Dec 052014
 

1STLOOK

The Sony A7II – First Look and Video!

Order the A7II at Amazon – Amazon says they start shipping on the 11th of December

Order the A7II at B&H Photo – B&H says shipping starts December 9th

Steve

The Sony A7II has arrived and is in my hands and I am much more impressed than I expected to be. I assumed it would be an A7 with 5-Axis IS but it is quite a bit more than that. At the price of $1698, this is THE full frame camera to have for any enthusiast, hobbyist or anyone who has the passion of photography and wants extraordinary results with their camera gear.

1st off, take a look at my video below where I talk about my 1st impressions of the Sony A7 II…

 

The camera feels awesome in the hand, so much better than the old A7, A7r or even A7s. The new button placements are just about perfect and the larger grip (that I thought I would hate) feels JUST right. The camera also looks nicer, and feels much better built  – more solid. Feels like a pro camera in my hand and the 5-Axis worked wonders during some test video footage I took today. Made it appear like I was using a steady cam. The AF is indeed faster than the old A7 and the IQ, just as Sony has claimed, has been improved. I now see the better color, AWB and punch of the A7s but with more detail..amazing detail..even when shooting plain old JPEG.

Three 1st snaps with the A7II in my house, which was dimly lit BTW – One with the Zeiss 35 2.8 and two with the Voigtlander 40 2.8 – you MUST click them for larger and true 100% crop. These are JPEG! AWB did well for all three with no odd color casts.

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Click the image below to see just how rich, deep, colorful and detailed an OOC JPEG is from the A7II using the 35 2.8

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and one in B&W at ISO 2500 – NR turned off – 35 2.8

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So my enthusiasm went sky-high after taking the A7II out of the package and putting it in my hand. My A7s can not be replaced by the A7II as the II can not do low light like the A7s but it will be the PERFECT companion to the A7s (which will be moved to low light status) as  the A7II now has stellar color and IQ.

Sony is kicking ass and I have yet to use a camera this year that feels as good, looks as nice and performs like this one. No Fuji, no Olympus, No Leica, No Nikon has done it. The A7II makes the Nikon Df feel like a toy in the hand, that is how much better it feels over the A7 Mark I. I love the Nikon Df, it is the only DSLR I would own (and did for a while) but the A7II has shown that Sony still means business and they are not backing down.

An OOC JPEG from the A7II and Voigtlander 15 (The A7s is on the table)

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and another shot of the A7II

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As you can tell, I am excited about this one..more so than the LX100 and X100T I have here to review as well (though I prefer the LX100 to the X100T).

I will be posting a full review of the A7 Mark II within 2-3 weeks. I need to make sure I get some quality time with it and snap all kinds of images in all kinds of situations to see just how well it behaves when pushed. 1st impressions are all positive so far!

Just some quick notes: This does NOT have a touch screen, it does not have the silent shutter and it will not perform as well as the A7s with Leica M ultra wide angle lenses. When using manual lenses the 5 Axis works well – you can assign what focal length you are using and the camera does the rest. Easy as pie. Buttons are all customizable..Sony has come a long way since the NEX series! The A&II also has a sturdier/beefier lens mount than the previous A7!

You can order your A7II at the links below, starts shipping December 9th! My order is in ;) 

Order at Amazon – Amazon says they start shipping on the 11th of December

Order at B&H Photo – B&H says shipping starts December 9th

Steve

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

Hello to all! For the past 6 years I have been running this website and it has grown to beyond my wildest dreams. Some days this very website has over 200,000 visitors and because of this I need and use superfast web servers to host the site. Running this site costs quite a bit of cash every single month and on top of that, I work full-time 60+ hours a week on it each and every single day of the week (I received 200-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I need YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis.

To help out it is simple. 

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

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

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

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

B&H PHOTO LINK – (not bookmark able) Can also use my search bar on the right side or links within reviews, anytime.

Outside of the USA? Use my worldwide Amazon links HERE!

You can also follow me on Facebook, TwitterGoogle + or YouTube. ;)

One other way to help is by donation. If you want to donate to this site, any amount you choose, even $5, you can do so using the paypal link HERE and enter in your donation amount. All donations help to keep this site going and growing! I do not charge any member fees so your donations go a long way to keeping this site loaded with useful content. Thank you!

Dec 022014
 

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Hasselblad Stellar Special Edition Video & Samples!

**B&H Photo has a few of these left, blowing them out at 70% off at $999**

Many of you e-mailed me asking for an update once I had the Hasselblad Stellar SE in hand. Well, mine did arrive and it is a beautiful little camera. If course we all know it is a Sony RX100 V1 in a Hasselblad disguise but the cameras high end extras, design, wooden grip and sturdier controls as well as offering Adobe Lightroom software makes it stand out from the standard (now $500) RX100 V1. Much like the Leica D-Lux is the same camera as the LX100 yet $400 more expensive. Same concept.

My quick look video is below!

It has become the “thing to do” in the photo world to trash this Hasselblad, but this was well deserved as Hasselblad went insane with the pricing out of the gate at $3500 for this SE model. I will tell you now that this camera is in no way worth $3500. So since its launch it was laughed at, trash talked and made fun of (though not as much as the LUNAR which is even more insane with pricing and has an ugly design) ONLY due to price and the fact that it is an RX100 with some new cosmetics and sturdier dials, etc.

Leica has been doing this for years with Panasonic cameras and raising the price, but they kept it in check, sticking with a $400-$600 price premium, not a $3000 price premium as Hasselblad attempted. Now that we can obtain one for $999 instead of $4000, it makes it MUCH easier to swallow and the reality is that this camera is nothing to balk at , laugh at or out down. It is a VER capable and beautiful camera.

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After snapping some images with it I was reminded how lovely the original RX100 renders an image (slightly different and more organic than the II and III) and while the III has the most nag for the buck with the pop up EVF, the Stellar SE, now that it is 70% off ($2300 OFF) it makes for a special buy. B&H Photo have sold out of one color but have a few left of the others and once they are gone they are gone for good. Other shops did not reduce the cost of this camera so stores like Amazon are still selling it for $3500-$4200. Other shops who carry this camera are sticking with the $3500- price tag which means when B&H Sells out, there could be a possible resale on eBay profit so I will buy a couple more to do just that ;)

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In the flesh the camera looks killer (IMO) and I bought the orange as for me, it sticks out and screams “what the hell is that”?!?!? The main thing I prefer over the standard version is the wooden grip, it is perfectly placed for maximum gripe and comfort.

To those who say “you are buying old tech, and it is just GAS” well..I say those who chase the latest tech are the most guilty of gas! This camera, the RX100 V1 is highly capable of gorgeous and stunning results. Just see this post here for proof of that.

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It will take gorgeous images today and in 5 years it will as well. Cameras made in trees last 2-3 years are mostly all fantastic today just as they were years ago. Look at the Nikon DF using the old D4 sensor. Amazing camera.

Differences of the Stellar SE over the standard Sony RX100?

  • Different cosmetics
  • Hasselblad name
  • Italian Leather Strap & Wrist Strap included
  • Wooden Storage/Display box Included
  • Exotic Wooden Grip
  • Metal parts and sturdier dials
  • Adobe Lightroom Included

Now 2X the cost instead of 8X the cost of the RX100 V1 ;) 

In any case, I recommend either the RX100 V1 for under $500 or this Hasselblad version of it for $999. Either would make an awesome X-Mas gift for the special photo enthusiast in your life.  Other great options are the new Panasonic LX100 or even Fuji X100T. 

PS – Oh! Before I forget...For those of you who are angry, bitter, full of negativity and hate about me posting the deal on this camera, get over it. Your negative remarks will not be approved if that is what you decide to leave. Cameras are PERSONAL CHOICE and we buy what we enjoy, like, use and cameras that can be fun, inspirational and ones that get the job done. If someone wants to buy a Leica M for $8000, so be it! If someone wants a Canon Rebel, then good for them. If someone wants a Leica D-Lux over an LX100, more power to them. If someone wants a 70% off Stellar over an RX100 then that is cool as well. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and to me this camera is gorgeous. It was just insanely priced before and that is what made it the laughing stock that it was. At $999 it is a great buy, and again, one that can be resold later for more (mark my words), so nothing to lose :) I may buy 3 more just to sell later!

UPDATE Dec 3rd 2014: Some stats..over the past three days nearly 30 of these have been sold from my link to B&H Photo here. This means that 30 of you bought one after reading this. The interesting thing? Orange has been the top color with over 22 sold! White sold 5 and black sold 3. I figured most would go for the classic black but it appears many of you have the same taste as me  and went for the orange! My guess is that B&H has about 20 of each color and it started with two orange combos, one sold out. For those who asked, I will be doing a just for fun crazy compare between this camera, the X100T and the Lx100 soon! 

UPDATE Dec 5th 2014: I just re-read an article I wrote about the Stellar SE when it was announced and it is funny as I said “I would pay $1000 for one” and here we are, at $999. Priced just right. You can see that article here. 

 

You can buy the RX100 V1 HERE or the Hasselblad Stellar SE HERE. 

My 1st three snaps with the Hasselblad Stellar SE at home!

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For reference, Amazon has one listed for $4,250 as of December 2nd 2014 – $999 at BH is a great buy.

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Nov 262014
 

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The New Sony A7 Mark II – Pricing and Ship Dates!

**Pre-Order the A7 II at B&H Photo NOW! – $1698 – Ships December 9th**

The KIT Lens version with the 28-70 Zoom is $1998 HERE

As many of you have seen, Sony Japan announced the new A7 Mark II with a slew of improvements. I had a meeting with Sony where I heard all about the new camera last week and wow, they really did their homework. The A7 Mark II is not only going to be just a full frame mirrorless, but a powerhouse of a photographic tool. Yes, I am excited. I fell in love with the A7 series a year ago and even more so when the A7s was released (My current #1 camera). With the A7II, Sony has struck a nerve and finally added the game changing 5 Axis Image Stabilization. YES. This is good.

There are a few improvements over the old A7 and the best news is that you can PRE-ORDER the A7II (links coming today) at $1699. yep, $1699. Sony did not gouge the price of the A7II, instead they kept it the same as the older A7 and have now lowered the price of the original A7 to $1299 (as of this weekend)! A full frame mirrorless that accepts ANY lens made (just about) for $1299.

Order the original A7 here. It will be lowered to $1299 by Friday. 

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But the A7II is the one I am lusting for just due to the fact that it is now even beefier in build with a new more robust mount, better weather sealing and now 5-Axis Image Stabilization. This is the best IS you can get in a digital camera, period. Better than ANY lens, or any in body IS. This is basically what we have in the Olympus E-M1 and it is AMAZING. The best news is that this 5-AXIS will work with ANY lens, even Leica M glass, Canon or Nikon. Sweet! You will gain 4.5 stops by using 5-Axis. This seems like a polished and very capable camera. The 5-Axis IS is what set apart the Olympus E-M1 from the pack, and now Sony has it.

Sony tells me IQ of the A7 II is improved from the A7 even though the A7II is using the same sensor as the A7. Yes, it is the SAME exact 24MP sensor, but the processing has been tweaked (hopefully to match the superb A7s).

The Af is now 30% faster than the A7, video has been improved to A7s specs, and the re-design places the shutter button in a much more comfy spot as well as adding a bit more grip to hold on to.

Sony is on fire yet again and I can not wait to see what else is coming down the road from them. Rumors of a PRO A9 series is making my mouth water and I can only imagine the possibilities.

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PRE-ORDER the SONY A7II for $1699 – Shipping starts December 9th!! Just in time for X-Mas!

Order at Amazon – – – – Order at B&H Photo

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  • Higher bitrate video – 50MBPS – same as Sony A7s, which is astounding
  • Same Sensor – No changes to sensor but A7II has improved IQ due to new processing
  • Worlds first 5 – Axis IS on a full frame camera model
  • IQ improved over A7
  • ALL lenses stabilized – even Leica, Canon, Nikon, etc
  • 30% faster AF, improved tracking
  • More robust mount
  • Body redesign, new shutter placement

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PRICING of the Sony A7 Mark II:

$1699 BODY ONLY – Ships December 9th 2014!

$1999 KIT lens  – Ships December 9th 2014!

AND YES, I will be doing a full “real world” review of this new Sony A7II as soon as I can one shipped to me for review, which should be less than a week from now!

 

PRE-ORDER the SONY A7II NOW for $1699 – Shipping starts December 9th!! Just in time for X-Mas!

Order at Amazon – – – – Order at B&H Photo

Nov 252014
 

thor

The NEW Wotancraft THOR and Ryker Brown Camera Bags!

I love Wotancraft bags. Today, at the end of 2014, I have tested and tried bags from so many companies. Many have been reviewed here, some were used and not reviewed (when I did not care for the item) and a few were used and given away to readers on my Facebook page.

One company that NEVER EVER fails to impress me 100% of the time is Wotancraft. When it comes to QUALITY and FUNCTIONAL and FASHIONABLE bags, Wotancraft is #1 in my book. Sure, there are some mighty fine bag companies out there making beautiful bags today. Artisan & Artist, ONA, Billingham and Hold Fast Gear. Sure, there are bags that are basic and cheaper and VERY functional. Bags like Think Tank are #1 when it comes to function but stylish they are usually not.

Some people could care less about style, and others MUST have style along with the function. For me, the best I have seen EVER for this kind of bag (style and function) is from WOTANCRAFT, without question. This is what makes them my #1 favorite bag company ever. In my last review of their Ryker (black) I was so excited about this bag that they sold out quickly after my review. Many waited 2-3 months for their Ryker as they are produced in limited runs. Many asked me “do they make this beautiful bag in Brown leather as well as black”?

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Well, I am happy to announce that yes, the Ryker is NOW available in Brown as well as black. The brown and black are both here sitting next to me at my desk and I can say that both are just BEAUTIFUL. I feel the brown will wear in better over the years and develop a rich patina but both are equally as impressive in the looks, build quality and materials used as well as FUNCTION, the #1 reason we need a camera bag. This brown would look SO SO good with a silver chrome Leica M housed inside, or even a Fuji X100 or X-T1, Leica TOlympus E-M1 or a Sony A7 series camera. Have a Leica X, that will work as well :)

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In fact, I find for my use that the Ryker is the most functional bag I have owned when using a Leica M or mirrorless system. It’s really that good. 

The new Brown Ryker can be seen in my review video below where I talk about it and the new Thor bag (which is a beautiful beast of a bag). Both are beautiful as well as the best constructed bags I have ever used, tested or owned.

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The new Thor is very interesting as it comes in at a VERY high price tag of $849 USD. Yes, just $150 less than a cool grand. EXPENSIVE? HELL YES. Worth it? Well, that depends in YOU and how m much you are comfortable with when buying a bag of this quality. These are high end bags and are made to a very high standard as well. If you want quality, as in, lifetime quality, these bags will stand the test of time without questions. When you buy a bag such as the Thor ($849 USD) or Ryker ($379 USD) you can expect to own it for the rest of your life. It will travel with you everywhere and only develop character scars from your own use. Patina will develop over time and in 20-30 years the bag will be rich in history and beauty. That is the kind of bag you can expect from Wotancraft. One thing I have learned in my 45+ years on this earth. Buying quality 1st saves you money later as you do not have to replace your items when you buy the good stuff up front. ;)

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I have nothing but high praise for Wotancraft. Premium materials, premium construction and build and super function. These pieces are as good as it gets for me. Highly Recommended.

You can see more about these bags or order them at WOTANCRAFT direct using THIS LINK. You can also see more of what they offer by clicking HERE. 

Wotancraft is also having a special for the Christmas Season. Anyone who buys a bag will receive a very nice travel pouch with their order!

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Nov 192014
 

Steve Huff in Las Vegas (10)

Testing the new CosySpeed Camslinger Bag for Street Shooting (Video)

A month or two ago I was out in Las Vegas with the Head Honcho of CosySpeed (Thomas Ludwig) who travelled all the way from Germany to let me see his newest bag as well as shoot some video of me street shooting while using it and putting it to the test. I also did an interview where I answered quite a few questions about photography as well as discussing things I enjoy, my style and what drives me. It was a great time and I enjoyed it as I was doing what I love to do in a city I enjoy for its vast amount of photographic subjects.

Here I am using the new “Paris Grey” Camslinger in Las Vegas NV a few weeks ago. See how I prefer to shoot on the street…

I talked about the CosySpeed Camslinger bags when they were launched and I actually really enjoyed them. I even used on my recent Southwest Road Trip workshop during the Antelope Canyon portion of the event. It worked out VERY well as it allowed me to carry my Sony A7s without even realizing I was carrying it. Much lighter than a backpack, less noticeable on my body than a strap and a great fast way to get your mirrorless camera ready for action.

CAMSLINGER 160 Paris Gray

In Vegas I used the new Grey model which I thought was pretty nice, especially when compared to the Green and Black original. The grey was classy and looked great. As I walked I even had a couple of people ask me what bag it was. The whole concept of the bag came to CosySpeed owner, Thomas Ludwig while he watched two of his favorite movies. One was a Clint Eastwood western, which insider him to make a holster style case that was a bit different from the typical “Fanny Pack” we see today. The Camslinger does not sit on your waist like a fanny pack, it sites more like a holster for your camera…slightly lower on one side for easy access to the camera inside.

Steve Huff in Las Vegas (10)

As I walked the streets of Las Vegas with the Camslinger I found that I never even noticed I was carrying a thing, until I went to grab my Camera. It is that light and un-obtrusive. After that shooting session I was sort of hooked on the holster bag. It was functional, it was attractive and when it was on me, I did not even realize it. Thomas told me they also were releasing an all black version MINUS the green, which is also killer for those who want their case/bag/holster to be all black and stealthy.

CAMSLINGER 160 Street Edition

The belt is adjustable, the bag is adjustable and can be made wider depending on your needs and they come in a couple of sizes. They also do not and wilt break the bank. These bags are well worth the cost at $99 for both the special edition Camslinger 160 in Paris Grey and the 160 Street Edition in al black.

In this world of $400-$600 camera bags, getting a simple, functional and very lightweight holster for your camera at $99 seems like a bargain of the year.

Don’t be put off by the looks, in use it is fantastic. You can buy these Camslinger Bags at B&H Photo HERE.  I now own the Paris Grey version I used in the video above and love it. When I need to take one camera with me, the 160 Camslinger goes with me and it is like not even bringing a camera as you really do not realize it is on!

Steve

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PRESS RELEASE BELOW:

New CAMSLINGER bags from COSYSPEED.

Just in time for the Christmas season, COSYSPEED introduces two new color editions of its CAMSLINGER camera bag for compact system cameras: the CAMSLINGER 160 Street Edition and the CAMSLINGER 160 Paris Gray. Both versions of the bag will be available by mid-November for a special price of 79.99 Euro / US-$ 99.00.”

AD Steve NOV14

A quick word about Street Photography

A week or two ago I posted a video I whipped up about how I GO ABOUT shooting images on the “street” and a few of you (only a few) chimed in saying “taking portraits in not street photography” – well…who defined what street photography is? Those who like to shoot the backs of heads or sniping shots of unaware people? To me, that is just random shooting.

For example, Vivian Maier is one person I consider to be an amazing “street photographer”. In fact, I prefer her work to any of the old masters many rave about. She did a mix of “decisive moment” shooting as well as “street portraits” and she is now known as a great street photographer, as she should be. That is what she did and she was fantastic at it. But saying portraits of strangers is NOT a form of street is incorrect, as it is.

Steve Huff in Las Vegas (6)

I do not and have never posed anyone though sometimes they pose themselves if I am doing that sort of street portrait. I like to mix it up and get people without me telling them up front and I also like to chat it up with others, and then ask them for a photo. It works both ways but I do not “pose”  – I just go out, walk around, look for interesting people to meet and try to be as social as possible as this approach usually yields some great results, more so than sneaking shots of people walking by or “decisive moments” of someone walking out of a shadow in front of a building which is so overdone it is quite boring to look at today.

I find people interesting and in a place like Las Vegas, most are willing and excited to talk with you. It’s a fun time and shooting strangers is something I have always enjoyed. Its therapeutic and feels great and yes, this is indeed a form..a version..a variant of “Street Photography”.

I enjoy it and in the grand scheme of things, that is ALL that matters ;)

 

Nov 172014
 

retina

The New 27” Apple iMac 5k, Trick or Treat?

by Charlie Webster – See his Flickr HERE

For high-performance digital photography you need a great body. And, you’d like a great lens. Finally, you’d like a great way to view your results. A fundamental Troika. In analog, this could be a M6, 28 Cron and a really fine print. You get the picture.

I’m a photographer and ski instructor in Sun Valley, Idaho, where I’ve lived since 1978, but my main business is computer consulting. For years I had almost all my clients on Windows machines, and I built many of them myself. Since the introduction of Windows 8, I’ve been switching them all to Apple. After years with fast Windows machines, my main rig has been a Mac for two years now.

For me, it pays to keep up, so on October 16th I caught the live feed for the “Apple Event”. I’m cleaning the house while silly skits play to raucous fanboy cheers, etc, when suddenly the subject is a new “5K iMac retina”. My ears prick up like a labrador who hears a hand in the milkbone box. Rut-ro, 14 million pixels? Woof! 70% more than 4K display, which I’ve been drooling over! By the end of the presentation I know one thing: the earth has moved and I must have one of these. I smell the third leg in a digital troika: M9, M Lens, and now……. 5K 27” Retina display.

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To this point I’ve always built my own desktop machines. Never dreamed I’d buy an iMac. Build a hackintosh? Sure. Spend thousands on a big all-in-one? Not this chump! But the luscious Scoobie-snack prospect of seeing M9 files at near full resolution on a 27 inch monitor brushes my DIY ethos aside in an instant, and I dig out “the card”. Fundamentally cheap at heart, I pull the trigger on a basic model with one upgrade: a 3 TB fusion drive. I order an extra 16 gigs of RAM from a third-party vendor to save some money. I’m spending the value of a 50 Lux on the used market today for my brand new Apple 5K. Will it be worth it?

*See the new iMac 5k Right HERE*

I track the iMac from the factory in China, to Japan, to Memphis, to Salt Lake, and finally to Hailey, a few miles away. It arrives, I fire it up, transfer my stuff from Time Machine, set desktops/spaces to cycle my better shots, open several tabs in Safari to follow some discussions, then get into some of my huge libraries of Sony and Leica Raws in Lightroom, resizing some favorites to 16×9 to use every pixel. All the time I’m checking my desktops for the full size images they show.

How do the files look?

Remember when you opened your own full frame digital files for the first time? Maybe it felt like you’d left the earth and taken flight once you saw the rich depth in those images. The 5K gives that sort of rush; and then some. This is the M9 of displays, even calibrated with the same feel and rich contrast of color slide film. Words cannot describe a mountain landscape with the 21SEM pushed to your eyeballs by 14,700,000 pixels on the 27” Retina display. You feel at once astounded, and instantly entitled: of course my shots should look like this! I knew I was a genius!

My first days with the rig were spent figuring out the best ways to view and edit Sony A7 and Leica M9 images, while carrying on with day-to-day computing. On background, I learned there are some great 27ish 4K screens under $2000 which may have a wider color gamut and superior calibration potential for printing than the Apple 5K. Users report that Windows operating systems scaling to 4K, let alone 5K, renders icons, menus and even web pages in curious, not optimal ways. Ideally you would want a 2560x1440ish display for surfing and GUI interaction, and 4k to look at fine stuff.

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With the 5K iMac, Apple has tackled the scaling issue head-on. When “Best for Retina” is selected in display options, this beast runs 2 resolutions simultaneously! One mode is 2560×1440, like a standard thunderbolt display. So your dock icons look normal and webpages are normal size, but Velvia clear, with 4 pixels making one, or something like that. We don’t realize the pixel noise in a native 2560×1440.

Imagine Safari taking up a box about 40% of the total screen space with an interior resolution of 2560×1440, with Steve’s site looking creamy smooth, surrounded by a desktop background—glittering as if from another world. Maybe some sweet shot with a CV 35/1.2 and lots of character, or a sharp UWA landscape with lots of tiny details. What rez will that be? 5120×2880, AKA 5K. Right behind your Safari window! I’ve been using cmd + h to hide Safari and check out my backgrounds as they rotate every minute, then cmd + tab brings back your work window. When you see a favorite shot on the 5k for the first time…

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Some programs, or sites appear to do exactly the same thing. Flickr, for example, seems to really “rez up” images for the 5k. In Lightroom you pull up that sweet etching of light from a wide open 28 cron, and how do you see it? 5120×2880, while sliders and controls are normal size. That sight will drop your jaw and change your workflow. Here is the crux of this quantum leap: with an M9 RAW up on the 5K we interact with the whole image, like a great print. When we study a smaller part of the image, the rest is still attached. You want to know if your ZM18 managed to resolve tiny details deep in the corners? Just look. Don’t zoom, just look. It’s obvious. You want to really check it out? Move your head closer. You don’t see pixels till your nose is getting close. Both lens and image character are revealed in breaking clarity. You find yourself exploring parts of shots you made which you’d never really appreciated.

Only a high quality print could compare and I doubt many are sharper than this. If the color gamut is richer in print, colors still look great on the 27 Retina. As I read in board discussions, the Eizos and NEC monitors may have a wider gamut and can be better calibrated for printing accurately. Yet, in person the 5k Imac is routinely described as “the best display I’ve ever seen” by geeks who’ve seen all the wide gamut 4k stuff. Which is not to say it’s the best predictor of print colors.

The 5K 27” display has an aspect ration of 16×9. Of course, it should have been 5212×3468, like the M9, but oh well. Many of my shots go from pleasing to not so pleasing in composition when cropped 16×9. A few look better. You put the right shot in there and it looks awesome. In future, I make some images especially for this aspect ration with the M9. Meanwhile, pristine un-cropped images glisten with two thin border edges. They look fantastic on the thing. And you can put some icons on the sides, too.

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How does it perform? Well 14.7 million pixels require considerable attention, so this generally snappy rig does gasp here and there in the heavy lifting, like some tasks in full screen photo editing. It doesn’t freeze, but it will drop frames or hesitate at certain times. We are at the frontier of what’s possible, after all.

After playing around quite a bit in LR, my conclusion is: once again library size may matter. In my large catalog, I was surprised to see the machine hesitate to apply a 16×9 crop and stagger to adjust the orientation of a graduated filter, while in other aspects and other spaces the machine was running fine. Finally, getting this report ready, I made a fresh library to edit shots for this piece, and the machine really ripped, very smooth with all the features at full screen. Going back to the big library it seems better, perhaps there is some resizing of thumbnails going on etc, which will make a big library run fast in the future. But short-term, you may want to use smaller libraries if performance becomes an issue. There is also the option, with a few quick clicks, to reduce the overall resolution for heavy editing, which does increase performance, then return to “Best for Retina” for viewing pleasure. 5K quirky? A tad, but like with the M9, the pudding just tastes too good to really care.

My advice is to get as many extras as you can afford in configuring a 5K Retina. It’s Apple so there aren’t many. A faster Card, a faster processor and some drive and ram options, that’s it. Get everything you can afford, but if you can’t afford anything more than the base price of $2499, my advice is: order tomorrow. A few staggers with tough tasks is small ransom to release your images from the smeared filter of coarse sub-4k pixels. Let your images blaze on one of these things and they will inspire you all over again. Here is a new and fundamental piece of digital kit, like the camera body and lens. Finally…..we have a display at the level of an M9 and 50 Lux, which can show you those results with a click and little compromise.

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Bottomline: 5K iMac Retina is a game changer for digital photography and desktop computing. Nothing like this has ever been built before. Like a digital Leica, it’s a wonderful step into the future and an incredible tool to use. Not without quirks of course. Thumbs up, Cupertino!

Thanks to Steve for his wonderful site and I hope everyone enjoys my take on the new 5K. “K” is for “Keeper”!

Charlie Webster
My Flickr:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/55299472@N07/

I shot the images in this report with A7 + Bokina 90/2.5 and M9 + CV 35/1.2

*See the new iMac 5k Right HERE*

Nov 142014
 

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The Sony A7 and Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2 Lens Review

by Tomer Vaknin

Dear Steve,

First let me say how much respect I have for you and the other members of your website, I have learned a lot by exploring the wonderful photos you all shared, equipment reviews and inputs. I would like to share my own personal experience with the Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2 Planar T* lens.

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As a proud and very happy owner of the Sony Zeiss 55mm, I was hesitant to purchase the Loxia. However, after reading the positive impression of the lens in Photonika 2014 and as a huge fan of M mount lenses that I am, I simply had to try the Loxia. Here are some photos I took with the Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2 Planar T* in Amsterdam streets, Marken village and Rennstrecke Zandvoort, during a holiday I took with my wife in the Netherlands.

I hope these photos, along with my personal impression of the lens, will help some of undecided readers in making the right decision for themselves.

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My personal take on the Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2 Planar T*:

- Great 3D feel (Check the box shot that was -take on a bed)

- Wonderful Bokeh

- Lovely Creamy look

- Great character

- Great colors and contrast

- Very sharp!

Overall, The 3D look, the creamy bokeh and feel + the very nice tone and color makes it a winner. The shots taken with the Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2 Planar T* looks like they were taken with the Leica lens.

Although the Sony Zeiss 55mm is an amazing lens and you can’t go wrong with it, I personally prefer the Loxia.

www.facebook.com/tomer.vaknin.5

You can order the Zeiss Loxia lenses at B&H Photo HERE

Nov 122014
 

Cubans

The Ricoh GR in Havana Cuba

by Lorenzo Moscia – See his website HERE with some beautiful photos

This trip to Cuba was for family reasons. My wife has not see her father since 2008, so it was basically a pretty intense trip. I decided to go very light with photographic equipment because for the first time in the past 8/9 years I was travelling abroad with no photo assignment on my shoulders or any particularly freelance plan on my mind.

But Cuba and la Habana are always a very good place to be with a camera.

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I bought a Canon 6D with a 50 1.2, and a Ricoh Gr V 28mm fix lens.

Each time I was walking down the street and take out the Canon all sort of people would approach me because I would represent the typical “yankee” with dollars. I would start to talk to them in a sort of cuban slang (I have been married to my cuban wife for the pst 14 years) so they would let me alone. But going around with the Ricoh was a totally new experience for me. I rediscovered the pure pleasure of the “street photo”, just going around with no particularly subject in mind with a little camera in one hand, and none would be pay attention to me.

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I usually use it with A, and find very easy to play with the apertures. But I love as well the TAV function, where I set the aperture (lets say 5.6 or 8) and the speed ( something above 125) and the camera just find the ISO to match the timing. That is very useful when you walk around and you just shoot on the move and you don’t want panning pics.

No one gave me any attention with that camera even in some more extreme “barrio” neighborhoods where the average tourist does not normally go. I really felt like I was invisible.

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The bad part about Ricoh is battery life very poor even if I had the “blind screen” option. I will have to buy an extra battery. The problem is here in Rome is very difficult to find.

Second issue is the auto focus in low light condition which is a bit slow,  even if there is a manual and snap options wich are very good by the way. The files look amazing with very balanced color and a very good dynamic range.

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The Canon stayed in the bag most of the time and I used it basically for the portrait series (See Below). Some days I went around with just the Ricoh inside the pocket of my shorts and I would take it outside holding in one hand like a pocket of cigarettes, spot a scene from a distance get closer and take pictures without looking at the screen. If I would go buying “fuel” at the local market down the road, for the family, the Ricoh would be always in one hand allowed me to take pictures even if I was carrying market bags on bought hands.

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I m sort of happy because I can see that in the market there are more and more new options each day of small compact cameras with even better sensors, quicker focus and more general functions. Using this camera in the streets of Havana It was not exactly like my first love, the one and only Contax G2 black with the 28mm, but, I must admit that the feeling it come pretty closer.

Lorenzo Moscia

http://www.lorenzomoscia.com

You can buy the Ricoh GR these days for under $700 at Amazon – HERE.

Nov 112014
 

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The Voigtlander 40 2.8 Heliar Aspherical Lens for Sony FE Review

*See my full Sony A7s review HERE*

I have had this new Voigtlander 40mm f.2.8 Heliar lens for almost 2 weeks now (Thanks to CameraQuest.com) and it is a unique lens to be sure. On one hand, it looks like an old classic lens and on the other, it is actually a modern-day lens made to modern-day standards by Voigtlander. It is a lens made for the Sony E or FE mount (It is a full frame lens) yet it was made in Leica M mount. Even while being made with a Leica M mount, it can not be used on a Leica M as there would be no way to focus the lens…

Yes, this lens does not have any focusing mechanism built into it. It is not auto focus or manual focus! As it comes out of the box, it is NO FOCUS as you will need an adapter to focus this lens.

If you have not watched my video on this lens, do so below to get an idea of what I am talking about

It all sounds confusing but it really isn’t. What Voigtlander has done is create a lens for the Sony system, cameras such as the A7, A7r and A7s while keeping the lens tiny and jewel like. It’s al metal construction and nickel finish is gorgeous and the lens is collapsible as well making for a very compact lens on any Sony camera. All you need is the Voigtlander VM-E close focus adapter, which is the Leica M to Sony E adapter. When using this adapter (which is a must) you use the adapters focusing mechanism to focus the lens. I keep my VM-E Close Focus adapter on the A7s all of the time as most of the lenses I use on it are M mount lenses. So snapping this guy on is no problem at all.

This is a file from RAW, NOT HDR. The DR of the Sony A7s is HUGE and the things you can do with one file is astonishing. Shot at f/5.6 and ISO 100

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and a crop from the above scene

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At $400 or so for the lens itself, it seems VERY inexpensive when you consider it is a small, well made collapsible f/2.8 prime that comes with a metal hood. metal cap, and smaller cap for those who do not want to use the hood. $400 is nothing in the world of lenses like this, and yes, this is very much like a Leica M mount Voigtlander lens. The lens gets more expensive when you add in the $300 Adapter but even so, at $700 it is a lens that after using it for a couple of weeks I wanted to keep. IN fact, I slightly preferred it to a mint+++ Leica 50 ELmar f/2.8 collapsable when it came to IQ, sharpness, and Bokeh.

WOW.

Using this lens on the Sony A7s (my Fave Sony A7 camera) I tested it in high contrast B&W JPEG mode. I love HC B&W and while I feel the Sony delivers TOO much contrast (as I found out when reviewing the images) the lens had no fault. It was sharp even when wide open and provided the typical Voigtlander Bokeh which delivers a classic look reminiscent of rangefinder glass. Click images for larger. Remember, these were in HIGH CONTRAST B&W JPEG mode on the A7s, so this is why they are so dramatic and high contrast!

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When I opened the box the lens was so tiny I was thinking…”this may not be a good lens”. Coming in at $400 or so, it seems like this would be an average lens with average optics. When I put the lens on my Sony A7s with the Voigtlander Adapter I was impressed with the build quality and feel. The collapsible action was easy and smooth, just as easy and smooth as any classic Leica I have used. When I twisted the aperture dial is when I was surprised. It is a clickless design so it is EASY to move. This was the only thing about this lens that I did not care for. There were 2-3 times when I thought the lens was at f2.8 and I later found out the dial slipped to f/22.

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I feel that they could have added clicks or at least made it a little stiffer.

After evaluating the build and feel I started to shoot with it..and I was very surprised by the performance in color and B&W. It was very nice..organic…flowing…and yes, it had some of that rangefinder glass rendering. I also found the lens to be super sharp at the focus point with pleasing Bokeh and contrast/snap.

Just a JPEG here but this was mid day in Phx AZ yet the lens rendered the scene in a non harsh way (think I had the camera set to VIVID)

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Here is an out of camera image set to f/2.8 – click it for larger. One thing I found with this lens wide open is that it will vignette slightly. You can see evidence of this in the photo below..

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The color is fantastic with this lens…

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The more I shot with the combo of A7s and this Voigtlander 40 2.8 the more I really enjoyed it. The color rendering was beautiful, and the bokeh was very pleasing as already stated. It is always nice to slow down and use a beautiful prime lens that is built to OLD standards. Standards that give you that solid and small build, smooth operation and great image quality overall. I could not believe how sharp this lens was, even wide open. It beat my Sony/Zeiss 35 2.8 which is larger, built to a lower standard, and is more expensive. The Sony has AF but this Voigtlander was a sinch to manually focus on the A7 series of bodies. I use focus peaking and I nail it 95% of the time. When the situation is more critical, like a portrait I may use magnification as well.

Click on this one to see a larger and better version. I focused on the eyes and having f/2.8 is just right for this type of shot as the eyes, nose and face will be in focus unlike using an f/1.4 aperture for a similar shot. This is right out of camera from RAW and was just a quick snapshot, INSIDE without any lighting or flash. NO problem for the Sony A7s, which is a master of ANY light. 

This lens is very nice for portraits…

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Putting it to the test…

I decided to bring the lens to my Southwest Road Trip which was AMAZING! Almost 30 of us embarked on a FIVE day journey aboard a fully chartered bus as we hit Zion National Park, Antelope Canyon and Sedona AZ. It was my best workshop/road trip EVER and if I ever do another one, this will be the one that all others are based on. It was fantastic. I shot the 40 2.8 for portraits and some scenic shots to give it a test and it never let me down though it did have the slight vignetting and in one case, flare. When points into the sun directly you will get some flare, much like the standard Leica 50 Summicron.

What I loved about this combo is that I could use it in any light with the Sony A7s even though the lens is a “slower” f/2.8 design and not an f/1.4. As I get older I am noticing that I am starting to appreciate slower lenses such as f/2.8 designs because it allows for great shaprness, easier focus and still some fantastic shallow DOF when used on full frame sensors such as the Sony A7 series. Below is a series of portraits I did in JPEG with the camera once again set to high contrast B&W. Again, you can use this setup in ANY light from bright to almost pitch darkness.

Yes, they are contrasty but this is due to the camera setting.

This first image was shot at ISO 8000 inside a somewhat dim restaurant. Shot wide open at f/2.8 and direct from camera. 

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Another in very harsh light but I like it. Wide open once again…

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…and a few more in the same lighting…all JPEG HC B&W on the A7s with 40 at 2.8

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 After using this lens and having so many see it and ask me about it I decided that I enjoyed it so much that I should buy it. I already have the $300 adapter so spending $400 for a gorgeous collapsible lens that gives stellar performance is a no brainer. It is small, it is gorgeous, it is stellar in its  rendering. It has three faults, or things that could have been improved upon…

  • The clicks aperture dial that moves too easy
  • It can flare if shooting direct into sun
  • It will vignette slightly wide open and it is noticeable on a full frame Sony.

Aimed direct to the sun (which was above the frame) the lens flared here…

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Other than that, I really feel that Voigtlander has been upping their game lately with the lenses they have released in the past year or so. This is another one that will go down in history as a beautiful and awesome Voigtlander lens. It gives us that little bit of classic (Vignette and Bokeh), little bit of modern (sharpness and pop) and overall a very nice and pleasing rendering.

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The quick bottom line on the Voigtlander 40 2.8 Heliar for the Sony E mount

If you want an old school looking lens with fabulous performance in color or B&W and you shoot with a Sony A7 series camera or even a Sony NEX or APS-C body, then this one is a cracking lens. The lens claim to fame is that it is VERY compact! When collapsed, it is only 12.6mm and when expanded for use it is only 21.4mm in length. As stated previously, it is usable on full frame or APS-C NEX cameras. The lens has a 37mm filter size and will close focus to .5m. I love the classic Nickel finish. If you do not mind manual focusing and slowing down, all the better. I found it easy to focus on the A7s and it was a pleasure to use. The 40mm focal length is interesting as it is in between the famous and classic 35 and 50 focal lengths. It took a few days of using it to really get where it was but after I got it I loved it :) Many of you know I really only review and recommend gear that I LOVE and would buy myself…and yes, I purchased this one for keeps!

Highly Recommended!

robertduane

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Where To Buy?

Mine came from CameraQuest.com and you can purchase the lens or adapter at the direct links below:

Order the Voigtalander 40mm f/2.8 HERE

Order the Voigtlander VM-E Close Focus Adapter HERE

Order the Sony A7s (My #1 Camera since its launch) – at Amazon HERE or B&H Photo HERE

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

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

To help out it is simple. 

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

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

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

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

B&H PHOTO LINK – (not bookmark able) Can also use my search bar on the right side or links within reviews, anytime.

Outside of the USA? Use my worldwide Amazon links HERE!

You can also follow me on Facebook, TwitterGoogle + or YouTube. ;)

One other way to help is by donation. If you want to donate to this site, any amount you choose, even $5, you can do so using the paypal link HERE and enter in your donation amount. All donations help to keep this site going and growing! I do not charge any member fees so your donations go a long way to keeping this site loaded with useful content. Thank you!

Nov 052014
 

rx1r

My RX1r Experience

by R.A. Krajnyak

Hi Steve and Brandon.

First, let me start off with thanks to you both for the great site and the work you put into it. Your site is an integral part of my daily web surfing routine and your insight, Steve, has been influential in my development as a photographer.

Secondly, let me thank you for turning me on to the I Shot It website. I was honored to be among the first nine runner-ups who receive their $20 entry fee back in the most recent B&W contest and was awarded a Mark of Excellence for the following photograph taken with my Sony RX1r:

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Lastly, I wanted to share my RX1r experience with you and your readers along with some images taken with this incredible camera. Anyone who is interested in viewing the images in this post at greater resolution can view them on my website in a gallery specifically set up with just these images. The smaller resolution here just doesn’t do this camera justice. The gallery is located here: http://www.quintaquad.com/Steve-Huff-Blog/n-dwFzN/

A bit of background on me. I’m 60 years old and have been involved with photography off and on for 40 years. My first good cameras were Nikon film SLR’s (Fm & Fe2). However my interest waned and they soon saw little use.

When digital came along I got the D40 and then the D5100. Like many enthusiasts, I ended up rarely taking my camera out due to the size and weight. About 1 1/2 years ago a friend of mine turned me on to the Sony RX100. I was blown away by the size and IQ along with the ability to shoot RAW. I began taking my camera everywhere and photographing everything. This piqued my interest in upgrading to a small interchangeable lens system.

I started researching on-line and discovered the M4/3 cameras as well as your site. I loved the size and IQ of the system and ended up with a Panny GX7. In addition, I have since added an Oly E-M10 which I love. I also discovered the Sony RX1 and was intrigued by it. However the price was out of my range.

Last October I received an unexpected small inheritance and decided to splurge on an RX1 or RX1r. I wasn’t sure which one but after researching further I decided on the RX1r. Your reviews were very influential in my decision. A year later I can truly say that I’m thrilled with my choice.

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The RX1r is in my mind a true classic…a small powerhouse FF camera with a fast, high quality 35mm Zeiss lens that is designed specifically for the sensor. The rendering of the Zeiss lens is gorgeous. You have aptly described it as “creamy” and I heartily agree. I’m not a pixel-peeping tech kind of guy nor am I into debating the quality of bokeh…I just know what I like and the RX1r definitely floats my boat when it comes to size, weight and IQ.

I added a few accessories that for me are essential…optional Sony EVF, Gordy leather wrist strap, Fotodiox grip and Fotodiox lens hood.

I shoot in manual mode but primarily use auto focus. Control layout is minimal and fairly well laid out. That being said I do have a few small niggles with the camera. AF could be better, I would prefer an EVF built into the body like the A7 series and I would like an articulated LCD. There is also a bit of a CA issue in high contrast situations such as foliage against a bright sky.

DR and low light high ISO is excellent (the David Grissom band image and my self-portrait were both shot hand-held at 3200).The quality of the noise is very pleasing and grain-like IMHO. I shoot strictly RAW so I can’t comment on JPEGs. The image detail is outstanding as is the RAW conversion out of camera color and contrast, although the last two things aren’t as important to me as I do extensive post work on the RAWs.

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The RAW files are extremely malleable which is important to me since post work is a major part of the overall photography experience for me personally and this is where the magic happens with this camera. I’ve been working with Photoshop since 1996 and have incorporated Lightroom along with Topaz, Nik and On One plug-ins as well. The RX1r files stand up beautifully under heavy processing. I love both B&W and color as you can tell from my photos. I’m not above doing extensive processing but I love a simple B&W image too. I just love all the different aspects and styles of photography in general. Due to my eclectic tastes I don’t focus on one specific genre…possibly to the detriment of developing my own signature style.

Many people think of the RX1/r as limiting because of the fixed 35mm lens. Not so in my experience. I find the RX1r to be fantastic for all kinds of photography in general from landscapes to macro. Granted it’s not useful for sports or birding but those are genres of photography that require fairly specific equipment in the form of long lenses. In addition to its versatility the RX1r is inconspicuous and quiet. I tried to select a wide range of photos to showcase what I think is the RX1r’s versatility.

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My favorite subject is my 90 year old mother who suffers from dementia in the form of severe short term memory loss and lives with me. We go walking every afternoon on the local nature trails and afterwards stop at the local coffee shop for hot chocolate or coffee. I always take my camera with me and document our walks. Although I only included three images with her as the subject (the portrait of her, the image of her in the straw hat from behind and the image of her hand on the gear cog) you can find many photos of her at my website, particularly in the two galleries, The Memories Of Margaret V. and A Walk Through The Seasons: Portraits In Dementia.

The first is highly processed, conceptual composite images while the latter is simple B&W photos. Both are photo essays meant to be viewed as an whole rather than as individual images. Note that not all the images from those were taken with the RX1r. The Memories gallery also contains a video of the images with an accompanying music track which was written, played and recorded by me as well. Unfortunately the image quality isn’t that great due to SmugMug’s video size restrictions.

I’ll end by saying I enjoyed your recent article about what you’ve learned from street photography. I had to laugh when I read the line about photographing what you love even if it’s flowers, trees and leaves. Those are three of my favorite subjects, in particular leaves. But the advice rings true…photograph what you love and forget about what others think. That’s not to say you should ignore criticism. On the contrary, constructive criticism is how we learn and improve at our craft. But take criticism with a grain of salt and stay true to yourself, not worrying about what others think. Never hesitate to take chances and stretch yourself in order to grow.

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Thanks again for all you do for photography and for the opportunity to share about the hobby and camera I love.

R.A. Krajnyak AKA QuintaQuad

quintaquad.com

Oct 312014
 

titleashwin

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

By Ashwin Rao – Follow him on Facebook HERE

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

Leica M9 and 50 mm f/1.4 Summilux-ASPH

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M240 and 50 mm f/1.4 Summilux-ASPH

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Leica M9 and 50 mm f/1.4 Summilux-ASPH

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

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

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

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

M9 and 50 mm Noctilux f/0.95

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M240 and 50 mm APO Summicron-ASPH

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

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

M240 and Summicron 28 ASPH

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Leica M9 and Noctilux 50 mm f/0.95

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

M240 and Noctilux f/0.95 – Lauren

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

M240 and Noctilux f/0.95 – Andi

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M9 and Noctilux f/0.95

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

M240 and 90 mm f/4 Macro Elmar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leica M9 and 35 Summuilux FLE

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Leica M9 and 50 mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH

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

M240 and 50 mm APO-Summicron ASPH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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M240 and 35 mm Summilux ASPH FLE

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Oct 302014
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Where to Buy?

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

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

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

You can order the Shiny Buttons or read about them HERE

Oct 292014
 

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First Week with the Nikon Coolpix A

by Julien Hautcoeur

Hello Steve,

I’m Julien Hautcoeur from Bust it Away Photography.

You posted one of my blog posts that I sent to you last February about the Voigtlander 40mm F2 Ultron.
Thank you very much for that; it was very nice.

I wanted to share with you the rest of my experience. I still have the Voigtlander 40mm and I love it so much that I also got the 58mm f1.4 to add-on my D700. As I really love wide angle lenses I was thinking of getting the Voigtlander 28mm f2.8, which is the same size as the 40mm. But even if those lenses are pancakes and make my D700 less bulky, it is still not a very pocketable solution.

After hours of thinking and hesitation (as usual with cameras) about getting the Voigtlander or an other alternative, I found a refurbished Coolpix A for a very reasonable price.  When this camera was released last year I went to see and try it in my local store and I really liked the feeling.
It is a robust and very small camera with a high quality sensor and a nice 28mm (FX equivalent) f2.8 lens.  It’s only problem is its price which is debatable.

Anyway, the refurbished price was low enough to make me order it and I received it just before a two-day trip in a yurt in the middle Gatineau Park close to Ottawa, Canada. I took it with me and decided to only use this new camera. I had the D700 in my bag in case the Coolpix A’s battery would be too short, but finally I got enough to cover the whole week-end.

My experience with the Coolpix A has been really great, the biggest advantage compared to my DSLR is definitively that I don’t disturb people, it is very quiet and discreet in my hand. My main concern was the AF, but by using the Fn1 button set on AF-ON it is quite responsive and I have been satisfied with it.

The most important point is that I got pictures that I am happy with. The 28mm if wide enough to be close to people and to get that life feeling.  It also captures beautiful landscapes as well as details. The low Iso are very clean, and I used it up to 2000 Iso. The color pops and it fits quite well in my Nikon D700 flow. You probably understand that I’m happy with my choice.

The Coolpix A won’t replace my DSLR, but it will be my little camera option for my every day photo opportunities: 28mm on the Coolpix A and 40mm on the D700.

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Thank you
Regards,

Julien Hautcoeur @ Bust it Away Photography

http://bustitawayphotography.com
https://www.facebook.com/BustItAwayPhotography
http://bustitaway.tumblr.com/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/bustitaway/

Oct 272014
 

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The SLR Magic CINE 10mm t/2.1 Lens Review

by Amy & Tony Medina

Generally, I’ve really enjoyed the SLR Magic lenses, as I already own the 23mm f/1.7 Hyperprime and 35mm T/1.4 CINE, and use them on my Fuji APS-C cameras often. When Steve asked me if I wanted to review the new SLR Magic CINE 10mm T/2.1 for Micro 4/3, I jumped at the chance.

To start with, I think that overall, if you’re a fan of SLR Magic lenses, this one will not be a disappointment.

The time I spent with this lens, I shot it primarily on the Panasonic GX7. They paired well, but I think on a slightly bigger body it would be every better. My husband paired it with the GH1 for video, and he thought it balanced on the camera really well. SLR Magic lenses in general are well built, and they aren’t what I would call light. They have a nice heft to them, and they pair well with bodies like the Fuji XT1, Olympus OMD-EM5 and the Panasonic GH Series that themselves aren’t the smallest of the mirrorless cameras. It did work well on the GX7, and I’m sure it would feel good on equally small bodies… I just think they pair better with bodies that seem a touch more solid themselves.

One nice feature right off the bat that those of you with SLR Magic lenses will appreciate… no screw-on cap this time. Finally! It was your typical snap-on-type lens cap. Ya know, sometimes I like the fact those screw-on caps stay put, but most of the time I find them to be a royal pain in the butt, so I really appreciate a “normal” lens cap on this one.

Call it a pet peeve, but it really irks me that not all SLR Magic lenses are built the same. Some have the f-stop (or t-stop) control on the outside ring, furthest from the body… others have this ring closest to the mount. When I switch back and forth between their different lenses, I find this quite annoying! As a photographer, to me all f-stop dials should always be the furthest one from the body. Of course, it’s mostly just a minor annoyance, and it’s not something that would keep me from buying the lens, but I just wish they were ALL made with the f-stop control in the same place.

As for image quality, there were no surprises. I feel like I know what to expect with SLR Magic lenses, and that consistency carried through to the 10mm T/2.1 CINE.

SLR Magic lenses have that wonderful character they’ve become known for… a bit of a dreamy retro look around the edges, but nice and sharp in the middle. Typically, they shoot just a little flat.. they aren’t super contrasty lenses straight out of the camera, but they grade beautifully and just have so much charm. I find their color rendition quite neutral — not too warm or too cool — and I’m never disappointed with the images I get out of their lenses… it was no different with the 10mm T/2.1. I was very pleased with nearly every photo I took with the lens.

First one is straight out of the camera, the second is post-processed to my taste…

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In my opinion, SLR Magic lenses perform okay stopped down, but that isn’t why we buy them. Sharpness edge to edge, that’s not usually the priority of the SLR Magic user. These lenses are really meant to be used wide-open, or more on the open side of things, where they shine and show their unique personality. They provide excellent subject isolation while delivering a lovely “magic” image quality.

The front element is rather large (77mm in diameter), which isn’t a surprise on such a wide lens. Of course, that seems to make it a little prone to flare. However, I find the flare itself to be of the attractive type, and I have the kind of personality where I like to use flare to my advantage to enhance a photo. With a lens like the 10mm T/2.1, where I find the flare so pleasing, I’m often tying to introduce it rather than eliminate it.

It’s up to you whether you want to let that flare creep in or find a 77mm wide angle lens hood that will work to keep it out. The lens does not come with one.

A bit of flare…

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I can’t say 10mm is my favorite focal length on micro 4/3, but that’s a really personal thing honestly. Sometimes I did find it a bit awkward… but that’s no shocker when I tend to gravitate more towards the normal focal lengths from 35mm to 55mm (full frame equivalent), or I go for the ultra-wides, like 15mm. 20mm, to me, is just at that point a bit in-between.

Now, my husband on the other hand, when shooting some video tests, loved that it was right there in between… he told me that he liked that it didn’t give that overly distorted look that ultra wides often do, but certainly gave a wider, much more unique perspective than lenses in the mid-normal range.

What’s interesting is that we often disagreed a bit about this lens: some of the things that I would criticize are things he would really liked. An example is that he loves the clickless aperture dial, where that’s one of the things I generally don’t like about SLR Magic lenses (I think I even mentioned that in another review here on Steve’s site). But seriously, that’s not at all unexpected when it comes to a photographer’s vs. a videographer’s opinion.

It’s part of their CINE line of lenses of course, which means it’s optimized for video and has some of those built-for-videographer features, like click-less aperture and a focus ring that will mate up with follow-focus gears. The focus throw is smooth as silk, and comfortable for shooting both photography and video.

For my husband, the wide angle helped minimize shakiness when hand-holding the camera, and having a lens so wide, but also fast, can make for some really cool shots.

All of the footage below is just test footage shot by my husband, and we thought we’d share it. It has been color graded a bit… but most serious videographers will appreciate that rarely are you using footage that you don’t color correct and enhance.

This was all shot on an original GH1.

 

In conclusion, the best way to express how much we both think this is a great lens is to share that we indeed plan to buy it.
For me, even though the focal length was a little “in-between”, I think I can find use for it in my growing arsenal of wide angle lenses that I use for work. And since my husband and I will share it, and he loves it, the biggest downside will be us fighting for it when I want to use it. LOL

As I started off by saying, if you’re an SLR Magic fan already, there’s a lot you’re going to like with this lens. It delivers exactly the way you’d expect it to. It’s wide without being fisheye-distorted, and it’s fast to let in tons of light and allow that great depth of field control.

Overall, it delivers quality images with tons of personality — exactly what we’ve all come to expect from an SLR Magic lens.

 

You can purchase this lens at B&H Photo HERE.

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Oct 202014
 

PORPUBTT

Portraits from the Pub with an Olympus E-M5

By René van Wijck

Hello!

After many years of making photographs I got a little bored by it and I lost my inspiration.

Two years ago I bought myself the Olympus OMD-EM5. This little machine changed my life! It was and is such a pleasure to work with that I have it all the time, wherever I am with me.

I work as a bartender downtown Rotterdam in Holland and started to make pictures of my guests. They all come alone to the pub, and most of the time leave alone.

I gave myself a few rules: no color,no flash,no drinks in the pictures. Most of them I shot with the 45 mm 1.8. I’ll hope you like the results!

You can see more of it on flickr.com/photos/renevanwijck

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