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A Tale of Two Tripods: We Review the Benro Slim and the Benro Tortoise

A Tale of Two Tripods: We Review the Benro Slim and the Benro Tortoise

It was the best of tripods, it was an even better tripod. This is why I ended up upgrading what I was already very pleased with to what I think is the best tripod my money could buy.

This story began with me searching for a tripod I could fit inside a small backpack I use when on my morning cycle ride. Camera bags are not suited to wear when on a bike, and I don’t carry a lot of kit. So, I just have my camera in that day-sack wrapped in a soft cloth for extra protection. But I do enjoy shooting long-exposure seascapes at dawn; therefore, I do need to take a tripod with me.

The tripods I already owned were far too big to carry in the bag, and strapping one onto the rear rack just wasn’t practical. Therefore, I measured the depth of the bag and started researching the best models to meet my needs.

The marketplace has changed a lot over the last few years. There was once only one brand I would contemplate; I won’t mention their name. However, recent encounters I’ve had with them have been poor, with several folk complaining about their tripods breaking within the first year of use. They clearly have a manufacturing problem.

Thankfully, there are now reputable alternatives on the market. Benro is one of the best. Their Slim Carbon Fiber tripod (TSL08C) was exactly the right size to fit in the bag; I bought one.

The Benro Slim’s Features

The tripod weighs just 2.2 lb (1.01 kg) and can carry up to 8.8 lb (4 kg), so it’s ideal for mirrorless photographers. It has a narrow profile when folded, making it perfect for traveling. Its four-section carbon fiber legs have anodized aluminum twist locks, which are ideal for me working on a beach, as sand and salt would destroy any other metal parts. Also, they only require a quarter turn to lock and unlock, ideal on those cold, winter mornings when I am running sunrise workshops.

A Tale of Two Tripods: We Review the Benro Slim and the Benro Tortoise 1

The tripod extends to a maximum of 146.3 cm. The ballhead has an oversized, ratchet-style single-knob, again great for those cold mornings, and it is fitted with an Arca-Swiss style quick release plate. That has the camera-mounting screw fitted with a solid D-ring, making it easy to attach and remove. There’s also a handy bubble level on one shoulder.

A Tale of Two Tripods: We Review the Benro Slim and the Benro Tortoise 2

Using the Benro Slim

In use, it is almost perfect for my needs. I am very impressed with the build quality. Both light and stable, the ballhead locks into position and doesn’t slip, as my old ones tended to do. Furthermore, it is easy to use.

The legs can open wide, adding to that stability. But that is the one design area that I wanted to improve. I like shooting very low down to the ground. I also demonstrate low-level shooting on the workshops I run. The tripod came with a center column, so it was not possible to open the legs horizontally without either raising the column or inverting it and hanging the camera below the tripod.

The Best Laid Schemes o’ Mice an’ Men Gang Aft A-Gley

That option of inverting the column is a bit of a faff, and I rarely want to raise the center column. So, I contacted Benro and asked them if they sold a short column for that model. They did. However, they also explained that they needed to get one from their factory overseas. I was in no rush, and I knew that because of the current COVID-19 pandemic and the shipping issues here caused by the UK leaving the EU, that there would be a wait.

After a while, Benro told me it had arrived, and they were dispatching it with a 48-hour delivery service. Unfortunately, despite the delivery being tracked, it then got lost by our postal service and wasn’t delivered.

Benro to the Rescue

This was a nuisance because I had some workshops running where I needed a tripod from which I could shoot a worm’s eye view. Benro was fantastic. They lent me a tripod that arrived the next day. As much as product quality is important, excellent customer service counts for a lot too, and Benro excelled.

The model they sent was the Tortoise TTOR14C-GX25. Its quality blew my socks off.

The Benro Tortoise’s Description

This carbon fiber tripod comes fitted with a GX25 aluminum ball head. It’s lightweight, not much heavier than the Slim. Weighing under 3 lb (1.32 kg), it can still carry up to 22 lb (10 kg). Like the Slim, it has four leg sections, but it has no center column. This means, at 129 cm, it stands taller than the Slim before the latter’s center column is extended. The twist-lock legs have rubber grips, and they operate with a half-turn.

A Tale of Two Tripods: We Review the Benro Slim and the Benro Tortoise 3

The GX25 aluminum ballhead is dual panning with a Swiss-Arca style quick-release plate. It has “Safe Locking Controls,” with stops that avoid the plate sliding off, plus a pull and twist release button to avoid accidental loosening. It has a dual panoramic pan head, with the second positioned above the ball mount, so a horizontal rotation can be achieved even if the tripod is not level.

A Tale of Two Tripods: We Review the Benro Slim and the Benro Tortoise 4

Using the Benro Tortoise

I am going to gush! Some tools and mechanical devices are so well-designed and made that they are a delight to use. This tripod is delightful. While the Slim is a super piece of kit, but the Tortoise is outstanding. You know that when you use this that you are handling a superior piece of engineering, as it oozes quality. In fact, I would go so far as to say this is the best tripod I’ve ever laid my hands on, and I’ve used dozens.

A great deal of thought has gone into the design of this tripod. All the adjustment controls are large enough and easy to manipulate when wearing gloves. Even the robust and smart carrying case has offset handles. Placing the tripod in the bag with the heavier head at the short end; it’s perfectly balanced for carrying.

A Tale of Two Tripods: We Review the Benro Slim and the Benro Tortoise 5

The Benro Tortoise in Use

To test the tripod, I exposed it to the most extreme conditions available to me.

A Tale of Two Tripods: We Review the Benro Slim and the Benro Tortoise 6

I took the tripod onto the beach to capture the sunrise and waded into the sea. The wind was howling, my boots sank into the sand. As the waves washed around shins, I shot long exposures, and the tripod didn’t miss a beat. Pushing the legs into the sand, it stayed still, even when I shot long exposures and the waves covered the bottom section.

Of course, sand is the bane of every seascape photographer’s life. It gets everywhere. Fortunately, my cameras and lenses are weather-sealed, but not so any tripod. However, the Benro ones are so easy to clean. Release the screw threads and dismantle the legs, run under the shower, allow to dry, and Bob’s your uncle! Getting the sand grains from the very fine screw-threads of the twist locks was the hardest part of the cleaning, but still easier than any other tripod I’ve used.

Furthermore, saltwater is a destroyer of any ferrous components. The release clips of my old tripod had failed because the springs had rusted. However, the Benro is just carbon fiber and aluminum construction; it’s sea resistant!

What I Do and Don’t Like

Both the Tortoise and the Slim are marketed as travel tripods. Indeed, they are light and compact enough to travel with. But I think the Tortoise is also a good all-rounder. It is robust, light, stable, and usable for day-to-day photography, as well as capable of withstanding the extreme conditions I’ll subject it to. Although I know the Tortoise will be the one that I use the most, the Slim is also a capable tripod too and well ahead of its competitors in design and usability.

At Fstoppers, we writers are instructed to write balanced reviews and include what we don’t like about products. I am genuinely hard-pressed to say anything negative about these tripods.

A Tale of Two Tripods: We Review the Benro Slim and the Benro Tortoise 7

They are not cheap, but you are paying for a great design and high build quality. Their five-year guarantee shows that Benro believes in their products. As photographers are usually people who care about our planet’s limited resources, the longevity of what we buy should be an important consideration.

Putting my money where my mouth is, I was so impressed with the loaned Benro Tortoise, I bought it.

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Motorola Edge 20 Pro Display review: Excellent touch

Motorola Edge 20 Pro Display review: Excellent touch

The Motorola Edge 20 Pro appeared on the market in August 2021 and is part of our Advanced ($200 to $300) segment. Come take a look at how it performed in our array of comprehensive display tests.

Key display specifications:

  • 6.7-inch OLED display
  • 163 x 76 x 8 mm (6.42 x 2.99 x 0.31 inches)
  • Resolution: 1080 x 2400 (385 ppi)
  • Aspect ratio: 19.5:9
  • Max refresh rate: 144 Hz
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 870 5G (7 nm)

About DXOMARK Display tests: For scoring and analysis in our smartphone and other display reviews, DXOMARK engineers perform a variety of objective and perceptual tests under controlled lab and real-life conditions. This article highlights the most important results of our testing. Note that we evaluate display attributes using only the device’s built-in display hardware and its still image (gallery) and video apps at their default settings. (For in-depth information about how we evaluate smartphone and other displays, check out our articles, “How DXOMARK tests display quality” and “A closer look at DXOMARK Display testing.”)

Test summary

Motorola Edge 20 Pro Display review: Excellent touch 8Motorola Edge 20 Pro

Motorola Edge 20 Pro Display review: Excellent touch 9

80

display

Pros

  • Smooth when playing video games, browsing the web, and using the gallery app
  • Very good touch-to-display response time
  • Well suited brightness for low-light environments

Cons

  • Hard to read in outdoor conditions, especially under sunlight
  • Lack of color fidelity
  • Low brightness and lack of contrast when playing HDR10 content

Although it had some difficulties with color fidelity and video brightness, the Motorola Edge 20 Pro did extremely well in touch, rising to the top and tying with several other much more expensive devices. In our other test categories, it put in a largely respectable performance.

Brightness vs Contrast comparison (0 Lux)

Brightness vs Contrast comparison (30 000 Lux)

The Motorola Edge 20 Pro has good readability in low light and in indoor conditions:

Motorola Edge 20 Pro Display review: Excellent touch 11

Readability indoors, from left to right: Motorola Edge 20 Pro, OnePlus 9 Pro, Sony Xperia 5 II, Asus Zenfone 8

(Photo credit: DXOMARK; for illustration only)

Outdoors, the device is hard to read, especially under sunlight:

Motorola Edge 20 Pro Display review: Excellent touch 12

Readability outdoors in sunlight, from left to right: Motorola Edge 20 Pro, OnePlus 9 Pro, Sony Xperia 5 II, Asus Zenfone 8

(Photo credit: DXOMARK; for illustration only)

In terms of brightness and color uniformity, there is a visibly brighter area at the top of the device, and this also manifests as a color gradient that shifts from greenish in the brighter areas to reddish in the darker parts, as shown below:

Motorola Edge 20 Pro Display review: Excellent touch 13

Brightness and color uniformity, from left to right: Motorola Edge 20 Pro, OnePlus 9 Pro, Sony Xperia 5 II, Asus Zenfone 8

(Photo credit: DXOMARK; for illustration only)

Outdoors, the device shows a yellow-green cast in the shade and a reddish cast under sunlight.

Motorola Edge 20 Pro Display review: Excellent touch 14

Color rendering under sunlight, (top from left to right): Motorola Edge 20 Pro, OnePlus 9 Pro; (above, left to right) Sony Xperia 5 II, Asus Zenfone 8

(Photo credit: DXOMARK; for illustration only)

Though it turns slightly orange with the blue light filter on, the device remains readable.

The left-hand chart below indicates that the Motorola Edge 20 Pro struggles with color fidelity. The center of each circle is the target color; the further the tip of the arrow is outside of the circle, the more users will notice the difference between the color on the display and the original color of the source material. The scatter chart on the right shows the Motorola device’s shift toward green when viewed at an angle.

Motorola Edge 20 Pro Display review: Excellent touch 15

Motorola Edge 20 Pro, color fidelity at 1000 lux in the P3 color space

Motorola Edge 20 Pro Display review: Excellent touch 16

Motorola Edge 20 Pro, scatter graph of white point on angle, P3 color space

Per the right-hand chart above and perceptual analysis, a noticeable green cast appears when the device is viewed at an angle.

Motorola Edge 20 Pro Display review: Excellent touch 17
Motorola Edge 20 Pro Display review: Excellent touch 18

Color on axis (top) and on angle (above), left to right: Motorola Edge 20 Pro, OnePlus 9 Pro, Sony Xperia 5 II, Asus Zenfone 8

(Photo credit: DXOMARK; for illustration only)

The Motorola’s overall brightness is low and mid-tones lack contrast and appear slightly flat when watching HDR10 content, and dark details are missing when watching videos in low light.

Motorola Edge 20 Pro Display review: Excellent touch 19

Video brightness, clockwise from top left: Motorola Edge 20 Pro, OnePlus 9 Pro, Asus Zenfone 8, Sony Xperia 5 II

(Photo credit: DXOMARK; for illustration only)

A slight green cast is visible and colors lack saturation in HDR10 videos, including on skin tones.

Motorola Edge 20 Pro Display review: Excellent touch 20

Video color, clockwise from top left: Motorola Edge 20 Pro, OnePlus 9 Pro, Asus Zenfone 8, Sony Xperia 5 II

(Photo credit: DXOMARK; for illustration only)

The Edge 20 Pro shows several stutters at both 30 and 60 fps, and some frame drops are visible when playing video games. However, the device manages motion blur well and appears sharp. When jumping backwards or forwards in a video, a slight delay is sometimes noticeable before playback resumes.

The Motorola device put in a superlative performance for touch, with accurate zooming in the gallery app, responsive touch in the corners and along the edges of the screen, and great smoothness when browsing, swiping, or playing video games. We measured the Motorola Edge 20 Pro’s touch-to-display response time as 58 ms (vs. the OnePlus 9 Pro’s time of 75 ms) per our test protocol.

Motorola Edge 20 Pro Display review: Excellent touch 21

The touch-to-display response time refers to the time gap between a tap on the device’s screen and the visible reaction to that tap on the screen.
* Computed time from display refresh rate (Hz) and touch sampling rate (Hz) based on manufacturer specifications.

No judder is visible at 24, 30, or 60 fps on the Edge 20 Pro, but the device is too responsive to ghost touches, and aliasing is visible when gaming, as illustrated in the closeups below:

Motorola Edge 20 Pro Display review: Excellent touch 22

Aliasing closeup, Motorola Edge 20 Pro

(Photo credit: DXOMARK; for illustration only)

Motorola Edge 20 Pro Display review: Excellent touch 23

Aliasing closeup, Motorola Edge 20 Pro

(Photo credit: DXOMARK; for illustration only)

Motorola Edge 20 Pro Display review: Excellent touch 24

Aliasing closeup, Motorola Edge 20 Pro

(Photo credit: DXOMARK; for illustration only)

 

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Asus Zenfone 8 Battery review: Good night power management

Asus Zenfone 8 Battery review: Good night power management

The Asus Zenfone 8 made its appearance in May 2021. Packed with features, it belongs to our Premium ($600-$799) segment. Let’s take a look at some of its key battery test results.

Key specifications:

  • Battery capacity: 4000 mAh
  • 30W charger
  • 5.9-inch, 1080 x 2400, 120 Hz OLED display
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G chipset
  • Tested ROM / RAM combination: 128 GB + 8 GB

About DXOMARK Battery tests: For scoring and analysis in our smartphone battery reviews, DXOMARK engineers perform a variety of objective tests over a week-long period both indoors and outdoors. This article highlights the most important results of our testing. (See our introductory and how we test articles for more details about our smartphone Battery protocol.)

Test summary

Asus Zenfone 8 Battery review: Good night power management 25Asus Zenfone 8

Asus Zenfone 8 Battery review: Good night power management 26

64

battery

Pros

  • Good power management at night
  • Charging time from 0% to 80% is acceptable in its segment
  • Residual power drain kept under control

Cons

  • No wireless charger
  • Disappointing in music and video streaming
  • Performance in on the go tests, especially for calling and camera

Despite having specs that are similar to its competitors in this review, the Asus Zenfone 8 lags a bit behind in most tested categories.

We compared the Asus Zenfone 8’s performance with two other devices in our Premium segment, the OnePlus 9 and the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon); battery capacity, tested charger, display type, and resolution, and processor specifications for all three devices are shown in the table below.

Asus Zenfone 8OnePlus 9Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon)
Battery capacity4000 mAh4500 mAh4000 mAh
Charger

Wireless

30W

No

65W

15W

25W (not included)

15W

Display typeOLEDOLEDOLED
Display resolution1080 x 240010800 x 24001080 x 2400
ChipsetQualcomm Snapdragon 888 5GQualcomm Snapdragon 888 5GQualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G

Autonomy (51)

How long a battery charge lasts depends not only on battery capacity but also on other aspects of the phone’s hardware and software. The DXOMARK Battery autonomy score is composed of three performance sub-scores: (1) Stationary, (2) On the go, and (3) Calibrated use cases. Each sub-score comprises the results of a comprehensive range of tests for measuring autonomy in all kinds of real-life scenarios. 

Light Usage

66h

Light

Active: 2h30/day

Moderate Usage

45h

Moderate

Active: 4h/day

Intense Usage

27h

Intense

Active: 7h/day

The Asus Zenfone 8 comes in behind its rivals in all three of our autonomy test categories. Further, its battery gauge is not especially accurate, since when the battery gauge shows 20% power remaining, there is really only 17.9% left.

Asus Zenfone 8 Battery review: Good night power management 28

Stationary

Vivo Y72 5G

Best: Vivo Y72 5G (104)

A robot housed in a Faraday cage performs a set of touch-based user actions during what we call our “typical usage scenario” (TUS) — making calls, video streaming, etc. — 4 hours of active use over the course of a 16-hour period, plus 8 hours of “sleep.” The robot repeats this set of actions every day until the device runs out of power. 

The Asus Zenfone 8 lasted 53 hours 37 minutes, which is 3 to 4 hours less than its rivals, but still offers more than 2 days of autonomy. It manages night dischage well, losing only 2%, compared to the OnePlus 9’s loss of 2.33%.

Typical Usage Scenario discharge curves

Asus Zenfone 8 Battery review: Good night power management 29

On the go

Samsung Galaxy M51

Best: Samsung Galaxy M51 (96)

Using a smartphone on the go takes a toll on autonomy because of extra “hidden” demands, such as the continuous signaling associated with cellphone network selection, for example. DXOMARK Battery experts take the phone outside and perform a precisely defined set of activities while following the same three-hour travel itinerary for each device.

The Asus battery struggles in on the go tests, especially when calling and using its camera, though it performs almost as well as its rivals for social apps on the go.

Estimated autonomy for on the go use cases (full charge)

Asus Zenfone 8 Battery review: Good night power management 30

Calibrated

Samsung Galaxy M51

Best: Samsung Galaxy M51 (100)

For this series of tests, the smartphone returns to the Faraday cage and our robots repeatedly perform actions linked to one specific use case (such as gaming, video streaming, etc.) at a time. Starting from an 80% charge, all devices are tested until they have expended at least 5% of their battery power.

Although the Zenfone 8 is well optimized with its screen off in idle mode, it does not fare well against the competition. All video test cases drain its battery quickly, though it manages to do nearly as well as the OnePlus and Samsung when gaming.

Estimated autonomy for calibrated use cases (full charge)

Charging (75)

The DXOMARK Battery charging score is composed of two sub-scores, Full charge and Quick boost. Full charge tests assess the reliability of the battery power gauge; measure how long it takes to charge a battery from zero to 80% capacity and from 80 to 100%; and measure how long and how much power the battery takes to go from an indicated 100% to an actual full charge. With the phone at different charge levels (20%, 40%, 60%, 80%), Quick boost tests measure the amount of charge the battery receives after being plugged in for 5 minutes. 

Wired

Wired

Unsurprisingly, the OnePlus 9 with its 65W charger is far ahead of both the Asus and the Samsung in our charging tests.

Power consumption and battery level during full charge

Asus Zenfone 8 Battery review: Good night power management 31

Full charge

Xiaomi 11T Pro

Best: Xiaomi 11T Pro (106)

It takes 1 hour 51 minutes to fully charge the Asus Zenfone 8 with its 30W charger, which is a bit slower than the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) with its 25W charger. The difference is that Asus decreases the charging power at around 75% capacity to conserve battery longevity, while the Samsung waits to slow charging until it gets to 87%. The OnePlus 9 takes only 33 minutes 32 seconds to achieve a full charge.

Asus Zenfone 8 Battery review: Good night power management 32

Quick boost

Xiaomi 11T Pro

Best: Xiaomi 11T Pro (109)

The Asus Zenfone 8 provides an average of more than 3 hours of additional autonomy with a five-minute charge. This is better than the Samsung’s 2 hours 34 minutes, but the OnePlus 9 provides a whopping near-7 hours.

Asus Zenfone 8OnePlus 9Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon)
Autonomy boost (hh:mm)20%3:198:262:38
40%3:175:592:45
60%2:335:282:09
80%1:274:021:57
Percentage boost20%9.9 %23 %7.4 %
40%9.8 %16.3 %7.7 %
60%7.6 %14.9 %6 %
80%4.4 %11 %5.5 %
Energy consumed20%1964 mWh4923 mWh1466 mWh
40%1944 mWh3491 mWh1528 mWh
60%1512 mWh3188 mWh1195 mWh
80%864 mWh2354 mWh1088 mWh

Efficiency (75)

The DXOMARK power efficiency score consists of two sub-scores, Charge up and Discharge rate, both of which combine data obtained during robot-based typical usage scenario testing, outdoor mobility testing, charging evaluation, and power measurements, and then take into consideration the device’s battery capacity.

Although the Zenfone 8 just edged out the OnePlus in discharge efficiency, it was quite a ways behind the Samsung, and both the OnePlus and Samsung did better than the Asus device in charge up efficiency.

Asus Zenfone 8 Battery review: Good night power management 33

Charge up

Oppo Reno6 Pro 5G

Best: Oppo Reno6 Pro 5G (84)

The Asus Zenfone 8 comes in last among the three devices for charge up and charger efficiency; that said, its charger efficiency is not bad for its segment.

Asus Zenfone 8 Battery review: Good night power management 34

Discharge

Apple iPhone 13

Best: Apple iPhone 13 (121)

The Zenfone 8 achieves slightly better results than the OnePlus 9 in discharge efficiency, particularly in gaming and video playback. The Samsung is a better-optimized device than either the Asus or the OnePlus.

Conclusion

The Asus Zenfone 8 struggles to provide a good autonomy and charging experience, but does a decent job managing residual power drain and power consumption at night.

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Sony Alpha 7 IV Full-Frame Mirrorless Camera Review

Sony Alpha 7 IV Full-Frame Mirrorless Camera Review

Sony Alpha 7 IV
 

Quick Verdict

Billed as a “full-frame hybrid camera” the Sony A7 IV certainly lives up to its potential. Be it for high-quality stills, high-quality video shooting or streaming and connectivity it’s all there. This of course brings with it a certain level of complexity, so it takes some investment in time to understand and take full advantage of all the versatility that Sony has built in. This is time well spent though and the camera repays this effort in an abundance of functionality worthy of its status as the flagship of the A7 series.

+ Pros

  • Excellent stills image quality
  • Smooth high-quality movie shooting
  • Bionz XR Processor
  • Dust and moisture resistance
  • 5 Axis SteadyShot
  • Human, animal or bird Eye/Face AF tracking
  • Low noise
  • 10fps shooting

– Cons

  • Very complex menus that are not always intuitive
  • Full manual online only

 

 

Sony has an extensive array of interchangeable lens mirrorless cameras, both in full-frame and APS-C formats. To their credit, new models can exist for some time alongside the older versions that they replace, enabling also a variety of price levels and options. The A7 range does not have the highest resolution of the options available but has instead consistently offered a bias towards movie shooting and low noise stills shooting. Technology is now such that the edges of demarcation are blurring and we can expect satisfactorily high pixel counts (33MP in this case) alongside fast frame rates (10fps) and huge buffers (up to 800 shots). Couple this with a very sophisticated set of movie specifications, and we have a true hybrid camera that can satisfy the needs of a wide range of photographers.

The review sample has been provided with the FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM zoom lens, fully reviewed separately, so let’s take this heavyweight duo out into the field and see what it can do.

 

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Sony Alpha 7 IV Features

Sony Alpha 7 IV
 

The A7 IV is a robust, impressively well-made camera body with dust and moisture resistance, inbuilt SteadyShot (5-axis, up to 5.5 stops) and a sturdy 658g in weight, including SD card and battery. The lens provided, the Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM, fits smoothly and without any hint of rotational movement when mounted. One interesting improvement is that when the lens is removed the sensor is actually covered rather than being fully exposed.

The camera is slightly bulkier than the A7R III that we usually use for reviewing Sony lenses. This can be accounted for by the deeper grip, which works well, and the vari-angle rear monitor that enables a forward view that vloggers will appreciate should they wish to film themselves.

Much of the button placement remains similar to previous models, but there are a few significant tweaks to the layout. The top panel has gained a rotational dial beneath the mode dial to select stills, video and S&Q (Slow and Quick). The exposure compensation dial has lost its engraving, gained a locking button at its centre and gained a full range of adjustment from -5 EV to +5 EV. The rear command dial has become a top operating dial. There is a new actuation switch, marked with a red circle, which starts and stops video recording.

The rear of the camera is no surprise, with the usual control dials and buttons, with a vast array of customisation possible for every one of them. This brings us to the menus which are quite complex by necessity, but perhaps not as intuitive as the previous style. This is, of course, a very personal choice and no doubt with continued use everything will become more familiar and much easier to use.

 

Sony Alpha 7 IV
 

The Quad VGA OLED EVF (1.3cm, 0.5 type) has no less than 3,686,400 dots, gives 100% coverage and offers 0.78x magnification with a 50mm lens at infinity. The EVF has truly come of age, offering a superb, flicker-free view that is totally usable without any trace of eye fatigue. The only clue as to its electronic nature is that we have to switch it on to use it, unlike an optical viewfinder.

The 7.5cm (3.0 type) TFT touch panel monitor has 1,036,800 dots and is equally useful. Menus are crisp and clean. If the touch screen facility is not required then it can be switched off.

Metering has a wide range of sensitivity, from -3 EV to +20 EV. Base ISO values are ISO 100-51,200 and this can be extended to ISO 50-204,800. The ISO performance is excellent, as mentioned later.

Sony Alpha 7 IV
 

AF is a hybrid system using phase detection and contrast detection. It operates from -4 EV to +20 EV and works very well indeed, being sharp, fast and accurate. There is an AF illuminator that is effective from 0.3m to 3.0m. Eye and face recognition AF works beautifully, and now we have the option of selecting Human, Animal or Bird.

Media are accessed through the usual side panel and this has gained an additional locking switch. The camera accepts SD cards (including UHS-I and UHS-II) and CFexpress cards type A. Some video functions are dependent upon using the highest specification cards, be it SD or CFexpress.

There is no doubt that the A7 IV is a highly specified and highly effective tool for both stills photographers and videographers.

 

Key Features

  • 33MP Full-Frame (35.9mm x 23.9mm) Exmoor R CMOS Sensor
  • Shutter speeds 1/8000s to 30s (stills)
  • Shutter speeds 1/8000s to 1/4s (movie)
  • ISO range 100 – 51200 (50 to 204,800 extended)
  • Metering range EV -3 to EV 20
  • Vari-angle 7.5cm (3.0type) TFT touch panel monitor with 1,036,800 dots
  • Quad VGA 1.3cm (0.5 type) OLED EVF 3,686,400 dots, 100% field of view, 0.78x magnification with 50mm lens at infinity
  • 4:2:2 10 bit 4K, 7K oversampling and UHD Video, H.264 and H.265 formats
  • Streaming/webcam capability
  • Bluetooth Ver 4.1
  • Wireless LAN 2.4GHz/5GHz
  • Hybrid AF – phase-detection/contrast detection
  • AF range EV -4 to EV 20
  • Media: SD card (UHS-I and UHS-II compliant), CF Express Type A
  • 10 fps, buffer up to 800 shots
  • SteadyShot (5.5 stops)
  • Anti-Dust
  • 658g with SD card and battery
  • Fully adjustable picture profiles
  • Creative looks: Standard, Portrait, Subdued, Vivid, Vivid + Enhanced clarity, Moody, Monochrome, Sepia, Custom

 

Sony Alpha 7 IV Handling

Sony Alpha 7 IV
 

Handling is pure Sony and from a slow start as cameras morphed from Minolta to Konica Minolta and finally, to Sony, the learning curve and development have been intense, relentless and very, very successful. We now have state-of-the-art performance, design and handling and with so many alternative models something for every style of photographer.

The A7 IV is the pinnacle of a line of development that has looked to cater for those who wanted low noise and the ability to effectively shoot movies, as well as the general need for stills. Thus we move ourselves, perhaps from being pure photographers or videographers to being content creators, a hybrid that needs a hybrid choice of cameras. It’s all in the A7 IV, including a plethora of connection and communication options. With a 33MP sensor, there is plenty of resolution for stills as well.

The only points I would raise are the menus and the instruction manual. The menu system may well be liked by many, but in my opinion, I find it not particularly intuitive, although as with all things this improves with use and familiarity and of course once a camera is set up then the process does not need to be repeated. The instruction manual for an undeniably complex set of options would be helpful in printed form as the online version is not perhaps the most convenient way of getting the information across.

However, to be fair, once set up for stills, and then set up for video, the actual operation is smooth and hazard-free.  

 

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Realme GT Neo 2 5G Battery review: Impressive performance

Realme GT Neo 2 5G Battery review: Impressive performance

The Realme GT Neo 2 5G appeared on the European market in October 2021, and fits into our High-End ($400-$599) segment. Let’s take a look at some of its key battery test results.

Key specifications:

  • Battery capacity: 5000 mAh
  • 65W charger
  • 6.62-inch, 1080 x 2400, 120 Hz OLED display
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 870 5G chipset
  • Tested ROM / RAM combination: 256 GB + 12 GB

About DXOMARK Battery tests: For scoring and analysis in our smartphone battery reviews, DXOMARK engineers perform a variety of objective tests over a week-long period both indoors and outdoors. This article highlights the most important results of our testing. (See our introductory and how we test articles for more details about our smartphone Battery protocol.)

Test summary

Realme GT Neo 2 5G Battery review: Impressive performance 35Realme GT Neo2 5G

Realme GT Neo 2 5G Battery review: Impressive performance 36

94

battery

Pros

  • Very good autonomy (60 hours of moderate use)
  • Very fast charging (25 minutes to reach 80%)
  • Impressive efficiency, very well-optimized device

Cons

  • Low autonomy when calling on the go
  • High residual power drain when device is plugged in

The Realme GT Neo 2 5G is a well-balanced device with good performances in all our Battery protocol test categories.

We compared the Realme GT Neo 2 5G’s performance in several key categories with two other high-end devices, the Xiaomi 11T and the Oppo Reno6 5G; battery capacity, tested charger, display type, and resolution, and processor specifications for all three devices are shown in the table below.

Realme GT Neo 2 5GXiaomi 11TOppo Reno6 5G
Battery capacity500050004300
Charger65W67W65W
Display typeOLEDOLEDOLED
Display resolution1080×24001080×24001080×2400
ChipsetQualcomm Snapdragon 870 5G 7 nmMediaTek Dimensity 1200-Ultra 6 nmMediaTek Dimensity 900 6 nm

Autonomy (74)

How long a battery charge lasts depends not only on battery capacity but also on other aspects of the phone’s hardware and software. The DXOMARK Battery autonomy score is composed of three performance sub-scores: (1) Stationary, (2) On the go, and (3) Calibrated use cases. Each sub-score comprises the results of a comprehensive range of tests for measuring autonomy in all kinds of real-life scenarios. 

Light Usage

89h

Light

Active: 2h30/day

Moderate Usage

60h

Moderate

Active: 4h/day

Intense Usage

37h

Intense

Active: 7h/day

All three devices go toe-to-toe in our Autonomy tests, with the Realme GT Neo 2 5G just edging both the Xiaomi and the Oppo for overall results.

Linearity is also a strong point for the Realme GT Neo 2. Its battery gauge has excellent accuracy: when the UI shows 20% remaining charge, the actual remaining charge is 20.4%.

Realme GT Neo 2 5G Battery review: Impressive performance 38

Stationary

Vivo Y72 5G

Best: Vivo Y72 5G (104)

A robot housed in a Faraday cage performs a set of touch-based user actions during what we call our “typical usage scenario” (TUS) — making calls, video streaming, etc. — 4 hours of active use over the course of a 16-hour period, plus 8 hours of “sleep.” The robot repeats this set of actions every day until the device runs out of power. 

The Realme device lasted about 64 hours in our TUS tests, about 3 hours less than both the Xiaomi 11T and the Oppo Reno6 5G. However, the Realme GT Neo 2 5G was particularly stable at night, losing on average only 0.33% of its battery charge, which is the lowest value in all our database.

Typical Usage Scenario discharge curves

Realme GT Neo 2 5G Battery review: Impressive performance 39

On the go

Samsung Galaxy M51

Best: Samsung Galaxy M51 (96)

Using a smartphone on the go takes a toll on autonomy because of extra “hidden” demands, such as the continuous signaling associated with cellphone network selection, for example. DXOMARK Battery experts take the phone outside and perform a precisely defined set of activities while following the same three-hour travel itinerary for each device.

The Realme’s on the go results place it slightly below the Oppo device and just ahead of the Xiaomi. The Realme GT Neo 2 showed a particularly stronger   performance agains the other devices in GPS navigation.

Estimated autonomy for on the go use cases (full charge)

Realme GT Neo 2 5G Battery review: Impressive performance 40

Calibrated

Samsung Galaxy M51

Best: Samsung Galaxy M51 (100)

For this series of tests, the smartphone returns to the Faraday cage and our robots repeatedly perform actions linked to one specific use case (such as gaming, video streaming, etc.) at a time. Starting from an 80% charge, all devices are tested until they have expended at least 5% of their battery power.

The Realme GT Neo 2 5G comes in quite a ways ahead of its two rivals in this category, with a great performance for multimedia usages in general, particularly for music and video streaming.

Estimated autonomy for calibrated use cases (full charge)

Charging (101)

The DXOMARK Battery charging score is composed of two sub-scores, Full charge and Quick boost. Full charge tests assess the reliability of the battery power gauge; measure how long it takes to charge a battery from zero to 80% capacity and from 80 to 100%; and measure how long and how much power the battery takes to go from an indicated 100% to an actual full charge. With the phone at different charge levels (20%, 40%, 60%, 80%), Quick boost tests measure the amount of charge the battery receives after being plugged in for 5 minutes. 

Wired

Wired

Realme GT Neo 2 5G Battery review: Impressive performance 41

Full charge

Xiaomi 11T Pro

Best: Xiaomi 11T Pro (106)

Power consumption and battery level during full charge

It takes 40 minutes 41 seconds for the Realme GT Neo 2 to fully charge its 5000 mAh battery, which is currently the third-best performance in the high-end segment. It is slightly better than Xiaomi 11T (46 minutes 40 seconds) even though they have the same battery capacity and the Xiaomi charger is 67W. With its smaller-capacity battery, it comes as no surprise that the Reno6 5G achieves a full charge faster (34 minutes 53 seconds).

Realme GT Neo 2 5G Battery review: Impressive performance 42

Quick boost

Xiaomi 11T Pro

Best: Xiaomi 11T Pro (109)

By plugging in the Realme smartphone for 5 minutes with less than 50% of battery level remaining, users will gain more than 8 hours of autonomy. These are better results than the Xiaomi 11T but behind the Oppo Reno6 5G.

Realme GT Neo2 5GXiaomi 11TOppo Reno6 5G
Autonomy boost (hh:mm)20%8:347:5511:35
40%8:257:5310:12
60%5:478:037:12
80%4:094:455:32
Percentage boost20%20.9 %16.9 %24.7 %
40%20.5 %16.8 %21.8 %
60%14.1 %17.2 %15.4 %
80%10.1 %10.1 %11.8 %
Energy consumed20%5024 mWh4110 mWh5060 mWh
40%4933 mWh4087 mWh4457 mWh
60%3393 mWh4174 mWh3151 mWh
80%2439 mWh2466 mWh2417 mWh

Efficiency (99)

The DXOMARK power efficiency score consists of two sub-scores, Charge up and Discharge rate, both of which combine data obtained during robot-based typical usage scenario testing, outdoor mobility testing, charging evaluation, and power measurements, and then take into consideration the device’s battery capacity.

Realme GT Neo 2 5G Battery review: Impressive performance 43

Charge up

Oppo Reno6 Pro 5G

Best: Oppo Reno6 Pro 5G (84)

The Realme GT Neo 2 5G has a higher residual power drain when the smartphone is plugged in, but it has good charge up and adapter efficiency.

Realme GT Neo 2 5G Battery review: Impressive performance 44

Discharge

Apple iPhone 13

Best: Apple iPhone 13 (121)

The GT Neo 2’s discharge current is well controlled overall, especially in gaming and when streaming video either via 4G or WiFI. It also puts in an impressive performance during night idle and when streaming music, with considerably lower consumption than its rivals.

Conclusion

The Realme GT Neo2 5G is a very well balanced device. It demonstrates good capabilities in autonomy, as well as great charging time and excellent efficiency.

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Xiaomi 11T Pro Display review: Versatile device

Xiaomi 11T Pro Display review: Versatile device

Xiaomi 11T Pro Display review: Versatile device 45

Indoors, high brightness: Xiaomi 11T Pro on the left, Xiaomi Mi 11 on the right. The tone mapping on the Xiaomi 11T Pro leads to unnatural rendering.

(Photo credit: DXOMARK; for illustration only)

Xiaomi 11T Pro Display review: Versatile device 46

Xiaomi 11T Pro, crop: Details are lost in the iris and in the eyebrows; eye color is unnatural.
(Photo credit: DXOMARK; for illustration only)

Xiaomi 11T Pro Display review: Versatile device 47

Xiaomi Mi 11, crop: Image shows better detail and color.
(Photo credit: DXOMARK; for illustration only)

Under less challenging light conditions, here 1000 lux D65 illuminant, the Xiaomi 11T Pro has a very good color reproduction with an average 1.9 JNCD in the P3 color space, making color fidelity one of the device’s strong points. The center of each circle is the target color; the further the tip of the arrow is outside of the circle, the more users will notice the difference between the color on the display and the original color of the source material. As you can see all tested colors stays inside the acceptable range.
The scatter chart on the right shows the Xiaomi device’s strong shift toward green when holding it at different angles.

Xiaomi 11T Pro Display review: Versatile device 48

Xiaomi 11T Pro, color fidelity at 1000 lux in the P3 color space

Xiaomi 11T Pro Display review: Versatile device 49

Xiaomi 11T Pro, scatter graph of white point on angle

The second photo array below illustrates the findings shown in the right-hand chart above — that is, images on the Xiaomi 11T Pro take on a green cast when viewed at an angle; further, there is a loss of color saturation on angle as well.

Xiaomi 11T Pro Display review: Versatile device 50
Xiaomi 11T Pro Display review: Versatile device 51

Brightness and color on axis (top) and on angle (bottom), from left to right: Xiaomi 11T Pro, Xiaomi Mi 11, Samsung Galaxy A52 5G, Oppo Reno5 Pro 5G

(Photo credit: DXOMARK; for illustration only)

The Xiaomi 11T Pro’s video brightness is well adapted for watching HDR10 content, in comparison the other devices are all a bit dim which can be disturbing in such low light environment. On the other hand, the Xiaomi 11T Pro contrast is somewhat low on mid-tones and details are missing in dark content. The device also has a bit of a green cast that is noticeable on skin tones.

Xiaomi 11T Pro Display review: Versatile device 52

Video color, clockwise from top left: Xiaomi 11T Pro, Xiaomi Mi 11, Samsung Galaxy A52 5G, Oppo Reno5 Pro 5G

(Photo credit: DXOMARK; for illustration only)

The Xiaomi 11T Pro device shows many frame drops at 30 fps, as shown below, but surprisingly only a few stutters at 60 fps; however, no frame drops are visible when playing games. When played back, the 11T Pro pauses before resuming on some of the tested videos.

Xiaomi 11T Pro Display review: Versatile device 53

Xiaomi 11T Pro, frame drops at 30 fps

Xiaomi 11T Pro Display review: Versatile device 54

Xiaomi 11T Pro, frame drops at 60 fps

While gaming, corners are touch-responsive and the device is fairly accurate. The device could be smoother when browsing, however, and a few frame duplications are visible when swiping in the gallery app.

The Xiaomi 11T Pro is the best device in our database in terms of screen reflectance, reaching a 4.2%. It is particularly useful when under intense ambient lighting.

 

Xiaomi 11T Pro Display review: Versatile device 55

The Xiaomi 11T Pro flickers at 486 Hz, which is a high frequency for OLED displays. Moreover, the device has a flicker-free feature that works very well.

Although the 11T Pro is too responsive to ghost touches, especially in the corners, this does not detract from the gaming experience, and the device manages aliasing well as you can see on the crops below.

Xiaomi 11T Pro Display review: Versatile device 56

Xiaomi 11T Pro: Aliasing effects on the Asphalt 9 game.

(Photo credit: DXOMARK; for illustration only)

Xiaomi 11T Pro Display review: Versatile device 57
Xiaomi 11T Pro Display review: Versatile device 58

 Edges show very little stairsteps.

Xiaomi 11T Pro Display review: Versatile device 59

Overall, the 11T Pro reached a respectable Display score for its price segment. Its versatility will provide most users a satisfying experience.

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Nikon Nikkor Z 40mm f/2 review

Nikon Nikkor Z 40mm f/2 review

Andy Westlake puts Nikon’s affordable, lightweight full-frame standard prime through its paces

When Nikon launched its full-frame mirrorless Z system in late 2018, it kicked off with three lenses, namely a 24-70mm f/4 zoom alongside 35mm f/1.8 and 50mm f/1.8 primes. All were part of a new premium S line, promising top-notch optics while being smaller, lighter and more affordable than the high-end, large-aperture lenses conventionally offered for DSLRs. But with launch prices of £849 and £599 respectively, those two f/1.8 primes still weren’t exactly cheap.

This is where the new Nikkor Z 40mm f/2 comes in, with its price tag of just £249. In effect, it does the much same job in the Z lens range as the old AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G did for F-mount DSLRs, promising strong optical performance and a large aperture at a keen price.

Nikon Nikkor Z 40mm f/2 review 60

Nikon’s Nikkor Z 40mm f/2 is designed as an everyday standard prime for its full-frame mirrorless Z-system cameras

With its 40mm focal length, this lens slots neatly in between its 35mm and 50mm siblings in terms of angle of view. It may be an unfamiliar focal length to DSLR users, but has seen something of a surge in popularity recently. Many photographers find the 40-45mm range to represent the perfect ‘standard’ lens, offering a very natural perspective to images.

Probably the most similar lens available for full-frame mirrorless cameras is the similarly lightweight and inexpensive Samyang AF 45mm F1.8 FE. But we’ve also seen the compact, metal-barrelled Sony FE 40mm F2.5 G and the premium, close-focusing Zeiss Batis 40mm F2 CF. None of these are available in Nikon Z mount, but they do provide a basis for comparison. So how does Nikon’s budget offering measure up?

Nikon Z 40mm f/2: Features

Unsurprisingly, one area where the 40mm f/2 differs from its more expensive stablemates lies with the complexity of its optics. It employs 6 elements arranged in 4 groups, just half as many as are used by the Nikkor Z 50mm f/1.8 S.

Nikon Nikkor Z 40mm f/2 optical design

Nikon Nikkor Z 40mm f/2 optical design: 6 elements in 4 groups, including 2 aspherical

But while this formula might sound superficially similar to traditional 50mm f/1.8s for DSLRs, the optical design is in fact rather different. It employs a relatively small front element and a much larger rear element, a common pattern with mirrorless-optimised lenses which aims to optimise illumination of the image sensor all the way into its corners. Nikon has also included two aspherical elements to improve cross-frame sharpness.

Nikon 40mm f/2 showing 52mm filter thread

There’s a 52mm thread for attaching filters or a lens hood

The lens employs an internal focus design driven by a quiet stepper motor, with a minimum object distance of just 29cm. This approach has also enabled Nikon to include sealing against dust and moisture, which is rare at this price point and very welcome. A 52mm front thread allows filters to be attached, but there’s no separate mount for a lens hood.

Nikon Z 40mm f/2 9-blade aperture

The aperture diaphragm employs 9 curved blades

Nikon has included an aperture diaphragm with 9 rounded blades, which unusually is very visible towards the front of the optical system. The idea is to give attractively blurred backgrounds when stopped down a little. It should also give 18-ray sun stars, for those who are concerned about such things.

Nikkor Z 40mm f/2:  Build and Handling

Another area where Nikon has saved costs becomes evident when you examine the lens. Not only is the barrel constructed of lightweight but sturdy plastics, but so is the mount. This is always a controversial approach, but happily it doesn’t affect how easily the lens can be swapped on and off the camera.

Nikon Nikkor Z 40mm f/2 review 61

The lens employs a plastic mount, with the outer barrel overhanging by about 1mm to provide a barrier against dust and water getting into the camera

There’s no rubber O-ring seal at the back; instead, the outer barrel slightly overhangs the mount surface, to form a physical barrier against water getting into the camera.

This is also a very simple design in terms of controls. There’s just a broad manual-focus ring onboard that has a textured plastic grip and rotates smoothly without any end-stops. As usual with Nikon, it can be re-assigned from the camera to control the aperture, ISO or exposure compensation.

Nikon 40mm f/2 on Nikon Z7, in-hand

The manual focus ring can also be used to change exposure settings, but it’s very easy to nudge and throw them off accidentally

However, as the focus ring is the natural place to grasp the lens with your left hand and lacks any click stops, I found it far too easy to nudge accidentally. I’d rather use the camera’s dials to change exposure settings instead.

Of course, the big attraction of the 40mm f/2 is its size and weight. At 45.5mm in length and 170g, only the similarly designed Nikkor Z 28mm f/2.8 is smaller within Nikon’s full-frame Z-mount range. Compared to the 50mm f/1.8 S, the 40mm f/2 is half the weight and just a little over half the length.

Nikon Nikkor Z 40mm f/2 review 62

At just 46mm in length, the 40mm f/2 makes for a compact package on Nikon’s Z cameras

On the Nikon Z 7 body I used for testing, you hardly even notice it’s there. It’s the kind of lens that you can throw in your bag and carry around all way without a second thought, which makes it perfect for travelling light.

Nikon 40mm f/2: Autofocus

One compromise that’s often made with inexpensive lenses is autofocus speed. But that’s not really the case here, thanks of the internal focus design. Instead, the lens is generally very snappy, autofocusing silently and accurately wherever you tell it to. I did occasionally find it refused to focus for no apparent reason, mostly when trying to get it to shift between distant and close-up subjects. But this didn’t happen often enough to be seriously troublesome.

Nikon Nikkor Z 40mm f/2 review 63

Autofocus is reasonably fast, silent, and accurate. Nikon Z 7, Nikon Z 40mm f/2, 1/320sec at f/2, ISO 400; 20MP APS-C crop (60mm equivalent)

If you do find yourself needing to tweak focus manually, you’ll have to engage this from the camera, as there’s no focus mode switch on the lens itself. While the focus ring works electronically rather than mechanically, manual focus still responds promptly and intuitively. Turning the ring brings up a basic distance scale in the camera’s viewfinder, but for the most accurate results, it’s best to engage magnified live view using the requisite button on the camera body.

Nikkor 40mm f/2: Image Quality

So now for the most important question – what kind of image quality does this relatively inexpensive optic deliver? Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t hit the same heights as its S-series siblings when used with the aperture wide open. But the good news is that it still delivers very attractive-looking images.

Nikon Nikkor Z 40mm f/2 review 64

Despite its low price, the Nikkor Z 40mm f/2 gives really attractive images. Nikon Z7, Nikon Z 40mm f/2, 1/125sec at f/2, ISO 800

Stop the aperture down and it gets very sharp indeed; at f/5.6 or f/8, it delivers more than enough detail to match the Z 7’s 45.7MP sensor from corner to corner. This is pretty good going for a £249 lens.

Nikon 40mm f/2 sample image at f/8

Plenty of detail is resolved at the lens’s sweet spot around f/8. Nikon Z7, Nikon Z 40mm f/2, 1/80sec at f/8, ISO 100

Let’s look at its characteristics in a little more detail. Central sharpness is very respectable even at f/2, and this performance extends to the top and bottom edges of the frame. At the left and right edges, detail starts to soften visibly when viewed at 100% onscreen, while the extreme corners are decidedly blurred. But then again, the chances of any important detail being in focus in the corners at f/2 is pretty slim.

Nikon Z 40mm f/2 low light sample at F2

With its relatively bright f/2 aperture, the lens is useful for shooting in low light. Nikon Z7, Nikon Z 40mm f/2, 1/8sec at f/2, ISO 1600, hand-held

Stop down to f/4 and the centre and edges sharpen up very nicely; by f/5.6 the entire frame is as sharp as it’s ever going to be. At the smallest aperture of f/16 diffraction softening takes the edge off the finest detail. But even so, I wouldn’t hesitate to stop down this far when the extra depth of field is important.

Nikon Z 40mm f/2 sample at f/16

Diffraction takes the edge off sharpness at f/16, but that’s no reason not to use it. Nikon Z7, Nikon Z 40mm f/2, 1/60sec at f/16, ISO 100

One area where the 40mm f/2 lags behind its more complex and expensive contemporaries comes with respect to close-up performance. Its relatively simple focusing mechanism means that it can’t maintain the same level of sharpness at short range and large apertures, giving hazy images due to spherical aberration. If you want crisp shots at less than a metre, you’ll need to stop down to f/4 at least. But then again, the close-focusing specialist Zeiss Batis 40mm F2 CF costs £1000 and is twice the length and weight, so pick your poison.

Nikon Z 40mm f.2 close-range sample at f/11

If you want crisp images at close distances, you’ll need to stop down the aperture. Nikon Z7, Nikon Z 40mm f/2, 1/60sec at f/11, ISO 100

Nikon’s in-camera processing is excellent at suppressing chromatic aberration, so you won’t see any troublesome colour fringing in your JPEG files. If you make the mistake of disabling Auto distortion control in-camera, you will see a little barrel distortion, but it’s really nothing to worry about. Likewise raw files include correction metadata for both chromatic aberration and distortion, which is automatically applied by Adobe raw conversion software.

Nikon Z 40mm f/2 sample image

Even in the worst-case scenarios, only a little colour fringing is visible. Nikon Z7, Nikon Z 40mm f/2, 1/50sec at f/8, ISO 4500

One aspect where the lens falls short is with regard to vignetting. Normally I don’t mind a little corner darkening; more often than not, it’s a good thing for framing your subject. But with the 40mm f/2, the fall-off pattern is quite abrupt and severe, which means it can look distracting and unattractive. I’d recommend ensuring that Vignette Control is set to Normal to suppress the effect.

Nikon Nikkor Z 40mm f/2 review 65

Vignetting can be pronounced at f/2, with abrupt light falloff in the corners. Nikon Z7, Nikon Z 40mm f/2, 1/640s at f/2, ISO 100

On a more positive note, I saw barely any problems when shooting into the light, with minimal ghosting or loss of contrast. Stop the aperture down to f/11 or f/16, and you can get some rather nice sunstars in favourable situations. But when the sun is very bright in a clear sky, it’s also possible to get unsightly coloured mosaic artefacts.

Nikon Z 40mm f2 flare and sunstar sample

Nikon Z7, Nikon Z 40mm f/2, 1/125sec at f/16, ISO 100

While the lens is capable of delivering quite strongly blurred backgrounds, I’m not a huge fan of its bokeh when shot wide open at f/2. Blur circles can often to be bright-edged, and take on odd shapes towards the edges and corners of the frame. If you’re after smooth background blur, sometimes it can be better to stop down to f/2.8.

Nikon Z 40mm f2 bokeh example

Bokeh isn’t terrible, but it’s not super-smooth either. Nikon Z7, Nikon Z 40mm f/2, 1/80sec at f/2, ISO 100

All told, though, the Nikkor Z 40mm f/2 produces very decent images, especially when you take into account its bargain price.

Nikon Nikkor Z 40mm f/2: Our Verdict

I can be tempting to overlook inexpensive lenses like the Nikon Nikkor Z 40mm f/2 and assume that with its simpler optics and plastic mount, it won’t be up to much. But in this case, that would be a huge mistake. Because while Nikon may have cut some costs in the design, it’s done so in a very sensible, well-judged way. The result is a lovely little lens that’s capable of giving fine results.

Nikon Z 40mm f/2 in use

The Nikon Z 40mm f.2 is a fine lens that punches well above its weight and price point

Naturally the Nikon 40mm f/2 does have its limitations, but in practice they’re relatively few and minor. And in return, its compact size and light weight mean you can happily carry it around all day, while the weather-resistant construction means you don’t have to worry about using it in unfavourable weather.

Nikon Z 40mm f/2 sample image

Nikon Z7, Nikon Z 40mm f/2, 1/50sec at f/2, ISO 180

Nikon has to be applauded for being prepared to make compromises to achieve the smaller size and lower price of its compact primes; not just the 40mm f/2, but the 28mm f/2.8 as well. Over the past decade or so, manufacturers seem to have become obsessed with making large, complex and expensive lenses, in a bid to deliver corner-to-corner sharpness at all apertures and focus distances. Such optics certainly have their place, but not to the exclusion of everything else.

Nikon Z 40mm f/2 sample

Nikon Z7, Nikon Z 40mm f/2, 1/40sec at f/11, ISO 100

I’m not going to pretend that the 40mm f/2 is the best lens I’ve reviewed this year. But thanks to its combination of decent optics, reasonably bright aperture, portability and responsive AF, it’s one that I’ve really enjoyed using. In many respects it me reminds me of the Samyang AF 45mm F1.8 FE, and to get sharper optics at this size you’d have to sacrifice maximum aperture, as with the Sony FE 40mm F2.5 G.

Nikon Z 40mm f/2 sample image

Nikon Z7, Nikon Z 40mm f/2, 1/30sec at f/11, ISO 100

Ultimately the Nikon Z 40mm f/2 comes highly recommended, not only to Z system users who don’t already have a native standard prime, but also to those who’d like a smaller and lighter alternative to S-line optics.

4.5 stars

Nikon Nikkor Z 40mm f/2: Full Specifications

Nikon Nikkor Z 40mm f/2 on the Nikon Z7

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DJI Ronin 4D Review: A Cinema Camera System With No Equal

DJI Ronin 4D Review: A Cinema Camera System With No Equal

DJI Ronin 4D Review: A Cinema Camera System With No Equal 66

What does it take to make a camera stand out? Some companies go for specs, some go for looks, some go for versatility. DJI went for all three with the Ronin 4D.

Build Quality and Design

The Ronin 4D combines a camera and a gimbal into one package. In doing so, DJI is able to make the rig more lightweight, better balanced, and offer improved stabilization and control. It’s constructed of carbon fiber and aluminum-magnesium alloy and overall with the DJI 35mm f/2.8 lens mounted, I found it to be an appropriate amount of weight to balance out stability with comfort.

DJI Ronin 4D front right.

DJI Ronin 4D leftside.

DJI Ronin 4D front.

DJI Ronin 4D handheld.

Buttons and controls are laid out on the left side of the camera as well as on the monitor with the implied reason being the operator’s right hand will be holding the top handle. The Ronin also comes with left and right handgrips that feature controls on each. There is nothing cheap feeling about these buttons and scrub wheels, and DJI nailed the tactile experience throughout the camera. There are small, purposeful details found everywhere and it’s shocking that this is the company’s first go at anything of this style.

Monitor

The monitor is a 5.5-inch, 1,920 by 1,080-pixel touchscreen display with 1,000 nits of brightness. It’s a perfect size for a gimbal where a big, rotatable screen is always helpful for monitoring but there needs to be a balance with how much weight it adds and just how much room it takes up. The picture quality looked good from my experience and it had the clarity to be able to discern subject sharpness by eyeballing it.

DJI Ronin 4D leftside of the camera.

DJI Ronin 4D being handheld.

The touchscreen responsiveness was on point, even with gloves. I did some shooting with the Ronin 4D when the temperature was in the 20-degree Fahrenheit range and didn’t see any ghosting issues or sluggish behavior.

Video Quality

Capable of shooting in 6K ProRes RAW and ProRes 422HQ up to 60 frames per second and up to 120 frames per second in 4K, the Ronin 4D is no slouch in its video performance. At specific high frame rate thresholds, the camera will force a 2.39:1 aspect ratio.

There are a couple of options available to deal with this, and considering this is a 6K-capable camera it’s actually not so bad. First, just use the “cinematic” 2.39:1 aspect if it suits the project. This is the simplest, most obvious option since no matter what is shot it will fit into any finished resolution. The other option is to shoot 6K for a 4K project, or 6K and 4K for a 2K project. The 2.39:1 aspect in 6K will fit into a more standard 16:9 aspect in 4K and still have some wiggle room for frame adjustment or cropping.

The Zenmuse X9-6K sports a full-frame sensor the company claims to have 14-plus stops of dynamic range with dual native ISOs of 800 and 5,000. Pushing the D-log color profiled files in editing reveals its strengths, and I can confirm natural gradations and the ability to save considerable information in the highlights and shadows.

As a gimbal-infused camera setup meant to be handheld more often than not, sensor readout speed and its rolling shutter effects can come into play as the sensor whips about. While I do see some bending of straight vertical lines, I need to be aggressive in order to make them appear and I found the results to be about on par with any other cinema-style camera I’ve used without a global shutter.

Stabilization

While there are many interesting components to the Ronin 4D, it’s the “4D” in the name that obviously DJI feels is a highlight. Most gimbals compensate for pitch, roll, and yaw, but it’s the Ronin 4D that can compensate for up and down movement (Z-axis) as well. This doesn’t have to be active all the time, and there’s a dedicated “4D” button on the side of the camera for easy toggling.

In my testing, the 4D compensation is remarkable. I’m not much of a gimbal operator myself and even I could make relatively smooth shots without really bringing my attention to stability. The video below was taken when I was simply walking around different terrain and specifically not trying to focus on getting super clean, stable shots. Behind the camera, I’m moving about casually with mostly one hand on the handle. I wanted to see if feasibly anyone could pick this camera up and go.

To my eye, plus knowing just how much I was hopping around the forest floor and rocks and whatnot, the stabilization was the real deal. I think to really clean up these shots, I’d fine-tune my panning settings in the camera’s menu, but otherwise, the actual 4D Z-axis movements were nullified.

With that in mind, I went a little more crazy and started running around with the camera. Now, I’m probably the goofiest looking runner you’ll find and still the footage looked smooth as can be. At the end of the sequence shown below, I took it to the final step and just started shaking the camera like a true maniac. There were three stages of low, medium, and high intensity shaking. Yes, you can finally see some shake in the clip, but on any other camera and gimbal system, the picture would be an absolute blur with nothing discernible in the frame.

Autofocus

Autofocus is another area where DJI took a unique approach. The Ronin 4D is equipped with a LiDAR system in a module that sits up near the lens and calculates the distance from a subject to the camera’s sensor.

In practice, autofocus was hit and miss. The worst part may be the implementation where it will jump very unnaturally to attain new focus. I didn’t find any menu setting available to get it to chill out for slower transitions. For non-human subjects like my dog or just walking around in scenery, the autofocus is unreliable and messy.

That said, the autofocus really shines when it comes to filming people. Whether I’m at the edge of the frame, far away, my back turned, walking all around, it doesn’t seem to matter and the Ronin 4D keeps the autofocus locked on. Something I wasn’t able to test was how it handles more than one person in the frame, and I wonder if it would be problematic with jumping around. I suspect so, or at least it is likely more difficult to get it to choose the right person to follow. You can drag a box around the subject to track on the touchscreen display, but from what I saw that only tells the gimbal what to follow and does not affect the autofocus targeting.

The LiDAR system benefits manual focus as well by reporting the distance information in a graphical display. By matching what the camera reports the focus distance of the lens is to the focus distance that the LiDAR is sensing, I have a very handy assistive feature. At the end of the sequence below, I’m using this depth metering option to try my best at keeping manual focus while watching a DJI High-Bright Remote Monitor.

DJI High-Bright Remote Monitor with Ronin 4D handgrips.
DJI High-Bright Remote Monitor with Ronin 4D handgrips.

A Stunning Display of Technological Craftsmanship

I know this camera isn’t going to be for everyone and isn’t designed to be, but I think it means something when I say that I wish everyone could try it out at some point because they will enjoy it for what it manages to accomplish.

That leads me to think about perspective. Say you’re looking to get your first camera rig and the Ronin 4D happens to check many of the boxes. I think for someone like that who gets used to this camera, going to any other camera system in the future is going to be annoying. For that situation, they’ll probably be losing more than they would gain in making the switch. On the flip side, the rest of us are probably looking at the Ronin 4D with our heads cocked because it doesn’t follow the rules of being a boxy cinema camera that we restlessly build upon.

Are There Alternatives?

The DJI Ronin 4D takes a completely new approach toward offering a full package of products designed from the start to compliment and work with each other. The alternative to this would be going the traditional route in buying everything independently — the camera, the gimbal, the five-inch monitor, and so on — and having a little more independence on the setup.

Honestly though, there isn’t a package deal that works this well together other than what DJI has here. It is, for now, truly unique. Even though it’s not cheap at $11,499, I have to think that anyone who attempts to build a similar system a la carte is going to find themselves spending at least that much and none of those parts will work together quite as well as what DJI has in the 4D.

DJI Ronin 4D back right.

Should You Buy It?

Yes. The DJI Ronin 4D is too unique and too well designed to look past. It’s not perfect in all areas all the time, but it’s a package deal and one that has no competitor right now. Even if there were, I have a hard time imagining any other company going as hard as DJI did for this one nor succeed nearly as well.

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Deity Pocket Wireless Mobile Kit review

Deity Pocket Wireless Mobile Kit review

Andy Westlake tests a good-value wireless microphone kit for use with both cameras and Android smartphones

Deity Pocket Wireless Mobile Kit at a glance:

  • £197
  • Compact transmitter and receiver
  • Comes with clip-on Lavalier microphone
  • Audio cables for cameras and Android phones
  • Range up to 100 metres
  • deitymic.com

If you shoot video, you’ll know that sound quality is crucial, and an external microphone will often do a better job than the one built into your camera. The market leader here is Rode, but relative newcomer Deity wants to carve out its own share by offering well-featured products at tempting prices.

Its Pocket Wireless kit is a direct alternative to the Rode Wireless Go, but with the advantage that a small clip-on Lavalier mic is included in the box. From Rode, that’s a £60 extra.

Deity Pocket Wireless kit set up with camera

The Deity Pocket Wireless microphone set can be used with cameras, but unfortunately the audio cable obstructs the viewfinder when the mic is mounted on the hot shoe

To understand why this matters, we need to consider why you’d use a wireless mic. They’re ideal when you have a presenter talking to camera and wish to record their voice along with a little ambient sound to help set the scene. But if you use the transmitter’s own mic, the unit is likely to be visible in your footage. A lapel mic will be more discreet.

Deity Pocket Wireless Mobile Kit key features:

  • Mobile Kit  You get everything needed for use with an Android smartphone, including a phone clamp, USB-C audio cable, and mini tripod
  • Rechargeable  Both the transmitter and receiver use internal Li-ion batteries charged via USB-C
  • Wind shield  If you wish to use the transmitter’s built-in mic outdoors, the supplied furry windshield simply pushes in place, fitting reassuringly firmly
  • Display  A small but clear OLED panel on the transmitter shows the audio level, mic gain, connection strength, and battery status of both units

Deity’s transmitter and receiver units are both small and lightweight, with sturdy plastic clips for attaching them to clothing, that will also slide onto hot shoes. Both power up quickly using large sliding switches and pair almost instantly.

Deity Pocket Wireless Mobile Kit review 67

Both the receiver and transmitter are small rectangular units with a large clip to attach them to clothing

The sound can be muted using a small button on the side of either unit, indicated by a flashing red LED. On the receiver, the same button adjusts the gain across nine steps. One neat touch is that the Lavalier mic can be secured to the transmitter using a screw collar, so it won’t accidentally fall out.

The receiver outputs audio from its USB-C port, with two cables supplied. One has a USB-C plug for use with Android phones, and the other a standard 3.5mm jack. Unfortunately, iPhone users are out of luck. Everything fits neatly into the supplied case, aside from the tripod.

In use the kit performs well, providing good quality sound using either microphone, especially with voice. In the open with a clear line of site, it easily achieves its promised 100m range. But it’s crucial to place the transmitter in a front pocket facing the receiver, otherwise this can drop to 30m or less. The range will also reduce in crowded spaces.

Deity Pocket Wireless Mobile Kit review 68

The receiver clips easily onto clothing and comes with a wind shield. But despite being small, it’s not exactly inconspicuous

Perhaps the biggest design flaw is that with most cameras, the audio cable obstructs use of the viewfinder when it’s clipped onto the hot shoe, because it plugs into the back of the receiver. But this can be remedied by fixing it to a bracket instead. Many videographers prefer using the camera’s rear screen or an external monitor/recorder anyway.

Deity Pocket Wireless Mobile Kit: box contents

The Mobile Kit includes the transmitter and receiver; the lapel mic; a windshield for the transmitter’s mic; USB-C and 3.5mm audio cables; a charging cable; carry case; phone clamp and mini tripod.

Deity Pocket Wireless Mobile Kit in its case

Aside from the tripod, all of the kit contents that you’ll need on a shoot fit neatly into the supplied case

A more basic kit without the clamp and tripod that’s suitable for those using cameras rather than smartphones costs about £170. This kit is available with the transmitter and receiver units in either black or white.

Deity Pocket Wireless Mobile Kit: Our Verdict

Deity’s Pocket Wireless kit does its job reliably and with little fuss. It’s a fine alternative to the Rode Wireless Go and excellent value for money.

4.5 stars


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A Review of the Canon RF 100-400mm f/5.6-8 IS USM Lens

A Review of the Canon RF 100-400mm f/5.6-8 IS USM Lens

A 100-400mm zoom lens is highly versatile, useful for anything from sports and wildlife photography to landscape work and more. They come in many different options with a wide variety of price points. Canon’s RF 100-400mm f/5.6-8 IS USM sits at the affordable end of the spectrum but still offers some great features, and this excellent video review takes a look at the performance and image quality you can expect from it in practice. 

Coming to you from Gordon Laing, this great video review takes a look at the Canon RF 100-400mm f/5.6-8 IS USM lens. Though this lens has a narrow variable maximum aperture, we have seen Canon’s f/11 primes demonstrate that when used in tandem with a modern body, such a lens can actually be a perfectly acceptable performer and comes with advantages like a portable size and affordable price (in this case, $649). Of course, such lenses work best with decent light, but if you are not working in extreme scenarios or if you just want a longer lens for occasional shots, this can be the perfect solution that will not break the bank. Check out the video above for Laing’s full thoughts on the lens. 

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