Sigma 18-35 f/1.8 Art lens for video

Sigma 18-35 for video review 4

For a few years now I’ve been using the Canon EF-S 17-55 f2.8 as a general walk around lens when shooting events with my C300. Over that time I’ve become quite frustrated with it, mainly due to it’s nasty plastic construction and the way the horrible rear mounted focus ring feels in use. Lets also not forget the fact that it can cause vignetting when used with the C300.

Canon EF-S 17-55 f/2.8

Canon EF-S 17-55 f/2.8

Most of my other Canon lenses are L series which tend to have a better build quality and feel much nicer to use. When I purchased the 17-55 the only real alternative from Canon was the 16-35 f/2.8 but when I tested that lens against the 17-55 the image stabilisation in the 17-55 won me over and I opted to live with the horrible feel for the advantages the IS provides.

During  the next couple of years I was generally happy with the images produced by 17-55 but I never really got past the nasty feel of the lens, it also has a habit of sucking dust inside the barrel which can be annoying. Earlier this year something broke inside the lens during a shoot causing the zoom mechanism to get stuck, the 17-55 found it’s way unceremoniously thrown in to my spare parts box!

Over the next few event shoots I swapped between the Tokina 11-16 and Canon 24-105 but I missed the flexibility of having a fast mid zoom so eventually decided to look for a replacement. I visited the Wex Store in Norwich with my C300 to try out the Canon EF16-35 f/2.8 II and also have a look at the Sigma 18-35 f/1.8 Art series lens which I’d been hearing good things about online.

canon 16-35

Canon 16-35 f/2.8 L II

I tried the Canon 16-35 first. At £1064 it’s not a cheap lens but I’ve learned the hard way that it’s sometimes better to swallow the cost in favour of reliability and performance. The 16-35 II felt very familiar, the zoom and focus rings have the same loose but solid feel as my other L series lenses. I tested the dual pixel autofocusing on the C300 and the 16-35 responded extremely quickly. I didn’t feel I needed to worry about image quality from a lens of this standing, i was more concerned about feel and operational performance.

Next up I asked to try the Sigma 18-35 Art Series lens. At £610 it’s a lot cheaper than the Canon 16-35 but unlike the Canon it’s not a full frame lens. Much like the Canon EF-S range the Sigma is designed to work with APS-C cameras like the 7D but at f/1.8 throughout it’s entire zoom range the Sigma is faster.

Sigma 18-35 for video review 1

Sigma 18-35 f/1.8 Art Series

As soon as the sales assistant passed me the lens I was surprised at how heavy and solid it felt, it had a cold metal feeling that reminded me of holding my old Nikkor lenses.  Once fitted to the C300 I was immediately struck by the feel and responsiveness of the zoom and focus rings, they have a heavy yet extremely smooth travel which responds more like a cine style lens than a stills lens. Unlike the Canon L series lenses it’s really easy to perform a smooth zoom on this lens if required as well.

Sigma 18-35 for video review 2

Sigma 18-35 f/1.8 Art Series

I’d read reports that the Sigma lens would only work with the dual pixel autofocusing feature on the C300 with it’s fully open at f/1.8 but that wasn’t the case and the lens focused successfully throughout the aperture range. The focus speed was slower than the Canon lens however I found that to be an advantage as a slower focussing looks more pleasing if used within a shot than a snap focus.

Sigma 18-35 for video review 3

Sigma 18-35 f/1.8 Art Series

I found that both pulling focus and running the zoom on the sigma produced extremely fluid results that far exceed what I could produce with my Canon glass. Just to be sure I fitted the Canon 16-35 again and in comparison it actually felt clunky and nowhere near as nice to use. I was sold and purchased the Sigma there and then!


Sigma 18-35 f/1.8 fitted to Canon C300

Two days after purchasing the Sigma I filmed an event for Harley-Davidson and the Sigma performed flawlessly. It’s a great walk around lens for the C300 and having the option to shoot at f/1.8 makes it great for low light shots and shallow depth of field work during the day.

I haven’t found any negatives to report so far. I do miss the image stabiliser from the 17-55 a little so it would be great to see Sigma add IS to the mix in the future.

I used the Sigma for most of the shots shown in the video below and would highly recommend it for video use. In fact, I’m now keen to replace some of my other Canon L zooms as well!

Buy the Sigma 18-35 at B&H

New X5 Inspire 1 Cameras from DJI

DJI have been pushing out so many new products lately it’s getting hard to keep track! One of the most interesting for Inspire 1 pilots is this new Zenmuse X5 camera.

The new X5 camera features a micro 4/3 sensor and much like the existing X3 camera on the Inspire 1 comes complete with an integrated 3-axis gimbal.



dji x5


Two versions of the X5 camera have been announced. The standard X5 retains most of the recording specifications of the existing X3 camera but the larger M4/3 sensor which improves stills resolution to 16 MP and has a reported dynamic range increase to 12.8 stops. As with the smaller X3, the X5 records to Micro SD cards and retains similar bitrates which max out at 60 Mbps for 4K (UHD) recording and less for 1080 (HD) recording.


DJI makes the X5 available either without a lens or with it’s new 15mm f/1.7 Prime. As shown in the image below DJI also recommend two other lenses in the form of the Olympus 12mm f/2.0 and the Panasonic Lumix 15mm f/1.7. Whilst other M4/3 lenses will likely work with the X5 DJI has based these recommendations on weight and balance for the integrated gimbal.

Click here for the latest pricing on the X5 Camera

X5 lenses

The second variant of the X5 camera is the X5R. The R version uses the same gimbal and sensor but the camera uses a different design which removes the recording block from the camera body. The X5R adds the ability to record lossless 4K RAW CinemaDNG files to an SSD drive. Whilst the recording resolutions and frame rates remain the same as the standard X5, it’s capable of recording at bitrates up to 2.4Gbps which is a huge leap from the standard version.

Click here for the latest pricing on the X5R Camera


x5r 2


So what are the advantages of this new camera over the standard X3 camera? Without testing the camera myself it’s hard to judge how the two compare but in theory the much larger Micro 4/3 sensor should provide a lot more exposure and focusing flexibility than the little X3 camera. The ability to set lens aperture and focal distance from the ‘Go’ app running on the remote means that more creative control can be achieved. Being able to set depth of field and finding correct exposure becomes less about shutter speed manipulation and more about the balance between ISO, aperture and ND filtering as it is with most full size cameras. Here’s a graphic that shows just how much bigger a Micro 4/3 sensor is compared to the one in the X3 camera.

sensor sizes

Early demos and footage releases have revealed that the X5 is certainly capable of improved dynamic range and certainly for stills use it should prove to be a lot more capable than the X3. With video however I’d estimate that it’s likely to be more about gaining control of the image and using that control to achieve the best results from each location. Having proper lenses and aperture control also brings with it a much greater risk of getting bad results so to make the best of the X5 a greater knowledge of shooting will be required than with the little X3 which is very forgiving indeed.

Both of the new X5 cameras require an upgraded vibration absorbing board to be fitted to the Inspire 1 to enable them to be attached. The new mount pushes the dampers further out sideways to provide better lateral support for the camera.

Find out more about the X5 Vibration board here

X5 mountBecause the X5 cameras hang lower than the X3 the Inspire 1 needs to have it’s feet extended to stop the camera hitting the ground. Stick on feet extenders are included with both cameras.

DJI have also announced released a version of the Inspire 1 which can be purchased with an X5 already mounted. Names the Inspire 1 Pro, this new version comes with the new vibrations board and feet extensions as well as a newly developed quick release prop mounting system which as yet is unavailable for existing Inspire 1 Owners.

Inspire 1 Pro

Click here to find out more about the Inspire 1 Pro 


Also announced is a new wireless follow focus device called the ‘DJI FOCUS‘.  Allowing focus to be controlled remotely by a dedicated focus puller.

X5 follow focus

As well as working with the X5 camera this new device can also be used with other lens systems both air and ground based and is supplied with various data interconnect cables, the remote focus motor, lens gears and removable marking rings.

Find out more about the DJI Focus here.






10 things that could save your drone

10 things that could save your drone

Click here for a German translation of this post.

If you’re interested in drones you will have no doubt seen all the spectacular crashes on YouTube and heard about drones flying away by themselves. Drones like the DJI Inspire 1 or Phantom 3 are highly complex devices that rely on various systems to perform properly. While there’s no way to guarantee against a hardware or software problem there are a few things you can do to minimise the chances of crashing. Here are my top tips that could save your DJI drone.

Zenmuse X5

1. Know when and when NOT to calibrate the compass

A lot of people recommend calibrating the drones compass each time it’s flown at a different location. While this seems to work for some I think it introduces unnecessary risk. Let me explain why…

When you perform a compass calibration you’re letting your drone test its surroundings for magnetic force and once the calibration is complete it stores that data and assumes that those forces are normal for the current location and will be consistent throughout the flight. But what if there’s a large electrical cable or metal pipework buried below the paving you’re standing on? If that were the case then the calibration you’ve just performed will have taken those effects into account and the moment the drone takes off it will be flying with incorrect compass data.

Unless you’ve travelled a long way (hundreds of miles) since your last flight there’s no real need to re-calibrate the compass if you already have a good calibration locked in. If you find yourself in a nice open undeveloped area then it’s a good time to grab a clean compass calibration, otherwise why replace a clean calibration with one from an area where you have no idea what unknown forces are at play.

Read more

Phantom 3 Professional test shots

A series of clips filmed with the DJI Phantom 3 Professional. For more information about my thoughts please check out my Phantom 3 vs Inspire post.

DJI Release the Phantom 3 Standard

DJI have today released another model in their Phantom 3 range of quadcopters, the Phantom 3 Standard. Priced at an amazingly low $799 (£649) this new model brings the entry point into the Phantom 3 range even lower than the Phantom 3 Advanced at $999.

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 13.53.48

The Phantom 3 Standard connects to the same DJI ‘GO’ app that’s used by the rest of the Phantom 3 range. The biggest difference between the new standard model and the rest of the Phantom 3 range is that it uses WiFi rather than ‘Lightbridge’ to transmit a live preview to the controller and also to link the controller to the device running the app.

Unlike the Phantom 3 Professional and Phantom 3 Advanced models the Phantom 3 Standard does not come with DJI’s Vision Positioning System or the ability to use Russian GLONASS satellites in addition to GPS satellites.


Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 13.54.04

The specs of the built in camera on the Phantom 3 Standard do stir things up a little as the maximum video resolution of 2.7K UHD is higher than that of the Phantom 3 Advanced which can only shoot up to 1080p HD. DJI do not currently state whether the Phantom 3 Standard shares the same Sony EXMOR sensor as the other models however it does share a 40 Mbps bit rate and many other specs with the Advanced model.

The Phantom 3 Advanced does however offer more framerate options than the Standard and the Professional model increases specifications to 4K UHD and 60 Mbps. All three models offer 12 MP stills.

Phantom 3 Standard

  • UHD: 2.7K: 2704 x1520p 30 (29.97)
  • FHD: 1920x1080p 24/25/30
  • HD: 1280x720p 24/25/30/48/50/60
  • Max Video Bitrate: 40 Mbps

Phantom 3 Advanced

  • FHD: 1920x1080p 24/25/30/48/50/60
  • HD: 1280x720p 24/25/30/48/50/60
  • Max Video Bitrate: 40 Mbps

Phantom 3 Professional

  • UHD: 4096x2160p 24/25, 3840x2160p 24/25/30
  • FHD: 1920x1080p 24/25/30/48/50/60
  • HD: 1280x720p 24/25/30/48/50/60
  • Max Video Bitrate: 60 Mbps


Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 13.54.12

The controller supplied with the Phantom 3 Standard has less functionality than the other models although it does still feature a shoulder mounted gimbal control dial and definable S1 and S2 switches on the front of the unit.

The signal transmission distance will vary depending on environmental conditions and local regulations, but the Phantom 3 Standard can reach distances of up to 0.5 miles (1 kilometer) away from the pilot. The Advanced and Professional models in comparison can reach distances up to 1.2 miles (2 kilometres) using DJI’s Lightbridge technology.


Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 13.54.21

The Phantom 3 Standard uses the same Intelligent Flight Battery as the other Phantom 3 models. DJI have announced that it also features updated motors that are more efficient and allow even longer flight times of up to 25 minutes.

At such a low price point it’s incredible the DJI are able to offer a quadcopter complete with a 3-Axis gimbal, 720P HD live video feed and a 12MP 2.7K HD camera. Whist the connection range may be shorter than the Phantom 3 Professional and Phantom 3 Advanced models it’s worth remembering that many countries limit operational range anyway, for instance in the UK the CAA limit the operation to within 500m of the operator, well within the specified range of the Phantom Standard.

The Phantom 3 Standard will begin shipping on August 10th. Click here to order yours direct from DJI with Free Delivery to most locations.

Purchasing Links:
DJI Store 

DJI Phantom 3 Standard
DJI Phantom 3 Advanced
DJI Phantom 3 Professional

B&H Photo (USA)
DJI Phantom 3 Standard
DJI Phantom 3 Advanced
DJI Phantom 3 Professional