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Topaz Labs' flagship app uses AI algorithms to make some complex image corrections really, really easy. But is there enough here to justify its rather steep price?
|Photo: Dan Bracaglia|
We were being out-paced by a semi-truck on a dirt road off an Idaho interstate in a mad gambit to skip an hour's worth of stop-and-go traffic. As the 18-wheeler rounded a corner far ahead of us, leaving our sight, I felt a bit of humility. Mostly relief. Though if we'd wanted, we could easily have kept up with the truck in the little Subaru we were bouncing around in.
It was nice to take comfort in the certainty that every photo I would take on this trip would be reasonably exposed and perfectly focused.
But earlier, we'd been tailing the truck a bit closer and all the dirt it kicked up made us feel like we were crash-landing on the Red Planet in a Martian storm. The subsequent realization that we'd left our cell phone reception back by the highway also encouraged a little more caution.
|Visitors visit parts unknown in Craters of the Moon National Monument. Processed and cropped slightly in Adobe Camera Raw.
ISO 100 | 1/500 sec | F8 | Sony FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM @ 141mm.
We were on our way back from Bozeman, Montana, from a DPReview video shoot on a farm. In normal times, road tripping to parts unknown is one of my favorite activities, and the ensuing uncertainty is honestly part of the appeal. But the additional uncertainty of the pandemic weighed on me a little bit. Every rest stop, every carefully vetted Airbnb stay was a risk, necessitating masks and buckets of hand sanitizer.
So it was nice to take a small bit of comfort in one thing – the certainty that every photo I would take on this trip would be reasonably exposed and perfectly focused. I had Sony's a9 II with me, and free from worrying about whether or not the camera would do its job, I came away with some of my favorite photographs I was able to take this year.
|It may not have bird detection, but the a9 II's tracking is just solid.
ISO 100 | 1/1000 sec | F5.6 | Sony 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM @ 100mm
Back when I wrote our review of the a9 II, I said it had the best autofocus performance money could buy. Canon's subsequent EOS R5 and R6 cameras have come close to closing the gap, and they have pretty awesome animal detection algorithms. But the a9 II's tracking just works incredibly well, pretty much all the time; it's tenaciously sticky and tracks anything I put the AF point over, and the camera can track human eyes that are absolutely tiny in the frame.
As a tool for the type of work I wanted to do, the Sony a9 II did the job.
It's also easy to forget that there are plenty of cameras out there for which we don't recommend using subject tracking all the time. Heck, even Sony's a7R IV, which, on paper, features the same implementation, can struggle with fast action. (Admittedly, this could be the massive resolution, but if the AF can't keep up, what's the point of all those megapixels?).
|The clouds roll into Mount Rainier National Park. Processed in Adobe Camera Raw.
ISO 125 | 1/160 sec | F8 | Sony FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM @ 137mm
Shooting with a camera that has the most dependable subject tracking I've used really freed my mind to focus on composition and capturing a variety of moments. As the camera tracked my chosen subject and kept it in critical focus, I could easily experiment with my composition with my eye to the finder and end up with an image I was happy with.
I have to admit, one of the great frustrations of my job is that in over five years of living, breathing and testing cameras, there isn't one camera that does everything exactly the way I want. Yes, I know that might be the most #firstworldproblem ever. Maybe I'm just too picky.
Great eye detection means the a9 II didn't get tripped up at all by the foreground elements in this Montana farm photo. Processed in Adobe Camera Raw.
The Sony a9 II, for all its impressiveness, still has some interface lag, convoluted menus and a handful of other quirks. It's overkill for many people, while others would value more megapixels or slightly greater dynamic range over the a9 II's speed and AF tracking. Oh, and the touchscreen kind of stinks.
You'll also notice that the images presented here are processed through Adobe Camera Raw (original JPEGs in the gallery below). Sony's JPEG engine has some of the best detail retention and noise reduction on the market, but I just felt like some images needed a more personal touch to really replicate what I saw in front of me as I hit the shutter button. That would admittedly be an issue were I a full-time sports shooter on a tight deadline.
|The road ahead will always be windy and more than a little uncertain. Processed in Adobe Camera Raw.
ISO 100 | 1/500 sec | F8 | Sony FE 24-70mm GM @ 24mm
But as a tool for the type of work I wanted to do, it did the job. It may not be a camera that I fully enjoy the experience of using, but the confidence it inspires is hard to overstate. And that made all the difference on an uncertain road trip in these uncertain times.
And lastly, happy new year to everyone reading (and thanks for reading this far). Here's to hoping for some slightly more certain times ahead, and thank you for being a part of DPReview.
Dec 22, 2020
Dec 31, 2020
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Dec 30, 2020
The a9 II is a camera that the average DPReview reader will probably neither need nor buy. And Sony knows it. But that's fine - here's why.
The Sony a9 II updates the company's sports-oriented camera with a refined body reminiscent of the a7R IV, improved AF algorithms and a host of features for the working pro.
Above $2500 cameras tend to become increasingly specialized, making it difficult to select a 'best' option. We case our eye over the options costing more than $2500 but less than $4000, to find the best all-rounder.
There are a lot of photo/video cameras that have found a role as B-cameras on professional film productions or even A-cameras for amateur and independent productions. We've combed through the options and selected our two favorite cameras in this class.
What’s the best camera for around $2000? These capable cameras should be solid and well-built, have both the speed and focus to capture fast action and offer professional-level image quality. In this buying guide we’ve rounded up all the current interchangeable lens cameras costing around $2000 and recommended the best.
Family moments are precious and sometimes you want to capture that time spent with loved ones or friends in better quality than your phone can manage. We've selected a group of cameras that are easy to keep with you, and that can adapt to take photos wherever and whenever something memorable happens.
What's the best camera for shooting sports and action? Fast continuous shooting, reliable autofocus and great battery life are just three of the most important factors. In this buying guide we've rounded-up several great cameras for shooting sports and action, and recommended the best.
|All the way up there ..beautiful view by Vishnu photoplorer|
from Tout Là Haut
|Bald Eagle and Handler-0432 by vbuhay|
from People Who Look Like Their Pets
|w756 by River Photography|
|About to leave for Mexico City by Sv1|
from Civil Airliner Parked at an Airport, Surrounded by Baggage Trolleys and Other Equipment
|Wild American Flamingos by Fotorequest|
from Flamingos Unlimited
While peak Milky Way season is on hiatus, there are other night sky wonders to focus on. We look at the Orion constellation and Northern Lights, which are prevalent during the winter months.
We've gone hands-on with Nikon's new 17-28mm F2.8 lens for its line of Z-mount cameras. Check out the sample gallery to see what kind of image quality it has to offer on a Nikon Z7 II.
The winning and finalist images from the annual Travel Photographer of the Year awards have been announced, showcasing incredible scenes from around the world. Check out the gallery to see which photographs took the top spots.
The rumor mill suggests the announcement will be a 50mm F1.4 DG DN lens for full-frame mirrorless camera systems.
The a7R V is the fifth iteration of Sony's high-end, high-res full-frame mirrorless camera. The new 60MP Mark IV, gains advanced AF, focus stacking and a new rear screen arrangement. We think it excels at stills.
Using affordable Sony NP-F batteries and the Power Junkie V2 accessory, you can conveniently power your camera and accessories, whether they're made by Sony or not.
According to Japanese financial publication Nikkei, Sony has moved nearly all of its camera production out of China and into Thailand, citing geopolitical tensions and supply chain diversification.
Got a new camera? Get started with your Canon EOS R7 by changing these critical settings.
A pro chimes in with his long-term impressions of DJI's Mavic 3. While there were ups and downs, filmmaker José Fransisco Salgado found that in his use of the drone, firmware updates have made it better with every passing month.
Landscape photography has a very different set of requirements from other types of photography. We pick the best options at three different price ranges.
AI is here to stay, so we must prepare ourselves for its many consequences. We can use AI to make our lives easier, but it's also possible to use AI technology for more nefarious purposes, such as making stealing photos a simple one-click endeavor.
This DIY project uses an Adafruit board and $40 worth of other components to create a light meter and metadata capture device for any film photography camera.
Scientists at the Green Bank Observatory in West Virginia have used a transmitter with 'less power than a microwave' to produce the highest resolution images of the moon ever captured from Earth.
The tiny cameras, which weigh just 1.4g, fit inside the padding of a driver's helmet, offering viewers at home an eye-level perspective as F1 cars race through the corners of the world's most exciting race tracks. In 2023, all drivers will be required to wear the cameras.
The announcement is believed to be the M.Zuiko Digital ED 90mm F3.5 Macro IS Pro lens, which was confirmed on the OM System roadmap last year.
The new ultrafast prime for Nikon Z-mount cameras is a re-worked version of Cosina's existing Voigtländer 50mm F1 Aspherical lens for Leica M-mount cameras.
There are plenty of hybrid cameras on the market, but often a user needs to choose between photo- or video-centric models in terms of features. Jason Hendardy explains why he would want to see shutter angle and 32-bit float audio as added features in cameras that highlight both photo and video functionalities.
SkyFi's new Earth Observation service is now fully operational, allowing users to order custom high-resolution satellite imagery of any location on Earth using a network of more than 80 satellites.
The firmware update adds eye-detection AF to video capture and improves autofocus performance in other modes.
In some parts of the world, winter brings picturesque icy and snowy scenes. However, your drone's performance will be compromised in cold weather. Here are some tips for performing safe flights during the chilliest time of the year.
The winners of the Ocean Art Photo Competition 2022 have been announced, showcasing incredible sea-neries (see what we did there?) from around the globe.
Venus Optics has announced a quartet of new anamorphic cine lenses for Super35 cameras, the Proteus 2x series. The 2x anamorphic lenses promise ease of use, accessibility and high-end performance for enthusiast and professional video applications.
We've shot the new Fujinon XF 56mm F1.2R WR lens against the original 56mm F1.2R, to check whether we should switch the lens we use for our studio test scene or maintain consistency.
Nature photographer Erez Marom continues his series about landscape composition by discussing the multifaceted role played by the sky in a landscape image.
Check out some of our full resolution Canon EOS R6 Mark II photos, captured over the holidays and in the mountains.
After weeks with a production Canon EOS R6 Mark II, Chris and Jordan get into more detail than they could in their initial review.
The NONS SL660 is an Instax Square instant camera with an interchangeable lens design. It's made of CNC-milled aluminum alloy, has an SLR-style viewfinder, and retails for a $600. We've gone hands-on to see what it's like to shoot with.
Recently, DJI made Waypoints available for their Mavic 3 series of drones, bringing a formerly high-end feature to the masses. We'll look at what this flight mode is and why you should use it.
Astrophotographer Bray Falls was asked to help verify the discovery of the Andromeda Oxygen arc. He describes his process for verification, the equipment he used and where astronomers should point their telescopes next.
OM Digital Solutions has released firmware updates for the following cameras to add compatibility support for its new M.Zuiko Digital ED 90mm F3.5 Macro IS PRO lens: OM-D E-M1 Mark II, E-M1 Mark III, E-M5 Mark III, E-M1X, and OM-5.