Jul 292015
 
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A Mega Leica 28 Summilux f/1.4 Lens Review

by Kristian DowlingSee his BLOG HERE!

Review disclaimer:

*Lens was used entirely at f/1.4 for the entire review, in every picture unless stated otherwise.

*No protective filters were used.

*Editing was kept as simple as possible in Lightroom, with no clarity added/subtracted to maintain the lens’s true signature.

*This is not so such a technical review, but more so focused on the lens in field-use.

*Pictures are meant to represent a variety of achievable results, typical of the average Leica M user (nothing overproduced).

*No distortion or lens correction tools have been used.

*Special thanks to Leica Camera Australia for the loan sample.

I can’t express how excited I was when Leica announced the limited edition M100 set, commemorating Leica’s 100th Anniversary, with a new Summilux-M 28/1.4-ASPH lens in chrome, a little over a year ago. I’ve been lusting after a 28/1.4 M lens since I started M photography some 21 years ago. I knew it was only a matter of time before it would become a regular production lens, and I’m very happy that it has finally come to fruition.

My experience with the 28mm focal length has been quite extensive over the years. My first experience with using a 28mm prime came in the Nikon 28Ti compact film camera, followed by the Ricoh GR and the Nikon AF-D 28/1.4 lens, which at the time delivered fantastic results (at the time). Fast forward to 2015, and we now have the ultimate (and only) ‘fast’ 28mm lens ever produced – the Leica Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH lens.

Image shot with Summicron-M 28/2 ASPH on Monochrom

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I first got to see this lens at the Australian Leica Q launch last month, and was lucky enough to have been lent the only Australian copy for the last month (no pressure for a good review). During this time, I have been able to use it in many different situations, over a variety of genres, which you will see throughout this user-review. The 28mm focal length isn’t easy to get along with, but once you get to know her, she becomes a very, very versatile focal length – probably the reason why Apple employ it in their iPhone 6 and 6 PLUS smartphones, making it the most used focal length in the world.

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It may come as a surprise that Leica is focusing their two latest products (including the Leica Q camera) on the 28mm focal length, but in my opinion it is a very smart move. There is no shortage of great 35mm lenses, and while the Summicron-M 28/2 ASPH is an excellent lens with a very smooth character, the ability to isolate doesn’t make it stand out amongst a lineup of fast class-leading lenses, like the Noctilux for example. Leica are arguably the best in the 35mm-format game when it comes to lens design, quality and performance, so it is important for them to showcase their abilities – and the new Summilux-M certainly makes a strong statement.

Previously, there were a couple of 28mm options in Leica’s lineup, and all have their unique place and usage intentions. The previous models were all mainly focused on the Elmarit as the demand for fast 28mm lenses only came about in the last decade. All previous generations of the Elmarit-M were fantastic, with the quality really stepping up in V3, where wide-open performance was significantly improved across the frame. Currently, the two Leica-M lens alternatives to the Summilux are:

· Elmarit-M 28/2.8 ASPH – small compact, well-priced and well-controlled distortion. Great for the traveller who doesn’t need speed and is more focused on keeping their gear lightweight, compact and values the lack of distortion over speed.

· Summicron-M 28/2 ASPH – A nice mix of speed, performance and size in this compact lens that is a nice jack of all trades, known for it’s smooth character due to the transition from sharp to soft wide open.

Build Quality and Design

As expected, everything about the 28 Summilux-M is typical Leica. Superb German, handmade craftsmanship, along with great handling and smooth focus and aperture action. It only comes in black (currently), most likely to keep M100 kit owners happy with their unique purchase, but knowing Leica, I would expect them to release a chrome version sometime in the future. The size fits directly between the 35 Summilux-M and the 24 Summilux-M, which was really good to see. The initial fear was that it was going to be very similar to the 21/24 Summilux-M lenses, which are a little on the large and heavy side, bordering on Noctilux territory. Thankfully, it’s not much bigger than the 35 Summilux-M so it’s great as a carry-everywhere, everyday lens, and balances really well on the M body.

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The newly designed lens hood is similar to that on the 35-Summilux-M, only a little thicker which is a nice change, and screws in firmly and perfectly aligns right on the center as it should. I’m happy to report that during the last 5 weeks using this lens, it has never come loose. Finally, it has the typical Leica depth of field scale, which is very important to those who employ the hyper-focal focusing technique, which works very well on a 28mm lens due to the extended depth of field over standard and telephoto lenses.

Optically, this is what Leica has to say about the new Summilux.

“The Leica Summilux-M 28mm f/1.4 ASPH. rounds off the range of high-speed M wide angle focal lengths. It offers exce lent image performance over the entire image field even at full aperture and in the close-up range thanks to a „floating element“. With its exceptional contrast, the lens delivers the same recognized high performance level as the Leica Summilux-M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH., and in some respects actually outperforms it. The vignetting that is typical of every optical system is naturally more defined on a wide angle lens, particularly a high speed one like this, than on standard lenses or those with a long focal length. At full aperture in 35mm format it is a maximum, i.e. in the corners of the image, of around 3.4 stops, around 2 stops on Leica M8 models with their slightly smaller format. Stopping down to 5.6 visibly reduces this light falloff – to 1.8 and 0.8 stops respectively. Stopping down further does not bring about any notable reduction as essentially only the natural vignetting remains. Distortion is extremely low for a wide angle lens at a maximum of 1.1% , which is rarely noticeable in practice. A total of ten lens elements are used to achieve this exceptional performance. To correct color defects, seven of these are made of glass types with anomalous partial dispersion, while one has an aspherical surface. To maintain performance in the close-up range, one element towards the rear of the optical system is a “floating element” that moves independently of the rest of the mechanism.
Summary: The Leica Summilux-M 28mm f/1.4 ASPH. offers maximum image performance with a focal length / speed combination previously unavailable in the M system. This extends the composition options of M photography, particulaly for available light shots, but also thanks to a previously unattainable reduction in the depth of field combined with large field angles.”

Here are the graphs important to you techy-geeks out there. The MTF especially suggests that performance wide open is incredible, and equal to many other brand lenses stopped down to their best. This is truly where Leica stands above the crowd.

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Depth of field at f/1.4 is very narrow, but compared to what many are used to with 35mm, there is a little more room for error, and allows greater possibilities in certain situations where having focus is more important than not.

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Depending on how picky you are, the chart suggests excellent distortion control, and when you consider the speed of the maximum aperture, this is a design Leica should be very proud of, at least on paper. In the field ‘could’ be entirely different (though it is not haha).

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> Keep reading to see how Leica’s words translate into image quality during my field test.

Handling

Due to the size and weight distribution, the lens handles wonderfully on the M, enabling focus and aperture changes to be smooth and accurate. I have a full production sample, and the focusing action is even smoother than most 35 Summilux’s I’ve used. I believe ‘perfect out of the box’ would be an accurate description. You do notice a weight increase over the smaller 35 Summilux-M but it’s not a lot more and the size is comparable in operation. In fact I found the 28 more comfortable to use than the 35 because of the slight increase in length, making focusing and aperture changes easier with my medium sized hands. As the lens hood is screwed in flush with the lens, changing the aperture is very easy, compared to previous Elmarits and Summicron that use a large plastic clip-on hood.

Leica M | Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH

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Leica M (Safari) | Summilux-M 35/1.4 ASPH

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Leica Q | Summilux-M 28/1.7 ASPH

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In the Field

The 28mm Focal Length

Those who don’t have much experience using the 28mm focal length may need to be patient with this lens. Some say it’s too wide and others say it’s not wide enough, and the others say it’s too ‘in-between’. A comment I’ve been hearing a lot lately (since the Q’s introduction), is ‘28mm is the new 35mm’. Well I’m not so sure I totally agree with that, but considering the iPhone has a 28mm (approx) focal length and has the most used camera in the world, there is some argument that suggests the comment isn’t so far fetched. Back when the great Henri Cartier Bresson was roaming the streets of Europe, the 50mm focal length was the norm. Later, photographers started getting closer to their subjects and preferred the wider frame of the 35mm focal length. Considering today’s style of shooting (including paparazzi), it’s understandable how the 28mm focal length has several advantages over 35mm.

Firstly, it is wider, fitting more into the frame than 35mm at the same shooting position, also creating a slightly more dynamic ‘in-your-face’ perspective, if used correctly. You can also get closer to your subjects, while fitting more background into the frame, giving you more compositional options. Having said that, this may not be an advantage, depending on your style of shooting. The one thing I’ve always loved about shooting with the 28mm focal length is that it’s the widest focal length you can shoot without having to worry too much about tilting or placing subjects/objects on the side of the frame. When you go wider to say 24mm or 21mm, perspective distortion becomes a real issue, making it quite annoying for documentary purposes. While the 28mm perspective does come with some distortion, it is tolerable, and even when tilting, it is negligible and I have no issues with placing my subjects off-center.

Simple Model Shoot

Shooting with the 28 Summilux-M for portraits takes some getting used to, especially for 35/50mm users. The angle of view is extended quite a bit for only 7mm, giving much more depth of field and background to work with. Nailing focus is quite easy as the f/1.4 aperture is more forgiving at 28mm due to the increase in depth of field, but the drop-off from sharp to unsharp isn’t as abrupt as say the 35 Summilux-M.

Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH shot wide open at f/1.4 on the Leica M240

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Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH shot wide open at f/1.4 on the Leica M240

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Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH shot wide open at f/1.4 on the Leica M240

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Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH shot  at f/2.8 on the Leica M240

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The colour signature is as you would expect from most Leica lenses – very neutral, and with medium to high contrast, but in these samples bear in mind that the light was strong, emphasising the contrast even more. When the light gets low, this is when the 28 Summilux-M really shines.

Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH shot wide open at f/1.4 on the Leica M240 at ISO 1600

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Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH shot wide open at f/1.4 on the Leica M240 at ISO 1600

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Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH shot wide open at f/1.4 on the Leica M240 at ISO 1600

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Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH shot wide open at f/1.4 on the Leica M240 at ISO 1600

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General Photography

For general street and travel photography, the 28mm focal length is an ideal choice as you don’t often feel limited for a majority of scenarios, unless shooting architecture or grab shots of people from a distance is your thing. The lack of distortion for such a fast wide angle lens is quite impressive and never felt it hindered my pictures of building etc. If you don’t like tripods, this lens will delver. At f/1.4, sharpness is already close to it’s maximum resolution so there is never a compromise in sharpness throughout the f/1.4-f/11 range, and at certain distances, the f/1.4 depth of field will provide adequate focus throughout the entire image.

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BELOW: Crop from image above

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As you can see here, there is some viewfinder blockage which is a bit annoying, but not a deal breaker. While some may prefer to use an external finder which gives not only as clean view, but an accurate perspective of distance and framing, they are a hassle if you’re shooting in situations that require speed.

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Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH shot wide open at f/1.4 on the Leica M240

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Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH shot wide open at f/1.4 on the Leica M240

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Below: Crop from image above

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Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH shot wide open at f/1.4 on the Leica M240

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Below: Crop from above image

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There is some field curvature, but at further distances this is not a problem, and in this image the entire frame is sharp at f/1.4 – quite amazing!

Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH shot wide open at f/1.4 on the Leica M240 at ISO 1600

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Bokeh is very, very smooth, much like the Summicron-M 28/2 ASPH, except at f/1.4, the focus drop-off is much more dramatic and compelling for times where you’re trying to isolate your subject from a background.

Shooting in a nightclub with screaming fans for UK pop star Craig David was no match for the 28 Summilux-M, delivering crisp images, even against backlights and fairly poor lighting……oh and did I mention it’s damn sharp too?!?

Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH shot wide open at f/1.4 on the Leica M240 at ISO 1600

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It wouldn’t be a Leica review without at least one cat or flower picture right?!? Well considering I’m a cat-lover, no flowers were shot during the testing of the 28 Summilux-M.

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Below: Crop from image above

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Shooting with the 28 Summilux or any 28mm on the Leica M can be a bit frustrating due to the incorrect perspective you see through the built in finder, which is more suited to the 35mm/50mm focal lengths. When you first start shooting a 28mm lens on the M, you need to remind yourself that you’re further away from your subjects than how it looks through the viewfinder, so getting closer is important.

Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH shot wide open at f/1.4 on the Leica M240 at ISO 1600

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Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH shot wide open at f/1.4 on the Leica M240

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Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH shot wide open at f/1.4 on the Leica M240

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CROP from above image:

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Shooting as a Wedding Guest

I was fortunate to be the guest at a very special wedding of two very good friends, Lawrence and Tukta, in Hua Hin, Thailand. Lawrence is also an avid Leica user and owns an M60, so the pressure was on to capture a couple of nice moments before the alcohol got to me, hehehe. Here Lawrence is seen waiting for the wedding to begin.

Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH shot wide open at f/1.4 on the Leica M240

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Using the 28mm Summilux-M at a wedding all day was a real treat. I love to get up close to my subjects and combined with the stealthy M, I was able to move in and out of places without people looking directly at the camera or feeling intimidated by the usual large and loud SLR cameras seen in these scenarios.

I found that my hit rate of in-focus shots was at about 90-95%, which is a little higher than my normal 85-90% on the 35 Summilux-M. Obviously the increased depth of field at f/1.4 helped significantly.

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Crop from above image:

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I’m not a wedding photographer, but like any documentary work, there are always those little moments happening around the bride and groom you need to look out for. Here, I love the way the focus drops off to a smooth background, and while I don’t condone shooting wide open ‘all the time’, I do enjoy keeping this lens at maximum aperture most of the time.

Below you can start to see the effects of distortion creeping in on the top corners, but it is totally fine in my opinion, and is more so due to the tilting, rather than the geometric distortion occurring.

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It doesn’t matter what the situation, I felt so comfortable shooting wide open all day long and f/1.4 always seemed to be the right aperture choice for all the scenarios. It’s perfectly sharp wide open, has beautiful contrast and colours, and drops off focus like a champion.

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It doesn’t matter what the situation, I felt so comfortable shooting wide open all day long and f/1.4 always seemed to be the right aperture choice for all the scenarios. It’s perfectly sharp wide open, has beautiful contrast and colours, and drops off focus like a champion.

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Due to the mixed lighting I found that the final two images look better in Monochrome. For the first I pre-focused on someone in the crowd and waited for the subjects to hit their mark before firing, ensuring accurate and sharp focus. What a great end to an amazing weekend!

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Muay Thai Camp – Coaching One-on-One

As a photographer and coach, I was employed to train an enthusiastic Thai photographer named Miti. During his training he was using the Leica Q entirely, and I was snapping a few test shots on the M with 28 Summilux-M. I had previously shot a story on this place around 7 years ago and a lot has changed. Please keep in mind this is not a complete story, but a selection of images I shot while coaching my student.

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Below: Crop from above image

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Below: Crop from above image

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While this looks like a slow moving wrestle it was anything but. I was shooting at ISO 1600 with 1/1000sec to ensure sharpness at the plane of focus. Due to the extreme movements I had to prefocus and guess my distance and pray for focus where I wanted it at the time of shutter release. Dare I say it, a majority were out of focus, so I have to say, the M isn’t exactly recommend to those wanting to shoot erratic, unpredictable action. I am pleased to say that my student Miti was able to achieve a good number of sharp in-focus images with his autofocusing Leica Q.

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Muay Thai fighters are often viewed as celebrities in Thailand so vanity also comes with the business of winning. Let’s just say the mirrors are used more often than you’d probably expect from young men, capable of breaking you in two.

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Below: 100% crop from above image

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The previous time I shot a professional Muay Thai fight, I was using an autofocus SLR with a short zoom lens. Using the M and 28mm, my ability to be effective was lessened and I certainly relied more on hope and luck. Luckily my 21 years experience helped me pull out a few keepers.

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Compared to the Leica Q

While some may assume this is an unfair comparison (either way), I think the two lenses should most definitely be compared. Unfortunately I didn’t have the time, nor patience to compare side by side – sorry, I’m travelling and working. Though I will give a brief analysis after spending time with both lenses/cameras.

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Firstly, there is no debate that the M lens is superior in sharpness wide open, and there is a more dramatic fall off from focus to blur. Other than that, they are quite similar lenses, though the Q lens has one major advantage. It was not only designed for the sensor it is attached to, but it has processing built into the Q body that corrects the image for any lens limitations, including distortion. Currently, there is no Lightroom profile for the new 28 Summilux-M lens, so any corrections need to be made manually if desired – at least until a profile is released by Leica.

The question on many M users’ minds will be whether to buy the Leica Q or buy the new Summilux-M, which is actually more expensive. My answer is “it depends!” It depends on price (US$1500 difference) or how you like to shoot and whether you want a second camera. Personally I prefer to shoot on an M, regardless of the better sensor used in the Leica Q. Image quality is important to me, but picture quality and the shooting experience is more so. I love shooting with a rangefinder and while it has a lot of drawbacks (compared to the Q) like I experienced in shooting Muay Thai, I still prefer the feel and manual focus elements enough to accept what I cannot change in the M.

Another difference between shooting the Leica M240 and Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH vs the Leica Q, is that the Leica Q files come out of camera with more vibrant colours and slightly higher contrast. This may no may not affect your decision if considering either of these two fine tools. Finally, the one major factor to consider is that the Q’s electronic rangefinder not only shows 100% of the frame without lens blockage, but it also shows you the exposure and correct 28mm perspective, whereas the M does not, which can be very frustrating. The Q also has macro focus ability using the maximum aperture of f/2.8, and of course AF, which could be the deciding factor for many.

On the flip side, the constant use of EVF and/or LCD can be draining on the battery, which is quite average compared to most cameras so extra batteries will need to be stocked up. Long story short, if you can afford it, buy both.

Conclusion

My long 21 year wait for the Leica Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH has been well worth it. I’ve always been more of a 35mm user, but while the Summilux-M 35/1.4 ASPH FLE is a great lens it’s never really got me excited. It’s sharp and has very neutral rendering but I always preferred the Summicron-M 28/2 ASPH due to it’s soft rendering and smooth character. The new 28 Summilux-M has combined my two favourite lenses into one and delivers big time. The only real flaw I found was that like most lenses, it is prone to purple fringing in high contrast situations, which is easily removed in Lightroom in 2 seconds.

At about US$1500 more than either a Leica Q or a 35 Summilux, it’s arguable whether that figure represents good value for money or being too pricey to consider. From my experience with this lens, and having used lenses like the Noctilux and 50 APO which cost a lot more, I think the Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH represents fantastic value for money – considering that value is represented by the effort the user makes to use the lens to the best of their ability. A photographer and his tools are only as good as the opportunities he/she creates with them.

If you are after a fast 28mm M lens, there is no substitute, no alternative available. If there was, they would be trembling with fear because the Summilux-M 28/1.4 ASPH is the real deal. Think 50 APO incredible, and there you have it – it is THAT good!

Be sure to visit Kristian’s Blog HERE!

You can buy the Leica 28 Summilux from any of my top recommended Leica dealers below:

Ken Hansen: Email him at [email protected]

PopFlash.com Website

B&H Photo

Leica Store Miami

Jul 272015
 

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Dare to be, so People can see

by Wijnand Schouten

Hello Brandon and Steve.

Since 2 years I am working on a project called ‘Dare to be, so people can see’. Portraits are my favourite thing to do.

When I started I noticed the attitudes and patterns people have. In general life and for sure when a camera is involved.

That’s how ‘Dare to be, so people can see’ was born.

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When you show how you feel in the now, without smiling, and looking straight in to the camera, you give a moment.In this context I get a picture instead of taking one.

For me the idea behind it is that the world is filled with plastic glamour. By showing how people can look without the glamour it might help an other person to feel more in the now too.And accept their selves.

All this without being pretentious.

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For me its an attempt to contribute tot the awareness that every moment in life is worth to exist and be seen. Not only the smiles. I am always happy when I go home with a portrait on my memory card and edit it the way I feel.

Not all the people are happy with the results. Sometimes I find a picture beautiful and I don’t get the permission to put it on the internet because they don’t like the result. Then I don’t do that. Although I still see the beauty of it.

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greetings from the Netherland and keep up the good job you are doing.

If you want you can follow me on instagram:

https://instagram.com/wijnandschouten

Jul 242015
 
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Olympus EM1 + Sony A7s – Still my favorite Combo!

By Neil Buchan-Grant

Hi Steve

I thought I’d share some new images with your readers. I’m still loving the Olympus EM1 and Sony A7s although I have to say, since the Olympus 40-150mm zoom and the new 7-14mm zoom came out, the Oly has had more use. I also recently bought the Oly MC-14 1.4x tele converter for the big zoom and for me its performance in terms of resolution and sharpness underlines the big range now offered by the Olympus system. These 3 PRO zooms give me pretty much all I need for general travel work and the 12-40mm has all but replaced my wide primes with no loss of image quality. I still only tend to get the A7s + Leica M 35mm or 50mm f1.4 Summilux’s out when I’m out at night or I’m shooting low light work but with these lenses it still offers something a bit special.

My friend a few weeks before giving birth – EM1 – 12-40mm 2.8 PRO @ 25mm – available light and off camera flash

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My friend and her baby girl who had just had another lifesaving operation only days after her birth – Sony A7s Leica M 50mm 1.4 – mixed available light

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My friend holding it together by reading Winnie the Pooh to her baby girl who was still gravely ill only one week after her birth – Sony A7s – Leica M 35mm 1.4 – mixed available light

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My work here is a mixture of commissions and personal shots ranging from an architecture job in Oxfordshire, corporate portraits and a trip to Wimbledon tennis championships to some intimate portraits of my friend Scarlet and her baby, Frida. The baby had a traumatic and complicated birth and had to be resuscitated several times in her first few days. Thankfully she’s doing brilliantly now and is thriving! Thanks again for the opportunity to share these with your readers and keep up the great work! If anyone is interested, I have a new, short program of workshops on my website here:

My friend and her baby Frida who was finally out of harms way and seemed to be enjoying her new world – EM1 – Leica DG 25mm 1.4 – window light

 

 

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Frida just a few days ago, now 2 months old and currently my favorite model! – EM1 Leica DG 25mm 1.4 – window light

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The Prado Museum in Madrid during a quick break – EM1 12-40mm 2.8 PRO @ 15mm

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A late night bar in Madrid – Sony A7s Leica M 35mm 1.4 – available light

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A studio portrait of the actress Hetty Baynes Russell, who was married to Ken Russell the British film director. – EM1 12-40mm 2.8 PRO – continuous light through 4ft softbox

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Another shot of Hetty – Sony A7s Leica M 50mm 1.4 – window light

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A photograph of a rather special Barn design in Oxforshire at dusk – my friends Arthur and Kate were the architects who designed it – EM1 7-14mm 2.8 PRO @ 7mm

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The same building during the day – EM1 7-14mm 2.8 PRO @ 7mm

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A model in Prague – EM1 Leica DG 25mm 1.4 – window light and reflector

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A corporate shoot in London – EM1 12-40mm 2.8 PRO – Off camera flash

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Self portrait in the studio – EM1 12-40mm 2.8 PRO @ 35mm – continuous light through a 4 ft softbox and reflector

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Britain’s number one female tennis player Heather Watson winning her match at Wimbledon – EM1 40-150mm 2.8 PRO with MC-14 @ 420mm (effective length) wide open at f4

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Another self portrait in my garden – EM1 7-14mm 2.8 PRO @ 10mm – available light and off camera flash

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A tree surgeon working behind my garden – EM1 40-150mm 2.8 PRO + MC-14 @ 420mm (effective length) wide open at f4

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The same shot as above from the same spot, the tree surgeon is just visible – EM1 7-14mm 2.8 PRO @ 7mm

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http://buchangrant.format.com/workshops where you can join me in Berlin, India or China/Tibet over the next 10 months!

Jul 222015
 
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LIGHT AND CONTRAST

by Michiel Faro

Time to get some of my own work out there, to be commented on and be criticized, instead of it all going the other way.

A bit about myself: I’m 62, Dutch and live in Holland, married, a stepson of 18 and two lovely two-year old girls. I work as a lawyer in Amsterdam. I have two potentially time-consuming hobbies: riding racing bicycles (I rode competitively for 25 years) and photography. I’ve been photographing since I was 14 or so.

My late father taught me everything, darkroom work included, though we never progressed to colour. I started with a Werra, which is more or less the most simple and wellmade camera one can think of. A Zenit slr was next, then a Yashica TL Electro (great camera), until a Nikon FM2n followed in 1990; a body I still have and use with great pleasure. FE2, an FM3a, a Contax RTSIII and a collection of used Nikkor and Zeiss primes round-up my analogue stuff. Digital started in 2008 with a D200, then a D700, then a D800 and now a D800E (both the 800 and the E can be underexposed routinely by almost up to a stop without any noticeable loss in image quality; a real bonus) with the 24, 35, 58 and 85 1.4G’s. I like the SLR form factor, prefer OVF’s over EVF’s and displays, dislike tiny camera bodies that may be light but have infuriating ergonomics and no viewfinder, and once you’ve gone full frame there’s no going back to a smaller sensor. Oh, and I don’t buy the next best thing every time it comes out, which can be quite frequent. Learn the stuff you have thoroughly, and that’s complicated enough in itself.

My photography can be divided roughly into three main categories: portraits (close, and possibly intrusive), situations/geometry/shapes, and emptiness. That last category is even more frustrating than the others and might be suitable for another post in the future. For this submission it’s situations/geometry/shapes and portraits.

Near the place I work in Amsterdam are two photo museums: FOAM and Huis Marseille. I try to go there on my lunchbreak every month or so. There’s always something to see. I may not like a particular exhibition or image, but it always sets your mind working: what is it I don’t like, what is it I do like, could I emulate it, could I approach that level of perception and technique, what sort of gear was used (ha!), etc etc. On the net, apart from the usual gear sites it’s AmericansuburbX and Lensculture I have a look at quite frequently; always something interesting to see.

Foremost in my mind (subconsciously no doubt) when taking photographs is light and contrast. Light because of what the infinite varieties of light can do to what the human eye (and film or sensor) sees. Contrast because of the inherent, subdued or loud, tension I wish to see in the images I take. Interest, tension, something that makes you wonder, makes you ask questions, is what I’m looking for. Always.

So here is a selection of B&W film images, made with cameras like the Contax RTSIII, Contax RTS, Contax S2, Nikon F2AS and Nikon FE2 and a variety of primes, usually Tri-X and HP-5, and colour images, made with the D800 and D800E. Two of the three portraits were made with the Nikkor 58/1.4G, an amazing (and sometimes frustrating) lens; the third one with the 85/1.4G, another gem.

The 58, to dwell on that subject briefly, is attractive as an everyday walkabout lens (I have a camera with me always; 1.4/35 this week) for its (comparatively) low weight, but you have to account for the almost “short tele” like focal length. It really shines as a portrait lens in ambient light. I think it is, for all it’s failings, a classic in the making that has to be used frequently to be fully appreciated.

Captions for the images are as follows:

B&W Situations

1 Man in FOAM museum: camera and lens unknown, TRI-X

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2 Man with hoodie: Nikon F2AS, Nikkor 2.0/35 AiS, TRI-X

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3 Man at Terry O’Neill exhibition: Contax RTSIII, 1.4/35 Distagon, TRI-X

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B&W Portraits

4 Cor: Contax RTS, 2.8/85 Sonnar, HP5

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5 Olivier: Contax S2, 1.7/50 Planar, TRI-X

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6 Rob Regeer, the artist and his art: Nikon FE2, Nikkort 1.8/50 AiS, TRI-X

 

 

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Color Shapes

7 Nikon D800E, Nikkor 1.4/58G

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8 Nikon D800E, Nikkor 1.4/58G

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9 Nikon D800E, Nikkor 1.4/58G

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———-

Color Portraits

10 Ed de Jong, photographer, with waitress held napkin reflector at his insistence: Nikon D800, Nikkor 1.4/58G

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11 Jan Maaso, friend, Nikon D800, Nikkor 1.4/85G

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12 Wessel, colleague, Nikon D800E, Nikkor 1.4/58G

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Thanks to Steve and Brandon for posting this and, more importantly, for keeping this podium alive for many to post on and for even more to comment.

Best regards,

Michiel Faro

 

Jul 172015
 
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VIDEO: The Olympus E-M5II, 8mm Fisheye Pro and Voigtlander 10.5 f/0.95!

By Steve Huff

Hey guys! It’s FRIDAY! That means the weekend is here, and what a better way to spend it than with a new camera, and two new lenses for me to test out. WooHoo!

No, I never ever tire of getting these new jewels in the mail. In the case of the 8mm fisheye, I rented it as Olympus has a wait list for reviewers so I wanted to check to out NOW, so I went to lens rentals.com (site sponsor) and rented it for a week. The Voigtlander 10.5 f/0.95 was sent to me for review by Stephen Gandy at CameraQuest.com, who happens to be the USA distributor for Voigtlander, so his site is the place to go for new Voigtlander lenses.

With that out of the way, the new Titanium E-M5II is stunning in appearance. Very Classy. Best color option IMO. To those wondering, “is it really titanium”? NO, it’s titanium in color, not material ;) Even so, it is beautiful and gives the camera and extra bit of pizazz and as I said, class. No cheap looking paint jobs here, in fact, this should be a standard color for all future Olympus bodies. Reminds me somewhat of the old “Steel Grey” of the Leica M9 days. You can order it at B&H Photo HERE, it is IN STOCK NOW!

My video on the E-M5II Titanium, the 8Mm Fisheye Pro and Voigtlander 10.5 f/0.95

After owning and using the crap out of the E-M1, I am finding the E-M5II to give me things I never realized I missed. The swivel out LCD, I use it ALL the time. The new 5 Axis is amazing, especially for video. Eliminates the need for big stabilization rigs. Really. The small size and gorgeous lenses. Even though this is not a full frame camera, and I have been shooting my full frame Sony A LOT, I still adore the Olympus and use it often for personal shooting. The size, speed, response and lenses all put it up in my “top two” status these days.

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With the limited edition Titanium set, of which there are 7000 made, we get a leather wallet with limited edition numbered card telling us what number we have, we get a custom made leather strap that matches the camera and we get the limited edition color, Titanium. This camera comes in at $300 more over the black or silver versions, and all we are getting are those three things. For me, it is worth it just to have this color. The strap and wallet are nice, but the color is what I love about it and when I was in a meeting with Olympus month ago they told me about this edition, and I said :I WANT ONE”. I knew it then and when I saw B&H Photo had them IN STOCK I ordered my own to replace my E-M1, of which I have been shooting since it was launched.

If you missed my big E-M5 II review you can see it HERE. This is the same camera, just with a new paint job so it will not be reviewed, just showing it here in the video so all of you can see what it looks like.

I will have full reviews of the 10.5 f/0.95 and 8mm Pro Fisheye SOON. But for now, here is a blurb and image or two or three from each:

The Olympus Pro Fisheye 8mm:

I have always loved fisheye lenses. In the past you may have seen my write ups on the Panasonic 8mm Fisheye for Micro 4/3. Believe it or not, that was one of my fave lenses for the system. I love ultra wide fisheyes as I can do so much with it. Unique images, cool video, and they are just fun. At $550 the Panasonic was pricey, especially with options from Rokinon and the like at a fraction of the cost. With the new Olympus they have taken it a step further and produced the worlds 1st f/1.8 8mm fisheye. Usually these lenses are f/3.5-f/4. This Olympus is f/1.8!

I find this to be amazing as while we do not need a fast aperture with a fisheye, IT HELPS for low light, especially with Micro 4/3 who lacks at high ISO compared to full frame offerings many of us are used to.

This lens focuses to 1″, yes ONE INCH, and when you do this you can actually get some BOKEH, crazy but true. With it’s pro build, weather sealing, fast aperture and auto focus it is the premier Fisheye lens for ANY system, and it beats my old Panasonic in sharpness, color and pop. So far so good.

You can buy the 8MM fisheye NOW as B&H Has them in stock. $999 is not cheap, but IMO its the best fisheye in the world. 

click them for larger and sharper versions ;) 

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The Voigtlander 10.5 f/0.95

Another lens that just hit the streets is the Voigtlander 10.5mm f/0.95 for Micro 4/3. This lens goes with the line of f/0.95 lenses that Voigtlander developed for Micro 4/3. ALL of them are beasts. Heavy, large and FAST aperture. All are manual focus only. This lens is something. It is built to a high standard, and if you have tried the other lenses in this line, the 17.5, 25 and 42.5 then you know what I am talking about.

With this lens on the E-M5 II (see it in the video above) you have a pretty cool setup allowing you a 21mm equivalent focal length while giving you close focus performance. While not crazy sharp wide open, it does produce  the same flavor and character as the others in the line.  It’s a gorgeous lens, and so far the only negative I have found is the purple fringing that is prevalent on all of these lenses when shot at 0.95 (to be fair, fast Leica glass does the same).

Look for my full review soon, but for now, you can buy this lens at CameraQuest.com HERE. He has a few left. Limited quantities. I’s a gorgeous lens. Kind of like shooting the Voigtlander 21 1.8 on a full frame M.

Click images for larger, sharper and better versions!

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Jul 172015
 
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Light Painting Workshop, 1 night only! Join me and Alex McClure!

September 19th 2015

See details HERE! Or keep reading for full details…

Living in Phoenix AZ gives me plenty of opportunities to get out into the desert and explore terrain, towns and even at times visit places that are rarely visited by people. Real true to life ghost towns and beautiful scenic views, always amazing stuff. Just so happens I live not too far from good friend and Olympus trailblazer, Alex McClure and he enjoys exploring the desert even more than I do. I have went out a couple of times now with Alex to shoot and we came away with some very cool stuff on each occasion.

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I am happy to announce that for one night only we will be offering up a light painting workshop together. Now, Alex is a FANTASTIC light painter. He has all the tools we would need to create beautiful works, and he may even have the latest and greatest Olympus goodies to try out.

One from my last outing with Alex McClure in the desert.

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What we are offering is one night, in the desert, at an undisclosed ghost town location (you will learn where it is after signing up) with loads of scenic beauty and opportunities to paint it all up with light. We will use various tools, lighting effects and will go over just how to get these effects.

We will spin steel wool, shoot the stars with long exposures and also use lighting techniques you may not even be aware of.

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This workshop is of course best for local Phoenix Residents as it is one evening only, not an overnighter so no hotels, bus travel, or any of that. We will be carpooling to the location. Alex can fit 5-7 and I can fit three plus me. We are opening this up to 10 people only and will provide sandwiches and soft drinks for all.

Total cost for the evening? $100 per person. This gets you the workshop, food and drink. Bringing a friend? That will be $100 as well. 

A steal IMO, and will be a great fun night as well. The date for this is the evening and night of September 19th 2015 and if you have any interest in this kind of shooting, and are close to the Phx AZ area, then be sure to give it some consideration. Will be fantastic.

You can sign up or check out the sign up page HERE.  

Only $100 gets you the workshop, food and drink, AND some amazing photos to take back home with you! Will be a great time for all.

Here is a video showcasing Alex and what he does..

Jul 162015
 
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VIDEO: QUICK REVIEW! A look at 12 Sony FE Lenses!

By Steve Huff

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Just did a fun video showing 12 lenses I have on hand for the Sony FE system! With the incredible Sony A7RII coming VERY soon, many will want a quick overview of these lenses, so here you go! Mostly all of these have had  reviews done by me on this very site (see links below), but this is just a quick look at all of them at once! I will be doing more YouTube video work this year and next year, getting some new equipment in to up the quality level SOON, so stay tuned.

For now, take a look at the 12 lenses in about 8 minutes ;)

Posted Reviews:

Loxia 35
Loxia 50
Batis 25 & 85
Sony 90 Macro
Mitakon 85 1.2
Sony Zeiss 16-35
Sony Zeiss 35 1.4
Sony 28 f/2
Voigtlander 15 III (Yes, this is an M lens I use on the A7II)

Jul 152015
 

Sun Bum catalog shoot 2015 in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Photo ©2015 Craig Litten/All Rights Reserved

Sunning it up with the Sony A7s and A7II

by Craig Litten

Hey Steve & Brandon,

And hello to all of the followers of Steve Huff Photo! I’ve totally switched over to the Sony system late last year, and have been loving the system since then. I have your review of the A7s to thank for getting me really interested. I have now shot about four big jobs with the Sony’s, and they have performed nearly flawlessly so far. I own the A7s and the a6000, but have rented the A7II and the A7r trying to decide which body if a good fit, and I may just go with the newly announced a7rII. Attached are a few shots from my latest shoot with my Sony a7s and a rented Sony a7r along with the Sony/Zeiss FE 35mm f/2.8 and Sony/Zeiss FE 55mm f/1.8. lenses. I really love the size and rendering of the FE 35mm f/2.8!

Sun Bum catalog shoot 2015 in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Photo ©2015 Craig Litten/All Rights Reserved

I also like to keep it simple: two bodies, two lenses, a bunch of batteries and memory cards and normally zero lighting. But this shoot was different. It was a catalog shoot for Sun Bum (www.trustthebum.com); makers of sun products and a hot new company who is sweeping the industry. The company started in surf shops, but are now nationwide in Target as well as other stores. I shot their last catalog two years ago…

… and the photos from that shoot can be seen here on my website: www.craiglitten.com/galleries/#sun-bum

Sun Bum catalog shoot 2015 in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Photo ©2015 Craig Litten/All Rights Reserved

Sun Bum catalog shoot 2015 in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Photo ©2015 Craig Litten/All Rights Reserved

Sun Bum catalog shoot 2015 in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Photo ©2015 Craig Litten/All Rights Reserved

Since Sun Bum is a sun-based company, the plan was to shoot all day in the bright sunlight, but the weather wasn’t cooperating and we had two days of rainy weather as a big storm passed by in the Atlantic off the coast of Florida. We had models coming in from everywhere, and Sun Bum staff members coming from California (the company is located in Cocoa Beach where we did the shoot), so scratching the entire shoot would have been very expensive. Besides, we also rented a house on the beach, so we had to improvise. My background is as a newspaper photojournalist (since 1991), so part of that job description was to make something out of nothing daily.

Sun Bum catalog shoot 2015 in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Photo ©2015 Craig Litten/All Rights Reserved

Sun Bum catalog shoot 2015 in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Photo ©2015 Craig Litten/All Rights Reserved

I also hate using strobes, and no longer own any lighting gear, but prefer to shoot in natural light. So one of the assistants went to Home Depot to purchase a couple sets of 500 watt halogen lights costing $35 each. These are the kind of lights that you utilize while working on a car in your garage or use at a construction site, but they were a perfect solution and created what I call “liquid sunshine” giving the gloomy day the warmth it needed. We still have to reshoot to supplement these photos with “fun in the sun” photos, but they were pretty happy with the results.

Sun Bum catalog shoot 2015 in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Photo ©2015 Craig Litten/All Rights Reserved

Sun Bum catalog shoot 2015 in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Photo ©2015 Craig Litten/All Rights Reserved

Sun Bum catalog shoot 2015 in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Photo ©2015 Craig Litten/All Rights Reserved

Sun Bum catalog shoot 2015 in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Photo ©2015 Craig Litten/All Rights Reserved

Sun Bum catalog shoot 2015 in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Photo ©2015 Craig Litten/All Rights Reserved

Sun Bum catalog shoot 2015 in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Photo ©2015 Craig Litten/All Rights Reserved

Sun Bum catalog shoot 2015 in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Photo ©2015 Craig Litten/All Rights Reserved

Jul 142015
 
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Sony RX100 IV Review. The Original Pocket Rocket Blasts Higher!

By Steve Huff

You can order the RX100 at B&H Photo or Amazon!

Wow, time has sure FLOWN by since the original RX100 Mark I was released and in my hands. I remember that camera arriving to my house for review like it was yesterday. Small, fast, a 1″ sensor that performed like a larger one and the video capability that made it a perfect go anywhere small high quality camera. That RX100 did very well for Sony, so well in fact that today in 2015 we are already on the Mark IV version of the RX100. While it looks 90% the same as the old Mark I, and 100% the same as the Mark III, the new Mark IV is the best of the RX100 series to date, and while the improvements from the III to this new IV are small, if you are looking for a pocket camera, the Mark IV may be the best out there today.

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Before you start to read this review, please take a look at my previous RX100 reviews as most of what is in the Mark IV is in the Mark III so I will only be sharing some photos and some experiences I had with the new IV after mentioning the new improvements from the III. This will be a short review as I have said most of my praises in the previous reviews of this dynamite camera.

See my RX100 Review HERE

See my RX100 III Review HERE

I skipped the Mark II as I felt it did not have enough improvement to warrant a full review. ;)

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So let me start by saying the RX100 IV is still as beautiful as ever, but now we get some new improvements that keeps it as the premier pocket “do it all”  camera. Sure we have the Ricoh GR and new upcoming GRII, with a larger APS-C sensor and all but this RX100 IV will deliver some amazing features such as 4K Video shooting, Slo Motion 960 Frames shooting, 1/32,000S Shutter Speed for those bright sunny days and a new stacked sensor that offers the best IQ and ISO performance yet.

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While in my hand it feels, looks, smells and operates just like the RX100 III. We still have the pop up and out EVF that is very small nut useful on Bright Sunny days, and the swivel out LCD that gives us the best way to take selfies ;) Let me just say right now that this is almost the perfect selfie camera. I do not care what anyone says, SELFIES are HUGE! If I am out and about in a big city shooting I see maybe 100-200 selfies being taken during the day when I am out. It is every where and we have social media to blame for this new phenomenon. It’s crazy but a reality so I love the way Sony has implemented the Selfie Mode in the RX100. Flip up the back LCD so you can see it from the front, smile, press the shutter and the screen will countdown from 3 to 1 and then snap the shot.

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You can turn off the countdown but if doing a group selfie everyone will know when the shutter will fire! So it’s a cool feature to have even if you will never use it. I messed around with the selfie mode combined with the High Contrast B&W mode…

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With the 24-70 built in f/1.8 – 2.8 lens we get  wide angle with a bit of mid telephoto and at the wide end we get f/1.8 aperture speed, so we can use this little guy in all kinds of light. As I said, it is basically the RX100 III with some enhancements to the sensor and video. Here are the specs of the Mark IV Rx100:

20.1 MP 1″ Exmor RS BSI CMOS Sensor (stacked backside illuminated sensor)

BIONZ X Image Processor

Internal UHD 4K Video & S-Log2 Gamma

Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* f/1.8-2.8 Lens

24-70mm (35mm Equivalent)

2349k-Dot OLED Tru-Finder Pop-Up EVF

3.0″ 1229k-Dot Multi-Angle Xtra Fine LCD

Slow Motion Video at 960 fps

Built-In Wi-Fi Connectivity with NFC

Native ISO 12800 and 16 fps Continuous Shooting

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So we know have a backside illuminated sensor which is giving us the native ISO capability of 12,800. We are also getting  16FPS continuous shooting and as well as slow motion video capabilities at 960 FPS. This is so cool to have in a little pocket camera. 4K video clips up to 5 minutes are now possible as well.

You can order the RX100 at B&H Photo or Amazon!

“No line skipping or pixel binning and with minimal moiré or visual aliasing. The XAVC S format is utilized to maximize high-bitrate shooting up to 100 Mbps for professional-quality video. When recording in either the NTSC or PAL video standard, creative potential is further extended with the ability to capture Super Slow Motion High Frame Rate movies at up to 40x slower than real time. These slow motion clips are recorded at 960 fps, 480 fps or 240 fps and can then be played back at 1920 x 1080, in 60p, 30p, or 24p when the camera is set to NTSC. When set to PAL, slow motion clips are recorded at 1000 fps, 500 fps, or 250 fps and can then be played back at 1920 x 1080, in either 50p or 25p. At resolutions below 4K, including Full HD 1920 x 1080p, movies up to 29 minutes in length can be saved.”

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So with the new capabilities the RX100 IV is a treat and joy to use. Below is a shot taken at ISO 6400, with standard NR in an OOC JPEG. This was shot in a pretty low light environment and when I saw this on my iMac screen I was pretty impressed. Yea, there are some tell tale signs of noise reduction but this is ISO 6400 JPEG in a small tiny pocket camera!

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As I used the RX100 IV in my travels from Phoenix to Atlanta to South Florida recently the camera never gave me one issue. From the desert 110 Degree heat of the desert to the 95% humidity in Florida the RX100 IV just worked. The AF was fast as it always has been with this camera and the accuracy spot on. When I would pull it out of my pocket it would power on quickly and be ready to shoot within moments. It just worked, and worked well it did. The IQ is not going to be anything like what I get from my A7II and 50 Loxia lens but at the same time, it is much better than what my iPhone 6+ is giving me so I am happy to carry it with me. With WiFi and NFC on board it is simple to get the photos from the RX100 IV to my phone of choice.

Click images below for larger size to see how they were meant to be seen. These are all OOC Jpegs with the bottom two images using the cameras built in High Contrast B&W Mode.

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Below is a full size OOC file using HC B&W, click it to see what came out of the camera in regards to detail and rendering..

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Slow Motion Video – 960 FPS

The one feature I thought was cool on this camera is the Slow Motion video feature. I remember being teased by this super slo motion YEARS ago with the original Nikon V1. While it was allowing us to record slow motion it was playing it back in a super low resolution. With the Sony RX100 IV we can play back 960 FPS video in super slow motion in full HD. It’s a pretty cool thing. Below is a sample of how slow 960FPS shooting actually is after I talk a bit about the camera:

Press play below to see my RX100 Video including the slow motion samples!

So there yo go. The new RX100 IV is a super pocket rocket that will not disappoint. It is nice to look at, nice to hold, nice to use. It is responsive and fast just as the RX100 always has been and the image quality is about as good as it gets in a small 1″ sensor. This Sony delivers the goods yet again and for me, would be my pick for best pocket camera in 2015 EVEN THOUGH there are others with larger sensors. For me, this Sony offers me a little of everything so when I want video, I have it. When I want Slo Motion I have it, when I want super fast AF and great IQ I have it, if I want a great selfie, I have it.

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The RX100 IV is NOW available and NOW shipping.

You can order it at B&H Photo HERE

You can order it at Amazon HERE

If you do not need the new features like the new sensor tech, the new 4K video features, the 960 FPS shooting or 1/32,000S shutter speed then maybe you should consider the RX100 III, II or I as ALL are still in production and being made. Sony is offering us a level of pocket camera, so we can choose whatever we desire. I thought this was quite cool as from Version I to IV, all are fantastic and highly capable pocket cameras.

Order the RX100 V1 – $448

Order the RX100 V2 – $598

Order the RX100 V3 – $798

Order the RX100 V4 – $948

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ME, if I were buying one RX100 today for my pocket needs I would go with either Version I or IV. Version I is great as well and while it is missing the pop up EVF, the backside illuminated sensor, 4K video and other new modern day bells and whistles it still takes an amazing photo for a pocket camera. Version II and III are slight upgrades but you get the most bang going from I to IV. All are fantastic and Sony has proven that a pocket camera with a small 1″ sensor can really deliver the goods. 10 years ago this type of thing did not exist and if it did it would have cost $3000.

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Can’t wait to see what we have 10 years from now ;)

My Final Word on the RX100 IV

What you will read below is pretty much what my final word on the V III was, but updated for the Mark IV:

The newest RX100, or what I call it, “the Super Pocket Rocket 100″ (RX100 IV) is a real deal masterpiece of a point and shoot. From the design, the build, the pop out EVF, the full swivel up and down LCD to the fast lens and punchy color and pop from the files, the RX100 IV is a  joy to use and shoot with. Once again Sony hits it out of the park here, as they have been doing for years now. Sony is surpassing companies like Nikon, Canon, Leica in many areas with some of their recent cameras and they are showing no signs of slowing down or stopping. With cameras like the A7RII on the way any day now, Sony is delivering mirrorless cameras from the starter range (RX100 series to mid enthusiast range (RX10 II) to the Super Enthusiast and Pro Range (A7RII). Lenses are now plentiful with more and more coming soon.

Keep in mind, the RX100 IV will not and can not replace an APS-C or full frame camera (get the same results) as you just do not get the dynamic range, ISO performance or depth of field possibilities with the smaller sensor RX100. What you do get is a camera that is perfect for family use, vacations, world travel, and every day shooting. I have seen images from the RX100 (original) that blew away images I have seen from large DSLR’s, but that was from a VERY talented photographer. It seems that if you really know what you are doing then the RX100 of any variety (1, 2, 3, or 4) will reward you with its capabilities. I have noticed the DR is not up there with larger sensors as highlights can get blown, but it is not a big deal or deal breaker. The files from the RX100 IV are sublime and as good as you can get from a camera of this sensor size.

The lens is fast with a versatile and normal 24-70mm range. With an aperture starting at f/1.8 and slowing down to only 2.8, the camera is highly capable even in low light. The EVF works great and stays out-of-the-way until you need it. It is not the largest thing ever but it works and works well. The design is genius! The RX100 IV also has a built in ND filter which will automatically activate when needed though with a 1/32,000S shutter speed, you may never need it. You have all of the Sony usual tricks here as well like panorama, color modes, art modes and intelligent auto modes. This camera can be used by amateur and pro alike. In other words, Sony makes it easy to either pick up and shoot in full auto or delve into the camera and use manual features.

 

With the new sensor tech, the new 4K features and the new Slow Motion features and added high ISO capability this is the best Rx100 to date, hands down. What is really cool though is Sony is keeping all four models current and in production, so if you want to spend less, get an RX100 V1, want the best of the lot, spend a bit more for the IV!

VS Go Pro? I was recently going to purchase a new GoPro 4 and the full setup with camera, accessories, extra batteries, charger, etc was going to cost me around $800. After using this Sony RX100 IV I realized I may be able to use this camera for my on the go video needs and would have better quality footage, better audio, more features and a much nicer camera for stills. Sure, I lose the small GoPro design, the underwater capabilities and ultra wide lens but I gain IQ, Features, Sound Quality and Capabilities. What this tells me is that the RX100 V4 is pretty damn cool and able to double as a still camera, blogging camera, and even high quality B roll video footage capture to compliment my A7II and A7s.

All in all, this is indeed the best pocket camera ever made in the digital world. The price is steep at $950, but if you want the best/most feature packed and capable P&S available and do not want to mess with lens swapping and larger bodies, this is one way to go that will leave you satisfied. Another winner from Sony.

YOU CAN ORDER THE RX100 V4 AT B&H PHOTO HERE, OR AMAZON HERE!

——————————————-

HLPHH

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

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

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

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

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

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

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

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

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

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

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

Jul 082015
 
ttcv

ttcv

NYC Pride Parade

By Carlos Varela

Hi Everyone!

My name is Carlos Andres Varela and I am a professional wedding and fashion photographer and have been an avid street photographer for the last several years. This is my first submission to a blog or website that features work that I was not hired to shoot.

I’ve been a Canon shooter for over a decade, but a few years ago, feeling a bit burned out and looking for something new (and not wanting to carry my heavy DSLR everywhere), I bought my first Leica -the Leica M9- and fell in love with using a rangefinder. Although not the perfect camera by far it was the most fun and pleasurable experience I had had in a long time. Thus began my journey, a journey of needing to shoot street and travel photography for my own pleasure on an almost daily basis.

I later went on to buy the M240 and the Fuji X-T1.

When I first got the X-T1 I loved it and used it non-stop for about 3 months but in the end I missed shooting with a rangefinder. If it wasn’t that I love shooting with my Leica’s, I would not have stopped using the Fuji. I feel it is the best general purpose semi-professional camera out there (If you take into account size, weight, functions, usability etc…) but the pleasure of snapping a picture is still much greater -for me- with my Leica rangefinders.

These NYC 2015 Pride Parade pictures were taken with both Leica’s (M9 and M240) and with either the Voigtlander 28mm f/2.0 or Zeiss 50mm f/1.5 Sonnar.  Processed using Lightroom CC.

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I’m currently in the process of renovating my website (www.cavaweddings.com -I shoot weddings with my Canons-) and creating a few more with my fine art work (represented by Vogelsang Gallery -Mostly using Phase one’s or Hasselblad’s), Street photography (mostly using my Leica’s), Events (Canon’s again) and Fashion (all will be separate websites).

In the meantime you can see more of my street photography via my instagram account:

https://instagram.com/cavaphoto/

and a few more of the parade on my FB:

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10153477327761532.1073741835.544846531&type=1&l=69d2b851e2

Feel free to contact me with any questions or comments.

Carlos Andres

Jul 062015
 
zeiss

The Zeiss Batis 25 f/2 and 85 f/1.8 Lens Review!

By Steve Huff

Here we are again with a couple of lenses made by Zeiss for the Sony FE (A7) system/series of cameras. As many of you know who have been following me for years, these days I really enjoy and love shooting my Sony A7II and A7s cameras. With so many amazing enthusiast and pro level camera out today, it is a tough choice on what to use, especially when you are a reviewer who gets these camera and lenses sent to you on an almost weekly basis!

LOVELY colors from the Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2, up close focusing (Min 0.2 meters). Sony A7II, lens was at f/2. Must click on the image to see it correctly!

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But even so, a couple things have remained constant for me. I love the new Sony cameras and lenses they have been putting out for 2-3 years now. I feel with the full frame sensors and fantastic lenses available they are the TOP Mirrorless system camera as of July 2015. For me, Sony beats all others for the mirrorless title with Olympus coming in 2nd place for me with the E-M1 and E-M5II. Lagging behind (for me) are Samsung (even though the NX1 is a phenomenal camera) and the others with Leica making a nice come back with the special and amazing Q. (my review of the Q here).

But today and all month I feel it’s going to be a Sony fest as the A7RII is coming, the new RX100 IV is IN HAND and the new Zeiss BATIS lenses have arrived to me and I have been shooting them for the last 1-2 weeks. My impression? Well, they are designed and look like mini OTUS lenses and perform 85% as well. The BATIS line for FE is stunning and with the electronic LED display that shows you focus distance when in manual focus mode, we are getting a special set of lenses for those who are very picky about the quality of their glass.

Must click for larger and sharper version! Another with the 25 at f/2 on the A7II

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I remember when all the rage was the Zeiss Touit line for APS-C. This was not very long ago yet feels like it was for some reason. The Touit line was good, but not my favorite set of lenses. Then came the OTUS lenses for Canon and Nikon but for me, they are just too large for daily use. Pro use, 100%. Enthusiast? For this one, those are too large and way too costly. Then came the Loxia line and MAN OH MAN I love these. The 35 and 50 f/2 Loxia’s are manual focus only and as close as one can get to a Leica M mount for their Sony FE mount. Small, solid, smooth and gorgeous in build, style and rendering. The 50 Loxia may be my #1 fave lens on the A7 series.

So with the Loxias receiving critical acclaim, and the only complaint from some users being “it’s not auto focus” Zeiss decided to create the Batis line which would be Auto Focus Zeiss lenses, and these two lenses they started with are right here, the 25 and 85. The 25mm is a Distagon design and an f/2 lens. It is not as solid feeling as the little Loxia but it feels great anyway, with a nice OTUS like styling to them. The Batis lenses come with hoods and the AF on the 25 is rather quick. The 85 will hunt a little in lower light but overall it is pretty quick as well.

The 85 at 1.8 on the A7II, just a casual snapshot, she did not even know I was taking a shot until the moment I took it and the lens grabbed focus and nailed the color as well. 

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Another wide open at f/1.8…

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..and another!

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After shooting the 85 for a little while I started to adore the rendering. VERY sharp at your focus point and CREAM CITY after that when shooting at f/1.8. The color and contrast are 100% ZEISS with those bold yet gentle blues, nice yellows and a richness that comes from shooting Zeiss glass. I remember shooting loads of Zeiss ZM lenses on my Leica M8, M9 and M 240 and they all had this exact character that I see here. Much different from Leica or Sony’s rendering. It’s what Zeiss is known for and yes, all manufactures of lenses have a house “look”. From Olympus to Samsung  to Sony to Zeiss to Leica to Canon and Nikon.

Batis 25 at f/2 – never be afraid to ask someone if you can take their portrait. I have a 99.5% rate of success, and usually the subject is more than happy, and a little excited to let you take their photo. The girl below was pouring my beer and I said “do you mind if I take your photo” – she said “SURE!” but she did not look at me. So I shot one of her pouring and then asked her to give me a nice  happy smile, and she did. 

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Punching Bag with leaving the shutter speed slower to catch the motion/action of the shot. The 25 at f/2

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Glass is the heart of your camera system.

Many times I will get people asking me questions about what cameras to buy. They usually will insist on a kit lens of sorts even though they ask about more expensive cameras like the Sony A7 or Fuji X or Olympus E-M1. To me, if you are going to invest over $1000 in a camera, you should always invest in good glass, or lenses, for your system. Lenses are the paintbrush, the pencil, THE one thing that delivers the most change to the rendering of the image. WAY more so  than a sensor or internal processing. The lens you choose will decide if your image will be sharp, soft, colorful or dull, has high contrast or low or has a pastel like color instead of bold harsh color. Some lenses use cheap glass, some use exotic glass. The lens is the most personal choice one can make when buying a camera system, at least IMO.

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So if it were me, and I was going to shell out for a Sony A7II or A7RII, you can bet your bootie I would buy the Zeiss line of lenses (Loxia or Batis) or some of the better Sony FE glass like the 35 1.4, 16-35, or 90 Macro. I would avoid the kit zooms or lower quality zooms as you will never reach the true IQ potential of the system with cheap glass.

25mm Batis at f/2 – A7II

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The Zeiss Batis line, being Auto Focus and gorgeous in all aspects of image quality, would be some of my top picks for most A7 users, and especially for those who ordered the A7RII as that camera is BEASTLY. It’s a resolution monster, a video monster and will be one hell of an amazing enthusiast or pro camera. These lenses would compliment that A7RII perfectly, and I for one can not wait to try these lenses on that body (of which I should have very very soon).

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During my time with the Batis lenses, I had no issues with focus, feel, build, or performance. The only niggle I had was when taking the 85 1.8 out in the night, as the focus would hunt a tad in low light. That is when I switched it over to manual focus and shot. Using manual focus works very well due to the nice EVF in my Sony A7 cameras as well as the smooth action of the Batis focus ring. The on board OLED display also will show you a distance scale, electronically. Yep, pretty cool if you ask me!

Video Look!

My video on the Batis Lenses. See them on the camera bodies and hear my thoughts!

Details?

No point in discussing sharpness with these guys, they are SHARP. Plenty sharp.

These were out of cam JPEGS! Click them to see  the crops wide open. 

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Compared To?

With Sony FE we now have a few great semi wide angle lenses to choose from. The Sony/Zeiss 16-35 F/4, the Sony/Zeiss 35 1.4, and the Sony 28 f/2 are all great lenses with the 28 f/2 being the cheapest of the lot, and while it has some distortion that needs fixing (which is done in camera for JPEGS) the Sony 28 f/2 is fantastic in IQ. I will say that it does not quite have the micro- contrast, color and pop of the Batis 25, but even so, at $450 it is around 3X less in cost than the Batis 25 which comes in at $1299. THAT is a pretty big price difference but you do see it and feel it with the Batis.

Sony 28 FE and Batis 25 side by side

Below is a side by side between the two..and you may not see much difference in this shot, but it is there. Click on the image to see them larger and you can see much more micro contrast in the Zeiss Batis shot, more detail and an overall more crisp and distortion free image. The Zeiss is better, but if it is $800 depends on you ;) I’d say if you want the best of the best for your Sony FE, in a wide angle lens then take a serious look at the Zeiss.

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The Sony/Zeiss 16-35 is more of an ultra wide and at f/2 will not give you the aperture speed of the Batis. The Sony/Zeiss 35 1.4 is MUCH larger and heavier and is not nearly as wide as the 25 Batis, so I see these two as different tools.

For me, the best IQ you can get as of July 2015 for your Sony FE system in a native mount and in a semi wide-angle (between 21 and 28) is the Batis 25 f/2 and because it will focus as close as 0.2 meters you can get pretty close to your subject, creating some Bokeh effect and you subject will be sharp.

The next FIVE shots are all from my fave of the Batis lot, the 25 f/2. I say it is my fave as I used it more as I found it more useful. I enjoy getting close to my subject and while I feel 21 is a tad too wide and 28 is getting close to 35, I am finding the 25 to be perfect for my style of shooting. I used to own the Zeiss 25 ZM for Leica mount and reviewed it here YEARS ago. Loved that lens which is probably why I love the Batis version. 

CLICK THEM FOR BETTER VERSIONS!

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The Batis 85 f/2 vs the Mitakon 85 1.2

Another lens choice for the native FE mount is the Mitakon Speedmaster 85 1.2. I reviewed that lens a week or two ago HERE. It is larger, heavier and goes to f/1.2 BUT the Zeiss is a better lens with better color and pop. Even so, the Mitakon is not so bad, not at all. So may even prefer it! ME? I prefer the Zeiss for the smaller size and lighter weight. I feel Zeiss did a great job with the design and keeping them more short than long. But take a look at the comparisons below, click them for the full 100% crop to be seen.

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My final word on the Batis line of lenses? 

When I heard Zeiss was sending me these two lenses for review I was excited, and believe me, today after 7-8 years of writing these reviews full time, it takes a lot to get me excited. Many of you may not be aware but I get SO MUCH stuff sent to me for  review that never gets reviewed because it just doesn’t excite me or motivate me. I end up not reviewing many items because if it does not motivate me to go shoot, I can not recommend it to my readers here. While most sites would just go write a negative review, I just skip as I am not about negativity or spending hours writing to tell you I do not like a certain product.

So if I review it, it means I love it and really enjoy it.

As for these lenses, they deliver on the hype and promise, the really do. I have not used a finer 25mm lens and in the world of 75-85mm lenses, the choices are plentiful, no doubt. Even so, the Zeiss 85 f/1.8 Sonnar is up there with the finest I have used and my faves in life have been the Canon 85 1.2, Nikon 85 1.4, and Zeiss 85 f/2 for Leica Mount. This 85mm delivers the detail, creaminess, nice colors and perfect contrast for those portrait sessions where you want that Zeiss WOW.

OF ALL the lenses I have here for Sony FE, and I have a load of them, my daily driver would be the Zeiss Batis 25 and Zeiss Loxia 50. I’d throw in the Batis 85 for portraits and use my Sony 16-35 for my ultra wide. That would be all I would ever need, and all of these lenses are top notch 100%. I may also throw in the 35 1.4 Sony/Zeiss for when I wanted that 35mm FOV with some magic.

The Batis line rocks my friends. If you need Auto Focus, the are the way to go. If you would prefer a smaller lens, the Loxia line is stunning as well but manual focus only. Either way, you will get that Zeiss POP and BAM!

1st Three from the 85 f/1.8 all at 1.8

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Next few all from the 25..

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Words from Zeiss on the Batis Lenses:

On the 25 f/2

“Pairing the tested Distagon concept with contemporary functionality, the Batis 25mm f/2 Lens from Zeiss is a wide-angle prime designed specifically for full-frame E-mount mirrorless cameras. The innovative design of this lens features an OLED display that highlights the focus distance and depth of field range for quickly recognizing your focusing parameters, and its autofocus performance is benefitted by linear motors for fast, smooth performance. Four double-sided aspherical elements within a floating elements design help to control aberrations and distortions throughout the focusing range and contribute to even edge-to-edge sharpness and illumination, and a T* anti-reflective coating reduces flare and ghosting for increased contrast and color neutrality. Ideal for architecture, landscape, and interior photography, this lens’ 82° angle of view pairs with a 7.9″ minimum focusing distance for producing creative perspectives and unique close-up imagery. Additionally, for working in inclement conditions, the lens also features a dust- and weather-sealed construction.”

On the 85 1.8

“Updating a tried-and-true optical design for use with full-frame E-mount mirrorless cameras, the Batis 85mm f/1.8 Lens from Zeiss is a portrait-length, short telephoto lens featuring a fast f/1.8 maximum aperture for greater focus control and enhanced low-light shooting. The innovative design of this lens features an OLED display that highlights the focus distance and depth of field range for quickly recognizing your focusing parameters, and its autofocus performance is benefitted by linear motors for fast, smooth performance. Pairing the Sonnar concept with a floating elements design, this 85mm f/1.8 is also particularly adept at controlling aberrations throughout the focusing range, while a T* anti-reflective coating minimizes flare and ghosting for ensured color accuracy and heightened contrast. Rounding out the feature-set, this lens incorporates optical image stabilization to minimize the appearance of camera shake when working with slower shutter speeds and a dust- and weather-sealed construction lends itself to shooting in less-than-ideal environments.”

Yes, the 85 1.8 has Image Stabilization built in. 

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What about the negatives?

During my use I had nothing but fantastic results with focus, image quality and overall results. Never had distortion issues or CA issues or any issues. Really.

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MY STAR RATINGS:

Many have asked me to start doing ratings for my reviews so I will start here with a BANG. BUT keep in mind, if I rate a Sony FE Mount lens, that rating is compared to other similar FE mount lenses, in this case the Sony 28 FE, the Sony 16-35 FE and the Mitakon 85 1.2.

BATIS 25: I will give the Batis 25 f/2 FIVE STARS as to me it is the best semi wide/wide I have used (28 and under) for the Sony FE system. The IQ, color, sharpness, size and weight are all phenomenal. Add in the weather sealing, the OLED display, dour side aspherical elements and it’s close focus capability, along with its dust and weather resistant design and this guy gets FIVE STARS! Yes, it is expensive at $1299 but for me, worth it in every way, and hey, it’s a Zeiss.

STARS

BATIS 85 f/1.8: I gave the 85 1.8 4 1/2 stars and that is due to the only weakness I found, the AF gets slow and hunts in lower light, as in club lighting or low level concert lighting. Other than that this is a a beautiful 85mm lens and the IQ and color stand out to me and is up there with the best 85 fast primes ever made for 35mm. Image stabilized and loaded with all the good stuff, this is one hell of a portrait prime. Sure there are loads of 85’s you can convert to use on the Sony but the Batis is a better option for me, as I always will prefer NATIVE lenses when there are good options.

Where to buy and How Much?

The Zeiss 25 f/2 comes in at $1299, and you can pre-order/order it at B&H Photo or PopFlash.com 

The Zeiss Batis 85 f/1.8 comes in at $1199 and can be pre-ordered or ordered at B&H Photo or PopFlash.com 

I also highly recommend the Zeiss Loxia line HERE. 

——————————————-

HLPHH

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

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

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

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

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

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

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

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

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

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

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

Jul 032015
 
lomobrad

lomobrad

The Lomography LC-A Art lens, 1st Look

by Brad Husick

Today I got a surprise in the mail… the new Lomography LC-A Art lens that I pre-ordered several months ago. For those unfamiliar, here’s a link:

http://shop.lomography.com/us/lenses/minitar-1

And the features:

Focal Length: 32mm
Aperture: f/2.8 – f/22
Lens Mount: Leica M-mount
M-mount Frame Line Triggering: 35/135
M-mount Rangefinder Coupling: Yes
Closest Focusing Distance: 0.8m
Filter Thread Measurement: M22.5×0.5
Construction: Multi-coated lens, 5 elements 4 groups
Premium Russian Glass Optics
ultra-compact pancake design
4-step zone focusing system
Aluminium & Brass Body

PRICE: $349

When they say ultra-compact, they mean it. It makes even the MS Optical lenses from Japan look large by comparison. Take a look how small this lens is on my M Edition 60:

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This is not a review of the lens but simply a first-look. I took sample photos at ISO 200, focus set at infinity, at f/2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11, 16 and 22. The apertures are approximate because there are no click stops; you just look at the lens and set the lever. Oddly, the focus has click stops, but it is rangefinder coupled so you can actually focus through the viewfinder. Here are the photos:

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It’s no Leica lens by any stretch, but it’s not intended to be one. It’s supposed to give you that “classic” Lomo look – strange, blurred edges, odd colors, etc. It’s like using digital filters on your cameraphone app but in this case actually taking the original picture that way. I didn’t see a need to include 100% crops here :)

It’s supposed to be fun, and I look forward to taking it out and giving it some exercise.

Brad Husick

 

UPDATE – NEW IMAGES from Brad:

Here are some photographs taken with the LC-A lens on an M edition 60 to give you a better sense of the creative nature of the lens. I left these full frame so you’d see the edge effects. This particular lens has a decentered focusing glitch that leaves the right side of the frame completely out of focus. It will be going back to Lomo. As some others have mentioned, it’s VERY difficult to mount and unmount. Aside from minor exposure adjustments, I have applied no filters or other effects to the images – these are straight from the camera. It’s certainly the most compact lens ever offered for the Leica M, I am just not sure it will earn a place in my kit.

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Jul 012015
 
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phaseonebball

Phase One basketball

By Andrew Paquette – See his website HERE!

Three years ago I bumped into an outdoor basketball competition in Rotterdam while testing my new Zeiss 15mm Distagon lens. After getting a lucky shot of the winning basket at the end of the day, one of the organizers invited me to shoot more games the following week in Den Haag. Since then, I’ve been shooting the Netherlands Streetball Masters tour every year. This year I attended games in Amsterdam, Breda, and Weert.

In previous years I had used a Nikon D800 and a Sony A7r for the shoots. The two cameras had a variety of lenses mounted on them, each of which produced at least one decent shot. The most consistent performer was the Zeiss Otus 55mm, used on the majority of keeper shots. The least consistent was the Nikkor 85mm 1.4G, possibly because the Streetball games take place on small half courts, making the 85mm usable only for shots of players at the farthest end of the play area or torso shots. This year, I planned to bring the D800 + 55mm Otus and an A7r with the Zeiss 135mm mounted on them. However, I had some new gear and wanted to give it a stress test. This year I used a Phase One DF+ with an IQ250 back. I had already used it to take some action photos of parkour athletes in Rotterdam, and thought it might work out for outdoor basketball, though I wouldn’t have any control of the players and there would be no do-overs, unlike the Parkour shoot.

One of the reasons I decided to invest in the Phase One system was the high flash sync speeds (up to 1/1600th of a second). To test that, I brought two ProFoto flash heads to the parkour park, hid them from the camera, then tried to get as much frozen mid-air action as possible. It took a couple of hours to coordinate the athletes so that they all were in the right part of the frame at the right time, but it did work. Other shots that did not require the coordination of all four athletes were much easier to manage.

Figure 1 Parkour at Ahoy! Rotterdam, Phase One DF+ IQ250 and SK 28mm LS lens. ISO 200, F/7.1, 1/1600s and 2x ProFoto B1 500w/s flash heads

Parkour

I was a bit worried about using the Phase One kit to shoot the Streetball event because the camera has a much lower framerate than the 35mm cameras (1.2 f/s compared to 4 f/s on D800 and A7r), but I wanted to know what the extra dynamic range of the medium format back would capture. This was related to something that bothered me on previous shoots in Holland where the sky is almost always white or grey due to cloud cover. This has a tendency to result in a lot of clipped highlights unless the camera is pointing below the horizon. In some landscape photos taken with the Phase One, this wasn’t an issue, thus presenting the possibility that the camera could deal with an irritating problem experienced on previous shoots.

Figure 2 Windmills, Phase One DF+ IQ250 and SK 80mm LS lens. ISO 100, F/22, 1/320s

Windmills

I was tempted to take the D800 and a Zeiss Otus 55mm with me as a backup but went without to keep the weight of the kit down. The lens I used the most was the Schneider Kreuznach 80mm leaf shutter lens, but I took a few images with the SK 28mm LS as well. All of the photos were processed in Capture One Pro. I brought one ProFoto B1 flash and a 2’ softbox. The flash was only sometimes useful because I couldn’t guarantee it was always pointing in the right direction as the players ran all over the court. This was expected, but it was still disappointing that the light was only useful if the players were within about two meters of it and on the right side of the court.

I prefer shooting the DF+ to the Nikon or Sony. There are several reasons for this. In no particular order, they are: the extra-large viewfinder, simple menu layout on the IQ250 back, iPad connectivity (the A7r can also do this), and ergonomic design. It is heavier and larger than the other two cameras, but easier to hold and use than the Nikon, even when both have heavy lenses mounted (the 2.2 pound Zeiss Otus on the Nikon and the 2.4 pound SK 28mm LS on the P1). With the D800 + Otus combination, my wrist would consistently start hurting after about three hours of carrying it. I have never experienced any wrist or hand pain when using the DF+, even during an eight-hour shoot day for one of the Streetball games.

Figure 3 Weert 1, SK LS 80mm, ISO 400, f/6.3, 1/1600

Weert 1

Figure 4 Weert 2, SK LS 80mm, ISO 400, f/6.3, 1/1600

Weert 2

Figure 5 Breda 1, SK LS 28mm, ISO 100, f/4.5, 1/1600

Breda 1

Figure 6 Breda 2, SK LS 80mm, ISO 200, f/2.8, 1/1600

Breda 2

Figure 7 Amsterdam 1, SK LS 80mm, ISO 200, f/5, 1/1600

Amsterdam 1

Figure 8 Amsterdam 2, SK LS 80mm, ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/1600

Amsterdam 2

Figure 9 Amsterdam 3, SK LS 80mm, ISO 100, f/5, 1/1600

Amsterdam 3

Figure 10 Amsterdam 4, ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/1600

Amsterdam 4

Figure 11 Amsterdam 5, ISO 200, f/7.1, 1/1600

Amsterdam 5

See more at Andrew’s Website HERE!

Jul 012015
 
BATIS

Crazy Comparison! Zeiss Batis 85 f/1.8 vs Mitakon Speedmaster 85 1.2!

So check this out guys…

The Zeiss Batis 25 and 85 lenses for Sony FE mount have arrived for testing and they are BEAUTIFUL. I will not tell a lie, the 25 is the one I adore the most so far as it’s size is nice. FAT but short and squat. Looks fantastic on the Sony A7II. The 85 is a tad larger but still not so bad, much more manageable than I expected.

I am SO excited that Zeiss has not only released the fine LOXIA lenses for Sony but now we have the Batis line, which is an AF line of lenses for Sony FE (A7 series). There are so many fine lenses for the Sony A7 system these days and with the new A7RII on the way, look out..these Zeiss lenses may be just what the Dr. Ordered! THEY ARE FANTASTIC and I have only had them a day.

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Many have asked me to do a side by side “Crazy Comparison” between the Batis 85 1.8 and the Speedmaster 85 1.2 I recently reviewed (see that HERE)  – and while I assumed it would be a test showing the clear superiority of the Zeiss, well, it does but the Speedmaster hangs in there fairly well!

The Zeiss of course is a Zeiss. It is Auto Focus (and speedy on my A7II), it is shorter, smaller and MUCH lighter than the Mitakon, but for IQ..take a look:

CLICK IMAGES for larger and MUCH better versions. You will not see these as they were intended unless you click on them!

1st one, the Zeiss 85 at f/1.8 (thought I set it to f/2 but was wide open). The color has that Zeiss POP over the Mitakon but sharpness, not really any better here. Color and Pop goes to Zeiss though for sure.

ALL SHOTS ON THIS PAGE ARE WITH THE SONY A7II

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mitakonred

More that shows the COLOR pop of the Batis 85. Again, the Batis was at 1.8 as I thought I had it set to f/2, so the image is mislabeled. Still, you can see the crispness, and 3D color pop of the Zeiss here. Even so, the Mitakon is holding its own though the color is muted as is the contrast.

ZEISSKID

MITAKON KID

The Zeiss is a fantastic lens and I only shot with it for a day so far. Love the digital focus display, love the size and feel and look. The AF is fast and accurate and my full review of both should be up within 10 days or so.

Here are a few more from the 25 and 85..

OOC JPEG with the 25 at f/2 – click it for larger

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OOC JPEG with the 25 at f/2

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Zeiss 25 f/2 from RAW with Alien Skin slide filter applied,  A7II

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Zeiss 85 Batis with crop

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The color, detail and rendering of the 85 is GORGEOUS. 

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ORDER THE ZEISS BATIS LENSES!

You can order the Zeiss Batis lenses from B&H Photo HERE or PopFlash.com HERE. Full review soon with video and LOADS of samples!

 

Jun 302015
 
vct

Visiting CHERNOBYL. A Photo Diary

by Gary Mather

 

Here is some brief history –

On Saturday, April 26, 1986, a disaster occurred which has been widely regarded as the worst accident in the history of nuclear power in the world. The accident occurred when the fourth reactor suffered a huge power increase. This led to the core of the reactor exploding. Due to this explosion, large amounts of radioactive materials and fuel were released into the atmosphere. This lit the combustable graphite moderator on fire. This fire greatened the release of radioactive material, which was carried by the smoke of the fire, into the environment and atmosphere.

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Radioactive fallout drifted over parts of the western Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, the UK, and the eastern United States. Large areas of Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia were badly contaminated. About 60% of the radioactive fallout landed in Belarus. About 350,000 people needed to be evacuated and moved to other places where they could live after the accident.

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Once the seriousness of the situation was known, Mikhail Gorbachev, the president of the USSR at the time, quickly gathered the top physicists and nuclear experts at his disposal to assess the situation. Thirty-six hours after the initial explosion, these experts decided the residents of Pripyat must evacuate. Residents were given two hours to gather their belongings. The evacuation of Pripyat’s 43,000 residents took 3.5 hours, using 1,100 buses from Kiev. Residents remember that everyone was in a hurry, but nobody was panicking.

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The residents of Pripyat were initially told they would be evacuated only for three days. However, to this day, the town is uninhabitable. Pripyat city was founded in the 1970s, when the nuclear power plant opened. The site today is practically a museum showing the late Soviet era. With entirely abandoned buildings, including abandoned apartment buildings (four of which were yet to be used), swimming pools and hospitals, everything inside remains, from records to papers to children’s toys and clothing. Prypiat and the surrounding area will not be safe for people to live there for several centuries. Scientists think that the most dangerous radioactive elements will take up to nine hundred years to decay sufficiently to render the area safe.
We were there for a total of 2 days and I can feel we only scratched the surface of what happened on that fateful day.

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I was 13 when this disaster accoured and my only fleeting memory was seeing clips on the news as a child. To me it was something that happened a long way away in a place I could not even pronounce. I have wanted to visit this site for quite some time now, and I was, for want of a better word, lucky to have had that privilage just a few months ago.

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It is only when you are actually there can you understand the impact of such a huge global disaster, the heroism of the firefighters and the people first on the scene. It will be a memory that will stay with me for a very long time, It’s just a shame our time here was so fleeting.

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We explored hospitals, schools and the fairground where stands the almost iconic ferris wheel still waiting to be ridden to this very day. The piano still standing in the music hall and the 3 empty seats left in the burn out lecture room. In the hospital maternity dept room full of empty cots sit silent. Of the whole trip the most poignant moment was seeing the childrens gas masks littered all over the floor of the elementry school in the town of Pripyat.

Gary Mather

© 2009-2015 STEVE HUFF PHOTOS All Rights Reserved
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