Red Diamond filter series indeed builds upon its heritage by offering increased durability and toughness with its shock-resistant construction. At the same time, the new filters offer existing features from Haida's Nanopro range with their nano coating that repels dirt, oil and water, excellent light transmission characteristics which reduce vignetting and true-to-life colour reproduction with their extremely neutral colour rendition. Photographers will be glad to note that they will not be losing out in any of Haida's famed optical performance when using a Red Diamond, and yet be free of worry from accidental drops and knocks that may happen out in the field, making them a valuable piece of kit for any landscape enthusiast. 

Sample Image Gallery

Single-exposure with the Sigma 12-24mm Art and the Haida Red Diamond 6-stop ND filter with Nanopro 0.9 soft grad

Multi-row panorama with the Nikon 24-70mm and the Haida Red Diamond 0.9 medium grad

Single-row panorama with the Nikon 24-70mm and the Haida Red Diamond 0.9 medium grad

Single-exposure with the Laowa 12mm and the Haida Red Diamond 0.9 medium grad

Single-row panorama with the Laowa 12mm and the Haida Red Diamond 0.9 medium grad

[email protected] (Jon Chiang Photography) architecture cityscape comparison filter graduated haida landscape laowa neutral density nikon photography red diamond review ultrawide Sat, 01 Sep 2018 10:05:01 GMT
BenQ SW271 4K UHD PhotoVue Monitor Review (Not Recommended) Overview 

Update (October 2019): I've since sold the panel due to some unacceptable quality issues that happened over the year or so of owning the monitor. Scroll down to the end for my updated conclusion.

Disclaimer: Even though I was sent a review unit, I'll be as forthcoming as possible in my writeup. I did purchase the panel to test it out as it seemed to be a compelling replacement for my NEC at that point in time.

In the world of highly-accurate colour-management monitors that are needed for colour-critical work, brands like Eizo and NEC often comes to mind. However, the market for these special screens is small, and there aren't a lot of choices that photographers can choose from. Monitors that include the much-required in-built LUT for hardware calibration and profiling are indeed specialised tools, but the price can be off-putting for many, and photographers on a budget usually will have to consider a full sRGB panel from the Dell Ultrasharp line or even depend on their uncalibrated screens for their work. As for me, I've been depending on my trusty NEC PA272W wide-gamut monitor for quite a while now, and it's been an integral part of my workflow - helping me get accurate colours across different devices and on print as well.

BenQ is a relatively newcomer in this specialised market segment, releasing their well-regarded SW2700PT 27-inch only as recently as 2015, as compared with the other more established brands who have been in the market for a longer time. Their SW271 model is their most-recent release, along with the smaller SW240. Like its bigger sibling the SW320, the SW271 is also a HDR-capable, wide-gamut 4k monitor with in-built LUT for hardware calibration. Coming in at an RRP of $1699, the SW271 is priced much lower than my NEC PA272W, with higher resolution to boot. At this price point, it offers very good price-to-performance ratio especially when compared to similarly-specced high-end models from Eizo, NEC and HP Dreamcolor. The BenQ even bundles a monitor shade to reduce glare, an optional accessory for most other brands that can go for up to $200 a pop.

Thanks to ClubSnap (a local photography forum where I've been sharing my works and my reviews) helping to link me up with BenQ Singapore, I've been very graciously sent a set from them for review. As an unabashed tech and photography geek, I jumped at the opportunity, keen to see how it compares with my current NEC PA272W, my personal benchmark for colour-critical work.

Setting Up

Piecing together the monitor is a relatively straightforward affair, and BenQ includes a handy quick start guide showing users how to connect the two pieces that make up the stand and mounting the monitor on it, as well as instructions on how to piece together the monitor shade. Included in the box are also a variety of cables (HDMI, Displayport to Mini-Displayport, USB 3.0, USB-C and power cable), the calibration report, and the Hotkey Puck for controlling the On-Screen Display (OSD), a useful tool that I'll elaborate more on later.

BenQ SW271 monitor on my deskBenQ SW271 monitor on my desk

BenQ SW271 monitor on my desk

BenQ SW271 calibration reportBenQ SW271 calibration reportBenQ SW271 calibration report

Calibration Report

Out-of-the-box, the SW271 comes pre-calibrated and includes a calibration report, like many other monitors of its class. Although the built-in sRGB and Adoble RGB modes are good, it's generally recommended to do your own calibration for your workflow.

BenQ SW271 cables and accessoriesBenQ SW271 cables and accessoriesBenQ SW271 cables and accessories

Cables and accessories bundled

BenQ SW271 monitor hood boxBenQ SW271 monitor hood boxBenQ SW271 monitor hood box

Monitor hood is included in the kit as a standard-issue item, and comes with its own box

BenQ SW271 and my Aftershock s15 laptopBenQ SW271 and my Aftershock s15 laptopBenQ SW271 and my Aftershock s15 laptop

A glimpse of my workspace - yes, I'm processing my photos on a Windows PC, specifically an Aftershock s15!

It's also worth mentioning that the monitor stand is plenty stable and does not wobble - especially with the wide base shown in the set-up above. Also, the monitor is VESA-compatible, so should you opt for a monitor arm for multiple displays instead, that shouldn't be a problem. Two USB ports and a high-speed SD card slot are located at the left side of the monitor as well. In addition, it has a rather slim profile - with the screen having thin bezels and not being very thick, especially when compared against NEC or Eizo. It's nice to have a tool built for professional use also having a sleek and modern design that will fit well on a minimalist set-up too.


Ease of Use

The monitor features well-thought out design inclusions, such as the opening at the top of the monitor hood to allow access for a calibrator, and the velvet felt-like material lining the interior of the hood to further reduce reflections which can cause glare. These small but important design elements really show that BenQ has put a lot of thought in the design of the monitor to cater to the needs of photographers.

Connecting a calibrator to the BenQ SW271Connecting a calibrator to the BenQ SW271Connecting a calibrator to the BenQ SW271

Opening at the top of the hood allows for a calibrator to be placed

One of the key features that set this monitor apart from its competitors is BenQ's innovative Hotkey Puck, which conveniently allows photographers to store up to three calibration profiles in its pre-set buttons, and generally allows more intuitive control over the OSD with its multi-directional and OK buttons. A feature that BenQ cleverly carried over from their gaming lineup, it provides better control as compared to the standard buttons along the bottom bezel of the screen and helps users to quickly proof images by switching between the different profiles. For example, I have my calibration stored in one of the keys, and Adobe RGB and sRGB stored in the other two. At a press of a button, I can switch to another state without having to dive into the OSD menu.

BenQ SW271 HotKey PuckBenQ SW271 HotKey PuckBenQ SW271 HotKey Puck

BenQ Hotkey puck

The puck can be nested in its little holder in the middle of the monitor stand, which minimises its footprint. It's connected to the display via a Mini-USB cable, should you wish to remove it.



While the monitor's in-built colour profiles are already calibrated out-of-the-box, the monitor can also be hardware calibrated - which is the main selling point of these specialised displays. Hardware calibration allows the profiles to be stored directly into the monitor itself, thus preventing any software or the operating system from messing with the calibration as compared to software calibration on a computer. In order to do that with this monitor and similar screens, you will need to have a supported colorimeter like the i1 Display Pro or the Spyder 5.

BenQ's software, Palette Master Element, for performing this hardware calibration is also included in the bundle, or can be downloaded from their website. Although not as feature-rich as NEC's Spectraview or Multiprofiler, it's straightforward and easy to use. Before calibration, it's good practice to let the monitor warm up for at least 30 minutes to minimise any colour shifts during the process.

BenQ SW271 calibration settingsBenQ SW271 calibration settingsBenQ SW271 calibration settings

My custom settings for calibration

When starting up Palette Master Element, be sure to click on 'Advanced' for more options, and 'Profiling' for the calibration and profiling workflow. You will come to this screen, which offers you a bunch of profiles and settings. For me, I always profile my monitor at 'Panel Native', which uses the display's native gamut for the widest possible gamut. This will be wider than Adobe RGB, as the monitor is able to cover slightly more than the Adobe colour space. As for the luminance value, the screen's default setting of 160cd/mis too bright for post-processing work, and generally any value between 80 to 120cd/m2 would be acceptable.

BenQ SW271 calibration settingsBenQ SW271 calibration settingsBenQ SW271 calibration settings

Measurement screen

Clicking next from the previous screen, you will come to this screen before starting the actual calibration process. Here, you can set up to three different calibration presets, and they can likewise be programmed into the Hot Key Puck for convenience. For me, I set the profile type to be '16 bits LUT' and the patch set to 'large' for the greatest accuracy. After that, you can click 'Start Measurement' and wait for the monitor to finish profiling before unplugging the colorimeter. It's a rather straightforward process from start to finish, but in order to keep the monitor accurate, it's best to calibrate once every month or so, as displays tend to shift in colour and brightness over time.



The SW271 produces very punchy and saturated colours especially through its Adobe RGB presets, with a high-definition 4k panel for incredibly life-like detail. Natively, results from the panel are fantastic to admire - and the monitor gives very accurate results as well.

BenQ SW271 calibration validationBenQ SW271 calibration validationBenQ SW271 calibration validation

Validation screen

After calibration and profiling, you can validate the results by having the monitor run through a test batch of colour patches, which measures the error range of the monitor. The SW271 performs exceptionally well with an average delta E of around 0.63 in my calibration, and 0.39 in BenQ's factory calibration. Generally, monitors with a delta E of 3 and below are considered very good, and a delta E of 1 and below will be imperceptible to the human eye. All-in-all, colour accuracy is superb as expected from a monitor in this class.


Gamut Coverage

With its native gamut, the SW271 covers slightly more than the Adobe RGB gamut, hence actually overstating their 99% coverage - a good thing indeed! This is why I chose to profile my monitors at their native gamut rather than limiting the calibration to one of the pre-set colour spaces. This way, I get the maximum gamut of colours out of the screen.

BenQ SW271 gamut coverageBenQ SW271 gamut coverageBenQ SW271 gamut coverage

Monitor native gamut vs Adobe RGB, with the monitor's gamut shown in the rainbow outline, and Adobe RGB in the grey dotted triangle

BenQ SW271 gamut coverageBenQ SW271 gamut coverageBenQ SW271 gamut coverage As measured, the monitor can cover slightly more than the Adobe RGB spectrum


Screen Uniformity

This is where even high-end monitors will struggle, as it is very difficult to obtain perfectly even backlighting. The SW271 definitely shows a bit of backlight bleed especially when displaying a black screen or very dark colours, though I would find it a non-issue for day-to-day photography work. Bear in mind that I had to bump up the ISO on my camera to expose for the backlight bleed, so in reality the issue is inconsequential unless you process your photos in a very dark room with the screen brightness cranked way up while working on images with deep black levels.

BenQ SW271 IPS backlight bleedBenQ SW271 IPS backlight bleedBenQ SW271 IPS backlight bleed

Black screen showing some backlight bleed around the edges of the display

As for the brightness uniformity, I took measurements in a 3x3 grid across the screen to see how much they would deviate from the centre of the screen, which is where the calibrator would normally be placed. As can be seen in the below table, brightness and colour temperature values tend to taper off from the centre of the screen (cd/m2, K). This is where a monitor of NEC's or Eizo's uncompromising standards would shine in - panel uniformity for those high-end brands would never differ more than a few cd/mor K across the screen, even at the edges and corners.

BenQ SW271 screen uniformityBenQ SW271 screen uniformityBenQ SW271 screen uniformity

Brightness and temperature variances



While still a pricey piece of kit, the BenQ SW271 offers exceptional value-for-money, especially compared to similarly-specced premium models from Eizo and NEC which can cost more than twice the asking price of the BenQ. Combined with included extras like the monitor hood, and innovative features like the Hot Key Puck making the user experience more straightforward and convenient, it's hard to say no to this bezel-less 4k monitor for photo-editing. Definitely a great piece of gear for the discerning photographer.

Update (October 2019)

As of October 2019 I've sold the monitor after returning two units for unacceptable image burn-in and corner light bleed issues. After a few months of use, my initial unit started exhibiting image burn-in around the corners - at the top of the screen and the bottom where the windows start button is. This happened even though I did not use my monitor in a professional setting - the panel was turned off always after use, and my daily screen-on time averaged 6 hours. The corners also started getting brighter over time and was especially noticeable when processing dark images or viewing darker content.

Notice the uneven brightness issue on the corners of the display

A closer look at the corners exhibiting discolouration and unenvenness

These issues were definitely unacceptable to me, especially since I did not stress test the monitor by running it 24/7. Of course, I wasn't expecting the BenQ to perform as well as a high-end Eizo or NEC, but I would not expect such quality issues at a monitor aimed at a professional crowd too. The issues I experienced persisted even though I changed the panel twice, and so I finally decided to continue relying on my chunky NEC which has been my trusty workhorse for years and sell off the BenQ.

To BenQ's benefit, their customer service has been very helpful with my issues and with the exchanging of panels, but ultimately I cannot see myself changing panels every few months till the warranty expires. They have created a very compelling product at a very attractive price point, but sadly the issues that plagued my units were far too unacceptable. At this time, I cannot recommend this product to anyone who needs a colour-critical monitor. Hopefully, BenQ will address these quality issues and improve on their next iteration.

[email protected] (Jon Chiang Photography) 4k adobergb benq camera color display dslr editing eizo gamut lcd lut management mirrorless monitor nec panel photographer photography photovue post processing professional review screen srgb sw271 uhd wide Thu, 12 Jul 2018 15:18:09 GMT
Leofoto LS-284C Tripod Review Overview

Leofoto is a relatively newcomer in the very saturated market of tripod makers, offering tantalisingly low prices for good performance and added features to put a leg up against other more established competitors. Having a pretty awesome working review relationship with local dealer PhotosphereSG, they loaned me a copy of the Leofoto LS-284C tripod with the Leofoto NB-46 ball head for use as my go-to landscape kit for a few weeks. Aside from that, they also provided me with a few other Leofoto goodies that I will be reviewing later, so massive shout outs to them!

Those who are familiar with my shooting style know that I go for the most sturdy set-up whenever I can, which is why I lug around a beefy Really Right Stuff TVC-33 tripod for my urban landscape shenanigans. However, such a set-up can be ironically a pain to travel with considering the nature of my photography style. Though it may be light for its size, the TVC-33 is still bulky, which is why I've only brought it overseas (to New Zealand) once, where we had our own transport to get us to our landscape spots.

Enter the Leofoto LS-284C set of legs. At just 1.12kg and 44.4cm without a head attached, the carbon-fibre legs is very light and packs nicely into luggage or the padded tripod bag it came with. This 4-section tripod extends up to a decent working height of 120cm when fully splayed, and can be easily laid flat onto any surface due to its design which does not include a centre column by default. The centre column is still included in the kit, but one has to screw the column into the apex of the tripod since it isn't built into the design. For most landscape photographers, this is actually preferable as it does not compromise stability and allows you to quickly drop to a lower angle when needed. Check out more specs here at their product website.

(C)Jon Chiang Photography 2018

Leofoto review kit

The tripod comes with the aforementioned detachable centre column, allen wrenches in a tool kit, a carabiner with a 1/4in screw attachment that you could attach to the underside or the side of the tripod's apex to hang your camera bag with or other accessories, and tripod leg spikes for use outdoors. The AM-2 magic arm with the PC-90 phone attachment on the bottom right is not part of the tripod kit, but can be purchased as a separate accessory.

(C)Jon Chiang Photography 2018

Accessories can be hooked under the tripod using the included 1/4in screw attachment

(C)Jon Chiang Photography 2018

Low-angle capabilities of the LS-284C with other Leofoto products

Unlike similar travel tripods which include the centre column in their designs, the Leofoto by default does not come with one attached. This allows landscape shooters to quickly drop to a lower angle when desired, instead of having to invert the centre column and the camera in other tripods, which can be a cumbersome and unwieldy affair. Pictured here next to the LS-284C are the Leofoto MT-02 tabletop tripod and the LS-223C mini tripod, both of which goes slightly lower and have a smaller footprint when fully splayed out.

Leofoto LS-284C with NB-46 ballhead and AM-2 with PC-90 phone attachment

The NB-46 ball head included in my review kit is rated up to 30kg and has a large 46mm ball for better friction and control. At 553g, it is slightly lighter than my full-sized Arca-Swiss Z1 ball head, but has a smaller diameter, making it a good fit with travel-sized tripods. Paired together with the Leofoto legs, the entire set-up weighs in at around 1.7kg, but makes for a light and sturdy set-up capable of holding my large format Horseman 45FA camera and my mobile phone when splayed out properly on flat ground. The ball head also comes with a small built-in Arca-Swiss-compatible panoramic clamp, something that I quite appreciate especially when grabbing panos on the fly. With the panoramic clamp, one can easily centre the ball head to ensure a seamless and level pan in the horizontal axis, which is perfect for quick single-row panoramas.

(C)Jon Chiang Photography 2018

Frontal view of the set-up above

Like with any other Arca-Swiss-styled ball head, it features a main adjustment knob with tension setting and a pan adjustment knob. While the main knob is easily adjustable and locks lightly without much creep, I like that the friction setting can be easily adjusted with the big twist-handle. Most other ball heads of such styles require users to fiddle with a small thumb-screw to set the friction, which can be a clumsy affair. The friction setting is locked in securely in this manner as well, since the handle has click-stops built-in to prevent any accidental resetting. The knobs on the ball head are however made purely out of metal, so they may bite into your fingers when adjusting, which can happen especially in colder climates.

The tripod comes with a 1/4in screw attachment on the apex, allowing users to mount accessories like the AM-2 friction articulating magic arm and the PC-90 phone clamp. This is particularly useful if you wish to shoot timelapses from your phone while shooting with your main camera mounted on the tripod, but do not wish to pack another tripod separately for this function. The phone clamp can extend from 56mm to 90mm, easily accommodating most smartphone sizes. Check out the clamp here on PhotosphereSG's online store. 

(C)Jon Chiang Photography 2018

My iPhone 6s Plus mounted on the PC-90 phone clamp


Real World Usage Tests

The Leofoto LS-284C is styled very similarly to the Really Right Stuff TFC-14/TQC-14, extending to around the same height and weighing in around the same as well. However, the Really Right Stuff variants cost four times as much as what Leofoto is asking for their version, so how do they stack up? I headed out to one of Singapore's swampiest beaches to see how it fares in water, and in ease of maintenance after. Local landscape photographers would know that Kranji Beach is not for the faint of heart with its almost quicksand-like mudflats at low tide. Such a test would give me a good idea as to how the tripod will perform in less-than-ideal conditions, and if there will be issues assembling the tripod after taking it apart for cleaning.

Sticking the Leofoto in saltwater and mud in one of Singapore's marshiest shorelines

My Leofoto set-up pictured here with my friend's Gitzo

Despite the punishing conditions my Leofoto was subjected to, it still held up well. Still, being a small tripod, I had to jam the legs deep into the mud to achieve good stability. However, that's just one of the trade offs when using a smaller set-up, and most importantly, the tripod didn't wobble or dislodge due to movement in the water. I was able to pull off the long exposure shown below using these set of legs. As you can see, there's no blurriness due to shifting in the sand/mud, which can happen on lesser tripods when subjected to similar conditions.

(C)Jon Chiang Photography 2018

Long exposure shot of deadfall in low tide at Kranji Beach

In a similar instance, this panorama at Bishan Park had to be made with the tripod immersed in the running stream. The tripod performed well here with no vibrations or shifting, and the resulting image is sharp and clear on a high-megapixel camera like the D850.

Long exposure stitched panorama at Bishan Park

Leofoto also makes optional leg spikes with removable rubber caps for use on slippery rocks or soft ground


Ease of Maintenance

After putting my Leofoto through that ordeal, I had to strip the tripod apart to give it a thorough rinsing with fresh water. This helps to prevent saltwater corrosion from happening, which can even eat into aluminium especially at places where the anodised coating is worn. Disassembling the tripod is a relatively straightforward and hassle-free affair, especially if one is familiar with the design of Gitzo or RRS tripods.

Leofoto LS-284C with legs fully disassembled

(C)Jon Chiang Photography 2018

Disassembling leg joints

Just like the designs of its Gitzo and RRS counterparts, the Leofoto has a plastic shim that needs to be aligned with the bigger leg section in order for them to fit properly. However, the Leofoto's plastic alignment sleeve actually snaps into place with the carbon fibre tube, preventing them from misalignment or dropping out. This is good because such sleeves are the ones that usually go missing in such tripods. Still, the plastic used by Leofoto is not as sturdy as I would expect them to be, and seems brittle. Take care not to use too much force when removing them for maintenance, or they may snap.

(C)Jon Chiang Photography 2018

 Aligning the pieces back together for assembly


Final Thoughts

While it definitely doesn't match up to a Really Right Stuff TFC-14 travel tripod, the Leofoto LS-284C isn't meant to replace a sturdier set of legs and in fact comes very close to its Leofoto and Gitzo equivalents. This is further verified in The Centre Column's travel tripod ranking chart here. The Centre Column is an independent tripod review and testing blog that conducts, quoting from them, "quantitative, repeatable, comparative, and directly relates to the real world performance" of different tripods they have tested. Using accurate tools and measurements, they have gathered different performance metrics for different brands and models of tripod legs, and the Leofoto LS-284C ranks fourth on their travel tripod comparison chart, just behind its Gitzo and Really Right Stuff variants. This is an admirable feat considering those other options cost up to four times as much, but do not offer four times better performance as compared to Leofoto, giving this particular Chinese tripod making brand a very impeccable price-to-performance ratio.

The Leofoto LS-284C has a very small footprint for scenarios like this

This Leofoto tripod and ball head combination has been a joy to use, and surely did not feel in any way cheap when compared to other more established brands. Although some areas could be improved, like more sturdier plastic shims inside the legs and more scratch-resistant anodising, the tripod offers great value-for-money in a small and light, but yet sturdy (for its size) package, with great design to boot. Everything from the accessory mounting port at the apex to its black-and-silver design accents seem very well thought-out, which should please most travel photographers looking for a set of decent legs, but do not want to break the bank. I'd definitely recommend this tripod to anyone looking for a reliable support system, especially to complement a mirrorless system.

You can view Leofoto's range of travel tripods at Click Camera at Centrepoint Orchard, or at MS Color at Ang Mo Kio. Alternatively, you can check out online distributor PhotosphereSG's range of Leofoto products on their website here

[email protected] (Jon Chiang Photography) carbon fibre comparison gitzo legs lens leofoto nikkor nikon photography really right stuff review seascape sirui stability tests tripod ultrawide Sun, 17 Jun 2018 16:12:11 GMT
Haida Clear Night Filter Review Ever since Haida became available locally and my initial comparisons with their first generational filters against their Lee and Hitech counterparts, I've replaced usual kit with Haida filters due to their neutral colour cast and superior optical characteristics. Haida has since released Nanopro replacements to the original popular series of full neutral density filters in the 100mm and the 150mm ranges, and improved on the originals by reducing the residual colour cast they had and completely eliminating any vignetting the originals caused.

Even though I've received the filter for review, Haida's stellar performance in their other product lineups gave me high expectations of their recently-released Clear Night Nanopro. Both the 100mm and the 150mm Clear Night filters come in the now familiar metal tin padded case, reminiscent of the ones Lee ships their neutral density filters in. Like the other Nanopro filters, the new coating helps to repel oil and water, keeping the filter free of grime, and prevents flare caused by internal reflections/strong light sources.

Haida Clear Night Filters in 100mm and 150mm sizesHaida Clear Night Filters in 100mm and 150mm sizes

Haida Clear Night filters in 100mm and 150mm dimensions

Holding up a Haida 100mm Clear Night filterHolding up a Haida 100mm Clear Night filter

The filters have an unmistakable glossy finish and purplish-blue tint to them

Price Comparisons

Being a specialised filter, the Clear Night filters cost more than their regular Nanopro counterparts. However, they are much cheaper than Nisi's similar Natural Night filters. I did not have the chance to test and compare both Haida and Nisi variants, but I would wager that the Haida ones are as good as the Nisi filters for less than their asking price.

Haida Clear Night 100mm Nisi Natural Night 100mm
US$136 (B&H June 2018) US$194.99 (B&H June 2018)
Haida Clear Night 150mm Nisi Natural Night 150mm
US$216 (B&H June 2018) US$264.99 (B&H June 2018)

Image Comparisons

Being an architecture and urban landscape photographer involves shooting a lot of night scenes in addition to the standard golden hour shots, so I was curious as to how the Clear Night would improve on my image output. The filter works by cutting out certain frequencies of yellow light that is normally emitted from sodium-vapour street lamps and similar sources of light, thus reducing or eliminating heavy light pollution from artificial light sources, which are plentiful in a busy city like Singapore. As I am currently based here, the filter should theoretically help me clean up light pollution and cut down a bit of flaring caused by strong yellowish light sources, which become very prominent when it gets dark.

Ideally, the filter should improve results when applied in fields like cityscape night photography and astrophotography. I took to putting the Clear Night 150mm filter through its paces as soon as I received it, and the images shown here are taken on my Nikon D850 and the Nikon 14-24mm lens with the Haida 150mm filter holder, unless otherwise specified. 

Without Clear Night Filter

Without filter

With Clear Night Filter

With Haida Clear Night filter

From the comparison shots above, it is evident that the strong yellow light source has been significantly reduced. This exact scene at the ArtScience Museum has a strong yellow glow from the spotlights, and the filter did a good job at rendering a very natural look right out of the camera. The only tweaks I used was the auto white balance in manual mode, and some contrast in post for the above shots.

Because it cuts down so much yellow light, the filter ends up shifting the colour balance towards magenta/blue. This is easily correctable if you so choose but I decided to leave it in as I tend to go for a cooler rendition for my night shots. With the Clear Night, more colours that are usually overwhelmed by the yellow glow of city lights can be revealed as well. Due to this effect, the filter cuts down about half a stop of light, so you could either adjust accordingly on camera or in post, but this is a rather negligible issue.

The filter also helped to cut a bit of flaring caused by these yellow light sources. If you scroll up to the image of ArtScience Museum above taken without the Clear Night, there is a bit of flare at the top-left corner. The flare is gone in the shot with the filter attached.

Without filter

With Haida Clear Night filter

From the long exposure shots above, you can see the shift from yellow-green to magenta-blue when the filter is applied. The other colours from light sources not cut out from the filter are more intense and richer as well. This can be useful for photographers who prefer not to tweak their shots too much and want a natural-looking output.


White Balance Matching

I tried to match the white balances to see the effect of the filter when a neutral target spot is picked from both a shot without the Clear Night and a shot with the filter attached. As can be seen below, the filter's blue tint can be removed in post, and it retains the colours not affected by the filtration. Only strong yellow light sources are affected, and will turn magenta/orange (natural teal and orange filter anyone?).

(C)Jon Chiang Photography 2018

Without filter

With Haida Clear Night filter


Although the filter doesn't prevent flare, it cuts down the impact of flare caused by yellow light sources, making such flares less jarring. However, if your lens is very prone to flaring like the Nikon 14-24mm, the flare will still occur but it will be less noticeable. It's also good to note that installing the filter does not create additional flaring issues, thanks to its inclusion of a Nano antireflective filter coating.

Without filter

With Haida Clear Night filter

As usual, the colours that were once washed-out because of the strong yellow cast caused by artificial lighting are more prominent thanks to the Clear Night filter.

Resolution Comparisons

The filter also does not degrade image quality, and actually seems to improve apparent sharpness by getting rid of the excess yellow light bleeding and ghosting around the edges of brightly-lit subjects. Take a look at The Fullerton Hotel's lettering in the crops with and without the filter, and you can find that you can make out more of the words in the shot taken with the Clear Night.

Without filter

With Haida Clear Night filter

Use on Fireworks

With the number of city-wide celebratory events in Singapore (New Year's Day, Chinese New Year, National Day, etc.), fireworks are quite a common occurrence happening every few months or so, making them a popular subject with cityscape photographers. Curious about the effects of the Clear Night filter on them, I decided to photograph some National Day fireworks from Marina Bay.

Multiple-row panorama with Haida Clear Night filter on the Nikon 14-24mm, with fireworks shot at bulb mode separately from the cityscape

It's good to note that the Clear Night filter cuts down on the yellow hues exhibited by sodium-vapour lamps, while leaving the vibrant colours of the fireworks and surrounding city lights intact. As such, it can be used to enhance light shows and fireworks.

Concluding Remarks

So, is it possible to reproduce these results with post-processing techniques in your favourite image editing software? Well, you could tweak the white balance to make your night shots look more natural, but there is so much one can do to cut flare caused by street lights in post. The Clear Night definitely produces a more contrasty and punchier result right off the bat, and makes your nightscapes quite a bit more vibrant without much post work. 

It's definitely not just a mere white-balance correcting filter, but quite a useful tool to have to aid night-time photographers get more pleasing results in camera. I'll be looking forward to testing it for some star trail and astrophotography in heavily light-polluted Singapore, and am keen to find out if it cuts down on the effort required to capture the Milky Way here.

To purchase these filters, visit PhotosphereSG for Singapore-based orders, or visit Haida for more information on their filters and where you can buy them.


Sample Image Gallery

These shots were made with the Haida Clear Night, and post-processed for colour and contrast.

(C)Jon Chiang Photography 2018

[email protected] (Jon Chiang Photography) 14-24mm 19mm architecture canon cityscape clear night comparison dslr filter fine art haida hitech landscape lee lens long exposure nanopro natural night neutral density nikkor nikon nisi pce photography review slow shutter sony ultrawide urban Thu, 14 Jun 2018 08:15:45 GMT
The Great Tilt-Shift Wars Mk. II (C)Jon Chiang Photography 2018

Juggling both the Canon 17mm TS-E on a Sony A7r body with the rest of my Nikon kit tended to be a rather unwieldy affair, so when I had the opportunity to visit Japan's legendary Yodobashi camera store in early January 2018, I popped by to take a look at the price of the Nikon 19mm PC-E lens over there. I shouldn't have done so because with the tourist tax rebate of 8%, coupled with the cash rebate of 5% when buying with Visa cards, the price amounted to about $3.9k Singapore Dollars. That's about $600 less than what the local camera stores are quoting, and almost $900 off the official list price! The temptation proved too much, so I snapped at the opportunity to grab the lens. With Nikon's worldwide service warranty for their lenses, I wouldn't be losing anything in terms of customer support, so it's pretty much a no-brainer decision.

But what about the Canon 17mm TS-E? Well, the Nikon version is proving to be a rather expensive investment despite the discount, and it makes no sense for me to keep the Canon since I could mount the Nikon one natively, rather than use an adapter for the lens on a Sony mirrorless body. I'll definitely be selling it, but not before making some comparisons first. The previous opportunity I had with the Nikon 19mm was too short since it didn't belong to me, but now I have as much time as I want to conduct a more thorough and fair review.

For this review, the Canon was mounted on a Sony A7rii using a Viltrox adapter, while the Nikon is mounted natively on my Nikon D850. Both cameras have about the same number of high-resolving megapixels, so that should narrow down the sensor differences. Also, all the shots were shot on f/11 and at base ISO on a sturdy Really Right Stuff tripod. Since I'm going to be using the lens for architecture and landscape, it makes no sense to shoot wide-open, so I'll compare both lenses at their optimal apertures. The review photos are converted to JPG without any post-processing.


  Canon 17mm TS-E Nikon 19mm PC-E
Focal Length 17mm 19mm
Aperture Maximum: f/4
Minimum: f/22
Maximum: f/4
Minimum: f/32
Angle of View 104° 97°
Movements Tilt ± 6.5° 
Shifts ± 12mm 
Tilt ± 7.5° 
Shifts ± 12mm 
Elements/Groups 18 / 12 17 / 13
Aperture Blades 8 9
Minimum Focus Distance 9.84" (25 cm) 9.84" (25 cm)
Ability to tilt/shift on independent axis  Yes Yes
Weight 1.80 lb (820 g) 1.95 lb (885 g)
Price US$2,149.00 (B&H Feb 2018) US$3,396.95 (B&H Feb 2018)

Both seems to be very similar to each other in terms of specs. The Nikon can tilt one degree more than the Canon, and can go up to f/32 (which will be soft due to heavy diffraction at this aperture anyway), while the Canon is obviously wider and has 8 aperture blades instead of 9 like the Nikon. Its 8-bladed aperture produces distinct 8-point starbursts, while the Nikon 9-bladed aperture will produce 18-point starbursts, which are diffused in comparison. This difference is described in my previous comparison here and the comparison further down the article.

Another important thing to note is that unlike the older Nikon tilt-shifts, the 19mm has the ability to tilt and shift independently. This may not seem like much, but it's important because previously you need to send the lens back to the service centre just so that you can tilt and shift on different planes, since both tilt and shift are not independently rotatable like the Canons. 


Both Canon and Nikon provide locks for the tilt axis, but only Canon has a click-stop and a lock for the lens centre point for its shift axis. Although it's disappointing that Nikon did not include one for their lens at this price range and especially since their older tilt-shifts have this feature, they made up for it by providing their 19mm with a stiff shift knob, which means that the lens should not slide off the shift axis during transportation or when shooting, which can happen with the Canon. Both lenses have click-stops for their rotating axis, as well as the zero point for the tilt axis.

As tilt-shift lenses have to be manual-focus, the throw of the focus ring needs to be well-designed. Nikon achieves this splendidly by providing a stiff but very smooth focus ring with good friction, which is unlikely to be disturbed by movement of the lens. In contrast, the Canon has a focus ring that is too smooth, and you might accidentally disturb the focus when shifting the lens, requiring you to refocus the image again.


What I enjoy doing with tilt-shift lenses besides their primary use as a physical perspective-correction device (in contrast to correcting in post-processing, which can result in stretched pixels and image quality degradation), is due to their huge image circle, I can produce shift panoramas with them. It's a lot more straightforward to stitch in Photoshop, and you do not need to use a panoramic rail with this technique. Furthermore, Photoshop's automatic stitching function is very advanced these days, so you do not need to use an offset when shifting to stitch. Previously, it meant that you need to apply an offset to the amount of shift you used, in order for the image to stitch properly in post, but this is negated in the latest releases of Photoshop due to its intelligent stitching algorithms.

Shift Panoramas

Making shift panoramas is very simple - shift the lens to its maximum point and rotate it all around its axis, taking a photo for every click-stop during the rotation. This will leave give you twelve photos to stitch in total. This is because, like hours on a clock, the lens will click into place twelve times in total during the rotation. A full shift panorama results in about a 12mm field-of-view for the Nikon, while a 11mm field-of-view can be achieved with the Canon.

Canon 17mm TS-E shift panoramaCanon 17mm TS-E shift panorama

Canon 17mm TS-E shift panorama

Nikon 19mm TS-E shift panorama

Resolving Power

As you can see, the Canon 17mm is quite a bit wider as compared to the Nikon tilt-shift, which makes shooting in enclosed and confined places like this church a tad more convenient. But what about the sharpness?

Crop from top-right corner on the Canon, full shift

(C)Jon Chiang Photography 2018

Crop from top-right corner on the Nikon, full shift

Both lenses resolve details very well at their maximum level of shift, but the Nikon seems to be a hair sharper in the corners.

Centre crop on the Canon

Centre crop on the Nikon

In the centre, the seem to produce similar level of sharpness, although the microcontrast on the Nikon looks to be a little more defined. This can be easily fixed with a bit of structure/clarity post-processing on the Canon.

Flaring during movements

The Canon 17mm TS-E is known to flare especially during shifting; this could be due to either light leaks that happen during lens movements, or because of the huge bulbous front element catching stray light at the sides. Although undesirable, this flare can be resolved by physically shading the lens with your hand, or by stitching a shift panorama. Photoshop is smart enough to omit the flare in the final pano after stitching.

Flare on the Canon 17mm TS-E at full shift

In contrast, the more modern Nano and Flourine coatings on the Nikon seems to eliminate or drastically reduce this issue. This is commendable, especially with the bulbous front element inherent in the designs of such ultrawide tilt-shift lenses.

Nikon 19mm PC-E at full shift


The Canon 17mm TSE with its 8-bladed aperture produces distinct 8-point starbursts at f/11 and above, but for some reason produces a very aesthetically-pleasing, 16-point diffraction pattern at f/8. It's not quite as distinct as the starbursts at f/11, but the soft-looking, 16-point pattern is rather eye-catching, at least to me.


Canon 17mm TSE starburst effect at various apertures

The Nikon 19mm PCE has a more typical 18-point starburst with its 9-bladed design. Nikon shooters will find its starburst pattern quite familiar, and perhaps, a little uninteresting. It's also not as distinct as the Canon's especially when your light sources are faint and small.


Nikon 19mm PCE starburst effect at various apertures


The Canon 17mm has more distinct vignetting, resulting in stronger darkening of the skies when shifted, as compared to the Nikon. The difference in the angle-of-view can also be seen in this fully-shifted shot of People's Park Centre:

Canon 17mm TS-E full shift

Nikon 19mm PC-E full shift

Here's another sharpness comparison between the two:

Canon 17mm TS-E full shift, cropped

(C)Jon Chiang Photography 2018

Nikon 19mm PC-E full shift, cropped

Another sharpness comparison of a different scene at full shift on the bottom right corner (full scene in sample images):

Canon 17mm TS-E crop

Nikon 19mm PC-E crop

As observed in the earlier comparison images, the Nikon seems to have a hair better sharpness and microcontrast as compared to the Canon.

Bonus - Nikon 14-24mm vs Nikon 19mm PC-E

I also decided to make a comparison between the legendary Nikon 14-24mm lens, a lens that despite its age, still manages to resolve detail extremely well on high-resolution cameras, which is quite a feat considering that it was designed and made in an era where Nikon made 12mp cameras. The Nikon 14-24mm was focused at 19mm to match the field-of-view of the Nikon 19mm PC-E.

(C)Jon Chiang Photography 2018

Full scene - Nikon 19mm PC-E

As expected, both lenses resolves detail impeccably well in the centre of the frame:

(C)Jon Chiang Photography 2018

Nikon 14-24mm, centre crop

(C)Jon Chiang Photography 2018

Nikon 19mm PC-E, centre crop

On the extreme corners of the frame, the Nikon 14-24mm exhibits softness and more pronounced chromatic aberration in contrast to the 19mm PC-E:

(C)Jon Chiang Photography 2018

Nikon 14-24mm @ 19mm, corner crop

(C)Jon Chiang Photography 2018

Nikon 19mm PC-E, corner crop

It should be noted that the chromatic aberration seen in the shot using the Nikon 14-24mm can be easily cleaned up in post, especially with the correct lens profiles. Also, for a wide-angle zoom lens, the sharpness is pretty respectable, especially shown side-by-side with the Nikon 19mm PC-E, a prime lens with a huge image circle, whose use-case calls for extreme sharpness and resolving power even to the corners.

Concluding Notes

While I may miss the extra 2mm the Canon gives me in exchange for using the Nikon on a native system, it's a lot more convenient than to switch between two systems if I want to use a tilt-shift. Furthermore, the Nikon has better flare resistance due to better coatings, and is slightly sharper with less vignetting to boot. However, Canon users should take heart that they still have the advantage in terms of angle-of-view coverage, which makes the Canon a lot more usable in tight spaces, the design objective for such exotic ultrawide tilt-shifts. I'll definitely miss my Canon 17mm TS-E when I sell it, but I look forward to shooting a lot more with the Nikon!

Sample Shots

(C)Jon Chiang Photography 2018

Pearl Bank Apartments, Nikon 19mm PC-E shift panorama

(C)Jon Chiang Photography 2018

Golden Mile Complex, Nikon 19mm PC-E shift panorama

(C)Jon Chiang Photography 2018

Marina One Interior, Nikon 19mm PC-E shift panorama

(C)Jon Chiang Photography 2018

Marina One Interior, Nikon 19mm PC-E shift panorama

(C)Jon Chiang Photography 2018

National Gallery Interior, Nikon 19mm PC-E shift panorama

(C)Jon Chiang Photography 2018

Tanjong Pagar and Chinatown, Nikon 19mm PC-E shift panorama

Novena Church Interior, Canon 17mm TS-E shift panorama

(C)Jon Chiang Photography 2018

People's Park Centre, Nikon 19mm PC-E

(C)Jon Chiang Photography 2018

Ghim Moh, Nikon 19mm PC-E shift panorama

(C)Jon Chiang Photography 2018

Ghim Moh, Nikon 19mm PC-E

(C)Jon Chiang Photography 2018

Asakusa Shrine, Nikon 19mm PC-E

[email protected] (Jon Chiang Photography) 17m 19mm angle architecture building canon cityscape comparison correction dslr landscape lens mirrorless nikkor nikon pce perspective photography review shift sony structure tilt tse ultrawide wide Sun, 04 Feb 2018 05:52:31 GMT
The Great Tilt-Shift Wars Update: Do check out the part 2 of this review over here!

As a Nikon photographer, I’ve always been rather envious of what Canon can offer in its lens department, particularly the legendary 17mm Canon tilt-shift lens. I decided to bite the bullet last year and procured a pristine second-hand copy to pair with the Sony a7r, hoping that the combination of resolution and dynamic range similar to my Nikon D800E would live up to this demanding lens that no other Canon body could (except the Canon 5DSr, with the exception of dynamic range). A few weeks after I’ve dropped a sizeable investment of around S$3.5k for my architecture kit (Sony a7r, Canon 17mm TSE and Canon to Sony adapter), Nikon announced the 19mm PCE lens. With performance touted to be close to, or exceeding, its Canon counterpart, I thought I might regret my purchase decision until the announced the price. The Nikon 19mm PCE is priced at close to S$5k, significantly higher than the Canon, and eclipsing the entire kit that I’ve purchased just for a specialty lens. Any differences then, I figured, have to really justify that premium in order to convince me from getting one over the other.

As such, I’ve hoped for someone to conduct a simple, real-world review of both lenses with similar resolution bodies in order to determine the differences between the two, no matter how minute. However, as I scoured the Internet for such a review, finding even reviews on the Nikon lens proved to be an unsatisfactory affair. It seemed that this lens was priced out of reach for most people. Requesting a review unit from Nikon on the pretext of a comparison review with its Canon counterpart was met with silence, and so I resigned to hoping that someone might one day take the time to conduct a comparison between the two lenses.

As it turns out, a friend of mine happen to get his hands on the Nikon 19mm, and so I arranged for us to meet to test out both lenses. I’ll try to be as impartial as possible in this comparison review, but it will be conducted in real-life, outdoor conditions as I’m more of an environmental photographer as opposed to a studio photographer.

Build Quality and Handling

Canon 17mm TSE mounted on Sony a7rii, Nikon 19mm mounted on Nikon D800E

Both lenses are made of solid metal, with a hard plastic outer shell. Both have protruding bulbous front elements, and are manual-focus only. Knobs on both lenses are large and easy to twist. The Nikon’s knobs are a lot more damped as compared to the Canon’s, but that could be due to mine being quite a well-used lens, and that goes for its focusing ring as well, something I appreciate over the Canon’s somewhat loose focus ring which is prone to being accidentally spun when nudged. Other than that, build quality on both lenses is reassuring and impeccable for a modern-day lens. Both the Canon and Nikon tilt-shifts can shift to a maximum of 12mm in all directions and rotate in all directions. When paired with a mirrorless Sony body, the Canon lens have unhindered breathing space for freedom of movement and rotation, in contrast to the Nikon, where the camera can get in the way of the lens during rotation. As such, one will have to shift the lens back to its zero position before rotating it off-axis. However, I do not have a Canon body to test if the body will impede movement on the Canon tilt-shift. Still, the Nikon will allow for full movements to be used, although it can be a bit fiddly to achieve that.

Shift Panoramas

Now for what I’m most interested in - the extent of shifting for both lenses which is crucial for shift panoramas. Shift panoramas are panoramas done on tilt-shift lenses where one shifts the lens in both directions to create a stitched image. I generally employ shifting and rotation techniques in order to create a field-of-view wider than the lens’ focal length by making use of the large image circle tilt-shift lenses provide. Since both lenses can shift a maximum of 12mm, but the Canon is wider than the Nikon, I would expect similar field-of-views for both when stitched, with the Canon being slightly wider. The results did hold true for that assumption:


Nikon 19mm PCE shift panorama


Canon 17mm TSE shift panorama

The Canon 17mm TSE is slightly wider than the Nikon 19mm PCE when stitched, though not by much. What I am surprised is the rather strong barrel distortion I’m seeing from the Nikon, which is obvious from the composite. Compared to the Canon composite, the Nikon one shows some distortion in the Marina Bay Financial Centre buildings on the right.

Pixel Peeping

Both lenses seem very sharp at the centre - hard to find any differences there except for the software stitching error in the Nikon image. It’s remarkable that the Canon, being designed in 2009, still has plenty to offer on a high-resolving body in 2017. These pictures are crops from the above composites. Both were shot at the same settings of f/16, 1/5s shutter speed. The Nikon one was taken slightly later, with more lights in the scene.


Nikon 19mm PCE centre crop


Canon 17mm TSE centre crop

Both lenses also seem to be sharp towards their corners, which is a sign of remarkable optical engineering. The Canon seem to have slightly worse chromatic aberrations, but this is easily cleaned up in post. Notice how the Canon has more distinct 8-point starbursts from point light sources due to its 8-bladed diaphragm. The Nikon, being a 9-bladed design, renders 18-point starbursts, which are not as distinct. This is purely personal preference though.

Nikon 19mm PCE corner crop


Canon 17mm TSE corner crop

Conclusions...For Now

Well, both lenses perform spectacularly well, being sharp from edge-to-edge and rendering contrasty scenes. The Canon, in particular, was impressive that despite its age still manages to beat the Nikon in terms of distortion control. Both have similar resolving power, and it seems that both can handle way more than the current highest resolving sensors can throw at them, which is a good sign that they will continue to stay relevant in years to come.

If I get the chance to conduct another comparison, I’ll try to compare their flaring properties, which should be interesting considering their bulbous designs. The Canon tends to fare poorly in this avenue, so I hope the Nikon can pick up where the Canon stops short. Still, considering the price differences and that the Canon can perform just as well as the Nikon for a significantly lower cost even accounting for the body, I’ll have to give the Canon the edge in the price-to-performance ratio. That, and the fact that it controls distortion extremely well.

[email protected] (Jon Chiang Photography) 17mm 19mm canon comparison lens nikkor nikon pce photography review sony tilt-shift tse Wed, 23 Aug 2017 01:35:57 GMT