Aug 292014
 

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A night with the Monochrom at ISO 10,000

So yesterday you saw where I wrote about the new Leica M-P and the silver Monochrom. Last night Debby and I decided to take a drive down to a cool hangout here in Phoenix called “The Lost Leaf’. We have been there a few times now and it always offers a great atmosphere, a huge selection of beers and drinks and every single night, live music. The last time I was there I brought along the Sony A7s and tested it in the torturous low light conditions of the Lost Leaf, which at times borders on near darkness. The A7s did well, even when pushed to over 80,000 ISO and seeing that I was going that high in ISO with the A7s, I did not think the Monochrom would be able to handle it, especially with the 50 f/2 lens I had on the camera. But I gave it a shot. I cranked the Monochrom to ISO 10,000, which is the max ISO for this camera, and I snapped a few frames.

Before heading in I set the MM to ISO 6400 and snapped a shot of this mural on the wall across the street. Click on it to see  the tones, graduations and sharpness. It was shot at 50mm and f/2, wide open.

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At ISO 10,000 the Monochrom puts out files that look like Tri-X 400 film.  All images below were shot at ISO 10,000

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People hanging out on the patio waiting for the nights musical act, Copper & Congress. 

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As the band started to play I took a test shot from my table to test the lighting and to see if ISO 10k and f/2 was enough. I managed to get 1/60th second.

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I feel the Monochrom puts out convincing B&W that does remind me of my M6 ad M7 film days..

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I moved in closer to get some shots of the band..

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By far my fave shot of the night, and this one is a JPEG from camera. ISO 10,000, f/2 – click it for much better viewing experience.

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The Sony A7s was also with me…

I also brought the Sony A7s with me along with the 35 2.8 and 55 1.8 Zeiss. It focused so accurate and fast for me using auto focus, even in these dim conditions..it was amazing. With that said, I had to crank the ISO higher on the Sony as I was using an f/2.8 lens so I used ISO 16,000 and 32,000. Only problem was I had the camera (by accident) set to JPEG only, and was shooting in the gimmicky “high contrast B&W mode” which killed the tonality of the image. None of them looked good, but it was my mistake for using the HC B&W option. Here is one example below of what that setting will do when used at high ISO and low light:

The next two shots were taken with the Sony A7s at ISO 16,000 and 32,000 using the 55 1.8 and 35 2.8. Problem is I had the camera set to JPEG only and used the High Contrast B&W mode which destroyed the tones. Lesson learned.

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As you can see, using high contrast B&W on the A7s destroyed the details, the tones and the overall look of the image (IMO). From now on, no more gimmick modes for me! If it were set to standard B&W it would have looked great. I can also see the NR at work from the camera even though it was set to low. Still, the A7s performed like a beast. Fast AF, quick and easy shooting, no issues. If I had it set to RAW and JPEG I could have saved my photos so user error on that one.

At the end of the day though I soooo loved shooting the Monochrom last night. It has been a while since I shot anything like this with a Leica and with the insanely low light here (It’s literally lit up by one red light bulb) I did not think the Leica would cut it, especially with a 50 f/2. While the Noct would have been amazing here, the little Zeiss 50 Planar f/2 did well. For me the Mono images have a teeny something about them that is beautiful and now I know that I can go up to ISO 10k in the dark without issue. It’s all about the exposure and if you nail it then you will have minimal noise.

I will be back to the Lost Leaf soon I am sure because it is great fun to see and shoot these live acts in such a cool inmate environment.

You can check out the Lost Leaf here and if you are ever in Phoenix I highly recommend stopping in. You can check out Copper & Congress at their website HERE. 

Aug 272014
 

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Wedding photography with a Sony RX100II

By Dennis Low

There are lots of contradictions when it comes to how photographers think about their equipment. Street photographers, for instance, often value small cameras and we all know the reasons why: when cameras are small, they’re unobtrusive, discrete; unlike dSLRs, small cameras look ‘friendly’ and ‘unthreatening’ which puts people at ease, should they even spot them at all. The ever-ready small camera is perfect for shooting the world unawares, capturing the moment as it happens.

All of this makes perfect, logical sense – until, that is, someone asks you to photograph their wedding. Now, you’d think wedding photographers, with everyone wanting candid, documentary, fly-on-the-wall imagery, would have a lot in common with street photographers, and that small cameras would be absolutely central to the wedding photography industry. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, if you’re looking for a wedding photographer, you’d be hard-pressed to find one who *isn’t* wielding, say, a couple of Canon 5D MK III bodies, 24-70mm f2.8 and 70-200mm f2.8 zooms, maybe with a couple of fast aperture primes to boot, or an outfit that’s very, very similar. With every guest at the wedding taking photographs already, the official photographer, it seems, needs to have equipment that’s bigger, better, and more expensive than everyone else’s – otherwise, what’s the point of hiring a photographer at all?

But surely it’s the photographer rather than the kit that matters, right? Yet, if that was the case, how come you never hear about wedding photographers using the pocket digicams favoured by many street photographers? and what would wedding photography look like if they did?

I spend most of my time developing my fine art practice and trying to find new ways of photographing animals but, last month, I was asked to photograph two weddings (consecutive weekends!). On both occasions, I was asked for candid, documentary-style shots, and instructed to ‘blend in’ and basically not get in the way.

That in mind, I had a think about how I was going to work: I wanted to be free to weave in and out between groups of guests, unencumbered by a huge, heavy bag; I wanted guests I’d never met to not even flinch when I stood next to them and took their picture. Visually, I wanted images that my clients could pore over in years to come, ones that reveal every detail of their wedding days rather than hide them in a gorgeous, creamy blur of expensive, full-frame bokeh at f1.4. (Those classy-looking, ambient light shots where nothing’s in focus except the bride’s left eye, or the groom’s new wedding ring, are actually pretty easy to do, but they don’t actually tell you a lot about the day, where they were taken, or when.) I wanted my photos to sidestep all those old wedding conventions and, instead, somehow tune into the language of the normal, everyday photography that everyone knows and understands, like the stuff you see all the time on Facebook or Instagram. But supercharged, obviously :-)

It became increasingly apparent that the tiny size and huge depth of field of small sensor cameras were just what I needed. So, I took a deep breath, resisted all things dSLR, left my Leica M9 at home, and packed a little satchel with a Sony RX100II, together with a couple of flashes on remote triggers.

What does a digicam wedding look like? can it ever look professional, and is it something you’d ever try to do? Take a look and decide for yourself!

Dennis Low

www.TakeMeToTheKittens.com

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Aug 212014
 

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New Digital Leica M-P with new features over M 240

So a new version of the Leica M 240 was just announced and is now faster in operation. Leica says it is more discreet with MP styling (which has always been my favorite color/style) and faster due to a 2 GB RAM buffer.

So here are the features of the new $7995 Leica M-P model, which is basically an enhanced M 240. As far as the sensor, some info says it is a new sensor and others say it is the same sensor as the 240. Sounds to me like Leica is using marketing slang to make some think it is a new sensor as they are calling it the Leica MAX and using words like “Newly Developed”.  I think it is the same exact sensor.

The M-P also has the Sapphire scratch resistant glass just like the old M9-P. The 2GB RAM buffer is twice as large as the one in the M 240 (1GB) so you will be able to fire off more shots in a row with the M-P.

The M9-P was the most attractive digital Leica ever IMO and I am happy to see the P version of the M 240 as it just looks so much nicer and discreet than the standard version with the huge red dot. The newest Sexiest digital camera in the world IMO.

Here are the specs:

Outstanding image quality thanks to newly developed LEICA MAX CMOS Sensor
Extended applications with Live View and electronic viewfinder
Simple, high-precision focusing thanks to Live View focus and focus peaking
Digital fullframe for Leica R lenses, with the Leica R-Adapter M
“Leica Look” videos with Full HD video capture (1080p)
Enhanced sensitivity range up to ISO 6400
3″ display with 920,000 pixels, Scratch resistant display-cover made of sapphire glass
Long-lasting readiness to capture due to a large double sized image buffer of 2GB
Splash protected body
Extremely long battery life
Manual viewfinder frame selection with the tradition ‘frame selector’
Pure look without the Leica Logo and “M” lettering on the front side

You can pre-order the new Leica M-P from any of the recommended dealers below:

Ken Hansen: Email him at [email protected] and tell him I sent ya!

PopFlash.com – They are also accepting pre-orders!

LeicaStoreMiami.com  - direct link the the new M-P is HERE

The Pro Shop – You can call them at 561-253-2606 or visit their site HERE. Tell them I sent you!

and of course B&H Photo has them up for pre-order as well!

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Aug 182014
 

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Got IQ? The Sigma DP2 Quattro Review. 

Here I am again with yet another Sigma DP body. This time, the newest super funky DP2 Quattro model. I have never seen ANYTHING quite like the design of this Quattro and after using it and shooting with it I can state up front that I actually adore the style and design. For my hands, it feels superb when out shooting and when held correctly it really is easy to shoot with, and a joy. The last time I was with a Sigma camera it was when I reviewed the DP2 Merrill. I loved the Merrill for its amazing image quality, which was the best I have seen in any small camera. Very much like Medium Format and in some ways even better.  Now the Quattro has taken that image quality, improved the AF speed and other aspects and then jammed it into an all new body that is worthy of a whole conversation in itself.

Out of camera JPEG of my Fiancee’ Debby. This is complete OOC. Just resized to 1800 pixels wide and no sharpening. You can see the larger size if you click the image. For me, this is gorgeous out of camera color and IQ. From detail to color to bokeh. It looks fabulous. 

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So what is the Quattro?

The Sigma DP2 Quattro is a super funky designed camera that houses a new Foveon sensor and it will give you some of the best image quality you have ever seen, period. Even when shooting JPEGS. IN fact, I much preferred shooting the enhanced resolution JPEG’s over shooting RAW as shooting RAW is a process. Why you ask? Well, shooting RAW means you have to process those files in the Sigma Slow Photo Pro software as the files from the Foveon chip are not compatible with any other software. This means, no using lightroom for your Sigma DP2 files.

The Quattro has a 29MP Foveon X3 Quattro CMOS image sensor which will give you 5424X3616 files. The color and detail in these files is absolutely beautiful. Some of the best I have ever seen.

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The Quattro has a unique design as well and does not look like any other camera I have seen or used. It is long, oddball and with a strange reverse grip. When I first held it I was saying “OH NO! What have they done? The grip does not feel right”!. Then after  few hours of use I was saying “This feels great! Shooting with two hands feels natural and easy”.

My Quattro Video Overview

Basically, the design..while odd..is very effective for me. I have small hands but the camera fits me well and the buttons and dials are easily within reach.

Image quality is through the roof and when browsing over images I took, which were mainly quick snapshots, I was continually blown away by the complete lack of adjusting the photos. No need for changing or adjusting color, no need to sharpen, no need to fix exposure and no need to change ANYTHING. Out of camera JPEGS were just so pleasing with a rich file and crisp 3D feeling images. The Quattro, IMO, offers the most pleasing IQ from any DP camera to date though I have found the Dynamic Range to be on the lower side when compared to other cameras like the E-M1, A7, etc. When you blow a highlight you will not be able to bring back the detail if it is severely blown.

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The lens is a 30mm f/2.8 that gives us the equivalent of a 40mm 2.8 with the APS-C sized sensor. The lens is sharp and with great color and rendering. The Bokeh is smooth and pleasing and there is plenty of detail to be found here. No complaints on the lens at all.

Build quality is also fantastic and a step up from the previous versions. It feels solid and well made but I do have one major complaint. I feel it is a big one. The door that houses the SD card is not a door at all but a rubber flap that has to be pulled out and moved to the side to access the SD card. Over time this rubber will break off and this will mean that the SD card compartment will be exposed to the elements of dust, dirt and moisture. Horrible design on the SD card part. Sigma should actually fix this in the current production and replace it with a legit door. Not sure who designed that or who approved of it but it is the worst design SD card compartment cover I have seen.

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The Sigma is also missing any kind of EVF or OVF and the LCD does not tilt or swivel. If Sigma would have added these two things they would have had a serious camera that would be tough to pass up for those who love their image quality. The brand spanking new Foveon X3 Quattro direct image sensor is quite a bit different from the previous Foveon sensor due to a new top layer with a higher res. This should now give more detailed results with faster image processing and overall speed. So Sigma has reworked their sensor tech and the 29MP Quattro is said to give the results and resolution of a 39 MP normal sensor. Pretty cool.

Here is what Sigma says about their creation:

“Unique and without peer among image sensors, the Foveon direct image sensor is similar to traditional color film in that its multiple layers capture all of the information that visible light transmits. Vertical color separation technology produces incredibly rich color gradations, which in turn make possible texture and expressive power that are immediately apparent to the eye. Even when you are photographing an object with a single color, the sensor captures the full gradation perfectly, with no discordant jumps between lighter and darker areas. Proof that capturing color accurately one pixel at a time really makes a difference, these perfect gradations are at the heart of what we call “full-bodied image quality.”

While delivering this rich, colorful, ultra-high resolution that optimally replicates what you see in the real world, the new dp offers image files of a reasonable size in an easy-to-process format. To achieve this combination, we thoroughly rethought and redesigned every aspect of the camera, including the sensor, engine, lens, body, and interior layout. The result is a camera that carries on the dp tradition and gives you unprecedented image quality.

To a radical degree, the new-generation dp series embodies SIGMA’s philosophy of creating cameras that produce works of art. Featuring the highest level of fundamental performance, this series unites artistic expression and daily experience as no other cameras can.”

As it stands, the camera produces some of the most gorgeous colors and files I have seen…comparable to real medium format files but are the weaknesses enough to put you off from buying it? Let us take a look at everything in a little bit more detail.

My son Brandon and my Nephew John while visiting the domes of Casa Grande, AZ. Sigma Sp2 Quattro at 2.8. This is from RAW. Click it for larger!

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The Auto Focus speed of the Quattro

With the DP2 Merrill the AF speed is what killed it for me. Even the write times to the card were horrible. I wanted to love the DP2 Merrill and buy one as I started to get addicted to the image quality. At the end of the day I could not do it as when it launched it was $999 and for me to spend a grand I need a camera that will not frustrate the hell out of me to get a shot. The DP2 Merrill with its quirks and annoyances put me off from buying one, even at the current price of $699. It is just too slow and doesn’t feel right in the hand to me. You can read my review of that camera HERE.

With the Quattro I had hoped that Sigma improved the Auto Focus speed. If not, it would be the same thing for me and the design would not have saved it.

After shooting the Quattro in many different conditions I have found the AF to be much better this time around but still on the slow side of the tracks. It will not compete in AF speed with the Olympus E-M1 or E-P5, the Fuji X-T1 or the Nikon 1 series. It is nowhere near DSLR Focus speeds either, but it is much better than the old DP2 Merrill. The camera is full of flaws but IQ is not one of them.

When shooting in decent light it is quick enough to get a grab shot though not fast enough to catch a super quick moment. Even with the speed increase, which also is seen in write times, it does not even come close to making the Quattro any sort of action camera. I still say that this camera is best for static subjects. Portraits, scenes, landscapes, urban decay, etc. This is where the camera will excel. I have found the images to have a medium format feel in color and details. In fact, the IQ is so special with this camera that I feel the speed increases seen, while still slow, make the camera worth a purchase for those who value superb color and IQ. For portraits this camera just gets it right and if used from ISO 100-800 you will not be let down by the IQ. If coming from a Merrill of even older DP2 you will find the speed increases very welcome indeed. Just do not expect a speed demon, as it is in NO WAY a speedy camera in operation.

The next three images..all OOC JPEG

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What the DP2 Quattro is missing, in my opinion

While I have been enjoying my time with the little Quattro I have been wishing that it has a few things that it does not, and if it did, it would make it complete IMO. For one, I love the fact that it is so simple. It is a device built for one thing, all out image quality without any stress of color, sharpness or quality. In this regard, it just works. Image after image, even of plain old mundane subjects looked superb, reminding me of the old Leica M9 in many ways with the crisp yet pleasing details and slide like film color. Add in some medium format smoothness and you have a camera that REALLY delivers in the IQ department. I know I said this already but for me, the IQ is almost worth the asking price alone here. Add in the funky design (which I love) and the ease of use and you have a real camera that photo geeks and enthusiasts will really enjoy when shooting in good light.

But the DP2 is not perfect, far from it.

For starters, there is no EVF  here. An EVF embedded into the body would have just added so much to the experience. When out in bright light the LCD gets hard to see and framing your shot is basically not possible. It turns into a guessing game for everything. An EVF would have solved this and made it more enjoyable to shoot. Sigma is releasing an OVF (Optical View Finder) for the Quattro but there are issues to using an OVF with a digital camera.  For starters, let’s say you shot with the LCD off (which is as easy as a button press away) and wanted to frame with the OVF. You will not get an exact framing nor will you know where the camera focused. If you want precise focus you will need to use the LCD. An EVF would have been perfect.

Also, the LCD does not swivel and while I appreciate this being done to keep clean lines and save on thickness, it hurts the usability because without the EVF or a tilt LCD it takes away points for versatility. Then we have the shoddy high ISO performance. I have been using the Sony A7s as my main camera for months now and have become quite spoiled with the ability to shoot anywhere and at anytime. With the DP2 Quattro forget low light interior shots or ISO above 800. After ISO 800 the noise gets nasty and even with color I would prefer to stop at ISO 400. This is one area where the Foveon sensors just have not been able to improve upon. At base ISO and up to 400 the file quality is outstanding in color or B&W. After 400-800 you will want to go B&W only, and yes, you can get good results at ISO 3200 with B&W. OOC B&W mode looks great.

So while the IQ and design is beautiful (for me and my tastes) the camera still lacks due to not having an EVF, swivel LCD and not so great high ISO performance.

With that out-of-the-way, if one wants a camera for certain subjects like portraits, landscape or scenic type of stuff then the Quattro will deliver better than almost any other camera. I feel it has better IQ than the Leica M9 that came in at $7k. From color to detail, it is stupendous. If we treat it like a “Mini Medium Format” then it is understandable  that it is lacking in many ways but up there with the best of the best in other ways.

As long as you know what you are getting with the Quattro then it is highly unlikely that you will be disappointed with it. I recently saw a YouTube video review of this camera and the guy concluded with “It’s a piece of crap”. I have never seen such a horrible review as the guy had no idea how to use it to its potential. The Quattro is far from a piece of crap and is highly capable when it comes to making/creating an image. From the color to the detail to the rich file. You just have to realize what it is and what it is not!

The NONO’s: No action shots, no low light interior or night shots, no easy framing in harsh sun. Battery life is below average but camera comes with two of them.

The WOW’s!: Gorgeous MF like IQ & color, unique design and simple menu setup. OOC JPEGS look fantastic.

There more OOC JPEGS…

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The Shooting experience with the Quattro

The DP2 Quattro, as previously stated, is a unique design. I am a HUGE fan of those companies that go outside of the box when it does to design and features. I love to see companies push the envelope and do or try things that no one else does. When I saw the design of the Quattro before it was released I was very excited about it because it was something different from the normal ho hum camera shape. I found the DP2 Merrill to have an awful body design. The Quattro, while odd at first while holding it soon becomes comfy and natural. I had zero issues using the body, holding the body or controlling the camera. The magnesium alloy body feels solid and secure and everything is top quality (besides the dumb rubber SD card cover).

Brandon getting the shot with his Diana camera. OOC JPEG. Blown highlights outside in the sun. 

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Using Auto Focus with the Quattro is a much nicer experience over the DP2 Merrill, which was borderline unusable for most situations. At least now we have a somewhat snappy AF and while it will hunt in low light, it is not bad at all. I expected worse, so it exceeded my expectations in the Auto Focus speed department. The Quattro does not do the fancy tricks that other cameras do. Video? Nope. Fancy built-in effects? Nope. No panorama, no smile detect, etc. It is a simple camera with a simple design and button layout.

The Menu system is superb. Clean, elegant and easy to browse. I wish all were like this. It reminds me of a Leica menu in its simplicity and the quick menu is so clean, so easy to navigate and make changes. I love it.

When I washout shooting with the DP2 Quattro I always loved taking it out of my bag to shoot and I even had a few people ask me what it was I was taking pictures with. It is a conversation starter and stare getter for sure, so forget about being stealth with the Quattro. Never once did I have an issue with anything and it always delivered the goods. I had a wonderful time shooting with it unlike the previous DP2 Merrill.

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It’s all in the details

Even when shooting JPEG you can see the immense detail in the image. Below are three images with 100% crops embedded. You must click the image to see it with the crop. Remember, these are from JPEG!

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High ISO Test and Crops

The Sigma DP2 Quattro, or any DP camera for that matter is NOT a camera made for low light shooting. In fact, for best IQ keep this camera set to ISO 100-400 and no more than that. Yes, very low on the ISO scale but there are always trade offs as there are no perfect cameras. The DP2 Quattro is a camera to pull out of the bag when there is good light available. Then it will reward you with beautiful colors and results.

I am posting a few high ISO files below starting with base ISO 100. I them move on to 400, 800. 1600, 3200 and 6400. The best are 100 and 400 but see for yourself. Once you get to ISO 1600 problems start to creep in including odd color shifts and reduced DR. Stick from 100-800 and you will be just fine.

For best viewing experience, right-click and open each image in a new window. These are full size files from the camera, OOC JPEG

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JPEG vs RAW comparison

I have found that shooting the Quattro in JPEG  to be quite good. In fact, with all of the hassles of processing the RAW files of the DP2 Quattro I would just shoot JPEG for 95% of what I shoot. If I was shooting something very special that I was going to print large t hen I would process the RAW file for sure. Below are two images, one out of camera JPEG and one processed from RAW.

JPEG is up top, RAW underneath. Right click and open in a new window to see the files in their full size. 

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Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Outstanding Medium Format image quality!
  • Unique design and shape that works well for my hands
  • Conversation starter
  • Detail, color and 3D feel is all here
  • Camera ships with two batteries and full charger
  • 30mm f/2.8 lens is sharp corner to corner
  • Sigma’s best DP to date
  • Faster Af and processing over previous DP cameras
  • Great JPEG engine
  • Super JPEG size:  7,680×5,120
  • Superb for B&W shooting
  • OVF is available for those that want one
  • Good Dynamic Range up to ISO 800
  • Menu system is simple, clean and elegant
  • Most Unique camera of 2014!
  • IQ puts most other cameras to shame…really.

Cons

  • Still slow to AF compared to other (non DP) cameras
  • No swivel LCD
  • Must get exposure correct as it is tough to recover highlights
  • SD Card rubber “door” will break eventually
  • No kind of EVF even possible
  • Shape may be trouble for some
  • Battery life is not the best, sucks down quick.
  • Fixed lens means only 40mm equivalent
  • Limited ISO use, best from 100-400
  • Dynamic Range suffers after ISO 800+
  • RAW files can only be opened and processed by Sigma Software, which is SLOW as molasses.

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Who is this camera for?

The Sigma DP2 Quattro is a camera for camera pros, enthusiasts, and hobbyists. It is not a P&S for a new camera buyer or for someone without any knowledge of how a camera works. It is for those who crave detail, rich color and unreal micro contrast. It is for those who want a Medium Format look and feel in a camera that is much smaller and lighter, as well as cheaper. It is a camera for portraits, landscapes or still life. It is not for someone who wants to shoot running kids inside the house. No way, no how. If you shoot outdoor scenes, landscape or people and you want a camera that will deliver some of the most beautiful files you have seen, the this may be your camera. I find it works great as a 2nd camera for special situations or those moments when something like this will work for you.

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Final Word

As I sit here and think about my time with the DP2 Quattro I am extremely pleased and happy with the image quality. It exceeded every expectation and beats out some much more expensive cameras when shooting in the iSO 100-400 range. For IQ, this is one of those camera that just scream out with it. It doesn’t get better in IQ even in the 3K range! It was reminding me of such cameras as the Leica M9, Sony RX1R and even a few Medium Format cameras when it comes to IQ. That is some pretty impressive company, especially when you consider that the camera sells for $999. Well under the others I mentioned.

But will the IQ be enough for most of you who are in the market for a new camera? Probably not. The Sigma DP Quattro would not make for a good “one camera” to own because it limits your shooting to daytime or good light, ISO 100-800 for color shooting and it does not offer an EVF or swivel LCD. The Battery life is tough (but it does ship with two) and the camera does not do video or the gimmicky tricks that some other cameras do so well.

The DP Quattro is about one thing and one thing only…making memories in decent light with the best quality possible in this size and format for under $1000.

The Auto Focus has improved greatly from the DP2 Merrill I tested but it is still lacking in speed when compared to other cameras. I never found it unusable or missing the shot, not at all, but again…it is only good for still shots, NOT action or moving subjects and in low light it slows down and hunts. The DP2 Quattro has the all new sensor that delivers faster speed and better performance across the board and the 29 MP Foveon sensor is said to give the same results as a standard 39MP sensor. I would not argue that point. The battery life has improved from the Merril’s 50-60 shots per charge and now I can get about 120-140 shots per charge The two batteries supplied should be good for a day of shooting as long as you are not a speed demon machine gun shooter (if so, this is NOT your camera).

Shooting the Quattro is something you will either LOVE or HATE. If you can get along with the funkytown design then you will enjoy shooting with the Quattro. If you find the grip odd or off, then forget it.

Me, I love the design. I think it is the loveliest camera design of 2014.

So will I buy one? When B&H Photo sent me this camera to review I assumed I would “like” it but not “love” it. Well, I fell hard for the special image quality which does have some magic embedded in it. I also enjoyed the faster AF and write times and beefier design. I hate the flimsy rubber SD card “door” but overall enjoyed my time with the camera. I feel it is worth the $999 if you are after IQ for landscapes or portraits and as a 2nd camera for those times when you want the Foveon Look. So I have to ask myself if I would use it enough. I have a Leica, I have a Sony A7s and still have an Olympus E-M1 lying around. Do I need this one? NO, not at all. Do I want it? Sure, I would love to own it just for the IQ, color and design. I feel one day this camera will sit in a museum for its unique yet oddball design! It may be a flop sales wise but it sure is unique ;)

So would I buy one? Yes indeed, if I had the spare $1k to spend, without hesitation. If I can save some cash I may just go for it. I passed on all previous DP models but this one is my favorite without question. I can not image ANYONE being disappointed with the image quality. Just beware that you will need light because after ISO 400 or 800 the IQ degrades fast.

I would love to test this camera and the upcoming DP1 (28mm equivalent)  during my upcoming Southwest workshop as it would create some breathtaking images I am sure. I may have to buy one just for that trip :)

WHEN YOU SIT AND THINK ABOUT IT…the Sigma DP Quattro beats the Leica M 240, Sony A7 and others for Image Quality, has Auto Focus (the Leica does not) and comes in at $6k less (than the Leica) but includes a lens where the Leica does not. When you look at it in this way then it is a no brainer and worth the cost if you value high image quality above all. Just be ready for what this camera does NOT do well (low light, action, etc).

Overall it gets a recommendation from me, and a high one..but only if your main concern is image quality and you do not need a camera for low light or for fast moving subjects.

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Where to Buy

The Sigma DP2 Quattro is available at the links below from my recommended dealers:

B&H Photo – You can see or buy the Dp2 Quattro at B&H Photo HERE

Amazon – Buy the Quattro at Amazon by using my link HERE

Outside the USA? Use my Amazon UK, Germany and Canada links HERE.

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

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

To help out it is simple. 

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

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

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

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

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

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

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

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

Aug 042014
 

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The Mitakon 50 0.95 lens Review on the Sony A7s

My Review of the Mitakon 50 T 0.95 Lens as used on a Sony A7s camera by Steve Huff

It appears that B&H photo is taking orders for the popular Mitakon 50 0.95 (see the review I posted earlier today) with a ship date of 2-4 weeks. You can pre-order HERE direct from B&H Photo.  

All images here shot as JPEG on the Sony A7s (review of the A7s is HERE)

A few months ago I wrote a first look on the Mitakon 50 0.95 lens for Sony E mount cameras. The Mitakon is a unique lens in that it is built like a tank to a very high level, comes in a deluxe hard shell case and is uber fast at 0.95. It is also a full frame lens, so basically it is MADE for the Sony A7 series of cameras which all have a full frame sensor. It CAN be used on APS-C E-Mount cameras of course but the full benefit comes when using it on full frame. There is no real vignetting issue (though there is slight vignetting wide open), no color issues and at the price of the lens (which is now $999) it is a great buy for anyone looking for an artistic lens for their Sony A7, A7r or A7s. if you can find one for sale that is…

My 1st look of the lens in April created a buzz and many shooters ordered the lens. I must have had over 75 e-mails from those who said they placed an order within a couple of days of my post. Wow. Only if I made a commission ;) So it seemed to generate quite a bit of attention, and that was with my 1st look and a few other blurbs from others online at the time. Today, four months later there are a few others who own the lens and more is being written about it on various online forums and sites.

My months of use with the Mitakon, still enjoying it!

The Mitakon really surprised me and here I am now four months later, still using it and still enjoying the hell out of it. I have been shooting with it on the Sony A7s as I felt that this combo would be the ultimate low light dream team. An 0.95 aperture lens with a camera that can shoot in darkness as it is. Wow. I used this lens in such darkness that required 0.95 and ISO 102,000. INSANE, but man, it has the capability to be used in some crazy situations when it comes to available light. As of today, August 2014, the A7s is my favorite and most used camera. Pictured below is an A7 with the Mitakon, from my 1st look report.

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This post will be my follow-up to my 1st look (which can be seen here) and I have found that using it on the A7s to be the best experience yet. The color is fantastic, the depth is superb and even the Bokeh is very pleasing in many shots.

Shot wide open with smooth Bokeh. Shot as a JPEG and accidentally had it in Vivid mode but still looks pleasing. Sharpness is there and color is as well. Sony A7s.

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I wanted to use the heck out of this lens before writing this as I was making sure the lens would not fall apart on me or have some other serious issues. To date it has performed flawlessly and is still as solid as it was on day one. I even lucked out and had serial # 000001 sent to me. Yep, the first production model off the line. The fit, finish and performance has gone above and beyond the price range. When you consider that the full frame Leica 50 0.95 Noctilux goes for $11,000, ($10,000 more than this one) and that they are both full frame 0.95 lenses built to a high standard..it makes you wonder..$10k difference? Does the Leica have that much difference in its build and feel and performance? Well, no it doest. The Leica is indeed the much better lens but I would say it is about $2,000 better, not $10,000 better. The Leica will have a better build, is heavier, larger and sharper (when calibrated correctly) and will have world leading Bokeh quality unlike any other lens made. It will also have more CA/Purple Fringing, which is odd but true. The Mitakon is surprisingly absent of CA from my shots (in which I have not seen much of it at all).

Smooth, silky, nice color once again and fantastic sharpness and transitions from sharp to blurred (DOF). Sony A7s

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Bokeh test..looks good to me for a $999 lens.

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When I sit down to write about a lens, or review a lens, I always try to make sure I am not rambling on about it, but sometimes I still do. This review will be short (for my standards, long for most others standards) and I will keep it under 3000 words. There is not too much to say about it anyway but I will break it all down from packaging to build to feel and use to sharpness, issues and final conclusion. Will even throw in a quick comparison to the Sony 55 1.8. While the Mitakon is not a perfect lens, and there are some things to be aware of like the fact that it is manual focus only, for $999 I have never seen a lens like it.

Mitakon has created something that is not only affordable for this  type of lens, but very useful and with good quality all the way around. In no way is the lens they sent me shoddy in workmanship or focus feel. It is up there with any Leica lens I have used or owned when it comes to focusing feel (which is smooth and nice). Remember, the Leica Noctilux is $11,000 (one of mine had to be repaired twice after the aperture blades broke down inside), the old SLR Magic 50 0.95 Hyperpriime was $4500+ (which never gave me one problem) and then there are the various $999 0.95 50′s that were just awful from color, to sharpness, to bokeh. None of those $999 lenses even come close to this Mitakon. None of them.

A few images shot indoors and wide open at 0.95 at low light during a Phoenix AZ meet up I set up last week.

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As you can see from the JPEG images above, in low light, the Mitakon 50 0.95 is a great performer, especially considering what it is, what it costs and what it can do. If you click the images here in this review you will see them how they were meant to be seen. All I have done with these is resize them to 1800 pixels wide for web viewing. They look great on my 27″ screen. Even looking at the Bokeh in these images, in no way do I find it irritating, busy or offensive. Actually, I am finding it pleasing, creamy and “fat”. With that I mean the highlights that are Out of focus are big, fat and puffy which is an effect of the large aperture. Overall the character of the Mitakon is sort of “rounded” meaning it is not analytically sharp nor is it soft. The focus point, which is VERY small when shooting wide open will be sharp but the rest of the image will look more dreamlike. For example…

Shot this below in JPEG and focused on the glasses. The rest of the image is a tad soft due to Depth of Field, not because of sharpness. This lens is plenty sharp, even at 0.95 AT THE focus point! Remember when shooting 0.95 of full frame your depth of field is TINY! All three images below were shot at 0.95 and are right from the Sony A7s JPEG mode.

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In fact. this lens remains pretty sharp wide open but gets sharper when stopped down to at least 1.4. Almost 95% of the images here were shot wide open at T0.95. Yes, this is a T 0.95, not an F/0.95. What does that mean? Well, to make it simple it basically means that it is FASTER than an f/0.95…but only slightly. So for me, having a T 0.95 lens at $999 that is full frame, well made and performs well in regards to color and sharpness at T 0.95, well, it is something we never see. This lens is up there with lenses that cost much more so $999 is a great price point for the lens. Anyone who owns a full frame Sony E mount and has interest in a fast lens..well, I can not imagine anyone being disappointed in the 50 T 0.95.

The lens comes in a deluxe case like the one you see below. Nice touch,

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My 1st Look Video

Below is the video I did of the lens in my 1st look. You can see the lens, the case, etc.

The Sony 55 1.8 vs the Mitakon 50 T 0.95? A comparison.

No, it is not as crisp of analytical as the Sony/Zeiss 55 1.8, which is a FANTASTIC lens for the Sony A7 cameras. The Sony/Zeiss 55 is sharp, has AF and has no issues with color, distortion or sharpness. At all. It has pleasing Bokeh as well. So who in their right mind would choose the Mitakon over the Sony when you lose Auto Focus, across the frame crispness and the lightweight construction of the lens making it easier to carry? Well, that is a tough one as the Sony is such a good lens and the cost is about the same at around a grand.

For me, I would choose the Sony if I wanted ease of use, convenience and perfection. I would choose the Mitakon if I enjoyed using a manual focus lens (which I do) and even faster aperture (T 0.5 vs f/1.8) and enjoyed a more artistic rendering and Bokeh. The Sony is more “correct” but the Mitakon is more “Creative”. The Sony will deliver pleasing results but some have said the Sony lens is too crisp and analytical with no real character. I agree with that somewhat as it is a bit “bland” in its rendering. I am a fan of character which is one reason I love so many old Leica lenses. The Mitakon has loads of character but it may not be everyones cup of tea. The best way to find out is to look at image shot with the Sony and images shot with the Mitakon. Then decide for yourself which rendering you prefer.

Below is a crappy test shot in my yard at 8PM  - one taken with the Mitakon at 0.95 and 1.8 and then one shot with the Sony 55 1.8 at 1.8. You can compare them for yourself.

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Low light use

Many have asked me how hard it is to use the Mitakon, as in.. not only in good light but in low light as well. How is it to focus the lens using the Sony EVF? Does focus peaking work well?

When I was using the lens in almost complete darkness I used the EVF and have my custom button set to magnify for critical focusing. This will slow you down but at T 0.95 in the dark it is hard rot rely on peaking alone as you may miss when you think you hit. Using magnify I never had an out of focus shot but it did slow me down. The Sony 55 1.8 would have AF’d using the A7s in the dark so it would have been a better lens to use for speed but not for character, as mentioned above.

I shot this guy and pushed it to the limits, even going to ISO 102,000 at T 0.95 in almost complete darkness. I found it has a flare issue if pointed direct into a light source and also found it has some barrel distortion. Other than that, the lens is problem free, or has been for me at least.

The performer I shot in the 1st image personally emailed me and told me how much she loved that image and she invited me back  to shoot them again next time they came to town. It is always nice to get a compliment on your work. The fact that the Mitakon worked here is quite amazing as no other camera or lens would. I tried my Leica M and 50 f/2 and it was impossible even at ISO 6400 (max of the M). Even with an 0.95 lens on the M it would not have worked as I needed to go to ISO 25,000 and up for this light.

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and 102,400 again but with the flare

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Using this combo of A7s and 50 Mitakon in extremely low light, bordering on full darkness in some situations was a pleasure. I had no idea if anything would work out or be usable (especially the insane 102k iso shots) but man…when I came home and downloaded the images I was shocked. Not only were they all usable, they looked good! Up to ISO 32,000 was fantastic, and this was all JPEG shooting!

It was during this time that I bonded with my A7s and Mitakon. This also made the Sony A7s my #1 go to camera for day-to-day shooting. While I normally use the Sony 35 28 and 55 1.8, I bring out the Mitakon when I want the look and feel that it offers, which is similar but different to any other 0.95 lens I have used.

While not perfect for most A7 shooters due to the fact that it is manual focus only, the fact that it is such a fast lens and will be hard for amateurs or those new to fast glass to focus at 0.95, the fact that it does have some slight barrel distortion and flare (if pointed to a light source, but so do many Leica lenses), well, makes it NOT perfect. But no lens is perfect (besides THIS one) and at $999, for a lens of this build quality, speed and performance, well, we have a home run hit for Sony shooters who want something like this and want something that will perform without breaking the bank.

One thing about the Mitakon that is unique to lenses such as this is the close focusing ability. Yep, you can focus this lens as close as .5 meters, which is pretty close. When shooting at the closest focusing distance it is very tricky to nail focus when wide open but when you do, you will get a somewhat sharp image. For comparison, the Leica Noctilux will focus only to 1m.

Two images of our new puppy “Olive”. The 1st one at 0.95 and the 2nd at 0.95 but at the closest focusing distance of .5 meters. Love the OOC color here from the A7s and I even have a print of this I made at 8X10. Looks lovely.

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Where to Buy the Mitakon?

Well, here is the tricky part. I was sent the lens to review and the site that used to have them listed for pre-order has seemingly taken the lens off of its site. I can not find it as of today yet it was there 4 months ago when I wrote my 1st look. I did find a few e-bay listings for pre-orders but this lens is only available buying direct from Hong Kong. There are no distributors in the USA it seems. I remember SLR Magic having these same issues with no real easy way to order their lenses. I find that to be a huge mistake as ordering should be simple, easy and hassle free. Yes, all three of those words mean the same thing but c’mon! Pushing out a cool lens like this, asking for a review and then offering no real way to order the lens? Odd.

So I would suggest going to MXcamera (if you have interest in it) and sending them a message about this lens..as in..”how can I order and when can you ship”. The ordering is the one area that makes me uneasy about this lens. It just doesn’t seem to be obtainable, at least in an easy way. So if you can find one and want one I do recommend it as it is a super lens for any A7 shooter.

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

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My Final Conclusion

The Mitakon is a very good lens for full frame Sony A7 shooters and it is MADE for the Sony E mount. It is not usable on Fuji, Micro 4/3 or Leica. It is a wonderful creative lens and I am proud to have one in my collection. I know that if I have to shoot something in insanely low light that the combo of A7s and Mitakon will get it done without issue. The more I use it, the more I like it. There is a slight learning curve here with the lens as well and it may take a few days to get used to focusing it and nailing the shots. The lens does show some slight barrel distortion if shooting straight lines up close and has slight vignetting wide open at 0.95 (as do all 0.95 lenses). It is not the easiest lens to get a hold of but I have nothing but praise for this guy because at $999 it is well wroth it to anyone who has a Sony A7, A7r or A7s. I liked it best on the A7s.

Steve

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!

Jul 302014
 

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My Photo and Camera Journey

By Steven Crichton

The first act: Style and Ergonomics.

I suppose the first time I realised I had a look to my work was when a lecturer watched a group project and exclaimed “That’s a Crichton shot if ever I saw it”. I suppose it was at this point it dawned on me that I’d finally achieved the personal nirvana that so many of us dare not mention to ourselves in our work. I had a style unique to me.

I’ve been involved in photography since about 1996, when a few friends were applying to go to Art School. I looked at their portfolios and said to myself, “I can do that” and that was the point at which I paid £5 for a beaten up Fuji ST501, started to invest my pocket-money and hard-earned cash from a dishwashing job in film. I was abysmal!

I tried every technique. Read every book. I could never stick to one thing and dipped my toe into every known stylistic pattern I could achieve with a 50mm lens and a darkroom. Just the other day I found a bundle of solarised prints, no doubt borne out of a section in a book borrowed from the library on Man Ray, along with a passage in a John Hedgecoe Darkroom Techniques.

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Anyway as time went on I jumped about gear too. As I aged, my credit rating aged, my earning capacity increased and by the end of my initial film use period I was deep into a canon EOS system. With a healthy splattering of M42 adapted lenses. A Russian fisheye and a motor drive meaning I’d achieved 7th heaven for a then aspiring Skateboard photographer. However, around this time I started wearing glasses and this is where the second part of the tale comes in.

I’m left eyed. I wear glasses. Find me any camera designed for eye level use for a left eyed glasses wearing photographer! My right eye had been damaged by spray painting accident as a 5-year-old in helping dad fix the car. An incident where a man underneath a dismantled engine, holding a crankshaft doesn’t sometime have the time to realise he forgot to put the safety cap back on the spray can. I cried yellow and didn’t get the chocolate I was promised. Other than that I became predominantly left eyed and forever the last person the R&D department of every camera manufacturer would think about.

Back to the rest now.. It was about the time of starting university that I gave up taking photos as voraciously as I did before. I stopped carrying a camera and concentrated on playing the Guitar. Also as many camera toting musicians will know if gear is addictive in photography, with electric instruments my word the possibilities are endless to allow your hard-earned money pour from your pockets. Anyway, University ended, I bought a car .. cue next money / energy waste. Then I met a girl! (I had met them before, just not a significant one)

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She was an art student and did a film course. Bang I was back. Starting out with the most beaten up canon F1n you had seen. I alas didn’t get to meet Crocodile Dundee whilst using it ( I later stupidly refused an offer to buy the actual camera from the film ), but I found my love again. This combined with a purchase of a proper film scanner a DSLR and a Seagull TLR camera I dipped my toe back in. Excited as well by the advent of Flickr. A wonderful place where we can all have our backs patted and have a serious amount of paid work time wasted if your then employer doesn’t understand what you really do for a living.

Hasselblads, Contaxes, Leica R’s, Nikons (to which I stayed loyal on the periphery) , Linhof’s. Even a B17 Bomb-door Aero-Ektar mounted into a Graflex to shoot handheld. I jumped about a lot. My nose firmly planted behind the back of each of them. Glasses pressed to the side of my head. Still jumping between a lot of things as formats and my taste changed.

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Then suddenly. Something worked.

It’s that moment I hope all of you will have one day that. The camera comes up and goes down. You don’t look at the screen and you know what you saw you captured as you intended.

It came in the form of a Bessa R3a and a 40mm Nokton. Plus add into the mix Kodak UC 400 and Ilford HP5. I’d bought the hand winder, so no more poking my face winding on. I’d bought the grip to push the winder into my hand that looks like a dildo. Plus I’d actually read and paid attention to the wonderful font of knowledge that Roger Hicks and Frances Schulz bestowed upon us in their book of Exposure. ( for anyone looking at it .. take older sensors as slide film and newer ones a little more like print film)

It’s about this time things became consistent. I found my eye.. I found the lenses that fitted my thoughts. Then got an M2 then an M4-P to use in tandem. Looking back now at work from then it’s almost the same as it is now in the composure, the colour and ways I’ve torn a set of shapes my brain was faced with into a picture to draw someone in or hopefully let them see a little of what I saw in someone.

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The Second Act:

Life sometimes deal’s strange a strange hand to us and I was given the opportunity to study an Imaging masters at Duncan of Jordanstone art school in Scotland. I jumped at the chance, after being so angrily denied previously by my parents.By then video in DSLR’s had hit, I had a D90, I’d wasted countless hours reading about T stops, Focus Pulls, made dubious home-made rigs and all the like. I’d even written my own video editing software as by trade I’m a programmer. I sold almost all my film stuff keeping the M4-P and 2 lenses and hit Nikon hard for a range of lenses, tripods and bags.

The Crunch. No one tells you how much you will hate something when you are forced to do it!

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Creative work for me had been an escape. It now became a battle when I had to justify it with research and abstraction in every way. I wished people would get it ..

“If I think it’s interesting and cool and so do you, why do I need to back reference this to some made up back story or delve into the battle that art has with science”.

As you all can gather in an art school this is like presenting a lecturer with a freshly scraped up piece of roadkill. So I stopped. Completely. I graduated and stopped. 3 years passed and thankfully, the bitter taste of pressure gone, I wanted to enjoy the process of photography again.

Moving to a city such as London, you downsize, rapidly and totally. I went from a 4 bedroom house to a single room, so the loss of equipment was brutal. No more Leica’s, 1 Nikon d300s and an old F3 I had if I wanted to shoot some film. After a year of the city I left, but in the strange hand of fate kept a full-time night job with the Tate gallery, as well as my new full-time position back in Scotland at a Medical School in Dundee.

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I had money!

I mean I had the kind of money you either put a deposit on a house with or you consciously waste on every childhood dream toy you ever wanted. I drove a fast car, toted a Nikon D3s. Had the best zooms, the best primes (according to reviewers) and still had the same style! At last consistency in my work. Alas my nose and my eye hated placing a D3s shaped brick to it, but I went on.

The Final Act:

Then I sold it all. 4 backpacks of lenses bodies, supports, diopters you name it. If there was something in a drawer and it had Nikon or was “compatible” I put it in the camera bags I had and jumped on the train. 8 hours later standing in the North of Scotland I had an M9. Along with it, 4 lenses and the viewfinders needed. I genuinely felt like I had just come back home.

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A bit of time with adjusting the focus to allow for my eye being at an angle to the viewfinder and a soft release to boot I haven’t looked back. Throughout all of this time since getting it my shots look like my shots, I know what to expect and I know how it will all sit together still.

Then all of a sudden I’d expanded this kit a bit. G.A.S struck! Things like the voigt 12mm the summicron v4 etc .. all lenses that are according to the internet “sub par” on an M9. Little do they know .. I don’t shoot test charts and I actually print stuff I like out. I also work to the limits of what they can do. Then came along came Sony!

The crowning glory that Sony have managed, that is ignored by all. Is that the A7 range cameras can use every lens known to god and can nearly accommodate a part Italian Scottish nose when combined with a left eye. People bang on that lens X is awful, and continue to do so. “You need a Leica M240 or if only they had …” I say to you, when you use it does your style show through? Does it fit you? As nothing else matters. (unless it’s a biogon lens then yes they are awful… sorry Zeiss and sorry for the double standards people of the internet these are bad on the A7 ranges even adobe’s DNG light field correction filters can rescue them).

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So what do I grab now? I grab what works. I don’t assume a lens will deal a magic blow and I don’t assume the camera has an automated mode that makes me a grand master selling work for more money than I earn in a year. I grab the M9 or the A7 dependent on weight/laziness/feeling/weather and go out and shoot.
Probably by this time you are all very bored with this and looking for a conclusion. Well it’s in the Title; Style and Ergonomics.

If you can get a style stick with it, keep on working with it. If you can find something that fits you as a human, even if it’s not resolving 100000 lph or has a dash of vignetting and aberration, you will use it more than the 20kg Zeiss Otus that your wrist screams at. For me it’s a badly worn M9 and an A7 with a ragtag bag of lenses and I’ll be keeping it that way for years to come.

http://www.zuikomedia.com/

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Jul 242014
 

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The Sony RX100 III Review. The best pocket camera ever?

You can buy the RX100 III at B&H Photo HERE or Amazon HERE.

Man oh man oh man! Sony is on fire and hotter than ever (Sony A7s just recently and now this) and while the RX100 III is sort of older news already, as in, it has been released and in the hands of many shooters for a while now it is just now that I have been able to sit down, relax, and write down my thoughts about it after using it for 2-3 weeks. As many of you know, the RX100 III is the latest and greatest version of the Sony RX100, a true pocket rocket of a camera. In my review of the original RX100, I praised it up and down for what it was, what it could do and how it could do it, all while fitting in a front pocket. You can read that review here and to be honest, the original is still a damn fine camera today and can be had at a much better price than when it was launched.

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After the original RX100 came the RX100 II and after I had one for 2-3 weeks I found it was NOT enough of an upgrade to the 1st version to warrant the expense. With version II Sony added the capability to use an external EVF and improved the sensor slightly, but for me, I preferred the original sensor. Odd huh? Because of this, I never really reviewed it. Instead I took a quick look at it HERE. 

Now with version III Sony has given us a pop up EVF which is absolute GENIUS! It stays hidden until you want to use it, and then you flick it up with a switch on the side. It pops up just like a pop up flash would and then you pull it out to use it. It is a very welcome addition to the camera and for me, makes the upgrade worth it right there! But Sony did not stop there as they also changed out the lens, which is now a 24-70 equivalent ranging from f/1.8 to f/2.8. Even at 70mm you can stay at f/2.8, which will allow more light to come in. Faster is always a good thing when it comes to aperture. So while we lose some of the reach of the Version I and II RX100, we gain speed and IMO some slight improvements to the lens quality.

We still have the same RX100 size, tilt LCD, selfie mode, and all of the usual Sony features and gimmicks. The lens barrel rotates and can control just about anything you want it to. I have it set to aperture but you can also set it to control color mode, or even ISO. The camera is a VERY polished and “finished” type of design. Smooth jpeg files as well with plenty of pop for a small sensor camera, and do remember that this is a small 1″ sensor camera that is not meant to replace a larger sensor mirrorless or DSLR as it does have limitations when compared to its larger cousins.

One of the 1st shots I snapped in JPEG with the RX100 III. Our new puppy “Olive” – Was in some weird mode so high contrast..

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One in High Contrast B&W Mode (JPEG) – click for larger. Focus was on the hair (of the wig) in front of his eye. Even with the small sensor you get some shallow DOF at the widest 24mm setting.

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Since the RX100 III is basically an RX100 with an improved sensor, new lens and new EVF it is still at its heart, an RX100. Same idea, same body, same concept, same shooting experience. So to read about all of that, click here to read what I said about the original in regards to all of that. In use, the new III is not only just as fun, fast and slick to use as the I and II, but even more so. While it may be small for some hands, there are a few grip options out there including Sony’s own grip made for the camera. There are also cases, and my fave is the one made by Gariz, which you can see below and order HERE. It’s really an attractive and useful accessory for the RX100 III and makes the camera look “luxury”. Much like a Leica ;) If it had a red dot…Hmmmm.

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Out of the Box impressions

The RX100 III arrived in a TINY cute Sony box and when I opened it I was welcomed by a familiar shape and design. As I stated before, the RX100 III is the same shape and design as the original, but in its III form it is like a “Super RX100″. In fact, I will call it the “Super 100″ from here on out as I feel it is so jam-packed with features that PHOTOGRAPHERS want. Nice fast Zeiss zoom, pop up EVF, swivel screen, fast and accurate AF, slim design, high quality video, etc. After taking it from the box I charged inserted a battery (I have six of them from my previous RX100) and popped the camera in my pocket. I shot a couple of frames at a KISS concert (though had seats off to the side) and around town during  my day-to-day errands. I shot JPEG 100% of the time.

For me, a camera like this should be able to do JPEG well, and the RX100 does indeed do it well. For me it offers a fun factor and stress free experience, which is good. While it does not compete with a DSLR or one of the larger sensor mirrorless cameras it does blow away any other point and shoot style camera out of the water. Forget Canon, forget Nikon and yes, this one even smokes any Olympus compact I have tried. This “Super 100″ is on another level from any other P&S and is still the best there is in this area. It has class, style, grace and it performs without breaking a sweat. The build feels solid and nothing about it feels cheap or hollow. I like this.

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Using the selfie mode, the LCD flips up so you can see it and  then the camera counts down  - 3-2-1 on the screen. This is a useful little mode that sounds silly to some, but I used it 4 times in my 2 weeks with the camera. 

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Did a similar shot in my review of the RX100 I so I figured I would do the same here, why not? Excuse the dirty mirror.

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This “Super 100″ (RX100 III) is perfect for an EVERY DAY camera. Phone? Naaaaaaa.

Do you want something of high quality, something that is small and hassle free to carry yet offers you a huge improvement over your cel phone for images? You want ease of use, HD video, a fast lens and great low light performance? Look no further my friends as the RX100 III can do it all, and it does it so much better than your phone. While the most popular camera today is the iPhone, there are still those out there that care about quality, and I am one of them. There are those who want a viewfinder, who want the experience that once upon a time came with photography. A phone does not give you that experience and while it may be capable and easy, it is not like using a real camera.

For me, memories are meant to be captured and preserved. Not everyone wants to carry a large DSLR or mirrorless but something like this RX100 III takes all of those issues away. It can take nice quality photos, without using a flash, in almost any light. While it will not be an “in the dark” shooter, it will give you so much better results than your phone in 99% of situations.

BTW, Every image in this review was shot as an OOC JPEG.

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The image below was shot by Bill Goodman, a local Phx photographer who was checking out the RX100 III when I brought it to Az Hi Fi 

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The color, the smooth files and the dynamic range are fantastic for what this little guy is. I was finding that the “clear” JPEG setting was giving me rich and punchy results that I liked. The way the RX100 III handles light and shadows can indeed be dramatic and very pleasing to the eye…it’s funny but there are times when the images I took with the RX100 III looked better in the final file over my Leica M 240 for resized web images! The color and smooth look is a signature of the RX100 series. With only a 1″ sensor it punches well above its weight class, for sure. When compared to a Nikon V1 or V2 or V3, the RX100 series presents images in a smoother way, reminding me of a larger sensor without the grit.

Dramatic color and tones…JPEG

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Shot in CLEAR JPEG mode..which is what gives it the look you see…

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TECH SPECS

Below are the tech specs of the RX100 III, or the Super RX100 :) I highlighted in BOLD the features that are worth mentioning and remembering as to me, these are what make the camera.

20.1MP 1″ Exmor R BSI CMOS Sensor and BIONZ X Image Processor
The large 20.1 megapixel 1″ Exmor R CMOS sensor features backside-illuminated technology to enhance its low-light capabilities to a native ISO 12800 while still retaining vivid clarity. Using Sony’s Column A/D Conversion and area-specified noise reduction, images are rendered with impressive quality and smooth gradations between tones and colors due to the marked, intelligent reduction in apparent noise. Further enhancing imaging quality, detail reproduction technology works to increase the fine detail rendering capabilities for a more three-dimensional, realistic image quality while diffraction-reducing technology helps to enhance the optical qualities of the lens by suppressing diffraction that is common when working at smaller apertures. Additionally, aiding working in difficult lighting conditions, the sensitivity can be extended to an effective ISO 25600 when using Multi-Frame NR, which records and composites sequential images in order to attain high sensitivity with minimal noise.

Also benefitting the image quality, as well as overall camera performance, is the BIONZ X image processor, which provides continuous shooting up to 10 fps in Speed Priority Mode, 2.9 fps shooting with single-shot AF, a shutter lag time of just 0.008 sec., and a start-up time of 1.6 sec.

Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* Lens
The built-in Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* lens provides a 35mm-equivalent focal length range of 24-70mm, covering wide-angle to portrait length perspectives to suit working in a wide variety of shooting conditions. An f/1.8-2.8 maximum aperture benefits working in difficult lighting conditions throughout the entire zoom range and also enables greater control over focus placement for shallow depth of field imagery, which is further accentuated by a seven-blade diaphragm to produce a smooth out-of-focus quality. Nine aspherical elements, including two cemented AA (advanced aspherical) elements, are incorporated into the lens design to minimize chromatic aberrations throughout the zoom range to benefit creating sharp, clear imagery. The lens also features a Zeiss T* anti-reflective multi-layered coating to help minimize lens flare and ghosting in order to produce imagery with rich contrast and color neutrality.

Benefitting the 2.9x reach of this lens, as well as supporting working in difficult lighting conditions and with longer shutter speeds, is Optical SteadyShot image stabilization, which helps to offset the effects of camera shake. When recording movies, the image stabilization utilizes an Intelligent Active Mode, which also uses electronic image stabilization to compensate for both camera shake and rolling shutter effects.

Additionally, a neutral density 0.9 filter is incorporated into the camera’s design, which provides a reduction of three stops in exposure to enable working in bright conditions with wider aperture settings and for greater control over how subject movement is rendered.

Direct OOC color from the RX100 III JPEG – this one was shot in VIVID mode.

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Camera Design
Within the compact design of the RX100 III is both a high-resolution electronic viewfinder and a large rear LCD monitor. The 0.39″ 1,440k-dot SVGA OLED Tru-Finder EVF provides a bright, clear means for eye-level monitoring, which is well-suited to critical compositions and working in bright conditions. It features 100% frame coverage, a unique pop-up mechanism, and a Zeiss T* coating on the optics to reduce surface reflections and flare for enhanced visibility. Alternatively, a 3.0″ 1,229k-dot Xtra Fine LCD screen is also available and features a tilting design (180° up, 45° down) to benefit working from high, low, and front-facing angles. WhiteMagic technology has been applied to the LCD’s design, too, to increase effective brightness for easier viewing in bright lighting. When working with both viewing means, an integrated eye sensor automatically switches between both the EVF and LCD. Additionally, the camera can be turned on simply by popping the EVF into place.

For intuitive, SLR-like adjustments over a variety of camera settings, a manual control ring surrounds the lens and features a smooth, click-less design for quick and quiet changing of settings. The ring can be assigned to control a variety of features, at different values, such as zoom, aperture, and Picture Effects. A step-zoom feature can be utilized, too, to allow instant switching between commonly used focal lengths.

Full HD Video Recording
Full HD 1920 x 1080 movies can be recorded in the high-quality XAVC S format, which uses a Long GOP (Group of Pictures) structure, MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 video compression, and linear PCM audio compression, and saves within the MP4 container format. These compressed files permit recording times up to 29 minutes while allowing 50 Mbps video recording at 1080/60p, 1080/30p, 1080/24p, and 720/120p frame rates. Full-pixel readout helps to minimize any artifacts in recordings due to the ability to utilize data from the entire image sensor, which ultimately results in smooth, high-resolution recordings. Movies can also be recorded in the AVCHD format, which is ideal for HDTV playback and Blu-ray disc burning, and the MP4 format, which is ideal for uploading online. Additionally, when shooting for two purposes in mind, dual recording is possible in different formats-XAVC S and MP4 or AVCHD and MP4-for the ability to instantly share footage while also having a higher quality version for subsequent editing.

Benefitting advanced video applications, the RX100 III also supports clean HDMI output for recording uncompressed video via an optional external recorder and for real-time viewing on an accessory monitor. Recording frame rates include 24p, 60p, and 60i, and the shooting info display can be turned off during recording for a cleaner view when utilizing an external monitor.

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

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

Other Camera Features
A contrast-detection autofocus system works to acquire precise focus using single-shot or continuous AF modes. When working with moving subjects, Lock-on AF, with wide, center, and flexible spots, adjusts the target frame size as the subject moves throughout the image frame. Face detection and face registration technologies can be used to base focus on recognized faces and Eye AF is also available, which is a detail-oriented focusing function that prioritizes and dedicates focusing performance on a subject’s pupil for sharply-rendered portraits.
For manual focus control, DMF (Direct Manual Focus) and standard manual focus options are available. Benefitting precise manual focus, focus peaking can be used, which highlights edges of contrast within the frame for a more objective means of determining critical sharpness, or MF Assist is available, which enlarges the image for a better view of important details.

A zebra function can be used for easier detection of exposure clipping to prevent overexposure.

A dedicated Custom button permits assigning of one of 42 possible functions for instant, one-touch access to a chosen control.

A digital level gauge detects pitch and roll types of movement and helps to produce even, consistent horizons and plumb verticals.

Smile Shutter technology enables the camera to automatically release the shutter when a subject’s smile is detected

Multi Frame NR records consecutive images at a reduced ISO sensitivity and then composites them into a single image to realize higher effective sensitivity (up to an equivalent ISO 25600) with minimal image noise. Standard image compositing is comprised of four exposures and High image compositing utilizes 12 distinct exposures.

Dynamic Range Optimizer (DRO) works to improve images featuring backlit subjects or scenes with high contrast where details can be lost in the shadows or highlights. This mode can be controlled automatically or fine-tuned using five settings.

Picture Effect modes allow you to apply creative settings and emphasize certain facets of individual images for a richer, more aesthetic picture quality. Posterization (Color/B&W), Pop Color, Retro Photo, Partial Color (R/G/B/Y), High Contrast Monochrome, Toy Camera, Soft High-Key, Soft Focus, HDR Painting, Rich-Tone Monochrome, Miniature, Watercolor, and Illustration modes are available.

Creative Style settings provide control over how the camera processes images based on different predetermined styles: Standard, Vivid, Neutral, Clear, Deep, Light, Portrait, Landscape, Sunset, Night Scene, Autumn Leaves, Black & White, Sepia, and Style Box. Within these settings, contrast, saturation, and sharpness can also be adjusted depending on personal preference.

To extend the effective reach of the optical zoom lens, Clear Image digital zoom can be used to intelligently magnify scenes up to 5.8x at full-resolution. This digital zoom technology uses an intelligent interpolation process to minimize the amount of image degradation in order to produce realistic, high-quality images.

In-camera creation of 4K slide shows is possible for rich playback to ultra high definition televisions. An HDMI port is incorporated into the camera’s design, too, to enable direct connection to HDTVs.

TRILUMINOS Color support is supported to produce rich, natural colors when imagery is viewed on a TRILUMINOS Display.

I enjoyed having 24mm for the wide end…

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For me, the new EVF rocks..though it is SMALL

As soon as I saw that Sony included a new pop up EVF in this model I was instantly attracted to the camera. If this one feature was NOT put in then the RX100 III would not have generated as much attention as it has and the camera would not be worthy of the III name, it would be more like an RX100 II. The new pop up EVF if really an awesome and fantastic addition to an already great camera model. The coolest part is that if you do not want to use it then it stays hidden. There are no humps, no evidence it is even in the camera. Without using it no one would even know it was there but flick a switch located on the left side and BAM! There you have it, instant EVF. Now you can put it up to your eye and frame with a viewfinder. The EVF is very small but much better than something you will see in a Leica C for example.

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The color is good, the clarity is good and i used the EVF quite often..and I can prove it! See my reflections in the window shots below? Look how small and compact the RX100 III is here! It is small but feels nice and weighty in the hand. The lens offers great clarity and snap and the EVF takes this model over the top.

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Is this camera for you? Answer these questions to find out!

The RX100 III is not a cheap camera, in build or design or in cost. It will cost you about $799 to purchase the greatest Point and Shoot of all time, but to see if this is worth it to you, answer the following questions, if you answer yes to ALL then you would benefit from an RX100 III.

1. Do you want a pocket-size travel type of camera to take anywhere?

2. Do you dislike larger and heavier cameras?

3. Do you value QUALITY when it comes to images? As in, IMAGE QUALITY?

4. Do you like having a convenient and fast zoom?

5. Do you like to shoot hassle free, and even shoot JPEG?

6. Do you often want the “best” you can get to avoid making mistakes in purchases?

7. Do you value having an electronic viewfinder to frame with?

If you answered YES to ALL of the questions then you would not be sorry with the RX100 III. In fact, I guarantee it!

Again, to get what the RX100 III is all about, read my RX100 review. Most of the camera is the same in regards to what it is, what it does and why it is so awesome :) This is a “light” review going over the new features only!

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The Pros and Cons of the RX100 III

Pros

  • It is small and fits in a front pocket
  • Pop Up EVF addition is AWESOME!
  • Camera AF is fast and accurate
  • Tilt LCD is very useful, even selfie mode
  • Build quality is good
  • Lens 24-70 1.8-2.8..nice
  • pop up flash if needed/wanted!
  • HD video is nice with optical steady shot!
  • WiFi built in, works well
  • Camera apps can be downloaded and used
  • Built in ND filter for when the sun gets bright, automatic
  • Smooth control dial on lens will control almost anything you desire
  • Many cases and grips made by third parties
  • Batteries are small, and cheap (third party sellers)
  • Best in class image quality and color

cons

  • Price of $798 is a little high for a P&S
  • Small sensor cannot compete with larger sensors for DR or ISO NOISE
  • Not the best for really low light, NR gets aggressive
  • Can be too small for some with large hands
  • Does not come with dedicated charger

 

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My final conclusion on the RX100 III

The newest RX100, or what I call it,  “the Super 100″ (RX100 III) is a genuine masterpiece of a point and shoot. It does NOT get better than this in a pocket P&S camera, period. From the design, the build, the EVF, the swivel LCD to the fast lens and punchy color and pop from the files, the RX100 III is the real deal. Once again Sony hits it out of the park here, as they have been doing for 2-3 years now. Sony is surpassing companies like Nikon, Canon, Leica in many areas with some of their recent cameras and they are showing no signs of slowing down or stopping and I think…yes I think..they are just getting started. Call it intuition but I have a feeling something ver special is coming in the high-end arena from Sony..very soon.

Keep in mind, the RX100 III will not and can not replace an APS-C or full frame camera (get the same results) as you just do not get the dynamic range, ISO performance or depth of field possibilities with the smaller sensor RX100 III. What you do get is a camera that is perfect for family use, vacations, world travel, and every day shooting. I have seen images from the RX100 (original) that blew away images I have seen from large DSLR’s, but that was from a VERY talented photographer. It seems that if you really know what you are doing then the RX100 III will reward you with its capabilities. I have noticed the DR is not up there with larger sensors as highlights can get blown, but it is not a big deal or deal breaker. The files from the RX100III are sublime and as good as you can get from a camera of this size.

The lens is fast with a versatile and normal 24-70mm range. With an aperture starting at f/1.8 and slowing down to only 2.8, the camera is highly capable even in low light. The EVF works great and stays out-of-the-way until you need it. It is not the largest thing ever but it works and works well. The design is genius! The RX100 III also has a built in ND filter which will automatically activate when needed. You have all of the Sony usual tricks here as well like panorama, color modes, art modes and intelligent auto modes. This camera can be used by amateur and pro alike. In other words, Sony makes it easy to either pick up and shoot in full auto or delve into the camera and use manual features.

All in all, this is indeed the best pocket camera ever made in the digital world. The price is steep at $798, but if you want the best P&S available and do not want to mess with lens swapping and larger bodies, this is one way to go that will leave you satisfied.

You can buy the RX100 III at B&H Photo HERE or Amazon HERE.

The Sony RX100 III gets my highest recommendation for this class of camera. Way to go Sony!

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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.

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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
 

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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.

ISO 4000, Sony A7s, 35 2.8 Zeiss

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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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The 55 1.8 at f/2, OOC JPEG

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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. To those online who are saying the A&s has bad image quality and is only for video guys, well, quite frankly..they must know NOTHING about photography or image quality.

The A7s has fabulous IQ, capabilities and is my #1 these days and after over a month of constant use I still love it.

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.

fronta7s

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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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.

Judge

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.

ThreePlaid

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.

TwoPlaid

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.

OutsideTent

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.

Lafayette

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.

AtTheMic

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.

Carriage

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.

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