Apr 152014
 

PentaxK32

Oh Pentax… I tried, I really did.

The Pentax K3 and the Crazy-Acting Mirror Sickness

by Amy Medina

What a frustrating few months it has been. I am going to preface this article by stating this: Pentax really did bend over backwards to try to make me happy, and in the end they did do the right thing for me individually, even if it doesn’t solve the issue (yet) for the many others who may come across it

So it all began back in July. Yes, July. I started having issues with my original K5 and took it to a local retailer for service, being under the silly impression they might be able to fix it there. Their salesman did not tell me otherwise, despite the fact I told him I needed the camera back in a week. Well, Mr. Salesman gave it to Mr. Repairman, not relaying my urgent need for the camera back, and off it went to Pentax without my knowledge.

To keep this long story as short as I can, I’ll spare you all the phone calls and back and forth trying to figure out what was going on with my camera and how much it was going to cost to fix, and who messed up by sending it in the first place (because I could have done that myself)… etc. etc. and fast forward to OCTOBER when I finally got the camera back, not fixed. It was then they finally agreed to fix it for free after all my trouble, and the local Pentax Rep got involved and gave me a K5-II loaner to use. My K5 went back to Pentax.

Then the K3 came out, so I decided to jump in. I was getting a lot more professional work and, though I was frustrated with my recent experience, gave Pentax and my local retailer another chance. The retailer knocked some money off the price of the camera for all my trouble, so I set out to shoot lots of timelapse for my client with my new K3 and my loaner K5-II.

And little did I know, the drama had barely begun.

Almost right away I started having issues with the K3 locking up. In Pentax-Land, we call this “runaway mirror syndrome” or as I like to call it, “Crazy-Acting (or Crazy-Ass) Mirror Sickness” (CAMS). What happens is this: You’re going about your business taking photos or shooting timelapse or whatever, and suddenly, without warning, the mirror goes nuts, starting to slap away rapidly, like a machine gun. The camera goes completely unresponsive when this happens and all you can typically do is pop out the battery to get it to stop. It takes no photos while it’s going nuts either, so whatever shot you were trying to take, well that moment is lost forever. Whatever timelapse you were trying to capture is now lost and interrupted until you stop the camera and get it set back up again to start reshooting.

At first, I obviously thought it was a fluke. Or then maybe it was caused by the weather (it was very cold here). But as time went on, with almost every timelapse shoot I went to, the camera would lock up and go mirror-crazy. I’ve been doing anywhere from one to three of these timelapse shoots per week, so me and the crazy flapping mirror became good friends. And there have been other “silent” lockups too, where the camera just stops shooting and responding.

Having had the contact with the Pentax Rep and Pentax Repair directly now (because of those original K5 problems), I used those contacts to report this problem. And for a long while, I was happy to do testing for them (and for me) to see if we could narrow the problem down. Here’s what I found out.

Crazy-Acting Mirror Sickness (CAMS) of the K3 – A Summary

  • It happens in any temperature, from 10º (F) to 50º (F). So it’s not just in cold weather.
  • It happens in humid (even drippy foggy) weather, as well as dry. Not likely static.
  • It happens indoors and outdoors. So that eliminates most environmental causes.
  • It happens with a multitude of SD cards… different brands and sizes.
  • It happens with a multitude of batteries, from old original K5 batteries to brand spanking new K3 batteries.
  • Pentax even sent me a shiny new NEW battery to try, and it happened with that too.
  • All batteries I’ve used and tried are genuine Pentax ones.
  • I’ve never used third-party batteries, but I’ve heard of others with the issue who have.
  • It happens whether the battery is fully charged, or much more depleted. Doesn’t matter.
  • It happens with all my lenses, not just one.
  • It happens whether you use live-view or not.
  • It happens with one SD card in the camera, or with two.
  • It happens with Shake Reduction on, or with it off.
  • It happens in M (Manual) mode, Av (Aperture Priority Mode) and User Mode.
  • It happened to me shooting timelapse, but reports indicate it happens in all drive modes, including single-shot and continuous shooting.

Another Pentaxian I met online set out to recreate the issue himself, and it happened to him the first day he tried to recreate it. He had the issue crop up with the battery grip. I have never used the battery grip. So it happens with and without.

One user had it happen with the AC Adaptor.

It has happened with all firmware versions, including the latest 1.03.

First part of the video shows a silent lockup. Second half shows the CAMS issue…

 

And worst of all… it happened to me across two K3 bodies.

After all this testing and writing to Pentax Repair about it, they finally told me to exchange the body for a new one. That happened in February. I went to my retailer and he gave me a new K3. That was a Saturday. The following Monday I went to a time-lapse shoot, got half way through the day without a problem (and was feeling optimistic)… and then, just after lunch, this out-of-the-box, new K3 body fell into Crazy-Ass Mirror Sickness.

You can imagine, I wasn’t happy.

Where does that leave me now? Well, very frustrated and disappointed.

Through all of this I’d been communicating with Pentax Repair, who liked to tell me they couldn’t reproduce the issue, which honestly, leaves me asking if they are trying hard enough. It happens to me at nearly every shoot. I know the tech is trying to be helpful when he asks me a lot of questions, but when they are the same questions over and over I get a little irritated. When I send him video of the problem and he tells me “it doesn’t show me anything but your settings” until I tell him to turn up his volume, well you can imagine more than frustration.

And now, my time with the K3 is over. It has been returned in favor of two K5-IIs bodies. So far, with 25,000 shutter actuations on one and 15,000 on the other, I haven’t had any issues. I’ve also bought the Fuji XT1, and since that is time lapse capable, I’ll be testing that out while researching and exploring other options out there as well.

And I will repeat, I am disappointed. Mostly, because I liked the K3 in every other way!

  • Image quality: Outstanding
  • Performance (other than CAMS and random silent lockups): Great
  • High ISO performance: Excellent
  • Autofocus: Much better (more accurate) than original K5
  • Feature-Set: Impressive
  • Size & Weight: Perfect for DSLR
  • Battery Life: Nothing short of amazing
  • Value vs. price: Excellent

but…

  • Service: Very slow.

and…

  • Reliability: Very poor.

… and the end bit, well that’s actually most important when you’re shooting stuff for a paying client.

 

In the end, Pentax is taking care of me. They have let me exchange the K3 out for something else. They fixed that original K5 for me for free because of the retailer’s debacle. They have tried to make me happy. They’ve heard my complaints for months (and to my own credit, have had the benefit of my patient testing for all that time too).

But it makes me sad they haven’t come to a conclusion as to what causes this problem on their flagship DSLR. If they don’t figure it out, it’s possible future bodies will suffer the same problem. If they won’t take the time to reproduce it so they can see what’s happening, it won’t be solved for the other people who run into the issue. I know my shooting is somewhat unique… and because of the weekly timelapse shoots, I run into the issue more regularly, by sheer law of averages. But I’ve heard stories from other Pentaxians who are just shooting regular, typical photography and run into the issue as well. Not good. Not good at all.

Matter of fact, I started a thread at the PentaxForums for people to report the issue, and in a month’s time, it’s accumulated 74 reports of this same issue. And most of those people weren’t shooting timelapse at all.

Other K3 Users Reporting the Issue

I’m not a kid having a tantrum here. My only hope is that Pentax sees this as the serious issue it truly is and decides it’s important enough to track down, address and fix. I’ve actually recommended Pentax cameras directly and indirectly (through reviews) over the years, and have converted several photographers into Pentaxians, amateurs and professionals alike. I want Pentax to be my go-to work camera. And they want me on their side… especially when I’m one of the few who actually likes the K-01. LOL

A great number of you may never run into this issue… and for that I’m glad.

If you don’t shoot time-lapse or weddings/events professionally, journalism or even birds/animals/nature, it’s probably not an issue to worry too much about… at least in the sense that it will cause you wide-spread problems. If you have to depend on it to get specific shots that you cannot “do over”, and if the camera is getting heavy use, then I’d rethink relying on the K3 until this issue is fixed.

The silver lining in all of this is that as much testing as I’ve done to the K3, I’ve also done to the K5-II… and the K5-II has been rock solid. Not a second of trouble in all the same conditions at all the same shoots. No lockups, no mirror gone cray-cray, no corrupt SD cards or files… not one issue at all. The K5-IIs bodies are proving just as reliable so far. At least we know it’s possible for Pentax/Ricoh to produce a dependable, well performing camera. What is frustrating is that their newest model, with all it’s wonderful new features appears not to be that camera.

I didn’t WANT to give up the K3. In every other way I was truly impressed by the camera and the K5-IIs/K5-II is a step backwards. They have tried to help me, but the exchange isn’t a solution to the problem, only a solution to my predicament at the moment. If it is never fixed, does that mean we’ll all have to worry about the same issue coming up again in their next model? At this point, I’d say that is likely, and that is quite unfortunate.

Below I will share some of the photos I’ve taken for my own enjoyment in the time I’ve owned the K3, and timelapse videos for you to see. I hope you enjoy them. If you’re a Pentax user who has experienced CAMS, please report it to Pentax, even if it only happened to you once. Don’t be silent. If you haven’t had the issue, I hope you never do… and truly, just go forth and enjoy your Pentax K3. But for this issue, there’s a lot to enjoy there.

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icecreamandbridge

drapedincold

02_27_tableforone

03_03_wisefriend

11_18_demonandangel

02_20_nomowing

01_15_holesandpoles

01_26_lockedin

03_06_rideaway

Apr 092014
 

titleotus

The Zeiss Otus 1.4/55 on the Sony A7r:

my considerations and experiences (so far)

by Dirk De Paepe

A contradiction?

Putting the largest and heaviest lens on the smallest and lightest body… doesn’t seem to be the smartest move, does it?!

Indeed, no other FF lens of standard focus length weighs more and is bigger than the Zeiss Otus 1.4/55, and no other FF body is smaller and lighter than the Sony A7r (at the time of this writing, April 2014). Combining those two indeed appears to be a major contradiction. Obviously.

But let me make another statement now.

Putting the best lens on the best sensor… makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it?!

Indeed, the Otus was developed by Zeiss with only one simple goal: creating a full frame lens with the best possible image quality, to meet the demands of today’s (and tomorrow’s) full frame hi-res sensors, that are able to provide an IQ close to medium format cameras. Zeiss clearly felt the need for lenses that meet (and surpass) those sensor specifications. Therefore the Zeiss engineers received no restrictions whatsoever concerning size, weight and budget. So this lens is indeed big, heavy and expensive. What did you expect.

With the A7r, it’s clear that Sony wanted to come up with nothing less than a masterstroke: combining the most advanced FF sensor with the smallest body, to offer the highest IQ in a FF body of today’s market.

Yet it doesn’t make too much sense to compare Sony’s situation with Zeiss’. Already the life span of both products will differ significantly. The evolution in sensors and bodies rushes further at an incredible pace, with a continuous stream of major new announcements. Still, although every camera body that one can buy today can offer satisfactory results for quite some years, the life span of a good lens remains a lot longer and can be estimated as virtually a lifetime.

Nobody doubts the Otus IQ. And, as far as I followed publications about the A7r, all test reports stated that its IQ is at least at par with, if not surpasses this of the Nikon D800E (until recently the sole standard for hi-res FF sensors). So purely regarding IQ, paring the Otus with the A7r makes a lot of sence. Obviously.

So on Wednesday, October 16, minutes after the first official presentation of the A7/A7r – by Sony Australia on YouTube – I placed my order. This was the camera body that I had been waiting for since about 5 years, when I bought my first NEX-5. Ever since that moment, I had been thinking: “If only they’d make a full frame camera like this, with a good viewfinder and enough knobs for direct manual control of the basic parameters…”

The NEX-7 was already a big step forward, with the EVF as an unexpected bonus. And when the full frame RX-1 was launched, unfortunately not an IC body, I was sure that Sony was in the final straight line towards my dream camera. So that Wednesday morning, I didn’t have to think it over for a second, because I already considered it for five years. During the whole presentation, I thought: “Yes!”

Also when the Zeiss Otus was announced to become available, I placed an order to get one of the first possible lenses that would ship to Belgium. The Otus 1.4/55 immediately tremendously appealed to me. Those who’ve read my first article, being published on this site, won’t be surprised, since my love for Zeiss goes back some 50 years. What I love about Zeiss can be summarized as: achieving the highest possible quality but still selling for reasonable, not Leica-crazy prices (sorry, Leica). All test reports about the Otus spoke of the most extra-ordinary full frame lens of all time, better than the Leica Apo-Summicron, that more than doubles its price. The Otus is said to be virtually perfect in all domains that really matter. OK, it’s not perfect in ALL domains, but that wouldn’t be of this world, would it. It’s big and heavy, actually the biggest and heaviest standard focal length glass on the market. It’s probably not really completely weather sealed, it’s not suitable for autofocus, it has no image stabilization and it scratches pretty easily (that’s what I read, so I try to handle it with great care). Oh yeah, it’s also pretty expensive.

Two versions of Otus

The Zeiss Otus 1.4/50 comes in two versions: the ZE for Canon mount and the ZF.2 for Nikon. Both versions can be used with the A7r – of course with different adapters. (BTW, also the Sony comes in two versions, A7 and A7r, but there has been written enough about this on this website.)

The construction of the optics are identical with both lenses, which implies that the distance from the back lens to the sensor is the same (as it is with all “pairs” of Zeiss ZE and ZF.2 SLR lenses). So the “mounting foot” of each version is adapted to the specific camera body it is designed for, which is a bit shorter (some 3mm) on the ZF.2, due to Nikons longer FFD (flange focal distance = distance from flange to sensor). Thus, when mounting an Otus on the A7r, the appropriate adapter for the ZF.2 version will be 3mm thicker than the one for the ZE. But the total length of the camera/adapter/lens combination will be exactly the same for both – necessarily so, to make the optics work. (The camera is measure from the point where the sensor is mounted in the body.)

Besides the mounting, there are some other obvious differences. The ZF.2 has an aperture ring, which lacks on the ZE. Here the aperture must be set from the camera body. So there is an automation mechanism in the lens that makes the ZE 60g heavier and a bit fatter at the rear end. Yet, on the ZF.2, the aperture ring locks when set to f/16, allowing shutter speed priority (according to the manual), and thus automated aperture setting. With some bodies, it would even be possible to chose whether the aperture is set from the lens or the body. Because the lens manual indicates this, I don’t doubt it for a second. But I didn’t try it.

Which one to choose?

It took me quite some time to make up my mind about which version to choose for my A7r. Initially, I made the following considerations. The A7r has two customizable turning knobs on top of the body, one for thumb control, the other for the index finger. Aperture and shutter time control can be programmed to those, which makes sense, when using the ZE version. Also, I noticed that on the press presentation, the ZE was used in combination with the A7r. So this must mean something, no? They used the Metabones Smart Adapter Mark III (make sure to order the Mark III), which is that one adapter on the market that I’d trust to do the job for the Otus ZE. With some cheap EF to E (former NEX) adapters, you just loose the aperture control. (At the time of this writing) I’m really astonished that those are even on the market. Who for heavens sake would settle for only being able to shoot wide open? Then there are adapters that provide build in aperture blades. Neglecting the aperture system of the lens, those adapters offers an “ersatz” set aperture blades… ? I never tried one of those, and I never will, because, for sure, the character of your lens’ bokeh will be lost. So everything else but the Metabones is definitely a no-go for the ZE, IMO. Luckily the Metabones works really well (with one restriction – I’ll come to that later). It transmits all necessary electronic data perfectly back and forward. BTW, (at the moment of this writing and to my knowledge) there is no adapter on the market that does the same job for the ZF.2, so there’s no data exchange, no lens Exif data available, no lens control from the body, although, in case of the ZF.2, that’s not really dramatic, since the aperture can be set on the lens. To finish this off, all ZF.2 controls (Nikon-style) work in reverse to what I’m used to, which I thought can be confusing sometimes. Concerning the weight, I considered the extra 60g of the ZE to be not really important, in regard to the total lens weight of around 1kg. So it’s clear that I ordered a ZE Otus and a Metabones adapter. (Recently I noticed the appearance of some other data exchanging adapters that are a lot cheaper than the Metabones. But I would be very reluctant to buy a cheap adapter for the Otus, in regard to the problems this can cause – I come to that later.)

The adapter arrived first, even before my A7r. When picking up my camera at the shop, first thing I did was mounting the adapter and putting on a Canon EF lens from the shop, to see if everything worked out alright. And it did! Flawlesly. Even the autofocus beeped and nailed. So my A7r’s DSC00001 picture is shot in full automatic mode with a Canon Zoom lens! I just went outside the shop, pointed and shot – no thinking, just pushing the button. Being a 100% manual shooter, using prime lenses solely, this must be a unicum for both my camera and myself! :-)

Later, a friend of mine lent me his Zeiss Planar 1,4/50 ZE, to compare it to my own Planar 2/50 ZM. It also offered me the opportunity to further try out my Metabones adapter, imagining how it would operate with the Otus, once it would arrive. And then I made some remarkable observations. First of all: regardless of the set aperture, the lens always stayed wide open, until the moment the release button is pushed (Canon shooters will be familiar with that). I found that very inconvenient, making it impossible to estimate the DOF in the viewfinder and not consistent at all to what I’m used to with the other lenses I have, like the Zeiss ZMs. But I knew this problem could be solved. Canon has a designated button to check the DOF, and indeed, one can program the implementation of the set aperture under one of the customizable push buttons of the A7r, to obtain this function as well. Problem solved. At least, that’s what I thought initially… The DOF is indeed veraciously visible. But when using my other prime lenses, the A7r makes it possible to check the DOF very precisely in the viewfinder, by magnifying critical zones (as a matter of fact, the EVF can magnify any zone I want). Especially when hyperfocusing, I consider this a unique and major quality – “modern manual shooting”, so to speak. And here the ZE (and all Canon EF mount lenses) cause a problem, since it’s impossible to combine closing the aperture blades to the set value (holding down the designated button) with the viewfinder magnification function (for which we need to push another button – it’s exactly the simultaneous activation of two functions that’s impossible). But again, one has tried to provide a solution. This time, Metabones did an effort by features two operation modes on their adapter: Green and Advanced. First of all, it’s not evident to know of those modes, since there comes no manual with the package, nor is there any mentioning that the manual can be found on the Metabones website. If you’re interested in it, you can find it here: http://www.metabones.com/article/of/green-power-save-mode. The adapter is set to Green mode by default, featuring an operation as described above.

The activation of the Advanced mode is very simple: mount the adapter, switch the camera power on and mount the lens on the adapter, while holding down the “wide open” button of the adapter. In Advanced mode, the lens blades will always directly adjust to the set aperture. So there’s no longer need to activate two functions at the same time, which indeed ensures the detailed checking of the DOF in VF magnification mode. Still there remains a serious handicap with respect to the ZF.2 version, since the ZE doesn’t allow finetuning of the DOF while monitoring in magnification mode. That is, in VF magnification mode, the wheel with which you set the diafragm gets another function, namely moving the magnified zone to the left and right. Maybe Sony will eventually come up with a software upgrade to fix this, but that’s not a certainty of course. So what is the exact difference ? Both versions offer the detailed checking of the DOF in VF magnification mode. But with the ZE, this is done in a static way: set the aperture and magnify to check. If you wanna change, leave the magnification mode, set a different aperture and check again. With the ZF.2 on the other hand, you can do this in a direct interactive way: go to VF magnification mode and determine the DOF by fine tuning the aperture ring on the lens, while monitoring the changes in the VF. Fast, simple and accurate. IMO the ZE version makes a lot of detours to end up with a crippled functionality. And on top of it, it’s pretty battery consuming, since every change of aperture requires battery power.

Anyway, at this moment, it’s a no-go for me, and I guess the ZE will never enthuse me. I really can’t think of any real advantage that a body set aperture has – not one. I consider Exif-data interesting, but not really vital (although I’d welcome a Novoflex ZF.2 adapter with electronic signal transmission to remind me of the set aperture) and I look upon aperture setting on the body as an unnecessary detour. But interactively fine tuning the DOF to precision on the other hand, I consider that to be a vital operation for “modern manual shooting”, especially when using a hi-res lens on a hi-res sensor. (No OVF offers this possibility. That’s one of the reasons why I believe that the EVF has the future.)

So I changed my Otus order to a ZF.2 version, bought a Novoflex NEX/NIK adapter with tripod collar (necessary IMO) and put my Metabones for sale. Yes, I’ll have to live with the inverse settings and mounting of the “Nikon-style” lens, but hey, there’s no ideal world, is there…

Furthermore, choosing the ZF.2 has even more advantages. The possibility to mount a tripod collar on the adapter improves the camera’s balance on the tripod, since the tripod base plate of the collar protrudes a few cm. The Metabones has a tripod base too, but this one is positioned closer to the body, changing the balance. And when shooting OOH, you can’t remove this plate, which “scratched” my left hands fingers from time to time (nothing serious really, but still…). Another point: when using the Otus, I like to mount the vertical grip on the body (which is a no-go in combination with the Metabones, because it inhibits any upwards tilting). This grip substantially contributes to improve the balance of the lens/body combination. I’ve read in several reviews that the Otus would not really be suitable for the A7r, for reasons of unbalance when OOH shooting. I strongly disagree! (See hereunder in the “Balance” chapter.) Just buy the vertical grip and you’ll experience a completely different story. I know some criticized the A7r’s ergonomics, the knobs not being positioned in the places where they expected them. But isn’t that just a matter of getting used to it? I know that’s how it worked for me. And of course, some thorough consideration, about where to program the functions you always wanna keep at hand, helps a lot. What I like about the A7r is that it offers all the possibilities to work without having to pass through the menu and that I can blindly find all the functions I need.

Oh yeah, last advantage of my choice for the ZF.2 version: it gives me the instant overview of focal distance, aperture and DOF scale with a single glance on the lens – as traditional primes do and as it should IMO (I’m old fashioned in that department). This is shown in my picture “Aperture on lens” below:

1.Aperture on lens

Why the Otus?

Why should any A7r owner buy the Otus anyway? Well, I can only tell you why I bought it.

Since the time Leica launched its M8, I started dreaming of it and later of the M9. I also could see very interesting lenses being reviewed for those cameras. Now I don’t easily sell my lenses, since good ones can virtually last a lifetime, and it’s the glass above all that determines the character of the image (next to the photographer of course). Some of those reviewed lenses were very appealing to me indeed, but most of them crazy expensive. First of all I think of the Noctilux and Summilux. The latter, being a lot less expensive, was still a no-go for me, regarding it’s price/performance relation. I found a much healthier relation offered by Zeiss, still being of top level (sometimes even outperforming Leica IMO) but being sold for 2 to 3 times less money. It’s clear I went for Zeiss.

The first reports on the Otus immediately pulled me over. Here was a lens that outperforms all my former dream-lenses and is still payable – with some effort admittedly (but that’s a personal matter). That’s my motivation, plain and simple.

The Otus Image Quality

From the very first reports, literally everybody that tried this lens was somewhere between impressed and flabbergasted by its IQ. What I read was that it performs close to perfection for all criteria, at all apertures and in the whole picture up to the extreme corners. The superlatives were flying around. It has the finest detail in all apertures and throughout the whole image, (close to) no flare, no distortion, no CA, incredible micro contrast, the smoothest bokeq (front and hind equally). Read the reviews for all the details… The comments of the reviewers are that homogeneous that I couldn’t but believe them. And having a more than 50 years experience with Zeiss myself, it only allowed me to be even more confident. So I really immediately ordered without any doubt.

But the question is: now that I’ve got it, does it live up to my expectations? Short answer: indeed it does, in every way! I had been searching for all possible Otus pictures online, but still, looking at the first images that I shot myself, really made my jaw drop. I spend minutes, looking at all details on all places, trying to absorb what I saw. Yes, this was really happening! No anomalies in whatever parameter. Detail and (micro) contrast like I’ve never seen before in my pictures. No need for sharpening. An incredibly soft bokeh, with super smooth transitions, especially when setting the sharpening to zero. And the bokeh is of an equal beauty in front and behind the focus point. Do I need to say more? Well, I’ll try: think of anything you want and the Otus will probably outperform any FF lens you know.

Combined with the A7r, the files offer not only tremendous detail, they are very workable as well. Not that you need to process them a lot, but you can, if you wanna go for a certain image that you have in mind. Of course the sensor has a huge participation herein. In “Glass Doll”, I wanted to emphasize the green color in the glass.

2.Glass doll

I literally pushed every relevant parameter in RAW conversion to the limit (really to the max), just to see how far I could go. And the result still remains very credible IMO. Notwithstanding the very fierce processing, the bokeh and the color transitions remain a treat for the eyes. This one was shot at f/1.4 and the focusing took half a minute or so, to have it exactly on and equally divided amongst the eye, noose and mouth of the doll. The full size version is available on my flickr page (http://www.flickr.com/photos/keepnitgood/12444908724/sizes/o/in/photostream/) – I advise you to look at it to really see what’s going on with the color transitions and the details in the glass. All of a sudden, all the tiny faults in the glass become visible in a way that refers to macro shooting. The small focal distance, close to the minimum of 45cm, combined with the hi-res sensor makes this happen.

The Otus is specially conceived for hi-res sensors. So the detail is really important. That’s why I wanted to apply this detail in some of my pictures. In “Bicyclist under trees” I hyperfocused, wanting to get everything sharp, from closest to farthest object.

3.Bicyclist under trees

Hyperfocusing with a 55mm lens is far from obvious, the DOF getting considerably smaller with this focal lenght. A Zeiss sales manager told me: “I wouldn’t buy this lens that much for hyperfocusing purposes.” But personally, I believe it’s really possible, although this requires a very precise focus setting. The detail remains at such a high level throughout the whole field, that IMO it is absolutely possible to hyperfocus with the Otus. The EVF of the A7r, that combines checking the DOF (the amount of detail) in focus magnification really helps in this case. (I don’t wanna work without EVF anymore!) I absolutely wanted to try hyperfocusing, since this is an excellent way to get detail all over the picture, and as such to prove the exceptional quality of the Otus. Looking at this picture, you can see that even in the corners (especially obvious in the upper left and lower right corners) the IQ remains excellent and consistent.

When looking at the objects far beyond the focal point, there is still detail, but the image is unmistakably becoming a bit softer, because those objects are situated at the very end of the field, if not slightly beyond (indicated by the DOF scale). It’s still at par with most lenses at “normal” aperture, while this one was being taken at f/16. In this picture, I really pushed the hyperfocal possibilities to the limit, by focusing at around 7m. On flickr you can get a 100% image, for you to really see what I’m talking about. (http://www.flickr.com/photos/keepnitgood/12294747935/sizes/o/in/photostream/) I thought the detail, especially in the branches on the left, is flat out amazing.

I guess IQ is best experienced when shooting yourself, because everybody is used to get a certain IQ level, when opening his own pictures out of camera. You never now what kind of processing was done on somebody else’s picture, but when looking with a fresh eye at your own shots, you can more easily compare. I can honestly say, that I was really deeply impressed when looking at the first shots of my A7r, but I was flat out flabbergasted when looking at the first shots of my Otus. And what I absolutely wanna emphasize on, is how workable those Otus/A7r files are. You can really underexpose and retrieve beautiful natural colors out of close to black zones. Also the opposite is possible: retrieving colors from over exposure. This PP can be done to a really amazing level as I never new before – not by far. Again, the sensor has a huge participation herein.

Why should any A7r owner buy the Otus? There is only one answer: for its flabbergasting image quality, especially combined with the A7r. IMO those two pair amazingly well. This combination will not only deliver a top level IQ, you will also have great cropping power. “Overview” is an example hereof. Cutting off the woman from her surroundings, was an obvious choice. But since I couldn’t get any closer, I needed to crop this picture to 27,5%. Still the image remains pretty detailed. Who needs a zoom?!

4.Overview

I’d like to add something now, about the character of the Otus 1.4/55, when shooting with very large DOF. This is done by using the hyperfocal DOF technique: small aperture and (with this lens) focusing around 7m renders a picture where pretty much everything is in “acceptable focus”. To my experience, typical for Otus is that the image remains very sharp with a defined but still gentle transition to blur in front of the focus point, and that it renders a bit of softness in the farthest zone of the field, while still retaining a lot of detail. As a result of this character (razor sharp detail versus a bit softer detail), the Otus can render an amazing 3D separation, even when applying the widest possible DOF and thus retaining detail all over the picture. This was definitely a very pleasant surprise to me, literally granting an extra dimension to the picture. I had always thought that, to obtain a good separation, one needed to shoot with larger apertures, but Otus expanded the boundaries here. In “Forest, canal and factory”, you can see what I mean, the trees and bushes really popping out of the background.

5.Forest, canal and factory

I’d like to add something now, about the character of the Otus 1.4/55, when shooting with very large DOF. This is done by using the hyperfocal DOF technique: small aperture and (with this lens) focusing around 7m renders a picture where pretty much everything is in “acceptable focus”. To my experience, typical for Otus is that the image remains very sharp with a defined but still gentle transition to blur in front of the focus point, and that it renders a bit of softness in the farthest zone of the field, while still retaining a lot of detail. As a result of this character (razor sharp detail versus a bit softer detail), the Otus can render an amazing 3D separation, even when applying the widest possible DOF and thus retaining detail all over the picture. This was definitely a very pleasant surprise to me, literally granting an extra dimension to the picture. I had always thought that, to obtain a good separation, one needed to shoot with larger apertures, but Otus expanded the boundaries here. In “Forest, canal and factory” above, you can see what I mean, the trees and bushes really popping out of the background.

Why not a faster lens than a f/1.4?

I have been fantasizing about a Leica Noctilux for years, I have even been very close to buying an SLR Magic Hyperprime T0.95 and I reckon I’m not the only one. I guess many would have liked Zeiss as well to come up with such a hyper fast lens, for them to “play in the same league”. But I have only seen pictures shot with those hyper fast lenses of at most 24MP. By stepping up from the NEX-7 (24MP) to the A7r, I experienced that with a 36MP sensor (let alone even more MPs in the future), focusing at f/1,4 becomes extremely critical – the more with the hyper detailed Otus. I guess Zeiss regarded it as useless to go any faster, in any case, that’s exactly how I feel it, now that I own and shoot with the Otus.

6.Bicycle parking

In pictures like “Bicycle parking” (above), a typical OOH street shot, where the moving subject obliges you to focus fast and constantly readjust, it’s extremely difficult to nail the focus perfectly. I took four shots of this girl, trying to catch the most significant moment, but only in half of them I nailed the focus to what I consider an acceptable level, when looking at full size, that is. I was pretty pleased with this one, beautifully illustrating the scene, but as a matter of fact, the focus is perfect on the handle bars of the bike and “acceptable” on the girls face. I would rather have it the other way round, but if I would be that demanding, my percentage of keepers would drop dramatically. I have to say, it’s only when looking at 100% that one can see the difference in focus quality, but if you don’t look in that much a detail, what’s the use of using the Otus anyway? (Yes, I know, there’s a lot more to the Otus than just the detail, but still we can’t disregard it.) All in all, with a f/0.95 lens of this optical quality, combined with a 36MP sensor, I guess nailing the focus in this kind of circumstances would be a matter of sheer luck…

Even to exactly nail the focus on a still subject at f/1.4, the Otus requires an extremely careful and precise setting, regarding how quick the blur occurs (again, when looking at 100%), to the extend that I absolutely wonder if I would even want to use any faster glass, and, in regard of the wonderful 3D separation and the absolutely gorgeous bokeh of the Otus, if there’s really anything further to gain. When I think of how much bigger and (even more important) how much heavier such a f/0.95 lens would be, provided that Zeiss would want to obtain the same optical quality, there’s no way that I would have even considered for a second to buy such a lens. I really don’t want to carry and handle a standard focal length lens of >2kg! You think I exaggerate? Just think of the Noctilux being more than twice as heavy as the Summilux… BTW, such a lens would probably sell for about double the price. So it’s a no-go on all fronts. But most importantly, I truly believe that the gain would be of very little use, if not virtually nonexistent because of it being next to impossible to exploit. And if Zeiss was to produce a f/0.95 lens of about the same size, weight and price of the Otus, in addition to the present 1.4/55, the choice would go between a significantly better optical quality in the 1.4/55 version, versus a very questionable gain of speed in the f/0.95 version. As far as I’m concerned, I’m absolutely happy with the choices Zeiss made and I’m 100% “cured” from my “hyper fast lens fever”. :-)

Another few words on the Bicycle Parking picture. I slid the sharpening in the RAW converter back to 0% and didn’t use any unsharp mask, preferring to preserve the hyper smooth bokeh and grain, which would always become harsher when adding even the smallest amount of sharpening or unsharp mask. I really would like you to go watch this picture on my flickr page in full size version, to appreciate the quality of grain and bokeh that this lens renders. To my taste, although the background buildings make for pretty nervous and busy surroundings, the grain and transitions are still from an utterly butter-smooth quality as I’ve never seen before and, what’s even more exceptional, this counts for both front and hind bokeh to the same extend. In the places where the focus is perfect, the detail is absolutely impressive, until recently pretty unthinkable at f/1.4. Still, there is indeed a tiny slight degree of softness here, where at smaller apertures the Otus becomes bitingly sharp. But IMO this slight softness is absolutely desirable when going for bokeh. To conclude about this picture, this wasn’t an attempt to realize the most spectacular shallow DOF – the focus distance was way to long for that – rather than it was to 3D-separate the subject and realize a beautiful bokeh, while still transmitting information of the surroundings. This is how I prefer to use shallow DOF. Oh yeah, this picture was first cropped to 88% and than (obviously) cropped to square, which diminishes the shallow DOF effect to some extend. But I’m not one who’s really into pursuing the most spectacular shallow DOF, merely for the sake of the “effect”.

It’s also important to look at the 100% size picture (flickr), to see how shallow the DOF really becomes, when shooting with the Otus on a 36MP sensor – or in other words, how early the blur occurs, when looking in full detail. Looking at 100%, you’ll see how precarious the focusing becomes (compare the handle bars and the face) and you’ll probably agree that f/1.4 really is the widest meaningful aperture.

The issues

No concept is without issues. No camera serves every purpose. No lens pleases every photographer. So how do I deal with the most common published issues of the Otus, particularly in combination with my A7r? And do I experience some issues myself?

Here are the possible issues that I can think of and/or that I read about:

- Loosing the compact concept of the A7r.

- Adapter issues.

- Ending up with a poorly balanced camera/lens combination with poor handling.

- Early induced motion blur when shooting OOH.

- Hyper delicate focusing.

- Manual focusing only.

- No image stabilization.

- A very big, heavy and expensive lens.

Let’s look at those issues one by one.

Loosing the compact concept of the A7r

As a matter of fact, I don’t feel like loosing this. Like probably any buyer, I chose the A7r for it’s compact size and light weight, combined with its FF sensor. Steve mentioned it frequently: “With a heavy DSLR, I’d miss a lot of pictures, because 85% of the time, I’d leave it at home.” Same for me. So most of the time I have my A7r in my bag, body without vertical grip, the Zeiss Planar ZM on it and two extra lenses of different focal length as backup. Total weight around 1,6kg, bag included. That’s the weight of my wife’s purse. Camera/lens in a smaller bag (without backup lenses) will weigh around 900gr. When I go out shooting with the Otus, this will mostly be the only lens I carry, because I will more have a plan on forehand of what to shoot. Camera with grip plus lens weigh a good 1900gr. My tripod another 1300gr. Adding the bags gives me a total weight of 4,25kg. Too much to carry all the time, IMO (that’s why I have my “compact formula”), but not that much when going out on a dedicated “shooting trip”. Last situation, when going out for OOH shooting with the Otus, I carry 2,4kg with me. Still very manageable.

I often think of my A7r as a kind of chameleon. It can really adapt to any situation. So do I loose the compact concept of my camera? Not at all. I believe the A7r only offers opportunities. Whenever I wanna travel light, the A7r offers me this possibility. On other times, when I wanna go for uncompromising quality, again the A7r helps me out. I don’t wanna go compact on every shoot, but whenever I want, I can. So what did I loose? Nothing. I only gained.

Adapter issues

The most important problem (that I experienced) with inferior adapters are planarity issues. No surface is perfectly plane. But if the deviation is too big, one side will focus closer then the other. So it will be impossible to focus consistently throughout the whole image. For many pictures, this will hardly be seen, but on some occasions (for instance technical or architectural pictures), you really can get into trouble. Surely, you don’t wanna ruin your Otus with a lousy cheap adapter. So my advice is not to economize on the adapter and always perform test shots immediately after buying. Personally, I’ve put my trust in Novoflex adapters. I even tried putting two on top of each other (NEX-M and M-FD) and then shooting a flat surface positioned perpendicular in regard to the lens. I shot with the Canon FD 1,4/50mm wide open, to induce the blur as early as possible, focused on one corner and I could not observe any irregularity in how blur occurred in the four corners. This was not a scientific test, but it was good enough for me. I’m sure that Novoflex stays way below acceptable tolerances. Still, testing every new purchase remains mandatory IMO.

Another adapter issue is that often the adapter makes the lens to focus beyond infinite. But the Zeiss engineers themselves conceived the Otus to focus beyond infinite, to oblige the photographer to carefully focus in all circumstances. So can we really talk about an issue here? Not regarding it having percussions on the focusing process anyway. But if the shift is too big (which was the case with some cheap adapters I’ve tried), you’ll lose a considerable part of your closest focal distance. And again, that’s a no-go.

Conclusion: don’t economize on the adapter(s).

Balance

First thing I thought when I started shooting the Otus was: this is a lens for tripod use! So let’s talk about that first.

Until I got the Otus 1.4/55, my “personal” photography (that is: for personal use, just for fun, the shots that were not mentioned for our publications) was almost all shot OOH. But I knew from what I read that with the Otus, I’d want a tripod. So I bought a new one, since the one we use for product shooting is much to heavy to carry. Now I have to admit that my experience with tripods “on the road” was non-existent. After reading some articles and talking with a few guys, I bought a Sirui lightweight one (1310gr, ballhead included). But a few days later, when commenting on an editorial online, I started to doubt wether or not I made the right choice, after someone said he was sorry that I didn’t buy a really good and more stable tripod, like a Gitzo. That was even before the Otus arrived. So to check it out, I mounted a Canon FD 200mm tele with 2x-A Extender on my A7r, to get a weight that matched the Otus and I shot the same images with the Sirui tripod and a heavy Benbo. Looking at 100%, indeed I saw some slight but still noticeable motion blur with the Sirui – about half of what I got when shooting OOH. But then I thought of the hook, at the bottom of the central pole, and attached my bag to it to increase the weight, in an attempt to enhance stabilization. And it did the job: the motion blur was gone. Since I didn’t want to spend another €1500 or so at this time, after the €3500 for the Otus, I planned to stick to the Sirui and just use my bag as extra weight.

7.Tripod balance

But then I got the Otus. And since I bought the ZF.2 version, I use the dedicated Novoflex collar, attached on the adapter of the same brand, to mount the camera/lens on the tripod. This collar provides a mounting point a few cm further away from the camera body. And to my pleasant surprise, when also mounting the vertical grip to the body (which I always do when using the Otus), I got nothing less than a perfect balance from this camera/lens combination. Even with the clamping knobs completely loosened (hold your breath!), the camera stays perfectly horizontal, thus in absolute balance. My picture “Tripod balance” shows the camera on the tripod with completely loosened clamping knobs, the camera still not falling aside. This perfect balance has two consequences: 1) the framing can easily and quickly be performed to perfection, since there is no more movement whatsoever after tightening the clamping knob, and 2) the weight is equally distributed amongst the three legs, increasing the stability and as such eliminating motion blur even without hanging extra weight to the central pole hook. Conclusion: chances are real that I will never have to buy a €1000+ tripod. I simply don’t see where it could improve my performance. Oh, and when comparing tripod work between the A7r and a traditional DSLR (like the D800): since you’ll mount the DSLR with the body on the tripod, instead of via a collar, the weight of the Otus (1kg!) will cause some serious unbalance, compared to the A7r. So I guess the advantage clearly goes to the A7r in this department.

After a week or two of tripod work, I felt the urge growing, to use the Otus for OOH shooting as well. In the articles that I read, there were quite some questions put, regarding OOH shooting with the Otus on the A7r. Those made me reluctant to shoot OOH for some time. But like I said, the urge was growing.

Anyway, in the meanwhile, I removed the tripod collar, because its long tightening screw really sits in the way of the right hand fingers, when shooting OOH. If you’d wanna go back and forward between tripod and OOH shooting, you can also twist the collar to the left, to move it out of the way of your fingers. BTW, twisting the color gave me the idea to use this position for vertical framing on tripod as well, since as such the perfect balance on the ballhead is remained. Indeed, it can remain upright, because the 90° twist is performed by the camera within the collar.

But let’s get back to OOH shooting. When holding the camera with the right hand and using a “free” left hand for focusing (as I’m used to do with a lightweight camera/lens), the 1kg Otus makes the front really too heavy. Your right hand will get tired very quickly. I think this is a no-go. The balance is absolutely lost. Already after a very short while, it will be very hard to hold the camera still and you will induce motion blur very quickly, needing even faster shutter times. In short: your performance will suffer from it. A 36MP sensor already asks for a faster shutter speed, since the motion blur is earlier induced – that’s a fact. Coming from the 24MP NEX-7, I didn’t expect this to be that prominent, but It’s as if a threshold has been taken: I really need to set the shutter speed faster. Of course, when reducing the resolution of the picture in PP, I can shoot with the same speeds as before, but with an A7r, you wanna use its full abilities at least sometimes, don’t you. So the faster shutter speed becomes a reality at that point. When using an A7r with a lightweight lens like a Zeiss Planar ZM, resulting in a mere 720gr for the camera/lens combination, it’s not easy to hold everything stable. One simply needs to shoot with extra care. But when mounting a hyper precise, super detailed lens like the Otus, that ads 1kg front weight, you might expect it to get worse. But as a matter of fact the weight will help a lot, if you carry it with your left hand. I did some experimenting with holding technique and got some extra-ordinary results.

8.Left hand balance

Having never been afraid of exploring new paths, I experimented with alternative ways of holding the camera, to tackle the weight and balance issues. And it didn’t take me long to find out the most stable way to hold the camera – it almost came to me spontaneously. The Otus has large fixed zones, that can easily be used to hold and support the camera+lens. I have the A7r handgrip rested on the cushion of my hand palm, near my wrist. My thumb supports the fixed ring between focus and aperture. My index finger points forward and supports the lens, centrally below the front end. My middle finger is located at the right side on the focus ring. My ring finger holds on to the same fixed ring as my thumb. And my little finger is on the aperture ring. Middle and little finger can operate their respective rings. Zeiss has coated those rings with the exact covering material (and provided a butterly smooth yet perfect feedback giving operation) to be set easily with one finger. Of course the focus can only be fine tuned in this way, since it features a 270° turn from min to max. But it’s exactly the fine focusing that’s really delicate and takes extra care, right before pushing the release button, so that works out perfectly. A 270° turn is large indeed, but IMO that’s what’s absolutely needed, to offer enough “play” when fine focusing this lens at f/1.4! Also the aperture doesn’t need more than to be fine-tuned, when looking through the viewfinder, that is: I only might want to adjust the DOF very slighty at that point. Anyway, holding the camera in this way provides an absolutely exceptional stability, the index finger playing a crucial role, by supporting the very front of the lens and the whole camera resting on one stable surface. You absolutely don’t need to “grab” the camera – it’s just lying relaxed and comfortably in your left hand. And with your elbow resting on your chest, you barely need to use any muscle power to hold it, and your hand has a direct connection with your body.

My picture “Left hand balance” (above) shows you how the camera is lying in my left hand. You’ll use your right hand for operation of all functions (except for focus and aperture) – all knobs of the A7r are very conveniently located at the right side of the body for that matter, except the menu button, that you never have to use during shooting, since every function that you need can be programmed under the customizable buttons. And of course the right hand also provides extra safety, should anybody give you an unexpected push. Thanks to this really exceptional stability and balance, you only need to use very little muscle power and wont get tired that soon. Muscle power induces instability, hence motion blur. No muscle power means relaxation. Relaxation means stability, hence absence of motion blur. As a matter of fact, the size (enabling a large support surface) and weight (largely contributing to the stability without becoming too heavy) of the Otus/A7r (with grip) have become big advantages as far as OOH shooting is concerned. Of coarse it’s still a considerable weight that you’re holding. And after several minutes staying in the same position without moving, some tension will arise. But it’s very rare to stay unmoved that long.

An unexpected stroke of luck: while my hand has a reverse position (thumb to the left) with this lens in comparison to its position with other lenses (thumb to the right), there’s actually no other technique needed, to set focus and aperture, neutralizing the “inverse Nikon-style”. Streching my middle finger results in focusing closer in both cases, pulling it back moves the focus point further towards infinite.

Shooting out of hand at 1/10 sec!

I can understand you being skeptical when reading this. Therefore I wanted to give you some kind of proof and I wanted to push it to the limit. My “Selfie” was shot in manual mode in front of a mirror, giving you proof that it’s absolutely an OOH shot.

9.Selfie

I’ve also put this picture on my flickr pages, in full resolution, with published Exif data. Please check it to verify. You’ll notice that this is indeed a 1/10s shot, with the Otus mounted on the 36MP A7r. Pretty amazing, isn’t it. Please click on the link to choose the full size 36MP file. This is a converted RAW file with zero sharpening applied. I only flipped this picture 180° to get rid of the mirror image. I focused on the text at the bottom of the lens. And as a matter of fact, the lens front is the only thing in focus in the whole picture, whereby the in focus area is that small, that it almost seems as if the whole picture is blurred. Still, what I wanted to show here was the extreme balance of the camera and so I chose one precisely defined focus point, with zero margin for error. In this case, you absolutely must look at 100% to even notice that there really is something in perfect focus. The extreme shallow DOF, due to the f/1.4 aperture, makes the blur set in very quickly. So the stability of the camera was not only required in left/right and up/down directions, but also in back/forward. OK, on tripod, the result would probably have been yet even a bit better. Still, to my eye, this is a pretty good OOH shot – as good as it gets. But remember, this one was shot at 1/10s. Needless to say that this would be plain impossible if the A7r/Otus combination would offer less than a perfect OOH balance. I wonder (and even doubt) if this can be improved by the D-800E/Otus combination. So in this department, I guess the A7r is at least at par with the best DSLRs. I rest my case.

Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not saying that 1/10s is a normal OOH shutter speed for the A7r/Otus, because it isn’t. What I’m saying is that, with the right technique, this camera/lens combination provides an exceptional balance, otherwise I could impossibly have succeeded in taking this shot. What I’m also saying is, that, where one expects to need faster shutter speeds, due to the hi-res sensor and hyper precise lens, one can actually work with “normal” speeds and even go slower. When applying a minimum of care, I consider 1/30s as a normal feasible shutter speed for this combination. I took my first Selfie-testshots in aperture priority mode. I operated very carefully and succeeded from the first shot, which appeared to be taken at 1/13s. That’s when I thought; let’s push this to the limit. So I switched to Manual mode, kept the aperture at f/1.4 and set the shutter speed at 1/10. I missed the first two shots and realized that I needed to hold the release button longer, beyond the moment of the shutter’s closing. Keeping it down gave me my third picture, the one you can see. BTW, the A7r release button helps a lot for this kind of shots. It has a very soft action, without resistance point – some call it “spongy” and that’s correct. For many applications, one could prefer more definition, but for this kind of use, it’s absolutely a benefit. Furthermore, and this is IMO, for normal “action” shots (in my case that’s mostly candid people shooting) the shutter release button requires some habituation, but isn’t problematic at all.

Delicate focusing

This is absolutely the matter. This lens/sensor combination reveals every detail, as no other FF does (the D800E does as well, of course). Result: when looking in 100% size (and again, you need to do this – where would you otherwise use this combination for), the out-of-focus is induced quite a bit earlier than what we were used to. Of course, with smaller apertures the margin gets bigger, but as you approach the f/1.4 it really gets tough. And wide open, even on a tripod, you need to proceed with great care. The viewfinder magnification function is no unnecessary luxury in this.

Yet I need to add that when shooting for “normal” formats (using less MP), the focusing can be done as easy and fast as with any other lens. And with the A7r EVF, you don’t need any special assistance. In the parts that are in focus, the EVF produces an almost overly sharp image. It’s difficult to describe, but when you’d try it, you’d notice immediately what I mean. With some experience, you even don’t really need the focus peaking anymore for those shots, let alone the VF magnification. But as I said, at large apertures, with very shallow DOF, and at full resolution, it’s another story. The focusing becomes absolutely very delicate.

Manual focusing only

I’m a MF guy. So I can’t really compare with AF systems. But I read in different reviews, that AF is not always absolutely precise on a 36MP sensor. Another statement I remember was that the EVF of the A7r does a better job in focusing than the OVF of the D800E. That, and my own focusing experience with the Otus, makes me understand why Zeiss chose to make it a manual focus lens. I guess with (today’s) AF systems, it’s not possible to set the focus to the same level of precision as one can perform manually. For instance in “Glass Doll”, I wonder how an AF system would manage to determine the exact in focus zone where I wanted it (eye, nose and lips).

Moreover, Zeiss has a vast tradition in manufacturing MF lenses. And personally, that’s exactly what I want.

No image stabilization

This is my personal opinion. After reading the “Shooting out of hand at 1/10 sec” chapter, you’ll understand that I really don’t care the Otus not having any image stabilization. Nor the A7r for that matter. I’ve never been missing or wanting it. But I can absolutely get that some people would’t wanna shoot without it. So this is a personal matter. This lens is not for them. Nevertheless I still think that one should work on improving his shooting skills first. But, OK, this is not my domain of experience.

A very big, heavy and expensive lens

I heard the rumor that Zeiss developed the Otus as if it were a medium format lens. In that way, by cropping the corners of the image, we’d get rid of the zones with less than optimal performance. I don’t know if this is really true, but I guess all lenses follow the same optical laws, performing less in the corners. So it makes sense to me: if you want your lens to perform optimally in the corners, you need to crop – which makes you end up with a bigger and heavier lens.

And if you want an image that’s (virtually) free of distortion, you need to correct the image internally. This means more glass elements (12 in the Otus 1.4/55). Again: bigger and heavier.

There are no miracles in optics, I guess. Only choices and consequences. If you want a smaller lens, settle with less perfect performance. I do anyway, when I wanna go compact. I surely don’t always need the Otus performance. But I have to admit, it’s tempting and it’s kind of addictive. It’s inspirational too.

Then the price. Is it expensive? Sure it is! But is it crazy expensive? Sure it isn’t! Being less expensive than the 50mm Leica M Summilux, let go the Apo-Summicron or Noctilux that double and triple it’s price and that the Otus still optically outperforms(!), I guess we gotta stay reasonable concerning the price. To all that criticize its price, I can only say: what do you expect anyway?

I’d say the Otus is not cheap at all, but still it’s absolutely very attractively priced. I love Zeiss for that.

What to shoot with the Otus

What I wanna tell you in this last chapter is about the considerations I made, when starting to shoot with the Otus – considerations about what kind of images to shoot, about how to select the subjects.

This is the best lens in the world, so obviously, my pictures should have to show it, no? Since the subject is the most important element of any picture, I started thinking about what kind of subjects would prove those exceptional Otus qualities. This made me shoot mainly at f/1.4 and f/16 initially, because at the widest and narrowest apertures, Otus still renders exceptional detail, where normally we’d expect a lens to get a lot softer. Another matter, that kept me busy, was how to show that this detail is rendered all over the image, not only at widest and narrowest apertures but also in the corners. And then there is the matter of the incredible micro contrast. And the lack of distortion, flare, etc… To make a long story short, finding “Otus-worthy” subjects quickly became a worrisome task.

But then I thought of how I always have compared musicians, that merely show off their technique, with a circus act (“look what I can do!”) – impressive, but having not much to do with music. Since, as a matter of fact, my professional education has been in music, it always helps my photography to think of comparable situations in music. All of a sudden, I realized that I absolutely don’t have to show off the Otus’ superiority. Whatever lens is used, one rather just needs to think about the picture, and how to shoot it in the best possible way, but not about how to come up with the most “virtuoso” images, using this exceptional lens. That would only have a paralyzing effect and stand in the way of creativity. From that moment on, I felt kind of liberated an relieved. I could use all apertures again in regard of the most favorable DOF and not regarding the “applause” I’d get for the “stunning technicality” of the picture. Every Otus image would already have a superior quality, compared to what I would have gotten, should I have used another lens. Thinking about this lens in this way, makes me absolutely enjoy every shot, also the most simple and modest ones, and makes me use it without restraint whenever I feel like it. In every picture, I see the extra that is contributed by the lens, as I also did, when upgrading from the NEX-7 to the A7r.

Besides that, this lens/camera combination is particularly appropriate for large format printing and extreme cropping, two things that for most of today’s photographers are pretty exceptional. Still, as I said, owning and enjoying one myself, I simply use it, whenever I feel for it and whenever its focal length makes sense – as I do with all my lenses. It’ll never let me down when I employ in that way.

My overall conclusion

The A7r absolutely offers the widest variety of lens/body combinations amongst FF camera’s on the market today (surely for MF shooters that are not afraid of buying some good-quality adapters). Of all those combinations, the A7r/Otus is probably the most extreme concerning size and weight, since in that department, they differ the most (which can be harmonized by mounting the grip on the A7r). Still, both have pretty much all other characteristics in common. It’s not the case, but when combining them, it surely feels as if they were meant for one another. Indeed, this turned out to be a very workable combination for me, one that not only offers the summit in IQ, it’s also surprisingly well balanced, as well on tripod as in the hand. Thanks to the latter, and with the right technique, one can shoot OOH at surprisingly slow shutter speeds, significantly slower than average. So the Otus performs wonderfully great on the A7r, but this is no “plug-and-play” lens. You need to know what you’re doing and if you wanna exploit it fully, you need to proceed with great care.

The Otus 1.4/55 is not cheap, but still it’s very competitively prised. (Same counts for the A7r, BTW.) This lens is not compact at all, but still it’s a tremendous joy to use, because it’s so well made. It really feels good to operate and it’s so extremely rewarding regarding IQ, the more in combination with the A7r, that it easily becomes an addiction.

That’s more than enough for me!

(There are some more pictures hereunder. You can look at all pictures in bigger size in a dedicated set on flickr, by clicking on http://www.flickr.com/photos/keepnitgood/sets/72157641276669365/)

Thanks for reading, guys! I hope you enjoyed it.

Art Center at the Canal

B.Waldmin

Bed and breakfast

Early spring at the canal

Front leaves

Hard Rock Beauty

Kitchen Still Life

So many windows

Train and bicycle

Tree bark

Two ships

Two worlds

You missed something

There are more Zeiss Otus images in Steve’s A7 and A7r review HERE.

Apr 082014
 

tt

Year of the Alpha – 52 Weeks of Sony Alpha Photography

by Toni Ahvenainen

Introduction

My name is Toni Ahvenainen and I am a 37 years old photography enthusiast who works as a graphics and web designer in Finland. I bought my first own digital camera, Sony Nex-5N, about two years ago and was immediately bitten by a photo bug. During my first year I took over 26,000 pictures, but as much as I liked it, after year and a half I found myself going in circles. I felt I was taking same pictures repeatedly and that there wasn’t anything new to shoot. I could take a couple of interesting shots every now and then, but never found a real reason to do it, because I didn’t have any meaningful place to put them – even in my hard drive I never found appropriate folder name for them. In short, I had locked myself inside my own perception and I needed to find a new direction to my photography.

Late 2013 I decided that the year 2014 would be my year of photography, in which I would concentrate in developing my own photographic eye and also get some publicity to my work. With some planning and inspiration from various ’365 days’ projects I decided to put up a similar photo blog. After couple of months of hard work Year of the Alpha – 52 Weeks of Sony Alpha Photography’ was born and I started my year of photography at January 1st (and will end it at 31st December). So far it has surpassed all my expectations. In first month my photo blog gathered over 40,000 page views, which is quite nice considering that couple of months ago I was just taking pictures on my own and never sharing them with anyone. I’ve also received so much encouraging and positive comments from friendly photographers that it has really affected me deeply. Starting a photo blog has really been a magic carpet ride for me and my photography.

In this article I will introduce my photo blog and share some of the photographs I’ve taken during the first three months. I will also discuss some methods and ideas I’ve found useful while trying to develop my photography. I hope it will be an inspiring read because one of my goals has been to share inspiration with others.

What is Year of the Alpha?


Year of the Alpha – 52 Weeks of Sony Alpha Photography’ is a photo blog where I share my work on a weekly basis at least two images per week and often more. Name of my the blog refers to Sony Alpha brand (no affiliation with Sony corporation) and with this conscious choice as I’m searching for followers who use Sony Alpha photography equipment – but as photography is pretty universal I believe anyone can enjoy it. Chronologically Year of the Alpha is divided into five seasons. With every season I will explore a different theme, all of which are attached to my subjective taste and perception of photography. So far only the first season has been completed. Season of Blackness concentrated on lo-key photography with creative edge and most of the photographs you see here are from that season.

You can find my photo blog here: http://www.yearofthealpha.com

As I said earlier, Year of the Alpha has surpassed all my expectations. I’m mostly surprised about the way it has triggered my creative spot and make me take photographs I never dreamed of before. It’s been a good start and since it’s all about sharing inspiration, here’s what I’ve learned so far.

1. Being able to create photographs continuously is a state of mind 
When I started my endeavor the first thing came to my mind was, how I’m going to find something meaningful to shoot every week continuously for full year. It takes a fair bit of commitment to keep on working with your photography for full year and that’s what the most people are afraid with similar photography projects. Before I started I had, like everyone else, different concerns regarding why it might be difficult to find anything to shoot. You know the story, it’s the lack of ideas and inspiration, bad weather and lighting conditions, mundane close environment, not enough time, bad camera gear etc. Now when I look back after three months of shooting, I’ve come to realize that these reasons are not really about circumstances, they are about state of mind.

If there is one lesson that I’ve learned so far, it is that active photography creates new opportunities and great photographs by its own weight. If you just take your camera everywhere you go and keep on shooting even when circumstances don’t seem fruitful at first sight, you’ll be amazed how much there is good photography to be made. It’s not about ‘finding good subjects or circumstances’, but expanding your own consciousness regarding what you think is good photography. Learning to find new creative possibilities is a process which will happen in one’s mind, not by acquiring new gear or just wandering about in hope of a good situation. Limitations are good, because creativity happens if it has framework which it can challenge. If there is no framework, in other words limitations, there is no creativity either. It’s a self-strengthening process, first you just need to let go of perception that there isn’t anything to shoot – there is, you just have to shoot to see it.

2. Finishing your photographs will close the feedback circuit
The second thing I’ve learned with my project is to finish my photographs. With today’s digital cameras and their massive memory storages, it’s easy to keep on shooting actively but never sit down to really look what you have done. The problem with unfinished photographs is that you are not truly engaged with your photography. Not selecting the best shot, not cropping it for best composition, not post processing it and not declaring it ‘ready’ is same as leaving your work halfway. Half-cooked pictures will not provide you enough feedback neither will they guide your learning process, because they will leave backdoor of your mind open for all kinds of excuses. 

Once I started my photo and was forced to finish my photographs properly, I quickly learned that finishing them will essentially close the feedback circuit of my own mind. After I’ve selected my shot, post processed it and declared to myself ‘it’s ready’, I can evaluate my success and failures more clearly. I would also recommend to put your finished photographs in a special place where you can see them all at once. When you see them there next to each other, you can finally start asking questions. ‘Why I like these shots better than those ones’, What’s common with most of my photographs’, etc. This kind of evaluative view over your own work will help you build up understanding of yourself as a photographer. But it requires that you have engaged with your photographs, which rarely happens if one doesn’t them finish in the first place.

3. Develop your photographic eye with goals and limits
The third thing I’ve learned with my photo blog is that I can develop my photographic eye by setting myself different tasks with goals and limits. My tasks are related to five different seasons which I’m carrying out, but they can obviously be anything from single photographs to total body of work. Setting yourself goals and limits will greatly benefit your photography. First of all, they will give you a guideline which to follow. Persistently diversified paths of endless possibilities will narrow down to something meaningful one can actually hope to realize. Having a goal makes it possible for you to plan your photography and planning means that photographs are something you make, not just randomly take from your surroundings. Secondly, the limits you impose will determine if you are succeeding or not. It’s soothing to have at least to some extent a clear indicator for succeeding. Of course you can make great pictures without limits too, but it’s easy to shoot too diverse stuff and not have a clear understanding of what makes them great in the end. Thirdly, the goals will make your work ready. They will define the stage when you’ve done your job. Without the goals defining the limits, one will easily splash across different objectives and nothing gets done to an end. And finally in the end, how you solve these tasks will shape you as a photographer. Starting a 365 days or 52 weeks project is great way to concentrate on developing your photographic eye, but one still needs to guide it with goals and limits to make most of it.

4. Anyone can do it
If I would have to raise up one thing from this lengthy article, it would be that anyone can do it. Internet opens up a new ground for creative ideas and it’s not meant just for big software developers like Flickr or 500px. It’s also a playground for single individuals who want to find new ways to refresh their photography. With all the diverse services available, one can build up their ideas and get them running very fast with very little costs. It’s been quite fascinating to see what I’ve achieved with my photo blog so far, but it’s not anything unseen before – others have done it before me and with much larger scale. In fact my photo blog was very much inspired by Italian photographer Luca Rossini, to whom I need express my gratitude for all the inspiration and help. But the bottom line is, anyone can do it.

What’s next?
I’m currently running my second season, Season of Tilt, in which I will try to guide my photography to more personal realms. Season of Tilt could be described as a psychologically tilted season which merges things from my dreams, memories and inner feelings. Name of this season also implies to Lensbaby which has been kind enough to support me with their most interesting lenses. With Season of Tilt I’ll be using exclusively Lensbaby Composer Pro with three of their most sought after optics: Double Glass, Sweet 35 and Edge 80. If interested, you might want to follow it through just to learn more about them. 

Thank you for reading my article.

Now, get inspired, create your own project and enjoy doing it!

Sony Nex-5N, SEL50F18, ISO400, f/4.0, 1/1250sec

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Sony Nex-5N, SEL50F18, ISO200, f/2.8, 1/13sec

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Sony Nex-5N, SEL50F18, ISO3200, f/4.0, 1/400sec

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Sony Nex-5N, SEL50F18, ISO640, f/1.8, 1/80sec

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Sony Nex-5N, SEL50F18, ISO100, f/6.3, 1/800sec

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Sony Nex-5N, SEL1855, ISO1600, f/11, 1/4sec

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Sony Nex-5N, SEL50F18, ISO200, f/2.8, 1/30sec

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Sony Nex-5N, SEL50F18, ISO250, f/4.0, 1/80sec

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Sony Nex-5N, Lensbaby Edge 80, ISO400, f/4.0, 0.8sec

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Sony Nex-5N, Lensbaby Edge 80, ISO100, f/2.8, 1/80sec

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Sony Nex-5N, Lensbaby Edge 80, ISO100, f/5.6, 1/1250sec

Image-11Sony Nex-5N, Lensbaby Edge 80, ISO100, f/5.6, 1/1250sec, Raw

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Apr 062014
 

SONY

The new Sony A7s brings amazing high ISO, 4K video and crazy creative possibilities!

So I have been busy all weekend with some travel (so am a couple of hours late with this) but MAN OH MAN did Sony just KILL it with the latest announcement. The new SONY A7s which will be a full frame A7 but with a 12.2 MP BRAND NEW sensor with insane crazy high ISO capabilities up to over 400,000 ISO. Imagine the possibilities…you have a nice fast lens attached, a nice small file size, no noise. Astrophotography anyone? INSANE! Low light interior? INSANE!

This new sensor will, according to Sony, offer the best dynamic range and noise performance of ANY full frame camera. Period. I love the fact that this has a 12.2 MP sensor! SMALL file sizes with RICH gorgeous tonality. I have said for years that 10MP is enough for any use, and 16 is maximum that is needed. 12.2 is sweet and should bring up the performance of this sensor. Wow. Sony did it again. I had no clue about this one, they did not even tell the press about it.

Sony is one of the most forward thinking companies out there and they have just proved it again with the new Sony A7s. Pricing and Availability is yet to be determined. I guess $1800 for the body, but it is just a guess. The A7s seems like it will be the perfect body for those who want HQ video AND images in one. Of course we will have to wait and see but I will keep you all informed as it progresses. I already told Sony I MUST have one for review when they are ready!

B&H Photo already has it listed HERE!

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ISO 50-409600

Amazingly high dynamic range

4K recording 

The “S” means “sensivity

Take a look at the official Sony video showing an example often ISO possibilities.

And the video possibilities:

and the official press release:

Sony’s α7S Full-Frame Camera Realizes a New World of Imaging Expression

Features newly developed, wide dynamic range sensor with awe-inspiring sensitivity

SAN DIEGO, April 6, 2014 – Joining the acclaimed α7 and α7R family of the world’s smallest full-frame interchangeable lens cameras1, Sony’s new α7S model puts extraordinary sensitivity, low noise and spectacular 4K video quality into the hands of professional photographers and videographers.

The innovative α7S camera features a newly developed, 12.2 effective megapixel 35mm Exmor® CMOS sensor paired with a powerful BIONZ X image processor, allowing it to shoot at a sensitivity range of ISO 50 – 4096002 with unprecedented dynamic range and low noise.

The new model is also the world’s first camera to utilize the entire width of a full-frame image sensor in 4K video acquisition, and does this without cropping or line skipping as it can read and process data from every one of the sensor’s pixels. This allows 4K video shooters to utilize all of the artistic and creative benefits provided by the unique sensor.

“The α7S gives Sony the most complete, versatile lineup of full-frame cameras in market today,” said Neal Manowitz, director of the interchangeable lens camera business at Sony Electronics. “Between the α99, VG900, RX1, α7, α7R and now α7S models, we have completely revolutionized what it means to be a ‘full-frame’ camera, bringing a new level of quality and portability to enthusiast photographers and videographers.”

Wide ISO Sensitivity (ISO 50 – 409,6002) and Impressive Dynamic Range

Sony, the world’s largest manufacturer of image sensors, has developed a unique 12.2 MP sensor with extraordinary sensitivity that allows the α7S camera to collect dramatically more light than traditional cameras and to produce beautifully detailed, low-noise images in even the darkest environments.

The camera also features a newly developed on-sensor technology that allows it to optimize the dynamic range throughout the entirety of the ISO50 – 409,600 sensitivity range. This on-sensor technology also broadens the range of tonal gradation in bright environments and minimizes noise in dark scenes, allowing the camera to deliver impressive results in these extreme conditions where other cameras (and image sensors) typically struggle.

World’s First Full-Frame Camera with Full Pixel Read-out3 (without pixel binning) during Movie Shooting

With the new α7S camera, the high-speed read out of the 35mm full-frame image sensor combined with the high-speed processing of the BIONZ X processor enables significant improvements in video quality.

These powerful components allow the camera to process data from all of the sensor’s pixels and output stunning HD and 4K (QFHD 3840 x 2160 pixels) video3 while utilizing the full-width of the sensor. In addition to the benefits for low-light shooting, the read out of all pixels frees the video from aliasing, moiré and false color artifacts (as opposed to pixel binning) to achieve the highest quality video.

Additional Pro-Quality Video Functions

In video mode, the α7S can output 4K video4 at QFHD (3840×2160) to an optional external 3rd party 4K recorder, and can record full HD (1920×1080) at frame rates of 60p, 60i, 30p and 24p directly to a compatible memory card. Video modes can be changed from full-frame to APS-C (super 35mm equivalent) if desired, and in this crop mode, the camera can support high frame rate 120fps shooting at standard HD resolution (1280 x 720p), creating a 5x slow-motion effect.

The α7S camera is also equipped with S-Log2 gamma. Common to Sony’s range of professional video cameras, S-Log2 expands the dynamic range by up to 1300% to minimize clipped highlights and loss of detail in shadows. Additionally, for the first time ever in a Sony α camera, the α7S adopts the workflow-friendly XAVC S recording format in addition to AVCHD and MP4 codecs. XAVC S format allows for full HD recording at a data rate of 50 mbps with lower compression for improved video quality.

Other specialist video functions on the new camera include a picture profile that can adjust settings like gamma, black, level and color adjustment, and can be saved for use in a multi-camera shoot. It also has Full HD and 4K base band HDMI® output, time code/user bit for easier editing, synchronous recording feature with compatible devices, various marker and zebra displays on both the LCD screen and viewfinder and can dual record XAVC S as well as MP4 (1280×720 @30p).

The camera also has a Multi-terminal interface shoe that is compatible with Sony’s XLR Adaptor Microphone Kits (XLR-K1M plus a new model under development), allowing the use of professional microphone systems.

Low-light Shooting Advantages

The high ISO sensitivity range of the α7S camera is extremely effective for still image shooting, especially in low-light conditions, where the camera can shoot at high shutter speeds while keeping noise as low as possible. This is particularly useful for shooting indoor, dimly lit sporting events or other situations where most cameras typically struggle.

The camera is also equipped with the same high-precision Fast Intelligent AF system as the α7R camera, with drastically improved low-light AF sensitivity that can go as low as -4EV.

Expanding α Mount System and New Power Zoom Lens for Movie Shooting

Directly compatible with the growing family of E-mount lenses, the α7S camera can also be used with A-mount and others lens systems with optional adapters. Sony’s complete α lens system now includes 54 total lenses for both A and E mounts, including several premium offerings from Carl Zeiss® and G Series Lenses.

As a whole, Sony’s E-mount lens system is particularly well-suited for video shooting, with a variety of models containing “movie-friendly” features like smooth focusing, powered zoom control, and silent iris/aperture control. Building on this, Sony has announced development of a brand new, full-frame power zoom 28-135mm F4 lens E-mount lens that is an ideal match for the powerful movie capabilities of the α7S model.

Pricing and availability of the α7S full-frame interchangeable lens camera will be announced at a future date. To learn more about the product in the meantime, please visit www.store.sony.com, and follow #SonyAlpha on twitter for the latest α camera news.

Mar 312014
 

P1010125

The Panasonic Leica Nocticron 42.5 f/1.2 Lens Review & Comparison

By Steve Huff

BUY THE NOCTICRON AT AMAZON HERE

BUY THE NOCTICRON AT B&H PHOTO HERE

Hey hey! It is review time again and I have been a busy man shooting this Panasonic/Leica Nocticron lens for the past two weeks and let me tell ya, it is a serious lens my friends. It is large, it is expensive, and it is FAST with an f/1.2 aperture for those “NOCTurnal” moments.

Panasonic decided to create a “statement lens” to show that Micro 4/3 users can have some fun with shallow DOF, subject isolation and 3 Dimensional POP just as much as the APS-C guys :) The only problem is that they must have forgotten that Olympus has the 45 1.8 Lens that one can now buy for $350 or so. Yep, almost the same focal length and almost as fast in the aperture department for about $1100+ less. Oops.

But is it really an Oops? I do not think so because this Nocticron is so so so good that it beats the 45 1.8 in most ways (besides size and weight and cost). Is this Panasonic jewel $1100 better? No, but the Nocticron is a lens for those who want the best of the best..the unique draw and style, a taste of a real Noctilux and yes, the LEICA name.

Indoors, a coffee shop..I raised the Panasonic GX7, aimed, and fired. F/1.2 wide open and sharp as a tac. This Nocticron offers it all. Color, contrast, sharpness, gorgeous bokeh, build and more. Click the image below for a larger and much better view. 

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It seems that some think that Leica makes this lens. They do not. It also seems that some feel Leica supplies the glass for this lens. They do not. This is a made in Japan Panasonic lens made by Panasonic. Panasonic has a deal with Leica where they use the Leica name on certain lenses because Leica helped with the design. So in reality, Leica did help with the design but the construction is all Panasonic, made in Japan.

So does the LEICA name on the front of the lens mean that this lens at least has some of that Leica mojo and magic? Previous lenses from Panasonic with the Leica name included the now legendary 25 1.4, which has been considered as the best Micro 4/3 lens available when you want that Leica look and quality. There is also been the older 45 2.8 Macro, which was astounding in the IQ department though slow to focus. Panasonic also recently announced the new 15mm f 1.7 with the Leica name and that one looks like a 100% winner at $599. A 30mm equivalent with a fast 1.7 aperture. Yummy.

After using this lens extensively I would say that YES, it does indeed have a little of that Leica look, feel and rendering..or as I call it “MoJo”. I will go a bit farther and say that this is an overall better lens that the old Leica F/1 Noctilux that sells for $6500 or so used.

Olympus E-M1 with Panasonic Nocticron at f/1.2 – IMO, nothing beats Olympus colors.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So if we look at pricing..the “PanaLeica” 25mm 1.4 is around $529. The 45 2.8 comes in at $719. The new 17 1.7 will be $599.

So why is this Nocticron nearly $1600?

Well, the real answer is because it is a costly design AND an amazing performing lens and as I said earlier, a Statement piece from Panasonic. Panasonic will not sell loads of these due to the cost and the fact that it is really a specialty lens. So they can not spend millions to design and create it only to sell it for $500! Even the old 45 2.8 is $720, for an f/2.8! This Nocticron is not or in any way a $500 lens. In fact, when I first saw it and held it it reminded me of the real deal, the $11,000 Leica Noctilux f/0.95. It has the same design on the outside. In that regard it has some “Noctilux” character to it. The Leica is $11,000 for a 50mm f/0.95 and that lens is a tour de force of optical magic. Is it worth $11,000? No. But it sells well at that cost for Leica because there is nothing like it, at all. It is one of a kind and sharp even at 0.95 with a creamy Bokeh that melts into the frame.

The Panasonic is $1600, or $9400 less than the Leica Noctilux! While the Panasonic is NOT a Leica Noctilux it does indeed offer some of the flavor of that big money lens, for MUCH less money..MUCH less. I will state right up front that the Panasonic Nocticron has the best Bokeh I have seen next to the real deal. It competes and compares with the Leica Noctilux in this area 100%. The Bokeh is amazingly creamy, dreamy and NOT headache inducing like some lenses. Many exotic lenses fall short in this area..the out of focus background areas. Not this lens!

This is also the area where the 45 1.8 falls a bit short as the Bokeh can get busy and neurotic during certain scenes. The Panasonic has gorgeous Bokeh quality above and beyond any Micro 4/3 lens I have seen to date. In fact, I will call it the “Bokeh Master” of the Micro 4/3 world.

E-M1 and Nocticron at f/1.2 – click it for larger

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Is smooth and creamy background blur worth $1600? No, not really but in this review I will be taking a look at this lens as a whole from build, to O.I.S., to AF speed to sharpness at all apertures, bokeh and a comparison with the Olympus 45 1.8 and Voigtlander 42.5 f/0.95 (that comes in at $1000 but is manual focus only). Then I will decide if as a whole “is this lens worth $1600″?

I have used this lens exclusively for the past two weeks and what you will read below is my experience with it in all aspects. If you do not want to read the full review let me just say that after my time with the lens I bought one for myself from Amazon right HERE. Yep. I found it is just as special as the real Leica Noctilux (in a Micro 4/3 kind of way) and offered me more character, more pop, better contrast,  and much nicer Bokeh than the $350 Olympus (which I also own). I guess that answered my question of “is it worth it” pretty quickly! I will get more into why I bought one of these expensive lenses when I already own the $350 marvel in the conclusion of the review :)

The Nocticron Arrives

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I originally rented this lens because I did not want to buy one to review it. I figured I would rent it for a week or two, use it, review it and say “Buy the Olympus 45″ and be done with it. But as it went, I was wrong. When the lens rental arrived I pulled it out of a case only to say “wow, this LOOKs like the Noctilux”! It is not built like the Leica Noctilux, not even close…but it does resemble it. It is much lighter than the Noctilux as well. Still, this lens looks and feels mighty impressive for a Micro 4/3 lens. I instantly knew that this was the best built AF lens for the system, hands down. While all Olympus primes are built nicely and feel like little light jewels, this Panasonic is more of a brute..a serious light gathering machine..more importantly “An Artist’s Tool”.

Olympus E-M1 and Nocticron at 1.2 – ISO 12,800

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I say “An Artist’s Tool” because this lens has that capability, that extra something that is lacking in most lenses to call it just that. The rendering when wide open, at the right distance from your subject gives you the 3Dimensional Pop (not as much as an f/1.2 lens in full frame) as well as the color and contrast characteristics of high end lenses. The Micro Contrast is also very good here, among the best I have seen with Micro 4/3 (Olympus 75 1.8) and the Bokeh is phenomenal.

But before I go on and on about the qualities of this lens, let me start by talking about the specs:

Focal Length 42.5mm - Comparable 35mm Focal Length: 85 mm (classic portrait lens)

Aperture Maximum: f/1.2 – 16.0 (starting at a super fast f/1.2 this gives us true light gathering of an f/1.2 lens, so for night this is #1 in M4/3)

Camera Mount Type Micro Four Thirds

Minimum Focus Distance 1.64′ (.5 m) (pretty close min focus, Leica Noctilus has a 1 meter min distance)

Elements/Groups 14/11 – (14 elements, 11 groups)

Diaphragm Blades 9 (for better and smoother Bokeh. The Fuji 56 1.2 has 7 blades)

Image Stabilization Yes – (built in O.I.S. which is what makes it so large)

Autofocus Yes

Filter Thread 67 mm

Weight 14.99 oz (425 g)  -(Leica Noctilux is 700 grams)

Additionally, there is an Extra-low Dispersion element that increases contrast and sharpness and an Ultra High Refractive Index element allows for a uniform look to the edges of the frame.

The above specs are impressive for this lens no doubt and one of the most controversial will be the f/1.2 aperture. Micro 4/3 hater and naysayers always are quick to point out that an f/1.2 lens in Micro 4/3 is like having an f/2.4 lens in full frame. Well, this is not true. FOR LIGHT GATHERING AND LOW LIGHT USE, this is a true F/1.2 lens. Period. For DEPTH OF FIELD it is more like a 90mm f/2.5 lens. Something like the $1800 Leica 90 f/2.5 Summarit but with a closer minimum focus distance and true f/1.2 light gathering ability and for less money. :)

The lens breakdown…

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The key to this lens is that you are getting pure state of the art performance for your Micro 4/3 camera and yes, Micro 4/3 is a legitimate format that is used by pros, enthusiasts, amateurs and every day camera Joe’s. The performance of the latest M 4/3 camera bodies (specifically from Olympus) is up there with any APS-C, and as I have reported about before, in some areas they are better. Cameras like the E-M1 are a whirlwind of performance in every way. I also feel, after using everything out there, that Micro 4/3 offers the BEST quality lenses for any mirror less camera system (besides Leica M). They are that good in build, speed, and IQ.

These Leica/Panasonic lenses take it up another notch when it comes to color, contrast, micro-contrast and overall IQ.

Was in my kitchen table at night, Brandon was in front of me and I called his name and fired. The E-M1 was at ISO 800, lens was at f/1.2. CLICK it for larger and sharper.

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This lens will work for portraits..

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or even candid street moments..

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Bokeh is smooth and free of the nasties, even in a bokeh torture test condition like the one below  - click for larger. E-M1

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Yes this lens works well with Olympus or Panasonic bodies

This lens works with the Olympus Micro 4/3 bodies just as well as it does with the Panasonic bodies. Yes, I have been shooting a GX7 and E-M1 side by side and I get consistent results with the E-M1 in regards to color and lower noise. The GX7 files have SLIGHTLY more noise (RAW, without NR) even at base ISO and I prefer the color rendering, build, and quick menu of the Oly system. But the GX7 produces IQ almost the same as the E-M1 with some color differences but the build is of a lower standard with the Panasonic GX7 vs the E-P5 or E-M1.

It is a fact! The Olympus bodies are built so so well. The E-P5 feels like a solid brick of metal with quality switches and dials. The GX7 feels plastic with lower quality dials and levers.

But with that said, the lens works well on either camera and on Panasonic bodies you will be able to use the manual aperture dial. On Olympus bodies the Aperture ring is useless and can not be used so you just use the normal aperture thumb dial on the E-M1. It is a give and take I guess.

The manual aperture dial reminds me of quality Leica M glass, much like the real $11k Noctilux (which I have owned long term in the past). 

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So wether you have an Olympus OM-D or PEN this lens works wonderfully. If you have a Panasonic you get the Aperture dial function.

Inside of a restaurant at f/1.2 – Olympus E-M1

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Built in OPTICAL IMAGE STABILISATION

The Panasonic Nocticron has O.I.S. built in, so for all of you Panasonic body shooters this is very important and useful. For Olympus shooters that have one of the 3 or 5 Axis IS bodies then you will want to use the in body 3 or 5 Axis over the lens O.I.S. as the Olympus IS system beats the lens O.I.S. hands down. I have said it before and I will say it again, there is NOTHING like the 5 Axis IS of the Olympus bodies, nothing. The few who put it down just do not shoot Olympus and prefer Panasonic but the real story is that the 5 and 3 Axis IS systems of the Olympus bodies is revolutionary and offers HUGE benefits, even for video use.

Below is a snippet where I tested the built in O.I.S. of the lens vs the Olympus E-M1′s 5-Axis IS – same shutter speed but the 5Axis provided a clear image vs the lens OIS blur.

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So having the OIS in the lens is good for those who shoot without a body that has the advanced IS built in. On the GX7 this is mandatory to have in a lens like this so it is good that Olympus packed it in, they really had no choice.

A Closer Look

Below is a comparison between the amazing little Olympus 45 1.8 that comes in at around $350 as well as the Voigtlander 42.5 f/0.95. It seems I had an issue focusing the Voigtlander on the Panasonic GX7 due to the small EVF. When the 42.5 Voigtlander is focused correctly it is razor sharp, even wide open, in the center of the frame. See my review HERE. 

1st up, YOU MUST click on the images below to see them correctly. 

The Nocticron is 1st at f/1.6, then the Olympus at 1.8 and then the Voigtlander (slightly mis-focused, sorry!)  The Olympus has more magnification going from 85mm to 90mm and is quite good for a $350 lens! The Olympus offers more of a “telephoto” look with more compression..flatter. The Nocticron offers a gentler more 3D rendering similar to a real Leica lens.

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Below is a more visible example of the difference between the Nocticron rendering and the Olympus 45 1.8.

Click the images for correct and larger versions..

The 1st image below was shot with the Noctiron and GX7 at f/1.2, wide open. Here you can see the 3D pop between the subject and the background. There is a clear distinction between Debby and the background, with a superb fall off from in focus to out. This is the hallmark of a good lens IMO. 

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Below is the Olympus 45 1.8 and when you click and view this side by side with the Nocticron you can see the differences. To some, you may not even see it. To others it will be huge and to some it will be slight. The 45 rendered the image in a duller way from color to a flatter look. As good as the 45 1.8 is, it does not approach the Nocticron, which is one reason why the Noct is so expensive. 

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And now and image from over a year ago in the same spot taken with the Leica Noctilux at f/0.95 on an M 240. This is the most 3D of them all but it should be considering the combo of lens and body will run you about $18,000. :)

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Full Size Files and a crop

I am finding the Nocticron to be sharp even wide open but at the same time it is not clinical in any way. It is more organic and flowing, much like the original F/1 Noctilux from Leica. It has a certain character to it wide open that I like, a lot. Below are two full size files, one wide open at f/1.2 and one that should have been f/4 but the EXIF reads at f/3.2

Thanks to “Baby” my little Chihuahua we rescued for being extremely still while modeling :)

1st up, wide open at f/1.2. Right click image and open in new tab or window for full size from RAW

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again, right click and open in new tab or window for full size at f/3.2

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The lens is RAZOR sharp wide open and gets sharper as it is stopped down. I actually love the lens at f/4 as well as f/1.2. It is an all around great performer and for this focal length, the ultimate lens for Micro 4/3. HERE IS ONE MORE wide open at f/1.2 – look at the sharpness, color, detail and Bokeh. Amazing..

CLICK IT for larger and better version – the way it was meant to be seen..AMAZING detail at f/1.2, superb color and Bokeh. This was shot with the GX7. THIS simple test shot reveals why this lens is so special. Bokeh gets an A, sharpness gets an A+, color gets an A, 3D pop gets an A. 

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Distortions

While shooting this lens in real word scenarios I never saw any kind of distortion or had an issue with CA. I do not do scientific tests nor do I shoot white walls looking for vignetting, because if I do not see an issue while using the lens for what it was designed to do (take photos) then I do not see a problem. When shooting the Panasonic Nocticron I had no issues with Vignetting or Distortion. Period. The lens does have slight vignetting wide open though but so does the Noctilux f/1 and 0.95.

The one shot that slightly missed focus but this so reminds me of the Leica Noctilux F/1 Rendering! I love it.

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AF Speed

The Af speed of the lens is VERY quick in good light and slows down in low light but it always locks on and the only time it missed for me is in the above shot of the dog but I think it was trying to focus on the dirty glass instead of the dog, so maybe it did NOT miss. AF speed was a TAD faster on the E-M1 vs the GX7 but both were comparable.

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VIDEO USE

This lens SHOULD be a video shooters dream. I have yet to shoot video with this guy but plan on it soon and when I do I will post a sample video right here :) So check back in a week or two!

Bottom Line Conclusion

So is this lens worth $1600? THAT is the question, especially when we have lenses like the Olympus 45 1.8 which is similar in focal length and slightly slower in aperture speed for $350. The Olympus is also MUCH smaller and MUCH lighter and slightly faster to AF. So wouldn’t the Olympus be the “No Brainer” decision? Why yes, it would.

BUT! If you are like me, and DO notice those small differences such as contrast, color, bokeh quality and rendering then you might want to take a serious look at this Nocticron. The Panasonic/Leica lenses have all been SUPERB. The 25 1.4, the 45 2.8 and now the Nocticron all use a Leica design and in the case of this Nocticron, more exotic glass than a normal Panasonic lens. When good glass is used you can tell and this lens has a way of lighting up a scene just like a real Noctilux does.

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Sometimes a lens comes along that is special. This is one of those lenses. It has it all built into one monster shell, though it still comes in smaller in size and lighter in weight than a comparable full frame lens. Built in O.I.S., great sharpness and rendering at f/1.2 AND Auto Focus, something that the Voigtlander lenses are missing and those lenses can be tricky on a smaller EVF camera like the GX7. I am thrilled that Panasonic created this lens.

Many will argue that this is not an F/1.2 lens, but it is indeed a true f/1.2 aperture lens. I will repeat: THIS IS A TRUE 42.5MM f/1.2 LENS.

Yo will get f/1.2 light gathering capability. You will be able to shoot at f/1.2 in the dark and you will be using a true f/1.2 aperture with 1.2 light gathering ability. THIS is what an f/1.2 lens is made for..low light and in that regards the Nocticron is true to its name..NOCTURNAL.

The image below was shot on the E-M1 at ISO 10,000 at f/1.2. It was inside my house at night with barely ANY light at all. ZERO noise reduction. Reminds me of something that would have come out of the Leica Monochrom! Good lenses can make all of the difference in the world. 

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So if you shoot Micro 4/3, Olympus or Panasonic, and you want a fast portrait length prime that offers a bit of EVERYTHING such as fast aperture, delicious bokeh, amazing sharpness and detail/micro-contrast which also happens to shoot great video then PUT THIS LENS ON YOUR LIST. Yes, it is $1600 and yes it is expensive but this lens will hold value over the long-term, moreso than a standard M 4/3 lens.

Micro 4/3 has come a long long way since the early days and today it offers astounding IQ, fast speed, the best built mirror less bodies as well as the fastest and the best collection of glass out of any mirror less system. From wide to tele and macro, there is nothing that a Micro 4/3 system can not do. Olympus and Panasonic are rocking it big time and this lens just solidifies the fact that Micro 4/3 will NOT go away despite the doom and gloom of some large sensor fans. Many have asked me about the new Fuji 56 1.2, which is also a fast portrait prime for the X system. I have NOT tried the Fuji yet but HAVE handled it. The build of the Panasonic is better. I have seen numerous shots from the Fuji and they look gorgeous as well but no OIS in the lens OR body for Fuji. Also, the Bokeh from the Fuji is a little on the busy side in comparison.

If a man came up to me and said pick one and keep it..for free. Either a Fuji X-T1 and 56 1.2 or an Olympus PEN E-P5  with finder and the Nocticron, I would not hesitate for a nano-second. It would be the PEN and Nocticron. Easy choice for me. Still, Fuji is another company that seems to “get it” when it comes to releasing what many of us enthusiasts want. I say, keep ‘em coming!

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I feel that the Panasonic Nocticron 42.5 f/1.2 lens is the best built AF lens for the Micro 4/3 system. Period. It is also the fastest aperture AF prime for the system. It is a true “Noct” lens in its rendering and style and deserves to be up there with other well-known “Noct” lenses that cost MUCH more than this one does. For me, I had to own one so I bought one after shooting the review sample for 2 weeks, so that may say something right there.

In regards to the 45 1.8 which I also own, I bought the Noct as it inspires me more to go out and shoot with it. It offers am ore creamy and organic rendering over the 45 1.8, better color and contrast and is more of an Artists tool than a lens. I am a sucker for fast glass and I did not believe for a nanosecond that I would spurge and purchase this lens, but it is that good. It has more Leica than Panasonic it seems, and that is a good thing as you can not get a real Leica lens for less than a few grand new (50 Summilux f/1.4 is $4300). This is why I purchased one for myself.

So I highly recommend this lens for any and all Micro 4/3 shooters who WANT and DESIRE a lens such as this.

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WHERE TO BUY THE NOCTICRON!

You can buy the Nocticron using the direct links below to Amazon or B&H Photo. Using these links will help me to keep this site going and costs you NOTHING extra so if this review helped your decision, I thank you for using the links below!

BUY THE NOCTICRON AT AMAZON HERE

BUY THE NOCTICRON AT B&H PHOTO HERE

More samples from the Nocticron!

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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 - Can also use my search bar on the right side or links within reviews, anytime.

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

Mar 272014
 

bei15s

The Zeiss 15mm F2.8 Distagon T* ZM lens

By Jerry Bei

The Zeiss 15mm F2.8 Distagon T* ZM is a one-of-a-kind lens, it is truly a monster when mounted on a Leica M body that offers exquisite image rendering. In short, this is not a lens for everyone but it offers insanely sharp, highly contrasty and richly saturated images. So if you are looking for an exotic ultra-wide angle lens that generates a unique rendering then look no further.

This lens is not your typical “Made in Japan” Zeiss lens, it is hand-crafted in Germany and Zeiss went all out with this design. The Zeiss 15mm F2.8 ZM used all sorts of exotic types of glass and incorporated aspheric lens elements, which is uncommon for Zeiss designs. All of those factors contribute to making this lens the most expensive lens in the ZM line-up and it is what separates it from all others.

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Build Quality and Ergonomics

The build quality of the Zeiss 15mm Distagon ZM lens is exceptional. It matches the German-made Leica standards and the ergonomics of this lens is excellent. The lens is relatively large when compared to other M mount lenses but it still feels great in the hands of the photographer. The lens comes in at 13oz or around 370 grams, which is not light for a rangefinder lens but it is well-balanced on either the Leica M9 or the Leica M240.

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Practical use

The Zeiss 15mm F2.8 Distagon ZM lens is not rangefinder coupled when using on the Leica M9 but this is overcome by the live-view function on the new Leica M240. Although this lens is not rangefinder coupled, it has the minimum focusing distance advantage down to 0.3m, which is around a person’s forearm length thus allows the photographer to shoot with close objects.

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In terms of Image rendering, there is strong vignetting visible at all apertures and if you a fan of Vignetting effects then this would be the ideal lens for you. Otherwise, this is easily reduced by applying the Central Density Filter (CDF) provided by Zeiss, which is specifically manufactured and designed for this lens. The CDF is a unique density filter that only densifies the central part of the glass which minimises the vignetting overall. (Just a kind reminder, Do not lose the CDF filter, as it does not come cheap to buy it separately at approximately $600 US Dollars. The colour casts can also be noticeable around the corners when taking photos with certain backgrounds, which produces magenta on the left along with cyan on the right but this can be easily fixed by using the CornerFix Software.

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When shooting with the Zeiss 15mm Distagon ZM lens, It is recommended to purchase a Zeiss 15mm Viewfinder or a cheaper alternative Voigtlander 15mm viewfinder for functional use on the Leica M9 and other rangefinder bodies. As for the lens profile, I tend to mount the lens and leave it to automatic detection mode but you are free to experimenting or try different lens profile which suits you.

My Website: www.jerrybei.com

My Flickr: www.flickr.com/jerrybay

Mar 262014
 

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Fujifilm X-T1 User Experience

By Kelvin Ng

I never do a review for any camera. I also never know how to write a proper review for a camera that I used. I am going to make an exception for this Fujifilm X-T1. I want to share some of my “user experience” about this camera. It is not a technical “review”, but it is rather an “experience” to share. Anyway, I was one of your Daily Inspiration #439 with the Fujifilm X100s.

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Some History About the Gears I Owned…

My first Fujifilm mirror less camera was the X100. That was the time (2011) I sold all my DSLR gear, and bought the X100 to pair with my Olympus EP3. I have never regretted and missed my DSLR since then. I just hate the size and look of a DSLR. I found the X100 and EP3 was really suited for a non-pro photographer like me. I enjoyed traveling with the lightweight and small size of these cameras in a small camera bag.

I know most of the people complaint about the autofocus of Fujifilm X100. I was the one who complaint it too. When looking at the retro out look of the camera, and also the photo came out from the X100, I tried to compromise the slow autofocus with the retro look and the photo quality.

I purchased the Fujifilm X-Pro1 in 2012, but I sold it after a month of usage. I just can’t justify the cost that I invested into this system with a very slow autofocus in return. Hence, I got myself an Olympus OMD EM5 instead. I also have tried the Fujifilm X-E1 in a short period of time, and sold it with the same reason I found with the X-Pro1.

I bought the X100s in 2013. I skipped the X-E2. Until recently in 2014, I got myself the Fujifilm X-T1.

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What I found?

I will not talk about the full X-T1 specification here. I find no point to talk about it since the camera specification can be easily obtain from Fujifilm official website. I am quite satisfied with the Fujifilm X-T1 performance, but several points I wanted to share here. I found this are the point worth mention.

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a) Autofocus of X-T1

I think the autofocus of X-T1 is the main concern for many people who want to buy into this system. I have tried Fujifilm X-Pro1, X-E1, and Olympus EP3, EM5. If I rate the autofocus of Olympus OMD EM5 as 10 out of 10, then the X-T1 will be 8.5 out of 10. The X-Pro1 is much lower than that. I would say the autofocus of X100s are on par with the X-T1. I have full confident on OMD EM5. It never misses when I press on the shutter. The X-T1 pair with the 35mm f1.4, I still miss some shot. The lens tends to hunt a bit before lock into the subject. It could be the 35mm f1.4 lens characteristic? Other factor? I found the same with the 14mm f2.8 too. However, it is not being hunt at very horrible stage, it has improved very much since the X-Pro1. If you have come from the Olympus OMD EM5 family, you will get frustrated and feel less confident about the autofocus of the X-T1. I believe time will help to get use to the X-T1 system. You will be very happy if you are upgrading from X100, X-E1, or X-Pro1. For me… I just hope the autofocus of this X-T1 can be improved further to compete with the Olympus OMD.

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b) Button & Menu

I found the button is nicely place on the camera. Once I set up the camera, I have not looked into the menu for other setting. I can change the setting with simple turn of the dial. Even the in camera advance filter, it can be access by turning one of the dial.

c) EVF

The EVF is large and clear with a lot of information. No complaint except the EVF can be very noisy under dim light condition. Make focus peaking a bit difficult.

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d) Battery Life

Not a good one. The battery dies suddenly without warning, even though the indicator shown half of the battery life. I would say 350 shot average per charge.

e) White Balance

It can be very hard to control the white balance. The output tends to be very pinky or magenta in some occasion. I notice the red color on the subject never be the red. I might be wrong, but I have noticed it since the X100s.

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How I Process the Photo from X-T1…

There is no RAW support as of this writing with Lightroom 5. This is how I set up the Fujifilm X-T1, when I want strait JPEG photo out from the camera. Here are the settings:

Highlight -1

Shadow -2

Color 0

Sharpness 0

DR Auto

Noise Reduction -2

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The entire photos shown on this page were shot with the above setting. I made some adjustment in Lightroom for Saturation, Contrast, White Balance, Dodge & Burn, and Sharpness. The black & white photo was converted using the pre-set in Lightroom 5. Several reason that I have the X-T1 set to the above setting. This is the experience that I have gotten from when using the X100s. I found the X-T1 produce decent and unique JPEG output with this setting.

• The noise grain. The grain is so nice at ISO 800 and above. I just hope it will be completely turn off the noise reduction. I have the noise reduction set to -2.

• The highlight clipping. I found it is much easy to blown the detail of highlight. I have the Highlight set to -1 or -2.

• The lost of detail in shadow. I notice when the shadow is set to 0, some of the shadow will become very dark, and cause lost in detail. I have the shadow set to -2, and increase the contrast during post processing in Lightroom 5. I found this approach is much more satisfied.

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Worth to Upgrade?

If you ask me about my opinion, I would say the following:

If you need an X system with interchangeable lens, then it is a yes. If you are X100, X-E1, or X-Pro1 user, then it is a yes. But, I don’t see the need to upgrade if you are a X-E2 user, unless you need a weather shield camera body. For X100s user, if you can live with the fix lens, then no point to upgrade. For other mirror less system user, please check on the autofocus of X-T1 before jump into it.

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Am I satisfied with Fujifilm X-T1?

Certainly, there are more pros and cons. Overall, Fujifilm X-T1 is quite suited for my style of shooting (Street or Vacation). The autofocus is improved very much compare to the X-Pro1 that I had two year ago. With the uniqueness of Fujifilm photo rendering, it is good enough to justify the investment into the X-T1 system. I always build my system with focal length equivalent to 21mm, 35mm, and 50mm. Similar to my Leica MP system, the Voigtlander 21mm f4, Leica Summicron 35mm f2 ASPH, and Leica Summicron 50mm f2. Now I have the Fujifilm 14mm f2.8, 35mm f1.4, and X100s to complete the range of focal length that I needed. I would skip the Fujifilm XF 23mm f1.4R lens.

The Fujinon lens is excellent. Not only in build quality, the Fujinon lens produce sharp image even shooting wide open. I tend to use the 14mm f2.8 quite often on the street, and the 23mm focal length on my X100s next. The Fujifilm 35mm f1.4 is less, only one or two occasion for portrait shot. The photo that I share here is not the best, but it represents what the X-T1 is capable to produce. JPEG out is nice, with Fujifilm color signature.

I am sure the RAW file from the X-T1 will be the same as other X Trans sensor. Some people hate it and some people like it. I found the RAW file can be very flat or dull sometime. As what Steve mention before about Fujifilm X Trans Sensor, the file can be nice with good light. I don’t want to comment further on the X-T1 RAW file yet, but I believe it will be the same for all X Trans sensor. However, it is not a problem for me.

Yes, I am satisfied with the Fujifilm X-T1.

My blog: www.kbphotographyblog.com

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Mar 252014
 

nikonv2aspen

The versatile Nikon V2 does South Africa!

By Aspen Z

Hey guys, greetings from Singapore. I’d first like to thank Steve for this opportunity and for having one of the most interesting and useful photography website around. Qualitative websites displaying such passion and enthusiasm (albeit too much at times, haha) for photography are difficult to come about and it’s really quite something.

When I first had serious interest in photography, I decided then to pick up a mirrorless camera in hope that it’d ease me into the bulky DSLRs someday as I acquired and honed my technique. Fast forward a year and a half and I’ve 5 native CX lenses and 2 DX/FX lenses, with no intention to ‘upgrade’ to a bulky DSLR. In fact, the latter two were bought solely for use on the V2 (previously V1) since I don’t own any other camera system. The V2 has shown time and again that it’s the only camera I need and its being mirrorless has no bearing on the type of photos since it handles any situation thrown at it well!

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Naturally, you can imagine my disappointment as I waited, fingers crossed, only to see no mention of a V3 in the pipeline as Photoplus and CP+ wrapped up. Swarmed by doom and gloom threads alongside bleak prophecies gleaned through the careful choice of words from Nikon executives, I still took comfort in a fact- the V2 produces decent photos for my use and until it runs its course in shutter actuations, there’s no need to panic sell or even decide on further action, be it a change of systems (Sony Ax000, perhaps? Waits to be seen.) or getting another Nikon 1 camera. (UPDATE: The V3 has been announced)

To date, the V2 has covered more scenarios imaginable within the scope of a single camera, from landscapes to indoor performances, birds in flight (minimally, since I can’t seem to find an adequate birding location in Singapore!) to the F1 night race and more recently, the entirety of my South Africa trip.

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I admit to being a bit paranoid, fearing that I’d miss out on shots unless I’ve all my lenses (minus the 10-30mm kit lens) with me. Fortunately for me the Nikon 1 lenses are small and lightweight; the 18.5, 32, 6.7-13mm and 30-110mm combined weigh a mere 20 grams more than just the 595 grams 85f/1.4! Every little bit helps, since all 6 lenses plus accessories become a noticeable 2.5kg that I’ve to lug around from my shoulder all day. If you don’t know what it’s like to walk about in an oppressively muggy climate all year round, let me assure you that any amount of mental preparation and fortitude can be worn thin by a grating load on your shoulder. It’s only so lucky that I don’t have to bring out the DX/FX lenses all the time. Granted, the South African summer was pleasantly warm and dry, with nary a cloud to be seen for most days, and that became less of an issue.

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What did become an issue was the unrelenting UV, making photo composition from the LCD screen downright impossible. At times, I found myself instinctively lowering my eyes to the viewfinder, only to realize there wasn’t one since I was helping my friend take a family photo with the dreaded EOS-M. To those saying autofocus speed doesn’t matter, imagine a situation where a group of people are (im)patiently waiting in eye-watering sunlight for the shutter to go off and heaven forbid someone blinks or moves and I’ve to go through the arduous process again. Really makes me miss the V2- eye to EVF, compose, snap and there you have it, with the only limiting factor being me. Oh, and, because our families decided on joining a group tour, time actually is limited. The insanely speedy autofocus in both AF-S and AF-C makes the V2 a joy to use and you’d likely never experience the sinking feeling of uncertainty (will I miss the moment?) when a difficult situation presents itself. At times, it certainly feels like you can’t do any better with DSLRs apart from professional models.

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Detractors of the Nikon 1 cameras are always quick to point out how limiting a small sensor can be but sometimes those claims are downright specious. Pointing out the supposedly atrocious dynamic range is a favourite, but in practice I’ve found it more than capable of handling a midday sun landscape scenario. The 6.7-13mm captured the Union buildings in Pretoria just right, showcasing the blend of colours from the ochre steps in shadow to the puffy cumulus clouds. Table mountain posed an even greater challenge as the featureless skies did nothing for the immense amount of sunlight. As most of the best views featured the glaring sun in them, I was forced to crop out huge swaths of details ruined by flare and burnt highlights. Even the ocean was affected and it wasn’t a pleasant sight despite recovering quite a fair bit of details in post-processing. Nevertheless, areas of the photos unexposed to the sun directly in them had a lot of headroom in terms of post-processing, and I was quite pleased with that. Dynamic range isn’t what you can get with the likes of D800 but it is in no way bad. Better yet, I’ve seen people with so much to say only to offset the difference by pumping contrast or saturation sky high. Surely that’s wastage of dynamic range?

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The 1/16000 shutter also came in very useful, since it negated the need for ND filters while shooting wide open with the 18f/1.8 and 32f/1.2. Which brings me to the point of DOF equivalency. People lament that you can’t get enough subject separation but really, is it always that the ultra-shallow centimetres deep DOF turns out desirable? Most primes for bigger sensor cameras need to be stopped down to be sharper anyway, and in comparison, the 18.5f/1.8 and 32f/1.2 are tack-sharp even wide open, especially the latter. If you do portrait/model shots often, you’d realize the benefits of a full-frame camera but in general cases background distances and focal lengths have bigger bearing on DOF.

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The V2 is simply great in terms of handling. It feels small yet provides a firm grip with its design and doesn’t look half as ugly in real life as photos would have you believe. Unlike the EOS-M which has a slippery feel and almost feels like a handphone camera in use, you’re unlikely to drop the V2. Hell, I’ve even mastered the art of changing lenses albeit precariously (something I make sure to do often) while walking and talking, with a mere two fingers like a vice grip on the small lens when detaching and swapping over the back lens cap, all made possible by the generous grip on the V2. The menu system is uncluttered and straightforward and with the function button able to make changes to stuff like white balance and iso, you’d be done with most changes in a few short seconds. Also important is the ‘secured-ness’ of the camera. Having handled an EM-1 and the Sony A7, I found the excessively responsive shutter button difficult to half-press without accidentally triggering a shot too early and the battery compartment flap flimsy, respectively. Don’t even get me started on the many confusing dials on the EM-1, if you like that type of stuff you’d love that camera.

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Desiring a do-it-all system, I picked up the 85f/1.4 as a means of fast telephoto for the V2. At about 230mm on full frame, I decided it’d do the job right for safari (then again I had two other longer telephotos ever ready). Chromatic aberrations are visible and it’s not quite as sharp as I’m used to wide open but it does the job perfectly. Focus is fast (not quite like native lenses though) and I found the bokeh pleasing, especially so for me around the foreground of the staring zebra. With a stroke of luck, a giraffe fleetingly crossed into the ‘frame’ of an arresting backdrop and I quickly snapped off shots as the impatient jeep driver decided we had one too many sightings of yet another giraffe and started accelerating. At 15fps with swift autofocus, I probably had the highest chance of nailing the shot among all those in the jeep. The generous buffer of the V2 also means there’s no need to hesitate and you can deflate the shutter button confidently at length (not that I do that often). By the way, I heavily recommend a 95mb/s sd card for V2 users for optimal performance because it is noticeable if you want the job done quick. If it seems like overkill, remember it’s a small price to pay to get the best out of the V2.

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It’s not that I can’t find issues with the V2 though. I wish it has better high iso performance, because as of right now, iso 1600 and beyond requires careful post-processing to yield desirable images (for me). It’d be great to have it improved a stop or so with the next generation. At lower iso, I’ve some photos with, ironically, more noise in the final output since I cannot be bothered to reduce it after sharpening to taste. Be warned that the V2 has noise in certain lighting even at the base iso of 160 and if you’re after smooth creamy files you’re most definitely not going to get that. What you will get is a sensor that punches above its weight in details especially with ‘just’ 14mp. More importantly though, the V2 tracks well even under challenging lighting, like when I had the chance to see a performance at the Lesedi cultural village the V2 simply kept focus without fail despite erratic movements. And surely, the first half of the battle is nailing focus even before iso woes. Another thing that annoys me about the V2 is the lack of a customizable autofocus box size; I found myself sometimes focusing on backgrounds and other elements when dealing with smaller subjects due to imprecision. Finally, much can be done about the lack of bracketing and other features like focus peaking since the issue here lies with Nikon’s ineptitude.

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The V2 is most definitely not a perfect camera. It has its share of problems, some of which downright avoidable, but it’s the only camera that fits the bill for my needs short of going to a cumbersome DSLR, and for that, I’d tolerate the expressed grievances without a second thought.

For more photos like these, take a look here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/aspenz/

Mar 242014
 

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The faces of Mysore India

by Neil Gandhi

Hey Steve,

Often times, images do not do justice to true experiences.

With photography, one must diligently spend time and live within the realm of their subject to establish the reason that makes them “click”. In that recognition, one discovers a sense of realization that is sometimes larger than life itself. Walking around a bustling Devaraja Market filled with beings just like me, I realized how different I was from them. Most of them had never left the city of Mysore in South India. Most of them probably never will. Initially, I felt a sense of sadness. Then I asked myself “Why would they?”. There is so much beauty that encapsulates them.

These images were captured during my trip in December 2013, where I visited one of my favorite photographers named Christine Hewitt to immerse myself in photography and learn from her experience. Mysore, birthplace of Ashtanga Yoga, draws yogis from all over the world who come to this city to grow their practice. It is a city of royal heritage, with an existing royal family and king, and features a beautiful palace, art galleries and some truly exquisite temples surrounding the city. Most importantly, it is the people who define this city and bring it to life. The joy and love in their faces, especially the children is heart-warming to experience. Street photography comes to life here, as you witness some interesting and extremely willing subjects. They live life with a quiet sense of confidence and content. They breathe because they choose to. These are their stories.

Gear: All images taken with a 5D MIII and a 50mm f1.4 or a 24-70 f4.0L. Post-processing in Lightroom 5.

About me: I am Neil Gandhi, an amateur photographer who pays for his camera gear and travel with a job in software marketing. Based out of Austin, TX. Connect with me on Instagram at: http://instagram.com/neiljpgandhi

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Mar 192014
 

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Shaking the Disease – The love of the gear.

By Steve Huff

Being a guy who constantly receives new cameras and lenses to review for the past 6 years, I have used my fair share of camera gear. I have handled, shot with, tested, used and abused just about every camera that has been released over these past 5 years and while I have not reviewed all of them, I have used or tested or tried 98% of them. Being in this industry and getting to do this affords me quite a bit of 1st hand knowledge about all of these camera bodies, lenses, and sensors. It is something that I feel blessed to be able to do because of my love of photography but also for my LOVE OF THE GEAR!

Let me explain…

Over the past 5 years one thing I learned is that there are many more of us into GEAR AQUISITION than PHOTOGRAPHY! It is indeed a real disease and one that can not easily be shaken. In fact, most of us reading this post right now (I said most, not ALL) are more into the hobby of buying and using cameras than the actual art of photography! This is 100% true though some may be in denial. There are cameras that came out many years ago that one could use and get amazing results with for everyday photography. The newest, latest, greatest and most expensive camera body or lens is not truly needed. In fact, I have many more keepers and faves from my Nikon 1 camera that set me back $200 than I do some $3000 cameras I have owned but many of us love new gear so much we want to constantly trade in and up to the latest and greatest so we can get the thrill of the new camera or lens!

FACT: A decent camera even from 5 years ago can serve 95% of us just as well as a new camera that just came out last week.

But that is not the point for those of us who enjoy and appreciate the day when a new camera arrives from the big brown truck just waiting to be opened, fondled and shot with for the 1st time. Admit it..camera delivery day provides a rush that gives many of us a real pleasure and happiness. The same thing happens with others.. like some Women with shoes, clothes or handbags. Same happens for some Men with HiFi, cars or electronic gadgets such as cel phones and tablets and even guitars and amps. It is a way of life and how we have been programmed over the past 10-20 years. Everything is changeable and disposable.

FACT: We now live in a disposable society where the majority of us upgrade our favorite toys on a regular basis even when nothing is wrong with our current toy!

Like I said, it gives us pleasure. It is a hobby. It is a disease. Many of us call it G.A.S., and yes, it is very real in MANY aspects of life with MANY people in MANY hobbies. This is not just related to photography and cameras. I happen to be on of those guys who love photography, the act of going out and taking snapshots and photos but I am also a guy who LOVES to get that new package in the mail with the latest and greatest camera or lens. I know for a fact that so many of you can relate to me because the fact that you are even here on this site tells me this. :) It is rampant on the internet, on the forums and there is a reason that B&H Photo receives over a million hits a day and that is due to the constant gear lust. I speak to so many and meet others who are always asking about the next big camera release, and there is legitimate excitement in the air when talking about it.

So is this a disease I want to shake? NO, not me!

Why? Because I enjoy it. It provides fun, it provides excitement and it is a part of my life so I HAVE TO TRY all of the new stuff. It is my JOB! A new lens, a new camera, a new bag or strap. As long as I am not careless or exhaust my bank account I am fine. The key is to be responsible with it! If you are going out and buying and selling a camera every 1-3 months it may be wise to slow down, unless you are making a profit of course but changing them out every 6 months to a year just means you enjoy the actual act of buying and opening that new fresh box with a new goody inside. It is a  totally separate hobby than actually photography! 

With that said, there are cameras I adore and do keep for the long haul because they are special to me for one reason or another. One of them is the Leica M. I will always have a Leica M and have always had one since the film M7 was released. Just my thing. I also love the Olympus Micro 4/3 offerings and will always have one with a few of those great primes. I will also still enjoy cracking open those new future models to see what they have in store for us. Even so, a few days after that new item arrives, maybe a few weeks..the rush is gone and the appetite returns for something new, something different. It never ends but I can say that I enjoy taking photos just as much as trying out new gear to take those photos and I am sure many of you are in the same boat.

Steve

Mar 172014
 

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The Olympus E-M10 and 12-40 f/2.8 Pro Zoom Mini Review

With Olympus continually being on top of their own mirrorless camera game I admit…I was a bit hesitant when the E-M10 was announced. I mean, was Olympus going the way of Panasonic who in the past  released cheap, dumbed down tiny bodies just to make a quick sale and find a market for their camera bodies? Let’s face it, the OM-D E-M5 is stellar. The OM-D E-M1 is stellar. The PEN E-P5 is fantastic and beautiful and one of my faves of all time in Micro 4/3. These are three Micro 4/3 mirrorless models that are truly state of the art and can easily provide anyone with gorgeous quality photos while offering speed, build and features that would make any shutter bug happy and many other mirror less camera companies a little nervous.

So why an “E-M10″ that is smaller? 

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Well, that was the question I had when it was announced. I glossed over it and while it looked cool I had doubts about why anyone would want it over an E-m5. Then I saw the cost of only $699 and thought..“well, if it is as great as the E-M5 in use, it will be a BARGAIN of epic proportions”! Then I realized that it had even better performance than the E-M5 and equaled the E-M1 for IQ and Af Speed. That was all I needed to hear. Done deal.

The E-M10 and 12-40 2.8 – This combo is lightning fast, sharp, amazing prime IQ and the very 1st zoom I have ever really wanted to buy in the mirror less world. The IQ is stellar. The color reproduction is rich. The contrast is striking. This lens is truly a pro zoom with a constant f/2.8 aperture across the range.

ALL images in this review are JPEGS shot with the E-M10 and 12-40 2.8 Lens!

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So one day I received a UPS box from the wonderful B&H Photo who sent me the little black Olympus E-M10 to check out and review. When I opened it up I was impressed with the look, the style and the design..which is basically just like the OM-D E-M5, just in a mini format. It felt solid, booted up quickly and had that blazing Olympus AF speed I have come to love and trust. It surprised me really as I was expecting it to be a little “laggy” seeing that it is a “mini”model that is cheaper.

I ended up deciding to just shoot this camera over a weekend with the Olympus 12-40 Pro Zoom. WHY? Well, I have not yet reviewed this lens and figured it would be a nice test of the camera and lens. AN ALL IN ONE. No need to worry or stress over lenses to use or take with. Easy Squeezy.

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So me, the E-M10 and the 12-40 2.8. That is all. That was the plan.

So how did it do? Read on to find out. Please note! This is not a normal tech “review” but it will be more of my thoughts using this camera over a weekend along with the photos I was able to casually snap. I always prefer real world use of a camera and have been doing these types of reviews and write ups for almost 6 years now. It is IMO, the only way to test a camera for what it is meant to be used for. TAKING PHOTOS and ENJOYING IT!

So one morning Debby and I took a 4 hour drive to Las Vegas and decided to just walk around and shoot the scenery. I did end up bringing along my Leica M 240 and 50 1.5 Nokton but only fired off 6 shots. The Olympus was so much fun, so fast and so GOOD that I did not want to stop using it! Seriously. It did have some faults but only in the handling. Basically, when using the 12-40 and the E-M10 I would highly recommend the accessory grip as the body is a little small for the Zoom as is.

“Orgasim Clinic” – what happens in vegas stays in vegas…

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Olympus and Micro 4/3

I have been a fan of Olympus forever. From the OM film cameras to the 1st real flagship E-1 digital back in the day. The PEN series..yes, I have shot with them all (The E-P5 is the best of PEN’s) and of course the OM-D series all the way to the  top of the Micro 4/3 heap with the Professional E-M1. ALL of these cameras have been wonderful to use and to shoot but especially these new camera bodies Olympus have been releasing over the past couple of years. The E-M5, E-P5, E-M1 are stellar, and I mean that 100%. I have said it a million times about these Olympus bodies but they have something about them that are special.

I have finally figured it out though..as to just what that special thing is. It is a combo of things actually that no other camera manufacturer has been able to accomplish as of yet besides Olympus.

In my opinion, the reason these latest Olympus bodies have been so special is because they offer it all and do it all very well without any real compromise:

1. Build quality - This E-M10 is built just like the current and more expensive E-M5 which is built very good. Solid, smooth dials, precision. It feels “right”. The Pro E-M1 is even better. All are built VERY well with the E-M1 being as good as it gets in the build for a mirrorless camera. 

2. Speed – The E-M10 and other OM-D bodies have blazing fast and accurate AF. It is pretty much instant. No hunting, no slowdown, no misses. I had no AF misses with the E-M10 and 12-40 2.8 lens. Focus was instant and so fast that I was just having fun testing it to try to make it miss or slow down! In super low indoor light at night it did slow down but still locked on and fired and nailed the shot. The Olympus bodies all have stellar AF speed and accuracy. They lose out a bit on CONTINUOUS tracking AF but for shot to shot, they are hard to beat. No other mirrorless body I have tried has the AF speed of the E-M1, E-M5 and E-M10.

3. EVF – The EVF in the E-M10 is NOT the best EVF around. The E-M1 and Fuji X-T1 share that honor but the EVF in the E-M10 is good, just a but on the small side. But this is not a “flagship” body. It is an affordable entry into the OM-D series. The fact that it has an EVF is great, as these days I avoid cameras without them. But overall, the E-M1 has one of the top EVF’s on the market. Huge, clear and VERY easy to use and frame with.

4. Image Stabilization – Olympus has the best IS in the business, no contest. I have never used anything like it. The E-M10 has “3 Axis” IS instead of the higher end bodies “5-Axis” but it works almost just as well. It is so cool to have this feature in a small, more affordable OM-D.  If you have not yet experienced the 5-Axis IS or even 3 Axis IS you are in for a treat.

5. LENSES – Again, Olympus and Panasonic are at the top of the mirrorless heap (next to Leica of course) when it comes to lenses for the Micro 4/3 system. I have shot with all Fuji lenses. All Sony lenses. All Panasonic lenses and mostly all Leica lenses. IMO, these little Olympus primes and now the 12-40 Pro Zoom are some of the best I have shot with next to Leica glass. The size, weight, feel, silence, speed and IQ are stellar on almost ALL of them. I a NOT a zoom guy but this $999 12-40 Pro Zoom equals or surpasses what I have seen from the Canon 24-70 and equals the Nikon 24-70 as well while being smaller and much less expensive. This is an amazing zoom lens. Fast, silent, small (in comparison to full frame and APS-C) and beautiful rich color and contrast/sharpness. Olympus lenses as well as Panasonic make some of the best mirrorless glass. Compared to Fuji lenses, these are faster to AF, all silent in operation, smaller and just as good with IQ. 

6. Image Quality – IQ from the Olympus bodies, including the E-M10 is as good as 98% of us will need. Pro’s use them for high paying jobs. They are that good. What it comes down to is preference of “look” when you decide on a camera body or sensor size. You can print large with Micro 4/3, no issues. You can print large with APS-C and full frame. All will give you a different look and feel but Micro 4/3 is no longer lacking in IQ in any way. The JPEGS are also fantastic out of camera and no special processing software is needed for the RAW files :)

I saw this guy getting ready to give a high-five. I turned around, aide and fired and hit the moment. No hesitation on the camera or lens. THIS is what makes a camera enjoyable.

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Sure, many cameras have these 6 features but Olympus is at the top of the entire mirror less game when it comes to mostly all of them. Micro 4/3 has established itself as a serious format and those who have predicted its demise over the past 3-4 years have been wrong as it is still going and growing in popularity because nothing offers a mixture of getting everything so close to being right that Olympus in the mirror less body world. Others are getting close, but for me, Olympus still rules the mirrorless roost. They do so much right and so little wrong. That is what it is all about because if a camera is frustrating to use, it will fall by the wayside and be forgotten.

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So how is the E-M10 and 12-40 in real use?

For some, the E-M10 will be much too small but as I said, the slick grip for this camera will add the size most need.. IMO, the E-M10 is one hell of a camera and paired with the 12-40 is one of the, if not the, most fun and reliably good camera and lens combos I have shot with. The good thing about the small size is that it makes it LIGHT. The lens is large on the body though so maybe a pancake lens with E-M10 would make a perfect coat pocket companion. Imagine a 17 1.8 or 20 1.7 on the camera. You could slide it in a coat pocket and have it with you at anytime. That kind of quality in your pocket beats any iPhone :)

With the 12-40 being a wide-angle and medium telephoto all in one I was able to walk around and gran shots in different ways. As I walked around Las Vegas I was doing some street sniping as well as normal photos with the stop and frame. With the fast AF and response the E-M10 was able to catch what I wanted without a problem. Something I could not do with any Fuji or Sony I have shot with to date (for example, the high-five guy above would have been missed with the Fuji or Sony). As much as I love the Sony RX1 and A7, they are nowhere near as fast and responsive as the Olympus bodies (though the IQ is GORGEOUS from the full frame sensor – much richer, a different league really). As much as I liked the Fuji X-T1, it is no match for the speed and response of any recent Olympus body.

IQ wise, I like them all but the Olympus colors and IQ always do it for me and I never am left wanting or regretting taking one out. For  my tastes, I prefer the Sony RX1 and Leica M 240 IQ the best overall but the Olympus Micro 4/3 next, ahead of ANY APS-C camera. The fact that these Olympus bodies work better (the 6 things listed above) than any APS-C I have shot with also helps seal the deal.

Olympus JPEGS are always bright, crisp and colorful. 

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The Sensor:

Here is what Olympus has to say about the sensor in the E-M10 along with the processor:

Unprecedented Image Quality That Exceeds Others in its Class

“The lens technology, sensor and image processor are the core of any digital camera. The OM-D E-M10’s partner in photographic excellence is the acclaimed Olympus M.ZUIKO lens system, a family of professional-grade glass that delivers unsurpassed resolution and overall image quality. The E-M10 ups the ante by pairing a 16MP Live MOS sensor with our most powerful TruePic VII image processor for extraordinary resolution and accurate color rendition. Add 3-axis in-body image stabilization that compensates for horizontal and vertical angular shifts (yaw/pitch) as well as camera shake along the optical axis (roll), and you have a camera that captures incredibly sharp images and video, yet is compact enough to bring just about anywhere.”

Walking around the crowds and grabbing shots was not an issue for the E-M10 and 12-40. Speed was fantastic.

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IQ that equals the E-M1. For $699. 

The more I used the E-M10 the more I enjoyed it but I also was starting to realize just how good the lens is. The 12-40 lens is giving us a 28-80 full frame field of view equivalent but in a much smaller package than those huge and unruly and expensive 24-70 full frame zooms. I reviewed the previous Panasonic 12-35 f/2.8 zoom HERE but I enjoyed the Olympus a little bit more. It just seems like a more polished lens and when using it on a Olympus body it is one of those lenses that just “works”. This lens has been a huge seller for Olympus and for good reason as I was finding out. The IQ that comes from this E-M10 and 12-40 is just as good as what I have been seeing from my E-M1 and E-M5, no question about it.

Both of these are JPEGS from the E-M10 and 12-40 Zoom. EXIF is embedded. Click them for larger/better. The 1st one is a full size camera JPEG. NOT from RAW.

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The E-M10 or the E-M5? That is the question.

Many are wondering..E-M5 or E-M10? Well, after using the E-M10 more and more I came to realize that for me, it beats the E-M5 in almost every way (except it is just a smaller body which I do not prefer..so the grip would be mandatory). It has better Auto Focus implementation. It has a better LCD. It has E-M1 IQ. All for $699. Amazing. Add a nice prime lens and you have a powerhouse capable of pro quality photos and speed. It also has video on par with the other Olympus bodies (which I enjoy and have used for personal projects on many occasions). Today, if I were buying and had to choose between the E-M5 and E-M10, it would have to be the E-M10 and grip.

BUT! There are areas where the E-M5 excel. One, the E-M10 is not weather sealed so if you shoot in rain, dust or rough environments the E-M5 or E-M1 will be the best bet. Also, the 3 Axis is not as good as the revolutionary 5 Axis IS of the E-M5 and E-M1. It is still superb, just loses out a little to the bigger and more expensive brothers.

If you want the ultimate OM-D, go for the E-M1 as it is the best in all areas but this E-M10 is about HALF the price of the $1400 E-M1 while giving the same IQ, speed and performance. Hmmmm.

This one has a vintage Alien Skin filter applied which is giving it the soft look..but I like it. 

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12-40 Zoom or Primes?

I am a HUGE believer in PRIME lenses. Especially FAST prime lenses. I love the 12 f/2, the 20 1.8, 45 1.8, 75 1.8, 17 1.8, etc. They are small, well made, silent and provide the best IQ with the Olympus and Micro 4.3 system. You can achieve shallow DOF and crisp images without an issue. I have avoided Zooms in the past for two reasons. The first reason is that usually, unless you buy a “pro” zoom there is always a compromise in image quality. Cheap zoom are horrible IMO. Kit Zooms are usually horrible as well (though the Fuji 18-55 is nice). Zooms like the Canon and Nikon and Sony 24-70 offerings are nice but they are full frame, horribly large and insanely expensive.

One reason I haven’t used this Olympus 12-40 yet is because I did not think it could offer the IQ of the primes as well as the fact that it is an f/2.8 design. No f/1.8, etc. I like f/1.4, 1.8 lenses!

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Well…after using it I realized that it will be sorely missed when I send it back and I may have to just add it to my Olympus collection when I can fund it. It is so well worth the $999, in fact, if it were $1400 it would be worth it. This lens is versatility and IQ and speed all in one package that comes in at half the size and less than half the cost of those full frame 24-70 counterparts while giving up nothing in performance. Of course full frame sensors offer better everything but in the Micro 4/3 world, THIS 12-40 f/2.8 PRO ZOOM is a must own if you want ONE lens to take out that will deliver prime lens image quality.

It is one hell of a lens and while larger than the primes, it offers much more with a field of view from 24-80mm. This means if you go inside you can shoot at 12mm(24mm)..go outside and zoom out to catch a face at 40mm (80mm)..whatever you need without swapping lenses.

The 12-40 also has a fantastic close focus feature that allows you to focus close when wide. You also have the Olympus Manual Focus clutch for instant switching between AF and MF. The lens is freeze, shock, dust and weather proof. It is silent for movie recording so no rattles, noise or irritating audibles. Olympus designed this one just right and it is an impressive zoom.

With a constant semi-fast f/2.8 aperture, it is the real deal in the Micro 4/3 Zoom world.

I will always love my primes but this is a lens I can see taking out on those days when I just need one lens to cover all I need. Yes…it WILL be mine one day!

All of the images below are JPEG’s ranging from base ISO to ISO 1600. EXIF is embedded.

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Dynamic Range! 

When I wrote my Fuji X-T1 review HERE I mentioned that I had some issues with blown highlights and the Fuji X-Trans sensor. Where I live here in Phx AZ the sun can get quite harsh..in fact, some of the harshest light I have ever come across. It is usually a torture test for most cameras and I have had issues with previous Fuji bodies in this light with flat files, blown highlights and dull looking photos. I have always said that if you give a Fuji some great light it will reward you with amazing image quality. Give it tough light and it can be a tricky situation. Low light can make the Fuji files muddy and ruddy.

One thing that I also have loved about Olympus is that I have never had issues with blown highlights. One reason is that the sensor with these latest OM-D cameras have a very good Dynamic Range and if you do blow the highlights they are easily recovered with the RAW file and a slider or two, even under extreme blow outs. Many think that the DR of the Olympus Micro 4/3 bodies suffer because the sensor is smaller than APS-C or full frame. Usually this would be true but these Olympus sensors always test high on the DR scale and in my real world experience, I have found this to be true.

An OOC JPEG in mid day Las Vegas sun with the white water fountain going full steam. 

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My conclusion on the Olympus E-M10 and 12-40 Pro Zoom.

I will make this easy. If you are leaning towards a Micro 4/3 system but do not want to break the bank with an E-M1, go for the E-M10. It is a WONDERFUL camera that can do just about anything anyone would need. If you want simplicity and versatility as well, buy the 12-40 f/2.8 Zoom and have an all in one kit. This would be a perfect street kit, portrait kit, family kit, vacation and walk around kit. Basically, a jack of all trades and master of most. With the E-M10 and zoom you will only lose out on those shallow DOF effects but if you desire that from time to time add in a 45 1.8 at $399.

In my opinion, Olympus has done it again and are on a constant winning streak with these new cameras and technology. The 3 Axis IS is so good, almost as good as the 5 Axis. The whole speed and user experience of the camera is so pleasurable you just want to keep shooting.

I love the E-M10. It is another camera in the OM-D line that is just a WIN and does not make any real compromises to offer us a more affordable entry unto the Olympus system. Bravo!

Steve

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WHERE TO BUY?

My review sample came from B&H Photo, and they sell the E-M10 at their web site HERE. I highly recommend B&H Photo!

You can also buy the 12-40 f/2.8 Pro Zoom at B&H HERE as well as the accessory Grip HERE.

Amazon sells the E-M10 HERE, the Grip HERE and the 12-40 2.8 Zoom HERE.

PopFlash also sells the Olympus line HERE.

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

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

To help out it is simple. 

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

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

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

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

B&H PHOTO LINK - Can also use my search bar on the right side or links within reviews, anytime.

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

Mar 132014
 

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Shooting & Processing Cinema Film in a Still Camera

by Brett Price

Hey Steve,

Thought I’d write up a quick little article on a recent set of photos I took. I’ve submitted several posts before outlining several photography related experiences with different equipment/techniques I’ve been playing around with, a lot of the fun in photography for me is the ongoing discovery of new techniques, equipment or processes. The latest addition would be my experience shooting motion picture film in a still camera. There’s a lot to do with something like this so Its not exactly something someone can just pick up and do but I figure that this article could be a first step to many who might be interested.

**See Brett’s other posts HEREHEREHERE and HERE**

First off, All of the shots below were rolled, shot, developed/processed and scanned in an at home process and were all taken with Kodak Vision 3 500t film. This is a fabulously versatile film that used a great deal in modern cinematography. This is the same film that you can also purchase online, called CINESTILL FILM that has had a special process to make it capable of being developed at a traditional film lab. (more on that later).

One of the reasons I wanted to play around with this film is because well, I still shoot a lot of film, and the choices for films are becoming more and more limited today for still photography. I still feel like cinema film has a place for a while until most of the more seasoned DPs give it up and its relatively more affordable to shoot considering how much more of it you can buy. You mainly just have to have the infrastructure to take it from beginning to end to make that work, something I have developed over the years. Another reason, like I mentioned is the cost. I purchased a 400ft roll of kodak film online for about 100 dollars. That’s enough color film to make over 100 rolls. That is a dollar a roll, not too bad. It’s also a film thats really not available in still format. Most still films are daylight balanced, which can be troublesome if you shoot it under any type of tungsten light. I’ve never really understood why films were made that way, with no high-speed stocks available for that type of light. It’s quite easy to take a high-speed film and add a warming filter to it to shoot outdoors if needed. Its pretty difficult to take a daylight film and shoot indoors, as the filters remove a great deal of light, and then you have to shoot it in a place where typically there isn’t a great deal of light.

But oh well. It’s a fantastic film. All of these shots were taken outdoors or by open windows without a filter so this is the look you can get when you shoot it outside. It’s very blue but able to be balanced nicely in the scanning process. It’s also a very versatile film if it’s all you shoot as all it really needs to shoot outside is a warming filter. I shoot a lot at night and in urban environments so this film really fits my daily Leica carry.

The first step is getting it into shootable cassettes. Bulk loading is pretty common with b&w film, as you can still buy 100ft rolls of it. All you need is to separate out about 100ft from the 400ft roll and load it into a bulk loader and then into the film cassettes. Pretty easy.

One of the reasons everyone hasn’t picked up on this film yet is the fact that it comes rolled with a layer on the film called REMJET. Remjet is a layer on the back of the film that is typically removed in the films native process but the C-41 process does not account for. You can’t just shoot this film and take it to a lab for development. Not only will the film ruin the lab’s chemistry, it will come out with a layer of soft black gook on the back. The CINESTILL film that is available for purchase has this layer pre-removed so the film can be developed in any lab, hence why its caught on with a lot of 35mm film shooters.

All of these shots were home developed and not taken from a lab. I actually used waste lab chemistry because I work at a lab but the same process can be done with any home c-41 kit. The biggest unknown for a lot of people, even me, was how easy or difficult it is to remove the Remjet layer after processing the film. There’s a lot of stuff online that goes into detail about how difficult or easy it is but nothing very specific of helpful. I actually found this to be super easy. The film comes out after processing almost totally opaque, if you touch the back of it you’ll get an inky black residue on your fingers, it comes off quite easily but the issue is you don’t really want to get it on the emulsion side. All I did was wet a microfiber cloth, grab the film from the top, and essentially squeegee it from top to bottom. This took off the rem jet perfectly. All that’s left is to restabilize the film so you don’t get water spots from the wet cloth.

I have access to a lab scanner so these were pretty straight forward to scan in but the process of scanning can be done after development like any other film. Also pretty straightforward.

I really like the characteristics of this film. I’ll probably pick up a roll of Kodak 250D (daylight) as well and then i feel like all my bases would be covered for shooting color 35mm. It’s a super versatile film and the process isn’t nearly as scary as many people make it seem. I would highly suggest checking out the CINESTILL website for side by side examples as to why this film is so nice. They lay it out between some more popular films like Portra and Fuji Pro, and the results are pretty easy to see.

Anyway, I post a great deal to various websites ill list below, please check them out for more shots. Hope you all like my photos with this film and my write-up on it as well. Happy shooting.

Brett Price

Instagram: Brettprice

Tumblr: Brettprice.tumblr.com

Website: www.iambrettprice.com

Flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/brettprice

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Mar 122014
 

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The new ONA Berlin Leica M System Bag

The new ONA Berlin is now available and I have had one for the past 7-10 days putting it through its paces around town. This is a bag made for the Leica M system, but could be used for just about any mirror less system available right now. So Leica, Fuji. Olympus, Sony, etc. BUT, this bag was “designed” to be a Leica M system bag right down to the red dot on the buckle strap and shoulder pad and what a beauty of a bag it is.

Excuse the lighting and poor color in the video below, I will be re-doing this video in the next few days  - going through some medical/health issues right now and when I did this I just got back from Doc/ER – sorry!

I love ONA bags as they are well made, look handsome and rugged and are one of the few brands that offer a taste of the higher end in the bag world. A bag that is not only functional, but stylish and looks good around your body. The new Berlin sits right in with the other luxury offerings from ONA and this is a GOOD thing because ONA makes some of the best bags in the camera bag business.

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ONA states that this is a limited edition bag and below are the specs from their website and description page of the “Berlin”…

Created to celebrate 100 years of Leica photography, the Berlin is a limited-edition ONA bag designed for the Leica M-System. The Berlin is handcrafted with full-grain leather that will develop a rich patina over time.

The signature Leica red interior is fully customizable, padded with premium closed-cell foam, and can accommodate one Leica M-System camera, two to three lenses, an iPad and small personal items. The Berlin also features a zipped organizer pocket, a convenient removable top-grab handle, antique brass buckles, red rivet accents and a streamlined back pocket.

Limited edition

Handcrafted with full-grain leather

Designed for Leica M-System

Removable top-grab handle

Exterior dimensions: 12.5″L x 10″ H x 4.5″ D

Interior dimensions: 11″ L x 8.5″ H x 3.5″D

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I like that it can hold an iPad as well as your M and 2-3 lenses along with other necessities such as your phone, battery charger, and even some film if you so desire. This is a bag that feels a little stiff out of the box but over time it will soften up and develop a patina while wearing in and showing that wear. The one I have been using still looks new but it has only been on a couple of local trips with me. I examined the bag inside and out and it is up to the same Ona standards as the Brixton leather, but smaller and lighter (which is good). If leather is your thing, and you own a Leica M system, this is a bag that may just be the “one” you have been waiting for.

But quality does not come cheap at $369. This is a luxury designer limited edition full-grain leather bag. This is not a cheap fabric bag but more of a “functional statement piece” much like Fogg and Billingham bags. Fogg bags are now running into the $600′s and up for cloth and leather (but they are beautiful bags) and Billingnam round the gamut from $250-$600 or so for a good M bag. The ONA bag is created to celebrate the Leica M, and it looks, feels and plays the part well. If you have invested thousands in your Leica M system, why not dress it up with a new bag?

I think it is gorgeous but I am a fan of the leather camera bags. To me it sort of looks a bit old school and new school and the red interior is gorgeous but the cool thing here is that this bag will AGE VERY WELL. In 5-10-20 years it will look like a true well worn classic bag, even if you have the M 980 in it by then.

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When I took out the bag I had my M 240, 50 Nokton, 90 Summarit and an E-M10 inside with a lens. I also had an iPad mini, my phone and a charger for the M. I had some room to spare yet the bag is not huge and unruly. I think those that appreciate quality and function will really be into this bag. I have used a ton of bags over the years and for quality of build, the ONA is up there with the best I have used and tested. I love Fogg, I like Billingham and I enjoy Artistan & Artist but for the money spent, it is tough to beat the ONA for a mix of everything. I previously reviewed the Union Street and Bowery HERE but those were not the leather versions. I also bought and owned the all leather Brixton which traveled with me to Ireland, New York ad other parts of the world. It wore in quite nicely and now looks like a 20 year old leather bag. That Brixton received MANY compliments during my travels and I am confident that the Berlin will as well.

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For Leica M owners, the Berlin is a fabulous carry case for your valuable camera and lenses, if you like that sort of thing.

You heard it here first...I asked ONA to make this in black as I would personally prefer a black version with the red dots and red interior. It would look striking I think but this normal leather version is also VERY cool and classic..retro..M. How limited is it? Not sure, but if it catches your fancy, take further look at the ONA website.  You can read more or buy it.  $369.

As for my black request, only time will tell.

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Mar 122014
 

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Brazil 2014

by Colin Steel – His Website is HERE

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Given that Brazil is one of the worlds most famous footballing countries and the massive amount of media attention focused on this years World Cup there, I thought it might be interesting to look at another aspect of this fascinating country by experiencing life in the more rural areas. I also want to spin in some thoughts that I have been having for a while on my motivation to photograph, choice of subject matter and the development of photographic style.

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I have only visited Brazil once and somehow I was not attracted to the main cities and wanted to see for myself what the less publicised Brazil looked like. For an outsider like me I had two cliches of Brazil in my head, firstly the frantic, carnavalistic Rio and of course the jungles of the Amazon with its indigenous tribes. As I said, somehow I wanted to have a look at what I thought would be the more normal but rural Brazil so I headed to Cachoeira in North East Brazil via the entry city of Salvador de Bahia. Armed with my trusty Fuji X20 and a newly purchased Ricoh GR I started to photograph and this is where it got really interesting for me.

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Unbeknown to me, this area of Brazil had historically been a major location for slave trading and I am sure I read somewhere that more slaves were landed here than in North America but either way, there is a massive African cultural influence that is apparent in many aspects of life here from cuisine to religion. It was this religious aspect that made the subsequent photographs interesting for me without consciously realising it at the time.

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I quickly discovered that there was a local religion that I know very little about called Candomble and as best as I can understand it, its a blend of traditional African beliefs and ceremony fused with some Christian elements. The religion is not based on scripts and it appeared to me to be kept alive through chants and dance. I had the very good fortune to be allowed to attend part of a Candomble event and witness the rituals first hand. I must say that despite their concern for privacy (and rightly so) the people I met at the hall were very warm to me although we could not understand each others language very well. I am sure that Candomble has been photographed many times and probably more eloquently than my shots so there is nothing knew in this but I wanted to try explain how the experience shaped how and what I shot for the rest of my stay.

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Whether my interpretation of the Candomble religion is correct or not, it did trigger some thinking in me that I feel is fundamentally important and I wanted to try to share it here. What I found was that the dances and chants had a very spiritual side to them and I was also asked by the people there not to touch anything I came across as it might be there for a purpose to guide spirits. I began to notice many things like animal parts on the ground and somehow I became more aware and sensitised to my surroundings. Why is this important from a photographic point of view? Well I began to photograph things that I would previously have passed by and at the same time I began to ignore subjects that I would recently have photographed because I thought that it might have proved attractive and that other people might have been impressed by. This meant that I was photographing from within myself and only shooting subjects and scenes that had real emotional meaning to me personally regardless of what others may think of them.

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As you can imagine this is pretty challenging to do but I forced myself to not go for shots where I felt no internal emotional or spiritual association and found that I became immersed at times in my own world, seeing things very differently from my previous photographic eye.

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Having started like many photographers obsessed by the technicalities of the art and worrying about sharpness, composition and so on its very difficult to snap out of that way of thinking but I now firmly believe that if you are really serious about using photography as a medium to express yourself and the depth behind our extraordinary lives you have to either let go of the formal concepts or at least use them only at the subconscious level. If you are able to allow yourself to be drawn to things that you need not understand but somehow they trigger an internal stimuli, notion or recognition then you can make your photography personal and I think that is the ultimate step in both satisfaction and making your photography unique to you. In some sense every photograph you take then is actually a capture of yourself. Surely that is a laudable objective.

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When I got myself into this frame of mind I found quite quickly that my photographs became more content dominant. I now believe this to be a very good thing and almost a sure sign that what you are shooting is personal to you in some way. That is not to say that the photographs do not have the other elements of light and form but somehow, as I am sure I remember Roger Ballen saying somewhere, the content becomes the form. To try to explain this a little, in the photo of the dog above, its the light that makes it work but it was the dog that attracted me first and I felt that he had something to say that could not be seen by sitting him down and snapping him. For me there is a real mystery to life and sometimes we have to leave our rational brains behind to reveal other sensory and spiritual aspects.

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I guess going back to the beginning of mankind there are certain deep rooted emotions, fears, loves, desires and terrors that are within us all and they can be triggered in many different ways by sounds, smells, light and so on. What the Brazilian experience has done for me is sensitised me to a way of looking for times when I personally feel a need to respond to something by either looking more closely at it it or sometimes, as in the previous animal head shot, recoiling from it. This immediately alerts me to the fact that there is something that I need to make sense of for myself.

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Quite often you will begin to find that when you shoot personally or privately from within there are relationships between the subjects, shapes and forms that will assist you as a photographer to edit and sequence more powerfully and I certainly found that to be the case for me.

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I began to find that I was attracted to photograph something initially because of a simple shape, line or reflection that interested me and when I began to look more closely other combinations and elements would appear.

One thing I want to avoid here is to make this sound mysterious or revelationary because I genuinely don’t think it is and, in fact, in some ways its the opposite. This approach is simple and strips away nearly all of the mystique of the photographic craft by allowing you to be free in how and what you choose to shoot unencumbered by technicalities.

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I think by now you should hopefully be getting some understanding of what I find incredibly difficult to put into words. I only know that this set of images is as close as I have ever come to showing myself through the photographic medium and I derive a huge amount of personal satisfaction from that. Its nice, but not important to me if other people like the images. I feel in a way that I have been working towards this for the last year or so but somehow it took the trigger of the Candomble experience to show me how to do it.

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One of the nice things I have found about trying to shoot from subconscious instinct and response is that the photos are not at all narrow or constrained to particular subjects or themes and whilst I find myself shooting much less people, my sense of it is that when I do its in a much more sensitive way.

I mentioned at the start the very thorny subject of photographic style and this is something that I have struggled to understand since I began photography around six years ago. I know more and more that I respond to certain photographers and their imagery and less so others. I have also become an avid collector of photo books by the same photographers that I admire and I am beginning to formulate a personal view on style.

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I think its reasonable to say that anyones ‘style’ whether they be actor, fashion designer, movie maker, writer or whatever is in some way shaped by their life experiences and the personal influences that they draw on. It seems to me that I am attracted to photographers who place very little importance on anything other than shooting only things that intrinsically interest them. Whether you could say that they have developed completely individual ‘style’ I am not so sure and quite often we identify photographers not by their style but simply through the fact that we know their photographs or by some mannerism that they frequently use. What I am sure of though is that they photograph individualistically and derive their style not from a camera, film, lens or other mannerism but from the fact that they photograph something of themselves in all of their best photographs whether that be their lust, desires, fears, uncertainties or whatever and that is what makes them compelling for me to look at. I often also find the case that they are best at creating bodies of work and, although they might have a few iconic images, its only when you look at a complete compilation that they make most sense and have greatest appeal, hence the importance of the photo book for me.

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This takes me back to the earlier point I made that I think if you can shoot from inside then your work becomes more sensible and easier to edit and sequence. I am sure most photographers will agree with me that editing your work is without doubt one of the hardest things to do and we all agonise over the photo we love but that doesn’t fit. Well, while that doesn’t disappear entirely, I have certainly found that despite the diverse subject matter, I can more easily see a continuity in the photos I take and I firmly believe that is because I am responding to internal triggers and trying to search out my spirituality.

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Returning then to Brazil, as you can see, I found the country fascinating and once in the countryside an amazing stream of events unfolded and I found the photography very rewarding. As in every rural community in the world that I have visited people that live off the land tend to be warm and kind if treated with respect and that proved to be the case here as we were continually were gifted lovely fresh oranges or a newly rolled cigar.

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I think I need to begin to wind this up now as I am in danger of repeating the simple message that I hoped to share in this short article. If anyone wants to see the full set in my choice of sequence they can do so here .

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Finally, I want to finish by just saying a little about the opening picture that I feel has a very important role in what I wanted to say here. The photo is of a chameleon who had been caught and was being cooked by some poor local fishermen. Needless to say I found it very sad to see the beautiful creature change unwillingly to the colour of the coals in his death but somehow there was something important for me in this event. I would never have previously stopped to even look at this because I would have been repulsed but that very sensation now made me want to go and take a closer look to see if I could find any meaning in the sad event. I became intrigued by the newspaper that had attached to the lizard in the fire and somehow, even in death there was meaning to this. I don’t think its overly important but the Portuguese words Na Verdade on the paper mean ‘actually …….. ‘ and it did suggest to me something that I can’t fully understand and certainly can’t put into words but that photograph sure speaks to me.

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Mar 102014
 

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The Fuji X-T1 Review. Fuji creates the Best X to date!

What a way to blow a review! I pretty much say right there in the title that yes indeed this X-T1 is the BEST Fuji X to date, even surpassing the X100 and X100s for me..finally! Many of you know that I was never a huge fan of the X-Pro 1, X-E1, X-E2, etc. I just never felt that they were mature..in fact, on more than one occasion I called them “Beta” products and we, the consumers, were the testers as we shelled out thousands for the bodies and lenses.

Well, the good thing about all of this is that Fuji seems to finally figured out everything (almost) and have now created the Body that the X-Pro 1 should have been as the X-T1 beats the Pro 1 all over and down the block and the “T” stands for “Tough”. Yes, the X-T1 is now weather sealed!

All images in this review were shot JPEG. Click on ANY image in this review for a larger version.

14mm at ISO 250 – f/2.8

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So do I prefer the X-T1 to the E-M1?

As many here know. I have been a HUGE fan of the Olympus Micro 4/3 offerings for years and the E-M1 has been my daily “goto” camera since launch for its build, speed, response, feel, control and lenses. The IQ is also quite fantastic though many dismiss it due to the sensor size. With this new Fuji many have asked if the X-T1 will unseat my E-M1 for my new “goto” camera.

To that I say…NO. As much as the Fuji is an improvement over the previous Fuji bodies, and by a large margin it does not have enough for me to buy it over an E-M1. I have a Leica M 240 which is my premium IQ camera and the Fuji does not come close in IQ, feel rendering, etc to my M, so I have no need for the Fuji. I also have a Nikon V1, J1, and new stuff on the way soon. If I bought the Fuji I would still prefer to shoot the E-M1 for its faster speed, better build, better JPEG output, 5-Axis IS and  the gorgeous lenses. IQ is a draw besides some shallow DOF effects, but for that I have my Leica which beats them both easily.

The Fuji X-T1 surprised me because when the review sample arrived I expected more of the same..which means, big claims and underperformance. BUT, I was shocked to see that this time, the new Fuji lived up to the hype and then some. While not perfect, it is one hell of a camera and the one to beat for APS-C out of the cameras I have shot with to date (NON DSLR).

If I had NO CAMERA and was starting from scratch, the X-T1 would be under serious consideration along with the 14, 23, 35 and 56 lenses. You can buy it here.

Direct from camera color – JPEG – 35 1.4 at ISO 500

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For the 1st week that I had the review sample from B&H Photo I also rented a couple of lenses. The 14 2.8 and the oh so popular 35 1.4. I also had the 18-55 Kit Zoom that I never did get to try, so it was nice to see and verify that yes indeed, this 18-55 is the nicest kit zoom I have ever shot with. It is a quality Zoom for sure.

So with all of that out of the way, let me get to the meat and potatoes. How does the camera feel, perform, respond, and how are the controls and build? Before you read, and in case you missed it..you can see my very 1st impression video review below:

The Build and Feel of the Fuji X-T1

This X-T1 feels very good. Better than the Pro-1, X-E1, X-E2. It feels ergonomically correct, for my hands at least. While not as solid or hefty as the Olympus E-M1, the grip feels just right. There is less of the “Fuji Hollowness” that I noticed with previous bodies. The bottom line? I have no complaints on the build and ergonomics. It could have been better, but it also could have been worse.

The control…

One thing I love is the manual dials and controls which remind me of the Nikon Df (review here). On the top of the body we have controls and dials to set the ISO (love this), the metering (love this) and the Exposure Compensation (love this as well). You can also twist a dial and set up bracketing or continuous shooting, etc. It is all right there at your fingertips.

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On the back of the camera we have the trash button, the play button, the AE-L button, the AF-L button, a thumb dial, focus assist button (which is nice), the Q button and display button. The heart of the back is the thumb pad and MENU/OK button.

My ONE issue with the design of the back is that damn thumb pad. It sucks. Plain and simple. The thumb pad buttons for top, left, right and bottom do not feel good at all. They do not stick out enough or give any kind of tactile feedback. They are “mushy” and “soft”. If I buy this camera I will be sticking some little buttons on each directional pad. Not sure why Fuji designed it like that but this is ONE area where they dropped the design ball.

Is it bad enough to not buy the camera? No, it is just something you will wish they had designed better.

18-55 at 55mm and ISO 200 – f/4

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The EVF…

Pull up your eyeball to the big EVF and you may feel like you are at a drive in theater. Yes, the EVF will spoil you with the HUGE size. It is the largest looking EVF I have ever had the pleasure to peep through and it is pretty bad ass. I LOVE EVF’s and have preferred them to OVF’s for a couple of years now. When the Olympus E-M1 was released, that EVF was AMAZING. The Fuji is even more WOW and AMAZING to look through but it does have some quirks. Still, it puts the E-M1 EVF in 2nd place.

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When shooting in low light or going from light to dark the EVF will lag for a bit and then catch up. It also gets grainy at night. BUT, for me, it does not take away from the experience. At all. I can still frame my shots and fire away. I love this EVF. Again, not perfect but so much better than ANY other Fuji EVF to date. Makes me wonder though..why did the not use their OVF/EVF design of the X100 but make it large? Would have been even better to have the choice as many prefer an OVF over the EVF. This would have covered everyones tastes.

Still, the EVF is beautiful to look through. HUGE and almost rear LCD like. Some may even prefer to use the EVF over the LCD to view their images! I like that the camera can be set up to use the EVF without the LCD. So turn on eye detection and the rear LCD will stay off and the EVF will pop on when your face is put up to it. This is how I shot the camera, no chimping.

14mm at f/2.8 and ISO 200

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35 1.4 at ISO 200 and f/1.4

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35 1.4 at ISO 200 and f/1.4

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The SD card door, battery compartment and LCD…

The SD card door feels good and is one of those pull back and slide out designs. It locks back into place with a nice click and I encountered zero issues. The Battery door is just like 90% of cameras with the flick of the switch  to open. No issues. The other side of the camera with the HDMI port felt a little sloppy though and I thought that out could have been made to be more like the SD card door, so it would lock into place. Instead you just push it in and it feels a little mushy. But most cameras are like this.

The LCD is a swivel LCD and looks good. No complaints as it is your run of the mill 2013/2014 LCD in quality and size. I much prefer to use that massive EVF. :)

35 1.4 – ISO 640 – A creepy crawly critter found in my kitchen :)

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14mm ISO 800

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The speed of the Fuji X-T1. 

The Fuji X-T1 had to be faster than the previous X bodies. If it was not it would be an immediate fail for me. This was my #1 worry about the camera. With that E-M1 I speak so highly of..well, it is just such a JOY to use due to the speed, response, IS, etc. So I was a bit worried about the Fuji because I knew there was no way for it to compete in this area with the E-M1.

So how did it do?

Well, when using newer lenses like the 14 2.8 it was very fast. I had no issues with AF at all. Speed was great AND accuracy was superb! This started to get me excited because my #1 main niggle with these Fuji’s has been the AF speed AND accuracy! These have both been remedied it seemed. When I put on the older 35 1.4 is when I saw  the AF slow down. Faster than previous bodies but I think it is a lens limitation instead of the camera limitation. It was easily usable but the Olympus 25 1.8 smoked it on my E-M1 for speed. Still, it was not annoyingly slow or anything, just not as fast as that 14 2.8. The Kit Zoom hunted from time to time in lower light and was also not the fastest but still acceptable.

So overall I would give the X-T1 high marks just for the improvements made on the speed and response. Speaking of response, gone are the Fuji days of slow, sluggish menus and response. The X-T1 is up there with the competition when it comes to response and offers better response and speed than the Sony A7 and A7r.

So Fuji created this camera to make a statement I think. To send a message to guys like me..“WE CAN make a fast and responsive camera”!

18-55 at f/4 and ISO 200

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Compared to the Olympus E-M1. High ISO and Detail. 

Some have asked me to include this in the review since many are debating between the E-M1 and X-T1. To be honest, I also feel Fuji released the X-T1 in response to the E-M1. Same shape, design, etc. They HAD to answer to the E-M1 as it has been wildly successful. So how does the X-T1 compare?

Speed and Response vs the E-M1

The E-M1 still wins for speed, response and overall quality of build. But it’s closer now than with previous Fuji camera bodies. With the new X lenses such as the 14mm some will not even notice a difference. When it coms to continuous AF though the Fuji fails and is way behind the Olympus. For CAF, the Olympus E-M1 wins the battle.

EVF Battle

I prefer the Fuji. It is larger, more vibrant, and looks like you are viewing a large LCD up close. It is a nice effect. With that said, the Olympus E-M1 EVF is 2nd best in the market.

Controls and Dials

The Olympus dials feel more substantial but the Fuji control scheme..I much prefer. So for real world usage, I prefer the Fuji as it has the right controls in the right places. They just do not feel as solid and well made as the Olympus. I hate the Fuji rear thumb pad with a passion though.

Image Stabilization

Olympus. Easy. No contest. Period. Until you have experienced that 5-Axis IS you have not experienced IS.

Lens Selection

NOW it is getting close. With the Fuji 14 2.8, 23 1.4, 35 1.4, and new 56 1.2 as well as the nice Kit Zoom Fuji is about equal with Olympus. Almost. I prefer the Olympus 60 Macro to the Fuji Macro and I love the little jewel like Oly lenses like the 12mm, 25 1.8, 75 1.8, etc. Still Fuji has caught up and makes Sony appear to be lagging behind in the high quality fast prime arena. I am giving this one a tie because Fuji has released quite a few superb lenses in a short time.

IMAGE QUALITY

Here is where it gets tricky. Now, all of you Fuji guys and gals will tell me NO CONTEST! Fuji! But not so fast. The Olympus is amazing in the IQ department and some of my favorite photos that I have seen last year in 2013 were shot on an E-M1. It has no shortcomings in the IQ department when using it with the superb prime lenses. I have always preferred the Olympus IQ to the Fuji and Sony APS-C offerings. With the X-T1 still using the X-T1 sensor let us see how it goes..

1st up, just a normal snapshot to check for tonality and color out of camera (JPEG). To me the Fuji looks more vibrant (the Fuji colors) and the Olympus is more muted and natural. The Olympus was closer to reality but which is more pleasing? Many will say “Fuji”. You can also see the depth of field differences. The Fuji was using the 35 1.4 at 1.8 and the Olympus the new 25 1.8 at 1.8. The Fuji will give you a more shallow DOF here as it is using a 35mm lens and the Olympus a 25mm lens. The longer the lens the more shallow DOF. While both are “equivalent 50mm” in field of view, they will not give you the same DOF. The Fuji focused decently with the 35 here and the Olympus was instant.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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100% crops from JPEG. This is where the Fuji X-Trans shows some issues with JPEG. The image of the tree below looks nice. Vibrant, sharp, pleasing. When looking at the 100% crop of each camera, the X-T1 and E-M1 you can see the Fuji has a watercolor effect going on which is NOT pleasant. The E-M1 does NOT have this effect. This is straight from camera on each. The E-M1 wins on this one easily, that is, the 100% crop detail test. Trees are always a nice torture test for detail and the E-M1 won this one easily. These are JPEGS as Adobe, at the time of this review, will not process the X-T1 RAW files. To be fair though, in the past using Adobe with the Fuji X-Trans RAW files yielded watercolor effects as well. Here, to me, the Oly wins. 

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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High ISO. Most claim the Fuji;s as the king of high ISO but this is not really true. Fuji always applies some level of noise  reduction as you can not turn it off, which really sucks. I always turn off NR on all of my cameras as NR makes the details look smeared no matter how much is used. It does not look natural at all. SO how does the X-T1 and E-M1 stand up at ISO 3200? We would expect the Fuji to wipe the floor and leave the Olympus in tears, but again, not the case. The Fuji is better but the Olympus crop with ZERO NR does not look bad. The Fuji is still applying some NR, the Olympus is NOT.

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So there you have it, even when the E-m1 has the NR turned OFF it is not far behind the Fuji which as NR on the lowest setting. The Oly is also sharper showing more detail in the crop. I prefer the Olympus here for the 100% JPEG crop and the high ISO comparison at 3200. I also prefer Oly color as you can see from the shots here that are all with the E-M1. Also, proof that the E-M1 can be used and is used for Pro work that looks AMAZINGLY beautiful in color, DR and sharpness. SO many discount the Olympus just because they own a Fuji or Sony without any valid reasons. All of them are great in their own ways. What you choose is up to you for your own tastes.

ISO 1250 with 18-55 Kit Lens

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More about the X-T1

The Fuji X-T1 has the same menu style as previous Fuji bodies including all of the different JPEG color filters such as Velvia, Astia and Provia film simulations. Do they look like the film counterparts? No, but they can be nice for those who want to shoot JPEG as they give vibrant, contrasty and more punch to the files if that is what you seek. Basically this is like an X-E2 on steroids in an all new body shape. It shares the same sensor as the X-E2 so we still have the X-Trans “Look” that many love and some do not love so much :)

The Battery life is good, the EVF rocks, the control scheme/layout is fantastic and everything is right there on the camera to control. NO MORE menu diving. If you decide to go for the one with the kit zoom it is indeed a great Kit Zoom. Not as sharp as the primes and not as fast, but still…for an 18-55 Kit Zooom it is the best I have tried even including Image Stabilisation.

Below are some images shot with the kit zoom, exif is embedded on each but most were shot wide open between 18-55. 

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The X-T1 specs and features:

16.3MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS II Sensor

A large 16.3MP APS-C CMOS image sensor is integrated into the X-T1 to provide high image quality and detail. Using Fujifilm’s unique X-Trans bespoke pixel array, the sensor is designed with a randomized pixel pattern to eliminate the need of an optical low-pass filter for reducing moiré and aliasing. By removing this filter from the design, higher image sharpness is possible. Lens Modulation Optimizer (LMO) factors are also taken into account using the EXR Processor II, which helps to automatically compensate for aberrations and diffraction blur in order to produce images with the utmost inherent sharpness.

The X-Trans sensor also works to provide highly effective noise reduction and a clean signal-to-noise ratio. This enables smoother-looking imagery that becomes especially apparent when photographing in low-light situations with an expanded sensitivity range of ISO 100-51200. Additionally, a top continuous shooting rate of 8 fps is possible, for up to 47 consecutive frames, to benefit working with moving subject matter.

EXR Processor II

Aside from benefitting low-light performance, the EXR Processor II also provides quick performance throughout the entire camera system. The camera start-up time is about 0.5 seconds, shutter lag is about 0.05 seconds, and the shooting interval time is about 0.5 seconds. A fast autofocus performance speed of 0.08 seconds is also enabled using the advanced Intelligent Hybrid AF system using both contrast and phase-detection focusing methods.

Intelligent Hybrid AF and Enhanced Manual Focus

Intelligent Hybrid AF is a quick, responsive autofocus system that employs both contrast and phase-detection methods to acquire focus quickly in a wide variety of lighting conditions and shooting situations. Clear focus can quickly be attained to aid in catching fast-paced movement more easily. Three focus modes are available (AF-S, AF-C, and M) for greater control over how the X-T1 achieves sharp focus. When working with autofocus, the AF area is divided into a 49-point matrix in order to gain clear focus of any type of subject matter. Additionally, a built-in AF assist lamp is available for aiding the focus system when photographing in low-light situations.

When working with manual focus, two additional features can be employed for enhanced critical focusing in a more controllable manner. By using the phase-detection pixels located on the imaging sensor, Digital Split Image technology is able to assist in acquiring precise focus through the implementation of four striped focusing aids; akin to a rangefinder focusing method, once these stripes have been lined up, sharp focus can be ensured. Also contributing to manual focus accuracy, Focus Peak Highlight has been integrated and enables a more objective system of focusing by way of highlighting sharp edges and lines of contrast, using one of three colors, once they are in focus.

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Multi Mode Real Time Viewfinder

An advanced electronic viewfinder has been incorporated into the X-T1′s design to support clear eye-level monitoring along with a host of unique viewing features to better support a more efficient overall workflow. The Real Time Viewfinder is comprised of a 2,360k-dot OLED display and features an exceptionally high magnification of 0.77x, along with a 31° angle of view. This perspective is further complemented by the 0.005 sec. lag time, which smoothly and seamlessly renders scenes and moving subjects.

Beyond the technical aspects of the viewfinder, an adaptable graphical user interface has also been designed to increase efficiency during shooting. Four different viewing modes are available:

FULL: This mode takes advantage of the high magnification ratio of the viewfinder and produces an image that fills the majority of the viewfinder in an unobstructed manner. Shooting information is presented at the top and bottom edges and does not interfere with the image frame itself.

NORMAL: This mode enables you to focus on the composition at hand while still having an in-depth understanding of camera settings and shooting conditions.

VERTICAL: When the camera is held in a vertical orientation, the information display automatically rotates so it is facing upright for easier reading of camera settings. When working in this mode, images can also be reviewed in the vertical orientation.

DUAL: Serving to benefit those working with manual focus, this mode presents a split screen view of the scene where you see both a regular view as well as the Focus Assist View (Focus Highlight Peaking and Digital Split Image) at the same time, allowing you to concentrate on the image composition as well as critical focus accuracy.

In addition to the four viewing modes, the shooting information displayed within the viewfinder can also be customized to suit one’s needs. 19 different settings can be toggled on or off depending on preference.

Classic Camera Design

Featuring a body design reminiscent of SLR film cameras, the X-T1 exhibits a meshing of both analog exposure controls along with intelligent automated technologies. The clean and functional body design incorporates physical shutter speed, ISO, drive mode, AF mode, and +/- 3 EV exposure compensation double-deck precision-milled aluminum alloy dials that pair well with the manual aperture rings found on many of the XF lenses for intuitive exposure setting selection. Depending on individual needs, six customizable buttons, dual command dials, and an easily-accessible Q Menu provide an efficient solution for modifying some of the most frequently used camera settings, such as ISO, white balance, and file settings. For more extensive menu navigation, as well as live view monitoring and image review, a 3.0″ 1,040k-dot LCD monitor is available and features a tilting design to better support working from high and low angles.

Furthermore, the magnesium alloy body also features approximately 80 points of weather sealing to protect itself from dust and moisture, as well as temperatures as low as 14°F, for confident use in trying conditions.

Full HD Movie Recording

Full HD 1080p video recording is supported up to 60 fps, with other frame rates and formats also available. Full-time AF tracking is available during recording with subject tracking capabilities for ensured sharpness when either the subject is moving or if the camera is moving, panning, or zooming. +/- 2 EV exposure compensation is available during recording as well as the use of Film Simulation settings.

An HDMI port enables high definition playback of movies to an HDTV and the inclusion of a 2.5mm input supports the use of an optional external microphone for enhanced sound quality.

Built-In Wi-Fi Connectivity

Wireless connectivity is built into the camera and allows for instant sharing of images directly to an Android or iOS mobile device. The Fujifilm Camera Remote app allows you to browse the image contents of your camera from your mobile device and transfer both videos and photos, and the entire sharing process is further expedited by simply pressing and holding the dedicated Wi-Fi button to begin transferring immediately. Remote camera control and monitoring is also supported through the use of the app, which enables Touch AF, shutter release, exposure settings adjustment, Film Simulation modes, white balance modes, macro, timer, and flash controls to all be adjusted from the linked mobile device. Location data can also be embedded into image file’s metadata for geotagging.

Film Simulation Mode and Advanced Filters

Taking advantage of Fujifilm’s vast history in traditional film-based photography, the X-T1 integrates several Film Simulation modes to mimic the look and feel of some Fujifilm’s classic film types. Pulling from their line of transparency films, PROVIA offers natural-looking tones for everyday shooting, VELVIA produces a more dramatic and rich tonality with deeper color saturation, and ASTIA gives less contrast for a softer depiction of skin tones. Mimicking their negative films, PRO Neg. Std. gives smooth image tones that are suitable for accurate color renditions, while PRO Neg. Hi produces a more dramatic feel with the ability to draw color out of a variety of lighting conditions. In addition to the colorful benefits of these Film Simulation modes, there are also monochrome modes that simulate the look of traditional yellow, green, and red black and white contrast filters. A sepia mode is also available for producing an inherently nostalgic look.

Eight Advanced Filters are also available to creatively enhance the look of imagery, and include: High Key, Low Key, Soft Focus, Toy Camera, Miniature, Pop Color, Dynamic Tone, and Partial Color (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Purple).

Other Camera Features

An in-camera RAW converter lets you record your images in 14-bit RAW and process them prior to computer-based editing procedures. This process enables you to modify the exposure, white balance, and other controls directly through the menu interface. Additionally, for more thorough processing of files, RAW File Converter software is included for RAW image processing on your computer.

Interval shooting is possible with intervals of 1 second to 24 hours for up to 999 frames.

Compatible with UHS-II memory cards for fast transfer speeds during shooting.

Multiple exposure mode gives you the ability to overlay imagery in-camera. When working in this mode, subsequent exposures can be paired and the final appearance can be previewed on the LCD or in the EVF before making the final exposure.

Motion panorama mode allows you to record expansive views up to 360° wide in a seamless, sweeping manner.

The included EF-X8 shoe-mount flash has a guide number of 26.2′ at ISO 100 and provides additional illumination to imagery for photographing in dark conditions. A sync terminal is also available for use of additional optional external flashes.

Four different auto bracketing modes are available: Dynamic Range, Film Simulation, AE, and ISO Sensitivity.

The included NP-W126 battery enables approximately 350 frames to be recorded per charge.

Blown Highlights? As with previous Fuji cameras I find them easier to blow highlights than my Leica M, my E-M1 or the Sony A7 or RX1. The 1st image below shows this. I had Exposure Comp dialed back to help avoid the blown highlights. The rest of the image is exposed correctly (face) yet his shirt is blown as is the background walkway. This was with the Kit Zoom in the harsh Mid Day AZ sun.

ISO 200 – 18-55 at 55mm

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14mm at ISO 200

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14mm at ISO 640

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35 1.4 at f/1.4 and ISO 200

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14mm at f/2.8 and ISO 200

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Pros and Cons of the Fuji X-T1

Pros

  • The ergonomics and feel are great
  • The EVF is the best I have used to date
  • The Body is weather sealed
  • The AF is now pretty fast and is the fastest AF of any Fuji body to date
  • Many fast primes are now available for the X system
  • Fuji colors!
  • Controls are just as I like them. Available and easily found. including ISO dial.
  • Direct button for Manual Focus aid when using manual lenses
  • Swivel LCD
  • 350 shots per battery charge

Cons

  • T stands for “tough” but body does not feel as tough as the Olympus E-M1
  • EVF gets grainy at night/low light
  • JPEG’s are not so hot, especially at 100%
  • AF speed depends on lens used, 35 1.4 still on the slow side
  • Back thumb pad is horrible – mushy and not very tactile
  • Movie/video quality not so hot, Fuji still lags behind here
  • No way to turn off Noise Reduction which causes issues
  • Skin tones could be better

My Bottom Line Real World No BS Conclusion on the Fuji X-T1!

Here we go..the final word..MY final word. Not all will agree with me here but I always tell it like it is, regardless of politics, favoritism, or any nonsense. In the past I have been hard on Fuji X Bodies. I have loved the X100 and X100s, and still do but was never a fan of the X-Pro, X-E1, X-E2, etc. They were and are good cameras that can make beautiful images in the right hands but I always saw something in the files that did not draw me in and I never was a fan of the lackluster body performance. I remember saying back in the X-Pro 1 and X-E1 days that Fuji will one day release a camera that will put those to shame in the handling, speed and control department.

Is the X-T1 “that camera”?

I feel it is. While not perfect, it is THE Fuii X Body to get if you love Fuji and want a responsive, fast, easy to control and set up body that feels great in the hand and is super high on the usability factor. The EVF rocks, the LCD rocks, the feel and handling rock and the IQ is the same as the previous X Bodies. If that is your thing, the X-T1 will feel like a masterpiece to you.

I do have to say that I had a couple of issues with the review sample. On three occasions on my last day with it it would not wake out of sleep. I had to turn it off and on again to get it to wake up. Also, my friend Ashwin Rao purchased one after seeing my video about it and it died after 2 or 3 shots. DEAD. The store had to take it back and order him another.

So there may be some buggy X-T1′s shipping but as usual, I am sure Fuji will be on any issues with Firmware updates as they are the best when it comes to this. Without question.

I own a Leica M 240 with a 15 and 50mm lens. Love it to death. The IQ can not be reckoned with by anything I have seen but one camera, the Sony RX1. I also still own one E-M1 (had two) and a couple of lenses. I have a Nikon V1 and J1 and something new on the way in April/May. I will not be buying the X-T1 as it does not fit in to my kit anywhere. I can not justify spending $3000 on an X-T1 and 2-3 good lenses when I already own amazing cameras. I just would not use it and I prefer the skin tones out of the Olympus over the Fuji sensor.

If I were starting new with NOTHING, the X-T1 would be high on my audition list with a 23 1.4, 35 1.4 and 56 1.2.

The X-T1 is a beautiful but not perfect camera, but then again, NO CAMERA is perfect and I do not think one will ever exist. I have to hand it to Fuji, they kicked ass with this release and to me, it is the best APS-C camera solution on the market today. if you are a Fuji fan, this one is a no brainer.

WHERE TO BUY

You can buy the Fuji X-T1 and BH Photo at this link HERE

You can buy the Fuji X-T1 at Amazon HERE

You can buy the Fuji X-T1 at PopFlash.com HERE

I also recommend the 14 2.8, 23 1.4, 35 1.4 and 56 1.2 lenses for this camera. The 55-200 is also a nice telephoto zoom to have if you own one of these cameras.

35 1.4 at ISO 200 and 1.4

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35 1.4 at ISO 1250

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ISO 2500 – 18-55

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More thoughts from Brad Husick who tested his Fuji X-T1 to shoot indoor Lacrosse:

I took the Fuji X-T1 and the Fuji 55-200 lens to shoot an indoor lacrosse game. I was the team photographer for the Washington Stealth for three years, logging tens of thousands of shots on Nikon and Canon DSLRs. I have seen some promising results on the web of the X-T1 shooting horses and car races, so I was hopeful the X-T1 could stand in for these large DLSRs on game day.

Exposures at this arena were metered at ISO 3200, f/4.5 and 1/160 sec, so the lighting wasn’t ideal by any means. The camera/lens combo had some difficulty locking on focus initially and also had some problems keeping up with moving players. Shot speed was quick, but not anywhere near delivering 8 frames per second. This maximum spec speed can only be achieved under ideal bright lighting conditions. Image stabilization in the lens worked quite well. With a 90Mb/sec. SDXC card the camera had no trouble saving short bursts of images. I did not try to fill the buffer as that doesn’t match my shooting style for indoor lacrosse.

In my analysis of the X-T1 as a sports shooter, I must conclude that the Nikon D4 (my primary sports camera) and the Nikon 70-200 f/4 lens have nothing to worry about. I won’t be selling my Nikon kit any time soon if I continue to shoot sports. Full size Canon outfits also measure up significantly higher than the Fuji. It’s hard to be too disappointed with this result as Fuji has designed a superb all around system at an affordable price. They weren’t gunning for the D4 or 1DX (at $5000 and up) so the results are not a surprise. For slower sports or more predictable positions of the players I think the X-T1 will be a fine tool, and is significantly lighter than the pro DSLRs.

One surprising and pleasing experience I had in this test was the normally difficult white balance setting under a mixture of mercury vapor lamps. Depending on the age and condition of the individual lamps the color temperature they output can very quite widely. This presents most cameras I have used with a real challenge. The Fuji X-T1 shows you the effect of WB choice on the fly, full frame, and also lets you tune the settings on a 2×2 grid. In short order I could match the gray color of the concrete floor on the camera’s screen to what my eyes were seeing. I have never before been able to so easily and quickly get the right WB settings in indoor sports arenas.

Based on what I see in the X-T1 I believe if Fuji set out to compete with the likes of the full size DSLRs for sports shooting they have the expertise and technology to do so with a future product, but this would be a huge mountain for them to climb as Canon and Nikon are so deeply entrenched in the pro sports shooting world. I don’t expect them to put their money into this battle any time soon.

I’ll be keeping the X-T1 for many reasons but the days aren’t numbered for my D4.-Brad

35 1.4 at ISO 200 – click all images for larger, sharper and better versions!

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