Oct 012014
 

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Supermoon Photoshoot at 1620mm with Nikon V3

By Joe Marquez

(from Steve: This is one of the coolest posts I have placed here in a long time…love it! Thank you Joe for the beautiful work and showing what the Nikon 1 system is capable of)

A couple of months ago, while out shooting with the mirrorless Nikon V3 and 70-300cx lens (189-810mm equivalent field of view – FOV), I noticed a hiker on a nearby ridge top – and a beautiful, bright moon above. I took a few shots and was quite pleased with the results. The V3 and it’s tiny sensor does surprisingly well in good light. Now I wondered how it would look if I attached a super telephoto lens and photographed the hiker directly in front of the moon. What about a ballerina silhouette? I decided to find out.

As you may know, the Nikon V3’s one-inch sensor results in the equivalent of a 2.7 increase in FOV. In essence when a Nikon FX lens is attached via the Ft-1 adapter, the V3 becomes a 2.7 teleconverter with no loss of light. Thus a 600mm lens becomes 1620mm.

Initially my plan was to photograph a single ballerina in front of the super moon. However, I began considering everything that could go wrong: weather, inability to focus at night, DOF issues, instability, inaccessibility and of course all the unforeseen inevitable mistakes I normally make. So I decided to increase the number of shoots to insure I would get a decent image or two.

Now I had to get my hands on a $10,000 Nikon 600mm f4 lens. So, I went to the only camera store in Hawaii with uber cool rental equipment, told them about my project and they agreed to sponsor my efforts. Here’s a formal thank you to Hawaii Camera (www.hawaiicamera.com) for supporting this little moon project of mine.

Using a number of online programs I determined optimum times and locations to photograph the moon as it crossed the ridge. And because the ridge runs north south I was able to shoot as the moon rose in the east and several hours later as it set in the west. Thus, everyday I had two opportunities at the moon. So over the course of a week I planned fourteen separate photo shoots. Only later I realized, I didn’t factor in time for sleep. Oh well, can’t think of everything.

I then called upon many friends – models, performers, cosplayers, ballerinas and dancers as well as fellow photographers to assist. Altogether 43 people were involved in this moon project. Call times ranged from late afternoon to early morning before sunrise. Most participants had to hike the steep ridge at night with headlamps. We required a spotter or assistant for safety and we communicated via two-way radios or cell phone. One cosplayer’s outfit weighs 133 pounds and required ten trips to get the costume into position. A super thank you to everyone who participated.

While the models and spotters were climbing the ridge, I and an assistant down below had to deal with traffic, trees, wires, poles, houses, basketball players, dogs, golfers and sprinklers.

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In the end everyone had a fun and unique experience and a good number of wonderful photos. In addition, I learned a tremendous amount about shooting the moon. Foremost is the moon moves so quickly when viewed at 1620mm there is often only a moment or two to get the shot. Secondly, the moon has quite a variety of looks due to clouds, time of day or night and so on and I had to constantly and quickly change my exposure settings. Finally, the Nikon V3 did an excellent job on this project and I wouldn’t hesitate using this little camera for other super telephoto projects.

In fact next month at full moon, I plan to again use the Nikon V3 and experiment with lighting, fashion, a bride in her wedding dress, video and a surprise or two. Amazing what is possible when you utilize a camera’s strength to its fullest.

Sep 262014
 

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A quick 1st look video on the Petzval Art Lens!

Received this gem yesterday from Cameraquest.com and upon opening the package I was surprised at the quality of the packaging, and then the gorgeous hefty all brass lens inside. For me, at $600, this lens is priced JUST RIGHT as you are getting not only a unique lens for those times when you want that classic look and wild bokeh, but you are also getting a piece of art in the lens itself, which is a huge conversation starter. Go out shooting with it and you will be stopped throughout the day asking what you are shooting with.

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Besides being an 85mm f.2.2 lens, it is a classic formula and will give you a classic look. The original Petzval lens was created by Joseph Petzval and this one is sort of a replica though not quite the same of course. Even so, this lens will give you some crazy unique portraits with bokeh that is out of this world. My full review will be up within 2-3 weeks but for now, check out my 1st look video below! I will state that it is easy to focus using focus peaking on my Sony A7s, no issues at all, and quite easy to nail/hit focus.

You can order this unique lens at CameraQuest.com HERE. 

Sep 262014
 

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A quick 1st look video on the Leica X Typ 113!

Yesterday the new Leica X arrived to me direct from Leica for a 2 week review period. When it arrived I took it out of the box and sapped maybe 7-10 shots in my yard to see if the output is similar to the X1, X2 and X-Vario or if it was changed. I am happy to say it retains the same image quality as the previous X2 and X Vario. By that I mean it has the same color signature, the same crisp snap to the images and the same overall rendering. This time though we get a more “Leica Like” rendering with the new Summilux f/1.7 lens.

The X is GORGEOUS in the flesh (or metal) and it will indeed inspire and provide true pride of ownership. The camera focuses about as fast as the X-Vario and behaves just like an X. It starts up quicker and has a nice metal lens cap included in the box as well. While not a speed demon when comparing to the super  fast cameras, it gets the job down from what I have seen. BUT this is a first look only, my full review will be up within 2 weeks or so where I will know MUCH more about how the X Typ 113 operates.

Check out the 1st look below BUT LEICA, C’MON…GIVE US A BUILT IN EVF ALREADY! If you did this it would sell in much larger numbers.

You can pre-order the X from Ken Hansen ([email protected]), PopFlash.com, Pro Shop, B&H Photo, and Leica Store Miami 

 

Sep 252014
 

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The New Upgraded Wotancraft Scout and Ranger bags 2014

“With signature elements of rugged authentic leather and distressed hardware,
new City Explorer integrated WotanCraft’s latest developed exclusive “WAL canvas spec.1.6”
a composite waxed fabric material never seen in camera bag creations,
combining 3 crucial features of a protective bag:

WATERPROOF, ABRASION-RESISTANT, LIGHTWEIGHT”

Hey guys! I have a new video review of two new upgraded bags from Wotancraft, the new SCOUT & RANGER bags from their City Explorer line. If you remember my last Wotancraft review it was for the Ryker, which is my #1 fave every day bag ever. I use it every day and it has been with me everywhere, been rained on, been in the swamps and has been sitting in the 110 degree heat in the AZ desert. It is only getting better and better. The only issue with the Ryker is that it is too small for traveling and carrying larger things like camera gear, laptop, chargers, etc.

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The new 2014 Ranger AND Scout have a new material that is 50% lighter, waterproof and abrasion proof. They are attractive, feel great on and look great as well. THEY LOOK RUGGED and feel rugged. They are not as fancy as the Leather Ryker but they are just as beautiful and many will prefer this look over the Ryker for their personal use.

The entire City Explorer line has received the new material treatment, which is pretty fantastic.

Check out my look at these two bags in my video review below:

When the Ranger arrived to me I was VERY impressed. The bag arrived in a nice cloth outer bag to protect it and WOW..the construction is just off the charts. The hardware, the function, the features and the style..love it all. After the Ryker I became a huge Wotancraft fan. After the Ranger and Scout, I am even more of a fan. I also started to check out the other goods they sell and am impressed with what I see on their website as they have some pretty cool and beautiful accessories, even watch straps!

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For traveling the Ranger will be a good bag to choose. For every day, the Ryker or Scout is the one for me. 

You can read much more and see more and order these bags over at Wotancraft by using the direct link HERE

  

Sep 242014
 

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Weddings through a Leica

By Bailey Wang

I’m one of those wedding photographers with very limited experience in the old world of photography, you know using film and rangefinders. Sure I got to muck around with my old man’s dust covered Canon EOS-1, that seemed like a great idea for him at that time to have, but it wasn’t anything really of substance. So you could say I’m a relatively upcoming, though after 6 years in weddings it doesn’t so yesterday, DSLR totting photographer.

After 6 years of gun-slinging two testosterone-induced DSLR bodies weekend after weekend, the wear and tear on my temple of love became so impeding that it was high time something had to be done. For quite some time, I had one of those creative impulsive ideas of “I’m going to make things hard for myself and go hardcore manual” and so it was an opportune moment to investigate on a smaller form factor system that would be viable for weddings.

The move from the bulky world that is DSLR to a more physically-asian-friendly system started with my ventures with the Fuji X100, Pro and the more recent Sony A7, all of which for sure that their benefits and quirks. Extensive field testings I carried out in tandem with my D3s worked a dream with the beautifully light systems, and I was this close to getting jumping ship over to the A7r system. Until I was silly enough to, funny enough, bump into the StevenHuffPhoto soon-to-be online bible of reviews. Though I liked what I had with the A7r, it didn’t quite fit the bill, it’s slightly confusing button arrangements and ergonomics wasn’t as pleasing as it was visually, so when I dug deeper into the trove that is the SHP website, I kept hearing about this Leica business. Woe is me for having been so foolish – at least to the wife’s constant um verbal battering of the soon-to-come spending spree.

Many a midnight oil burnt sessions later, I hungrily sought out a local supplier (in Sydney Australia) that would let me touch and feel one of these blasted bodies (Leica M Typ 240). I’d have to say it wasn’t a particularly easy thing to do! After all, what if the foolish potential customer mishandles this “overly-priced snob camera” (as some may call it)? Thankfully one such supplier was more than happy to spend the time to unfold it’s gorgeous packaging for a on site field test, that eventuated with my renowned impulse (to the constant annoyance of the Mrs) buy. What can I say? I fell in love.

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Despite many discussions with my peers on this topic of going hard at it with the manual controls, on whether such a system would be suitable for a fast-pace photography discipline, I just had to have it. It was very much the case of once you go manual you won’t go back. I shoot manual anyway, just not manual focus. So for the next few weeks I lived and slept with the M Typ 240 and 50mm Summilux-R, she became my mistress (hey at least it was out in the open and the wife was always around).

The first wedding shot through the M was such a refreshing experience. It very much is the Apple of the camera world. Minimalist. Gorgeous. Functional. And it just works. With how technology is outpaces today’s technology, and marketing has become the guidance for product development, it is so easy to be lost in wanting the biggest and most badass specifications in one’s kit. Sure the Leica M system seems archaic with no autofocus, built-in USB, WIFI, touchscreen, 24 burst scatter gun shutter, and other plethora of marketing-tech-dribble, but what it does it does so well and for that I’m so thankful that I took the dive into the old (new) world.

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It slows things down. A heck much slower than what the DSLR can do. I love that. Bringing photography back to what it should be, to composition, great lighting and pre thought before pressing down on the shutter makes things so much more pleasing. Not that I was ever the photographer that would put the D3s on burst mode and scatter the hell out of a wedding day to come back with 3000 photographs. Certainly it was frustrating on the first wedding, not knowing exactly how slow the shutter & buffer was in comparison, and certainly things were missed that wouldn’t’ have been missed with a DSLR. But then again, I wasn’t over shooting anymore!

So how did the first wedding go with all these slow-mo things happening? Very well! Considering it was a quasi Lebanese & Portuguese mix wedding, and if any of you have been to these ethnic weddings, there’s a hell lot happening on the day. They sure know how to party it up! Given most of my couples have the Middle Eastern background splashed with the Hispanic, a big high-five for team Leica on keeping up with the pace!

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Concerns that surely the manual focus is not built for a wedding, that the rangefinder system is really for street (some say random) photography were totally dispelled. The experience of framing through a rangefinder became a beautiful perspective of documenting one of the most important milestones in life. And this is where I have come to enjoy photographing weddings through Leica.

I’m not overly concerned about all the technical mumbo jumbo of IQ, sharpness, lines, focus shifts…etc all that comes with any technology. I’m not really all that concerned about the individual performance of each spec, or rather in comparison to say what the modern world of DSLR can avail a photographer. After all I’m after emotion, after drama, not after winning awards for technical prowess. So if you were to talk to me about how each of my lenses fair for a wedding, well…buggered if I know how they technically fair. Hell looking at my photographs, you could probably point things out of whack that may not technically be awesome, but I’m not at all that interested in those aspects of photography.

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Instead, what the Leica system has allowed me to do is to bring me back to the real reasons of why I left my IT job with HP, and onwards to the world of capturing…the world of love, romance, laughter, life and connection. Without all the geeky things to swoon over (funny for a IT geek to comment on), it gives me connection with the day. Not with the camera.

One thing I will confess to geek-love though is how beautiful the Leica swirly bokeh is! I’m a wide-open shooter at heart, even in the world of DSLR, and so having access to so much gorgeous light, bokeh and softness has become as far geek-love as it gets.

So 11 weddings now since having stumped up the cash for the Leica M system, my kit on the day looks like:

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Soon to be added to this kit is a 75mm ‘lux and Canon 50mm 0.95 (damn you Steve), hopefully Fedex hauls ass so that I can have it on next weekend’s weddings. Slightly a kit freak, but each one has it’s own beauty. Oh I still have my 50mm ‘lux-r that I’ve been undecided on whether to sell off or not! The M6 is also on temptation’s list that may or may not make the cut, depending on whether I’m feeling impulsively daring enough to introduce film, but hey every other wedding photographer seems to be jumping on that bandwagon right now!

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I’m still learning about this wondrous Leica system, I’m still finding my way in composition and to bring more life into the weddings I shoot, and I’m loving it. Most importantly, my couples love it.

Bailey Wang

www: www.weddingsoulstory.com
fb: www.facebook.com/weddingsoulstory
twt: www.twitter.com/soulstorystudio
inst: www.instagram.com/soulstorystudio

Sep 222014
 

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Shooting Atlas Shrugged Part 3 Behind The Scenes with the Sony A7 and Voigtlander lenses

By Judd Weiss

Great to be back here again so soon! I was very encouraged by the reaction to my Ephemerisle 2014 photos I shared in a guest post last week , so I asked Steve if he wanted another set of photos from me for another guest post, and fortunately he said YES! I’m a long time fanboy of this site, so that’s cool with me :)

Now for something completely different from that last set. And I’m sure there’s some people out there that might find this controversial. It’s no secret I’m a huge fan of Atlas Shrugged and the author Ayn Rand. So when I was asked to shoot the Behind The Scenes photos for the 3rd Atlas Shrugged movie, I don’t think I let the Associate Producer finish his sentence before I jumped all over this. It’s not just that I’m a fan, but the idea of having real production value and professional actors to capture was so exciting. I’ve been extremely prolific, and I’ve moved very fast, but I’m still relatively new to photography.

When I picked up a Sony NEX-3 four years ago, I first treated it more like a much better quality point and shoot. I had NO IDEA a few years later I would be asked to shoot all these events around the country, and now BTS photos for a movie that will come to theaters and bring my photos to a much bigger audience… wow. Behind The Scenes photos are usually boring, so I was determined to create memorable pieces at the best of my ability. I had earlier gained some notoriety for my event and conference photos. There’s now probably around 10,000 Facebook profile photos of mine floating out there, being used by people for all sorts of other purposes too, from Match.com to Speaker Bios to Wikipedia to Book Jackets. And now the Associate Producer is telling me “I want Judd Weiss photos. Can you deliver us Judd Weiss photos?”. Hell the fuck yeah! The pressure was on. Fortunately production was starting the following week in LA, so I didn’t have to wait too long to jump in.

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Thank god Sony just released their earth shattering full frame mirrorless A7 right before filming started in January this year. I had been shooting on smaller sensor APS-C NEX cameras before, and I was eagerly awaiting the arrival of the full frame mirrorless, following any shred of rumor and news story for the previous 2 years. I knew I needed to move to a full frame setup in order to take my photos to the next level, and the A7 did not disappoint! I had never shot photos of this quality before, and my love for the camera rose along with the excitement from the production team for the quality of photos I was delivering them. I was determined to push past my limits, and over deliver, but I didn’t expect to rise to this level. The producers were ecstatic about the quality of photos I delivered. I was later told by one of the producers that my photos are a blessing and a curse, they’re helping the marketing generate interest and credibility in the film, but there’s no scene of the movie that looks as good as these photos. I really wish I could say I’m in love with how the final movie turned out, but unfortunately I’m not in love with it. But I do love my photos. In January I still had plenty of room to grow, but these photos were a massive leap of a milestone for me. I’m so grateful for that opportunity.

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And it might not be a good idea to reveal an on set skirmish I dealt with, but I’m going to anyway. There’s an interesting story I want to tell you guys. So, I live in Los Angeles but I’m not in the movie scene, and I’m definitely not union, the producers just liked my photos from other events and asked me to shoot this. If you know anything about Ayn Rand, it’s incredibly ironic that this was actually a union production, and there was a union photographer, and she was EXTREMELY territorial, and saw to it that I not be allowed near the filming. Which is bullshit because I’m not a wild life photographer. Far away crowd shots are fine, but limiting me to only that is intolerable, after I just blocked out 4 weeks of my life to do this.

I was excited and eagerly waiting to get started, only to arrive and sit on the bench off the field. What’s worse is the union photographer treated the job like any other union laborer, and despite her top of the line Canon gear, her photos were unbelievable worse than a 7 year old with a point and shoot. Out of focus, not properly exposed, her photos were unusable. But after a week on set my photos were REALLY impressing the producers; even though I was severely held back. The producers didn’t want a fight with the union that could shut down production, so they let it be, until I almost resigned after almost a week.

I don’t have a problem with the other photographer, she can do whatever she likes, additional coverage is a good thing, but just don’t get in my way, for stupid petty reasons, that’s crossing the line. So the producers ended up deciding to give her every penny in her contract and told her not to come back to the set. She was happy because she could sleep at home and get paid for the entire month of production filming. And I was happy because starting the 2nd week, the quality of my photos sky rocketed when I wasn’t held back any longer. Clearly that meant they wanted me there. The producers paid for 2 photographers just have me uninterrupted as the sole photographer on set. And most of these photos would not exist if the producers did not take that bold move on my behalf against a very entitled protective obstructive union worker. I’ll always be grateful for that.

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Pretty much every single photo was shot with a Voigtlander 35mm f1.2; I used a Voigtlander 21mm f1.8 for some wide shots. I bought both lenses from Stephen Gandy at Camera Quest a few days into the production. The first couple days I was using a friend’s Canon 50mm f1.2 with a Metabones adapter. The Canon lens takes some beautiful photos, but I was much happier when I started using the Voigtlanders because they’re much smaller (than the SLR lens, but pretty big for rangefinder lenses) and because I just LOVE true manual lenses with focus peaking on the A7. I have never used the autofocus function on the camera, and I never plan to. Because of focus peaking I’m now faster with manual lenses than most are with autofocus. Especially with a true manual lens. I love the control you get from really feeling the lens elements move directly with the turn of your wrist, instead of focus by wire from electronic signals in an autofocus lens operating in manual mode.

And when you have lots of moving pieces around you that you’re trying to capture, it’s SO MUCH easier to compose the scene and surgically adjust the focus as people move, rather than autofocus on a subject then recompose, and refocus if anything moves, then try to recompose again, and then repeat again if anything moves again… screw that. The difference is night and day for usability. Personally I don’t ever want to use autofocus again. Autofocus is a downgrade for me. It definitely takes a little bit of practice, but if only most photographers could discover how much more usable manual focus is when you’ve got focus peaking, there would be more attention devoted to creating more compact fast manual lenses for us to drool over.

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Also, the Sony A7 was a HUGE talking point on set. EVERYONE wanted to see it. EVERYONE used Canon for EVERYTHING! Who’s this kid causing all this damage with the Sony? And I would tell each of them to sell all of their SLR gear and all their SLR lenses; unless you just like to keep vinyl records and 80s cell phones, mirrorless is the future!

I’m still growing as a photographer, and I’ll keep moving along my path. I hope you like some of these shots I took back in January. I welcome any and all constructive feedback. Thank you for your attention.

Full album and original post can be found on my blog here.

You can follow me on Instagram at http://instagram.com/juddweiss

I’m on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/juddweiss)

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Sep 182014
 

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Re-Visiting the Canon Dream Lens, 50 f/0.95

When we choose and buy our cameras some of us fail to realize that the heart of our camera is not our sensor or the camera body itself, it is the lens. The lens is what makes the camera “see”..it is what delivers the image to the sensor..it is the eyeball of your camera. The better the lens, the sharper your image, the more correct and richer the color saturation and you will also have the least amount of distortions. Choosing the right lens for your camera is the same thing as a painter choosing the right brush for whatever job they are doing.

For example, if I want a nice portrait lens when I am shooting a Leica M, it is hard to go wrong with a 90 Summicron APO. if I want wide angle, there is the Voigtlander 15 or Leica WATE. When I want subject isolation , a 50mm Summilux or Noctiliux fits the bill. Each lens delivers a different look, this is a fact. Some lenses are soft, have distortions and issues, yet they can still create a nice image. Some lenses create sloppy or horrible bokeh and others will give you creamy bokeh that just melts. Again, choose the lens for what you are trying to achieve.

Lenses ARE the heart of your camera system yet so many of us skimp on the lens. I wonder why? Why am I babbling on about this? Well, it is a longish story but one that I am happy to tell because the lens I am talking about today is a special one, and even a controversial one at times, but it is a beautiful lens to me regardless. One of those lenses you pull out when you want THAT look that only it can give.

Over a year ago, in June of 2013, I wrote a review on a unique lens that had gained a cult following of sorts. A lens that was known for having a crazy “dream like” rendering when shot wide open at its uber fast aperture of f/0.95. Up there with lenses like the original Noctilux or the Canon 85 1.2L. The Canon was a lens that I never saw in the flesh but was wowed by in photos (sometimes) that were taken by others using the lens. It was a quality that I never saw in ANY other lens, cheap to crazy exotic. While a lens like the Leica Noctilux is technically superior to this “Dream Lens”, it can not do what this lens does and vice versa.

The Canon 50 0.95 “Dream Lens” was originally made for the Canon 7 Rangefinder film system of the 1960’s and 1970’s. The 50 f/0.95 was the super fast aperture solution when shooting the Canon 7, and when you look on E-Bay or classifieds for this lens today you will mainly see it in the Canon 7 Rangefinder mount which is unusable for Leica M shooters unless it is modified for M mount use.

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There have been a few of these 50 0.95’s sent in for a Leica M conversion and some have been done horribly bad, some have been done pretty nicely, and some have been done superbly, as in, they could not have done it better. Some have even added a 6 bit code to the lens so the digital Leica M will recognize it as a Noctilux and apply corrections. Pretty slick.

To those who own this lens in M mount, they usually adore it and most say they would never sell it. Because of this,  you do not see too many out there in great shape with a proper M mount conversion because if you do sell your mint M mount copy, chances are it will be very hard to find another just as good, ever. I should know, that is exactly what happened to me. After writing my review over a year ago I had a flood of e-mails offering me crazy money to buy my lens. I loved it and did not want to sell but I usually love money more than gear and get it when I can (money), especially if it ended up where I actually made a few bucks. So I sold my last version over a year ago which was an 8/9 out of 10 for condition, focus and IQ. It was so so good!

Of course, after I sold the lens I missed it within 2 days, even with $3500 in my bank account from the sale. I regretted that sale more than almost any other sale I have made in my photographic life. WHY? Not because this lens was such a technological marvel, or super sharp or up there with the likes of the Noctilux. Nope. I missed it because when I was shooting a 50 Lux the day after I realized I would never again have that special look that this lens gave me. In reality, this lens is a special effects lens when shot wide open and when shot from f/2 on it is like a normal fast lens but very sharp and with a very creamy draw. But it is the wide open use is what gave this jewel its nickname of Dream Lens. It renders the background into a dream like blur. A watercolor effect almost. It is pretty amazing IMO. As I said, nothing like it out there and to be able to use it on a Leica M or Sony A7, in full frame, as it was meant to be shot but with modern ISO capabilities..wow. Take a look at the Flickr page for the Dream Lens, which has been up for years and funny enough, was started by Ashwin Rao! LOADS of samples there that will show you what this lens does.

So yea, I missed it after I sold it. Damn! Even though my last copy sold for $3500, and I had a few who wanted it at that price, and even one offer at $4000 that came after I sold it, I still regretted the sale.

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So I started my search for another MINT copy

Since the last sale I kept an eye on e-bay and some classified sites searching for the perfect copy of this lens. I was picky. I was waiting patiently for the “one”, hopefully a 9/9.5 out of 10 and I wanted a hood, cap and 6-Bit coding. I was ready to pay up to $3k for one and did see some on E-bay from China that were selling for $2800-$3000 but was hard to trust those sellers as you never know just how the lens will be. Will the focus be spot on for the RF? Will it be clean without scratches or haze or fungus? It was a chance and shipping from China to the USA was a little risky, though it could have and most likely would have worked out fine. Still, I waited until I came across one that was either local or close to it.

Then I found one…

Then, as I was ready to lose patience and jump to buy a “92 out of 100″ rated dream lens on e-bay from a vendor in China I saw a a Facebook notification, as it was a sign.. it was a a post with images of a MINT M Mount Canon 50 0.95 with 6 bit coding. Hmmm. I even knew the guy, Jeff Warren, as he was at my last workshop in Nevada! He even lived in Los Angeles, a 5-6 hour drive from me. Jeff hinted that he MAY be selling in that Facebook post so I messaged him and we chatted, I thought for a bit and I bought it. He even sent it Fed Ex overnight, the same day, for no extra charge. I received the lens in less than 24 hours from the moment that I sent him the money via Paypal, 19 hours to be exact.

My main concern was that it would be off with the Rangefinder of the Leica because at 0.95 there is a VERY thin DOF. Any misfocus would be a nightmare as I have experienced first hand with a few fast lenses over the years.

Luckily it arrived and it looked amazing, a solid 9/10. The glass was/is perfect. No issues. I mounted it to the MM (no need for an adapter as this is M mount with 6 Bit) and fired away some shots. Perfecto! I mounted it to the A7s with a Voigtlander M to E adapter and even more WOW. Was so awesome shooting it on the A7s. Easy to focus with the large EVF and it felt really good on the A7s body. NOW THIS is a low light combo to dream for.

ULTRA THIN DOF at 0.95 – Sony A7s.  Some vignetting when used on the A7s at 0.95, that is the only issue. Look how TINY the in focus area is on the block wall. The rest is not lens softness, it is BOKEH, all out of focus due to the extremely small depth of field. 

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Regrets?

So after a couple of hours being happy as a newborn baby with a mouthful of milk I asked myself…”so, do you regret buying this for so much money“? My answer to myself was NO!! I was HAPPY, I was THRILLED, I was ECSTATIC. I told myself that I would not sell this one. But I have been here before, with many lenses that I swore I would never sell. None of them have tugged at me like this one though. Sure, I have owned them all – the Noctilux f/1 and 0.95, the SLR Magic 50 T 0.95 Hyperprime, the Mitakon Speedmaster and of course the Summicrons and Summilux lenses, which are all gorgeous and technically amazing. But this lens just does something special and while it is not an every day lens, it could be if you stopped it down to f/2 or f/2.8.

I am going to start using this lens with the A7s, MM and M in various locations and clubs shooting local live bands, which on many occasions shoot in near darkness to small crowds, ver small crowds. This is a lens that will do great things in these scenarios I think. I am also going to bring it out for certain portrait sessions, to add that extra flair and uniqueness that you do not see in many photos these days. I am not talking about just doing the whole shallow DOF Bokeh thing, but using it artistically and effectively.

I missed focus on this one with the A7s somehow, but I still like it :) A B&W filter was applied in processing.

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The fact is that this lens brings us a “draw” that no other lens does. Period. This lens is also pretty rare set up in an M mount with 6 Bit coding. It is even rarer to find this in a 9/10 condition. I am vowing to hang on to this lens!! Hehehe. We will see.

When I wrote about this lens in my 1st review I mainly used it with the M 240, which also rocks with this lens. Since I did that review with the M, I wanted to focus on using it with the A7s and Monochrom this time around, so this is what this article will be about.

The Canon 50 0.95 on the Sony A7s. I also have my JB grip on the camera as well as a ARTISAN OBSCURA sticky soft release.

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First up, the Sony A7s and the 50 0.95

With the new Sony A7 series, particularly the A7s (my fave of the three) this lens takes on a whole new world of possibilities. For one, this classic fast lens can now be used on a full frame mirrorless camera with integrated EVF and up to insane ISO’s. Much like the Mitakon I reviewed a while back, this lens will make the A7s a true king of the night. At f0.95 and ISO capability up to 100k usable, there will be no light that you can not shoot in, period. Add to that the moody possibilities and artistic weirdness that the Dream Lens puts out and you can create images that not many others can even get close to in style and flash. Of course, you have to know your stuff..know what you are doing, otherwise the images will look bad, even VERY bad.

But use your skill to its fullest and you can create some interesting images that are worthy of framing. Images that people will see and say “wow, how did you do that”.

When this lens is on the A7s using the Voigtlander close focus adapter you can focus in VERY close. MUCH closer than you can when using it on the M or MM. This is invaluable and will even make the dream lens MORE dreamy. It is true, when this lens was given the name “Dream Lens” it was for a reason. Just take a look at my original review to see some dreaminess with the M 240.

When I used this lens with my well used A7s, I think it was the best ever match for this lens, and the good news for A7 shooters is that you do not need to find the rare M mount version to use this on the A7. you can now buy a standard Canon 7 version of this lens, of which they are plentiful on e-bay, and use a canon 50 0.95 to E mount adapter. This can save you about $1,000 when buying the lens if you only want to use it on a Sony A7 body.

After realizing this, I started to really realize how special the Sony A7 series is. I mean, I knew it was already but there is no other full frame system out there that can do what the A7 series does, especially the A7s. This is the 1st ever camera, full frame, that will allow you to use this Dream Lens and even use it with close focusing, AND nail focus due to the critical focus you can achieve with the EVF and magnification.

I love this on my MM and M but for the ultimate Dream Lens experience I think it should be shot on an A7s. End of story. After using it with the A7s I wanted to carve my name in the side to assure I never am tempted to sell it for some quick cash. :) I did not do this of course but I have to say, I love this lens. Below are some images with it on the Sony A7s.

All images below are from the Sony A7s and Canon 50 0.95, WIDE OPEN. You must click on the images  to see them larger and in the correct way. If you do not, you will not see  them the way they were meant to be seen.

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As you can see this lens can perform well on the Sony A7s, in daylight or in darkness. In fact, I prefer it to the original Leica Noctilux f/1. It is sharper at the focus point and has a nicer draw for my tastes. It is also easier to hold and balance on the camera. The more I use this lens on the A7s and Leica cameras, the more I realize just how special of a lens it is. At the average cost of $3-$3500, it is a great lens to add to your collection if the look and capabilities it can offer are to your liking.

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On the Leica MM this lens is a wonderful match as is any classic lens. I feel the Mono is at its best with classic glass over modern analytical glass and this Dream lens helps to round it all out. The IQ is stunning and while not like a Noctilux 0.95 in perfection it has its own Mojo going on that can not be denied.

Before I keep on going on about my love for this lens, I will say that not everyone will like this lens. Some will HATE it. Many like what I call “The Summicron Look”, which is clean, crisp, sharp and even. Many who love that look HATE the look of the Canon Dream Lens. They will say the Bokeh is awful and busy and the lens is soft (it is not soft though). So before you even think about this lens,make sure you LOVE what it does because if you do not then you will tire of it.

With that out of the way, using it on the MM is quite lovely. You lose the closer focusing of the A7s but you are shooting in pure B&W and this lens loves B&W. It has a nice micro contrast  that is gentle and allows your subject to pop while the edges and background just melt away into a fantasy land. Wide open it is quite crazy. Stopped down it is nice and smooth.

The main issue with users of the Leica M or MM is you want to make sure the M mount Dream Lens you find/buy is good with your cameras RF. Many old lenses are off, and if your lens or your camera is off just a hair, the lens will be a challenge to focus. If possible, test the lens before buying, which in 99% of cases is impossible I know.

The B&W from the MM and this lens is richer than the A7s with B&W. It’s a whole different style of shooting as well, much different. RF shooting is something that will be rewarding when you get out there and get those shots using manual focus and manual controls.

Below are a few shots with this lens on the Monochrom.

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Getting the most from the Dream Lens requires a few things..

If you choose to buy or use this lens or even if you have one and are thinking, “My shots do not look that good, mine are low in contrast and softer and do not pop like these”, then read on as I will tell you how to get this look from this lens. The Canon 50 0.95 lens is a lens with lower contrast than most modern lenses so when you process the photos you must do a couple of things to bring out the goodness in the files :)

First, PLEASE shoot RAW. This is not an OOC JPEG type of lens. For you to get the best from it you need to bump the contrast and add some sharpening as well. I shoot RAW and when processing the RAW file I bump the contrast slider up until it looks good without going overboard. I also mess with the shadow slider to bring out shadows that were covered by the contrast slider. I may also tweak the highlight slider if needed. Add some sharpening and convert that file to a JPEG. That is all you have to do, but when you do it take s an OK image and makes it into one that will be much nicer looking. To those who complain about this lens saying it is soft, low contrast, or has issues..well, you either have a bad copy or are not using it correctly. I recently saw a comment on a popular forum that was a reply to someone asking about this lens..the reply? ” that lens sucks. A coke bottle would give you better images at f/0.95. It was mostly a bragging rights lens by Canon that was made especially for the bling-bling gold Rolex watch, silicon boobs, Lamborghini owners. My thing is bigger than your thing kind of thing……..” 

It is safe to say that this person had no clue as to what they were talking about. :) The lens is beautiful and sharp even wide open. In fact, I find it sharper wide open than the original Leica Noctilux F/1.

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My Original video on the Canon Dream Lens

I did a video over a year ago on this lens with my thoughts on it back then. If you missed it, take a look below:

Final Word on the Dream Lens

I will tell you what I told you over a year ago HERE in my original review…

If you lust after this lens, BUY ONE if you can find one in great shape. Prices have went up and will continue to go up. Mark my words. In two to three years this lens will be hovering around $5k for an M mount, mint, with cap and hood, 6 Bit coded, maybe more than that in 3-5 years. It offers just as much fun as the Noctilux 0.95 with more uniqueness for 1/3 the cost, 2/3 the size and 1/2 the weight. For me it even beats the old Noctilux f/1, which Leica created due to this very lens.

If you shoot a Sony A7 series camera it is so good on these bodies, a truly drool and lust worthy piece. If you shoot an M you can use live view for critical focus and on the MM it is a beauty. But do not expect perfection, not at all. This lens is not about being perfect. It has some vignetting, it can be soft looking if you mis focus and  the contrast can be slightly low if you do not tweak it. What makes this lens so sought after is the Bokeh, which is unlike any other lens ever made. You can really make some images that are very painterly with this guy.

At the current price of around $3200 for a mint M mount copy they will not be heading down or getting cheaper. If you like the look of the images here, in my original review, or on the Flickr group then this  is the only lens that will give it to you. Happy Hunting and if you own this lens, leave a comment letting us know how you like it, how you shoot it and what you shoot it on! Thanks everyone!

Steve

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

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

To help out it is simple. 

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

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

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

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

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Sep 172014
 

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The Fuji Monochrom

By James Conley

A major impediment most new photographers face is that color is the default mode of expression. Not only are we inundated by color images in every possible medium, but digital cameras presume color as the chosen palette. The tragic fact of these defaults is that it interferes with the development of seeing subjects and places emphasis on the impossible task of trying to capture a color reality which makes little natural sense in two dimensions. The result is a great deal of frustration when the captured image doesn’t match the experience of color.

Few cameras are available that address this problem. The Leica Monochrom is one of few. The Monochrom only records in black and white, and only displays its menus and previews in black and white. It’s the gold standard for capturing black and white—after film. However, the Monochrom body alone costs about $8k. That’s a lot of money to get rid of color. There are cheaper ways.

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The cheapest way to shoot black and white, of course, is to switch to film. Using a film rangefinder is one of the fastest routes to improving the composition and content of images, and you don’t even need a darkroom if you shoot Ilford’s excellent XP2 C-41 process film.

But I’m unable to buy into a Leica Monochrom. The next best thing is the Fuji X100s. The X100s contains all the elements needed to work strictly in black and white. To wit:

• A rangefinder, with an electronic viewfinder which can be set to display only in black and white.
• A fixed lens with a 35mm field of view.
• Small and light.
• Silent. (More silent than my Leica M6.)
• Monochrome JPEG modes with yellow and red filters.

All the images in this post are JPEGs shot on the X100s.

Learning to see in black and white is the process of evaluating the luminance of an object instead of its color. Simplistically, luminance is how much light is reflected from an object. People are often surprised when converting a color image to black and white because a bright color often has more or less luminance than expected and doesn’t appear as one would expect. Through the practice of reviewing the monochrome images you make, you’ll develop your luminance sense and start to better anticipate how a tone will translate into black and white.

A way to speed up that process is by using a monochrome viewfinder. When set to capture monochrome JPEGs, the Fuji X100s will switch its LCD back and EVF displays to black and white. This makes evaluating the scene much easier, and will helps to quickly adapt and recognize luminance values.

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Photographers are blessed with a nearly infinite variety of camera bodies and lenses, which can be shuffled into various combinations to address very specific needs. Photographers are likewise cursed with all those options. Options are choices, and choices are decisions. Having to make decisions is an active process in the consciousness, and it leads to a lot of distraction from the subject. In discussing the thought process behind a “decisive moment,” Henri Cartier-Bresson said:

It’s a question of concentration. Concentrate, think, watch, look and, ah, like this, you are ready. But you never know the culminative point of something. So you’re shooting. You say, “Yes. Yes. Maybe. Yes.” But you shouldn’t overshoot. It’s like overeating, overdrinking. You have to eat, you have to drink. But over is too much.

Making choices about lenses is just as distracting as making choices about color. One lens is enough, and your body can be the zoom. Having to move within space and time to frame your subject makes for far better pictures than standing in one place and letting a variety of lenses do the work of seeing for you.

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The X100s’s f/2 Fujinon lens would be fantastic on any camera. Fuji has a storied history in making high-end lenses for a variety of camera makers, and Fuji glass is world-class. The X100s can use autofocus, or a very smooth manual focus. It also has an excellent macro mode.

Having a small camera means you’ll have it with you, which is the most important ingredient in making any photograph. The smaller and lighter a camera is, the more likely it will be with you. The X100s is smaller and lighter than my Leica M6.

Other than opera or a royal wedding, the best way to do things in life tend to be subtle. That’s especially true for photographers, who are dependent upon other people living their lives so that an image may be made. Unless you’re shooting in a studio, pay respect to your subject by being unobtrusive. Being silent is part of that respect, and an X100s shutter is quieter than my M6.

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Photography is about capturing a moment and then capturing the next . . . and the next . . . and the next. Spending time tweaking and playing with images is decidedly not photography—modifying an image is working with software. The goal of any tool should be to do work so you don’t have to. As my dad always advises about using a saw, “Don’t push so hard. Let the saw do the cutting.” If your camera is making you spend more time post-processing than you do taking pictures, it’s either not a good tool, or you’re pushing too hard. Since we can’t get Adobe to make decent software, however, we can use the tool better by putting the work back into the camera and let it produce quality JPEGs that we merely need to review. This not only speeds up the process of selecting good images, but it also lets you learn the capabilities of the camera just the way you would learn about the qualities of a particular film. This is vital knowledge that helps you see better when you’re out taking pictures, meaning you get better results, which sets up a lovely, positive feedback loop.

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With Fuji already announcing new X-Series cameras, ifyou don’t already have an X100s, you should be able to pick one up for a good price.

Once you get it, go to Shooting Menu 1 and select Film Simulation B with a yellow filter. (Red is another option, and will result in more contrast. Start with yellow.) Scroll down to Shooting Menu 2, and change Highlight Tone to +1, and Shadow Tone to +1. This will give you a decent starting place for your JPEG’s. They should require minimal development work after you import them into a computer. (**You can set the camera to shoot both RAW and JPEG files. This is a good crutch to get you comfortable with the idea of shooting only in monochrome. However, you’ll quickly discover that the Fuji’s JPEGS are very high quality and the RAW files are just a crutch.)

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Use the EVF. It will display in black and white and get you started on seeing the world that way. (Later, you’ll be able to take advantage of the X100s’s rangefinder.)

As you’re taking pictures, keep your thumb on the Exposure Compensation dial and ride it like you stole it. You’re shooting JPEGs, so work at getting the final product the way you want while you’re shooting.

With a few camera setting tweaks, you’re off to a better world in black and white! You’ll now:

• See luminance instead of color
• See shapes, forms, and shadows
• Cut down on development
• Spend more time working on your ideas and making stories

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The purpose of taking a photograph is to capture an image which conveys your impression of an event and tells the story. The purpose is decidedly not about tweaking, playing, collaging, and otherwise twisting the image into something unnatural. So, if you want to become a better photographer, you have to practice seeing what matters. Seeing what matters happens easiest with a rangefinder shooting monochrome images. Long live the X100s. (At least until those Leica Monochrom prices come down!)

website: fjamesconley.com
twitter: @Philatawgrapher

Sep 162014
 

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Leica: Back to the past with the M “Edition 60″. Vintage Modern.

Leica has unveiled probably the most brave and daring digital camera ever at Photokina. A camera that many people would not even want yet Leica  made 600 of them and hey are charging $18,500 USD for the camera set which includes a cool 35 1.4 Summilux FLE in stainless steel. Yes, $18,500. Just under $20k for a digital Leica M that normally can be found for $6500 or so. The kicker here is that Leica created this special 60th anniversary of the M edition WITHOUT a rear LCD. Nope, no LCD and no chimping or checking your images. Just like in the old days.

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This new camera is about as old school ask it gets while retaining the modern features of the M 240 (besides live view of course). In all reality, this is just an M with a new Audi design and no LCD. In place of the LCD is an old school ISO dial which takes us back to the film days of the M.

No film will be required here but keep in mind that there is NO WAY to check your images after you shoot them, out in the field. If you miss focus or your rangefinder or lens is off, you will not know it until image review.

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Leica has been on the same digital M lifecycle for a while now. Basically an M is released (M 240) followed by a special P version (new M-P) and then a limited edition (now  the M 60). In the M9 days it was the M9, M9P and then the M9 Titanium. In the M8 days it was the M8, M8.2 and then the special edition white M8. But none of those special editions were like this one. Over the years many have begged for a Leica digital RF without an LCD. Many have asked this to be for the Mono version but Leica did it for the M 240 version instead. This means we will probably see a new M in 1-2 years, my guess is 2 years until the next M, which I feel will have an integrated EVF/RF hybrid (or at least I hope so).

This M60 will be one hell of a set though, and I am guessing many will buy them to save and sell in 10-15 years at even more money than they paid for them. Some will use them though and resale value will remain high as it is so unique, so different and so ANTI digital it is pretty awesome.

I think the look and design is STRIKING and has a bit of vintage and a bit of modern. It is the vintage modern Leica.

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To have one of 600 pieces of this one of a kind digital M, as stated earlier, will set you back a cool $18,500 USD. Too rich for my blood, but who here plans on buying one?

You can pre-order the M 60  from Ken Hansen, PopFlash.com, Pro Shop. Leica Store Miami, B&H Photo

Sep 162014
 

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Photokina Leica Announcements. The Mother load.

Many new products from Leica announced. Wow!

Well today Leica has announced TONS of new products at Photokina. This is the largest release announcement of the show with new lenses, new cameras and all kinds of accessories. I am not going to list every single item as many of them are just cases or simple accessories but I will talk about the meat and potatoes of the announcements and some of them have been rumored for months, others not so much. For me, Leica has really come through with some cool pieces here, even the newly revamped Summarit line of lenses. I am looking forward to reviewing the new X, the new D-Lux and even the new S. I will also be taking a look at the new Summarit line as well as the new Zeiss ZM 35 1.4 if that is indeed a reality.

NEW LEICA CAMERAS

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Leica has brought us new cameras for this Photokina. How about a Leica M 60 Edition (for 60 years of the M) that does not include a rear LCD. Nope, no chimping allowed here! It is basically an M 240 without the LCD on the back. $18,500 with a 35 Summilux  stainless steel lens. Ouch. LIMITED TO 600 SETS WORLDWIDE!

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Leica also released quite the selection from the V-Lux to the D-Lux to the new X type, TWO S cameras, the S and S-E, and the new film M-A camera. The new X will be like the X1/X2 but it also gets a speed increase with a 23mm f/1.7 Summilux lens! Gone is the f/2.8 lens of the X1 and X2, Leica did what they needed to do with this one and brought along a Summilux with some speed to the new X. A VERY WELCOME addition!. Leica means business at Photokina time and this year is no exception. They are obviously pushing full steam ahead and bringing more and more options in all kinds of price ranges. The new V-Lux will appeal to a certain crowd and the D-Lux will be just like the Panasonic LX100, but with a pretty Leica shell, warranty and software :) I feel the LX100 and Leica D-Lux will be a pretty special camera, a future classic if you will.

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I will do separate posts once more details are provided on each major release so keep an eye out here all week for news on the new stuff!

ALL links below go to more info on each item, photos and pre-order options at B&H PHOTO!

The Leica M  – 60 Year Edition – M 240 with no LCD on the back! – $18,500 LLIMITED EDITION SET WITH 35 SUMMILUX FLE IN STAINLESS STEEL!

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The Leica M-A in Black  –  The Leica M-A in Silver

The Leica X Typ 113 IN BLACK  –  The Leica X Type 113 in Silver 

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The Leica V-Lux Typ 114

The Leica D-Lux Typ 109 – Panasonic LX100 Leica version, $1195.

The Leica S Typ 007

The Leica S-E Typ 006

The Leica X-E – Basically this is an X2 in a new color/shell

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NEW LEICA M LENSES

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Leica has announced some new surprises, like the all Silver Noctilux (I have seen one and it is gorgeous) and the silver 35 Summilux. The question is, will they be HEAVY like the old silver versions or will the be lighter, or the same? If the Noct is heavier it will be a problem :) Still, it is cool for Leica to offer these options. The new Summarit line also arrives with a refresh and a tad faster speed going from f/2.5 to f/2.4. The entire Summarit range has gotten the boost from the 35 to the 90.

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ALL links below go to more info on each item, photos and pre-order options at B&H PHOTO!

The Noctilux 50 f/0.95 in SILVER

The 35 Summilux FLE in SILVER

The new Leica Summarit 35 f/2.4 in BLACK, or in SILVER

The new Leica Summarit 50 f/2.4 in BLACK or in SILVER

The new Leica Summarit 75 f/2.4 in BLACK or SILVER

The new Leica Summarit 90 f/2.4 in BLACK or SILVER

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NEW LEICA T LENSES

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The Leica T is a camera I thoroughly enjoyed. It has the Leica vibe going on but in a modern kind of apple way. Many trashed it but I saw through the hubbub and discovered that it really was a true Leica at heart. It stands for simplicity, IQ, small size and amazing quality of build, feel and pictures. The two new lenses below are kind of stinky. Slow zooms yet again, so not sure where Leica is headed with the T but many that I know use it with their M lenses, so maybe that is why Leica is just releasing more zooms. I do know a fast prime is coming later :)

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APO-Vario-ELmar-T 55-135 f/3.5-4.5 ASPH

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NEW ZEISS ZM LENS FOR LEICA M

The Zeiss 35 1.4 ZM lens, WOW!! This one will come in at $2250 but that is less than half of the Leica 35 Summilux FLE. I am sure this will have the typical Zeiss pop, color, warmth and rendering. I will call it ALL MINE! I love almost all of the Zeiss ZM glass preferring some of it to the Leica counterparts. This lens will be gorgeous, and also the most pricey of the ZM standard lenses.

New Voigtlander lenses for M mount 

Pre Order Links – $100 deposit at Cameraquest:

The new 35 1.7 in Black - and in Chrome

The 40 2.8

The 15 4.5 III

and the 10.5 0.95 for M 4/3

 

Photokina is the gift that just keeps on giving. Today Voigtlander announced the new 35 1.7 Ultron lens in VM mount (Leica). This is yet ANOTHER fast 35mm option for Leica M or Sony A7 users. HOW SWEET IT IS! The cool thing is that the Voigtlander lenses are just as well made as the Zeiss lenses and offer image quality that may not equal Zeiss or Leica but is still VERY nice. Take a look at the new 35 1.7 Ultron VM, which looks similar to the amazing 50 1.5 that I reviewed a while back.

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There is also a new version of the 15mm Heliar that I love so much, the new VM Heliar 15 II. No pic yet but will have one soon. Finally, another new Leica M mount lens from Voigtlander will be the 40mm 2.8 Heliar pancake lens, a slim and gorgeous retro design. So three new Leica mount lenses from Voigtlander! Woohoo!

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You can pre-order these lenses at my Voigtlander recommended dealers, CAMERAQUEST.COM. I will be reviewing these new VM lenses for sure! Not sure of pricing just yet, but Voigtlander is always reasonable.

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

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LEICA DEALERS I RECOMMEND:

Ken Hansen (E-Mail him at [email protected])

PopFlash.com

The Pro Shop

B&H Photo

CameraQuest.com for Voigtlander

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

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

To help out it is simple. 

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

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

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

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

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

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

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

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

Sep 152014
 

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Black & White with the Sony A7s, Leica Monochrom and Cheap lenses!

There is a beauty to B&W that is oftentimes not seen in color. Sure, there is place for color photography as our own vision is in color, this is how we see but there is something classic about B&W that just pulls at the heartstrings for many of us. When I was growing up the big thing was Polaroid cameras and instant film. Even 110 cameras and those silly disc cameras with disc film were in. There was NOTHING quite like what we have today and photography, while well-loved by so many back then, was not practiced nearly as much as it is today.

The Sony A7s with the Voigtlander 15 f/4.5. For ANY Leica Monochrome or Sony A7s shooter, his lens is a MUST own. It does well on color on the A7s as well. One of my faves. At $599 shipped, you can not go wrong for those times when you want wide-angle on your full frame. 

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With so many color filled images on Facebook and in all of the social circles I have become quite fond of pure, simple B&W photography.

Yesterday I went out to shoot some portraits of my (soon to be) stepdaughter Katie. I brought along my Monochrom, a Sony A7s and even a Mamiya 645 with Leaf Credo 40 back (have it for testing now) and the HoldFast Money Maker and Roamographer bag I just reviewed. I have to say, this Sony A7s just keeps on impressing the hell out of me. Seriously. It seems there is NOTHING it can  not do. From ultra low light to super bright light. From rich color to pleasing B&W. From using Sony FE lenses to using Leica mount lenses. It just seems to do it all, very well. I won’t even get into the video aspect, which is its main feature.

Even the 85mm f/2 Jupiter 9 that I paid $80 for is a fun lens. This is another Russian Leica screw mount lens and while it is a bit soft wide open it is well worth the cost for when you want a soft look. Sony A7s.

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For me, so far, the Sony A7s has been the best camera release of the year. Even with all of the new stuff at Photokina, so far, nothing has gotten me more than the A7s in 2014. I was shooting it yesterday with a $30 Jupiter 8 lens I picked up locally, which is a Russian Leica Screw mount 50 f/2. Yes, $30. How can ANY $30 lens be any good? Well, it may not be anything like a Leica or Zeiss 50 but it has its charms for sure.

Below is an image I shot with the A7s and Jupiter 8 lens, wide open at f/2. For $30 it can render a beautiful soft image. This was shot on the Sony A7s.

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As I mentioned earlier, I also brought along the Leica Monochrom, which for me is an instant classic. I feel Leica will release a new Monochrome in a year or two based on the M240 or whatever the next M will be. If they do, it will not be like the current monochrome due to the CCD sensor. Again, as with the M9 vs M 240, there will be fans of each model. The Monochrom has something about it that makes you just want to use it, shoot it and LOVE it. Is it worth $8,000? No. But it is a wonderful camera to own and use and it has results that can be superb, depending on the lenses you use with it.

The Leica Monochrom with Voigtlander 15 (cropped)

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The MM is simple in its design, it is an M after all. It has simple menus, basic settings, and is small yet very sturdy and solid. Many scoff at buying a camera that can only do B&W but if you love pure and true B&W imaging and have a true passion for it, there is no other alternative. For me it is like having a Leica film camera loaded with every B&W film type on the market and then some. You can dial in any look you want from Tri-X to Neopan to Delta.

The Leica MM with the Voigtlander 15 – cropped

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So how much difference is there between a file from the Sony A7s and Leica Monochrom when both are done in B&W? Well, the Monochrom will have much more fine detail for super large prints and a more subtle shift of grey tones throughout but the A7s is also very nice with B&W imaging. For the images here I used VSCO filters for ALL of the images so they will all have a similar signature and look. Without those filters the differences are more pronounced with the Monochrom giving a deeper range of grey tones to the image. But I have to hand it to the A7s. It rocks with color or B&W. Daytime or night use. But I still love my Leica MM! Also, use it with some great lenses and it will really strut its stuff.

You must click on these images to see them correctly and larger/better quality. This one is a full wide image from the MM and 15.

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For this shoot I used not only the Voigtlander and the Russian glass, I also use the Sony/Zeiss 55 1.8 which is a fantastic lens. Contrasty, sharp even when wide open and has Auto Focus so you do not have to be critical with your eyeball :) Both images below were with the A7s and 55 1.8 lens.

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So while B&W may not be everyone’s cup of tea, I love it. For me it pays homage to Photography’s past while also allowing a purity to come through. No white balance to worry about, no color shifts, no problems. Just pure. simple. photography. I would like to thanks my model, Katie Casey for her time and patience with me while I tried to manually focus those old lenses in the 100 degree heat :)

You will notice I did not include any images from the Leaf Credo/Mamiya system. I shot about 20 images with that setup yesterday and it was a BEAST. Heavy, cumbersome, large and loud.

 With that said, here is one from the Leaf setup though the shadow of my head ruined the shot:

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and again, the similar shot with the A7s and $30 Jupiter lens which shows the soft Jupiter signature:

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You can read my full Sony A7s review HERE or buy one HERE at Amazon or at B&H Photo HERE.

You can read my full four-part Leica MM review HERE, see my gallery HERE or buy one at Ken Hansen ([email protected]), PopFlash.com, Leica Store Miami or Pro Shop. Also at B&H Photo or Amazon.

Sep 152014
 

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HoldFast Gear: The Roamographer Bag and Money Maker strap

To see all of these goodies in more detail, check out HOLDFASTGEAR.COM!

A couple of weeks back I received a message from Matthew Swaggart, the owner of HoldFast Gear. He asked if I would like to review their Roamographer bag, small lens pouch and Money Maker strap system. I knew of HoldFast and knew that they sold only uber high quality and functional gear that also looked fantastic. All leather, all quality hardware and based right here in the USA.

I told Matthew to send me whatever he wanted me to  take a look at and a few days later I received a package containing the new Roamographer bag in Great American Bison Leather, a Navy lens pouch bag and the Money Maker strap in Water Buffalo Tan. When I took everything out of the box I was in awe of the quality. The last time I was this pleased with the quality of an accessory was when I wrote about the Wotancraft bags recently. Like the Wotancraft bag, the HoldFast Roamographer just oozes quality and workmanship.

BUT beware! It is a LARGE bag. This is not a tiny mirrorless system bag, not at all. This is a full-fledged large carry all bag, or what I like to call a “travel bag” as it is one I would personally use for traveling or large jobs, just like the one I did yesterday. It even has a super nice hang tag called the “luggage tag wallet” that can hold your phone, cards, ID, etc that can be added to it (or it can be used alone). When I say it oozes quality, I really mean it. This is up there with the best I have seen, even equaling bags I in the $1200 range. So if you are someone who loves function and style and quality craftsmanship, I am telling you now that you MUST take a look over at the HoldFast site because they offers some of the most unique accessories for photographers that I have ever seen. Gear for pros such as wedding shooters, sports shooters, portrait shooters and even things for enthusiasts who just want the best quality they can get a hold of, all while being very fashionable.

In other words, the HoldFast Gear products all have a certain kind of SWAGGER so it is no surprise that the owners last name is “Swaggart”, lol. Just yesterday Debby told me “I am stealing this bag for our trips”! I told her, “sure thing, just take out the camera insert and you can use it as a normal travel bag”. It’s very versatile.

The Roamograoher is a gorgeous bag my friends but be prepared to pay the fee for that beauty, quality and usefulness. The Roamograoher comes in at $535, but in all reality, it is worth it because this is one of those bags that stay with you for life, and can even be passed down for generations. It will age well and develop a natural patina and softness over the years. This is a bag I have already been complimented on SIX times while out and about with it, people asking me “where did you buy that bag”??

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We have all seen those old classic leather bags from 20-30-4-50 years ago. They usually have a uniqueness to them, a very cool vibe that tells a story. THIS will be one of those bags in 20-30 years. Of all of the bags I have tried, tested, reviewed and used, this is up there with my other favorite, the Wotancraft Ryker.  The Ryker is my go to mirrorless bag that is already breaking in so so well. The Roamographer will be my #1 goto for travel, big treks, jobs and times when I need to carry more such as my macbook air, chargers, lenses, and 2 or 3 bodies. It is perfect for those with a DSLR system as well. Walk into the job with this bag and the money maker strap system and you will look the part and feel it.

Below is a video overview of the bag I did while on location shooting in the Domes of Casa Grande, AZ. It was 106 degrees, I was hot and Brandon was shooting (sorry for the audio dropout part of the video). As you can see it is a gorgeous bag:

One thing I love just as much if not more than the bag though is the Money Maker Strap system. I have known about this for a long while now but never thought I would need it. HOW WRONG WAS I! Man, after getting it all figured out, which took me all of 3 minutes, I started to appreciate the usefulness and versatility of this amazing strap system. The Money Maker is just that, a strap that pros will be able to take serious advantage of. They will gain speed, comfort and will have access to 1, 2, or 3 cameras instantly without fuddling around for a bag, or adjusting a shoulder strap. It is quite the amazing design.

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The MM strap fits around your body comfortably as it is 100% adjustable to your body size. A camera can sit to your left, waist level, to your right and in front of you. It is absolutely comfortable. Many wedding pros use this strap and swear by it. They would not use anything else. If I shot weddings, concerts, or anything where I used more than one camera, this would be my #1 go to accessory. It really is that amazing.

I am wearing the strap below with all options ON, set up for three cameras. Image below shot with the A7s and 15mm Voigtlander.

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The quality is so so good and my strap is the Water Buffalo version. The feel, the coloring and the wrinkles in the leather all make it appear to be a really high quality and fashionable product. It looks awesome on and feels just as good as it looks.

You guys who follow me know that when I REALLY love something I REALLY like to let that be known. This is one of those occasions.

 Below is a video from Matthew Swaggart explaining his Money Maker Strap system. 1, 2, or 3 cameras!

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You can read MUCH more about the Money Maker Strap system here and see it in all of the available leather colors by clicking HERE. Prices start at $200 and for me, this is very fairly prices at $200. Really. I have seen straps for $175 that were just plain old little leather straps for one camera. THIS is a SYSTEM for carrying your cameras that allow you to carry up to THREE of them without the cameras even being close to each other. They stay in place at your side and when you need one of them you slide it up to your eye in a natural movement. For pros with multiple cameras, this is a must own IMO! I wish I had this when I shot those Seal tours as it would have come in handy and stopped me from banging up my Leica’s at the time.

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I also was sent a cool little lens pouch that will strap on to the Money Maker Strap system so if you are shooting with 1-2 cameras you could use this pouch to hold a couple of lenses or even a mirrorless camera. It is gorgeous and the one I was sent is made of blue canvas with a sheep skin interior. It has the softest most protective interior I have ever seen in a camera bag, period. This little guy is called the Explorer Lens Pouch.

You can read more about the pouch here. For me it helps to complete this as a system. You can carry cameras, lenses and some accessories without even realizing you are doing it.

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Bravo to HoldFast Gear. These are some super cool products for enthusiasts and pros and I was so thrilled with the quality and versatility that I asked Matthew if he would like to be a site sponsor and he took me up on that. When I see quality gear that is made with passion and superb workmanship I really want people to know about it. Hopefully some of you can go checkout the site at HoldFastGear.com and browse what he has to offer. Thank you Matthew for letting me experience what you are all about, love your products!

Sep 102014
 

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Shooting Ephemerisle 2014 with the Sony A7S and a Voigtlander 35mm f1.2

By Judd Weiss – Visit his site HERE

Most places I go lately, I am the best photographer around. But I come to Steve Huff’s site and community specifically because here I am definitely not the best photographer. I’m learning fast, but I’m relatively new to photography, upgrading from a point and shoot to the original Sony NEX 3 only about 4 years ago. Discovering Steve’s site almost 3 years ago was a major turning point in my photography. I started taking it more seriously when I saw what you guys were up to. I’ve been inspired. The daily inspirations that so many of you have contributed has made me rethink what I’m doing with the camera I’m holding. I’ve never taken any photography classes, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t received an education. This community around Steve Huff’s blog is one of the greatest influences on my development as a photographer. So thank you to all who have contributed their vision and creations here. I am very grateful. (Thank you Judd!! Steve)

I’d like to also make a contribution, from my favorite work yet. I shot this entire set of photos with the new amazing Sony Alpha A7S full frame mirrorless camera, with a manual Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f/1.2 lens. That combo allowed me to achieve low light shots never before possible in the history of photography. Ephemerisle was the perfect event to test out what the Sony A7S can handle in extreme low light. And the Sony A7S was the perfect camera to capture the experience of the dark glowy night that made Ephemerisle shine.

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These shots are unapologetically processed, and I admit I went a bit intense with the colors, but I wanted to, to accurately reflect the surreal nature of Ephemerisle. Some of these photos are a little abstract, but believe me when I tell you those are very true to the experience. What a visual experience! Ephemerisle was incredible. I did the best I could to run around and convey what it was like to be there, over stimulated by this new beautiful foreign universe everywhere you looked.

It’s fair to think of Ephemerisle like Burning Man on the water. Imagine a bunch of RVs at Burning Man connected together, but floating. With dance stage platforms between them.

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I think Ephemerisle was the most exciting and fun time I have had, that didn’t involve a girl, since maybe my college days. I loved running around in that crazy dream world meeting the cast of characters you’ll see in the photos below.

I’m not saying Ephemerisle is better than Burning Man. There’s no way an event of a couple hundred people can in any way rival the scope and all the amazingness of the 50,000+ strong Burning Man festival. But I will say that I enjoyed Ephemerisle more. I loved Burning Man, but the desert is a harsh place. No doubt the sea can be unforgiving as well, but I was very happy to trade an over abundance of dust for an over abundance of water.

No way I would bring my beloved new Sony A7S and Voigtlander lens to get ruined by the intense barrage of fine dust on the Burning Man playa.

 Shot at 12,800 ISO

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Burning Man is incredible as it lights up the middle of the desert nowhere into an epic glorious city; being out in the middle of the water nowhere, lit up only by the most amazing glowy party you’ve ever seen, Ephemerisle too is a bright beacon of a testament to our evolutionary progress, while floating over the type of early ocean microbes of life that began it all. How far we’ve come, to create such a stunning atmosphere. A cool blend of excitement and serenity. Like Burning Man, being at Ephemerisle confronts you to face both our fragility and our promise that can only be truly seen in an intentional community that has left many of the comfortable constraints of modern society.

Stylistically people often compare Ephemerisle with Water World, and you can see where that’s coming from, only this wasn’t dystopian. Whatever was rough around the edges wasn’t post-apocalyptic, it was prototype. This is from the future, clearly. These are experiences our grandchildren will inherit when they are our age. But it’s a beautiful future. When the sun goes down, we light up even brighter. Humans evolved from a state of continual starvation in a struggle to survive among brutal nature, and now we master the harshest environments to throw parties of abundance like this for recreation. Humans have no shortage of serious problems, but it’s things like Ephemerisle that compel me to acknowledge our bright future of possibilities ahead.

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You might think I’m hyperbolizing a little much. And if I hadn’t been there, that’s totally what I would think while reading this. But there’s a reason for these reflections of anthropological grandeur. Ephemerisle is comprised of exactly the group of intellectuals, business leaders, and artists who are focused daily on the topic of our evolutionary potential as a species. These ARE the people consciously working to design a more beautiful future for all of us. What a treat it is to see one of their early prototypes. And I have to say, I’m in love with this particular prototype they call Ephemerisle.

I’ve got to thank everyone involved for coming together to create Ephemerisle. They made these photos. I just captured what I saw as well as I could. Their vision created this reality. Congratulations to all of their beautiful minds. These photos are my humble tribute.

Ok guys, get ready to watch the colors move…………

The full album and original post can be found on my blog here: http://hustlebear.com/2014/09/04/photos-ephemerisle-july-2014/

You can follow me on Instagram at http://instagram.com/juddweiss

I’m on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/juddweiss

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Note: The widely acclaimed Canon 5D MIII could not have achieved many of these shots. For example: The below shot, while not the cleanest photo in history, was shot at 51,200 ISO (!!) at 1/125 second, handheld from a bobbing moving boat in the dark. It was challenging to stand, and hard to see clearly, let alone to take a clean photo. Try to get anything remotely usable in those conditions with another camera setup.

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Again, the below shot is not perfectly clean and crisp, but it was shot at 32,000 ISO from a moving bobbing boat.

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I love how the camera rendered the daytime shots as well.

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Sep 052014
 

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The little camera that could. The Canon G10

By Seong Kim

Experimenting with a used $100 camera I purchased online 2 weeks ago. The seller of the camera asks “how come you want this old thing?” I told him it’s for experimental purposes as I am in pursuit of creating medium format style images with a point and shoot camera.

With many years of searching for the best system that suits my needs I have come to a realization that most camera’s out there do the exact same thing. My analogy to this statement is this… “A silver pen is a silver pen which could cost $500 or more… and a plastic pen is a plastic pen where you can receive for free from a business with their logo on it. They both do the same thing, however the person that is behind the pen and writes the stories is what truly matters.” Unless you’re using a crayon that’s a completely different story but I won’t get into that here.

When I landed on the famous President Barack Obama’s Inauguration image by David Bergman, totalling in size of an amazing 1474 megapixels (59783 x 24658 pixels) I was blown away to say the least. I said to myself “This camera must be some sort of crazy expensive system…” Excited as I was, I kept reading the details of how this shot was produced. When I saw the words+numbers Canon G10 my jaws dropped and I said to myself… “I MUST DO THIS.” Immediately I searched online for a used Canon G10 and poof, on sale via local resident for $100. Next I pursued to look for the Epic Gigapan system Mr. Bergman used and luck has it, my local camera shop had all three models. Double smile for me as I did not have to wait if I were to have purchased it online… Even better, they had the exact unit I needed as a their floor model and it was on sale… Without hesitation I said to the manager “I’ll take it.”

Back at the studio, I setup the camera and Epic system and after a few test shots and viewing youtube tutorials, I created my first medium format style image consisting of 9 shots.

Using MF systems such as the H4D’s and the classic 500CM’s… also the high res DSLR “D800E” of course these camera’s IQ is far beyond what the little guy can produce… However to the normal eye, and none photo world, people probably won’t realize which is which… But to the avid camera tech enthusiasts and professionals I am sure you’ll see the difference… H4D 40 at $20K and Canon G10 at $100 a big price gap…

So after producing this 9 shot image totalling a 71 mega pixel count… Not even close to Mr. Bergams Obama image of 220 images at 1474 mega pixels you can still see the great IQ at only 71 mega pixels with 9 shots taken with the Canon G10. After stitching the images together, I ran a large format test print 34″ x 35″ at 300 DPI. The results are fantastic.

Without further ADO, below are the results of the Canon G10 + Epic system which produced my first medium format style image. Pretty impressive for a 14.7 Megapixel point and shoot camera… Full size images and virtual view is available for your pleasure.

Thank you kindly,

Seong Kim // www.seongkim.com
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Screen shots at full view + 100% crop + Virtual view of entire image towards the end.

Printed on 54 inch wide format printer // 4 colour process, my printer prints with a tint and did not bother to adjust as this is a test print to view the image quality specifically the resolution not colour. Please excuse the difference you will see between the screen shots and virtual view.

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Pretty sharp for a little guy. “This is a photo of the print”

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Sep 042014
 

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The Sony A7s Experience: Ongoing thoughts on a Fascinating Camera

By Ashwin Rao - Follow Ashwin on Facebook HERE

Hi everyone, here’s an update with my thoughts on the Sony A7s. This is a camera that seems to be gaining interest, particularly for those individuals who enjoy low light photography or who have a set of rangefinder lenses in place and are looking for another body. I posted these thoughts at one of my favorite forums, and wanted to share them with you, along with a few new photos, just in case you were considering buying the camera in light of the 2014 Photokina announcements.

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In summary, I LOVE my Sony A7s. It’s given me a burst of creativity and joy in shooting that I haven’t experienced since my early days with the Leica M Monochrom (and M9 before). Here are my rolling thoughts. In general, it’s the best non Leica full frame digital solution for M mounts to date, though there are compromises (for some).

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Here are some thoughts, in no particular order:

1. The camera does well with Leica M lenses. Only the 28 Summicron ASPH lens has performed “poorly” on the camera, and even it is usable for non-critical work where sharpness at the edges may not be as important. Everything else that I have thrown at it works well or is easily fixed in post processing using the lens vignetting correction tool in LR5.

2. RAW colors are solid. The camera exhibits different palette than Leica’s M9 and M240 (I prefer the look from the M9, personally, but it’s a matter of taste), and the palette seems tweaked compared to the A7R and A7 cameras, though that may just be my own eyes fooling me. Skin tones tend toward orange, but it’s quite easy to fix (unlike the M240, which I struggled to get right for peoples’ skin tones). I find that it’s quite easy to get the look that you want from A7s files with a bit of post processing

3. Dynamic range: To me, solid, better than my M bodies (no banding through most of the ISO range), but maybe not quite as good as the A7R or A7 in recovering shadows and highlights…this seems borne out by DXO testing

4. The silent shutter option is amazing: Absolutely awesome feature, that I believe re-defines this camera for those who employ it. I am surprised that Sony doesn’t allow a programmable custom button to quickly access this feature. A firmware upgrade here would be perfect. I use the silent shutter feature for nearly all of my shooting, as it eliminates any shutter shake effect (the size and design of the bodies does not allow the present A7 bodies to be very well dampened to vibraation), and the silence makes photographed subjects not know when you are shooting, which can be helpful on the street. The silent shutter does not work well in low light scenes where fluorescent lights are at play, due to interference/banding effects due to the frequency of light interacting with the frequency of the electronic shutter.

5. Class leading shutter speeds: The other nice feature not spoken about regarding the shutter, is that it’s possible to shoot up through 1/8000 shutter speed, so in bright light, one can use very fast lenses for creating DOF without the need for a neutral density filter.

6. ISO: yup, it’s great. I have had no issues shooting through ISO 12,800 (though some detail and DR is lost at that ISO), and I have gotten usable shots through ISO 40,000+. I don’t typically push past ISO 40,000. I consider the A7s to be an “ISO-less” camera, in that I don’t consider ISO to be a limiting factor any more for my style of shooting. Paired with fast glass such as f/0.95- f/1.4, one can literally turn night scenes into day. Color fidelity appears to be preserved as ISO’s are pushed up, meaning that colors don’t get too muddy as ISO’s jump up into the stratosphere. That being said, the camera is just as good in normal light. What doesn’t get stressed enough is how good the camera is across its ISO range

7. Using the Voigtlander VM-E mount adapter with close focus opens up now possibilities with close focus and macro work with the M…this is MARVELOUS, for those of you who like to do macro. I am re-discovering macro in this manner. The adapter is pricey, costing around $300, but it’s worth it and allows standard and close focus use in a cleverly designed way. I have found that you have to be a tad careful about infinite focus, as the adapter seems to allow telephoto lenses such as the 90 summicron to focus just a smidge past infinite.

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8. Autofocus: The camera focuses much better in low light, but the change is not really revelatory. I have the 55 FE lens, which I enjoy, but don’t use much ,as I can manually focus faster in low light (or really in all light). The 35 FE is supposedly a lot better, but I don’t own it at this time.

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All in all, I have found the A7s to be a revelatory camera. The combination of camera design (flip up LCD, EVF, M mount capacity, silent shutter, ISO performance, close focus with VM-E adapter) allows me to be creative and to shoot discretely in ways that were not possible before. Is it perfect? By no means…here are some things that could get better.

1. EVF: Solid, but there’s room for improvement (higher resolution, faster refresh rate), particularly when using focus magnification and focus peaking in concert. Now that Zeiss is producing Manual Focus E mount lenses, I am hoping that Sony incorporates more design elements into future E mount bodies to maximize the utility of manual focus lenses

2. Megapixels. For me, the 18 megapixel range (m9, M Monochrom) is a sweet spot, balancing quality of pixels and size of files. I would hope that future A8s or whatever they are called will increase MP counts without compromising ISO performance or M Mount lens compatibility.

3. M mount lenses. As mentioned, they work great on this body…really! But put the 28 Summicron on the body, and you’ll see there’s room for improvement. Hopefully Sony will recognize that these bodies could really stand to use smaller lenses, in which optical elements lie closer to the sensor, and design sensors that accomodate smaller lens design (i.e. rangefinder/retrofocus lenses)

4.Camera haptics. Sony cameras don’t quite have the joy of handling as do other manufacturers (i.e. Fuji, Leica), and simple tweaks to camera button layout, grip, viewfinder placement, and menu structure could go a long way to making the cameras joyful to use for more people. I have many friends who love the quality of Sony files, but don’t really like how the cameras operate.

Okay, hopefully that “mini” review of my present thoughts helps some who are considering taking the plunge. I have zero desire to upgrade or change cameras, because the A7s is an outstanding photographic tool as is and does so much.

All the best,
Ashwin

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