Nov 242015


From Canon to Fuji Sony. An A7RII User Review

by Ben Jacobsen – See more: and his flickr:


The Sony switch… As most of you know I’m a long time canon shooter that made the mirrorless switch to fuji last year. The majority of my photography business is based around shooting architecture with a UWA zoom. My switch to fuji happened as soon as their 10-24mm was available (as well as their XT1 promising fast AF). I shot with a complete fuji setup last year for weddings, architecture and landscape work as well as for my personal images. While I was happy with my switch away from canon (I wasn’t using my DSLR for anything but paid work because of it’s size) I wasn’t quite happy with the AF speed and files quality I was getting. They were good enough but I wasn’t 100% satisfied. Then last year at photo expo in NYC I stumbled into the Sony booth and saw their brand new 16-35mm f/4. This lens paired with an a7r was practically the same size as my XT1 and 10-24mm but it had a full frame 36mp sensor… Then I walked over to their dark room focus torture test and saw how well the a7s could focus in ridiculously low light and I was sold…


I got home and ordered an a7 thinking it’d be the best all around camera for me. I’d been more than happy with my 5DIII’s 24mp so it seemed like the best compromise with better AF over the a7r and more resolution than the a7s. When it arrived I noticed a flaw in the sensor and AA filter design that caused it to have what I call “green ghost flares” where the flare from a light source gets this very weird green flare. This is NOT lens flare and it is a huge issue for me with architectural images. So I tried the a7r next… and LOVED it’s sensor (and w/o an AA filter the green flare was gone) but it’s AF was far too slow to shoot people with for me. Next was the a7s which was great, crazy high ISOs, good enough AF and no ghost flares. But before a week was up with it the a7II was announced and I was hoping they’d fixed the green/ghost flare issue so I preordered it and waited… It came and is/was a GREAT camera. Middle of the road MP, great DR, good enough ISOs, and the best AF to date (the a7rii beats it but came out later). The reworked sensor and AA filter fixed the ghost flare issue. I was happy. Then the a7rII was announced and I knew that the combination of the best AF in the series in combination with the best sensor would be the best fit for me. Not only does the a7rII have the most MP but somehow it’s ISOs are cleaner up high -vs- the a7II. I’ve had it since August 6th (3 months, 7,517 shots taken) and I’m here to share my thoughts!


That Sensor!

Let me start off by saying that I’m thrilled with the sensor in the a7rII and it’s AF has done nothing but impress me so far! While I’ve always said I don’t need more resolution -vs- what my canon or fuji have provided in the past, it does make for some GORGEOUS prints! I have a 32″x48″ canvas from the a7rII in my house and the added detail is noticeable if you look for it. You also get dynamic range that the canon couldn’t dream of touching and it’s ahead of the fuji as well. I’ve had some architectural shoots where I’ve bracketed a shot thinking I’d need to HDR it and in post I can +99 the shadows and blacks of the shot with the best detail in the highlights and get basically the same look! Sure there’s some noise in the shadows when you do this but it’s just insane as a former canon shooter that you can do this without seeing crazy patterned noise. Now the ISOs are also very good. I shoot up to 12,800 without a concern. There’s luminance noise at that point and you lose some of the pop from the colors but there’s zero chroma noise at all! On top of all that without an AA filter there’s no green or ghost flare issues with the a7rII.



Now this can’t be a proper a7rII review without at least mentioning compression of the raw files! Personally I haven’t had a problem with the 14-bit compressed files we’ve had since the beginning. I know you have to shoot with the camera in single shot mode, no bulb, no long exposure noise reduction and no high ISO noise reduction to get true 14-bit files. This is how I shoot my landscapes. Sony has now released an uncompressed option that’s basically putting the 14-bits into a 16-bit file which means the files go from ~45mb to ~90mb… It’s up to you if you need it. I’m using 14-bit compressed for landscape and architectural work and then 12-bit for weddings. I don’t need the extra depth there and the files are smaller and faster to process in 12. I use either silent shooting mode or either L or H FPS modes to “force” the camera into 12-bit mode as needed.

Auto Focus

The auto focus on the a7rII is amazing. I know a lot of guys will say that it can’t keep up with a pro series DSLR but at this point it really makes me wonder. I’m not saying it’ll track a subject that’s moving quickly at 11fps because the body can only shoot 5fps. What I am saying is that in just about any light I’ve had very little problems with the AF with this camera and I’m coming home with much fewer out of focus shots. Even -vs- my old 5DIII! I remember shooting wedding receptions with my 5DIII (once we’d given up on ambient light and gone all flash) where I’d switch to my 16-35mm 2.8 only because it focused a lot quicker in low light -vs- my primes. With the sony I can shoot with my 25mm f/2, 55mm 1.8 or 85mm 1.8 and they all lock on and stay locked on during low light reception shots with little to no lag at all. I’ve been VERY impressed! I’m coming home from weddings with hardly any shots that are out of focus. I’m talking less than 5% (and some of that can be blamed on me pressing the shutter before it locked).



That’s not to say it’s perfect though. Sony has added so many bells and whistles to it’s AF system it can be very confusing at first. Face detect, eye AF, center lock on AF, expandable flexible spot, the list goes on and on! While it’s taken a little getting used to and some manual reading (yes, I admit it) and I STILL don’t know all the functions of this AF system, I will say it works really well. The other odd thing I’ve noticed is out of focus shots when shooting architecture. With my canon and fuji setups I would manually focus the first image and basically leave the lens alone for the rest of the shoot and I’d be all set (focused about ~6′ into a scene stopped down to f/16 on full frame). With the sony I’ll AF the first shot and I’ve noticed every once in a while when I go to the next shot the focus will be way off (nothing in focus at all, even at f/16). This happens in both MF modes and AF modes. I’m not sure if I’m bumping the focus ring or if it’s refocusing on something at a bad distance or what. I’ve learned to just ALWAYS use the AF after each new shot to be sure and I’ve been fine since, but it’s worth mentioning…


Manual Focus

Some of you need to just skip right past this section as you won’t all use manual focus. I manually focus a lot of my landscape and architecture shots. EVFs and LCDs have made this easier in some ways but the “focus by wire” design of the lenses make it much harder at times. If you’re coming from a canikon DSLR your lenses are not drive by wire. You physically move a ring that moves the elements inside the lens to make it focus. This works with the lens on or off a body (without power). With mirrorless cameras they use the camera’s power to move the parts inside the lens. The ring you move is just telling the computer in the camera to move the elements in the lens in a certain direction. It’s a bit slower and harder to get “perfect” vs the old way… I find myself getting really close to just right pretty quickly but then I go back and forth from too far to too close a few times before settling in on “good enough”. Peaking can help in a lot of situations but it can also hurt in others (it won’t work at all for stars). The camera also has a function called “bright monitoring” that basically uses a very slow frame rate so it can gather more light and show you a very dark scene better but it’s very laggy (due to the slow frame rate) which means it’s hard to see your focusing changes because there’s a much longer delay. This function is also only available on the full view (ie you can’t zoom in). I’ve since learned to focus stars accurately you need to turn peaking OFF (yes off), then zoom in on the brightest star in the frame and manually focus until it becomes the smallest point it can. Peaking needs to be off because it works by showing you points with good contrast because those tend to be in focus. Even with peaking set to the minimum it’ll tell you a star is in focus well before it is as well as long after it’s no longer sharp. Simply turning it off and zooming in will get you great results.




My other complaint with manually focusing on the sony cameras is the information they show on the rear LCD is terrible. You get a gray bar on the back of the screen with head on the left end (for the close end) and a mountain on the right end (for far). There’s then a white bar that moves back and forth as you focus the lens and it tells you the distance you’re focused at. This bar is always the same thickness at all times. It should get wider if you stop down and it should also get wider as you focus further away! They also only tell you the distance you’ve got your lens focused at but they do not tell you the near or far limits of the DOF (and it’s in meters only with no way to change to feet that I’ve found?). If you’re focusing for a landscape image you want the most DOF possible. To get this you want the far end of your DOF at infinity. With sony’s display it’s impossible to know where this is without using a DOF calculator of some sort (app or website) which is a PITA. Colby Brown shared with me that setting the focus distance to the first number displayed that’s less than infinity seems to work pretty well for him (and I agree). If the lenses had a scale on them physically it would help a lot. Zeiss has OLED screens on their lenses that do this. Their display also shows you the near and far limits as well as the distance you’re set to. It’s as simple as focusing until infinity is on the long end and you’re done with one of the batis (I’d kill for them to remake the 16-35mm with sony and remove the OSS and add in the OLED!).

The body

The sony full frame cameras are built “good enough”. They’re strong and solid and great but not quiiiite as solid as my old 5Diii. They’re sealed though as are all their lenses and I’ve certainly had no issues with them. The II version have a much nicer grip on them as well as IBIS or in body stabilization. For a lot of you IBIS is probably a huge deal and crucial. Personally I’m either shooting people where I’m using a shutter speed well over 1/focal length or I’m using a tripod. That’s not to say I’m not a fan, I’ve just been happy with it in my lenses in the past. What really confuses me here is if all three of the current bodies have IBIS why’d they build OSS into a lot of their lenses (my 16-35mm, 24-240mm, and 85mm all have it)? It’s extra optics and cost and weight… I will say however that the fact that the sensor moves makes it a LOT harder or maybe just weirder to clean your sensor. It moves now! The SD door on the a7rii is also nice and firm now. I mention that because they changed it’s orientation on the II versions. The a7/a7s/a7r were rock solid, but the a7ii had a tendency to open on me. The a7rii’s door is a bit more solid now and I’ve yet to have an issue with it.

The viewfinder is bigger and better but it’s still not as nice as fuji’s. I’m a fan of EVFs but sony’s doesn’t have the tricks and display modes that fuji has baked into theirs. Remembering AF points for vertical -vs- horizontal compositions would be great! The eye cup on the a7rII also seems to be better built -vs- the a7II where the rubber liked to pull away from the frame. The tilt out screen is WONDERFUL for architectural and landscape shooters. I’ve gone from preferring the simple slide up/down style sony’s used on the a7 series to wanting one that flips out with a side hinge so it can work for vertical shots as well… One complaint with the EVF/rear LCD is the sensor for the automatic switch is far too sensitive on these cameras. When I’m backed into a corner of a room it’ll see my chest with the sensor and switch to EVF mode even though I’m ~6″+ away from it. I’ve assigned the viewfinder switch to C2 so I can cycle it back to the rear LCD but if the sensitivity was just turned down a bit (to fuji levels) it’d be great.



The Customization options on this camera are almost perfect. There’s two custom buttons up top near the shutter (I have mine set to the brightness monitor and switching between the EVF, LCD and auto display modes). Then on the back there’s C3 (set to focus magnification), AF/MF (set to switch between AF and MF for me), AEL (hold to AF, release to stop AFing) and the C4 button (eye focus). I’ve got the 4 way buttons set as labeled but down is set to face detect for me. The center button is set to “default” which means pushing it allows me to then move the AF point with the 4-way which is great (and hitting delete short cuts to the center AF point). The reason this setup is NOT perfect is because the list of things you can assign to buttons is limited. You can not for example set the aps-c option to any button in the camera (it can’t even go on the Fn menu). This is something I use quite a bit and would LOVE to have on a button! You also have to OK the options once you hit the button. You should have an option to have them be quick changes where one button press changes the setting if it’s only got 2 options.


A lot of people like to say that the sony menus are a hot mess. While they’re certainly not as good as they could be I don’t really see them as a mess. I’ll add to this though that I’ve been a sony/NEX user since the very first NEX5… The old NEX menus were terrible… The new tabbed layout is very similar to canon and works quite well. I will say it’s missing a “my menu” option where I can pick a page worth of options for myself and to have that always be the first menu page that comes up when I hit menu. Sony will argue that the Fn menu handles this task but it only allows about half the options from the full menu to be put as options in it (and it’s crucially missing the option for APS-C/super 35 crop to be on or off!!!). I’ll add that I prefer sony’s menus over fujis. You can learn where everything is in either over time but I prefer sony’s. The Fn menu itself should allow you to set ANY function to it’s 12 spots (and I’d personally like an option for 1 2 or 3 rows, you’re locked into 2). Some of the options need some help as well. I have steady shot set to my top left spot so I can turn it off when needed. The next spot over is then the setting for automatic or manual focal length detection (if you’re using non E or FE or adapter A mount lenses you need manual), then the THIRD spot over is for the focal length if using the manual option…. Why all three of these functions couldn’t be part of the same steady shot menu I don’t know (steady shot options: off, on-auto FL, on-manual FL with a list).


Necessary Accessories

There are always a few accessories that you need to complete your system but there are a few with mirrorless cameras in general and specifically the Sony system that I’d say are must haves. The first on the list would be a great battery charger and plenty of spares. I’ve had a watson dual desk charger since my fuji days and it’s a life saver. Charge a battery that’s close to full in the provided wall charger and it’ll be blinking full almost immediately. Toss it in the watson and it’ll tell you the % it’s at an actually top it off to full power. Before the watson I’d use 6~8 batteries at a wedding with my X-T1. With the watson this has gone down to 4. The sony now uses the same 4 batteries as I’d use with the fuji. The great thing with the watson is that it takes ~$2 plates to change it from a sony to fuji to ricoh to canon charger! Of course put extra batteries in this section as well. I have ~7 sony batteries at last count. I keep 1 in each camera (I also have an a6000) and 4 in my think tank photo battery holder. The dual battery wallet is also nice for family outings.

Second up for me would be grips and plates. When I shoot a wedding I use the neewer (mine says meike on it?) battery grip. I’ve never really been a grip user with DSLRs (I have always preferred smaller lighter cameras). With these mirrorless cameras getting as small as they are and shooting with it all day at a wedding the added grip is great but the fact it doubles the battery capacity is awesome. I have noticed though that my grip will change the aperture setting when in Av w/o me touching it… For this reason I generally leave it’s buttons switched off and I’m considering the $300 sony version… Switching the buttons off isn’t a deal breaker for me though as I’ve never really used a grip much so I’m not used to the second shutter button but the other very strange thing is once you get used to using the EV dial on the body it’s very odd not having it near the second shutter on the grip. Whenever I’m not shooting a wedding specifically I’ve got my neewer L-bracket on the camera. L-brackets have been on all my cameras for years now as it makes switching from a vertical to horizontal composition a snap with my tripod head. I’m using the neewer l-bracket that came in a kit with the grip for $85. It’s $63 for just the battery grip, and $22 for just the l-bracket.

The third accessory I’d call a “must have” if you use flash would be any flash with a “Multi-Interface Shoe”. This is what sony calls their hot shoe with the data connection at the front. The reason this is important is it tells the camera there’s a flash involved. You can use “dumb”/manual flashes without this shoe without an issue (I do with my neewers) but because they don’t have the data connection the camera doesn’t put itself into two crucial modes: Flash WB and “setting effects off” for the live view. The first should be pretty obvious. Without knowing you’re using a flash the camera will be in AWB mode and the flash results won’t be consistent. Yes it’s an easy fix in lightroom by syncing the images and telling LR they all need flash WB but it’s much easier when the camera does this for you. The second and much more important option is that the “setting effect off” means the camera will artificially boost the ISO so you can see through the EVF to compose the shot. If this is left on, when you dial in your flash exposure you’ll be looking at a very dark (black!) viewfinder. With a normal/dumb flash you have to switch this mode on/off every time you mount/remove your flash. But with a “smart” flash with the correct shoe it’s automatic. For me this makes the nissin i40 the obvious choice as it’s TINY! It’s slightly less powerful -vs- the big speedlights but I’ve found with 1/8th power (and 1/4 when needed) it keeps up recycle time wise and I don’t need to boost the ISOs too high.


If you’re a landscape shooter or the thought of a flash just seems silly to you, then I’ve got a different option for you… Filters! I’ve got a full set of Lee filters I carry in my mindshift filter hive. I’m also using some great new filter adapters from “the filter dude” on amazon. They’re $20 and the same as the wide version of the lee adapters (that cost ~$68) with the exception that the filter dude rings also have a set of threads on the outside of the ring so you can mount a traditional filter to them once they’re on your lens. Let me explain it this way: you’re shooting a waterfall and your panel or 105mm CP gets spray on it as does the front element of your lens. If you’ve got a 77mm CP in your filter hive you can thread it onto the filter guy ring with the ring still on your lens and there won’t be any way from spray to get onto anything but the outside of the round filter! I use this trick all the time shooting waterfalls! Once you’ve got the ring on your lens, don’t bother ever taking it off. Get some of these Lens Coat medium lens caps and use them over your rings. Makes it much easier than dealing with lens caps and threading on a filter ring in the cold dark morning before your coffee has kicked in. For any of you who’ve made it this far into a section about filters, grab some gaffers tape and tape over the logos on the front of your lenses… Those obnoxious white logos will reflect back at your filters and you’ll be able to see the text in the images (bottom right corner in the rocks there’s an orangish semi circle that’s the reflection of the words on the lens)!!!

sensor cleaning supplies… If you’ve ever made the jump from an APS-C body to full frame before you know full frame sensors collect dust at a much faster rate. If you’ve ever made the jump from a DSLR to a mirrorless/EVIL body before you know that EVIL’s have their sensor hanging out in the open when you change lenses… Combine the two and it’s a recipe for dust! I’ve got three things I use to work on the dust issue: 1) Sensor pen and loupe, 2) rocket blower, 3)gel stick. The gel stick is new to me and so far it’s been amazing. Make sure you get the orange sony version. The rocket blower gets off the easy stuff but I’ve found if the camera’s sensor cleaning function can’t get it off the rocket air usually can’t either.


Big and fast SD cards… 42mp files can chew through a lot of space in a hurry. With the new uncompressed option they’re now twice as big (~90mb now -vs- 45mb uncompressed). Make sure you get cards with a ~90mb/s read AND write time! A lot of the cards offer that as a read speed but not write which is what matters most to the camera. I wish sony had used the faster tech fuji has in the XT1’s SD slot (250mb/s). I’ve got three 64mb 90mb/s SD cards that I’m happy with so far. I keep them in a “lenscoat memory card wallet SD9” that can hold 9 SD cards. I used to be a big think tank pixel pocket rocket user in my CF card days but the lenscoat SD card option is much smaller so I prefer it. Whichever wallet you go with MAKE SURE YOU KEEP A FEW BUSINESS CARDS IN IT!!! If you ever lose it you’ll at least have a chance at getting it back. The think tank option does have a nice strap on it so you can secure it to your bag but it’s a velcro closure which I don’t like at weddings. The lenscoat wallet uses an elastic that just loops over the end so it’s dead silent.

While we’re on the subject of memory let me talk about importing these massive files into your computer! Having a fast card does you no good if you don’t have a fast card reader to go with it. I’m a mac guy and I’m using an older iMac with the original thunderbolt port and USB 2.0 ports (or maybe even originals). Thunderbolt is my fastest option. I have a drobo 5D running on a thunderbolt connection. I then have this awesome lexar workflow hub withthree SD card readers (which can be used on their own with their supplied USB cord when you’re away from your desk). I have three readers because there’s a lot of times when I end up with three cards to import from between the drone, the a7rii and the a6000.

I also use the trick Dan Carr taught me about importing from more than one card at a time in LR which is a LIFESAVER!!! The one problem I have is that the lexar hub is USB3.0 so in order to take advantage of it’s speed I need to adapter it to thunderbolt so I’m using this belkin dock. I know these parts aren’t cheap (it’s about $500 for the hub and reader before you get to my external storage) but even since I upgraded to this setup last year my import times have become comically fast. Even with three filled cards. Of course it still takes lightroom forever to build previews but that’s another story. LR is slow to work with these monster files so be ready to throw some money at your computer if it’s not up to the task… I’ll be getting a new machine in a few months (retina iMac) and can’t wait.

The last accessory I’ll talk about is how moving to a mirrorless system can change your whole system in terms of tripods and bags. I’ve added a small travel carbon fiber tripod to my kit since going mirrorless. The camera is enough lighter I get enough support from a much smaller tripod and it can now fit inside my camera bag! This has also meant (for me) that I’ve moved to larger camera bags. Not for the camera, but because it means I can use one bag to carry all my gear for non photography purposes as well as my photo kit in a single bag. So rethink your bags and support, going to a bigger bag with a smaller tripod might mean everything can now fit inside one stealth bag!

Some notes:

  • 42mp is OMG WHOA! resolution… Even if you use the 18mp aps-c mode it’s still an amazing file with plenty of detail.
  • The DR of this sensor is crazy. The a7ii I’d been using was good, better than canon and fuji (no pattern noise like canon) but the a7rii is a level above that easily.
  • ISOs are ALSO really good and easily beat my a7ii, 5Diii and the fujis.
  • For a full frame body this thing is amazing small. I switch to fuji because I never used my 5Diii unless I was on a paid shoot due to size. This body brings the best full frame sensor in the market (all around, MP, DR, ISOs) to a tiny body. It’s the same size with the 16-35mm as my old X-T1 was with fuji’s 10-24mm.
  • AF is very good even in low light at wedding receptions… Canon has the “red ring of fire”, well sony has the “green boxes of focus”. It just works.
  • AWB feels like it’s maybe not quite as good as the a7ii? I’ve never shot them side by side though but it’s a gut feeling I get…
  • My AF buttons setup has the AF turned off on the shutter button. AEL is my focus but only when held down. It’s the basic rear button AF from my DSLR.
    all custom buttons
  • Fn Menu row 1: SS on/off, SS Adjust (manual/Auto for non sony lenses), OSS FL (for non sony lenses), Focus Mode, Focus Area, Center Lock-on AF
  • Fn Menu row 2: Silent Shooting, Peaking Level, White Balance, DRO/Auto HDR, Quality, Smile/Face Detect
  • Custom Keys: Shutter AF off, C1 = bright monitoring, C2 = Finder/Monitor Sel., C3 = focus magnifier, C4 = eye AF, Center button = standard (lets me choose AF point), left = drive, right = ISO, down = smile/face detect, AEL button = AF on, AF/MF Button = AF/MF control Hold
  • Battery grip is great for weddings, but the neewer version adjusts the aperture w/o touching buttons on me….
  • AEL button is hard to feel on the neewer grip. Awkward with EV dial only usable in horizontal mode…
  • you “need” to use a sony shoe capable flash. With a “dumb”/manual flash the flash doesn’t sit right in the shoe (too far back) but it also doesn’t auto switch the camera to flash WB and it also doesn’t change the viewfinder setting from
  • “live view display: setting effect on” to off for flash (setting is in the gear -> page 3, option 1). Using the nissin i40 does both automatically!
  • get a watson charger NOW!
  • get a nissin i40 for any on camera flash NOW! It’s tiny and light and perfect. Just don’t turn it up above 1/4 or the recycle time gets slow (but we have plenty of ISO on the a7rii). 1/8th is great.
  • magnification during replay is painfully slow!
  • buy a 90mb/s write speed SD card…
  • battery life is what it is but with a watson charger it’s 4 batteries for a wedding even at 2.5k+ images… You can also charge via the USB port WHILE SHOOTING for timelapse guys or if you’re hurting and out of normal sony batteries…
  • SD card door tighter -vs- a7ii where it opened on me quite a bit (but never on the a7/a7r/a7s because it opened the other direction).
  • eye cup rubber/shape is better than a7ii.
  • silent shutter is DEAD silent… subjects will actually keep posing after a shot because they’re waiting for the noise.
  • sigma and tamron need to start making their lenses in FE and E versions. They offer a mount conversion process for existing lenses which suggests the lenses are all the same and the mounts are the only difference. This makes me wonder if sony/minolta has some weird difference in their mount that makes it so making just the mount for the existing lenses doesn’t work? I’d prefer mirrorless specific versions anyway though (so they can be smaller/lighter).
  • Sony needs to make either the 70-300 or 70-400 in an FE mount. The longest FE lens right now is the 24-240mm (which has terrible sun stars but is a great travel all in one otherwise).
  • I’ve seen some very weird hunting with my zeiss batis 85mm in vertical/portrait mode that goes away instantly once the camera is horizontal but comes right back again when back to vertical. I’ve spoken with zeiss and sony about it and zeiss has been able to replicate the issue (only happens in super low light).




Things to fix via a firmware:

  • APS-C mode (setting -> gear -> tab 6 -> option 4) should be allowed on the Fn menu or as a custom key. I use APS-C for weddings a lot as I don’t need more than 18mp there (I used mRAW on the 5Diii for 10mp).
  • mRAW options? You can force 18mp via the APS-C mode but there should also be smaller RAW options that use the full frame.
  • Add the option for a third row in the Fn menu (and also the option to drop to 1 for those who’d want that). There’s a LOT of menu options I use a lot and I need more space than the 2 rows provided for what I use regularly.
  • Add a “my menu” option similar to canon’s that gives me a traditional menu page where I choose everything on it but I get to choose from ANYTHING in the menus… Also, don’t limit it to a page (let it scroll if I want more than 6 options) and let me set it up so pressing menu always brings up this screen first.
  • EVF auto switch sensitivity is too high. I’ll be in a corner doing architecture work and it’ll see my body and switch to the EVF from the rear screen. EVF switch should NEVER activate when the rear LCD is opened either way (because if it’s open you’re using that and not the EVF).
  • The added 14-bit uncompressed option is great for those screaming for it (I never felt the compression caused any issues?). I’d love to see true 14-bit with lossless compression as well. Personally I’d also love to see an option for force 12-bit when you want it as well. For weddings I shoot RAW but don’t need 14 bit so I use the slow FPS mode to force 12 bits most of the day, then silent shutter mode during the ceremony (turning on long exposure noise reduction, high ISO noise reduction, bulb, any burst mode over single shot or silent shutter all force 12-bit mode).
  • During a long exposure the rear LCD is still powered on but black. This wastes power from a camera that uses a lot and uses small batteries already. Please turn OFF the screen during an exposure! -or- give the option to have it show a counter for the shutter length so I know when a 30s exposure is almost over. During bulb count up with that counter!
  • The manual focus distance scale display is terrible! It’s always a white line of a set width that doesn’t get thicker (showing more DOF) as you go wider with focal length, farther with focus or stop the lens down. It’s always the same size!
  • The zeiss batis lenses have GREAT OLED displays with GREAT info shown, copy that on the rear screen! Also make the white bar/line get thicker as you change settings accordingly (like fuji does).
  • allow the use of the manual focus assist view (magnified live view) to be used with “bright monitoring” (where it drags the shutter is super low light so you can focus) so you can use both and really nail MF in pitch black settings.
  • allow users to turn off the non whole stop ISOs for faster ISO selection… going from auto ISO (how I shoot wedding w/o flash) to ISO 800 (how I typically shoot reception shots) is 13 button presses when it would be 4 if the non whole ISOs were out of that list. Canon and fuji both allow this.
  • option for a quick delete w/o needing to “ok” anything…
  • Option to turn off some of the AF points. I always “watered down” my 5Diii to just the more sensitive points and the ones in the corners. Something like 25 (5×5 grid) would be perfect with the a7rii. But 399, especially when you use the small box makes it slow to move your selected AF point from one side to the other.
  • To go with the above, allow the user to “wrap” the AF point selection from one side of the frame to the other. IE if I’m using a point on the left side of the frame and I press left again it should “wrap” around to the point on the far right.
    allow customization of the dial directions. The shutter speeds on the rear dial in M are backwards for me… I’m re-learning but it’s taking a while!!!
    faster read and write speed. Feels like I’m waiting for the red light quite a bit. And the A7rii takes longer to write it’s 18mp aps-c files than the a6000 does to write it’s 24mp aps-c files… Use the UHS-I U3 cards that fuji put into it’s X-T1.
  • create a hyperfocal AF mode where the camera looks at the focal length and aperture and keeps the focus dialed into whatever distance puts infinity right at the far edge of the DOF. This would be a huge advantage for landscape shooters.
  • Allow the viewfinder to store which AF point is used for vertical and horizontal shots separately (canon and fuji do this).

Current (Fall 2015) Sony Kit:

I’m currently shooting with an a7rii with both the Meike/neewer battery grip (for weddings/events) and the Neewer L-Bracket for everything else. Lens wise the Sony (by Zeiss) 16-35mm is my go to wide angle zoom and what I shoot my architecture and landscape work with. I have the sony 24-240 as my light weight long reach lens and the tamron 150-600 as a no compromise I need reach lens with a Sony LAEA3 adapter. For wedding work I have the Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2, Sony (by Zeiss) 55mm 1.8 and the Zeiss Batis 85mm 1.8. I shoot weddings using the aps-c crop mode 95% of the time so this trio works out to be 35mm/85mm/135mm effective. I’ve basically added the Zeiss 85mm as a longer option -vs- what I shot with both canon (35/85) and fuji (23/56).


The other great thing with this setup is I can shoot the 25mm in full frame mode for those few shots where I “need” a wide prime and the 16-35mm becomes a pretty versatile mid range zoom for those reception flash shots at the end of the night. For flashes I still have my Neewer TT850s with their awesome Lion battery packs (that last for ~600 shots!) with their wireless transmitters but I only use those off camera now (they’re massive on this smaller platform). I picked up the nissin i40 for on camera (bounced) which is great because it automagically switches the camera’s WB setting to flash as well as setting the viewfinder mode to NOT reflect your settings (since the flash isn’t flashing as you compose you end up with a black view if settings are reflected). It’s also pint sized and light which is great, but also just powerful enough I can use 1/8 or 1/4 when needed to keep recycle rates fast enough and it’ll survive and entire reception with one set of AAs for me. I’ve also kept two aps-c wide angle lenses that play nice on full frame. The first is the sony 10-18mm f/4. It’s meant to be an effective 15-27mm f/4 lens but it also covers full frame from 12mm to 16mm and is nice and small! It’s a great lens for shooting milky way shots for me as I need the added width there. I’ve been toying with it on arch shoots where 16mm on full frame isn’t quite wide enough as well. The other aps-c wide lens I’m using is the rokinon 8mm fisheye. You’ll notice shots of the 12mm fisheye in the gallery below as well. I tried both and while the 12mm is slightly nicer optically (perfect sun stars) it’s just so much bigger and bulkier that it won’t get brought along as much and you can’t use a lens you don’t have! The 8mm is tiny and lives tucked away in a corner of my bag.


Wrap Up…

Sony has a long way to go in terms of dialing in this camera to the extent that I have zero issues with it. BUT! The vast majority of these items are very minor details (which way dials turn etc). The camera is a great tool and the more I use it the more I learn and adapt to how it’s different and the less these issues matter. That’s not to say I don’t want them fixed (and please, via firmware so I don’t need to buy my sixth a7 body in a two year span!). It’s that I can work with what I have. The sensor and the AF are fantastic and will keep me in this system for the long haul. Sony is catching up with lenses (70-300 next please?!) and each new firmware update brings new features. It’s an exciting time to be photographer!

This camera finally delivers better image quality than what I had with my DSLR (5Diii) in terms of dynamic range, clean ISOs AND more resolution. It also gives me auto focus I can trust in pretty much any situation. I have more issues manually focusing thanks to the focus by wire design and the uninformative display. All in all I’m the happiest I’ve been with a camera since the 5Diii (my only complaint there was size/weight).

You can buy a Sony A7RII at Amazon or B&H Photo 

Nov 202015

My Photo tour of India with a Olympus E-M1

by Neil Buchan-Grant –

I’ve just returned from running a 12 day Photo Tour of India for the luxury tour operator KUONI. It was a the first in a series we’re planning of at least one per year. The photo tour was a new concept in the crowded landscape of photographic workshops that proved to be a real hit with all the clients who came from the UK and the US. As opposed to a full on, hard core, seminar laden workshop, our photo tours are run by myself and the expert KUONI guides, combining the must see sites with special treats of photographic interest, researched and added by myself. This tailored approach attracted not only photography enthusiasts, but also their non-photographing partners.

In India every part of our itinerary was designed to offer the best photographic potential and we were even given a guided tour of the Delhi Photo Festival by members of the RANG documentary photographic collective. Each of our many destinations across the country featured the often hidden places photographers travelling solo would never find along with the big sites everyone wants to shoot. Tuition was given on a one to one basis in the field and I think its fair to say, everyone got some amazing photographs and learned new skills during the trip. The clients used many makes of cameras including Canon, Nikon, Sony and Olympus. We have an equally exciting multi-centre tour planned for May 2016 to China and Tibet which your readers can see more about here

Here are a few of the first pictures I made on the tour, all shot with the Olympus OMD EM1 in various places including Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Varanasi and a small village out in the sticks. On this occasion I decided to leave behind my Sony A7s and Leica M 50mm Summilux and take my Leica M 35mm Summilux bolted to an EM1 giving me a stabilised 70mm f1.4 option. It proved to be a valuable combo for portraits which I augmented with the Olympus 12-40mm and 40-150mm PRO zooms for travel shots. I hope you enjoy these and hope to see some of you in China next year!



















Kind Regards
Neil Buchan-Grant

British Travel Press Photographer of the Year

Nov 182015


The Sony RX1RII 1st Look. Beautiful.

NOTE: This is not my review, just a 1st look. My full review will be in 2-3 weeks and no, the title shot above is not banding. It is window blinds :)

Wow. So I have had this new Sony RX1RII for only three full days and it is just as magical as the Mark I but with faster AF, a unique beautiful pop up EVF (that bests the A7RII’s EVF) and the new A7RII Sensor giving us 42MP of full frame power that will fit in a coat pocket. The RX1RII is SMALL, just as the original was and this is good as it is discreet, and thin and so easy to take anywhere. It’s about the size of an Olympus E-M10 but packs a 35mm f/2 lens inside with that full frame sensor (perfectly matched btw), powerful EVF and even an adjustable low pass filter. Yep, with the MKII you can turn on your low pass filter or turn it off and even set sensitivity so it defeats the purpose for the non R version as both are now in one! Pretty cool. Having a Moire issue? Turn it on. Want maximum detail? Turn it off. Easy and Brilliant.

See my old RX1 Mark 1 review – My Camera of the year for 2012!

The new MkII has the same body and lens as the original but now with Sony’s current best sensor that now resides in their top of the line full frame A7RII. Superb high ISO, superb dynamic range, a beautiful EVF that slides up so nicely when needed (and we do not have to pull it out as we do with the RX100 IV) and one of the best 35mm lenses ever made (that bests the Leica summicron yet the RX1RII camera costs the same as just a Leica 35 summicron), the RX1RII is here to take on the Leica Q for king of the fixed lens full framers. It has been three years since the original RX1, so I am happy to see the new model arrive.


I love the original RX1 and RX1R. I love the Leica Q. For me, the Q surpassed the Sony RX1R (1st version) due to the EVF and speedy AF as well as the gorgeous IQ of the Q. So how will the new Sony RX1RII stack up to the Q? In my full review that will come within 3 weeks, I hope to find out as I will shoot them side by side. My early gut feeling tells me the Sony may edge out the Leica Q, and at around $1000 less. The Sony is smaller, feels heftier, has a gorgeous 35mm Zeiss lens, a swivel LCD, very nice EVF, superior low light capability, and that massive sensor from the A7RII inside. It also shoots video but Sony says the RX1RII is more of a Photographers Camera than a video camera, so do not expect A7RII or SII video quality here, it will not beat them. But for photos, it can indeed surpass the quality of even the A7RII.


The RX1R II is meant for the streets, everyday life, portraits, still life, and even some close-ups with the macro mode of the lens. It’s for the photographer on the move who doest want to worry “what lenses shall I bring”. The RX1RII says “Get in close” and “Zoom with your feet” and using it is quite the joyful experience.

In my early shooting tests I am LOVING the image quality, ease of use, joy of use and the faster AF which I would say is about 30-35% faster (Sony says 30%) than the original RX1 and RX1R. It’s a noticeable improvement for sure. But the files from the RX1RII can and will beat an A7RII with 35mm lens attached (so says Sony and ME) as the lens of the RX1RII is matched perfectly with the sensor, so it was tweaked for amazing output. The files are sharp corner to corner, and it is quite amazing how well this lens and sensor work together. Sony showed me some large prints with perfect sharpness across the entire frame.

I am shooting this camera daily right now and will have the review up in December (which is soon). For now, enjoy some snapshots I took during my 1st 24 hours with the RX1RII…nothing serious just yet but this camera builds on the now cult status original and improves it in all the areas we wanted it to be improved. AF, EVF, and even Sensor. Oh, it also now has continuous tracking AF (will test this in my full review) and it is accessible from the front dial with the other focus modes.

The RX1R II next to the Leica M (Top) and OM-D E-M10 II (Bottom) – Smaller than both.



With all of these amazing new cameras hitting (Leica SL, Leica Q, Sony A7RII, SII and RX1RII, Olympus E-M10 II)..not sure which one is going to make my “Camera of the Year” for 2015 just yet!

You must click the image for a larger and MIUCH better view and rendering! All are OOC JPEGS! This camera is incredible as nothing out there can touch it for size..hard to believe this packs a 42MP full frame punch in the size of an E-M10 II with a nice solid build. Wow. 












You can order the new Sony RX1R Mark II At B&H Photo or Amazon at the direct links below. Starts shipping November 25th! It’s not cheap but quality never is. 

B&H Photo


Nov 172015


LEICA SL – 1st HANDS ON Look! 

So today I received a Leica SL and 24-90 Lens along with an M adapter so I could test M lenses on this new Leica. This is a loaner that I received to test for a while as the one I ordered for myself (from Ken Hansen) will not be in for a little while. In any case, this new Leica SL is absolutely incredible in build with a pro feel that not many cameras have besides the Leica S. In fact, it feels and looks more like a Mini S but with a full frame 35mm sensor instead of a medium format sized sensor.

My 1st Look Video Below!

When you look at it from this perspective, the SL is not a Sony A7 copy..instead it is like a whole new class of camera. Leica says they are aiming for pro users, and I can see this now as any studio shooter, wedding shooter or concert shooter would fall deeply in love with the SL. Even the 24-90 f/2.8-f/4 lens is stunning in its quality from build to image quality, which renders much like a superb prime lens would.

I have to eat my words on what I wrote about the SL based on 1st thoughts of the specs and images. Now that it is in hand, and I have studied it, shot with it a little and experienced this amazing drop dead gorgeous EVF, dual SD slots, pro battery, and full weather sealing..I can say the SL is in a class all by itself, even when compared to the Canon 1d’s and D4’s of the world.

It’s larger than a Sony A7 series body but not by much. In fact, in the video you will see that it is not much larger than an M 240. With M lenses, this EVF ROCKS and makes it a breeze to shoot with M glass…much easier than even the M 240 and the IQ beats the M as well due to the new sensor.

Three quick snaps 10 minutes after getting the camera. These are just snapshots of my house, in my house and outside of my house. I wanted to see the color, detail and pop of the 24-90 Zoom. In my upcoming full review I will have TONS of image samples just as I always do for my big reviews. 

Last two are with the 50 Lux ASPH

These are all Out Of Camera images and color looks great indoor and out






Shooting the SL with something like a 28 Elmarit, 35 cron and 50 lux would be so much fun and provide stunning IQ.

My full massive review will include video samples, comparisons to the Sony A7RII, Leica M 240 and even the Sony RX1RII. It will include TONS of images samples, crops, ISO tests and usability reports. It may be my most jam packed review to date so will take around 3 weeks to do. So….

Stay tuned ;)


PS – You can order a Leica SL from Ken Hansen ([email protected]),, B&H Photo or Leica Store Miami

Nov 112015

The Olympus E-M10. People of Mumbai

By Raviraj Kande

Hello Steve and all worldwide audience of!

I am Raviraj Kande an actor and stand up comedian by profession born and brought up in Mumbai -India.

After reading most of the real world reviews I went for the Olympus OMD em-10 . I was going back and forth between Sony a6000 and OMD em10. The lens variety available finally made me go for Olympus OMD em10 and it was more stylish looking in the two.

I wanted something smaller yet powerful . Since I travel too for my live shows thought the little OMD will be great enough to document interesting stuff while travelling .

Also read all your reviews of OMD series which were extremely helpful since they were real world based with amazing pics which truly show the potential of micro four thirds system and the Olympus OMD offerings.

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The current lenses I have are sigma 60mm and the 14-42ez kit lens. The 25mm from Olympus is on its way . I had my friend from Australia Rahul Dutta a passionate photographer himself , send me the lenses and camera brand new, since its not readily available in India, and very expensive too.

It might sound weird but for me the camera body must look stylish , because if I love the way it looks I will use it more often . The Olympus em10 is very sexy looking camera with right blend of modern features and retro design .

It has been an absolute joy using the OMD em10 in variety of situations like concert , clicking pics of delicious food in restaurants , street portraits, landscapes ,fashion . It does everything with ease and style.

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OI000826-03 OI000854-02 OI000880-01 OI000210-01

I’m here attaching pics taken with the 60mm from sigma, a insanely sharp lens . This pics have been clicked while walking around on the streets of Mumbai . 2 pics are of my wife which were clicked again on street while walking around. The rest are street portraits of common people who work on daily wages basis in Mumbai. Some pics of food and flower too .

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All pics are shot as jpegs and edited on my phone in snapseed and at times vsco cam. But mostly in snapseed. Also all pics are shot in natural available light.

Thanks very much for your passionate in-depth non over technical real life usage reviews which help any body interested in photography make decision on factually basis. Also a big thanks to the community here who share their experiences with variety of cameras and lenses .

Sincerely- Raviraj .

My Facebook id is – Raviraj Kande

And my Flickr page is


Nov 102015

The Sony A7SII Review. The King of The Night gets updated.

By Steve Huff

You can buy the A7sII at Amazon HERE

You can also buy it at B&H Photo HERE.

It seems that every time I sit down to write a review lately it is for a new Sony camera, and believe me, as much Sony as you see written here and all over the web (due to so many new cameras coming from them before the Holidays), it is not stopping here. With the RX1R Mark II on the way within days Sony is like a runaway freight train, except instead of crashing and burning at the end of the road I think Sony is hoping for world domination in the world of Mirrorless cameras. I have to say, their plan is working well for them as I know so many who are shooting with the latest generation A7 bodies these days, and they all love them. The A7II, A7RII, and now the A7SII are fantastic full frame 35mm digital cameras that can do it all. With impressive image and video specs, the new breed of a7 cameras are stunning and surpass the 1st gen A7 bodies by a large margin IMO.

But this review is for the newest Sony in the A7 line, the new and improved a7SII. If you missed the original a7S review, see it here as this will not rehash the things that are the same there. 

Empty Swings – A7SII, Voigtlander 35 1.7 Ultron – Click for lager. 


After reviewing the INCREDIBLE a7R2, it became my #1 go to camera. It pushed aside my old A7s and A7II as it offered the best of both of those bodies. With the A7SII, Sony’s most sensitive low light camera as well as an amazing video machine, Sony has taken the proven sensor and has now put it in the new body which is more solid, with a  better control layout than the previous A7, A7s and A7r. This body is the same as the new Mark II versions, and as I have said before, it is a pretty substantial improvement. After shooting the new a7sII for a while, it was tough to go back to the old A7s body as it felt so much different…not as nice and the shutter button placement on the new body is so much better and natural it is tough to go back to the old style after using the new breed for a while.

But at the end of the day, did Sony pack enough in the Mark II to make it a worthy upgrade to someone who has an a7S already?


Well, maybe. Maybe not. That all depends on YOU and what you want. If you want the new body style, then yes. If you was 5 Axis IS, then yes. If you want even better AF performance and new processing then YES! What you will not get in the new A7SII is a new sensor or better low light performance than its older sibling. It is still the tried and true 12MP sensor from the original A7s, which means low light performance will be about the same and IQ should be about the same. Even so, in my shooting I have found that I was getting slightly better color and pop with the new A7sII, though it could have been because of the lens I was using for much of the review..the Excellent Voigtlander 35 1.7 in Leica M mount.

The uber cool Voigtlander 35 1.7 works so well on the new Sony A7 bodies…and the Leica M of course!


This particular lens gives a “Leica Look” and it has no issues on the A7RII or the A7SII. It’s small, manual focus is easy and the quality is not far off from the Leica or Zeiss 35’s. When I switched back to the standard Sony lenses, I see the familiar rendering of the original “S” model, unless I used the one Sony/Zeiss lens that also gives this look, the 35 1.4 Distagon. When I use the 35 1.7 M mount, I see images that remind me of the old Leica M9, which is legendary in its image rendering. Nothing like it, even today. That lens can be seen at HERE. My review of that lens is HERE. 

The Color, Pop, Depth and overall IQ of the A7SII is stunning. This are all JPEGS out of camera! EXIF is embedded. I have not seen rendering like this since the Leica M9 ;) 

Click them for larger and see them correctly! 




Away We Go! 

So after a couple of weeks with the new A7SII, and while still owning the original A7s I was critical of the new body, mainly because I have bonded with my original. Yep,  it has been here since launch. These cameras are not cheap, so I wanted to see if I would pay the upgrade fee for the SII over my old S Mark 1. Before I get into that, let me tell you what Sony improved in the new A7SII over the A7s Mark 1.

  1. New body style. The new A7SII now has the A7RII and A7II body style. I LOVE the new body style and prefer it to the original in a big way. It feels more solid, it feels more comfy and the controls are laid out more natural for your hands. a7SII WIN. 
  2. Seemingly faster AF. While the original A7s was the best A7 body for Auto Focus the A7sII seems to step it up as I was seeing slightly quicker auto focus and it still has the uncanny ability to focus in the dark, even  when I do not use the Af assist. This is the one Sony a7 body with the best AF performance. a7sII Win!
  3. Slightly different IQ out of camera. It seems the colors and snap and pop are slightly different, in a good way. Many shots remind me of the old Leica M9 in rendering, just with a crazy ISO capability. Could be the lens choice as Leica M lenses seem to give more color saturation and pop.
  4. Improved video specs for the video pros. I am not a video guy, but this camera can shoot pro level video without question and I have shot at ISO 200-400,000 and had results I could actually use. It sees in the dark, without question! Video is fantastic. a7SII Win!

Here is what Sony says about the A7SII sensor and BIONZ processor…

“A 12.2MP full-frame Exmor CMOS sensor and BIONZ X image processor work together to enable an expansive dynamic range with minimal noise and notable sensitivity from ISO 100-102400, which is further expandable to ISO 50-409600. Coupled with the large individual pixel size the 12.2MP sensor affords, this camera is well-suited to use in low-light conditions.

The sensor’s design also features a new-generation RGB color filter array, as well as a gapless on-chip lens design. Together, these two technologies enable truly efficient light-gathering abilities that further reinforce the low noise, high-sensitivity design. Furthermore, an anti-reflective coating has also been applied to the seal glass of the image sensor to minimize surface reflections, glare, and ghosting for contrast-rich, color-neutral imagery.

The sensor and processor combination also avail a wealth of performance-related benefits to still shooting, including a Speed Priority continuous shooting rate of 5 fps, or a 2.5 fps shooting rate with continuous AF.

The Fast Intelligent AF system employs 169 AF points (up from 25 points of the original) , which is comprised of 25 contrast-detection points and nine central AF points that have been split into 16 segments each, in order to provide both speed and accuracy in low-light conditions down to -4 EV.

So in a nutshell, the Af is better and faster than the previous A7 body and that one was already the best A7 Af system out there, and the new a7SII focuses without an issue in just about any light I have had it in.

I also have been enjoying shooting in B&W with the a7SII as I find it does very well in this area. These were all shot B&W in camera, all JPEG up to ISO 25,600

1st two with the Voigtlander 35 1.7 Ultron, 3rd with the Zeiss 24-70 f/4 and the last with the gorgeous 35 1.4 Sony/Zeiss






The a7sII is what some would call a “niche” camera as it has a lower megapixel count than what is generally accepted today by pros and pixel peepers. I find 12 to be great for my uses and I would take a guess that 90% of shooters who read this page would be fine with 12MP in the real world as well. Posting images online, making prints up to 16X20 and general use does not require any more than this. I see many friends who just shoot JPEGS casually yet they are using 30-50 megapixel cameras. I see their images on Facebook and as small JPEGS or prints. For that, nothing more than 12MP is needed. If you want to make huge prints on your wall with detail and finesse, you will want a higher MP camera, but for the average shooter, hobbyist or enthusiast I feel there may be more to like from the a7SII than even the fantastic a7RII, but with that said, the mighty a7RII is not that far off in performance from the A7sII when it comes to AF and ISO.

The a7SII focuses faster. It will focus in the dark. It has amazing low light video capabilities and can shoot in places you never could before…of course once you start cranking the ISO past 60,000 or so you will get some offensive noise, but I have images shot at even the max, as a torture test at 409,000 in NO light (only in B&W) just to see what that setting would yield.

High ISO. One strength of the a7s and a7SII both. Same sensor, same ISO capability. 

Now if shooting at 409,000 forget about shooting in color. Turn that camera to HC B&W (high contrast) and take a shot in the dark, literally. The image below was shot in DARKNESS. As in, where I stood I could not even see the ocean! The camera, at this setting gave me an image full of noise and grit but at the same time, it reminds me of some fast film I used to shoot. ISO 6400 film, but this is 409,000 ISO! I can see someone doing a very moody portrait session on the beach at midnight, no lights or flash…may not be ideal but could yield interesting results. I am not afraid of grain, never have been which is why I turn off all noise reduction as soon as I get a new camera. 


If we step down the ISO a tad…

1st two, 128,000



ISO 102,800


Color at 256,000 and lit by the moon


25,600 at night…


All samples above were without any noise reduction, zero. All were out of camera JPEG’s, so nothing here is from RAW as Adobe has not updated their software yet for this camera at the time I did teh review. Also, be sure you click the images for the real deal, to see them larger and better and to see the real noise.

Overall the a7SII keeps with the tradition of amazing low light performance, and for me, even after trying all of the others that do well in low light (yes, even the Nikon D750, Canon’s, etc) nothing can do what the a7S series is really capable of. By the time you hit 12,800 on the others you want to stop..with the a7S II you can keep working…yes, with some noise, but you can keep working or maybe even get shots no one else could even dare to try and get. It’s that kind of camera and makes you want to push the crazy limits.


I even shot some personal video on the beach at ISO 256,000 and 409,000 and it was useable.. I was amazed at what it was doing for me in no light. The a7RII was not too far behind, but it couldn’t match the SII in the dark, focus wise or with ULTRA high ISO as the RII stops at 102,000 ISO. The SII can go up past 400,000 but expect serious grain at that level. In other words, the RII is close  to the SII in Af speed and ISO but the SII does indeed edge it out in both areas.

But it’s just as good in GOOD light!

So while many feel this camera is a one or two trick pony (low light or video) it offers so much more like class leading AF speed and AF in the dark, it offers 5 Axis IS, it offers solid build and great button placement and amazing video. Oh, and it also does DAMN well in great or good or decent light!

Loving the color and pop of the a7SII files..EXIF is embedded on all images but these are shot with a mix of the New Voigtlander 35 1.7 and Sony Zeiss 35 1.4, two fabulous 35’s for the A7 series. OOC JPEGS!







As with the original Mark I a7s, I see the character and almost medium format look of the files. Many were afraid of this camera due to the 12MP sensor (too low for many) but to the friends I know who bought an a7S, they LOVED it tremendously and created some amazing images with it. Believe me my friends, there is nothing to worry about with the a7S or a7SIi. If you like shooting in low light, or lower than low light, you should seriously consider this camera as it opens up a whole new “nighttime” world where flash or light is not needed. It’s a cool thing and even though other cameras today can shoot in low light or even lower than low light, none of them can do it like this “S” series from Sony. I can only image what they will be doing in 5 more years.

ISO 4,000 with the Sony/Zeiss 35 1.4 at 1.4 – OOC JPEG, zero NR


But is it worth the upgrade if you own an a7S?

Even after 2 weeks with the a7SII I am still not 100% sure I would spend the extra on the new version. The a7s sells for $2200 and the new Mark II is $3000. That is a $800 difference. If you already own an A7s, then trying to sell it means you will get around $1400 for it and then have to pony up $1600 MORE for the new version. If this is the case, you have to ask yourself if you want the following:

  • New body style and control layout
  • New 5 Axis IS for image stabilization in video and photos
  • Faster AF, best AF in the A7 line
  • Better video specs over the original  – 4K capable now in camera

Speaking of video, here is the blurb for the new video specs:

“Internal UHD 4K Recording and Full Pixel Readout – Internal recording of UHD 4K movies is possible in multiple frame rates up to 30 fps and, based on the 12.2MP resolution, full pixel readout is possible that is void of pixel binning for higher quality imagery with reduced moiré and aliasing. Full HD 1080p recording is also supported in frame rates up to 120 fps, and both resolutions utilize the 100 Mbps XAVC S format contained within an MP4 wrapper with 4:2:0 sampling. The high-speed, 120 fps recording also enables 4x and 5x slow-motion movie recording with the frame rate set to either 30p or 24p.

In addition to high-resolution internal recording, uncompressed HDMI output also enables the use of an optional external recorder for clean 4K recording with 4:2:2 sampling.”

So you get the 120fps slo motion features as well over the a7s. With the new firmware update from Sony, the a7SII can also shoot uncompressed RAW files. Just what everyone has been asking for.

A7s vs A7sII vs A7rII – QUICK IMAGE COMPARISON for Color and ISO at 25,600. 

Many would call this a silly test. I mean, who shoots at 25,600 ISO? Some do, but not many. The a7SII can go on to ISO 400,000+ so 25,600 should be a piece of cake. This was in my office, late afternoon, one light on in the corner BEHIND the dog toy. Each file is from the camera, as a JPEG. The a7RII file has been resized down to 12 MP so it is a fair fight. Click each one to see the OOC file (again, a7RII was downsized to 12MP)

They all look pretty similar showing the RII hanging with the big boy in the high ISO arena, at least at 25,600!





As you can see, the a7S and a7SII are about the same, while the a7RII is hanging right in there! Not too shabby!

So, again..would you buy an A7sII if you have an A7s?

So while I enjoy the hell out of the new a7SII, I do not think I would sell my a7s and pay $1500 more to get the new version. $700 maybe, $1500 no.

If I was new to the a7 family, I would 100% go with the a7sII over the old model simply due to the fact that 12MP is plenty for me, and I prefer the faster AF, and the best low light performance I can get. It’s got everything one would need BESIDES massive resolution. and while the new A7rII is no slouch in low light, its not quite at the level of the a7SII once it gets darker and  the ISO gets cranked past 25,600.

Few more images with the a7SII. Even in low or mixed light, the camera does very well. Remember, I have all noise reduction OFF. I use NONE. These are all OOC JPEGS. 









My Final Conclusion

Sony seems to be really shooting for the stars as these new Mark II series of A7 have all been phenomenal. Mirrorless is taking off in a huge way. DSLR sales are down, way down..mirrorless sales are UP, way up. I remember when the A7 arrived, the original..many predicted the doom of Mirrorless while I was predicting the slow death of DSLR’s. The slow death of DSLR’s IS happening as many have been switching to mirrorless  – some do it every single day and companies like Sony, Olympus, Panasonic and now even Leica are leading the way for those who want a great mirorrless experience with not many limitations.

In the case of the Sony a7SII, the ability to shoot in any light, with almost any lens made and having 5 Axis IS inside with a great EVF and LCD along with perfect button and control placement, well it just makes it a cool and very capable camera. Nothing quite like it out there right now.

If 12MP doesn’t bother you, I see no reason to go for the A7II or RII over this one. With some M mount lenses this guy will give you an almost Leica M9 feel, not 100% but close. The color pops, OOC JPEGS are fantastic and in the hands of someone with uber talent there would be nothing this camera can’t do..well, even today these cameras are not better than a DSLR for continuous AF but I feel we will be there within a year or two, so sports shooters..I’d stick with your DSLR even though these cameras are plenty fast for just about everything else.

With cel phones taking over as the most used camera in the world, us enthusiasts and hobbyists are becoming a niche breed ourselves. Me, I can’t stand using a phone for any real serious shooting. As good as the iPhone camera is, it does not match something like the Sony A7 series or Leica or Olympus or most other serious cameras. I will take a real camera anyway over a phone, and always will. There will always be a desire for REAL cameras and while one day they may get close to extinction, they never really will. Kind of like Viny Records. They are still being made today for most new music releases. Yep, good old records and they sound GLORIOUS and give a much more “real” experience over digital files or CD. Same way I see a real camera vs a phone. :)









Pro’s and Con’s of the A7sII


  1. New body style, better controls and more solid feel
  2. 5 Axis IS inside!
  3. Improved video specs over the original A7s. 4K, slo motion, etc..
  4. Improved AF speed, also focuses in extremely low light
  5. Beautiful IQ with saturated colors and 3D pop 
  6. Built in mics for video are fantastic
  7. Low light capabilities are best in class, without question
  8. Sony has many lenses available now for the FE mount system
  9. Almost any lens can be used here, and M lenses work well with the SII



  1. Same sensor as the original so do not expect ISO improvements or massive changes to IQ
  2. Battery life not the best, as with all Sony A7 series bodies.
  3. $3,000 it is not cheap, but IMO worth it if you want versatile camera that can shoot anywhere, anytime
  4. No real weather sealing here
  5. Continuous AF could be improved to get to pro DSLR level

So should you buy an a7SII? Well, that is up to you.

This review was shorter than my normal 7-10K word reviews because this is basically an a7s but with a few nice improvements and upgrades along with the new body style. Nothing revolutionary or mind blowing over the original but still enough for many to lust for and want to shoot with this beautiful camera, and it is a beautiful machine. As I shoot it I think back to just 10 years ago at what we had in the digital camera market and if someone would have told me that today in 2015 we would have cameras doing 4K video, ISO 400,000+ and using live view EVF’s that are actually usable..I may not have believed it. We are living in that future and the choices are here. It’s an amazing thing and I can only imagine what the next 10 years will bring to the digital photography world.

Bottom Line: If you want an A7 body, I’d go for this one or the RII. Both are “End Game” cameras, at least for a few years until the next big thing. I still have the original A7s and love it. With the SII and RII, there would be no situation you couldn’t cover.

Oops! Sony did it again!


You can buy the A7sII at Amazon HERE

You can also buy it at B&H Photo HERE.

Both shops 100% recommended by me!



Hello to all! For the past 7 years I have been running this website and it has grown to beyond my wildest dreams. Some days this very website has over 200,000 visitors and because of this I need and use superfast dedicated web servers to host the site. Running this site costs quite a bit of cash every single month and on top of that, I work full-time 60+ hours a week on it each and every single day of the week (I received 200-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I need YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis.

To help out it is simple, and no, I am not asking you for a penny!

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

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

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

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

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Nov 062015
Venus 15mm


Laowa 15mm f/4 Wide-Angled 1:1 Macro Lens on the Sony A7RII

by Dierk Topp

Hi Brandon and Steve,

This is about a very special lens, the Laowa 15mm f/4 Wide-Angled 1:1 Macro from Venus Optics in Hefei/Anhui in CHINA.

To explain the specialty of this lens here is a quote of a short description from Venus Optics:

“The new Laowa 15mm f/4 1:1 Macro lens features an ultra wide angle of view of 110 degrees with 1:1 maximum magnification. Photographers can focus very close to the subject and let the foreground dominates in the photo but at the same time, have the background telling viewers about where and how the subject lives.”


” A shift mechanism is added at the rear end of the lens with a maximum adjustment of +/- 6mm, which is extremely useful for landscape/architecture photography for distortion correction.”

I love wide and super wide lenses and preordered it after it was announced. My lens has the serial # 761 :-)

The reasons for me:

I ordered the Sony E-mount version, Nikon and Canon mount is available too
the specs looked very interesting and the price for it even more
the main advantage of the lens is, that I can get a very close foreground and environment background
it could be a universal super wide angle lens
the design is for DSLR and color shift in the corners are not expected
of course it has a manual aperture
it does not have clicks for the apertures
the shift mechanism may be a bit soft, not like a tilt/shift lens

This is not supposed to be a review!

I don’t dig into CA and soft corners. I just want to share my experiences with this special lens with you and your readers.
If you are interested in full resolution test images, you may find them here on my flickr.

From the practical use I can say, it works great. If you really use it close to 1:1 you have to take off the sun shield but still may get problems with the light and/or shadows of the lens over the subject. The following picture of the lens attached to a Sony A7RII shows, how close you are in these situations.
And I would like to mention, that the aperture has no clicks, the following images are “about” f/11. The shift mechanism is a bit soft too, but it works.

Find the following images and some more here on my flickr album.

The lens mounted on the Sony A7RII

Venus 15mm

Comparison of the sizes: Sony Zeiss 16-35/4 – Laowa 15mm/4 – Sony Zeiss 24-70/4
(it is the E-mount lens, the DSLR lens will be much shorter)

Venus 15mm

On this picture the object distance is set to 1:1,  You see, that this is only useful for very specific situations! You will have problems to get enough light to your object!

on 1:1 there is no chance to get any light on this object
Ok. here are some examples of the practical use of this lens

On the architecture images below vertical lines have been corrected in PP the used aperture on most images is “about” f/11, you never know exactly, when you stop down while watching the focus magnification. Even with f/11 the DOF is very small at 1:1

All images made with Sony A7RII full format camera
On the following images the distance to the front lens is about 5 to 10cm! (I know, it does not look like this, but it is a 15mm lens :-) )

Venus 15mm

on the sample images of the vendor for this lens you find images with mushrooms seen from the below the mushroom, I had to try that as well :-)
(this may be difficult with a DSLR with a fixed screen)

Sony A7RII with Laowa 15mm f/4 Wide-Angled 1:1 Macro

A7RII with Laowa 15mm f/4 Wide-Angled 1:1 Macro

town hall of my home city

Reinfeld Rathaus

Venus 15mm

it seems to be an interesting lens for certain product shots:

Venus 15mm

FNT Seegeberg

FNT Seegeberg

The following two images with the use of the shift function. Both are stitched two images, one full shift down and one shift up,  you see the problems in the corners, the images are not cropped.
With stitched images I usually use the full shift and crop later. Again the foreground is a few cm away!
(no info of shutter and ISO in the EXIF)

Venus 15mm

Venus 15mm

Venus 15mm

The following images may show the normal use as a super wide lens
vertical correction in PP

from a visit to Hamburg, Germany

Hamburg City

the Hamburg Rathaus (town hall)

Hamburg Rathaus

Hamburg Rathaus

Hamburg Rathaus

Hamburg Rathaus

Hamburg Rathaus

Venus 15mm vs. leica WATE vs. Sony/Zeiss 16-35

and last but not least:
the gate was closed and I heard the train coming, I focused on the gate.
The ICE passed me at a distance of about 5 meters and with more than 100 km/h – I got it :-)

Sony A7RII with Laowa 15mm f/4 Wide-Angled 1:1 Macro

I hope, that you got an impression, what this lens can do.

Thanks very much for looking


more of my images:

Oct 262015


Shooting at ISO 409,600 with the Sony A7SII

By Steve Huff

NOTE: THIS IS NOT MY A7SII REVIEW! Just an EXTREME High ISO demonstration. My review will be up within 2 weeks as I will be traveling to Key West next week to do more testing with the camera. 

You can order the A7SII at B&H Photo HERE or at Amazon HERE.  ISO range 50 – 409,600 

I have been shooting with the Sony A7SII for about a week now and I am again in love. Ever since the Sony A7II, then A7RII I have really been enjoying my Sony cameras. The A7RII is VERY hard to beat for a high res monster camera, and I have put many snaps on the RII I have here. It’s my daily shooter. Now that Sony sent me an A7SII to review I am just amazed at what can be accomplished in ANY light, at ANY time and yes, even up to the max ISO of 409,600. Now, of course there will be lots of noise at ISO 409,600 but I have NEVER seen ANY camera, film or digital, that can do what the AS7II does in low light or even darkness.


Using the 16-35 or 35 1.4 Sony the A7SII focuses lightning fast, even in darkness WITHOUT an AF assist lamp. Oh, it has one, but I turn it off as it doesn’t need it.

I recently was at the state fair shooting and then went off to San Diego this past weekend to see how far I could push the limits of high ISO with the new A7SII. I pushed the limits with the original A7S in the past, and have a post up about that HERE.  Only thing is now that I look back, I did not go past 102,000 ISO with the original A7S. This time I wanted to go to the MAX or ISO 409,600 with the new A7SII just to see if it would be usable AT ALL. What I found was that while shooting in the DARK with no light source besides the moon the A7SII was giving me results that I actually liked at ISO 409,600. I would not use that on a regular basis but if you are in a situation without light, in the dark and want a camera that can actually get a shot in this situation, the only one that will do it is the A7SII.

Using Native lenses with AF, the A7SII never once failed to lock focus quickly, even in 90% DARKNESS. Using Manual M mount lenses was a breeze and gave me color and pop that reminded me so much of the Leica M9. Imagine Leica M9 output but with capability to ISO 409,600. At 409,600 the Sony A7sII looks like the Leica M9 at ISO 2500. Technology has evolved GREATLY.

Below I will show you some EXTREME ISO examples, all the way up to ISO 409,600 but shot in near darkness. Again, shooting color at 409,600 would not be advisable but shooting B&W is quite nice. With color I stop at 256,000 ISO with the A7SII. Think about that. Remember the old Canon 1Ds, the 1st one? At ISO 640 it was very noisy. Now we have a camera that is a fraction of the cost, same size sensor, can use almost any lens made and shoots up to ISO 409,600 while giving Auto Focus performance in crazy low light situations that no other camera made can do. Insane how far the digital camera world has come.

All I know is now I want the A7SII for those very low light scenarios. I also shot some video at ISO 256,000 and it was STUNNING, again, in virtually NO light. This camera will be able to break down barriers as you can shoot it in ANY light, period. In good light, as I said, it is very M9-ish…

Two shots them to see better versions. These are not crazy high ISO but show the color and pop that reminds me of  the M9. 1st Shot was the 35 1.4 Sony, 2nd the 35 1.7 Voigtlander M mount. 


This one is at IS) 4000 and with this camera I consider that low ISO ;) 


If you clicked on the above images and are on a large screen you will see the depth and pop of the files from this camera at lower ISO’s. You can see more HERE if you missed my post last week.


So this is what this post is about, take a look at some extreme high ISO samples from the A7SII. All are OOC JPEGS, ZERO NR (turned OFF in camera so no noise reduction).

This 1st shot at 10,000 ISO  – well, it was 90% dark. My iPhone would have caught this as a black scene as would my GoPro I had. The A7SII cranked to 10,000 ISO without any Noise Reduction lit up the scene dramatically. It did NOT look anything like this in reality. It was dark. The lights in the BG were not lighting up the cemetery. The darker the scene, the harder it is for any camera to get a noise free image, but at 10,000 ISO and zero NR, no camera could match this under these shooting situations. 







All images above should be clicked on to see them correctly. But the only light source on the beach was the moon. In person my GoPro would see nothing but blackness. No other camera would be able to see anything unless you had a tripod and a  long exposure. A friend of mine was shooting his A7RII at max ISO and it was looking good as well but the A7SII takes it further with capability to 409,600. With an ISO range from 50 to 409,600…just wow. Thats all I got.

You can order the A7S Mark II at B&H Photo HERE or Amazon HERE.


Sony A7SII review

Sony RX1R II review

Leica SL Review

and more..





Hello to all! For the past 7 years I have been running this website and it has grown to beyond my wildest dreams. Some days this very website has over 200,000 visitors and because of this I need and use superfast dedicated web servers to host the site. Running this site costs quite a bit of cash every single month and on top of that, I work full-time 60+ hours a week on it each and every single day of the week (I received 200-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I need YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis.

To help out it is simple, and no, I am not asking you for a penny!

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

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

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

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

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

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

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!

Oct 202015


The New Leica SL Announced. My thoughts

UPDATE: I received an SL and ate these words as it is beautiful and in a class of its own. It really is. See my 1st look report HERE for the real scoop. 

Hmm. Is it just me or does the new Leica SL seem to be taking aim at the Sony A7 series? Yes, the A7 series that has indeed hurt Leica M sales starting 3 years ago or so.  The new SL, at least from the front,  looks spookily like a larger (and it is larger and 1/2 lb heavier with battery) A7 series body, is full frame and is a new system from Leica that has new lenses as well as fast Auto Focus (for new native lenses) and an adapter allowing you to use M lenses. Oh, $7500 body only or $12,500 k with a 24-90 f/2.80f/4 zoom. Yes. Really.


My #1 issue is that if you take away the Leica logo and red dot and you have what looks strikingly like an A7 series body, FROM THE FRONT anyway. It’s no secret that Leica has been hurt by Sony over the past 2-3 years. When you can get an A7RII for less than half the cost of an M, yet have better specs, features and abilities then something has to happen. I was just shooting my A7RII at ISO 80,000 the other night and it did it with ease. With yet another new Leica CEO on board it seems like Leica is really trying to survive and push ahead in this ever evolving tech market. But they may be too late  to the party with this one, and at this price.

As for specs, well, it can not match the latest Sony A7RII specs nor can it really complete with the A7RII  but Leica is charging MUCH more for the SL than Sony is the A7RII. Since this is nothing really original like an M or T or S I do not understand how Leica could release this for $7500k (without a lens) and think it will sell well as it has none of the MoJo or mystique (on paper and in looks) that I expect from Leica.

Now I love Leica as much as the next guy, and every review I release (Leica T, Leica Q, Leica M) I get accused of being a Leica fanboy. After the buzz wears off, 2-3 weeks later I get accused of being a Sony fanboy or Olympus fanboy. But at the end of the day I use what works for me, and I also appreciate a well made camera that gives you an emotional connection as well as a fantastic photo experience. I am picky, so I use what I feel is the best for ME and will only review and write about cameras that I feel are really good or special.

Screen Shot 2015-10-20 at 10.40.28 AM

In the past, most Leica cameras have done this for me..The M8, M9, M 240, Leica Q and yes, even the T and of course the original X1 and X2 were also faves of mine. The X-Vario was a fail (IMO) as was the new larger X as it was more of a repeat of the X2, just larger. The Q was a step in the right direction I feel with the included EVF and super sensor. So what about the new SL?

Yes, so now we have the Leica SL which I assumed would have a killer Leica retro or vintage design. Instead they might have said “Let’s copy the Sony A7 body design since this is the company who is hurting our sales and selling way more cameras than us”. The body will  be more than 2X the cost of the almost perfect Sony A7RII which has better specs, and an amazing sensor as well as crazy low light abilities that almost reach the A7S ISO abilities (and now loads of lenses to choose from). The Leica SL lenses, two of which are slower variable aperture zooms and one fast prime (50 Summilux 1.4) are HUGE when compared to lenses for the M. Auto focus adds bulk and size (and cost) and these lenses have the same styling cues as the T and it may be a while before we have a wide selection of glass for this system. It took Sony 3 years to do this, and that is with Sony’s budget. How long will it take Leica? Longer, even if the SL is successful.

Screen Shot 2015-10-20 at 10.41.45 AM

As with the Q, the SL has 24 MP.

I am a bit let down this time from Leica. Their big announcement and teases over the past month have been building this up to be some sort of beautiful new vintage retro inspired camera system. I am sure it is beautiful and feels amazing in the hand, but at the price I am not sure what is separating it from the 100% awesome Sony A7RII. I mean, I do not see the SL beating the A7RII. IQ. maybe it will or maybe not but I will bet $1000 that the SL will not even get close to the high ISO capability of the A7RII. It will also not beat the RII in features, video, IS (Sony has 5 Axis), lens availability, and not even speed. So what are we left with? The name and red dot. I see this as a $3000-$3500 camera body so I feel Leica will have a tough time finding wide appeal here at the prices of $7500-$12,500. Sure, you can adapt T, M or even S lenses to the SL (thought the T lenses are not full frame and the S lenses will be cropped) but you can adapt more lenses to the Sony cameras these days. Nikon, Canon, Leica, whatever.

**Oh, and please excuse my I am doing just that..rambling to myself and then writing it down here**

The SL will have to have a totally unique image quality signature (like the Leica M9 did) for me to understand it. Since I have not yet shot with one yet, I have no clue as to how it performs. If it offers something very special, then I may be sold on it after all. No way to tell until I give it a go. I do know that the design, specs and info have me feeling a bit “blah” this time. It’s large, and the lenses appear to be even larger than the Sony offerings.

This one may just be for the Leica die hards but one other note…if Leica can make wide angle M lenses play perfectly well with the SL, as in NO ISSUES at all, they may have something. The Sony A7RII does amazing with Leica glass but if you are being critical, using wide angle lenses like a 15-28 will give you softer corners/edges. It is a non issue with longer lenses or fast primes and glass but if the SL can use a Leica 21 M lens with perfect corner to corner details and sharpness then they will sell more to M customers who want perfection with their M glass, to those who want a faster EVF camera than the M 240 to manually focus their M glass. Seeing that the M can not even give perfect results with some M glass, I do not have high hopes for the SL but maybe Leica has a trick up its sleeve.

So as for me, for the 2nd time in Leica history I am mixed on this. Just as with the X Vario, something about the SL doesn’t sit right with me. I think it is because it just look like a copy of the successful Sony A7 series. While it is in no way a Sony A7 body inside, they should have made the effort to make an original design. I mean, this is premium and it is “cost no object” Leica. We should get something unique for our big money we have to shell out for this.

If I can get a hold of one I will do my normal full review, but chances of Leica sending me one for review after this post is very slim. I may just rent one when the rental houses get these in. If it is something special I will then buy one for a long term review. If not, looks like I will be waiting for the next M, which I know I will love as the M series is in my blood ;) In fact, I still recommend the M 240 to anyone who asks. It’s a lovely camera and while it can’t beat the latest offerings in the full frame world for IQ, it beats them for usability, pride of ownership and that emotional connection you can achieve with an M.

Bottom line? The SL is $7500 for the body only. The 24-90 f/2.8-f/4 long zoom is $5k. Yes, $5k for a slow aperture zoom that is very large. The camera has no Image Stabilization, maxes out at ISO 50,000 (which I suspect will be very grainy at 50k), is somewhat un-Leica like being large and bulky though it has a great EVF and supposedly blazing AF. You can use T or M lenses, even S lenses (though the S lenses will be cropped) and they managed to create this out of a solid block of Aluminum much like the T. So for the SL and 24-90 f/2.8-f/4 zoom, you will be shelling out $12,500. Ouch.

What do you think of the SL from Leica? Will you buy one? Leave your comments below and tell Leica what you think of this release. DO you love it and want it or does it not float your boat? They do read the comments here when I write about their cameras and lenses so join and and talk about it!

Screen Shot 2015-10-20 at 10.42.01 AM

So you want to order one? Here is how.

For those of you excited by this new SL, and you want one (or even an M), I highly suggest emailing legendary Leica dealer KEN HANSEN. He has been my #1 Leica guy forever now and is as good as it gets, period. You can email him at [email protected]  You can also pick up an SL when they are in stock at Also check out  Of course, B&H Photo also has the SL up for pre order! 



4.4 MP EVF at 60 FPS – largest, fastest & highest resolution EVF on the market.
Burst rate of 11 FPS at full resolution 24 MP DNG
Fastest AF of any full-frame system camera
24 MP CMOS sensor
ISO ranging from 50 to 50,000
Supports Leica T and SL mount lenses and R, M, S and Cine lenses via adapter
Fastest SD standard (UHS2) with a secondary (UHS1) back up SD card slot
4k Video at 30 FPS (Super 35), 1080HD at 120 FPS (FF) (10 bit via HDMI out)
Weather sealed to protect from spray water and dust
Shutter speed from 30 min (bulb) to 1/8000s
Ultrasonic sensor cleaning
Latest generation of Leica professional user interface with hybrid touch operation
Integrated WiFi and GPS module
Remote control, viewing and sharing App for iOS & Android
Made in Germany and milled from solid blocks of aluminum
Two year warranty 

Oct 192015


The Panasonic GX8. A One Day Hands on Report.

By Steve Huff

A couple of days ago I was able to get a hold of the new Panasonic GX8, but just for 2 days. While that is not time enough for a full detailed review, it is enough to say a few words on it as I am extensively experienced with all Olympus Micro 4/3 offerings, as well as the older GX series from Panasonic. I remember shooting and reviewing the previous GX7 (You can see it here) and I really enjoyed it, mostly thanks to the EVF that swiveled up and down and allowed me to get shots while holding the camera at my body. Also, Panasonic has a unique color signature just as Olympus does, Sony does, Leica does, Fuji does, etc.

I find the Panasonic color signature to be more on the cooler side, much like the Leica days with the M9, compared to the warmer side of Olympus and Sony and the newer Leica M 240 and Q.

I’ve always loved the Panasonic line of Micro 4/3 cameras and for many they are *the* body to choose. Me, I prefer the Olympus bodies for my personal use as the 5 AXIS IS, the design and size of them are always so appealing. For image quality, you can not go wrong with a Panasonic or Olympus, as both will get the job done. The new GX8 is nice but I quickly noticed that in my hand it feels a bit thick and meaty compared to the E-M5II and E-M10II from Olympus. In fact, it’s very close to the size of my Sony A7RII which is a full frame powerhouse! It surely is bigger than the old GX7 for sure. The body is anyway.

Lenses, ahhh yes, Micro 4/3 lenses. They are so damn awesome and amazing. For this review I used mainly the Olympus 7-14 f/2.8 pro as I love this lens. It has grown on me more and more since my review (see that here with the E-M10II) and I can say 100% that it is the best ultra wide lens I have ever used in my life. On any format.

Snapshots from the Fair – 7-14 Pro f/2.8 Olympus Lens



So this is not a review my friends, it is basically me showing a few snaps from the fair with my one day shooting the GX8 as well as some thoughts on it after shooting every Olympus body extensively. So this is a HANDS ON REPORT. 1st off, as I said the body feels much bigger to me in my hand than an Olympus E-M5II or E-M10II, especially the E-M10II as that is a TINY body. Curiosity got to me and I had to see this camera next to others just to see how big it really is. Thanks to the cool site,, we can check on such things quite easily ;) it a tad large for what it is? It is indeed larger than the previous GX7.

1st up, size vs the E-M5 II from Olympus. The GX8 is slightly larger and beefier. Not as comfy feeling in the hand if you have small to medium hands. Large hands may feel more at home with the GX8 though as it does feel ticker and larger all the way around in use. 

Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 8.57.37 AM

Next to the E-M10 Ii we see the GX8 is wider but the E-M10II is slightly taller. Still, when these are side by side in the hand (I have both here) the E-M10II feels much smaller. 

Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 8.57.45 AM

Still wider than an E-M1 but not as tall. The E-M1 is the Oly tour de force pro Micro 4/3 camera, so I expect it to be the largest.

Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 8.57.54 AM

Next to the A7RII, the full frame massive megapixel powerhouse which is in another league over the GX8 in every way including cost, but even though the sensor is MUCH larger in the Sony the GX8 is still wider and feels just as large when holding it in your hands. 

Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 8.58.07 AM

So overall, the GX8 is not one of these mini Panasonic camera that they released year after year for a while. Nope, this is a REAL camera, a camera for the photographer or someone who really wants to really get into it. Basically, it will beat your phone in a big way but still offer you professional controls and results to grow with you. For anyone looking for a really good starter digital camera, I’d say skip the Canon rebel and go to something like a GX8 or E-M5II. These cameras are really fantastic but how did I like my shooting experience with the Panasonic vs the Olympus or even Sony? As always, just about any micro 4/3 body is a joy and pleasure to shoot.

The wide view at 7mm (14mm equivalent) is something for sure! It takes getting used to as finding interesting scenes with a ultra wide is challenging. 


B&W conversion using VSCO filters. Another day at the fair..



But…when using the GX8, somehow and someway it kept defaulting to “4K Photo Mode” and twice I had to reset the camera from within the menu as I had no instructions and after 15 minutes trying to find out what was happening, I could not. So I just  reset it every time this happened but I have no clue why or how this was happening over and over again. I am sure it was something simple but this is the first time ever I could not figure out an issue with a camera. Other than that, the camera gave me no problems. Auto focus was as fast or faster as any camera I have used that has good AF (beats the Sony, matches the Olympus) and the IQ was up there with the best of Micro 4/3, with a more crisp look to the files than I remember seeing with Olympus.

The pop up and out EVF is lovely, and I wish all manufacturers would use an EVF like this as it opens up more possibilities when shooting allowing interesting and different angles. It has a touch screen LCD as well, a nice big 3 inch one at that. It also has image stabilization though from my experience it doesn’t quite get close to the amazing 5 Axis in the Olympus bodies. The AF is quick though, and I noticed no hesitations or is what Panasonic says about the GX8’s new AF mode:


Depth-From-Defocus and Starlight AF Technologies

For accelerated autofocus performance, DFD (Depth-From-Defocus) technology is employed to quickly calculate the distance to subjects and adjust the focusing position in as little as 0.07 seconds, which enables continuous shooting up to 6 fps with continuous AF. This contrast-detection type focus method benefits both still and video recording modes, as well as subject tracking applications where subject color, size, and motion vectors are used to intelligently lock-onto the moving subjects and ensure precise focus. Additionally, supporting working in low-light conditions, a Starlight AF feature enables accurate AF performance down to -4 EV.

Benefitting manual focus operation, focus peaking is available that highlights bright edges of contrast with a colored outline for quickly recognizing your focus point, as well as Touch MF Assist for touch-to-focus operation.

In plain easy to understand language..the AF is VERY fast. Now, I did not use continuous AF in my one day of testing but the standard AF was blazing fast. Faster than the E-M5 II and E-M10II I have here.



So pretty cool on the Auto Focus front. 

As for the in body IS, I thought it was not very good. Nothing like the Olympus bodies. IQ wise, I always shoot RAW and I still slightly prefer the IQ from my Olympus bodies as I prefer warmer tones but there is a certain look to the Panasonic files, and I remember seeing this from the very early bodies and even the old G2 I reviewed HERE a long time ago.Seeing that this is $300 more than an Olympus E-M5 II, I would personally spring for the Olympus over this. It feels sleeker, has 5 Axis IS, is $897 vs $1197 and the IQ is different but not better than the GX8. All personal preference. The GX8 feels much bulkier in the hand but Panasonic has stepped up the game for sure with this model as they need to keep up with the ever innovating Olympus!

When the Olympus pro E-M1 came out I stated that Micro 4/3 can go head to head and match or beat any APS-C camera. I feel APS-C cameras should come to an end as Micro 4/3 can meet or exceed them in IQ but also offer a much smaller body, smaller lenses and fantastically sharp performance due to the lenses being able to be deigned so well for a smaller sensor. Micro 4/3 should be on anyones radar who is thinking of getting an APS-C camera. Canon rebel? Get an E-M5II or GX8 instead! Micro 4/3 has come a long way, and they are going nowhere. Even though many predicted the demise of it years ago, quite the opposite has happened. It has become more popular, more prevalent and more tech has come from Micro 43 than anywhere else. The lenses are fantastic, the bodies are as well with fast AF, gorgeous color and dynamic range and a fun factor that is hard to beat.

While these Micro 4/3 beauties can never compete with full frame, they offer not much less for a whole lot less money. The Micro 4/3 of today is so much better than the Micro 4/3 of yesterday. If you have not used the latest batch of cameras from Olympus or Panasonic, you should rent them sometime and see for yourself. Add a good prime lens and you are ready for fun, ease of use and gorgeous results.





My Final Thoughts after only a day of use..

As for the GX8, while a little bulkier and fatter than I had hoped, it is a powerhouse and after only shooting it one day I know I want to use this one more to review it properly as well as test against my Olympus bodies. It’s 100% the best Panasonic GX I have used to date and offers up 4K photo, 4K video, super fast AF (fastest in M 4/3) and unique features such as dual IS (need a lens with OIS and then it will use the body IS and lens IS together), pop up and out EVF, swivel out LCD (like E-M5Ii) and touch screen to boot. The usual suspects are here such as time lapse, pano, and filter effects that have been around now for 5 years.

The Menu System is typical Panasonic. Easy to read and use, but I find all menus easy to use once you learn them, and this camera is no exception. Newbies to the menu will be confused, but those who used Panasonic before will be right at home. The simplest menus in the business do not come from Olympus or Panasonic or Sony, they come from Leica who has the easiest to use menus of any recent modern digital camera ever.

Battery life seems very good, in line with Olympus and the fact that it takes all of the Micro 4/3 lenses as well as 3rd party lenses with adapters means you would never run out of lenses to shoot with any Micro 4/3, and yes, Olympus lenses can be used on the GX8 and vice versa as Panasonic and Olympus both are native Micro 4/3 lenses. The GX8 appears to be a winner, and the best GX yet from Panasonic. Is it enough for them to overtake Olympus? Probably not as I have a feeling Olympus is ready to drop a big bomb on any thunder the GX8 may have taken from them. Soon. Just a hunch. :)

if I can get a hold of this for 2 weeks I will post an official review soon ;)

Where to buy?

You can see more or buy the Panasonic GX8 at B&H HERE 

You can buy or see more of the GX8 at AMAZON HERE




Hello to all! For the past 7 years I have been running this website and it has grown to beyond my wildest dreams. Some days this very website has over 200,000 visitors and because of this I need and use superfast dedicated web servers to host the site. Running this site costs quite a bit of cash every single month and on top of that, I work full-time 60+ hours a week on it each and every single day of the week (I received 200-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I need YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis.

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

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Oct 142015

The Sony RX1RII Announced! What I have been waiting for!



The one camera I have been waiting for, and asking Sony for and wondering about for the last year and a half has finally been announced, just when I thought they would never do it! Well now they did and my PRE ORDER HAS TO BE IN!!!

YES, the Sony RX1RII is coming, and this is a GOOD thing, as even today, the RX1R has probably the best IQ from any Sony camera made. There was something special about the RX1R files due to the sensor and lens and now Sony have upgraded the camera with its latest sensor tech and other goodies, and you can bet your behind that the AF will be faster. I SO CAN NOT WAIT to review this one, and my review will be a big one.

The original Sony RX1 made my Camera of the Year when it was released. Small, built well, powerful… an amazing camera. Three years have passed and it is time for a successor. I am so EXCITED!

Now, the RX1RII is on the way and I wanted to tell you about my excitement for it as well as tell you about what Sony has done to make it so much better.

I was supposed to be in NYC this week with Sony and others to test the new A7SII, and this was apparently a surprise announcement at the meetings. Unfortunately I became sick and could not make  the trip (fever and all) so I missed out on the live announcement.

In any case, I am alive and well so let me start by showing you guys what is NEW with the RX1RII:




35 mm f/2 Zeiss lens perfectly matched to the sensor for best quality

MACRO RING for focusing as close as 14cm in front of the lens

UNCOMPRESSED 14 BIT for those who wanted it! (Also coming to A7RII)

AF: the worlds widest AF coverage on a full-frame sensor for much faster AF


Worlds 1st Optical Variable Low Pass Filter – YOU choose


DSC-RX1RM2_(RX1R II)_front_evf_wLogo

Bottom Line? Sony is kicking ass and forging ahead more so  than any other camera company I know. I still see Sony and Olympus as the game changers in digital imaging, and Sony is just creating cameras that all of us enthusiasts really want. When it comes to full frame these days, SONY IS THE WAY TO GO for cost, quality, features and the fact that their cameras are so damn good these days. If you want smaller than full frame? Olympus or Fuji get my vote for now.




Sony Introduces New Palm-Sized RX1R II Camera with 42.4 MP Full-Frame Image Sensor

Sonys Latest Premium Compact Features Back-Illuminated Full-Frame Sensor, ZEISS® Sonnar T* 35mm F2 Lens, High Speed AF, retractable XGA OLED Viewfinder and Worldกฏs First Optical Variable Low Pass Filter

NEW YORK, Oct. 14, 2015  Sony Electronics, a worldwide leader in digital imaging and the worlds largest image sensor manufacturer, has today introduced the latest addition to their acclaimed Cyber-shot RX compact camera line, the full-frame RX1R II (model DSC-RX1RM2).

Joining the original RX1 and RX1R cameras in the family of the worldกฏs smallest full-frame cameras, the new RX1R II delivers the highest picture quality of any Sony compact camera ever made. This can largely be attributed to the new cameras high resolution 42.4 MP sensor paired with its large aperture, fixed focal length ZEISS Sonnar T* 35mm F2 lens, which have been fine-tuned to optimize performance together.

Additionally, the new model features a 30% improvement in AF response speed compared to the original award-winning RX1 models and is equipped with the worlds first optical variable low pass filter that can be set to off, standard or high based on user preference, with low pass filter bracketing available. The camera also has a convenient retractable XGA OLED viewfinder for eye-level shooting, which has been implemented with minimal change in overall body size from its predecessors.

The new RX1R II offers a combination of size and performance that has never before been realized in the world of compact cameras, said Neal Manowitz, Vice President of Digital Imaging for Sony Electronics. We’re giving imaging enthusiasts and professionals the opportunity to enjoy a camera with one of the most powerful combinations of sensor and lens in market today that can easily fit in the palm of your hand. Its simply the latest example of the progressive innovation that Sony is bringing to the world of imaging.

Ultimate Image Quality in the Palm of Your Hand

The new RX1R II camera utilizes a back-illuminated 35mm full-frame Exmor R CMOS sensor with approx. 42.4 effective megapixels paired with a powerful BIONZ X processing engine to achieve superior levels of image resolution and sensitivity (ISO 100-25600, expandable to 50 – 102400) with wide dynamic range. The sensors back-illuminated structure, with an expanded circuit scale and copper wiring design, enables faster transmission speed and outputs data approximately 3.5x faster than the original RX1R, ensuring high-speed performance.

Matched specifically for the image sensor, the large aperture 35mm F2 ZEISS Sonnar T* lens ensures that all images captured by the camera are impressively sharp from the center to the corners. The lens also has a unique Macro shift ring for focusing on subjects as close as 14cm in front of the lens and has nine aperture blades that produce smooth, even background defocus or bokeh in the most commonly used aperture ranges.

Another unique benefit of the new camera is its fixed lens design, which allows the positioning of its sensor and lens to be precisely adjusted to maximize all benefits of the sensors extremely high resolution. The closer the two components are to one another, the wider the angle through which light can pass through the lens and directly reach the sensor, resulting in imagery that is rich in detail and resolution. Also, unlike the focal plane shutter common to interchangeable lens cameras, RX1R II utilizes an in-lens shutter, allowing 1/2000 sec flash synch speed and a significant reduction in overall body size.

The new RX1R II also offers uncompressed 14-bit RAW image capture to maximize the benefits of the image sensors wide dynamic range, while also still supporting existing compressed format.

High Speed AF to Capture the Decisive Moment

The RX1R II model is the first in Sonys acclaimed RX line of compact cameras to feature Fast Hybrid AF capabilities. The cameras sensor features 399 focal-plane phase-detection AF points that cover about 45% of the image area the worlds widest AF coverage on a full-frame sensor1 that work together with 25 contrast AF points to achieve focus response that is about 30% faster than the original model. Additionally, the camera has adapted an advanced motion-detection algorithm that offers superior tracking performance of moving subjects and allows for the addition of AF-C mode that accurately tracks a subject after focusing. It also can achieve up to 5fps continuous shooting with AF tracking.
Other focusing improvements on the new model include multiple AF area settings including Wide, Center and Flexible Spot and Expand Flexible Spot. The camera also has Eye AF and lock-on AF.

World’s First Optical Variable Low Pass Filter

In a first for digital cameras, the RX1R II features an optical variable low pass filter that allows shooters to manually adjust the balance of image resolution and presence of moir or color artifacts to match the subject.
The three settings for the low-pass filter include off, which provides comparable effects to having no low-pass filter and is suitable when prioritizing resolution, standard, which strikes a balance between resolution and removal of moir and color artifacts, and high, which places more emphasis on reducing moirจฆ and artifacting. This unique feature allows photographers to achieve the desired image quality and resolution based on the presence of moir-inducing high spatial frequency objects in the scene, essentially combining two cameras จC one with and without a low-pass filter จC into one body. Low-pass filter bracketing is also available and can be used to compare the effects of different settings.

New Retractable XGA OLED Viewfinder, Tiltable Screen, HD Video and more

New for the RX1 series, the RX1R II has a built-in retractable 2.4 million dot XGA OLED Tru-Finder that pops up and down with simple one-push operation. The viewfinder features ZEISS T* Coating and four glass elements including two aspherical lenses that work together to deliver a magnification of 0.74×4 and clear corner-to-corner visibility with minimal distortion. The new camera also has a 3.0 type WhiteMagic™ 1.2 million dot LCD display that can tilt upwards up to 109 degrees and downwards up to 41 degrees, allowing for a greater range of shooting angles and positions.

On the video side, the cameras advanced sensor and processor deliver exceptionally detailed movies with low levels of noise. It is able to support full HD 1920×1080 video recording at frame rates of 60p, 30p or 24p through use of the versatile XAVC S movie recording format.

The new RX1R II camera is also Wi-Fi® and NFC compatible and fully functional with Sonys PlayMemories Mobile™ application available for Android™ and iOS platforms, as well as Sonys growing range of PlayMemories Camera Apps™.
A new version of the popular กฐSmart Remote Control app (version 4.0) from PlayMemories Camera Apps, which enables remote shooting from a connected smartphone, will be released that features updated bulb and continuous shooting functionality to match the new camera.

Pricing and Availability

The Sony RX1R II full-frame compact camera will be available in November for about $3300 US and $4200 CAD at a variety of Sony authorized dealers in both countries. There is also a new camera case (model LCJ-RXH) that will be available at launch that fits snugly on the new RX1R II as well as the original RX1 and RX1R models.

A series of exciting new content shot with the RX1R II camera can be found at Sonyกฏs new community site built to educate, inspire and showcase all fans and customers of the Sony imaging brand.

The new content will also be posted directly at Sony global sites

For US customers seeking more information on the new RX1R II camera, please visit .


Oct 132015

DCIM100GOPROG0058263. Processed with VSCOcam with s1 preset

23 days in Europe – Adventure and Travel Photography with Fujifilm X-E2 and GOPRO

By Danielle Vitarbo

Aloha Steve!

Thank you for all the hard work you put into your great website. (THANK YOU for being here Danielle – Steve)!

As you can probably guess, I’m writing to you from my home in beautiful Hawaii. I just recently returned from a 23 day backpacking trip across Europe and I’m excited to share my photos. As beautiful as the Hawaiian islands are, I find the most beauty when I’m discovering new places around the world. I refuse to let the best years of my life fade away. Though it’s not easy, I try my best to travel somewhere new as often as I can. Don’t we all?



The first two times I traveled to Europe I was in full-blown DSLR mode and had a ridiculous amount of lenses with me. I never used more than one lens and always debated bringing the camera everyday because of it’s weight.

Over the years I’ve narrowed down my style and my needs to the bare essentials. In doing so, I’ve never been more satisfied with my photos. I’m an avid GOPRO enthusiast and probably will be till the day I die. Unlike most people, I use my GOPRO as just my everyday camera. I’m not a snowboarder, surfer, or a base jumper of any kind. I just enjoy pushing the limit with GOPRO cameras and they continue to impress me every time. I love the fisheye lens and I enjoy the challenges that come with shooting with it. It’s extremely exciting whenever I nail the shot that I’m after. Though it’s not perfect, its the camera that makes photography fun and it’s also the camera that’s small enough to always be with me, so I can’t complain. For this trip I used a GOPRO HERO 4 Black edition...

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However, I owe all my photography love to Fujifilm. I love the tactile feel of their cameras, the size, and the image quality it produces. It’s everything I need in a camera, not to mention the stellar lenses that Fuji pumps out each year. But unlike most people who use Fujifilm cameras for its street photography performance – which it does great at- I’m exploring the camera for its landscape and travel photography performance. I’m a huge fan of Fuji color rendering and skin tones so it’s a no brainer.

For this trip I also took my Fujifilm X-E2 and kit lens 18-55mm 2.8-4.

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We covered 9 different countries in 23 days. Kept the bags light, the days long and just kept moving. From Northern Ireland to Interlaken, it was a trip for the ages. I hope you enjoy these photos as much as I enjoyed taking them.





If you like this write-up and my photos, follow me on instagram. It’s my favorite social media platform and I post regularly. Comment, like, and follow. Every bit helps!

If you want to see more of my work or more of Hawaii in general, visit my website and portfolio with updated blog posts.


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I’ll be in japan for a few months next year so keep an eye on my social media for new photos. Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions or comments. I’m always down for a chat!

Thanks again steve for allowing me to send this in.


Oct 122015


The Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Loxia Lens Review for Sony FE. In pictures.

Pre Order the Loxia 21 f/2.8 at B&H Photo HERE

I am back from my vacation, and now am sick with a fever, cough and sore throat but the good thing is I can lie in bed and write, so enjoy this write-up of the new Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 lens for the Sony FE system. It’s a gem indeed. All images here were shot with the Zeiss 21 f/2.8 on the Sony A7RII. Enjoy. 

About 2 weeks ago I received an email from Zeiss asking me if I wanted to review a new prototype lens for the Sony A7 system (FE). Now, of course I was not about to let this opportunity to test and review the latest Loxia lens from Zeiss slip through my hands! Yep, the new Loxia 21mm f/2.8 lens is in my hands, and let me tell is awesome. It keeps up and then some with the other Loxias we have so far, the 35 and 50, both of which are stunning, especially the 50mm. The kicker is I am reviewing a PROTOTYPE lens so this is not going to be a full formal test review, as I have a prototype. Even so, this lens I have here is stunning and when this lens is released I will be buying it for my own to add to the other Loxias.

When the 21 f.2.8 arrived I loved it for its small size and quality Loxia build. Feels the same as the other two in the Loxia line and that is a good thing as these lenses are built very well, even including a rubber seal around the mount to avoid dust getting in. The Loxia line of lenses from Zeiss are just what the doctor ordered for most of us who love a manual shooting experience with small high quality lenses.


Coming in at around the same size as the 35 and 50 Loxia, this 21 feels and performs to a high level on my Sony A7RII and A7s. 


The Loxia 21 f/2.8 went along with me and Debby to Disneyland for 4 days and I could not stop snapping this lens on my Sony A7RII where it did incredible in any light, even dark scenes up to ISO 32,000. Yes, ISO 32,000, real world shooting with the mega monster megapixel A7RII. This A7RII blows my mind every time I use it.

This review will be a bit different from my usual lens reviews (as I have a prototype) as I will just say that I found no problems in use,  and the IQ, to these eyes, is fantastic. I will let the photos below tell the story of why this lens is a must own for your Sony A7 series camera if you like wide angle lenses and a nice manual piece of glass as well as the name ZEISS.

click the lens below to read more at B&H Photo


In use I had no problems focusing this lens, at all. Even in near pitch black scenarios I was able to focus thanks to the EVF of the A7RII. If it had an OVF it would not have been possible.

So let’s begin with the photos. EXIF is embedded on all of them but you must click them to get the larger versions. Oh, and the lens has a 52mm filter size ;)

1st up, this is part of “Cars Land” at Disneyland in Anaheim, CA. They created a HUGE desert scene and it looks so cool at night. This was shot at a high ISO, and if you check out the image again with the crop below it, you will see how impressive this is for a high ISO shot, late night and at f/2.8. 


100% Crop of above. ISO 6400. Zero NR.


My favorite ride at Disneyland, the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. This was shot at ISO 6400 and at f/2.8. All noise reduction is off, as I always have it set to 0 for JPEG or RAW. The RII handled the scene perfectly as did the Loxia. 


A band was playing and I saw this little boy in his Halloween costume rating his fist and glove at me. I squatted QUICKLY and snapped, knowing my focus was on the band and not him. I still like it ;) 


This was shot in my home the day I received the lens. Shows a crop as well if you click on the image to make it larger. This is at f/2.8. ISO 1600.


My Office/Man Cave where 75% of my time is spent working, chilling out, or enjoying some amazing tunes. I also review HiFi equipment so I usually have a rotating set of high end gear coming and going ;) From my chair at f/2.8


Disney Balloons! They sell a ton of these things and they are not cheap! 



The Disneyland Castle all dressed up for the 60th Anniversay 


High ISO, late night. Shot at f/2.8 I did not think I had nearly enough light but the high ISO of the A7RII keeps on surprising me. I never use noise reductions, so my high ISO images have ZERO NR.

ISO 25,600 – Zero NR – A7RII


ISO 6400


Inside of the Little Mermaid ride, again, the low light scenario was easy for the Loxia 21 and Sony A7RII. 

ISO 25,600, Zero NR – A7RII


Good color, no flare, no issues that I have found, even with the Prototype. 


Right outside of our hotel is this water ride that WILL get you soaked beyond belief. Same areas as the black and white one above which was shot at night. Here I used a filter from VSCO as I liked the colors.



The man himself, harsh mid day sun but the DR of the Sony was not even phased. 



ISO 32,000 and look at the color performance. Again, zero NR here and the Loxia gave me a nice usable image. Shot inside the “Haunted Mansion” ride and it was DARK which is why I needed ISO 32,000 at f/2.8, and I was in a moving ride car.


Selfie in the mirror. Tri-X filter via Alien Skin.


VSCO filter applied to this one…click for better


The A7RII and 21 Loxia make for a good B&W combo as well…







The B&W Below, ISO 5000, f/2.8 – click it to see it much better






ISO 32,000, f/2.8


I fell for this lens just as as I did for the previous Loxia 35 and 50. When it is released and final I will be adding this to my FE lens collection. It’s a beauty and even though I was using the prototype and it is already on its way back to Zeiss, I would have bought this one if I could.

Pre Order the Loxia 21 f/2.8 at B&H Photo HERE

a few more..












Hello to all! For the past 7 years I have been running this website and it has grown to beyond my wildest dreams. Some days this very website has over 200,000 visitors and because of this I need and use superfast dedicated web servers to host the site. Running this site costs quite a bit of cash every single month and on top of that, I work full-time 60+ hours a week on it each and every single day of the week (I received 200-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I need YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis.

To help out it is simple, and no, I am not asking you for a penny!

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

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

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

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

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

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

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!

Oct 112015


Volunteering: When Free is Priceless.

Most photographers love what they do, some validation is always nice and, if we happen to be able to make a living too, it’s the best job in the world. But being part of even a small exhibition in a major gallery isn’t something most of us dare imagine – nice as it is to dream about. So I can’t describe how delighted I have been to see my work on the walls of Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery at the moment as part of the ‘West Midlands Fire Service Volunteer Photographers’ Exhibition’.

I was invited to volunteer with West Midlands after the team saw my work in the lead up to the ‘Vintage Photographer of the Year’ awards 2013. Now I’m on call several nights a week and part of the weekends too and whatever I’m asked to do, I know it won’t be dull. Whether it’s an emergency or a training exercise, publicity event or crisis-simulation, it’s always different and the documentary aspect of the work is fascinating and very satisfying – it’s the other end of the spectrum to my studio work, the event (crisis or exercise) won’t stop for good light, or a good angle.


I hope those of you who can will go and see the exhibition while it is up, for the rest of you here are some other images from a special-ops training exercise with the team responsible for dealing with post-impact in the event of explosions or building collapse. Structural damage and a volatile environment are a huge challenge in these situations and conditions were simulated by filling a small warehouse unit with debris, trashed cars and rubble, then killing the lights to recreate a ‘collapsed car park aftermath’. It was pitch black, for many this is a photographer’s worst possible set-up, fair to say. So the shots you see were lit only by a couple of lamps firefighters pulled in through crawl spaces, and their helmet lamps. Fortunately I found a great vantage point – without getting in the way – and set the M240 and cron 90mm to f/2, ISO 1600-3200 leaving the shutter to do its thing (around 1/45). In post it took a bit of noise reduction, but I have to admit I was pretty amazed at the results.





Volunteering isn’t a sure route to your first exhibition by any means, that’s just a happy coincidence or icing on the cake. The real satisfaction is the work and being usefully involved with a dedicated team who provide an invaluable service 24/7 in some of the most demanding and dangerous circumstances imaginable. It’s been a real eye-opener for me over the past few years. Would I recommend it? Definitely, without hesitation, it’s an incredible opportunity to expand your range and contribute to a worthwhile cause at the same time. And, as my experience shows, you never know where it will lead.

If you are in the west midlands of the UK, the WMFS is always on the lookout for more volunteers and you can contact them here: [email protected] If the link in the article didnt make it online here’s the link again:

If you live elsewhere, I’m sure your local charities and public services all have an equivalent – who knows what your next shoot may be?
Best regards,

John Tuckey

Oct 052015


The Olympus E-M10II and 7-14 Pro Lens Review

by Steve Huff

Buy the E-M10 at Amazon or B&H Photo

Buy the 7-14 Pro at Amazon or B&H Photo

Seems like it was just  yesterday when I was reviewing the Olympus E-M10 (Mark 1) and shooting the streets of Las Vegas with it…thinking all along just how far we have come with camera technology. The E-M10 Mark 1 was a tiny little guy, but not too tiny, and it was as powerful as the larger more expensive Micro 4/3 cameras. It was a popular choice for those getting into the Micro 4/3 camera world due to its much more affordable price over says an E-M1 or even E-M5 II, and it offered plenty for most to really understand what micro 4/3 can do for them.


Now here we are today with the new E-M10 II and while not groundbreaking “new” as in, just came out today..I have been shooting with the E-M10 II and 7-14 for a couple of weeks and have grown to really enjoy this combo. Now, I am an E-M1 and E-M5 kind of guy as the size of the E-M10 is on the small side for my tastes but if you have small hands and want an easy, enjoyable and quality experience, the E-M10 II will give you just about as much as it’s larger siblings, the E-M5 II and E-M1.


Of course with the new Pro 7-14 f/2.8 lens attached, the camera is no longer “tiny” nor will it ever fit in a pocket, but what a combo this could be, for those who really enjoy soaking in the entire environment in a photo. Yep, even with the 2X crop factor of Micro 4/3, the 7-14 still comes in at an ultra wide 14-28mm focal length, and yes, light gathering is still f/2.8 and I find this the perfect ultra wide lens, in fact, with its fantastic solid but smooth build, its amazing lens performance which is sharp across the frame and its nice size which is bigger than most Micro 4/3 lenses but still smaller than a full frame ultra wide zoom (though better made) it is the perfect ultra wide, in fact, the best I have ever shot with.

DSC09020 DSC09021

When I factor in the size, build, speed, performance and equivalent focal length I can put it up against my Sony/Zeiss 16-35, which is a beautiful lens itself. It is smaller than the Sony/Zeiss, built better, and gives just as good if not better IQ. Color is also more “pleasing”…”warmer” with the Olympus, which many find more pleasing. So for Micro 4/3 shooters, using a lens like this you are not giving up a thing over a full frame sensor and ultra wide except maybe some overall crazy resolution (especially with a camera like the Sony A7RII or the new Canons).


With a lens like this, the 7-14 Pro and a camera like the E-M10 II with offers true 5 Axis image stabilization we now have an incredible thing. Already, using an ultra wide lens like this we really do not need much in the way of image stabilization, but turn on video shooting on the E-M10 II and wonder at the silky smooth performance that almost mimics a hollywood steady cam style rig. You can walk, run and shoot video and your footage will be smooth due to the combo of ultra wide lens and the 5 Axis IS. VERY cool as Olympus has seemingly perfected this tech now as it works so so well.

Night Shooting with the E-M10 II and 7-14 Pro

Middle of the night, AZ desert, some light painting with the E-M10 II in Live Time mode which makes it super easy to do light painting as you preview the progress on the LCD in real-time, and just stop capturing when the camera shows you the exact image you want. Genius and Olympus has been implementing Live Time and Live Composite now for a while, and its a great feature to have as it just works so so well.

Click images for larger view




Truth be told, while out in the desert shooting at midnight using the E-M10 II and 7-14 2.8 Pro I was very happy with the ease of use when it comes to long exposures. If you shoot at night, and want an EASY way to do long exposures look no further than Olympus. ALL of their Micro 4/3 cameras will allow you to do some very cool things at night using the previously mentioned “Live Time”, “Live Bulb” and “Live Composite”.

Late night, AZ desert. 7-14 Pro, tripod mounted, 97 seconds, f/3.5, 7mm (14 equiv). Give it a click!


E-M10 II – revolutionary or refresh?

If you missed my original review of the older mark 1 version of the E-M10, see it HERE. I have been reviewing Olympus digital cameras since their very 1st PEN, the E-P1 and have not missed any major release to date. The original E-M10 was revolutionary IMO as it was  tiny, had 3 AXIS IS and performed to a level of the larger and more expensive Olympus Micro 4/3 cameras. The new E-M10 II is an improvement in many areas but still more of a “refresh” than anything crazy new or exciting.

They added 5 Axis vs 3 Axis, which is awesome but the 3 Axis was also quite good. There is a silent mode for 100% silence when shooting and the electronic shutter has a capability to go up to 1/16,000 of a second, perfect for bright sunny days when you want that shallow DOF from a fast prime.


More features of the E-M10 II…with great features in bold..makes you really see how powerful this little guy is…

A high-resolution 16.1MP 4/3 Live MOS sensor pairs with the TruePic VII image processor to facilitate up to 8.5 fps shooting and full HD 1080p/60 movie recording, with a top sensitivity of ISO 25600. In-camera 5-axis image stabilization compensates for up to 4 stops of camera shake to benefit working in difficult lighting conditions and a FAST AF system employs 81 contrast-detection areas for quick, accurate performance with dedicated subject tracking modes. The retro-themed body incorporates a range of assignable function buttons and dials, as well as a 2.36m-dot OLED electronic viewfinder and 3.0″ 1.04m-dot tilting touchscreen LCD for clear image monitoring and playback. Besides the handsome appeal of the E-M10 Mark II’s design, its main assets lie in its versatility of shooting functions and performance to benefit photographers and videographers alike.

7-14 Pro. around midnight in the AZ desert in an old ruin that sits there with tunnels and passageways. 


Benefited by the range of imaging capabilities, the E-M10 Mark II also incorporates a variety of shooting modes to suit working in various situations. A Silent Mode utilizes an electronic shutter for perfectly quiet picture-taking, with shutter speeds up to 1/16,000 sec. available. Live Bulb and Live Time modes are well-suited to creative long exposure photography and a dedicated Live Composite mode lets you watch a long exposure gradually build up during the course of the shot. Built-in Wi-Fi allows you to pair the camera with your smartphone or tablet for wireless sharing and remote camera control, and an interval shooting mode can be used to produce in-camera 4K time lapse movies.

Left to right: Best friend since childhood Mike, then my wonderful Debby and me during a mid day beer/pub crawl event in Phx AZ which was LOADS of fun. 


When reading the above text, with features in bold, I say to myself “wow, this camera is offering a TON for $649 USD. I have shot with cameras costing up to $35,000 and down to $69. More expensive does not always mean “better”. I have had experiences shooting a $15k camera that was awful. I hated it. I had an experience shooting a $300 camera once that was delightful (though it was no where near the E-M10 II for capabilities).

This little E-M10 II, while not immediately different from the original E-M10 really shows its stuff when you are out shooting with it. I notice quicker AF, better low light, better IS, and well, an improved EVERYTHING. So I take back y :refresh” comment as it is more of an “evolution” of the wildly popular E-M10. It offers just enough that if I was shooting and only owned an E-M10 I would be pretty tempted to upgrade for these new features. In use and practice they are quite nice.

One new feature I did not yet mention is FOCUS BRACKETING, which is basically just like FOCUS STACKING. According to Olympus, this feature is really for Macro shooters as it allows you to get tack sharp macro shots without worrying about missing or having a part of your subject out of focus. The camera will take several shots, focused at different points and then you can use something like Helicon Focus and BAM you have a perfect, in focus, stacked image. This is the 1st camera I know of that offers to bracket focus for you in camera.

I expect the next pro Olympus, whatever it is called (E-M1 II perhaps) will have this feature as well and I also feel it is close to being time for a new E-M1 II, my spider senses are feeling it. ;)

So Olympus is continuing to do innovative things with every camera release, with this one it is the focus stacking/bracketing. More so than ANY other camera company, Olympus seems be on top of it when it comes to creating a camera that is polished, finished and works VERY well with just about any feature you could ever want. Focus peaking is always there, 5 Axis now standard, fast AF speed all around, gorgeous lenses (some of the best in the business) and an IQ that is pure “Olympus”.




Again, this is a quick review as my original E-M10 review cover more about what the E-M10 is all about HERE. This review is just to talk about the new lens and the new features of the camera. When I did that review I used the then new 12-40 f/2.8 pro lens. I like this 7-14 better as it seems to be sharper with better contrast and pop.

The 7-14 f/2.8 Pro

As already stated, I LOVE This lens. It is quite amazing really and the good press it has been getting is well deserved. In general terms, it is still small for an ultra wide, but this ultra wide is built to a HIGH standard while keeping it as small as possible for a super quality f/2.8 lens. It is dust, splash and freeze proof, and I tested this out in the desert at night while shooting some long exposures and self portraits. When I returned home my gear and clothes were COATED in dirt, grime and dust. I blew off the direct carefully from the lens and body, then once all dirt was off of the lens, it was cleaned gently with a lens cloth and the barrel was wiped down. Looks and performs as new.

This lens will offer you an amazing perspective and if you own a Micro 4/3 camera, it beats the old Panasonic 7-14 f/2 (that I used to own) in EVERY way from build, performance, AF speed, quality and of course Aperture speed.




It seems no matter what I wanted to capture, no matter how tight the quarters were or how much of the subject there was to capture, the 7-14 always pulled it in. Truth be told, I’d probably rather have seen a 7mm f/1.8 pro ;) If I owned this lens I think 99.9% of my images would be shot at 7mm. ;0 Even so, I know many would use the full range of the glass.

I have shot with the Nikon 14-24, the Canon 16-35 and the Sony/Zeiss 16-35. This Olympus pro, for me, beats them all in all areas. It holds up to the high quality tradition that Olympus applies all of its pro lenses and then some. While not cheap at $1299, it is priced accordingly and priced right.


The new E-M10 II and 7-14 f/2.8 Pro lens is a stunning combo and the set would set you back around $2000, or $1500 less than a Sony A7RII body only. ;) Think about that one.

While the E-M10 II can not compete with a full frame camera at high ISO, dynamic range or depth of field (shallow) it can take on something like a Sony A7RII for sharpness, color and FEATURES that make shooting FUN, ENJOYABLE and at times, THRILLING. I always seem to have a smile on my face when shooting with Olympus as the experience is just so user friendly and rich. The cameras never hold me back, no matter what I want to shoot..which is why I always have an Olympus M 4/3 camera on hand to go along with y full frame cameras. Sometimes, the job calls for things the Olympus would excel at, other times I need the full frame for the DR, DOF or richness.

I never have focus issues with Olympus cameras or lenses. I never have problems using these cameras and at the end of the day when I sit down to do image review, I am always pleased with what comes from a camera like the E-M10 II. They just “work” and if you are someone getting into photography, I HIGHLY suggest taking a serious look at the E-M10 II body with a lens like the 25 1.8 prime which would give you a 50mm equivalent field of view. So like a fast 50. See my 25 1.8 review HERE. 

In my experience Olympus, much like Sony, is on a roll in 2015 and going into 2016. They can do no wrong, and any of their current cameras are top notch from the PEN E-P5 to the still fantastic E-M1. Olympus also always rolls out MASSIVE firmware updates for all of their OMD line giving even owners of older models all of the new features of the newer cameras. Well, most of them. A sign that Olympus cares about its current base of customers instead of just releasing new cameras to fix issues.

While I am still partial to the amazing E-M5 II, I’d shoot the E-M10 II and be thrilled to if it was all I had. It’s a gem indeed.

$649 body only. Wow.


I would buy from B&H Photo HERE









Hello to all! For the past 7 years I have been running this website and it has grown to beyond my wildest dreams. Some days this very website has over 200,000 visitors and because of this I need and use superfast dedicated web servers to host the site. Running this site costs quite a bit of cash every single month and on top of that, I work full-time 60+ hours a week on it each and every single day of the week (I received 200-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I need YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis.

To help out it is simple, and no, I am not asking you for a penny!

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

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

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

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

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

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

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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