Australia World Photographic Cup Selection 2019 Nature Category

In some exciting news, I recently learned that one of my photographs from APPA this year (READ the Round Up) has been selected to represent Australia in the World Photographic Cup Nature category.  This is the second time one of my photographs has been chosen to represent Australia in this prestigious competition. Last time it was the reportage category with one of my photographs taking out the Bronze Medal. I cant as yet share which photograph has been selected – but will do so as soon as I am able.

The WPC was founded in 2013 as a cooperative effort by The Federation of European Photographers (FEP) and Professional Photographers of America (PPA). Its singular goal is to unite photographers in a spirit of friendship and cooperation. A Governing Committee has been created to conduct the ongoing affairs of the competition, also supported by UAPP (United Asian Professional Photography) and AIPP (Australian Institute of Professional Photography). The brotherhood and sisterhood of photography is a bond that transcends language, culture, and geography. That’s the foundation behind the World Photographic Cup, an one of a kind international team competition. Sure, there are lots of other competitions, but there is just one World Photographic Cup.

Further information can be found here: http://www.worldphotographiccup.org/

BenQ W5700 4K UHD DLP Projector Review

Introduction: More than a year ago now I wrote a fairly extensive two-part review of the BenQ W11000H 4K Projector and gave it a very enthusiastic thumbs up. It was a breakthrough product in the projection arena and offered a level of performance and value not seen previously at this price point. If you have not read the review I recommend you take a moment to at least read Part One to get an understanding of not only my background in the arena of projection, but also a brief history of home cinema projection and its uses in photographic applications.

In the fullness of time, the W11000H has subsequently been superseded by the incrementally upgraded W12000H which is currently now being phased out (technology moves at a rapid pace in this arena these days). The reason BenQ is retiring the W12000H is there is a new kid on the block that has yet again substantially broken through the price and performance barrier. I make no bones when I say the level of performance in the new BenQ W5700 was the realm of science fiction just a few years ago; irrespective of price. The fact that BenQ can now produce a product that offers the highest level of performance at this price point whilst providing consumers with this much value is nothing short of remarkable.

There was quite a palpable buzz in the marketplace when BenQ announced the W5700 earlier this year (2019) and for some time demand for the product outstripped supply. I have been eager to get my hands on this new projector for many months and was delighted when a review sample arrived on my doorstep a month or so ago.

 

Color Reproduction: If you have read any of my BenQ LCD photographic display reviews (or my review of the now retired W11000H projector) you will already know that BenQ are a company that takes colour reproduction extremely seriously. As a photographer and as an ISF (imaging Science Foundation) certified video engineer, accurate colour reproduction is a subject very near and dear to my heart. Most manufacturers do not go to anywhere near the effort and trouble that BenQ do to ensure colour accuracy in their display products.

The accurate reproduction of colour in both photographic displays and projectors (which I use to display my images during print workshops) is hyper critical to the production of high quality photographs. If you are at all serious about your photography (and movie and TV watching) you absolutely owe it to yourself to ensure that your display device is capable of producing accurate colour and that it has been properly calibrated. In fact, if you have not calibrated your display you are absolutely robbing yourself of the very significant benefits of accurate colour reproduction.

BenQ have taken this aspect of image reproduction to the extreme with its latest W5700 projector. This projector is not only capable of reproducing full Rec. 709 (HD) and DCI (4K UHD) colour gamuts but can also do it accurately and all at a retail price of just $3,999. This is quite simply a ground breaking offering in a product anywhere near this price point.

BenQ actually take their colour reproduction seriously enough to individually calibrate each of the W5700 projectors to exacting tolerances before it leaves their facility. Each unit is hand tweaked by an in-house technician to have a Delta E of less than 3. Delta E is the measurement used to gauge colour errors in a display. Any error of 3 or less is considered imperceptible to human vision. 

Resolution: The W5700 has a native resolution of 3840 x 2160 which is UHD or Ultra High Definition. In reality this falls just short of the DCI 4K standard of 4096 x 2160 which is more commonly associated with cinema. Virtually all consumer displays that are marketed as 4K are 3840 x 2160 UHD with only a small handful of them conforming to the DCI 4K standard. It should be noted that the W5700 uses the same standard as the UHD alliance for 4K. If you are a videographer you may well prefer the UHD standard as many of the digital video cameras on the market shoot video in this format.

Internally the W5700 achieves its 3840 x 2160 resolution with a Texas instruments 0.47” Digital Micro Mirror Device (DMD). By flashing its two million + micrometer sized mirrors four times in very fast succession the projector is able to display 8.3 million pixels. This visual trickery enables the W5700 to reach its UHD resolution. If you want a truly native 4K panel inside your projector then your wallet needs to be prepared to drop a great many thousands of dollars more for your projector.

About: The W5700 looks both svelte and bespoke with its beautiful curves and lines that are both modern and designer in nature. As far as projectors go this is about as beautiful as one could wish for. Finished in a dark matt charcoal black the W5700 has a centrally mounted lens and forward facing air vents. The chassis itself is wider than longer which should make installation easier for those in small rooms. Certainly and in my case, I greatly appreciated the proportions during installation in my small room.

It is clear from the first glance that there has been a lot thought given to the overall design of the W5700; with well considered features such as a small hood that covers the top of the lens to prevent dust build up. Venting for heat dissipation has also been carefully considered and implemented in the W5700.

In regards to the optics, the W5700 has a 4K UHD optimised all-glass lens array that comprises of 11 different elements. The super-high resolution 11-element lens array is structured into six groups with metal barrel and cell framework, far outshining 1080p projector technology with greater light penetration for long-lasting 4K intensity with accurate colour performance, clarity, and sharpness across the entire screen. An all glass lens of this quality and at this price point is something rarely seen in projectors. Keeping in mind that my previous W11000H costs more than twice as much as the W5700, side by side I can see no difference in on screen sharpness and acutance. Make no mistake; the lens in the W5700 is a superb optical light path and you can expect razor sharp images with this projector.

The W5700 is a DLP projector and uses a lamp with a specified life of 4,000 hours in Normal mode (as reviewed), 10,000 hours in Eco mode and a whopping 15,000 hours in smart Eco mode. BenQ have used an Osram lamp that is capable of 2000 ANSI lumens that provides a quoted contrast ratio of 30,000:1. Lamp life is one area of projector technology that has significantly improved in recent years as evidenced in the quoted lamp life hours. Even heavy users should get many years of use before needing to replace the lamp.

I was more than pleasantly surprised to find that the W5700 includes a dynamic iris which is an unexpected and very welcome addition at this price point. The dynamic iris is used in conjunction with BenQ’s HDR Pro technology to improve the projectors tone mapping capabilities. In plain english, it enables the the projector to produce a deeper black on screen. As expected the W5700 has full HDR10 and HLG support. Personally, I find myself susceptible to visual detection of the dynamic iris shifts on screen and found I prefer to leave this setting off most of the time. Your mileage may vary, and it is worth taking some time experiment.

The W5700 includes two HDMI inputs which are both HDMI 2.0b/HDCP 2.2 compliant. Each input supports a full 18 GB bandwidth signal. Also included on the back of the projector is a single USB A input, a single USB B input, a LAN connection, RS232 connection and a 12-volt trigger. I am told that unlike the W11000H that I have now replaced, the W5700 has user upgradeable firmware.

A printed manual is included inside the box (thank you BenQ), a power cord for the projector, remote control and an envelope with the individual calibration report for your W5700. The remote control is a good improvement over the W11000H with large back-lit buttons that enables easy navigation in a room with heavily controlled lighting. I never understood why some other projector manufacturers do not provide a back lit remote knowing full well it needs to be operated in a dark room. 

Setup: The W5700 provides a lot of flexibility with placement both due to its chassis design and its ability to project a 100” image at just three metres distance. Zoom and focus of the lens are manual only and are controlled via an inner and outer ring control on the lens barrel. Since zoom and focus are more or less set once and forget having to do these manually is not a problem.

The W5700 has extensive vertical and horizontal lens shift capability which are both controlled via chassis mounted dials. The lens shift provides a lot of flexibility for placement for those who need to mount the projector off-centre. Digital keystoning is included, but is unlikely to be required given the extensive lens shift the W5700 includes. I never recommend using keystone to correct a projected image in any case as it is always detrimental to the overall image resolution. If you need to use keystone in your system to correct geometry errors you should seriously consider alternate placement for your projector.

The W5700 includes the full suite of calibration controls via its on screen menu. A 2-point gray scale is included, along with a user selectable gamma control and six point colour management system. Everything is provided in a logical easy to ready layout that any competent calibrator or knowledgeable user can navigate.

Calibration: In order to make critical observations of a displays performance it has to be calibrated and viewed in an ideal viewing environment. In my case, I installed the W5700 in my dedicated cinema room that I use to show video and display images during my print workshops. I used both an X-Rite i1 Pro 2 Spectrophotometer and X-rIte  i1 Display Pro Colorimeter to make my measurements. Both meters were tripod mounted and measurements were taken from my 92” Screen Research 4K Projector screen. I put the projector through a few days of heavy use to let the lamp settle into hits sweet spot before I began a calibration.

The W5700 includes seven different picture modes including Cinema Rec 709, D Cinema, User, Vivid TV, Bright, Silence, and HDR10. HDR10 is only available when the projector receives a HDR signal. BenQ recommend (and I agree with them after performing my own calibration and testing) Cinema Rec 709 for accurate HD colour reproduction and D Cinema for accurate 4K DCI colour reproduction. The W5700 will automatically switch to HDR10 picture mode when fed a HDR signal. 

Once calibrated in Cinema Rec 709 the W5700 exhibits extremely accurate grayscale tracking and I want to note that in my experience very few projectors I have calibrated or tested can match the grayscale tracking of the W5700. At this price point this is exemplary performance.

The HDR10 picture mode exhibits grayscale tracking that comes very close to the performance measured in Cinema Rec 709 picture mode. In HDR10 mode the W5700 does come up just short of the full DCI colour gamut, but still offers excellent performance. It is possible to turn off the HDR10 mode which will force the projector to convert the HDR signal to SDR. Doing so will enable you to get the full colour gamut accuracy of the Cinema Rec 709 mode and some users may prefer this. The W5700 can reproduce the full DCI colour gamut in D Cinema mode. There is no doubt that overall the W5700 offers reference level performance.

All of my testing was done an acoustically transparent Screen Research Clear Pix II 4K micro woven screen that measures 92″ diagonally. The screen is housed in a custom shadow box covered in black felt in a fully light controlled room. Of course the final colour accuracy in your own home is heavily dependant on your screen, screen surface type, viewing environment and ambient light. However, given the included suite of colour management in the W5700 it should be possible to get a great result in many different situations.

Performance: The W5700 offers nothing short of dazzling performance at this price point. Images are razor blade sharp with deep, rich blacks and a great sense of depth and dimensionality. Black levels are no doubt helped along by the W5700’s dynamic iris. Flesh tones are natural and colour reproduction is outstanding with rich, vibrant and saturated colours.  You can expect colour reproduction from the W5700 that meets or exceeds that of projectors that cost many thousands of dollars more. HDR material absolutely pops with superb depth and contrast that I have not experienced in a projector anywhere near this price point. Comparatively, it looks very similar to my previous W11000H which sold for more than twice as much. In a blind test I would be hard pressed to know which was which.

The level of image detail with 4K UHD transfers is simply jaw dropping and really has to be experienced first hand. As a photographer I know and understand the importance of optical quality and it is very clear that BenQ has included a lens that offers little in the way of compromise in the W5700. The overall image is exceptionally film-like with no hint of digital artifacting.

On area of improvement that is extremely welcome is the W5700’s ability to quickly detect and lock onto the HDMI signal. My previous W11000H was quite slow to lock signal – a small niggle that I am pleased to see has been rectified.

Conclusion: In summing up the W5700 one has to keep in mind that this is a projector that retails for less than $4000. Quite simply the performance offered at this price point, as noted in my introduction, is ground breaking. It was unequivocally the stuff of science fiction just a few years ago and  I believe, one would have to spend many, thousands of dollars more to find incremental improvement; and even then any improvement may be imperceptible to all but the most critical eye. In terms of colour accuracy, the W5700 offers exemplary performance that defines the reference that many other manufacturers would do well to follow.

As I stated in my review of the W11000H; Smart consumers will recognise that products such as the W5700 are absolute bargains; offering performance and value that far outweighs the cost of investment. As someone who has owned displays and projectors that cost many times more than the BenQ offerings I can unequivocally report that I don’t believe you can do better for the money (or even close to it.

When considering if the W5700 is the right projector for your needs you should defiantly take into consideration your screen size and viewing environment and how they will impact overall performance in your room.

Associated Review Equipment

  • Screen Research 92” Clear Pix II 4K Ultra High Definition Acoustically transparent THX Certified Projection Screen – mounted in a custom black felt shadow box
  • Acurus Muse ATMOS Home Cinema Processor configured for 5.4.2 with Front Height and Rear Height
  • Cary Cinema 5 Power Amplifiers (2 amplifiers for total of 10 channels of amplification)
  • M&K S300 MKII THX Ultra II Left, Centre and Right speakers
  • M&K S300 MKII THX Ultra II Tripole Surround Speakers
  • M&K X12 MKII THX Ultra II Dual 12” Powered Subwoofers (two subwoofers)
  • Triad In-Ceiling Bronze ATMOS Speakers Front Height (two speakers)
  • Triad In-Ceiling Bronze ATMOS Speakers Rear Height (two speakers)
  • AudioQuest King Cobra Analog Interconnect Cables
  • Fibre HDMI Cables

Happy Ten Years Blogging Birthday!

It almost slipped past without me noticing, but this week marks the ten year anniversary of when I first sat down and started writing  about my photography and travels in a blog and website. I never would have imagined where this journey might have taken me when I started and it feels like many lifetimes ago that I first began writing for this site. Back then, I was not travelling anywhere near as much as I do nowadays, but I was just as keen and passionate about photography and the polar regions then as I am today.

So what does the next ten years hold? Honestly, I am not entirely sure at this point. One thing I do know is that I will continue to pursue my photography and workshop teaching for at least the foreseeable future. Working with other photographers who are extremely passionate about their work is not only infectious, but ultimately it is extremely inspiring and and gratifying. I get a huge amount of pleasure and satisfaction out of both sharing the photographic process and watching others  improve their photography. I recently spent the better part of a week in the USA teaching the photographic print process in a private workshop and I have to say I enjoyed this every bit as much as the actual physical act of making photographs. I subsequently spent a week in Cuba opening my new Exhibition Antipodes and likewise very much enjoyed the experience.

My passion for the protection of the worlds polar regions is as strong today (perhaps even more so) as it was when I began this journey. My work in the Arctic Arts project and other conservation areas remains as important to me today as ever before. As we march inexorably onward toward the total climate driven destruction of our planet the relevance of not only documenting, but presenting this work to the world rises to critical mass. As one individual, I can only do so much – but I plan to continue to donate a percentage of all my print sales proceeds to the preservation of  wildlife.

 

Photo of the Month November 2019 – Arctic Fox Blizzard

The photograph of the month for November 2019 comes from my 2019 expedition to photograph Arctic Fox in the north of Iceland (Read the Trip Report) and is of a blue morph arctic fox during a blizzard at Kviar. This was I felt our best day with soft overcast light and falling snow that added the magical element to the mix. Blue Morph Arctic Fox are my favourite morph to photograph in these conditions. There is a wonderful contrast between the fur of the fox and the white snow that really works for me.

Canon EOS 1DX MKIII – Feature Set and Wish List

It is no secret that Canon will soon be announcing the new Canon EOS 1DX MKIII professional DSLR camera body (I expect we will see a February announcement with an April / May 2020 delivery – in time for the Japan 2020 Olympics). The current 1DX MKII has been my go-to workhorse (I own two of them) for the last four years. It has been (and remains) an incredible camera for working and photographing in the worlds polar regions. The 1DX MKII has never let me down in the field and has continued to operate reliably in temperatures as low as -50ºCelsius; even when all of the buttons are literally frozen in place. I have had these cameras so wet they may as well have been underwater. I have dropped them repeatedly, banged them into ship railings, left them buried in snow and ice for hours and otherwise abused them in the pursuit of the image. They are quite literally the most reliable digital cameras I have ever used. So how does Canon improve performance further in the soon to be announced EOS 1DX MKIII?

Here is my best guess (and wish list) for the Canon EOS 1DX MKIII in terms of new and improved features. I am going to refrain from discussing the low level consumer orientated features such as built in HDR, Focus stacking etc. and confine my comments to the features and capabilities that I see as most important. Some these I know for fact and some are my best guess. You will have to surmise which is which.

1 – The 1DX MKIII camera body will be identical or very similar to the EOS 1DX MKII. It will be an EF mount (not RF  -see footnote). Expect built in GPS (as per 1DX MKII) and the inclusion of WiFi. We may see a very slight reduction in overall weight with the use of some new high tech composite materials. I do not envisage huge weight savings since professional photographers working with these cameras greatly value their rugged build quality and the cameras ability to take severe and repeated knocks. The extensive use of light weight materials would by definition compromise some of this build quality. A small weight saving would be appreciated, but is far from mandatory. The EOS 1DX MKIII will ship with an all new battery, but will still be backward compatible with batteries from the original 1DX and 1DX MKII with some reduced functionality.

2 – The EOS 1DX MKIII will have an optical viewfinder – not an EVF. However, we should expect many of the EVF benefits (such as live histogram) when using the rear LCD in live-view mode. It is my hope the 1DX MKIII will  include ‘zebras’ and ‘focus peaking’ when using Live-view. Focus peaking is an absolute god send when working with tilt shift lenses and is one of the primary reasons I purchased an EOS R RF for my landscape photography. Whilst there has been some talk of a ‘hybrid’ EVF / Optical viewfinder I do not believe we will see such a system in an EOS 1DX MKIII. The 1DX MKII was revolutionary for the display capability it offered with its optical viewfinder. I expect the 1DX MKIII to offer similar advantages.

3 – The EOS 1DX MKII with have an all new sensor with between 24 and 28 mega pixels. There is just no reason for Canon to try and stuff more than 28 mega pixels into this professional body. Even Sony realises that professionals just don’t need or want super high mega pixel cameras (witness the release of the Sony A9 MKII with the same 24 mega pixel sensor as its predecessor). Professional photographers understand that it is the quality of the pixels that counts – not the number of them.

4 – Improved high ISO performance. I will comfortably shoot my EOS 1DX MKII in low light situations at ISO6400 if that is what is required to capture the image. However, once you exceed ISO6400 the file is best described as sub optimal and things start to deteriorate rather quickly from there. I expect that EOS 1DX MKIIII will offer better high ISO performance by approximately one or two stops. Sensor technology has more or less plateaued in the last twelve months and I think it highly unlikely we will see huge ISO improvements. Sony’s release of the A9 MKII with a two plus year old sensor (with no update) is living proof that sensor technology (at least high ISO capability) has more or less plateaued.

5 – The EOS 1DX MKIII may, or may not have IBIS. If I was a betting man I would give the inclusion of IBIS no better than even odds.  Whilst the inclusion of IBIS would be ‘nice’, I don’t believe it mandatory; especially given recent  improvements in lens image stabilisation.

6 – Canon will drop the CFast format and move to dual CF Express card slots.  Whilst I will greatly appreciate the inclusion of dual CF Express slots (rather than one CFast and on CF) it does unfortunately necessitate another round of new cards and a new card reader (and that is not a cheap investment for high speed cards). Hopefully Canon Australia helps ease this transition with the inclusion of a reader and CF Express card with the purchase of the new camera (they did this with  CFast and the 1DX MKII). Lets hope for all our sake that the world finally standardises on CF Express as the preferred format of choice.

7 – Improved high speed frame rate: Probably up to 30 frames per second with the mirror locked up. I doubt we will see more than 16 frames per second with the mirror moving up and down as there is just too much mechanical movement required to make a mirror move this fast on a reliable basis. Whilst 30 frames per second with the mirror locked up sounds impressive, I am not sure how useful this will actually be in the field since locking up the mirror blanks out the optical viewfinder and would necessitate using the rear LCD screen (not ideal in most shooting situations). The use of a pellicle mirror would enable a 1DX MKIII to shoot at 30 frames per second without having to lock up the mirror (since a pellicle mirror is fixed), thus enabling the photographer to utilise the optical viewfinder without blackout. However, we have not seen Canon employ this technology since the Canon EOS 1NRS 35mm sports film camera (if memory serves this was around 1995). There are compromises to a pellicle mirror system, but such compromises are more or less easily mitigated with todays technology. Personally, I would be extremely happy if Canon decided to employ a pellicle mirror system in the 1DX MKIII, but I think the odds of this technology reappearing out of the blue at this point are slim at best.

8 – Additional auto focus points closer to the edges of the frame: Quite honestly, this is my biggest wish for the EOS 1DX MKIII. Ideally, I would like auto focus points (cross type and phase detect) right out near the edges of the frame. This would remove the need to focus and recompose when shooting wildlife (which I often have to do). Focusing and recomposing is extremely difficult with fast moving subjects and focus points out closer to the edges of the frame would be of huge assistance in my own wildlife photography (I know sports photographers would also hugely appreciate this feature). Typically I like to compose with my subjects (wildlife) toward the edges of the frame and the only way I can currently do this is to focus and recompose. When the wildlife is moving this becomes extremely difficult. If I could only choose one improvement for the EOS 1DX MKIII it would be additional focus points closer to the corners of the frame.

9 – Improved Rear LCD Screen: The rear LCD screen on the EOS 1DX MKII is already outstanding and fit for purpose so any improvement in the 1DX MKIII is likely to be small. I expect the screen will be either identical to the 1DX MKII, or  ever so slightly larger with slightly improved resolution. Any improvement is likely to be small and an evolution rather than a revolution.

10 – Expect increased frame rate for 4K movie recording – probably up to 120 frames per second. I do not expect Canon to include 8K Video recording in the 1DX MKIII (if they do it will only be at a very low frame rate).

Expect the rumour mill to continue to ramp up as we get closer to an actual camera announcement. Most of what will emerge across the internet over the next few months will be nothing more than hearsay and nonsense and any actual real facts are likely to be concealed beneath layers of miss-information. There is a possibility Canon will make a development announcement toward the end of this year (2019), but I think it more likely that silence and rumours will reign until the official announcement early next year. In the meantime, life goes on with the EOS 1DX MKII and speaking frankly,  it has a great many images left in it.

Footnotes

  • There are over one million EF lenses in the field today. Professional photographers the world over have serious and large investments in EF glass. Canon is not about to abandon its professional users and force them to purchase all new RF mount glass on the eve of the Japan olympics. That just isn’t going to happen. Additionally, Canon has already publicly announced that they are continuing development of EF mounted lenses alongside the new RF mirrorless mount.