Sep 182015

Photo’s with a Story

By Dirk Dom


When I show people my photographs many ask me what exactly they are seeing. That is a reasonable question, because I shoot quite a lot of abstracts. I generally tell them to appreciate the images on their own grounds. Most people, however, expect photographs to be representative and are not accustomed to having to use their imagination.

I made a booklet which originated as an exercise in playful interpretation of my photos. I picked out about seventy that I particularly liked and challenged myself to create tales inspired by the images. It proved surprisingly difficult. Some of my images seem so simple and have such an impact that I couldn’t think of anything. In some cases I made up stories; in others I wrote down impressions inspired by what I was looking at — what ever came to mind, and sometimes, when the creation of the photo itself was a good story, I shared that too. At random intervals I had left the reader/observer the opportunity to make up a story himself.

This is an excerpt of the book with ten photographs.


The photo above is exercise one. What does it make you think of?

Alien Encounter

A Star Seed floats through space, on its way to the core of the Galaxy to reproduce. Its solar sail is folded up, so far away from any star.

A Guffaw, who normally eats cometary cores, sees the Star Seed as a delightful snack.

The Star Seed reacts to its approach with a giant electric discharge. Intense plasma wires light up in the interstellar medium.

The Guffaw changes its mind and its direction.

The Star Seed floats on, on its journey of millions of years, on track to another star.

With thanks to Larry Niven


Brown Dwarf Life Form

DENIS-P J082303.1-491201 b, part of an ultra cold binary system, has a mass of about 28 Jupiter masses. This brown dwarf is 67.7 light-years or 399 trillion miles from Earth. It was discovered in 2013.

The life which developed there consists of twenty-mile long single-celled organisms (hydrogen filled bubbles made out of polyethylene) who float in the atmosphere and are bioluminescent. These are colonized by photosynthetic organisms. Seemingly there are similarities with the life on Jupiter.

The photograph is made in May, 2144, by the Da Vinci atmospheric probe which flew through a life form, filming, during its descent to the core.

Exploration of brown dwarves is considered a low priority.


Drowning Moth

Beginning of March, 2014, I walked in the Zevenbergen Forest, Ranst.

On the banks of the ditches you can make photographs with lots of contrast, so I walked along the water.

About six feet from shore, this drowning moth. I planned to save it, but first, a quick photograph. A first image without paying attention to composition. Then, this image, with the moth carefully lined up in the dark reflection of a tree. I wanted to take a few more photographs, but the wave pattern the wings made stopped after about five seconds and didn’t start again. I was disappointed. Suddenly I realized the moth was dying and it was finished.

Quickly I looked for a branch, but the only one I found was too short. Pity. The moth no doubt served as a protein rich delicacy to a bird or a frog. It’s a beautiful, but sad shot.

Life is so easily extinguished.


Nuclear blast

I was happily taking shots of forest anemones when World War Three started. The bomb incinerated the Antwerp port at twenty miles distance.

I live, but what good does it do? The anemones bloomed for the last time.



Microvilli (singular: Microvillus, lat. Villus “brushy hair (from animals), wool”) are microscopic protuberances of the cellular membrane which drastically increase the surface of cells. Microvilli are found in the brush border of the small intestine. Because of the large surface macromolecules and ions can be absorbed more easily.

The brush border is the homogeneous layer which is visible at the apical side of the enterocytes (absorbing cells in the small intestine) and the epithelial cells in the proximal tubulus. If this tissue is looked at through a light microscope, one can see that the brush border consists of a great number of very closely stacked microvilli. These microvilli make for a twentyfold increase of the small intestine surface. This increase in surface makes the intake of nourishment much easier.


Me, as a Photographer

This is a fun one.

So I went to take this photograph. At first I wanted to go alone, but I took my sister Nadine along to take the shot.

I hung about ten camera’s around my neck and arranged them in such a way that they showed nicely. But this hopelessly entangled the straps.

After about five minutes the forty pounds of camera started to really hurt and I wanted to take them off.

I couldn’t unknot them. The weight became unbearable. In the end I had to lie down and make my sister disentangle them.

I don’t want to think about what would have happened if I had done this alone.


Love is:
Putting your paws on the eyes of your beloved.



This is how the Daft Punk music looks to Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo.

The Visisonor, developed by the University of Antwerp in 2017, translates the impressions of the other senses to a visual signal.

Apple bought the patent.

In 2019 110 million Visisonors were sold, despite the violent price tag.

With Thanks to Isaac Asimov


Second Exercise

Oh, yes, believe it or not, this is a photograph!

I can’t make up any story with this.

Can you?


Well, hope you enjoyed it!

And, my apologies!



Aug 262015
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A Manual Approach to Wedding Photography

by Joao Medeiros

I’m not comfortable writing. Images, particularly photography are what drives me. Since very young Art was part of my life, I went from painting and waiting to be an architect to abandon everything for a life in the theatre, just to pursue a career in Jazz playing trumpet.

But at my twenties, I was struggling to make it and everyone was making sure I knew I had to earn money to be a successful individual. Money was never my interest, I’m passionate about Art, any form of it. But Photography had a degree of intimacy and control that I had never experienced.

I went to college to take a photography bachelor and complemented it with a bachelor in Fine Arts and a master’s degree in Visual Arts teaching, things went on for a while, drifting in teaching, corporate/event photography, restoration related jobs before I finally found the one area where I had complete creative freedom. A freedom that allows me to choose the gear that gives me pleasure while creating and expressing myself through Photography and eventually sharing my Vision.

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Weddings are something that has been with society since we had the need to express our love for our life companion. Happiness is something that needs to be shared and celebrated with our loved ones. And that’s what I like about them, it’s all about family and friends making the most of Life. When I was in college, I did the whole course with only an Olympus OM 1 and a 50mm, since then manual focus is second nature to me, even when I had top DSLR’s AF never grew on me. But when I used the first serious EVF (Panasonic GH2) I knew what I wanted and what I wanted to see while composing. Eventually, when I step up to weddings I needed the best dynamic range and colour I could get my hands on it, so I bought a Sony A99 and a Nikon D800e to figure out my needs. After a year the Sony won me, not because it was superior to the D800e, it was Sony’s approach to photography that made it. The fully articulated LCD, I. S and Minolta’s heritage all over the place made the A99 a superior tool in my hands.

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When the mirrorless Sony A7 appeared on the scene I had no doubts and bought one immediately with a set of Zeiss ZM and Voigtlander lenses with the VM close adapter. Since then, shooting has been a real pleasure. Nothing beats feeling your shots, even when we are capturing fleeting moments like kisses, exchanging vows/wedding rings or sharing a secret while on the dance floor at 4 am. Having a small, robust camera with the best glass in the industry makes me feel very confident and secure that when I get home, I have all I need to put together a body of work that reflect my vision. That’s the main lesson I learned, you really need to follow your own unique vision of things.

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We are all different, but you really need to push beyond the limits to reach for that inner voice. Recently I added the amazing sigma Art 35mm f 1.4 to my set, the only complain is its sheer size when compared to my little Zeiss ZM 35mm f2. My workflow is pretty straightforward, I use B&W mode to concentrate on composition and focus while having red peaking and magnify to guarantee that every moment is in focus. For 75% of all my work, I use the 35mm focal length with my Sony A7 and take advantage of the articulated LCD from the A99 to get more discrete and intimate portraits with the 85mm, also from Sigma. Just a little detail, I removed the slt mirror from the A99 and use it in manual focus, so it’s basically a big mirrorless camera. I’m more of a guest than a professional photographer, at least that’s how I’m perceived by my clients, family and friends. A friend who happens to make a living from photography. I really try to enjoy the wonderful day, conscious that I’m very fortunate to be at a private party while making a living. I’m always the first to arrive and the last to leave, it’s after all a body of work and not just a staged kiss with the golden hour moment. It’s people that drive me, the concept of family and friendship not staged moments.

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I’m looking forward to get the new Sony A7RII since it brings some new features like a new and stronger shutter that it’s better damped, the I. S, min. auto shutter, copyright embed info, better high ISO performance and even the silent shutter option although with some caveats.

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Thank you.


João de Medeiros

Jul 242015


Olympus EM1 + Sony A7s – Still my favorite Combo!

By Neil Buchan-Grant

Hi Steve

I thought I’d share some new images with your readers. I’m still loving the Olympus EM1 and Sony A7s although I have to say, since the Olympus 40-150mm zoom and the new 7-14mm zoom came out, the Oly has had more use. I also recently bought the Oly MC-14 1.4x tele converter for the big zoom and for me its performance in terms of resolution and sharpness underlines the big range now offered by the Olympus system. These 3 PRO zooms give me pretty much all I need for general travel work and the 12-40mm has all but replaced my wide primes with no loss of image quality. I still only tend to get the A7s + Leica M 35mm or 50mm f1.4 Summilux’s out when I’m out at night or I’m shooting low light work but with these lenses it still offers something a bit special.

My friend a few weeks before giving birth – EM1 – 12-40mm 2.8 PRO @ 25mm – available light and off camera flash



My friend and her baby girl who had just had another lifesaving operation only days after her birth – Sony A7s Leica M 50mm 1.4 – mixed available light


My friend holding it together by reading Winnie the Pooh to her baby girl who was still gravely ill only one week after her birth – Sony A7s – Leica M 35mm 1.4 – mixed available light


My work here is a mixture of commissions and personal shots ranging from an architecture job in Oxfordshire, corporate portraits and a trip to Wimbledon tennis championships to some intimate portraits of my friend Scarlet and her baby, Frida. The baby had a traumatic and complicated birth and had to be resuscitated several times in her first few days. Thankfully she’s doing brilliantly now and is thriving! Thanks again for the opportunity to share these with your readers and keep up the great work! If anyone is interested, I have a new, short program of workshops on my website here:

My friend and her baby Frida who was finally out of harms way and seemed to be enjoying her new world – EM1 – Leica DG 25mm 1.4 – window light





Frida just a few days ago, now 2 months old and currently my favorite model! – EM1 Leica DG 25mm 1.4 – window light



The Prado Museum in Madrid during a quick break – EM1 12-40mm 2.8 PRO @ 15mm


A late night bar in Madrid – Sony A7s Leica M 35mm 1.4 – available light


A studio portrait of the actress Hetty Baynes Russell, who was married to Ken Russell the British film director. – EM1 12-40mm 2.8 PRO – continuous light through 4ft softbox



Another shot of Hetty – Sony A7s Leica M 50mm 1.4 – window light


A photograph of a rather special Barn design in Oxforshire at dusk – my friends Arthur and Kate were the architects who designed it – EM1 7-14mm 2.8 PRO @ 7mm


The same building during the day – EM1 7-14mm 2.8 PRO @ 7mm


A model in Prague – EM1 Leica DG 25mm 1.4 – window light and reflector



A corporate shoot in London – EM1 12-40mm 2.8 PRO – Off camera flash




Self portrait in the studio – EM1 12-40mm 2.8 PRO @ 35mm – continuous light through a 4 ft softbox and reflector



Britain’s number one female tennis player Heather Watson winning her match at Wimbledon – EM1 40-150mm 2.8 PRO with MC-14 @ 420mm (effective length) wide open at f4


Another self portrait in my garden – EM1 7-14mm 2.8 PRO @ 10mm – available light and off camera flash


A tree surgeon working behind my garden – EM1 40-150mm 2.8 PRO + MC-14 @ 420mm (effective length) wide open at f4


The same shot as above from the same spot, the tree surgeon is just visible – EM1 7-14mm 2.8 PRO @ 7mm


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA where you can join me in Berlin, India or China/Tibet over the next 10 months!

Jul 222015



by Michiel Faro

Time to get some of my own work out there, to be commented on and be criticized, instead of it all going the other way.

A bit about myself: I’m 62, Dutch and live in Holland, married, a stepson of 18 and two lovely two-year old girls. I work as a lawyer in Amsterdam. I have two potentially time-consuming hobbies: riding racing bicycles (I rode competitively for 25 years) and photography. I’ve been photographing since I was 14 or so.

My late father taught me everything, darkroom work included, though we never progressed to colour. I started with a Werra, which is more or less the most simple and wellmade camera one can think of. A Zenit slr was next, then a Yashica TL Electro (great camera), until a Nikon FM2n followed in 1990; a body I still have and use with great pleasure. FE2, an FM3a, a Contax RTSIII and a collection of used Nikkor and Zeiss primes round-up my analogue stuff. Digital started in 2008 with a D200, then a D700, then a D800 and now a D800E (both the 800 and the E can be underexposed routinely by almost up to a stop without any noticeable loss in image quality; a real bonus) with the 24, 35, 58 and 85 1.4G’s. I like the SLR form factor, prefer OVF’s over EVF’s and displays, dislike tiny camera bodies that may be light but have infuriating ergonomics and no viewfinder, and once you’ve gone full frame there’s no going back to a smaller sensor. Oh, and I don’t buy the next best thing every time it comes out, which can be quite frequent. Learn the stuff you have thoroughly, and that’s complicated enough in itself.

My photography can be divided roughly into three main categories: portraits (close, and possibly intrusive), situations/geometry/shapes, and emptiness. That last category is even more frustrating than the others and might be suitable for another post in the future. For this submission it’s situations/geometry/shapes and portraits.

Near the place I work in Amsterdam are two photo museums: FOAM and Huis Marseille. I try to go there on my lunchbreak every month or so. There’s always something to see. I may not like a particular exhibition or image, but it always sets your mind working: what is it I don’t like, what is it I do like, could I emulate it, could I approach that level of perception and technique, what sort of gear was used (ha!), etc etc. On the net, apart from the usual gear sites it’s AmericansuburbX and Lensculture I have a look at quite frequently; always something interesting to see.

Foremost in my mind (subconsciously no doubt) when taking photographs is light and contrast. Light because of what the infinite varieties of light can do to what the human eye (and film or sensor) sees. Contrast because of the inherent, subdued or loud, tension I wish to see in the images I take. Interest, tension, something that makes you wonder, makes you ask questions, is what I’m looking for. Always.

So here is a selection of B&W film images, made with cameras like the Contax RTSIII, Contax RTS, Contax S2, Nikon F2AS and Nikon FE2 and a variety of primes, usually Tri-X and HP-5, and colour images, made with the D800 and D800E. Two of the three portraits were made with the Nikkor 58/1.4G, an amazing (and sometimes frustrating) lens; the third one with the 85/1.4G, another gem.

The 58, to dwell on that subject briefly, is attractive as an everyday walkabout lens (I have a camera with me always; 1.4/35 this week) for its (comparatively) low weight, but you have to account for the almost “short tele” like focal length. It really shines as a portrait lens in ambient light. I think it is, for all it’s failings, a classic in the making that has to be used frequently to be fully appreciated.

Captions for the images are as follows:

B&W Situations

1 Man in FOAM museum: camera and lens unknown, TRI-X

2 Man with hoodie: Nikon F2AS, Nikkor 2.0/35 AiS, TRI-X

3 Man at Terry O’Neill exhibition: Contax RTSIII, 1.4/35 Distagon, TRI-X


B&W Portraits

4 Cor: Contax RTS, 2.8/85 Sonnar, HP5


5 Olivier: Contax S2, 1.7/50 Planar, TRI-X


6 Rob Regeer, the artist and his art: Nikon FE2, Nikkort 1.8/50 AiS, TRI-X





Color Shapes

7 Nikon D800E, Nikkor 1.4/58G

8 Nikon D800E, Nikkor 1.4/58G

9 Nikon D800E, Nikkor 1.4/58G


Color Portraits

10 Ed de Jong, photographer, with waitress held napkin reflector at his insistence: Nikon D800, Nikkor 1.4/58G

11 Jan Maaso, friend, Nikon D800, Nikkor 1.4/85G

12 Wessel, colleague, Nikon D800E, Nikkor 1.4/58G


Thanks to Steve and Brandon for posting this and, more importantly, for keeping this podium alive for many to post on and for even more to comment.

Best regards,

Michiel Faro


Jul 212015

Moment, Chaos and a Personal Perspective

By Shaul Naschitz

Hi Brandon and Steve,

I have been featured on your site more than once before, but hopefully you allow me to contribute a few thoughts once more.

I consider myself a savvy amateur photographer. I started with this means of self-expression about thirty years ago and kept doing it with more or less involvement ever since. Naturally, the digital revolution inspired a significant boost to my photographic endeavors; not least by the ever evolving technologies of creating photographs and “publishing” them. Between 2010 and 2012 I dedicated a lot of my spare time to writing about photography. The resulting blog, with its 900+ posts, never got much attention (maybe because it’s written in Hebrew…). One day, perhaps when I retire, I might try to make a nice and thick book of it.



Anyway, in the past year or so my interest in photography has been progressively waning. I don’t carry a camera on a daily basis anymore and when I do use one I tend to do so more purposefully than before, so I shoot much less. It is not the cost that deters me like in the olden days; it is the tedious task of browsing through a mountain of rubbish to pick the few gems worth keeping. The paintwork on the Delete buttons on the backs of my cameras is always worn out.



Another recent development is I don’t care anymore what others think of my work. Especially peers on web-based communities. I have long ago forsaken the aspirations of making a living of my hobby and finally accept the notion that I am not “better” than others. If anything, my sense for business is way below average, just like the pleasure I get from fulfilling the expectations of complete strangers. So why bother? I am old enough to serve as my own judge.





I know that all of this sounds like old cynical bickering, but I assure you I have never felt happier, more light-hearted and liberated about my photography. After so long I feel free to explore this fascinating medium and create art, my own art. The charm in photography to me has everything to do with its inherent limitations and “flaws”. It is a great tool for observation, much less so for expression. In fact, any other art form is superior to photography in terms of sheer creation. Photography is so tightly embedded in the physical world it can’t really escape. So creating art using this medium must involve dismantling rather than construction, authorship rather than creation. Photography dissects the flow of time into distinct moments and allows us to concentrate on those fragments. That property is unique to this medium and gives it its strength.





Cartier-Bresson coined the obscure and much debated “moment decisif” as an ideal of thematic and geometric order in a chaotic situation. But I am interested in the opposite: chaos itself. A bit of chaos makes things messed up, tense, interesting. Instead of fighting the ever-present, crude randomality I now work with it.



The symbiosis of moment and disorder is what makes photography so fascinating to me. An extreme example of that are group dance performances, where despite the meticulous planning a lot of individual character comes through. You can’t usually observe slight synchronization errors or fleeting facial expressions when watching a live dance show, but a camera can reveal a lot. The same principles are obviously relevant to more reactive genres, such as street photography and photojournalism. It is just a matter of giving up control and letting chance play its role. And I didn’t even mention the fun in doing so.

Shaul Naschitz

Jun 082015


The Mitakon Dark Night 50 0.95

By Isi Akahome


Hi, my name is Isi, and I’m a bokeholic. It all started when I first shot with a rebel t2i in Target, and I fell in love with blurred backgrounds. Ever since then, I’ve chased after the widest aperture lenses. I remember drooling over the Leica Noticlux 50mm 0.95 when Steve and Digitalrev did their reviews on the lens. I wanted one, but unfortunately, the acquisition cost was laughable. My favorite lens on my old Nikon D800 was the 50mm 1.4, and then mirrorless cameras came out and that opened up the opportunity to get even wider apertures on a full frame sensor. Last November, I got the AMAZING Sony A7S and I started looking into moderately priced manual lenses with good optics. The thought of manually focusing was scary, but now I wouldn’t have it any other way. The first lens I got was the Canon fd 58mm f/1.2, but it wasn’t as sharp as I would have liked and didn’t provide the amount of contrast I was looking for. This image below is a perfect example. The lens does render bokeh quite nicely.


Then the Mitakon lens was announced! 50mm f/0.95 for under $1,000? It was like a dream come true. I remember scouring the internet for reviews and sample images for weeks. The comparison Steve did with the Noctilux was very helpful, because the difference in performance wasn’t nearly as close as the difference in price. In fact, in my opinion, it was negligible. After a lot of contemplation, I decided to get one. I found a demo copy on eBay for $750. The packaging was exceptional. It made me feel like I just purchased a priceless work of art. The box the lens comes in is quite spectacular, and the lens has a nice heft to it. It looks very well built, and for the price, I have no quibbles about the build quality. I decided this was going to be the lens I would use for most of my assignments. It seemed like it would be up to the task. I just had to master focusing with the lens wide open with that razor thin depth of field. The results have been nothing short of amazing. The subject isolation I was getting was just so unique that I was only shooting at f/0.95.



Getting sharp focus accurately and consistently is quite challenging, but focus peaking comes in quite handy, and my accuracy has gone up substantially. Sometimes I just move a couple of inches back or forward as my subject(s) move, instead of turning the focus ring, and that makes a world of difference in getting shots in focus. When the focus is spot on, the sharpness wide open is very good, especially for portraits. Here a few shots I did for clients in varying situations.








The one advantage that’s rarely mentioned about wide aperture lenses is the amount of shadow detail you get in situations when the subject is backlit. The faces of subjects are much brighter than with any of the other fast lenses I’ve used. Even in this photo with the harsh backlight from the sunset, the amount of shadow detail is quite impressive.


Wedding season is about to start, and I’m both nervous and excited to use this bad boy to shoot full weddings. I think the difference between f1.2 and f0.95 is noticeable, it could be due to the fact that the lens has a certain look and character that makes the images unique to my eye. I don’t really have any complaints, except for the distracting bokeh rendering of foliage or busy backgrounds I sometimes get.


I also shot the lens at smaller apertures because I had to in studio conditions, and it performed just as well as I would expect. These were shot at f5.6.



I am very pleased with the results I have been getting with this lens. Even for random shots, it works fantastically. I took this as our plane was taking off from New Jersey.


Mitakon has done something special with this lens. It is such a bargain considering what the lens can do. I would recommend this lens to anyone looking for a fast 50mm lens for their Sony A7 series camera, or other bokeholics who just want the shallowest depth of field with the added benefit of a versatile focal length. It’s a lot of fun to use, and you get all the bokeh you can handle. Don’t worry about manually focusing either. With focus peaking, it’s a breeze, and it almost forces you to compose your shots with more thought, purpose, and precision.

Thanks for reading. You can see more samples of my work on:

Keep up the awesome work Steve! You’re a rockstar.

Isi Akahome

Apr 222015

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Uluru: Photographing an Icon

When you first hear of Uluru, you most likely imagine desert, Indigenous Australians, tourists and a very big rock. Conceptually you know that this is a spiritual place and that there is some pretty deep cultural significance when it comes to the land here. You may even realise that The Rock is one of Australia’s biggest (literally!) draw cards, hosting more than a quarter of a million people each year (amazing, considering how isolated it is).

What you may not be able to truly comprehend is the fact that big doesn’t even begin to describe this thing. Nor the fact that its spirituality will affect you, even if you are not a religious person – it is just that kind of place. So come on a walk with me as I share my (regrettably too short) visit to this magical, mysterious marvel.

5D Mkii with 17-40mm lens at f9; 1/40sec; iso 200; 40mm

At nearly 350m high and almost 10km in circumference, this truly is a big rock!

5D Mkii with 17-40mm lens at f9; 1/40sec; iso 100; 38mm

The Red Centre is just that – red and right at the geographical heart of Australia.

5D Mkii with 17-40mm lens at f10; 10 iso 100; 40mm

OM-D E-M5 with 45mm at f1.8; 1/3200 sec; iso 200; 45mm

One of the first things you will most likely do (assuming you arrive later in the day, as we did) is to run up to the nearest lookout so you can get your first glimpse of Uluru – and a selfie, of course!

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When you arrive at the visitor centre, you will get a shadowed view of the rock face – if it’s morning – and the amazing colour will not yet be apparent. It is when you finally see the surface bathed in sunlight that you first understand how vibrant this rock really is. Red doesn’t quite describe it, but orange is too lurid a word. These pictures come close but, like the Grand Canyon, different light makes for different experiences.

OM-D E-M5 with 75mm at f6.4; 1/200 sec; iso 200; 75mm

5D Mkii with 17-40mm lens at f7.1; 1/40sec; iso 100; 37mm

OM-D E-M5 with 75mm at f4.5; 1/2500 sec; iso 200; 75mm

5D Mkii with 17-40mm lens at f9; 1/50sec; iso 100; 40mm

One of the next things you will notice will affect you in one of three ways. Seeing people climbing the face of Uluru can make you hunger for the thrill of bagging another unique peak. The sight may mean nothing to you – people can do what they want. Or you may feel a form of anger at people who so willingly decline to accede to the wishes of the traditional custodians of the land. As photographers we are asked not to record images showing this activity, however I feel that the image shows that individuals will always make their own decisions.

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For me and my wife the walk around the base was a revelation. As you start the circumnavigation, you are blown away by the height, more than anything else. At 348m at its highest point, Uluru is more than double the height of the Great Pyramid at Giza and even just pips the Eiffel Tower. Once you get over the height (you never really do) you begin to notice the textures and colours. Weathering from wind and rain and sand have left patterns in the surface – some of which are just pretty, but many of which are considered to be a form of scripture to the Anangu People who have lived in this region of Australia for at least 30 000 years. The patterns act as visual aids in the oral traditions of the Anangu and photography of many of the eroded areas of the rock is prohibited. Signage lets you know what you can and cannot shoot, but erring on the side of caution is recommended.

5D Mkii with 17-40mm lens at f7.1; 1/80sec; iso 100; 17mm

OM-D E-M5 with 75mm at f8; 1/200 sec; iso 200; 75mm

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One of the next things you may notice is how still and quiet the air is around Uluru. Yes, I do mean the atmosphere in more than one sense – on the day we were there it was perfectly windless (I am unsure how normal this is) but mostly I refer to the sense of peace and solitude that exists. We were there just before the peak tourism period begins and maybe that had something to do with it, but I doubt that was the only reason. Standing before this chunk of weather-beaten arkose, it is easy to understand why it is held sacred by the Indigenous people. There is an eerie sense that you are both alone and at the same time, not alone. Again, like the colours, it is more easily experienced than described.

5D Mkii with 17-40mm lens at f8; 1/40sec; iso 100; 17mm

Finally, the light and the way it interacts with the rock and trees. As photographers we are always chasing light and you will not be disappointed on your visit to Uluru. Be it harsh midday sun or soft pastel light and the edge of the day, Uluru’s grandeur absorbs the light and throws it back at you in myriad ways.

OM-D E-M5 with 75mm at f5; 1/250 sec; iso 200; 75mm

5D Mkii with 17-40mm lens at f16; 1/15sec; iso 125; 17mm

5D Mkii with 17-40mm lens at f10; 1/30sec; iso 400; 40mm

This iconic landmark was on my wishlist for many years before my wife and I finally visited. We always wondered whether the reality would live up to the hype. Now we know that reality’s shadow leaves the hype’s glitter just a little dull. The only thing left to do now is to visit again. And again…

5D Mkii with 17-40mm lens at f11; 1/60sec; iso 100; 17mm

A short list of things to remember:

May is a great time to go – fine weather and less tourists. Rent a 4×4 – you’ll see more places at your own pace. If you plan on using any of your images for commercial purposes (if you want to sell the images) you will need a permit. It’s a pain, but worth it – and you get park entry included for yourself and an assistant (my wife was my assistant!) so cost works out similar to if you just visited.
Some sites and viewpoints are restricted for cultural and religious reasons – respect these rules. Driving in the outback after dark is hazardous – hitting a kangaroo or cow at speed is potentially deadly. Be careful! Put the camera away for a least part of your trip – really experience this amazingly spiritual place for its own sake.

By Wesley Walker

Photographing an Icon 01

I am an Amateur photographer who dabbles in stock photography. Mostly I take images while hiking (particularly on holidays!) but I do occasionally set out to make specific images – still working on that!



Apr 162015

Artistic vs. Technical Perfection

By Olaf Sztaba

When browsing photography on the Internet it appears to be one huge quest for technical perfection. Message boards are groaning with perpetual arguments about the superiority of one camera system over another.

Then, there are thousands of photos so immaculately processed and photo-shopped that their technical perfection creates awe and envy in aspiring photographers. But many of the photos remind us of others we have seen before. They somehow feel plastic, artificial and cold. They lack emotion and authenticity.

In contrast, when you look at the images from the masters such as Henri Cartier-Bresson or Sebastiao Salgado and others, you find thoughtful compositions, subtle moments and moods. Are they the most technically perfect photographs and the sharpest images you have ever seen? I don’t think so but somehow your eye feels content, your brain slows down and your visual emotions are elevated.

What strikes us is that those who produce a body of great work often don’t consider themselves photographers. They grab any camera and create art – they are artists. When Cartier-Bresson started shooting with the 35mm camera, other photographers of his time dismissed his new tool as a toy (back then only large format cameras were considered serious). But we should learn from artists. They see way beyond pixels and MTF charts. For them technical augmentation is just a distraction.

So why are we so occupied with a litany of technical do’s and don’ts? Why do we ask the wrong questions so many times: Which camera should I buy? How do I sharpen photos? How do I apply layers? Which software should I use? and so on.

Don’t get us wrong – we like photo gear and are well aware of our ‘contribution’ to this plaque. However, each time we put everything technical in the back seat and let our emotions and inner artistic self rule our photographic process the results always astound us.

Sure, it’s not easy. But the next time you think your photo is not sharp enough, your images are grainy or your camera doesn’t have elephant resolution this may be the best thing that has happened to you. Maybe it is the right moment to stop and re-focus on seeing.

All images were taken with the Fuji X100S/T, Fuji X-T1 paired with XF 14mm F2.8 and XF 50-140 F2.8.

Olaf Sztaba









Apr 022015

There is no “I” in Team

by John Tuckey

Team Efforts

I wouldn’t advise anyone to overload a shoot with unnecessary bodies. The fewer people cluttering your space, the better. The less people to organise the better. It’s an absolute if you’re trying to create a sense of intimacy or intrigue and a simple practicality when you’re working to a budget or a tight time scale as most of us are. But ‘one man and his lens’ is not always enough – indeed, modern professional work is hardly ever created so. It’s a creative collaboration between the photographer, an art director, a stylist, a make up artist, a hair stylist, a lighting technician and possibly a set dresser. That amazing image in magazine ‘X’ is usually the result of a tight team who have a good working dynamic – not ‘one man and his lens’.

If you’re thinking about crossing this river and working your shots with a team it can be daunting at first. My advice is to keep it simple and pick your team carefully, don’t waste your resources and know who you can and can’t live without. I get my moments, but I’m still no pro – so I won’t worry about an assistant until i try a complicated location set-up. And a stylist isn’t even on my list unless I get involved in a commercial fashion shoot and the client specifically requests one – and even then they will probably be chosen by the art director.

So I’d suggest that for an amateur or hobbyist, the bodies to make sure you have covered on a model orientated shoot are the make up artist and the hair stylist. Sometimes the model can cover this off herself, but indispensable doesn’t even come close to describing the best I’ve worked with. And without even thinking I can give you three very good reasons why they’re always worth stretching the budget for.


A skilled makeup artist can simply transform a face. Try these two of Emily, one with ‘normal’ self done makeup and the Next from a Make Up artist.



The Devil is in the Detail

Much of my work revolves around vintage themes. Having the right make up or a particular hair style makes the world of difference. In these portraits of Olivia, the lighting may well have achieved the look on its own, but the work of the hair stylist in those thirties style fingerwaves added the polish – making the vintage feel of the final image effortless and complete.




Tricks, Shortcuts and FX

These Lonsdale shots aren’t just about beauty and boxing, but also strength, character and control. The make up artist on this shoot pulled the FX off with ease: Jammy the model was engaged with the concept and we got some great shots as a result.




Saving Time in Post

Doesn’t digital mean make up artists are a waste of money? If you don’t think of the hours you’ll spend in post-production as money, then I’ll grant you that a hair or make up artist might not be your best use of budget. But I’d rather get it right for real on the day and trade that time in front of a screen for more time with a camera thanks – a good MUA allows that.

If you are interested in my images or my workshops you can follow me on facebook at http://www.facebook/jrtvintage, on twitter where I’m @jrtvintage, at my own site at or on my gallery page at Saatchi Art


Models: Emily, Olivia Harriett, and Jammy Lou

Emily and Jammys Make Up: James Minahan

Olivia’s Hair: Le Keux Salon
Best regards

John Tuckey

Mar 282015

A Small Pit Bull with Balloons, an A7II User Report

By Brandon Labbe


Much like Godzilla in the 2014 movie “Godzilla,” I recently strolled through the streets of downtown San Francisco. Unlike Mr. Zilla, however, instead of being met with giant moth creatures that blew blue fire, I was met with dragons. Yes, you read that right, dragons! Monstrous creatures that breathe fire and eat every person they come across; at least, that is how one would describe wild dragons. Amazingly, unlike their wild counterparts, the dragons of San Francisco are very well-trained, as they simply stood in place waiting their turn to delight the crowds gathered for the Chinese New Year parade that San Francisco hosts every year a full two weeks after the actual lunar new year day passed, which is like seeing New Year fireworks on the 14th or celebrating St Patrick’s Day on Easter, and trust me, you do not want to celebrate St Patrick’s Day on Easter.

Heavy drinking and easter egg hunts are not a good combination. Of course, when one comes upon a dragon in the middle of one of the most densely populated cities in America, the logical course of action is not to grab your children and run, but instead to take out your A7II and take a picture. I know, we San Franciscans are a strange bunch, but I’d like to think that’s what most people would do if they saw a dragon, as opposed to follow Harry Potter’s lead and jump on its back, but enough dragon jokes, on with the A7II!

If the A7II were an animal, it’d be a lion, because it’s the king of cameras. Unlike a lion, however, it takes amazing pictures and instead of eating zebras it eats batteries. I know what you’re thinking, “please, no more animal jokes!” but this comparison is actually Sony-approved, because I’ve seen ads for the A7 series with a roaring lion behind the cameras, and I must say, an advertisement must be amazing to make someone describe it in detail in a camera review. Sony’s got some geniuses in their ad department. In all seriousness, yes, it eats batteries, in that I used to only need one where as now I need a second one in my pocket if I want the camera to be on all day. You see, I was expecting a horrific battery life based on reviews I’d read of the other A7 models, so the first thing I did with my II, straight out of the box, was put it in airplane mode, and two batteries lasts me an entire day. Battery life aside (and, again, even that isn’t bad), there is absolutely nothing wrong with this camera. Now, it’s not a perfect camera, because, as experts have echoed a thousand times, there is no perfect camera, but I believe you can only get so close to perfection. Can I drop the II out of a plane and expect to recover it without a scratch? Of course not, because whoever was passing by when it fell would snatch it up in an instant because it’s a perfect camera!

I’m not one who is well-versed in camera lingo, I just know a good camera when I see and use it. I could say it’s got a good build, a good sensor, weather sealing, nice grip. Hell, it can probably do your taxes for you. I didn’t really notice these things, though, because they just worked well. When something works well, you don’t really notice. That might seem like an odd statement, but to try to let you see it from my perspective, think of it like this: in movies, you know immediately when someone’s a bad actor because they make certain mistakes or are just all-around unconvincing. However when someone’s a good or even great actor, you almost don’t notice because you’re so subconsciously convinced by their performance that you forget they’re acting. If that was confusing, let me put it this way: you know when a camera is bad because you have a lot of complaints over it. However, if a camera is perfect or near perfect, you don’t really notice. It just works the way you want it to. It complements your style, it doesn’t get in the way when you’re not using it, it doesn’t disturb your or anyone’s experience with a loud shutter at a quiet moment. It doesn’t freeze, crash, miss autofocus, explode in your hand, etc. It really is easier to say what a camera doesn’t do than what it does. That doesn’t just apply to cameras, but anything. If something works well, you don’t really notice. It’s only when something doesn’t work the way it should that you notice. To apply this way of thinking to the II and other cameras and technology in general that I’ve owned, the II is the only thing I’ve never felt the desire to throw against a wall. Though that may seem like a silly thing to say, I assure you that is extremely high praise.

The thing about the body that did stand out, however, was the viewfinder. Though I don’t use the viewfinder to take pictures (see my reason here:, I find it incredible. Looking through your pictures with your eye to the viewfinder is like seeing your pictures in 3-d. Have you ever looked through a stereoscope (one of those old-timey 3-d viewers where you have a card with the same image printed twice and you look through the viewer and it looks 3-dimensional)? The viewfinder is like that, but in color and high-quality, and even though I don’t use it to take pictures, I look through pictures with it because it is just a phenomenal viewer. I wish it were detachable so I could plug it into my computer and view all my photos with it because it is just so incredible.

Then there’s the iso. The beautiful, amazing, incredible iso. 10000! Ten-freaking-thousand, and I still got a pic that I could print as large as I’d like. How many cameras can you say that about? And if you can’t tell which one of these I took at 10000, that just proves my point. Okay, I’ll just tell you because it actually looks cleaner than some pictures. It’s the photo of the with the clock tower in the distance.
For a review of the lens, the Zeiss 35/2.8, which may as well be welded to my II, I could sum up my feelings for it by comparing the pictures I take with it to balloons. They’re all colorful and pretty, but when the lens is especially sharp, the pictures pop. Just look at the pictures above to see what I mean.

Also, compared to other cameras I’ve used, pictures I’ve taken with this camera, not all, but some, seem to glow. I think this is a combination of the lens and sensor. I’m sure this sounds like a very amateurish observation, but it’s true. With the right light and shadows, some pictures seem to glow. I like the look so much, I try to find the right conditions to get that glowing effect in as many pictures as I can. I don’t have a very good example of this effect from the parade, but I’ve run into the effect several times in daily shooting around the neighborhood when the sun is just right. I don’t think I’m explaining myself well enough. When I say they glow, I don’t mean some of the pictures look smudged or that blown out highlights somehow look pleasing. What I mean is the way light is reflected and dissipates into shadows is like nothing I’ve ever seen in any camera I’ve used before. Perhaps this is just a full-frame thing – a light sensitivity that smaller sensors couldn’t hope to achieve, but I think there’s more to it than that. I think there’s something really special here, in the II, or maybe even the whole A7 series; something you can’t just be told about, but you have to experience for yourself.

The one flaw that I found was, as good as the auto white balance is in the day, at night it seems to favor a blue tint. This isn’t noticeable a lot of times, because night is rather blue anyway, but, looking back through photos now, and even at the parade itself, I noticed that the live view display and the resulting picture looked noticeably more blue than the scene before me. No great fault if you shoot in raw, but if you shoot in jpeg, I’d recommend going manual on white balance at night, or at least, only if it’s noticeable, because it only happened to me twice.

If you’re curious as to what settings I use, I have it in manual mode, and that includes iso. 95% of pictures are with autofocus, and the autofocus might miss only once in 200 photos, and even when it does, I don’t complain because the photo still looks good. I’ve heard some people have had a bigger problem with autofocus, that it ‘hunts’ sometimes, especially at night. I constantly have the lens in center focus mode so the lens always knows what I want it to focus on  I have the lens at a constant /5.6 because that’s the lens’ sharpest aperture. I only go wider at night or in close-ups.

Another thing I love about the II is how unassuming it is. I was surrounded by guys with fat dslrs and lenses thicker than my arm, and I actually enjoyed the condescending looks they were giving me, as if I brought a chihuahua to a pit bull fight. If only they knew.

To recap: my II is a pit bull the size of a chihuahua, and my pictures are balloons. I think that sums up the A7II/Zeiss 35 combo very well, a small pit bull with balloons.

Also I should note that the parade isn’t this unorganized. Most of the pics were taken before the parade actually started.











Mar 242015



by Paul Bartholomew

Dear Steve

This is my second user report I’ve written for your great site but this one is quite different from my last one (An Englishman in New York).

I’ve been a Canon user for years having had a 5DMK II, a 7DMK I and the camera I shot for part of this review the excellent Canon 5D MKIII. I have a little Olympus E-PL 1 and a Canon G11 too but my pride and joy is my Leica M240. That camera is the second M I have owned having upgraded from an M9 about 18 months ago. And what an upgrade! I really can’t understand those who prefer the M9, the colours, the noise, the dynamic range – all much better on the M240 to my mind, with live view to boot with EVF support (this is important for this article).

I’m not exaggerating when I say the Leica M240 is the camera I had hoped the M9 would have been, but whenever I shot with the M9 I found the images a little muddy in their tones – like the files were missing some information – not so with the M240.

After bumping along happily with both the 5D MKIII and the Leica M240, I realised the Canon was mostly staying in its foam-lined drawer in my study, I preferred to shoot with the M240. This wasn’t something that had happened with the M9 – the 5D MKIII gave me better images, but not so when compared to the M240. So, I began to wonder whether I actually needed the 5D MKIII… Of course letting go of the body was one thing but letting go of the lenses was quite another. At this point in time I owned a 300mm f/2.8L (easy to get rid of, I seldom shoot long), a 24-105 f/4L – a nice enough lens but not one that I actually used that much, a 16-35mm f/2.8L II – a lens I was nervous to lose (the widest I had for the Leica was 28mm) and a 85mm f/1.2L II – a gem of a lens that I loved. These two lenses were the anchor of my Canon system – they were preventing me from moving on.

However, when I sat down and worked out how much I would get by selling the Canon kit new possibilities opened up, but first I needed to see whether I could fill the niches of my Canon anchor lenses with a couple of Leica compatible lenses. Here’s what I bought: For the wide end a Voigtlander 21mm f/1.9 and for the fast portrait niche a Leica 80mm f/1.4 Summilux R (with a Novoflex R to M adaptor) – my EVF for my little Olympus would be put to good use! These two lenses complemented my existing M lenses – a Zeiss 28mm f/2.8, a Jupiter 35mm f/2.8, a Zeiss 50mm f/1.5 (calibrated to f/1.5) and a Jupiter 85mm f/2. To be honest, I never really used the Zeiss 50mm f/1.5 that much – too long for street work and for portraits I found it to have too much contrast for my taste.

Once I’d secured the lenses I thought I would do a comparison shoot before I made a decision whether I could/should divest myself of the Canon kit (although by this point the 300mm had already gone). So, I booked a model that I’d worked with on previous occasions and set to work. Some notes first though… I’d never done a lens test before so apologies for any errors in the process I may have made, also – the M240 doesn’t record lens data from my non-coded lenses and estimates the aperture based on the exposure settings. In some of the pictures my model Holly is holding up fingers to help me record the aperture I was shooting at.

Long end first – the Canon 16-35 f/2.8L II @ f/2.8 at 21mm (TOP) vs the Voigtlander 21mm @ f/2.8 (Bottom) – click images for larger!



Of course with all of the camera and lens changes, I forgot to let Holly know that the Canon would collect its own data! Indeed the EXIF data let me know that I was actually at 22mm, not 21mm.

I don’t think there is that much in it in terms of sharpness but the Canon lens shows less divergence of vertical. Nonetheless I prefer the tones from the Leica. I also think more shadow detail is captured, look at the purple sofa and Holly’s dress in the Leica/Voigt. combination. Unsurprisingly, both lenses show some chromatic aberration in the window frame.

At f/5.6 both lenses now have the chromatic aberration broadly under control:

Top is Canon, bottom is Voigtlander. Click images for larger!



Differences in colour balance / colour rendering aside, the Leica/Voigt. combination seems to hold much more detail now and is much sharper at the edges of the frame, look at the green Tibetan chair-bed bottom left.

Peripheral sharpness picks up on the Canon at f/8 (TOP) but it is still outperformed by the Voigtlander (BOTTOM):



This was enough to convince me that despite the 16mm to 21mm wide end variance, the Leica and Voigtlander would look after me. And…. The Voigtlander could shoot at f/1.9:


I then went a little longer and compared the mid-range of the Canon with my Zeiss 28mm f/2.8. First, wide open. TOP is CANON, bottom is ZEISS, both at f/2.8:



Here, it’s a mixed picture, more chromatic aberration in the window frame with the Canon but it is giving better shadow detail (look at the front of the cabinet) and it is sharper in the peripheries of the frame. The Zeiss is sharper in the middle and could be said to have greater contrast (the flip side of the lower shadow detail). I prefer the colours with the Leica/Zeiss combo though.

At f/5.6, the Canon looks really good, the chromatic aberration is under control , central sharpness is higher too. Slight exposure differences aside, the Canon is still showing less contrast than the Zeiss – which is now showing sharpness to rival the Canon right across the frame.

At f/8, it’s really only the higher contrast of the Zeiss that is separating them:



So, after all that I felt I was OK at medium wide – especially give the relative sizes of the two setups!

Just for fun, I thought I’d compare the long end of the Canon 16-35mm with my diminutive vintage Soviet – the Jupiter 35mm f/2.8 – I was not expecting comparable images and the differences were clear at f/2.8. Canon on top, Jupiter and M on the bottom:



The Canon, even wide open at the long end of its zoom range, seems to control chromatic aberration well and is offering significantly more contrast than when zoomed out. It’s pretty sharp right across the frame too. The Jupiter is another story altogether, unable to control the bright window light, the veiling flare lowers the contrast significantly and although centre sharpness is at least as high as with the Canon, it drops off drastically as we move away from the centre. Look at the candle on the left and even Holly’s feet on the right. I do like that vintage look though, it’s why I bought the lens.



As shown above, at f/5.6 there’s little to complain about with the Canon and it is significantly sharper than the Jupiter everywhere, including in the centre of the frame. And although contrast and sharpness is better with the Jupiter than it was at f/2.8 it can’t keep up with the Canon. This is the same for f/8 too, as shown below. Canon is the 1st image, the Jupiter is the 2nd.



Of course, the Jupiter was never going to be the equivalent of the Canon, but it is a fun little lens to have nonetheless. However, I may need to get myself a higher fidelity M lens if I want to shoot with precision at that focal length.

Now for what I think is probably the main event of this head-to-head review – a comparison of portrait lenses. Mainly, it’s about comparing the Canon 85mm f/1.2 L II with the Leica 80mm f/1.4 Summilux R. But, I’m going to throw in the Soviet 85mm f/2 for good measure too.

First of all, at the widest common aperture of f/2, they really are quite different. The Canon is sharp and exhibits high contrast – it is crisp, as one might expect. But when you cast your eye from that image to the clearly softer and lower contrast Leica image, the Canon begins to look a little ‘crunchy’ – I wonder if others would agree? Then comes the Jupiter, like its 35mm cousin it is low in contrast, but nonetheless it does appear to be pretty sharp:

TOP: Canon 85 L at f/2, MIDDLE: Leica R 80mm at f/2, BOTTOM: Jupiter 85 at f/2




At f/2.8 things aren’t particularly changed – same differences, perhaps just a little less extreme:

Canon, then Leica, then Jupiter




Of course, one really buys these lenses to shoot wide open – we’ve seen the Jupiter wide open but what about the other two? Firstly, both at f/1.4:




I don’t believe the Canon is any sharper now – look at Holly’s eyes on both. The Canon still has more contrast, but I am struck by the sophistication of the Leica image – sharp and soft and the same time. Also, look at the decoration on the wall and the edge of the sunlight, the Canon is exhibiting some chromatic aberration. OK, let’s see the Canon at f/1.2 – that aperture is the reason for buying this lens after all:


To me, on the eyes – this looks a bit sharper that the f/1.4 shot. I was shooting from a tripod but perhaps this is just the difference between hitting the eyeball with the focus point rather than the eyelashes. I just don’t know – although Holly’s mouth is sharper too.

All this out of camera comparison is a bit artificial though isn’t it? I’m never going to shoot models (or any portraits for that matter) without editing – I pretty much edit everything. So, given that – if I had to work on the three wide open images from each lens (I pretty much always shoot portraits wide open), what do I get? I’ve deliberately over-edited a little – particularly the eyes (using a detail extractor) because I wanted to see what information was there to be had and to share it with you. They are all edited slightly differently but with the aim of them bringing the best out of the lenses while getting them to a fairly similar end point:

1st CANON, 2nd LEICA, 3rd JUPITER – all wide open




I found the results surprising. The ‘crunchiness’ of the Canon (something I’d have never attributed to it prior to putting it against the Leica) was difficult to overcome. Transitions between light and shade seemed to accentuate really easily in the edit and I found the highlights difficult to control too (perhaps related to the sensor rather than the lens). The Leica on the other hand is, I think, quite beautiful – I’ve been able to reveal the sharpness of the lens (look at the eyes) but the softness and smoothness puts the Canon to shame – at least in my view. Then there’s the Jupiter – a dark horse: with a careful edit, it performs really well. Given that it cost me less than 5% of either the Canon (new) or Leica (used) that’s remarkable. I should say I used the EVF for both the Jupiter and the Leica. The Leica isn’t coupled so that was a must, but my Jupiter was designed for another camera and can be a bit focus shifted on an M.

For me the quality of the Leica has surprised me and shows that sharpness on its own can leave you wanting. This test allowed me to be happy to let the Canon 85mm f/1.2 L II go, and with it the 5D III and the other lenses too. That’s allowed me to buy a Sony A7 II, a Sony Zeiss 55mm f/1.8, a Voigtlander close focus M to E adaptor and a Canon 50mm f/0.95 rangefinder coupled lens, which I will get back in a few days when its conversion to M mount is done. I’ve also bought a dinky Nippon Kogaku (Nikkor) 5cm f/1.4 SC for a bit of fun after having let my Zeiss 50mm f/1.5 Sonnar go too. I’m finding I’m preferring a more classic low contrast look nowadays. So with those bits of kit and some LTM to M adapter rings, I can use all but the Zeiss FE 55mm f/1.8 on both cameras and I’ve kept some autofocus capability for shooting moving targets too. Additionally, I think the A7 II with its in-body stabilisation might be useful for some low light work when the need calls.

Altogether I feel I have gained flexibility from making the change.

A final word on the Leica 80mm f/1.4 though… It might not stay. I love how it looks, I’ve included a couple of real (non-test) shots below, but as an R lens it is a bit of a pain to use. Shooting it wide open requires precise focus and it doesn’t exhibit enough contrast for focus peaking to be effective so focusing through the EVF (it can’t be done any other way) needs to be done in zoom. Since there is no coupling, this requires the button on the front of the camera to be pressed, the eyes located, precise focus found (without peaking), the button pressed again to de-zoom, and the frame recomposed. By which time your subject is frustrated. As am I.

So there you have it, a long and rambling lens comparison posting that started out as an exercise for me to inform myself. I hope sharing it will be of interest to others too. I’m not sure how many comparisons between those particular portrait lenses are out there – I haven’t come across any.

At the moment then, I’m really looking forward to getting the 0.95 Canon back, something I wouldn’t have been able to justify buying without selling on the Canon SLR kit and I do feel broadly happy with the lenses I have. I may yet get a stronger 35mm and I may yet swap out the Leica R too.

So, thanks for reading and I’ll leave you with a couple of shots that I made with the 80mm f/1.4 Summilux R. After all, I may not be keeping it for long…



I hope this reads alright Steve. I’ll send the images on in following emails – it might take two or three.

I hope you will be able to let me know whether you think it is suitable – I hope it is!




From Steve: As always, for your Leica needs I recommend Ken Hanson, and

Mar 182015


Panasonic Lumix GX7 and Yashica Makro-Planar in the Punjab

by Ibraar Hussain

I took a two-week trip to the Western Punjab (the real Punjab) in Pakistan and have just returned.  Most of my 14 days were rained off so I couldn’t go to where I had planned and use my Rolleiflex with my Rollienars. What I did do was shoot with my new Panasonic LUMIX GX7. I had initially decided upon the Fuji XE2 but I couldn’t justify the price difference.


I actually bought it after much research as something to compliment my Rolleiflex and Contax G2. I could also use my Yashica AF lenses with it and could use it to photograph birdlife too. I find the use of adaptors exceedingly useful, and decided to buy one to fit my Yashica AF lenses.

I chose this over the Olympus OMD series as:

a) It’s cheaper
b) Handling was more to my liking – the OMD EM-5 and 10 have a terrible grip and I wasn’t too keen on the overall design.
c) love the tilting EVF and LCD so I sometimes use it like I do my Rolleiflex – with a waist level finder.
d) it’s made in Japan rather than China

Took me a day of playing around at home to get used to it and I managed to set it according to my requirements, I set the Function buttons to what I want, with 1 focus point and Centre Weighted metering.

My weapons of choice were my Yashica AF 60mm Makro Planar f2.8 (this lens, I have been informed by many reliable sources, is a rebranded Contax Zeiss 60mm Makro Planar so Sshh… don’t tell anyone and pick up a bargain – superb lens which doubles as a nice short tele and portrait lens) the Fotodiox adaptor has the aperture control on the barrel which I am so happy with as another niggly hindrance is the jog dial to change the F stop which is cumbersome and slow.

My other weapons were the compact metal, Made in Japan 30mm Sigma AF fit and the Yashica AF 210mm f4 zoom . I left my other Yashica lenses including the 24mm Distagon type at home as I didn’t think I’d need a standard lens as I was aiming to shoot portraits and Birdlife.

Anyway I shoot mostly in the 1:1 square format and I shot some portraits of Punjabi people, young and old, rich and poor, in villages, town bazaars and shrines and enjoyed the experience.  I visited the colonial city of Sargodha, and took a long train ride on the 5’6” Indian wide gauge Railway. Trekked around the villages and fields near Sarai Alamgir near the City of Jhelum by the Jhelum River. And visited the Shrine of the Muslim Saint Pir-e-Shah Ghazi, Dhamrian wall Sarkar, Kharri Sharif, Kashmir.

In a two-week trip I only shot 260 odd exposures with it and most were keepers.

Beggar Kid, at the Shrine of Pir-e-ShahGhazi, at Kharri Sharif, Kashmir.
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8


Beggar Kids, at the Shrine of Pir-e-ShahGhazi, at Kharri Sharif, Kashmir.
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8


A Malang or Fakir or Jogi at the Shrine of Pir-e-ShahGhazi, at Kharri Sharif, Kashmir.
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8



This is an excellent camera, and bar some niggles I will explain later, almost perfect in many ways. It looks great, the flip LED and EVF are excellent ideas and so useful. Lovely size and feel, and very quick to start up. Excellent picture quality and very good smooth ISO 800 speed for portraits of people indoors with natural light. Function buttons can be set, so the advanced user can have all at his disposal. 1:1 square ratio mode Takes good video too. Can use other lenses with adaptors. Focus peaking is very effective for MF.

A Malang or Fakir or Jogi at the Shrine of Pir-e-ShahGhazi, at Kharri Sharif, Kashmir.
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8


A Malang or Fakir or Jogi at the Shrine of Pir-e-ShahGhazi, at Kharri Sharif, Kashmir.
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8



I find the constant computerised settings messing around annoying and it tends to get in the way, and things keep happening if I accidentally touch the screen which is sensitive.
Having too much is a hindrance too – sometimes I’d rather just make do with a certain ISO speed and work around this, rather than spend ages pondering what speed to set it at.
This needed dedicated buttons for most things, the Function buttons were ok though.

I find the lack of a dedicated concise Exposure Compensation dial a hindrance, I was constantly having to press the appropriate F button, push one of the toggle dials in and then change – whereas a dedicated compensation DIAL would’ve been perfect.

Changing aperture using the toggle Dial is very annoying and lacks the precise feel and involvement a lens barrel mounted aperture ring gives.
and I think the EVF is a tad small though it is bright.

Beggar Kid, at the Shrine of Pir-e-ShahGhazi, at Kharri Sharif, Kashmir.
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8


Jatt Villager saluting, near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab, Pakistan
Yashica 70-210mm f4


Jatt village Girl, near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab, Pakistan
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8


Jatt village Girl, near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab, Pakistan
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8



I prefer the use and feel of my Contax G2 for this type of portrait and people photography and the look and feel of 35mm E6 is way beyond what this M43 can achieve, but even so,Great camera with great results and the 1:1 ratio coupled with smooth ISO 800 are great to have.

I cannot see any reason to buy a budget APS sized DSLR or other camera any more, the picture quality is about the same, with the advantages of being compact, well-built and very quick.
All my images were JPEG fine and resized with border added in Photoshop – I don’t shoot Raw.

Some photos are soft, this is because focus is manual with the 60mm and focus peaking though very helpful isn’t flawless and I’m also in my 40ies so half blind!

The Yashica 60mm lens by the way is stellar – wonderful rendering and contrast and pin sharp if focussed correctly.

The 210mm is soft wide open and the 30mm Sigma is a tad long to be a standard lens but wonderfully sharp.

Ultimately though, pictures are as good as the person behind the lens, and I think I would’ve got more or less the same results with any Digital Camera with any sized sensor.

You can see some of the others I shot at my Flickr

Rail passenger. Sargodha to Mandi Bahaudin
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8


View from the Guards window, Sargodha to Mandi Bahaudin
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8


Mr Shahid, in the Guards cab, Sargodha to Mandi Bahaudin
Sigma 30mm f2.8 DN


Deaf Lad, in the Guards cab, Sargodha to Mandi Bahaudin
Sigma 30mm f2.8 DN


Hijra’s, Eunuchs at Sargodha Station.
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8


A portrait.
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8


Kashmiri Village Girl, near Sargodha, Punjab, Pakistan
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8


Kashmiri Village Boy, near Sargodha, Punjab, Pakistan
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8


A ‘Sain’ boy, respected as divinely gifted, at a Cigarette and Pan stall
Sarai alamgir, Punjab, Pakistan
Sigma 30mm f2.8 DN


Jatt Village children at play, near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab, Pakistan
Yashica 70-210mm f4


Nain village Child, near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab, Pakistan
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8


Kashmiri Village girl, near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab, Pakistan
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8


Kashmiri near Sarai Alamgir, Punjab, Pakistan
Yashica 60mm Makro-Planar f2.8


Mar 172015


2014 in Twelve images

by Bjarke Ahlstrand

Hi Steve,

Another year has passed, and at least from my perspective 2014 was extremely busy. I fulfilled a dream of mine and opened a rock bar, Zeppelin (, + my very own photographic haven/store, One Of Many Cameras (, here in Copenhagen, where I live. The camera store, which deals with both new and 2nd hand stuff gave me even further possibilities to explore the photographic medium and although it hasn’t exactly cured my GAS, it helps that I can just borrow stuff from the shelves now and then :-)

I only shoot manual lenses as they fit my shooting style the best, and I spend most of my photography time on celluloid, expired chemistry and especially large format portraits, but that ol’ Leica M9-P of mine is still my favourite digital camera (since I can’t afford or justify a Monochrome, hehe), but I also adore the little MicroFourThirds camera which was given to me as a x-mas present by my One Of Many Cameras partner Daniel because of its portability, since the large format cameras are a bit bulky to drag around. My work can be seen here: and

Anyways, here goes — once again — 12 images, 12 cameras, 12 months – this time for the year 2014.


January · Deardorff 8×10” · 270mm Boyer Saphir Paris f/6.3 · expired Agfa photograhic fibre paper used as a paper negative · ISO3

2014_01_8x10_scan_deardorff v2_270mm_boyer saphir paris f63_iso3_after

January · Deardorff 8×10” · 270mm Boyer Saphir Paris f/6.3 · expired Agfa photographic fibre paper used as a paper negative · ISO3

I’ve been working on a book/exhibition the last couple of years. It’s gonna be called “After” and will feature 130+ portraits of my girlfriend, all shot immediately after we’ve had sex. There will be no pornographic content or nudity but “raw” portraits that try to capture that very special moment just “after”… I went about it in a dogmatic way, so I decided that all had to be shot within a five minute time span and I would max make 3 exposures. It was very challenging as many of the shoots were rather trivial when it comes subject, and location of course, but I managed to use a great variety of cameras and now in the final editing stages of the book, I believe it turned out okay. The book will be published around May/June if everything goes as planned. For this particular shot, Katja laid still for 8 seconds while I captured the light.


February · Leica M9 · 50mm Summilux Asph @ f/2.8 · ISO200


Still love the Leica, still love rock ’n roll, and I still have a record label, so I actually managed to shoot quite a few album covers in 2014, this being one of them. With vinyl making a serious comeback it’s a joy to shoot band pictures again. The band is called Lucer and they play high-octane rock. Be sure to check them out on Spotify –– or even better, on vinyl.


March · Goecker Studio Camera · 270mm Dallmeyer 3B Petzval · Expired Ilford Multigrade photographic paper used as paper negative · ISO3

2014_03_8x10_paper negative scan__Goecker Studio Kamera_Dallmeyer 3B_iso3_Street

I bought an old wooden large format studio camera, dating back to 1913 and it came with a wonderful Dallmeyer Petzval from the 1860s’ so I decided to drag it outside our little camera store (which is also a studio) and test it out. Two teenagers were walking down the street, but I convinced to them to stand still for 1 second while I used my hand as a shutter. Notice the Petzval curve, it’s absolutely wonderful. Oh yeah, the logo of One Of Many Cameras is actually the Petzval lens design from 1840 – both my partner Daniel and I even got it tattooed, so I guess that lens is rather special to me.


April · Fuji GX680III · 125mm GX f/3.2 · Ilford Delta 100

Picture 521

Even though I love large format and the creative possibilities it gives regarding perspective and focus, it’s not exactly portable. Enter the Fuji GX680III, a high-end medium format camera from the final days of the professional analog era. It has a small bellow and therefore tilt-shit capabilities and you can cram 8 images on a 120-roll film, so economically speaking, it’s quite okay (compared to large format). You can shoot the camera handheld – and those Fujinon lenses — whauh. This one in particular, it’s perfect. My youngest clone was shot wide open at f/3.2. Love the bokeh.


May · Kodak DCS PRO SLR N · 55mm Nikkor f/1.2 · ISO160

2014_05_Kodak DCS PRO SLR N_55mm Nikkor f12_iso160_Mikkel Munch Fals

I don’t want to (re-)start the whole CCD vs. CMOS war, I’ll just conclude that you’ll find on the CCD-side when photographic civil war begins. I haven’t owned a DSLR since I sold my 5D Mark III and I swore I’d never go down that road again… But then I was presented with this Kodak beauty, the first full frame pro digital camera, which cost a fortune back when it was introduced, and having never shot Nikon glass before (!) I couldn’t resent the 55mm Nikkor f/1.2. The 3 included batteries last only 5 minutes each, the camera breaks down constantly, has many quirks and is hardly usable above ISO400… But that Kodak CCD sensor is absolutely wonderful… I get the same feeling as when I look at images from my Leica M9-P and Hasselblad H3D-39. If I’m working digital (and not doing video), I’ll definitely go for a CCD-camera.


June · Leica Monochrome · 50mm Apo-Summicron f/2 Asph · ISO320

2014_06_LeicaMonochrome_50apo Summicron_iso320_beach

Had the chance to spend a day with the APO-Summicron. Took it to the beach along with a Monochrome. Nice combo. Stupid price tag, though.


July · Leica M9–P · 35mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph FLE · ISO160

2014_07_LeicaM9P_35mm Summilux_ISO160_Barcelona

Took my two clones to Barcelona for our summer vacation, alongside a couple of Leica’s and the Fuji GX680 monster. I keep coming back to the Leica, it’s “like home” every time I shoot it. The swimming pool was nice, too.


August · Sinar P2 · 36cm Voigtländer f/4.5 · Impossible Silver Shade 8×10” Polaroid


Having a record label is nice because you get to meet some really cool people, in this case the Swiss noise-rockers Herod who performed here in Copenhagen, and stayed at my place for a couple of days. I dragged the boys to my attic alongside my Swiss 8×10” large format Sinar camera, and shot an 8×10” Polaroid polaroid. The lens was stopped down at f/5.6 (which is like f/1.4 in 35mm terms regarding depth of field), but with the help of the movements of the camera, I was able to get all 4 members (relatively) sharp.


September · Kodak Master View 8×10” · Rodenstock 210mm Sironar f/5.6 · Ilford Direct Positive Paper · ISO6

2014_09_8x10_directpositivepaper_Kodak master view_210_mm_sironar s_iso5_undergang

Another band photo, this time around it was the death metal act Undergang, who were about to embark on a 5 week US tour and needed a band photo for their upcoming LP, so of course we went to a cemetery. I brought an antique Kodak Master View 8×10” large format camera and some Direct Postive Paper, and I snapped this ghoulish portrait with the Rodenstock lens shot wide open. Again with the gigantic negatives (1 x 8×10″ negative = 1 roll of 35mm film), the depth of field is extremely shallow, only a couple of millimeters but that old Kodak large format camera with its bellowsmovements made it possible to get them all “pretty sharp”. I made the vocalist only show the white in his eyes for the second I exposed the Direct Positive Paper, which indeed is a fantastic medium when working with the large format, since it’s like a Polaroid (positive) and you can handle it under red/safe light which makes it much easier than the negatives.


October · Sinar P2 5×7” – 21cm Voigtlander Petzval · Expired Ilford photo paper

2014_10_5x7_Sinarp2_21cm_Voigtlander_iso2_when the silver runs dry

One Of Many portraits of my favourite subject(s) – my clone, Hjalte. Almost 16 years old, he looks nothing like the child I’ve been documenting for many years now, as he’s growing rapidly, physically as well as mentally. Teenagers are hard to shoot since they’re pretty demanding, and pretty pimple ridden, but I’ve been experimenting quite a bit with expired analog materials and decided to try to drag the absolutely last silver out of some photographic paper which expired the year Hjalte was born (1999). He sat still for around 4 seconds while I underexposed and then the negative laid in the (also expired) chemistry for around half and hour before it was fully developed. I love it, one of my favourite portraits of 2014.


November · Sony A7S · Leica 75mm Summilux f/1.4 · ISO1600

2014_11_SonyA7S_75 Summilux_iso1600_Ruth Storm

Yes, I love old cameras (and especially lenses) but of course I also embrace new technological wonders –– like the Sony A7S. Most of my work is shot at extremely low ISOs, but the A7S opened new doors for me with its extreme low light capabilities. I’ve shot portraits for record covers at ISO 100.000 (!) which look fine on print – and my Leica lenses all perform wonderful on that little Sony. And the ones that can be hard to focus on a rangefinder are easy to nail spot on with the focus peaking turned on. Sometimes I wish the A7S had just a few more pixels as 12mp isn’t a lot for print/pro work, but I use it mostly for videos anyway, and there it reigns supreme.


December · Panasonic DMC-GF5 · 1″ Taylor-Hobson f/1.9 · ISO1600

2014_12_Panasonic DMC-GF5_1inch Taylor-Hobson f19_iso1600_trine tree

Yeah, I prefer large format and medium format, and full frame digital sensors. But lately, I’ve come to love a small, not-very-special little Panasonic pocket camera (DMC-GF5) – due to one fact: its MicroFourThirds sensor and the c-mount adapter that came along the little x-mas presents. That combo opens totally new doors when it comes to lenses and look. Old 16mm film lenses (c-mount) shine on that little digital sensor (the ones that cover it that is) and since the camera is very cheap (and lenses, too) I bring it everywhere for snapshots that otherwise were reserved for my iPhone. Here you see the newest member of the Ahlstrand-clan, Trine The Cat, climbing unto a x-mas tree. Nothing fancy, just one of those “family shots”, but I really dig the look of that tiny 1960s 16mm film camera lens, which I just had CLA’ed by my friend, Professor Olsen (repair-guy at One Of Many Cameras).

That’s it. Enjoy.

Mar 112015

What I learned from trading a DSLR for a phone.

By Brandon Labbe

NOTE: All images in this post are phone images. 

It is expected that a photographer wouldn’t revert to a lesser camera once they’ve used a professional one, however my experience has proven otherwise, and while I did indeed go back to using a professional camera in the end, I learned a lot along the way.

I could go into painstaking detail on the cameras I’ve owned, how they compared with each other and with other brands, but that would take much too long. I’ll at least name what I was planning on upgrading to, the Canon 6D, because for subconscious psychological reasons I don’t have the time or credentials to delve into, I am one who normally practices a sort of brand loyalty that could be described as borderline religious. That being said, in the year 2014 I had not shied away from photography itself, but from dslrs. In the years before, I’d taken a dslr nearly everywhere with me, but I’d noticed something in 2014 about my camera that I hadn’t noticed before. There was dust on it. Without even being aware of it, so much time passed between the few times I used it that a noticeable amount of dust gathered on it like one would expect to find on a book. An even bigger surprise met me at the end of the year: I had only taken the camera out of the house 4 times, as opposed to 40 times in 2013. When I was trying to think of what could explain the dramatic decline in my photography between the two years, it hit me: at the end of 2013, and I mean quite literally the very end of 2013 (it came in the mail late in the afternoon on December 31st), I had bought my first smart phone, a Samsung Galaxy S (not an S5 or S4, just a plain old S).

2014-05-30 15.28.45 1500


I’d owned phones with cameras before, but as anyone who ever used those would know, flip-phone cameras are pathetic. They took pictures that were never really meant to leave the phone, as on a computer they only looked good when viewed at the size of a thumbnail, but I digress. On the night I received the phone, I was heading out to view the New Year fireworks, and even though I hadn’t had the phone for more than 3 hours, and I used the camera on it only once to test the quality, when it came time to leave, I made a last-minute decision to just take my phone and leave my dslr behind. I didn’t know why I did it. I’d never done it before, but it just felt right to leave it. I just knew I wouldn’t miss it. I think you can see where this is going. Throughout the year there were many times I felt comfortable enough with my phone to leave my dslr behind, and after some months there wasn’t even a question about it. I just packed my dslr into its never-used camera bag to keep it from getting dustier, and I practically forgot I even owned it. Sure enough, by the end of the year I’d amassed 1500 photos on my phone. Not nearly as many as I took with my dslr the year before, but still quite a lot.

2014-05-30 15.34.53 1500

Why did I do this? I didn’t think about it at the time, but it was the weight and size of the dslr that I apparently found repulsive compared to the phone. That much was obvious, but the amount of photos was a curious thing. Why did I take much fewer photos with my go-to camera (the phone) in 2014 than with my go-to camera (the dslr) in 2013? Two reasons: first, my phone has a short battery life, limiting the amount of pictures I could take. Second: my phone was pocketable while my dslr was always in my hand. I went rather photo-crazy with my dslr, taking multiple photos a minute, where as with my phone I thought about each picture, sometimes reaching for it, pausing, and putting my hand back down when I realized the image before me wasn’t special enough. I should note that while I can’t pocket the A7II, it’s light enough that it can hang from my neck as opposed to my constantly having to hold the heavier dslr that would give me neck pains if I let go of it. The limited battery of the A7II also keeps me in check, just like the phone. Like countless experts have said, limiting the amount of pictures you can take makes you more selective with taking pictures and that makes you better at thinking about pictures before you take them. This is the argument as to why you should learn photography with film, but a limited battery gives you the same discipline without the anxiety of not knowing if a picture came out well. Also, hanging a camera from your neck as opposed to always holding it in your hand makes you less of a shutter bug. I know these are tips that have been echoed a thousand times before, but what made them so meaningful in this situation is that I learned them without even realizing I was learning them.

2014-11-08 14.04.58 1500

Since it wasn’t till the end of October that I realized it wasn’t photography I was tired of, but dslrs, and the A7II was to be released in just 2 months, I held out on buying a new camera till the A7II came out. It wasn’t until I went lens shopping online that I partially realized another valuable lesson I apparently learned while using my phone as my go-to camera for nearly a year. I was torn between 2 options: the Zeiss 24-70mm 4 and, for reasons I didn’t even know at the time, the 35mm 2.8.

While I luckily never went through a ‘carry everything’ phase that some photographers go through when they’re starting out, from the time I bought my first dslr I always had a zoom lens, an 18-55mm (28-90 full frame) and I’d heard of prime lenses, but I was convinced that I’d die without a zoom lens. With that same mentality, I told myself, when shopping for lenses, “obviously I’m getting the zoom,” but when I saw the size of the lens, I cringed because it would make the A7II as long and nearly as heavy as one of my older, cheaper dslrs, which was still too big, and then I saw the 35mm, and it was like hearing angels singing, because it was a small lens that was rated very well and it hardly added mass to the body. There was just the little problem of “I’d die without a zoom lens,” but when I thought about it, I realized that for the last year with the phone I’d basically been using a prime lens (because I certainly didn’t use the ghastly digital zoom) and I even remembered in the first month wishing I could zoom with it but by the end of the year I never thought that and I was content with the phone’s fixed focal length (and sure enough, when looking up the phone’s specs, the phone’s lens’ focal length was equal to a 35mm full frame lens). I’d wanted to switch to using a prime lens before, because experts say it makes you a better photographer, making you visualize a picture before you take it, but what always held me back was the thought that It would be too limiting for me and I’d miss all sorts of shots, but in using my phone, I made the change I was scared to make without even realizing I made it!

2014-11-12 07.16.30 1500

I was still nervous when I bought the lens that I’d hate it and think it was too limiting, but in the 2 months I’ve owned the A7II I’ve already taken it out of the house more than I took the dslr out in 2014 and not only did I not feel the need for a zoom lens, but I actually felt better without it. With a zoom lens, I’d always find myself stopping and seeing which focal length would make a certain shot perfect, and that took time, perhaps not a lot of time, but seconds add up, and ultimately it just takes you out of the moment more. Well, that and holding the camera in your hand and taking a hundred photos where a dozen or even fewer would suffice, and what’s the point of capturing a moment when you’re detached from it?

If you make all of the mistakes that I made before quitting dslrs (taking too many pictures, using a zoom lens, using gear that’s too big, etc), I wouldn’t tell you to use a phone, but you can skip that step and learn all of the things I did by getting one of the Sony A7 models (with your best bet being the A7II) and a prime lens that suits you’re style of photography. For example, I like 35mm where some people like Henri Cartier Bresson think anything wider than 50mm is blasphemy. To each their own, Mr. Bresson.

2014-06-03 08.26.07 1500

This isn’t really related, but one thing I found myself doing with the A7II from day 1 is using the fully manual mode. I don’t know about Nikon, but manual mode looked so complicated on Canon dslrs that the very sight of the ‘M’ on the mode dial gave me chills. I always had it in automatic, but that wasn’t always a good thing because while I got most of the shots I wanted, I missed some because they were over or underexposed to a degree that I couldn’t do much for them even in photoshop or lightroom.

One final note. Be warned, though, the following isn’t for the faint of heart. Having used a phone as my go-to camera for nearly a year, I grew so used to looking at the screen to compose pictures, as there was no viewfinder, that I find myself only using the lcd screen of the A7II and even find myself wishing it didn’t have the viewfinder, as I feel it’s just unneeded bulk. I know, I’m probably the only person who’s used an A7II and thought that, but it’s true. I’d buy the RX1, but the tech is older and it doesn’t have a grip. If the RX2 is a fixed prime lens (I’ve heard rumors that it might be a zoom; I hope that’s not true) and it has a grip like the A7II, I’d buy it in a heartbeat. Who knows, maybe I’ll warm up to the viewfinder eventually, but right now the live view on the screen is an appealing reminder of a phone where as the viewfinder is like an ugly reminder of my dslr days.

Brandon Labbe

Feb 202015

28 images from the A7s, A7II, E-M1, E-M5II, Fuji X-T1, Fuji X100T, and M 240

Hello to all and HAPPY FRIDAY! After I posted my recent E-M5II Camera review (see it HERE) many have been asking me THIS question:

“NOW I AM CONFUSED! What camera do I buy? The E-M1, E-M5Ii, A7II, M 240 or Fuji?!?!

Yes, I get these questions daily and I never give a definite answer as this choice is personal. That would be like asking “what car should I buy” or “which house should I get”? A camera is a personal choice and the reason these reviews are written is so all of you can read and make an informed decision. I understand how hard it is, believe me. But just know that any of these cameras mentioned are truly fantastic and can get the job done. If you are in love with PHOTOGRAPHY and the art of making memories and making art, ANY of these will do.

If you are a pixel peeper it is best to go for something super high res like a Sony A7r as that will give you something to zoom in on and measurbate to. Me, I prefer real photography and making memories as I go on this long journey that we call life. A camera, to me, is made to capture those moments we lose and those memories that in 10-20 years will be very foggy for our aging brains. Looking back at images remind us of the many good times, the family, the friends, the sad times and the exciting times. THIS is what it is all about for ME. I do not pixel peep, I am against it. I occasionally will post crops just to show those who love that sort of thing how much detail we can get but overall it does not matter. At all.

Any of the cameras below can make LARGE prints (I have a 20X30 from E-m1, it is gorgeous. I have larger from my A7II, beautiful). So remember, ANY camera will get you the memories you want to capture but the main difference between them is HOW YOU GET there!

Yes, some cameras make it a joy to get your memories while others make it a pain. Some will get you there with amazing technology and others with their simplistic charm. Some will offer you bold looking files and others a more natural looking file. Some will offer you tools to help you (such as 5 Axis IS or a nice large EVF) while others make it a challenge (Leica M RF).

Below I have chosen 7 images from the A7 and A7II, Olympus E-M1 and Em5II, Fuji X-T1/X100t and the Leica M 240 so you guys can see in one place, the differences between full frame, APS-C and Micro 4/3. Depth of field will be different, color will be different and the overall vibe will be manufacture specific. I have no secrets here on this blog and I always tell it like it is..FOR ME and MY tastes. Not everyone will agree. But enjoy as I share my thoughts on these different mirrorless systems.

SONY A7s and A7II


The Sony A7 series appeared with a bang when the A7 and A7r were announced. Full frame small mirrorless cameras that performed amazingly well with rich files, rich color and decent usability. While slow in Auto focus and a bit clunky with the early models, the newer A7s and A7II improved things such as AF speed and accuracy, high ISO capability and in the case of the A7s, amazing capabilities with Leica M glass. I love the A7s and A7II with a preference to the new A7II for its better build, 5 Axis IS, and gorgeous IQ (for me, the best of the A7 series IQ). If you want that full frame creamy look with massive shallow depth of field, Full Frame is where it is at. APS-C or Micro 4/3 can not do it to the level of full frame.

If you want the most dynamic range, usually a full frame sensor will give it to you as well. On the other hand, shooting fast lenses on full frame can be difficult as the Depth of Field can be so slim and narrow many times people misfocus. But when you nail it, it can be gorgeous.

The Sony system is still somewhat new, less than 2 years old yet there are many lenses out for the system already, and me, I like to use Leica M glass and old exotic lenses with my Sony’s.

CLICK all images for larger and much better view

The A7II and Leica Noctilux at 0.95


ISO 32,000 with the A7s – Mitakon 50 0.95


The A7s – click the images for moire detailed versions! What you see here is NOT the best way to view them. You must click them!


The Sony A7s and 55 1.8


A7s again..


A7II and Noctilux..and amazing combo


An OOC JPEG at ISO 8000 using the 35 2.8 Zeiss lens


The Sony A7II represents the best of the Sony A7 line for me. It has all you need to create beautiful rich files. Wether you use native lenses or Leica M glass or old vintage rangefinder lenses, this is the camera that can handle it. The A7s is the king of the night, with amazing low light and high ISO abilities. The A7II can not come close to this ISO performance but IMO beats the A7s in overall IQ. The A7 series is doing VERY well for Sony, above expectations so this is good and can not wait to see what they come out with next.

Fuji X-T1 and X100T


Ahhh, Fuji. Many love Fuji and they have some hardcore fans, that is for sure! Me, I like Fuji. I used to LOVE Fuji back in the days of the S5 pro and original X100. Today I feel they went a bit backwards with the X Trans sensor. I just do not like it as much as the original sensor from the X100. When I look at any Fuji images (not just mine) they have a look to them from the X Trans that while nice, is not my preferred look. In fact, its at the bottom of the heap for me. There is something un-natural about the files for my tastes but even with that said, this is a personal thing and what I may dislike, someone else may love to death.

Many love Fuji and that can not be denied. They sell well and they do “Fuji Color” very well. Where it falls flat for me is true low light ability. The files get “dirty” and “mushy” in low light and this is why all of the really great Fuji images in recent years were shot in amazing light. Give the X Trans amazing light and it will reward you. Give it dull or low light and it will not. For me, the Sony files and the Olympus and Leica files below beat the Fuji when it comes to overall IQ.

Body wise, the X-T1 is fantastic. Its a wonderful body but still compared to the A7II, E-M1, and M 240 it feels the lowest quality of build. It is not bad in build, but when you compare side by side with the competition, it feels a bit lacking and hollow. Much better than previous Fuji bodies though. Fuji has come a long way since the X-Pro 1. Now they have much faster AF, world class EVF (best there is), nice external controls for all of your needs and great usability. If Fuji still used the old X100 sensor I would own an X-T1 :) That X-T1 above looks AMAZING doesn’t it?

Typical Fuji look in normal light..



I always have issues with the X-Trans blowing highlight, even if using the extended DR modes (which make the image look very flat imo) – Here the bird is exposed correctly but the highlights have blown. There are many examples of this and i never have this issue with my other cameras. Nothing I did could save the blown out highlights here or in other X-T1 images. 






The good thing about Fuji is they support their cameras NON STOP. Firmware releases are regular and they fix bugs that pop up, improve AF speed and do good things AFTER you buy the camera. They are improving their bodies non stop as well, and the X-T1 is a winning body without question and I am sure they will keep coming out with better and better cameras. One of these days I will buy myself a Fuji :)

Olympus E-M1 and E-M5II


To me, this system is so mature and so well executed today that these are some of the best cameras you can buy today, regardless of mirrorless or DSLR. There are a thousand reasons for this from size, build, pro level features, freeze, shock, weatherproof…huge EVF, super fast AF, amazing 5 Axis (best in the world), awesome video in the new 5II as well as the rich files with superb color richness as well. Some of my favorite images of my life were shot on 4/3 and Micro 4/3 systems and I place this just behind the Sony A7II and Leica M for IQ.

Today, the E-M5II and E-M1 meet or exceed nearly all APS-C cameras for build, speed, features, capabilities, color and yes IQ. It can not beat a full frame model for Dynamic Range, Details or high ISO but it holds its own and then some for APS-C and for me, the E-M1 is probably the best camera body I have used, ever. I am talking about the whole package… build, features, speed, controls, versatility, what is possible with them, etc. As I said, IQ is just behind the full frame models. It really is.

Even so, Olympus is doing great things and they are the inventors of Live View, Dust Cleaning in camera, 5 Axis IS, and more. Good to see them still innovating. I also feel the best lenses next to Leica M are right here for Micro 4/3, from the Nocticron to the 75 1.8 to the 40-150 to the 12mm f/2 to the f/0.95 Voigtlanders. So many choices.

Shot with the 17 1.8 at 1.8. Amazing lens with just the right amount of detail and tones.


The 40-150 – the color here is WOW. JPEG. The way I brought this out is by using SPOT metering. 


The 12-40 f/2.8 pro zoom. One of the best standard zooms I have used. 


The 17 1.8 again, smooth, sharp and wonderful bokeh.


Nocticron goodness…f/1.2



The Voigtlander 25 0.95 at 0.95 – THIS is a special lens. 


Olympus have created quite the tool for the PHOTOGRAPHER who puts his priorities at capturing the image, the moment, the memories. The Af doesn’t let you down, the controls are spot on and the build is the best of the lot. Lens choice is plentiful and its only weakness is that it will not give you full frame shallow depth of field (but neither will APS-C). For me, the E-M1 and E-M5II beats most APS-C camera as a whole, without hesitation, even factoring in size. Now there are some great bodies by Panasonic as well but for me, they do not have what it takes to take on Olympus’s E-M1 and E-M5II.

Leica M 240


Ahhh, the system I loved and used for many years, ever since the film M7. I have had an M ever since from the M8 to M9 to MP (film) to M9P to M-P 240 to Monochrom. I have had them all and loved them all. For me, this is the pinnacle of simplicity. Real photography. Not much in the way of features but this is how it should be with an M. Just you, the camera, and the subject. Nothing to worry about  – just focus, set your aperture/exposure and shoot.

The Leica M is an all time favorite of mine, hands down. The only issues today is with cost. Buying an M 240 and 50 APO will set you back $15,000. Buy a used M and used Voigtlander lens and it will still set you back $6k. You have to be majorly dedicated and have a nice padded bank account to jump in today,  so not everyone can.

Today with cameras like the Sony A7II leica seems to be losing some ground. Back in the M9 days they ruled the roost as there was nothing quite like the M9 in use or in age quality. Today, there are  a 1-2 mirrorless cameras that meet or exceed the M 240 image quality and color and for much less money. While you will never get the experience of the M from a Sony, Fuji or Olympus and you will never get that true pride of ownership with anything else (once you feel and shoot with an M it is tough to go to anything else) you will get IQ that can beat it from other cameras. Today Leica is not “the best” in IQ but they are “the best” in lenses, experience, build, and feel AND simplicity. The M lenses are the best in the world IMO and they are SMALL and built like mini tanks.

I love Leica, and I love the M 240. Period. It’s has some magic in the bloodlines but today it is getting harder to justify unless you REALLY only love RF shooting and have a big fat bank account.

The M with the 50 APO


The M with a Voigtlander 50 1.5



The M with a 90 Elmarit


50 APO again




35 Cron


As I look back at these random images I chose for this article I study them and not only am I looking at the file quality and character but I am remembering the times I had shooting those images and according to my memory, the most fun I had shooting was with the Leica M, hands down. Then it would be the E-M1 and E-M5II, then the Sony A7II and A7s and then the Fuji. All have the capability to capture your frames in high quality but the one you choose will be part of your personal journey. The one that speaks to YOU, not ME. So next time you get ready to send an email asking “What should I buy” – ask yourself this question and go with you 1st gut instinct. That is usually the correct choice :)

You can see my full reviews of the cameras listed above:

Sony A7IISony A7s Fuji X-T1Fuji X100T Olympus E-M1Olympus E-M5IILeica M 240

© 2009-2015 STEVE HUFF PHOTOS All Rights Reserved

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