Aug 312015
 

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The Sony A7RII Camera Review. A real world look.

By Steve Huff

Buy the A7RII at Amazon or B&H Photo

Here we go! After a few weeks of use with this camera I can finally sit down and write about all of my thoughts on this incredible technological marvel, the new Sony A7RII. As of the end of August there are many who received their new A7RII and are enjoying it. I can state with conviction that I have enjoyed every second I have had with this stunning memory maker. I hope you enjoy reading my real world review as much as I have enjoyed creating it for you.

Zeiss Loxia 50 on the RII at f/2 – click it for bigger!

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Let me start this Sony A7RII review by saying I have never shot, tested, used, owned or reviewed a camera in 35mm full frame format that competes with this one as an overall package. It does everything I need, and then some. It offers me fantastic low light abilities, fantastic video abilities, amazing snap and detail and beautiful files that print out as large as you would ever need, and look amazing as well. The camera is a true beauty, and one I expected to like not love (I usually steer away from mega megapixels due to the usual compromises involved).

55 1.8, late night low light with the A7RII – click it for bigger!

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The A7RII, when announced, was something I thought was a “Uh Oh” moment for Sony. I assumed ISO would suffer, speed would suffer and the camera would  be cumbersome and slow due to the 42MP sensor (Like the original A7R was when compared to later models). Sony was promising a “no compromise” experience, the best of the A7II, A7R and A7s all in one camera almost…well, they did not say that specifically but hinted at it on more than one occasion or gave the idea that yes, this is one camera that can do it all.

Here is an image shot with the little Voigtlander 40 2.8 for the Sony system. See my review HERE. LOVE this lens on the A7RII!

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The shot below was with the Zeiss 35 Loxia, another fantastic lens on the A7RII. Maybe not as brilliant as the 35 1.4 Distagon but so small and lovely to use. Shot at f/2 in a very dim and low light restaurant. The sensor of the A7RII sucked in the light and “lit it up” which is what my Leica M always seems to excel at. This lens renders a nice organic image on the A7RII sensor. 

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When I finally was able to test this camera, I started to realize that their claims were true (no compromise). Here I was with a “much smaller than any full frame DSLR” beautiful camera in feel, build and looks and when I started shooting it I was blown away by the speed improvements, IQ, color, AWB, metering, ISO performance, video and EVERYTHING it was doing for me. Those 1st few days were great but I knew I was in the “Honeymoon Phase” and that excitement would eventually wear off, as it always does. That is why these companies cam make a new camera like this every two years, as many people (the ones stricken with GAS) love to upgrade for something new and exciting after some time and tech keeps evolving at a rapid rate in the Sensor arena, so companies like Sony who make these sensors are pushing strong with the hardware to go with these incredible imaging sensors.

Outside at night with the Sony/Zeiss 55 1.8 (at 1.8) and the A7RII

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So I kept shooting and using the camera and every day my enthusiasm would jump UP instead of DOWN, which was odd while testing a new camera. The more I used it, no matter the light or situation, it never failed me in any way, and always delivered beautiful results. It was quick, it was easy to use manual focus glass on, it felt beautiful and with my wooden JB Grip, I had many asking me what kind of camera I was using as it looks stunning with a nice prime lens and that grip!

This one, the Zeiss 16-35 on the A7RII. Lovely lens that I am now addicted to for its amazing performance. Click for larger!

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Then again, I also use the Voigtlander 15 4.5 III in Leica M mount and also adore it for its small size and brilliant performance. Click for larger! 

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In any case, the more I shot this with Sony FE lenses, Zeiss FE lenses, Leica M mount lenses, Canon EF lenses..the more impressed I was. When I did this ISO test against the A7s I was blown away. When I shot it indoors, outdoors, in brutal full sun, in the magic hour or for portraits or landscapes, the A7RII just delivered the goods without muss of fuss. The Dynamic Range of this camera/sensor is astounding.

The 24-70 Zeiss on the A7RII

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The 12-14 Bit Controversy

All the while I was enjoying the A7RII I was seeing forum postings about pixel peeping nonsense that has nothing to do with taking, displaying or printing photos. Was boggling my mind. If you believe what some who never touched the A7RII say, you would think you could not get a decent image from this camera due to the 12 Bit RAW files. Lol. As you can see in this review, I see no issues with any of these images in regards to 12 vs 14 bit raw files. I also do not see any issues in my huge prints I made. Hmmmm. The whole 12 bit vs 14 Bit RAW thing stems from pixel peepers and has nothing to do with the real capabilities of this camera as a serious or pro photo tool. I know pros using it without issue, at all, ever. So that is what matters. The real results.

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With that said, I feel Sony should go to 14 Bit just to please those customers who want it. Shouldn’t be too hard for them to do with a camera on this price level and it should be 14 bit anyway, again, at this level. 

As you can already sense, I love the A7RII. Spoiler. Bam. BUT it is not perfect and I’d love to see a couple changes made down the road to get it closer to where perfect lies.

The 1st image below was shot with the Zeiss 24-70 at f/4. VSCO Filter applied. I found this lens to perform exceptionally well on the A7RII. The filter here crushed the blacks, but sometimes I like this look. 

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Below, using the Canon 50 1.2 via a Metabones adapter. No more front or back focus with this lens ;) 

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Before I get into all of the Nitty Gritty, I’d like to say that while I really liked the original Sony A7 and A7R, I never LOVED them for the long haul or when compared to the newer gen A7 series. Compared to what we have in the A7II and A7RII and even A7S the A7 and A7R were slow, clunky and LOUD. Todays A7RII is like a different camera when compared to the A7R of yesterday. Newer body style, better build, quieter shutter, silent shutter, 5 Axis IS, 4K video, 40% faster AF, much better C-AF, and the list goes on. Shooting the A7RII is very enjoyable so the usability factor is up there with this one, and that is unusual for a Sony camera as old NEX bodies were more like mini computers than cameras. The A7RII is very much a “camera” but one that is loaded with features and usable function.

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Using it with a Canon lens was also enjoyable. The image above and below were both shot with the Canon 50 1.2 using a Metabones adapter, and the AF was faster on the A7RII than the Canon 5DIII using the same lens! Crazy but true, and verified by many who were with me. I loved the 50 1.2 Canon so much on the A7RII I put one in my Amazon cart right after testing it out. I never did buy it as it’s not a cheap lens but one day I just might as it seems to do really well on the A7RII.

Was much more enjoyable to use on the A7RII than it was on my old 5D from long ago (would always front focus or back focus on the 5D for me). This lens keeps its 3D character on the A7RII.

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One more from the Canon 50 1.2 (see it HERE). Beautiful color, rendering and Bokeh.

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It’s all in the details..

For me, I enjoyed the Sony A7s with intense enthusiasm (and still do) because those big fat megapixels on that big full frame sensor just delivered the goods. It was the 1st A7 body that really pushed on with speed, low light, video and user experience. Due to the 12MP on the huge sensor we were getting insane high ISO performance that was previously not possibly. We were close with the Nikon D4 and Df but the A7s pushed it over the edge for low light work. Video guys were using video at crazy high ISO and getting nice clean footage out of it. The A7s and A7II, for me, were the pinnacle of the A7 series. Until now. With the A7RII I am seeing the best of all previous A7 bodies rolled into one, and then some.

Click the image for larger view and enjoy the details ;) Taken from a Helicopter while in Portland.

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With the A7RII we have a camera that is not only full frame, not only 40% faster than the previous A7R for AF and not only built to a higher standard, we have a camera that creeps somewhat into the A7s territory for low light high ISO work. We have a camera that is the technically best in the Sony line for video (though some overheating issues have been reported).

We have an improved 5 Axis IS (though it still is not up to Olympus E-M5 II levels of performance for the 5 Axis IS) so ALL lenses can be stabilized on this new massive sensor, even old Leica glass. We have a huge EVF that allows us to see what we do in real-time as in, “what we see is what we get”. We have a swivel LCD and a vast selection of native and non native lenses to pick from to use on this camera. We have an amazing street camera in the A7RII because while we do not need 42MP of resolution, with the camera being fast and good in low light, we no longer compromise here (huge MP used to mean crappy low light, not anymore). This also gives us great cropping ability with all of those megapixels.

Man, remember the days of 1MP cameras? Now we have 42 in a smallish full frame compact body. Crazy!

Take a look at the images below. Click on them and see them larger with a full 100% crop

1st a full size from RAW image, OOC

1st one, Zeiss 35 Loxia at f/2

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Next, Zeiss 16-35 at f/4

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Loxia 35 at f/5.6 – CLICK IT TO SEE THE INSANE DETAIL!

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Voigtlander 40 2.8

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Image then a crop. Taken with the Batis 85 

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Click it for 100% crop!

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One more crop but you must click the crop to see it in its full size. 

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It’s a pretty amazing thing what Sony has accomplished in such a short time span. About two years from the first A7r to the new A7RII and we have a camera that is BRILLIANT in almost every aspect.

Sure, there will be those who still prefer a DSLR, Optical VF and the DSLR way of shooting but for many, and yes there are many, this Sony represents the wave of the future for hobbyists, enthusiasts and pros alike. It is a camera like the Sony A7RII that is breathing new life into what was becoming a tired industry. This A7RII has shaken up things a bit, and for good reason. Even Leica is starting to really sit up and take notice as mark my words, they will be releasing a Sony A7RII competitor soon, they have to as this camera and the previous A7II and A7s have eaten away at some of their M sales I am sure.

ISO 8000, 55 1.8 at 1.8, Zero NR (I never use NR, always OFF)

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Just look at the impressive specs below of the new Sony…

THE SPECS OF THE A7RII:

With a world’s first full-frame 42.4-megapixel Exmor R back-illuminated structure CMOS sensor, the Alpha a7RII Mirrorless Digital Camera from Sony is prepared to take mirrorless imaging to another level. This sensor design both improves low-light operation and speeds up data throughout, enabling fast high-resolution stills and UHD 4K video recording. Working with the BIONZ X image processor, these images can be produced at sensitivities up to ISO 102,400 and at a continuous 5 fps shooting rate. Five-axis SteadyShot INSIDE image stabilization has also been implemented, compensating for vertical, horizontal, pitch, yaw, and roll movements.

Speed has received a major boost with a 40% increase in speed over its predecessor. The AF system received its own massive upgrade with the use of 399 phase-detect points and 25 contrast-detect points for a speedy Fast Hybrid AF system which will offer extremely accurate tracking. The phase-detection points even extend to A-mount lenses when used with the LA-EA1 and LA-EA3 adapter.

Designed to last, the updated magnesium alloy body has improved weather sealing and a robust lens mount for working with large lenses. Also, the shutter has a reduced-vibration design, cutting down shutter vibrations by about 50%. Also, it now uses an electronic front curtain shutter and is rated for 500,000 cycles. Silent shooting is also available for a quiet shooting experience when needed.

Onto video, the major addition is internal UHD 4K 3840 x 2160p recording at 30 or 24 fps with the XAVC S format at 100 Mbps. This is possible using either the Super 35 crop mode, with no pixel binning, or the full-frame readout. Full HD 1920 x 1080p is still readily available at up to 60 fps and HD 1280 x 720p is possible at up to 120 fps. Additionally, the a7RII benefits from the inclusion of the S-Log2 Gamma and S-Gamut settings as well as fully customizable picture profiles.

Composing and reviewing your images as you work is handled with either the 0.5″ 2.36M-dot XGA OLED Tru-Finder electronic viewfinder or the 3.0″ 1,228.8k-dot tilting LCD monitor. The viewfinder offers 0.78x magnification and a 4-lens system with double-sided aspherical elements for comfortable viewing. The monitor helps in odd positions by tilting up 107° and down 41°. And, to stay connected, the a7RII packs in Wi-Fi connectivity with NFC for remote operation and transfer of images to a smartphone, tablet, or computer.

Zeiss Loxia 35 mid day sun – OOC

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42.4 MP Exmor R BSI CMOS Sensor and BIONZ X Image Processor

The world’s first back-illuminated full-frame sensor, the 42.4-megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor present in the a7RII works with the BIONZ X image processor to offer high-resolution stills and video while minimizing noise and improving speed. This sensor structure works with gapless on-chip lens design and an anti-reflection coating, as well as eliminating the optical low-pass filter, to improve light collection and enhance detail. Also, the copper wiring layer dramatically improves data transmission speed for creating high-resolution 42.4-megapixel stills at sensitivities up to ISO 102,400. Also, it enables internal UHD 4K video recording with a wide dynamic range using the full-frame sensor.

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5-Axis SteadyShot INSIDE Image Stabilization

Packed into the svelte a7RII is a 5-axis SteadyShot INSIDE image stabilization system. This compensates for five types of camera shake encountered during handheld shooting of still images and video. This allows users to confidently use any lens, even adapted lenses, for critical imaging without encountering blur from camera shake. This system will compensate for approximately 4.5 stops of shutter speed for working with a huge variety of subjects.

For long focal lengths, the system will correct for pitch and yaw adjustments. Macro and high magnification imagery on the other hand will benefit from the inclusion of horizontal and vertical shift compensation. And, all shooting styles will get usage out of the roll compensation. All 5 axes of stabilization will function at all times, even when used with third-party lenses and adapters or lenses with built-in optical stabilization.

When using lenses that do not transmit imaging data to the camera, manual settings can be used to input the correct focal length and ensure proper stabilization. Also, the viewfinder can be used to preview the amount of compensation by pressing the shutter release button halfway or magnifying the image.

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Fast Hybrid AF with 399 Phase-Detect Points

Lock onto your subjects quickly and without hesitation thanks to the revamped Fast Hybrid AF packed into the a7RII. It uses 399 on-sensor phase-detect AF points with 45% coverage along with 25 contrast-detect AF points in order to improve the speed, accuracy and tracking performance of the system. Faster readout thanks to the back-illuminated sensor structure also allows for tracking while shooting at the top continuous shooting rate of 5 fps. This can be captured in a burst of up to 24 frames when shooting in JPEG Fine L format at 42 MP and a continuous AF Display allows users to view the active AF points.

Another feature available with this AF system is a Lock-on AF tracking that will analyze more information from the scene to provide dramatically improved accuracy and stability. Eye AF is also available which will prioritize a subject’s pupil for excellent portraits even with a shallow depth of field.

Zeiss 50 Loxia

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UHD 4K Video Recording in XAVC S Format

In addition to the first BSI full-frame sensor, the a7RII is the first full-frame camera to offer internal UHD 4K video recording at 30 or 24 fps. This is possible using either the full-frame sensor or the Super 35 format which uses oversampling with full pixel readout and no pixel binning. This limits moire and aliasing common with high-resolution sensors. Video recording also benefits from live tracking thanks to the 399 phase-detection AF points present in the Fast Hybrid AF system. An additional benefit of this camera is the ability to switch back and forth between NTSC and PAL operation for worldwide use.

When recording internally, users will record video with a 4:2:0 sampling at 8-bit, however, to even further improve image quality the a7RII has clean HDMI output for use with an external recorder. This allows users to capture 4:2:2 uncompressed video and save in an edit-ready format.

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Timecode and User Bit Settings

The a7RII has multiple timecode recording options to meet different workflows. It has the standard ‘Record Run” mode that only advances the timecode when recording, as well as “Free Run” timecode that advances the timecode even when not recording, which can be great for syncing multiple cameras at live events. It can also record timecode in both drop frame and non-drop frame modes. When recording internally the a7RII is also able to output timecode via HDMI.

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Customizable Picture Profiles and S-Log2 Gamma

To make sure the a7RII is able to use its extensive dynamic range while recording video it incorporates extensive customizable color and gamma controls. Users can adjust the gamma, black level, knee, color level, and more. Also users can use the same S-Log2 Gamma Curve that is found on high end Sony Cinema cameras that squeezes up to 1300% more dynamic range into the video signal then traditional REC709, for increased post-production flexibility.

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3.0″ 1,228.8k-Dot Tilting LCD Monitor

With a higher 1,228.8k-dot resolution, the LCD screen will provide shooters with an excellent screen for composing images, adjusting settings, and reviewing video and photos. It also tilts upward 107° and downward 41° for working with multiple shooting angles. Use in sunlight is improved with the implementation of WhiteMagic technology which doubles the brightness of the display through a RGBW pixel structure.

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0.5″ 2.36M-Dot XGA OLED Tru-Finder Electronic Viewfinder

With its 4-lens optical system using double-sided aspherical elements the viewfinder faithfully displays what will appear in your recording, including the effects of your camera settings. You’ll enjoy rich tonal gradations and improved contrast. High-end features like 100% frame coverage and a 0.78x magnification enable comfortable and stable eye-level composition.

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Redesigned Grip, Shutter Release Button, and Controls

With a larger, more refined shape to the grip, users will find the a7RII to have a more secure feel and grasp even when large lenses are mounted. Also, the shutter release button has been reshaped and moved forward for a more natural shooting position and a decrease in camera shake. The controls also have been refined with new position for easier handling and improved operation. Button customization is available with the ability to assign any of 56 functions to any of the 10 customizable buttons for a more personalized setup.

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Magnesium Alloy Construction and Robust Lens Mount

The compact form is well-built with a magnesium alloy top cover, front cover, and internal structure. The lens mount has been redesigned with a greater strength and rigidity for extra security when using larger or longer lenses. The body itself also features greater sealing for dust and moisture resistance, providing more protection when shooting out in the elements. Additionally, the optical filter on the sensor has an anti-static coating and there is an anti-dust mechanism to prevent dust from adhering to the sensor.

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Reduced-Vibration Shutter & Silent Shooting

Cutting down on mechanical vibrations by 50% is the durable reduced-vibration shutter implemented in the a7RII. It has been tested to last for 500,000 cycles and also uses an electronic front curtain shutter. Additionally, a Silent Shutter mode is available for completely silent shooting when needed in certain environments.

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Audio Input & Headphone Jack

The a7RII features a 3.5mm microphone input jack for compatibility with external microphones. And for users needing more the a7RII is also compatible with the Sony XLR-K2M XLR Adapter for recording professional balanced XLR audio signals with phantom power and adjustable mic/line inputs. For monitoring audio the a7RII features a 3.5mm headphone jack as well as real time audio levels for a visual reference.

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Built-In Wi-Fi Connectivity with NFC

Built-in Wi-Fi connectivity enables the a7RII to instantly share imagery to mobile devices for direct sharing online to social networking, via email, and to cloud storage sites. NFC (Near Field Communication) is also supported, which allows for one-touch connection between the camera and compatible mobile devices; no complex set-up is required. Once connected, the linked mobile device can also display a live view image on its screen and remotely control the camera’s shutter.

Additionally, PlayMemories Camera Apps are also supported via the built-in Wi-Fi connection, and allow you to personalize the camera’s features depending on specific shooting styles. Apps are available to suit creating portraits, detailed close-ups, sports, time lapse, motion shot, and other specific types of imagery.

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Other Camera Features

Picture Effect modes: Posterization (Color, B&W), Pop Color, Retro Photo, Partial Color (R/G/B/Y), High Contrast Monochrome, Toy Camera, Soft High-Key, Soft Focus, HDR Painting, Rich-Tone Monochrome, Miniature, Watercolor, and Illustration.

Creative Style settings: Standard, Vivid, Neutral, Clear, Deep, Light, Portrait, Landscape, Sunset, Night Scene, Autumn Leaves, Black & White, and Sepia (all with +/- 3 step contrast, saturation, and sharpness adjustment).

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Color space: sRGB standard (with sYCC gamut) and Adobe RGB standard compatible with TRILUMINOS Color.
Picture Profile parameters: Black Level, Gamma (Movie, Still, Cine 1-4, ITU709, ITU709 [800%], S-Log2), Black Gamma, Knee, Color Mode, Color Level, Color Phase, Color Depth, Detail, Copy, and Reset.
Scene Selection modes: Portrait, Landscape, Macro, Sports Action, Sunset, Night Portrait, Night Scene, Hand-held Twilight, and Anti Motion Blur.

Face Detection is available to base exposure and focus on up to eight recognized faces. Furthermore, Eye AF can be used for even greater precision by maintaining critical focus on a subject’s eye.
2x Clear Image Zoom can be used to effectively double the magnification afforded by any lens in use with minimal image degradation. For even greater magnification, 1.5x and 2x Smart zoom is available, as well as 4x digital zoom.

Pre-flash TTL control with flash bracketing available and a variety of flash modes, including: Flash off, auto, fill-flash, rear sync, slow sync, red-eye reduction, hi-speed sync, and wireless control.

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More of MY Experience with the A7RII

Here we are 3700 words in and I have yet to show you guys comparisons, Leica M mount results, High ISO performance…wow. From this point on I will try to be to the point and quick so let’s start with some high ISO results against the top dog in high ISO, the Sony A7s. I assumed the A7RII would be sub par at high ISO due to the massive 42MP sensor. Well, I was wrong, and this is good! So below I will get to high ISO, Leica M lens use, Dynamic Range and more. Let’s get to it!

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HIGH ISO PERFORMANCE vs LOW LIGHT INDUSTRY LEADER A7S

Let’s take a look from ISO 6400 all the way to 102,800 ISO on both the new A7RII and the high ISO king, the A7s. WOW, this is 42MP? IT DOES QUITE WELL though I would only use it at up to 6400 comfortably with the occasional 12,800.

Text that says what camera is what is on each image, click them for larger and 100% crops!

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So there you go. The A7s still beats the A7RII (as expected) at the extreme higher ISO’s but the A7RII did much better than I had thought here. ISO 12,800 is VERY VERY usable, which is unheard of in a 42MP sensor.

Also, When out and about shooting in VERY low light or near darkness the A7RII gave me no issues. I never ever ever use Noise Reduction, so EVERY shot you see in this review or any other reviews by me in the last 4-5 years will not have NR applied.

Two more high ISO shots in VERY LOW LIGHT! The 1st image we were in a DARK room and her face was lit by her iPhone, that is all. ISO 6400, Zero NR as always. Click it for larger and know this is what you can expect of the A7RII in super low light at 6400 ISO. The image shows much more light than my eyes saw! 2nd shot is also 6400.. Lens is the 55 1.8

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ISO 12800, crazy low light room. 55 1.8

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ISO 102,400 – Zero NR here. Zeiss Loxia 50

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For being a 42MP sensor, this is extremely impressive.

LEICA M MOUNT WIDE ANGLE PERFORMANCE

Testing the Leica 28 Summicron and 35 Summicron up close, mid distance and at infinity. From what I understand, shooting at infinity is where these M mount wide angles pose the largest problems with the A7 series, so I was asked by a very knowledgable guy who loves his Leica glass to test these two lenses, and if they do well at infinity then it could mean the A7RII is fantastic with M glass.

Let us take a look and see how it went..1st up, a few images using the Leica 28 Summicron f/2 lens:

Looking at these snapshots with the Leica 28 Summicron tells me “no problems”!! No magenta edges, no off color, none of that..

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In this next image you can see the searing on the left and right side of the image (the red wood) which is an issue if you want across the frame sharpness. In fact, I would recommend the Sony 28mm f/2 over the Leica as depending on how you focus (infinity or up close) there could be some soft corners…

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Here is a shot with the 28 cron and a 100% crop, plenty of detail here..CLICK IT FOR LARGER and 100% crop! Corners have some softness but no color issues. 

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NOW THE 35mm SUMMICRON

The 35 Summicron also shows no magenta colors, edges or problems unless you are shooting something like a sweeping landscape using infinity focus, which is where you will see the softness/smearing on the sides of the frame.

This is the Sony A7RII with Leica 35 Summicron at f/4. Click for larger. No vignetting issues, no color issues but there is some edge smearing when shooting at infinity (or so it appears). 

The good news is that for 98% of uses, the 28 and 35 Leica cron work great on the A7II. So if you have one of them, they will do well on the A7RII unless you are doing critical landscape work shooting at infinity.

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Few more snaps with the 35 Cron. Click them for larger. 

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Detail and snap looks as it should with the 35!

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For wide open shooting up close and mid distance this lens is great on the A7RII

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So at the end of the day, it seems the Magenta sides and color issues when using wider angle Leica lenses are no longer issues, as in 100% gone, which is fantastic. The new backlit sensor does indeed fix the #1 issue we had with M glass on the A7 series. Bokeh and character rendering all are the same as they are if shooting these lenses on a Leica M. In other words, if I shot a portrait using the 35 cron on the M and A7II, my guess is that no one would be able to tell me which was shot on which and the Sony may even produce a sharper image.

If I was buying an A7RII I would stick with native lenses for the most part, and would pick up vintage M mount lenses for their character here and there (the cheap ones). I would not invest $4-5k in a 28 cron or 35 summicron for the A7RII as I feel there are cheaper lenses that do just as well on the camera. The Sony/Zeiss 35 1.4, (the Zeiss 35 1.4 M mount is also fantastic), the Sony 28 f/2 is cheap and punches well above its price point, etc. There are some amazing Leica 50mm lenses I would consider like the 50 Summilux ASPH or 50 APO which work amazingly well on the A7S, A7II and now A7RII. Other less expensive 50’s I would buy for the A7RII in Leica M mount would be the Voigtlander 50 1.5 Nokton ASPH or the Zeiss 50 1.5 Sonnar. Both are spectacular on the A7s, A7II and A7RII,

If I already owned a few Leica M lenses I would 100% buy an A7RII to use them with as a backup to my M or whatever I was using. In many ways the A7RII beats the Leica M. In some ways the Leica M beats the Sony (Build, feel, design, RF use, simplicity).

So there ya go, and the new 15mm III from Voigtlander works VERY well with the A7RII, sharp across the frame, no distortion, tiny. :) The A7RII is a VERY versatile camera.

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DYNAMIC RANGE

Dynamic range is spectacular just going by the fact that it is simple to NOT blow highlight and that shadow detail is incredibly easy to recover as well. The info is there, packed in to the file and if we under or over expose, we can easily fix the issues. Of course, underexposing is always easier but the challenge has always been when we pull out those shadows, we also pull out noise and in some cases, banding or other artifacts. With the A7RII, I had no problem recovering the shadows from the shot below which I exposed this way purposely. As always, click images for larger.

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So as you can see, the DR of this sensor in the A7RII is rather good. I look forward to seeing DXO’s test of the sensor to see what the numbers are. I am not a huge DXO guy but I do like their Dynamic Range and ISO tests.

COMPARED TO the A7II and A7S and old A7R

Compared to the A7II and A7s (TWO cameras I adore) the A7RII is like having the best of both of those bodies into one. It beats the A7II for me as I prefer the image quality I am getting from the new backlit sensor in the RII over the A7II. With fantastic low light ability, fast AF and the ability to shoot any fast prime ever made (just about) the A7RII has taken the place of my A7s and A7II, and condensed it down to one body. The A7s still has a place in my heart as it is a unique camera and it is still on my shelf. LOW megapixels, easier to handle the files, easier to edit on a low horsepower computer and lovely color and speed as well as industry leading low light abilities.

The A7RII is not too far off from the A7s in low light, which is astounding and makes me think a new A7SII will have 1 million ISO possibilities. I could be wrong but I feel that is where we are headed.

To see my A7s review, click HERE

To see my A7II review click HERE

To see my original A7R review, click HERE

SO basically, for me, the A7RII is “IT”. It replaces the A7II for me, as there is no need for both. I still have an A7s and will keep that one around for when I want low MP and extreme low light use.

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AF SPEED – MUCH IMPROVED OVER A7R and equal to or a tad faster than the A7II in my experience 

The AF speed is MUCH faster than the old A7R and its not subtle. If you have been shooting an A7R and move to the A7RII you just might be shocked in the 40% faster AF speed, AF accuracy and the shutter which is now MUCH quieter! The new body style is also more rugged and solid and feels fantastic. Sony really did their homework with this camera and while it is not perfect (no camera is), it is fabulous and quite a special machine. Well worth the investment if you are a passionate shooter like myself. It brings many levels of joy and with the new AF speed, I no longer miss shots as the A7R used to make me do with its dodgy AF, especially in low light.

Also, I feel I can AF faster with the A7RII than I can with a Nikon Df, which gave me many AF misses. With the EVF showing me exactly what is IN focus, if it did miss I could easily fix it on the spot. So yes, the AF is at the level of the A7II, maybe a bit faster (seems like it is)

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VIDEO

This camera is WAY beyond my capabilities as a videographer but many have been reporting overheating issues with video recordings longer than 30 minutes. I remember having this issue with my old NEX-7, but I have not experienced myself with the A7RII yet, but my videos have been 15-20 minutes max. Seems Sony has some overheating issues with some of their cameras when shooting video. Should not be here in a camera of this level or price point so if you shoot video segments longer than 30 min at a time, you may want to dig into this issue deeper on other review sites that specialize in video reviews. All I can say is that the video I have shot so far (for my own personal projects) has been superb, especially with the new enhanced 5 Axis IS, which is in body. Shooting with a Zeiss 16-35 is so nice, it almost seems like a steady cam is attached when shooting at 16mm.

If I were buying this strictly for video work though I would investigate the over heating issues 1st!

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Leads me to two more weaknesses with the A7RII, video overheating is one..and the 2nd and 3rd?

*EVF PERFORMANCE

The EVF of the Sony A7RII is an upgrade from the old A7R but it is not without issues that some have been reporting all over the internet and camera forums. When using a manual focus lens, let’s say a Zeiss Loxia (which I love to death on the A7RII). Turn the focus ring and the A7RII will automatically magnify the EVF screen so you can critically focus. Press your magnify button again and it will blow up even bigger, but when this happens you will see some degradation in the EVF frame, something the A7II and old A7 series did not do. There is some sort of degradation which makes it hard to critically focus, so I never blow up the EVF image that large, as it is does the opposite of what I need, making it harder to manually focus.

Other than the Manual Focus issue with the EVF, it is fantastic. I still can easily manually focus my Loxia lenses, so do not think it makes it hard or impossible, it just makes it “harder” than it should be if you magnify the screen to its max level.

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*BATTERY LIFE

The weakness that has started with the original A7R continues..battery life. For some this is an issue. For me it is not at all as I get 350-400 shots per charge, and I have 6 batteries (but only carry two with me when out shooting) and batteries are cheap if you go 3rd party, very cheap.

Many want 2000 shots from a battery charge and many shoot their cameras like a machine gun. Me, I do not and if I am out for 8 hours shooting I may come home with 40 images. Many would come back with 3000. So if you are a massive frame rate machine gun shooter, you will need a few batteries or you will need to slow it down, or bring along a Nikon D4 with it’s massive weapon of a battery.

If you are like me, and getting 300-400 shots per battery is PLENTY, then this is a non issue. When shooting video you will use more power so the battery does suck down MUCH more when filming video. But the A7RII is just as impressive with still images as it is video. In other words, it is NOT a video specific camera, at all. I am more impressed with the photo side than video on this camera.

I slightly mis-focused this one with the Zeiss 35 Loxia

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PROS AND CONS

Pros

  1. Lovely build and feel
  2. 5 Axis IS is now enhanced for the new sensor
  3. Splash proof
  4. Compatible with ALL FE lenses and E lenses
  5. Compatible with all Leica M lenses, Canon and Nikon (with adapters)
  6. Nice big fat EVF
  7. Tilting LCD
  8. Gorgeous IQ and color
  9. Improved AF speed by 40%
  10. Much nicer AWB than previous model
  11. Pro level video features and capabilities.
  12. Feels fantastic in the hand
  13. High ISO is incredible for megapixel size.
  14. All buttons are customizable! Woohoo!
  15. Sony’s best digital camera ever IMO.
  16. Resolution can be mind blowing
  17. Near medium format feel at times (to the images)

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Cons:

  1. Expensive at over $3000
  2. Still some smearing issues with some wide angle Leica M mount lenses
  3. EVF degradation issue at max magnification for manual focus
  4. Battery life could be better, especially for video use.
  5. Could be simpler. I’d love to see an A7 series body stripped down  to basics, like a Leica. ONLY for photo, no video.
  6. 12 Bit RAW, they should make it 14 bit for those who want it.

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MY FINAL CONCLUSION

Well here I am again writing a conclusion on another Sony camera. I remember vividly reviewing the early NEX-3 and 5 years ago. Both revolutionary cameras at the time that I loved back then. Today it’s all about full frame and pushing the limits of 35mm IQ, low light high ISO and even image stabilization. The latest and greatest camera in the mirrorless world is the A7RII and for me, it surpasses any and all that have come before, quite handily. Is it the best 35mm full frame camera in the world? Maybe not, but then again, maybe it is. Depends on your needs and wants, and for me, it is the one I would choose if I was buying ANY 35mm format full frame digital camera today. Here is why…

  • Massive resolution
  • Finally…fast AF speed
  • C-AF is quite good though not pro DSLR good
  • High ISO is up there with the best in the world
  • Video is outstanding (as long as we do not overheat)
  • Color, detail and image quality up with the best available in 35mm
  • Pro-ISH build and feel here, much better than previous A7R and A7
  • Large EVF, I prefer these to OVF’s today by FAR!
  • Camera handling, speed and response is fantastic
  • Hundreds, if not thousands of lenses can be Mounted and used. Limitless creative possibilities with ONE camera. It’s a beautiful thing.

The A7RII is one hell of a camera, and it’s not just me saying this. Many long time reviewer’s are praising it as well, and the reason is because it is the real deal. Many are complaining about the 12 bit RAW thing, and I understand the concern (on paper) but for me, I have never had any issue with any of my A7RII images that have been taken since using it in Portland at the Sony media event and now in my home. NOT ONE issue related to 12 bit raw, so for me, it is a NON issue. Though I do get it, and I hear Sony is looking into this as I write this.  If I ever have an issue due to having 12 bit vs 14 bit RAW I will let you all know. I do not expect to EVER have an issue as I do not pixel peep at 400%, or even 200%.

At the end of the day, the Sony A7RII is quite an achievement. Sony never gave up, never stalled, and they listened to what WE had to say. They implemented many of our needs and wants and we now have a NEAR perfect camera in the A7RII for those who just love to shoot, love photography and love when they see such amazing quality when they load the images.

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From Zeiss to Sony to Leica to Canon to Nikon to others…so many lenses can be used to great effect with the A7RII. With its in body 5 Axis Image Stabilization, its resolution and all the things I Just mentioned, there is really nothing NOT to like. For me, it’s the best camera in 35mm full frame format that I have ever used, tested or reviewed. This is my new #1 replacing my A7II. I will keep the A7s for those moments when I am in the “S” mood or need that extra bit of low light ability.

Sony 35 1.4 Distagon – Chris from the Phoblographer

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If you want the best that 35mm can offer you in IQ and features and size and ease of use/joy of use, take a long look at the A7RII. It may be your dream camera. Now I have to try the Canon dream lens on the A7RII which I will then dub the “Dream Team”! Hehehe.

Where to Buy?

I would buy the A7RII at Amazon HERE or B&H Photo HERE. Two of the best retailers on the planet.

A few more A7RII Snaps…

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Purchase the A7RII at B&H Photo HERE

Purchase the A7RII at Amazon 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 7 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 dedicated 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, and no, I am not asking you for a penny!

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, in money and time. Many times I give away these items in contests to help give back you all of YOU.

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

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

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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!

Aug 282015
 

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A year with film – Leica, Contax, Nikon, and Hasselblad

By Adam Laws

I hope your well and have a cup of tea close by, it’s pretty miserable here in London. It’s been awhile since my last submission and I thought I would write to you about my year of analogue photography with a Leica, Contax, Nikon, and Hasselblad.

Since my last post on portraiture with the Sony A7 ‘apparently’ I have been going all hipster though I must say without the beard by shooting analogue.

The majority of my work is still shot on my Sony A7.

Sony images 1, 2 and 3 – 

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However I have been supplementing my digital work with far more analogue images, furthermore I generally shoot all my personal snaps now on film. I don’t believe film is better in any way but I do believe without trying to sound all hippy film gives a more organic image. Most importantly I enjoy the process of shooting film more, and surely fun is the most important element in the creative process.

So I’ve gone through some cameras this year, which I will elaborate on why giving a brief synopsis/feel of the cameras.

Leica

I bought a Leica M6 TTL with a .85 viewfinder and 50 ‘cron. Leica’s are beautiful aren’t they? The lore written about them makes them sound at times like unicorns at times, as such I romanticized owning one.

My thoughts on owning one – Well they are beautifully built. Solid and satisfyingly weighty. I did struggle with ownership, which ultimately made me sell it after a few months. This is not the cameras fault but more the time in my life I purchased it. Soon after I started my part-time photography degree, I needed to shoot an element of film in a studio and the Leica with its limited flash sync was not ideally suited to this task.

I also struggled with the notion of how expensive it was. Don’t get me wrong it is a beautiful piece of machinery, which evokes an emotive response and for that I totally appreciate why individuals buy them. However for the less money I could purchase a Hasselblad 500cm, Nikon FM2n, and Contax G2 all of them with glass and have change. Is a Leica M6 better than all 3 of these cameras? And would I have less fun shooting these cameras. So I sold the Leica to find out.

Leica images 1, 2, and 3

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Leica 3

Hasselblad

This camera is a beast. Well it terms what I’m used to. The sound of the low thud of the shutter makes me smile. I do struggle with its size. I’m used to traveling light so having a big medium format camera is somewhat strange for me. It also interesting shooting back to front, something I am still getting used to.

The best thing about the camera, even more so than the negative size it produces is the reaction I get from the model. As soon as a model sees this camera in my experience they instantly get more serious about the project.

Hasselblad 1, 2, and 3

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Hasselblad 3

Nikon FM2n

This is becoming one of my favourite cameras I own. The bright viewfinder, the solidness of the camera, and the big manual dials. It does not feel as good as the Leica, not as well made or smooth. I would say the camera is more utilitarian workhorse. I use it with an awesome Nikkor 50mm 1.2, which is a joy to use.

Generally this camera is loaded with FP4 film shot relatively wide own in a studio environment, where I would be using the model light as a source of light in-between shots with Sony or Contax G2. I have started taking this camera on the street with me when I fancy shooting B’n’W.

Nikon 1, 2, and 3

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Nikon 2

Nikon 3

Contax G2

The Contax is pretty much always in my bag. It can do everything my Sony can but it uses film. Unlike the Nikon this is normally loaded with colour Portra. The focus is always accurate and makes a great travel companion.

The contax does feels better in my hand than the Leica ever did. This is due to the thumb rest situated at the back of the camera. In addition the dials are a step up from that of the Nikon, but the camera feels very electronic with autofocus sounding something like Robocop. I also use this as a secondary studio camera generally mimicking the settings I had with the Sony to have a comparative organic film image.

Contax 1, 2, and 3

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Contax 2

Contax 3

Conclusion

Generally there isn’t one. I think ultimately as long as you enjoy the process of creating images that is the most important element.

Sometimes there is a more suitable tool for the job, but that doesn’t also mean it is the most fun way to complete the job after all.

For me I like the organic images, the slower pace of shooting, the challenges asked of you using antiquated cameras, and thought processes that go through your mind.

I have enjoyed playing about with different formats and cameras. I think it’s always a great idea to play around with as many cameras as possible that way you know what you like and don’t. In addition the challenges posed by new equipment makes you think about your photography, which is never a bad thing.

You can view more of my work on my website: www.adamlaws.com

However I regular update my Instagram with my newest work: https://instagram.com/adamlawsphotography/

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.

Regards

João de Medeiros

http://joaomedeirospamelaleite.tumblr.com/
https://instagram.com/joaomedeiros.pamelaleite/
https://www.facebook.com/MFotografia.JoaoMedeiros.PamelaLeite
http://www.joaomedeirospamelaleite.com/

Aug 182015
 

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Quick high ISO Comparison! Sony A7s vs Sony A7RII

Many h ave been asking me to do a high ISO comparison with the Sony A7RII vs the all time high ISO king, the Sony A7s. The Sony A7s is a special camera for a few reasons, one of them being the extreme low light capabilities which came about due to Sony using a 12MP sensor. The less MP on a full frame sensor usually means better low light or high ISO performance. With the new resolution monster, the A7RII, any were expecting high ISO to be mediocre. This is not the case. In fact., it looks DAMN good against the A7s. Think about it..12MP vs 42MP and the 42MP sensor is not far off. AT ALL.

As always with my ISO tests I let the camera choose exposure as this is how 99% of people use these, either in A mode, S mode or even AUTO mode. In other words, very few manually expose these cameras, so here is the output from each as exposed by the meter in each camera. What you see is what you get.

Also, these are from RAW and all noise reduction was off. Sony made some claims saying the A7RII is a NO COMPROMISE camera due to the new sensor design, Meaning, you can have high res and great high ISO all in one. Now imagine when they redo the A7s with the new sensor tech..this is when I think we will hit ISO 1 million and have it be usable. ;) My older A7s review is HERE if you missed it! Also, before you ask, the grip on the A7RII above is the JB Designs A7RII wooden grip. 

Click each image for larger view and full 100% crops! I will go all the way to the top ISO in my full review which will be up within 2-3 weeks!

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Aug 172015
 
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The SLR Magic Hyperprime 50 T 0.95 for Micro 4/3

By Steve Huff

Order this lens at B&H Photo HERE

I remember back in the early part of 2012 when I was putting on a Los Angeles workshop with Todd Hatakeyama and we had 32 attendees or so, which meant we all had a blast shooting on the streets of LA.

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What was ultra cool about that workshop was that we had a couple of special guests and a very awesome lens debut at that event. The 1st special guest was none other than actor and comedian Jeff Garlin who came by to give us some stand up and talk about a movie he was working on called “Finding Vivian Maier” which is EXCELLENT BTW and a MUST SEE! Jeff was awesome and he was part of that memorable event and helped make it a success.

Me and Jeff in 2012 at my Los Angeles workshop

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The other special guest at the workshop was Andrew Chan from SLR Magic and he was there to let all of us try the a lens that he was very very proud of. That lens was the amazing 50 T 0.95 Leica Mount and yep, it went right after the Leica Noctilux f/0.95, and man…not only did it go after it, it proved that a Leica Noct killer could be made for MUCH less than the $11,000 Leica charged for their lens.

Me shooting the 50 Leica Mount Hyperprime back in 2012 on my Leica M9. Photo shot by Judd Weiss.

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Not only was the lens $6-7K cheaper than the Leica at the time, it was a tad better in the sharpness department and even Bokeh department. It has less CA and focused closer. It was a bit larger and heavier but wow, that lens was a masterpiece.

After it was getting some crazy buzz online it seemed some politics came into play as all of a sudden SLR Magic was being attacked with nonsense accusations in an attempt to stop them from selling that lens, or at least derail them here in the US. Seems it was a huge threat to someone somewhere as the mud-slinging and stories that were told were just ridiculous. The lens was Leica M mount and worked with the RF meaning it was RF coupled. Six friends of mine bought one and loved it, and a few still have the lens to this day for their Leica or Sony FE cameras. In any case, SLR Magic seemed to withdraw the lens for a while but it did return and is still available for purchase in the NON RF coupled version in Leica mount but in reality for Sony FE mount (using an adapter) for $2999.  The lens indeed has some magic. See my review HERE.

But wait! Now there is the New 50 T 0.95 Hyperprime for Micro 4/3

Well, today I am happy to announce that SLR Magic have brought out that same lens formula for Micro 4/3, in a NEW 50mm T 0.95 Lens. This is a premium lens in build, feel and performance for Micro 4/3 and the fast T 0.95 aperture (T stops are used in video and are slightly faster than the F counterpart making this lens an F/0.91 or so. While it will not give the same look and feel as the full frame version, it will offer a flavor of that look for a fraction of the cost and will be one hell of a manual lens for your Olympus or Panasonic Micro 4/3 cameras. It will also be a fraction of the LM version, coming in at $999.

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Now, all Micro 4/3 shooters realize (or at least I hope they do) that the sensor in our cameras will double the effective focal length of any lens attached, which is why Olympus sells the 25 f/1.8, to mimic a fast 50mm. So naturally this 50mm T .95 will now give us an effective focal length of 100mm, which is quite long for my tastes. I am a tried and true 50mm guy, sometimes 35mm and sometimes even 28mm. But 100mm? Not so much. This was a concern of mine when Andrew Chan sent over the new 50mm T 0.95 for me to test..that 100mm reach means not so good for indoor work.

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About a day or two after I received the lens my worry subsided as I remembered that no matter what lens you have on your camera, you can always find shots to fit it and make it work if you truly open your eyes and look for shots. You know, the old saying “zoom with your feet”, well that rings true here.

I took the camera with me along with friends and family to Las Vegas and enjoyed testing it out in various lighting situations. What I soon found out is that when wide open at T 0.95 there is a very SLIGHT softness. VERY slight. But stop this lens down to T 1.1 or 1.4 and you have an amazingly sharp and crisp lens that has some serious POP to it, and I mean amazing sharpness to the level of some glass that will set you back much more than this.

I believe SLR Magic designed this lens as a video tool primarily but it is equally as nice as a photo tool. With its smooth click-less aperture and medium focus throw it feels delightful on my E-M5II Titanium Edition. It looks awesome as well. The slide out hood is reminiscent of the Leica 5o Summilux ASPH, quality all the way around in regards to fit finish and feel.

This shot was taken at T 1.1 to give a tad more crispness to the subject. This could have worked at T 0.95 but I found that I preferred using this lens from T 1.1  to T 1.4 most of the time. 

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This one is at T 0.95 and I focused on the upper most piercing. It is also up close at its minimum focus distance, which is also why we see a tad bit of softness and glow.

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So what do I think of the lens after using it non stop for a while? I do really enjoy it, but at the same time it is a specialty lens. I would use it if I wanted a nice portrait with shallow DOF. I would stop down to f/2 for max pop and detail as well as making it easier to nail the focus (when wide open it is very tough to 100% nail focus as T 0.95 has paper-thin depth of field). I would use this lens in low light or night-time situations when I needed the maximum light sucking capabilities. I would use this lens whenever I was in a manual focus kind of mood when using my Micro 4/3 camera or if I wanted an artsy look. I would use this lens for video interviews as well or even some street work. So yes…

It is versatile.

You must click images for better view. 

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What about detail? How sharp is this lens?

As I hinted at already, this lens sharpens up DRAMATICALLY when stopping down just slightly to T 1.1 or T 1.4. Wide open at T 0.95 it is a tad dreamy and slowly and unsharp. Take a look at the crops:

YOU MUST click on the images to see them larger and with full 100% crops! 

1st image is shot wide open at T 0.95…click it to see the crop..

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The next image was stopped down to T 1.4, look how much sharper it gets..like it “snaps” into place and becomes another lens..

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Below is a full size image from RAW, click it to see to full size. Shot at f/4

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The lens is not perfect though, and as I mentioned in my video overview above, it does have some CA (Purple Fringing) in high contrast situations. The thing here is though is that all fast primes like this have CA, all of them (when used on digital). Some cameras now remove this in camera before you see the image. Leica, Canon, Nikon..all have CA in their fast primes. So if you shoot this lens wide open, and take a picture of a high contrast scene with metal or glass, look out for some CA. As you stop down this will go away and I did not have any issues once I stopped down to just T 1.1. Below is an example of the CA you can expect when shooting wide open and in a high contrast situation..

Click images below to see them larger…examples of CA in high contrast areas when shooting wide open..

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So all in all, the new SLR Magic 50 T 0.95 Hyperprime lens for Micro 4/3 is a winner in my book. When SLR Magic wants to put out quality, they do and can. This lens is a solution for anyone wanting a shallow DOF option for their little M 4/3 camera or for those who shoot lots of video or for those who need a lens for ultra low light to keep the ISO down or even for those who want to shoot some nice creamy portraits.

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What this lens is NOT

What this lens is NOT is perfect. DO not expect to shoot a scene and get an image that looked like it came from a Leica M and 50 APO cron. This is what I call a “character lens” when shot wide open, and this is good as character is unique from lens to lens and it’s always nice to have these options in your toolbox. So if you shoot at T 0.95 do not expect across the frame sharpness, instead expect a nice almost dreamy kind of look. In fact this is probably the look that is attracting you to this lens!

Click any image for larger and better versions! I love the deep blue and shadows in this 1st shot. The 2nd blue man is a ball of blur when shooting at T 0.95.

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If you click the image below you can see how sharp this gets by T 1.1..I focused on his face/eyes..

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My final word on the new SLR Magic 50 T 0.95 Micro 4/3 Lens…

With so many lenses out today for Micro 4/3, and 98% of them being fantastic, how do you know which lenses to invest in and which ones to skip? Well, you don’t! All you can do is read reviews, look at samples and decide what works for YOU. If you enjoy the images here, the Bokeh, the color, the way this lens renders on an Olympus E-M5II AND you do not mind manual focus, and you want a solid well made lens that will last you a lifetime..then this just may be what you have been looking for.

What separates this lens from a lens like the Panasonic Nocticron that offers a 42.5 f/1.2 design with auto focus and gorgeous color and IQ is about $400 and with the Nocticron you get a much larger lens as well. You can see that review HERE to compare the images. The Nocticron is beauty and will give you an 85mm equivalent instead of 100mm. It will give you f/1.2 instead of T 0.95 (more like F 0.91) and at T 1.2 I’d put the SLR Magic up against the Nocticron any day and while it will not replicate the look of the Nocticron it will offer you its own look and character. You do lose Auto Focus but some prefer this as it slows us down, makes us think about the shot. So all up to YOU, the user.

Then we have lenses like the Olympus 75 1.8 which gives us 150mm, for me, too long for every day and indoor use though it is also a beauty. At the end of the day I enjoyed the SLR Magic lens. The 50MM T 0.95 Hyperprime is a premium lens, with much of the character from their legendary M mount version at 1/4 the price, which is nice and I have no complaints. ;)

To have yet another option for those of us who shoot Micro 4/3 is a good thing, selection and choice is wonderful :)

Where to Order?

If you want to order the SLR Magic 50 T 0.95 for Micro 4/3 you can do so HERE at B&H Photo who is an authorized SLR Magic Dealer. The price is $999.

A few more snaps below using the SLR Magic T 0.95 from wide open to T 1.4…

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HLPHH

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 7 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 dedicated 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, and no, I am not asking you for a penny!

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, in money and time. Many times I give away these items in contests to help give back you all of YOU.

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

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

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

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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!

Aug 142015
 
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A Sony A7RII Review

by Chad Wadsworth – His website is HERE

Blasphemy be damned, I’m going to admit that I wasn’t all that excited about the Sony a7R II prior to its release.

I’m a simple stills guy so the 4k video is wasted on me; I also like my fat pixel 12mp a7S files just fine, thank you and I dreaded having to deal with both the processing and storage requirements of a 42mp image. Furthermore, I already enjoy the refreshed body style and IBIS on the a7 II and I’m not a switcher – been shooting Sony for a few years now and sold all my Canon L lenses long ago.

My prior detachment aside, the release of this camera is a watershed moment in the mirrorless epoch. The a7R II spec sheet reads like something out of the future, a no compromise piece of kit that is both evolutionary and revolutionary at the same time. Who wouldn’t be interested in this camera? As professionals or even enthusiasts, we desire the best and this camera promises to be that at a great many things. Even if it falls short in a single category like low light (little brother a7S still reigns supreme), its second best still trumps most everything else on the market.

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So yeah, I want the best and I want it compact and rugged and efficient and with a great compliment of lenses. I know it will eventually be eclipsed by something newer and greater but at this point in time, I can with a good conscience state that it is the best digital camera I have ever owned.

I’m not going to do a detailed review, many others are far better at that, but I can share some thoughts and photos that I hope will be helpful. All images have been edited from RAW to my personal taste.

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In the pro column, the camera is mature. Sony has had time since the release of the a7 (their first full frame mirrorless system camera) to evolve and improve on many aspects of the platform. The menu system is by now second nature to me but more importantly, with the release of the a7R II, Sony has vastly expanded the level of button configuration. Virtually every physical control on the camera has some level of customization. This means that for all but the most arcane settings, there are direct physical controls. We’ve all seen the comments labeling Sony products as computers or gadgets, compared to other brands’ “real cameras”. The truth is that all modern digital cameras, yes I’m looking at you too Leica, are electronic, computer controlled devices. With the a7R II, I can hide that electronic menu interface for 99% of the photography I do while still harnessing secondary features like IBIS, focus magnification or display options with physical buttons. The closest example of this type of physical control from the golden age of the 35mm film world was the Minolta Maxxum 7 (also known as the a-7!) which was laden with physical controls for every imaginable setting. For the uninitiated, Sony purchased Minolta’s camera and lens line in 2006 – check out this report from way back then – Farewell Konica Minolta.

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The a7R II is the second camera in the line to be blessed with IBIS or SteadyShot, also a Minolta invention. Once you’ve used IBIS there’s simply no going back. Hand holding a 135mm lens at 1/5th is doable with IBIS and good technique – amazing. For some of the photos here, I used the lovely Batis 85mm which has its own optical image stabilization that works in tandem with IBIS for even greater control. The jittery view of a long lens simply melts away to calm when IBIS kicks in. Sony saves battery life by engaging the IBIS function only when the shutter is half-depressed so you can see the effect in realtime, before and after you engage focus.

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The original a7R suffered a heavy shutter action that was quite loud. Having never owned that model, I can’t comment but I will say that the a7R II has one of the sweetest sounding shutters I have heard. It sounds something like this: shhtiiiickkk. Really, take my word, it is wonderful – quiet and refined. Some people have even confused the normal shutter sound with the silent shutter feature which is incorrect as the silent shutter is just that: silent. And on the topic of the Silent Shutter setting, yes there are some compromises such as a restriction to single shot mode but come on, the use cases for silent high speed shooting have got to be minuscule.

Another aspect of the camera that impresses me is the new EVF magnification. At .78 it is the largest magnification of any modern camera, DSLR or mirrorless (the Nikon D810 comes in at .70) which results in a large comfortable view of the scene with excellent eye relief. This feature did have me excited and I’ll have a hard time looking through a view with lesser magnification now.

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The autofocus speed seems on par with the a7 II but tracking looks to be improved thanks to the 399 on-sensor phase detect points. I’ll need to do more shooting to be sure and I also want to do some concerts in low light, but for now I’m very pleased. Using the gorgeous new Zeiss Batis lenses for these first shots in Ogunquit, Maine resulted in quick, sure focus on the 25mm, with the 85mm a bit slower (common for longer focal lengths moving more lens mass) but still speedy. I’m finding that the Batis 25mm truly shines on the a7R II – sharp, sharp, sharp right to the corners with manageable distortion and excellent color. The ability to dial in hyperfocal setting in 2 seconds using the OLED is a nice feature that I used often on some of these tourist landscape shots. If you are looking for a top quality standard wide for the a7 platform, this is your lens. Overall, I’m very pleased with this combination and look forward to more options in the Batis lineup.

One of the big features of the new camera is its claimed compatibility (with an adapter) to Canon EF lenses. The previous a7 models also had this compatibility but the AF speed left much to be desired. With the a7R II, Sony is taking a broad shot across Canon’s bow, claiming much improvement, approaching native AF speed using EF lenses. Since I don’t have any Canon lenses I can’t comment with any authority but there seems to be a consensus in early reviews that the performance claims are accurate. Since the a7R II will be the first Sony camera for many Canon switchers I can only implore them to enjoy the compatibility with their existing lenses but do not ignore some of the class leading native FE lenses that are now available.

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Back to the a7R II – what about all of those pixels? The good news is that I’m seeing nothing but sharpness, no shutter shock or blurred details – and my MacBook Pro seems to be chugging along just fine so far. I get a longer delay when rendering a 100% view but for standard editing I haven’t noticed any speed bumps. The level of clarity and detail from the combination of this 42mp sensor and the Batis lenses has been simply astounding and will eclipse the performance of many Medium Format systems. Dynamic range has also been top notch and I expect it to be measured in the 14+ stop range at base ISO.

Shadow boosting and highlight recovery is child’s play with these Sony sensors and the a7R II doesn’t look to be compromising dynamic range or low light performance for high resolution. Check out the before and after sample below illustrating shadow boost at base ISO.

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No camera is perfect and I expect there to be a few niggles here and there but as I mentioned earlier, the a7R II is remarkably mature. As a photographer with some manual focus rangefinder lenses I do find that the new larger EVF has an unfortunate downside that lessens the shimmering effect of the older displays. This effect was from edge artifacts and could help the photographer determine when they had manual focused accurately without relying on focus peaking. The extra EVF magnification eliminates those edge artifacts making it more challenging to determine manual focus accuracy without entering one of the focus magnification modes. Now to be clear, Sony never advertised or even hinted of this EVF shimmering effect as a tool for focus, this is simply a trick that I and others have used for our benefit so we can’t berate Sony for eliminating what some may have thought was an annoyance.

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Aside from my gripe about manual focusing with the new EVF, I’ve discovered no significant faults that impact operation or lessen my enjoyment of the camera. My initial impression is that Sony has set a new high bar with the a7R II – a camera that will suit many, but of course not all styles of photography. For those that specialize in landscape, architecture, wedding or portraits, as well as the run and gun videographer, this could well be the one and only camera that you need in your bag. And let’s not forget, that bag is going to be a lot lighter.

Chad Wadsworth

Aug 122015
 
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Voigtlander 10.5 f/0.95 Lens review for Micro 4/3

Welcome again to another quick lens review here at stevehuffphoto.com! Here we are, 7+ years on with this website/blog and I am still excited to sit and write about a product that I really enjoy, for me, this just ever gets old.

This time around the lens we will be taking a look at is a Micro 4/3 lens from Voigtlander that fleshes out their superfast f/0.95 line of primes. In the past I have used and tested the Voigtlander 17 0.95, 25 0.95, 42.5 0.95 and these lenses give Micro 4/3 users the focal length equivalents of 35, 50 and 90mm. What was missing for a while was the wide end so Voigtlander tackled this and created the lens you will see here, the 10.5mm f/0.95! A true wide-angle superfast prime.

Yep, a 10.5mm lens in Micro 4/3 with an uber fast f/0.95 aperture. Of course the equivalent focal length here is 21mm, so this one can be considered a wide angle or near ultra wide lens. But many of you may be asking..”why would one need f/0.95 in a 10.5mm lens”? Usually wide angle lenses can do just fine with slower shutter speeds and smaller apertures as they are easier to handhold without creating shake. So why the fast aperture? Besides being ultra cool and bad ass there are reasons!

The lens come with al lens hood and allows for cliques or liked aperture. The construction is SOLID.  Length 82.4mm, maximum diameter 77mm.

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For low light abilities one, and even though the focal length doubles here, the light gathering of the aperture is indeed f/0.95. Again, this IS an f/0.95 lens for light gathering. For shallow DOF you will not get the true effect of f/0.95 as you would on a full frame sensor body as that also doubles. But for light gathering and low light this lens will give you a fast f/0.95 aperture. So go out to a nice low light environment and have no fear as this lens should give you what you need. Add in the 5 Axis IS of the Oly bodies and you are all set for low light shooting. This is really what f/0.95 is all about. Low light and the need for your lens to suck in all available light that it can while still performing admirably. The question here is, can this lens deliver?

Click on any image for larger size and better version!

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During my 2-3 weeks with this cracker of a lens I took it all over with me though it is not a tiny or small lens. This lens is heavy and medium in size (not large), is all manual focus and is built to last a lifetime. Metal construction, smooth focus ring, solid but smooth aperture ring and performance that may not the “best” in the Voigtlander f/0.95 line but still very very excellent with that same signature and color of the other primes in the series.

In use I was finding the lens to not be as sharp wide open as the other lenses in this range. For example, the 42.5 is stunning wide open as is the 17.5 but this 10.5 is a tad soft when shooting at f/0.95, hell, I can’t even say soft as it is not “soft”…just not as sharp as the 42.5 ;)  Many would say I was being picky here but at $1,100, this is not a cheap lens. Even so, by the time you hit f/1.4 the lens has a nice sharp rendering and has some bite as well. A bonus is the you can take this lens up close. With a minimum focus distance of only 6.6 inches you can get fairly close to your subject if you desire.

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The lens, as I said, comes in at $1100. Mine came from CameraQuest.com and the more and more I used the lens, the more I started to get along with it. I will admit, the 1st week I was not sure if I liked it as I am rarely a 21mm shooter. In fact, the last time I shot with a 21mm extensively was probably in this Voigtlander 21 f/1.8 review for Leica M mount.  I do remember liking that lens but again, since I am not much of a wide angle shooter (namely 21mm-28mm) I knew it would rarely get use.

Click for larger and more detailed version. This is the 10.5 up close and wide open. 

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As I shot this 10.5mm more and more I started to enjoy it and I started to like it, a lot. If I owned the other Voigtlander lenses to go along with this f/0.95 line I would 100% want to own this just to complete the f/0.95 collection. With these lenses one can shoot almost anything they desire from landscapes to low light scenes to portraits to every day general shooting.

The image below, 1st one, is full size from camera so YOU MUST CLICK IT TO SEE THE FULL SIZE. Click it to see what this lens will do at f/4. It has been sharpened.

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This one is just to show Bokeh quality, or the Out of focus areas in the background. This was shot at f/0.95

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When shooting the lens I did not notice any glaring or out of the ordinary issues such as massive CA, distortions or funky Bokeh. Everything seemed pretty solid. The IQ has the same character as the other lenses in the Voigtlander family. I’d say it has that voigtlander look, 100%.

What is that look?

Well, it’s always hard to describe the way different brands of lenses render images. Some have more color pop, some are higher contrast, some are muted and some are soft while others are sharp. This lens renders in a smooth way with a near neutral color and contrast signature, meaning it does not have high or low contrast nor bold and poppy color or muted color. It has that “smoothness” that I always see in Voigtlander lenses.

Below is a video I made when I received the lens, showing it on the E-M5II

It is so cool to have this option for Micro 4/3 and I am using the lens on my GORGEOUS E-M5II Titanium that I have outfitted with the equally as gorgeous JB Designs Grip.

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This camera with this lens and grip feels so freaking amazing and awesome in my hand. For feel and looks it easily beats my A7s, A7II and upcoming A7RII. It’s just a striking camera to look at and hold/feel and use. Solid, great controls and quality. With Micro 4/3 lagging behind in low light or very high ISO’s they need fast lenses to compete with the big full frame guns. Fast glass is the answer and with Olympus releasing awesome lenses like the new 8mm fisheye pro 1.8, the 7-14 pro wide angle zoom and even that newish 40-150 f/2.8 zoom it helps to take this system up a level.

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At this level what other lenses are there to choose from for our micro 4/3 cameras?

Well, we have the Olympus Pro 7-14 f/2.8 Zoom, which comes in at $1299, or $200 more. Of course you lose the f/0.95 aperture but you gain fast Auto Focus, you gain weather sealed pro performance and you gain more versatility as the focal length can go even wider and even longer. 7-14 will give you a 14-28mm FOV on Micro 4/3 and give you much more sharpness across the frame.

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Me, would I want to give up the solid Voigtlander 10.5 f/0.95 with its uber fast aperture so I can get the 7-14 Pro Zoom? WELL…Maybe. I feel the zoom may be the better buy but then again, you will not be able to get the look of the Voigtlander out of the Olympus. The Oly will give you sharper images with more DOF meaning your background will be more in focus, so less subject isolation. You will also get the Olympus color signature which many love.

It’s a trade-off. Solid build, fast aperture and manual focus or Auto Focus, wider focal length range and slower aperture? It would be tough to choose, and the more I think about it the more I think I would choose the Voigtlander as I love to shoot in low light, or in music clubs or pubs at night. That Aperture speed rocks.

I know many would say “I WANT AF” so the Olympus would be the smartest choice for the AF crowd, obviously.

Always click images here for larger and better view

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I still love Micro 4/3 even though I know many out there refuse to even give it a shot due to the smaller sensor. The way I look at it is that while yes, the sensor is smaller and does not do as well in shallow DOF or High ISO the bodies make up for this with their beautiful designs, solid build and super fast response and operation. The smaller sensors allow for faster AF, and the lenses of the Micro 4/3 system are some of the best there are in existence. So many Micro 4/3 fans out there who chose it over APS-C and Full Frame, and I am right there with them as I feel a camera like the Olympus E-M1 or E-M5II beat out just about any APS-C camera as a whole package from build, design, speed, lens quality, etc. I do not feel it can compete with full frame so much but it is not far off in DR, details and color performance. So yes, Micro 4/3 is alive and well and while many predicted its demise years ago, it is holding steady and doing well.

Back to the lens…

If you feel like shooting at 21mm, and have a Micro 4/3 system, and you love f/0.95 shooting then this is a lens you will want to take a long serious look at. It ticks the right boxes as it has no real weaknesses besides being manual focus only. As I already stated, CA and distortion here is minimal, which is quite something for a fast f/0.95 lens. ALL fast primes have CA it is just a matter of how much. One of the worst CA offenders is the Leica 50 Noctilux at $11k+, so yea, even the uber pricey lenses have these issues. This lens though, it is so minimal I never notice it, so this is fantastic.

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At the end of the day, I love Voigtlander and have loved them since trying my 1st Voigtlander lens (a 35mm f/2.5 pancake for Leica M mount) on an Epson RD-1 (pre Leica M8). While not all Voigtlander lenses are masterpieces, some indeed are and the offerings from them in Micro 4/3 land are quite special and good. A fast prime shooters dream set of lenses can be had, all for under $5k giving one a super Micro 4/3 system of sorts. Pretty cool. The 10.5mm keeps on with the tradition of high quality, fast aperture, super build and great IQ while keeping the pricing on a nice even ground. This is a lovely lens my friends!

My review sample came from site sponsor  Stephen Gandy at CameraQuest.com  He has these in stock for $1100 and free shipping. You can see the page for this lens right HERE if you want to read more or place the order.

ORDER THIS LENS HERE AT CAMERAQUEST!

My next lens I am testing on the E-M5II is the new SLR Magic Hyperprime 50 T 0.95, which is a scaled down version of their AMAZING 50 T 0.95 for Leica M, so I have high hopes. Stay tuned for that as I will be heading out on a road trip this week to shoot it.

Thank you all for reading this short mini review for the Voigtlaner 10.5 f/0.95 for Micro 4/3.

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HLPHH

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 7 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 dedicated 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, and no, I am not asking you for a penny!

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, in money and time. 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!

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Aug 112015
 
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andrew

Tethered in Thailand: Phase One portfolio shoot

By Andrew Paquette – www.paqart.com

In 2006, I picked up a Nikon D70 to take photographs of my paintings. At about that time I became curious about the creative potential of photography. In 2013 I picked up a Nikon D800 and some Zeiss lenses with the goal of using the gear purely as photography equipment, with no secondary artistic purpose in mind. The photos would be the product, period.

It was interesting to make compositions in camera instead of on paper or canvas because there are many differences in how it is done. For one thing, every element of a photo had to be present and doing the right thing in the right way when the shutter release was pressed. When making comic books, illustrations, visual effects shots, paintings, or drawings, any element of the image could be tweaked any way I liked, regardless what was in front of me. This was not an insignificant difference. Also, much of the appeal in the type of visual art I practiced came from my drawing and colour matching skill, both of which are irrelevant to a camera because a camera will always ‘draw’ an image perfectly and capture whatever colours are present. This opened the door to paying attentions to different creative issues, like content, story, lighting, texture, and so on.

By the present year (2015) I had practiced enough that I wanted to make a sports and fashion photography portfolio. Sports because I like to capture dynamic action and fashion because it reminds me of painting. The sports photos I had covered because I had plenty of shots from the Dutch Streetball Masters basketball tournament. The fashion portfolio however, promised to be more of a challenge.

The planning of this project was more extensive than I expected, but it had to be done and in the end it helped a great deal. The first step was to have an idea of what I wanted to shoot. To do this, I decided on three themes. The first set of photos would emphasise a model in several settings at a luxury hotel. For the second, I wanted a model to be a quiet magnet of attention surrounded by a busy and chaotic city. The last group would follow a model as if she were a college student on holiday in a rural part of Thailand. These themes allowed for different clothing styles, locales, and personalities among the models.

The next step was to figure out how I was going to find the people I needed to do this. After some searching on the Internet, I found the Fame Management Agency of Bangkok. They would supply models, stylist, MUA and hair stylist, catering, transportation, and coordination. With this done, I needed to pick the models, locations, and then make colour comps to give the stylist an idea of what I wanted to accomplish. In addition to these, I also found images of clothing, hair, makeup, and lighting to use as a style guide for each of the shots.

Figure 1 color comps

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It took me about three weeks of evenings and weekends to make the sketches for the three shoots I had in mind, all based on location scouting done on Google Earth and street view mode. In the end I settled on three scenes for each shoot for a total of nine different shots. If I got a minimum of one good shot from each, the project would have been successful in my eyes. I hoped for more, but that was my minimum measure of success.

As the schedule developed for the shoot, I saw that I had enough time to squeeze in more shots. First, the stylist had found more outfits than I needed for one of the shoots, and then for the same shoot I had found more locations than I could deal with in one day. To accommodate this, I extended shooting by one day in that location. Then, I found a good Yoga asana performer and added one day to shoot her performing yoga asanas. Finally, PN Studio, the studio providing lights to the shoot, agreed to find a Thai boxing ring I could use for a boxing shoot. With that done, I now had six shooting days out of fourteen. The balance of that time would go to troubleshooting as needed on location.

My first day in Bangkok was tough. After about 36 hours without sleep by the time the plane landed, I had to quickly drop my bags at the hotel and then rush over to the Fame agency to meet with the producer and stylist there, Jha and ‘BM’, respectively. After that I had to go to the lighting rental place and meet with them. The entire trip was like this because, as it turns out, six days of shooting out of fourteen is actually quite a lot. For instance, once I was on the ground, I had to personally check every location to verify they would work. This meant re-scouting all of them and this meant a couple of days spent driving around checking out these places.

The locations proved to be the biggest problem for various reasons. On the first day, a location I had selected was suddenly unavailable so we had only a few hours to find a replacement. Luckily, a woman named Sirirat Traisupa from the Shangri-La Hotel was able to accommodate us by providing a couple of locations within the hotel. Another location that we got permission to use actually kicked us out halfway through because some other person didn’t want us shooting there. It was a public park, but he didn’t like the idea of a fashion model wearing fashion-y clothes in his park. That almost killed the entire day after only three hours of shooting, but our lighting assistant, ‘King’, found a wonderful alternate right around the corner. It looked nothing like what I’d planned, but we improvised and got some of my favourite shots of the trip there. The rural shoot didn’t present any permission problems, but the giant-sized biting ants didn’t endear themselves to the models, and the lighting assistants probably would have preferred carrying their equipment shorter distances in an air-conditioned environment. Another shot from this area that didn’t go as planned was one of a half-height orange telephone booth in the middle of the jungle. In street view, this looked like a great shot that would be interesting to western audiences not accustomed to seeing working phone booths in the middle of nowhere, but I discovered that the booth is almost sitting directly on a very busy rural road. The other side was jungle, but to get the shot I wanted, someone would have to be in the road and that would have been too dangerous. As an alternative I found another phone indoors and shot that.

The shooting went pretty well, but I had a serious technical problem with my Mac PowerBook: I simply did not know how to use the touch pad. I have used PCs for thirty years, but bought this, my first Mac, specifically for this shoot so that I could shoot tethered. For the most part it worked out fine, but my attempts to zoom in on images in Capture One seemed to drive the lighting assistant crazy because I could only do it occasionally by accident. This is because I was trying to use the spread finger gesture familiar to me from the iPad, but should have used the two finger drag gesture for this device. Unfortunately I didn’t discover it until all the shoots were over. If the assistant’s English had been better, he may have been able to explain the problem, but as it was it was just frustrating for both of us.

English language proficiency in general caused some communication problems from time to time. If I had known this would be an issue I would have hired a translator for the shoot. I was told that several of the people on the shoots would speak English so I didn’t have to worry about it, but in practice their pronunciation was very hard to understand just as they had a hard time understanding me. One of the models (Aim Nizayeva) once worked as a Russian to English translator, which really helped on her shoot but only in reference to directing her. The lighting assistant also spoke English, but only with serious effort could we communicate. On this issue, the best shoot was the yoga shoot. The reason is that the model, Betty Nitade, spoke flawless English and Thai. The lighting assistant at the studio (different from the other lighting assistants I worked with) couldn’t speak English at all, but Betty translated all of my instructions perfectly and I got exactly what I wanted with minimal fuss.

In comparison with my sketches, only one of the photos resembles the sketch that inspired it but all of the sketches were useful because they solidified in my mind what I wanted to get. This made it easier to communicate to the team and to make whatever adjustments were needed.

Equipment

Camera: Phase One DF+, IQ250 digital back, Schneider-Kreuznach 80mm LS lens and SK 28 mm LS lens.

Lights: Broncolor 2400w/s heads and 1200 w/s heads, plus reflectors, beauty dish, grid, and miscellaneous light shapers

The photos:

Figure 2 Overpass 80mm, ISO 100 f/9 1s

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Figure 3 Balcony 28mm, ISO 100 f/8 1/10s

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Figure 4 Cafe 001 80mm, ISO 200 f/4 1/100s

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Figure 5 Cafe 002 28mm, ISO 200 f/4.5 1/50s

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Figure 6 Jungle Bike 001 28mm, ISO 200 f/5 1/80s

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Figure 7 Jungle Bridge 003 80mm, ISO 100 f/5 1/160s

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Figure 8 Jungle Doors 28mm, ISO 100 f/5.6 1/250s

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Figure 9 Pier 004 80mm, ISO 100 f/2.8 1/40s

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Figure 10 Pier Boxing 001 80mm, ISO 100 f/5 1/250s

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Figure 11 Tea 001 80mm, ISO 200 f/8 1/30s

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Figure 12 Yoga 001 80mm, ISO 100 f/6.3 1/160s

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Figure 13 Yoga 002 80mm, ISO 100 f/5.6 1/250s

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Figure 14 Yoga 005 80mm, ISO 100 f/5.6 1/250s

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Figure 15 Boxing 001 28mm, ISO 400 f/11 1/400s

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Figure 16 Boxing 002 28mm, ISO 400 f/10 1/500s

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Figure 17 Boxing 003 28mm, ISO 400 f/10 1/500s

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Credits:

Photography: Andrew Paquette

Stylist: BM

Models: Aim Nizayeva, Pair, Bow, Betty Nitade

Makeup and hair: Wuttichai Jaiyong and others from the Bobbi Brown agency/Thailand

Clothes by: Tandt Bangkok, Nicha, Greyscale Shirt, Thanaporn Lanthong, Anchana Veeradaechapol, Soraya Kwanharn, Purinutt

Lighting assistants:

Producer: Jha

Agency: Fame Management Agency

Lighting rental: PN Studio

Studio rental: Pirate Studio

Boxing gym: Jitti gym

Aug 032015
 
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HANDS ON! Sony A7RII 1st Thoughts, Images & Video!

By Steve Huff

Woohoo! THIS IS GOING TO BE “NEW SONY WEEK”! Meaning, I am going to be posting quite a few updates on my use with the new Sony cameras, the A7RII and the RX10II!!

Below is an OOC JPEG from the A7RII and Zeiss 25 Batis at f/2. Just a random guy through a window! Click it for larger!

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So here I am in Beautiful Portland, Oregon with Sony and loads of other bloggers and media outlets as we get to test and shoot the new Sony line up over the next few days. This includes, for me, the Sony A7RII and Sony RX10II, as I already reviewed the RX100 IV (see that here).

I am SO SO EXCITED as I just came back from a 5 mile walk with just me, myself and the A7RII. I had the Zeiss 25 Batis attached and also shot a few with the Sony/Zeiss 24-70. I am happy to announce that the new resolution MONSTER, the A7RII focuses pretty damn fast. In fact, it appears the spotty and slow focus of the original A7 and A7r is GONE. The A7RII feels just as  fast if not faster than my A7II and A7s when it comes to AF! (single shot mode is all I have tested so far)

The two shots below are from the Sony/Zeiss 24-70, which somehow I have never reviewed! All JPEGS!

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Now, keep in mind that the camera has been in my hands for about 3 hours and I have only shot stationary objects so far. Over the next few days I will be shooting all kinds of things from landscape, to low light, to portraits (shooting RAW as well) and more. I will give this camera a massive workout so YOU GUYS can see what it is all about and if it is something that may be for you.

These two are OOC JPEGs and color with the A7RII and Batis 25

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FOR NOW, this is just a 1st hand on report, and my 1st thoughts and images after shooting with the camera.

Below, check out the video I made about the A7RII which says much more than I can write here to convert my feelings on this gorgeous very “finished feeling and mature” camera.

FYI: As I took a walk around my hotel in Portland I snapped away and what you see here is all 100% out of camera JPEGs!
My 1st impressions?

The camera feels amazing in the hand, looks very “finished” and handsome. It feels like the A7II in the hand. It is much faster to AF than I expected and the IQ, even from standard OOC JPEGS is VERY VERY good and sharp. I can not wait to process some RAW files. The ISO performance from the quick and dirty tests I did in my hotel room look great, and this camera, I feel will be THE camera to get for 2015.

It just has everything one would ever need.

  • Resolution? CHECK – 42MP!
  • Speed? CHECK! Just as fast to AF, if not faster than my A7II! (so far I have not tested continuous AF, but will)
  • Build? CHECK! This camera feels SOLID and very nice.
  • VIDEO? AMAZING 4K video specs on this camera!
  • An enhanced 5 AXIS STEADSHOT INSIDE! Enough said!
  • 2.36 Million dot EVF? CHECK!
  • Silent Shutter? CHECK!
  • High ISO? Check, up to 102k!

This camera does it ALL. OH, and it even seems to play well with wide angle Leica M mount lenses. Take a look at a shot, with crop, from the Voigtlander 15 4.5 at 4.5:

CLICK FOR LARGER and 100% CROP! OOC JPEG HERE!

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So far, just a few hours in, I am LOVING the A7RII and have no regrets for selling my A7II to fund this new camera. So far, I see the A7RII as a camera that can last for the long haul, finally!

PLENTY of MP, fast enough for my uses without question, low light ability is great, video abilities is more than I’d ever need, 5 Axis IS is GREAT to have and the fact that I can use hundreds of lenses is icing on the cake.

The cool thing? The A7RII is staring  to ship THIS week to all of those who pre-ordered! IF YOU DID NOT PRE-ORDER, you can do so HERE at the recommended dealers below:

B&H PHOTO – CLICK HERE FOR  THE A7RII page!

AMAZON – CLICK HERE FOR THE A7RII page!

I will be testing and posting about the A7RII ALL WEEK! This is just the beginning and the start of what will be a very thorough look at the camera with various lenses. 

Images below are all OOC JPEGS! CLICK THEM FOR LARGER!

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Be sure to check back to this website every day for new A7RII and RX10II coverage! I will also be posting to my Facebook with images as well as videos to YouTube! 

Thank You!

Steve

OH, HIGH ISO SAMPLES TO COME, BUT THEY LOOK AWESOME SO FAR!

ALL NOISE REDUCTION WAS OFF, AND THESE ARE OOC JPEGS.

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…and  a couple B&W OOC JEGS at higher ISO for fun…

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Jul 292015
 
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A Mega Leica 28 Summilux f/1.4 Lens Review

by Kristian DowlingSee his BLOG HERE!

Review disclaimer:

*Lens was used entirely at f/1.4 for the entire review, in every picture unless stated otherwise.

*No protective filters were used.

*Editing was kept as simple as possible in Lightroom, with no clarity added/subtracted to maintain the lens’s true signature.

*This is not so such a technical review, but more so focused on the lens in field-use.

*Pictures are meant to represent a variety of achievable results, typical of the average Leica M user (nothing overproduced).

*No distortion or lens correction tools have been used.

*Special thanks to Leica Camera Australia for the loan sample.

I can’t express how excited I was when Leica announced the limited edition M100 set, commemorating Leica’s 100th Anniversary, with a new Summilux-M 28/1.4-ASPH lens in chrome, a little over a year ago. I’ve been lusting after a 28/1.4 M lens since I started M photography some 21 years ago. I knew it was only a matter of time before it would become a regular production lens, and I’m very happy that it has finally come to fruition.

My experience with the 28mm focal length has been quite extensive over the years. My first experience with using a 28mm prime came in the Nikon 28Ti compact film camera, followed by the Ricoh GR and the Nikon AF-D 28/1.4 lens, which at the time delivered fantastic results (at the time). Fast forward to 2015, and we now have the ultimate (and only) ‘fast’ 28mm lens ever produced – the Leica Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH lens.

Image shot with Summicron-M 28/2 ASPH on Monochrom

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I first got to see this lens at the Australian Leica Q launch last month, and was lucky enough to have been lent the only Australian copy for the last month (no pressure for a good review). During this time, I have been able to use it in many different situations, over a variety of genres, which you will see throughout this user-review. The 28mm focal length isn’t easy to get along with, but once you get to know her, she becomes a very, very versatile focal length – probably the reason why Apple employ it in their iPhone 6 and 6 PLUS smartphones, making it the most used focal length in the world.

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It may come as a surprise that Leica is focusing their two latest products (including the Leica Q camera) on the 28mm focal length, but in my opinion it is a very smart move. There is no shortage of great 35mm lenses, and while the Summicron-M 28/2 ASPH is an excellent lens with a very smooth character, the ability to isolate doesn’t make it stand out amongst a lineup of fast class-leading lenses, like the Noctilux for example. Leica are arguably the best in the 35mm-format game when it comes to lens design, quality and performance, so it is important for them to showcase their abilities – and the new Summilux-M certainly makes a strong statement.

Previously, there were a couple of 28mm options in Leica’s lineup, and all have their unique place and usage intentions. The previous models were all mainly focused on the Elmarit as the demand for fast 28mm lenses only came about in the last decade. All previous generations of the Elmarit-M were fantastic, with the quality really stepping up in V3, where wide-open performance was significantly improved across the frame. Currently, the two Leica-M lens alternatives to the Summilux are:

· Elmarit-M 28/2.8 ASPH – small compact, well-priced and well-controlled distortion. Great for the traveller who doesn’t need speed and is more focused on keeping their gear lightweight, compact and values the lack of distortion over speed.

· Summicron-M 28/2 ASPH – A nice mix of speed, performance and size in this compact lens that is a nice jack of all trades, known for it’s smooth character due to the transition from sharp to soft wide open.

Build Quality and Design

As expected, everything about the 28 Summilux-M is typical Leica. Superb German, handmade craftsmanship, along with great handling and smooth focus and aperture action. It only comes in black (currently), most likely to keep M100 kit owners happy with their unique purchase, but knowing Leica, I would expect them to release a chrome version sometime in the future. The size fits directly between the 35 Summilux-M and the 24 Summilux-M, which was really good to see. The initial fear was that it was going to be very similar to the 21/24 Summilux-M lenses, which are a little on the large and heavy side, bordering on Noctilux territory. Thankfully, it’s not much bigger than the 35 Summilux-M so it’s great as a carry-everywhere, everyday lens, and balances really well on the M body.

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The newly designed lens hood is similar to that on the 35-Summilux-M, only a little thicker which is a nice change, and screws in firmly and perfectly aligns right on the center as it should. I’m happy to report that during the last 5 weeks using this lens, it has never come loose. Finally, it has the typical Leica depth of field scale, which is very important to those who employ the hyper-focal focusing technique, which works very well on a 28mm lens due to the extended depth of field over standard and telephoto lenses.

Optically, this is what Leica has to say about the new Summilux.

“The Leica Summilux-M 28mm f/1.4 ASPH. rounds off the range of high-speed M wide angle focal lengths. It offers exce lent image performance over the entire image field even at full aperture and in the close-up range thanks to a „floating element“. With its exceptional contrast, the lens delivers the same recognized high performance level as the Leica Summilux-M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH., and in some respects actually outperforms it. The vignetting that is typical of every optical system is naturally more defined on a wide angle lens, particularly a high speed one like this, than on standard lenses or those with a long focal length. At full aperture in 35mm format it is a maximum, i.e. in the corners of the image, of around 3.4 stops, around 2 stops on Leica M8 models with their slightly smaller format. Stopping down to 5.6 visibly reduces this light falloff – to 1.8 and 0.8 stops respectively. Stopping down further does not bring about any notable reduction as essentially only the natural vignetting remains. Distortion is extremely low for a wide angle lens at a maximum of 1.1% , which is rarely noticeable in practice. A total of ten lens elements are used to achieve this exceptional performance. To correct color defects, seven of these are made of glass types with anomalous partial dispersion, while one has an aspherical surface. To maintain performance in the close-up range, one element towards the rear of the optical system is a “floating element” that moves independently of the rest of the mechanism.
Summary: The Leica Summilux-M 28mm f/1.4 ASPH. offers maximum image performance with a focal length / speed combination previously unavailable in the M system. This extends the composition options of M photography, particulaly for available light shots, but also thanks to a previously unattainable reduction in the depth of field combined with large field angles.”

Here are the graphs important to you techy-geeks out there. The MTF especially suggests that performance wide open is incredible, and equal to many other brand lenses stopped down to their best. This is truly where Leica stands above the crowd.

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Depth of field at f/1.4 is very narrow, but compared to what many are used to with 35mm, there is a little more room for error, and allows greater possibilities in certain situations where having focus is more important than not.

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Depending on how picky you are, the chart suggests excellent distortion control, and when you consider the speed of the maximum aperture, this is a design Leica should be very proud of, at least on paper. In the field ‘could’ be entirely different (though it is not haha).

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> Keep reading to see how Leica’s words translate into image quality during my field test.

Handling

Due to the size and weight distribution, the lens handles wonderfully on the M, enabling focus and aperture changes to be smooth and accurate. I have a full production sample, and the focusing action is even smoother than most 35 Summilux’s I’ve used. I believe ‘perfect out of the box’ would be an accurate description. You do notice a weight increase over the smaller 35 Summilux-M but it’s not a lot more and the size is comparable in operation. In fact I found the 28 more comfortable to use than the 35 because of the slight increase in length, making focusing and aperture changes easier with my medium sized hands. As the lens hood is screwed in flush with the lens, changing the aperture is very easy, compared to previous Elmarits and Summicron that use a large plastic clip-on hood.

Leica M | Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH

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Leica M (Safari) | Summilux-M 35/1.4 ASPH

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Leica Q | Summilux-M 28/1.7 ASPH

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In the Field

The 28mm Focal Length

Those who don’t have much experience using the 28mm focal length may need to be patient with this lens. Some say it’s too wide and others say it’s not wide enough, and the others say it’s too ‘in-between’. A comment I’ve been hearing a lot lately (since the Q’s introduction), is ‘28mm is the new 35mm’. Well I’m not so sure I totally agree with that, but considering the iPhone has a 28mm (approx) focal length and has the most used camera in the world, there is some argument that suggests the comment isn’t so far fetched. Back when the great Henri Cartier Bresson was roaming the streets of Europe, the 50mm focal length was the norm. Later, photographers started getting closer to their subjects and preferred the wider frame of the 35mm focal length. Considering today’s style of shooting (including paparazzi), it’s understandable how the 28mm focal length has several advantages over 35mm.

Firstly, it is wider, fitting more into the frame than 35mm at the same shooting position, also creating a slightly more dynamic ‘in-your-face’ perspective, if used correctly. You can also get closer to your subjects, while fitting more background into the frame, giving you more compositional options. Having said that, this may not be an advantage, depending on your style of shooting. The one thing I’ve always loved about shooting with the 28mm focal length is that it’s the widest focal length you can shoot without having to worry too much about tilting or placing subjects/objects on the side of the frame. When you go wider to say 24mm or 21mm, perspective distortion becomes a real issue, making it quite annoying for documentary purposes. While the 28mm perspective does come with some distortion, it is tolerable, and even when tilting, it is negligible and I have no issues with placing my subjects off-center.

Simple Model Shoot

Shooting with the 28 Summilux-M for portraits takes some getting used to, especially for 35/50mm users. The angle of view is extended quite a bit for only 7mm, giving much more depth of field and background to work with. Nailing focus is quite easy as the f/1.4 aperture is more forgiving at 28mm due to the increase in depth of field, but the drop-off from sharp to unsharp isn’t as abrupt as say the 35 Summilux-M.

Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH shot wide open at f/1.4 on the Leica M240

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Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH shot wide open at f/1.4 on the Leica M240

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Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH shot wide open at f/1.4 on the Leica M240

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Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH shot  at f/2.8 on the Leica M240

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The colour signature is as you would expect from most Leica lenses – very neutral, and with medium to high contrast, but in these samples bear in mind that the light was strong, emphasising the contrast even more. When the light gets low, this is when the 28 Summilux-M really shines.

Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH shot wide open at f/1.4 on the Leica M240 at ISO 1600

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Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH shot wide open at f/1.4 on the Leica M240 at ISO 1600

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Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH shot wide open at f/1.4 on the Leica M240 at ISO 1600

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Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH shot wide open at f/1.4 on the Leica M240 at ISO 1600

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General Photography

For general street and travel photography, the 28mm focal length is an ideal choice as you don’t often feel limited for a majority of scenarios, unless shooting architecture or grab shots of people from a distance is your thing. The lack of distortion for such a fast wide angle lens is quite impressive and never felt it hindered my pictures of building etc. If you don’t like tripods, this lens will delver. At f/1.4, sharpness is already close to it’s maximum resolution so there is never a compromise in sharpness throughout the f/1.4-f/11 range, and at certain distances, the f/1.4 depth of field will provide adequate focus throughout the entire image.

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BELOW: Crop from image above

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As you can see here, there is some viewfinder blockage which is a bit annoying, but not a deal breaker. While some may prefer to use an external finder which gives not only as clean view, but an accurate perspective of distance and framing, they are a hassle if you’re shooting in situations that require speed.

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Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH shot wide open at f/1.4 on the Leica M240

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Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH shot wide open at f/1.4 on the Leica M240

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Below: Crop from image above

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Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH shot wide open at f/1.4 on the Leica M240

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Below: Crop from above image

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There is some field curvature, but at further distances this is not a problem, and in this image the entire frame is sharp at f/1.4 – quite amazing!

Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH shot wide open at f/1.4 on the Leica M240 at ISO 1600

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Bokeh is very, very smooth, much like the Summicron-M 28/2 ASPH, except at f/1.4, the focus drop-off is much more dramatic and compelling for times where you’re trying to isolate your subject from a background.

Shooting in a nightclub with screaming fans for UK pop star Craig David was no match for the 28 Summilux-M, delivering crisp images, even against backlights and fairly poor lighting……oh and did I mention it’s damn sharp too?!?

Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH shot wide open at f/1.4 on the Leica M240 at ISO 1600

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It wouldn’t be a Leica review without at least one cat or flower picture right?!? Well considering I’m a cat-lover, no flowers were shot during the testing of the 28 Summilux-M.

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Below: Crop from image above

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Shooting with the 28 Summilux or any 28mm on the Leica M can be a bit frustrating due to the incorrect perspective you see through the built in finder, which is more suited to the 35mm/50mm focal lengths. When you first start shooting a 28mm lens on the M, you need to remind yourself that you’re further away from your subjects than how it looks through the viewfinder, so getting closer is important.

Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH shot wide open at f/1.4 on the Leica M240 at ISO 1600

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Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH shot wide open at f/1.4 on the Leica M240

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Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH shot wide open at f/1.4 on the Leica M240

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CROP from above image:

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Shooting as a Wedding Guest

I was fortunate to be the guest at a very special wedding of two very good friends, Lawrence and Tukta, in Hua Hin, Thailand. Lawrence is also an avid Leica user and owns an M60, so the pressure was on to capture a couple of nice moments before the alcohol got to me, hehehe. Here Lawrence is seen waiting for the wedding to begin.

Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH shot wide open at f/1.4 on the Leica M240

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Using the 28mm Summilux-M at a wedding all day was a real treat. I love to get up close to my subjects and combined with the stealthy M, I was able to move in and out of places without people looking directly at the camera or feeling intimidated by the usual large and loud SLR cameras seen in these scenarios.

I found that my hit rate of in-focus shots was at about 90-95%, which is a little higher than my normal 85-90% on the 35 Summilux-M. Obviously the increased depth of field at f/1.4 helped significantly.

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Crop from above image:

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I’m not a wedding photographer, but like any documentary work, there are always those little moments happening around the bride and groom you need to look out for. Here, I love the way the focus drops off to a smooth background, and while I don’t condone shooting wide open ‘all the time’, I do enjoy keeping this lens at maximum aperture most of the time.

Below you can start to see the effects of distortion creeping in on the top corners, but it is totally fine in my opinion, and is more so due to the tilting, rather than the geometric distortion occurring.

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It doesn’t matter what the situation, I felt so comfortable shooting wide open all day long and f/1.4 always seemed to be the right aperture choice for all the scenarios. It’s perfectly sharp wide open, has beautiful contrast and colours, and drops off focus like a champion.

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It doesn’t matter what the situation, I felt so comfortable shooting wide open all day long and f/1.4 always seemed to be the right aperture choice for all the scenarios. It’s perfectly sharp wide open, has beautiful contrast and colours, and drops off focus like a champion.

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Due to the mixed lighting I found that the final two images look better in Monochrome. For the first I pre-focused on someone in the crowd and waited for the subjects to hit their mark before firing, ensuring accurate and sharp focus. What a great end to an amazing weekend!

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Muay Thai Camp – Coaching One-on-One

As a photographer and coach, I was employed to train an enthusiastic Thai photographer named Miti. During his training he was using the Leica Q entirely, and I was snapping a few test shots on the M with 28 Summilux-M. I had previously shot a story on this place around 7 years ago and a lot has changed. Please keep in mind this is not a complete story, but a selection of images I shot while coaching my student.

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Below: Crop from above image

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While this looks like a slow moving wrestle it was anything but. I was shooting at ISO 1600 with 1/1000sec to ensure sharpness at the plane of focus. Due to the extreme movements I had to prefocus and guess my distance and pray for focus where I wanted it at the time of shutter release. Dare I say it, a majority were out of focus, so I have to say, the M isn’t exactly recommend to those wanting to shoot erratic, unpredictable action. I am pleased to say that my student Miti was able to achieve a good number of sharp in-focus images with his autofocusing Leica Q.

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Muay Thai fighters are often viewed as celebrities in Thailand so vanity also comes with the business of winning. Let’s just say the mirrors are used more often than you’d probably expect from young men, capable of breaking you in two.

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Below: 100% crop from above image

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The previous time I shot a professional Muay Thai fight, I was using an autofocus SLR with a short zoom lens. Using the M and 28mm, my ability to be effective was lessened and I certainly relied more on hope and luck. Luckily my 21 years experience helped me pull out a few keepers.

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Compared to the Leica Q

While some may assume this is an unfair comparison (either way), I think the two lenses should most definitely be compared. Unfortunately I didn’t have the time, nor patience to compare side by side – sorry, I’m travelling and working. Though I will give a brief analysis after spending time with both lenses/cameras.

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Firstly, there is no debate that the M lens is superior in sharpness wide open, and there is a more dramatic fall off from focus to blur. Other than that, they are quite similar lenses, though the Q lens has one major advantage. It was not only designed for the sensor it is attached to, but it has processing built into the Q body that corrects the image for any lens limitations, including distortion. Currently, there is no Lightroom profile for the new 28 Summilux-M lens, so any corrections need to be made manually if desired – at least until a profile is released by Leica.

The question on many M users’ minds will be whether to buy the Leica Q or buy the new Summilux-M, which is actually more expensive. My answer is “it depends!” It depends on price (US$1500 difference) or how you like to shoot and whether you want a second camera. Personally I prefer to shoot on an M, regardless of the better sensor used in the Leica Q. Image quality is important to me, but picture quality and the shooting experience is more so. I love shooting with a rangefinder and while it has a lot of drawbacks (compared to the Q) like I experienced in shooting Muay Thai, I still prefer the feel and manual focus elements enough to accept what I cannot change in the M.

Another difference between shooting the Leica M240 and Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH vs the Leica Q, is that the Leica Q files come out of camera with more vibrant colours and slightly higher contrast. This may no may not affect your decision if considering either of these two fine tools. Finally, the one major factor to consider is that the Q’s electronic rangefinder not only shows 100% of the frame without lens blockage, but it also shows you the exposure and correct 28mm perspective, whereas the M does not, which can be very frustrating. The Q also has macro focus ability using the maximum aperture of f/2.8, and of course AF, which could be the deciding factor for many.

On the flip side, the constant use of EVF and/or LCD can be draining on the battery, which is quite average compared to most cameras so extra batteries will need to be stocked up. Long story short, if you can afford it, buy both.

Conclusion

My long 21 year wait for the Leica Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH has been well worth it. I’ve always been more of a 35mm user, but while the Summilux-M 35/1.4 ASPH FLE is a great lens it’s never really got me excited. It’s sharp and has very neutral rendering but I always preferred the Summicron-M 28/2 ASPH due to it’s soft rendering and smooth character. The new 28 Summilux-M has combined my two favourite lenses into one and delivers big time. The only real flaw I found was that like most lenses, it is prone to purple fringing in high contrast situations, which is easily removed in Lightroom in 2 seconds.

At about US$1500 more than either a Leica Q or a 35 Summilux, it’s arguable whether that figure represents good value for money or being too pricey to consider. From my experience with this lens, and having used lenses like the Noctilux and 50 APO which cost a lot more, I think the Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH represents fantastic value for money – considering that value is represented by the effort the user makes to use the lens to the best of their ability. A photographer and his tools are only as good as the opportunities he/she creates with them.

If you are after a fast 28mm M lens, there is no substitute, no alternative available. If there was, they would be trembling with fear because the Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH is the real deal. Think 50 APO incredible, and there you have it – it is THAT good!

Be sure to visit Kristian’s Blog HERE!

You can buy the Leica 28 Summilux from any of my top recommended Leica dealers below:

Ken Hansen: Email him at [email protected]

PopFlash.com Website

B&H Photo

Leica Store Miami

Jul 272015
 

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Dare to be, so People can see

by Wijnand Schouten

Hello Brandon and Steve.

Since 2 years I am working on a project called ‘Dare to be, so people can see’. Portraits are my favourite thing to do.

When I started I noticed the attitudes and patterns people have. In general life and for sure when a camera is involved.

That’s how ‘Dare to be, so people can see’ was born.

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When you show how you feel in the now, without smiling, and looking straight in to the camera, you give a moment.In this context I get a picture instead of taking one.

For me the idea behind it is that the world is filled with plastic glamour. By showing how people can look without the glamour it might help an other person to feel more in the now too.And accept their selves.

All this without being pretentious.

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For me its an attempt to contribute tot the awareness that every moment in life is worth to exist and be seen. Not only the smiles. I am always happy when I go home with a portrait on my memory card and edit it the way I feel.

Not all the people are happy with the results. Sometimes I find a picture beautiful and I don’t get the permission to put it on the internet because they don’t like the result. Then I don’t do that. Although I still see the beauty of it.

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greetings from the Netherland and keep up the good job you are doing.

If you want you can follow me on instagram:

https://instagram.com/wijnandschouten

Jul 242015
 
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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

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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

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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

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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

 

 

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

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

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

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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

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

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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

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

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

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

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

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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

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

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

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

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http://buchangrant.format.com/workshops where you can join me in Berlin, India or China/Tibet over the next 10 months!

Jul 222015
 
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LIGHT AND CONTRAST

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

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

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

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B&W Portraits

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

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

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

 

 

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Color Shapes

7 Nikon D800E, Nikkor 1.4/58G

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8 Nikon D800E, Nikkor 1.4/58G

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9 Nikon D800E, Nikkor 1.4/58G

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Color Portraits

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

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

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

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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 172015
 
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VIDEO: The Olympus E-M5II, 8mm Fisheye Pro and Voigtlander 10.5 f/0.95!

By Steve Huff

Hey guys! It’s FRIDAY! That means the weekend is here, and what a better way to spend it than with a new camera, and two new lenses for me to test out. WooHoo!

No, I never ever tire of getting these new jewels in the mail. In the case of the 8mm fisheye, I rented it as Olympus has a wait list for reviewers so I wanted to check to out NOW, so I went to lens rentals.com (site sponsor) and rented it for a week. The Voigtlander 10.5 f/0.95 was sent to me for review by Stephen Gandy at CameraQuest.com, who happens to be the USA distributor for Voigtlander, so his site is the place to go for new Voigtlander lenses.

With that out of the way, the new Titanium E-M5II is stunning in appearance. Very Classy. Best color option IMO. To those wondering, “is it really titanium”? NO, it’s titanium in color, not material ;) Even so, it is beautiful and gives the camera and extra bit of pizazz and as I said, class. No cheap looking paint jobs here, in fact, this should be a standard color for all future Olympus bodies. Reminds me somewhat of the old “Steel Grey” of the Leica M9 days. You can order it at B&H Photo HERE, it is IN STOCK NOW!

My video on the E-M5II Titanium, the 8Mm Fisheye Pro and Voigtlander 10.5 f/0.95

After owning and using the crap out of the E-M1, I am finding the E-M5II to give me things I never realized I missed. The swivel out LCD, I use it ALL the time. The new 5 Axis is amazing, especially for video. Eliminates the need for big stabilization rigs. Really. The small size and gorgeous lenses. Even though this is not a full frame camera, and I have been shooting my full frame Sony A LOT, I still adore the Olympus and use it often for personal shooting. The size, speed, response and lenses all put it up in my “top two” status these days.

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With the limited edition Titanium set, of which there are 7000 made, we get a leather wallet with limited edition numbered card telling us what number we have, we get a custom made leather strap that matches the camera and we get the limited edition color, Titanium. This camera comes in at $300 more over the black or silver versions, and all we are getting are those three things. For me, it is worth it just to have this color. The strap and wallet are nice, but the color is what I love about it and when I was in a meeting with Olympus month ago they told me about this edition, and I said :I WANT ONE”. I knew it then and when I saw B&H Photo had them IN STOCK I ordered my own to replace my E-M1, of which I have been shooting since it was launched.

If you missed my big E-M5 II review you can see it HERE. This is the same camera, just with a new paint job so it will not be reviewed, just showing it here in the video so all of you can see what it looks like.

I will have full reviews of the 10.5 f/0.95 and 8mm Pro Fisheye SOON. But for now, here is a blurb and image or two or three from each:

The Olympus Pro Fisheye 8mm:

I have always loved fisheye lenses. In the past you may have seen my write ups on the Panasonic 8mm Fisheye for Micro 4/3. Believe it or not, that was one of my fave lenses for the system. I love ultra wide fisheyes as I can do so much with it. Unique images, cool video, and they are just fun. At $550 the Panasonic was pricey, especially with options from Rokinon and the like at a fraction of the cost. With the new Olympus they have taken it a step further and produced the worlds 1st f/1.8 8mm fisheye. Usually these lenses are f/3.5-f/4. This Olympus is f/1.8!

I find this to be amazing as while we do not need a fast aperture with a fisheye, IT HELPS for low light, especially with Micro 4/3 who lacks at high ISO compared to full frame offerings many of us are used to.

This lens focuses to 1″, yes ONE INCH, and when you do this you can actually get some BOKEH, crazy but true. With it’s pro build, weather sealing, fast aperture and auto focus it is the premier Fisheye lens for ANY system, and it beats my old Panasonic in sharpness, color and pop. So far so good.

You can buy the 8MM fisheye NOW as B&H Has them in stock. $999 is not cheap, but IMO its the best fisheye in the world. 

click them for larger and sharper versions ;) 

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The Voigtlander 10.5 f/0.95

Another lens that just hit the streets is the Voigtlander 10.5mm f/0.95 for Micro 4/3. This lens goes with the line of f/0.95 lenses that Voigtlander developed for Micro 4/3. ALL of them are beasts. Heavy, large and FAST aperture. All are manual focus only. This lens is something. It is built to a high standard, and if you have tried the other lenses in this line, the 17.5, 25 and 42.5 then you know what I am talking about.

With this lens on the E-M5 II (see it in the video above) you have a pretty cool setup allowing you a 21mm equivalent focal length while giving you close focus performance. While not crazy sharp wide open, it does produce  the same flavor and character as the others in the line.  It’s a gorgeous lens, and so far the only negative I have found is the purple fringing that is prevalent on all of these lenses when shot at 0.95 (to be fair, fast Leica glass does the same).

Look for my full review soon, but for now, you can buy this lens at CameraQuest.com HERE. He has a few left. Limited quantities. I’s a gorgeous lens. Kind of like shooting the Voigtlander 21 1.8 on a full frame M.

Click images for larger, sharper and better versions!

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Jul 172015
 
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Light Painting Workshop, 1 night only! Join me and Alex McClure!

September 19th 2015

See details HERE! Or keep reading for full details…

Living in Phoenix AZ gives me plenty of opportunities to get out into the desert and explore terrain, towns and even at times visit places that are rarely visited by people. Real true to life ghost towns and beautiful scenic views, always amazing stuff. Just so happens I live not too far from good friend and Olympus trailblazer, Alex McClure and he enjoys exploring the desert even more than I do. I have went out a couple of times now with Alex to shoot and we came away with some very cool stuff on each occasion.

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I am happy to announce that for one night only we will be offering up a light painting workshop together. Now, Alex is a FANTASTIC light painter. He has all the tools we would need to create beautiful works, and he may even have the latest and greatest Olympus goodies to try out.

One from my last outing with Alex McClure in the desert.

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What we are offering is one night, in the desert, at an undisclosed ghost town location (you will learn where it is after signing up) with loads of scenic beauty and opportunities to paint it all up with light. We will use various tools, lighting effects and will go over just how to get these effects.

We will spin steel wool, shoot the stars with long exposures and also use lighting techniques you may not even be aware of.

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This workshop is of course best for local Phoenix Residents as it is one evening only, not an overnighter so no hotels, bus travel, or any of that. We will be carpooling to the location. Alex can fit 5-7 and I can fit three plus me. We are opening this up to 10 people only and will provide sandwiches and soft drinks for all.

Total cost for the evening? $100 per person. This gets you the workshop, food and drink. Bringing a friend? That will be $100 as well. 

A steal IMO, and will be a great fun night as well. The date for this is the evening and night of September 19th 2015 and if you have any interest in this kind of shooting, and are close to the Phx AZ area, then be sure to give it some consideration. Will be fantastic.

You can sign up or check out the sign up page HERE.  

Only $100 gets you the workshop, food and drink, AND some amazing photos to take back home with you! Will be a great time for all.

Here is a video showcasing Alex and what he does..

© 2009-2015 STEVE HUFF PHOTOS All Rights Reserved
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