May 242016
 

BATTLE OF THE RES! Sony RX1RII, A7RII, A6300, RX10III

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Was having some fun with the Sony cameras I have on hand here and wanted to see which one, between the RX1RII and A7RII would record the most detail, just for fun. As I drank my morning coffee I sat outside and snapped a few images of a pink water bottle. Nothing fancy or special, but it is revealing and shows the RX1RII, as Sony has said, is at the top of their IQ heap. I have been finding the RX1RII to record amazing detail without being analytical or harsh. It somehow balances between sharpness, creaminess and beauty in the way the 35 f/23 Zeiss lens renders ever so gently with this sensor.

I will be using the RX1RII more and more for personal work coming up soon, though I do recommend a 39mm ND filter as at f/2 you max out at 1/2000s. Check out these quick comparisons…

You must click these to see the real versions with 100% crop. But take a look closely on a good display at the crops. You will see the fine details in the RX1RII shot. They are still there, though less pronounced on the A7RII shot and they start to fade in the A6300 shot (same lens used on A7RII and A6300), and are gone by the time the RX10III gets the shot. 

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The Sony RX1RII is a gorgeous camera and bests the 1st version quite easily with its EVF, newer sensor, faster AF and all while retaining the size which is small, light and rugged. I love my RX1RII, one of the greats and while Leica has the Q which is serious competition for the Sony, I prefer the Sony’s gentle and organic way the sensor renders over the Q, which I also love for ITS color and pop. But at the end of the day, for me, the Sony wins in Dynamic Range, low light, resolution and versatility (swivel LCD, nice video, defeatable low pass filter, and the lens, which is a lens that beat the Leica 35 Summicron M for IQ (That lens is $3500 alone).

I will soon have a follow up report on the Sony RX1RII, showcasing its strengths, weaknesses and why it may or may not be the camera you have been looking for.

Steve

DR, DETAIL, COLOR, BOKEH is all TOP notch on the RX1RII

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May 232016
 

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The Gear I am enjoying NOW (Video)

by Steve Huff

Hello! Happy Monday! Yes, it is yet another Monday already and today I wanted to share a video with you that I made yesterday showing the cameras and lenses I have been shooting with over the past few weeks and months. From the Olympus PEN-F to the Sony RX1RII to the Leica SL to the Sony A6300, RX10 III, and more.

Enjoy the video below!

MORE INFO:

Olympus PEN-F

OLYMPUS 8MM PRO

OLYMPUS 7-14 PRO

SONY RX1RII

SONY RX10III

LEICA SL

LEICA 90-280

SONY A7RII

PETZVAL 58 1.9

May 172016
 
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The Fashionable X-Pro 2

by James Conley

Hi Steve and Brandon. I wanted to share a fashion editorial with you, and my experience using the Fujifilm X-Pro2 in the studio.

For a few years now, I’ve relied on Fujifilm’s X-Series as my workhorse system for documentary, street, and travel photography. Originally working with an X100s and an X-E1, I’ve now added the X-Pro2 to the stable. (These days, the X-E1 is a backup body.) However, for studio work I’ve continued to rely on Canon.

Studio work involves different kinds of habits from those of the photojournalism I usually do. The thought process in working with lights, settings, models, and scenes is nearly quite the opposite kind of thinking required to capture unfolding moments on the street. Studio work is slower and more deliberate, and the distractions of the equipment cannot be avoided, with each shot requiring manual adjustments of light stands and strobe settings.

For studio thinking, I always found a Canon DSLR a good match. The studio is about controlling light, and it’s often a dim place to work. Seeing directly through the lens is not only easier in low light, but it also makes me feel more connected to the model. Fleeting expressions are easy to catch, and small framing adjustments are quickly comprehended when looking through an SLR.

The X-E1 was impossible to consider for the task. The slow refresh rate of the EVF is very frustrating in low light. The X100s was too limited with its lens options (even taking into account the WCL and TCL). Its EVF suffers the same problems as the X-E1, and the rangefinder is not an acceptable solution because of parallax issues. So it was Fuji on the streets, and Canon in the studio.

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With time, however, the Canon system has shown its age. Not the least of the frustrations is a limited number of focus points. Especially when shooting with wide apertures, “focus and reframe” can introduce a host of issues. There are also issues with low light performance. Working with an SLR, it is much harder to tell if the focus is correct in low light, and many times it isn’t.

Newer Canon bodies have more focus points and better low light performance, but that necessitates buying a newer body. I have a substantial investment in Canon glass, but unfortunately the technology has left them behind and there are many frustrations with focus speed and lock on. What was a great L-series lens a few years ago is now a slow-focuser with a lot of chromatic aberration.

With the X-Pro2 in hand, I finally had an option. The EVF is fast enough not to be a distraction, and the low light performance is excellent. Faced with the choice of upgrading the Canon system or testing the X-Pro2, it was easy to decide to get the Fuji hooked up to the lights see what would happen.

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My approach to studio light is very simple: one or two Paul Buff lights, with a variety of modifiers. The lights are on radio triggers, with a transceiver on the camera. I shoot the camera in manual, and make adjustments to the lights as needed to achieve the exposure I want.

The first problem came when the radio triggers wouldn’t trip the light. Investigation into the issue led to no satisfying answers. I’ve used Yongnuo 603Cs for years with no issues. My first fear was a hotshoe issue with the X-Pro2. (In the past, I’ve found that Canon studio accessories worked with the Fujis.) Forging ahead, though, I made the assumption that the issue was with the Yongnuos and not the X-Pro2, and purchased a set of RadioPopper receivers and a transmitter. They worked straight out of the box with not a single misfire, so I’ve concluded that the pins on the Yongnuo 603C’s aren’t correct for the X-Pro2.

Although a stressful one, the trigger issue turned out to be the only issue. The X-Pro2 is a delight to use in the studio. The EVF gets out of the way, and there were very few focus issues—and only when there were a lot of shadows. The sensor on the X-Pro2 is fantastic, and gives a very film-like quality to the images, with incredible amounts of latitude.

Getting the X-Pro2 set up for studio use is short work:

set the shutter speed to 1/250th
set the ISO to 200
turn Preview Pic Effect off
turn the flash mode to on

Manually set the aperture, and away I go.

I’m looking forward to continuing to use the X-Pro2 in the studio. Even more, I’m looking forward to not having to buy a new Canon!

More images can be seen on my website: http://f-eleven.com, and on Instagram: @philatawgrapher

May 162016
 
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The Leica 90-280 f/2.8-f/4 Lens review with the SL

Hello again and welcome back to SteveHuffPhoto.com! Today I am reviewing a lens that is the largest and biggest lens I have ever reviewed, but at the same time, almost one of the most, IF NOT THE MOST beautiful lens I have ever shot with! Sure, it’s like a bazooka, and it’s expensive. I mean, it is a Leica after all, and it is made for what I feel is probably the best 35mm digital format camera on the market today, the Leica SL.

Remember my SL review? For me it was “Camera of the Year” in 2015 and I still stick by that statement. I have yet to use a camera that delivers this type of quality on build. EVF, pro features, usability and image quality. It’s slimmer than an equivalent DSLR and feels so much better in my hand. While not small, it’s not meant to be. For small, Leica has the M and other solutions. So no, the SL is large, in charge and this new 90-280 is a masterpiece of optical design, proving that Leica is still the best lens maker in the world.

A day at the Butterfly Farm with the Leica SL and 90-280 – COLOR POP

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This lens, and this camera is not for everyone. It’s for those who love Leica, who love quality and who love to have this kind of focal length zoom, in the highest quality possible. This lens, and the 24-90, go above and beyond 90% of M lenses IMO, and on the SL, these two native lenses are stunning. I can not wait to see the 50 Summilux for the SL. I think that will be the best 50 Lux EVER, even though it will be the largest one ever as well :)

Leica sent me the lens and asked me to write down what I thought of it. Most here and in the photo community know I am not a huge fan of big lenses, yet Leica sent it along for an honest opinion, so that is what I will give here as well as show some images I snapped with the lens along the way.

All images can be clicked on for larger versions – EXIF has been embedded

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THE BEAST ARRIVES

When the box containing the lens was exposed, I thought it was the SL box! Nope, it was the lens. It was a monster and before I opened it up to bring out the lens, I thought to myself “THERE IS NO WAY I WOULD EVER CARRY THIS LENS AROUND ALL DAY”! Then I pulled it out and thought…”Well, it’s not THAT huge”…then I added the lens hood and I admit, it looked kind of funny being so large, on the SL. It made the SL look SMALL. So at that time I figured I would just need to go out and use it, and for me, the rendering and image quality would have to be at a 10 out of 10 for me to ever consider this lens. Remember, I’m a small prime guy, and have never been a huge zoom guy though lately with these high quality zooms from Leica, Sony and others I am starting to warm up to the new generation of zoom lenses.

After I started using it I realized that the size here doesn’t matter. I mean, many out there are used to the huge 70-200 f/2.8 lenses from other manufacturers, and this lens is only about an inch longer. It was me who was so used to little M lenses and smaller Sony lenses that made this one feel EXTRA huge. IN reality, for DSLR shooters anyway, it will not be that big of a deal.

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Coming in at $6395.00 it is NOT cheap, but Leica is NEVER EVER cheap, especially for a true German made Leica product. Leica is about end game quality, and they achieved it with the SL (IMO), and the 24-90 and now again with this. Image quality perfection from the color, the pop, the depth, the bokeh, the way it renders and records light, the intimate connection you feel with your lens and camera after using them for a while…that bond, all enhanced with a Leica camera and lens, for me anyway.

So there should be no complaining these days about Leica pricing as it has been this way for a LONG LONG time, longer than most here reading this right now have been shooting ;) It is what it is, and Leica has grown quite a bit from the days of the M8. Today they offer up a complete line of options from the bottom to the top. So that should be applauded as they could have dropped it all and just sold the M line. Instead they are trying to offer up solutions for all, or anyone who has been bitten with the Leica bug. Thats a good thing in my book. More choice for us.

So after the lens arrived, I took it out to see how I could handle it for a few hours of shooting.

I have always loved the colors the SL put out above any and all other digital cameras. 

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There are no other lenses out there quite like this 90-280 from Leica. Sure, many have their 70-200 pro lenses from Canon, Nikon or whoever but this one offers up a unique focal length. While not an f/2.8 aperture lens throughout, at 280 we get to f/4 and that seems to be just fine for a 280mm focal length.

While using it, I was trying to judge it on weight, size, usability as well as color, sharpness, pop and all of those qualities we associate with Leica. Would it be to heavy to even be enjoyable for an enthusiast? Is this strictly for those who are working pros or could an amateur or enthusiast get along with it and enjoy it as well? When I review, I review from a real world standpoint. I do not worry about scientific specs, or pixel peeping. I have always been and always will be a normal guy who LOVES photography and LOVES the gear we use to practice this craft.

For me it is just as much about the images and quality as it is about the usability and design. It is just as much about the memories as it is making those memories, for me. So at the end of the day, how did my time with the SL and 90-280 go?

FAN FLIPPING TASTIC. 

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Yes, it was heavy. YES, I was getting stares from all of those shooting with their phones. YES, it looked like some form of weapon or cannon hanging around my body. At the same time, I knew that when I left, my images would offer up a quality that I could NEVER EVER get from my iPhone.

It’s funny. Five to six years ago, when at a place like this (Butterfly Farm) I would see DSLR after DSLR. Usually huge zooms, and big flash units attached. This week, 99% were shooting with smart phones, which is showing us where the photo world is headed. I feel that within 10 years, cameras and lenses like this, and the type I write about will be a dwindling breed. Sure, there will ALWAYS be higher level cameras and lenses, ALWAYS. BUT, I feel that most of America who used to come here to look for a nice camera to buy are now out there shooting with a phone, and a majority of them are more than happy with that.

Me, I will ALWAYS have to own a nice camera that I can get along well with. I would never be satisfied with a phone as my sole camera. With that said, my 2nd most used camera is my iPhone ;) Because it is ALWAYS with me, 100% of the time and that is why these phones have taken over, we always have them and they put out decent quality, especially if you like a huge depth of field.

We now live in a world of social media, selfie obsession and phone addiction. But now I am getting off topic, let’s get back to the lens and camera as it is a beauty and I wish I had loads of cash as I would own it just to own it even if I would use it on only a few occasions per year. To me, there is something special about the SL with its native lenses. While the SL also is great with M lenses, to see the ultimate quality, one must try one of the native lenses. Then it goes to WOW. But it also goes to LARGE, which blows it for some. Even so, I had fun with my dull day carrying and using this lens.

IT’S ALL IN THE DETAILS

Keep in mind the two shots below were handheld, and one was at 90mm (1st shot) and the other at 280mm and f/4 and 1/250th. Third one was at 280mm and f/4. Click on each one  to see the 100% crop. 

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While I could have lugged my tripod with me, I always like to shoot handheld and if a lens like this is not capable of that, then I would not even review it. But it is capable and it is usable and it is manageable using it handheld. Look at the bird shot above. Handheld at full zoom of 280mm. I have found no issues with the lens at any focal length. It is just as sharp and contrasty at 90mm as it is at 280mm. No distortions, no lens flare issues, not focus problems or zoom issues. In use, this lens is about as perfect as it could get. 

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How about Auto Focus?

The 90-280 on the SL focuses fast. It is silent as can be, and focuses internally so this is not one of those zooms that grows and grows when you zoom. It does not get any larger, thank God. I also tried continuous AF on a butterfly but that was impossible. I do not think any camera could lock on to a fast moving fluttering butterfly and track it reliably. But even so, the SL tried very hard to get there and almost did it. But AF was fast, spot on and always accurate. No misses. If it said it was locked on, it was.

This setup focused faster than my A7RII and 70-300. So there ya go.

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Today, Leica seems to have matured into the digital age quite nicely. In the beginning with the M8, it was a bit hit or miss but today they are creating and putting out TOP NOTCH quality and SIMPLE TO USE gear, and that is sticking with the Leica philosophy. No confusing menus, not a million buttons on the back, not cheap LCD’s or EVF’s and a quality that is hard to understand until you use a real Leica product. The M, The SL, The S or the T or Q, all of these cameras are simply gorgeous in all ways. The designs are unique and simply, there is nothing like them from other manufacturers.

While we have the Sony A7RII, which is also a masterpiece for what it is, it does not match the output, for me, of the SL when it comes to color, and overall smoothness of the files. While beautiful in its own way, the A7RII, is not the same level of camera in any way as the SL. It just isn’t, even though my A7RII gets more use (DUE TO SIZE) and let’s be honest here, that A7RII can do amazing things and has no real weaknesses that I have found. So we are lucky to live in this world today with CHOICES that can bring us all some sort of personal joy from day to day.

LEICA SMOOTH

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Leica has created a fantastic system with the SL, and now with this new and only 2nd lens for the system available, their streak of perfection continues. While not for those who want a small solution, the 90-280 and SL system is top of the field for everything us enthusiasts and pros love about a camera system. It is borderline perfection in design, control and performance. While other systems can beat it for low light and high iso as well as versatility, if you want ULTIMATE quality and have a fat wallet, do not discount the SL system.

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How about VS the Sony A7RII and new 70-300? Or the Olympus PEN and the new 300mm Pro?

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Now this may seem like a silly comparison, and to many it will be. Shooting a brick wall and nail with an SL and 90-280 side by side with an Olympus PEN and 300mm as well as a Sony A7RII and 70-300 G lens if truly a crazy comparison. The Sony G 70-300 is more of a Budget (but very good) 70-300. The Olympus while being a stunning lens, and probably the best optics of them all, is giving you a 600mm equivalent. So not the same focal length. Even so, I wanted to add it to show you what you get from each system, with the same shot.

It’s funny but the Olympus, while having WAY more noise at its base ISO, is the sharpest and most detailed of them all. The Leica has that balance of medium format looking smoothness and sharpness while the Sony here falls flat. To be fair the Sony is using the 70-300 G which is not a pro spec lens while the Olympus and Leica are. With that in mind, the Sony keeps up very well, even with their “budget” zoom.

Leica setup here is $14,000.  Sony setup here is $4500. Olympus setup is $3800.

Let’s see how they do. You must click them for larger and full 100% crop. 

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The one with the most detail is the Olympus, the smoothest most pleasing file, for me is the SL.

BOTTOM LINE ON THE Leica 90-280 f/2.8-f/4

This lens is a masterpiece of modern lens design. The build is Leica all the way. Never cheap or hollow feeling, it feels like it will last 1000 years. Size is the only weakness here for me, as it is the largest lens I have ever used, owned or reviewed. It truly looks like a bazooka or some sort of paparazzi lens. With the size taken out of the equation, everything else is stunning. From the buttery smooth focus ring to the nice zoom action to the high quality exotic glass used to create the lens, the 90-280 can not be faulted optically, in any way.

Contrast is high, higher than even the 24-90. Sharpness is there, detail is there. Color is up there with the 50 APO M lens, which is quite the feat. (Part 2 of the 50 APO review, as used on the SL is HERE).

As for size, sure take a look at it compared to some DSLR 70-200mm Lenses…It’s not that much larger, maybe an inch or so..but you get 280mm vs these which max out at 200mm…

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If you do not mind the size, or the cost, and you own the SL system, this lens is a MUST see, MUST check out. Head to your local Leica shop, or email Leica dealer Ken Hansen for the lowdown at [email protected]. The 90-280mm means business and wedding pros will LOVE This lens as I feel for weddings, this lens will create some stunning masterpieces.

WHERE TO BUY?

The Leica 90-280 can be purchased from any of the highly recommended Leica dealers below:

Ken Hansen – E-mail him at [email protected]

PopFlash.com

B&H Photo

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———

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

Hello to all! For the past 7 years I have been running this website and it has grown to beyond my wildest dreams. Some days this very website has over 200,000 visitors and because of this I need and use superfast dedicated web servers to host the site. Running this site costs quite a bit of cash every single month and on top of that, I work full-time 60+ hours a week on it each and every single day of the week (I receive 100-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I could use YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis. 

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

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

Not only do I spend money on fast hosting but I also spend it on cameras to buy to review, lenses to review, bags to review, gas and travel, and a slew of other things. You would be amazed at what it costs me just to maintain this website, in money and time (250 hours a month, and about $3000 per month).

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 (not the B&H) 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, Twitter, 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 nor do I (nor will I ever) charge for reviews, so your donations go a long way to keeping this site loaded with useful content. If you choose to help out, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

May 102016
 
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CRAZY COMPARISON! Sony 50 1.8 “Nifty 50” vs The Zeiss 55 1.8!

Here you go! Many have been asking me if the new $249 Sony 50 1.8 is worth the buy and ask me what is the difference between the Sony/Zeiss 55 1.8 and the Sony 50 1.8. Basically, the 55 1.8 uses a Zeiss formula for the lens. The Sony 50 1.8 does not. This means the Zeiss will be sharper, have more 3D pop, richer color and well, not much else. The little Sony 50 1.8 will be a tad softer, less contrast and about $650 less to buy! This lens is SO WORTH the $249..and if you own a Sony A7 series body, and do not have a fast native 50, take a look at this little inexpensive wonder. It even comes with a lens hood.

Below are a few snaps side by side with the 55 1.8 Zeiss. Yep, the Zeiss is sharper, as it should be, but for the price, this little “Nifty Fifty” is amazing. You can buy one for $248 HERE at Amazon.

FOR VIDEO I would use the 55 over the 50 though due to slight AF noise with this lens. EITHER WAY, thrilled to see Sony release an affordable fast 50! More on the lens from me is HERE. 

MUST CLICK THE IMAGES TO SEE THEM LARGER AND TRUE 100% CROPS! THEY ARE ALL LABELED, AND EXIFIS EMBEDDED. ALL IMAGES FROM SONY A7RII.

ONLY LOOKING AT SHARPNESS/DETAIL, COLOR AND BOKEH

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May 062016
 

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Crazy Comparison! Voigtlander 15 E Mount, Sony 16-35, Olympus 7-14!

Hey guys! Happy Friday! This has been a hectic week for me, so there have been fewer posts this week but have no fear, a CRAZY COMPARISON is here to kick off your weekend! Hehe. Since I have a serious combo of wide angle lenses here I figured I’s step out in my backyard this morning (while still in my Pajamas) and take a few side by side shots with these lenses.

The new Voigtlander 15 f/4.5 for E mount is here, the Sony/Zeiss 16-35 has been with me since it was launched (I use this lens often for video) and the Olympus PEN-F and 7-14 happened to be in front of me as well. So why not take them out in the back and see how they stack up with some real world silly snapshots? This is not a scientific hardcore test, it is for fun.

All images are from RAW, none have any post processing and yes, I am barefoot because it’s already hot here in Phoenix, with temps already hitting triple digits earlier in the week..so no socks for me ;)

When going out my thought was that the Olympus would provide the sharpest of the images due  to the Micro 4/3 sensor which is small compared to a full frame like we have in the Sony, and we all know that ultra wides and full frame cameras are still nowhere near perfect at the edges. After this test it just solidifies my belief that Olympus and Panasonic have a great thing going with Micro 4/3. The only weaknesses it has over the mighty Sony is low light, where the Sony just kills the Olympus (or Panasonic) and for SHALLOW DEPTH OF FIELD, which is MUCH easier to obtain on a full frame camera. Other than that, the little PEN-F is still impressing me.

So let’s get to these silly shots..

1st Up, around 8:50 AM in the corner of my backyard. Wanted to look at the edges a bit as I was seeing the Voigtlander, upon close inspection had some soft edges. You can click on the images below to see them larger with full 100% crops. I noticed the Voigtlander underexposes a bit when using the A7RII meter (as we all do). It’s also softer in the edges than the Sony/Zeiss 16-35. The Olympus, here, IMO is the best in the corners and the overall image/color/vibrance but less res of course than the full frame Sony beast. 

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Yep, my bare feet..it’s HOT in Phoenix AZ this time of year. View at your own risk but if you want to take that dare, click the images for larger versions. Again, the Olympus, to me, did the best but also, less resolution. That Olympus 7-14 is a stunner and the best built of the three as well. 

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Let’s look at some prices of these kits:

The Sony A7RII is $3198 at Amazon.  For me, it has been well worth it as it is my #1 goto. I have a few Sony cameras, a couple of Olympus, a couple Leica and today my lens collection is quite large. I used to sell off lenses as I stopped using them, then I realized I usually regretted selling them. But the Sony A7RII is my most used camera for all of my shooting. Olympus comes next with the PEN-F and then the Leica SL. That’s my gear list as of now.

The Sony/Zeiss 16-35 F/4 comes in at $1248 at Amazon.  So add this to the A7RII and we are looking at $4450. That’s a ton of cash for a camera and one F/4 wide angle lens, but again, this combo has given me LOADS of use for video work where I needed Auto Focus.

The Voigtlander 15 f/4.5 for E mount is $799 at CameraQuest.com – It’s much smaller than the Sony, and lighter. It is manual focus but it zooms in as soon as you turn the focus dial, making manual focus a breeze. This lens and an A7RII comes in at around $4000. Quite pricey still.

The Olympus PEN-F comes in at $1199 at Amazon.  For $2,000 less than an A7RII you will have a smaller, sleeker and just as capable camera in most light. Sure, it’s not full frame and you will suffer in low light or when you want massive bokeh blow out, but other than that these Micro 4/3 cameras are quiet stunning.

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The Olympus 7-14 is an f/2.8 lens, and in their PRO line. It is STUNNING. It comes in at $1199, same as the PEN-F.  Cost of this lens and the PEN-F? $2400, almost half of the Sony/Zeiss setup. STILL expensive when you consider most use a cel phone and a wide angle lens adapter for these types of things these days :)

I love them all and feel lucky to have tools to choose from these days and I feel lucky to be a camera nerd. :) Today we have the best digital solutions we have ever had.

Let’s do one more comparison…

Looking at this we can see what we know, that smaller sensors can do wide angle with less issues..click them for larger. I prefer the Olympus here for tonality, and the way the image is presented. THOUGH the Olympus was the only one to flare here. 

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At the end of the day, in this world of cel phone cameras and less and less of the world interested in megabuck cameras, I feel the entire higher end digital market is going the way of the true enthusiast. There are many of us that would NEVER use our phone as our main camera just as there are many who would never buy a $4000 setup to take some snaps of their dogs or kids. Sure, I use my iPhone on occasion, when I do not have my real camera. But never have I taken an iPhone shot and said “WOW, this looks like my Leica and Noctilux”! Hehehe. I see cameras and lenses such as the ones discussed here for the ENTHUSIAST, like me. We love well made gear, we love a camera that fits our hand like a glove and we love a REAL camera that does what we want it to. So these cameras and lenses are still going strong even though I get emails daily asking me to review cel phones, yes I do.

I love them all, and they all have their strengths, like the bodies and lenses above. I still prefer my Sony 16-35 over the new Voigtlander for E mount though. The Voigtlander is underexposing on occasion, does have some slightly soft corners (as does the Zeiss) and is not as vibrant as what I get from the Sony/Zeiss 16-35 (My review of that lens is HERE). With that said, the Voigtlander is a joy to use, is smaller and lighter and less expensive. I could be happy with either for wide angle use. Then we have the little PEN and the 7-14 which I feel is giving me the best IQ for my tastes (with ultra wide – but the least resolution due to the smaller sensor)! I am going to have to start using it more ;)

What do you guys use as your wide angle solution in the 15mm range?

REFERENCE: Sony 16-35 Review, Sony A7RII Review, Olympus PEN-F Review, Olympus 7-14 Review, 1st look Voigtlander.

May 042016
 

SHOOTBAG

The Cub & Company Shooter’s Camera Bag. Hand made in the U.S.A. (Video)

I have been reviewing loads of bags lately, or so it seems. Bags are cool, and are VERY MUCH a personal choice. OF ALL the bags I have reviewed, owned or used, the Wotancraft Ryker has always been my goto #1 bag. It’s beauty, its style, its build and feel are all at a 10 out of 10. While I love other bags, the one I use most is that Ryker…

But now along comes a bag so unique and cool, it may be getting more carry time than my Wotancraft! This bag, from CUB AND COMPANY is so lightweight, so small but so large inside it is almost like an illusion. I expected it to be so tin on the inside, as most small bags are. But this one…plop open the leather top and you are greeted to a plush interior that can hold a huge DSLR and a few lenses or two mirrorless bodies and some lenses or even three Leicas and some lenses.

See the video review below!

It’s wide, short and squat and I have been waiting for something like this. My main complaint with most bags is they try to be tall and skinny. When this happens, the gear is hard to get in and out, and sometimes you need to force it in, and even then, it is a tight pack job. With the Cub & Company Shooter’s Bag, even putting a Leica SL inside fits nice and comfy as you can see in the video above!

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Also very cool to have a tripod storage solution underneath…

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Be sure to watch the video above as that is the actual review of the bag.

You can read more or order at CUBANDCOMPANY.COM

May 022016
 

BOKEHDREAMS

Bokeh Dreams…The Petzval 58 1.9 Bokeh Control Art Lens Review

By Steve Huff

All images here were shot with the Petzval 58 1.9 and Sony A7RII. 

I have been shooting with a lens that looks mighty familiar to me in design and looks. Brass, VERY Old School and unique in the way that you change aperture and even focus the lens. That lens is the new Petzval 58 1.9 Bokeh Control lens, and to me, it looks like a smaller version of the Lomo 85 Petzval  f/2.2 Art Lens, but this 58 1.9 is actually, IMO, a much better lens that the 85. When I was asked to review this lens I assumed it would be like a 58mm version of the 85. Soft wide open, low contrast and washed out colors.

Nope. Not only does this 58 1.9 offer me sharper images (ONLY at the focus point though), it also gives me more contrast and better colors than I remember getting from the 85 Petzval. But in addition to this, we get full Bokeh Control where we can dial it in on #1 and get a nice smooth-ish Bokeh or we can go to #7 and get swirl city.

When set on #7, this lens delivers SWIRL like I have never seen before. Click it for larger and see his face is pretty sharp, wide open shot. 

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Thanks to Joseph Petzval and his swirly Bokeh from the 1840’s we are now being able to purchase a replica of sorts, but even better as the original Petzval had ONLY massive swirl where this recreation gives us choices of Swirl Level with a focus ring type of dial on the lens barrel, allowing us to dial in what we want. Pretty cool if you ask me. When Lomography put up the kick starter for this one, they reached the $100,000 goal within FOUR HOURS. This tells me that there are plenty out there looking for something different, and this just may be the most unique lens I have ever touched, used or owned (yes, I am buying this one).

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Truth be told, these types of lenses are usually very gimmicky, and this one is no exception. Even so, I LOVE this lens and can not bring myself to let go of it when I am done with my review time (which is why I am purchasing my demo model) as to me, it sort of reminds me of another lens I adore, the old Canon RF Dream Lens (See my review here, and 2nd look here). While not the same, both of these lenses offer something that I like to pull out of my hat from time to time, and that is 100% UNIQUE rendering that not many of us use, or see often in everyday photos.

The 58 1.9 comes in a fantastic package with book, manual, pouch, Waterhouse aperture plates and a Brass cap. $749

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I have a history of shooting, testing and really liking small, prime and unique lenses. While many will ay “THAT BOKEH IS NASTY”, I say “THAT BOKEH IS UNIQUE” and in the right scenario, can look quite nice. Artistic, as I said, unique and different. I like my shots to be different from everyone else and seeing that most these days shoot with phones, a lens like this would make some of those phone shooting young ‘ens ask “HOW DID YOU DO THAT”?

Click images for better versions!

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Now of course a lens like this is not for every day use. If you did end up using this lens every day for two weeks, you would tire of the look and you would be frustrated for missing some shots, as it is 100% manual focus and that Bokeh is wild, meaning you really need your subject in the center-ish area of the frame to be in focus. Take a look at the shot below and see that one face is out of focus due to being out of the sharp area of the lens, which is dead center:

Click it for larger, swirl on 7

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Same here…swirl on 7

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So in reality, for me anyway, a lens like this is meant to be on your shelf for those days, times and moments that you want to be a tad more creative or want the swirl. Speaking of swirl, I know that many out there hate swirly bokeh, and many out there also love the effect from time to time.

THE SWIRL – IT’S ALL ABOUT THE SWIRL but you CAN DIAL IT OUT! 

This lens is so cool as it gives you a choice with your Bokeh. It has seven settings  though I admit, I was using either #1 or #7. From mild to wild. Setting 1 will give you an old school smooth bokeh but you will still have a little swirl in the corners. This is not a “corner to corner” sharp lens..if you want this, grab a normal 50mm f/1.4 and stop down to f/5.6. Those seeking any kind of perfection, stay away from this one as you never know what will pop up on your LCD when shooting a lens like this. As I said, it can go from MILD to WILD.

Here you can see what I mean. On Setting 1, below, you still see extreme blur mostly at the edges. Even this is unique and delivers a very interesting look. But when turned up to 7, the swirl really shows up..

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And now on 7 – behind the lamp you can see more swirl as this will be directly behind your subject.

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You can see that this lens is doing some crazy things at each setting. It’s a wild lens but it’s also quite charming with its old school all Brass construction.

NIKON or CANON MOUNT ONLY! BUT, IT CAN BE ADAPTED TO SONY!

The Petzval 58 1.9 is made for Nikon or Canon mount. I have a Nikon mount version in Brass, and the lens also comes in a slick-looking shiny black. But I will choose brass as the 1840’s originals were all brass, from what I understand. If I am going to buy a vintage lens recreation, I want it to look like the original as much as possible. In fact, while out shooting this lens I had three people approach me to ask me what lens I was using. One guy thought it was an antique lens I somehow managed to adapt to digital. When I showed them what it was and how it worked they were very intrigued and gave a huge smile. It’s just so different from the norm that in this day and age of black zoom lenses and iPhones, the Petzval really stands out with its striking looks and design.

Image one is set to 7 for swirl, image two is set to 1 and the 3rd image may be somewhere in between..

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WHO IS THIS LENS FOR?

At $799, this is not a cheap $250 lens. It shouldn’t be as the construction all brass quality is stunning. The design is very old school and there is not any other lens like this in production. It’s worth the $799 but only to the photographer who wants to think outside the box. The person who wants DIFFERENT and UNIQUE. The guy or girl who sees the beauty in the SWIRL and the old school 1800’s Bokeh. I have seen some great work with this lens, and my experience is limited to a couple of days shooting so far but I already know I am hooked. If I sent this back to cameraquest.com I would miss it one day when I wanted this style and look.

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If you shoot with a Canon or Nikon DSLR I could see this being a little challenging to nail the focus as I never found MANUALLY focusing with a DSLR to be very good. I prefer using a good EVF for that and the Sony A7RII that I am using it on makes it able to 100% nail the focus, every time. I feel Lomography should start making these in E mount as well as they are made for it, so it seems when using it. So if you shoot Canon, Nikon or Sony, this is a lens you can shoot with. The Sony Nikon adapter I have is from Amazon and cost me $13. I use this one and it works perfect. 

I dig this lens more than the 85 Petzval (My review HERE) for its smaller size, better IQ and Bokeh Control as well as focal length which I prefer to 85. So for me, I love the new 58 and have  told Stephen Gandy he is not getting this review sample back, and to charge me for it. Yep, I bought it. Because sometimes, on some days I just want to go to dreamland with my photos and this is a lens one can grow with, learn its nuances and characters..and then, when that happens you will have a lens that will reward you with surreal beauty when you take your shot.

I mean, C’mon! Sometimes you just need to break from the norm of perfect sharpness and “create” instead of “snap”.

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WHERE TO BUY?

My lens came from CAMERAQUEST.COM. You can order it or take a closer look at it HERE. The price is $749. They are now IN STOCK and shipping!

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MORE INFO FROM CAMERAQUEST:

After Joseph Petzval introduced his iconic lens in 1840, portrait photography flourished. Now, 175 years later, it’s your turn to explore these first footsteps of photography with a handcrafted lens combining historical design and modern, yet original, Russian optics.
We’ve taken the best features of the New Petzval Art Lens to the next level: The New Petzval 58 Bokeh Control Art Lens comes with an unprecedented Bokeh Control Ring paired with a versatile 58mm focal length. Together with an f/1.9 maximum aperture, these traits will let you explore new photographic paths. For the first time ever, you have total freedom over the blurred areas in your pictures thanks to the Bokeh Control Ring that lets you determine the strength of the Petzval’s swirly bokeh.

Boasting a shiny varnish black or brass body, the New Petzval 58 Bokeh Control Art Lens is great for all different types of photography. From captivating portraits and busy streets scenes, to impressive architecture and wide landscapes, every image showcases harmonic color saturation and fine contrasts.

Just like its predecessor–the New Petzval 85 Art Lens–the New Petzval 58 Bokeh Control Art Lens features a classic gear rack focusing mechanism and Waterhouse aperture plates for a truly 19th century-like photographic experience.

Compatibility:
The New Petzval 58 Art Lens comes available with Canon EF and Nikon F mounts, which means it’s immediately compatible with a whole host of analogue and digital cameras. You can also pair the New Petzval 58 Art Lens with many other analogue and digital cameras, like the Sony A7 for instance, by using adapters which can be purchased separately.

Package includes:
New Petzval 58 Bokeh Control Art Lens Brass or Black
Standard Waterhouse aperture plates
Front and rear lens cap
Leather Pouch
Photo and manual book
Instruction manual
Features:
Focal Length: 58mm
Aperture: Waterhouse aperture stops, f/1.9, f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/11, f/16
Image Circle: 44mm
Field of View: 41 degrees
Optical Construction: 4 lens elements in 3 groups
Lens Mounting Profile: Nikon F or Canon EOS EF
Electronic Contacts: No
Closest Focusing Distance: 0.6m
Focusing Mechanism: Gear Rack Focusing
Filter Thread: 52mm
Bokeh Control Levels: 1 (minimum swirl) to 7 (maximum swirl)

May 022016
 

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The Mighty Panasonic-Leica 100-400mm Lens Review

By Bob Towery

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I recently acquired the Panasonic Leica 100-400mm lens to go along with my Olympus OMD-M5 Mk II kit. I didn’t start off with the idea of writing a review but as I began getting to know this lens I thought it might be a nice addition to Steve’s excellent collection of resources for us enthusiasts. (From Steve: Thank you Bob)!

As background, I have been shooting digitally since 2001, with Canon bodies and a wide array of L lenses. I have had a number of 70-200’s, as well as 300mm and 400mm L primes.

About five years ago I wanted to get into a smaller kit for travel work. Partly with the excellent information I got here on Steve’s site, I got a Leica M9 setup and used this for quite a few trips. But I do enjoy telephoto work as well, and certainly that’s not the M9’s forte. And although I became pretty proficient at both manual focusing, there are still those instances where you have one second to get a shot and it’s lucky indeed to have pre-focused accurately. I found I was only using my M9 when going street shooting.

Fast forwarding, when the Fuji XT series came out I dove in. Somehow I just never warmed up to this system. It’s AF was exceedingly poor (since improved I’m told). The camera also failed on a trip, the first time that had ever happened to me. Although Fuji did a stellar job of repairing it quickly on their dime, this unnerved me and I sold that kit off.

Knowing Steve had always been an Olympus fan, I followed those reviews, and when the OMD M5 II was released I jumped into the Oly pool. Using the Olympus kit has been very rewarding. It’s a high performing camera, with the only limit (for my use) being the noise at higher ISO’s.

THE SCENE

Living where I do on an island near Seattle, I have a lot of opportunities to shoot interesting birds like Bald Eagles and Great Blue Herons. The Fuji would nearly always miss. So the first paces I put the Oly through were to shoot these birds, and its AF performance was excellent. This was with the 40-150mm, so fully zoomed in we are at 300mm effective. But even these large specimens of the bird world are pretty small subjects. BTW, below I’ll do a few comparison shots with both the 100-400mm and the 40-150mm.

It’s spring time right now and there are a lot of beautiful flowers to shoot here. This will be a “real world” review. Some of the images are those subjects I enjoy shooting, and some are just for the review factor.

THE MIGHTY PANASONIC-LEICA 100-400mm

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Enter the Panasonic-Leica 100-400mm! Image stabilized, effective focal length (long end) of 800mm. Before we get into the pictures, I want to state that I’m not a professional reviewer, or even photographer, just an enthusiast. I know many of you would do your own tests differently than mine. My testing was around the kinds of things I like to shoot, which don’t involve test patterns. And all of these are real world, no tripods involved (well, one exception). Also, to be practical when I give a focal length, it will be what LR reports and is on the lens body, i.e. in-between 100 and 400. If you want to double the focal lengths you see given the body’s crop factor that is fine by me.

WHAT ABOUT THE NEW OLYMPUS 300mm?

We all know Olympus was building and releasing their 300mm prime at about the same time. I considered this for a short time, as I prefer Olympus products and given the price of this glass, it’s going to be a fine prime performer. I’d bet my 401k that the Oly 300mm will outperform the Panasonic 100-400mm handily at the same focal length. But for me, these primes are impractical. “Zoom with your feet” really doesn’t work when say you are standing on a beach looking out, or trying to catch a flying bird. There have been times where I approached a sitting bald eagle with my full frame body and 400mm, and by the time I got close enough to make them fly away for a glorious picture, I can’t get the whole bird in the frame – too close! At an effective 600mm, I just can’t count on being the right distance from my subject. So the Oly 300mm prime is out for me.

HOW’S YOUR STABILITY?

I’m sure most readers know the camera has IBIS (In Body Image Stabilization) and the lens has its own IS. Unlike a Panasonic body mated to the lens, sadly the Oly IBIS and the lens IS do not speak the same language. From my reading, and brief testing on my own, the best option is to turn IBIS off and use the lens IS, so that is what I did.

IMAGES IN THIS REVIEW

Also, Steve told me to process as I normally would. In general, this means a few tweaks in Lightroom, 90% of the time less than one minute’s work. I’ll point out below when I did no post. All images were made with the Olympus OMD M5 Mk II and the Panasonic/Leica 100-400 unless otherwise indicated. Only one shot was with a tripod. Others are hand held, sometimes with me leaning against a post. Apologies in advance if I didn’t test something as you would have. I really wanted to include some people shots, seeing how it rendered faces, even if that isn’t a practical use for the lens, but I didn’t have an opportunity to work that out.

Also, all images were exported from Lightroom using Screen/Normal sharpening. I decided to number the images, as readers often comment by number.

All right, let’s hit the road.

THE SAPSUCKER STUDY

Shortly after the lens arrived, I had a lunch planned with a friend who happens to be a great and dedicated wildlife photographer. Our lunch date was to discuss an upcoming joint trip. I had thrown the Oly and the lens in the bag, basically just to show him. He’s a Canon shooter too, no M4/3 experience.

When we got back to his home I opened the trunk and zipped open the bag. I handed it to him and we were chatting, but noticed a loud woodpecker nearby. I said, “let’s go check this out” and he said “they usually fly away once you start staring at them.”

#1 – 264mm, f/5.5, 1/2000, iso 640

Before we get to the “good shots,” I want to share this one, to show you what we were up against. (And it turned out to be a red breasted sapsucker, not a woodpecker, but they still bang away on the tree.) The sapsucker is in constant motion, including jumping from one branch to another. The tree is filled with branches both in front of and behind the bird. But notice that even in this tangled mess, with center dot focus selected, the lens focused perfectly.

CLICK ALL IMAGES IN THIS REVIEW TO SEE THEM CORRECTLY!

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So as I began shooting, I had to move both left and right around the tree, while waiting for him to get clear.

#2 – 400mm, f/6.3, 1/1600, iso 640

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It was a pleasure to have the reach to fill the viewfinder with a bird that is just say six inches high. Here at 400mm and a distance of perhaps 20 feet, the bird and the branch are magnificently sharp.

Crop of #2

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Here is a 1:1 crop from this frame. How long is that talon, 3/8”s of an inch?

#3 – 300mm, f/8.0, 1/500, iso 640

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Moving along to bokeh, this certainly isn’t the finest I have ever seen. And I wouldn’t expect it to be, given the massive range of this lens, the f/6.3 aperture when fully zoomed, and the sub $2,000 price tag.

#3 with background smoothed in Lightroom

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However here’s what I got in about a minute in Lightroom. I used the Adjustment Brush, with the Clarity and Sharpness sliders all the way to the left. Then I went around the birdie numerous times which did a nice job of softening up the background area. I then lightened up the bird’s back just a tad. Given the fact that I’d have no shot at all with most of my other lenses, I can live with this.

As I’m getting these shots and my friend and I are viewing them on the LCD, he begins getting jumpy and then dashes into the house. He returns with his amazing Canon 200-400mm, mounted on an older 1D Mk IV. I have serious lens envy, but that kind of size just isn’t practical for me.

#4 – Iphone

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My wife got this shot of us with her iphone. Guess who can handhold longer?

#5 – Samsung S6

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Here we have King Kong on top and Cheetah below. Interestingly, my rig is both wider and longer than his, focal length speaking. His is a 1.3 crop body, thus the “widest” is 260mm. The lens has a 1.4 teleconverter built in, so with that engaged, he’s at 728mm by my calculation.

Of course I would never expect the Panasonic to compete with this Canon in IQ. However it does cost six times as much and weighs eight pounds. (My apologies, my friend didn’t get any shots that he felt like sharing, so we could compare.)

IMAGE WITHIN AN IMAGE

Over the years I have found finding new compositions within my images to be very rewarding. View your image full size, set a crop, then drag the crop around in the Navigator window. It’s surprising how often you can get an additional image or two from one of your shots. Sometimes even more compelling than your in-camera composition. But of course there is a penalty in terms of resulting image size, due to the crop. Not a big deal for blog/facebook posting, but would come into play say if you intend to print.

#6 – 100mm, f/5.6, 1/200, iso 400

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When I saw the scene above, my thought was that the child on the bike could be interesting. Looks like a beginner, the setting is quite nice, and so on.

#7 – 280mm, f/5.6, 1/500, iso 400

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Look what happens zooming way into the scene. The rider is nicely isolated. Bonus points for my timing of an otter jumping into the scene, what do you say? Normally I’d crop that out but it’s so unusual I left it in just for the fun factor. If I cropped that deep into the original image, there just wouldn’t be enough pixels left for much use. I believe at the time I planned to wait for the rider to get into that sunny area, but the otter surprised me so much I lost track. (I scrambled down on to the beach to try to get him too, but he was long gone.)

#8 – 141mm, f/9, 1/640, iso 200

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When I saw this sailboat going by, I wanted to get a couple shots just to see how clearly the lens would render the lettering and sailboat details. But thinking about this “image within an image” idea I zoomed all the way in and moved the lens around the boat.

#9 – 400mm, f/9, 1/640, iso 200

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I found this colorful and pleasing composition and grabbed a couple frames.

#10 – 400mm, f/8, 1/1250, iso 400

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This kayak was WAY far away. I would estimate 300-400 yards. The piling and bird are about half way to the kayak. Thought it would be interesting to see how the foreground would be rendered when I focused on the kayak. This is about a one quarter frame crop!

MT. RAINIER STUDY

So I’m very fortunate to have a view of Mt. Rainier from my backyard. She’s only out one out of every three to four days. There are often clouds that completely obscure her.

#11 – 70mm on a Canon FF body

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Google Earth says the summit is 60 miles from my house. I wanted to get a full frame shot at 50 mm to show you what that looks like in person. But the weather hasn’t cooperated, so here is an older image I shot at 70mm on full frame. What can we do with the Panasonic 100-400mm on a nice day?

#12 – 400mm f/9, 1/800, iso 200

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Here we are at 400mm. Handheld! Note that between our positions are Seattle’s southern suburbs, as well as the Sea-Tac airport. The sky is continually filled with jets. It takes a rare day to have completely clear air, and I didn’t have any while preparing this piece. So I believe some lack of sharpness here is because we are looking through 60 miles of air as opposed to lens performance.

#13 – 300mm f/8, 1/200, iso 200 – tripod mounted – 12 sec timer

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I took this one at 300mm as it includes an island that provides a little context. Used a polarizer to cut through the haze.

GOING BOATING

#14 – 100mm, f/6.3, 1/1000, iso 200

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There is a continual parade of boats in front of my place. Including ferries, commercial, military and pleasure craft. Here is one that isn’t real attractive but serves our purpose of seeing what this lens can do. This is a small boat, 30 feet at most. Above is what it looked like at 100mm.

#15 – 400mm, f/6.3, 1/1000, iso 200

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Full zoomed in. Keep in mind the boat is moving, I’m having to pan to keep up with it. Pretty acceptable detail.

#16 – 400mm, f/8, 1/2000, iso 400

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Google Earth tells me this buoy is 735 yards from my location (that’s more than four-thirds of a mile).

Sea lions often jump up onto the buoy and boats and other passersby stop in for a look. In this case some kayakers. Previously I have only been able to see this kind of detail with my high powered binoculars.

#17 – 400mm, f/8, 1/2000, iso 400

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As I’m shooting this, a speedboat comes along. While I can’t make out the license numbers on the bow, I can clearly read the model letters on the side. See the faded “4” on the top right of the buoy? Not bad from this distance.

#17 – crop detail

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FYI this shows the crop in the boat/buoy image.

#18 – 300mm, f/8, 1/800, iso 200

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This boat was much closer. This is the uncropped shot at 300mm. Boat is going perhaps 20 mph; I’m panning. Everything looks good to me.

#18 – crop detail

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Take a look at this crop. Look straight down from the second zero in “2000.” There are two openings there. The one to the right is most likely a drain from an ice chest compartment. We are talking two inches wide, at the max. I’d say that’s pretty amazing detail. One can see that the dye from the canvas is leaching out and staining the hull, and this is in a shaded spot!

#19 – 236mm, f/5.3, 1/640, iso 640

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Lots of small details to look at in this ferry shot. Note that these ferries really move – about 23mph. This is a bit of a crop. Full size, it is very sharp.

#20, 100mm, f/4, 1/80, iso 1600

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This shot amazes me. There had to be some luck involved with my panning here, given that I’m at 1/80th and the shot is very sharp. But look at that perfect focus, in the dark.

BUILDING STUDY

#21 – Panasonic 100-400 – 146mm, f/8, 1/640, iso 320

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Let’s get into comparing the 100-400 vs the Olympus 40-150 PRO. I really didn’t expect the Panny to hold up well against this lens, but once again I am surprised, in a good way. These shots are about a minute apart. I’m standing in the exact same location, attempting to have the Panny at 150 but missing by a couple mm’s. I turned IBIS on for the Olympus lens. The shot is cropped just a bit to be identical.

#22 – 40-150mm Olympus Pro – 150mm, f/8, 1/640, iso 320

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There isn’t really much between these two, is there? When I look at them full screen in Lightroom’s compare mode, it’s hard to tell which one is which. Even the tonality is remarkably similar – the building, the sky and the grass. No post on these images by the way.

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Crop of #21 (Panasonic Lens)

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What happens if we examine crops to show us more detail? Here are crops of the same two images for closer comparison.

Crop of #22 (Olympus Lens)

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I can see the wording on the sign is a bit sharper with the 40-150 shot. The focus was on the center rectangle, so the building was the focus spot. Perhaps the result here would have been different had I focused on the sign? It’s a slight difference in any case.

Crop of #21 (Panasonic Lens)

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And here is the upper right corner, which I chose because of the tree branch.

Crop of #22 (Olympus Lens)

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Once again, the 40-150 shows more definition, at least to my eye. But I don’t think there is much to complain about with the 100-400 version.

(This setting by the way is http://www.bloedelreserve.org )

FLOWER STUDIES

#23 – 146mm, f/4.6, 1/200, iso 200

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The wind was blowing these plants around, so the shots don’t look as identical as they could.

I focused on the center flower in both cases. I think both images are perfectly reasonable. Kind of like the bokeh on the 100-400 shot a bit better actually.

#24 – Olympus 40-150 Pro – 150mm, f/4.5, 1/200, iso 200

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But there is definitely more detail in the lightest part of the flower with the Oly 40-150 version.

#25 – 264mm, f/5.6, 1/200, iso 200

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The post for this image was +38 on Vibrance, +12 on Saturation and a touch of vignette. I didn’t mess with the background area at all. Gorgeous bokeh, I’m sure due to my distance to the blossoms, and then the distance to the background.

#26 – 236mm, f/5.3, 1/1250, iso 1600

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Just a touch of Vibrance.

#27 – 400mm, f/6.3, 1/250, iso 640

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I came across this tuilip in someone’s yard and thought it would be interesting to see what the lens did with the very busy background. I added Vibrance as well as a graduated filter at the bottom in post, but left the background alone. Using the adjustment brush with de-Clarity would fix that right up.

#28 – 100mm / f/5.6, 1/250, iso 500

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Here is the scene, from the exact same spot, minimum focal length.

#29 – 100mm, f/4.5, 1/200, iso 1600

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Another shot from someone’s yard.

#30 – 146mm, f/4.6, 1/1250, iso 200

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One more, just to show that a background doesn’t have to be completely blurred to add to the image.

BIRD STUDIES

#31 – 400mm, f/6.3, 1/640, iso 500

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We have some spectacular birds in our area. On the larger side, we have Great Blue Herons and Bald Eagles. Wasn’t fortunate enough to get any Bald Eagles but Ms. Heron decided to join in the fun.

Herons are very aware. They are able to get airborne with one leap of those long legs. So they don’t fly off unless you get too close. Given their great size, in the past I have gotten some nice images with my full frame Canon and 400mm fixed, approaching very slowly.

#32 – 318mm, f/6.3, 1/640, iso 200

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These birds are a joy to see in flight. They are gorgeous and graceful. Unfortunately they will show their tails in nearly all shots. That is because if you approach from the side, they fly the opposite way. If you approach from the back, as I did here, no matter which way they go, you only see the back. I really need to try this from a kayak or boat.

They are also smart and often wait to fly off until you look down at your footing, back of your camera, etc. So you have a very small reaction time. To me the important thing about this shot was that I sensed the takeoff, raised the camera, framed, autofocus was instant, and I got a crystal clear shot.

There’s just no griping about autofocus with this lens.

#33 – 400mm, f/6.3, 1/640, iso 500

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Here is an even better test. I was out on my deck, which is about 75’ above the water. I believe I was shooting the Harlequin ducks when all of a sudden I see movement in the sky. I instinctively raise the camera, get focus and shoot. No time to play with any settings. And we have a crystal clear shot in glorious focus.

#34 – 400mm, f/6.3, 1/500, iso 500

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I was very close to this tiny bird, about 15-20 feet. This bird is perhaps 6 or 7 inches beak to tail. There was a concrete half wall between the bird and I, perhaps that is why it didn’t fly off. At 200mm on a full frame, this wouldn’t be much of a shot as the bird would be too tiny for any usage. Very impressed with the lens in this situation. The definition in the feathers seems just about perfect to my eye.

#35 – 400mm, f/6.3, 1/500, iso 500

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Mallards are relatively large, but at this distance, only this sort of focal length will create any type of reasonable image. This is a crop – about one-third of the frame.

#36 – 300mm, f/8, 1/500, iso 800

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These harlequin ducks are regulars in my back yard every Winter/Spring. They are extremely shy and fly off basically as soon as they see you. I have never gotten a decent shot of them until now. This shot was taken from about 100 feet away. I’m far enough back that they don’t panic.

#37 – 318mm, f/8, 1/640, iso 500

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Having this range leads to some compositions I have never been able to consider before.

TELEPHOTO-MACRO?

#38 – 400mm, f/6.3, 1/800, iso 320

While shooting the ducks, walking back to my house, I ran into this lizard. Pretty good size, probably 9″ long. Why not give it a try? Minimum focusing distance is 1.3 meters, which is where I was (moved a bit back and forth until I got focus lock.)

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CONCLUSION

I like this lens a great deal. I have never had this kind of reach before, and for some of the subjects I like to shoot I feel it will be invaluable. I’m very impressed that the IQ compares “quite well” to the Olympus 40-150mm. If I was going on a trip where I wanted this extra reach, I’d have no problem leaving that Oly lens at home, maybe throwing in a couple of Olympus primes for the intermediate range.

All things considered, this is an effective 800mm lens that is 6.5” long (collapsed) – a modern marvel, in my book anyway.

Would really have been nice to compare my images with my friend’s, with his Canon bazooka. Especially since his older body is also a 16mp like the OMD M5 II. But I’m not trying to get into NatGeo with my images. I especially appreciate the size/weight/value proposition of this Panasonic lens. His outings with that lens are few and far between, whereas I can bring this lens along anytime I want.

Although I didn’t show these images, for a while it appeared to me that images at 300mm were superior to those at 400mm. I did some test shots and cropped the 300mm ones to see an equivalent. Upon review, my thoughts just didn’t seem to hold up. I didn’t see any significant degradation at 400mm vs 300mm.

#39 – 400mm, f/8, 1/800, iso 200

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If you want to be able to shoot anything moving, quick AF is a must. This lens has it. I was down by the beach having a cocktail with my wife this evening. I noticed this heron feeding. I took some shots of her wading, but really she was just too far away, even at 800mm, to make an interesting composition. Somewhere between 100 and 150 yards. I didn’t even have the camera to my eye when I sensed the movement. Quickly raised, got focus, fired. I love this artistic rendering, with the sun more or less directly behind the heron.

Of course I wish Olympus and Panasonic would cooperate such that the body-lens combo would use both IS systems. But these results are plenty good IMHO. Every single body/lens combo is a compromise in one way or another. Even a brand new Leica SL with the 90-280 zoom could not get many of the shots on this page, not being able to reach out to an effective 800mm.

#40 – 400mm, f/6.3, 1/1000, iso 1250

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I’m closing with this one last image. First, it is my favorite image in the review. The camera and lens performed perfectly, the lighting was favorable, and Mr. Heron contorted himself into this wild position. This is a crop, it’s about 60% of the frame. Imagine the FF Body/800mm lens it would take to get a shot like this? I could own one, but it is doubtful I would be all set up with it to capture this moment.

Which brings me to my very last thought (finally! You are thinking). Had it not been for needing to go shooting for this review, I wouldn’t have a lot of these shots. As I’m quite pleased with many of them, this is a reminder to us all to get off the computer and get shooting. It’s a beautiful world, and at least for me, this lens is going to help me capture that much more of it.

Thanks Steve once again for your site. Thank you to my fellow photographers for reading and I hope this is helpful.

Apr 282016
 

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The NEW Leica M – The Leica M-D without rear LCD. Back to basics.

Looks like Leica has announced a new basic M-E style M to the Leica Rangefinder lineup! Much like they did near the end of the M9 days, releasing the M-E, which was a basic M9 at its core, it seems they did it again with this new M-D. THIS tells me that a new M will be on the way this year, end of year. Yep, that is my prediction. It’s been 3 years since the M240, the M has a 3 year life cycle, and they now released the M-D. Which is in all reality, a BASE M 240, much like the M-E was a base M9.

BUT doesn’t this sound odd? Did Leica not release the M 262 not too long ago which was a basic M240? Yep, but this time, the 5th member of the M family in production currently is without a rear LCD, much like the uber expensive M60. Instead of the rear LCD we have an ISO dial, much like on the old film cameras. THIS IS COOL, AND I NOW WANT ONE.

PRESS RELEASE BELOW but my email is in to Ken Hansen ([email protected]) to pre order this one! Pricey as always at $5995 but this one will be SWEET. 

You can also pre order at PopFlash.com

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Leica Announces Latest Addition to M System: The Leica M-D

New Leica M-D Eschews LCD Screen to Focus on Essential Features and Minimal Design
For Intuitive and Classic Handling

April 28, 2016 – Leica Camera today announced the addition of a new model to their M rangefinder system, the Leica M-D (Typ 262). Together with the Leica M and M-P (Typ 240), the Leica M (Typ 262) and the Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246), this latest release from Leica marks the fifth addition to the digital family of M cameras and the first serial production model of the digital M system to be made without a monitor. The screen on the back of the camera is now replaced by the ISO sensitivity dial – a key exposure setting for any camera which harkens back to the ongoing legacy of analog Leica M rangefinders. The Leica M-D contains only the core technical features required for photography – shutter speed, aperture, focus and ISO sensitivity – allowing users to concentrate on what is most important: capturing the decisive moment.

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The technical specifications of the Leica M-D are similar to those of the Leica M (Typ 262). As with all other digital cameras in the M family, the Leica M-D (Typ 262) features a high-resolution CMOS full-frame sensor. The 24-megapixel resolution ensures exceptional image quality and extreme sensitivity to light, allowing photographers to shoot in even the most difficult lighting scenarios. The camera’s Maestro processor guarantees fast processing of captured image data and yields a camera that is responsive and always at the ready. Exposures are saved exclusively as RAW data in DNG format, enabling photographers to apply all their desired adjustments when using post-processing software. The camera is dedicated exclusively to rangefinder photography and deliberately supports neither video recording nor Live View. Leica M-D users can shoot pictures confidently knowing that they are utilizing the latest generation of Leica M camera performance, albeit with all extraneous features intentionally omitted for the most pure experience.

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Leica’s passion for minimal design is immediately recognizable in the makeup of this camera. The Leica M-D expresses a purely functional form factor, and features design characteristics such as a top plate in brass with a step at the end citing the design of the Leica M9. The omission of the Leica red dot logo or M badging on the front makes the camera even more unobtrusive when shooting and traveling. The average observer could easily mistake the Leica M-D for an analog M camera, giving the user a level of discreetness that does not often come with using a digital camera. The design philosophy of the Leica M-D gives its users the most analog experience of shooting a digital camera, and returns to the ritual of waiting to see the images until it is time to sit down and edit.

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In addition to its simple design, the hardly audible shutter of the Leica M-D guarantees maximum inconspicuousness when shooting, ideal for photographic situations where discretion is key. The camera also features a shutter cocking system that is particularly quiet in single exposure mode and enables a shutter release frequency of up to two frames per second. In continuous mode, the M-D has the same sequential shooting speed as its sister models and shoots up to three frames per second.

The Leica M-D (Typ 262), priced at $5,995 is available the first week of May at local Leica Stores, Leica Boutiques or Leica Dealers. The camera package includes a carrying strap in full-grain cowhide leather.

 

 

Apr 272016
 

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FIRST LOOK: My 1st day with the new Olympus 300mm F/4 Pro Lens. It’s a Beauty!

By Steve Huff

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The Olympus 300mm F/4 Pro. Every now and again you get a product in your hands and say WOW, this IS QUALITY. I mean, I have never been a long telephoto guy, ever. I usually maxed out at 150mm though back many years ago I did own a Canon 70-300 DO and a 100-400 that I had loads of fun with. Either way, I am a standard 24, 35, 50, 75, 90 kind of guy, just what I am used to. When Olympus decided to ship me their new 300mm f/4 Pro which is a full pro lens weather sealed, built like a tank, and has on board IS as well as giving us a 600mm equivalent field of view. Yes, 600mm. You can even add the teleconverter on to make it even more insane.

Just two days ago this lens appeared on my doorstep, as if by magic a man in a brown shirt and shorts dropped it off! Was incredible, lol.

I have used this lens before, though VERY briefly. While in Austin with Olympus a while ago we were all able to use the 300mm for a few moments and then I knew it was quite special though using a 600mm equivalent lens, you need to be in some wide spaces or else forget it! Being in your kitchen with 600mm is not something that is useful. But shooting wildlife or sports or race cars or whatever you need 600mm worth of reach for, this will do the trick.

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My 1st thoughts after a day at the zoo with it is that it is incredibly sharp, easy to handhold and again, built to pro specs, very impressive. Of course, it should be used on a pro body like an E-M1 but I was using it on the newest PEN-F, which I just adore. This camera is so gorgeous, so slim, so nicely made and designed and the color and IQ are also top notch.

I will have a full review down the road of this incredible optic but I have never used a 300mm (or 600mm) quite this nice. It is well worth the cost of $2499 for someone who loves long telephoto primes of uncompromising quality. I mean, a Canon 600mm f/4 is over $11,000.  $2499 for the same equivilant FOV in an equally as well made lens, is quite, well, incredible. Olympus, to me, makes the best lenses next to Leica when it comes to size, color, quality and design and while this is a huge long lens and for a certain type of photography, Olympus knows how to make fantastic lenses and their Micro 4/3 system is still an amazing IQ machine here in 2016, with their bodies better than ever.

See my PEN-F review here if you missed that and take a look at the 1st samples below I shot yesterday at the zoo. FULL review with more samples will be coming soon BUT I just wanted to share my enthusiasm for this lens, it is so so beautiful!!! A 300MM DOES NOT SEEM TO GET ANY BETTER THAN THIS. In fact, for some, this lens may be a reason to shoot Olympus. It’s that good. 

You can order the Olympus 300mm F/4 Pro at B&H Photo or Amazon

CLICK ALL images for larger view. None have been edited. Most from RAW. All handheld with a PEN-F.

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

Hello to all! For the past 7 years I have been running this website and it has grown to beyond my wildest dreams. Some days this very website has over 200,000 visitors and because of this I need and use superfast dedicated web servers to host the site. Running this site costs quite a bit of cash every single month and on top of that, I work full-time 60+ hours a week on it each and every single day of the week (I receive 100-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I could use YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis. 

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

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

Not only do I spend money on fast hosting but I also spend it on cameras to buy to review, lenses to review, bags to review, gas and travel, and a slew of other things. You would be amazed at what it costs me just to maintain this website, in money and time (250 hours a month, and about $3000 per month).

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 (not the B&H) 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, Twitter, 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 nor do I (nor will I ever) charge for reviews, so your donations go a long way to keeping this site loaded with useful content. If you choose to help out, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Apr 252016
 

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FIRST LOOK! Voigtlander 15 f/4.5 III for Sony E-Mount! Awesome!

Lets face it, 15mm is WIDE. Ultra wide in my book, but sometimes it is just what you may need in tight quarters. Ever since the very 1st version of the Voigtlander 15mm, which was TINY, I have bene smitten with this lens. In the early days, the first two versions were not perfect when used on digital cameras. Even though the version 1 and 2 were Leica M mount, there was vignetting and color shifts when used on a Leica M9 or M 240. Same thing when adapted to be used on the Sony full frame A7 system.

It was not until Version III that things started looking very good for this lens as it did away with the color shifts and gave us a super wide with barely any distortion, no color shifts and great sharpness. The ONLY issue with Version III was using it on a Sony, the extreme corners were not as sharp as they should have been. This is an ongoing issue with some Leica M glass and the Sony A7 series of cameras. But overall, the M version III worked great on the Sony. EVen so, they made it even better now..

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HAVE NO FEAR, VOIGTLANDER IS HERE! They have now released the 15mm in Sony E Mount, which means they are optimized for E mount which should mean NO ISSUES AT ALL. I am happy to say after having the lens in hand for a day, it is one hell of a lens for the Sony system. Coming in at $799, this lens which was sent to me from CameraQuest to review is just about the same size as the M version. It is small, light and focusing it is a breeze. When you turn the focus barrel it instantly goes into magnify mode so you can get a good view of what you are focusing on. With its huge depth of field, focusing is quick and easy and even zone focus is usable if you so desire to venture into that area.

Now, I have only had it for a day and have not been out too much to use it but the 1st snaps I shot with it are just what I had expected and hoped for. The IQ is fantastic. Sharp and WIDE! I will be using it over the next 2-3 weeks and will eventually have a full review up, but for now, a few casual test snaps.

In my review I will compare it side by side with the Sony/Zeiss 16-35 at 16mm which I own. 

As always, click on them for better view! Full review soon!

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…and some detail..click it!

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Apr 252016
 

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Never Ending Love with Ricoh GR

by Lorenzo Moscia

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When I first purchase the Ricoh GR I never thought a camara of that size will catch me for so long time. It is almost two years now since I start to bring the Ricoh basically everywhere on my assignment trip. At first it was Cuba where I brought a Canon as well wich it was staying most of the time at home, just because that was more than a family trip than a real assignment. But right there I discover the beauty of walking all day around a city without look like a photographer and my back and knees were so happy by the end of the day.

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To begin with I was a little scared of sending Ricoh files to my agency. Would some editor buy and publish files made with a pocket camera? When I got on assignment I normally use two canon bodies (5d MkIII with a 16-352.8II and 6D with 50 1.2) sometimes I bring the little 28mm II and the 35f2.

If I m on assignment for a travel Magazine in Europe I will carry the Ricoh in a Hama pocket on my belt and I could barely take it out. But if I m doing something else like in Easter Ukraine,Thailand, Sri Lanka or Africa with ONG well I find out just using more and more the Ricoh, especially when I have some free hours in wich I m left to walk around a place with no fixer or driver. Canon stays home and I m free as a bird with Ricoh in my pocket.
After the Cuba experience I order one more battery and a wall charger.

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When I m editing even magnifying the image I cannot spot if is the Ricoh or a Canon with the 28. Colors are so great and dynamic range is even better than Canon!. Ricoh is just a bit more noisy.Of course I wont get the bokeh of the 50.1.2 or the 135 f2! When I was in Brazil for the World Cup back in 2014 my assignment was to follow the Colombian supporters for the Colombian football FEderation. My gear at that time it was two Canon bodies with 28 and 50 in a little Domke F5 XC. I was supposed to be all time on the road, Belo Horizonte, Brasilia, Cuiabá and Rio. But when I get int o Rio and went back in to a Favela I regret so much to not have brought the Ricoh with me. Even if that Canon was a very light, effective combo I missed so many shots especially in some complicated streets were I dind have the balls to bring out any Canon at all.

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Bangkok, Thailand, feb 2014. Scenes durign the Chinese Lunar New Year.The political crisis in Thailand is afecting tourims as well.Thailand’s Minister of Tourism and Sports Somsak Phurisisak recently predicted that february arrivals would fall by half to 1 million, with some hotels in the capital, Pattaya and elsewhere experiencing occupancy rates of just 30 percent. Much of that decline is thought to have come from the Chinese market after the nation warned its citizens to avoid protest sites and reconsider nonessential travel to Thailand over the popular Lunar New Year travel period.

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Kieve, Ukraine, March,11,2015. Vita diaria por las calles de Kiev.

It was the new GR, same sensor, same face,but the body-material more Anti Scratch and few improvements all around.I was happy man again. In Ukraine on the fire line of course I would use the Canon but as I walk around Mariupol with the Ricoh I felt like invisible and could catch so many shot without people even notice me. No sound it also very important. In Sri Lanka, Colombo during a assignment for a Canadian ONG I brought tow Canon, 28, 35.1.4 and 50 1.8 (the 70 dollars lens) and the Ricoh.

Ukraine, march 2015.

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Ukraine, march 2015. Escenas de vida diaria en la ciudad de Mariupol que s eencuentra a pocos km de la linea de combate entre ejercito ukranio y separatistas pro rusos.

Ukraine, march 2015. Escenas de vida diaria en la ciudad de Mariupol que s eencuentra a pocos km de la linea de combate entre ejercito ukranio y separatistas pro rusos.

Ukraine, march 2015. Escenas de vida diaria en la ciudad de Mariupol que s eencuentra a pocos km de la linea de combate entre ejercito ukranio y separatistas pro rusos.

My task there was to photographs students in school and in their homes. 35 1.4 I bought used in Rome it was performing just great and the combination with the canon 6d body was just going to be my best assignment lens. But too good to be true after a couple of days I notice that at 1.4 lots of shots were out of focus. they look all right when I took them but once open the file in lightroom I just find out that the focus was some cm over the front. It didn’t happen once with the 50 1.2 so what was that??! 35 was back int the hotel room. And once I was in Rome send it back to canon service but the problem didn’t go away. End of love with the canon 35. But back in Sri Lanka when I was not working for the ONG I just left the Canon at the hotel and went around with the Ricoh, inside a Hama belt case and two batteries. That was haven! So my bottom line here is that I would love to find another little body with a 50 2.0 or less, something like Ricoh that could give me a bit of bokeh. And going out there and shoot some assignment with just that combination!

Take care everyone!

Lorenzo Moscia

Apr 202016
 

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The Sony 85 1.4 G Master Lens Review. A Lens full of WOW. 

You can order the Sony 85 1.4 G Master at B&H Photo or Amazon. 

My video with a look at ALL of the new Sony lenses!

 

I have had the pleasure of using the new Sony 85 1.4 G Master Lens (and the 24-70 G Master) for a few weeks now. While I have not used it every day due to other things in life keeping me busy as well, when I have used it I have been wowed each and every time.

My guess is that some of you, if not MANY of you here have pre ordered this lens. B&H Photo has had it up for pre-order for a while and some have received their 85 1.4 already if you take a look at the reviews there (some of which say this has a noisy AF motor, which I will touch on later) most are loving this lens, and some are naming it the new “Bokeh King” for its amazingly smooth and nice Bokeh.

USING THE 85 1.4 GM on an awesome night in Miami

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As for me, over the years I have used so many 85 1.4 lenses. I have always enjoyed the Canon 85 1.2 back in my DSLR days due to its uber creamy bokeh and very unique way of rendering. In fact, that lens is so unique I look at it sort of like I look at the Leica Noctilux, which is that of a specialty lens. One you do not want to use daily because of that specific look…it can get old and does BUT IT IS a legendary lens with hundreds of amazingly good reviews. The only problem with the Canon is its weight and its crazy slow AF performance. YES, the Sony is much faster to AF than the Canon 85 1.2 and it offers its very own beautiful way of rendering, one that gives even better color and sharpness wide open. While there is a huge difference in Bokeh between something like the Canon 85 1.2 and Sony 85 1.4 I feel the Sony offers a more “everyday” look to its rendering.

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In fact, the Sony does not have a certain “look” that makes it unique and oddball, instead it delivers near perfection in the 85mm focal length. It is the best 85mm lens I have ever used, period. From build to image quality, all the way around, it is a stunning lens.

Be sure to click on all images in this post to see the images how they were intended to be seen..EXIF is embedded in all.

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In fact, this Sony lens delivers amazing sharpness even at f/1.4 and the rendering is also very organic and full of life. The bokeh performance is quite nice and over the weeks of using this lens I started to really appreciate what it offers me. I shoot with an RX1RII and a Sony A7RII for most of my personal work these days, along with some Leica thrown in here and there and occasionally a Olympus when I am in a fun type of mood.

I usually use lenses like the 16-35 f/4, the 35 1.4 and the 55 1.8. In fact, I have never owned a lens longer than the 55 1.8 for the Sony. I have reviewed the 90 Macro but I am usually always a 50mm or under type of shooter. After getting this lens in for review I wondered why I stopped using an 85 or longer lens. Back when I owned my old Canon 5D (The original many years ago) I used lenses like the 85 and even 70-300 quite often, and I really used them.

On the new A6300, this lens is amazing as well. CLICK IT for much better view.

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Last week I pulled out some old had drives from my old DSLR days and was going over images. Not only was my son so so young (he is now 20) but I had tons of images with that old Canon 5D, my old Nikon D700 and tons of Leica M8 and M9 shots. I think when I moved to the Leica M system I stopped using long lenses. I shot the hell out of those Leicas and to be honest, it was the funnest time of my Photographic life. Nothing quite like a Leica M even though the cost of ownership is just too high today for most, even me, especially with solutions like we have from other manufacturers.

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But this is not a post about a Leica or Canon or Nikon. It is about Sony, and this 85 1.4 G Master lens has basically renewed my love for longer lenses. Being mainly a 35-50 guy, when I first attached this 85 to my A7RII I was like “WOAH! This lens is too long”.. then after a few shots I was getting used to stepping back more than normal and even grabbing shots of things that would normally be out of reach with my 35 or 50..

Click the image below to see the full size crop

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With this lens, the magic happens when you shoot it wide open to f/2.8 or so, and it is just made for portraits. The Bokeh is smooth and rich, the color pops and the sharpness is as  good as it gets in a lens of this type. You will not be wanting for sharper images.

Subject isolation is always something you get with a lens of this type. When shooting at 85mm, at 1.4, your subject should be clearly defined and the area around your subject should be creamy, dreamy and beautiful. This may be why some are calling it the new “Bokeh King” as its bokeh is never offending, ever. Instead it is smooth, creamy and delicious. Sony’s engineers really delivered the goods in the IQ department with this lens (and the 24-70 G master).

Wide open f/1.4 goodness. Look at the amazing Bokeh. 

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At the end of the day, it is a great time to be a Sony A7 shooter. The cameras are fantastic and there is nothing they can not do for me and my style of shooting. There are now tons of lenses available and even the new 50 1.8 and 70-300 are fantastic. In fact, there is only one stinker of a lens I have found in the entire Sony lineup, and that is older the 24-70 f/4 Zeiss/Sony lens. I have had that lens for review for months and just can not grow to like it, thus I never reviewed it. I find it flat, dull and soft. So there is my review of the old 24-70 f/4!

BTW, the NEW G Master 24-70 is in the same vein as this 85 1.4 though, and it is gorgeous. I will have a new post on the new G Master 24-70 soon (but see my old post with samples here) – IT IS without question the best 24-70 I have ever used, and I have used quite a few, all of the big names.

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Is this lens NOISY and SLOW and HUGE? 

I see a few stating  this lens has noisy AF and is slow. In my use of this lens in all kinds of light, I have never found it noisy or slow. When I plop and 85 1.4 of any make to any camera I never expect blazing performance like I would get with a wider angle lens. Mostly all 85 1.4 lenses of any make are not blazing AF performers. Most are quick and fast and there has been only one 85 I consider SLOW and cumbersome, and that is the Canon 85 1.2, but even with those weaknesses it is well worth it for the IQ and rendering.

The Sony G Master is in the same class as most other fast 85’s and I have no issues with the copy I have here. No noise, no slow AF. In fact, it is the best 85 I have ever shot with when it comes to build, feel and image quality.

As for the lens being huge, well, it is. It’s bigger than the Nikon 85 1.4 but smaller and lighter than the Canon 85 1.2. 

SONY 85 1.4 G MASTER – 3.52 X 4.23 – 1.8lbs 

CANON 85 1.2 – 3.6 X 3.3 – 2.26lbs (Largest/Heaviest)

NIKON 85 1.4 – 3.4X3.3 – 1.3lb (Smallest/Lightest)

So there you go, the Sony is lighter (though not really smaller) than the Canon by nearly a 1/2 lb. The Nikon is smaller and lighter than the Sony by 1/2 lb! This means the Nikon is 1 lb lighter than the Canon, HOLY COW! I have used all three of these and for my tastes the Sony wins on build and feel but the Nikon wins the size dept, and one would expect the Nikon size on a Sony mirrorless system but this is not the case.

That leads to the biggest argument I see online AGAINST this new Sony. It’s massive size. When the lenses were announced I could not make the New York event as I had injured my leg a week prior, so I asked my good friend Amy Medina to cover it for me as she was local to NY and she is crazy passionate about photography and cameras. Check her Facebook out HERE as she has been running her picture a day series now FOREVER!

When Amy came back she told me “MAN, that lens is HUGE”! She was referring to the 85 1.4. She said it looked great but the size… this made ME nervous as I am not fan of large bulky lenses for daily use. It was soon after that I went to Miami to see and use the lens in the flesh. When I saw it I said…”yep, that is huge”. But once I started using it, on the smaller A7RII body it seemed like a good fit, if not a tad large.

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This lens performed shot after shot..no matter the light. Good, dim, dark. While the AF struggled in very low light, it did not struggle in decent light. It always locked on and nailed the focus which is good as the old days of Sony cameras (very early days of their 1st mirrorless) the focus was slow, dodgy and all over the place. It is amazing how fast they have grown their cameras and lenses. Amazing actually.

After a few weeks of use, I will say that this lens offers the user something very special. If you love the 85 1.4 way of shooting and you own a Sony A7 series camera then you MUST MUST MUST check this lens out, even if you just take a look at a shop or rent it. Yes, you will think it is large and heavy but after using it, you will realize that it was worth it.

If Sony compromised on size, it would NOT deliver as good of IQ, color or contrast or sharpness. It just would not.

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Sony Went for Ultimate Quality

In the G master lineup, Sony went for QUALITY above all else. Above size, above cost and above anything else. The G master series of lenses are designed to represent the best of the best from Sony. It is not designed to represent the smallness of mirrorless. If you want small, there are plenty of small lenses to be found..the 35 2.8, the 55 1.8, the 50 1.8, the 24-70 f/4 and many more. There are also tons of third party lens options from Voigtlander and others that can be used on the Sony system if you want small.

I see this 85 1.4 for the pros, enthusiasts and all who have that crazy passion for photography. Pros can use it for wedding work and I am confident that this lens will deliver amazing results for that kind of work. Portraits – studio or natural light..this lens will work magic. For the enthusiast, this lens will deliver all you could ask for  – your family shots, vacations, artistic..this lens is only limited by YOUR vision.

I personally have found no weakness with this lens besides it larger size. But than again, without the size this kind of quality would not be here and at the end of the day, this is still much smaller than shooting a D800 and 85 1.4 vs the A7RII and 85 1.4. It is also much smaller than a 5D and 85 1.2. The lens may be the same size as the DSLR fast 85’s but this 85 is for me, the best performer of the lot, and the body that it will attach to is quite a bit smaller than either of those DSLR’s, so yes, it will still be smaller and lighter and the lens barrel is so fat it is easy to hold in your hand as you carry around your camera. .

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Some Details

Take a look at these by clicking them to see the 100% crops..

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The Bottom Line

In 2016 we are in a crazy world. Cameras have seemed to reach ultimate quality where over the past 10 years it seems camera companies were scrambling to keep up with the tech by releasing new bodies every few months. Today, a few of those companies seem to be absent now from the camera world and for the big players it seems to be down to Nikon, Canon, Sony, Fuji, Olympus and even Leica.

Sony is pushing ahead and putting crazy resources into their digital imaging division and it has paid off. Today when I talk to my photo friends on social media, most are using Sony and the rest are using a mix of Fuji, Olympus and Leica. It is rare I see a D800 or 5D in use in the real world as well. When out shooting I see loads of mirrorless and of course smartphones but DSLR’s seems to be dwindling compared to what it was just 5-6 years ago.

Mirrorless cam offers us TINY (Think Olympus or even the Pentax Q) or it can offer us more serious and small (Leica M). It can offer us unique sensors (Fuji) and fun and it can also be quite serious with full frame options and loads of lenses (Sony). We have choices and we can go as small as we want and as large as we want.

If you chose Sony for your camera of choice, and made the full frame choice or even the A6300 which is a remarkable APS-C camera, you owe it to yourself to check out this 85 1.4 if you are a fan of fast primes or are a wedding pro, portrait pro or just a passionate enthusiast like me. I just can not see this lens disappointing anyone. Just be sure your wallet is loaded as this lens will set you back $1800. Around the same price range as the competitors..this is just what it costs for that step above in quality.

The Sony 85 1.4 G Master is the real deal. Sony did it again.

ORDER

You can order it at B&H Photo HERE or Amazon HERE. Two of my highest recommended Sony dealers. PRICE IS $1798.00

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

Hello to all! For the past 7 years I have been running this website and it has grown to beyond my wildest dreams. Some days this very website has over 200,000 visitors and because of this I need and use superfast dedicated web servers to host the site. Running this site costs quite a bit of cash every single month and on top of that, I work full-time 60+ hours a week on it each and every single day of the week (I receive 100-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I could use YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis. 

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

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

Not only do I spend money on fast hosting but I also spend it on cameras to buy to review, lenses to review, bags to review, gas and travel, and a slew of other things. You would be amazed at what it costs me just to maintain this website, in money and time (250 hours a month, and about $3000 per month).

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 (not the B&H) 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, Twitter, 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 nor do I (nor will I ever) charge for reviews, so your donations go a long way to keeping this site loaded with useful content. If you choose to help out, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Apr 182016
 

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PIMP YOUR SONY RX1 MKII with these awesome accessories!

I have to say, I love my Sony RX1R MKII. I loved the original, then the R and now the MKII is what I feel is the smallest body on the market with the most serious IQ and capabilities, IF 35mm is your thing. In other words, there is no camera that is this size or smaller that packs this kind of IQ, low light and full on potential. The Sony RX1 series has sort of a cult following as the ones who own it and use it seem  to truly adore it, and those who never did bond with it just sold them. But no matter how you look at it, the RX1R MKII, or any of the RX1 series of cameras can produce stunning results in the right hands.

I often get asked “what strap do you use” or “what bag was that in your last video” or “hey, what shutter release is that” or even “what grip are you using”. I get these questions very often, and this post is going to tell all of you exactly what I did to my Sony RX1R II to make it my own, and make it much more comfy to use.

I will show you two grips I love and recommend, the best soft release I have found to date (for ANY camera), the sun shade I chose for my RX1RII that is much more affordable than the Sony version as well as what strap I use when I use one on this camera. Usually though, I have it in a small bag and without a strap.

First, check out the video to see it all

Then, below, , check out these two grips for the RX1R Mark II (NOTE: These will NOT fit the old Mark I versions as the MKII body has changed ever so slightly)

FROM METRO-CASE.COM 

This for fitting sleek and functional grip is quite nice. When I attached it to my RX1RII I was pleased with the design, looks, the way it keeps me from pressing the video/movie button and the fact that it is compatible with ARCA SWISS style plates. It also adds a nice grip to the camera while looking like it fits in with the design of the Sony itself. It has a solid feel and construction and for most, this would be the perfect grip. Click the stats below to see more or order. Price is $89 direct at METRO-CASE.COM

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FROM J.B. DESIGNS

I LOVE LOVE LOVE JB Grips! The wooden materials and nice design mean my cameras always look unique and cool when a JB Grip is rocking it. While this look is not for everyone (some will prefer the sleek design above from METRO-CASE, but some will also prefer this all natural wood look as it really gives off a nice vibe and makes the camera look a bit old school, a bit different and it feels great in the hand. I love this grip because of the look, design and the way it feels on the hand. It is easy to remove, lets me have full access to memory and battery and can mount on a tripod. This JB Grip is $85 and available at AMAZON HERE!

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LENS HOOD

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I looked for a nice lens hood for my RX1RII and ended up buying THIS ONE from Fotodiox on Amazon. It is all metal, is squared off and looks perfect on the camera. Not much else to say about this as its a lens hood but it does the job, looks great, is all metal and while not dirt cheap, it is well worth the cost. You can see it at Amazon HERE.

SHUTTER RELEASE – Best release I have ever found!

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WOW! I stopped buying shutter soft releases quite a while ago. WHY? They always fell off. The screw in models fell off almost daily, and they would be lost forever. Then there were even some stick ons that would always fall off as well. I gave up. UNTIL NOW. Check these out guys and see me attach one to my Sony A7RII in the video above. These come in all sizes and all shapes and are attractive with a clean design. You can go with concave or convex and 10mm or 13mm. All kinds of colors to choose from and they are not expensive coming in at $9-$15

Check them out HERE.

STRAPS?

I have to say, I do not use a NECK strap with my RX1RII often, but when I do it is this one. I always love smaller leather straps, and this one is affordable and nice ;)

 but I do use this WRIST strap from LV Designs more often.

BATTERIES – SPARES and EXTRAS

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I must have 12 batteries for the RX1/RX100’s around here but most of them are cheap spares I bought from Amazon, along with a cheap dual charger that works amazingly well. The batteries can be found cheap HERE (Two for $12) and the charger I use is HERE Highly recommended! 

————-

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

Hello to all! For the past 7 years I have been running this website and it has grown to beyond my wildest dreams. Some days this very website has over 200,000 visitors and because of this I need and use superfast dedicated web servers to host the site. Running this site costs quite a bit of cash every single month and on top of that, I work full-time 60+ hours a week on it each and every single day of the week (I receive 100-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I could use YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis. 

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

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

Not only do I spend money on fast hosting but I also spend it on cameras to buy to review, lenses to review, bags to review, gas and travel, and a slew of other things. You would be amazed at what it costs me just to maintain this website, in money and time (250 hours a month, and about $3000 per month).

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 (not the B&H) 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, Twitter, 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 nor do I (nor will I ever) charge for reviews, so your donations go a long way to keeping this site loaded with useful content. If you choose to help out, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

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