Recently here at Yonder Blue Films, based near Atlanta, Georgia, we were fortunate to be asked by Blackmagic Design to be one of the first production companies to try out their new Pocket Cinema Camera 4K on a project. I started Yonder Blue Films over six and a half years ago, and during that time we have moved towards combining Blackmagic Design cameras with the Sigma lenses to meet the needs of our many clients and projects. We’ve worked on everything from fundraiser videos, to commercials, to tentpole feature films for major studios. Prior to starting Yonder Blue Films, the bulk of my 20+ year career was in television. And while we’ve used other camera and lens brands at times, the majority of our work is shot with the combination of Blackmagic Design and Sigma gear because we get consistent, high-quality results from gear that we can own. We do rent gear on occasion, and have some great rental houses here in Atlanta, but sometimes that isn’t an option when a client calls and needs to get started on a project right away.
Grandmother’s Gold, a movie by Brian Jordan Alvarez, who you might recognize from the season finale of the first new season of Will & Grace, recently made waves on the internet and in the film making world. The full-length comedy feature was released for free on YouTube, racking up over 100,000 views in under a week. Though the film covers over 25 different locations and 190 setups, the director of photography Jordan McKittrick used only two lenses: the Sigma 18-35mm F1.8 Art and the Sigma 50-100mm F1.8 Art lenses.
If you’re a director of photography hoping to shoot a micro-budget movie as efficiently as possible, there are ways to plan ahead and achieve every bit of production value you can. I learned most of these tricks while filming my most recent feature, the surrealist comedy Grandmother’s Gold (written and directed by Brian Jordan Alvarez), which you can watch for free HERE.
By John Lincourt
I’m a Rhode Island based photographer specializing in nautical photography. That means I get to capture a lot of the beauty that is the New England shoreline as well as a variety of uniquely Rhode Island events. It also means that I get to shoot some incredible sailboat racing, many times I’m standing shoulder to shoulder with some of the best photographers in the world. It can be intimidating shooting next to a photographer with the latest big full frame camera and an even bigger super expensive, super fast lens. I’ve been shooting digital with my crop sensor cameras since around 2005 and shooting sailboat races with my D7000, a D5100 and my trusty Sigma 150-500mm (and several other Sigma lenses) since 2012.
This spring when I was given the opportunity to shoot a great event called J Fest New England in Bristol, RI as their official photographer, I knew instantly that I’d be giving my gear a good workout. Knowing that if I did a good job for the event, I’d get great exposure and the possibilities of shooting more work for J Boats the makers of the very popular J22’s and J24’s among many other models. Then the wheels started turning. Nikon just came out with their new flagship Crop Sensor Camera, the D500, Sigma recently launched the 150-600mm Contemporary and Sport lenses and now the 50-100mm f/1.8. A few emails and a manageable credit card bill later I had what I hoped would be the ideal kit for shooting regattas on its way, a rented Nikon D500 and the 2 lenses on loan for the whole month of August from Sigma. The original plan was to shoot the regatta and then return all the equipment, write this blog for Sigma and that would be the end. Having the 2 lenses for the whole month though gave me a few more options to put the lenses through a good workout. The D500 went back the day after J Fest, but since I had the 2 lenses for an additional 3 weeks, I was able to shoot 2 other regattas and a really cool night event using the 2 lenses and my D7000 and the D5100 that I use as my 2nd camera when I shoot regattas.
I made sure I had all the equipment a week before J Fest so that I could set everything up and get used to all the new gear. I didn’t want to show up at the regatta and not be able to set up all my new equipment. To my delight, an opportunity presented itself, a friend’s Little League team made it to Northeast Regional tournament in Bristol, Ct. Shooting that event would certainly be a challenge though, the game would be under the lights, so I was dealing with low light and fast action. I set up the cameras the same way I’d be using them for the regatta the following weekend. The only real difference was that I was shooting at a much higher ISO. The 150-600 would be on the D500 and the 50-100 would be on my older D7000.
I expected the images to be sharper than what I could have gotten with my old well used 150-500mm and my 1st generation 50-150mm f2.8, I wasn’t expecting what I got. Both lenses produced what I considered unbelievably sharp images and tracked the action very well even with the relatively low light of being under the lights.
Based on just this practice outing, paring the 150-600mm with the D500 would be everything I’d hoped for. I was able to shoot a high enough ISO so that I could stop any action even late in the game with only the stadium lighting.
So let’s back up and talk about what it’s like to shoot a regatta for a second. If I’m shooting from a boat, I’m going to have my subjects moving in all different directions at the same time, couple that with the fact that I’m going to be bouncing around on a boat too while I’m chasing the fleet, making sure I stay out of their way and still get the boats from different angles, get close ups of individual boats, bows plowing through the chop, wider angle shots of the whole fleet, and while I’m at it, maybe even a few shots of the participants grinding a winch or driving the boat, or even being hoisted up the mast if I’m lucky. If I’m on shore, it’s easier to get full fleets, but I need as much reach as I can to get the activity on deck. The combination, of the two lenses I’ll be using gives me a 35mm equivalent range from 75 mm to a whopping 900 mm on my crop sensor Nikon cameras.
The Sigma 50-100mm 1.8 DC HSM | Art is the latest addition to the art line. This designated crop sensor lens is the second lens to incorporate a constant 1.8 aperture through its entire focal range, with the 18-35mm 1.8 | Art being the first. My first impression with this lens (and this seems to be a common one for the Art line) is how solid it feels in the hand. The Global Vision lenses tend to have a more robust feel and weight to them than previous Sigma lenses, something I like in a lens. I am not the most gentle with my gear so it’s nice to have gear I know will stand up to the wear and tear I put them through.
I took the 50-100mm 1.8 DC HSM Art out for a few days to gather some images and showcase its strong points. This lens is for crop sensor cameras and I did my testing on a 70D. First thing I do when I get a new lens is plug it into my laptop with the Sigma USB DOCK, just to make sure its firmware is current. It’s a free software, Sigma Optimization Pro, and it takes 2 minutes to check this. If you are not familiar with the USB Dock, it allows you to connect any Global Vision lens to your laptop to update its firmware and do focus calibration. You can also do customization on lens performance for a few other lenses but for more info visit this page. Sigma was the first to pioneer this technology and give photographers more control over their gear.
Each time CP+ comes around, you can be assured that Sigma is going to unveil something amazing for the crowd at the major camera show in Japan, and this year yielded a bumper crop of great new Sigma products, including cameras, lenses, and more!
Fans of Sony e-Mount and FE-Mount mirrorless cameras have been clamoring for more options in Sigma lenses, and with the introduction of the MC-11 Mount Converter, they’ve now got 19 great Sigma lenses available to them. With full electronic control of aperture and full AF. Offered in both a Sigma SA-mount and Canon EOS EF mount version, this advanced lens mount converter dramatically increased the number of optics available for the growing legion of fans of the hottest Sony mirrorless cameras.
In addition to the MC-11 converter, Sony fans can natively mount the 30mm F1.4 DC DN | Contemporary to their APS-C format Sony e-Mount cameras, as can Micro Four Thirds fans! This is Sigma’s first F1.4 lens for mirrorless systems, and offers a stepping ring motor for video work. Not only is this Sigma’s first native F1.4 lens for the mirrorless world, it is both super-sharp, compact, and economical, to boot!
The world’s first F1.8 telephoto zoom lens for APS-C cameras, designed to pair perfectly with the 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM | Art both in terms of performance and hand-feel. It is gonig to be a toss-up to see who raves more about this new lens: videographers or still photographers. This one is going to be razor-sharp, with gorgeous blur for both still and video. And, like the 18-35mm, expect it to stay super-sharp even as the scene is zoomed.
Foveon Quattro sensors paired with Sigma SA-mount interchangeable lenses, especially the Art lenses? For the imaging purists, what’s not to love? Sleek designs, super-high resolution LCD EVFs, fast TRUE III processors and the first Foveon APS-H sized sensor for even larger image files oozing with fine detail and rich tones? I personally can not wait to pair the sd Quattro H with the first, and still my favorite Art prime lens, the 35mm F1.4 DG HSM | A and marvel at the fineness of details and nuances of color!
Sigma’s pro caliber shoe-mount strobe gets a major makeover with this release including a new side dial, and a dot-matrix LCD screen for much improved user interface! The Auto zoom feature communicates with the camera for extended range from 24-200mm, and the flip down wide angle diffuser and bounce card, along with swivel and pivot allow for creative light sculpting, bouncing, and accessorizing for hard and soft lighting. High-Speed Focal Plane sync allows for flash up to the maximum shutter speed of DSLRs, perfect for outdoor fill flash and catchlighting, along with close-up motion-freezing short burst lighting.
Which of these new Sigma products are you most excited about?