Nov 252014
 

Crazy Comparison! Leica 50 APO, Sony Zeiss 55, Voigtlander 40 2.8

Hey to all! Happy Tuesday! Just a couple of days until the big Thanksgiving feast and I am lounging around my home relaxing an injured knee (which is improving and on its way to a full recovery). I have had quite a few emails in the past week asking me to compare the Leica 50 APO miracle lens to the Sony/Zeiss 55 1.8. I have done this before but this time it is more controlled and using indoor natural light, which believe it or not was quite dim in reality. I had my blinds slightly cracked open to allow some light to come in and I snapped a basic image to test for out of camera color, sharpness, micro contrast, etc.

 THIS IS A “JUST FOR FUN” CRAZY COMPARISON!

Yep, a $8300 lens vs a $999 lens and then I also threw in the $400 Voigtlander 40 2.8, which is actually a GREAT buy for a very nice lens. I also included the very cheap Jupiter 8 50mm f/2 just for fun. (and it is not bad at all I must say)!

I have been doing Crazy Comparisons since the first week my website went up, and they are always popular but sometimes controversial, which is understandable. ANY comparison that is done will always be controversial as those who own Lens B want to know why Lens A appears better. Those who have lens C will say I did the test wrong and I must have misfocused or those who own Lens A will argue about something. Just take it for what it is, a snap shot at the same aperture for the 50 APO and the 55 1.8 (f/2), Jupiter 8 and one at f/ 2.8 for the Voigtlander, which is wide open for that lens. ALL lenses were manually focused (The Sony was as well for critical correct focusing and to rule out mis focus).

To me, when I click on the images below I see a richer color in the 50 APO as well as MUCH more detail and micro contrast. The Sony/Zeiss flared a bit (no hood on the Sony and the APO did not have the hood pulled out, so no hood on either), was softer and had a less vibrant color. The Voigtlander shows its weakness here against these two lenses and is softer still with less contrast and color depth.

The 50 APO and the Sony A7s is pretty amazing. I mentioned it last week HERE but every time I use this combo I am thrilled with the results, and the cool part is that it is easier to obtain perfect focus on the A7s than it is on the Leica M itself.

Click the images below to see the larger versions with full 100% crops embedded. As it is, the Leica is the better lens. Better made, smaller, jewel like, better optics, better color and flare resistance..but it is 8X the cost of the Sony/Zeiss! EEK! $8300 vs $999. The Leica BETTER BE BETTER! I think the Leica, in the real world, is worth about $4500 but Leica being Leica..well..that will never happen. All I know is for me, Leica makes the best optics in the world. The 50 Lux, the 50 APO, the Noctilux..all special, unique and amazing 50mm lenses. Buying them all would set someone back about $24,000. I know of some towns in the USA where you can buy a house for $24,000 :)

When the Zeiss Loxia lenses come in I will pit the 50 f/2 against the APO, and I expect that one to be pretty close.  See my 50 APO review HERE, see my Voigtlander 40 2.8 review HERE and see many shots with the Sony 55 1.8 HERE.

CLICK THESE IMAGES FOR LARGER and 100% CROP! THEY ARE DIRECT FROM RAW!

The 50 APO at f/2

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Sony/Zeiss 55 1.8 at f/2 – Manually focused 

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A Jupiter 8 50mm f/2

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Voigtlander 40 2.8 Heliar at 2.8

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Oct 312014
 

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From the Leica M9 to the Leica M240…and Back to the M9

By Ashwin Rao – Follow him on Facebook HERE

Hello my friends. It’s Ashwin, back to talk about my recent GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) journey with Leica. I have been a huge fan of both the Leica M9 and Leica M Monochrom over the course of the life cycles of these cameras. I have always enjoyed the rangefinder way of seeing, from the time I first came upon my very first rangefinder, an M6 TTL. I joined the digital rangefinder transition, as did many others, with the Leica M8, and while that camera had many benefits (incredibly clear and crisp sensor), it was not quite ready for prime time due to its IR sensitivity issues and operational foibles, all of which have been well documented. That being said, many Leica M8’s remain in service today, over 8 years after it first came into production in September of 2006. The Leica M9 was released to much fanfare on September 9th 2009, heralded as the first full frame digital rangefinder, featuring a high quality CCD sensor with the same pixel pitch as the M8, and some cosmetic and operational refinements. The infrared sensitivity issue ,which plagued the M8, was mitigated for the M9, and for many, it is considered a modern legend of digital photography. I received my first Leica M9 in December of 2009, and soon thereafter wrote my first article for Steve, reviewing the M9 and a “travel camera extraordinaire.” 5 years later, I believe those same words hold true. The Leica M9 remains a remarkable camera, capable of capturing the decisive moment and motivating the eager photographer.

Leica M9 and 50 mm f/1.4 Summilux-ASPH

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M240 and 50 mm f/1.4 Summilux-ASPH

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Leica M9 and 50 mm f/1.4 Summilux-ASPH

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With time comes progress (right?) and in September of 2012, Leica announced the Leica M240, or in short, the Leica “M”, the first full frame sensor to feature a new CMOS sensor, which would permit higher ISO shooting, and importantly, live view. In theory, the Leica M240 boasted many performance and design refinements learned from the limitations of the M9. It also allowed rangefinders to compete with other modern cameras in providing an option to focus lenses with live view and it can shoot video. For many rangefinder enthusiasts, particularly those with aging eyes and a large collection of R lenses, the M240 represented an option by which to focus more accurately and use their R lenses, which have not been supported by a modern digital Leica R.

Like many, I was very curious when the M240 was launched. I kept a close eye on those who were able to use the camera early in its production cycle, such as Steve, Jono Slack, Gary Tyson, and others. As the camera became more widely available, I regularly browsed online photo forums and facebook enthusiast pages to find compelling images and reasons to justify upgrade….this process was a year long journey, and one accompanied by great struggle. I truly loved my M9, the “CCD look” that I perceived to be true, and had truly bonded with the camera over years of use, but new cameras are always compelling and entice the prospective buyer with the promise of new features and improved image quality. I also struggled with the concept of investing another $7000 in a camera, when I had just done this a few years back.

Leica M9 and 35 mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH pre-FLE

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Finally, in the spring of this year (2014), I purchased the M240. It was a harrowing, yet exciting moment. In the year that I had debated whether or not to purchase the M240, I remarked that the color palette, dynamic range and look of files from the M240 was vastly different M9 files. Initially, the M240 seemed to be plagued by inconsistent white balance, but over the year, through firmware upgrades, Leica seemed to improve upon this. Yet, the colors coming from the camera, and skin tones in particular, seemed so different, warmer and more red/orange (a common problem with CMOS digital sensors, by the way), than what I had accommodated to with my M9, which provided a seemingly cooler skin tone profile. As I reviewed images, I came to compare the M9 and M240 images to different image stock. Ultimately, I was compelled to try the M240 to see if I could adjust to this different way of seeing.

M9 and 50 mm Noctilux f/0.95

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M240 and 50 mm APO Summicron-ASPH

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In the process of buying my M240, I quickly sold my M9 to be able to focus on one color rangefinder option. I set into getting to learn my camera, and was able to have the M240 around for a very important part of my life, that is, my wedding and the months around this event. I managed to shoot the camera regularly.

What were my conclusions, you might ask? What was my conclusion from this costly experiment? Well, the title of the article summarizes the basic experience, but let me elaborate. I simply couldn’t get used to the M240 and I could not find a bond with the camera. First, and most challenging for me, was the color reproduction of the camera and its inconsistent white balance reproductions under artificial light, particularly in rendering skin complexion. I often found skin tones to render excessively yellow or orange, and I simply could not find ways in Adobe Lightroom, to get skin tones to look as I enjoyed. I could get close, but adjusting skin tones would often affect the color reproduction of the rest of the image. Apparently, I had accommodated to the look of the M9, and I could not get close enough with the M240. Second, and disappointing to me, was an issue with banding at higher ISO’s. Whenever I took a shot that was underexposed, lifting the shadows resulted in noticeable banding at ISO’s of 3200 and higher (and occasionally at ISO 1600). I was able to remedy the banding issue using software fixes (Nik software’s has a de-banding tool that’s very useful). In practice, shooting in low light was nearly as limited for the M240 as it was for the M9, which has a practical ISO limit of around 640, after which banding behaviors are the norm with image adjustment.

M240 and Summicron 28 ASPH

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Leica M9 and Noctilux 50 mm f/0.95

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For the M240, I also struggled mightily with the “start up time” of the camera. When powering the camera on, it takes about 2-3 seconds before the photographer can actually take a shot. Initially, I thought this was a camera defect, but trying a few friends’ M240’s, I found the behavior to be universal. I tried to remedy this by leaving the camera on all of the time, given that the M240 sports a much-improved battery than the M9. However, after prolonged periods when the camera went back to sleep, I noticed the same lag. There were several instances where I missed an important shot , and this became an increasing turn off as I used the camera more.

M240 and Noctilux f/0.95 – Lauren

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As I used the M240 more, I became increasingly aware of the weight of the camera. At first, I felt that the camera felt more confident, more solid, less “airy” in hand, but after some time, I found the added bulk to be unwanted. My shooting arm would get sore. Not a huge deal, but enough of a difference to be annoying. After all, there was an outcry when the M8 and M9 were built with much thicker bodies than previous film M bodies, and here was a camera that provided even more bulk and heft to a shooter (myself) who valued size and discretion in his camera.

M240 and Noctilux f/0.95 – Andi

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M9 and Noctilux f/0.95

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Finally, I became increasingly annoyed over time with the menu layout. I wasn’t entirely sure when to press the “Menu”, “set”, and Info buttons. It was not nearly as intuitive an experience as to how best to adjust settings on the fly as it was with the M9. Even the ISO adjustment methodology seemed more cumbersome to me, who had gotten used to the simplicity of the M9’s menu and button implementation. The M240 had new buttons in unexpected places, and on occasion, which thought I was capturing images, I had accidentally triggered video shooting.

M240 and 90 mm f/4 Macro Elmar

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M9 and Rigid Summicron 50 mm f/2 (v2)

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As you read this, you may feel that I am unfairly bashing the M240, and that with more time, I would have adjusted to the cameras many quirks. While this may be true, I kept coming back to my struggles with the M240’s image rendering. As I looked on my screen at old M9 shots, and compared them to the M240 images that I had captured, I took note of several things. I find the M9 to have rendered a more “crisp” pixel, while the M240 renders a slightly softer pixel. Further, the M240 renders with much more dynamic range, but for some reason, images taken with this camera seemed to exhibit less 3D pop that I saw with my M9.

In summary, I began to find reasons to return to my Leica M9, and in August, after 4 months, I sold my Leica M240 and returned to the M9. I can say that I am happy with this choice and much more settled with keeping the M9 and its awesome CCD sensor and way of rendering.

Well, I spent a lot of time bashing the M240, no? Let me bash the M9 for some balance. The M9 is a camera full of quirks and deficiencies. First off, it has a completely inadequate and dated 200,000+ pixel LCD. It was an out of date LCD the moment it was released, and 8 years later, it’s ridiculously poor…One cannot count on confirming clear focus with the M9’s LCD. Further, there’s a slight delay between when the image snaps into focus on the LCD, making images seem blurry for a moment.

There are times when the M9 freezes operationally and won’t take a shot. And I don’t just mean when the buffer is full. At times, I have missed important shots because the M9 simply refused to take the shot. Further, battery life is quite poor (300-400 shots), compared to the far improved M240 sensor. The M9 has an ISO limitation that stems from its CCD sensor. It’s only capable of being shot reliably through ISO 640 (or 800 if you are willing to live with lost dynamic range, muddier images). Compared to today’s sensors (think Sony, Fuji, Olympus, and Panasonic), this ISO limitation seems arcane. Compared to the M240, which offers clean ISO’s through 1600 and inconsistent but occasionally decent performance at ISO 3200, it seems old as well. Yet, at base ISO through ISO 400, the M9 offers something unique. It offers a lovely color palette. Images, particularly of people jump off the screen. Skin tones and rendering can take on a lifelike look, while the M240 occasionally presents skin tones in a waxy (CMOS) manner. You’d never see this on your cell phone or laptop monitor, but on a calibrated larger home monitor or large print, there’s a difference there that’s continued to be noticeable to me.

Ultimately, I came to accept the limitations of the Leica M9 to gain its benefits. The M9 turns on and is ready to shoot instantaneously. It’s silent shooting mode is cleverly implemented and useful when employed. It’s a lighter and airier camera and is less fatiguing to hold in the hand for prolonged shoots. It’s menus offer operational simplicity, which seems to echo the rangefinder way of seeing. It’s CCD rendering (yes, I believe that the CCD “look” is real…sorry to all of the naysayers) is awesome and increasingly unique in a world where CMOS sensors have taken over.

I believe that the Leica M9 continues to represent the pinnacle of Leica’s imaging achievement. Like many countless others who’d hope for a camera that offers the best of all worlds, I strongly suspect that such a camera will never materialize. I doubt that there will ever be another CCD-sensor Leica. And thus, I am “stuck” with the M9, and of course, my beloved Leica M Monchrom. For those times when I desire revelatory ISO performance, I have moved to the Sony A7s, which I have used extensively (nearly exclusively) with Leica M lenses, and I find that its limitations (primarily the 12 megapixel sensor and tunnel view SLR way of seeing) don’t bother me all that much. The Sony is not built anywhere as confidently as the Leica (in terms of feel), but it’s a great camera worth checking out for a modern CMOS option. IT’s colors are not Leica colors, but I have found that I can get skin tones that I like with this camera.

Leica M9 and 35 Summuilux FLE

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Leica M9 and 50 mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH

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Thus, for me, the Leica M240 is now part of my photographic past. The Leica M9 has returned to my kit. It represents my photographic present. I certainly hope and expect that Leica will continue to re-invent itself with new innovative products and improved rangefinders. The Leica M240 was not the right camera for me, but I hope that the next iteration will be a better fit. At that time, the M9 will remain with me. It’s a lifetime camera, unless Leica finds the guts to go back to CCD or a sensor the renders similarly. It offers a unique rendering that blends so well with M lenses. It’s a great option for photography, even today.

M240 and 50 mm APO-Summicron ASPH

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I imagine that many of you will take exception to my thoughts and comments. I welcome your thoughts, your debate, and your criticisms to this argument. It simply represents my opinion and current thinking on the matter.

Here’s a summary of what I consider the strengths and weaknesses of the 2 cameras discussed:

Pros of the Leica M9
• CCD sensor – per pixel microontrast and dynamic range at low ISO
• Menu and operational simplicigty
• Weight
• Heft
• Instant On
• Silent shooting mode

Cons of the Leica M9
• ISO limitation
• Rear LCD is terrible
• Poor battery life
• Indoor and outdoor white balance inconsistency
• Reduced dynamic range compared to modern sensors
• Occasionally the shutter doesn’t fire
• IR sensitivity is still there, though less so?

Pros of the M240
• ISO improvements (though banding limits realistic ISO to < 3200, and in some cases, 1600
• Moderate Dynamic range improvement
• Solid battery life
• Build Quality
• EVF capacity, for those who want it
• Much improved shutter sound and less shutter shake
• Fantastic Black and White Conversions

Cons of the M240
• Heavier
• Meno complexity and dials
• Adds complication to a simple RF concept (i.e. video, EVF, etc)
• Unnatural Color reproduction of skin tones
• Indoor white balance inconsistency
• Shooting lag, when camera is first activated
• More IR sensitivity?

Feasible areas of improvement for the next Leica M:
• Improved color stability for white balance
• Improved color rendering of skin tones
• Reduced banding artifacts for high ISO, particularly when adjusting images
• Baseplate access to the battery and SD card
• Make the camera thinner, rather than thicker
In fairness to bias, my time with the M240 was self-limited to 4 months. My time with the M9 has extended to nearly 5 years. There may be much in that difference in experience that may explain some of my experiences with these cameras. All the best to you, and most importantly, keep your hand on the shutter and keep making images, regardless of camera.

M240 and Rigid Summicron 50 mm f/2 (v2)

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M240 and 35 mm Summilux ASPH FLE

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Oct 302014
 

cams

Which one? Sony Zeiss 35 2.8 FE and the Voigtlander 40 f/2.8 Heliar

HELLO TO ALL OF YOU PHOTO AND GEAR NUTS OUT THERE!

I posted a very 1st quick look at the new Voigtlander 40 2.8 Heliar a few days ago and one question was: “Why would I want this when there is already the Sony 35 2.8 Zeiss lens that has Auto Focus”?

My answer to that is that not everyone will! Some of us NEED Auto Focus and others much prefer a mechanical old school lens with a solid build, gorgeous appearance and the fact that we need to manually focus the lens! When you have an old school (but brand new like this lens is) lens on the Sony A7 series of camera, manually focusing is not only very fun, it is also a way to slow you down, take your time, calculate your shots. It is an alternative to the quick AF snaps we so often do. It will have us looking more and taking our time with the composition.

In other words, I much prefer a solid manual focus lens over an AF lens when using the A7 series. Especially M mount glass, classics and new lenses alike.

The Voigtlander 40 2.8 is TINY but hefty and solid. It has a Nickel finish and looks amazing. The sharpness? Just as sharp as the Sony/Zeiss at half the size and cost. All you miss out on is Auto Focus yet you gain small size, solid build and a much more beautiful lens to look at..as well as a $400 savings.

Below is a video I made on the two lenses with my thoughts on them and after that a quick comparison shot with full size images direct from RAW from the Sony A7S. Also in the video you will see the striking new strap from Artisan & Artist, which is their new ACAM-310 silk strap. Also, the wooden sticky shutter release from Artisan Obscura and the shiny metal buttons on the back of my A7s from rluther.com. 


This is how each lens performed on the camera, and I let the camera choose exposure for each lens to show how each lens will behave on the camera. They are similar for sure..both are sharp yet each lens made the camera expose slightly different. I also see more of a 3D look to the Voigtlander lens. Both of these were shot wide open at f/2.8. Click them for full size.

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So which one is for you? That is easy..the one you feel most drawn to! Do you need AF? If so, the Sony is the one! If you prefer manual focus and some old school charm, plus a smaller and better made lens, the Voigtlander is the one to beat. :)

Where to Buy?

You can order the Voigtlander 40 2.8 at cameraquest.com HERE

You can order the Sony/Zeiss 35 2.8 at Amazon HERE

You can order the cool all wood sticky shutter release at Artisan Obscura HERE

You can order the Shiny Buttons or read about them HERE

Oct 262014
 

Quick Comparison EOS M, Nikon Coolpix A and Nikon 1 V3

By Noel Beharis

Dear Steve

I am a Nikon fan. I have a respectable Nikon collection starting from the Nikon F Photomic through to a Nikon D3. I also love Leicas and Hasseblads. I have collected a few of each camera brands over the years.

Recently I returned from Europe. I carried with me my Hasselblad H3d-31 II, a Panasonic GH4 for videos and the Canon EOS M which seems to be the most unloved Compact System Camera out there. Travelling to several cities over a short period of time made me realised that carrying around a Hasselblad H3d-31 was painful Carrying the Panasonic GH4 was necessary as my daughter sang at Notre Dame and the EOS M was the camera I reached for first because it was the fastest lightest camera of the group.

It’s image quality was decent with it’s APS-C sensor. The touch screen was great. Just touch the part of the screen you want the camera to focus on and presto, the meters on that spot and takes the image. Very quick. I used it almost exclusively with the Canon 11-18 lens (18-28 equivalent). When you want the whole scene, it took it all in with a minimum of fuss.

As for image quality, I will let the images speak for themselves.

Canon EOS M Images

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It’s no medium format camera but for a travel compact with interchangeable lenses, it can take the odd award-winning shot if you try hard enough. I found using menus to navigate between P, A, S & M annoying but that is the price you pay for compact size. It could handle any situation without a sweat. Great thing about it aside from it’s image quality, there are many Gypsies that occupy the streets of major cities in Europe, no one cared about the EOS M or thought twice that I had a digital camera. If I lost it, it wasn’t that expensive. These Gypsies have expensive tastes and they will follow you if they see you with a Leica. The practical side to owning a Leica is that you need to think as Noah did. If you don’t travel in pairs, you just don’t travel. You need that other person to have your back while you are shooting.

They are frightened though of the H3D because it would cause significant damage if I used it in the same way one uses a Baseball bat or a Cricket bat (I do live in Australia. We play Circket. Losing a Leica because you came out second best to the Gypsy lunging for your camera while you are taking a photo of St Charles Bridge in Prague or Montmarte in Paris is definitely not Cricket. Thankfully, it didn’t happen to me. In case you were trying to guess, I went to Paris, Stuttgart, Berlin. Prague, Chania, Thessalonika and Helsinki. From 2400 photos, there are a few images to go through.

Given the number of cities I visited, I came home with a back ache carrying cameras. I nearly had heart failure when there was no overhead luggage space on the aircraft and my camera bag, Hasselblad and all when in the cargo hold. I thought it was lost forever. It wasn’t. I was shocked. I was ropeable and none of my family wanted to be with me until my camera bag with all the cameras returned to me intact. At least I had travel insurance but still, Hasselblads are not the easiest things to replace. Neither are aching backs!

Where do my Nikons come into this? I needed something that could do the work of bigger cameras and fit in my pocket. I also needed to cut down on what I carried with me. I needed to be light and nimble. The camera had to be fast and pack a punch quickly. Much that I like the Leica M, manually focussing a moving target is not one of those things often done quickly. You need to anticipate the moment. Sometimes, you can be tone deaf to the moment. Further, your average relative that wants a happy snap gets impatient waiting for you to set the camera up. Traffic and bystanders often get in your way. That fleeting moment you want, the kiss on the footpath or the growling cat at the zoo just won’t wait for you. The EOS M has its limitations. Although it’s small, it has this large lens protruding from it which makes it difficult to put into a jacket pocket or place in a small compartment in your back pack It’s autofocus system is OK but it’s not what I would call lightening quick. I would still take it with me wherever I went but I needed something really small and fits into my pocket that was quicker.

Enter the Nikon Coolpix A and Nikon 1 V3.

The Nikon Cooplix A should really be named the Nikons 28TiD. It is its digital successor. It’s a fixed 18.5mm f2.8 (28mm equivalent) APS C pocket camera that is small enough to fit in your trouser pocket. I packs a wallop when it comes to image quality. After playing with it for a week there was nothing this camera could do wrong in my eyes. I wish I discovered this camera before I went to Europe. That said, it’s autofocus system is quicker than the EOS M but as I discovered, it is no match for the Nikon 1. I missed the odd photo opportunity. Nevertheless, I could take it with me on my lunch break anywhere and discretely shoot any subject I wished without attracting the attention the Hasselblad did. By the way, I love that H3D.

Although the 28mm equivalent is not a 18mm equivalent lens the EOS M carried, I find 28mm is my preferred focal length for walking around. I know 35mm is a classic focal length is well “classic”. I found the 28mm focal length more flexible for most walk around subjects including capturing that decisive moment. I can more easily take one or two steps closer when compared to taking 2 steps back into the Seine river.

I attach some of the iconic subjects of my home town Melbourne Australia.

Nikon Coolpix A Images

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I haven’t pitted the EOS M against the Coolpix A because I think they are different cameras. The EOS M is a more flexible package but it is bigger than my Coolpix A. Since acquiring the Coolpix A, I would consider leaving the EOS M at home. It will capture the images the EOS M could miss (but not necessary would miss). I think it is capable of some spectacularly sharp images with a film like rendering of colour and image quality.

I am happy to dive into the details of the camera but suffice to say it’s a DSLR APS-C equivalent camera that has a fixed 28mm equivalent lens that fits in your pocket that is not much bigger than an iPhone 4 and smaller than an iPhone 6plus. It will do everything the DSLR does at the same speed. It just primarily menu driven.

Why then, after purchasing the Coolpix A did I want the Nikon 1 V3? I just wanted one. Aside from that, I would call this the Ferrari of the pocket camera world. I have a D3. It’s about as quick but not quicker than the Nikon 1. The Nikon 1 is about getting the photo. It will shoot so fast that if it existed on that fateful day the naked little girl in vietnam that ran from the Napalm attack was captured by that famous photographer photojournalist, it would have captured 100 + frames before the little girl ran out of the frame. You would have seen every moment from her clothes catching fire, the explosion forming behind her and every half step she took towards the photographer as she tried to escape the cataclysm. Maybe that’s why that one image is special. Because the rest is left to the imagination.

Seriously, this camera may only have a one inch sensor but if you are not cropping the image, I can’t say I would notice the difference. Yes it has noise in the shadows. Yes doesn’t allow a crop of the image to be as clean as a larger sensor camera. Yes it may be overshadowed by other compact systems but none of the other are as discrete, fast, and have an image that is quite like the Nikon 1. Viva la Difference. It may not produce the best possible image you could get but it will get the photo every other camera would miss. It never misses. If I were a photojournalist, this is the one I would take with me into the field. I can shoot silently and still get up to 60 frames without autofocus and 20 frames with it. It’s not a point and shoot. It’s the gatling gun of the compact camera world with near APS-C image quality. I would carry two bodies, one with the 32 f1.2 permanently mounted to it. The other with the 10 f2.8. Basically a 28mm and 85mm equivalent set up.

No Doubt the Coolpix A has more punch in it’s colour and it’s noise is well controlled. It has a better lens and sensor combination . It’s no where near the fun to use that the Nikon 1 is. It is also a fixed lens camera. Hence, the designers can sort out the lens and sensor combination better than an interchangeable lens camera the Nikon 1 is. I would pick the Coolpix A over the Nikon 1 if I had time to take the photo. The Nikon 1 is the one I would pull off the shelf because I know I will have time to take the image and the 19 other ones it takes before the Coolpix A has taken the first one.

After purchasing the Nikon 1, I had to see what it was like compared to the Coolpix A. I attach photos of the same subjects with the Nikon 1 of Melbourne on a warm spring day (see below). I used the standard 10-30 zoom. The Coolpix A was set to vivid colour. the Nikon 1 was set to standard. Although I used vivid colour in the second last Nikon 1 photo of the building (the Rialto tower). I do not think it adds much in the same way it pushed the colour in the Coolpix A. I think the lens and sensor combination in the Coolpix A overshadows the zoom on the Nikon 1. Message to Nikon, build a better standard Nikon 1 10mm lens that is faster than 2.8.

thank you again Steve for being patient with me. I love your website.

I hope my email interests you enough to write about these cameras for me.

Best wishes

Nikon V3 Images

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Oct 202014
 

Which is Which? Leica Monochrome vs Sony A6000

UPDATE: #1 is the A6000 and #2 is the Monochrome! You guys got it right, (most of you)!

Have not done one of these in a while and I always get asked to do these crazy comparisons so here we go. Which is which?

ONE image was taken with a Sony A6000 and one with a Leica Monochrome. Not going to say what lenses were used with each but let’s do a fun poll to see who can guess it right.

So seeing that the Leica is an $8000 camera vs the Sony at $648 pick which one you feel is from the Leica. EXIF has been stripped. 

IMAGE 1

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IMAGE 2

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If you are unsure which is from which camera, then just take your best guess. :)

UPDATE: Sony is #1 and Leica is #2!

Sep 062014
 

Just for fun: Rolleiflex Hy6 using film vs The Sigma DP Quattro

To those who have shot or do shoot Medium Format film or digital, you know the differences between those files and your run of the mill full frame of APS-C files. With Medium Format film or digital you get an amazing depth, richness and tangible quality to the files and photos whether that is in print or on screen.

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Many times people will say that the Sigma DP series has a “Medium Format” quality but that can be a little misleading. For example, the latest and greatest Sigma DP Quattro was recently in my hands for 3 weeks to review. I reviewed it HERE and even I mentioned it had a medium format look and feel. But I was going by memory as it has been 4 years since I have shot a Medium Format camera (which I reviewed HERE).

Recently I had the pleasure of shooting with a Rolleiflex Hy6 Mod 2 camera and wow, that was quite the experience. From shooting, to feel, to control, to auto focus to QUALITY, this is the best MF camera I have ever shot with or even handled. It should be for $10k with lens and film back but the Rollei just may be the coolest medium format camera made today. At $10k it comes with a 6X6 film back but you can also add a digital back and have one bad ass setup.

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I shot 5 rolls through the Hy6 for my review period and will post that within a week but for now I wanted to show two shots…one from the Rollei Hy6 using Portra 160 film and the 2nd with the Quattro. These are NOT meant to be technical comparison shots, but rather a look at the rendering of each. The Rollei is a low res lab scan and the Sigma is a resized file converted to JPEG. Even so, the depth, the richness and the magical quality is all there in the Medium Format shot and the Sigma appears off in color and lacks the depth and richness that the film shot provides.

The only area where the Sigma is really “medium format like” to me is in sharpness and detail, which it has loads of. But even with that, I prefer the MF shot by far. Take a look below and see for yourself. The MF shot was with an 80mm lens at f/2.8. The Sigma shot was also at 2.8 using the built in lens of the Quattro and shot in 1X1 mode to simulate 6X6. After looking at them side by side it appears digital still has a load of room for improvement in the quiet balance area. Film just nails it it seems. Then again, how long as film been around? Much longer than digital! I did not get a digital back to test with the Rollei but shooting it with film was a treat, even though a pricey one (cost of purchasing 5 rolls plus process and low res scan = $100 for 60 images). The ROllei auto focused FASTER than the Sigma by a little bit.

Click them for larger.

The Rolleiflex Hy6 Mod 2 with the 80mm 2.8 lens and Portra 160 film – low res lab scan. This is best appreciated on a large and well calibrated display. This one has the MF look and soul. Not uber sharp but nice color, great depth and contrast is about perfect.

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Now the Sigma Quattro at f/2.8 – the color is off (a yellow tinge and there is much more DOF even using the same 2.8 aperture. It looks digital (and it is of course) and more flat but very sharp. 

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Jun 192014
 

Crazy Comparison: Sony A7s, 551.8 vs Leica M 240, 50 APO and more!

Many have asked for this, so here you go. Both files are from RAW and both were shot within 45 seconds of each other at f/2. The 1st image is from the A7s and 55 1.8 at f/2. This combo comes in at $3600 or so, not cheap by any means but I feel that the A7s, even after having it for only a day so far, is the best Sony camera made to date. For me it offers the best of all worlds. Lush low ISO quality with a nice rich, sharp, manageable and very pleasing file quality. It also offers the best in class high ISO performance and superb video capabilities.

Many have asked me to pit the Leica M with 50 APO (a lens that I feel is the best you can get on the M and for the M) against the Sony A7s with 55 1.8. The result is below. You must click on the images for larger version and to see the 100% crop. The Sony surprised me here! The Leica combo comes in at almost $15,000 so, $11,500 more than the Sony.

What do YOU think?

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PLEASE! I NEED YOUR HELP TO KEEP THIS WEBSITE RUNNING, IT IS SO EASY AND FREEE for you to HELP OUT!

Hello to all! For the past 5 years I have been running this website and it has grown to beyond my wildest dreams. Some days this very website has over 200,000 visitors and because of this I need and use superfast web servers to host the site. Running this site costs quite a bit of cash every single month and on top of that, I work full-time 60+ hours a week on it each and every single day of the week (I received 200-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I need YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis.

To help out it is simple. 

If you ever decide to make a purchase from B&H Photo or Amazon, for ANYTHING, even diapers..you can help me without spending a penny to do so. If you use my links to make your purchase (when you click a link here and it takes you to B&H or Amazon, that is using my links as once there you can buy anything and I will get a teeny small credit) you will in turn be helping this site to keep on going and keep on growing.

Not only do I spend money on fast hosting but I also spend it on cameras to buy to review, lenses to review, bags to review, gas and travel, and a slew of other things. You would be amazed at what it costs me just to maintain this website. Many times I give away these items in contests to help give back you all of YOU.

So all I ask is that if you find the free info on this website useful AND you ever need to make a purchase at B&H Photo or Amazon, just use the links below. You can even bookmark the Amazon link and use it anytime you buy something. It costs you nothing extra but will provide me and this site with a dollar or two to keep on trucking along.

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

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May 032014
 

By Request: Nikon V3 vs Nikon J1 – OOC JPEG

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I had a few ask of you me to post a couple of quick side by side snaps to compare the brand new Nikon V3 to the old 1st gen Nikon V1. My son has the V1 with him right now so I used the next best thing, the J1. The J1 has the same IQ as the V1, same sensor, and same IQ.

So how did the old J1 fare against the new V3? For starters, keep in mind that I paid $200 for the J1 with 10mm 2.8 lens, new. The V3 sells for $1200 as a kit with the new kit 10-30. For this test I just wanted to show straight out of camera JPEGS here. Both with the same 10mm 2.8 lens (it does better than the zoom) and both cameras set to their base ISO (100 for the J1 and 160 for the V3).

I can say the EVF makes the V3 more of a joy to use over the J1 that does not have an EVF of any kind but in the hand, they both feel good with the V3 coming in at a little bit smaller of a size.The little $200 J1 feels solid though.

Below are direct straight out of camera JPEGS. Both cameras were also set to “Neutral” color in the setup menu and both cameras were set to matrix metering. Both had the Active D Lighting set to off. What you see is what you get. The V3 has more megapixels but is also rendering the images differently Same lens was used, same spot, same moment.

What are your thoughts? Click on each image for full size file. Right click and open in a new window to see full file on your screen correctly. Each image is labeled with what it is.

 

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The V3 seems to be less harsh and less contrasty but also loses some of the bite of the 1 series. How about high ISO? This is where we should see a huge performance increase as we are going from 1st gen to 3rd gen sensor for the 1 series.

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So it is no question that after shooting both that the V3 offers more megapixels and better low light performance. The question you have to ask yourself if you are a 1 series shooter is “is this worth upgrading my current camera for”? Only you can decide. Me, after shooting a teeny bit with the V3, its response is up there with the fastest I have shot with, even faster feeling than the Olympus E-M1. But, for $1200 I will stick with the V1 and J1 for now (for my 1 series shooting). Like I said here, the V3 could have been so much more and using Micro SD cards really killed it for me up front.

The V3 is available HERE.

 

Feb 242014
 

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Quick Comparison: Olympus 25 1.8 vs Panasonic 25 1.4

So here is the much asked for comparison of the $399 Olympus 25 1.8 vs the $129 more expensive 25 1.4 for Micro 4/3. Besides the slight speed increase of 1.4 vs 1.8, what does the Panasonic offer you for the extra $129..or should I say what DOESNT it offer?

I have shot with them side by side for a few days and found that they are VERY close in regards to image quality/sharpness. So close in fact that if I were buying new today I would buy the Olympus if I was using an Olympus Micro 4/3 camera. It seems to be just as good, it focuses fast, is smaller, and has no issues on the Olympus bodies. Below are a few quick comparison shots so you can judge for yourself.

The test images below.. you can right-click and open them in a new tab or window to see the full size file.

1st, Olympus 25 1.8 with the E-M1 at 1.8, wide open

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Now the Panasonic 25 1.4 at 1.8 on the E-M1

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and the crops..

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The Panasonic is slightly sharper here but not by much at all. To me, the benefits of the Olympus ($129 less, smaller, faster AF, silent focus, more neutral color) beat out that small miniscule sharpness difference.

and speaking of sharpness, here is a full size shot from the E-M1 and 25 1.8 – right-click and open in a new window to see the full size image (from RAW). This was shot at f/2.5.

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Jan 202014
 

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Quick Comparison: Fuji X-E2, Sony A7 and Olympus E-M1

Well here it is! The one many of you have been waiting for, lol. Just got back from a quick 24 hour trip to Vegas and snapped a few shots while there with the Fuji X-E2 and 23 1.4, the Sony A7 and 35 2.8 and the Olympus E-M1 and 17 1.8. I mainly shot with the Fuji..say..85% of the time as I will be doing a review of it here soon but just for fun (key words, “just for fun”) decided to take a couple of similar shots from each camera to see which one I liked best.

When I say “see which one I liked best” I mean image quality, rendering and usability of the camera itself.

Some Notes on the cameras during my use:

Fuji X-E2 – $1900 AS TESTED WITH LENS

I can safely say that the X-E2 is the best Fuji interchangeable lens body I have used to date (and I have used them all extensively). It is fast, responsive and feels NOTHING like the early days of the X-Pro 1 and X-E1. The 23 1.4  is a sweet lens and the built in aperture ring just adds to the experience of using the lens. The lens is sharp, fast to Auto Focus and well made. All of my X-E2 shooting was done with this lens. The AWB was the worst with the X-E2 out of the three cameras I was shooting with but I did not have any focus issues when out in Vegas shooting unlike in my dim house during the 1st couple of days. The wake up time from sleep was slow as molasses though and caused me to miss a few shots whole walking around. Still, like I said, the best X to date IMO.

Sony A7 – $2500 AS TESTED WITH LENS

The A7 is still fantastic IMO. With the 35 2.8 I had no issues with auto focus and it was just as fast as the Fuji X-E2 with 23 1.4 I had no issues focusing at night or with light. IQ was rather “full frame” like of course as it is indeed a full frame sensor. No missed focus shots with the A7 and this combo is SMALLER than the APS-C Fuji X-E2 and 23 1.4. Overall a great experience once again with the A7 and Zeiss 35 2.8. I did notice that in low light situations the ISO would have to be pumped up due to the slower f/2.8 lens so I am hoping for some faster primes  to come along from Sony.

Olympus E-M1 – $1900 AS TESTED WITH LENS

The Olympus E-M1 is my 2013 camera of the year and for good reason. During use it was the fastest to Auto Focus, the fastest to respond and with that 5-Axis IS was a joy to use even in low light. The 17 1.8 is technically the least sharp of all of the lenses used yet it hung in there with nice sharpness and a great rendering (see portrait of Debby). The color from the E-M1 is the most to my liking out of all three of these cameras as is the build, usability and feel. You will see some noise even at base ISO though when doing pixel peeps. Still, will not be seen in print. The EVF here was the best of the lot by quite a large margin. Crystal clear, huge and nice color accuracy. No contest. Sony came in 2nd for EVF. Fuji’s EVF was the smallest, darkest and least sharp of the three.

The Images

I only shot TWO images to compare these three cameras. The 1st one below is just a simple portrait and I wanted to see which rendering I liked the best as well as what color signature I enjoyed the most. All three images below are from RAW without enhancements. Which one do you prefer?

BE SURE TO CLICK ON THE IMAGES FOR LARGER 1800 PIXEL WIDE VIEW!

1st up the Fuji X-E2 with the 23 1.4 at f/2.8. NOT wide open so this will bring the sharpest performance. Click for larger! FROM RAW

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The Sony A7 and 35 2.8 at 2.8  – click it for larger!! FROM RAW

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The Olympus E-M1 – 17 1.8 at f/2 – click it for larger. From RAW. Warmest rendering came from the Oly. 

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ANY of the above images would be acceptable for me yet each have small color differences and DOF differences (which is due to sensor size and aperture).

Detail and full size files

TIP!! To see these in full size RIGHT CLICK the image and choose “Open in a new Window” or “Open in a new Tab” and this way you will see the full size file open in your browser. These are direct from RAW and what you see is what you get. 

Fuji X-E2 – 23 1.4 at f/4 – always love the Fuji blues!

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Sony A7 and 35 2.8 at f/4

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Olympus E-M1 with 17 1.8 at f/4

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CROPS

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If you view each image above in its full size form you will see the Sony pulled out the most detail all across the board. This is what I have seen in earlier tests as well. The Olympus did VERY well considering it has a much smaller sensor and form what everyone says “an inferior lens” (though I do not feel that way as I feel the 17 1.8 is superb. The Fuji is doing what it has always done..overexpose a little bit..which makes me wonder why Fuji has not tweaked their exposure system yet. For these tests I shot with the cameras on Aperture priority mode letting the cameras choose exposure and shutter speed so we can see what the output would be with each camera and testing their exposure system at the same time.

If I took the RAW files from each image and adjusted them to have the same exposure and color and then printed a 20X30 of each I bet no one could tell me what camera shot what image. In fact, I may just do this for my own curiosity this week and report back with the findings.

So what did I conclude by using these three cameras for a quick 24 hour Vegas shoot-a-thon? That…

A: The X-E2 is the best Fuji interchangeable body yet. 

B: The Olympus E-M1 is still king of speed and features and build and EVF. The fact that it is even included in this company is pretty amazing. 

C: The Sony A7 is an amazing technological marvel capable of some bitingly sharp images.

D: ANY of these would be superb for almost anyone wanting HQ photos. For me it would come down to usability, speed, build, etc.

With Fuji releasing a new “rumored” X-T1 at the end of this month I find it funny that it resembles the Olympus E-M1 quite a bit from the grip to the EVF hump and what appears to be a more solid build and reportedly faster AF speed. Hmmm. Should be interesting.

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Jan 202014
 

Rendering Comparison: Olympus E-P5 vs Sony A7

by Michael Van den Bergh

First of all I’d like to thank Steve for his great website. I absolutely love his reviews, and his photos are an inspiration.

In this user report I will post comparison shots of the Olympus PEN E-P5 to the Sony A7 at the classical focal lengths: 35, 50 and 85mm.

The Sony A7

Inspired by Steve’s blog, I believe that a great camera is a camera that gets out of your way: convenient to carry, quick to access the right settings, and easy to get the shot you want.

My Nikon D7000 DSLR ticked none of those boxes. That’s how I tumbled into the world of micro four thirds. I currently use a PEN E-P5 as my main camera, and I cannot stress enough how great this camera is.

However, as a micro four thirds shooter there is always that itchy feeling that a full frame camera might produce superior images. With the new Sony cameras the itch got stronger, and on top of that I stumbled upon a crazy deal that I couldn’t refuse: $1,400 for the A7.

This pushed me into selling my Nikon gear and becoming the owner of an E-P5 and A7 side by side. I’m happy I made this jump. Rather than indefinitely debating which system is better for what, I’d rather just get it over with and own BOTH.

Right off the bat, the Sony A7 is fantastic. The controls feel right, everything is easy to access, and that EVF! I actually think the Sony EVF is better than the Olympus VF-4. They are very similar when you compare them side by side: about the same size and resolution, but the deeper blacks of the Sony make me forget that it’s an EVF. For me, that’s a milestone achievement right there: when you stop realizing that it is electronic and it all feels natural. Manual focus is easy through the viewfinder. There is no need for magnification or focus peaking.

The following comparisons are shown as a quick and dirty test, and are in no way scientific. My intention is to show what one might gain by moving from micro four thirds to full frame. This test compares 35, 50 and 85mm equivalent lenses, plus some outliers that might be used in similar situations (the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 and the Olympus 75mm f/1.8).

35mm Lens Comparison

I find it really interesting to see how the A7 compares to the PEN with the 20mm f/1.7 and 17mm f/1.8 lenses. It is hard to compare focal lengths because of the different aspect ratios, but both of these lenses can be considered as 35-ish.

I don’t have the FE 35mm f/2.8, so I used my Nikon 17-55m f/2.8 for this test. When set to 35mm this actually works and covers the full frame. The Nikon is not a bad lens and should give us an idea of the type of images you can expect from a 35mm f/2.8 lens on full frame.

PEN E-P5 – Olympus 17mm f/1.8 – ISO 200

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Sony A7 – Nikon 17-55mm set to 35mm f/2.8 – ISO 200

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PEN E-P5 – Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 – ISO 200

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As expected, there are no huge differences between these images. The full frame image has a tiny bit more background blur. I’m sure the Sony FE 35mm f/2.8 resolves an incredible amount of detail, but these Olympus and Panasonic lenses are already plenty sharp.

The Olympus 17mm f/1.8 is often discarded as inferior. I’ve never had any issues with sharpness, and I love the way it renders…

PEN E-P5 – Olympus 17mm f/1.8 – ISO 200

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA50mm Lens Comparison

The Panasonic Leica 25mm f/1.4 is my favorite lens on micro four thirds. It has been my go to lens for the past year or so. On the other hand I’m happy I never sold my Nikon 50mm f/1.4 G (which I never liked on my D7000), because this lens works beautifully on the A7.

PEN E-P5 – Panasonic Leica 25mm f/1.4 – ISO 200

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Sony A7 – Nikon 50mm f/1.4 G – ISO 100

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In this comparison there is an obvious difference in background blur. If bokeh is your thing, full frame really wins here.

I can show some real-world samples as well. I really like the colors from the A7, like the following example. It is with this type of shot that full frame really shines: a comfortable 50mm field of view and great subject separation.

 Sony A7 – Nikon 50mm f/1.4 G – ISO 200

A7_50mm_example

The Panasonic Leica is no slouch either though, and the following photo really highlights its lovely rendering.

PEN E-P5 – Pansonic Leica 25mm f/1.4 – ISO 200

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85mm Lens Comparison

The Nikon 85mm f/1.8 G as my favorite lens on my DSLR. It performs really well on the A7 and I will probably keep it for a while. I am comparing it to the two typical portrait lenses one might use on micro four thirds: the equivalent 45mm f/1.8 and the longer 75mm f/1.8.

For this example the background is only 4 meters away. These are the typical portraits distances where it is more difficult to blow out the background because it is quite near.

PEN E-P5 – Olympus 45mm f/1.8 – ISO 200

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Sony A7 – Nikon 85mm f/1.8 G – ISO 200

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PEN E-P5 – Olympus 75mm f/1.8 – ISO 400

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The Nikon 85mm has quite a bit more background blur than the Olympus 45mm. However, if you look closely the 45mm renders a cleaner bokeh while the Nikon suffers from cat eyes in the corners. Though a different field of view, the 75mm Olympus renders roughly the same amount of background blur as the 85mm Nikon on full frame.

Here’s one last example shot with the A7 and the 85mm. This setup makes it really easy to make spontaneous people shots. This would be much harder on micro four thirds.

Sony A7 – Nikon 85mm f/1.8 G – ISO 1250

A7_85mm_example

So is full frame really better? I think it really depends. For extremely shallow depth-of-field a full frame camera is unbeatable. The photos are creamy and sometimes the gradients seem less harsh, more natural. I assume this is a result of better dynamic range.

Either way, the differences are subtle, and micro four thirds offers an incredible selection of small lenses. It is the system you want to carry with you on your travels. Both cameras (E-P5 and A7) make photography such a pleasure.

I hope this comparison was helpful to everyone out there on the fence between these two systems, or thinking about upgrading!

Dec 162013
 

The A7r VS. the D800

Andrew Paquettehis website is HERE

My Nikon D800 with Nikkor 35mm 1.4G side-by-side with my new A7r mounted with a Leica Summilux 35mm 1.4 ASPH lens. Quite a size difference for two cameras that are so equal in other ways!

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I have been wanting a Leica M240 or Monochrom ever since I realized that my D800 was a heavy camera, particularly when it had my Zeiss 15mm 2.8 ultra wide-angle lens mounted on it. It hadn’t seemed so bad at first, because it felt great in my hand and was comfortable to shoot, but carrying it in a backpack all day along with a backup lens caused back pain long before I was ready to get on a train and go home. Another thing that made me curious about the Leica was that it looked much less intrusive than the Nikon. When I would pull my Nikon out of my bag, people nearby would often step back and say “whoah!” as if I’d just pulled out a cannon or some other weapon. A camera that would not draw attention to itself sounded pretty good to me, but at €6,299 for the M240 and €6,899 for the Monochrom, any kind of Leica seemed out of reach.

It wasn’t just the tiny form factor that I wanted, because there were those magical Leica lenses. The photos I’d seen taken by these amazing little gems had a quality that no other lens could reproduce. I loved my Zeiss 15mm and my 100mm Makro-planar, but their smooth, creamy rendering style didn’t suit some subjects as well as others. My two 1.4G Nikkor didn’t either. Each of these lenses served a useful purpose and I liked them, but none could provide the kind of gritty high contrast realism the Leicas consistently produce. It didn’t matter though because it would cost about €10,000 to get a minimal Leica system plus lens, and I couldn’t afford to do that. I tried the I-shot-it contest a few times, but didn’t even get close. Unsurprising, considering the numbers of professionals entering for a chance at the Monochrom plus enough money to buy several good lenses. Then, I had a spot of good news: Christmas was coming up and someone felt I should have a Leica. Problem solved!

Now that I was being asked to pick out my own Christmas gift, I realized that I wasn’t so sure that I wanted a Leica camera after all. I had read some things about it on the internet that I didn’t like. One of the reviewers I read said the M240 would lock up frequently right when he needed it, forcing him to pop the battery and reset the camera, but that was complicated by the design, which forced him to remove the tripod mount before he could open the battery compartment door. Who wanted that hassle from a €6,299 camera? Even as a gift I’d feel guilty about spending money on something like that. And then there was the 24MP sensor. I liked the D800’s 36MP sensor and didn’t want to take a step back while spending three times as much money for the privilege. I had all but decided to get a new Zeiss Otus as my Christmas gift when I ran across an article here about the A7r. A camera smaller than the M240, without the lockup problems or stupid battery door design (from Steve: NOT, I never have had any lock up with ANY M 240 I have shot, and i have shot with several), a 36MP sensor, and it could mount Leica lenses. Perfect!

About a week later, I had the A7r in hand, with a Summilux 35mm 1.4 ASPH lens to see through. Nice! Now all I needed was something to shoot. I was sick for about ten days, preventing me from doing any serious shooting right away, though I did get a few shots, then this weekend I went out with the A7r and my D800 to see what the differences were. Before I get into that, here are a few things you need to know about using Leica glass on the A7r:

The Sony .ARW RAW file format has not been shared with Adobe. They have a new update for Photoshop and Lightroom that can read the files, but because it is reverse-engineered, it does not do as good a job at reading these files as Sony’s free ARW image conversion utility. However, and this is really important, the Sony software stinks big time. All it will do is read the file correctly and spit out a TIFF or JPG image for you. Forget about doing any fancy RAW editing there because the software really stinks. For this reason, I prefer to use the Adobe software even though it immediately reduces the sharpness of the image a little bit. Maybe I’ll change my mind later, but this is how I feel about it right now.

I used the Novoflex Leica to Sony adapter ring to mount the Summilux on the A7r. This adapter does not communicate any lens data to the A7r (unlike the Phigment Tech adapter I’ve heard about) so you will not get much in the way of EXIF data shooting this combination. It also means that for this article, I had no idea what f-stop I was using on the A7r. For that reason, I decided to ignore f-stop comparisons and just look at image quality.

Now for the review. To test the cameras, I put a pair of top quality 35mm lenses on each. For the A7r, I had a Summilux 35mm 1.4 ASPH. The D800 had a Nikkor 35mm 1.4G AP-S. I would have liked to try the D800E with a Zeiss 35mm 1.4, but I didn’t have either, so this is what I used. Besides, I wanted to test the difference between the AF Nikkor and the MF Leica lenses.

Shooting these two cameras is a very different experience. When taking pictures of anything moving, the D800 is able to quickly fire off a half-dozen shots or more while the A7r gets only one image and then the subject is gone. At first this really irritated me, but then I learned to be more careful when I tripped the shutter on the A7r. It meant that I wouldn’t have any backup images if I got the timing wrong, but on the other hand, I found I tended to get the composition I wanted more often than with the D800. I think this was because the rapid burst-firing of the D800 had made me lazy about composition, so I would just shoot a bunch of shots and then sort out the compositions later. With the A7r, I had to see that I had the composition (or was just about to) before pushing the button.

Crossing the bridge, shot with a Sony A7r + Leica Summilux 35mm 1.4 ASPH

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Crossing the bridge, shot with a Nikon D800 + Nikkor 35mm 1.4G

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Another difference between the cameras is the Live View and EVF on the A7r vs. the Live View and OVF on the D800. I didn’t expect this to be a big difference, but it really was. The resolution of the LV and EVF on the A7r is double that of the D800 LV, and the EVF is much easier to use than the D800’s OVF because of focus magnification. This may be because, at 48 years old, I need the extra resolution to see what I’m doing, but I had the distinct impression that my eyesight got worse whenever I switched to the D800, because it could only show so much on the LV due to its low maximum resolution. I had asked Steve about this by email and he suggested that I use the EVF on the A7r without focus magnification because it is much faster than trying to use focus mag. I tried it his way along with focus peaking (another cool feature of the A7r) and my way with focus mag. He was right that focus mag slowed down the process, but sometimes I felt it was necessary, so I used it anyway. Either way, I found that I got the focus more often with the A7r than with the D800. This was not because the Nikkor 35mm 1.4G was incapable of matching the Summilux (I assume) but because I couldn’t see what I was doing as well with the D800 as on the A7r.

Keeping warm by the canal. Shot with a Sony A7r + Leica Summilux 35mm 1.4 ASPH

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I had both cameras in the same big camera backpack, but found that whenever an unexpected opportunity for a shot arose, I grabbed the A7r by reflex. Maybe it was because it was smaller and easier to grab, or because it was less obtrusive. Whatever the reason, it was my instinct. All of my favorite shots were made this way: unexpected, quick, and without a D800 shot to compare with (sorry) because the opportunities came and went too fast to use both cameras. I did, however, get plenty of shots that were good comparatives, so let’s get into those.

Dynamic range test shot, St. Antoniuuskerk Kathedraal. Shot with a Sony A7r + Leica Summilux 35mm 1.4 ASPH

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I took a number of shots inside a couple of cathedrals in an old medieval town in the Netherlands. In St. Antoniuuskerk, I wanted to test the DR capabilities of the two setups. In my opinion, the Sony was much better the Nikon. Of the 30 shots I took, below is a side-by-side comparison of the best from each camera. Keep in mind that I have no idea what the f-stop settings were for the A7r so I didn’t bother comparing that. For all I know, these are totally different f-stops. However, these are the two best shots from either camera for DR, regardless of f-stop, so it shouldn’t matter.

Nikon on left, Sony on right. The Sony clearly has a lot more detail than the Nikon, and this was true of all the A7r shots vs the D800.

Highlight Detail comparison

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Figure 7 Another DR shot, made with the Sony A7r + Leica Summilux 35mm 1.4 ASPH

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The shot I took of the canal above was one of those fast shots I hadn’t planned on taking, so I don’t have a D800 shot to compare it with, but this a pretty decent shot for checking out the DR capabilities of the A7r sensor. This is not an HDR image, but a single image with some tweaking in LR to adjust the shadow brightness. Importantly, the shadow, darks, and highlights are not clipped anywhere in the image despite the fact that the sun is (almost) in the image and there are reflections everywhere.

Auto focus comparison. Nikon D800 on left, Sony A7r on right

MF vs AF comparison

This test really surprised me. On my D800’s Live View screen, it looked like the D800 had nailed the focus on the “GIANT” lettering on the down tube of my bike, but it is soft compared to the MF of the A7r + Summilux combination. I used focus mag and the EVF on the A7r for this shot, and it seems to have worked really well. In other shots, moving and static, I consistently got this result. Only rarely were the Nikon shots focused better, regardless whether I used AF or MF (I tried both after I noticed the problem.) Maybe this is because my eyes are 48 years old now, but it is still important to know, because I’m not the only person out there that has to wear reading glasses.

Another focus example, D800 on left, A7r on right

Yellow tree comparison

The aperture on these two shots is clearly different, with the Summilux more wide open than the Nikkor, but the important thing is that it is sharper. I really think this is because the higher resolution EVF allows me to see the details better than the D800’s LV or the OVF.

Colour test, D800 on left, A7r on right

Leaves comparison

I took some deep woods shots because of all the highly saturated colours to be found there after a recent rain storm. The A7r + Summilux always gave a wider colour range, though on a couple of shots I preferred the Nikkor results. In this example, we are looking at a pile of leaves from slightly different angles, but they are the same leaves. The D800 + Nikkor clearly has less colour range than the A7r + Summilux. In addition, despite the things I’d read about a magenta cast on the A7r when using Leica lenses, in this shot the Nikkor looks more magenta than the Leica.

Sharpness comparison, D800 on left, A7r on right

Sharp comparison

This comparison really surprised me. I took about 40 shots each with the D800 and the A7r of people crossing this bridge on foot and bicycles, as well as several of the bridge without any people around, and all of them are like this. The A7r shots are always sharper at the point of focus than the D800 shots. This doesn’t mean I always focused on the right subject with the A7r, I didn’t, but wherever the point of focus was, it was sharper than the D800. Because the people were sometimes moving quite fast, I did a better job of focusing on my subject with the D800 when the person was on a bicycle, but when walking, I had better luck with the A7r.

Shot with Nikon D800 + Nikkor 35mm 1.4G 

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Shot with D800 + Nikkor 35mm 1.4G

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Shot with A7r + Leica Summilux 35mm 1.4 ASPH

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Noise test, D800 on left and A7r on right

GK noise comparison

One of the few tests the D800 consistently won on was noise. It seemed like the A7r always had more noise. Maybe I just am not used to the camera yet, but it seemed like there was always noise in the A7r shots, no matter how low the ISO was.

Close-up sharpness test, D800 on left, A7r on right

Trunk comparison

In this tripod shot I could have sworn the focus on the D800 was perfect. At least, based on what I could see in the viewfinder, that’s what it looked like. And yet, the A7r is sharper. On the D800, I used Live View magnified to the maximum. It looked as sharp as could be detected with its resolution, but there was still some play in the lens where there was no discernable change in focus, meaning I needed more resolution to see what was going on. If my eyes were sharp enough, I might have been able to see the difference with the OVF, but with the EVF of the A7r I could see the difference and that got me better focus.

Another colour comparison, D800 on left, A7r on right

Color comparison

My wife likes the colour of the shot on the left better because of the more saturated blue reflections in the puddle, but I prefer the variety of greens in the A7r shot on the right. At first, I liked the D800 shot better also, but then I adjusted the tones a bit in LR and then I liked the A7r shot better. Perhaps it is just a matter of taste.

Market day, shot with the Sony A7r + Leica Summilux 35mm 1.4 ASPH

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And that’s it! Now I’m off to a conference in the UK, where I hope to get a few hours to take some more shots with the A7r. I’ll be carrying it on a tiny hip pouch, which is all that is needed for this extraordinary camera.

Andrew Paquette

Dec 122013
 

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Why I quit the Leica M bodies for the Sony A7R

By Didier Godme – His Flickr is HERE, his blog is HERE

I started being more serious about photography when buying my first Canon DSLR (20D) a few years back and then upgraded to the 5DMII. After 3 years of good use, my neck started feeling bad (especially with the 35 f1.4) so in 2011, my wife convinced me to cut my arm in order to be able to afford the M9-P…

I am not the type of guy who always buys the latest stuff, but since I’ve had 2 important failures in less than 2 years on the M9-P (wrong exposure + sensor dead), I decided to go for the Sony A7R. By chance it came out just when I had the 2nd failure and Leica lend me another M9-P during the 4-6 months repair time (no joke…). As a consequence, I had the opportunity to benchmark both. The goal of this article is not to say that M bodies are crap in terms of quality because it’s certainly not the case and not everybody had the same (bad) experience as I did.

My idea is simply to list all the great advantages from the Sony A7r over the M9-P which led me to stop using Leica M bodies.

- Weight: 465 vs 600 gr. OK, we’re talking peanuts here, but you can feel it straight away.

- Size: My dream has always been to get the smallest and lightest possible full frame camera. My M9-P was the first answer to that but Sony is now clearly the winner on both even if the difference is small.

- Ergonomic: I had to buy the grip for the M9-P to be able to have a strong control of it. The Sony is just perfect the way it came out from the factory.

- Iso: No need to go in depth on this one…M9 is already 4 years old and technology made loads of progress since then.

Sony A7r with Zeiss 55

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Leica M9P with 50 Summilux

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Sony A7r with Zeiss 35 2.8

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Leica M9P with 35 Summilux at 2.8

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Sony A7r with Zeiss 35 at 2.8

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Leica M9P with 35 Summilux at 2.8

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- Viewfinder: Although I really love the rangefinder type of viewfinder because it’s huge, clear and you can see what’s happening out of the frame, I always scratch my glasses because of the metal on the M9-P. It’s a detail, but now with the Sony A7R, I will not have to change glasses every year or think about wearing lenses each time I want to shoot.

- Framing: When using rangefinders, there is always a little shift between what was in the framelines and what you get. With the Sony A7R, what you see is what you get.

- Screen: There is no possible benchmark between the one from the M9-P and the Sony A7R. The one from the M9-P was already outdated when it came out and the Sony represents the last generation so the advantage is obvious. It’s not on this point I want to argue but on the tillable screen. It’s a simple option but it allows to increase framing possibilities tremendously and get more original pictures.

- Manual Focus: I’ve been using rangefinders for 5 years now (M7-M9-P) and have no trouble focusing manually on rangefinders. When I first read about focus peaking I had no idea what it was (I know…it’s a shame!) but Steve Huff wrote in his review that it was quite easy to focus manually with Leica M lenses on this body (http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2013/11/29/the-sony-a7-and-a7r-camera-review-by-steve-huff/). I tested it in the store where I bought it and was convinced in less than 30sec. In opposition to the rangefinder system where you need to use the center of the frame to focus, with focus peaking you can focus everywhere in the frame. The big advantage is that you don’t have to focus and then frame but can do both at the same time.

Sony A7r and 35 Summilux at ISO 6400

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Sony A7r and Zeiss 35 

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Leica M9P with 35 Summilux

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- Auto Focus: As I said, I am used to manual focus and like to control it. My wife however is not really keen on manual focusing and doesn’t take many pictures because of this. When purchasing the A7R I decided to go as well for the Zeiss 35 F2,8 so that she can use it and shot our baby. She (and I) just love this lens and now can use it on the camera. Just impossible on Leica M bodies…

- Speed: Leica M9-P goes up to 1/4000 sec while the A7R up to 1/8000 sec. Again, a small difference, but quite useful when shooting at 1.4F in daylight!

- Image Quality: Although the CCD sensor from the M9 is quite famous and my people LOVE it, I did some comparisons and find the Sony way more detailed. I also prefer the way colors come out.

- Sensor cleaning: Automatic sensor cleaning on the A7R, not on the M9.

All these reasons convinced me to go 100% for the Sony A7R. I am now waiting to get my M9-P back from repair to sell it straight away. The only thing I am going to miss from my old buddy is its legendary design…

To close the loop, standard warranty on my A7R is 4 YEARS!

Thumbs UP Sony!!!

Didier G.

Sony with Leica Summilux

Sony A7R with Zeiss 35 F2.8 iso 6400 2-

Sony with 35 Zeiss

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Nov 212013
 

Three quick pics! Sony A7r, A7 and Leica M 240 – From RAW, full size.

Just for fun!

Hey guys, yes, I am working on the Sony A7 and A7r  review so hang in there. These things take time :) Below is a quick snap I shot in my kitchen, handheld with an A7r, A7 and Leica M. The Sony cameras had the Zeiss 35 2.8 and I shot it at f/3.5. The Leica had an old 1950’s 35 3.5 Summaron attached.

You can click them for full size.

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Also, here are a couple of shots from Nashville, but these were converted from RAW this time :) EXIF is embedded in each file if interested. The 1st shot of the woman on the horse was shot with the 55 1.4 Otus, The 2nd shot of the man was shot with the Sony 35 2.8 and the third with the Zeiss Otus once again.

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See my Leica M review HERE. Pre-Order the A7 cameras HERE.

Nov 202013
 

Midnight Crazy Comparison! HIGH ISO – Sony A7, A7r, Leica M and E-M1!

It’s just past midnight and probably will be 1Am before I am finished writing this post but I just can not sleep and am not sure why. In fact, I feel wired for some reason. Maybe it is the fact that tomorrow I will be yet another year older and hitting the age of 44 yet my brain is telling me I am 25 and full of energy :) Nahhh. I think it was the fact that I was laying in bed thinking about what the high ISO performance of the Sony A7 and A7r is like side by side. I decided to get up from bed to go to my office and do a quick and dirty high ISO test between them. While I was at it I added the Leica M 240 and the Olympus E-M1. All cameras were using a 35mm or equivalent lens and all are OOC JPEGS without any NR turned on.

I noticed some reviews of the Sony were claiming mushy details at high ISO. Well, that is because they were using Noise Reduction. TURN IT OFF on ALL of your cameras for best results. It is my opinion that NR should not even be an option for a camera as it always obscures details and adds odd side effects to your images. Almost like a painting. The 1st thing I do when using a new camera is I turn off all noise reduction. It is off on my Olympus E-M1, the Sony RX10 ,the A7’s and the M 240 does not even have it as an option (from what I have seen) so Leica did it right.

The A7r…I am bonding with it…

The Sony A7r has been really attaching itself to me. After a few days I prefer it to the 7 in all ways..even shutter sound. It may be longer but it is a little more “silkier” it seems.  I also prefer the higher resolution as it is something I just do not have in any other camera. Having no AA filter is only good IMO and my favorite cameras do not have them (Leica M, E-M1, RX1R, etc). Also, the Sony/Zeiss 35 2.8 is THE lens to order with this system. I like the 55 1.8 as well but the 35 has something about it and I can tell it has those Zeiss qualities. Many have asked me how the A7r with Zeiss 35 2.8 compares to the RX1 or RX1R. Well, the A7r focuses faster, is higher resolution, just as sharp but you lose that f/2 and have to settle for f/2.8. But at f/2.8 you still get a great look to the image. Full frame + f/2.8 is good :)

A quick snap while in Ikea today with the A7r and 35 2.8 Zeiss. f/2.8 at ISO 400. JPEG.

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So at $2300 for the A7r and $800 for the 35 you are $300 over the cost of the Rx1 but you also have a built in EVF which would run you almost $500 for the RX1R. So in many ways, the A7r is the better bet unless you want the smaller RX1R with the f/2 Zeiss.

So again, my full review is in the works for these new A7 cameras, so check back soon for the full detailed report with loads of images. I will also be in Los Angeles next week with some buddies at a studio testing out these cameras in a studio situation as well as some quick street work. Can’t wait and these images and my report on them will be in the full review.

The Crazy Comparison – HIGH ISO!

Hey! This was supposed to be a High ISO Crazy Comparison! Lol..well, here you go!

The Sony’s had the 35 Zeiss 2.8 mounted, the Leica has an old 35 3.5 Summaron mounted and the Olympus had the 17 1.8 mounted for a 35mm Equiv. ALL shots were JPEG, noise reduction OFF, OOC color and Exposure and AWB. The Sony and Olympus were shot at f/2.8 and the Leica f/4.

It is not a sharpness test but a noise test so here we go!

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So there you go. Olympus did the worst with AWB, Leica did the best. As for noise at ISO 6400? What do YOU think? 100% crops are embedded so you must click the images above for the larger size. What I think is that ALL of them did great for a midnight indoor high ISO test in my office at ISO 6400 :). These days, high ISO is great on all decent cameras.

It is now 12:51 AM..and I am ready for bed..finally :) Have a great night (or morning) everyone!

Steve

PS – You can pre-order the A7 cameras at my pre-order link page HERE!

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