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Check Out This ‘Magical’ View of Space From the ISS

Check Out This ‘Magical’ View of Space From the ISS


Check Out This ‘Magical’ View of Space From the ISS 1

Most of the imagery captured from the International Space Station shows Earth 250 miles below.

But occasionally the cameras point the other way, focusing instead on the vastness of space and the stars that fill it (perhaps this proposed giant telescope will one day explore them).

Just a few days before returning to Earth after a six-month stay aboard the orbiting outpost, French astronaut Thomas Pesquet posted a gorgeous video (below) showing precisely this sight, though Earth and part of the station manage to squeeze in, too, to offer some perspective.

“One more night with this magical view,” Pesquet said in a message accompanying the video. “Who could complain? I’ll miss our spaceship!”

Une nuit de plus avec cette vue sur la Voie lactée, qui s'en plaindrait
🤩
One more night with this magical view. Who could complain? I’ll miss our spaceship!#MissionAlpha pic.twitter.com/ePnTA2QLLg

— Thomas Pesquet (@Thom_astro) November 7, 2021

Last week Pesquet also posted several shots — possibly image captures from the video above — showing the same stunning scenery.

🌌⭐💫✨🌟 When you let your eyes adapt to the night, you start seeing millions of stars and it’s amazing. It really feels like flying on a spaceship into the cosmos… of wait… that’s what we do 😉 #MissionAlpha pic.twitter.com/3TxqzOHxsx

— Thomas Pesquet (@Thom_astro) November 3, 2021

In a message accompanying the photos in a post on Flickr, Pesquet said: “When you let your eyes adapt to the night, you start seeing millions of stars and it’s amazing.”

The astronaut, who is nearing the end of his second space voyage, added: “It really feels like flying on a spaceship into the cosmos … oh wait … that’s what we do 😉 You always tend to focus on Earth when you take pictures from the International Space Station, because it’s right there in front of you when you look out the window, in all its splendor and diversity, but there’s also a lot of beauty in the cosmos itself, it’s just harder to see (and to photograph) at first.”

Pesquet’s amazing Earth images have been dazzling his 1.3 million Twitter followers over the last six months, though despite the unique vantage point way above Earth, it’s harder than you might imagine to successfully capture such incredible photos.

We’ll certainly miss his impressive imagery, though hopefully one of the Crew-3 astronauts arriving at the space station this week will have an eye for a great shot, too.

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How to check a second-hand lens for faults

How to check a second-hand lens for faults

October 19, 2021

Buying second-hand lenses can save you some serious cash, but when faced with what seems to be a great offer it pays to check the optic to make sure you really are getting a bargain, and this guide will show you how to check a second-hand lens for faults. Like anything that you buy second-hand, a used lens is likely to show some signs of wear, but unlike a used car it doesn’t have an odometer to reveal the extent of that use.

However, a thorough inspection can provide all the clues you need and give an idea of the true value of the lens. Angela Nicholson shows you how to identify a few issues that could also win some bargaining power to bring the price down even further.

The lens elements on this lens look very clean

The lens elements on this lens look very clean, and a few specs of dust is nothing to worry about.

Visual inspection

The first step is to check the lens visually and look for any signs of damage, scratches on the elements and/or barrel, or dust, fungus or even bugs or mites inside the barrel.

Marks on the outer elements can often be removed with a blower and a good-quality glass cleaner such as ROR Optics Cleaner (around £4 for 1oz), and apart from those older lenses that unscrew for cleaning, most dirt inside the lens can only be dealt with by a service. With an expensive lens it’s worth considering the price of a service (they usually start at around £35) as part of the acquisition cost, but it may not be worth it for cheaper optics.

Also, look for signs that the lens coatings have eroded. Small missing patches shouldn’t cause too much of a problem, but extensive areas will mean flare may be more of an issue.

Lenses with large scratches or chips, especially on the rear element and near the centre, should be avoided, but a few fine scratches are less of an issue. If you can see what appears to be bubbles or discolouration in the elements of a lens as you peer through it, the cement between two elements may have degraded and may have started to separate. This type of damage can affect image quality and repairing it can be expensive and/or impractical.

An old lens with mold / fungus on the front element

An old lens with mold / fungus on the front element, even after cleaning these small marks remain on the lens on this old camera lens.

Fungus and mold

Avoid lenses with heavy fungal growths as the glass coating(s) may be destroyed and even a thorough cleaning will not be able to restore the lens to its former glory.

Aperture blades

Pentax D FA 21mm Aperture Blades

HD Pentax-D FA 21mm F2.4 ED Limited – Aperture Blades

Check that the aperture closes and opens across its full range. If possible, close the aperture down with the lens detached from the camera to allow it to be checked from both sides. Look for signs of oil on the blades as this can signal trouble for the future because it usually leads to the blades sticking. Use the camera’s depth-of-field-preview control to close the aperture down as far as possible while looking and listening to find out if it snaps down and re-opens quickly. Also, look through the viewfinder to see if the view becomes evenly dark across the image frame. A sticky aperture may open or close slowly, or unevenly, or not at all, with obvious problems for exposure. This can be resolved with a service.

Zoom action

Rotate or push and pull the zoom ring and feel for any sloppiness, grittiness or stiff points in the movement and see whether it works across the full focal-length range. A loose zoom action won’t usually affect the optical performance of the lens, but it can be problematic when shooting with the lens tipped up or down as the focal length may change uncontrollably. A layer or two of insulating tape over the smaller part of the barrel can be all that’s required to rectify this problem. It doesn’t look especially attractive, but it’s cheaper than a service that may not be able to rectify the problem in the longer term anyway.

Focus

The best way to check if a lens can focus is to mount it on a DSLR and take a few shots with it focused at the closest point, at infinity and at several points in between, and then inspect the images. If it is a zoom lens, check the focus across the focal-length range. Also, rotate the focus ring to see if it moves smoothly without any loose or sticking points. You can use a brick wall, or a flat newspaper to check for any softness, sometimes you find this on one side of the image.

If the lens rattles when shaken gently, it may mean that one or more of the elements or groups is loose. If the glass is still held in place in the barrel, focusing may be unaffected, but it could be a sign of problems to come.

Parts

Small items like lens caps and hoods are easily lost, but they are also easily replaced. If the lens is presented without front and rear caps it suggests that it hasn’t been carefully looked after, so check for signs of damage to the elements. At the very least the cost of replacing the caps and/or hood should be reflected in the price.

Although it makes little practical difference, a box with all the manufacturer’s documentation can be a sign that the lens has had a careful owner and it makes the lens more attractive to prospective buyers if you later decide to sell it on. The original box is also the best packaging in which to post a lens.

Filter rings

Being at the end of the lens, the filter rings are prone to damage so check that they are functional. Metal rings can become dented, but with a bit of care and attention from a technician they can be made good. Polycarbonate filter rings are more likely to crack or chip if they are knocked, so check whether the full depth of the thread is present and whether it can hold a filter in place.

Lens showing green reflection and damaged filter ring

The green reflections you can see are the lens coatings, and nothing to worry about. However, this lens has a damaged filter ring, and could do with a more thorough clean.

Filter rings tend to gather dust and grime that can make it difficult to attach (or remove a filter), so it is advisable to give them a good blow with a can of compressed air and a wipe with a cloth before attempting to mount a filter. Any damage is likely to make it difficult or even impossible to attach a filter to the lens.

If the lens has a filter attached, check that it can be removed.

Checklist

Run through this check list before buying any second-hand lens to be sure you know what you are getting and are pay a fair price

  • Lens caps
  • Lens hood
  • Box
  • Filter rings
  • Damage to barrel
  • Focus
  • Zoom action
  • Dust, fungus, bugs inside the lens
  • Aperture blades oily or sticking
  • Lens coatings
  • Chipped or scratched lens elements
  • Separated lens elements
  • Switches

Once you’ve familiarised yourself with how to check a second-hand lens, then you might want some guidance on how and where to buy a second-hand lens from, luckily we have a guide for that: How to buy a second-hand lens.

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Check Out These Cool Earth Images Taken From Higher Than ISS

Check Out These Cool Earth Images Taken From Higher Than ISS

We’re so often impressed by the amazing images of Earth captured by astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS), but the latest photos to come to our attention were taken from an even higher orbit and therefore show our planet from a slightly different — and perhaps more beautiful — perspective.

The pictures were captured during the world’s first all-civilian space mission operated by SpaceX earlier this month.

While the four crewmembers have already shared lots of images and videos from their three days in orbit aboard a Crew Dragon spacecraft, the latest images (below) to be shared were taken with a professional DSLR camera and therefore feature a new level of astonishing detail.

“When you look up at the sky, you dream about being among the stars. When you’re with the stars and look down, you dream about being back on the earth.” — @ChrisSembroski

More stunning photos from our #Inspiration4 crew’s three-day journey to orbit 🌎 pic.twitter.com/ppZhzNJkQI

— Inspiration4 (@inspiration4x) September 29, 2021

During the Inspiration4 mission, the crew orbited 357 miles above Earth (575 kilometers), a position about 100 miles further away from our planet than the ISS.

The four crew members were able to capture photos through the spacecraft’s new all-glass dome that afforded panoramic views of Earth and beyond.

An onboard camera captured crewmember Chris Sembroski pointing his camera out of the dome to grab a shot of the vista outside.

Chris Sembroski taking a photo from the Crew Dragon's cupola.
SpaceX

Jared Isaacman, the commander of the Inspiration4 mission, said they have about 700 photos to share that were taken with the crew’s professional Nikon camera, so we should be in for a real treat in the coming weeks as additional images appear online.

For more on the groundbreaking Inspiration4 mission, which was essentially SpaceX’s first space tourism endeavor, check out this Digital Trends feature showing the best bits from launch to landing.

And if you’d like a behind-the-scenes look at how ISS astronauts go about capturing their impressive Earth images, this article tells you all you need to know.

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Check Out All the Camera Gear at the Olympics

Canon lenses at the tokyo olympics

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics aren’t just a showcase of incredible athletic performances—they’re also a showcase of the latest and greatest camera gear from Canon and Nikon. Let’s have a look inside their gear rooms. 

What are Canon and Nikon doing at the Olympics?

Canon and Nikon have long had a presence at big sporting events. For things like the World Cup, the summer and winter Olympics, and the Super Bowl, their Professional Services divisions are on hand to help out the hordes of sports photographers vying to capture every important moment of action—and maybe get a bit of publicity for themselves. (Canon has a suitably grandiose statement about it all on its website.)

As anyone who’s shot even a kid’s game of softball before knows, sports can be unpredictable. Gear can break or get stolen, dust or water can get stick on a lens element, and things can generally go wrong. Both Canon Professional Services and Nikon Professional Services are there to do everything they can to keep sports photographers shooting whatever happens. This includes things like servicing and repairing any gear that breaks (with a less-that-24-hour turnaround time!), as well as loaning any necessary replacement equipment, and leasing out super-expensive gear like Canon’s $15,000 EF 600mm f/4L IS telephoto that photographers might not have in their kit bag as standard. 

To do all that, Canon and Nikon have to bring drool-worthy amounts of high end equipment. Just checkout the photos scattered through this article. Most contain enough gear that, even sold on the secondhand market, buying it all would cost more than a house (even in this market). Photographer Jeff Cable, who’s at the games, was lucky enough to get some behind the scenes pictures. In the shot above, I can count somewhere around 30 of those 600mm Canon telephotos: that’s close to half-a-million dollars worth of glass. Check out our interview with Cable from back in 2014.

What gear do they have to hand?

All the gear available from Canon and Nikon’s war rooms give a really interesting insight into what professional sports photographers rely on the most. 

From what we can see, Canon has brought a lot of: 

  • 1DX Mark III DSLRs.
  • EOS R5 and R6 mirrorless cameras.
  • Telephotos, like the EF 200-400mm f/4L and EF 400mm f/2.8L.
  • General purpose zooms, like the EF 24-70mm f/2.8L and the EF 16-35mm f/2.8L. 

While Nikon has gone with:

  • D6 DSLRs.
  • Z6 II and Z7 II mirrorless cameras. 
  • Every lens you can imagine, from 14mm wide angles up to 800mm super telephotos. 

A peek at what’s to come

Events like the Olympics are also an opportunity for Canon and Nikon to do some serious real world testing of any forthcoming gear. 

To that end, some lucky photographers—like the aforementioned Cable—have been shooting with pre-production units of unreleased camera bodies. From what we can tell, Canon has photographers testing the R3 while Nikon is testing the Z9. Details are still a bit sparse, but it looks like the R3 at least will have a 24MP sensor and a 30 fps burst mode

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Check Out These Eye-Catching Photos Shot with the New Olympus 8-25mm Lens

Photo of Olympus 8-25mm lens

Olympus, which is now officially known as OM Digital Solutions Corporation, introduced the new M.Zuiko Digital ED 8-25mm F4.0 PRO lens last night and our colleagues at Imaging Resource already got their hands on this wide-angle zoom and shot some early test photos.

Imaging Resource, which is a sister site to Digital Photo Pro, praised the lens as a “super-compact, super-versatile wide-angle zoom [that] is another excellent member to Olympus’ Zuiko Pro series.”

We’ve included two test images shot by Imaging Resource managing editor William Brawley below. Click on the web-sized images to see the photos at full resolution. You can also see IR’s full gallery of M.Zuiko Digital ED 8-25mm F4.0 PRO lens test shots here.

Olympus 8-25mm lens test photo
Shot with the Olympus 8-25mm f/4 Pro lens and E-M1 III camera: 8mm, f/9, 0.6s, ISO 64, -0.7EV – (Live ND mode). Image copyright © 2021 by The Imaging Resource.

This new Micro Four Thirds lens is equivalent to a 16-50mm lens in the 35mm format. It will go on sale in July 2021 for $1099.

“Overall, the M.Zuiko 8-25mm f/4 Pro is another excellent lens from the folks at Olympus, continuing their long tradition of outstanding, well-built and sharp Zuiko Pro lenses,” Brawley wrote in the summary to his field test of the lens.

“Much like the other Olympus Pro Micro Four Thirds lenses, the new 8-25mm f/4 looks and feels much like its sibling lenses, offering the same excellent build quality and rugged durability I’ve come to expect from Olympus Pro-series lenses.

Test photo shot with the Olympus 8-25mm lens
Shot with the Olympus 8-25mm f/4 Pro lens and E-M1 III camera:: 8mm, f/5, 1/60s, ISO 250, -0.3EV. Image copyright © 2021 by The Imaging Resource.

Here’s a rundown of some of the key specifications of this new Olympus wide-angle zoom lens of Micro Four Thirds cameras from OM Digital Solutions Corporation.

Olympus 8-25mm F4.0 PRO lens Specs

Photo of Olympus 8-25mm lens

  • 3.1x zoom magnification (35mm equivalent: 16-50mm)
  • Designed for landscape photos, outdoor portraits and video
  • First M.Zuiko PRO lens to feature a retracting mechanism to keep it compact
  • Weighs less than 15 ounces
  • 16-element, 10-group lens configuration includes special lenses such as Super ED, ED, and EDA lenses
  • Designed to suppress various aberrations including chromatic aberration
  • Integration of a large DSA lens designed to significantly reduce sagittal comatic aberration
  • Optimized ZERO Coating and lens shape designed to suppress ghosts and flaring during backlit shooting
  • Maximum shooting magnification of 0.42x and 9-inch close focusing across entire zoom range helps with macro photography
  • Lens supports Focus Stacking
  • Durable, IPX1-equivalent build makes it splashproof, dustproof, and freezeproof to 14 degrees Farenheit
  • 72mm filter compatible
  • Manual Focus Clutch lets you quickly switch between auto and manual focus
  • Lens function button on side of lens lets you quickly change settings with touch of thumb
  • Comes with the LH-76E lens hood, LC-72C front lens cap, LR-2 rear lens cap and a protective cloth wrap
  • On sale July 2021 for $1,099.99 USD and $1,399.99 CAD

More information on the new Olympus new M.Zuiko Digital ED 8-25mm F4.0 PRO lens here.

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Check Out This Gorgeous Earth Image Shot From the ISS

Check Out This Gorgeous Earth Image Shot From the ISS

Check Out This Gorgeous Earth Image Shot From the ISS 2
ESA / Thomas Pesquet

A space station astronaut has captured a striking photo of Earth showing only water.

Posting the image on Twitter, European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet described the scene as “our blue marble,” a nod to the famous image of Earth taken by the Apollo 17 crew in 1972.

Pesquet added: “Sometimes, there’s just no land in sight, even from our 400-km [250-mile] crow’s nest. I think of all the sailors and explorers who traveled the world on solitary expeditions.”

🌎 Our blue marble. Sometimes, there's just no land in sight, even from our 400 km crow's nest. I think of all the sailors and explorers who traveled the world on solitary expeditions ⛵️ #MissionAlpha pic.twitter.com/sQ0F33DEZm

— Thomas Pesquet (@Thom_astro) May 26, 2021

As the French astronaut suggests, most images shot from the International Space Station Earth usually contain at least a little bit of land. But Pesquet’s impressive picture is a reminder that our planet actually comprises mostly ocean, with water covering about 70% of its surface.

ISS photography

The ISS crew is constantly changing, with most missions lasting about six months. Among each new crew, a keen photographer often emerges, with Pesquet clearly possessing an eye for an amazing shot.

We recently showcased some of his best Earth pictures snapped in the weeks since his arrival on the space station in April 2021, his second visit to date. Among the last ISS crew, Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi revealed himself as a keen Earth observer, regularly sharing his own amazing pictures of our planet.

For the best views, space station astronauts usually head to the Cupola, a seven-window module that was attached to the ISS in 2010, 10 years after the station went into operation.

Pesquet and other crew members have a wide range of advanced cameras and lenses to choose from, including top models made by the likes of Nikon and Sony.

To find out more about life on the space station, take a look at these videos recorded by astronauts who’ve visited the orbiting outpost over the years.

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Check Out Sony’s First Ever Digital Camera Released 25 Years Ago

Check Out Sony’s First Ever Digital Camera Released 25 Years Ago

25 years ago, Sony unveiled the DSC-F1, a 0.3-megapixel digital stills camera with a rotating lens. Check out this piece of photographic history as Gordon Laing takes it on a quick tour of Brighton.

What’s truly fascinating about the F1 is how despite being one of the earliest consumer digital cameras, it was built with selfies and low shooting angles in mind. This is perhaps an indication that even in the mid-90s, manufacturers were keen to exploit the advantages offered by not having to rely on a mechanical shutter to make exposures. The lack of a viewfinder was also a selling point, with Sony explaining in the marketing that the “screen allows for easy viewing with no need to hold the camera up to your eye.”

The 1/1.3” CCD features 350,000 pixels offering 24-bit color, and the rear LCD measures 1.8″ with a marvelous 61,380 dots. Readers might recall ArcSoft’s PhotoStudio DSC software available for Windows and Macintosh computers, which “lets you tile, merge, and add effects to your photos, thus letting you be creative.” Back then, the minimum requirements for PC users were a 386SX 66 MHz processor and at least 8 megabytes of ram.

Did you own one of Sony’s earliest digital cameras? Are you tempted to pick on up second-hand? Let us know in the comments below.

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Check Out the Nikon Z 6 II Eye Autofocus Shooting Wide Open in Low Light

Check Out the Nikon Z 6 II Eye Autofocus Shooting Wide Open in Low Light

Manny Ortiz loved shooting on the first iteration of the Nikon Z 6, but one of his big reservations was the consistency of the eye autofocus. He now has his hands on a pre-production model of the Z 6 II, so how will the autofocus cope in low light and shooting wide open?

The Z 6 II is falling into more and more hands, and fans will be delighted to see that early indications are good. Even those who don’t shoot on Nikon will be happy for the Japanese manufacturer’s new mirrorless cameras to match the pace set by the likes of Sony and Canon, as it makes for healthy competition and is a positive sign for the industry more broadly. Nikon doesn’t have the deep pockets of its competitors, and the last couple of years have been harsh, even before the global pandemic came along.

If you’re keen to see more, check out this video pointed out to use by Fstoppers community member Hans J. Nielsen. The way that the Z 6 II deals with a subject who’s wearing not only sunglasses but also a mask is genuinely impressive.

Are you impressed so far? I certainly am. Let us know what you think in the comments below.

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Using a Check Layer for Retouching in Shadows or Highlight Areas

Using a Check Layer for Retouching in Shadows or Highlight Areas

When retouching your images, are you using a check layer to see what might not be seen in the shadows and the highlight areas of the photo? If not, you may be overlooking some areas that need work.

In this video, automotive photographer Andrew Link shares how he uses a check layer or helper layer in his work. In one of his speed edit videos, a few people questioned the purpose of a layer he adds that gives his image a weird effect. This “cheater layer” as Link calls it, is an “M” curved layer which he uses to help see into the dark shadows or the highlights of the image to see what needs to be corrected. Throughout the video, he shares what it was used on in a few different images and what are some of the areas that needed to be corrected. This helper layer can be useful when blending multiple exposures together, especially when you have different shadows in multiple images as Link shows in his last example.

When I retouch portraits, I use a few helper adjustment layers to aid in seeing what areas of the skin need to be retouched, but I don’t often use one to check the shadows and highlights. What other types of helper layers do you use in your work? 

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