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.

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May 032014
 

By Request: Nikon V3 vs Nikon J1 – OOC JPEG

P1060095

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.

v3iso3200

j1iso3200

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
 

ttgghg

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

debby2.8

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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

cropfujihoover

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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.

fuji

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

A7_50mm14

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!

andrewtitle

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

Bridge walker sony 001

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

Bridge walker nikon 002

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

Fire sony 002

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

ANT sony 001

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

Canal sony 004_1

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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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!

Oct 042013
 

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Crazy Comparison Part 2: Fuji X-M1, Leica M 240, Olympus E-M1 and Panasonic GX7

Woooooooo! It never fails, ever! Every time I have done a crazy comparison (and I have done many over the years) people get all kinds of bent out of shape. Anyone who knows me or this site will know I do these comparisons FOR FUN. They are real results, posted for all to see but these are cameras that are not even meant to be compared! The X-M1 is the budget Fuji. The GX7 is the top end Panasonic and the Leica..well, we all know what that is.

But it is fun sometimes to put underdogs in a race to see if they can get close to winning. It’s a classic game really. Does anyone not remember the tortoise racing the rabbit in old Saturday Morning cartoons? So to all of you getting all bent out of shape and the Fuji owners feeling like they need to attack and defend, relax. All I am doing is showing real results from all cameras. I was motivated to do this because so many trash Micro 4.3 as a system when they have zero clue about what it is, what it does or the results that can indeed come from it. It’s just as capable as APS-C as i have always said but in many ways MORE SO. Why? Because you will never miss a shot due to dodgy AF. You will have a solid well made machine that inspires you. You will have a selection of some of the best fast primes available. But a camera is a personal choice. We all have different likes, different passions and different opinions.

So as I showed in the 1st test, Micro 4/3 can hang with the big guys, and it appears I ruffled some Fuji feathers with my own opinions on the Fuji build and AF. I have been saying it since the X-Pro 1 launch and it still remains. The Fujis need work to be exceptional. I strongly feel Fuji is working on this and in 2014 we may see something special from them. Then when everyone upgrades and says “Wow, it is so much faster to focus and I never miss a shot“…well, then my honest comments on the current X bodies will prove to be true :) It will happen. Watch and see.

When you own a camera system and are dedicated to it there is something that happens along the way. You forgive it for its shortcomings..you bond with it and you have no idea what other cameras can do because you shoot your camera. I do that with the Leica! I like shooting it so much that I forgive it for its off-color in some lighting, I forgive it for being $7000 and I forgive it for having a slow clunky EVF :) Many feel the way I do about their Fuji or Olympus or Sony or Panasonic as I do about my Leica. But whatever we do, we should never lose track of WHY we use what we use. Because we love it, enjoy it and it makes us want to go out and photograph. Whatever that camera is for you it is the right one :)

In fact, we should not even worry about new cameras or new tech as long as we are happy with our current camera. But we live in a “Disposable Society” where we buy, sell, buy sell and buy and sell. Sites like mine do not help this either! Believe me, I am well aware.

At the same time, many of us love technology. We enjoy using new cameras, testing them, trying out new lenses. It brings us joy as it is apart of our passion. So in many ways it is perfectly fine because we only live once, might as well enjoy it while we can.

What I am getting at is that these comparisons are called “Crazy Comparisons’ for a reason. Have fun with it and take it for what it is, a comparison of mismatched cameras. :)

I will always stand by my word though as I do not lie or make up nonsense for  the sake of it. I report my true feelings so if I say the Fuji bodies feel cheap to me, that is what I mean. If I say the Pansonic GX7 has a cheap feeling dial it is because I feel it does. If I say the Leica is overpriced it means I feel it is. None of this means camera A, B or C is crap. They are all fantastic in their own way.

In any case, enjoy the next set of comparisons which will include a high ISO test and another image shot at f/2 with each camera.

BTW, to those who say I hate Fuji, I do not. The fuji X100 and X100s are some of the best cameras you can get and the X100s focuses as a Fuji should. It is one that Fuji improved and they did a great job. They need to do this in a new X-Pro 2 and X-E2 and then we will be getting somewhere.

HIGH ISO TEST

For this test I am testing ISO as I ALWAYS have for the past 5 years, so those who want to complain about it I suggest you do not even look at the results. 

I test cameras in a real world way, always have, always will. I take a camera and use it as 99% of buyers would. I turn it on and use it. I do not set the metering to match another brand of camera, I use the cameras metering as is. ALL cameras have different ISO discrepancies. ALL of them. What is ISO 1600 on one camera is not really 1600 on another. Just how it is. But when I use say a GX7 I am not trying to set it to meter like a Sony RX1. No, I use it as it is. So this test will be done with each camera metering how  they meter at any given ISO so you see WHAT YOU WILL GET from said camera. Real world. 

So each camera was set to ISO 3200 for this test as that is as high as most of us ever will go and many will not even touch that high of an ISO these days. But for the sake of testing, ISO 3200 sounds good.

With all of that out-of-the-way, let us take a look at three cameras with three different sensor sizes and what to expect from ISO 3200 with each one in a normally lit home environment. Testing high ISO with studio lights is ridiculous. Who shoots high ISO in a studio light environment? No one. Again, real world because with less light we see the true ISO performance when we will really be using high ISO. 

YOU MUST CLICK THEM FOR FULL SIZE and The Olympus E-M1 was delivered just as I was setting up this test so I included it in this ISO test!

Leica M 240 ISO 3200 – f/8

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Fuji X-M1 ISO 3200 – f/8

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Panasonic GX7 ISO 3200 – f/8

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and the Olympus E-M1 which was delivered just as I was setting up this test! - ISO 3200 – f/8

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100% crops to make it easier

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The CLEAR winner at ISO 3200 is the Leica – richness, color, noise..all beats the other three. The Fuji is next in line with a sharp image (all were shot at f/8 on a tripod) and some noise where the Micro 4/3 are still looking good IMO and up there with many APS-C cameras. In print or web size, you would not even see the noise and this is at 3200! Even so, the Leica is VERY far ahead here IMO, as it should be for that kind of premium :)

One more image from RAW test (Olympus E-M1 was not in my hands for this one)

Leica M 240 – 50 Summilux at f/2 – MUST click it to see larger/full size

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Fuji X-M1 – Zeiss Touit 32 1.8 at f/2 – MUST click it to see larger size

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GX7 – Nokton 25 at f/2 – from RAW – resized – MUST click it to see it correctly

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So there you go. You can take a look at the samples and see for yourself. They are all good at producing lovely looking files. :) Me, I prefer the GX7 and M 240 as I find the Fuji to be off color and not as good looking of a file. If this were taken in Studio light, the Fuji would have shined. But in natural light, the other two, to me, do a better job.

Steve

I will leave you with one from the GX7 and 25 0.95 wide open and up at the closest focus distance. Some funky color PP here as well :) 

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Oct 032013
 

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Crazy Comparison! Leica M 240, Fuji X-M1 and Panasonic GX7

Part 1 – static subject

 

Part 2 IS HERE

(Part 2 will be up tomorrow. High ISO and Blind Test)

Goes to show..any camera these days will do the trick :) Below are a few sets of images from three cameras and three equivalent lenses.

1. The Leica M 240 and Leica 50 Summilux ASPH 1.4 Lens – Total Value: $11,000 US dollars. – 50mm true FOV

2. The Fuji X-M1 and Zeiss 32 1.8 Touit Lens – Total Value: $1,600 US Dollars – 50mm equivalent

3. The Panasonic GX7 and Voigtlander 25 0.95 Lens – Total Value – $1,900 US Dollars – 50mm equivalent 

I wanted to see if the less expensive options could even get close to the Leica in overall image quality. I believe that most cameras today can give you superb quality with the right lenses. The three cameras listed here all have a different size sensor, which means the depth of field will be different with each result. From the 1st test below I am listing which image was shot with what camera and lens. You can click on any of the images to see the full size file from RAW. I matched the white balance on all to the same settings during the RAW conversion and I let the cameras meter the scene using their base ISO. My favorite rendering  came from the Leica M and 50 Lux at f/2. On image quality alone though, you will not see a $9,000 US difference here.

That difference in price comes from the fact that it is A: A Leica and Leica cameras are always VERY expensive. 2: It is a rangefinder, and the only digital RF available, and 3: Usability is a WHOLE other thing with the Leica. It’s a fantastic thing. 

My least favorite of the 1st shots came from the Fuji even though there is no lack of sharpness. Something about them just seem off to me and they seem to fall flat a little. I would choose a GX7 or E-M1 with a Voigtlander prime any day of the week over the Fuji and Zeiss 32 Touit. That’s just me, your tastes will vary but shooting the GX7 and Voigtlander was much more enjoyable in all ways to the Fuji set.

All of these were shot on a tripod at base ISO of each camera. You can click each image to download the full size file. These were shot as RAW with white balance adjusted to match (3000). Details are on each image and EXIF has been embedded. I let each camera choose its own exposure metering because that is what you will expect to get from the camera when in real world use. You would not use  the Leica meter in a Fuji camera and vice versa, so what you see is what you get.

1st up, the Leica shots…f/1.4 and then f/2

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Now the Fuji shots..1.8 and then f/2 – Typo on the images, I know the lens is a 32 not a 35.

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and the Panasonic GX7 and Voigtlander set starting at 0.95, then 1.4 and then f/2

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And a 100% crop from all three at f/2 – GX7 is sharpest, then Fuji, then Leica. Color? Leica, then GX7 then Fuji. To me, the IQ champ is Leica and GX7 hands down even though Leica is the least sharp. When looking at the entire image and rendering  this is how I judge things. 

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Many say that Fuji is the new Leica but this is actually far from fact. In fact, Micro 4/3 is more like the new Leica. How so?

When Leica started they were all about SMALL size, SMALL fast prime lenses and fantastic usability. The Fuji X-M1 may be small, but the lenses are not and there is no viewfinder. The Fuji is also the worst of these three when it comes to usability (had 4 mis-focused shots during this test due to the camera not locking on to the right spot, and I told it where to AF). Micro 4/3, specifically the new E-M1 and GX7 are superb with usability, AF, speed, build and feel and they specialize in small size WELL MADE bodies and small size well made fast primes. With the right lenses, these cameras are superb in quality and when shooting with one of those Voigtlander 0.95 lenses you feel like you are shooting an old Leica or similar.

So to me, Micro 4/3 is closer to being the new modern day Leica than Fuji. I see the Fuji X IC Bodies as an immature imitation in looks alone. Maybe in 2-3 more years but today? No. (X100s is a different story). The X-M1 is an odd camera. BAD ergonomics with big lenses on a think tiny body with dodgy AF, no EVF, cheap feel, and other odd ball things going on with it. A departure from the X-Pro 1 and X-E1 for sure, and not sure why. Next to the GX7 set, the X-M1 FEELS like a toy made for a child while the GX7 FEELS like a tool made for a photographer. Sounds harsh but I am telling you my honest opinions after shooting and handling all three of these. Of course the Leica is in another league  when it comes to build and feel as it should be. The Fuji also had the worst color as the pedal in the photo is closest to the Leica and Panasonic. The Fuji is quite a bit off so I am hoping Fuji ups their game in 2014 with something that takes it all 3 steps up.

So what about Leica? They are still around so why even talk about “A new Leica”? Well, unfortunately Leica has priced many out of their cameras and lenses as to where only the hardcore Leica fans and hardcore enthusiasts are buying them. $11,000 is a lot of cash to spend on one camera body and one lens, especially when other full frame cameras can meet or exceed its capabilities. We are all waiting for some sort of Sony announcement of course (as per the rumor sites) and if Sony does release the rumored Full Frame IC camera with Olympus’s 5-Axis IS built in and a killer EVF with the ability to mount and shoot Leica M glass for half price or less of a Leica M..well, what do you think is going to happen?

Well, then maybe we can say “Sony is the new Leica”, and for once, that statement may turn out to be 100% true. We need to wait and see what pans out of these rumors.

I think it is all about vision, creativity and pushing the envelope. Sony is doing this. Olympus is doing this. Leica is not really doing this in 2013. The M is a huge improvement to the M9 of course and I love mine to death but facts are facts, and in 2014 we may be seeing some very huge leaps once again in camera tech and what we get for our money. Of course, it is all about the person behind that camera and in all of this reality, none of these silly tests mean a thing. All of these cameras will create works of art if the person looking through them has the vision to create.

Still, these are always fun to do  and most of you seem to enjoy it :)

So a quick breakdown of comparison #1:

My opinions…

Leica M wins this one for me in IQ and camera build, feel, usability.

GX7 comes in 2nd with great usability, decent build and nice IQ with that Voigtlander lens. Plenty of “Bokeh” for my tastes. I highly recommend the 25 0.95

Fuji X-M1 comes in last for build (feels cheap) and IQ and usability due to no EVF, slow and sometimes inaccurate AF. 

Look for part 2 tomorrow – HIGH ISO and three shots that will be unmarked for you to tell ME which camera took which image. Should be fun :) I expect the Fuji to win high ISO though I will be testing with zero NR.

Part 2 is HERE

My GX7 review should be up next week as well, and then I will be starting to shoot the Olympus E-M1 for 2 weeks before that full review. Stay tuned!

 

Sep 202013
 

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Spooky Fun with 50mm. Summilux, Summarit and Nikkor 5cm

I was going through my bag today and wiping down my Leica M 240 as it was getting full of smudges, dust and skin oils. I looked down into my bag and stared at the three 50mm lenses that lay inside on this particular day.

  1. The 50 Summilux ASPH
  2. The 50 Summarit 1.5 (Vintage)
  3. The 5cm Nikkor 1.4 (Vintage 50mm)

The Nikkor 5cm, 50 Summilux ASPH and 50 Summarit

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First of all, there is not much I can say that has not been said of the legendary and amazing 50mm Summilux ASPH. I still say it is the best 50mm in the world for any camera system. While expensive at $3995, many times it is all one needs with a Leica M body. One camera, one lens. If there was ever any one lens to own with a Leica, this is it. I have written so much about this lens over the years and have shot it with an M6, M7, MP, M8, M9, MM and now the M.

It is a fantastic lens that everyone should at least try once in their life if they shoot with a Leica M or Zeiss Ikon or Epson RD-1 (when I 1st used the lens it was with an RD-1 years ago). Also, if those Sony rumors are true, and a high-end FF mirrorrless is on the way then a lens like the 50 Lux will be a hot commodity once again. I imagine it would do amazingly well on something such as a Sony FF, if indeed  that really happens.

If so, Leica Dealers Ken Hansen and the Pro Shop have plenty in stock right now. :)

So after looking at these lenses in my bag today and cleaning them up a bit I asked Debby to throw on a Halloween mask I picked up a few days ago for $10. It’s creepy as well as spooky and with Halloween coming up soon, I figured it could come in handy for a creepy lens test :)

So what I will show you first is a series of three images. One taken with the 50 Summilux ASPH at 1.4, one with the classic Leica Summarit 1.5 at 1.5 and one with the 50mm Nikkor 1.4 Vintage RF Lens. Then I will talk a little more about the Nikkor and Summarit and why at least one of these lenses is good to have in ones stable of lenses, even if you have a Summilux already.

The 1st image: Taken with the 50 Summilux ASPH at 1.4, wide open. Click it to see the detail. It’s clean, and it has the micro contrast the older lenses lack.

summliuxcolor1

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The classic 50 Summitar at 1.5. This lens is a fave of mine though I only use it sparingly due to the special effect Bokeh. 

summaritcolor1

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The 5cm Nikkor 1.4 – A classic and sometimes hard to find lens in the rangefinder world. This one is LTM mount and needs an adapter that costs $10 to fit an M. It can focus to .4 meters but you must use live view to do so.

nikkorcolor1

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Three images of the same subject with each lens wide open. Each lens renders in a totally different way when shot at the maximum aperture. The Summilux is contrasty, crisp and has a smoother Bokeh effect with higher micro contrast. The Summitar is wild, with a melting blob of blur behind the subject (which is actually pretty sharp considering the age of the lens) and finally, the Nikkor. The Nikkor is a Sonnar design so gives an even different rendering with that classic glow we expect from older vintage glass. Which one do you prefer? Do you have a vintage heart? Hmmmmmm.

Two more:

Converted to B&W with the DXO film pack, this one was with the Summarit. Many HATE the look of this lens, I LOVE it but only on certain occasions will I use it. These lenses can be had for as little at $350 and as high as $800 depending on condition. I have had 4 of them looking for the best one and all were fantastic and in fact, the one that was the most beat was the best performer.  The subject pops out of a blob of blur! Click it for a much better view!

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again with the Summilux ASPH, but this one at f/2. 

summiluxf2

Summarit 1.5

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So why would I own all of these 50mm lenses? To be honest I own two other 50′s because I am a 50mm junkie! But remember, these classic lenses are cheap when you think of “Leica” pricing so it is easy to own multiples when talking about classic vintage glass. For example, the 50 Summarit I settled with cost me $399. It has some slight cleaning marks, a couple of visible marks on the front element and the barrel looks old and worn. But, the focus is spot on and it was the sharpest of the ones I have owned and tried by a slight margin. So $399 vs $3995, big difference. But the Summarit is nothing like a Summilux ASPH. They are totally different beasts and are tricky to master :)

Two more from the 50 Summarit 1.5 wide open. They have a unique character that only this lens will give.

gumwallkid

summ

toddman

The Nikkor 5cm 1.4 LTM

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As for the Nikkor, I have been curious about this lens for a long while now after testing Ashwin Rao’s copy of it at his home in Seattle. I liked the fact that it was a Sonnar design AND had close focus ability, much closer than the usual .7 meters of the modern Leica glass. I believe the Nikkor focuses as close as 1.4 feet compared to 2.3 feet of the Lux ASPH. But to use this feature you need Live View because once you pass .7 meters it loses rangefinder coupling and can not be focused with the RF.

Still, it offers a Sonnar quality and close focusing in a small and tiny solid all metal package. I found an EX condition copy that is MINT+ with perfect focus, no damage and in chrome for $599. Not exactly cheap, but again, much less than buying new Leica glass that will run you anywhere from $2000-$11000. Plus, experimenting with classic lenses is fun and they are easily resold if you decide the lens is not for you.

After all of this time and finding the Nikkor 5cm 1.4 close focus lens I am not 100% I will keep it. It is gorgeous, it is haze free, fungus free and scratch free but at the same time, I am not sure I will ever use it when I have a Lux, Summarit and even a Nokton and Cron lying around! I am a 50mm madman!

The Nikkor 5cm 1.4 LTM on the M 240

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The M240 is a pretty amazing camera, and fun as well. With so many adapters available today you can mount SO many lenses on to the camera and use them due to the M now having Live View. Want to mount a Canon lens, Nikon Lens or even a Soviet Helios 40-2? Go for it. Using the Live View and EVF you can focus these lenses even though they are not RF coupled. Sure MANY mirrorless cameras can do this, but the Leica M 240 is the only one that is full frame, at least for now.

I expect that over the next couple of years I will try a slew of lenses out just for fun because some lenses render in such a unique way that they are worth owning just for those occasions when you want that look.

Old vintage rangefinder lenses can be found easily, some are very rare and some are readily available. Some are insanely cheap starting at $90 and some are pricey in the $1500+ range. I like having a modern 50 and a vintage 50. Which one I grab depends on my mood really :) My fave vintage 50mm lens is the Leica Summarit 1.5 in LTM mount. I also loved the Canon Dream Lens but at $3k, could not justify it as  keeper as it is a special effect lens. The Nikkor 5cm is also very nice and the close focus sets it apart along with the classic and vintage glow. There are so many 50′s out there but I warn you…if you start trying them out it can get addicting! SO be warned :)

To those reading who own or have shot with vintage 50mm lenses, which is YOUR favorite and why?

Sep 122013
 

Quick Comparison: Canon 6D with 35 1.4 vs NEX-7 and Speed Booster 35 1.4

Before sending back the Canon 6D and lenses that I reviewed I ran out and snapped two test shots against a Sony NEX-7 with a Canon EOS to E-Mount Metabones Speedbooster Adapter. As most of you already know, the speedbooster takes your APS-C sensor camera and pretty much gives you the normal field of view and extra stop of light. It Increases Angle of View by 0.71x and increases the maximum Aperture by one stop. It’s a nifty device that can give you a full frame look and feel on an APS-C camera. Much has been written about the speed booster here and on other websites across the internet but I thought it would be fun to see the nEX-7 go against the 6D with the same glass.

So below are two generic test shots. One with the Canon 85L and 6d against the NEX-7 and 85L using the Speed Booster. Another with the 6D and Sigma 35 1.4 against the NEX-7 and 35 1.4 with Speed Booster.

1st shot, tripod, Canon 6D and 85L at 1.2 – click it for larger – this is direct from camera, RAW.

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Now with the NEX-7 and Speedbooster – 85L at 1.2. Notice the Bokeh..like a big blob compared to the Canon lumps. The Bokeh is from a TV in the back. Click image for larger. The cameras were set to A mode and aperture set to wide open. Cameras chose exposure to see if the NEX would expose correctly with the Speedbooster.

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Now the Canon 6D with Sigma 35 1.4 at f/2

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and the NEX-7 with 35 1.4 at f/2

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One thing to note: The NEX-7 with Speed Booster focused so slow it could never really be used in reality. Manual focus would be the way to go. With the 35 1.4 the NEX-7 and speedbooster would not work in Auto Focus so it had to be manually focused. The Speed B ooster is expensive but I can see how it could be useful to give you your focal length equivilant and Bokeh back to you when shooting on an APS-C camera. There is also a speed booster made for Micro 4/3 (Nikon G or Leica R glass to Micro 4/3) and Fuji X as well (Nikon).

You can see all available speedboosters HERE at B&H Photo.

Sep 012013
 

David and Goliath – The Nikon V1 vs. the Nikon D600 – Wide Angle

by Steven Norquist

Hello Steve,

You always have such interesting comparisons of lenses on your forum that I thought I would do a little test for your readers. I have really enjoyed using my V1 with the 6.7-13mm lens. The pictures the V1 produces with this lens have perfect sharpness edge to edge and corner to corner, seemingly an infinite depth of field which is perfect for my style of photography which is architecture and landscape.

Also this lens/camera combo has excellent contrast balanced with nice dynamic range so highlights don’t blow out and shadows don’t lose detail.

But how good is this combo really?

I decided to find out.

I borrowed my friend’s Nikon D600 and rented the Nikon 16-35mm wide-angle lens. This lens is Nikon’s newest and best full frame wide-angle.

I decided to compare it directly to the V1 with 6.7-13mm lens.

The V1 with 6.7-13mm is a $800 setup.

The D600 with 16-35mm is a $3300 setup.

UPDATE: In every test, the top image is from the Nikon V1 and the bottom image is from the D600!

As you can see below the D600 is a beast with this lens on it.
The V1 looks like a little toy by comparison.

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The D600 with this lens is very, very heavy and I cannot even consider roving the country or the city with this thing for hours and doing the kinda of photography I do.

Just having the D600 and the V1 around my neck for the length of time it took to do these samples made my neck really hurt!

Here are the test parameters I used for this comparison:

  • Each photo was taken at the same time, hand held one right after the other.
  • Focus was automatic spot focus on the same exact target for each camera.
  • ISO used was the base of 100 for both cameras.
  • Exposure was Automatic Matrix metering.
  • No exposure compensation was used.
  • Focal length was 18mm and 35mm for the D600, and 6.7mm and 13mm for the V1.
  • This assured that the equivelnt focal lengths as far as composition area would be the same.
  • The D600 was shot at F11 and the V1 at F4. I tried to make the depth of field of both cameras as close as possible.
  • Everything was shot in raw and digital development and post processing (Adobe Raw and then Photoshop CS5) was the same process for both camera’s raw files.
  • Each image was then re-sized to 1200 pixels on the long side and layered into a single image for direct comparison on the web.

Here is the challenge for your readers: In each of the four tests, which camera is which???

Good luck!

For those readers that are interested, you can view my other V1 pics with the 6.7-13mm at this link.

TEST 1

Test 1

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TEST 2

Test 2

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TEST 3

Test 3

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TEST 4

Test 4

 

Aug 302013
 

Leica M9 vs Fuji X-E1 with Metabones Speed Booster by Christophe Carlier

Hi steve,

Firstly I want to thank you for putting my daily inspiration on your site.

I recently received a Metabones Speedbooster ring that allows me to get my Nikon F lens on my fuji X-E1 while keeping their 24×36 angle. A 50mm is a 50mm, a 35mm is a 35mm ….. and the more it will keep the effects of depth of field.

Manufacturing side of the ring is good quality, well-built. Its size is limited (see photo below) and reasonable weight 200 grams.

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  • The weight of the whole XE1 + SpeedBooster plus 35mm f2 about 740 grams
  • M9P + 40mmf1.4 about 820 grams and FM2 + 50mmf1.8 about 740 grams.

The results photos, first 3 pictures are taken at 35mm (fuji XE1 SpeedBooster + nikkor 35mm f2 afd, facing M9P + Voigltander 40mm f1.4 at 1.4),

Image on the left image will be with the X-E1 – right side is with M9-P – MUST click them for larger version

S.B. comp fuji leica 35mm I

S.B. comp fuji leica 35mm III

S.B. comp fuji leica 35mm II

The following 3 images are at 50mm (XE1 fuji SpeedBooster + nikkor afd 50mm f1.8, facing M9P + canon ltm 50mm f1.2 at 1.4).

the pictures left XE1 and right M9P – again, you must click them for larger

S.B. comp fuji leica 50mm I

S.B. comp fuji leica 50mm II

S.B. comp fuji leica 50mm III

All pictures are taken in jpg, and only to compare the bokeh from each camera and lens.

What do you think?

Sincerely,

Christophe

www.christophecarlier.com

 

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