Colby is a photographer, photo educator and author based out of Eastern Pennsylvania. Specializing in landscape, travel and humanitarian photography, his body of work spans the four corners of the globe.
What better way to celebrate the day after my birthday than to announce my next big giveaway on Instagram! Back in January of 2018, you saw me giveaway a Sony a7R III, and now I am happy to announce that I have a brand new Rose Gold Dell XPS 13 9370 (Full Review) to give to one lucky winner (Worth $2200 USD)!
For complete Instagram Giveaway Details, see the bottom of this blog post…
Dates: March 30th, 2018 – April 20th, 2018
How to Enter:
Follow @ColbyBrownPhotography on Instagram
Like my latest IG Post
Write a short description of what you would do with the new Dell XPS 13 9370 in the comments of my IG Post below!
Tag a friend in the same comment on my Instagram Giveaway Post. 1 Tag = 1 entry. Tag as many people as you want to enter multiple times
* Only tags of accounts of people you know or are connected with are valid. Please DO NOT tag other companies such as Nike as they do not count…
**As I have partnered with other IG pages, tagging friends on those posts also count towards an entry into this giveaway
Additional Chances to Win!
Option 1: Share one of the following IG Stories to your own page and include a tag to me (@colbybrownphotography) as well as the hashtag #DellXPS so that we can track your IG Stories. *You can do this up to five times each week the contest is open (3 weeks in total). (Download)
Option 2: Share one of your own Images to your IG page, with the following text….
If I was to win a Dell XPS 13 9370 I would… (fill in the blank)
For a chance to win a $2200 Dell XPS 9370, be sure to follow @ColbyBrownphotography for more info!
*You can do this three times a week each week the contest is open (3 weeks in total).
A post shared by Colby Brown (@colbybrownphotography) on Mar 30, 2018 at 9:37am PDT
*If you have any questions, please let me know!
Sponsored by Colby Brown Photography Ltd. (“Sponsor”). No purchase or obligation necessary.
Colby Brown Photography Dell XPS 13 9370 Instagram Giveaway (the “Sweepstakes”)
Entry deadline: April 20th, 2018 at 11:59pm EST
How to participate: Follow Colby Brown Photography on Instagram (@ColbyBrownPhotography), Like my Instagram Post about the Giveaway, Share a brief description of how you use the Dell XPS 15 9370 if you won and tag as many friends in that post as you wish (each tag is an entry) between March 30th, 2018 at 1:00pm EST and April 20th, 2018 at 11:59 pm EST.
Sweepstakes rules: Entrants must complete all steps above to be eligible to win. All entries must be received by April 20th, 2018 by 11:59 pm EST. Winners will be notified by Instagram direct message. There is no limit on the number of online entries per entrant during the entry period. You will receive one entry per individual you Tag on the Giveaway post via @ColbyBrownPhotography, assuming you have completed the other necessary steps. This promotion isn’t sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Instagram or Dell.
Prizes and odds: Total value of all prizes to be awarded is $2200. The odds of winning depend on the total number of eligible entries received.
Eligibility: The Sweepstakes is open Worldwide as well as to legal residents of the U.S. for those that are age 18 or older. The Sweepstakes is however prohibited in Sweden & Taiwan and any other country that with laws that prohibit winning an international giveaway. Employees of Sponsor and their respective parent companies, affiliates, subsidiaries, advertising, promotion, and fulfillment agencies, their immediate family members and persons living in their same household, are not eligible to participate in the Sweepstakes. Participation in the Contest constitutes entrant’s full and unconditional agreement to and acceptance of these Official Rules.
Prize selection: All Contest name entries meeting the requirements of these Official Rules will be entered into a spreadsheet at the Colby Brown Photography Ltd. offices in Cresco, PA. The winner will be selected at random by Sponsor using the website www.random.org. Winners are solely responsible for any and all federal, state, provincial and local taxes that apply to prizes. No cash or other substitution of prizes is permitted. Prizes won by minors will be awarded to the parents or legal guardians, who must sign all required affidavits and releases. Sponsor will not replace any lost or stolen prizes.
Additional Conditions: Except where prohibited by law, by accepting any prize, Winner consents to the use of his/her name, photo and/or likeness, biographical information, and statements attributed to winner (if true) for advertising and promotional purposes without additional compensation. Allow 6-8 weeks for delivery of prizes.
For a list of winners contact:
Colby Brown Photography Ltd.
128 Devonshire Ct.
Cresco, PA 18326
When it comes to finding the perfect laptop as a photographer, we are often torn between the choice of getting something fast and powerful or lightweight and portable. While thin and light machines were typically underpowered but provided good battery life, the more powerful laptops were thicker and heavier, often weighing between two or threes times as much. But what happens if you want something that is both powerful and lightweight? Something that can handle those large MP images but that doesn’t weigh over 4lbs in the process? With the launch of the new 2018 XPS 13 (9370), Dell feels they have finally found that perfect balance.
While I have been a big fan of the popular Dell XPS 15 (9560) that I reviewed last year, I have been keeping my eye on the smaller and lighter XPS 13 series as well. With the brand new Intel 8th generation Quad Core CPUs hitting the market, I felt it was the perfect time to give the brand new XPS 13 a trial run. Fortunately, Dell was able to send me one before it was released so that I could take with me to Cuba, Iceland, and Norway while I taught a series of Photo Workshops. So how did it do? Let’s find out!
Like most laptops, the Dell XPS 13 (9370) comes in a variety of different customizable options at different price points. The one I tested was just about the highest end model you could buy with the following specs…
CPU – Intel 8th Generation Kaby Lake i7-8550U Processor (8M Cache, up to 4ghz) Memory – 16GB LPDDR3 2133MHz Hard Drive – 512GB PCIe Solid State Drive Video Card – Intel® UHD Graphics 620 Display – 13.3” 4K Ultra HD (3840 x 2160) InfinityEdge touch display Wireless – Killer 1435 802.11ac 2×2 and Bluetooth Ports – USB – C 3.1 w/ PowerShare DC-In & Displayport, (2) Thunderbolt 3 w/ Powershare, MicroSD slot, Headphone jack Dimensions – 0.46″ x 11.9″ x 7.8″ (11.6mm x 302mm x 199mm) Weight – 2.68 lbs (1.21 kg)
Build Quality & Design
While many PC manufacturers have tried to mimic the look of Apple’s MacBook lineup, Dell has continued to go its own route with its XPS series that I feel gives them their own distinctive look. Those familiar with the XPS series should feel right at home with beautifully built 9370, but there are a number of new features and welcomed changes worth noting.
First and foremost, you now not only have the ability to purchase the same platinum silver with black carbon fiber look of the past XPS laptops but also a brand new Rose Gold with Alpine White woven glass fiber version as well ($50 extra). I was sent both versions to experiment with and while I still like the look of the traditional silver and black design, there is something special about the Rose Gold version that causes it to stand out in my opinion. Unlike the smooth feel of the carbon fiber version, you can literally feel the texture of the woven Alpine White glass fiber as you run your fingers over the interior of the laptop, which feels pretty awesome. Additionally, the nearly all-white interior appears to stay clean of fingerprints and oil from your hand that can be visible in the in the platinum silver version.
You will also find a fingerprint reader built into the power button that you can use to login to the machine as well as the webcam, which finally has “Windows Hello” support, giving you even more ways to keep your laptop secure while quickly and easily unlocking it when needed. However, for those hoping the placement of the webcam would be improved, you will probably be both happy and sad with the 9370. While it is now placed in the middle of the screen rather than angled from the left, it is still located at the bottom of the display which makes for awkward angles when using the webcam. This is of course because of the gorgeous edge to edge Infinity Display known to the XPS lineup that I will talk about in-depth in its own section of this review.
The Keyboard feels great to the touch, especially for a thin 13″ laptop. While you don’t get super deep key travel, it feels much deeper than I expected. I wrote the vast majority of this review on XPS 9370 and enjoyed the typing process. While I think Apple is still the leader when it comes to trackpads, the one found here works well and feels good to the touch. I liked the oversized trackpad approach that Apple has begun to run with, so maybe that will be brought over in future generations to the XPS line.
New to the 9370 is the port selection. While you are missing the standard USB-A port on this laptop, you are given a USB Type C (3.1) port that doubles for charging the device as well as two USB C/Thunderbolt 3 ports (one on each side). Fortunately, both of these TB3 ports include four-lane PCI connections which means you can plug this laptop into an external GPU, which would make this laptop a much more viable option for portable gaming that it is by default. You also won’t find a standard SD card slot as Dell went with the questionable micro SD slot instead. Personally, this is an all or nothing thing for me. If you can’t go full SD, don’t bother with the micro SD slot which I imagine won’t get much use (unless you have a drone).
Lastly, Dell has taken great strides in keeping this laptop run cool, even when it is under heavy CPU loads. In a laptop this thin, it would be easy for the base to heat up, making it a painful experience to keep on your lap if you aren’t sitting at a desk. To do this Dell opted to make the 9370 the first laptop to use GORE Thermal Insulation along with dual fans and heat pipes to take the heat generated from the new and impressive Quad Core CPU and direct it out of the device. Not once did I feel this laptop warming up or getting hot to the touch!
Portability & Battery Life
One of the key reasons most photographers end up picking a 13″ laptop is because they want something small and lightweight that they can easily carry with them on the go. In this regard, the 13″ Dell XPS 9370 doesn’t disappoint!
When you first pick up this laptop you will have a hard time deciding what is more impressive, how thin the laptop is…or how light it feels. I don’t know if I was simply too used to the Dell XPS 15 that I normally use, but I was blown away but just how light this laptop felt in my hands. According to Dell, it weighs just 2.68 lbs (for the 4k Touch Screen Version), making it one of the most powerful lightweight machines I have ever used, thanks to the quad-core Kaby Lake i7 CPU. It is this new technology that has allowed Dell to not only create such a thin and lightweight machine but one that has pretty solid battery life as well.
While other reviewers have been able to get close to 13 hrs of battery life with the 1080p version of this laptop, the best I have got on my 4k Touch version is around 7-8 hrs. This mostly consists of watching movies, doing light editing and web surfing. If you are really going to dive into processing your images and you crank the Power Mode to “Best Performance”, I can get around 5 hrs of battery life when using programs like Lightroom, Photoshop, Capture One or On1 Photo RAW extensively. This is partly because Dell opted to go with a smaller battery than last years model to keep the thinner and lighter trend. Personally, I wouldn’t mind something a touch heavier that gave me a few more hours of battery life, but maybe that is just me.
When you click on the battery icon in the lower right-hand corner of your screen, a small window pops up with a slider that lets you control your laptops power mode, allowing you to balance power with battery life depending on your task at hand.
Easily one of my favorite features of this laptop is the 4k Wide Gamut touch display that Dell likes to call “Infinity Edge”. This is because the screen is almost bezel-less in design, going almost corner to corner. In fact, Dell was able to remove 23% of the bezels from last years model which was already impressive. Additionally, Dell managed to create an incredibly bright display with this laptop, rated at around 415 nits. To compare, most other laptops in this class usually fall around 275 nits.
Now as a photographer, the display of any device is always one of the most crucial. We want our images to look the best, but if we don’t know if we are looking at accurate colors or contrast, it can be near impossible to accurately process/edit an image. With the XPS 13 (9370), there is a lot to be happy about. Spec wise, the 4k version of this laptop covers 100% of the sRGB color space, 99% of Adobe1998 and a contrast ratio of 1500:1, which is more than enough for today’s photographer. In addition, you get an IPS display with wide viewing angles and touch support, which I feel is a pretty under-rated feature.
While Apple users have been known to bemoan the idea of touch support in a laptop, my guess is that they have never actually used one. While this might of been true a few years ago, Windows 10 and most photo processing apps now have solid support for touch-based features. I not only use “touch” to move around windows and scroll through web pages, but I can easily scroll through my thumbnails in Lightroom, pinch to zoom into my images in Photoshop and navigate around Capture One while using sliders with ease. Personally, I can’t see myself using a non-touch laptop in the future.
How Much Power Is Under The Hood?
When you compare the last generation Dell XPS 13 (9360) with this newer version (9370), there are a lot of similarities. Both are small and lightweight, both offer incredible displays and both look almost identical. So what is the biggest difference between these two laptops? The CPU!
Historically, 13″ laptops were (and still are) classified as “Ultrabooks”. They were often thin and lightweight, but they were never known for their processing power. As far as I know, nearly all 13″ laptops before this year were all maxed out with dual-core processors, which made then usable, but not powerhouses. This was not only to improve battery life but because anything more powerful simply got too hot for these thin laptops to handle. This has all changed with the brand new 8th Generation Intel processors and Dell’s use of GORE material we talked about earlier in this review.
Under the hood of the XPS 13 (9370) is the new Kaby Lake 8th Gen Intel i7-8550U Processor, which is the first Quad Core CPU in a Dell laptop this size. Over the course of the 2 months that I have been using this machine, I was blown away by just how easily it handled just about anything I could throw it. While having a blazing fast internal SSD and 16GBs of fast RAM do play a role in speed and performance, it is the quad-core nature of the CPU that helps the 9370 provide a fluid user experience with tasks that a dual-core CPU typically struggle with. For example, the previous Dell XPS 13 (9360) could handle editing photos, but processing intensive tasks such as using the adjustment brush in Adobe Lightroom would often be met with delays and studdering as the computer caught up with applying the effect of your brush. This is no longer the case.
As a Sony a7R III shooter, the 42mp RAW files coming out of my camera are pretty large, hovering around 80 mbs per file. Editing these images require some serious processing power, especially if you want a fluid and seamless experience. After editing hundreds of images on the 9370, I saw zero slowdowns, studdering or delays as I pushed my images through apps such as Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop, Capture One and On1 Photo RAW. When it comes to editing photos, this laptop is a small beast!
But what about Video? You might be surprised to hear that editing 4k videos using programs like Adobe Premiere is a non-issue. I was easily able to render and string a number of 4k clips together, including playback on those edits in 4k without any studdering or visible/audible lag. This is a pretty big deal as doing 4k video editing on an Ultrabook was not something I would wish on my enemies in the past. While I would still opt for my custom top end PC at home for serious video editing, it is nice to know I can get started on the road with the 9370 and not be subjected to a studdering mess.
For those interesting in Gaming, this laptop is not really for you. With no discrete GPU and only an Intel 620, the 9370 will struggle to play most modern games. It works fine for something like Minecraft, but don’t expect much else to run all that well.
Another nice surprise with the 9370 came in both Norway and Iceland last month when I was with my respective Photo Workshop Clients. The hotels we stayed in had a number of TV’s with HDMI outlets in both 1080p and 4k displays. The XPS 9370 didn’t have an issue running those displays as a second display as I edited my images. It isn’t easy to push out a second 4k video output while already using a processor intensive program, but again I was pretty impressed. In fact, I had a number of clients come up to me after the photo editing session surprised the small XPS 13 could handle everything I was showing them.
If you are into Benchmarks, I am a big fan of UserBechmarkwhich allows you to easily download the benchmark software from the website and quickly test your computer while comparing it to the millions of other people that have tested their own laptops and desktops. The XPS 9370 performed very well in nearly all categories besides Graphics/Gaming. It was highly rated for the new Kaby Lake 8th Gen Intel Quad Core Processor (81%), given an exceptional score for its SSD drive (143%) and was a solid performer with the 16GB of RAM (65%).
What Is Dell Cinema?
At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Vegas this January, Dell announced their new focus on content consumption that they called “Dell Cinema”. The premise is fairly straightforward. They want to be able to provide the best viewing, listening, and streaming experience of any laptop and have done so via a mixture of hardware and software solutions.
The core tenents of Dell Cinema is broken up into three distinct elements that you can find in the XPS 13 9370:
Introducing Dell Cinema - Color Sound Streaming - YouTube
With HDR quickly becoming the next trend, Dell is trying to push the boundaries of what it can do with what it calls “Cinema Color”. By engineering top quality display panels and mixing that with both hardware and software, they have managed to find a happy medium between HDR certified displays and HDR-like display features on displays that aren’t technically HDR 10 certified.
By doing this they appear to be able to deliver deeper blacks, brighter highlights and more vivid colors across their displays, including the 4k panel found in the 9370. HERE is a video with more info.
Because more and more people are streaming content to their laptops, Dell wanted to make sure your music, movies, TV Shows, and even games always offer the most fluid and buffer free streaming experience possible. They have worked closely with Killer Wireless (who supplies their wireless chips) to help prioritize your streaming needs when you need it.
If you are watching a show on Netflix for example, your Dell XPS 13 (9370) will prioritize that feed over everything else happening on your laptop, making sure it gets the resources it needs. HERE is a video for more info.
The XPS 9370 uses Waves MaxxAudio® Pro to help amplify volume and clarity with a variety of tones. While Dell touts that this feature provides “studio-quality sound”, I wouldn’t go that far with this specific laptop. It is certainly loud and does sound pretty great for an ultrabook, but things aren’t as smooth or rich when it comes to deeper mid tones or base. Bottom line is that I am happy but not blown away by the sound.
Dell Mobile Connect
One of the surprise announcements that came out of CES 2018 in Las Vegas this year was Dell’s Mobile Connect software that is now apart of just about all Dell Laptops moving forward. Though this software, you have an incredibly easy way to keep track of everything happening on my mobile phone (IOS or Android) while you are using a Dell Laptop such as the XPS 9370. How does it work?
After installing the Dell Mobile Connect software on your phone via the Android or Apple Store and opening it up, you simply open the Dell Mobile Connect software that comes preloaded on your laptop and pair your phone with your computer. Once that happens, you can answer calls, texts, receive notifications and even mirror your phone’s screen (Android only) right from your laptop. The idea is fairly simple, allow you to have access to anything happening on your phone while you are in the middle of using your laptop without having to break away to respond or engage directly with your mobile device.
In my experience, it works pretty flawlessly. I have been able to swipe away notifications, answer calls from my wife and even send out text messages when needed. I can even open up my Instagram app on my phone from the Dell Mobile Connect software and use it as if I was holding my phone in my hands. Currently, there is no way to send a file from my computer to my phone via this process, but I am hoping that functionality gets baked in eventually.
What About Customer Support?
When it comes to product & customer support I feel that most photographers would probably concede that Apple has figured out a way to really do it right. If you have an issue, you make an appointment at the Apple store, bring it in and in return, Apple is known for going above and beyond to make things right in most cases. This hasn’t always been the story when it came to PC manufacturers and many of them have come to realize that over the years.
When it comes Dell support you have three different options…
Free with any laptop purchase, you automatically get Dell’s Standard Support. This comes with a 1 Year Limited Warranty on product defects as well as their paid Mail-in Service if you need to send your device in to get repaired. It is important to note that the turn around time for this service is often 14 days.
For an additional fee, you can upgrade to Dell’s Premium Support when you purchase your laptop. Here you get everything listed above plus a lot more. First, you can reach out to Dell 24×7 for any hardware and software support that extends beyond just the device. This includes troubleshooting Windows, Microsoft products/services and more). Additionally, you get International support to help you while you travel, as well as Dell’s Support Assist, which helps you diagnose issues before they become problems.
However, the most impressive aspect of Premium Support is what they call “Onsite support and repair”. Unlike Apple Care that forces you to find an Apple Store, Dell will actually send a technician to your house to repair your device onsite. within 1-2 business days. I was able to see this first hand with a previous Dell XPS laptop when I encountered CPU fan failure. I was contacted within 24hrs, set an appointment time and then watched as the technician visited my home in a remote part of Pennsylvania and began to take apart my laptop, replacing my CPU fan on my kitchen table in less than 30 minutes. Needless to say…I was incredibly impressed!
Premium Support Plus
When it comes to the premier level of support, Dell offers “Premium Support Plus”. This covers everything that has been listed so far and a considerable amount more!
Included in this package is the automatic removal of viruses and malware from your system if you were to get infected. Additionally, Dell will continue to help you automatically optimize your laptop so that it is always running at peak performance while also helping you set up backups, parental controls, and other more complex system services.
However, the most important element of Premium Support Pro is that it is the only level of Support that fully covers accidental damage to your laptop. Spill water or coffee on your XPS? Accidentally drop it off your desk? Crack your screen while in transit through an airport? Not a problem. All of the above is covered under this extended warranty package.
Pricing & Costs
So how much do these extended service plans costs? Here is a screenshot I took from the Dell website when attempting to purchase the XPS 13 (9370). To give you a comparison, Apple Care for a similar laptop would cost $269 for 3 years and which does include accidental damage, but no onsite..
Unless you have been living under a rock for the last week, you have probably heard about the “new” Social Network VERO – True Social which has risen overnight in popularity with photographers all over the globe. Spend a few minutes browsing your streams on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter and you would be hard pressed not see atleast one person telling you to sign up.
But what is Vero? Do we all really need yet another social platform? And why has it all of a sudden becoming popular? In this article, I will take a look at all these questions as well as give you a quick walk through of the platform, how it works and give you some insight on how to make the most of your time on the network!
What Is Vero?
When you first login to Vero it is very obvious that it is a Social Network, with similar core principles to the likes of Instagram or Facebook. It is a place to connect, engage, share and communicate with others. However regardless of its new found fame within the online photography community, it is actually not new. It launched in 2015 and has been slowly building up its network since then.
Vero – True Story - YouTube
So what makes it any different then all of the other networks you are probably already on? In truth…a lot. While it looks and functions in many ways like Instagram, it is very much its own beast.
One of the biggest differences between Vero and nearly every other social platform is that the network doesn’t use any algorithms to determine what & when you will see things. This means that in theory, you will always see the content being shared from those you have chosen to follow or that you have connected with on the network.
For many of us, this is a pretty big deal. I have worked hard to build up a large following on Instagram of 240,000 users. With the recent changes to Instagram’s algorithm, the organic reach of my posts and my IG Stories have dropped by more then 25% in the last 21 days. Not only is this annoying, but it has business and revenue ramifications for someone like myself that makes a living as a photographer. Considering that I am already almost getting more interactions on my posts here on Vero than I do via my Facebook Business page (700 followers vs 124,000 followers), you can see why this has many photographers excited.
One of the biggest marketing pitches for Vero is the fact that you will never see Ads on the network. For many people, Instagram and Facebook have been ruined by the constant stream of Ads popping up in their feeds. While I can appreciate this mindset, I would be lying if I said that my various different photography companies haven’t benefited from running ads on those platforms. However with that being said, as a user and content creator, it is a breath of fresh air to let the content being share speak for itself for a change.
You Don’t Have to Crop Your Images
A big complaint for many photographers on Instagram is that the network forces you to crop many if not all of your images to conform to the network’s standards. For vertical images, you have to upload (or crop an image) into the 4:5 ratio. It is also recommended that you upload or crop horizontal images into the square 1:1 ratio rather then their full size since it takes up more screen real-estate. With Vero this isn’t an issue. Full sized images are uploaded and displayed beautifully on the network.
Another feature I feel most users overlook is that with Vero, they have built in the ability for you to make purchases right from within the network. This to me has some pretty big benefits, especially as a content creator. While I don’t feel this feature is fully fleshed out just yet, I do like the idea of being able to let my followers purchase presets or video tutorials from me right through the network, eliminating one more “barrier for entry” in the process of finding paying customers.
First Million Users Are Free (For Life)
Once you realize that you won’t see any Ads on Vero, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Vero would have to make money some other way. Enter the idea of a “Subscription Model”. Instead of surviving on Ad revenue like Instagram or Facebook, Vero plans on introducing a paid subscription model for the network once it reaches 1 million users. While controversial to the current status quo, this is really the only possible route a network can go if it wants to stay ad, and arguably algorithm free.
How much it will cost is pure speculation at this moment, but I imagine it will be pretty nominal if they hope to ever reach the same heights as a platform such as Instagram when it comes to a user base. All this being said, as long as you sign up now, you will NEVER have to pay a thing. You are automatically grandfathered into a free account as long as you get on the network before they cross that one million user threshold.
Why Does Vero Matter?
While the online Social Networking scene is very crowded and competitive, the reality is that most of us are not happy with what is currently being offered. When was the last time you were excited to log into Facebook? Can you remember a time when you enjoyed the changes Instagram made to its network? What about the last time you thought 500px did a good job of highlighting exceptional work?
While there has certainly been a number of networks pop up and try to make a name for themselves with the photography community (Google+, Ello, 500px), the height of our current dissatisfaction with all our choices might just be enough to reward a unique and different approach to Social Media such as we have with Vero.
With all this being said, it doesn’t hurt that Vero’s is a pretty great looking network. Not only is the UI beautiful and seamless but images look great on the platform as well. I have yet to see any gradation or loss of image quality with my images, something common on both IG and FB because of how aggressive those networks are with compressing our images down to their smallest files sizes possible.
How Do You Sign Up?
Once you have decided that you want to give Vero a shot, the signup process is pretty straight forward. Because Vero is currently a “mobile only” platform, you will need to start by downloading the Android or IOS Vero app HERE.
Once you have installed the app and opened it for the first time, you will be greeted with the Log In / Sign Up screen. Select Sign Up and then fill out your Full Name, Email and Password. Next you will be asked to enter your phone number. This will stay private and not be shared to anyone on the network.
So why does Vero want your phone number to sign up? The answer is three fold. First they want to be able to authenticate your account. Phone numbers are much more difficult to fake then an email address. Second, just like with What’s App, anyone that knows you personally enough to have you in their phones contact list will easily be able to find you on the network and connect with you. And lastly, even if you decide to turn off “Connection Requests”, people that have your number can still try to reach out. This gives you some protection from getting requests from people you don’t know while still giving you an option to connect with those you know personally or professionally.
Once you have verified your phone number, you are essentially ready to get started on the network by fully filling out your profile.
How Does It Work?
Now that you have signed up for Vero, you might need a quick crash course in how the network works…
Navigating through any new social platform can be a challenge, so lets take a look how Vero is laid out within the mobile app. These screenshots are taken from the latest Android version (As of February 25th, 2018), but I believe both IOS and Android are on parity in terms of features and the general look/feel of the platform.
When you first open the app, you will be greeted with your “Main Feed”. This, like other social platforms, is where you will see a stream of posts from those you are either connected to or choose to follow (more on that later). Here you can like an image or a post by either double tapping it or hitting the heart in the upper right hand corner. Click on the users Avatar or any of the included Hashtags, and you will be taken to those respective pages within Vero.
At the top of this screen, you will find a navigation bar with five different icons. First on the list is the Discovery page (Magnifying Glass). Here you can discover all sorts of content from other users on the Network. You can search the platform for users or content, find out what is popular or check out who they recommend you follow. Next you will see your User Dashboard (a person inside a circle). There you can edit your bio, take a closer look at your Connections and Followers, look at a stream of your own posts, see who has requested to connect with you and look at the apps settings.
Next you will see the Collections icon (Box with lines above it). Here you fill find an easy way to compartmentalize both the content you share as well as what has been shared with you. You can organize things by photo, video, location, movie and much more. Next you have the Notifications icon (Bell) where you will see a list of all of your most recent notifications. Lastly we have the Chat section of the app (Quote Boxes). This is where all of your private and group chats will live within the app. Currently it looks like you can only send text and photos between users, but I would guess sharing videos and other content might come down the line.
Connecting With Other Users
One of the most important distinctions to understand on any social platform is how Users can connect and engage with each other. Similar to other social networks, Vero gives you the ability to either make a “Connection” or “Follow” another user. So what is the difference?
When you “Connect” with another Vero user, you are establishing a two-way relationship. You can share content with them and they can share content with you. Additionally, within that Connection, you have the ability to classify those contacts into three distinct classes: A Close Friend, Friend or Acquaintance. This simply gives you the ability to choose who you want to share content with at any given time, such as sharing a private photo with just your close friends on the network.
In a similar fashion, you can also “Follow” someone on the network. This means that you’re are interested in what they have to share on the network, but that you might not know them personally. Anything they post will appear in your stream, but your content will not appear in theirs. Regardless, if someone Follows you or you make a Connection, that person will see the work you share on the network itself.
A pretty sweet hidden feature within Vero is the ability to select the kind of content you want to see from the people you follow on the network. For example, if you follow another photographer and want to see only see images from them, you can ask Vero to only show you photos from that user and avoid any of their music or movie recommendations. You can access this feature by going to that user’s profile, clicking on the three dots found just below their profile photo (on the right side) and selecting “Filter Posts”.
Now that you are ready to share content on Vero, there are a few things that you should know.
First, unlike other social platforms, Vero gives you the ability to create a post wrapped around a number of different kinds of content: Photo, Video, Link, Music, Movie/TV, Book and Place. Since most of you reading this are photographers, I will walk you through sharing an image.
Once you have clicked on the create post button (+ sign at the bottom of most screens), you will be taken to a screen where you can select the kind of content you wish to share. Click on the “Camera” icon to share an image. After selecting your image, you can now write your post caption as well as attach a location to it. Vero uses FourSquare for this service. If you need to alter your image, you do have a few editing tools available to you by hitting the “Edit” button below your image. When you are ready, click on the “Next” button in the top right-hand corner. Now you get to choose who you want to share this image with. Here you can select one of the categories you have classified your connections into: “Close Friends”, “Friends”, “Acquaintances” or Followers. The number of people that can see your post will appear just below your selection.
Additionally, you can choose to just share it with just one person or a small handful of individuals if you click on the “Private” button and then choose which users to share with. Sharing on Facebook & Instagram are also options of you have connected those accounts to your Vero profile.
How Can I Grow An Audience?
One of the biggest reasons most of us are on Social Media to begin with is because we want to be able to connect, engage and share our content with others. This doesn’t work out so well when we struggle to build a following. I think this is one of the main reasons why Facebook and Instagram have left so many photographers frustrated these days.
So when it comes to Vero, how do you build an audience?
Get In Early
Right now Vero is pretty popular within certain photography communities, which means there are benefits to getting on the network now. Just like Instagram users that signed up on Day 1, there is a benefit of simply being active on the network early, especially if the network really takes off.
Invite Others From Your Current Networks
One of the quickest ways to grow a small following off the bat is to try to bring people to Vero that you have already established relationships with from other platforms. Post about it on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and maybe even your newsletter. As more people find out about it Vero, the network will continue to grow, so you might as well take advantage of the connections you have already worked hard to build else where.
The use of hashtags on Vero is one of the best ways to get your work seen by more people on the platform. From my understanding, when you post an image to everyone you are connected and you use hashtags, Vero will allow your image to show up when people do hashtag searches on the network. This will give you a higher probably of having your content discovered by people interested in the kind of content you are sharing. I don’t recommend you over do it though, 4-8 hashtags should be more then enough as long as you keep them on point!
Who Should You Follow?
Anytime you first land on a new network, things can be a little daunting. No one likes to look at their profile for the first time and see “no followers’ or browse through their feed and see no content. So with that in mind, I have compiled a small list of photographers that I find to be pretty active on the network so far. Within Vero simply search for these names…
and of course me… Colby Brown
This list should give you a few people to follow that have already standing building their own following. Many of their posts are already getting a good amount of interactions, providing the opportunity for you to engage with both these users and those already engaging with them. The more you interact with people, the more you will get out of this (or any) social platform.
There is no telling if Vero is going to take off and be the next Instagram or fade out after a couple month or years down the road. When it comes to social media, people can be very finicky to say the least. While they complain about FB or IG, they often don’t give new networks a true chance, after all change isn’t easy for everyone.
In addition to that, Vero isn’t perfect. In the last few days with the influx of new users, servers have been going in and out and the app (which is still in BETA) has crashed a few times. All that being said, I am still pretty excited about the potential I see here. The Vero app experience is a beautiful one that allows our images to be displayed in all their glory. The idea of a subscription based social platform is one many (although not all) have been asking for for years after being put off by the constant stream of ads, algorithms and negativity found on most social platforms today. I am not sure if Vero will be the next big thing, but I am willing to give it a chance to find out!
Where Can We Find You?
I would love to hear from all of you. Are you on Vero? If so, how can other people find you? Let me know in the comments below and be sure to share a little about yourself as well, so other Vero users can get an idea of what to expect if they decide to follow you on the network!
When it comes to purchasing a new camera, most of us are incredibly excited to jump right in and start using our new creative tool…but that process can also be frustrating. Learning all of the new camera menus, features and functionality can be challenging, especially if you are coming from a completely different camera brand. With the release of Sony’s latest flag ship full frame mirrorless camera, the highly sought after a7R III, many of you might find yourself in a similar situation.
Even Sony shooters might be a little surprised with all the new changes to the brand new menu system, differences in button layout and new features that make the a7R III one of the best cameras I have ever used. Fortunately for many of you, I have put together this extensive guide to getting the most of your brand new a7R III. As a Sony Artisan, I was fortunate to be able to take an a7R III with me to Myanmar prior to its release, where I was able to pour over the camera menus, dive into the new features and fully customize my own Mark III. While my full in-depth review won’t be available for another week or so, this mini-guide should drastically help reduce the learning curve when it comes to figuring out how to make the most out of what will probably be Camera of the Year in 2017.
Additionally, if you haven’t picked up a Sony a7R III yet, be sure to scroll down to the bottom of this post as I will be giving one away one Instagram soon!
Enjoy the guide!
After unboxing your a7R III for the first time & charging the camera battery, I know many of you are probably pretty eager to start shooting right away. I know I was! But before we do that, there are a number of basic settings on the camera that we need to adjust first. While the following 11 settings aren’t game-changing when it comes to your your a7R III experience, they are important never the less!
Set Your Time & Area
When you first turn on your camera, you will be greeted with an option to set the system language right off the bat. After choosing whatever option suits you best, it is now time to set the Area/Date/Time. While many photographers set this up initially, they don’t think much about it afterward. This can quickly become an issue if you use multiple camera bodies like I do and especially if you travel to different time zones. Making sure that you correctly adjust the area/time zone for each of your cameras every time you travel will help to make sure that your images line up correctly in whatever photo editing/organization programs you use such as Adobe Lightroom or On1 Photo RAW 2018.
After initially setting up your camera, you can find the Date/Time Setup in the “Area Settings” options in the Toolbox Menu Tab on page 5.
Selecting RAW or JPEG
Aside from choosing the language and setting the date and time of your camera, the very first thing most photographers do is make sure they are shooting in the right image file format. By default, most digital cameras are set to shoot in JPEG. Personally (and professionally), I prefer to shoot in RAW so that I have access to all of the image data that the incredible sensor inside the a7R III is capable of capturing.
It is, however, important to note that you also can choose the RAW file type with the a7R III: Compressed or Uncompressed. The default RAW file type is Compressed, which is essentially a smaller RAW file size (40mb vs 80mb) that is considered “Lossy” as Sony’s algorithms have helped to shrink down the RAW image file size. It does this by removing what Sony considers as unnecessary or redundant image data while still providing a RAW image that can be fully edited to your heart’s content. The uncompressed file type has had no algorithms run through it, providing pure RAW image data. The distinction between the two options are negligible in 95% of shooting situations, however, if you shoot in many high contrast situations, such as Astro/night photography, I recommend that you use the Uncompressed RAW file type.
Both of these settings can be found in the Camera Menu Tab (1) on Page 1.
Turn Off Long Exposure NR, High ISO NR & Auto DRO
While Sony typically does a great job of providing useful features and settings in its cameras, I generally prefer to handle things such as Noise Reduction and Expanded Dynamic Range on my own through post-processing. This is why I generally turn off Long Exposure Noise Reduction, High ISO NR (JPEG only) and Auto DRO (which artificially increases dynamic range). Each of these settings are on by default with the a7R III. However, if you aren’t as familiar with processing techniques that deal with noise or expanding dynamic range, you might want to subjectively leave some of these settings on.
These settings can be found in the Camera Menu Tab (1) on Page 2 & 14 respectively.
Set Color Space to AdobeRGB
By default, the a7R III is set to shoot in the sRGB color space, which is the most universally used & accepted color space for the vast majority of the internet and nearly all mobile devices. That being said, it isn’t a very large Color Profile, meaning that it doesn’t capture any many variances of different colors as other Color Profiles out there. For example, if you do a lot of printing, you will want to use the AdobeRGB Color Profile instead as it contains a larger spectrum of possible colors to capture. While this isn’t a big deal if you are shooting in the RAW file format, it is one less thing that you might have to change in the digital darkroom.
This setting can be found in the Camera Menu Tab (1) on Page 2.
Setup Auto Bracketing
If you are a landscape or travel photographer that likes to have the ability to shoot bracketed images (multiple images of the same exact scene with different exposures) to help capture a much wider dynamic range of image data, you will want to make some minor adjustments to your Bracketing Settings and Drive Modes. As usual with bracketed images, it is always recommended that you use a tripod.
First, within the “Bracket Settings” menu option, you will want to change “Selftimer during Brkt” from “Off” to “2 Sec”.
Next, within the “Drive Mode” menu you will want to scroll down until you see “BRK C – .3EV3” and then press right on the rear Control Wheel until you see “BKK C – 2.0EV3”. This setting allows you to shoot a 3 image bracket with 2 stops of exposure difference between each image, which is my go-to when it comes to Auto Bracketing. By setting the self-timer to 2 seconds and using this mode, the a7R III will take all three images in quick succession of each other.
These settings can be found in the Camera Menu Tab (1) on Page 3 or via a Custom Button you assign the Drive mode to.
Change Peaking Settings
If you find yourself shooting in Manual Focus modes often, one of the handiest features found in the a7R III might be “Focus Peaking”. As you dial the MF ring on your lens, a color overlay will appear over your image as things become sharp, making it easy to know when you are close to getting tac sharp results.
For the best results, I highly recommend that you change the “Peaking Settings” to the following options: Peaking Display: On – Peaking Level: Mid – Peaking Color: Red These settings can be found in the Camera Menu Tab (1) on Page 13.
Turn On Grid Lines
While the Horizon Leveling tool can be extremely handy to use with the a7R III when you are on a tripod, I find it harder to use when shooting handheld. A simple solution to help give you some guiding lines can be found by adding Grid Lines to your displays.
The “Rule of 3rds Grid” is the one I use most often as it not only helps me level my horizons when shooting on the go, but it can also help me with subject placement when I am shooting on the run. This setting can be found in the Camera Menu Tab (2) on Page 6.
Turn Off Audio Signals
One of the most annoying sounds to come out of any digital camera these days are the audio beeps to let you know when you are either shooting or when you use a shutter delay. While it might not bother you personally when you are alone, you might find other photographers giving you the stink eye if you all line up to shoot a beautiful sunset and your camera happens to be the one making all the noise. Simply select the “Off” option in the “Audio Signals” option found in the Camera Menu Tab (2) on Page 9 to fix this.
Turn Off Auto Brightness for Viewfinder
In one of the more surprising settings found in the a7R III, Sony has left “Viewfinder Brightness” to “Auto” by default. This means that the brightness of the Viewfinder can change based on the outside lighting conditions. Personally, I found this to be problematic because one of the benefits of a mirror-less camera is the fact that the Rear LCD and the Viewfinder generally show you exactly what your exposure is going to look like (outside of low light situations). With this setting set to Auto, I found that occasionally a scene appeared brighter when viewed through my viewfinder then what my RAW image file actually looked like when I began to process it.
The solution is to switch Viewfinder Brightness into manual mode and leave it on the default brightness. At least this way, you have a much better indicator of the kind of exposure results you can expect with your images when using the Viewfinder. This setting can be found in the Tool Box Menu on Page 1.
*The setting is greyed out in the screenshot above because I had an external monitor attached to the camera to capture these screenshots
Set ISO Auto & Minimum SS with Auto ISO
Another handy features found on the a7R III have to do with Auto ISO. When you find yourself shooting in Manual, Shutter Priority or Aperture Priority modes (in both Stills & Movie modes), you have the option to set your camera to Auto ISO, so that the camera choose your ISO setting for you. This can be handy when shooting in an environment with changing lighting situations, such as street photography.
But if you really want to take advantage of this feature, you will want to also set your “ISO AUTO Min. SS”. To engage this feature, you need to be using the Aperture Priority camera mode (The “A” icon found on the top camera mode dial). Once in the mode, you have the ability to set the minimum shutter speed you are willing to let your camera shoot at before the Auto ISO feature engages. How does this work? Let’s say you are shooting in Aperture Priority mode while you are walking around your hometown. Light is changing on your subjects as you walk up and down your street. By setting your “ISO AUTO Min. SS” to 1/125th of a second, you are telling your camera that if your shutter speed doesn’t drop below 1/125th of a second, your ISO should stay at 100. However, if your scene all of a sudden becomes too dark, your camera will pump up the ISO to maintain that minimum shutter speed, making sure that your shutter speed never drops so low that your images become blurry in the process.
Both of these settings can be found in the Camera Menu Tab (1) on Page 9.
New to the a7R III
While the a7R III might seem pretty familiar, especially for those coming from the a7R II, there are a number of new features that you will want to configure and learn how to use to really get the most out of this camera. Here are some of my favorites!
Determine your Multi SD Card Workflow
One of the most sought-after feature requests from Sony mirror-less camera users has been multi SD card support. Now you not only have it with the incredible a9 but also the a7R III. But that begs the question of what kind of workflow system do you want when it comes to having the ability to write to two different SD cards? For many of you, you will probably want to make sure that anything that is captured to Card 1 (the faster UHS II slot) automatically gets copied to Card 2. You also have the ability to separate RAW/JPEG or photos/videos or just copy photos (or movies) to your backup slot. Long story short, the options are endless!
However, if you are like me and you have never had an SD card go bad, there is no point in making two copies of your SD cards when you are out shooting. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have options. If you set “Prioritize Rec. Media” to Slot 1, set “Recording Mode” to Standard and turn on “Auto Switch Media”, you won’t have to worry about switching to a new card when you run out of space in the middle of a shoot. This happens to me often when out in the field and nothing is more frustrating than having the perfect moment pass you by because your primary card was full.
These settings can be found in the Toolbox Menu Tab on Page 6 under “Rec. Media Setting”.
Enjoy True Back Button Focus
When it comes to ergonomics and button layout, one of best things the a7R III inherited from the a9 is the dedicated focus button on the rear of the camera. The idea of back button focus is fairly straightforward. The Shutter Release button on the top of the camera is configured to solely be responsible for taking an image while a button on the rear of the camera is dedicated to achieving focus. By separating these two functionalities, the idea is that you are able to react in a much quicker manner to capture the moment at the exact right time, rather than accidentally refocus your shot by pressing your shutter button halfway down by accident. While I have always customized a button on my Sony mirrorless cameras to have this feature with previous models, the addition of a large dedicated button for back button focus is a welcomed change.
The ‘AF-ON” button is correctly configured by default, but we do need to adjust the “Shutter Release” button so that it too no longer controls your autofocus system. To do this, jump into the Camera Menu Tab (1) and find Page 6. Adjust “AF w/ shutter” to “Off”.
Take Advantage of the New Eye AF Technology
One of the most powerful and often under-rated features found in nearly all Sony mirrorless cameras is known as Eye AF. Essentially it works by quickly changing the cameras AF system to search for and track human eyes, although it doesn’t work very well with animals. The system will continuously track the eye, even as your subject moves around your frame, allowing you to have a much higher chance at nailing tac-sharp eyes with your subjects. While Eye AF has been in Sony’s cameras for a few years, the a7R III has received some pretty incredible upgrades, including the ability to track eyes even when they are closed. Having used this feature in Myanmar earlier this month, I can say that the results blew my mind!
So how do you take advantage of this feature? The key is to customize one of your camera’s buttons to allow you to easily engage it. By default, the center button found in the middle of your rear control wheel is set for Eye AF, but I don’t feel that is a very natural place for you to access it. Two better choices would be either the Auto Exposure Lock Button (AEL) or a press down on the rear joystick as they are both in close proximity to the rear “AF-ON” button that you might already be using for back button focus. However, if those don’t work, you might want to look into using the “Focus Hold” button found on the side of many Sony lenses. This is most likely the button that most of you never knew what it did…let alone that you could customize it’s functionality.
I have an entire section of this blog post dedicated to fully customizing your a7R III buttons and menu systems, so be sure to check it out to learn how to customize this functionality with your own a7R III.
Enable Touch Screen Support
The a7R III marks the first Sony in the a7 series of cameras to have received Touch Screen support, thanks to all of the requests from photographers out there. It joins the likes of the a9 and a6500 within the Sony camera lineup and while the feature is limited to helping you achieve a specific focus point in both Still and Video modes (sorry no menu support at this time), the functionality is actually off by default with the RIII.
To enable Touch Screen Support, head to the Tool Box Camera Menu and make your way to Page 2. At the bottom of the screen, you will find “Touch Operation”. Change it from “Off” to “On”.
Adjustable Spot Metering Point
Another new feature to the a7R series is the ability to force the cameras light meter to read from an adjustable focus point rather than just the center of your image when you use the “Spot Metering Mode”. Mix this setting with the “Touch Screen” support I mentioned above and you have a handy way of capturing very specific spectrums of light in a scene, such as rays of light piercing through a cloud or the glow of a candle on a wall or face.
To enable this setting, jump to the Camera Menu Tab (1) and move to page 10. There you will find “Spot Metering Point” at the top of the menu and select “Focus Point Link”.
Articulating Rear LCD Trick
One of my favorite features found on many Sony mirrorless cameras is the rear articulating LCD screen. It gives you a lot of flexibility when you are using your camera at odd angles or perspectives (both high and low), which can be extremely helpful in a pinch. However, one often annoying aspect of this setup is the Proximity Sensor found just above the Viewfinder. As you move your face close to the rear camera, the sensor picks up on this and automatically switches the display to the Viewfinder. This in and of itself is generally a good thing, unless you are trying to use the rear LCD screen and you find the Proximity Sensor simply too sensitive, causing..
While Sony has been working hard to continously put out impressive lenses over the last few years, one of the most requested pieces of glass has been a fast ultra wide, especially for landscape and astro photographers. So when the Sony 16-35 f/2.8 GM was accounced back in May, it wasn’t really suprising to see just how excited everyone was that this lens was finally coming out. Even though the Sony 16-35 f/4 FE has been incredibly popular, it was also the only show in town for a long time when it came to native Sony wide angle zoom lenses and it is also just an f/4 lens, much like the impressive Sony 12-24 f/4 G that I reviewed last week.
Sony a7R II w/ Sony 16-35 f/2.8 GM in Vesturhorn, Iceland
Fortunately, Sony was kind enough to lend me a copy of this lens to bring with me to Iceland this Summer where I was leading a series of Photography Workshops. This gave me some time to really test this lens in situations and environments that are much more coducive to where I typically work on a regular basis around the world each year. While studio tests might be important for some photographers, I always am much more interested in how a camera or lens performs out in the real world.
When it comes to my reviews, I am always as open and transparant as I can be. I am happy to share my thoughts and opinions and I will always include evidicent to back up my claims. In this review, you not will you find high resolution images throughout, but RAW files for you to play with are located near the end of the review. All in all, this is a good thing because releasing the lens under the GM line, Sony is setting the bar pretty high when it comes to build quality, sharpness, IQ and resoloving power. So with all that being said…lets dive right in!
Specs for the Sony 16-35 f/2.8 GM
E-Mount Lens/Full-Frame Format
Aperture Range: f/2.8 to f/22
Minimum Focus Distance: .92 ft (0.28 m)
Filter Diameter 82mm
Angle of View (35mm): 107° – 63°
Angle of View (APS-C): 83° – 44°
Two Extra-Low Dispersion Elements
Three Aspherical and Two XA Elements
Nano AR Coating and Fluorine Coating
Direct Drive Super Sonic Wave AF Motors
Focus Hold Button; AF/MF Switch
Dust and Moisture-Resistant Construction
Eleven-Blade Circular Diaphragm
Dimensions (DXL): 3-1/2″ x 4-7/8″ (88.5 x 121.6 mm)
Weight: 680 g
One of the first things you notice about the Sony 16-35 f/2.8 GM is how solid the lens itself feels. The rubberized focus/zoom rings feel good to the touch and the rest of the exterior is what you have probably come to expect from Sony’s GM line of top end glass. Polished, well built and essentially what a $2198 lens should feel like.
When you pick up the lens, you will notice that it does have a little bit of heft to it, which is understandable since it is a full frame f/2.8 lens. However when you consider the 16-35 f/4 FE is only 162g lighter and less than an inch shorter, the 16-35 f/2.8 still seems like a fairly compact and portable lens. I can easily fit it into the same space/slot in my camera backpack as the f/4 FE version.
Side by Side: Sony 16-35 f/2.8 GM vs Sony 16-35 f/4 FE
When it comes to weather sealing, the new GM 16-35 f/2.8 is a bit more robust then its predecessor thanks to it’s improved dust and moisture-sealed design. While Sony is very careful in how it talks about weather sealing, I can tell you from experience that I had this lens (and my a7R II) litterally soaking wet to the point that it was dripping with water multiple times while in Iceland this summer and I didn’t have a single issue. No condensation ever entered the camera or lens/glass elements. I often work in fairly remote and challenging locations around the globe, so weather sealing is actually a pretty big deal for the work I do.
The Sony 16-35 f/2.8 GM drenched with water after being behind a waterfall in Iceland
While there is certainly more I want to talk about when it comes to the specs/features of this lens, I will save it for those specific sections of this review…
Image Quality (IQ)
As obvious as it sounds, one of the most important aspects of a lens is simply the quality of image details that it can capture. While I have specific sections in this review that cover lens flare, COMA and corner sharpness, I want to talk a little about the general image quality you can expect to get out of the Sony 16-35 f/2.8 GM.
This section is pretty self explanitory. When you focus on an area within a given scene with this lens, how sharp are the results? In reality, this also has a decent amount to do with your Camera’s sensor, but for this review, lets simply take a look at how sharp this lens truly is.
After shooting thousands of images with this lens I can testify that it is an incredibly sharp lens. Details look crisp, contrast is great and there is no denying how impressive the sharpness, especially when used in tandem with the Sony a7R II. While the above images are good indicators, take a look at the full RAW files I provided for you at the end of this review if you really want to dive into the details a bit.
When it comes to wide angle lenses, a common issue (especially at the widest mm length) is generallly both distortion & vignetting. Distoration is essentially the enlarging of the size of elements in your image when you photograph at certain mm lengths or at certain angles. Vignetting on the other had is the natural darkening of your frame edges as light begins to fall off, both common problems with very wide angle lenses. So how does the 16-35 GM handle these challenges?
As you can see, there is just about zero distortion found in the corners of this image. All of the frame edges look good and any elongatting is extremely minimal. While I do see a touch of vignetting or light dropping off aroudn the edges, it too is minimal, which is a testimate to the quality of the design of this lens. Fortunately, both of these should be completely zeroed out by applying a Len Profile to these images, which we will now talk about.
If you happen to use post processing programs such as Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop, Capture One or On1 Photo RAW (to name a few), you are probably aware of lens profiles. These profiles are specific to each lens and essentially allow you to automattically make a number of adjustments to your images to help correct for distortion and light drop off (a common isse with many wide angle lenses). Let’s take a look at what Adobe Lightroom’s lens profile looks like for the Sony 16-25 f/2.8 GM, since it is arguably the most popular post processing application in the world currently.
With Lens Profiles Applied in LR
As a landscape photographer it is hard not to underscore the importance of using filters when it comes to creating dynamic images. While the tools found in the digital darkroom have come along way over the years, there are still a number of effects that are created by filters that are extremely difficult or downright impossible to replicate during post processing. Two of the most important filters that I recommend every landscape photographer have in their gear bag are a Circular Polorizer and a Neautral Density Filter. While the CPL (Circular Polarizer) can help you cut or enhance reflected light, a ND (Neautral Density) filter helps you slow down your shutter speed by putting a darkend filter in front of your lens. When you combine these filters, the results can certainly be impressive with the right kind of scene!
ISO 100 | f/11 | 2.5 Secs – CPL + 6x ND Filter
ISO 100 | f/9 | .6 Secs – CPL + 3x ND Filter
ISO 100 | f/10 | .5 Secs – CPL + 2x ND
With the Sony 16-35 f/2.8 GM, you have an 82mm lens opening. This is important to know if you every plan on buying filters. While some photographers prefer circular filters, I have simply had too many bad experience where they got stuck on my lens while amazing light was fading. These days I use a slide filter kit made by Formatt Hitech because of how color neautral they are.
Using my Formatt Hitech Filter kit at Aldeyjarfoss in Northern Iceland
For those just getting into filters or for those looking to switch systems, I have partnered with Format Hitech to create the Colby Brown Signature Edition Landscape Filter Kit. It in you will find a built in CPL (polarizer), a 6-stop Firecrest ND, a 2 stop soft GND (Graduaded Neautral Density) and a 2 stop RGND (Reverse Graduated Neautral Density Filter). The kit itself comes with adapters to fit 67mm, 72mm, 77mm and 82mm lenses.
The Colby Brown Signature Edition Landscape Filter Kit by Formatt Hitech
With my setup, it is important to know that at 16mm on the Sony 16-35 f/2.8 GM, I do get a little vignetting from the filter holder itself. This comes down to physics and the space needed for the holder to be able to hold a built in CPL plus two filter guides (allowing you use two slide filters at once). However once I move to 17mm, vignetting completely disappears.
While the general IQ coming from the Sony 16-35 f/2.8 GM is truly impressive, what about the fringes of your frame? How many times have you heard a photographer talk about “cornern to corner” sharpness. The idea is fairly simple. While the focal point of an image will always been the sharpest part of your shot, high quality lenses minimize the sharpness dropoff that typically appears along the frame edges and corners of your images. So how is the 16-35 GM?
16mm (click to enlarge)
When we look closely the corners of these images, a few things become a bit more obvious. First, at 16mm the Sony 16-35 f/2.8 GM is an incredible sharpe lens…corner to corner. That being said, at every f/stop things aren’t perfectly equal. While f/2.8 looks pretty dang good, the sweet spot for this lens appears to be around f/8 or f/11 as things get noticablly sharper at that point. At f/16 things still look good, but you can see that sharpness starts to drop off and even more so at f/22 which shouldn’t really be a suprise.
What about Additional MM lengths?
While I have plenty of images taken at various different focal lengths and at different exposures, I didn’t manage to get the same type of controlled test as I did at 16mm. That said, I will be completing this part of the review in the next day or 2 and I will update this review accordingly. In the mean time, you can take a look at Lens Rentals recent blog post that covers alot when it comes to testing just how sharp this lens truly is.
For many landscape and travel photographers, the practice of capturing sunstars is highly saught after. To do this, you generally have to stop down you f/stop to f/16, allowing the aperture blades in your lens to get close enough to create the sunstar as light moves through your lens and onto your camera’s sensor. The quality of the sunstar all comes down to the lens itself. The quality of the glass elements used to create the lens, the kind of coating used on lens and the kind/number of aperture blades can dictate the shape and look of the star itself.
With the Sony 16-35 f/2.8 GM we have an 11-blade circular aperture, which not only helps to create on of the best sunstars I have ever seen, but also produce very nice bokeh, which is often more important with portrait photography. In addition, Sony’s Nano AR Coating on this lens seem to complete cut out any lens flare (random unwanted reflected light that can appear when directly facing a light source…such as the sun).
Sunstar Test of the Sony 16-35 f/2.8 GM lens at the Blue Lagoon in Iceland
As you can see, the Sony 16-35 f/2.8 GM has an incredible sunstar. In fact, it is one of the best sunstars I think I have seen on a 16-35. The crisp nature of the star points mixed with the sheer number of points themselves makes me very happy with these results.
In terms of reflected light, roughly 10% of the time I would catch a small piece of flare appearing between a few of the sunstar points. This certainly wasn’t in every image as I shot directly into the light, but it was visible when you zoom in close to 200% every once in a while.
When it comes to photographing at night, the lens of choice for most photographers is usually a fast ultra wide angle lens. No matter if we are talking about a city skyline, the milky way or the northern lights, an f/2.8 wide angle lens is generally a pretty solid bet. At f/2.8, your aperture is open a considerable amount wider than at f/4…allowing more light into your cameras sensor, which allows you to use a lower ISO and in turn, have less noise in your images. In fact, I had more questions about how the Sony 16-35 f/2.8 GM performed at night than anything else when people found out I had early access to this lens.
ISO 2500 | f/2.8 | 15 Seconds at 16mm
So aside from being an increadly sharp f/2.8 lens that opens up to 16mm, How good is the 16-35 f/2.8 GM at night? To answer that question, we have to see how well it handles two fairly important elements…COMA & Astigmatism.
Easily one of the most talked about issues with lenses for night photography is known as COMA. If you spend any time diving into the dark alleys of online photography message boards, you will see this term pop up alot. According to the Lonely Spec, “coma occurs when light from a single source entering at the edge of the lens is not projected at the same size as light entering the center of the lens”. This can appear in your images of the..
While most of the attention Sony gets these days is directed towards their innovative cameras and sensors, they have consistently been pushing out great glass at a slow but steady pace over the last few years. On May 17th, 2017 Sony announced the 12-24 f/4 G ultra-wide angle lens, filling a highly requested hole in their lens lineup. As a Sony Artisan, I happened to be at the launch event in Santa Barbara, California and was given some time to play around with it for an afternoon. But to be honest, it left me with more questions then answers. As a landscape photographer, how close could I truely get to my foreground subjects? What about corner sharpness? COMA? Distortion?
Fast forward a month later and Sony was kind enough to loan me a 12-24 f/4 G to take to Iceland where I was working for a month on a number of projects while also leading a few photo workshops. While there will be plenty of photographers that will drag this lens through MTF charts and dim lit studios with tiny rulers hanging on the wall, the only test I really care about happens out in the real world…in places & situations that I would typically find myself working regardless of what new lens was being released
Throughout this review you will find plenty of physical evidence backing up my thoughts and opions. Nearly every image provided has been uploaded in high resolution and I have even provided a number of RAW files at the end of the review for you to download and explore on your own. With all that being said, let’s get started…
E-Mount Lens/Full-Frame Format
Bulbous Front Lens Glass Element
Aperture Range: f/4 to f/22
Angle of View: 122 – 84
Minimum Focus Distance (28cm)
Four Aspherical Elements
One Super ED and Three ED Elements
Nano AR Coating
Dust and Moisture-Resistant Construction
Seven-Bladed Rounded Diaphragm
Dimensions (DxL): 3.43″ x 4.62″ (87 x 117.4 mm)
Weight: 1.24 lb (565 g)
Price: $1,698 USD
One of the first things I noticed about the 12-24 f/4 G lens is how solid it feels in my hand. It weighs just 565g, which is 47g more then the popular Sony 16-35 f/4 FE. Holding it in my hand I don’t feel as if it is top or bottom heavy, but rather much of the weight seems balanced in the center of the lens itself. For an ultra-wide, this lens is also pretty small, standing at nearly 4.62″ tall.
Easily the most noticable aspect of the lens is the front of the lens. Like many ultra-wide lenses, the Sony 12-24 has a bulbous glass element, meaning that it protrudes from the front of the lens. This makes it difficult (although not impossible) to use filters with this lens. While this might be a little dissapointing to some landscape photographers, Sony has atleast made good use of Nano AR coating on the lens itself, helping to reduce surface reflections, flare and ghosting in most situations.
For those of us that work out in the elements, this lens has a few nice features that you might appreciate. First, it has a dust and moisture-sealed design. I tested this lens in Iceland and in multiple situations, often times finding it litterally dripping with water. No water or condensation got into the lens or my Sony a7R II. Additionally, the focus and zoom rings on the lens are rubberized, rather then metal which can make a big difference when working in very cold environments.
My Sony a7R II w/ the Sony 12-24 f/4 G lens behind the Seljalandsfoss Waterfall in Iceland
How Wide is 12mm?
When it comes to wide angle lenses, the most popular or common option out there is typically a 16-35, no matter if you shoot Canon, Nikon or Sony. But if that is the case, why would you need an ultra-wide angle lens? The truth is that you can fit a lot in the 4mm difference betwen 12mm and 16mm, which I think is also its biggest challenge. It took me a few days to step outside of the mindset I often had as a 16-35 lens shooter. I had to think creatively and force myself to use a lens this wide, often not realizing it was perfect for a given scene until after I had already taken the image.
Below you will see a series of images paired together. First will be an image taken with a Sony 16-35 f/2.8 GM lens followed by an image taken with the Sony 12-24 f/4 G lens, all taken with the Sony a7R II.
Sony 16-35 f/2.8 GM – ISO 100 | f/11 | 1/5th Sec
Sony 12-24 f/4 G – ISO 100 | f/11 | 1/40th Sec
Sony 16-35 f/2.8 GM – ISO 100 | f/11 | 13 Seconds
Sony 12-24 f/4G – ISO 50 | f/16 | 1.6 Sec
Sony 16-35 f/2.8 GM – ISO 100 | f/10 | 3.2 Sec
Sony 12-24 f/4G – ISO 50 | f/16 | 1/8 Sec
As you can see, there is a pretty big difference between shooting at 12mm and 16-18mm. In alot of situations, that extra angle of view can make a pretty big difference when it comes to the perspective of a photo. But with that being said, if you look at the image exposure data in the captions above, you should also notice something. I was limited in what shutter speeds I could choose from when I shot with the 12-24. This is because I couldn’t use filters with this lens, so I had to drop my ISO down from my native ISO of 100 down to 50 and in most cases pump my f/stop up to 16 as well. This was the only way I could slow down my shutter speed long enough to get some flow in the above waterfall images. While I am happy with these images, there will be times when I prefer the silky smooth look that I captured with the 16-35 f/2.8 GM lens along with my Formatt Hitech Filters.
While I have dedicated portions of this review to corner sharpness, COMA and lens flares, I want to take a quick moment to talk about the general IQ (Image Quality) that you can expect from this lens. I want to look at image sharpness, light dropoff around the edges and see how it handles lens profiles in Adobe Lightroom. All of the images below were taken with a Sony a7R II. *At the end of this review, you will also find a number of RAW files for you to dive into.
When it comes to Image Quality, most photographers focus the majority of their energy looking at how sharp an image is. While some of this falls on the camera’s sensor, alot of it comes down to the lens itself and the quality of its design. With the 12-24 f/4 G, I was actually very suprised at how sharp the lens is, especially when paired with a Sony a7R II. Details were always clean and crisp, not only on my focus point, but in general found throughout my images. This combination also didn’t seem to have any trouble auto focusing in low/dim light situations. In the end, both the sharpness and quality of contrast of this lens left me wanting to to reach for it more and more as I traveled around Iceland.
Sony 12-24 f/4 G – ISO 100 | f/16 | 2.5 Sec
Light Dropoff/Edge Distortion
Anytime you use an ultra-wide angle lens, you have to pay special attention to your frame edges, especially when shooting at the extremes of the lens. With the 12-24 I found my self shooting at 12mm about 80% of the time while on this trip. This was not only because I enjoyed the challenge of finding subjects that demanded this extreme angle of view, but also because I was so pleased with how the lens performed around the edges. While there is certainly a touch of edge distortion & stretching, the quality of details found along the edges was impressive. I rarely saw any smearing or loss in texture detail as you can see in the 100% zoom of the image below. As for light falloff, there is certainly a noticable amount, but noting that can’t be corrected during post.
Sony 12-24 f/4 G – ISO 100 | f/11 | 2.5 Sec
Lens Profile for the 12-24 f/4 G
Not to long after the this lens was released, Adobe pushed out an update for both Adobe Lightroom and ACR (Adobe Camera RAW). Both applications included the new lens profiles for this lens. As you can see from the images below, applying this lens profile will help you combat any light dropoff as well as help correct for any minor distortion or warping around the edges. While each image might still require a little fine tuning with this lens profile, the results are pretty good right out of the gate.
No Lens Proile
With Lens Profile Applied in LR
When it comes to lenses these days, one of the most important (or atleast sought after) aspects of a lens is determining how sharp the corners are. This is even more apparent with ultra-wide angle lenses because the angle of view is so much wider, allowing the lens to pull in so much more of a scene. If a lens has a poor design or uses sub par glass elements, you might see the corners of your images turn out soft or in many cases, looking like mushed details. While this is more apparent in cheaper lenses, many camera/lens manufacturers have put out expensive lenses that offer subpar results. So how did the Sony 12-24 f/4 G perform? Lets find out!
Corner Sharpness Test with Sony a7R II w/ Sony 12-24 f/4 G at 12mm – South Iceland
ISO 100 | f/4 | 1/125 Sec @ 12mm
ISO 100 | f/8 | 1/30 Sec @ 12mm
ISO 100 | f/11 | 1/15 Sec @ 12mm
ISO 100 | f/16 | 1/8 Sec @ 12mm
ISO 100 | f/22 | 1/4th Sec @ 12mm
When you click and zoom into the above images, you get a clear idea of how sharp the corners are with this lens. While f/4 and f/22 look pretty good for a 12mm lens, I do notice a some smearing at the extreme edges. The corners as a whole are also not as sharp as they are at other f/stops. I think the bread and butter for this lens is between f/8 and f/11, which seems to offer excellent corner sharpness. At f/16 you start to see things drop off again if you zoom in past 100%, but not by a significant amount. All in all, considering how wide this lens is, I am very happy with the corners at 12mm, especially if I use the sweet spot of the lens!
What about other mm lengths?
While I didn’t conduct the same extensive test 24mm, I did shoot it at 16mm and looking at the results below, you can see that corner sharpness at all f/stops only gets better the more you zoom in. The sweet spot is still around f/11, but sharpness has improved in the corners at all f/stops.
Sony a72 II w/ 12-24 f/4 G @ 16mm
ISO 100 | f/4 | 1/100 Sec – 16mm
ISO 100 | f/8 | 1/25 Sec – 16mm
ISO 100 | f/11 | 1/13 Sec – 16mm
ISO 100 | f/16 | 1/6 Sec – 16mm
ISO 100 | f/22 | 1/3 Sec – 16mm
Two other important elements of a wide angle lens are how well they can both produce sunstars and handle flare or reflected light. For those that might not know, a sunstar is a star like shape that appears over a bright light source, such as the sun or certain kinds of street lights. To get this effect, you often have to stop down your f/stop to around f/16 in order for the aparture blades of your lens to get close enough to create the star like shape. It can also help to allow your lightsource to nearly clip the edge of another object, such as the rocks along the horizon line in the image below. Along with this test, it is good to get an idea of how well a lens can handle flare, or reflected light, that can cause unwanted colored shapes to appear in your image when you are pointing the lens directly at a light sourse, such as the sun in this case.
Sony a7R II w/ Sony 12-24 f/4 G – ISO 400 | f/16 | 1/6 Sec
As you can see, the Sony 12-24 f/4 G actually create a very pleasing sunstar. While it isn’t as tac sharp as the new Sony 16-35 f/2.8 GM (Review Coming Soon), it is one of the better sunstars I have seen from an ultra-wide…and it is much more pleasing to the eye than the Sony 16-35 f/4 FE lens. As for flare, I am pretty happy with the results. In the image above, you can see tiny flare reflections located just below the sunstar itself. While it isn’t perfect, it does do a good job of mitigating flare for an ultra-wide angle lens with a bulbous front glass element.
Good for Astro Photography?
While many photographers will prefer to use faster glass (f/2.8 or faster) for night photography, the ultra-wide angle of view of the 12-24 f/4 G lens helps make it a contender for situations such as photographing the milky way. Afterall, the wider you go, the more night sky you can bring into your frame. In fact, this was one of the most asked question I recieved from photographers when they heard I was reviewing this lens.
Sony a7R II w/ Sony 12-24 f/4 G – ISO 2500 | f/4 | 20 Secs – 12mm
So how do you test a lens to see how good it is for astro photography? For many of us,..