Jul 212014
 

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The Olympus OMD-EM1 goes to Spain

by Neil Buchan-Grant

I have a few pictures I thought your readers may like to see, taken over two trips to Spain and Italy this year. These were all shot with the Olympus OMD EM1 camera, lenses specified below. I am still using the Leica 50mm Summilux ASPH, currently on the Sony A7, but in general I find the OMD to be the camera I reach for first.

The first visit was to the village of Vejer de la Frontera near Seville in Spain. This hilltop pueblo blanco remains quite unspoilt compared to the towns on the costas further east. I was there to shoot the Feria, a 5 day-long party with fairgrounds, displays of prize cattle, equestrian displays, flamenco dancing, live music and many hospitality tents where everyone is welcome. Vejer is a special place anyone who wants to experience the real Spain should have on their list.

My second trip was to Venice where I and the professional landscape photographer Steve Gosling, ran a workshop for 9 students who came from all over Europe to learn about landscape and people photography. Steve concentrated mostly on the landscape and architecture and I focussed on the street photography and model portraits. This was an Olympus sponsored workshop so most of the students were using OMD cameras. It was a punishing schedule as Steve was up at the crack of dawn and the day would finish quite late, often followed by communal food and drinks!

Andalusia Spain – Olympus 12-40mm 2.8 (at f2.8 23mm) This shot was made with the aid of a polarising filter in the village of Vejer de la Frontera near Seville. Its a traditional village but this is one of their newer buildings.

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Andalusia Spain – Olympus 12-40mm 2.8 (at f4 12mm) This is Canos de Meca beach, which is about 15 minutes from Vejer de la Frontera, also made with a polarising filter.

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Andalusia Spain – Pana-Leica DG25mm 1.4 (at f1.4) This chap was visiting the Vejer annual ‘Feria’ a post easter spring celebration which combines music and dance with horse and bull displays.

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Andalusia Spain – Pana-Leica DG25mm 1.4 (at f1.4) The Paul Newman of cats! in the back street of Vejer de la Frontera

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Venice Italy – Olympus 45mm 1.8 (at 1.8) Professional model and television presenter Chiara Sgarbossa wearing her own Venetian mask, maintains her composure as she is surrounded by hoards of tourists during our shoot in Piazza San Marco.

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Venice Italy – Olympus 75mm 1.8 (at f1.8 1/30s handheld ISO 2000) A romantic moment caught at around midnight in the dimly lit Piazza San Marco

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Venice Italy – Pana-Leica DG 25mm 1.4 (at f1.4, 1/8000 with 3 stop ND) This shot was made through the window of a Vaparetto water bus stop.

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Venice Italy – Pana-Leica DG 25mm 1.4 (at f1.4) Model and 3rd year law student Ira Lothiriel is captured in the basement of an old venetian house with natural light spilling in from the canal.

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Venice Italy – Pana-Leica DG 25mm 1.4 (at f1.4) Model Chiara Sgarbossa was laughing because the gondoliers below the bridge we were shooting on were serenading her. She handled their advances with movie star charm!

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Venice Italy – Pana-Leica DG 25mm 1.4 (at f1.4) This charismatic lady was looking around the superb Irving Penn exhibition at Palazzo Grassi. The large windows in here were covered in white muslin making huge softboxes!

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Venice Italy – Pana-Leica DG 25mm 1.4 (at f1.4) Ira Lothiriel in one of the sun-drenched squares, lit with a reflector.

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Venice Italy – Pana-Leica DG 25mm 1.4 (at f1.4) Chiara Sgarbossa lit with a reflector

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Venice Italy – Olympus 75mm 1.8 (at f1.8) A wedding shoot in Piazza San Marco and a generous model/bride

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Olympus 12-40mm 2.8 (at f2.8 40mm) On old lady taking some shade near Piazza San Marco as others are served iced tea.

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Olympus 12-40mm 2.8 (at f2.8 12mm) This man was seen in Piazza San Marco at 5.30am, an Italian you’d think, but no, he was a Londoner killing time until his flight home that day.

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Venice Italy – Pana-Leica DG 25mm 1.4 (at f1.4) This man was very keen to help me scout for locations to shoot in. Nothing to do with the beautiful model that I was with of course!..:)

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Venice Italy – Pana-Leica DG 25mm 1.4 (at f3.2) This Chihuahua was wary of my lens!

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Venice Italy – Pana-Leica DG 25mm 1.4 (at f1.4) Model Chiara Sgarbossa shot in a Venice alleyway, with the help of a reflector

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Venice Italy – Pana-Leica DG 25mm 1.4 (at f1.4) Ira Lothiriel posing on one of the many bridges that span the back streets of Venice

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Neil Buchan-Grant
http://buchangrant.com/
British Travel Press Photographer of the Year

Jul 172014
 

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Fashion with the Leica M9

By Logan Norton

www.logannortonphotography.org

Hello Steve, Brandon and Readers,

Last year my friend Raine contacted me with ideas about a fashion shoot to introduce a new line of headdresses she had designed. We began discussing concepts for the shoot and I could sense from the start that this would be an ideal project for my Leica M9. Her designs feature vibrant colors, rich textures and exquisite details, characteristics for which the M9’s CCD sensor is magical. A few of the other factors that influenced this decision were the location (outdoor with three different settings spanning a 1+ mile area) and the number of models we would be working with (5). I knew that this would be a long day of shooting and would require a lot of physical movement on my part and I did not want to spend it dragging my Nikon D800e and lenses all over the place. The M9 allowed me greater mobility while still enabling me to capture images of the absolute highest quality. I was able to bring all of my gear in a small Ona Bowery bag with room to spare!

Steve has written extensively about the Leica M9 so I will not go over technical information about it but will instead focus on the shooting experience and how it fit into a fashion driven shoot. There are two things that I see as drawbacks to the Leica M9 as an on-location, fashion photography tool. The first one is easily remedied while the second presents the kind of stress that only photographers know. First is battery life. It isn’t the worst I have ever experienced but it isn’t very good either. As I said, extra batteries solve this issue easily (albeit expensively as this is a Leica after all and nothing comes cheaply…). The second is the single memory card slot. I hate this. A lot. Knock on wood I have never experienced a memory card failure but the possibility exists and the simple fact that no backup images exist causes me great stress.

With those negatives out of the way, let’s talk about what I loved about this experience. Most obvious is the overall size of the system. I shot this entire look with the 35mm and 90mm Summicron lenses on the M9. There was not a single moment I wished for a zoom lens, or for more frames per second, or more megapixels. I simply went about my business and when I was done, I still had enough energy to go to the after-party!

The second thing I noticed was that the models responded positively to the system. They loved the camera, admired its beauty and marveled at how quiet it was. It is impossible to say what affect this had on the way the models behaved or on the final images but it definitely felt like they were able to engage with me a little more than I have experienced when using a DSLR. Some of this may have to do with the smaller system being less intimidating or it may just be they were hypnotized by the undeniable attractiveness of the camera!

At the end of the day, my final assessment of the Leica M9 as a tool for shooting fashion images was very positive. The depth of color and contrast that it produces, along with the incredible freedom that I feel when working with such a manageable system far outweigh the anxiety caused by the single memory card slot. I can highly recommend this camera to anyone for on-location fashion work where mobility and stamina are crucial elements.

Check out more of Raine’s amazing work:

http://www.etsy.com/shop/gatodesigns

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Jul 152014
 

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The Sony A7s: A New Camera for Leica M lenses

By Ashwin Rao – HIs flickr is HERE, his Facebook is HERE

Hello, gang. It’s Ashwin, back from a bit of a hiatus to discuss the camera du jour, Sony’s impressive A7s. The A7s has gotten quite a bit of press, in particular for it’s remarkable ISO sensitivity/performance, for it’s 4K video, and for it’s buck-the-convention 12-megapixel sensor. It’s been hotly debate, in light of the already-exceptional performance of its two siblings, the A7 and A7R, which offer different full frame sensors. I have extensively shot both bodies, and while I enjoyed the experience, I was left a bit in the lurch for entirely selfish reasons. Unfortunately, extensive shooting bore out that the A7r is really not a great option for Leica M lenses due to the critical nature of the sensor and how it plays (poorly) with M lenses, causing excessive vignetting, color casts, and detail smearing at the edges. The Sony A7 is better with regards to its capacity with M lenses (most lenses 35 mm and above do “okay” to “great” on the A7), but after shooting these 2 cameras, I came to the conclusion that perhaps Leica M lenses were best suited to be used on Leica M camera bodies, from a purely imaging standpoint. One can argue endlessly about the rangefinder (beyond the frame lines) vs SLR/mirrorless (tunnel vision) way of seeing, and there’s really no right answer there, as it’s more a matter of preference. But until recently, while the A7R and A7 were capable of using M lenses, they didn’t really make M lenses shine. And thus, I moved on, continuing to genuinely enjoy my Leica M bodies for my M lenses.

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A few months ago, whispers of a new camera began, and what resulted was the Sony A7s….a low megapixel (in today’s market), high ISO monster reportedly designed for videographers ready to make use of its full frame sensor and 4K recording potential. What people did not speak so much about was whether it would handle Leica M lenses better than its siblings. Maybe it was a lack of interest, and maybe the conversation moved on, but for me, my curiosity was piqued. I wondered whether the sensor’s lower megapixel (less critical) sensor, coupled with its gapless sensor design, would allow it to handle rangefinder lenses, which notoriously bend light into difficult angles at the periphery of digital sensors. My curiosity was also piqued by the high ISO capabilities of such a camera. If the A7s could handle high ISO’s as well as was being made out, suddenly, one could use compact, relatively “slow” M lenses such as the f/2 Summicrons, f/2.5 Summarits, f/2.8 Elmarits, and f/4 Elmars in low light conditions at high shutter speeds. Further, faster M lenses, such as the f/1.4 Summiluxes and f/0.95-1 Noctilux options might allow the photographer to see into the dim light of night like never before, and the lenses remain relatively compact to top it off. Leica M and other rangefinder lenses are generally much smaller than their mirrorless (at least FF mirrorless) and SLR counterparts, and balance quite well on the A7(s/r) bodies quite well, so one could make incredibly versatile images at very low light, using a very small kit…..in theory.

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To top it off, the Sony A7s was soon announced to have a “silent shutter” option, allowing the photographer to shoot with a full electronic shutter that would not announce itself whenever a photo was being taken. To me, this was one of the huge potential benefits to the Sony…Silence means that a photographer can work discretely, and the A7s, for the first time, offered this option to the photographer choosing a mirrorless body for work…For a Leica photographer-nutball such as myself, the value of discretion is part of the “rangefinder way”, and now, here was a mirrorless body that did it even better than the Leica M3 through M7, with their lovely/subtle shutter sounds….Here was a camera that could offer silence when shooting (albeit with the risk of a rolling shutter effect for fast-moving subjects)….wow, the A7s was now really grabbing my attention.

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But, All of this was fine and dandy, but only, and only if M lenses would play well on the Sony….

So the early reports came in, including Steve’s own detailed, fantastic, glowing review of the camera, using mainly FE lenses…Steve was blown away by the camera’s AF performance, high ISO performance, and it’s overall handling, for a full frame camera. But the images that intrigued me most from his review, as well as those of others, was the performance of the tiny Cosina Voigtlander 15 mm Heliar lens. Many of you know that while this lens one of the widest fields of view for a rangefinder lens, it plays quite poorly with the M9 and M240, and doesn’t do well on cropped sensors in many instances, due to excessive color shifts (magenta) and vignetting, due to the physics of the optics at play and how they project light through the lens and onto most sensors…Yet, the Sony A7s was handling the CV 15 mm lens, no sweat.

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So off I went to my camera store, armed with a host of Leica M lenses, ranging from a 21 mm f/3.4 Super Elmar through a 90 mm f/2 APO-Summicron. After a few preliminary shots, I took note of dramatically less vignetting and what appeared to be more uniform color through the image field (i.e. no color casts). Hmmmm, great start, I thought….

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But what about smearing? One issue with using lenses 35 mm or wider at full aperture, is that many lenses start to smear details at the periphery of the imaging field. It’s a dirty little secret that Leica’s own wide angle lenses tend to do this on digital bodies, and this was one of the reasons that it took so long for Leica to introduce a digital rangefinder (and ultimately, the Leica M8 with it’s 1.3x crop sensor, designed to avoid the physics causing some of the issues mentioned). At one point, Leica’s CEO at the time mentioned that it might never be possible to produce a digital M body, but we know how that prediction turned out….

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Smearing has been a major issue for me with full frame bodies such as the Sony A7r and A7, and when added to intermittent color casts and high levels of vignetting, I had previously found that files just took too much work to get things right, and I gave up. Now, sitting home at my computer with a variety of files from a variety of lenses ranging from wide to telephoto, I was not seeing any objectionable colorcasts and much improved vignetting. How about smearing, then? Well, the jury is still out, but for the most part I have been entirely pleased. Of the wide lenses in my possession, I found that the 21 mm f/3.4 Super Elmar did exhibit slight detail loss at the far edges of the image, but this was not objectionable, just more than what I had seen on the M9 and M240 bodies. The lens that continues to “misbehave” on the A7s was the Leica 28 mm f/2 Summicron ASPH. This lens gives even Leica M bodies some trouble, and in the case of the Sony A7s, it has continued to produce moderate smearing at the edges. For real world street photography, in which edge sharpness may not be important, the smearing rarely matters, but if one were shooting landscapes, he or she would notice this, so it’s I lens I have considered avoiding for those moments when edge sharpness matters (For most other moments, the 28 ‘cron works great). Beyond that, I have had no issues with edge smearing. Everything works great. My Wide Angle Tri Elmar (WATE) works perfectly at 16 mm on the A7s, though this lens’ design plays reasonably well with even the A7r. My 35 mm f/1.4 Summilux FLE, which didn’t work well on the A7 due to odd vignetting, works perfectly well on the Sony A7s.

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To add to the story, I have found that the Sony A7s does a great job with colors. It presents a palette similar to that of the Sony A7 and A7r, so if you are used to the files that those cameras make, the A7s will be similar. One nice added perk is that at higher ISO, while dynamic range does start to drop off a bit (particularly past ISO 4000, though files are totally useable, in my opinion, through ISO 12,800), the color reproduction at those high ISO’s remains solid. There’s only so much you can push today’s sensor tech, in terms of dynamic range and high ISO noise and color performance, but the Sony A7s is today’s state of the art.

Ultimately, I have been thoroughly pleased with my time using Leica M lenses as my sole lens set up for the Sony A7s. Everything works well. High ISO – check! Silent shutter – check! Minimal muss and fuss with edge image quality – BIG check! Colors and skin tones. Check that as well. Handling of camera with M lenses…big HUGE check! It all seems to work well.

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In summary, I have found the Sony A7s to be a great option on which to use Leica M lenses. If you have an investment in rangefinder lenses, or intend to do so, the Sony A7s is the current camera that you’d want to have on a budget. Sure the Leica M9 is fantastic, but it has high ISO limitations. The Leica M240 is great, but tends to start banding around ISO 3200. Those are fantastic options and allow one to see in the “rangefinder way”. But separating yourself from that, the Sony A7s is an incredible imaging machine. Sure, it has a lower megapixel count, but 12 MP files are plenty for the vast majority of us. The camera’s incredible ISO performance allows for the use of slower lenses, and thus more compact lenses, in low light shooting circumstances. Suddenly, your Elmars and Summicrons become relevant options for night photography, and lenses such as the Noctilux allow you to pear into the night better than your own eyes….it’s rather incredible. Creative possibilities open up, and I see new photographic horizons ahead! The Camera’s EVF is sufficient to reliably focus lenses, particularly if one uses the “Focus Magnify” option to achieve critical focus. The silent shutter allows for very discrete shooting, and for most street photography moments, it’s a perfect option (I have yet to see the Rolling shutter effect for my style of shooting) that’s silent and discrete. And year, silent shutter means no shutter shake to blur your images at that pixel level. Speaking of pixels, the camera’s lower pixel count allows for easier achievement of sharp images at slower shutter speeds, if desired, as 12 MP is much easier to hand hold than 36 megapixels in nearly any circumstance…something to consider if pixel peeping for sharp images is your thing.

The list goes on and on, but you can see that I am quite convinced that the Sony A7s is a viable option for those of you who want to use small, high performance rangefinder lenses on a mirrorless body. It’s the way to go. By the way, every image you see here was shot with the A7s and a M mount Leica lens. Now go out, test one out, and see if it satisfies you. The Sony A7s has certainly satisfied me.

All the best to you, my friends!
Ashwin (July, 2014)

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Jul 082014
 

Neko Case

Taming the Nokton 50 1.1

By Manikarnika Kanjilal

My name is Manikarnika Kanjilal. I am a doctoral student and I devote my almost my entire (lately dwindling) free time in pursuit of photography. I was always interested in photography but started being seriously into it for the last couple of years – after I found a Digilux 2 on ebay. It was Steve and Thorsten Overgaard’s reviews that made me acquire the camera and thus start exploring my photographic vision. This post is however not meant to wax poetic about that cult camera but on another “controversial” lens about which the photographic community seems to be divided.

Last summer I acquired a second-hand Nokton 50 1.1 in a moment of insanity and went on to use it in a one-lens-one camera challenge to myself. What was even more insane was that I did this while covering a four-day music festival in my city.

Edmonton Folk Music Festival is quite the religious experience for a huge number of music lovers in this town. People queue up at the gates for a chance to place their tarp as close to the main stage since 3 am or some ghastly time like that. The main stage is at the bottom of a hill and people sit on the hill as a natural amphitheater. For four days tarps and their placements become an extension of the private space and ego for many of the audience members. For someone like me that attends the festival alone and spends most of it standing or walking or crouching to not get in the way of other photographers, tarp politics is fascinating. There are six side stages that hold simultaneous workshops during the day and the main stage performance starts at around 7 in the evening when audience from all these side stages come back to their tarps and settle down for the evening like homing pigeons.

My motivation for choosing a Leica film body and the Nokton f1.1 came from the fact that carrying a backpack full of stuff up and down a hill very soon starts to feel like I am carrying a backpack full of sins from all my past lives. In short, I wanted to travel light and be able to capture decent photos on stage after dark. I did carry my Digilux 2 as a backup but I liked the images from the film set-up way more. It was at times disconcerting because I had no immediate feedback like that in digital. I was being extremely cautious with achieving focus as well as not shooting too much and wasting film. It was quite the lesson in constrained optimization. I had a couple of rolls of Portra 400 in my pocket along with a 4-stop ND filter for when the sun was too strong. This was pretty much it. I ended up using a total of 4 rolls of Portra over four days. I shot everything either wide open or at f1.4. A huge advantage of working with such a constrained/minimalist set up is that this year I had a lot of time to enjoy the music instead of being glued to the camera viewfinder. Often I pre-focused and waited for the musicians to hit the spot instead of trying to track them in their movement. The other advantage of shooting a film rangefinder is that the photographer doesn’t hide behind the camera. With a little practice one shoots with both eyes open and it does wonders when actually connecting with the subject – be it musicians on stage or people on the street.

I ended my nokton-festival challenge with the portrait of a very young music-lover and her mom holding the Forever Folkfest candles in the dark. Nokton 50/1.1 is a beast that needs to be tamed. Using it on a film rangefinder feels almost like writing with a brush pen blindfolded and the challenge could be a source of constant excitement for any photographer.

Cheers!

Manikarnika

Website: http://kanjilalmanikarnika.com/

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/chhayanat/

Havana d'Primera

Avett Brothers

Portrait by the candlelight

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John Butler Trio

John Butler Trio

John Butler Trio

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Fatoumata Diawara

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Delhi to Dublin

Delhi to Dublin

Charles Bradley and his Extraordinaires

Dave Alvin and the Guilty Ones with Vioux Farka Toure and Amos Garrett

Jul 012014
 

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The Sony A7s Review. Wow. Period.

The most creative digital photographic tool ever made for my uses!

You can order the Sony A7s at Amazon HERE or B&H Photo HERE.

It has been almost a year since the Sony A7 and A7r have been released (See my review HERE) and in that time many have jumped in and purchased one of the A7 cameras. What they have brought to photographers is a chance to get into full frame sensor performance while keeping the size small and the weight much lighter than a DSLR camera. The A7 series has been fantastic but at the same time, they have had their quirks and problems from time to time.

My video intro and overview of the Sony A7s

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When I shot and tested the A7 and A7r I loved the cameras as they were highly capable devices that were crazy versatile with the ability to use 3rd party lenses like Leica lenses, Canon lenses, Nikon lenses, etc. With the full frame sensors we were able to get that creamy shallow depth of field look and it was pretty cool to have all of these capabilities in a small, nicely made body. The main issues with the A7 and A7r is that they were a bit slow to Auto Focus when compared to other current cameras from companies like Olympus and Pentax. They were also, while very very good, not the best (when compared to other FF offerings like the RX1)  in low light or high ISO and while nice in low light, they were not “WOW” in low light. The AF would slow down a bit and the high ISO noise was worse than it was in the previous RX1.

I was very close to dumping my Leica M 240 for an A7 or A7r at that time but ultimately decided that would not be a good idea. But I was SO CLOSE. The AF speed and file size and loud shutter of the A7 and A7r soon made me realize even more the beauty of the Leica M system, even if the IQ of the Sony was just as good, and in many ways it was and in some ways it was even better.

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OOC JPEG – Sony A7s with the Sony 55 1.8 using C-AF

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The Sony A7r also had the file size issue for many and while you could crop to your hearts content, managing those files meant you needed a pretty nice and powerful computer (which many of us DO have). Let us not forget the very loud shutter on the A7r and the less but still loud shutter of the A7 which irritated many who used the cameras.

Well, Sony seemed to listen to what many of the A7 users wanted and now we have yet another new model from them.

Yep, Sony brings us the A7s with ISO capability to over ISO 400,000 (Usable 102k)

So now Sony has released the A7s and it has just started shipping TODAY, July 1st 2014. I have been shooting with one for the past 2-3 weeks as I am lucky to be a camera reviewer, so I get them a little early ;) For me the Sony A7s ticks all of the right boxes on paper..again, FOR ME. Only 12MP resolution which offers us nice details, pretty large print size and SMALL file size (one of my fave cameras of the past is the Nikon D2hs at 4MP). Because of this small megapixel count Sony has managed to give us the best low light performance of any camera made today, and this is a fact. While not a huge massive jump from the Nikon Df for low light, it is for sure definite bump up, especially when you start getting to extremes. ISO on the A7s can go up to over 400,000 and is usable for me in LOW LOW light up to 102,400. This is huge. This is a game changer for me, and will be for many others as well. In this review I will go over what is new and changed or improved over the A7 and A7r instead of doing a whole huge review that rehashes the camera. At its heart it is an A7. Same body, same feel, same LCD and EVF and same controls and menu. All that is new is the Sensor, and because of the sensor we now benefit from massive improvements such as a new silent electronic shutter that can be turned on or off, world class nothing quite like it high ISO and low light capabilities, faster Auto Focus over the A7 and A7s and insane video capabilities in ANY lighting scenario. The A7s is 4K video capable.

So what is new in the A7s from the A7 and A7r?

  • New 12Mp High Performance Sensor with superb color, Dynamic Range and low light Capability. Bionz X processor. 
  • Silent Shooting mode with electronic shutter allowing you to shoot in total silence. 
  • Shoots 4K Video with external recorder. Full pixel read out.
  • 120 FPS video for slow motion.
  • Customizable Color Profiles and S-Log2 Gamma for video.
  • Audio Input & Headphone Jack
  • ISO Capability up to 402,000 ISO. Usable at 102,000!
  • Faster AF speed over A7 and A7r with Sony lenses.
  • Seems like the shutter is quieter as well, more damped. 

Other than that, the A7s is just like the A7 and A7r in body, build, and feel. Controls are the same and LCD and EVF are the same. Basically what you are getting is a supercharged A7 with intense low light capabilities as well as stellar video options. Leica M mount lenses also seem to work much better on this body than the A7 or A7r.

ISO 8,000 with the 15mm Voigtlander.

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So first, let us talk about the #1 main reason to like the A7s. LOW LIGHT capability. 

FACT: With the Sony A7s I am now able to shoot in near darkness without a flash and without even using the annoying red AF light! The A7s simply rocks and is in its element in low light scenarios. I had this camera in almost pitch black conditions. The camera still managed to auto focus without using the AF assist light! AMAZING! Below is one image sample that was shot in a VERY VERY low light room. In the room it was what I would call “dark” with some slight ambient lighting but when looking at the scene, I could not make out anyones faces. I cranked the camera to ISO 80,000 to get 1/10s with the Voigtlander 15 VM at f/4.5 (wide open). I had the silent shutter activated and no one knew that I snapped a picture. In fact, if I told anyone that I did they would never have believed me as most would think it to be impossible without a flash. The image looks like the room was bright but it was in NO WAY bright! It was super dim and near dark. In fact, I also was shooting video with my camcorder in this room and I had to engage night vision with an external IR light.  The image below is the result of the ISO 80,000 at 1/10s with the 15 VM. Click it for larger. 

Sony A7s, Voigtlander 15VM (with M adapter) and 1/10s. OOC JPEG, NR on lowest in cam setting.

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Sure you will see some noise and loss of detail but THIS IS 80,000 ISO! No other camera in this price range could even get close to this. In fact, I am not so sure any other camera at all could get this type of performance at ISO 80,000. If so, I have not seen it. Even MC Hammer would say that the Nikon Df can’t touch this. Others who say that the A7r or A7 or Canon 5D MkIII can do this..well, they are 100% incorrect. From noise to Af in this kind of light, they can not do it, period.

The A7s in real world near darkness use – Photo.-

When the camera arrived my 1st order of business was to take this A7s and find a place I can shoot it at that has something interesting to shoot, in literally near darkness. A local friend of mine, Bill Goodman, who is also a photographer (shoots with many cameras but loves his Canon 6D) recommended I go shoot some music clubs in town. He recommended a few places and away I went, and I loved it! The people, the music, the beer, the ambience and the experience was rather therapeutic for me and started to bring back some of the fun of photography for me after so many years of doing reviews (yes, six years of shooting for reviews can start to take away some of the fun in photography). The A7s never gave me a problem, even in situations that had me shooting at ISO 102k with AF and the AF assist light turned OFF. The Af of the A7s is amazingly good..and accurate. It is not a blazing speed demon in darkness but it gets the job done. I also tested the Mitakon 50 0.95, serial #00001 and this lens along with the A7s is a match made for the night. Not “Noctilux” quality but at $795 a no brainer for low light work if you have an A7 or A7s camera. It is a full frame 50 0.95 lens and built like a tank.

Some low light samples at high ISO. Keep in mind that this club was near dark. It was tough to see this band, Copper & Congress with my own eyes! The club is the “Lost Leaf” in Phx AZ and there is live music every night. I tested the A7s here so it could be like a torture test “worst of the worst” conditions. I had to crank the ISO and use the Mitakon 50 0.95 lens. Below are some OOC JPEGS in B&W. ISO is listed above each photo.

Katie from Copper & Congress doing a sound check at the Lost Leaf in Phx AZ. ISO – Mitakon 50 0.95 was used for these.

All were shot as JPEG

1st image is at ISO 32,000  - f/0.95 – click for larger!

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ISO 25,600 – f/0.95

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ISO 25,600 – f/0.95

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ISO 25,600 – f/0.95

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ISO 25,600 f 0.95

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ISO 1600 for the next two. 1st one was using the 35 2.8 and 2nd the Mitakon wide open

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The A7s is TRULY the new King of the Nighttime World – in Color or B&W!

The more I used the A7s the more I started to appreciate it for what it can do, in any light..and I mean ANY light. It showed me that it excelled in bright light with an amazing Dynamic Range and it showed me it can do any light scenario in between from bright to almost total darkness. Below are three more photos showing ISO 64,000, ISO 12,800, 4000 and ISO 1600. All look fantastic. All are OOC JPEGS!

The A7s with 15 VM..ISO 64,000 in Boiler Room #3 abroad the Queen Mary at around 3 AM all by my lonesome. Color remains rich at this high ISO which is unheard of. **OOC JPEG**

THIS IS A FULL SIZE 12MP FILE so you get to see the nitty gritty of ISO 64,000 – OOC JPEG! Yes, look at the color and DR at ISO 64,000. THIS IS HUGE and I have never seen anything like it. VIVID MODE

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ISO 12,800 hand held in the desert at midnight.

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Below a measly ISO 4000 which does not even make the A7s break a sweat. OOC JPEG here..35 2.8

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Using the Leica 50 APO at ISO 3200 and F/2, the color is sublime even at ISO 3200! This was shot in a very low light location.

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ISO 1600? Looks like base ISO of some cameras :) – 35 2.8 – MUST click for larger! Color is FANTASTIC as is the AWB in this tricky lighting! VIVID MODE

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Ok, so what about using the A7s for other thing such as in normal light, action shooting or video?

Of course many will say “I do not need high ISO capability” – why would I want a Sony A7s? My answer to you is “you probably wouldn’t”!

In all seriousness, the A7s is the best low light camera I have ever used, period. It beats any other digital from Leica, any previous Sony and any Canon, Nikon or other brand of camera as of July of 2014. But what about if you do not need low light use? Well, I used to say all of the time that I never needed more than ISO 3200. I now realize that while true (it is not NEEDED)…after using the A7s I realize that I have no more limitations. After I realized the situations where I could now shoot images, using the Sony A7s, in total silence and in near darkness, it opened up new possibilities that I never even thought of. Total darkness, hand held shooting. AMAZING! ISO 80,000 is similar to ISO 1600 in the film world. This is huge. Believe me, it is. I am flabbergasted at what this A7s can do.

So while I never “needed” more than ISO 3200 in life, I realized that after a couple of weeks with the A7s that I loved having that capability. Photos in the dark or video in the dark. It was and is easy for the A7s. This opens up ALL KINDS of possibilities. But what if you never ever shoot in low light?

Well, the kicker here is that the A7s also does amazingly good in normal light. The Auto White Balance is superb, probably the best I have seen to date and beats the pats off of my Leica M 240 in this area. Color is nice and seemingly changed a bit from previous Sony cameras.

This review will be more on photo’s than words  this time around as I said so much in my A7 and A7r reviews. This time I will let the photos speak for  themselves, and keep in mind, 98% of these are OOC JPEGS so it only gets better. As for action shooting, no, the A7s will not be the end all of sports shooting for a couple of reasons. First, there are not yet any long telephoto lenses out for sports shooting and the Continuous AF is not as blazing as something like a pro Canon 1d or Nikon D4 series camera. (Many new lenses are on the way though in 2014 and 2015). I did shoot some kids at a skate park using C-AF (some samples in this review) and while all I had was the 55 1.8, it seemed to do the job well though some shots were missed as the kids were flying in the sky.

Below are quite a few image samples in good light, ALL JPEGS! Click them to see them correctly!

Low ISO has the pop you would expect from any full frame camera.

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Using C-AF and the 55 1.8 I was able to get some cool action shots with depth and great color and bite. The A7s was responsive and felt great while shooting. 

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The Mitakon at 0.95

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A mother and daughter on the way to the beach – Zeiss 45 f/2 Planar (using M mount adapter) – Vivid

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Saw this cute guy on the beach in Summerland, CA. He only had three legs but was having a great time in the water and sand. Used a manual focus Zeiss Planar 45 f/2 that a reader sent in for me to test.

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With the Zeiss 45 f/2 Planar. Great color out of camera! JPEG!

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Another with the Ziess Planar 45

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Look at the reds and the way this one rendered with the 35 2.8 – Gorgeous color and tone!

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The Voigtlander 15 is AWESOME with the A7s. Click it to see the sharpness in the eyes here. 

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55 1.8 using C-AF

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So my thoughts on the A7s in normal light is just as positive as it is for low light. Great AF speed, responsive overall feel and great color and IQ.

How about video? This camera shoots 4k?

The A7s is 4K capable with an external recorder but I am not a video guy who is serious enough to use that at this time in my life. I can say that shooting normal video is fantastic. Good light or low light, ISO 80,000? Sure. I shot a few video clips at varying ISO ranges but have not delved into the serious video tools such as the gamma color options. But this camera is a serious video tool and full frame to boot. Below is a sample video clip with clips ranging from base ISO to ISO 102,000 just using 1080P at 24 fps.

Only 12MP? Is that enough for larger prints?

I have been getting the megapixel question on this camera at least 5X a day. So, is 12MP enough for todays hobbyist, enthusiast or even pro? OF COURSE IT IS! Many get hung up on viewing images at 100% on screen, a way that NO ONE views your photos. We get “addicted” in a way to looking at the files at 100% and saying “WOW, look! I can see every eyelash on her face in extreme detail”!  But in  reality, none of that makes a good photo! All it does is make for a good WOW moment to YOU when viewing at 100% or sharing crops. In actual photography, 10MP is plenty and 12 is more than enough. My favorite sweet spot is 16MP but the Sony’s 12 MP here is a very very good 12mp.

Back in the day I had a ikon D2hs that was 4 MP and I printed 20X30′s from that camera all the time (was in a print frenzy at the time to prove that yes, a good 4MP cam print large) so the Sony A7s will never leave me wanting for Megapixels unless I am looking for that 100% screen viewing WOW moment, which you will not get with the A7s as you will with an A7r. I also really love the little Nikon V1 which is 10 MP. Never had an issue with images or the few prints I made. I think I have a 16X20 from the V1 that is gorgeous.

The A7s does so much right…”a jack of all trades and master of all” sort of camera…well, except for super crazy blazing Canon 1D style fast C-Af sports or action, but it is still not bad at all in that area. It has taken ANYTHING I have thrown at it, spitted it out and said “Is that all you got”? For me, there are way too many positives to having 12MP here that going back to 16, 24 or 36 would take away most of it. Sony knew what they were doing when they gave this camera a 12MP sensor. I am here to tell you that massive MP counts is not required for normal photography and large prints. Even with prints on a wall, who walks up to them to study details 2″ from the print? No one, except the ones who made the prints if they are obsessed with this sort of thing.

12 MP is a good number for me. May not be for you but for me, I really do not need more than 12 and the A7s is what has showed me this fact. I may not see every super fine detail or hair in a full size image but what I do see is good enough for 99.6% of anything I will ever shoot.

Below is a 100% OOC JPEG..yes, JPEG. So this will not be as sharp as the RAW file, but this is an idea of what you can get out of the camera. You must click it to see the crop correctly! 

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Shooting with the Voigtlander 15 VM Leica Mount Lens

The one lens that is pretty popular due to its small size and price and total lack of wide distortion is the Voigtlander 15mm Vm Lens. It is one of my faves and I have used one since my Leica M 7 days. On the M8, M9 and previous Sony A7′s the lens was virtually unusable due to color shifts and edges but here on the A7s the color shifts are 98% gone. This means that this is the first full frame digital that this lens will work on! The lens is $600 or so and can be bought at Cameraquest HERE. I highly recommend it for Leica Monochrome users or those with a crop sensor. But now, for the A7s, it is a great lens to have. Below are some shots with the 15mm on the A7s. Some are at very high ISO and the EXIF is there.

I have not been able to use any other Leica M mount wide angles yet but had a blast using the 15. I will test more soon and post that at a later date.

Below are all JPEGS from camera.

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Side by side with the Leica M 240

Below is a quick comparison I shot just for fun and due to many requests. It is with the Sony A7s and 55 1.8, then with the Zeiss 50 Sonnar and then one with the Leica M 240 and 50 Summicron APO. The Leica kit comes in at $15,000. The Sony kit at $3600. This is a just for fun test BTW..click them for larger. I posted this as a “Crazy Comparison” here. These were from RAW.

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Below, Sony A7s with Zeiss 50 1.5 Sonnar at 1.5 – beautiful rendering.

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Issues with the Sony A7s?

The Sony A7s really has no deal breaker issues but there are some things to be aware of.

First, when using the Electronic Silent shutter in extreme situations, such as very high ISO and shooting moving subjects, there can be a rolling shutter effect that will ruin your shot. If you are shooting fast moving subjects in low light, just use the standard shutter. Second, well, there really is no second issue as that is the only one I have found.

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Bottom Line Conclusion on the Sony A7s

The quick answer? The best camera, for my purposes, that I have ever tested, used, or reviewed. Period. Ever. Notice that I said “My Purposes”!

Strong strong words here but for me it comes down to the fact that in 3 weeks of use the Sony A7s never let me down, even when in near pitch blackness. It delivered insanely good results in any light situation. It never failed me in focusing. It adapted the M mount lenses I had on hand without major issues, even the “never worked on a full frame digital Voigtlander 15 M mount lens”. The Sony A7s opens up so many new possibilities that many never even knew existed. Sure, it is only 12MP and you will lose cropping power. Sure, that 12MP will not give pixel peepers the WOW moments and sure, it is yet another Sony camera promising big things.

But this time, the Sony A7s delivers on all promises made.

The shutter seems quieter or more damped. The new silent mode is amazing, drop dead silent. The AWB is fantastic and the focus speed is the fastest of any Sony full frame model E mount to date. It will even AF in darkness without fail. For video, it is exceptional and while I am not video whiz, it is beyond my capabilities in this area. The build, feel, manus and controls are the same on the A7s as the A7 and A7r, so the only thing that has changed is the sensor and electronic modes and video. These things open up this camera to ANYTIME, ANYWHERE use and I was not able to find any situation where I could not use the camera, NONE.

I have never in my life experienced this level of low light use. One that keeps color and DR even at ISO 80,000.

Sony has some new lenses planned for 2014 and 2015, one of then being an ultra wide zoom and a Zeiss 50 1.2. I am already drooling at the possibilities. The A7s has won my heart, much more so than the A7 and A7r. With the A7s I can use Leica glass, I can shoot in the dark, I can take gorgeous video all without worrying about color, mis-focus or other issues. Even when using C-AF I was able to shoot some kids at a skate park with great accuracy. But again, do not expect a blazing C-AF machine. This is still not a DSLR!

The A7s is not perfect though, if it had Olympus Image Stabilisation it would just about be! Yes, that, for me, would be the PERFECT camera. The A7s with the 5 Axis IS from Olympus. The A7s is a wonder. I have never seen anything like it for low light use. In good light it produces wonderful quality JPEGS and even better RAW files. Just do not expect the eye popping details that come with 36 MP cameras. Remember, images here were JPEG besides for the Leica comparison, those were shot RAW.

For me, this is the camera to beat for 2014. So far, my pick for camera of the year. For me, if I add in the Voigtlander 15, Voigtlander 35 1.2 and the Sony 55 1.8 and I have a camera and lens combo that can do just about anything I ask of it, for my needs. 

It is not for long tele users or super fast action shooters. It is also not for those who need and love super resolution, pixel peepers.

Sony just keeps on pushing those limits and just like Olympus, they are pushing past the normal crowd of cameras to create something special and revolutionary, and yes, the A7s is revolutionary. Try one for a week. You will be hooked and it will be tough to go back to having limits to your photography.

You can order the A7s at Amazon or B&H Photo using the instant links below. IT IS NOW SHIPPING!

Buy the Sony A7s at Amazon

Buy the Sony A7s at B&H Photo

Buy the Sony 55 1.8 Lens (great on the A7s, and highly recommended)

Buy the Gariz Sony A7 case at Amazon - beautiful cases for the A7

Buy the Voigtlander 15 VM Lens HERE, and the best M to E mount adapter I have found HERE.

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I will leave you with more images from the Sony A7s. ALL JPEGS! Enjoy! BTW, I will be testing the A7s with wide angle Leica M lenses SOON and will make a new post on it when I do. I have not had access to the wide angles over the past three weeks, but should have some in July. 

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

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

To help out it is simple. 

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

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

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

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

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

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!

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Thank you all! – Steve

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Jun 252014
 

marlonco2

An Evolution Through Passion

By Marlon Co

Thank you so much! Your site and its contributors are truly an inspiration to me. I check the site everyday and the combination of technical information and passionate art-makers make this site a place where anyone can feel welcome, which is why I write to you today. I am a young 25 (soon to be 26) year old based out of Westchester, New York. I am a graphic designer by trade and a photographer by passion.

My interest in photography began in my freshman year in high school. I remember my girlfriend at the time asking me what I wanted for Christmas and I said without hesitation: a digital camera. What I had pictured in my mind was a DSLR, but I knew that was a lofty request. Instead I received a Sony point-and-shoot that was interesting but didn’t provide me the control I was seeking. Plus it was almost unusable given the fact that it devoured AA-batteries, burning through a pair after about 20 shots or so…insane. Nonetheless this was still a blessing to me as it prompted me to do some more research into the tools I needed to achieve what I wanted to in photography. In a sense it gave me passion and G.A.S. This is of course a good thing at the beginning of one’s photographic life. Experimentation with techniques and equipment is paramount to finding out what works for you. But as we all know, once you figure out what does work, G.A.S. does not easily go away. You still have the urge to try more stuff, especially given the current leaps technology is making.

Fast forward to my senior year of high school; I dropped photography for a while in those in between years, but still did research online. I explored different styles of photography to see what I was attracted to and more importantly what I enjoyed—initially this was street like many others before me. While this stimulated my interests, I still did not have a camera to work with. Naïve as I was, I had not considered film at all; a much cheaper alternative to buying digital for high school student at the time. Desiring to get what I wanted, I set out looking for work. After a year of working at a chocolate shop after school I had saved enough to purchase a Canon Digital Rebel XT. It was with this camera that I first began exploring the world and light.

Follow Your Own Direction, Leica M9, 50mm

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I practiced throughout my college career and while my shots were OK in my eyes, they never reached the level I wanted to accomplish. I blame a lot of that on the fact that I was just blindly shooting things, not shooting RAW, and not knowing enough about the photographic workflow; especially in processing. I was still snap-shooting but not CRAFTING shots with purpose, care, and intent. Slightly discouraged by my perceived lack of skill, photography took the back seat while I played with graphic design in college.

It was four years later in my last year in college that I had the opportunity to rediscover my love of photography. I have the darkroom to thank for that. Most importantly I am thankful for my professor who taught the only two classes in photography at my university; the only classes I ever took. It was in his first class that I went back to the roots of photography and learned the beauty of film and the darkroom, shooting with the standard AE-1. In the second class we developed our styles and each decided on a series to individually produce for a final show at the end of the semester. These classes truly shaped and solidified my passion.

It’s been four years since I graduated…I pursued graphic design as my career path but photography remained (and so did G.A.S). Since then, I’ve been continuously shooting with a variety of cameras. I eventually landed on an M9-P last year when I found out I loved the small size and awesome little lenses of rangefinders after shooting a Zorki-4 (now broken) and an R-D1s. My next investment will be the M (or next incarnation), but that’s down the line…

Follow Your Own Direction, Leica M9, 50mm

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This time last year, at the close of a long-term design project, I decided to give-in to my passion and I started looking for work in photography with the simple desire to learn more and to grow. I never got any “real” jobs, but I still kept shooting. My subject matter and style was as eccentric as I was. A few months later, I was hired by a friend from high school and got to shoot my first paid gig as a photographer; a wedding of all things! While this was not my first time shooting at a wedding—I had previously snapped at two weddings for fun— this was the first time it meant anything because now it wasn’t just for me, it was for someone else; I had to produce. The couple trusted in my ability and style. At the end of the day I think I did a pretty good job for my first time. The bride mentioned that she cried while looking at the shots I had taken, rest assured they were tears of joy, so I think the newly weds enjoyed them as well!

Woodland Dance, Leica M9, 50mm
They were a truly fun couple to photograph.

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Laughing During the Ceremony, Leica M9, Voigtlander 75mm

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That event further changed me. It proved to me that someone out there thinks I am good at this and instilled in me a confidence that I could pursue photography. However, as we all know working in art is extremely difficult and is easier said than done. The term “starving artist” doesn’t exist merely by random chance, it describes the struggle that we as artists have to go through to be “successful.” Most times, especially in our formative years, that means doing a lot of work for essentially no pay–but if we really cared about cash, we would’ve done something else right?

Around the same time, another friend offered me the chance of a lifetime. He is a comedian who wanted to travel the United States to do shows and pursue his own art. Fortunately for me, he wanted someone to document the adventure. Being a photographer, he thought I would be a natural fit to film the entire journey. So on October 8th, 2013 we set out in a 31ft RV and traveled the United States. We left from New York and moved down the East coast to Miami, zig-zagging through the Southern states until we reached the Pacific, then headed up the West coast to Vancouver, B.C. Eventually we made our way back through the middle states until we arrived home in New York. Frequent stops allowed us the time to really see the land and meet its people.

Raheem the Jewler, Leica M9, Canon 50mm 1.2 LTM
He tried to sell me various lenses after seeing my M9 while I was walking around a flea market in Florida. While he did not have any M lenses, he had a kind heart and was eager to have his picture taken, something I find quite rare in people.

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Abby and Nick, Leica M9, Voigtlander 35mm 1.4

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Fast forward to now, nine months later—yes, you read that correctly—I emerge from that experience tired, but ultimately more whole. Leaving your comfort zone so entirely and spending that much time away from all that you love reveals a lot about person. It provides you with a whole new perspective and I wouldn’t have given up this experience for anything. Photography is about perspective after all; it is a point of view on the world.

Now what’s the point of all this? Especially that title at the top that has, so far, had nothing to do with anything other than being a mini biography of my photographic life? Well I’m about to get to that. The common thread that is meandering through these various phases of my young life is this: passion. Not once in all those years did I ever lose interest completely. While there were times of self-doubt, as there always will be, my passion for this craft kept me wanting to learn and now it inspires me to produce.

Last year, I foolishly thought that the only thing I needed to become a fully realized photographer was a job in photography. I felt that if I worked in any field that involved photography I would be recognized as more “professional.” In a sense I was looking for validation from those already in the field that I was good enough. At times I still feel this way, but I now realize that it really doesn’t matter as long as you produce and do what you love. Who cares what other people think? If you like your work, you like your work, and that’s what matters. As long as you produce (practice) you’re succeeding as an artist; and hopefully simultaneously promoting your own happiness.

The trip around the US provided me with the realization that my dreams are as real as I make them. If I want to be a photojournalist (arguably my favorite type of photography, and one of the hardest fields to get into), I simply have to create my own stories. Just because I haven’t gotten a job as a photojournalist doesn’t mean I’m not one. I am as much a photojournalist as I make myself to be and now that I am home I have taken a retrospective look at my work to find common themes and stories in my photography. In parallel to this I am also diving into the stories I want to start to work on. In a nutshell, I just want to DO. I want to stop waiting around, talking, and thinking; I want to produce and do so with purpose.

Exhale, Canon Digital Rebel XT, 50mm 1.4
Probably one of the first chances at photojournalism. My brother called me at 3AM telling me I needed to pick him up on I-287 in Westchester. He narrowly avoided the car wreck on the right coming home from work, but got a flat from the debris. This police office walks slowly back towards the scene, his breath visible in the February night.

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So this is my philosophy now: to just produce, produce, PRODUCE! To chase the stories, images, and ideas that interest me with abandon, but without losing clarity and focus. If the art gets noticed, it gets noticed, but that’s not the important part. It’s giving yourself to your passions fully. If you’re not producing, you’re not practicing, and if you’re not practicing, then you’re not evolving/growing. Simple as that.

While this is all just the rambling thoughts of a 25-year-old who has tried to pursue a path less traveled; I think the lesson applies to everyone who may have doubts about their own passions. At times I felt defeated, but that defeat came from within. Similarly, success also comes from within, so if you love what you do: DO IT! At all costs, through all challenges and doubt. Indulge in your passion and you will get better, you will evolve, you will grow, and you will become more yourself. No person or job title can take that personal success from you, much less define it; you have to define yourself on your terms.

Now that you’ve gotten to know me and my (possibly) not so eccentric ideas, I’d like to show how I’ve started to put these ideas into practice, in pictures now! Don’t worry not so much reading left!

The first set is an incomplete series that I “discovered” while looking at old photos and have decided to expand upon into the future. My brother and I have always traveled around NY when it experiences harsh weather conditions. For the New York Tri-State area, this typically means hurricanes and big snow storms. Protected by my brother’s jeep, he calls it the Mongoose, and believe me this thing growls, we carefully navigate our hometown and occasionally venture into NYC to witness the power of nature. I always have a camera during these bonding moments between us, and often find a moment of calm in these storms.

Golf Course, Hurricane Irene 2011, Nikon D90, Voigtlander 40mm
A golf course near my old home in Larchmont, NY transformed by Irene into a lake.

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Random Snowstorm, Canon 50mm 1.4
I left the shelter of my friends home to find these tracks in the empty street and untouched snow.

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Along the Edge, Hurricane Sandy, Leica M9, Canon 50mm 1.2
Literally just an hour before Sandy made landfall, my brother and I were driving around Mamaroneck, NY to find these people taking a walk, despite the rising water and inpending storm. The hulls of the boats are usually not visible from this angle and the next day four of these trees were gone.

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Going Home, winter storm Nemo, Leica M9, 35mm 1.4
During a late night drive in this storm, my brother was wiping off the accumulating frost on his windshield wipers when this brave soul was slowly biking home in the snow.

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This next series is what I’ve titled “Colorful Patchwork” and it represents my experience of the vast North American landscape as I traveled on the RV road trip. These photos came out of my internal need to produce a photographic project while on the road trip. I never expected it to turn out this way, as I mainly shoot with some human element present, but the images are simply half-memories of what I thought was beautiful at that moment as the world passed by the RV window or when I stood still long enough to really see. For this series, I put a general constraint on the composition of the photos and what I noticed is that, while somewhat repetitive, the set as a whole is stronger because of those guidelines. Another important lesson I learned: create with intent and purpose, focus.

Chesapeak Bay Bridge, Canon 5D MKII, 75mm
A really amazing bridge, but somewhat discomforting when in the fog and you can’t see the end 23 miles later.

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South Beach, Miami, Leica M9, 50mm

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Atlanta, Leica M9, 50mm

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Waking-up to the Pacific, Leica M9, 50mm
After 3.5 months of driving and reaching California at night, waking up to this sight in Malibu nearly brought tears to the eyes.

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So you start producing, great, but what happens now? Well, you keep going thats for sure, but you also put yourself out there if that’s part of your goals. So here at the beginning of my newest adventure (the first time I’ve ever submitted to a major blog such as this one), I am beginning a process of bringing my work to a larger audience to see what happens. I’m jumping in head first and running with it.

You’ve seen quite a random selection of what I do as a photographer, like I said my style and subject matter is eclectic. You’ve also gotten a glimpse of how I evolved with my photography. That whole process is now propelling me into the future of my work with a new motivation and even stronger passion.

So here I am. My name is Marlon and I love photography. The world—this life—is beautiful if you choose to see it that way. I hope my photos remind people of that.

If you liked my work feel free to check out my links below. If you didn’t like it at all, well you’re entitled to that, no hard feelings! I have plenty of years ahead to get better and maybe change your mind!

www.co-graphic.com

www.facebook.com/mc0photography

A few more shots:

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Jun 182014
 

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The Sony A7s: 1st Look…Testing the limits.

Hello to all! Just to let you all know I received the Sony A7s just today, just about 9 hours ago. In the past few hours I have taken it out and tested it for the one thing that it is claimed to be so good at which is LOW LIGHT and high ISO. I also shot some normal ISO images as well. Armed with the Sony Zeiss 35 2.8, the Sony Zeiss 55 1.8 and the Mighty Mitakon 50 0.95 I gave the A7s a workout with some intensely low light scenarios..even one that needed iso 102,400 with f/0.95. YES, that dark. How about that for a torture test? I mean, if you need ISO 102,400 with an f/0.95 lens then you KNOW it is DARK.

The A7s is a beauty of a camera for many reasons. One of them is that the sensor is a fat full frame with only 12MP. This means the file sizes are small and the low light capability is better. The pixels are nice and fat and this is how I prefer it. I have always preferred UNDER 20MP for my full frame sensors but it seems that most are trying to push the limits of MP on a sensor. Sony decided to make an A7 series camera that will be amazing for video, photo, low light and good light all while allowing for file sizes that will not require a mega computer to process. The shutter is also more damped it seems (not sure if it is or just my imagination but the shutter seems a bit quieter and gentler than the A7 and A7r). There is also the new SILENT mode which means you can use the A7s in complete silence. No beeps, no shutter sound..nada. Silent. That is the beauty of mirrorless.

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The camera feels great (same as the A7 and A7r) and again, not sure if it was my imagination but the AF seemed quicker as well to me. I was able to shoot in near darkness, using AF (with AF assist OFF) and the camera would AF. I had no issues with speed or accuracy.

So far so good but take this for what it is. My 1st 8 hours with a Sony A7s. I will be shooting it much more over the next week for a full review that will come within 2 weeks. For now, enjoy the 1st snaps from my 1st day with the camera. For me, it is the most desirable A7 already due to the low light capabilities, the silent mode and the lower pixel count. It truly is the KING OF THE NIGHT TIME WORLD.

You can pre-order the Sony A7s at Amazon HERE or B&H Photo HERE.

Click HERE to see the 1st test with the Voigtlander 15 Heliar and click HERE to see a comparison with the Leica M 240.

The following images are all JPEG. What you see is what you get. ISO ranges from 100-102,400. Click images for larger view. Review within 2 weeks! These are just the 1st snaps I shot in the 8 hours I have had the camera, to wet your appetite. 

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1st shot, ISO 6,400 indoors. Sony 55 1.8 – click for larger

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ISO 320 from this afternoon with the 55 1.8

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ISO 100 – 55 1.8

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55 1.8 at ISO 100 – f/2

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VIVID mode, 55 1.8

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ISO 100 – 55 1.8 at f/2

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ISO 100, f/3.5 with the 55 1.8

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55 1.8 – ISO 100

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ISO 8000 – 55 1.8

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ISO 400 – 55 1.8 at f/2

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Mitakon 50 0.95 wide open at ISO 5000

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ISO 32,000 with the 55 1.8

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ISO 102,400 at f/0.95 with the Mitakon..insane!

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ISO 125

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ISO 125

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ISO 64,000!

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ISO 1600 – Mitakon 0.95

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ISO 1600 – 35 2.8

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FULL SIZE DIRECT FROM CAMERA – ISO 3200 – 55 1.8

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NEXT THREE – ISO 25,600  - 50 0.95 Mitakon

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and ISO 32,000

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ISO 80,000 – 55 1.8 NR OFF

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Mitakon FLARE – 102.400 ISO, 0.95

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

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

To help out it is simple. 

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

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

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

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

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

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!

Jun 162014
 

TwoPlaid

The New Jersey State Fair with film and digital

By Jim Fisher – His blog is HERE

For the past few years I’ve been visiting and photographing at the New Jersey State Fair, held each August in Sussex County. It ís a true rural affair, complete with 4H and FFA kids showing off the animals they’ve raised, lots of fried food, and carnival rides.

This year was the first that I came armed with a press pass, which made it possible to get some close access to livestock judging and the Queen of the Fair pageant. I concentrated on these events for this trip, skipping over the carnival side of things mainly because my feet were worn out by the time enough darkness fell to make the rides really visually striking.

Caption: Kodak Portra 800, Canon EOS ELAN 7NE, Sigma 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM

Chicken

The Gear

I took a few cameras with me this year, a mix of film and digital. I was carrying the full-frame digital Canon EOS 6D along with Sigma 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM and Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 EX DG IF HSM APO lenses, and a Canon EOS ELAN 7NE 35mm film body. The 120-300mm is a huge beast of a lens, but delivers a solid telephoto zoom range and is absurdly sharp. I also brought my trust Nikon F3 along with Nikkor 28mm f/2.8 AI-s and 50mm f/1.4 AI lenses, and a pair of compact digital cameras: The Ricoh GR and Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 II.

Caption: A young girl answers questions about her chicken during judging. Ricoh GR.

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Chickens and Sheep

My first stop was to the pavilion that houses the chickens, rabbits, and other small animals. Cages line the walls and center of the building, each a temporary home to the animal awaiting judgement. I stumbled in just in time to come across some of the judging of chickens.

Caption: Sheep judging. Kodak Portra 400, Canon EOS ELAN 7NE, Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 EX DG IF HSM APO.

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A middle-aged man called the 4H and FFA kids who had raised the birds up one by one, asking them questions about each, and taking down some notes that will determine the best in show. I moved outside and to one of the larger judging rings. There was a really bizarre sheep event going on. The sheep themselves were normal, but the handlers pair of humans ranging in age from teenagers through adults were all wearing matching plaid shirts. An older gentleman with a cowboy hat and a huge, huge belt buckle oversaw the judging and chose a winner.

Caption: Twin sheep handlers. Kodak Portra 400, Canon EOS ELAN 7NE, Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 EX DG IF HSM APO.

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Queen of the Fair

Each year a Queen of the Fair is crowned: a local teenage girl who is paraded around the grounds in a tiara and serves as an honorary representative at various events throughout Sussex County over the next year. Iíd not yet seen the pageant that crowns the winner, but my wife (who was familiar with the event from her time as a reporter for the local paper) assured me that it was long and boring.

 Caption: Looking in at the Queen of the Fair pageant. Canon EOS 6D, Sigma 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM.

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But I still wanted to attend, just for the sake of curiosity. To me, pageants are just weird. Parading women around, choosing one above all the others, and crowning them just seems like something that’s out of step with today’s society. On the other hand, the winner gets some money for college, so there’s that.

 Caption: Miss Lafayette (T). Canon EOS 6D, Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 EX DG IF HSM APO.

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I tried to shoot the pageant as darkly as possible, with grainy black and white film (Ilford HP5 400 pushed rated at ISO 800), and a grainy conversion to monochrome for any digital images. Basically, I was going for the antithesis of how typical coverage would be done, and when I saw that the pageant was being held in a dimly lit tent and that all the girls had armbands identifying them by letter (odd if you ask me), I knew that I wanted at least a few shots that isolated that visual.

 Caption: At the mic. Ilford HP5, Canon EOS ELAN 7NE, Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 EX DG IF HSM APO.

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I used the Sigma 120-300mm and 50mm prime, with a mix of film and digital. A monopod was employed to steady the telephoto lens; the 120-300mm is too heavy to use practically without one, and it helped me get a steady enough shot at the shutter speeds I was limited to at ISO 800 and f/2.8. I’m glad I had it, because my wife was not exaggerating about the length of the pageant. I shot the first portion, which involved each of the two dozen contestants walking slowly to the stage and giving a prepared speech, and I called it a night.

 Caption: The Queenís Carriage. Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 II.

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And that was it for another year at the fair. I skipped the carnival portion this year and some of the other usual goings-on. But since it took me so long to put this post together, the 2014 fair isn’t too far off.

You can look at my 2011 and 2012 reports for images from those years. For more images from 2013, check out my Smugmug Gallery.

Jim Fisher is the Senior Digital Camera Analyst at PCMag.com. He also posts photos, an occasionally finds time to write, at his personal blog, daguerreotyping.com.

Jun 132014
 

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(From Steve: So I received this email the other day from Allan and really enjoyed the article and the photos. Allan has submitted a daily inspiration before that you can see HERE but this post really struck a chord with me as I get this question constantly! “What camera should I buy”. I was asked about 18 times last week and 11 out of those 18 times I said “Sony RX100″, and there are many reasons for this. First, price. At $500 it is a GREAT buy. Second, it is very versatile and does so much so right. THIRD, it shoots decent video. It fits in your pocket, looks nice, feels nice and does good even in lower light. For most who are looking for an every day camera..those who are not complete photo nerds and enthusiasts and those who want a great all around family or vacation or even semi serious camera, the RX100 is fantastic. Yes, the RX100 III is out any day now and you get even more but it also comes in at $300 more. Then you have the Stellar, which is a pimped out RX100 V1 for $2k. ;) Any way you slice it, the RX100 is a great little camera and Allan’s shots below are some of my fave I have seen from this camera. Enjoy his article and be sure to visit his blog HERE or his Flickr HERE to see more from him!)

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What camera should I buy? Why, the RX100 of course!

by Allan Mcleod Roney – His website is HERE

A question I receive regularly, and one I always give a dishonest answer to.

It’s not that it’s my intention to obfuscate. It’s just that the right answer is invariably the one the requestor doesn’t want to hear. A good example of this was one of the more recent “what camera should I buy” questions I received.

“Hi Al, I love your Flickr (always a good start), and I was wondering, should I get a Nikon DXXX or a Canon XXXD?”

“Well, what are you wanting to do with the new camera?”

“I’m wanting to shoot pictures of my pals on holiday, maybe take it hillwalking etc. And if I like that, maybe teach myself photography”

So usually at this point, I will go into my usual spiel about “well, you know, these cameras are ‘much of a muchness’, it’s really based on preferences”. Those preferences usually relate to functionalities of the type a novice really won’t understand. Essentially, they’re the same. This time, I thought I’d try giving them my honest answer;

“You know, there’s another option. Buy yourself a quality compact. Not one of those ‘useless after a hot day’ compacts, but one of the top quality ‘premium’ compacts”

“yeah, but I want a DSLR”

I could regale you of a myriad of people who have taken my advice to buy a Nikon or Canon DSLR, who subsequently had a honeymoon period with said camera, then left it on a shelf to gather dust. The problem is that DSLR’s are big cameras. They’re not made to keep on your person. They only tend to be taken anywhere when your primary motive is to take photos, and given that most times we leave the house is for reasons other than photography, it gets left on the shelf.

I suggest a compact for a very simple reason – it will go most places with you. You don’t need a reason to take it. You just stick it in a bag or pocket, and it’s there with you wherever you go. Of course there’s a natural counter argument that is “I have an 8MP phone”. Yes, you do. But it doesn’t have an optical zoom, it doesn’t quite have the picture quality if you’re ‘thinking of taking it seriously’, and you can’t take photos in less than ideal light.

So for the price of a cheap DSLR kit, you can get yourself a quality compact. My favourite (and most used) camera is my wee compact, a Sony RX100 (now available for about £300 or $500 US) – I’ve added photos below taken with this camera where I wouldn’t have got the shot if I had a DSLR – it simply would not have been on me at the time. You’ll take on your holidays, you’ll take it on your hill walks and if you’re serious about taking photos as a hobby, you’ll concentrate on the basics of light & composition with a camera that will serve you better that a DSLR will. And that’s my honest advice.

As always, click-through for larger pictures:

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Jun 132014
 

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Friday Film: Hunza And Gojal

By Ibraar Hussain

Part 2: NAGAR, HUNZA AND GOJAL – See Part 1 HERE

The farther north one goes, the more magnificent the Karakoram scenery becomes. Leaving Shina speaking Chilas and Gilgit and the green Alpine Himalayas behind, with only backward glances revealing Nanga Parbat dominating the southern horizon and the line of the Himalaya.

North from Gilgit along the Karakoram Highway one follows the Hunza River, flanked on either side by the Hunza and Nagar Valleys. These valleys are absolutely gorgeous, full of tall graceful Poplars, Cherry, Walnut, Mulberry and especially Apricot trees.

The way is dominated by Rakaposhi, a 25,551 foot snow Giant, and flanked by His peaks, including Spantik or Golden peak, Diran, Ultar and Lady Finger Peak. The people of these valleys speak Burushuski along with the lingua franca of the North – Shina.

Hunza is famous for it’s Apricots, longevity and lifespan of it’s people and the astounding beauty of it’s country. just as Vigne described Nanga Parbat 150 years ago as ‘the most awful and most magnificent sight to be met with in the Himalayas.’ The Greats Eric Shipton, HW Tilman and Francis Younghusband along with Lord Curzon all acknowledged (amongst other explorers) that Hunza was probably the most beautiful country in the world.

From Karimabad and it’s Baltit and Altit forts one crosses the KKH until it joins the ancient Silk Route and they merge into one through Upper Hunza or Gojal where the people speak Wakhi, and onto Gulmit and Passu where one has to ford the Atabad Lake by boat. (This is a new lake caused by earth quakes, as the mountain sides collapsed damming th e Hunza river, and destroying the KKH and villages in the process).

This area is dominated by the Passu Cathedrals; a line of unclimbed jagged peaks which are a thing of exquisite beauty. Photographs cannot do this area any justice at all.

 

Faces from Hunza, Nagar and Gojal
Contax G2 45mm Planar T* Kodak Ektachrome e100vs
Rolleiflex 3.5F 75mm Planar Agfa Ultra 50

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The Atabad Lake and River Hunza, Gojal
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The Passu Cathedrals, Passu, Gojal, Upper Hunza by the Karakoram Highway/ Silk Road
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The Altit Fort and The Hunza Valley from The Baltit Fort at Karimabad.
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The Hunza Valley and Rakaposhi
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The Baltit Fort and Ultar Peak Hunza
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Atabad lake, Gojal, Upper Hunza. Rolleiflex 3.5F Agfa Ultra 50. lab Scan

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Jun 122014
 

View More: http://joshnewton.pass.us/aprilandmichael

A Wildfire Wedding – Story and Images by Josh Newton

See Josh’s website HERE and his blog HERE

Many of you have no doubt seen the very cool Wedding photo shot by Wedding Photographer Josh Newton. They have been aired on TV everywhere as well as gone viral online. If you have NOT seen them I would be surprised! It was an interesting day for Josh, and below he recounts the short but sweet story of how the day went for him, and his clients. One thing is for sure, he ended up getting some very memorable moments for the bride and groom. It is not every day you get married near a raging wildfire that is closing in your wedding celebration. Take a look at the images and story below, which is from Josh Newton’s blog and have been reposted with his permission. You can see many more of his photos at his website!

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April and Michael’s Wildfire Wedding in Bend, OR

By Josh Newton

With the news picking up the wildfire wedding photos, the last week has been a little more exciting than life usually is. On Saturday, April and Michael’s wedding day started off like any other wedding as the two of them anxiously prepared for the ceremony, while friends and family put the finishing touches in place.

View More: http://joshnewton.pass.us/aprilandmichael

View More: http://joshnewton.pass.us/aprilandmichael

View More: http://joshnewton.pass.us/aprilandmichael

 

Around 11am, a brush fire nearby turned into the Twin Bulls wildfire, but we had no idea that, later on, we were in for wildfire wedding photos.

View More: http://joshnewton.pass.us/aprilandmichael

But unlike other weddings, just as April and her dad were preparing to walk down the aisle, firefighters tending to the Two Bulls wildfire came up with sirens blaring and told them we’d need to evacuate. Seeing that the ceremony was underway, the firefighters changed their minds… as long as we promised to cut it short for the safety of everyone. April was able to walk down the aisle to Michael. After a whirlwind ceremony, the two were happily pronounced man and wife!

View More: http://joshnewton.pass.us/aprilandmichael

View More: http://joshnewton.pass.us/aprilandmichael

After the ceremony, while guests scrambled to relocate the reception to Drake Park in Bend, Oregon, I took Michael and April (who were just happy to be married) off to do some photos of the two of them. The results were more incredible than I could have imagined, and I’d never have guessed the quick photo I snapped with my iPhone (see below) would go viral.

View More: http://joshnewton.pass.us/aprilandmichael

We caught some incredible moments that afternoon, and I love the way April and Michael grinned at each other, just happy to be married.

View More: http://joshnewton.pass.us/aprilandmichael

View More: http://joshnewton.pass.us/aprilandmichael

The news, of course, is all about the wildfire wedding photos, but after 10 years of being a travel wedding photographer, I know the story is in April and Michael’s commitment to each other, and to their unflinching celebration of the life they have ahead.

View More: http://joshnewton.pass.us/aprilandmichael

 Congrats April and Michael!

See Josh’s website HERE and his blog HERE

Jun 112014
 

hasselblad-stellar-special-edition-cameras-2

So who owns a Hasselblad Stellar? C’mon, be honest!

UPDATE: According to the poll below almost 50 of my readers here have purchased and bought the Stellar. Guess that they have been selling as this poll only represents the readers HERE. Thanks for voting!

So I was going through e-mails today and someone I know purchased an orange special edition Hasselblad Stellar. You know, the Sony RX100 clone made by Hasselblad for 4X the cost of the Sony RX100. Well, the RX100 can be had for $500 today and the standard Stellar goes for $1995.00 yet it is the SAME exact camera with some added bling and flash and pizazz. Believe it or not, some do care about these things as when you have a good-looking cameras that also performs well, it does indeed inspire confidence in those who like this kind of stuff. No, it does not create better photos than a Sony RX100 as it is the exact same camera on the inside and besides, it is the photographer than makes the photos and creates the images, NOT the camera.

I was remembering my time with the original Sony RX100 and thinking back to how great of a camera that it is. Now with the RX100 III coming out, I am excited to see the latest evolution of the model. The new RX100 III will feature the integrated EVF and other new features and it will come in at $798. If it lives up to the RX100 1, then it will be well worth the cost for those who want a high quality pocket rocket of a camera. The original RX100 is a HUGELY capable camera that some dismiss due to size yet it does so many things so well…I expect the III to be amazing.

Hasselblad-Launches-Special-Edition-Stellar-Compact-Cameras-396469-2

Which leads me back to Hasselblad and the Stellar. I was in NYC a while ago and was able to go into a shop and handle and examine the Stellar. At $2000 I was having a HARD time understating it and trying to figure out WHO would buy one and why. I asked the shop owner if he sold many and he said that yes indeed, it was much more successful than even Hasselblad had hoped. Well, I called BS and chalked it up to sales talk.

To put things into perspective Leica has the X2 which is $2000 new yet I prefer the Sony RX100 to the X2 for the speed, size, low light ability and overall versatility (video , macro, etc)  - so if I had $2000 and had to choose between only a Leica X2 or Stellar, I would take the stellar and I would have just as handsome of a camera with an equal build, more solid feel, faster AF, video capability, better lowlight, closer focusing ability and better resale.

Back to my handling with the Stellar…The shop owner pulled out the black carbon fiber version and the camera was housed in a glossy all wooden box. Had to be the fanciest packaging I have come across to date, even putting to shame Leica packaging. When I opened this box, the camera was perfectly nestled in its location with a luxurious and soft leather strap attached. I picked it up, turned it on and saw the “HASSELBLAD” logo pop on the screen. I have to admit, it felt much nicer than the Sony version. It was more solid and hefty and the grip was quite handsome. Still, 4X the cost of the RX100 (at the time it was 3X the cost) was overboard and I was not getting it. Sure we have the fancy luxury packaging. Sure we have the Hasselblad name and logo and yes we had the much more solid buttons and a better tactile feel to them. The fancy choice in wooden grips was also very cool. Wait.. now I was getting it.

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The more I held it and thought about it, the more I started to understand why some would choose to buy such a camera. It looked the part, it felt the part and it had the name that many associate with incredible cameras and optics. It was a much better feeling and looking RX100 and it gave a sense of pride. Of course, I did not buy one but I did try to get a discount offering to review it for the shop if he sold it to me at a discounted price. He offered me $22 off the price, and of course I declined. :) I was hoping for 50% off which I knew would never happen.

While I do not think I could or would ever spend 4X the cost of the RX100 for a “Stellar”, especially since the improved RX100 III is almost here for $798 I do understand it more after handling it and seeing what it was all about. I would pay about $1000 for one personally, as I did love the look and feel of the black one. The RX100, even Version 1 is still a pretty “stellar” camera as it is and capable of fantastic IQ. To have one in a more hefty and better made body wold be nice, and the grip felt great.

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I mean, would we expect Hassleblad to release it at $500? No! $1000? No, as it would not be worth it to them due to the added expense of the wood grip, packaging and the fact that they pay Sony to be able to use the body. Their price of $2000 is a little much IMO but about right for what you get. Those who DO buy it will value things like exclusivity and style and NAME. Leica does the same with some of their cameras. Models like the D-Lux are rebranded Panasonic models that go for a few hundred more than the Panasonic version. Leica offers a better warranty, lightroom software and better design and they charge $400-$500 for this. Hasselblad is charging a $1500 premium but there is a MUCH smaller market for the Hasselblad Stellar than there is the Leica D-Lux 6, so they will never sell as many which means they have to price it higher.

Now the new “Special Edition” stellar is here and comes in at $3300! Insane.

This takes me back to the start of this article. A guy I know and respect bought one and LOVES it. He had the RX100 and has a Leica M as well. He was thrilled with the orange SE stellar and had zero buyers remorse. He is not a rich guy, just an average guy who really loves to shoot. He loves his Sony RX100 so much he decided to splurge for one in his favorite color of orange. He is as happy as a man can be.

The bottom line is that when we use and shoot with what makes us happy then WE are at our happiest and most positive. This helps to motivate and the result CAN BE better photos. So nothing wrong with someone buying what they want and what they enjoy as long as it makes them happy. Many love to bash these cameras but there is no point to that really. Those who bash it are NOT the target market for the camera. Just as those who bash Leica will never buy one or own one. The fact is that there are those who do buy them and do love them and even if that number is very small in the grand scheme of things it just adds to the value of the item, even if it is a rip off of a dated camera :)

BTW, I will be reviewing the RX100 III and A7s soon and am looking forward to it.

So my question is to the readers out there:

WHO HERE HAS BOUGHT A STELLAR? Hasselblad says it has been a huge success, so who has bought one? Anyone here? If so, answer the poll below with a yes or no! 

Jun 102014
 

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Yogyakarta Black Valentine with Ricoh GR

by William Christiansen

I’ve been using Ricoh GR for almost a year and the camera has always been in my bag. There’s no reason to not bringing the camera because it’s so small yet very capable. I use it alternately with the Leica M9 especially when the condition is so dark which requires me to bump up the ISO or use the flash.

On 14th of February 2014, which was supposed to be Valentine Day, Mount Kelud erupted. The mountain sent its ash and grit to nearby cities including Yogyakarta, my hometown. Coincidentally, it’s also the last day of Chinese New Year celebration which supposedly to be the biggest event as it’s the closing ceremony. It’s really a special day of the year.

Usually I will bring Leica M9 with 35mm Summicron ASPH with me when I go to the street or travelling, but this time I felt that the camera was not suitable for the current condition, so I brought my Ricoh GR to the street.

Ergonomically, the camera is so right on my hand and with the condition, dusty and gritty, because I need to hold the camera by using only one hand while the other hand mostly covering my eye to prevent the grit coming to my eyes.

I set the three customisable user slots to these settings:

Setting1 – For taking picture during the bright light – Aperture priority, F/8, ISO1600, Auto-focus.
Setting2 – For taking picture indoor or relatively dark condition – Aperture priority, F/2.8 ISO3200, Auto-focus.
Setting3 – For taking picture using flash or when the there’s almost no light – F11 , 1/10, ISO1600, Zone focusing set to around 1.5 meter.

For me, these three settings have already covered all possible lighting condition I might encounter. In the morning until afternoon, I will use Setting1, and then afternoon and night-time, I will use either Setting2 or Setting3. The auto-focus of the Ricoh GR is quite good especially when taking photo in the bright light but when the light is lacking, sometimes it will focus on the background rather than the object. It is the reason why I use the Setting3, to take photo quickly in the dark condition without relying on its auto-focus at all. I will surely miss the photo opportunity of the hungry cat if I had been using the Setting2 because there’s almost no light when I took the photo.

I always shoot in raw and process later in Lightroom. I am quite surprised seeing the files from this little camera because it’s really sharp. I converted all the images to black and white in Lightroom and even added some grain to bring more emotion to the images because at ISO3200 the file is relatively clean.

In conclusion, the Ricoh GR is a great camera if you are used to stick to the 28mm focal length. The flash metering is really great, the ISO capability is more than enough and it tooks a really sharp image. It is a really great secondary camera considering it is so small and quite light (you have no reason to not bringing it) and even as a primary camera (highly printable, sharp and great manual settings).

If you want to see more photos from my travelling and street photography, you can visit my website at http://www.touristwith.camera

Thanks, Steve!

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Jun 092014
 

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The Phoenix Comicon. Portraits with the Leica M, 50 APO and Alien Skin Exposure 6.

Hey guys, I know it is only a few days after I posted Part 1 of the Leica 50 Summciron APO review but I just wanted to sit down and write-up a quick photo article as I just got in from shooting the M 240 and 50 APO at the Phoenix Comicon and once again, the lens continues to impress me when used on the M 240. Take this as a companion to part one of the review. Part 2 is still to come! 

Make sure you click on each image to see it larger. A few of these have a filter applied (where noted) using the new Alien Skin Exposure 6 film filter set. I have used Alien Skin Exposure since Version 1 and love it. You can download a free trial of the new Version 6 HERE.

Shooting the 50 APO on the M is a dream. The focus is easy and I used the Rangefinder 100% of the time. Take a look at the image below which was shot wide open, all natural light. A quick grab shot and it has that medium format look. This was shot in the sun at 2PM in Phx, AZ so you know it is harsh light. This combo did excellent. 1st a B&W conversion, and 2nd, direct color out of the M 240.

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Again, the color is superb. Add to that the sharpness without being harsh or analytical and you have a winning combo. I used the Alien Skin Exposure 6 Astia preset for this one. 

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Click the images to see them larger, PLEASE! They look much better ;) The detail in the full size shot of this one is amazing. To see that full size, click the image below (open in new window for best view)

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The Bokeh of the 50 APO is ethereal with some similarities to the Noctilux (when the Noct is at f/2 or so). For this one I used an Alien Skin filter but can not remember which one. There are so many to choose from and it is fun just experimenting with them all. 

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1st…Here is an OOC JPEG, cropped. The 2nd is using a film filter from VSCO. Not Alien Skin but VSCO, which is a bit different as it applies the filter to the RAW file itself.

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Had some shade for this one..again a B&W conversion using the new Alien Skin Exposure 6 (I have used Alien Skin since Version 1, and love it). Below it the color version. 

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Again, the harsh sun..no problem even with the high contrast of the 50 APO.

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Beautiful detail, tones and color once again in less than perfect light. I do not use flashes, ever. 

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Every one of the images here were shot at f/2, wide open where this lens is designed to be shot. In fact. I am not seeing more sharpness at f/4. You just lose the oh so slight vignette that is there at f/2.

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Two girls having fun taking a selfie with a dude wondering why I am taking their picture ;) He looks confused. 

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As hundreds were in line shuffling in I was snapping images from anyone who looked my way. Alien Skin B&W filter without the noise added.

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A Mother and Son who were exited for the event. I wish they had these events when I was young, my Mom would have so taken me in costume!

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This guy asked ME to take his image..

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There were tens of thousands of people at the event. I believe there was an estimated 70,000 there on Saturday. Next year I am going for all three days and hanging out for a few hours a day. Not only did I get to see some cool costumes and take photos, I met a couple of other photographers as well! This couple went all out…

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The color, Bokeh (see the reflection in the BG), the sharpness from edge to edge..nice. 

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I meant to take a picture of the Minecraft head guy, but noticed the other kid smiling at the camera, so focused on him instead. 

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In the harshest most brutal mid day Phx AZ sun…I did not use an ND filter. Used an Alien Skin Neopan filter minus the grain. 

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and inside just ONE of the many sections/buildings – it was a MADHOUSE!

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Inside this guy looked a little spooked when he saw me pointing the camera at him..

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So there are just a few photos from my hour or two at the Phoenix Comicon. I was not prepared for the mass amounts of people so did not enjoy it inside so much but it was a blast outside. Next year I am going all three days just to hang outside. If any local Phx area shooters want to go with, let me know! Will be a blast. The M 240 and 50 APO is as one would expect, a rock solid pairing. The lens is also literally made for the Monochrom. But I will state again as I did in part one of my review for the lens…you do not need a lens of this caliber to get good photos. The old Summicron is also lovely as is the 50 Summilux. The old cron can be had for about 1/4 the price so it is up to you to decide if the perfection and qualities of the 50 APO are worth it to you in money and in the long wait required to get one.

Happy Monday!

Steve

Jun 062014
 

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The Leica 50 Summicron f/2 APO Review, Part 1

by Steve Huff

Technically, the best 50mm lens I have ever shot with. Period. End of Story. Done Deal. No contest. Really!

This is part one of a 2-3 part long term review of this lens. When all is said and done I will have shot this lens on the M 240 extensively, I will have shown you comparisons with the standard cron and other 50mm lenses, I will have shot it on the Sony A6000 and A7s and will do a complete video breakdown on this lens and what and why it is. For now, enjoy part 1 which is basically the introduction to this special lens for the Leica M system. Enjoy!

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The perfect 50mm lens..does it even really exist? Many say that this exact lens that I am about to write about is the best 50mm ever made, without question or doubt but I will tell you that what is determined as “the best” for you comes down to personal preference. To some, the best 50mm lens may be a 50 f/2 Rigid Summicron or for others it may be the 50 Summilux pre-asph, for others the classic 50mm Summarit or Summitar.

If someone were to want the 50mm lens with the most perfect specs, this Leica 50 Summicron APO f/2 would be the ticket though, without question. It would also be the one that will melt your credit card because at the price of $7,350.00, this is not a lens to consider lightly, nor is it a lens that is really “needed’ by 99% of us.

Yes my friends, perfection does not come cheap and this is a wallet buster for sure, even if you are well off or have cash in the bank. For quite a while I was upset that Leica priced this lens the way they did and I remember early on after the announcement I was ready to give up my Leica for good as they were pricing so many out of the M system. I mean, $7,350 for a 50mm f/2 prime when the still current non APO sum micron is $2300?

Well, time has passed since then and it was not until after I really understood what it was, and how hard it was to make and the that Leica is reportedly losing money on this lens that I decided to really take a look at it. When I actually had one in my possession for a while, which just happened recently, I realized how special the lens is. Even with that said, no 50mm lens is really “worth” $7,350 to 99% of people but I do understand why it is priced at this level and I do understand why so many of us Leica M shooters lust after this particular piece of glass.

Sure, I enjoy using a $600 50 Summarit just as much as I love using this APO cron but one thing is certain, I can not fault this lens in any way. From packaging, to construction, to quality, to the hood, to the size, to the pride of ownership that comes with it. It is a thing of beauty and just holding it you can feel the quality and care that went into making it.

It is beautifully made, beautiful in size and technically the best 50mm lens I have ever used. No distortion, amazing contrast, super detailed and sharpness, sweet color and smooth as you can get bokeh in an M mount 50 next to the $11,000 Noctilux. But just because this lens has all of those qualities does not mean that other 50′s now have to be dumped. In fact. Leica, Zeiss and Voigtlander make some fantastic 50mm lenses for the M mount and they come in at a fraction of the cost. One could buy a Zeiss 50 Planar f/2 for $800 and take the $6500 saved and go on a massive photo trip :) One could buy the original summcrion for $2300 and save $5000 to use for whatever else they desire. Just because this lens is as good as it gets in a 50mm for 35mm does not mean it is needed to create good photos. I have taken many bad photos with this lens, I should know :)

The Leica M 240 and 50mm APO Summicron makes for one hell of a combo, but at $14,000+, it is pricey combo.

One thing I love about the M system is that I can capture moments just when I want to. Here I was prefocused and waited…looking through the viewfinder until the one moment that I wanted to capture happened. Ahhh, to be young.

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At the cost of this lens and how long it takes to get a hold of one (9-24 month wait after ordering) I do not expect many to actually buy or own this lens. Only the camera crazy G.A.S. stricken few will dare take the plunge into this kind of investment for a single lens, especially when it is a common focal length, 50mm, and common aperture of f/2. But yes! There is a long line for it and that line extends at some dealers for what would equal a good 2 year wait.

But me, I bought one as I have spoken with a few of you who have bought one and swear up and down about this lens. I also never did get a chance to do a full review of this lens so as a service to all of my Leica readers here, I felt I owed it to all of you to write about this lens, lol. Well, that is my way to justify buying it. That and I remembered just how good it was when I had it for a few days over a year ago.

But it is even better now because the latest version of this lens that is shipping has now been fixed of the “flare” issue that was reported on this very lens and the earlier batches. It seems if you bought one early on then your lens may have a flare issue, which was a big no no as this lens was supposed to be perfect. Well, Leica admitted the problem and fixed it. If anyone has an older version of this lens and it fares you can send it to Leica and they will send it back to you flare free. My version would not and could not flare so I know mine is the latest and greatest

Shot at f/2. this one has detail and pop. 

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50mm = the new crack

In reality, I am a 50mm junkie. I think I have tried just about every 50mm lens ever made for the Leica M system. I have loved many of them, even the old 1940′s lenses. Lenses like the Canon 50 0.95 were very cool and fun to use and the old summitar was beautiful and cheap.

I have used the 50mm Summilux ASPH for years, and feel that it is a legendary lens. A lens that is still expensive but more realistic in price at $4,000 (though still high compared to other 50mm lenses). The 50 Summilux offers a faster aperture at $3300+ less than the 50 APO, so for most, THAT is the ultimate Leica 50mm lens. I have captured many precious memories with a 50 Summilux ASPH on the M6, M7, M8, M9 and M 240. It has stood the test of time and still today is probably the most sought after Leica 50mm lens. With the Summilux being so good, why would one spend $3300 more on a slower aperture lens?

That is what I wondered myself but again, the 50mm Summicron APO is for those who want perfection and those who want the best technical 50mm lens ever made. For Leica, this lens is a statement lens. A lens that shows that you do not need a big fat housing to have a perfect 50mm lens ;) Proof that you can have no distortion, nearly no CA and perfect across the frame sharpness even at f/2, when the lens is wide open. The Bokeh of the 50 APO is much nicer than that of the older 50 Summicron, which has been known to have “busy” bokeh. The ONLY fault of this lens is slight vigneting when wide open, but it is slight and adds to the photo IMO. This lens uses very high-end exotic glass, the  best Leica can source.

ISO 3200, Leica M 240, 50 APO at f/2. Click it for larger and see just how nice this looks at 3200!

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or in color. Even at ISO 3200 in a dim restaurant the M creates acceptable color and smooth bokeh with minimal non offensive noise. 

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A True Masterpiece

The 50 APO is tiny. Smaller than a 50 Summilux. It is also gorgeous and has the coolest and smoothest twist out built-in hood ever. It is like a fine jewel in feel, use and in quality. The lens even ships in a large deluxe box that houses a fancy presentation case much like the Noctilux box does. The lens comes with two lens caps, one old school brass (black paint) and one plastic. I keep the black paint one in the box so I do not lose it and just use the standard plastic one. When on the camera it feels like I am shooting the normal standard summicron but when I look back at the pics the level of color fidelity and contrast and pop is on another level.

In use the lens is a joy, It has a focus tab so is easy to focus but I do have one quibble. The aperture ring is a little too loose. I keep the lens at f/2 as it is PERFECT for my tastes at this aperture. I find that sometimes it has slid to f/2.8 and I do not realize it until after the images has been taken. It needs to be a little stiffer to avoid shifting on accident. Other than that, I can find no negatives with this lens at all.

I know that when I grab my Leica M and head out the door for a day of shooting and this lens is attached..well, I know that when I return home and load up my photos to my large 27″ screen that I will be in awe of the colors, the details and the beauty of the files. Being who I am though, I know that I will also be telling myself constantly “You spent HOW MUCH on this lens…you could have used that money for something much more responsible”. So with my guilt of spending so much money on a small tiny lens, when this 2-3 part review is all done, it MAY go up for sale but then again, seeing that this lens makes such an amazing one lens kit with the M, that would be very hard for me to do. :)

Here are a few more of my 1st photos from the 50 Cron…

Bokeh is about as good as it gets in a 50mm Leica M lens (besides the ultra creamy and smooth Noctilux, but that is a whole new look all in itself) f/2

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Mid Day in Prescott, AZ – This little guy was looking at me, probably thinking “Damn, that is a sweet camera”! Click image for larger and more detailed version. f/2

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Debby enjoying the day. This is right out of camera at f/2.

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The color pops with this lens and the M 240

Many who shoot the M 240 notice that some of their favorite lenses performed quite differently than they did on the older M9. Color was different, the POP was a bit different, the sharpness was even different. In the case of the 50 Summilux ASPH I noticed a big difference in rendering from the M9 to the M 240, though I enjoyed both cameras way of presenting the files. Even so, the color was the trickiest part of the M. With this 50 APO, the color coming out looks rich, deep and much like a nice slide film. As close as you can get in digital anyway. For color on the M, there is nothing like the 50 APO. From pop, punch, depth, and tone…this lens rocks color on the M.

Kids playing at a mall in Scottsdale AZ. Click the image for larger size to see the detail and color depth. Shot at f/2, which is where this lens SHINES.

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The 50 APO is a lens that brings a little bit of medium format to the Leica M. Not fully, but a hint of that look from file richness to detail to perfect sharpness and no distortion.

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Smooth..

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This lens, in my opinion, is meant to be shot at f/2. Wide open BABY!

With most lenses and camera systems such as DSLR’s we have been trained to know that stopping a lens down from its wide open aperture will always deliver better performance. In the case of the Leica 50 APO Summicron, I do not feel this is the case. While you will lose the slight vignette that is there at f/2 when stopping down to f/2.8, you will also start to lose some of the signature of the wide open look that this lens creates. When shot at f/2, this lens creates a look that is part classic, part modern but never in an analytical way (which is what I thought it was going to be when I first tested this lens over a year ago). It has a beautiful smooth presentation and at f/2 you get all of this character. Stopping the lens down, say to f/4..well, this is when you will start to lose some of the reason you paid so much for the lens as there are quite a few 50mm lenses out that there perform just about perfect by f/4.

So if you test this lens, buy this lens or borrow this lens make sure you are NOT afraid to shoot it wide open, which is where it has been optimized to be shot.

More images shot wide open at f/2 and  feel free to click them for larger versions! EXIF is embedded in each image. 

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Full Size files:

The files coming from the M 240 when this lens is used, to put it mildly, is the best I have ever seen the M 240 files. The complete lack of distortion, fitness or soft corners is amazing. There can be teeny amounts of CA but it is the best I have seen.

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This is a TORTURE test for CA. The 50 Summilux and 50 Noctilux would be full of CA in this shot. The 50 APO is amazing. 

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The 1st photo in this article, but this time full size…right click to open in a new window for best viewing

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One more full size…

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Wrapping up part 1 of this lens review

Again, this is only part 1 of a 2 or 3 part review. I have lots of shooting and comparing to do with the Leica 50 APO Summicron lens but so far, so good. It is a beautiful lens with amazing build and contrast and sharpness across the entire frame, even wide open at f/2. After my 1st couple of weeks with it I feel that I could be just as happy with a 50 Summilux or maybe even a 50 Zeiss Planar (well, almost as happy). While this lens surpasses those other lenses for all out performance, as I said early on, performance of a lens will not instantly make you a magical photographer. I feel that this lens is for those who crave, desire and lust after the “perfect” lens. I am on of those nerds myself, so I love it but I do have hesitations about spending so much money on this little guy, especially when that money could have been used elsewhere that is, in reality, more important. Still, I am having a blast shooting the lens and over the next few weeks I will be taking this lens to the always photo rich Comicon, to the California desert and Lazy Meadows Airstream park/hotel, Joshua Tree Park, San Francisco and all of the photo opps it has to offer, Long Beach, CA, the Queen Mary, and a few cool spots as I go on a 7-10 day road trip in about 2 weeks from today with the love of my life, Debby.

I will be posting part 2 when I return, so in about 3 weeks. I will also be doing comparisons with the original 50 Summicron and Zeiss 50 Planar, two other 50mm f/2 options. ;) So stay tuned and check back soon for all of the good stuff. I will leave you with a few more early shots with this lens and the Leica M. BTW, my 50 APO came from Ken Hansen ([email protected]) but no one has this lens in stock, there is a wait but you can put your name on that list. Or you can pick up a standard 50 cron or 50 lux or 50 summarit :)

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

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

To help out it is simple. 

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

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

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

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

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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!

 

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