Monday, April 6, 2009

New UltraWide Zooms

Image from NikonRumors.com

Nikon was the first to come out with an ultra wide angle lens for their DX (1.5 crop) cameras, but the venerable 12-24mm f/4 DX Nikkor lens is showing its age, and the competition for ultra wides for cropped-sensor cameras is hot.

If you are using a cropped-sensor Canon camera like the 50D or upcoming XSi/450D, you don’t need to be reading this. The Canon 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 is optically excellent, well built and very lightweight (I still have mine and my wife is using it). The solution for Nikon users is not so clear cut.

I find I mostly use my 12-24mm Nikkor at 12mm, and often that is not wide enough. Also, 12mm is the weakest focal length of this lens. Thus I began a search for competing lenses wider than 12mm for DX Nikons and this is what I’ve found:

Nikon 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5
Still a pipe dream at the moment, but I found what looks to be a pretty authentic image on Nikon Rumors (above). If it does launch, it will probably be the lens I end up buying.

Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6
This was the lens I was also considering before I bought the Nikkor. I chose the Nikkor in the end, but my requirements have now changed. Optically, it has different strengths and weaknesses, but appears to be the Nikkor’s equal. Ergonomically, it is a little quirky. I feel the zoom ring is just too close to the body. Nevertheless, this is my top choice unless the Nikon 10-24mm turns out to be real.

Tamron 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5
I haven’t seen one of these yet, and there aren’t enough reviews to form an opinion.

Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8
This is one hot lens and is probably the best solution for a lot of people, just not for me. The small zoom range doesn’t bother me, but 11mm is still not wide enough. It is also the heaviest of the lenses I’ve looked at.

Trekking the Annapurna Circuit. Nikon D300, 10.5mm Fisheye lens.

Nikon 10.5mm Fisheye
A sweet optic. It is a prime lens, and I can shoot right into the sun to get nice sunstars with this with less flare and ghosting than with an ultrawide zoom that has a lot of elements inside it. I’ve probably been shooting too much with this, and magazine editors don’t seem to pick the images I’ve shot with the fisheye that much.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Halo Sweatband Review

The Halo sweatband technology is basically a yellow rubber seal under the fabric which forms a ‘gutter’ that channels sweat away from your eyes and down the sides of your face. The fit is important, and you need to have a snug fit with the gutter just above your eyebrows. They come in several forms: 2 types of headbands, a visor and a cap.

In equatorial Singapore, the climate can be described as hot and humid and I sweat rivers of stinging, eye-burning sweat. Outdoor Venture, my gear sponsor, gave me a couple of Halo Sweatbands to try out last year. I liked them so much, I went back and bought 2 more for myself. I consider them indispensable for training in our tropical climate.

Halo Headbands

Price: US$12.95
These come in a Tie Version (Halo I Headband) and a Pullover version (Halo II Headband). I have both and I prefer the tie version. The pullover version was designed to go under a helmet, but I’ve no problem getting my tie version under my helmet. Plus it feels more secure and I can get a better fit. The Pullover version gets looser over time and there’s no way to get a tighter fit if you have a small head. It has become mandatory gear when I bike and I’d say it is 95% effective at channeling sweat away from my eyes on the bike. My favorite color: Black.

Halo Sport Visor
Price: US$21.95I use these when I run. These tend to be a little more finicky to fit. The sweatband component is separated from the visor and you need to place the sweatband gutter just above your eyebrows. When compared to the sweatband on the bike, these are slightly less effective on the run, probably because of the head position or head movement. I’d say they are 80-90% effective on the run. If I’m running 30 minutes or less, I prefer to use a plain terry cloth cap or visor. This is because the dryline fabric of the Halo Visor doesn’t absorb much sweat, and after about 20 minutes, I’ll have a little sweat coming down my face. More than 30 minutes though, and the plain terry cloth fabric is soaked through: Rivers of sweat will be pouring down my face and into my eyes while the Halo Visor has it much more under control. My favorite color: Red.

Halo Sport Hat

Price: US$23.95
I don’t have one because I felt these fit a bit too large on me, probably because of the requirements to fit the gutter close to the eyebrows. I wish they came in sizes because I would love to have a Halo cap. If you can, try them at a store before buying it, otherwise make sure the store you are buying them at has a return policy.

Halo sweatbands, caps and visors are available in Singapore at The Running Lab, Bike Haus, or direct from Halo Headband.