Panasonic has decided to hit the full-frame mirrorless camera market hard with its Lumix S cameras and the promise of 42 lenses by the end of 2020. Find out what the camera is like in this hands on review of the Panasonic Lumix S1 written for Digital Camera World.
Verdict 5 stars ★★★★★: How can something so small be so useful? The Capture Clip V3 lets you carry a camera securely from any belt or strap, releases it in an instant and clamps it tight when you’ve finished shooting. It can hold up to 90kg, apparently, and the Arca-style camera plate will slide straight into any Arca-compatible tripod head. Brilliant.
How many different ways can there possibly be to carry a camera? We don’t know, but for sure there are always times when none of them are quite right. A shoulder bag is a nuisance if you’ve just got one camera, one lens and you just want to hold it in your hand and shoot with it. A strap is great if you like straps, but it’s like having a great heavy weight on a pendulum when you’re running or clambering about and the strap pulls off your spectacles/RayBans/hat when you take it off, while a waist pouch looks like something you should have stopped wearing in the 1980s.
Tough, isn’t it? Which is why there’s always scope for accessory makers to come up with new ways to carry a camera, and why gadget mad photographers like us are just going to keep on looking for them.
Which is why the Peak Design Capture Clip V3 has caught our eye. Peak Design is a San Francisco based company that specialises in smart ideas and smart design, and the Capture Clip is a metal buckle that clips to a belt, a bag strap or anything else that it can clamp its jaws around and holds a quick release plate that attaches to your camera’s tripod socket.
It’s not very big, but it is very effective. It takes a minute or so to attach it firmly to a belt/strap and tighten up the two locking knobs. They have wide, knurled shape and they spin nicely as you loosen them or take up the slack.
The plate attaches to your camera just like a tripod quick release plate, though here’s the slightly annoying part – you can tighten up the locking screw by hand, sort of, because it has a knurled edge, but really you need to use a hex key. You probably don’t want to carry one of these around all day, right? Well you could tighten up the plate before you leave your house/hotel/office, but what if it works loose during the day or you want to take it off? Hmm.
But the mechanism itself works brilliantly. You slide the camera in from the side and the retaining catch springs shut with a reassuring click. To release the camera, you press a button on the top and slide the camera out – simple as that.
The best thing of all, though – the absolute best thing – is that the camera plate is Arca Swiss compatible. So if you suddenly decide you want to put your camera on a tripod, and the head uses the Arca Swiss fitting, you can just slide it in and clamp it on. You don’t need to change the plate. That is just brilliant.
The Capture Clip is great to wear, too. The weight of the camera does drag down on your trouser belt a little, if that’s where you’re wearing it, but it’s a whole lot better than having your camera swinging around on a strap, and your camera’s right by your hip so that you can give it a reassuring pat now and again. If you’re carrying a camera bag or shoulder bag anyway, you can fix the Capture Clip to the shoulder strap and the camera will then be at about chest height and even more out of the way.
For a little extra security, you could also attach Peak Design’s neat little adjustable Cuff, one of a range of Peak Design straps and leashes. It slides over your hand and around your wrist for when you’re carrying your camera in your hand.
The Capture Clip V3 costs £70/$70, which for some folk might seem a lot for a few bits of metal, screws and springs, but it’s slim, highly portable (it even comes with its own soft pouch and hex key), beautifully made and works beautifully too. You could probably find something cheaper and worse on Amazon if that’s the way you want to go.
We don’t know what happened to the Capture Clip V1 and V2, but Peak Design says the Capture Clip V3 is “way smaller, way lighter, all-metal build, ultra-smooth machined/anodized finish, hella comfy ergonomic design”. It also holds a claimed 90kg. Yes, you read that right.
Verdict: Three stars ★★★
You can have a lot of fun with the Olloclip Core Lens Set, but don’t expect DSLR-style optical quality. You’ll get images and videos that are great for sharing, but for exhibiting, not so much. You get what you pay for and you aren’t paying a lot.
iPhone photography – don’t knock it. The iPhone has a good camera with some clever modes, nice filters and the ability – of course – to share your photos instantly, which is something regular cameras make a bit of a meal of.
All the iPhone needs is interchangeable lenses. Naturally, you can’t remove the camera lens built into the iPhone, but you can do the next best thing and use clip-on lens accessories.
And with the Olloclip Core Lens set, you get three of them in a handy all-in-one kit. They consist of a Super-Wide lens, a Fisheye and a Macro 15x lens. It looks like two lenses not three at first, but in fact you unscrew the front element of the Fisheye to reveal the Macro lens.
Fitting the lenses takes a little figuring out at first and the instructions aren’t a whole lot of help. Once you get it, though it could hardly be simpler. The lenses come on small lozenge shaped panels that clip into the two-sided lens holder via a small spring-loaded catch on each. It all feels a bit loose and unsatisfactory until you clip it on to the iPhone, and then everything wedges firmly into place.
What is a bit of a nuisance, though, is that the clip doesn’t obscure the iPhone screen in the picture on the box, but it does overlap the top few millimetres on my iPhone 7 Plus.
The Super-Wide lens is on one side, the Fisheye/Macro lens is on the other. To swap them, you lift off the clip, flip it and fit it the other way around – easy. If you don’t want to use both lenses, just remove the one you don’t want and insert the supplied blank plate to maintain the firm fit on the iPhone body.
You don’t need to do anything else. The iPhone’s camera can focus through the lenses without any help from you and all the regular shooting modes and filters work just fine. And if you want to take the lenses off the camera but keep them handy, there’s a supplied pendant holder you can fit them to that hangs around your neck.
This pendant holder does something else that’s rather neat. It’s hinged at one end and opens out into two arms at 90 degrees to each other. You can lay it on a flat surface then slot your iPhone into two grooves, one on each arm, to use it as a simple table-top support.
The design is very clever all round, but things take a bit of a dive in terms of optical quality. The Super-Wide lens is fine with more distant subjects but introduces some massive barrel distortion with nearby subjects at the edge of the picture, like door or window frames. It’s also none to sharp at the edges, with a fair amount of chromatic aberration (colour fringing). This is not a high-quality lens of the same standard as the built-in iPhone camera lens. If that’s what you’re looking for you need the pricey Zeiss Exolens system.
The Fisheye lens is a bit disappointing too. Fisheye lenses produce lots of uncorrected barrel distortion, which is all part of the ‘look’, but they are either ‘full-frame’ fisheyes with fill the whole frame with an image, or ‘circular’ fisheyes which product a circular image in the middle. The Olloclip Fisheye is in the middle, producing a circular image that’s cropped off at the edges. You kind of wish it was one or the other.
You unscrew the front of this lens to reveal the 15x macro lens, which is actually rather cool. You have to get right up close to your subjects to get them in focus, but the definition and the magnification are pretty impressive.
It’s best to think of the Olloclip Core Lens Set as a fun accessory for experimenting with, since the lens quality is very much at the budget end of the market – but then the whole thing is just £99.99/$99.99.
So it’s fine for hipster Instagraming, fun film making and general photographic experimentation, but it’s not going to replace your DSLR system.
Verdict: Three stars ★★★
More information: Olloclip website
Guide price: £99.99/$99.99
Verdict: Four stars ★★★★
You probably got a cheap strap with your camera so why pay for a premium version of something you’ve already got? Keep reading to find out why, and to learn how Peak Design’s neat touches might even tempt one-time strap haters.
When does a strap become a leash? Who knows, but Peak Design offers three over-the-shoulder camera strap designs under its Slide and Leash brands, designed for photographers carrying different-sized cameras.
The two recently-redesigned Slide straps are wider and get their name from their ‘slide’ action, which comes from the use of low-friction nylon webbing. If you pass your head through your camera strap and wear it like a ‘sling’, you’ll know how annoying it is when you bring the camera to your eye and the strap drags your clothing with it – or grips so tight it’s difficult to actually manoeuvre the camera.
Twist and stick
That’s what the ‘slide’ material fixes, and it does indeed slide smoothly over your clothing when you need to bring the camera to your eye. Or, if it’s sliding around just a little too much as you’re clambering over rocks or stiles, you can flip the strap over so that its grippy side, which has inset silicone ribbing panels, is against your clothing.
With many straps, flipping them over like this would leave some annoying twists in the webbing, but Peak Design’s clever Anchor Links get round that. They consist of a short loop which you can pass through your camera’s strap eyelets and a flat disk which clips into a spring-loaded buckle on the strap. If you flip over the strap surface, you just put a twist in the Anchor Link loop, not the strap.
These Anchor Links don’t just attach to the camera’s strap eyelets. They can also connect to a flat plate that screws into the camera’s baseplate via the tripod socket (it’s tightened with an Allen key, provided). If you attach one of the Anchor Links to the camera base and one to a regular eyelet, the camera hangs at your side with the lens facing downwards not outwards, so you’re less likely to hit it on things (and people) as you walk past. As well as making the camera feel more secure, it can also make it easier to bring it to your eye for shooting.
So what if you want to use your camera on a tripod – does that mean you have to unscrew that little Anchor Point baseplate? Well, yes, if you fitted it, but there is another way. You can simply hook an Anchor Point loop over the screw of a regular tripod plate (or Peak Design’s own Capture plate) when you fit it. Hmm, well, maybe. We tried it with an Arca Swiss plate on the camera side and it the plate lost much of its grip on the camera base, make it prone to twisting, and looping it over on the underside mean the loop fouled against the tripod head when fitting the plate.
Anchor Links and tripod plates
This works well with the Capture Clips’s camera plate, which has ready-made holes that don’t lie flat with the camera base. The Clip plate also slots straight in to a regular Arca Swiss tripod head, so this might work better than trying to use an Anchor Link with a regular tripod plate. It does mean making an extra purchase, of course.
The idea of combining the Slide strap anchor link with a regular tripod plate is great in principle, but not always convincing in practice, then, but that is a pretty minor point since it’s great that you can do it at all. You’ll just have to try it with our own tripod to see if it affects the grip.
Otherwise, these two Slide straps can hardly be faulted. They come with two quick action adjustment buckles – you raise the buckle and drag to adjust the length and then snap it back to lock it. So much better than wrestling with regular cheap nylon bucket and complicated webbing loops.
The full-size Slide even has discreet internal padding over the shoulder that doesn’t snag on your clothing and get it the way, but does offer extra comfort for heavier gear. We tried a 6-mile hike carrying a Nikon D7200 with a weighty Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 – not something you’d necessarily do every day – and it was fine.
The smaller Slide Lite was a good fit for our Fujifilm X-T20 – Peak Design does target the Lite model at mirrorless users – and with a small kit zoom or prime lens fitted, the side eyelets or baseplate anchor point work equally well. With a longer lens, attaching an Anchor Link to the base will point the lens downwards and out of the way.
Each strap comes with a soft carrying pouch, two spare Anchor Links, a small tripod socket plate for base-mounting and an Allen key for fixing the plate. The spare Anchor Links are there so that you can quickly swap the strap from one camera to another (you’d leave the Anchor Links fitted to both cameras) or you can use them as spares for if/when the existing ones wear out – peak Design says you should replace them if the inner red cord shows through the black outer layer.
So what’s with the Leash, and if this is another shoulder strap, why isn’t it in the Slide range as the ‘Slide Mini’ or something similar? Perhaps because even though the material is the same low-friction nylon webbing, there’s no ‘sticky’ side to flip to and the regular Slide adjustment catches free replaced by a different system where you hook a couple of fingers through loops on the buckles and pull them back to release the strap. When you pull the strap taut again, the buckles flatten against the strap to lock them at that length.
The Leash is narrower than the Slide and Slide Lite but looks perfectly well suited to an APS-C mirrorless camera with a light kit zoom or prime lens fitted. It uses the same removable Anchor Links, so all three strap mounting are interchangeable. Peak Design also advertises it as a ‘safety tether’ but it’s a little difficult to see what it means by that, since it’s too long to be much use as anything other than a shoulder strap. It does detach quickly, though, and can be rolled up and pushed in your pocket when it’s not needed.
Peak Design Slide and Leash verdicts
Some people like camera straps, some don’t. If you do wear your camera on a strap, you’ll find all three of these Peak Design products quicker and easier to use and more comfortable than the strap that came with your camera. Whether you think they are worth the money will depend on how much you value good design and usability over value for money. They’re not cheap, but then they’re not expensive either, given the quality of the materials, the spare Anchor Links, baseplate mount and soft carrying pouch. All three are effective, fuss free and really nice to use.
Will any off them convert camera strap haters? Unlikely, though if the only thing putting you off straps so far has been finding the right one, well these might be the products to do it. The regular Slide is pretty wide unless you’re carrying a DSLR with a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens, say, and the Slide Lite is perhaps the best middle ground between size and cost for most of us. Don’t rule out the Leash for a lighter camera setup, though.
Verdict: Four stars ★★★★
Price: Slide £59.99/$64.95, Slide Lite £49.99/$49.95, Leash £34.99/$39.95
More information: Peak Design website
Verdict: 5 stars ★★★★★
Don’t get me wrong. This bag won’t suit backpackers, travel photographers or sports fans. But if you’re a commuting photographer/journalist, like me, it’s perfect, and I’ve got five reasons why…
1: It’s supremely versatile
My laptop goes in a separate padded pocket in the back, so I can get it out to work on the train without exposing/disturbing my camera gear. It has an expanding zip-up pocket in the front for stationery, notebooks, cables and things I haven’t even thought of yet – plus two more expanding pockets in front of the that which stay open all the time but are covered by the bag’s flip-over cover. Which also has a pocket in it.
2: It holds lots of camera gear
The bag’s main compartment has its own zipper, so you can keep your camera gear covered and secured even when you’re using the bag for other stuff. Inside is a padded camera insert divided into three vertical sections, each with three adjustable dividers. You can easily cram in a couple of mirrorless bodies and a selection of lenses. The insert is a bit slim for the tall body of an enthusiast DSLR, but this is the Cooper 15 ‘Slim’ after all. There is a regular version. This whole insert lifts out for those times when you just want to carry around a lot of non-photographic gear.
3: It stays slim
I’ve used lots of bags that start out slim until you put something in them, when they immediately assume the shape of a half-filled sack of potatoes. That’s no good when you’re trying to manoeuvre down the aisle of a busy train, slide your bag under the seat on a plane or place it between your feet at a conference table. The Tenba has a solid, rectangular construction and the camera insert is a semi-rigid rectangle too, so this bag holds its slimline rectangular shape all the time. Which is just brilliant.
4: It stands upright
This is another major bonus in a shoulder bag. Too many have an displaced centre of gravity when they’re packed or a base that loses its flatness and starts to bulge, so when you put them down they just tip over. The Cooper 15 Slim does not. It stays slim (yeah, we covered that) and it stays upright… provided, that is, you remember one simple trick. When you put it down, hold it by the shoulder strap not the hand strap. If you don’t hold the shoulder strap it drops down underneath the bag so that it doesn’t stand up after all and everything I’ve just said is wrong.
5: It has a ‘quiet’ velcro lid
The lid fastens shut with a couple of velcro flaps which make the usual velcro ripping sounds when you pull the lid open. That’s fine in a city street, not so good in a conference or a theatre performance. But apparently the velcro pads have special directional hoops (or something of that sort) so that if you drag downwards slightly as you pull the lid open, the ripping noise is all but gone. It works, and it’s rather clever.
So I will concede the Tenba Cooper 15 Slim is quite expensive, but then a lot of the good stuff out there is unfortunately quite expensive. It’s also quite a specialised kind of bag that meets a certain specific set of needs very well, but it’s suitable for everyone. But then that’s the thing with bags, and it’s why there are so many different types on the market.
For my needs, though – commuting, photography, journalism and office work – it’s terrific, and out of all the shoulder/messenger/laptop camera bags I’ve tried so far, this is the one that’s impressed me the most, and not just because of its capacity but because of its neat and practical everyday touches.
Verdict: 5 stars ★★★★★
More information: Tenba website
Guide price: £215/$280
Buy from Amazon UK
Verdict: 5 stars ★★★★★
Who wants to return to the bad old days of fixed focal length lenses, manual focus and manual exposure? After trying the Laowa 9mm f/2.8 Zero-D, we do! It’s small, light, nice to use and produces terrific image quality. It’s even affordable! After using it more and seeing what it can do in a variety of conditions, we’ve increased the rating from the original four stars to five.
Manual focus prime lenses seem to be becoming a thing again. It’s like a new generation of photographers has discovered that you can get by without a zoom lens, you can learn to focus yourself, and that you can afford exotic lenses like this one after all.
The Laowa 9mm f/2.8 Zero-D is an ultra-wideangle lens made for APS-C mirrorless cameras including Fujifilm X models, Sony E and Canon EOS M cameras. Allowing for the crop factor of APS-C cameras, it gives an effective focal length of 13.5mm. There are ultra-wide zooms that offer a similar minimum focal length, but they cost twice as much as this lens and they weigh twice as much too. And you won’t find one that offers a maximum aperture of f/2.8.
Most of the time, when we want an ultra-wide lens we only want it for its widest focal length anyway, so a prime lens could save both weight and money.
This Laowa lens comes from Venus Optics, a Chinese company that produces a number of interesting super-wide and macro lenses. It has a sophisticated optical construction, with 15 elements in 10 groups, including two glass aspherical elements and three extra low dispersion glass elements. It has the designation Zero-D, which means it’s designed to deliver zero optical distortion, so these Laowa lenses are designed for proper optical quality, not just value.
But what about the manual focus and manual exposure? So this is the drawback, though it’s not as bad as you might think. The Laowa has no electrical or even mechanical connection to the camera’s focus or aperture control systems.
This means you focus by turning the focus ring, just like the old days! It’s not so easy to see when your subject is in focus in an electronic viewfinder, and the camera won’t know you’re in manual focus mode (no connections, remember), so if your camera does have a zoom-in mode you’ll need to activate it manually. Many also offer focus peaking displays, which can help judge focus more accurately.
But with this lens there’s so much depth of field that you might not be doing a whole lot of focusing anyway. Even at f/2.8 it gets everything sharp from infinity down to a couple of meters, so it’s likely you’ll need to pay attention to the focusing only of your subject is a couple of meters away or less.
Getting the exposure right might take a little more practice, but the advantage of digital cameras is that there’s no film to waste. You need to switch to the camera’s manual mode, set the lens aperture to what you want and then either turn the camera’s shutter speed control until the bar shows the exposure is correct… or guess.
This is a good time to remember the ‘sunny 16’ rule. If the sun is shining, you can get the correct exposure by setting the lens aperture to f/16 and the shutter speed to the camera’s ISO setting, e.g. 1/200sec if it’s set to ISO 200. If you want a different lens aperture, just balance it out by shortening the shutter speed.
Though actually, you can use auto exposure on your mirrorless camera via the aperture-priority A mode, thanks to the lens’s primitive stopped-down operation and the viewfinder/LCD’s auto-gain function. Reducing the lens aperture reduces the amount of light reaching the sensor, which the metering system and the screen brightness will react to automatically!
Build and handling
This Laowa lens is really nicely made. It’s reminiscent of classic good-quality SLR lenses, with a small but hefty-feeling barrel, a nice smooth focus ring with a long travel and a ‘clicky’ aperture ring with just the right weighting and no play. It’s actually really, really nice to use.
It has a small petal-shaped lens hood, though this is so shallow (to accommodate the super-wide angle of view) that it’s hard to imagine it makes a whole lot of difference. This lens also has depth of field index markings to make the most of the depth of field available and to aid ‘hyperfocal’ focusing.
For example, let’s say you’re shooting at f/11. If you turn the focus ring to line up the ‘outer’ f/11 depth of field marker with infinity on the focus scale, the focus index lines up with a distance of a little under 0.5m on the focus scale (the focus distance) and the ‘inner’ f/11 marker lines up with a distance of a fraction under 0.2m – so with the focus set this way, you have depth of field all the way from 0.2m to infinity!
This kind of depth of field measurement and hyperfocal focusing is only possible on an old-school prime lens like this one, with a long focus travel and depth of field index markers. New camera users will probably wonder what we’re talking about; old-school camera users will likely let out a cheer.
We’re used to seeing a lot of barrel distortion and edge softness with ultra-wideangle lenses, but the Laowa truly lives up to its promise of zero distortion. Obviously you get perspective distortion, such as converging verticals with tall buildings, as you tilt the camera to ‘get everything in’ when you’re right up close to your subject, but straight lines remain resolutely, uncannily straight, right up to the edge of the frame.
That’s not all. The edges are so sharp you end up doing a double-take, until you get used to what this lens can do. Most ultra-wide lenses turn to soup at the edges of the frame, but this one stays pin-sharp. Amazing.
It’s not completely perfect, though. There is some visible vignetting at all lens apertures, which only gets exaggerated if you carry out any kind of contrast adjustments. And the Laowa does show some pretty strong ‘volumetric’ distortion, where objects near the edge of the frame become excessively elongated or artificially ‘taller’, depending on their orientation. There is some chromatic aberration too, but nothing that a typical raw converter couldn’t process out.
Overall, though, this lens performs very well indeed. Yes, it’s a nuisance having to go back to manual focus and manual exposure, but the size, weight, cost and optical quality are your reward. This is old-school photography and old-school optical quality, and it’s brilliant.
Rating: 5 stars ★★★★★
More information: Venus Optics website
Guide Price: $499
Verdict: Five stars ★★★★★
If you need a simple, portable tabletop tripod for your smartphone, action cam, compact camera or even a small mirrorless camera, the Iggy is just about perfect. It’s light, super-simple to use and the legs fold into the shape of a handle so you can use it as a short selfie or vlogging stick. You can rest it on the ground, on a wall or on a table, then fold it up to slip it in a jacket pocket when you’re done.
3 Legged Thing usually makes much bigger tripods than this, so the Iggy is a bit of a departure for this innovative British tripod maker. It’s still got the typical 3 Legged Thing design flair, though, and it shows in all sorts of little details.
First, folding out the legs takes just a couple of seconds, and their flat ‘paddle’ shape means there’s no flex in the legs, and not much in the top mounting either. They have this flat shape for a reason – so that when you fold them back in their edges meet to form a nicely shaped handgrip for shooting video or selfies.
On the top is a simple ball head which you lock or unlock with a quarter turn of the big orange locking ring. It grips pretty well for its size and easily coped with a mirrorless Olympus E-PL9. Anything bigger, like a DSLR, might make it topple, but for a pocket-sized tripod to take a mirrorless camera so easily is brilliant. Just be careful if you rotate the camera to shoot vertically, because that will put the centre of gravity way off centre.
If you’re shooting with an action cam rather than a regular camera, it’s not a problem. The Iggy comes with a GoPro-compatible action cam mount that simply screws on to the ball head.
Or, if you’re shooting with a smartphone, you can use The Cradle – it’s sold separately, but you can save money by getting the Iggy and The Cradle as a bundle.
The Cradle packs away as a flat plate, but when you need to use it you swing out two end panels, or jaws, by 90 degrees. One then pulls out against spring pressure – you pull it out far enough to get your smartphone between the jaws and when your release it the spring pressure holds your phone tight. It opens wide enough for an iPhone 7 Plus – just – but if you’re using a case you’ll have to take it off first. The Cradle has two tripod sockets so you can mount it on the Iggy in two different orientations, depending on how you want to angle your phone.
So basically you get a tabletop tripod for a camera, an action cam or a smartphone that also doubles as a video/smartphone grip or (short) selfie stick, and folds down to fit in your jacket pocket or a spare corner of a shoulder bag.
Obviously it’s not going to replace your regular tripod, but if you’re going travelling, it’s such a useful thing to have that you won’t want to leave the hotel without it. Oh, and you can it as a handy LED light stand for something like the LumiMuse 8, too.
The Iggy is on sale now. The Iggy alone costs £19.99, The Cradle costs £10 and you can get both together for £25. There’s also an Iggy Kit 2 designed particularly for bloggers and bloggers, with two Iggys, two GoPro mounts and one cradle, and that costs £40.
Price: Iggy £19.99, The Cradle £10, Iggy + Cradle £25, Iggy Kit 2 (2 Iggys, 2 GoPro mounts, 1 Cradle) £40
More information: 3 Legged Thing website